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]

April 07 2013 Drop Box Notes

Notes 04.07.13

As I was commenting to Tida this morning as I picked up my “venti no-whip mocha”, this is shaping up to be a very good year for new music. This month’s drop box continues the trend with a diverse array of new music and significantly, some classic reissues.

One of the clear signs of aging is when you recall favorably an album being released when you still had hair or seeing a band during the tour that marked their heyday. Such is the case this month with the inclusion of two albums that mark their 25th Anniversary this year: Fine Young Cannibals, 2nd album The Raw and The Cooked, and INXS’ 6th album Kick.

The Fine Young Cannibals were an easy choice for me to like when they first arrived on the scene in the mid-eighties. Bassist David Steele and guitarist Andy Cox were both former members of The English Beat and the self-titled debut album was loaded with catchy dance pop nuggets framed by singer Roland Gift’s unique voice. The first record had this amazing song “Johnny Come Home” which was a hit record in Vancouver as well as this unique cover of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” but the second album, The Raw and The Cooked, was frankly a hit machine. Most people will point to the ubiquitous hits “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing” as being the driving forces on this record, but for me the game changer was the cover of the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?” Not merely a Voice/American Idol karaoke version, this version heightens the soul from the original. Not a bum track on the record, but unless you purchased the album you missed some deep tracks from the record. Try also “I’m Not The Man I Used To Be” and the sweet “The Flame.” Did you realize this was once a Billboard Number 1 record in the U.S?

Similarly, INXS’ sixth record is a brilliant piece of pop rock music that after 25 years has not shorn its luster, unless you live in Vancouver where this record is still being played on CFOX like it is a new release. When I was back in town for Christmas last year I heard at least 4 tracks from Kick in two days. Well, since I don’t listen to any radio while at home or in my own car, I’ve not become desensitized to the brilliance of this record. Which again brings me to a point I’ve made earlier in these notes, in several different ways: record companies often have no freaking clue as to what they are going to do with a record. Kick was almost not released at all by Atlantic Records: Atlantic Records was not happy with Kick, and as INXS’ manager Chris Murphy remembers:

“They hated it, absolutely hated it. They said there was no way they could get this music on rock radio. They said it was suited for black radio, but they didn’t want to promote it that way. The president of the label told me that he’d give us $1 million to go back to Australia and make another album.”

What you have in Kick is a happy accident that 25 years later, stands as a classic record that is overlooked by the mainstream, but it is hard to deny the significance of amazing number of singles from this record which are perhaps unparalleled for a rock band in modern memory: 4 tracks were U.S. Top 10 Singles: “NewSensation”, “Never Tear Us Apart”, “Devil Inside” and No. 1 “Need You Tonight”, but this misses out the amazing “Kick”, and “Mystify”. No picks here. You’ve likely all heard this record before, so now is the time to revisit it with ears 25 years older than when you first heard it.

Speaking of old bands, Wire’s new record, is really an old record finally completed more than 30 years after the band wrote the original material. For those of you who missed Wire, their influence on punk and modern music is undeniable. (Evidence of Wire’s impact abounds but for new initiates try these: “Heartbeat” -Live on Rockpalast (http://youtu.be/AYv3TqwCle4 ) and “1 2 X U” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdNS4g8vOnc&feature=share&list=RD02AYv3TqwCle4 )

Following three perfect records: Pink FlagChairs Missing and 154, the songs on Change Becomes Us, Wire revisits songs written following the release of 154 immediately before their first breakup in 1979. Fragments of these songs were released on 1981’s Document and Eyewitness a recording of a live performance that featured, almost exclusively, new material, which was described as “disjointed”, “unrecognizable as rock music” and “almost unlistenable”. The LP came packaged with an EP of a different performance of more new material. So, here more than 30 years later, Wire comes back to record its 4th record renewed after having released 10 records. (Wire reunited in 1997). Still a powerful sonic source, this “new album” fits nicely where it originally should have – Number 4. And seriously, if you’ve never heard of Wire before today, for shame. There are so many bands that would have never existed but for Wire. Try: “Adore Your Island”, “Stealth of a Stork”, and “Eels Sang” (Note: Simon Cowell reference).

Moving slightly forward in the history of rock, Suede were legends in England and absolutely ignored in the U.S, and I know why. They were two British for the U.S. and as the Jam found out before them, being too British is the death sentence for any chance of commercial success across the pond. Perhaps that is why so many English rock acts found there hopes dashed on arrival to the U.S.,making an impact only on the coasts of the United States (finding success only in New York and Los Angeles) but largely incapable of penetrating the vast wasteland of middle America. Believe me, Suede were huge in England and the colonies and between 1993 and 1996. With the release of debut record Suede, Dog Man Star (1994) and Coming Up (1996), Suede were the flag bearers for the Britpop scene that saw them surpassed by Blur in The U.S. and Canada. In an article about the British music press’ “ferocious one-upmanship campaign” of the mid-1990s, Caroline Sullivan, writing for The Guardian in February 1996, noted Suede‘s appearance as an unsigned band on the cover of Melody Maker claiming that they were “ Suede, The Best New Band In England” as a pivotal moment in the history of Britpop:

Suede appeared on Melody Maker’s cover before they had a record out… The exposure got them a record deal, brought a bunch of like-minded acts to the public’s attention, and helped create Britpop. It was the best thing to happen to music in years, and it mightn’t have happened without that Suede cover.

The drama in Suede was heightened by lead singer Brett Anderson’s bitter distaste of Britpop and the tensions during the recording of the amazing Dog Man Star a brutal record that is the antithesis of everything Britpop recorded and written while Anderson was holed up doing massive amounts of heroin. Anderson left the band during the recording and Suede carried on without him. So here we are 11 years after Suede’s last record in 2002, with a new release and Anderson again leading the band. What is Suede about now? Absolutely pop perfection and Anderson is still freaking bitter. Of Suede’s new album, Bloodsports Anderson stated: “What does it sound like? Oh! I don’t know, probably like some artist on some drug, engaged in a game of quoits with some other artist on another drug, you can adopt your own journalistic cliché if you haven’t grown up yet.” A not so subtle nod to Dog Man Star and the polarized reception it received when it was released by the British press. Suede re-constituted, make beautiful records. This is a headphone record and the album is catchy, melodic, with Anderson in amazing form. The first half of the record is catchy and upbeat, the last half more reflective. So, place this on random in your iTunes and enjoy. Try: “It Starts and Ends With You”, “Snowblind” and “For The Strangers.”

Hey, did you know the Strokes have a new record? Yup, just when you thought the Strokes were cooked signaled by the release of singer Julian Casablancas solo recording 2009, Phrazes For the Young, they are back and contrary to the popular music press this is actually a fine record that belongs in your collection. Really, if you read the press regarding Comedown Machine, I guess that is why they are called critics, try to pigeon hole the Strokes as the same band that broke though in 2001. They are not the same band and frankly they don’t need to be. The trick is to listen with fresh ears as if you had never heard of the Strokes before today and then pick out what you love. The Strokes always have had more than a nod to the 80’s ( remember Wire a few minutes ago?) but what made them different was Casablancas hysterical vocals and the angular guitars that penetrate the keyboards and other sounds. Such is still true here. The Strokes are unashamedly purveyors of what is essentially dance-rock and this is a fun record – you just need to follow your heart. Try” 50-50”, “One Way Trigger” and “Partners in Crime”.

Taking a step back to look at bands from around the time of the Strokes, the Postal Service, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Jimmy Tamborello, have reissued their 1993 debut record Give Up with a bunch of extras from those sessions. Recorded separately with Gibbard and Tamborello recording the tracks separately exchanging CD-R’s by mail, the record changed indie music in the U.S. as it became a commercially viable form of music. Prior to this LP, indie music was relegated to college stations. This was the game changer record that paved the way for later commercial success by the Arcade Fire (Grammy winners). Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley sings the backups on this record after being cold called by Ben Gibbard to sing on the recording, the two having not previously met ( More about her next month as you’ll get the Rkives record in the drop box.) So looking back, what made this record special? Great songwriting highlighted by opener “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”. This is electronic indie that makes you want to pay attention to what’s going on with the lyrics. And that is the secret …”I’m staring at the asphalt wondering what’s going on underneath me…. I am a visitor here…. This is music concerned with awkwardness, love, friendship, and where one stands in the big picture. Most people are familiar with “Such Great Heights” (highlighted by Owl City utilizing elements in the irritating “Fireflies.” I was not blown away when absolutely no one recognized the similarities.) but the rest of the record has some shining moments that looking back, would have and should have been hits. Try: “We Will Become Silhouettes”, “Suddenly Everything Has Changed”, and “Be Still My Heart.”

It is no secret that I am a huge Replacements fan. So, when I hear that the Replacements are reuniting after more than 20 years after a vicious and bitter breakup In January of this year Replacements members Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars released just 250 copies of Songs for Slim, an EP of newly recorded material. Proceeds from the auction benefited their former guitarist Slim Dunlap, who suffered a stroke last year and was hospitalized for nine months. You can read more about this very worthwhile record on www.songsforslim.com and the project but as for the music on this EP it would be easy to praise anything recorded by the original members, but this is truly a great record. “I’m Not Saying” is worthy of a place in the bands greatest hits catalog. I know it is unlikely that they will ever record together again with only a tragedy bringing them together, but one can hope that this will help them find perspective, because frankly, the world needs more Replacements music. Now, I’m sad. Try: them all.

Another old guy still making great music but secretly disguising who he is for the kids who will not buy music for old people is Thurston Moore’s new band, Chelsea Light Moving. Sonic Youth should need no introduction as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Without Sonic Youth there is no Nirvana. While Sonic Youth is generally recognized as influencing a whole generation of bands (they themselves being influenced by the Ramones and the 70’s New York punk scene), Sonic Youth was as challenging a punk band as walked the planet mixing punk rock and noise into an abrasive melodic frenzy. Chelsea Light Moving assembles the best of Sonic Youth’s moments into a melodic frenzy of wall of noise guitars. “Sleeping Where I Fall” collects it all together and exemplifies Thurston’s new direction – melodic squalls of dissonance with moments of clarity with Thurston’s “Lou Reed” like vocals floating through the mix. This is music to clean your palate from the twee indie pop music. This is what music sounds like after the divorce from Kim Gordon your band mate and spouse after thirty years. A cathartic release that touches on the earliest of Sonic Youth records, this is a can’t miss recording. However, be forewarned, if you liked the Postal Service record discussed above, this is really challenging but well worth the effort. Try: “Burroughs”, “Sleeping Where I Fall” and “Lip”.

Alkaline Trio write what amounts to the sweet spot of pop punk-goth music. With a nod to Elvis Costello’s brilliant album My Aim is True, on My Shame is True, Alkaline Trio return with their ninth studio record and as consistent as ever, an album full of great songs. Matt Skiba is not the same songwriter as when this band formed in 1996 in McHenry Illinois, and as he matures, so does the band’s music. Be forewarned, this is a break up record written after Skiba’s breakup with his girlfriend – “There’s just this underlying theme of shame in the album,” Skiba says. He wrote his portion of the record — eight of the twelve songs — for one person, a girlfriend he split with shortly beforehand. “I wrote them as if no one but her was going to hear them,” he says. “That’s kind of the way I used to write our original records because I didn’t think anyone was gonna hear them.” Skiba and the ex remain friends. “She’s on the goddamn cover of the record,” in fact.

All that aside, these songs are well crafted and while touching elements of the early records, these are refreshing and brutally honest. Check out “I’m Only Here To Disappoint” for a lesson on self-loathing. If I had to pick out what makes a great song, it is the dichotomy between a catchy melody framing a chorus of negative lyrics. Try: “Kiss You To Death”, “I Wanna Be A Warhol” and “One Last Dance.”

I’ve included the Cribs anthology Payola and the rarer Payola Demos (released as a freebie with NME magazine) to remind you of a great British band who like Suede were missed by the U.S. and Canada but who have written more than a decade of great music. The band consists of twins Gary and RyanJarman and their younger brother RossJarman. They were subsequently joined by ex-The Smiths and Modest Mouse guitarist Johnny Marr who was made a formal member of the group in 2008. If this is your introduction, then Payola should not disappoint. The Cribs started playing around England at the same time as the much loved Libertines without the attendant drama of Pete Doherty and Kate Moss intruding on the music. Much like Ash, the Cribs were part of the guitar band revolution of the early 2000s that pumped life back into music (See the Strokes above). As you can see from this month’s drop box, guitar bands are coming back as the cycle continues. What made the Cribs special (other than the fact that Johnny Marr joined them to play guitar. See last month’s notes for more about Johnny) is consistency. Consistency in bands is a good thing. That doesn’t mean that every song has to sound the same, rather it is about a certain quality. Like the Hoodoo Gurus, whose songs still sound fresh today and should have been hits on radio, so it goes with the Cribs, who are rock stars in England but remain a niche band here. Front covers on the music magazines in England, no acknowledgment here. One can only guess as to the reason for the rampant regionalism, but for now, you can enjoy why the Cribs record will end up on repeat for me. Start with the catchy “Hey Scenesters” (2005), “Men’s Needs” and of course the Replacements cover “Bastards of Young”.

Saturday Looks Good To Me has been kicking around since 2000. Essentially FredThomas (former member of His Name Is Alive, Lovesick, Flashpapr), with a number of friends, the project has evolved over the years into a more stable adventure. Originally conceived as a bedroom project, the band has consistently released 7’’, EP’s and a few albums through Polyvinyl. Although dubbed an “experimental indie” band, in reality, this is fairly indie forward soul tinged rock with catchy melodic hooks. On One Kiss Ends It All, Scheduled for release on May 21, 2013, Thomas is joined by a new vocalist, Carole Gray and the band picks up where they left off almost 5 years ago, with a fresh set of catchy melodic indie rock. Highlights are “Negative Space” a piano driven ballad that harkens back to early Motown recordings. Try: “Are You Kissing Anyone?”, “Sunglasses” and “Invisible Friend.”

 Among my favorites of the past month is II by Blackmail. From Germany, the band has taken the best elements from the punk alternative metal universe and woven them into a cohesive hard driving record full of sing along type melodies. While this type of music is rarely heard in the U.S. anymore, there is a sort of alt metal revolution taking place in Europe, and while it is unlikely this record will be big anywhere except Germany (and this drop box), it is hard to deny the likeability of this record. A little different experience from the norm, this is a fresh look at alt-metal. Worth a spin. Try: “Kiss The Sun”, “The Rush” and “Sleep Well Madness”.

Kate Nash should be somewhat familiar to some of you as I dropped her Death Proof EP into the drop box last year. Initially a Myspace signing from Britain in 2006 and the purveyor of catchy indie pop, this third record finds Nash rocking things up a bit. Not quite the riot grrrl experience described by some critics, Girls Talk is a refreshing rock record full of catchy quick paced songs highlighting Nash’s pleasant husky tinged vocals. While some of this is disposable, there is enough Go-Go’s like material with some great guitar playing to make for repeated play. The Cramps influenced “Death Proof” is typical with Nash’s clever lyrics sung crisply through the rockabilly beat. There is something for everyone here with distortion, alt-county, indie pop and a catchiness that will make you smile. Try: “3 a.m.”, “Are You There Sweetheart” and the Jonathan Richman inspired “Your So Cool, I’m So Freaky”.

Another completely different female vocal experience is Giant Drag’s new album “Waking Up is Hard To Do, which like Nash’s record is self-released. As should be obvious now, the music industry is rapidly changing with more artists self-releasing music as labels continue to shrivel and die. Annie Hardy, the sole member of Giant Drag has a fairly full plate since forming the proto-band in Los Angeles in 2003. Waking Up is Hard to Do is only the second LP since that formation and according to Hardy who announced via her blog that this was likely the last Giant Drag recording two days before it was released. So what about the music? Giant Drag traverses a number of territories all highlighted by Hardy’s unique vocal styling. The guitars crunch and fuzz, the melodies and countermelodies make for a blissful listen. Too bad this is the last we’ll see of Giant Drag. I suspect we will see a new Hardy girl venture, but this last effort was worth the wait. Try: “Won’t Come Around”, the glam T-Rex-ish “Sobriety is a Sobering Experience” (compare with Bang a Gong (Get It On), and “Heart Carl.”

D.C’s Deathfix formed after Brendan Canty (Drummer – Fugazi) and Rich Morel (Vocals – Morel, Blowoff) met while touring in Bob Mould‘s band. Having discovered a shared affinity for the sounds of 1972 – particularly glam and progressive rock – they started recording in a garage space. Shortly thereafter, they recruited multi-instrumentalists Devin Ocampo (Faraquet, Medications) and Mark Cisneros (Medications) to form the rhythm section. On this first LP, the band’s sound is best described as glam Big Star meets the 90’s with the songs punchy guitars evoking early Mott The Hoople and T-Rex, particularly on the 8 minute “Transmission” which is a slow burner that starts new wave and ends up in full on sax skronk. Morel’s baritone vocals are perfect and the neo-progressive rhythm’s are perfectly balanced which keeps you listening even though some of the songs are quite lengthy. If you are used to bands on Discord, then this is a sharp left as Deathfix has none of the hardcore elements in common with other bands on the label. In fact, this is likely the most commercial release on the label. A solid first effort and definitely would make for a great live show. Try: “Transmission”, “Low Lying Dream”, and “Mind Control”.

Perth Australia’s Tame Impala follow up their outstanding Lonerism LP released late last year (and reviewed in the drop box) with the Mind Mischief EP featuring two remixes of the Mind Mischief single. Normally I’m not a big remix fan, but as if Tame Impala’s psychedelic garage sound was not trippy enough, these two remixes (Ducktails and Field) change it up and give the original new meaning and tone.

Chapel Hill North Carolina residents Kingsbury Manx, released the Bronze Age, a couple of weeks ago, and it has kind of snuck up on me. While this is the band’s first LP in 4 years, the Bronze Age picks up where the band last album left off (Ascenseur Ouvert! (Odessa, 2009)) with an album full of pleasant chamber pop, remarkable well played. While the group over the course of six albums has consistently played what is best described as “psych-folk” this release explores more divergent aspects of the genre and in places is reminiscent of the Let’s Active/ Chris Stamey college rock of the 90’s days. There is some gorgeous playing on this record, particularly the beautiful bright Monkees influenced “Handsprings”. While the majority of the album tips in favor of the folk side of the genre equation, this is essentially dinner music best appreciated when you are in the mood for guitar light. No hardcore here. Try: “In The Catacombs”, “Future Hunter” and “Concubine”.

Speaking of psych-rock groups (see Tame Impala), Philadelphia’s DRGN King explores similar territory with its synthesizer laden version of psychedelia. An important aside – new psychedelia is markedly different from the psychedelic sounds most people are familiar with from the mid to late 60’s. Pioneered by the Byrds, and Yardbirds, emerging as a genre during the mid-1960s among folk rock and blues rock bands in the United Kingdom and United States, such as Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, The Doors and Pink Floyd. New psych rock explores the same influences but is much more upbeat although with the same jam/improvisional elements characteristic of the genre. In this regard “Menswear” typifies the new version of the genre with upbeat danceable pop interspersed with psych rock elements, i.e. the psych-out portions. Like a number of the releases in this month’s drop box there are certainly glam elements ( think T-Rex’s Electric Warrior) but DRGN King on Paragraph Nights are not merely derivative. This is new music taking the genre in new directions. A pleasant surprise, particularly when you thought there was nothing new on the horizon. Try” Menswear”, “Barbarians” and the funk-psych dance number “Altamont Sunrise”.

Lady Lamb The Beekeeper is a crappy name. C’mon, not every band’s name is genius. It took me several attempts to remember the name when I first stumbled across the lovely and powerful vocals of Aly Spaltro who has adopted Lady Lamb The Beekeeper as her recording moniker. A shy teen in Brunswick Maine her first recordings were recorded on 8 track and released anonymously (from the counter of a record store next to a DVD rental shop where she worked) with only an email address on the label as she was afraid of public reaction. Five years down the line, and recording her official debut in an actual recording studio, on Ripely Pine, Spaltro exudes the charm that should make her a mega star much the same as Adele became a star. Sure there are some similarities, and the music hype machine will play a role, but the songwriting here is just as strong as Adele but not nearly as bitter, and the strength of these songs is clearly Spaltro’s vocals and the sweet melodies. Already an NPR radio favorite, look for her to break through to the masses because frankly, there are not enough quality vocalists with this kind of tone in the commercial market. (Eve if you are reading this far – pick up this one!) Try: “Aubergine”, “Bird Balloons” and “Mezzanine.”

Mazes sophomore release Ores & Minerals is a change in direction from the awesome debut Mazes Blazes which was in the drop box last year (also containing the track “My Drugs” which was in my best of list last year). Sure,  the guitar band influences are still present evoking thoughts of Television and the Feelies and the touchstone of this genre the mighty Velvet Underground, but there are other things going on here as well. From the 7 minute twin guitar fueled Golden Earring “Radar Love” inspired opener “Bodies” though the closer “Slice” Mazes picks itself from the indie lo-fi world it started in on Mazes Blazes and stretches into new territory. I think they are onto something big. Time will tell. Try: “Ores & Minerals”, “Jaki” and “Bodies”.

Heza, the third album from the New Orleans based duo, Generationals, will likely confuse some people as the sound resembles Vampire Weekend at its heart. However, after a few listens, you can see that there is something else going on. Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer craft pop hooks on an electronic bed with sharp guitars that are also reminiscent of Phoenix ( See last months Bankrupt! In the drop box) but without the airy ambience of those tracks. This is pleasant electro-pop your gonna love! Try: “Spinoza”, “Put A Light On”, and “Awake”.

Transitioning to more guitar influenced indie on Ride Your Heart, Bleached (from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles) kick start their debut album with “Looking For A Fight,” as sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin blend traditional punk snottiness nee 1977 with a California sun drenched sound to create bright punk rock with both attitude and heart. Similar to the Runaways in sound with a hint of Ramones, this is a fun little record with a DIY edge that makes for some interesting listening. Really, if you close your eyes you can here Joan Jett ( when she was young, not old bitter and jaded) cranking some great riffage and Cherie Currie, the angel, singing songs of love, disappointment, and loss with the clear moments that make the journey worthwhile. Try: “Outta My Mind”, title track “Ride Your Heart” and “Dead Boy”.

Caveman’s self-titled sophomore album, is going to raise some questions as to why this type of music is included in the drop box. I’ve thought long and hard about what makes this particular genre interesting to me given that it generally becomes faceless music after a while. The band’s name is also misleading as one would at first blush think: Kelly is putting in another indie garage band (see Thee Oh Sees later), but this is anything but. This is exactly what you would expect when you think of indie rock. Melodic guitar driven rock music well played and with a male sounding vocalist. If the Hold Steady were still actively playing, this is what that next record would sound like. However, given the time shift of the past five years where attention spans are fleeting (even mine admittedly), this was a surprise because although this sounds like background music at [insert hipster lounge name] it is powerfully simple and pure – and that is why it is in the drop box this month. It’s pure enjoyable and simple with little of the pretentiousness or precociousness of the typical indie band. On this second LP, the follow up to Coco Beware (2011) the New York five piece have developed a more cohesive sound with Beach Boys like harmonies carrying the cohesively written tunes. Typical of East Village bands, this is what you would see as the opener for the National. Try: “Shut You Down”, Strange To Suffer” and “In The City”.

September 29 2012 Drop Box Notes

09.29.12

So, here is this month’s first update of the notes. You might note that a few of the releases are not included. I tried to get to them, but just ran out of _______. However, the ones I left should tide everyone over until next month. (Right?).

As you might know…I am a huge Husker Du fan. Husker Du came out of the Minneapolis Scene at the same time as The Replacements and Prince. (not so much of a Prince fan…but The Replacements are in my top 5 of all time). Check out Husker Du here: “Makes No Sense At All” (http://youtu.be/J1sYN0PuRs4 ), “Don’t want To Know If You Are Lonely” (http://youtu.be/eoKeH7JYE48 ), and an amazing live version of “Pink Turns To Blue” (http://youtu.be/5kwRNXLjPS0 ).

Husker Du self destructed ( like many bands do) after several years of hard touring and intense personal strife between Bob Mould and Grant Hart who both formed bands in the wake of the Du’s destruction. Grant Hart formed Nova Mob (also awesome!) and Bob formed Sugar. Sugar was the perfect blend of Du’s punk rock and Bob’s knack for writing catchy pop songs. The result is two albums of melodic greatness that are somewhat overlooked but serve as the blueprint of where alternative rock took off into the mainstream. Start with Copper Blue which is the more accessible of these two records. From the opener “The Act We Act,” this record is a blistering pop assault with easily the catchiest rock songs you are likely to hear. I used to try to compare albums to this one, but as everything fell short…I gave up. Try “A Good Idea,” “Changes” “The Needle Hits E” … aw heck, try them all. I listed a couple of different in the earlier notes. Released in 1992, Copper Blue was NME’s album of the year (You can find “Helpless” here: http://youtu.be/oUf1sObmhr8).

Sugar’s FUEL (File Under Easy Listening) was according to Bob a difficult record to make (Read his book – fascinating!) as the struggles in his personal life were impacting his music. If you listen to the lyrics on these records they are quite personal. However, the music on FUEL is equally on par with Copper Blue. Truly – there are very few artists as creative as Bob. Be forewarned if you look for other records, particularly his solo records these are all over the map with forays into electronic and dance music. On FUEL, try “Gee Angel,” “Gift” and “Believe What You are Saying.”

Finally, on Silver Age, the latest release Bob comes full circle and returns (sort of) to his roots. The guitars are loud again and Bob’s writing reflects where he is today. Rarely do guys as old as Bob make records which are direct and in your face. Amazing. Try “Star Machine,” “The Descent” (http://youtu.be/8MdhsCeasBQ ), and “Angels Rearrange.”

Check out Bob live at the 9:30 Club on 09/15/12: http://youtu.be/Q-bbz2nVQzc .

Making a return after a long time away are the Blasters. If you were alive in the 80’s (and I suspect a couple of you were not) then the Blasters were one of the shows you had to see. This record is the first record from the band since 2005 and has all the original members except Dave Alvin (who is still pursuing his own brand of American music). This latest release is still a trip through time with a return to the Rock n Roll/R&B hybrid that gets your toes a tapping. Try “Fun on Saturday Night,” “Jackson” ( a duet with Exene Cervenka of X…this is a Johnny and June Cash Classic) and “Penny.”

The Killers are an enigma to me. Over the span of several albums they have written some sustainable classics songs with Brandon Flowers distinct vocals driving the harmonies, but the have also laid some piles of crap along the road ( “Human” comes to mind).  The new record, in my not so humble opinion, suffers in the same fashion, but there are some terrific songs …hence its inclusion. Sure…there is some revisiting of past glories but it is music – its supposed to move you, remind you of where you’ve been, and where you might go. The bombastic choruses are still here but like classic 70s rock you would be disappointed if they were not. So try not to be to harsh…there is still stuff worth listening to on this record. So why not start with these: “Runaways,” “The Way it Was” and “Heart of a Girl.”

What happens when you get a twisted old guy (David Byrne formerly of the Talking Heads) with a twisted young girl (Annie Clark aka St. Vincent)? You get a unique pairing of very different voices resulting in a challenging and really good record. As there is a nearly 30 year age difference, Byrne (60) and Clark (29) the time shift really helps explain the resulting weird anti-funk experimental record. What I loved about this record was that it is non-conventional but inspired and different than what is passing for mainstream music. Try “The One Who Broke Your Heart,” “Lightning” and “Dinner For Two.”

What originated in Baltimore, and is now a world wide collective, The Animal Collective follow up their critically applauded 8th album Merriweather Post Pavilion with Centipede Hz. This four piece unit probably owns the psychedelic indie/ experimental genre.  Animal Collective consists of Avey Tare (David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Deakin (Josh Dibb), and Geologist (Brian Weitz). Records released under the name Animal Collective may include contributions from any or all of these members; the lineup is not uniform – and possible explains why their records offer varying and unique perspectives. Centipede Hz picks up where Merriweather Post Pavilion left off in some ways with its variant of the Residents music sonically updated but most importantly, reaches new areas of the psychedelic range with melodic pop elements interspersed. That is, imagine if the Residents actually used conventional song structures and Andy Partridge of XTC was writing the melodies and you have Animal Collective present day. Try “Applesauce,” “New Town Burnout,” and “Today’s Supernatural.”

Amanda Palmer, like Animal Collective, occupies a different space in the rock music world. Aside from the controversial nature of her personality, the former Dresden Dolls singer is a freaking rock star. On Theater is Evil, her kickstarter funded project raising in excess of $1Million, Amada Fucking Palmer (her other nom de plume) shows why you can ignore the cult of personality surrounding her and concentrate on some great songwriting. The musicality of these songs is undeniable. Try “The Killing Type,” “Want it Back” and the very dark “Trout Heart Replica” ( A nod to Captain Beefheart’s classic third album Trout Mask Replica). This is easily one of the best albums of the year.

Toronto’s Billy Talent is a personal favorite. Playing Buzzcocks’ inspired melodic punk rock for almost twenty years, Dead Silence is their 5th record and for the life of me, I cannot explain they have not with more success on this side of the border ( for those in Canada, I’m talking about the U.S. side). Every record is consistently excellent and this record continues that trend. Catchy, melodic punk rock that sounds great turned up loud in the car. Ben Kowalewicz has a unique vocal sound that carries these well written songs into new territory for the band as they try to move their version of punk rock forward into new territories. Avoiding the temptation to move faster and harder, this collection of songs is the first of a planned trilogy (like Green Day – only better – Come to think of it, Ben’s voice does sound a little like Billie Joe’s) of albums in the upcoming year. I definitely am looking forward to more. Oh yeah…play loud! Try: “Love Was Still Around,” “Hanging By a Thread” and “Viking Death March.”

On The Scarlet Beast O’ Seven Heads, German composer Konstantin Gropper aka Get Well Soon has produced a classical music influenced pop record which easily could be the score to a film. The songs, all philosophical and somewhat oblique, are well thought out and the arrangements are definitely interesting. While this type of music usually gets little play on my iTunes, I was captured immediately and frankly I can’t explain why. Gropper’s voice is not compelling and I am not much for cello or other orchestral elements, but I listened to the entire record – straight through on my way to court one afternoon. So, judge for yourself. I was completely caught off guard. Try: “The Last Days of Rome,” “Courage, Tiger” and from the Bonus Disc “Lesson 1: You are Welcome.”

 I’ll bet you were surprised to find I’d dropped a Kiss record this month? Right? Well, this is not any Kiss record. This is the record that likely changed a lot of soon to be punk rock kids lives. Certainly Kiss influenced the Replacements. ( Really, if you think about it, you could name dozens of bands that incorporate Kiss into their sound).  As a teenager, my mom bought me my first ever Kiss record Dressed to Kill. As I think about it, Kiss, Queen, The New York Dolls, and the fortuitous discovery of the Buzzcocks album Singles Going Steady  are largely responsible for the love of music I obviously still have. However, it was this record…..Destroyer… that opened my eyes to the magic of music. Johnny Rotten sang Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” at his audition for the Sex Pistols, and many a punk rock band will claim Kiss as their rock n roll saviors. It is undeniable that punk rock evolved from these 1970’s acts. For me, Destroyer indelibly marked a sharp right turn in rock n roll for me. In my hometown of Whitehorse, BC, this record at my high school created the great divide. It was us vs. them (@$#@ hippies!!!). There was no radio play as the only radio station was CBC – and they surely were not going to play Kiss! Destroyer was subversive – there was the sappy ballad “Beth” that was a hit (This was rock????) but in hindsight, this was genius. Here they were “popular” but what about the rest of the record? Well, you would be hard pressed to find three better songs to start a party in 1976 “Detroit Rock City,” “King of The Night Time World” and “God of Thunder.” I played these three songs so much, I didn’t know that “Beth” was even on the record. I was a junior in high school and every Friday and Saturday Night no matter what party I was at, this record was on repeat. This 2012 version, remixes this classic record, adding some elements and in some cases cleaning up some vocal issues. While it does lose in some cases the rawness of the original, this is still a great reason to give this record a listen. ( I just try to ignore all other aspects of what a bunch of sell-outs they later became. Disco Kiss? Really? After that they lost relevance….

Alberta Cross, Petter Ericson Stakee and Terry Wolfers met in a London pub several years ago, and that relationship evolved enough for them to manage to find their way to New York and become the greatest indie opening act in North America – Oasis, Portugal the Man, Bat for Lashes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Shins, etc . On Songs of Patience, their fifth release and second LP, Alberta Cross opens up their sound a little bit, playing their British Indie influenced Americana with gusto. This is most obvious on “Bonfires” an acoustic ballad that reminds you of Wilco. Though don’t be mislead by this song, the rest of the record balances neatly the indie pop leanings, with other truly terrific catchy rock songs. I found something new with every listen and I’ll bet you’ll discover something you like. Try the pop gem “Wasteland,” “Wait,” and the aforementioned “Bonfires.”

Ariel Pink, who really sounds like early Beck, is already a critical favorite, and this record should make the band a popular favorite. That is, if there was any place to discover new music except in this freaking drop box and a couple of great websites like Consequence of Sound, Pitchfork, and NME. Mixing a wide variety of influences these are simply pop songs influenced by Los Angeles’ alternative music scene. Nine records into a career, Ariel Pink still hasn’t found popular success, but this record might change that – at least for those who like alternative, 90’s sounding, Alex Chilton/ They Might Be Giants influenced garage pop.  What is surprising is that this Beverly Hills High/ Cal Arts student collection of lush songs found on Mature Themes crosses a number of boundaries, with shimmering guitars, and catchy melodies and odd lyrical themes. There is something irresistible about these songs. Try: “Mature Themes” “Only in My Dreams” and “Pink Slime.”

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That is how I feel about Seattle’s Band of Horses. Some records the band just does not get their ideas off the ground and as a consequence, they become just another faceless alt-rock band. Kind of like Hootie & the Blowfish, Switchfoot, Papa Roach, Three Days Grace, 30 Seconds to Mars…well you get the idea…bands who are catchy enough but not distinctive such that you play the record once and then ask yourself a bunch of why questions…Why did I buy that? Why do I like that? Why do I not give the album away? Well, I think this time Band of Horses has found the answer. Playing a mixture of slow rockers and ballads, on Mirage Rock , the bands forth record, there is some magic. Sure, their mixture of Neil Young-ish countrified rock is an acquired taste, but the well performed harmonies on a much rawer sounding record than their massively overproduced last record (Infinite Arms). There is a little Rolling Stones edge to some of the tracks, particularly on “Electric Music” which may have something to do with having the 70 year old Glyn Johns producing this record. Try: “Slow Cruel Hands of Time,” “Knock Knock” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone.”

Remember “Brick” by Ben Folds Five (who are really a three piece?). Well Ben Folds Five after a lengthy lay off (last record was 1999!), and Ben Folds still has the knack for writing witty, thoughtful lyrics hung on fascinating characters. Characterized as “Alt-Rock” this description falls short, because these are rock songs with a jazz trio feel – intense, personal and mature I was captivated by this aggressive and diverse record. Particularly on “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” you get that the Ben Folds Five have figured it all out. Perched on the edge of greatness after 20 years, these songs are intelligent and remind you why you continue to listen to this type of music and not merely fall prey to the piles of dung that masquerade as popular music ( Justin, Xtina, Taylor Swift ( Yes her too, Eve!). Try: “Erase Me” “On Being Frank” and “Thank You For Breaking My Heart.”

Tucson Arizona’s Calexico has produced consistently interesting music for more than 20 years. Not surprising then is that Algiers, is consistently good with the duo, Joey Burns and John Convertino, finding new ways to keep their distinctive roots rock flavored with the chilies that make you want to keep snacking on this latest offering. Look underneath the songs and you find that their latest record recorded in New Orleans, captures the spirit of the city without any of the lingering depression of a city in turmoil following Hurricane Katrina. For those old enough, the music on Algiers is reminiscent of the Meat Puppets, and with each listen you discover more stuff to like. While not a complete success, this is a worthwhile listen, especially for a quiet evening at home. Try the lovely ballad “Hush”, “Black Heart” and “Para.”

I would have dropped a band called Death By Unga Bunga on you without evening listening to it because of the great name. However, ask yourself, with a name like that you know it is going to be awesome! Capturing the balance between 50’s British rock, garage rock, and the Slickee Boys, Death By Unga Bunga demonstrates why you should move to Norway!. Think the Hives are great? I do. Well on The Kids Are Up To No Good, the second offering from Death By Unga Bunga I think the late 60’s Rolling Stones/ Seeds crown has been taken. Try “I Wanna Go Wild” (http://youtu.be/Ky7MBCwBgOw ), “Jenny”( http://youtu.be/EH3E-6hDxVs ) and the “Violent Femmes.” (About violent femmes – not the band!).

Divine Fits is the moniker of indie superstars Britt Daniel (Spoon) Dan Boeckner ( Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs) who with New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brow have created something that reminds you of both creator’s current bands. What is different is that for a “super group” type project, these songs really are good – they are catchy melodic and more often than not inspired. The lyrics could utilize some polishing, but like every great artist, they can sell that fucker, strong, when it doesn’t look like it will work. Try “What Gets You Alone”, the cover of the Boys Next Door’s classic “Shivers,” and “Flaggin a Ride.”

The Early November have been kicking around for a while. I thought they might end up dead after being plagued by the dreaded “emo” tag early in their career (bet you though I was going to say early in November, didn’t you? See Rooms Too Cold) but they recovered only to break up in early 2007. Well, they are back and In Currents is a very strong record, well written, with the songs that had them perched on the brink of popular success. That is, exactly where they left off. Ace Enders vocals are strong and interesting, which is why this record works so well. If you start with title track “In Currents” you immediately “get” why this band works. You just want to sing along, strap on your air guitar, and play along in your room. The vocals a crisp, the choruses big. So, have some fun, put this album on in your car, roll down the windows, and sing along. Go ahead. That feels good doesn’t it? Still emo, this record works pretty well for the genre. Try “ In Currents,” “ A Stain on the Carpet” and “Like A Kid.”

Elvis Costello. I could write the book. Really, I loved this guy at the peak of his greatness. See his first four records which stand among the best rock records of the last 50 years.  My Aim is True, check This Year’s Model, check. Armed Forces, check, Get Happy, check. Sometimes bordering on irrelevant, Elvis Costello’s muse has taken him every place he should be and some he shouldn’t. What is crazy is that Elvis is so productive that it is difficult keeping up. Also, for his early genius, and really it was genius, his record company has almost wrecked his recording career, because they have put out more worthless reissues and repackages of his work that any other band, other than the Who. So where do you begin? Well, on the The Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook, Elvis from his last tour with the help of a wheel on stage where special guests get to spin to pick a song, helps you decide exactly why the genius still remains. This tour is kind of a greatest hits thing with Elvis digging out classic gems from early in his recording career such as the Nick Lowe penned classic “Heart of the City” “Radio Radio” and Mystery Dance” and including new takes on other classic tracks such as “Everyday I Write The Book.” If you missed Elvis before, or thought that the old dog was tired, The Return of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook reminds you of why Elvis is still the king. Try “Watching the Detectives” “Lipstick Vogue” and from his last album “National Ransom.” It’s good to see that Elvis is sometimes, still angry.