For those of you whom have patiently waited for a new list – well here it is! The first list of 2016! As you can see, the list includes a number of things from the podcast, plus a few extras that haven’t made it yet. I have also included a couple of reissues that every collection needs. As always, this list represents my opinion of the best new(ish) releases that are worth the time and trouble (and money) to locate and download or more preferable purchase the vinyl.
So, for your enjoyment…. Here is the list:
Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum 
DIIV – Is the Is Are 
What’s Eating Gilbert – That New Sound You’re Looking For 
The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab 
Savages – Adore Life 
Jungle Giants – Speakerzoid 
Daughter – Not to Disappear 
Grizfolk – Waking Up The Giants 
Hinds – Leave Me Alone 
Sea Pinks – Soft Days 
Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony 
Two Inch Astronaut – Personal Life 
Basement – Promise Everything 
Cheerleader – The Sunshine Of Your Youth 
Banners – Banners 
Danko Jones – Live At Wacken 
Dynamite Pussy Club – Shakedown
Jezabels – Synthia 
Her – Tape #1 EP 
Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger 
Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation 
Last Shadow Puppets – Bad Habits 
Fat White Family – Songs For Our Mothers 
Dollyrots – Mama’s Gonna Knock You Out 
Teen – Little Doods 
Waters – Follow the Beam of Light 
Wild Nothing – Life of Pause 
The Cult – Hidden City 
Bloc Party – Hymns [Deluxe Edition] 
Eliza & The Delusionals – The Time Spent On The Inside EP 
Suede – Night Thoughts 
Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth 
Working for a Nuclear Free City – What Do People Do All Day 
Coffee Or Not – Everything Is Falling Down 
Battleme – Habitual Love Songs 
Harriet – American Appetite 
Cold Engines – Better Off Dead 
Spring Break – Beer Me 
David Bowie – Blackstar 
Death By Pleasure – No Stall Geek 
Milk Teeth – Vile Child 
Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow 
St. Lucia – Matter 
Half Japanese – Perfect 
Chairlift – Moth 
Milk ‘N’ Cookies – Milk ‘N’ Cookies [Special Edition] 
Surprise! I’ve finally had a chance to update these notes! I think you’ll find in the two months since I last posted here that new music continues to be very interesting this year with some pretty terrific goodies to listen to in the dropbox. With new releases from some old favorites (Wilco, D.O.A, Matt Pond PA, Destroyer, Ryan Adams); some terrific new bands (Wolf Alice, White Reaper, Grave Babies, Rose Windows, Strange Wilds); and some surprising releases from bands long thought dead (K’s Choice, Everclear, Metro Station, Veruca Salt) this is a varied and diverse dropbox. Everyone should find something to listen to that they will love. Heck, if your old, check out the Replacements Albums box and The Jam’s Greatest Hits collection. Truly, this is as diverse as it gets from me, with Citizens! (the one with the !) lovely song “All I Want Is You” punishing me with its catchy melody and pop hook. Titus Andronicus’s latest is a rock opera “The Lamentable Tragedy” and it is not only challenging but upon reflection – pure genius.
I’ll post some reviews and the previous lists over the next couple of weeks so check back. If you are getting notifications from this list when new stuff is posted, then you will be first to know when the next set of releases is ready to roll two weeks from now. So work quickly, eh?
So, check things out – you know the drill. Here is the list:
Wilco – Star Wars 
Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool 
Turnover – Peripheral Vision 
Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy 
Titus Andronicus – Sorry About The Delay Mixtape Volume 2A 
Tame Impala – Currents 
Teenage Time Killers – Greatest Hits Vol.1 
Strange Wilds – Subjective Concepts 
Ryan Adams – Live At Carnegie Hall 
Replacements – The Complete Studio Albums 1981-1990 
Slowly I’m catching up. In this month’s dropbox are some very outstanding releases highlighting a very healthy alt-indie-punk scene. As this is the only place you will get to hear much of this music (albeit there are a few albums on this month’s list which I dare say might actually make it on to commercial radio such as the new Imagine Dragon’s and Airborne Toxic Event LPs and perhaps the Noel Gallagher album), grab what you can early as you can as I have another fresh month of great tunes ready to roll right behind this one. I have divided this months Dropbox Notes into a couple of sections – notes, editorial, and then music – to shortcut the process so you only have to read what you want to read, eh?
Important Note : Concerts at the VFW in Monrovia (825 S. Magnolia Ave, Monrovia CA) beginning March 13, 2015
One note of interest (both for me and for you): If you are in the Monrovia (California – not Liberia) area this week on Friday March 13 – drop by the VFW for the first of a series of local shows featuring Monrovia’s own Jurassic Shark as well as Shaman Cult, Wild Wing and Gold Vine. I am the promoter of these shows with a couple of local buddies. We are attempting to start a truly local scene in the San Gabriel Valley and this is the first show in what we hope to be a series of shows.
Our second show is Friday March 27, 2015 at the same location. Bands to be announced. Stay tuned!!
Editorial: How to really F%$& Up a good thing as demonstrated by KROQ.
As I have observed over time, there are rarely better examples of how to not handle change than are easily found in the music world. The most recent spectacular example, is KROQ’s handling of the terminations of Lisa May and Doc on the Roq from a morning show which they were both integral characters. What I will miss is Lisa’s sunny disposition and steady performance as straight person to the comedy attempts of the other participants in the program. I enjoyed the actual sound of her voice in the mornings because of its tone. I have listened to portions of the program each morning since the beginning of the program – the name of which is no longer important because after the terminations I know longer listen to the yak asses who remain involved – although I will say that the name hosts did much better, post termination, to explain the rationale, than Ralph Garman who came off as arrogant, obnoxious, and self-righteous in his defense of the change.Lisa and Doc – you were great and I hope you land somewhere that appreciates your distinct and special skills.
Poorly handled by all though, which frankly is inexcusable. 18 years of employee loyalty terminated in a single day. The station lost me as a listener although to be fair I haven’t listened much for several years as the music on KROQ is just plain repetitive and boring and what I have observed previously remains true – they are not really focused on new music. REALLY – STOP playing the Red Hot Chili Peppers – Foo Fighters too!.
So, on the theory that change is a good thing, I believe that the late observation of the program to make changes to freshen up a show that has become somewhat stale was actually astute – but I would have terminated Ralph and slipped someone into his slot – someone who truly loves entertainment rather than Ralph who spends most segments shamelessly and constantly self-promoting his own out of studio activities.
I am going to miss Doc whose distinct 1 minute news style was all its unique own and of course, Lisa May who was erudite in a sea of rather unfunny lemmings.
So, with that observation, now to the part that really matters, the Music
A couple of live offerings to start things off this month’s Tales Form The Dropbox:
You just have to love Ty Segall. Prolific, talented, unpredictable but always interesting, Live in San Francisco documents a blistering show recorded as part of Castle Face Records Live in San Francisco series. Look back and find the OBN III’s show in an earlier dropbox). This is a terrific example of a Ty Segall show with all loud guitars, fuzz, psychedelic roar, and Ty’s distinctive vocals holding the fun together. As the label accurately describes, this is the Ty Segall Band “captured during two nights in San Francisco at the barely-pushing-medium sized venue The Rickshaw Stop. Rowdy crowd, meet stacks of amplifiers – Ty, Charlie, Mikal and Emily came to singe your ears off.” Duly noted! Try “Feel” (off the new record Manipulator), “Slaughterhouse” and “Whats Inside Your Heart.”
Going on the theory that you cannot have too much of a good thing and when it is Devo there is never enough, Devo – Hardcore Live! captures Devo paying tribute to Bob Casale (“Bob 2”) who had passed away last year performing tracks written in Devo’s infancy between 1974 and 1977 on last years ten-city “Hardcore Tour.” Released as a DVD, this live album recorded at the Oakland Coliseum captures the frenetic energy of Devo’s earliest recordings many of which date back to the basement in Akron where they were recorded and only having been previously released on the Hardcore albums. So, on Hardcore Live! these nascent tracks are now all cleaned up and played with vigorous energy and love. For me, the live reexamination of these demos and early versions makes their inclusion in the overall record of devolution significant. No real picks here as I like them all, but you should check out the terrific versions of “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Jocko Homo,” and of course “Satisfaction.” (Honestly, at this point in my life when I think of this song, I no longer can recall how the Stones version actually sounds). Stiff Little Fingers is Still Kicking. Not really kicking much lately, but if you are reading this entry Jake Burns – now would be an excellent time for a new LP to be released. Notwithstanding that this is a retitled reissue of an earlier SLF live release entitled At The Edge it is a very good introduction to my favorite band of all time. Recorded at the Ocean, in Hackney England on October 9, 2004, Still Kicking is an example of the SLF hit machine firing on all cylinders. Truly one of the greatest live shows I have ever witnessed, Jake Burns is the consummate showman and the kinetic energy of the shows makes for engaging and compelling listening. These are the hits performed by the one band that should be in everyone’s record collection. For me after more than 30 years I have never tired of any of these songs and the album is a refresher of why SLF and these classic punk songs made such an impact. As with Devo above, try them all, but if you force me to pick the best of this specific show, then try “Barbed Wire Love,” “Fly The Flag,” and “Suspect Device.”
Finishing up the live portion of these dropbox notes, a couple of Guster shows that demonstrate the power of Guster’s songwriting compiled into a box set. Last month I dropped the excellent new album, Evermotion, but these three shows highlight what makes Guster special as a band as they play three earlier records from their lengthy career, in order, live at various venues. Guster performed their 2003 album Keep It Together at New York’s Beacon Theatre on November 30, and recreated their 1994 debut Parachute live during a matinee at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl on December 1. Ben Kweller, who appears on Keep It Together, also appeared at the Beacon theater show. According to the band: Keep It Together (released June 2003)
The day we released KIT, we played a free concert in Boston’s Government Center. Introduced by Mayor Menino as “Goose-ter”, the audience was a massive sea of nearly 50,000 heads. We played every song double speed and stayed into the wee hours of the night autographing hummingbird after hummingbird for whoever waited in line. The next morning I opened up the band’s email inbox, expecting to be inundated with love, and was shocked to find like, no new messages. People were still digesting that this album was a real departure. A transitional album, in the context of our musical history, we feel pretty good looking back at what we created now, and so many people have told us it’s their favorite Guster album. While the front half was tighter and more pop, the back half unleashed a new, more experimental side for us. But every last song on that album still feels relevant, and we’re excited to celebrate it, from “Diane” to “Two at a Time”, at the Beacon Theater. Parachute (released May 1994)
People thought we’d never do this, but we’re doing it, and we’re doing it at 2pm in a bowling alley. We were juniors at Tufts playing in a band called Gus when we first put out this album. The cd release party was at a dining hall, and someone in the crowd let off a sulfur stink bomb during our set, which still pisses me off nearly 20 years later. While many of the songs on this album have fallen out of favor in the live set, we appreciate that for a lot of our oldest fans, this was what hooked them. And for three kids who were recording between midnight and six am at Q Division studios in Boston while racking up incompletes in our classes, the album sounded better than we could have ever imagined at the time. Most copies of Parachute were sold out of a guitar case while busking in Harvard Square in the mid-90s, and there are 4000 existing copies where the band was GUS, not GUSTER. Those are worth between 10 and 12 dollars on eBay.
Terrific stuff. If you’ve never heard Guster before, then this is a good chance to find out what makes them special. No favorites here as well, they are terrific records studio and live. My favorites, you query?
Try: “Jesus On The Radio,” “Barrel of a Gun,” and “Dissolve.”
In a similar vein (musically at least) is Ben Lee. With a new album coming out next month and a new label (Warner’s) Australia’s Ben Lee encapsulates with Mixtape a career’s worth of splendid indie-pop confection bordering on perfection. According to Ben:
“This album began as an exploration of songwriting. I decided to write songs for different voices, and invite these singers to perform them. My dear friend Sam Spiegel (Squeak E Clean) offered to produce the record I had conceptualized, and we began working on the collaboration in earnest in 1998.
Over the next 6 or 7 years we continued to record intermittently. All kinds of wonderful musicians came by and offered their help with recording. I should have kept better notes during the sessions but I know you can hear Eric Gardner, James Valentine, Rusty Logsdon and Alfredo Ortiz amongst many others. I am grateful to everyone who played a part in these recordings, large or small, remembered or forgotten. For some years these recording just sat on my hard drive. I have always loved the recordings, but life moved me in other directions and distractions, and the release of the “Mixtape” recordings were temporarily shelved.”
However, in order to assist a charitable cause, he released Mixtapes to raise funds and the results are stunning. I dare you not to fall in love with “You’re The Reason (feat. Zooey Deschanel) who I realize now is a far better singer than actress.
So, if you love pop music try Mixtapes which is a very good collection of songs, but for my money try: “You’re the Reason (feat. Zooey Deschanel),” “Turn Back Now (feat. Azure Ray),” and “You Confuse Me (feat. Ian Ball).”
A couple of reissues of note this month in the dropbox. First up are the two releases from Jellyfish, much appreciated by me and much missed as well. I have dropped in various releases over the years related to Jellyfish, but Bellybutton and Spilt Milk represent the only official releases in the short history of the band. These remastered deluxe editions feature a staggering 51 bonus tracks consisting of various demos and live recordings. Jellyfish’s debut, Bellybutton, was released in 1990 and the follow up Spilt Milk in 1993.
Produced with the participation of original members, Andy Sturmer, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Jason Falkner from Jellyfish these reissues round up everything you could ever want from the band. However, in exploring these reissues, I would suggest listening to the original albums as released first before digging into the cornucopia of extras. The exploration of the extras is rather exhaustive and in some places repetitive. However, for a two record career, Jellyfish produced two titles that demonstrate that the 90’s was not all grunge and nu-metal. Remarkable consistent and immediately likeable, Bellybutton and definitely worth a listen. Try “The King Is Half-Undressed,” “Calling Sarah,” and “The Ghost at Number One.”
The Go-Betweens, like Jellyfish, were also a musical anomaly, oh, and also Australian. G Stands for Go-Betweens: Volume 1 1978-1984 collects the chaotic early period of the career of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan (who died in 2006) which was largely overlooked (although not by me as I collected the releases during this period) and not commercially successful because at the heart of their genius was that they produced great singles but their albums were not considered great at the time. Not coincidentally then, you should likely start your exploration of this box set with the First 5 Singles in this 8 disc box set. After the taster set, try my favorite album, the excellent second album 1983’s Before Hollywood, then skip to their debut, Send Me A Lullaby, and then next listen to Spring Hill Fair. From there, you are on your own. This is a great compilation highlighting releases that attracted zealous fans worldwide but in the mainstream stands largely overlooked. Sad, really, because buried in these records are some classic songs that are impressive today. To be clear, I am not saying that everything here is gold – there are some obvious warts and bumps in the catalog, but who am I to judge (not intended to be an ironic statement). Try “Two Steps Step Out,” “Careless,” and “Bachelor Kisses.” Also reissued is Leftover Crack’s last record, now 10 years old, the exceptional Fuck World Trade which is a mix of classic NYC Hardcore and ska that left an indelible mark on me when I first heard it. Leftover Crack achieved on this release what few bands during this period were able to accomplish – an intelligent (although the views expressed are somewhat over the top cartoonish radical) blend of punk, hardcore and ska with touches of metal blended into a truly classic sound. Defiantly different – Fuck World Trade is a punk rock masterwork. Even the covers and additional tracks add to the original album fit seamlessly on this reissue. If you’ve never heard of Choking Victim before today, the two covers included here are better than the originals – tight and speedy – perfectly transforming the songs into Leftover Crack essentials and making you forget the originals. Try “One Dead Cop,” “Apple Pie and Police State,” and the lengthy “Soon We’ll Be Dead.”
Still hanging out in the punk world, is Title Fight’s whose latest, Hyperview continues a string of excellent punk rock releases. Hanging out is an inaccurate descriptor of Title Fight’s sound or songs. Rather, Hyperview marks the logical progression of a band whose earlier work was a potent mix of pop punk and bouncy guitars, now directly focused on a more angular guitar attack that is sonically superior, still melodic, and is more akin to post-punk than the pop punk of the early years. This is a powerful listening experience, and I have only one small nag – the mix buries the vocals a little too deep in the sonic wash, but overall its still Title Fight, a little more mature (is that a negative?) but a study in blending power and melody. Try “Mrhac,” “New Vision,” and “Liar’s Love.”
Missed entirely by those in the know (you know who you are!), is the debut from Beaumont Texas 3 piece Purple, who has managed to capture what has been missing lately from traditional rock – energy. This is a mix of the White Stripes, the Strokes, Jet, and a Brodie Dalle sound-alike for a singer, making for an eclectic mix of boy (guitarist and vocalist Taylor Busby) and almost girl vocals (drummer and vocalist Hannah Brewer) that drives this record. The White Stripes influences are felt most strongly on tracks like “Leche Loco” where the vocals could be Jack White, but there is something much more interesting going on here. More modern reviewers will point to those bands as the touchstone ( I get it – female drummer means it must be a White Stripes cover band) but the sound on (409) is really derived from the Led Zeppelin song book and it is all good. Modern flourishes on a classic rock foundation with maximum riffage doesn’t disappoint. As a change of pace, this is an excellent record. I promise you’ll love something on this record. They are on a massive tour of Europe, so if they eventually get over to this side of America, try to catch them live. Try “Beach Buddy,” “Target,” and “Head On The Floor.”
Now on the other end of the sonic spectrum is Teen Daze’s latest A World Away. For those who will listen to this record and are familiar with my tastes for punk rock and indie pop, you will obviously say upon first listen – what the F#$^? This is an electronic instrumental record and entirely outside of my usual musical comfort zone as I’m not a huge electronic fan. I was actually caught off guard by A World Away, because the melodies and the massive sound collage created in each song are very effective. Remarkably diverse for an electronic record and never boring, the songs created images. A refreshing way to look at music. Not an everyday experience for me, but as a one-time event, I’ll come back to listen to this. For example, “Reykjavik, January 2015” actually reminded me of those morning walks in the bush behind my house in Whitehorse, YT as a teenager. Remarkable. Try “Reykjavik, January 2015,” Sun Burst,” and I Feel God In The Water.”
Let’s get back on track, eh? One of my favorite records of the year so far is Amherst Massachusetts California-X’s Nights In The Dark which steps away from the obvious Dinosaur Jr. comparisons on its debut release into new territory by dialing back the 90’s fuzz and distortion into the more pleasant Overwhelming Colorfast variant. California-X still manages to be powerful on Nights In The Dark and this is still an alt-rock record (think Pavement and Meat Puppets) but not a 90’s throwback as much as a 2015 update including those sounds. There is much to like about the variety and the catchiness of the songs on Nights In The Dark and it doesn’t all work for me (for example “Ayla’s Song,”, huh?) but I don’t fault the band for trying to push their sound in new directions. Exploration is good. Try “ Hadley, MA,” “Nights In The Dark,” and “Summer Wall Pt. 2.”
Next up is the band I consider to be the best traditional rock band (yes, I said best!) on the planet. I’ve been hooked on Danko Jones since I first heard “Lovercall” and if you can get over the obvious Kiss references (when they were still good i.e. prior to 1979), then Danko Jones is the sole occupant of the sweet spot of rock and roll. Danko Jones is remarkably consistent for the past 15 years. As a 3 piece, Danko Jones is the real deal as a traditional power trio. Fire Music, the bands 7th comes out April 21 and continues the tradition of the exploding drummers with new drummer Rich Knox behind the kit. At last count I believe that Rich is the 7th Danko Jones drummer. Perhaps it’s the in your face mix of Ramones and Kiss, but Fire Music is a solid record throughout. Miss this and you are missing out. Try “Body Bags” (reminds me of D.O.A.), “Gonna Be A Fight Tonight,” and the awesome (difficult not to smile throughout this) track “Do You Wanna Rock.”
Moving to the other side of the ocean (I bet you thought I was going to write “pond” but I’ll get to Pond next) is the distinctly British take on rock and roll in the form of Carl Barât & The Jackals debut Let It Reign. The obvious point of reference for comparison is the Libertines which will end up in every review – somewhere. It is hard not to make such comparison as the Libertines were among the best punk bands of all time – mixing rock n roll excess with British punk and tabloid behavior perfecting the appearance of genius disaster. While Pete Doherty gets the cred – dated Kate Moss din’t he? – Carl deserves equal credit for that band’s success and spectacular failings. Now as the Libertines try to thrash together new material, Carl’s latest with a new band, the Jackals, is a solid rock album, that took me a couple of listens to find the gems buried in its contents. I can see how the Clash echoes throughout the record and for me that’s not a bad thing. You’ll get the obvious Clash references from the very first track, “Glory Days” but as I indicated at the beginning, the Clash are the obvious reference point for traditional British Rock. Taking off from that touchstone, the album is powerful, furious at points, the songs have a direct oft times angry punchiness and there is a determination in the vocals making for a great listen. Try “ A Storm is Coming,” “War Of The Roses,” and the Buzzcock’s like “The Gears.”
Now we should discuss Pond. Australia (again) has a better grasp on the hippy, trippy, psychedelic with a nod to the goofiness of rock music. Sharing members with Tame Impala, Pond is a being unto its own mixing on this record more synth and dance rhythms into its sonic stew but retaining the psych-rock leanings of earlier outings. Six albums into a career, this, for me, is their best record as it notches up the fun, keeps things still a little weird, but the most relevant tidbit is that it still rocks hard for as much synthesizer as there is on this record. Clap your hands and sing along to “Elvis’ Flaming Star,” “Outside is the Right Side,” and “holding Out For You.”
Jessica Pratt’s latest On Your Own Love Again is a home recorded lo-fi acoustic affair that is remarkable in its simple complexity. On Your Own Love Again is Jessica’s voice mostly accompanied by acoustic guitar filled with songs that are complex in both vocal delivery and songwriting. Jessica’s vocals integrate beautifully with the rich guitar and on On Your Own Love Again, her second effort, the songs present both feeling and color. This is an album that demands listening and the effort is rewarded with a thoroughly pleasurable listening experience. Again, not normally my thing, but change is good. Try ” Game That I Play,” “Greycedes,” and “Back, Baby.”
A different approach to the singer-songwriter dynamic is Nashville’s Natalie Prass’ self-titled debut effort. A former backup vocalist for Jenny Lewis, and now on tour with Ryan Adams (which is how I came to find out about this gem) Jenny Prass creates a pleasurable listening environment for some very well written songs. The band is tight and showcase Natalie’s obvious vocal skills. These are powerful vocal performances but still delicate (if that somehow makes sense) and all these tracks are both charming and interesting – a perfect blend. Try “Why Don’t You Believe In Me,” “Birds of Prey,” and “My Baby Don’t Understand Me.”
I have repeatedly and often highlighted my love of Australian bands, but it should also be obvious that Canadian musicians are the spine in my book of awesome bands. (See Danko Jones (Toronto) above). Calgary based Woman were an awesome band until an on-stage fight broke up the band and the tragic death of guitarist Chris Reimer in 2012 took the band with it forever. It seemed like the remaining members would seek an entirely different musical path following Women’s unfortunate demise. Not so fast. Dissolving the band and reforming with two members of Woman in 2013, Vietcong incorporates obvious elements from Woman’s prior outings, particularly from the Public Strain LP and specifically the “cold” feeling created by the dissonance on the record. In 2013, the release you are now listening to was put out as a “tour only cassette” by the band as a kind of introduction to Vietcong. the songs on the Cassette EP are warmer by a few degrees than Woman, but more importantly, they also represent a significant sonic departure. Their label has cleaned up the original recordings and the new version of the Cassette EP makes the bridge to the new record released in January more obvious. For me, as I saw Bauhaus play live in 1981, the live cover of “Dark Entries” sold me initially on the reconsituted and renamed band, but the rest of the tracks on this EP are essential. Try” Static Wall,” “Select Your Drone,” and “Dark Entries.”
New England’s Make Do And Mend have taken their sweet time in releasing their latest excellent effort Don’t Be Long. It’s been three years since their last album and one would think that Make Do And Mend‘s core audience would need a re-introduction. As you likely know, the music industry savagely discards bands at a greater rate compared with earlier decades. Don’t be worried – Don’t Be Long is going to be considered a classic punk rock record from this era 10 years from now. Sure, there are a few hick-ups along the way, but I prefer to think of them as beauty marks. This is thoroughly enjoyable pop punk with a harder edge and, like the Menzingers latest album, you will find your way back to this album again and often. Try “Sin Miedo,” “Don’t Be Long,” and “Begging For The Sun To Go Down.”
Chicago’s Knuckle Puck have returned with another in a series of what seems to be EP only releases with While I Stay Secluded. Released late in 2014 so it didn’t make the dropbox, Knuckle Puck leans more towards the pop end of the pop-punk spectrum and this EP is a great introduction for those who’ve not had the pleasure previously. Knuckle Puck have put together a complete package embracing the genre and figuring out how to take the lyrical themes common to this genre (alienation, isolation, success etc.) and restate them in an interesting manner. Start at the end first – Try “Bedford Falls,” “But Why Would You Care?, “ and “Transparency.”
Still on the east coast, Albany New York’s Drug Church second effort, Swell, is a too short taster of an EP. From beginning to end this is an in your face attack – raw and powerful and playing on the edge of punk rock and alt-rock at times. Nothing new to the genre but the clean sound and excellent musicianship remarkable offer enough to make this a winner. Try “Mail Swat,” “But Does It Work,” and “Zero Zero.”
I’d be remiss to not offer up reviews of LVL Up, Perfect Pussy,Hoodoo Gurus and Menace Beach but as I’m short of time, I can only say make sure you dig these out and give them a spin. The Waterboys, Purity Ring, St. Vincent and Imagine Dragons you should already know about. The year is off to a great start and although a few of the releases are from last year – they really shouldn’t be missed.
Before you go check out this month’s list below.
Live long and prosper. #Missing Spock
Ty Segall Band – Live in San Francisco 
Ben Lee – A Mixtape From Ben Lee 
Waterboys – Modern Blues 
Carl Barât & The Jackals – Let It Reign 
Twerps – Range Anxiety 
Title Fight – Hyperview 
Teen Daze – A World Away 
Sonny & The Sunsets – Talent Night at the Ashram 
Sidekicks – Runners in the Nerved World 
Purple – (409) 
Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again 
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again 
Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass 
Jellyfish – Spilt Milk [Deluxe Edition] 
Jellyfish – Bellybutton [Deluxe Edition] 
Murder By Death – Big Dark Love 
Milo Greene – Control 
Mademoiselle K – Hungry Dirty Baby 
Knuckle Puck – Don’t Come Home 
Leftover Crack – Fuck World Trade (Reissue) 
Go-Betweens – G Stands for Go-Betweens, vol. 1 
Picking up where we last left off (and you should check the dropbox if you haven’t taken a peek in the past couple of weeks) the start of the New Year usually is pretty slow for new releases, but there are already some worthwhile contenders for your dropbox love. As promised, these notes will cover some of the releases from the second half of last year that appeared and which, if you have not already given these a spin, should spend some time re-discovering. Why? Because they were #%^$ stellar releases that I keep coming back to listen, again and again, without growing tired of the early favorites but discovering along with those early contenders for best song, something I missed in earlier listens. Funny, that is usually the truth about most of the albums that I eventually cherish – I had to let the album penetrate – and then I am hooked. For example, I am currently enamored by the Mixtapes and particularly the vocal interplay between Ryan and Maura, and have watched or listened to “Bad Parts” probably 50 times. Magic. (Terrific video as well!) Now, I can’t get the song out of my head! So, with a number of the albums last year, there was a synergy of band-sound-listener that made several of these records worthy of my time …and hopefully yours.
With a head start on the “cherish” scale, there were a couple of reissues last year that you should have spun to rediscover the magic of those special albums:
Afghan Whigs – Gentleman (at 21) (Reissue) 
Greg Dulli easily had the smoothest voice of alternative rock in the 90s. And on Gentleman, the Whigs 4th album and major label debut, the Whigs managed to smooth the sonic rough edges of the first three records without losing the power of the band’s obvious vocal point – Dulli’s vocals. It also helped that these vocals also disguise some rather disturbing lyrical content that most listeners I assume just happily sang along with missing the pain filled messages that fill the record. Notably, the darkest song on the record is not actually sung by Dulli, but by Scrawl’s Marcy Mays whose own vocals are an equally strong counterpoint to Dulli’s. And perhaps this is why the record works so well – the Whigs were taking a huge chance on a very non-commercial record but one that emotionally connected outside the typical alt-rock fair of the time. The demos included on this record are also revealing and when you compare the versions of “My Curse” (with the demo being sung by Dulli) the risk taking is obvious. A terrific record when released, the demo and bonus material rounds out the record nicely giving perspective on the thought process of crafting a work of art. If you’ve never listened to the Afghan Whigs before, start with the hits “Gentleman” and “Debonair”, then turn up the headphones and listen to the rest. Try to pick out the influences – they are easy to find Motown (Temptations), the Pixies (likely subconsciously) (see below), and Neil Young. Try “Gentleman,” “What Jail is Like” and all 7:00 minutes of “My World Is Empty Without You I Hear A Symphony (KTCL Live Music At The Mercury Cafe, Denver, CO May 10th, 1994)”
Game Theory – Blaze Of Glory (Reissue) 
This is an expanded reissue of Game Theory’s 1982 debut album, remastered for this release which captures Scott Miller‘s home recorded DIY debut in all of its glory but removes some of the “sludge” of the original. Formed after Miller’s first band Alternate Learning ended, Blaze of Glory adds the 4 tracks from the Alternate Learning EP released in 1979 and these tracks forecast the future of where Game Theory would ultimately end up – an “experimental power pop” band. Check out “Beach State Rocking.” Like Greg Dulli above, Miller’s vocals are immediately recognizably and the sound – a mixture of garage, lo-fi, psychedelia (note synth/organ), and pop was the imprimatur for what became college rock of the 90’s. The sound on the original was very thin (and as noted above Blaze of Glory is a home recording) but the reissue makes it a little fuller highlighting the enthusiasm and remarkable simplicity of these uncomplicated positive songs. Later albums incorporate these early sounds that culminate with Game Theory’s masterwork – Lolita Nation, but as a debut, this was a huge step along the path. Try “Date With An Angel,” “Bad Year At UCLA” (Note: Miller attended UC Davis – but UCLA sounded better), and “The Girls Are Ready To Go.”
There were also two huge reissues that collect nuggets, B-Sides, Outtakes, and Live offerings from two of the better bands from the past 30 years – The Pixies and Wilco.
Pixies – Doolittle 25 B-Sides, Peel Sessions and Demos 
Doolittle might be, at least for me, one of the top 10 records of all time. I distinctly recall this coming out in 1989 and immediately playing this for my biology classes. As second albums go, this is an anomaly, as there is strong evidence to suggest that many bands leave there best work on the 1st record – after all, they’ve had a lifetime to perfect those first songs. Not so with Doolittle. This is essentially a greatest hits record. There is not one bad track on the record and as I saw them perform live during this period, the ability to translate these songs to the live format was amazing. Sure, there were some college radio hits – “Here Comes Your Man” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” but wow the album was full of sonic gems with Frank Black (then called Black Francis”) howling like a tortured animal and it all worked. A perfect record. Really. Superlatives aside, Doolittle has aged remarkably well. Still current, topical, exciting Doolittle captures a magic moment of time. Particularly interesting is the tension between Francis and Kim Deal which would eventually explode the band with Kim leaving to form the Breeders as an outlet for her songs, but here, the tension is captured in the furious and tight playing of the Pixies. 50 songs on this collection explores the original record, all of the records demos (gives these a listen – the starting point is sometimes as good as the end) and finally the Peel Sessions which illuminate these terrific songs further. A remarkable achievement. Try “Debaser,” “Wave of Mutilation” and “There Goes My Gun (Peel Session).”
Wilco – Alpha Mike Foxtrot Rare Tracks 1994-2014 
Wilco is an enigma to me. It always takes me a few songs to get into the sonic space that Wilco occupies. A mix of Americana, indie rock, and folk, Wilco is a mood band. That is, I’ve got to be in the mood for Wilco, but when I am, I can stay in that mood for several days. Alpha Mike Foxtrot Rare Tracks is an exhaustive compilation of rare studio tracks, demos, and live recordings from a twenty year span of what is Wilco. And the journey is full of highlights. For me, there is Jeff Tweedy’s tender cover of Alex Chilton’s “Thirteen” is stunning and the song choice is impeccable as “Thirteen” remains among my favorite songs of all time. The tender vocals accentuate the love Tweedy has for the song. At the end of this capsule, I usually tell you to “try” three songs. Well, I’m not really able to do that here. Wilco’s career is highlighted by a staggering number of diverse songs that traverse the rock spectrum. So, over the 77 songs collected on Alpha Mike Foxtrot, there are some straight country covers (“Don’t You Honey Me”), some garage rockers (“Kicking Television”) and some things wildly in the middle (“Jesus Etc. (with Andrew Bird”). My advice is to skip around and find something that captures your attention, and then explore the record song by song. This is an exploration record, not a listen all the way through record. Beautifully crafted songs which represent Wilco in a variety of settings highlight what is the magic of Wilco a band that plays there asses off and all of whom are master musicians – every note perfect with vocals that fill the song creating a mood that captures your heart. For me, Wilco is the perfect antidote for whatever ails.
Also, if you are going to take a spin of this collection, Wilco also released a companion greatest hits collection: What’s Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994 – 2014 that is obviously an easy introduction to the band. I just can’t stop listening to “I Might”. Damn, now it stuck in my head. I’m watching it again.
Big Star – Live in Memphis 
Omnivore Records is quickly becoming one of my favorite reissue labels. Not only are they responsible for the Game Theory reissues, but now they have released the only known professional recording of Big Star live. As noted above, Big Star featuring Alex Chilton, is not only responsible for the terrific song “Thirteen” but is the historical antecedent and touchstone for power pop, but is also just as likely to have been the impetus for many bands to start forming bands as Kiss ever was. From the opening track “In The Street” which is better known today as the theme song for That 70’s Show, to the closer “Slut”, this late version of Big Star (The Posies assist original members Chilton and Jody Stephens) on Live In Memphis blast through a mix of honkey-tonk, southern rock, and straight forward rock n roll mixing the best elements of 70’s AM radio with Alex Chilton’s distinctive vocals to produce a memorable rock listening experience. Although the sound is a little uneven, the recording captures the best known of Big Star’s classics including “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “September Gurls,” and “Big Black Car” mixed with several 70’s covers from the Kinks, T-Rex and Todd Rundgren. Try “When My Baby’s Beside Me,” “September Gurls,” and “Jesus Christ.”
As I am very short of time, there is one recent release I can highlight and that should get your heart racing and your foot tapping:
Chumped – Teenage Retirement 
As I wrote somewhere previously, pop punk still has some legs, at least for me. As debut’s go, this is pretty strong combining a number of easily identifiable influence (Weezer, Superchunk and Jimmy Eat World come to mind) into something unique while still fitting within the confines of the genre. Also, you might have noticed I’ve got a thing lately for girl vocals and Anika Pyle has the tools to produce what is a very charming sound – urgent and distinct. So, if you like albums in this vein, you can’t go wrong with Chumped. Teenage Retirement is an interesting debut full of well-crafted songs that would make for a pretty fun show. Try “Songs About Boats,” “Long Division” and “Old and Tired.”
Before you read January’s Dropbox list below, I also note, that this drop box truly contains some of the strongest records from an excellent 2014. Not only is the list diverse (Really – did you expect to see the Meghan Trainor, Tove Lo and Matthew Ryan records in the dropbox?) but I genuinely enjoyed each and every one of these records in their entirety, which is a rarity. Most records I like a handful of songs that standout, and then there a couple for which I’d take a pass. For most of these records I enjoyed almost every song. My favorites of the month, you ask? Dwarves, Guster, Nude Beach, Sleater-Kinney, Modern Baseball and the Riptides. However, try them all as I think there will be something you like in this batch!
Here is the List:
Dwarves – The Dwarves Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll 
Guster – Evermotion 
Ty Segall – Mr. Face EP 
Meghan Trainor – Title 
Fall Out Boy – American Beauty American Psycho 
Nude Beach – 77 
Major League – There’s Nothing Wrong With Me 
Mannequin Pussy – Gypsy Pervert 
Meatbodies – Meatbodies 
Ought – Once More with Feeling EP 
Ryan Adams – 1984 
September Girls – Cursing The Sea 
Institute – Salt [2014
King Tuff – Black Moon Spell 
September Girls – Veneer 
Cassie Ramone – The Time Has Come 
Black Wine – Yell Boss 
Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance 
Dodos – Individ 
Moon Duo – Shadow Of The Sun 
Melbourne Cans – Moonlight Malaise 
Mighty Lemon Drops – Uptight The Early Recordings 1985-1986 
Overlake – Sighs 
Velociraptor – Velociraptor 
And We Danced – Back To The Middle 
Blood Red Shoes – Blood Red Shoes [Deluxe Edition] 
Coachwhips – Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine (2003, Remastered) 
Dappled Cities – Many Roads 
Dropkick – Homeward 
Lemuria – Turnstile Comix 3 
Little Envy – Little Envy 
Matthew Ryan – Boxers 
Pvris – White Noise 
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love 
White Heat – Kill Your Idols 
Little Big League – Tropical Jinx 
Melted Toys – Melted Toys 
Mitski – Bury Me at Makeout Creek 
Modern Baseball – Techniques 
Wand – Ganglion Reef 
Len Price 3 – Nobody Knows 
Tove Lo – Queen Of The Clouds 
Riptides – Tombs of Gold 
Mallory Knox – Asymmetry 
Melody Fall – The Shape Of Pop Punk To Come 
White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent 
Lunchbox – Lunchbox Loves You 
Midnight Snack – The Times 
Misun – Superstitions 
Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper 
So there you have it until next time. I’ll catch up soon. I guarantee it!
Okay, so I have been off the grid for a while. Hopefully you’ve missed me, because I certainly have missed the interaction with you, each and everyone of you. Really, I think about the Starbucks gang quite a bit after having moved my office. Same goes for the Canadian group whom I missed this Christmas. C&K&J if you are reading these notes, I miss you always when you are not around. Maybe one day you’ll explore the dropbox and find out why I really love this type of music. Nuff’ said.
I also know that I was remiss in getting dropboxes and these notes out for the past couple of months, but life sometimes gets in the way of the music. Not that I stopped listening to new tunes in any imaginable way, but I just wasn’t able to get the writing part underway. I thought about it on a number of occasions but wasn’t able to properly put pen to paper or word document on screen. The dropbox was also kind of quiet, so if you are reading this in early January, give me a shout and I’ll help you out with the stuff that you missed along the way. However, I’ve dropped a new drobox to coincide with these notes so you should take a peek, eh?
As this is generally the time of year when I take a look at the past year and reflect on what I spent most of my time listening to, I seem to have reached a new level of listening diversity. I definitely enjoyed a more diverse year in terms of albums I enjoyed, discovered some new areas of listening enjoyment that were off my radar in the past i.e. pop records, and discovered that pop-punk and punk rock as genres are in really good shape with excellent albums by the Menzingers, Fireworks, Copyrights, and Masked Intruder last year. Most surprising is my new found appreciation for electronic albums. However, don’t get carried away. I still can’t appreciate EDM, most industrial, goth, classical or Hip Hop. I’m still kind of old so its not likely I’m going to move that far from where I’ve started.
If you are new to the Tales From The Dropbox, I only put in albums that I like. So, there are no negative reviews. If I didn’t like a record or was lukewarm or bored, or I missed it along the way, then it’s not going to show up. I’ve got enough to do in my life without wasting energy on things that don’t bring enjoyment or the cash necessary to buy enjoyment! It is called work because its not fun. If work was fun then you could use the terms interchangeable – I’m not there yet. I do actually miss quite a few things because there were over 15,000 releases last year and there are only so many hours in the day. 24 hours I think, right? So if you don’t see it, you can point out what I’ve missed and lead me to discover a record that gives you joy. Truly exciting!
So, the next couple of issues of the Dropbox Notes is designed to accomplish a couple of important tasks:
1. Catch up on releases that I dropped but didn’t have time to give you a capsule review;
2. Give you my thoughts on my favorite records of last year;
3. Post the complete list of releases that made the dropbox;
4. Update you on the new releases in this month’s dropbox.
Whew! That’s a bunch of stuff. So, I’m going to break those tasks up into pieces and post as I go. So, there will be dribs and drabs for the next thirty days or so. Please bear with me. 2015 is already looking good for new music and we will get there….together! ….and hopefully all in one piece…
Finally, I hope that your 2015 is an exciting, prosperous, healthy, and successful year. After the major news events of the past couple of months including #icantbreathe, Ferguson, Ottawa parliament shooter, last week’s Paris attack on a newspaper, and last month’s Australian hostage situation, it, at least on the surface, appears that the degeneration of the human soul is accelerating. Hopefully these tragic events are only an anomaly.
Last year there was also some brilliant evidence of the compassionate and empathetic human spirit where people took it upon themselves to make the world a better and safer place. It is these stories of courage and compassion during difficult situations that give me hope that evil will not win even though these same “good” events don’t get the same press attention. And perhaps these quiet and individual efforts to erase the evil of murder committed in the name of religion will someday create a roar of positive life affirming goodness and we can begin again to enjoy life without the threat of darkness.
Looking forward, and back, at the same time. Happy New Year!
Now to the regular program…
First, you should take a look at what you might have missed in the second half of 2014. My last observations were in July, so here is the list of releases from the second half of 2014 that made the Dropbox:
August 07, 2014 Dropbox
Anti-Flag – A Document of Dissent 
Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside 
Courteeners – Concrete Love [Deluxe Version] 
Spoon – They Want My Soul 
Rise Against – The Black Market 
Nico Vega – Lead to Light 
The #1s – The Number Ones 
Ghost Wolves – Man, Woman, Beast 
Downtown Fiction – Losers & Kings 
Bleachers – Strange Desire 
Bishop Allen – Lights Out 
Big Deal – June Gloom [Deluxe Edition] 
Allison Weiss – Remember When 
Angus And Julia Stone – Angus And Julia Stone [Deluxe Version] 
Colony House – When I Was Younger 
Engineers – Always Returning 
Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt (Deluxe Edition) 
Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals 
Interrupters – The Interrupters 
J Mascis – Tied to a Star 
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again 
Muffs – Whoop Dee Doo 
Stiff Little Fingers – Original Album Series [5CD]
Rentals – Lost In Alphaville 
Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts 
Bats – Volume 1 [3CD] 
Dry The River – Alarms In The Heart 
Literature – Chorus 
Raglans – Raglans 
Real Friends – Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing 
Thousand Foot Krutch – Oxygen Inhale 
Dead Stars – Slumber 
Twin Atlantic – Great Divide (Deluxe Version) 
Ty Segall – Manipulator 
Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lose 
Allah-Las – Worship The Sun 
Dylan In The Movies – Sweet Rebel Thee 
Dirt Farmer – Free BBQ 
Darlings – Made Of Phantoms 
Arkells – High Noon 
Empire! Empire! I Was a Lonely Estate – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten 
Lucero – Live from Atlanta 
Courteeners – How Good It Was EP 
Neighbors – Failure 
Neighbors – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please 
Wax Witches – Center Of Your Universe 
Philip Selway – Weatherhouse 
Quietdrive – The Ghost of What You Used to Be 
Game Theory – Blaze of Glory [Expanded Edition] 
So, which of these releases should you have not missed? Well, the next Tales From The Dropbox Notes will cover the key releases that belong in everyone’s collection! (No…. the Foo Fighters record is not one of them. Sadly, not in the top releases of 2014. Solid record, but not one that I’m going to keep coming back to listen. Shelf life = 3 months, perhaps 6 months at best.)