I didn’t want to give short shrift to this month’s releases, which encompass a number of unique releases from Record Store Day (April 20) as well as some new releases from “popular bands” such as Queens of The Stoneage and Vampire Weekend.
All in all a really strong month for new records and a sign (at least in my mind) that music creativity and quality continues to thrive with a larger number of artists finding their way to the ears of eager listeners. I’m not sure this portends well for music press because there is so much music that appears without a viable commercial outlet i.e. radio, or even downloads, as each week a new flood of releases is dropped into the marketplace. I believe that live music opportunities will, perhaps, be the commercial savior for a number of bands, but smaller indie artists will likely have to find a new financial model in order to continue to be viable, especially when major labels are solely interested in television related opportunities and licensing.
Anyway, a big thanks to AJ who was kind enough to send via T at Starbucks the new Filter Magazine with the National on the cover my way. Truly appreciated. I also note that 80% of the releases that have appeared in the dropbox over the last couple of months, so you can get some other opinions and some ratings. Filter utilizes percentages. I don’t rate the records because I only put in the dropbox releases that I actually like, so any rating system as to good, bad, or indifferent, is meaningless. I think you can tell releases I am very enthusiastic about, if that is any help.
Sloan is now a Canadian institution, who over the past twenty years or so, have developed a small but devoted hardcore following. (see I’m telegraphing a pun here). On April 30, they released a limited edition single, with a nifty package of other stuff including this digital only EP of hardcore covers featuring “songs of the bands that were soundtrack to Sloan’s youth” and date from 1978 to 1984. Hardcore is led by three Angry Samoans covers (“Gas Chamber,” “Gimme Sopor” and “Hot Cars”) along with two from 7 Seconds (“Bully” and “This Is The Angry”). Minor Threat, Bad Religion, Black Flag, Circle Jerks and The Descendents are also covered on the album. I’m partial to the Angry Samoans covers as their Inside My Brain EP was part of my soundtrack growing up. However, no picks here – I liked them all, so try them all. For those of you who never heard of Sloan before here is their only U.S. near hit from their 1992 album, Smeared, “Underwhelmed” (http://youtu.be/MkN_qkN5JLQ)
On Say What You Mean, Brooklynite Allison Weiss leverages her kickstarter financed debut record entitled Was Right All Along into this No Sleep Records label produced pop-punk gem. Where the first record was more of a traditional pop record, here Allison embraces her inner Chrissie Hynde (of the Pretenders) and while still retaining the charm of the first LP, updates the tempos to produce some very fine songs, not too loud, and more leaning to the power pop emo light of late 70’s punk. “One Way Love” wouldn’t sound out of place if it had been released in 1979 and Joe Jackson was singing it instead of Allison. This is very clean and crisply produced and stays fresh over repeated listens because Allison stretches the songwriting and there is a diverse range of tempos and sounds to avoid the repetition that detracts from many a record. Try ” Nothing Left”, “Don’t Go, and “Hole In Your Heart”. Here is an acoustic live version of “Say What You Mean” (http://youtu.be/dcfBeVPvVa0)
Auto Defiance’s record Running on the Edge came out in January, but it took me a couple of months to stumble upon it as I was searching through my iTunes for something to listen to while I pound away at work. Art rockers Auto Defiance, fronted by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bradley Boyer and co-writer/vocalist Asheira on synth and bells, write instantly catchy uptempo atmospheric dance pop that provides a great change of pace. The song I stumbled upon was a cover of New Order‘s “Bizarre Love Triangle” which was spot on – I thought it was another New Order remix. However, from opening track “Heart Attack” (http://youtu.be/NyiJdVrvnkc) and throughout the record, this is great music for lifting your mood. Try: “Heart Attack”, “Ghost Inside Yourself” and “Submission.” Try this Balcony TV acoustic-electric version of “Heart Attack” recorded live in Nashville as well: “Heart Attack” (http://youtu.be/RTI2Yd5jTpE).
Loke Rahbek and Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, of Sexdrome and Iceage respectively comprise Vår which also includes fellow Copenhagen scenesters Kristian Emdal and Lukas Højlund,and this record is something highly unusual, particularly if you are familiar with Rønnenfelt’s other band, the hardcore machine Iceage, whose record appeared in the dropbox last year. Rarely do I want to work hard to “get a record”, that is try to understand the lyrics or feel the challenge of a particular musical style which in this case, is a Joy Division inspired electonic/industrial record, much like Throbbing Gristle. For those of you who listen to albums in order, then No None Dances Like My Brother is challenging at first, but by track 2 it gives way to something more familiar. This record is worth the work and is really a palate cleanser for your musical mind to give you hope that these types of sonic experiments will bear fruit in the future. Try ” The World Fell” ( unofficial video:http://youtu.be/MpaMT2wEQmU ) , “No No One Dances Like My Brother,” and “Boy.”
Not going to say much about the Plain White T’s new EP, Should Have Gone To Bed, except that there is this instantly likeable and catchy acoustic number which would be a pop hit in any country, really. Called “The Giving Tree” ( here live on some CBS morning show: http://youtu.be/EmhbRM-I-q4) it is one of 4 great pop tunes on this far too short offering. Oh well, maybe next year.
On Lights, French band Exsonvaldes, offers up some hook laden electro-pop in a similar vein to Phoenix. On Lights, the bands 4th album, Simon Beaudoux and his bandmates, produce smooth dance rock sung in English, with the attendant idiosyncrasies that such conversion from French to English but that is precisely what makes these songs endearing. I’m not sure that I would play the entire record through in one listen as the songs have little variety, but as a break in the guitar rock action on my playlist, this is exciting stuff. Try” Let Go”, “Seahorses” ( I love this song) and “Guns”.
So, until next time… Let’s be safe out there …but listen dangerously.