Drop Box Notes May 2, 2013


KurtVileWakinKurt Vile is on a roll. The former The War on Drugs vocalist has found the soft spot in the indie-rock niche where he thrives. What can best be described as “psych-stoner-indie”, Vile’s take, with his band The Violators, on the human condition is obliquely explored on Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze. Vile already was an indie darling as his last release, Smoke Ring for My Halo (2011), received huge critical acclaim and appeared on a number of year end, best of lists, but frankly, Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze is a much better record. It may be Vile’s unique vocals, but the guitar work, which is very reminiscent of early Pavement, shimmers and the meandering country rhythms on this record accentuate the uniqueness of the environment this record occupies in the indie rock world. From the title track, through the lengthy closer “Goldtone” coming at 17:24, this album works because enough space is given for these songs to find a direction without becoming repetitive or boring. You have to work a little bit to get into this one, but the effort will be wellworth the time investment. “Try “Shame Chamber”, “Never Run Away”, and “Snowflakes Are Dancing.”

AfraidOfHeightsalbumcoverOn Afraid of Heights, Nathan Williams who operates as Wavves , collects the best elements only hinted at from his previous three records (which tend to be more pop than rock) and finally puts the pieces together. As garage rock goes, this is superior because the songwriting is so solid. Sure, there are points where the songs are a wee bit lengthy, but it is hard to deny the likeability and power of this record. Some reviewers have taken issue with the Weezer similarities ( best example is found on the second track “Demon To Lean On”, but I like Weezer, so I was already primed and susceptible to the hooks found all over this record. It probably doesn’t help that Williams’ voice does sound a little like Rivers Cuomo, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable record. I sing the woooooos on title track “Afraid of Heights” which is where you should start. Think “Sweater Song (Undone). Try” “Afraid of Heights”, “Beat Me Up” and “Gimme A Knife.”

The_Veils_time_stays_we_go_packshot_800x800With the Veils, you get some pedigree. Finn Andrews, son of XTC/Shriekback keyboardist Barry Andrews, is the center of the band he started in New Zealand in 2002. Better known for Andrews’ captivating stage presence and live shows, this LP, like the Wavves record above, represents the Veils best effort to break into the main stream. Let’s face it, rock is in a tough place in America. This record, record in Laurel Canyon Studios in Los Angeles, is an effort to find a sound that will cross over in England and the colonies who are attuned to an “Americana” type sound. Hence, some of this record feels somewhat contrived lyrically to hone in on what is popular in England. The question really becomes then, does the record work independent of the influence and design? On balance it does. Sure, like a number of records in the drop box, you either like the record because of the particular sound or you don’t. This doesn’t have the feel of the numerous faceless anglo bands, probably because Andrews does have a touch of the Nick Cave in his voice as well as some Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes), which makes for an interesting contrast to some of the delicate songs on this record. Some songs do meander a bit, being more focused on atmospherics than forming a song, but others are aggressive and hi-light the reason why this LP is in the drop box. Try” The Pearl”, “Turn From The Rain” and “Another Night.”

Grapes of Wrath High RoadThe Grapes of Wrath were a band I saw several times when I lived in Vancouver and even in Los Angeles, opening for Guadalcanal Diary at the Roxy in Los Angeles and the Green Door in Montclair in 1988. Although described currently as “folk rock” this is what alternative college rock sounded like at the end of the eighties/early nineties with its jangle pop sound. Formed in Kelowna BC by Chris Hooper, Tom Hooper and Kevin Kane, the band broke up in 1992 but reformed in 2010. High Road represents the original Grapes’ first full length effort in more than 20 years, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable record. Sure, they are a little older and wiser, but the elements that made them great – smooth harmonies and crisp melodies with sing-a-long choruses – are still present.  Amazing! Try” Good To See You”, “Make It Okay” and “Picnic.”

Dawes-Stories-Dont-End-260x260Los Angeles based Dawes, like Grapes of Wrath, also is categorized as folk rock, but the similarities end there. This is the problem with genre assignment. There are bands who are lumped into a genre, but sound nothing alike. These guys sure are not Mumford and Sons, but there are some elements present which justify the categorization. They are certainly not metal. So, where does Dawes fit in the spectrum? I’d say left of something, but also right of something else. I think the first song I heard was the Steely Dan sounding “From A Window Seat” which was enjoyable, and while Steely Dan is generally off-putting to me, I felt there was something else going on, so that I could get around my Steely Dan prejudice (much like my admitted Beatles dislike). It may be that this is 70’s a.m. rock and brings back memories of driving in the car with my mom to school and hearing the Band, Neil Young, The Strawberries, Lighthouse, the Guess Who and Tony Orlando and Dawn on the car radio. Stories Don’t End evokes those same feelings. Try “Most People”, “Hey Lover” and “Bear Witness.”

2013FilthyBoy_SmileThatWontGoDown600G280313Filthy BoyFilthy Boy represents something completely different musically than Dawes. Really different. What makes Smile That Won’t Go Down such an enjoyable listen is that dance rock a la Franz Ferdinand and the first Arctic Monkeys record that has been missing from my life, and this record with its naughty intonation and innuendo (the band is, after all, called Filthy Boy) makes it hard not to be caught up in the overtly sexual overtones such as found on the Jazz Butcher sounding “Waiting On A Doorstep.” As noted by NME “[s]inger Paraic Morrissey has the knack of sounding like he’s casually sparking up a post-coital cigarette” but all in good fun. Morrissey (with his twin brother Tom) capture the genius of absurdity of it all. Great videos as well: http://youtu.be/z-XT6MTIh-E (“Waiting on a Doorstep”). Try also “Naughty Corner”, “Jimmy Jammies” and “Spiral Eyes.”

MBD Bitter Drink MBD Kickstarter CoversI’ve dropped the 6th Murder by Death record and the Kickstarter funded follow up of covers entitled As You Wish: Kickstarter Covers released by the band as a bonus to those who funded the recording of the amazing Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon. Bloomington Indiana’s Murder By Death occupy the same sonic space as the National (whose new record comes out later this month and I will drop it as soon as I get it). Formed in 2000, MBD released Bitter Drink in 2012. What is unusual is the distinct sound of cellist Sarah Ballie brings to the murder ballads which form the bulk of the songs on this record. Tails of greed, lust, frailty, and the struggle of good and evil inform this record. Johnny Cash is not dead as Adam Turla channels the distinctive sound. I loved this record. “Lost River” will move you with its haunting sound and Turla’s passionate vocal. Try” Straight At The Sun”, “Hard World” and the aforementioned “Lost River.”

As for the Kickstarter Covers, these are all songs submitted to the band who perform magic on these songs. Rarely does a band perform cover versions that match the originals but I think you will be surprised by MBD’s take on some very well known songs. Try: “Never Tear Us Apart” (INXS), “Some Kind of Hate” (Misfits), and “Hold On” (Wilson Phillips – You’re going to love This One!)

thethermals Desparate GroundWith Desperate Ground, Portland’s Thermals take only a very a slight deviation than past albums. Sonically, the Thermals are always going to be the Thermals. 10 slices of fast past political slogans jammed full force in your face and ending in 26 minutes. Short and sweet and to the point. The Thermals have never been apologists, and it is unlikely they will start now. The formula works, and if you are a fan of the other three releases More Parts Per Million, Fuckin A and The Body, The Blood, The Machine, then you are going to love this one. A recommendation – don’t give this short shrift. The songs will grow on you as will Hutch Harris’ voice which at first listen is somewhat abrasive. Like the Buzzcocks, the songs are short with the longest track coming in at 3:13. Try “I Go Alone,” “Where I Stand” and “Our Love Survives.”

Sticky Fingers - Caress Your Soul (Cover Art)Earlier this year or late last year, I noted that Australia produces better music than us. Sticky Fingers from Annandale Australia, plays a brand of reggae influenced rock (think Sublime) on their debut, Caress Your Soul. The title hints at what you will find within, with a mixture of rock steady beats and terrific melodies all touched by what can only be described as an Australian Indie sound. This is the sound of Long Beach – a sunny day record with a large amount of charm. I can smell the sensamilla now. Try” Clouds + Cream”, Australian Street” and title track “Caress Your Soul.”

Until, next time…have a blast!

KFR

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