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]

June 10, 2014 Dropbox Notes

A little late but better than nothing, I say. (I’d likely say it even if it wasn’t okay because it is almost always better to ask for forgiveness than permission). With that as a preface, here are last month’s dropbox notes:

Music is starting to hit its annual stride with some biggish ( at least in my world) names releasing albums this month. Highlights include new albums by the Buzzcocks, The Black Keys, and Augustana as well as new releases from prior Tales From The Dropbox favorites which you should recognize if you’ve been following along including new/old Danko Jones, Cheap Girls, and a record store day offering from Surfer Blood. If you were laying money on whether I would include the new Coldplay album – not on your life. The album is an uninteresting and unlistenable dirge which appears to be directed to Gwenth…Magic…my a#$%.]

Buzzcocks - The WayMight as well start this months capsules with the legendary Buzzcocks whose first album in eight years is a rip snorting good time and is unmistakably, in every way, the Buzzcocks. An original punk rock imprimatur, the Buzzcocks for more than three decades have consistently produced exceptional records brimming with their unique blend of catchy melodic punk rock. In this regard, The Way is no different than past Buzzcock releases in that the band accurately reproduces their classic sound consisting of buzz saw guitar and thundering drums all highlighted by Pete Shelley’s distinctive vocals and catchy melodies. The Way makes for a pretty exciting punk rock trip in a world full of indie dance music. For those of you thinking – “Will I hear this exceptional and uniformly excellent record somewhere on the radio? Your answer as always, is no (which is what the dropbox is for). I don’t expect I’ll hear this album played in public in the U.S. of A., but not too worry – no one has to know that you have one the coolest records released this year. No picks here because I am shamelessly biased. Try them all.

Cheap Girls - Famous GravesI didn’t skip over Cheap Girls who are No. 1 on this month’s dropbox list. It was just that I could not contain my Buzzcocks lust ( Check out the Buzzcocks singing “Just Lust“). So, Cheap Girls’ 4th long player, Famous Graves is about to hit the stores and it is a dandy. You know why you like Cheap Girls? (No, that’s not the reason…I know what you are thinking…stop it). It’s because they have incorporated that Replacement’s melodies with Dinosaur Jr’s guitar sound into their Overwhelming Colorfast styled pop punk tunes and that “sound,” even on darker topics, still makes you happy. Cheap Girls haven’t changed their style over the course of four records and so, for those of you looking for something different will be disappointed. I am not. This is a great record from start to finish and easily will make my play often list. Try “Knock Me Over,” “Pure Hate,” and Splintered.”

Stay classy, San Diego – in the form of Little Hurricane a duo comprised of singer/guitarist Tone Catalano and drummer/vocalist C.C. Spina who on their sophomore record, Gold Fever, have captured a significantly different spin on blues based rock setting them apart from musical cousins like the White Stripes or the Black Keys (who are also in this month’s dropbox). The songs on Gold Fever are warm textured and bright sounding acoustic flavored rockers with a vintage guitar sound that highlights the dynamic aspects of this collection of songs. C.C.’s backing vocals give the necessary “flavor” that only a female can bring to these melodic songs, and distinguish them from the Black Keys who they will likely be compared. Little Hurricane are not copyists – they have their unique take on a classic sound, and it is thoroughly enjoyable (Loved the horns on “Boiling Water”) on what is a consistently great record. Try “Boiling Water,” “Breathe,” and “Sheep In Wolves Clothes.”

VA - Punk 45 Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its YoungI’ve put the two compilations in this month’s dropbox together because they belong together. They are different takes on the same subject from opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean: Last year’s U.S take on Killed By Death punk – Punk 45 Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young and this years companion album representing the British take on punk – Punk 45, Vol. 2 Underground Punk and Post Punk in the UK, 1977-1981. For those of you not familiar with Killed by Death aka KBD, it was a bootleg compilation series produced by several bootleggers whom, at various times, compiled rare and out of print punk singles into compilation albums, generally with a theme. These records, all going on eBay for hundreds of dollars are mostly private label affairs and therefore are regional favorites and existed for moments of time in the punk pantheon. For those of you collect punk 45’s many of these are the holy grail of collectability. More importantly, they truly are worth the listen. If not for these types of compilations (bootlegs or “official bootlegs”), the tunes these compilations contain would be lost. were terrific not only in their time, but today. Come on…admit it…you wondered what that Pagan’s single sounded like, right? Well, I could probably go on for days about many of these songs, a number of which I actually own, but here are some highlights from both records (Don’t worry – both records are awesome, but you need some direction):

Kill The Hippies looks at the nascent U.S. punk scene and although several of these songs were widely available (Pere Ubu and Johnny Thunders) the true gems are the The Hollywood Squares – “Hillside Strangler,” The Pagans – “Not Now, Now Way,” and The Controllers performing “Neutron Bomb.”

VA - Punk 45, Vol. 2 Underground Punk and Post Punk in the UK, 1977-1981On the U.K side of things, Vol. 2 follows similar pattern, with some widely known “rarities” (Television Personalities, Swell Maps and Mekons) and some lesser known highlights. For me, the most interesting was the Killjoys (featuring a pre-Dexy’s Midnight Runners Kevin Rowland) performing “Johnny Doesn’t Want to Go to Heaven,” The Lines – “White Night” and The Rings – “I Want To Be Free.”
In either event, both albums are prime examples of the diversity of early punk rock which makes the task of defining the sound of “punk rock” so difficult. The albums also reveal the impact of geography on the development of a particular punk rock sound and style.

Aside: The greatest mystery in punk rock – a media created genre – is what exactly the “sound” that is representative of punk rock. In the 70’s in Canada, punk rock was defined by the U.K. not the U.S. That is, while almost everyone will acknowledge the tremendous influence of the New York Dolls (who were sleaze/glam rock), the Ramones (who were a sped up 50’s rock n’ roll band), the Velvet Underground (whom were art rockers) and The Stooges (whom few had ever heard and had incorporated late 60’s garage into their Detroit sound) transported the energy of the sound to the U.K) the true punk rock “sound” likely defies categorization. If the Sex Pistols are “it” then they are the sum of their influences – a little Alice Cooper, a little Modern Lovers and by way of extension, the Velvet Underground, some, New York Dolls, and some Ramones all filtered through the lens of the British media. And while punk lasted at best 18 months (ask Johnny Rotten or Thunders, neither of whom survived the death of punk rock – Rotten who dumped the name and Thunders who ended his life) the ripples created by that brief moment in time have lasted almost 40 years. Perhaps not in the same form, but clearly incorporating those elements in new and powerful ways. And while it is unlikely that we will ever see the collision of events – politically, culturally, economically, that will recreate the cauldron that birthed punk again, it is great to see records like these 2 collections of KBD punk as perhaps they will inspire a new generation of do-it-yourself individuals to go forth and create a scene, for themselves, and that is good.

Old 97s - Most Messed UpThe Old 97’s on Most Messed Up also carry the spirit of the KBD movement but having taken a countrified turn in their punk rock early on, the punk influences have at times been tamped down on their latest releases in favor of a more tradtitional country sound. However, as the Most Messed Up collection reveals, at least ofr the Old 97’s, there was no going back to pure punk once the decision was made to explore what would become a unique subgenre in traditional rock now known as alt-country. While the first couple of Old 97’s records leaned a little more to the punk side of the equation – both lyrically and sound, the songs on Most Messed Up find the perfect balance – ragged up tempo rollicking ragers with some country flourishes that highlight the special nature of the Old 97’s sound. As their reissues from last year demonstrated, the Old 97’s blend of country and punk rock occupied a unique space in the rock world populated by a few other mid 90’s No Depression pioneers such as Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo. Formed in Dallas Texas, singer Rhett Miller has also recorded four solo records, and it is unfathomable to me why this band has never reached popular success – the songs on Most Messed Up are the perfect blend of the energy of their punk rock roots and a natural outgrowth of their country upbringing – producing a sound not unlike the Replacements. Rhett Miller is an engaging singer – and the lyrics on this record are wry, witty, and diverse and somewhat autobiographical of the band. Beginning with opener “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” where Rhett proclaims that “I’ m not crazy about songs that are self-referential” the Old 97’s blast through this all too short collection of ravers. Try “Give It Time,” ”Guadalajara” (Sounds like early Elvis Costello, right?), and “Intervention.”

Augustana - Life Imitating LifeI am a huge FAN of Augustana, so there is little doubt that their latest, Life Imitating Life, would end up in the dropbox. There is something so connecting about Augustana’s music – from the big guitar piano infused indie pop to the sing-a-long choruses created by Dan Layus’ distinctive voice, the tunes on Life Imitating Life creates multiple enjoyable moments. The production on the record and Augustana‘s distinct sound are, for me, hit right in the sweet spot of the One Tree Hill genre (I know it’s not a genre – but it should be) Although this is Augustana’s 5th album, Layus remains the sole remaining member of the band with the other two original members having left 2011. So, where does this leave Layus on Life Imitating Life? Remarkably consistent with past efforts. While not every song on Life Imitating Life is a winner, there are several songs here that capture the magic that made the earlier albums such charmers. I will say though, it is going to be difficult to follow up a song like “Fire” which was amongst the best pop songs possibly written. Still, there are some songs here that will end up being played on repeat in your iTunes. Try “Youth Is Wasted On The Young,” “Ash and Ember,” and “Remember Me.”

Ex-Cult - Midnight PassengerEntering the garage underground are Memphis’ Ex-Cult who on their latest, Midnight Passenger, sound like Ex-Cult i.e. Cramps infused punk rock with hints of new-psychedelia. However, what makes Midnight Passenger markedly different from Ex-Cult’s self-titled debut is the quality of the production. This album is so sonically superior to their self-titled debut that it reminds me of the sound quality difference between Husker Du’s Metal Circus and Zen Arcade – a million miles apart. The increased production makes sonic highlights stand out such as as the twin guitar attack which is given space amidst the furious drumming. The improved production also captures the aggressiveness of the band and the vocals being brought to the front of the mix instead of buried in the sound permits the listener to fully appreciate the dark lyrics of Chris Shaw e.g. “I am the voice from the sewer” ( from “Midnight Passenger”). This is a pleasantly bruising record. Shaw’s voice fits perfectly in the swirling frenzy. This would be an awesome live experience. Try “Midnight Passenger,” “Sid Visions,” and “Lights Out Club.”

Fear of Men - LoomJessica Weiss (guitars, vocals) and Daniel Falvey (guitar) comprise Fear of Men whose indie pop falls somewhere between Camera Obscura, The Chills and the Smiths, who on Loom, their proper debut, apparently find a creative connection (and a slightly ironic one at that) with the Smiths and androphobia ( the name of the disorder that causes an individual to actually fear men). If you think about the Morrissey, megalomaniac and vocalist/lyricist for the Smiths for say a half a second, then the irony should become apparent. What makes this Loom unique as a creative work is the laser-like focus of Fear Of Men in taking their dream pop to the edge of darkness. Loom deals with isolation, loneliness, and emotional disturbances in a compelling environment. Weiss’ voice is so sweet and in stark contrast to the dark undercurrent and themes present on Loom. A couple of these tracks were released on a collection called Early Fragments which made the dropbox last year. These tracks are improved and fit neatly into this collection. Try “Luna,” “Descent,” and “Inside.”

Euro Trash Girl - Floating Down Memory LaneFrom the missed it the first time around collection is Valencia Spain’s Euro Trash Girl, whom recorded Floating Down Memory Lane at Little Canyon and Rockaway Studios in the United States. Released in 2012 ( I know – I’ve discovered this gem really late), the jangle pop created by Euro Trash Girl is in the same vein as Let’s Active and 80’s alternative rock (think early Throwing Muses/ Bangles). Floating Down Memory Lane sonically is the perfect blend of Judit Casado impressive vocals and a wall of swirling ringing jangle guitar.

A note for the band: I was unable to find much about you – anywhere. As you have no US distribution, don’t belong to a label, and not much else on any of the usual websites – it will be difficult for anyone to follow you.

Euro Trash Girl looks to be a very regional band. However, if you like your alternative paisley pop with a husky throated female vocal, then give this a whirl and definitely seek them out if you stumble across anything online. Great videos though – click the links, eh? Try “City Skyline,” “Thirteen Miles,” and “Hurting Love.”

Born Ruffians - Birthmarks [Deluxe Edition]Toronto Ontario’s Born Ruffians (essentially songwriter/vocalist Luke LaLonde) on the limited (100 copies) deluxe edition of Birthmarks (adds four new songs and 5 acoustic versions from the album) shows a writer at a creative crossroads. Birthmarks is a commercial pop record i.e. designed for mainstream radio play and on that level Birthmarks succeeds remarkably well. In a more progressive world, calculated indie will find a place. However, with that compromise comes some challenges and Birthmarks presents a couple as the songwriting is a bit uneven and in places the album falls into the repetitive “feel” trap. But there is something else going on with Birthmarks as evidenced by the cohesiveness of the songs as a whole. The production has smoothed the rough edges of earlier releases, but the lyric approach is definitely more mature and the songs on Birthmarks are all characterized by crisp production, catchy punchy choruses, and an ear for melody that make this indie rock all the more compelling. Try “6-5000,” “Dancing On The Edge Of Our Graves,” and “Rage Flows.”

Bad Suns - Transpose EPReadymade for KROQ/Alt 98.7 is Los Angeles’ Bad Suns who on Transpose have mastered the sound that every corporate rock station has now decided to call alternative. I note that this term is constantly evolving, but with no baseline sound to compare it with, the word alternative really has no meaning today. In the past when the word alternative was utilized it meant alternative to metal, pop, disco, progressive rock and 60’s rock, and didn’t fall within the definition of punk. Now, apparently it means indie dance.Transpose is an EP of catchy melodic indie dance pop with soaring atmospheric melodies and extra bright guitars – you know, pretty much everything being played on those types of “alternative” radio stations. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, as evidenced by the inclusion in the drop box, I really had to think about what made this stick out from similar ilk. A description of the ilk I am referring to here is found below. It was these differences that were enough to get me to include Transpose in this month’s dropbox.

NOTE: Like sugar, Transpose can grow tiresome with repeated plays, so for @^^^#$^ sake when this actually is played on the radio, hopefully they won’t play it so much that I cringe.

I missed Bad Sun‘s debut album last year for some reason, which I cannot for ther life of me remember or explian right now. I’m sure it was okay, but it didn’t capture my attention or imagination given the sheer volume of releases in any given year, many of which are just better. As for what Bad Suns sound like? Well, this is Young The Giant/Vampire Weekend/Two Door Cinema Club territory and this would be awesome in the indie dance clubs if I actually knew what those were and what they played. I don’t have a clue. Catchy, danceable….hell. ( try to imagine me sort of dancing…not a pretty sight or image. Try “Transpose,” “Cardiac Arrest,” and the Vampire Weekend-ish “Twenty Years.”

Early Morning Rebel - Life BoatAnother Los Angeles entry to the dropbox is Early Morning Rebel. Comprised of Nathan Blumenfeld-James, Dustin Bath and Joshua Mervin, the band has created an electronic version of the National crossed with Augustana – a piano infused indie rock with a wall of sound behind crisp vocals – a winning combination. Although they self-describe as pop noir, Life Boat (which has been reissued by Baby Bird Records) is much more than homage to these bands and I was hooked by the time I reached standout track “Burn Us Down.” Try “Burn Us Down,” “War On Love,” and “Life Boat.”

Ought - More Than Any Other DayWell, there is no doubt that the world needs another intelligent punk band, and Montreal’s Ought may just fill the bill, as More Than Any Other Day, mines the same art-emo punk territory as Cap’ n Jazz, Slint, Naked Raygun etc.. In a world filled with contemporary pop leaning music, More Than Any Other Day is definitely on the edge of the indie punk underground, and from my framework of progress – a welcome breath of fresh air, essentially a palate cleanser, for smart awkward jazz influenced punk rock. On “Habit” vocalist and guitarist Tim Beeler comes off as a David Byrne devotee with the same stop start vocal intonation that was present on Talking Heads 77 and “Psycho Killer.” Captivating and compelling, I found myself hooked as I hope you will as well. Try “Habit,” “Gemini,” and “Around Again.”

Di-Rect - Daydreams In A BlackoutDutch pop rockers Di-Rect, on their seventh release, Daydreams In A Blackout, strike at the heart of the alternative pop genre, with an album full of melodic songs that have killer choruses that blast from your stereo. Di-Rect have, since 1999, consistently put forth interesting albums, usually with several radio friendly singles (perhaps only in the Netherlands) all sung in English. To demonstrate the popularity of the band as a chart act, when former lead vocalist and original member Tim Akkerman announced in 2009 that he was leaving the band, they held a nationally televised vocalist search. On November 8, 2009 in the live finale of a nationally televised BNN program Wie is Direct? (English: Who is Di-rect?), the band made a unanimous decision to have Marcel Veenendaal from Arnhem as their new lead vocalist and front man. Fast forward 5 years and Di-rect’s keyboard/synth laden melodic rock is interesting for the piano flourishes, but also for Marcel’s falsetto which creates tension in these atmospheric pop rockers. Try the two hits first “Invincible,” and “Paper Plane,” then have a go at “Out In The Wild.”

Satellite Stories - Pine TrailsStaying with the European side of the music world, Finnish indie rockers, Satellite Stories, released on November 1, 2013 their excellent sophomore album, Pine Trails, which is chock fully of instantly likeable indie electro-pop in the vein of Two Door Cinema Club and Bastille. Tremolo laden guitar work highlights the catchy choruses and synth heavy uptempo pop all played with a cool feel. I like this a little better than the Bad Suns record above, if only for the fact that this doesn’t appear to be written for commercial radio, bt rather the outgrowth of a process where Satellite Stories have attempted in part to emulate their more famous brethren without sacrificing their…soul. Try “Lights Go Low,” “December Theme,” and “Pinewood Parkways.”

Split Single - Fragmented WorldWhile you should probably never bury the lead, I’m going to do it this once. Split Single has released an excellent debut record full of indie rockers that echo some of the best sounds of the 80’s and 90’s power pop scene. As contemplated by vocalist/songwriter Jason Narducy (he of Verböten, and its offshoot Verbow) who for the past decade or so has been touring and playing with Bob Mould as bassist and background vocals, and recently touring with Superchunk filling in for bassist Laura Balance who was ill dealing with sound sensitivity, the influences of those experiences inform both the songwriting and music on Fragmented World. So, where is the lead? Well the rest of the band is Britt Daniel of Spoon who plays bass and Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Mountain Goats, and Bob Mould) on drums. So what does a Britt Daniel/ Narducy non-Spoon band sound like? Think gauzy power pop with some pretty intricate bass playing laying a solid foundation for Narducy’s solid vocals more in the Alex Chilton/Chris Stamey mold on the prettiest of these songs which are complex and beautiful power pop (Cheap Trick!) with restrained power. Click the links to see a couple of live versions that are excellent. Try “Searches,” “Fragmented World,” and “Never Look Back.”

Surfer Blood - Python DemosOn the Python Demos, Surfer Blood gives us a hint at the early process behind the songs that eventually wound up on the excellent but disconcerting Pythons album from 2013. This group of songs, written while John Paul Pitts was in the midst of a tumultuous relationship, channels the tension of that relationship, and the process of resolution. The results, as laid bare on Demos is happy sounding music (Weezer and Buddy Holly (not the song but the singer)) with much darker lyrics wrought with emotion and overlain with some pretty great guitar. According John Paul Pitts, “These tracks represent the initial essence of the songs that would later be recorded with Gil Norton. While they are rougher than the recordings that would come out on ‘Pythons’ more than a year later, I think they accurately represent the character and sentiment the songs were meant to deliver.” These demos, released in a limited edition of 1,000 copies worldwide on Record Store Day do something with the songs that the proper Pythons record does not accomplish – they highlight the diversity in Pitts’ songwriting approach only hinted at on the released versions, and in many ways, Python Demos, with several Pavement sounding stretches, captures on vinyl a moment of time that is both raw and naked. Listening to the Demos back to back with Pythons, you would swear these are two different records. Try “Gravity,” “Weird Shapes,” and “Prom Song.”

Black Keys - Turn BlueIf you are a Black Keys fan, then any review will probably not matter. If you are not, then what will it take to make you a fan? The question for those who were spoon fed Black Keys by so called alternative radio over the past five years, is whether the Black Keys fit within your sonic palate. Turn Blue is exactly what the title implies, the Black Keys, who were always a blues based garage rock band, have now dialed up the blues portion of the spectrum and hit the 70’s AM radio groove. Believe me when I say it is going to take a few spins before you will be amazed at the heaviness of what turns out to be an exceptional rock record. Turn Blue is the Black Keys’ 8th record and that experience is playing tremendous dividends as it is evident that the musical approach taken on Turn Blue is to create more of an atmosphere as compared with prior offerings and the songwriting is far more mature.  Like the hit monster Brothers from a couple of years back, Turn Blue will lend itself to some amazing live workouts that will add a new dimension to the already excellent live show. Auberbach called the album “headphone music” and that is an apt description – this album is best explored, like Pink Floyd, though headphones where you pick up nuances, emotions, and sounds that are missed when transmitted over great spaces. The single “Fever” will get well deserved attention, but for me, it was the darker moments that were captivating. Try “Weight Of Love,” “Fever,” and “Turn Blue.”

Danko Jones - Garage RockFull disclosure – Danko Jones can do no wrong. I was captured by the punishing KISS derived ROCK ( Yes – all caps) of Danko Jones on their proper debut Born A Lion which was released in 2002. Danko Jones now does KISS better than KISS.

 

ASIDE: Whereas KISS lost the path (and really for any KISS fan who is reading this – any version of the band without Ace and Peter is inferior. KISS today is like the resulting copy of a color photograph put through a black & white photocopier a million times – faded, and barely recognizable as the original. KISS has now evolved into something so far removed from the sound that I dreamed about upon my mother bringing me Dressed To Kill back from a trip to Vancouver to the Yukon in 1975. KISS has filled the world with DRECK – with KISS freaking disco records, KISS acoustic etc.!!! , and all out just plain crap. Now that KISS are finally in the old dead band hall of fame and noting that Gene and Paul were nothing short of #$^$^ wipes to not play live with Ace and Peter, the version of the band that was actually inducted, hopefully we can put the KISS corpse to rest.

Danko Jones has remained true to the Kiss sonic blueprint – balls out rock n roll. Jones explained that since these recordings were made, he and his band mates have evolved beyond their garage rock origins ( I’ve left the Canadian spellings of the original):

If a band continues past the gesticulation stage, the term “garage rock” is usually rendered unusable. Back in the ’90s, the garage rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some rock’n’roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear.

Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

And it is fascinating. Warts and all, you’ll have a blast listening to this record, and perhaps like me, you’ll find some gems that will keep you wishing for more. Try “Rock and Roll Is Black and Blue,” “Best Good Looking Girl in Town,” and “She’s Got a Bomb.” No live versions exist, so try this live show from April 5, 1996 in Toronto (split parts) which was likely their second or third show ever. Note: Danko Jones looks like Lenny Kravitz wearing Jimi.

Jake Bugg - Messed Up Kids EPJake Bugg is on a roll. Messed Up Kids is the fifth single from his sophomore record, the excellent Shangri-la, and this EP features the single and three songs recorded from those same sessions but not included on the record: “A Change in the Air”, “Strange Creatures” and “The Odds”. The acoustic “Strange Creatures” with its finger-picking intro and backwoods acoustic feel is a highlight, but try them all.

Mando Diao - AelitaBorlange Sweden’s Mando Diao is also on my favorite list as I was captivated by their debut, 2002’s Bring ‘Em In and stunning follow up 2004’s Hurricane Bar. I played these records endlessly, and still find time to put them into the iTunes. Since then Mando Diao have had a few uneven releases since those two first records, both of which featured Strokes styled garage indie rock. For example, their last record, 2012’s Infruset was sung in Swedish and was written on the occasion of Swedish poet Gustaf Fröding’s (1860–1911) hundredth death year wherein Mando Diao‘s Gustaf Norén was asked to set one of Fröding’s poems to music. The beauty and honesty of Fröding’s poetry as well as his eccentric and anguished way of living was appealing to the band who decided a full length was necessary. The songs are slow and melancholic with the band taking a decidedly minimalist approach with sparse acoustic guitar and piano as the main focus highlighting the melancholy Fröding’s words transformed as lyrics. I put Infruset  in the dropbox in 2012, and now, how does Aelita fit within the Mando Diao song catalog? Well, a side step – now exploring 80’s electro-indie dance, these songs are more like Visage and Ultravox mixed with the entire New Romantic Movement e.g. Spandau Ballet and Classix Nouveau than, say, China Crisis. If you are old enough to remember those bands, then you will understand immediately where Mando Diao is taking thier music – Aelita is unabashedly influenced by 80’s electronic dance music as best exemplified by “Money Doesn’t Make You A Man,” which could easily have been on the Miami Vice soundtrack. All that said, I enjoyed the retro look back and found enough on Aelita to take a few spins. Try “Black Saturday,” the Morricone/ Georgio Moroder influenced “Sweet Wet Dreams,” and the Spandau Ballet sounding “Romeo.”

Pujol - KludgeNashville’s PUJOL aka Daniel Pujol on Kludge, their second album full of fuzzy glam pop takes a striking leap forward from the mostly excellent debut, 2012’s United States Of Being, by bringing a “dirtier’ guitar sound to the proceedings and toning down a little bit the power pop leanings of that first record.  The songs on Kludge fall somewhere between the MacDonald Brothers (Red Kross) and Sweet/Slade end on the glam rock spectrum. However, this glam rock sound is also shuffled throughout with new punk revival ( Jay Reatard and Frank Turner). Taken as a whole, Kludge is a varied and interesting take on a wide number of genres all filtered through PUJOL’s punk rock blender. Try “Pitch Black,” the Dylan-ish “Spooky Scary,” and “Small World.”

Sharon Van Etten - Are We ThereSharon Van Etten’s fourth album, Are We There, is the stunning masterwork of a woman who has finally worked through the emotion of her last outstanding album, 2012’s Tramp, to find herself in control of both her emotions and her instrument. Are We There Yet still finds Van Etten at the intersection of heartbreak and loneliness but more confident, vibrant, and the music adds rather than distracts from the powerful performances captured on this amazing slab of vinyl. The centerpiece of this album, the stunning, “Our Love” is juxtaposed against the breathtaking “Your Love Is Killing Me” and is as fine a 10 minutes of music as you will hear this year. I am positive you will find something that works for you here when your feeling a little bit blue. Try “I Love You But I’m Lost,” “Our Love,” and “Every Time the Sun Comes Up.

Fucked Up - Glass BoysToronto’s Fucked Up occupy a unique space in hardcore punk. A very unique space. Glass Boys, their fourth long player is a very dense, compact, and powerful hardcore experience. Although many will not see the parallel, Glass Boys is a much more conventional record than prior Fucked Up releases and as a statement of where the band is now sonically, Glass Boys is an extension of the ground trod 25 years previously by Husker Du and in some small way, the Minutemen, as Fucked Up rage and confront the listener with what is essentially a series of internal conversations all in some manner dealing with “value” – old versus new, experience vs youth, art vs commerce etc. The most important thing about Fucked Up as a band and Glass Boys as a record is that Fucked Up is taking the hardcore genre is an exciting new direction. Glass Boys adds Husker Du influences to modern rock and hardcore and is so doing is taking a huge risk both sonically and with the bands core fan base – with the result – an intense, melodic, and thoroughly enjoyable hardcore album which stands alone in Fucked Up’s catalog and as the next logical progression in the evolution of a band uncomfortable with the status quo. Having followed Fucked Up from the beginning, over their four LPs and a number of EPs it is fair to say that Fucked Up is an essential rock band, and I dare say, uniquely Canadian. Genius. Try “Touch Stone,” “The Great Divide,” and “Paper The House.”

Conor Oberst - Upside Down MountainAcceptance. If you were a fan of Bright Eyes the earnestly emo-indie rock “band” of Conor Oberst’s youth, then the time has come to accept that Conor is not the same guy or in the same place as Bright Eyes. This is not a new Bright Eyes record. Rather, it is the work of a more mature country–folk artist and the songs are lush, full sounding and melodic. Conor Oberst is now trading in the mature singer/songwriter brand of music, much like the way that Matt Pond has recently performed, with an electric guitar as an instrument of depth and not focus. As a consequence of this stylistic choice, the vocals on Upside Down Mountain are stellar as Conor finds his voice – his true voice – in exploring his traditional dark themes in songs brimming with melody and country edges.  Upside Down Mountain contains some very sweet songs where the electric guitar is vital to the overall sound but played with restraint and in such a manner that the guitar work exposes the heart of the song. Try “Zigzagging Toward the Light,” “Enola Gay,” and “Kick.”

Binz - How To Freak Out Responsibly About The Rise Of RobotsMuch like one of my favorites, Billy Talent, Vancouver’s The Binz on How To Freak Out Responsibly In The Age OF Robots is a fun romp with an album full of classic garage rock influenced post-punk rock. The album  was played on CITR in Vancouver and for good reason – it is a spectacularly fun record that should be played loud at parties everywhere. Short sharp blast of punk rock energy – most songs hovering around the 2 minute mark, How To Freak Out Responsibly In The Age OF Robots reminds me of the “sound” first made me start loving punk rock in the late 70’s as a new arrival to Vancouver in 1978. Without waxing nostalgic, the Subhumans, Modernettes, Pointed Sticks, and K-Tels all reside somewhere in the heart of this record. Try “Suffer,” “Radio,” and “Paranoid.” Here they are playing the Semi finals of CITR’s Shindig! 2013 at the Railway Club in Vancouver.

I’ve added a couple of other things this month worth mentioning briefly. You will find R.E.M. ‘s complete set of rarities al in all 181 Tracks from I.R.S. and Warners divided into two collections. Here’s Pitchfork’s story: R.E.M. Release Massive Rarities Collections.

Also don’t miss some of the releases at the bottom of the list including Oasis‘ Record Store Day offering of its debut single “Supersonic” which was pressed as a 12” for the first time ever and a new mix of the track with a couple of b-sides; the new Savages single, and a couple of great records such as those by Big September and Dirt Box Disco which I didn’t have time to get to tell you about. Oh well, perhaps later.

So until we meet again…

…. here is this month’s list:

  1. Cheap Girls – Famous Graves [2014]
  2. Buzzcocks – The Way [2014]
  3. Little Hurricane – Gold Fever [2014]
  4. VA – Punk 45 Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young [2013]
  5. VA – Punk 45, Vol. 2 Underground Punk and Post Punk in the UK, 1977-1981 (2014)
  6. Old 97’s – Most Messed Up [2014]
  7. Augustana – Life Imitating Life [2014]
  8. Ex-Cult – Midnight Passenger [2014]
  9. Fear Of Men – Loom (RSD) [2014]
  10. Euro Trash Girl – Floating Down Memory Lane [2013]
  11. Born Ruffians – Birthmarks [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  12. Bad Suns – Transpose EP [2014]
  13. Early Morning Rebel – Life Boat [2014]
  14. Ought – More Than Any Other Day [2014]
  15. Di-Rect – Daydreams In A Blackout [2014]
  16. Satellite Stories – Pine Trails [2013]
  17. Split Single – Fragmented World [2014]
  18. Surfer Blood – Pythons [Demos] [2014]
  19. Black Keys – Turn Blue [2014]
  20. Danko Jones – Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs from 1996-1998 [2014]
  21. Jake Bugg – Messed Up Kids EP [2014]
  22. Mando Diao – Aelita [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  23. Pujol – Kludge [2014]
  24. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There [2014]
  25. Fucked Up – Glass Boys [2014]
  26. Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain [2014]
  27. Binz – How To Freak Out Responsibly To The Rise Of The Robots [2014]
  28. Appletop – Brave Mountains [2014]
  29. Archie Bronson Outfit – Wild Crush [2014]
  30. Chain & The Gang – Minimum Rock N Roll [2014]
  31. Embrace – Embrace [2014]
  32. CRY! – Dangerous Game [2014]
  33. Dirt Box Disco – Bloonz [2014]
  34. Charlotte Sometimes – By Request [2014]
  35. Bloom – Quitting [2014]
  36. Black Lab – A Raven Has My Heart [2014]
  37. Big September – Ballroom Addicts [2014]
  38. Savages – Fuckers bw Dream Baby Dream {Suicide cover} [2014]
  39. Le Butcherettes – Cry Is for the Flies [Bonus Track Edition] [2014]
  40. Casualties of Cool – Casualties of Cool [2CD] [2014]
  41. Amen Dunes – Love [2014]
  42. Cairos – Dream of Reason [2014]
  43. Me First And The Gimme Gimmes – Are We Not Men We Are Diva! [2014]
  44. Oasis – Definitely Maybe 20th Anniversary Edition [3CD] [2014]
  45. R.E.M. – Complete Rarities I.R.S. 1982-1987 [2014]
  46. R.E.M. – Complete Rarities Warner Bros. 1988-2011 [2014]