Dropbox Notes February 8, 2016

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:

  1. Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum [2016]
  2. DIIV – Is the Is Are [2016]
  3. What’s Eating Gilbert – That New Sound You’re Looking For [2015]
  4. The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab [2016]
  5. Savages – Adore Life [2016]
  6. Jungle Giants – Speakerzoid [2015]
  7. Daughter – Not to Disappear [2016]
  8. Grizfolk – Waking Up The Giants [2016]
  9. Hinds – Leave Me Alone [2016]
  10. Sea Pinks – Soft Days [2016]
  11. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony [2016]
  12. Two Inch Astronaut – Personal Life [2016]
  13. Basement – Promise Everything [2016]
  14. Cheerleader – The Sunshine Of Your Youth [2015]
  15. Banners – Banners [2016]
  16. Danko Jones – Live At Wacken [2016]
  17. Dynamite Pussy Club – Shakedown
  18. Jezabels – Synthia [2016]
  19. Her – Tape #1 EP [2016]
  20. Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger [2016]
  21. Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation [2016]
  22. Last Shadow Puppets – Bad Habits [2016]
  23. Fat White Family – Songs For Our Mothers [2016]
  24. Dollyrots – Mama’s Gonna Knock You Out [2016]
  25. Teen – Little Doods [2015]
  26. Waters – Follow the Beam of Light [2016]
  27. Wild Nothing – Life of Pause [2016]
  28. The Cult – Hidden City [2016]
  29. Bloc Party – Hymns [Deluxe Edition] [2016]
  30. Eliza & The Delusionals – The Time Spent On The Inside EP [2016]
  31. Suede – Night Thoughts [2016]
  32. Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth [2016]
  33. Working for a Nuclear Free City – What Do People Do All Day [2016]
  34. Coffee Or Not – Everything Is Falling Down [2016]
  35. Battleme – Habitual Love Songs [2016]
  36. Harriet – American Appetite [2016]
  37. Cold Engines – Better Off Dead [2016]
  38. Spring Break – Beer Me [2015]
  39. David Bowie – Blackstar [2016]
  40. Death By Pleasure – No Stall Geek [2015]
  41. Milk Teeth – Vile Child [2016]
  42. Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow [2016]
  43. St. Lucia – Matter [2016]
  44. Half Japanese – Perfect [2016]
  45. Chairlift – Moth [2016]
  46. Milk ‘N’ Cookies – Milk ‘N’ Cookies [Special Edition] [2016]
  47. Lush – Chorus (LUSH BOX 1) (Limited Edition) [5CD][2015]
  48. Jam – Fire and Skill [2015]
  49. Replacements – The Complete Studio Albums 1981-1990 (BOXSET) [8CD] [2015]
  50. Long Ryders – Final Wild Songs [2016]

Quite a bit to sample, so enjoy!

KFR

Dropbox Notes July 28, 2015

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:

  1. Wilco – Star Wars [2015]
  2. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool [2015]
  3. Turnover – Peripheral Vision [2015]
  4. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy [2015]
  5. Titus Andronicus – Sorry About The Delay Mixtape Volume 2A [2015]
  6. Tame Impala – Currents [2015]
  7. Teenage Time Killers – Greatest Hits Vol.1 [2015]
  8. Strange Wilds – Subjective Concepts [2015]
  9. Ryan Adams – Live At Carnegie Hall [2015]
  10. Replacements – The Complete Studio Albums 1981-1990 [2015]
  11. Plain White T’s – American Nights [2015]
  12. Pile – You’re Better Than This [2015]
  13. Oh Mercy – When We Talk About Love [2015]
  14. Metz – II [2015]
  15. Masked Intruder – Incriminating Evidence 2011 Demos [2015]
  16. Ducktails – St. Catherine [2015]
  17. Girlpool – Chinatown [2015]
  18. Grave Babies – Holographic Violence [2015]
  19. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Quarters! [2015]
  20. Matt Pond PA – The State of Gold [2015]
  21. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets [2015]
  22. Peach Kelli Pop – III [2015]
  23. Beach House – Depression Cherry [2015]
  24. Bear’s Den – Agape [2015]
  25. Citizens! – European Soul [2015]
  26. Citizen – Everybody Is Going To Heaven [2015]
  27. Clarks – Rewind [2015]
  28. Damaged Bug – Cold Hot Plumbs [2015]
  29. D.O.A. – Hard Rain Falling [2015]
  30. Destroyer – Poison Season [2015]
  31. Django Django – Born Under Saturn [2015]
  32. Du Blonde – Welcome Back to Milk [2015]
  33. Institute – Catharsis [2015]
  34. King Tuff and Ty Segall – Live At Pickathon [2015]
  35. Mac DeMarco – Another One [2015]
  36. Mac DeMarco – Some Other Ones [2015]
  37. Lvl Up – Three Songs [2015]
  38. Northern Faces – Northern Faces [2015]
  39. Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes [2015]
  40. White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again [2015]
  41. The Pre New – The Male Eunuch [2015]
  42. On An On – And The Wave Has Two Sides [2015]
  43. Metro Station – Savior [2015]
  44. Everclear – Black Is The New Black [2015]
  45. Jam – About the Young Idea The Very Best of the Jam [2015]
  46. American Wrestlers – American Wrestlers [2015]
  47. Ava Luna – Takamatsu Station [2015]
  48. Beach Slang – Broken Thrills [2015]
  49. Bop English – Constant Bop [2015]
  50. Rose Windows – Rose Windows [2015]

Remember, I listen so you don’t have to! Let’s be safe out there!

K

Dropbox Notes March 10, 2015

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

FridayVer1One 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 PeppersFoo 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:

Ty Segall - Live in San FranciscoYou 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.”

Devo - Hardcore Live!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 - Still KickingStiff 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.”

Guster - Limited Edition Box SetFinishing 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 - Keep It Together Live From The Beacon Theatre [2015]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.
Guster - Parachute Live From Brooklyn BowlParachute (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.

Guster - Lost and Gone Forever LiveTerrific 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.”

 

 

Ben Lee - A Mixtape From Ben LeeIn 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.

You to can donate: https://amixtapefrombenlee.bandcamp.com/releases

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).”

Jellyfish - BellybuttonA 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.

Jellyfish - Spilt MilkProduced 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.”

Go-Betweens - G Stands for Go-Betweens Volume 1 1978-1984The 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.”
Leftover Crack - Fuck World Trade (Reissue)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.”

Title Fight - HyperviewStill 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.”

409 - PurpleMissed 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.”

Teen Daze - A World AwayNow 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.”

California X - Nights In The DarkLet’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.”

Danko Jones - Fire MusicNext 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.”

Carl Barât & The Jackals - Let It ReignMoving 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.”

Pond - Man It Feels Like Space AgainNow 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 - On Your Own Love AgainJessica 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.”

Natalie Prass - Natalie PrassA 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.”

Vietcong - Cassette EPI 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.”

Make Do And Mend - Don't Be LongNew 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.”

Knuckle Puck - While I Stay SecludedChicago’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.”

Drug Church - SwellStill 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

The list:

  1. Ty Segall Band – Live in San Francisco [2015]
  2. Ben Lee – A Mixtape From Ben Lee [2015]
  3. Waterboys – Modern Blues [2015]
  4. Carl Barât & The Jackals – Let It Reign [2015]
  5. Twerps – Range Anxiety [2015]
  6. Title Fight – Hyperview [2015]
  7. Teen Daze – A World Away [2015]
  8. Sonny & The Sunsets – Talent Night at the Ashram [2015]
  9. Sidekicks – Runners in the Nerved World [2015]
  10. Purple – (409) [2015]
  11. Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again [2015]
  12. Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again [2015]
  13. Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass [2015]
  14. Jellyfish – Spilt Milk [Deluxe Edition] [2015]
  15. Jellyfish – Bellybutton [Deluxe Edition] [2015]
  16. Murder By Death – Big Dark Love [2015]
  17. Milo Greene – Control [2015]
  18. Mademoiselle K – Hungry Dirty Baby [2015]
  19. Knuckle Puck – Don’t Come Home [2015]
  20. Leftover Crack – Fuck World Trade (Reissue) [2015]
  21. Go-Betweens – G Stands for Go-Betweens, vol. 1 [2015]
  22. Devo – Hardcore Live! [2015]
  23. California X – Nights in the Dark [2015]
  24. Danko Jones – Fire Music [2015]
  25. Menace Beach – Ratworld [2015]
  26. Viet Cong – Cassette [2014]
  27. LVL UP – Hoodwink’d [2015]
  28. Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors [Super Deluxe Edition] [2015]
  29. Stiff Little Fingers – Still Kicking [2015]
  30. Purity Ring – Another Eternity [2015]
  31. Make Do And Mend – Don’t Be Long [2015]
  32. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday [2015]
  33. Cheatahs – Sunne EP [2015]
  34. Drug Church – Swell [2015]
  35. Fury Things & Brilliant Beast – Split EP [2015]
  36. St. Vincent – St. Vincent (Deluxe Edition) [2015]
  37. Perfect Pussy – I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling [2015]
  38. Kopek – Rise [2014]
  39. Knuckle Puck – While I Stay Secluded [2014]
  40. Kittyhawk – Hello, Again [2014]
  41. King Khan & The Gris Gris – Murder Burgers [2014]
  42. Hoodoo Gurus – Gravy Train [2015]
  43. Guster – Keep It Together Live From The Beacon Theatre [2015]
  44. Guster – Lost And Gone Forever Live [2015]
  45. Guster – Parachute Live From Brooklyn Bowl [2015]
  46. Adventures – Supersonic Home [2015]
  47. Black Ryder – The Door Behind the Door [2015]
  48. Backstreet Girls – Let’s Go [2015]
  49. Breakfast In Fur – Flyaway Garden [2015]
  50. Airborne Toxic Event – Dope Machines [2015]

February 11, 2015 Dropbox Notes

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 21Afghan WhigsGentleman (at 21) (Reissue) [2014]

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 GloryGame TheoryBlaze Of Glory (Reissue) [2014]

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 [2014]PixiesDoolittle 25 B-Sides, Peel Sessions and Demos [2014]

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 TracksWilcoAlpha Mike Foxtrot Rare Tracks 1994-2014 [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 MemphisBig StarLive in Memphis [2014]

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 RetirementChumpedTeenage Retirement [2014]

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:

  1. Dwarves – The Dwarves Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll [2014]
  2. Guster – Evermotion [2015]
  3. Ty Segall – Mr. Face EP [2015]
  4. Meghan Trainor – Title [2015]
  5. Fall Out Boy – American Beauty American Psycho [2015]
  6. Nude Beach – 77 [2014]
  7. Major League – There’s Nothing Wrong With Me [2014]
  8. Mannequin Pussy – Gypsy Pervert [2014]
  9. Meatbodies – Meatbodies [2014]
  10. Ought – Once More with Feeling EP [2014]
  11. Ryan Adams – 1984 [2014]
  12. September Girls – Cursing The Sea [2014]
  13. Institute – Salt [2014
  14. King Tuff – Black Moon Spell [2014]
  15. September Girls – Veneer [2014]
  16. Cassie Ramone – The Time Has Come [2014]
  17. Black Wine – Yell Boss [2014]
  18. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance [2015]
  19. Dodos – Individ [2015]
  20. Moon Duo – Shadow Of The Sun [2015]
  21. Melbourne Cans – Moonlight Malaise [2014]
  22. Mighty Lemon Drops – Uptight The Early Recordings 1985-1986 [2014]
  23. Overlake – Sighs [2014]
  24. Velociraptor – Velociraptor [2014]
  25. And We Danced – Back To The Middle [2014]
  26. Blood Red Shoes – Blood Red Shoes [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  27. Coachwhips – Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine (2003, Remastered) [2014]
  28. Dappled Cities – Many Roads [2014]
  29. Dropkick – Homeward [2014]
  30. Lemuria – Turnstile Comix 3 [2014]
  31. Little Envy – Little Envy [2014]
  32. Matthew Ryan – Boxers [2014]
  33. Pvris – White Noise [2014]
  34. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love [2015]
  35. White Heat – Kill Your Idols [2014]
  36. Little Big League – Tropical Jinx [2014]
  37. Melted Toys – Melted Toys [2014]
  38. Mitski – Bury Me at Makeout Creek [2014]
  39. Modern Baseball – Techniques [2014]
  40. Wand – Ganglion Reef [2014]
  41. Len Price 3 – Nobody Knows [2014]
  42. Tove Lo – Queen Of The Clouds [2014]
  43. Riptides – Tombs of Gold [2014]
  44. Mallory Knox – Asymmetry [2014]
  45. Melody Fall – The Shape Of Pop Punk To Come [2014]
  46. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent [2014]
  47. Lunchbox – Lunchbox Loves You [2014]
  48. Midnight Snack – The Times [2014]
  49. Misun – Superstitions [2014]
  50. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper [2015]

So there you have it until next time. I’ll catch up soon. I guarantee it!

So, let’s be safe out there.

 

January 11, 2015 Dropbox Notes

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

  1. Anti-Flag – A Document of Dissent [2014]
  2. Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside [2014]
  3. Courteeners – Concrete Love [Deluxe Version] [2014]
  4. Spoon – They Want My Soul [2014]
  5. Rise Against – The Black Market [2014]
  6. Nico Vega – Lead to Light [2014]
  7. The #1s – The Number Ones [2014]
  8. Ghost Wolves – Man, Woman, Beast [2014]
  9. Downtown Fiction – Losers & Kings [2014]
  10. Bleachers – Strange Desire [2014]
  11. Bishop Allen – Lights Out [2014]
  12. Big Deal – June Gloom [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  13. Allison Weiss – Remember When [2014]
  14. Angus And Julia Stone – Angus And Julia Stone [Deluxe Version] [2014]
  15. Colony House – When I Was Younger [2014]
  16. Engineers – Always Returning [2014]
  17. Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt (Deluxe Edition) [2014]
  18. Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals [2014]
  19. Interrupters – The Interrupters [2014]
  20. J Mascis – Tied to a Star [2014]
  21. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again [2014]
  22. Muffs – Whoop Dee Doo [2014]
  23. Stiff Little Fingers – Original Album Series [5CD][2014]
  24. Rentals – Lost In Alphaville [2014]
  25. Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts [2014]
  26. Bats – Volume 1 [3CD] [2014]
  27. Dry The River – Alarms In The Heart [2014]
  28. Literature – Chorus [2014]
  29. Raglans – Raglans [2014]
  30. Real Friends – Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing [2014]
  31. Thousand Foot Krutch – Oxygen Inhale [2014]
  32. Dead Stars – Slumber [2014]
  33. Twin Atlantic – Great Divide (Deluxe Version) [2014]
  34. Ty Segall – Manipulator [2014]
  35. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lose [2014]
  36. Allah-Las – Worship The Sun [2014]
  37. Dylan In The Movies – Sweet Rebel Thee [2014]
  38. Dirt Farmer – Free BBQ [2014]
  39. Darlings – Made Of Phantoms [2014]
  40. Arkells – High Noon [2014]
  41. Empire! Empire! I Was a Lonely Estate – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten [2014]
  42. Lucero – Live from Atlanta [2014]
  43. Courteeners – How Good It Was EP [2014]
  44. Neighbors – Failure [2014]
  45. Neighbors – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please [2014]
  46. Wax Witches – Center Of Your Universe [2014]
  47. Philip Selway – Weatherhouse [2014]
  48. Quietdrive – The Ghost of What You Used to Be [2014]
  49. Roadkill Ghost Choir – In Tongues [2014]
  50. Sports – Sunchokes [2014]
  51. Cool – Paint [2014]

December 18, 2014 Dropbox

  1. Hard-Ons – Yummy [2014 Reissue Expanded Edition] [2CD] [2014]
  2. Royal Blood – Royal Blood [2014]
  3. Screaming Females – Live at The Hideout [2014]
  4. Merchandise – After The End [2014]
  5. Moon Duo – Live in Ravenna [2014]
  6. OBN IIIs – Third Time to Harm [2014]
  7. Ballroom Babies – Change To Silver [2013]
  8. Bad Things – Bad Things (Deluxe Edition) [2014]
  9. Colourist – The Colourist [2014]
  10. Copyrights – No Knocks [2014]
  11. Twin Atlantic – Great Divide (Deluxe Version) [2014]
  12. Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen at 21 [2014]
  13. Gob – Apt 13 [2014]
  14. War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream [2014]
  15. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent [2014]
  16. Alvvays – Alvvays [2014]
  17. Yo La Tengo – Extra Painful! [2014]
  18. Pixies – Doolittle 25 B-Sides, Peel Sessions and Demos [2014]
  19. Wilco – Alpha Mike Foxtrot Rare Tracks 1994-2014 [2014]
  20. Republic Of Wolves – Covers (Vol. 1) [2014]
  21. Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea (Official) [2014]
  22. Springtime Carnivore – Springtime Carnivore [2014]
  23. Superfood – Don’t Say That [2014]
  24. Ty Segall – SINGLES 2 [2014]
  25. Viet Cong – Viet Cong [2015]
  26. Big Star – Live in Memphis [2014]
  27. Walk The Moon – Talking Is Hard [2014]
  28. Cult of Youth – Final Days [2014]
  29. Girlpool – Girlpool [2014]
  30. Fox & The Law – Stoned To Death [2014]
  31. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways [2014]
  32. Baby Ghosts – Ghost Walk [2014]
  33. Chumped – Teenage Retirement [2014]
  34. Ex Cops – Daggers [2014]
  35. Fugazi – First Demo [2014]
  36. Game Theory – Blaze of Glory [Expanded Edition] [2014]

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.)

Dropbox Notes July 7, 2014

Well its Glastonbury weekend in the UK and as I write these notes (June 29, 2014) although I’m likely publishing them much later (and as evidenced by the date above, much later), and Metallica seems to have pulled of what many thought nigh impossible – a positive review for commercial heavy metal at a place full of largely commercial pop acts and old people. Really. Billy Bragg is still playing, as is today’s highlight Dolly Parton who follows last night’s appearance by 69 year old Brian Ferry alongside a number of very diverse but slightly older skewing alternative-indie-pop acts. So, how was the show? I noted that the first comment on the Guardian blog was this ( I’ve cleaned up the spelling a little bit):

Mr. Svejk – Sick[enin]ing to see all the media raving about a bunch of rich has-beens, must have been bunged free tickets judging by the sycophantic coverage of this year’s yuppyfest, £200 a pop for a mud and cow faeces bath, plus another few hundred spending and travel money, what a rip off

Perhaps, not all is right with the world of popular music at least as live shows go. However, I will also affirmatively state that there is very likely a salon in Los Angeles that will start offering an exclusive “mud and cow faeces bath” for $750.00 claiming that it will remove all of the wrinkles from your skin.

I preface all of the above comments with this observation: I would like to have the chance to visit and experience the festival – perhaps crowdfunding, eh?

So, what was good in music this past month or so? Well, quite a bit. A glance at the dropbox list shows at least one band played Glastonbury (Kasabian), and 48 other acts whom did not, but that is not to say that you won’t find something intriguing to play in the list. There are several almost assuredly characterized as unknown acts making the list, and consequently, I had trouble locating information. Rest assured, none of the information in these notes is fiction, it may just be a little thin. Some other observations: James Blunt makes the dropbox for the first time and possibly last, with a really catchy single, and it is squeezed between I Heart Sharks and the new Masked Intruder album. So, not your usual assortment of list makers.

As I insist every month, feel free to explore the dropbox. You might find something that you actually like rather than something you are being force fed by mass media marketers, commercial radio, and professional review magazines who coincidentally are full of advertising from the labels of bands they are reviewing. Tales From The Dropbox exists to fill a gap because these are not really reviews as there is no criticism provided at all.  These capsules are merely introductions to music I actually like to listen to from a fairly wide spectrum of what could be considered the “rock genre.” After almost three years of putting these notes together, there are some obvious biases in my selections, which I hope I’ve pointed out along the way. I am positive that there are certain acts that you like everything they put out until that day arrives when you can no longer defend the purchase of the next record. For me, there are several of these points which I vividly recall: Here are the list of bands and the last album I purchased i.e. the point where the train stopped and I was no longer the all forgiving fan:

Rolling Stones – Some Girls (1978). In fairness, I probably really stopped purchasing Rolling Stones records in 1974 with the purchase of It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll which I consider their last really good record. Sure, Some Girls had a couple of great tracks, such as “Shattered” and “Beast of Burden” but at this point, I believed the band was largely phoning in their records and the danger of the past was non-existent.

Elvis Costello – Mighty Like a Rose (1991). Like the Rolling Stones, Elvis for me was overdone by the time Mighty Like A Rose was released. I had difficulty listening to Spike (1989) but at least I enjoyed a few songs. How anyone lasted through any of Elvis’ efforts after Mighty Like A Rose is beyond me. Quick, name one song that Elvis recorded after 1991 that you liked and can recall. You can’t. Don’t lie to yourself. It’s okay. Elvis was always a little old but really after the magnificence of the first five albums released between 1977 and 1980 (Get Happy!), he can be forgiven for some inconsistency (like most of the rest of the records he released during 80’s). However, once Elvis hit the 90’s, he was like the Rolling Stones – old and more interested in being an “Artist” rather than communicating with his audience. I know I was hugely disappointed by Spike, but Mighty Like A Rose took the bloom off the flower that was Elvis. Not a single track on this album can I recall. In fact, my disappointment was so huge, I stopped listening to Elvis altogether.

Paul Weller – Stanley Road (1995). You would think that I would hang in longer with the leader of one of my top three bands ever – The Jam – but even the modfather turned into an annoying folkie with a series of limp releases during the 90’s and early 2000’s. I know, the British music press continue to heap praise, but true fans have watched Weller end the Jam, suffer through the mostly forgettable Style Council (although there were a few worth moments) and then move on to his “solo” career which is only relevant because he is old. Stanley Road was a good record, but not as great as the readers of Q Magazine gave it, ranking it in 1998 as the 46th greatest album of all time. Can I name any of the songs on the record other than the title track, “Stanley Road”? Nope. Not a one. Anything memorable that I play constantly? Nope not a one. To be fair, recently, Weller has had a couple of moments of renewed inspiration, most notably Sonik Kicks (2012), but all that good will has gone away with his most recent release More Modern Classics which rounds up songs Weller thinks are “classics” from 2000 onward with a couple of new tracks and like the emperor has no clothes, the collection can best be described as underwhelming.

Kiss – Unmasked (1980). There are a number of reasons why I stopped listening to Kiss in 1980 and none of them have to do with this being the last album that original Kiss drummer Peter Chris was in the band and he didn’t even play on this record. Anton Fig did. The problem for me was that punk rock had revealed that Kiss were just pretenders at that point. The danger the band represented was limp, and after the 4 solo records which were thin in terms of songs (Ace’s record was easily the best), Kiss fans, myself included, who had survived all the punishment of being a Kiss fan, and who were rewarded by the acknowledgment of number of punk bands who like me, were inspired by Kiss to start bands (Replacements immediately come to mind), easily could point to all of the albums prior to the solo records as being great. Heck, I even survived the impact of “Beth” as a popular single. I always considered the song a joke – WTF??? So, after listening to the solo records, trying to find anything worth listening to on Dynasty (1979) which was slim – Kiss as a disco band. At that point I was desperate. Hopefully they would find the path towards greatness. What really sucked was that Dynasty was a commercial success and that spelled doom as the songs were really weak. Okay, I’m being nice. They were terrible.  Little did I know what a pile of crap Unmasked would be at the time because now in hindsight, the songs on Dynasty are hit singles compared to the tragedy that is Unmasked. Absolutely worthless. Kiss had obviously believed their own hype and believed that their fan base could survive not only being unmasked, playing disco music, and kicking Perter Chris out of the band. Well, some of us felt stupid and betrayed. Finally, Gene and Paul – choosing not to play with Peter at your HOF induction? Are you kidding me? How do you sleep at night you hypocrites. It’s all about business and Ace and Peter’s contributions to your “business” cannot be stated more clearly: Kiss (1974), Hotter Than Hell (1974), Dressed to Kill (1975), Destroyer (1976), Rock and Roll Over (1976), and Love Gun (1977). Kiss – you suck.

So, where does this leave us now? Well, as I pointed out earlier – these notes are an introduction. That is, an opportunity to find music that fits with your passion. The dropbox is about finding things good to listen to and it doesn’t matter where they are in their career, if its good, its good and you’ll know it. The goal is to avoid the end – that point in a band’s career where they have overstayed their welcome and in your heart saying positive things about their new release is much the same as trying to make a fart small like a rose – impossible. So, you won’t see the new Weller record, and I don’t even know if the others are still making music, but as a fan I will always give the new record a try, hoping to regain the “thing” that made me a fan in the first place.

Finally, I have jumped around a bit in the notes this month to make sure that I hit some records that wouldn’t immediately catch your attention due to their unfamiliarity. I think you’ll find some winners all around this month.

Fireworks - (Oh), Common LifeDetroit’s, Fireworks on their third full length (Oh), Common Life have found the perfect blend of mature lyrical theme and pop punk to produce an album that breathes new life into a largely dying genre. Pop punk’s biggest problem was the acceptance by the masses of the sound and the lyrics dealing with teen viewpoints on life that grew tiresome after you reached the age of 25. No so with Fireworks. The band is not trapped by the genre form and the expansive sound on (Oh), Common Life is a game changer. Never will you experience a record where the big sing-a-long choruses fit so well with the fairly reflective and serious lyrics and the hooks…killer. I’ve played this album about fifty times since I found it and every spin I discover something new to enjoy. The real secret is that the second half of the album is actually better than the first half, but you will find immediacy in the first half and latency in the second. Comprende? Try: “The Hotbed Of Life,” “The Only Thing That Haunts This House Is Me,” and “Play “God Only Knows” At My Funeral.”

American Suitcase - LighthoursAnother throwback of sorts, is Oslo Norway’s American Suitcase, who have also reached an apotheosis on Lighthours, their 5th album. From the beginning, American Suitcase has channeled the Byrds adopting the jangle guitar and harmonies, but on Lighthours, the songs have a new level of sophistication and reminded me of Game Theory in their approach – simple jangle pop with huge melodies. Teenage Fan Club also comes to mind as a good comparison for American Suitcase’s approach – the vocals are layered into the guitars so that the guitars shimmer adding a layer of consonance to the vocals and harmonies. I cannot think of another band still making this delicately crafted music, so enjoy it as we are unlikely to see much more in the future. And I for one, will be disappointed. Try” The Driver,” “Bright Holes,” and “Things About You.”

WYR0514tubejktnoguidlinesParquet Courts new release is another great garage rock record with ample amounts of fuzz that makes for a great listening experience. Sure, there is the Velvet Underground/ Jonathan Richman vocal intonation but the guitar work is sonically several layers enhanced from 2012’s Light Up Gold and in some ways Sunbathing Animal reminds me of Television, particularly on a track like “Dear Ramona” which deftly plays homage to those bands and musicians. Sunbathing Animal, is more than the sum of its parts – each song fits perfectly with the others such that the assemblage connects to a unified whole. Angular and disjointed, rhythmic and hypnotic, the songs on Sunbathing Animal update the earliest proto-punk (I’m positive that they lifted directly from Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba” on “What Color Is Blood.”) to a modernist take on punk now 35 years on and the results are fascinating. Try “Sunbathing Animal,” “Black And White” (Is that the B-52’s?) and “What Color Is Blood.”

Saskwatch - Nose DiveIf you’ve noticed lately a predominance of Australian bands in the dropbox, then you are not alone and not mistaken. There are some things that Australia does better than the U.S. and indie-pop is one of them. In a world full of electronic sounds, Saskwatch have ….wait for it…..a …horn section! Melbourne based, this nine piece on their second album, Nose Dive, have produced a melodic and stunningly brilliant throwback record, with touches of 60’s Motown and modern garage. I was hooked from the beginning – the songs are “soul heaven” particular the jazz inflected soul of vocalist Nkechi Anele whose warm tone will make this a favorite in you evening record selection. I was blown away by “Born to Break Your Heart,” which should be a worldwide hit. Can’t say enough good about this record really. Try “Born to Break Your Heart,” “You Don’t Have to Wait,” and “Hands.”

James Blunt - Heart to HeartFurther evidence of Tales From the Dropbox penchant for enjoying discriminating pop music is found in the simple melody and pure pop of James Blunt’s new Heart To Heart EP containing the pleasing 3:29 minutes of the single “Heart To Heart.” Admittedly, I am not a James Blunt fan – at all. Previous experience was forgettable as the melodramatic whining was not pleasant. However, for contemporary AOR pop, the Heart To Heart EP is fairly catchy, whimsical and sincere, and as such dropbox worthy. I’m not sure those are the qualities that made for the EP’s inclusion, but the EP is short, with 2 acoustic songs of a kind of folk pop, that exposes Blunt’s particular form of romantic balladry. So, in another dropbox first, I’ve only got one song for you to try, so try “Heart To Heart.”

Tigers Jaw - CharmerTigers Jaw’s new record, Charmer is a difficult record to analyze on a metaphysical and philosophical level. The Scranton PA band split with three of its members after deciding to take a new direction in 2013, but as all good pals, the departing members participated fully in the recording of Charmer, the band’s fourth album. What makes this all the more amazing, is that the duo who remain, keyboardist Brianna Collins and guitarist Ben Walsh, have managed to balance what must make for a difficult recording situation – giving some control over the recording process to old members who no longer have skin in the game. Charmer’s charm ( see how I did that there) derives from the interplay between old and new with Collins and vocalist Adam McIlwee trading vocals on the delectable track, “Hum.” And for much of Charmer it is exactly as the the band self-describes – Fleetwood Mac meets Brand New indie pop with a blend of old and new sounds comprising a collection of songs that struggle to break away from the sadness of a band imploding. Try: “Charmer,” “Hum,” and “Nervous Kids.”

Alvvays - AlvvaysToronto’s Alvvays self-titled debut is another slice of reverb laden indie-pop with a bit of a twist as the band sprinkles its blend of twee-pop with early C86 scene markers producing an album with a sound in a similar manner but not tone of the Smiths. This “sound” is readily apparent on a song such as “Archie Marry Me.” Now that you’ve got the “sound” of Alvvays, try putting the delicate vocals of Cape Breton immigrant, Molly Rankin into the mix (she sounds nothing like Morrissey). (If you have been to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, then you know traveling to Toronto is like immigrating to a foreign country.) The songs are also awash in Jesus and Mary Chain reverb with sunny guitar runs breaking free from the fuzz – like sunshine emerging from clouds. Keyboard fills by another Cape Breton native, Kerri Maclellan, highlight the delicate nature of these songs brimming with life. Try ” Archie Marry Me,” “Adult Diversion,” and “Party Police.”

Animal Years - Sun Will Rise [Deluxe Edition]Another debut record hits the dropbox, with Brooklyn quartet Animal Years re-releasing its debut in a deluxe edition format (collecting several B-sides) in May of this year. If you look back, the original version of the album hit the dropbox. Released in September 2013, this album of indie rock with country flourishes was mostly recorded in Baltimore before vocalist and bandleader Mike McFadden moved to Brooklyn. The album, which deals primarily with transitions, heartache, loneliness and leaving, is a consistently good record full of atmospheric indie rockers all crooned by McFadden – you can smell the beer in the bar where Animal Years plays. I swear the songs on this record made me want to pick up a guitar and drive over to Old Towne Pub in Pasadena to play. What strikes me most upon listening is the pacing of this record. I know, odd thing to write about. However, the songs feel like the soundtrack to a road movie with each song a capsule on that journey. Try “Meet Me,” Let Go of Your Head,” and “Fear of Falling (B-Side).”

A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Sea When AbsentDefiantly dream pop, Philadelphia originating A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s fourth album Sea When Absent is the byproduct of change. ASDIG is essentially Ben Daniels and whomever else is available and wants to record, and consequently, each record although genred as dream pop does not simply follow the formula. Each ASDIG record adds an odd assortment of very divergent sounds which serves to break up the traditional dream pop formulation. Consequently, on Sea When Absent, these new sounds are compelling. The new lineup which adds Jen Goma is produces a huge vocal leap as her voice adds significant depth and feel to these shoegaze type pop songs. Try “Boys Turn Into Girls (Initiation Rites),” “Never Nothing (It’s Alright [It’s OK]),” and “The Things They Do to Me.”

Bad Suns - Language and PerspectiveIt would be a contradiction to put the EP in the dropbox one month and then fail to include the full length the following month, so here you have Bad Suns full length debut Language and Perspective as the follow up to Transpose EP from last month. So, without having to refer back to those notes, Language and Perspective is Bad Suns doing their version of Bastille. The album mines the same electronic backed indie dance sounds as typified by Bastille‘s Bad Blood album, and Language and Perspective should find a home on stations that play records like this, which is practically every alternative radio station in the universe. I am confidant that once this album finds a place on radio that it will be overplayed, but for now, you should play it, say 30-40 times, so that you don’t have to play it again when it comes on radio. The hit is “Cardiac Arrest” but you know what, Language and Perspective has more than one good song, so the frequent spins will help you discover the quiet beauty of songs like “We Move Like the Ocean.” The album transports 3 of the 4 songs on the EP to the full length, but in context, they work to fill out the album nicely. Try” Pretend,” “Take My Love and Run,” and “Transpose.”

Alex G - DSUAlex G, real name Alex Giannascoli, from Philly, is the bedroom equivalent of Pavement. DSU sounds like the results of Stephen Malkmus recording Pavement albums in his basement. What is most interesting about this prolific 21 year old, is his apparently extensive familiarity with 90’s indie rock pioneers such as Elliot Smith and Guided By Voices all of which end up on DSU. Alex also has voice that is somewhat reminiscent of Alex Chilton which when spun through the mixer end up on DSU as a collection of very interesting experimental indie rock songs. Sure, there are several songs which are obvious derivatives from other artists, but that’s not a dis-qualifier to enjoyment – something new always came from something old and it is the smart artist that can dress it up so those lifts from others look new and fresh. The real question about acceptability as an artistic effort is whether the current artist under review has produced something equally charismatic and rewarding as the predecessor from which the sounds derive and in the case of Alex G, DSU, although sometimes uneven, is a very rewarding listen with a couple of real standout efforts – specifically the slacker anthem “Harvey.” Something unique is present in these sonic experiments and that is good enough for the dropbox. Try “Harvey,” “Black Bear,” and “Boy.”

Bear in Heaven - Time Is Over One Day OldBrooklyn quartet Bear In Heaven return with their 4th album on August 5, 2014 entitled Time Is Over One Day Old. Bear In Heaven’s music can be best described as electro-psychedelic which in lay terms is music you can dance to on an empty dance floor. i.e. adrift on the floor untethered to the ground by that troublesome gravity. At times a little techno feel to this record, but overall, an interesting take on textured driven indie rock with both the vocals and the music capable of producing floating. Try “If I Were to Lie,” “Memory Heart,” and “Way Off.”

Cambridge - Create. Destroy. RebuildBack to Australia for Cambridge’s new release Create. Destroy. Rebuild. Former lead singer of Sydney’s Heroes For Hire is back with a new band and a slightly new direction on this debut. Still pop-punk at its core, Create. Destroy. Rebuild is full of anthemic pop punk much in the same direction as Every Avenue, Hit The Lights, and The Maine – catchy, bouncy pop-punk that is not too serious lyrically and fun to play around the house very loud. Try “Head over Heels [Feat. Danny Stevens of The Audition],” “Create. Destroy. Rebuild,” and “All or Nothing.”

Candy Hearts - All The Ways You Let Me DownSticking with the pop-punk part of the list, this time female fronted, New York’s Candy Hearts return with the immensely near perfect version of the genre in the form of All The Ways You Let Me Down. I guess I’m hedging a bit when I say near perfect. There are no observable flaws in any of the performances on this record. On All The Ways You Let Me Down, Candy Hearts’ vocalist Mariel Loveland sweet matter-of-fact vocals with this ear-gastic “twang” effectively tell the albums songs which are really stories of requited love and longing. There is something compelling about the tone of her vocals which are brought to the front of the mix. The melodies on all the songs big bold and bright so that you find yourself soon singing along. My only nag would be with the …. Ah heck. I don’t have any nags. A solid fun record that will keep you happily singing along. Try “I Miss You,” “The One To Get Me Out,” and “All The Ways You Let Me Down.”

Masked Intruder - M.I.By way of comparison to the Candy Hearts, this month also finds the male contender to the punk-pop genre crown in the dropbox. Masked Intruder’s second album M.I. carries on the inside joke with another album full of catchy pop-punk.  Intruder Orange, Intruder Green, Intruder Red and Intruder Blue continue where they last left off with no let down in either song quality or style. Claiming to be from Madison Wisconsin, M.I. is 13 songs all sung and played in the style of Chixdiggit (hell, “The Most Beautiful Girl” intro sounds like “Chupacabra!”) which is a great thing! So, given my bias for this type of music, you will have to decide for yourself whether this mash-up of the Beach Boys meets the Ramones styled punk rock is worthy of your attention. For me, it all works. Try: “When I Get Out,” “Hey Girl,” and “Almost Like We’re Already in Love.” ( I’ll bet you’ll be surprised by this song – 50’s solid)

Reigning Sound - ShatteredNorth Carolina garage rockers Reigning Sound are now on Merge Records and their latest release Shattered is a burner. Greg Cartwright (ex of Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers) orchestrates and sings on this latest Reigning Sound album blending psych-pop, garage, soul, country and guitar into a distinctive sound. I particularly like the soul influences and Cartwright’s delivery keeps the album fresh upon repeated listens. If you are a garage pop fan, then this is a great album. I will note that Shattered is a step up in sound with the normally predominant use of fuzz remarkably sparse and controlled making for a consistently great sounding record from beginning to end. Try “Never Coming Home,” “Falling Rain,” and “In My Dreams.”

Ty Segall - FeelI slipped the new Ty Segall single into the dropbox, because I’ve been on a bit of a Ty Segall jag lately. I am consistently fascinated by the amazing guitar work on each of his releases, the past several of which highlight the heavy metal influenced psych-garage style of music that he seems focused upon. This single, like the last several releases, offer Ty’s unique version of indie garage music. These two tracks “Feel” and “The Fakir” were released as a 7’’ on Drag City on May 20, 2014. “Feel” is electric and “The Fakir” is acoustic but you’ll get an idea of where Ty’s sonic approach is right now (could change but I’m not thinking so in the near future). If you can find it, pick up his last record Sleeper (2013) or the Live At Death By Audio 2012 (2013) releases I put in the dropbox last year.

Cerebral Ballzy - Jaded and FadedA couple of punk albums made the dropbox this month. First up is Brooklyn’s Cerebral Ballzy who on their second full length Jaded & Faded have properly captured the perfect balance between 80’s punk rock and NYHC with this release. Jaded & Faded is also a sharp left turn from their debut album as it by incorporates a healthy amount of garage fuzz into the sonic mix. As such, the fuzz addition, which goes against the traditional punk grain, will also likely detract from the listening pleasure of punk purists whom expect punk rock to have a distinct sound. However, after several listens to this record, I find that the addition is welcome as it changes the dynamic of these songs – which are still short and sharp – into fully formed ideas with much more range than Cerebral Ballzy‘s first efforts. There is a reason why punk is a difficult genre to be successful – the form is guarded by purists who need to hear a certain sound and that prevents albums which try to expand the form from being adopted/ promoted by the traditional punk media (you know who you are). As should be obvious by now, great songs don’t need to follow the form. Try: “Better in Leather,” “Be Your Toy,” and “Off with Your Head.”

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! - Pardon My French (Deluxe Edition)French pop-punk band Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! released their uniformly excellent sophomore album Pardon My French in April last year and now have released a Deluxe Edition of the album on June 17, 2014 which adds 3 unreleased tracks and an acoustic version of “Taking Chances.” Pardon My French was in the dropbox the first time, but for those of you who missed it, really give this album a second chance. There are only a couple of pop-punk records really worth listening to each year, and in 2013 this was definitely one of them. I like the metal core edges which break up the flow and add variety to these songs. However, conceding the obvious, for those of you who don’t like loud, perhaps give this album a pass. For those of you into something a little different, this is the goods. Try ” Taking Chances,” “I Am Nothing Like You,” and “Kids.”

Damn Seagulls - Let It ShineFinnish rockers Damn Seagulls 5th album Let It Shine continues the Damn Seagulls exploration of their unusual rock variant – adding brass instruments to pop flavored rock. Let It Shine will make you feel all warm and fuzzy because I think that is the band’s goal – to try to worm each song into your heart. It should also be noted that all of these songs are designed for commercial radio in Finland and what a world place Finland must be if this can make it on pop radio. When was the last time you heard woodwind instruments on a rock record? Plus it is hard to resist any record which has a song named Paul Weller obviously named for the mod-father. Try “Let It Shine,” “Paul Weller,” and “Grateful.”

Dukes - Smoke Against The BeatFirst of the not much about bands, are The Dukes who are apparently from France and have recorded a slab of garage rock in Los Angeles with Jamie Candiloro, mixed by Charles de Schutter, and mastered by Tamas. As a second album, Smoke Against The Beat, is a mixture of garage, pop-punk, and straight up rock n’ roll with big fat sing-a-long choruses’ ( I’m thinking a mix of The Monks, The Strokes, and early Mando Diao with a slice of Jet) that will have you singing along and wishing they were playing a small club near you. Maybe someday. Great rock record for your summer listening pleasure. Try “Just In Case,” “Daisy’s Eyes,” and “The Grey People.”

Kasabian - 48-13 [Japanese Edition]Well how about Kasabian’s latest effort 48:13, now that they have played a triumphant headlining show at Glastonbury? The most important yet unstated question is how the ^^3%$& are they so massive, playing for more than 200,000 people, and not on any radio in Los Angeles? Good question. Perhaps I can answer it – Kasabian play a British centric form of evolved Madchester derived form of dance pop that Americans have trouble relating to because we cannot dance or sing along with without looking completely idiotic. It is still difficult for me to conceptualize the Stone Roses as a dance band, but in England they are – in the form of Kasabian. Kasabian  owes a debt to the Stone Roses ( there is not any debate about this), but if you listen to the hit single “Eez-Eh” you can hear a touch of Madness in those dance beats. To judge Kasabian as mere copyists would miss the point entirely. Kasabian have managed to find a way to capture the sound of movement – albeit that movement is the aftermath of the 90’s ecstasy culture. So, what you have on 48:13 is an amalgam of psychedelic influenced dance music comprising several excellent songs that will play well live – as evidenced by the massive crowd response to their shows. So, where do Kasabian stand now? On their 5th album, with a playing time of 48:13, hence the title, there is a little more variety in the delivery when compared with past efforts, and the instrumental interludes sprinkled throughout the record are important palate cleaners before you jump back into another frenzied dance moment. For most of Kasabian’s career (at least in my mind) I have always lumped them together with the Klaxons and Hard-Fi, but on 48:13 there is a distinct sonic break from those other two bands. After the first couple of tracks you are immediately aware that this is Kasabian effort to take their sound in new directions and most of these songs are successful. Decide for yourself. Try “Stevie,” “Eez-Eh,” and because I’ve included the Japanese version of the album, “Beanz.”

Klaxons - Love FrequencyAnd because I mentioned the Klaxons, their latest, Love Frequency, the London three-piece have produced as close to an electro-nu-rave pop record as could be thought possible. If you play the Klaxons back to back with Kasabian, you can see how the early comparisons are no longer appropriate as Love Frequency amps up the psychedelic and drug references to produce a sort of space-synth-disco that is absolutely catchy but unrecognizable to earlier Klaxon efforts. For their third album in 10 years, the Klaxons are barely recognizable as the band that brought you Myths Of The Near Future. It is obvious that the Klaxons are headed to the dance clubs and the rock band from yesteryear is now only a memory. Not a bad thing – just different. Try “There Is No Other Time,” “Children Of The Sun,” “Invisible Forces.”

Kitten - Kitten [Bonus Edition]Speaking of throwbacks, Los Angeles 80’s alt rock throwback band, Kitten has produced a really good debut album. It helps that they have a really good singer in Chloe Chaidez who has a bit of Cindy Lauper mixed with Patty Donahue (Waitresses) in her vocal tone. Some reviewers will likely make the immediate Annabella Lwin (Bow Wow Wow) comparison (age), but that would miss the mark. On its own, the music on Kitten’s debut, is more than just a singer with some capable players. Rather, the band has the chops to spice up the 80’s themed alternative pop ( think Missing Persons) into a much more modern endeavor so that the tired sounds of the 80’s that most would hope to avoid sound fresh. For those of us who grew up with 80’s radio, these sounds will all be very familiar yet, like a fine wine, the impact is subtle and the bouquet bold. So, sit back, put on your favorite John Hughes movie, slide on your headphones and listen to Kitten’s self titled debut – you will be amazed how it all seems to fit. Try “I’ll Be Your Girl,” “Sex Drive,” and “Kill the Light.”

Clientele - Suburban Light [Expanded Reissue]Merge Records has reissued the Clientele’s debut album, Suburban Light which was originally released in late 2000. While not quite a proper album in the strict sense of the word, but rather a collection of several singles released in the 1990’s on a couple of different small labels – Pointy and Fierce Panda, Elefant and Johnny Kane, Suburban Light is a fantastic accomplishment. Originally intending their debut to be recorded in a proper studio, these songs were all recorded in much smaller and more intimate settings and yet these efforts produced a defining sound which comprises the songs on Suburban Light – warm reverb laden and complex all accomplished without the full production they were hoping with this initial release. This collection captures a feeling with a nod to the Chills  Galaxie 500 and the 60’s. This is an early morning or late evening after party record, and is simply magic – you know, an album where you ask yourself, how did they get this all together?. This version of Suburban Light reproduces “the album in its original European track listing, restored from original analog tapes to sound warmer and a bit less like a batch of demos. The bonus material includes a revelatory set of covers, rehearsals, B-sides, and three unreleased tunes.” I play this record on Sunday mornings as I quietly work alone in my office. Try “Joseph Cornell,” “I Had to Say This,” and “What Goes Up.”

Kevin Costners - Pick Up the PartsKevin Costner has a band (called Modern West) but the Kevin Costners are a band from Amsterdam by the looks of things. And a really good one at that. Recording on Excelsior Recordings based in the Netherlands, the Kevin Costner’s second album is a weirdly interesting form of garage rock n’ roll – simple chords and melodies (no fuzz) that is uniformly good, with some well-crafted choices of tribal beat rock. Tempos are slow, lyrics are in English, and the playing tight. Try “Pick Up the Parts,” “Lunatics,” and “Pretty Life.”

Flags - Oil And SparksBristol based indie four piece Flags return after a fairly lengthy hiatus with a new EP entitled Oil And Sparks, which is in some ways reminiscent of Bastille, but there is something edgier about the delivery, making it an excellent selection for the singles playlist. The lilting vocals and haunting melodies set Oil And Sparks songs apart from the usual electronic indie dance pop of others in the same ilk. Oil And Sparks is only an EP, but they’ve captured something special in just four songs. Just a suggestion though, start with track 2 “Once More With Balance,” then hit the rest in order 1, 3, 4. Try “Once More With Balance,” “Oil and Sparks,” “Restless Machine.”

lacrosse_coverAnswering the question, Are You Thinking Of Me Every Minute Of Every Day? Sweden’s Lacrosse have apparently found that a mix of humor with mirth goes a long way to creating magic moments. This album is admittedly a bit long, but there is never boredom. What I liked best was that the quality of playing, at times sounding like The Arcade Fire/Broken Social Scene, which is complex, evocative and pretty darn catchy. This is not your typical indie rock album in that there is a lot of things going on with each song which suggested that Lacrosse‘s strength is songs staged as bizarre choir experiments. Some of the music on AYTOMEMOED hits you immediately – like the opener “Don’t Be Scared” – but repeated listens are amply rewarded as there is much to discover and like about this album. Try “Are You Thinking Of Me Every Minute Of Every Day,” “Don’t Be Scared,” and “Easter Island.”

Matt Pond - Skeletons and FriendsMatt Pond quietly released a free gift for fans entitled Skeletons and Friends available on noisetrade.com for the downloading. As Matt puts it:

This album is a thank you. …

It’s an album of brightened corners and beautifully incomplete sentences. It’s the structure and skeleton of what’s to come. With help from the always-amazing Chris Hansen, the singing of Lauren Miller and Alanna Trees, and the speaking voices of Maggie Wray Crowell, April Votolato and Danielle Eaton.

Perhaps strangely, it’s mostly about hope. Sometimes the forces surrounding will set you adrift, amiss in the sea of music. This year, we’ve taken control of our navigation.

We were able to pull of[f] a successful Pledge campaign because we’re lucky enough to have people who support us, freeing us from having to rely on anyone other than our audience. That’s huge. (thank you)

We’re lucky enough to be playing shows across the country, supporting one of our previous albums, Emblems. And the feedback we’ve been getting is inspiring. I’m honestly thrilled to be back on stage. (thank you)

I know, from the larger kingdoms across the ocean to the minor kingdoms inside my mind, nothing is perfect. That right there is crux, the engine, the heart and the blood behind every word I write and sing. Because in the right light, a broken gear can be slightly stunning.

Our ability to navigate this imperfect world is bestowed upon us by you, the listener. You’re basically riding shotgun, guiding us to wherever we’re going next.

Thank you. A million times. Thank you.

So, what you have on Skeletons And Friends is another great collection of Matt Pond songs that are uniformly excellent. ( Come on – you know by now I’ve got a bias for certain artists) . What is surprising is that while I typically listen to what could be broadly defined as punk rock, there is something about certain types of indie pop that is equally pleasing. Perhaps it’s the vocal tone (“perhaps we should move to Canada”) or the witty and wry lyrics full of honesty…who knows. I will figure it out one day. There are some standouts on this release for me, so perhaps one day, I’ll get out to see Matt Pond play live. But for now try these diamonds: “Heaven’s Gate,” “You Can See Everything,” and “Austin, Texas. 10:27 PM.”

Jack White - LazarettoBy now you’ve also either read a review or heard a track from or seen a video of the new Jack White album Lazaretto. It is in the dropbox isn’t it? So, it must be good right? Try “Lazaretto,” “Would You Fight For My Love?” and “Alone In My Home.”

 

 

White Lung - Deep FantasySomehow the version of White Lung’s newest has all of the tracks in alphabetical order which I apparently didn’t notice as I listened to this album on shuffle. So who is White Lung? And what is Deep Fantasy? Well White Lung is an in your face female fronted punk rock band from Vancouver, BC where they have obviously picked up some of the long history and culture of excellent punk rock emanating from this very Canadian punk rock source (Come on now– DOA, Subhumans, UJ3RK5 (I’m in love with the song “Work For Police”) , Modernettes, K-Tels (Young Canadians), Pointed Sticks, Active Dog etc.) and now with the Japandroids, have everyone (okay just a few people) grooving on the Vancouver scene. Really, I saw at least one internet publication proclaim Vancouver as the next big thing (So it was Rolling Stone, eh?). So, is White Lung deserving of attention? Of course they are and for all the right reasons – short sharp punk rock played at scorching speed with an exceptional vocalist in the form of Mish Way who front a very competent group of musicians – Kenneth William (Guitar) Anne-Marie Vassiliou (drums) and Hether Fortune (Bass). Really, worth the check out. Try “Face Down,” “Lucky One” and “Drown with the Monster.”

Rival Sons - Great Western ValkyrieRival Sons are an anachronism. Formed in Long Beach and the product of that scene, Rival Sons play classic rock n’ roll in the vein of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Bad Company with such panache you would think that they invented the genre. This is all blues based rock with plenty of power chords and stadium ready anthems. The most interesting thing about the Rival Sons (at least to me) is that they are making inroads with a sound that is at best 40 years old and appear relentless in their pursuit of breathing new life into this genre. There is also some Doors influence all over Great Western Valkyrie particularly on tracks like “Good Luck” which honestly makes you want to strut around the house as this plays. Sonically as odd a record to come out in this genre in the past twenty years. Not normally in my musical wheelhouse, but they converted me. Try “Good Luck,” “Play the Fool,” “Rich and the Poor.”

iSeo - Red GardensBarcelona, Spain’s iSeo’s Red Gardens EP is an unusual selection for the dropbox much like the Rival Sons immediately above. iSeo is apparently Leire Villanueva and Rubén Rogero who play beautiful simple melodies comprising their acoustic pop. This is coffeehouse stuff, but Leire’s vocals are captivating hence its inclusion. Catch a glimpse of greatness here: Stop The World. Try : “Stop The World,” “Barcelona” and “Am I Losing My Mind?

Before I forget, Happy CANADA Day to my Canadian friends and family, and Happy 4th of July to my American friends and family. I have much to be thankful. Well, I think I’ve covered enough territory for now, so until I either update these notes, or publish a new Tales From The Dropbox, here is this month’s list (I know there are only 49 – I apparently have lost the ability to count):

  1. American Suitcase – Lighthours [2014]
  2. Fireworks – (Oh), Common Life [2014]
  3. Tigers Jaw – Charmer [2014]
  4. Alvvays – Alvvays [2014]
  5. Animal Years – Sun Will Rise [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  6. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent [2014]
  7. Bad Suns – Language and Perspective [2014]
  8. Alex G – DSU [2014]
  9. Bear in Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old [2014]
  10. Cambridge – Create. Destroy. Rebuild [2014]
  11. Candy Hearts – All The Ways You Let Me Down [2014]
  12. Cerebral Ballzy – Jaded and Faded [2014]
  13. Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! – Pardon My French (Deluxe Edition) [2014]
  14. Damn Seagulls – Let It Shine [2014]
  15. Dukes – Smoke Against The Beat [2014]
  16. Eugene McGuinness – Chroma [2014]
  17. Gum – Delorean Highway [2014]
  18. Heart To Heart – Dulce [2014]
  19. How to Dress Well – What Is This Heart [2014]
  20. Clientele – Suburban Light [Expanded Reissue] [2014]
  21. Happyness – Weird Little Birthday [2014]
  22. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell [2014]
  23. Kasabian – 48-13 [Japanese Edition] [2014]
  24. Klaxons – Love Frequency [2014]
  25. Lower – Seek Warmer Climes [2014]
  26. Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head [2014]
  27. Pure Love – The Bunny EP [2014]
  28. Reigning Sound – Shattered [2014]
  29. Ty Segall – Feel [2014]
  30. White Lung – Deep Fantasy [2014]
  31. iSeo – Red Gardens [2014]
  32. Jack White – Lazaretto [2014]
  33. July Talk -July Talk [2014]
  34. Kevin Costners – Pick Up the Parts [2014]
  35. Kitten – Kitten [Bonus Edition] [2014]
  36. Lacrosse – Are You Thinking Of Me Every Minute Of Every Day [2014]
  37. Flags – Oil And Sparks [2014]
  38. I Heart Sharks – Anthems [2014]
  39. James Blunt – Heart to Heart [2014]
  40. Masked Intruder – M.I. [2014]
  41. Matt Pond – Skeletons and Friends [2014]
  42. Midnight Faces – The Fire Is Gone [‘2014]
  43. Only Crime – Pursuance [2014]
  44. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal [2014]
  45. PAWS – Youth Culture Forever [2014]
  46. Rival Sons – Great Western Valkyrie [2014]
  47. Saskwatch – Nose Dive [2014]
  48. Sleeper Agent – About Last Night [2014]
  49. Spring Offensive – Young Animal Hearts [2014]

April 17, 2014 Dropbox Notes

Easter is today. Happy Easter to all. I figured I’d start with the non sequitur and then move on. After a really good month of releases, April is also shaping up to be a great month with a number of excellent releases worthy of inclusion in your collections. Most importantly, Record Store Day was yesterday, so I’m sure that I will have a number of rarities to add to the dropbox next month. Most are one of a kind, rare, or never issued items. I snuck a few in this month’s dropbox including the Springsteen, Pixies, and Green Day for a couple of buddies who collect. I have also recovered fully from the rants of the past couple of Dropbox Notes, so these notes should be a little more positive – unless of course I am dispossessed to erupt again as some of these issues are long not expressed and finally I’m getting some release from years of frustration. Not that anything is likely to be fixed, but at least I’m putting it out there, eh?.

Feel free to browse through the dropbox. I generally put in things in a completely random way – As I listen to something and it strikes my fancy, I save it to another location to listen again. At the end of the day, when the telephones are turned off, I crank up the set asides and take time to enjoy these finds. And then, after several listens from that culled group, I select the month’s dropbox. So, the secret is out, finally. I’m spent.

Lastly, I have also dropped a couple of recent and not so recent things into the drop box by request so you’ll find Reverend Horton Heat’s latest – Rev and London Grammar’s debut in case you also missed them the first time around.

So, with that introduction here are this months Tales From The Dropbox:

Stiff Little Fingers - No Going BackLong time favorites Stiff Little Fingers return with their 10th album ( of originals – they probably have 50 compilation albums out being one of the most heavily reissued bands of all time rivaling the Who and Elvis Costello) a Pledge Music funded release entitled No Going Back. What is singularly amazing about SLF is that over a career spanning 35 years the band has not lost any of the qualities that made them exciting in the first place. If anything, Jake Burns’ songwriting is better and more thoughtful – some of the songs on this record will quickly become fan favorites and end up staples in SLF’s live show. There are very few bands that could make this claim. That is, after 35 years, SLF is putting out new music that is as good as or better than some of their earliest and most beloved work. This album has everything that you would expect in a SLF record: aggressive anthemic punk rock that is catchy as hell. From the opening riff of “Liars Club” through the terrific “When We Were Young” SLF plays with renewed energy and although Not Going Back covers some dark territory, particularly Burn’s battle with depression on “My Dark Places,” the overall record is uplifting and spirited. Definitely a band worth seeing live (as I have a number of times). So, as the band ranks among my top 3 all time favorite bands, I might be a little biased. For the unwashed try: “My Dark Places,” “Throwing It All Away,” and “Trail Of Tears.”

Howler - World of JoyMinneapolis’ Howler return with their second effort World of Joy as the follow up to their excellent 2011 debut entitled America Give Up which was also a drop box favorite. Second records are tough enough, particularly when critics loved your first, and this would be doubly difficult when the band takes a healthy stab at incorporating and updating the Jesus and Mary Chain, so when you discover that the second record is likely better than the first, well there is a little bit of shock. Not so much the Smith’s (Johnny Marr) guitar sound is present as the Reid brothers, as other critics are fond of claiming (since vocalist Jordan Gatesmith dates? Johnny Marr’s daughter, Sonny), but a magnificent sound to be sure. The shoegaze feel of the only ballad “Here’s the Itch That Creeps Through My Skull” coupled with the shimmering guitars, gives a little darker presence to a great ballad. Perfectly balanced and an all too brief 28 minutes World of Joy – is precisely that an entrée into Howler’s creepy world – of joy. Try: “Indictment,” “World of Joy,” and “Don’t Wanna.”

War On Drugs - Lost In The DreamAdam Granduciel’s band The War on Drugs on their third album Lost In The Dream is deservedly receiving quite a bit of hype. This is a brilliant record in the same vein as Kurt Vile and The Men, but with a sonically different take on the psychedelic synth-laden inflected country tinged rock of those bands. The lyrical journey is somewhat depressing essentially the tale of a man struggling to keep it all together, but I was mesmerized by the classic rock sounds throughout the record (Springsteen/Dylan comparisons are inescapable). This will likely end up on many best of the year lists, and it will also find a place on mine. Try “Red Eyes,” “Under The pressure,” and the hauntingly beautiful “Lost In The Dream.”

Whigs_cover_nobandThe world is a better place with the Afghan Whigs. I played endlessly the entire Afghan Whigs collection of great records (and they were actually records at that time). I loved every song and it would be hard to argue that Greg Dulli’s vocals on Do The Beast are as unmistakable, powerful, and captivating as they are on ever record he has put out. So, imagine my surprise to find that 16 years after their last release, 1965, the Afghan Whigs are about to release Do The Beast – another awesome addition to their catalog – a little stranger than previous because there are definitely flavors of Dulli’s other band, the Twilight Singers incorporated into this record. However, I’ve been playing Do The Beast repeatedly for about the past thirty days (along with the Stiff Little Fingers and the Horrors records). This fact that the Afghan Whigs were playing both days at Coachella was almost enough to make me want to brave going, but I am sure I’ll see them in a better venue another time. (Which I Did – in my living room on the big screen. Thanks to whomever uploaded weekend 1). This is not the original band, and so the guitar sounds are slightly different than the 1.0 version of the band – noticeably absent is guitarist Rick McCollum – but this is such a treasure of a record and like all of the previous Dulli records (including those with the Twilight Singers) the collision of love, lust, greed, and need are pervasive throughout as Dulli tries through his vocal approach to bring color and clarity to these philosophical constructs. Try “It Kills,” “Royal Cream” and “Algiers.”

Bob Mould - Workbook 25To be truthful, I was not ready for Bob Mould’s debut solo record, Workbook following the very nasty breakup of Husker Du more than 25 years ago. I doubt anyone was. If you loved Husker Du as much as I did, then when you put the needle down on track 1 – “Sunspots” you went …what the $#^%? However, with time and a little perspective, you come to find that Workbook after 25 years is a work of, well, genius. I have listened to this record well over one hundred times in the past 25 years and each time I’d discover something new to amaze. After reading Bob’s book See A Little Light: The Trail of Rage And Melody, I gained a new perspective on the place and importance of Workbook in the pantheon of Mould/Husker Du/ Sugar recordings. And here it is reissued and it shines and sounds as if it was a new release I am supposed to write about. So, what is new? Well Disc 2 collects a live show from the Cabaret Metro on May 14, 1989 during the tour and gives incite to Mould’s artistry and captures the magical qualities of an artist finding his way after the trauma of losing everything important in his life. The live version of “See A little Light,” captures this place and time perfectly as does the gem “If You’re True” which plays entrée into Mould’s rawness following the split. To be fair, I’ve not taken sides in the end of Husker Du. I think Grant Hart is a genius as well . Also included on Workbook 25 is “All Those People Know,” the B-side of the “See a Little Light Single” which was not on the original album for good reason as it sounds like a Husker Du outtake. For those of you trying this for the first time, Try” See A Little Light,” “Poison Years,” and “Compositions for the Young and Old.”

Horrors - LuminousThe reason that music is not a competition, is best exemplified by Horrors, whose latest and 4th album, Luminous, is the follow up to 2011’s masterpiece Skying. To be released May 5, Luminous captures a brighter sounding Horrors with the album firmly including elements of 90’s shoegazers Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, and containing overall much less lyrically dark offering than past releases. I understand that a more positive more electronic organic effort was what the band was looking for, and they have accomplished those goals but what is staggering is the brilliance of the dynamic guitars and dance (for England) friendly songs all of which are going to be killer when played out in a live setting. If they can play the Arctic Monkeys in the U.S. on commercial radio then there is absolutely no reason why they couldn’t find space for all 7:33 of “I see You.” If you loved Skying, then Luminous will not disappoint. England’s got the band covered, but America should really dig this record. Try “I See You,” “Sleepwalk, and “First Day Of Spring.”

La Dispute - Rooms Of The HouseLo-fi is always a difficult genre for most people to get into because we are all so used to playing lush full sounding mostly over-produced elector-pop. However, when done right, Lo-fi combined with hardcore is absolutely the most compelling sound to listen to. Where Husker Du on Zen Arcade and the Minutemen on Double Nickels On a Dime both hinted at the possibility of this unique sound, La Dispute on their third album Rooms Of The House, achieve the brilliant balance and in so doing emerge with a breathtaking look at hardcore that won’t scare off the listener who like pop. The reason is likely that on this third record, Jordan Dreyer, the bands songwriter and vocalist finally has figured out that songs have a unique structure outside of poetry which on previous outings sounded exactly like that – poetry with a musical background. Now, the poetic edge is still present but the music is of equal presence and importance. It is this cohesiveness that makes this such a great listening experience and why, this record belongs in your collection. While Rooms Of the House may never reach the prominence or importance of Zen Arcade or Double Nickels in the punk/hardcore mythology, I think it will be a record that you’ll dig out 10 years from now to tell a friend – I remember this, it was so ^$%$ cool! Try “First Reactions After Falling Through the Ice,” Scenes from Highways 1981-2009,” and “The Child We Lost 1963.”

Mac DeMarco - Salad DaysMontreal’s Mac DeMarco’s second solo release Salad Days is upgraded by his move to Brooklyn, the current home of indie music. The style is not different than the very good debut – a mix of 70’s influenced soft rock and catchy melodies, filled with slightly off kilter lyrics. The acoustic guitar shines, but it is Mac’s personality, somewhat Beck like in intonation that carries the day for these songs. I’m somewhat reminded of Jonathan Richman but not the nasally voice that is Jonathan’s alone, but rather the presence on each of these songs. It’s fair to say that DeMarco is a non-slacker for the slacker world producing carefully crafted mini-masterpieces that seem to be almost lackadaisical throw offs. Try “Let Her Go,” “Salad Days,” and the left field mostly electronic “Chamber of Reflection.”

Paper Lions - AcquaintancesMore Canadians, this time from Prince Edward island, Paper Lions album My Friends was one of my favorites from the past year ending up at Number 8 overall, and their latest EP, entitled Acquaintances is really a stop gap before their next full length, features another great indie pop song in “Do You Wanna” and a couple of remixes of “My Friend.” Wow, I’ll bet they are playing the crap out of “Do You Wanna” in Canada. Here….crickets. Try them all. Can’t wait for the nest record. Try them all.

Pup- PupMore freaking Canadians in the drop box. And they are awesome! Upping the nerd-core game I discussed last month, Pup are according to Pup “[w]e’re called PUP. We’re 4 dudes from Toronto. We play loud music. You’ll like it. Or maybe you won’t. Listen and love it / hate it / whatever.” Really they are Weezer for a new generation and it is blistering amalgam of noise, punk, pop, and hardcore all battling for sonic territory and it all works. Not a duff song on the record. Canadians do it better. “Meet me at the Reservoir”… I am singing along…. alone in an office building…wait someone’s coming…oh what the hell…they are singing along too! Perhaps they will play somewhere near me I’m thinking. They played New York recently. Hopefully this will catch on big. Not radio friendly. College Friendly though. Maybe they will play my house. Sure would freak out my San Marino neighbors. Try” Reservoir,” “Yukon,” and “Lionheart.”

American Authors - Oh, What A LifeHow long does it take to make a hit record? For Brooklyn, New York’s American Author’s who’s self-released self-titled EP was released on August 27, 2013, apparently almost a year. When I put the EP in the drop box last year (See September 29, 2013 Dropbox Notes) I thought the song “Best Day Of My Life” was a hit – writing then ‘[y]ou will like American Authors if you like sugary commercial alternative music that is very well written. Hopefully future releases will demonstrate some willingness by American Authors to try to expand the formula a bit. Still, it is difficult to not like the band or their music as each song on American Authors is built for maximum alt rock catchiness.” A year laterthe same holds true on the full length Oh, What A Life. “Best Day Of My Life” is a commercial radio hit single, and the rest of the album is completely filled with similar hook-laden catchy alternative rock, that is a little overproduced on album, but likely sounds amazing live. As you know, if its here, I like it. Apart from the two hits, also try “Think About It,” “Luck,” and “Heart of Stone.”

Elbow - Take Off and Landing of EverythingYou either are going to like the latest album from Elbow, the bands 6th called Take Off and Landing of Everything or you are not. There is really no middle ground with this band. And the band is not really that interested in altering significantly the formula from record to record, there are minor tweaks along the way, but the formula remains the same – Guy Garvey’s distinctive baritone melodically singing his tales of his own life – apparently one filled with loss, isolation, and confronting his own middle age. And for me it is great. While much will likely be made of the resemblances to Peter Gabriel with the art rock leanings and lush sound and recording this record in Real World Studios probably doesn’t help dissuade the detractors, but Take Off and Landing of Everything stands alone from the comparison and ambles boldly with some excellent songwriting and measured playing, all of which combine to produce an interesting and pleasurable listening experience. In short, it is not boring. And believe me, Elbow has produced some boring music on past releases. And that is why you are either going to love this album or hate it. If its not your style, then its going to be a tough slog. However, on a Sunday afternoon, and it’s raining outside ( I’m creating an allusion here – it doesn’t rain much in Los Angeles), then Take Off and Landing of Everything will be a perfect record. Try “Fly Boy Blue / Lunette,” “My Sad Captains,” and “The Take Off and Landing of Everything.”

Foster The People - SupermodelSurprises happen on rare occasions for me. And Foster The People’s latest, Supermodel, is one of those surprises. It’s not what you think – both Supermodel and me. I am excited when a band makes a great record, and I don’t care if it is popular on radio. I am not one of those individuals who stops liking a band just because they are popular. The goal of this blog is to hopefully contribute to the popularity of the music I describe. So, when Foster the People released this new record, the overriding question was is it going to be “Pumped Up Kicks” Volume 2 from the Torches LP. The answer refreshingly is no. Supermodel is a complicated assemblage of indie dance rock with world elements infused throughout. So, it is a surprise when the album resonates – it is a much more refined offering. Lead Single “Coming Of Age,” is undeniably good – at least until local radio kills all that is good about it, by playing it every two hours for %$^ days. However, like the first record, Supermodel is filled with great songs so you are likely to hear several over the next three years ( which is about how long some radio stations play a “hit song” pummeling the listener to until they can’t take anymore). So, try “A Beginner’s Guide To Destroying The Moon,” “Coming Of Age,” and Are You What You Want To Be?”

I feel a rant coming on….. I warned you at the beginning I might be disposed to a rant. Well its too late…Here it is….

Aside: I know I’ve hinted at this property of radio stations in the past. I love radio when it is good, and in Los Angeles it has now achieved a level that is truly terrible. It is like watching the CW television network – play similar sounding music with a commercial every three minutes and then make sure there are endless repeats. It has to stop. Please people, turn off your radios. Stop listening, and then maybe they will respond to their audience who doesn’t actually buy any of the stuff they advertise and can’t actually like any of the stuff they are playing. The biggest radio joke in Los Angeles is without a doubt KROQ. Who have now figured out that Coachella may be something great – and are now playing catchup broadcasting from somewhere near Indio. KROQ’s new catch slogan in response to Alt 98.7’s slogan (Music Discoveries First)  is “Alternative First.” And that my friends, is the joke. Alternative to what? Growing up in the college radio days of the 80’sand early 90’s when the term Alternative music was referenced as a genre, it had some meaning – it was alternative to metal and punk and featured shimmering guitars i.e. it was early R.E.M. and the bands coming out of the Athens and North Carolina scenes. From there it was co-opted to not scare off older readers and listeners and was affixed to Nirvana when “grunge” became a dirty word. Now, exactly what would pass for Alternative music on KROQ? I have no freaking idea but it certainly isn’t the massive amount of electro pop and fake folk or Chris Martin’s whining on the frankly boring “Magic” single. Really, I do love radio and for the most part having listened to KROQ for almost thirty years, I have learned that I absolutely abhor Kevin & Bean (and Ralph you too) who have single handedly destroyed anything intelligent to be offered by the station. And to be fair, I believe that they all have more in them and the potential to change, but likely all of their spirit has been destroyed, by the soul sucking need to drive advertising and keep revenues flowing. There must be a better model. Hell, I even miss Jim “Poorman” Trenton now so you can see how low my bar can go. So, if anyone reading this with any power to influence programming/hiring decisions (alt 98.7 – please turn off the annoying Kennedy’s microphone), then start fresh and build something that actually is intelligent, interesting, and fun. Local radio has none of these elements right now. Sad. Now that I’ve finished my rant, I’ll move on. Maybe rants are not the way to achieve change, but at least I’ve made an effort. KROQ – post a comment and I’ll hook you up with something new to play.
Such as…..

Fucked Up - Year Of The DragonToronto’s Fucked Up are a singular entity in the annals of punk rock. Who else could release such a remarkable sonic effort such as Year of The Dragon with the 18 minute long title track leaving you emotionally wrung out? Only Fucked Up. As hardcore as a genre has made its way towards the deeper, blacker, and less vocally appealing end of the spectrum, Fucked Up plays it right down the middle and finds the pocket of the genre. Capturing 70’s metal acts penchants for lengthy guitar driven workouts which resulted in the prog movement, creating the environment for punk in its wake, Fucked Up retain the punk aspects while experimenting with the progressive hardcore sounds and the sounds are Killer ( Yes, with a capital K). While this is an EP in anticipation of their next full length Glass Boys due out June 3, it doesn’t feel like a stop gap. This EP is the 6th in their zodiac series and features two cover songs from the early the Toronto punk scene ( in the late 70’s), namely “I Wanna Be a Yank” by Cardboard Brains and “Disorder” by the Ugly. Try them all.

Gaslight 45 RPM Club Annual Single 2014Last month dropbox listeners enjoyed the Gaslight Anthem’s B-Side Collection, and this month for your listening pleasure is the latest from the Gaslight Anthem’s 45 RPM Club featuring two songs “Anywhere I Lay My Head” (Tom Waits cover) and “This Is Where We Part” (Twopointeight cover). It’s the Gaslight Anthem – you know what to expect by now. Try them both.

Spain - Sargent PlaceIt took a little work, and a number of listens before I actually got the latest record from Spain entitled Sargent Place. Since 1995 Spain have been putting out quality releases, but in all honesty, I’ve never really connected. Perhaps it’s the pacing, as these records, much like slow-core originators Low, are sparse affairs with a pacing in places that is not even close to 4/4 time. If you like jazz inflected Americana then this is a great album. For me, it was listening to the 2nd track, “The Fighter” that I finally connected with both Josh Haden’s vocals and the bands casual pacing. From there I was hooked, because as the pacing picks up, particularly on “Sunday Morning” the feeling is electric. I think it took some time to feel the record as opposed with the immediacy of most releases, this blindsided me a little bit, because what makes this work are the jazz edges creating a unique sonic experience. “Sunday Morning” is a hit. Try “Sunday Morning”, “The Fighter, and “You and I.”

Pixies - Indie CindyIt must be difficult being the Pixies. Releasing their first record and only their 5th in total with their last record being released in 1991 (Trompe Le Monde), the band has experienced some critical backlash for its recent collections of EPs which are collected and were released on April 19th ( Record Store Day) as a collection entitled Indie Cindy. Sure, as bands age, there is a tendency to create different sounding music, and heaven knows, Frank Black has been around a number of wagons. The problem for the Pixies, apart from their personal inter-band squabbles and personal dysfunction, is that everything, and I mean everything, is going to be compared to their past releases, in particular the brilliant Doolittle which arguably ranks as one of the greatest records of all time. So, the real question is whether the record sounds like the Pixies? And in short, it does. It’s a little uneven as it was imagined first as a series of thee EPs, but overall, there are some great moments on this record, and contrary to the assertion made by at least a few so called critics that this is not the Pixies without Kim Deal, the truth is that the Pixies sound is still emanating from these tracks and the songs are without a doubt the Pixies. Try “What Goes Boom,” “Ring The Bell,” and “Jaime Bravo.”

Hold Steady - Teeth DreamsCraig Finn must be wondering what the &%$67 is going on and what he and his band The Hold Steady have to do to actually please a critic. On Teeth Dreams, the Hold Steady’s 6th album, Finn and band actually hold steady (see – puns are convenient sometimes) and create an album of solid Hold Steady songs that will fit nicely into their growing collection of amazing song stories that refocuses the band – a band that kind of lost the script on 2010’s Heaven which smoothed out the edges and was frankly overproduced to the point where I am unable to actually enjoy the record. Sure, there is a Springsteen vibe on all Hold Steady records, but that vibe is created by the cast of characters that populate the songs. In short, it is not a dance record. Rather, it is tougher, tighter, and the rawness has a spark that captured my attention throughout. And that is what makes Hold Steady records great – it is a journey through Americana influenced indie rock with a few pub rock edges ( I am thinking Brinsley Schwartz and early Nick Lowe here with hints of the Singles soundtrack) with stories that touch a nerve. Try “Spinners,” “Walk A While,” and “Records And Tapes.”

Menzingers - Rented WorldPrevious dropbox favorites the Menzingers return with their latest on April 22 entitled Rented World. From Scranton PA, the band like Boston’s Dropkick Murphy’s, incorporates the punk sounds from the city, and on Rented World, their 4th and is kind of a crossover in sound from their last release, 2011’s On The Impossible Past, which was definitely a smoother more traditional pop influenced punk record, whereas this record in places is a return to roots effort, cramming more aggressive sounds into tightly played punk rock with sing-along melodies. I love this record. Played the thing in my office at full blast as I am apt to do on weekends when no one is around. I’d venture to say that with bands like the Menzingers around, punk rock is safe for a while. Try “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore,” “In Remission,” and “Hearts Unknown.”

That’s all for now folks. As always, have a great month of music, and here is the list:

  1. Stiff Little Fingers – No Going Back [2014]
  2. War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream [2014]
  3. Afghan Whigs – Do to the Beast [2014]
  4. Bob Mould – Workbook 25 [2CD][2014]
  5. Horrors – Luminous [2014]
  6. La Dispute – Rooms of the House [2014]
  7. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days [2014]
  8. Paper Lions – Acquaintances EP [2014]
  9. Pup – Pup [2014]
  10. American Authors – Oh, What a Life [2014]
  11. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything [2014]
  12. Foster The People – Supermodel (Deluxe Edition) [2014]
  13. Fucked Up – Year of the Dragon [2014]
  14. Gaslight Anthem – 2014 45 Record Club [7”] [2014]
  15. Spain – Sargent Place [2014]
  16. Pixies – Indie Cindy [2014]
  17. Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams [2014]
  18. Menzingers – Rented World [2014]
  19. Amen Dunes – Love [2014]
  20. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else [2014]
  21. Farewell Flight – I Was A Ghost [2014]
  22. Habibi – Habibi [2014]
  23. Walking Shapes – Taka Come On [2014]
  24. Swans – To Be Kind [2014]
  25. My Sad Captains – Best Of Times [2014]
  26. Future Islands – Singles [2014]
  27. Desert Noises – 27 Ways [2014]
  28. Dexters – Shimmer Gold [2014]
  29. Mr Little Jeans – Pocketknife [2014]
  30. Reptile Youth – Rivers That Run For A Sea That Is Gone [2014]
  31. Soft White Sixties – Get Right [2014]
  32. Speedy Ortiz – Real Hair [2014]
  33. Dirty Guvnahs – Hearts On Fire [2014]
  34. Elder Brother – Heavy Head [2014]
  35. Howler – World of Joy [2014]
  36. Mounties – Thrash Rock Legacy [2014]
  37. Withered Hand – New Gods [2014]
  38. Sweet Apple – The Golden Age of Glitter [2014]
  39. Strypes – 4 Track Mind EP [2014]
  40. Sultan Bathery – Sultan Bathery [2014]
  41. Coathangers – Suck My Shirt [2014]
  42. Neon Trees – Pop Psychology [2014]
  43. Stagecoach – Say Hi To The Band [2013]
  44. Tame Impala – Live Versions [2014]
  45. Thee Oh Sees – Drop [2014]
  46. Baseballs – Game Day [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  47. Green Day – Demolicious [2014]
  48. Band of Skulls – Himalayan [2014]
  49. Slint – Spiderland (Deluxe Edition)[2CD] [2014]
  50. Secret Colours – Positive Distractions [2014]