Dropbox Notes March 10, 2015

Slowly I’m catching up. In this month’s dropbox are some very outstanding releases highlighting a very healthy alt-indie-punk scene. As this is the only place you will get to hear much of this music (albeit there are a few albums on this month’s list which I dare say might actually make it on to commercial radio such as the new Imagine Dragon’s and Airborne Toxic Event LPs and perhaps the Noel Gallagher album), grab what you can early as you can as I have another fresh month of great tunes ready to roll right behind this one. I have divided this months Dropbox Notes  into a couple of sections – notes, editorial, and then music – to shortcut the process so you only have to read what you want to read, eh?

Important Note : Concerts at the VFW in Monrovia (825 S. Magnolia Ave, Monrovia CA) beginning March 13, 2015

FridayVer1One note of interest (both for me and for you): If you are in the Monrovia (California – not Liberia) area this week on Friday March 13 – drop by the VFW for the first of a series of local shows featuring Monrovia’s own Jurassic Shark as well as Shaman Cult, Wild Wing and Gold Vine. I am the promoter of these shows with a couple of local buddies. We are attempting to start a truly local scene in the San Gabriel Valley and this is the first show in what we hope to be a series of shows.
Our second show is Friday March 27, 2015 at the same location. Bands to be announced. Stay tuned!!
Editorial: How to really F%$& Up a good thing as demonstrated by KROQ.

As I have observed over time, there are rarely better examples of how to not handle change than are easily found in the music world. The most recent spectacular example, is KROQ’s handling of the terminations of Lisa May and Doc on the Roq from a morning show which they were both integral characters. What I will miss is Lisa’s sunny disposition and steady performance as straight person to the comedy attempts of the other participants in the program. I enjoyed the actual sound of her voice in the mornings because of its tone. I have listened to portions of the program each morning since the beginning of the program – the name of which is no longer important because after the terminations I know longer listen to the yak asses who remain involved – although I will say that the name hosts did much better, post termination, to explain the rationale, than Ralph Garman who came off as arrogant, obnoxious, and self-righteous in his defense of the change.Lisa and Doc – you were great and I hope you land somewhere that appreciates your distinct and special skills.

Poorly handled by all though, which frankly is inexcusable. 18 years of employee loyalty terminated in a single day. The station lost me as a listener although to be fair I haven’t listened much for several years as the music on KROQ is just plain repetitive and boring and what I have observed previously remains true – they are not really focused on new music. REALLY – STOP playing the Red Hot Chili PeppersFoo Fighters too!.

So, on the theory that change is a good thing, I believe that the late observation of the program to make changes to freshen up a show that has become somewhat stale was actually astute – but I would have terminated Ralph and slipped someone into his slot – someone who truly loves entertainment rather than Ralph who spends most segments shamelessly and constantly self-promoting his own out of studio activities.

I am going to miss Doc whose distinct 1 minute news style was all its unique own and of course, Lisa May who was erudite in a sea of rather unfunny lemmings.

So, with that observation, now to the part that really matters, the Music

A couple of live offerings to start things off this month’s Tales Form The Dropbox:

Ty Segall - Live in San FranciscoYou just have to love Ty Segall. Prolific, talented, unpredictable but always interesting, Live in San Francisco documents a blistering show recorded as part of Castle Face Records Live in San Francisco series. Look back and find the OBN III’s show in an earlier dropbox). This is a terrific example of a Ty Segall show with all loud guitars, fuzz, psychedelic roar, and Ty’s distinctive vocals holding the fun together. As the label accurately describes, this is the Ty Segall Band “captured during two nights in San Francisco at the barely-pushing-medium sized venue The Rickshaw Stop. Rowdy crowd, meet stacks of amplifiers – Ty, Charlie, Mikal and Emily came to singe your ears off.” Duly noted! Try “Feel” (off the new record Manipulator), “Slaughterhouse” and “Whats Inside Your Heart.”

Devo - Hardcore Live!Going on the theory that you cannot have too much of a good thing and when it is Devo there is never enough, Devo – Hardcore Live! captures Devo paying tribute to Bob Casale (“Bob 2”) who had passed away last year performing tracks written in Devo’s infancy between 1974 and 1977 on last years ten-city “Hardcore Tour.” Released as a DVD, this live album recorded at the Oakland Coliseum captures the frenetic energy of Devo’s earliest recordings many of which date back to the basement in Akron where they were recorded and only having been previously released on the Hardcore albums. So, on Hardcore Live! these nascent tracks are now all cleaned up and played with vigorous energy and love. For me, the live reexamination of these demos and early versions makes their inclusion in the overall record of devolution significant. No real picks here as I like them all, but you should check out the terrific versions of “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Jocko Homo,” and of course “Satisfaction.” (Honestly, at this point in my life when I think of this song, I no longer can recall how the Stones version actually sounds).
Stiff Little Fingers - Still KickingStiff Little Fingers is Still Kicking. Not really kicking much lately, but if you are reading this entry Jake Burns – now would be an excellent time for a new LP to be released. Notwithstanding that this is a retitled reissue of an earlier SLF live release entitled At The Edge it is a very good introduction to my favorite band of all time.  Recorded at the Ocean, in Hackney England on October 9, 2004, Still Kicking is an example of the SLF hit machine firing on all cylinders. Truly one of the greatest live shows I have ever witnessed, Jake Burns is the consummate showman and the kinetic energy of the shows makes for engaging and compelling listening. These are the hits performed by the one band that should be in everyone’s record collection. For me after more than 30 years I have never tired of any of these songs and the album is a refresher of why SLF and these classic punk songs made such an impact. As with Devo above, try them all, but if you force me to pick the best of this specific show, then try “Barbed Wire Love,” “Fly The Flag,” and “Suspect Device.”

Guster - Limited Edition Box SetFinishing up the live portion of these dropbox notes, a couple of Guster shows that demonstrate the power of Guster’s songwriting compiled into a box set. Last month I dropped the excellent new album, Evermotion, but these three shows highlight what makes Guster special as a band as they play three earlier records from their lengthy career, in order, live at various venues.
Guster - Keep It Together Live From The Beacon Theatre [2015]Guster performed their 2003 album Keep It Together at New York’s Beacon Theatre on November 30, and recreated their 1994 debut Parachute live during a matinee at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl on December 1. Ben Kweller, who appears on Keep It Together, also appeared at the Beacon theater show. According to the band:
Keep It Together (released June 2003)
The day we released KIT, we played a free concert in Boston’s Government Center. Introduced by Mayor Menino as “Goose-ter”, the audience was a massive sea of nearly 50,000 heads. We played every song double speed and stayed into the wee hours of the night autographing hummingbird after hummingbird for whoever waited in line. The next morning I opened up the band’s email inbox, expecting to be inundated with love, and was shocked to find like, no new messages. People were still digesting that this album was a real departure. A transitional album, in the context of our musical history, we feel pretty good looking back at what we created now, and so many people have told us it’s their favorite Guster album. While the front half was tighter and more pop, the back half unleashed a new, more experimental side for us. But every last song on that album still feels relevant, and we’re excited to celebrate it, from “Diane” to “Two at a Time”, at the Beacon Theater.
Guster - Parachute Live From Brooklyn BowlParachute (released May 1994)
People thought we’d never do this, but we’re doing it, and we’re doing it at 2pm in a bowling alley. We were juniors at Tufts playing in a band called Gus when we first put out this album. The cd release party was at a dining hall, and someone in the crowd let off a sulfur stink bomb during our set, which still pisses me off nearly 20 years later. While many of the songs on this album have fallen out of favor in the live set, we appreciate that for a lot of our oldest fans, this was what hooked them. And for three kids who were recording between midnight and six am at Q Division studios in Boston while racking up incompletes in our classes, the album sounded better than we could have ever imagined at the time. Most copies of Parachute were sold out of a guitar case while busking in Harvard Square in the mid-90s, and there are 4000 existing copies where the band was GUS, not GUSTER. Those are worth between 10 and 12 dollars on eBay.

Guster - Lost and Gone Forever LiveTerrific stuff. If you’ve never heard Guster before, then this is a good chance to find out what makes them special. No favorites here as well, they are terrific records studio and live. My favorites, you query?
Try: “Jesus On The Radio,” “Barrel of a Gun,” and “Dissolve.”

 

 

Ben Lee - A Mixtape From Ben LeeIn a similar vein (musically at least) is Ben Lee. With a new album coming out next month and a new label (Warner’s) Australia’s Ben Lee encapsulates with Mixtape a career’s worth of splendid indie-pop confection bordering on perfection. According to Ben:
“This album began as an exploration of songwriting. I decided to write songs for different voices, and invite these singers to perform them. My dear friend Sam Spiegel (Squeak E Clean) offered to produce the record I had conceptualized, and we began working on the collaboration in earnest in 1998.

Over the next 6 or 7 years we continued to record intermittently. All kinds of wonderful musicians came by and offered their help with recording. I should have kept better notes during the sessions but I know you can hear Eric Gardner, James Valentine, Rusty Logsdon and Alfredo Ortiz amongst many others. I am grateful to everyone who played a part in these recordings, large or small, remembered or forgotten. For some years these recording just sat on my hard drive. I have always loved the recordings, but life moved me in other directions and distractions, and the release of the “Mixtape” recordings were temporarily shelved.”

However, in order to assist a charitable cause, he released Mixtapes to raise funds and the results are stunning. I dare you not to fall in love with “You’re The Reason (feat. Zooey Deschanel) who I realize now is a far better singer than actress.

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

So, if you love pop music try Mixtapes which is a very good collection of songs, but for my money try: “You’re the Reason (feat. Zooey Deschanel),” “Turn Back Now (feat. Azure Ray),” and “You Confuse Me (feat. Ian Ball).”

Jellyfish - BellybuttonA couple of reissues of note this month in the dropbox. First up are the two releases from Jellyfish, much appreciated by me and much missed as well. I have dropped in various releases over the years  related to Jellyfish, but Bellybutton and Spilt Milk represent the only official releases in the short history of the band. These remastered deluxe editions feature a staggering 51 bonus tracks consisting of various demos and live recordings. Jellyfish’s debut, Bellybutton, was released in 1990 and the follow up Spilt Milk in 1993.

Jellyfish - Spilt MilkProduced with the participation of original members, Andy Sturmer, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Jason Falkner from Jellyfish these reissues round up everything you could ever want from the band. However, in exploring these reissues, I would suggest listening to the original albums as released first before digging into the cornucopia of extras. The exploration of the extras is rather exhaustive and in some places repetitive. However, for a two record career, Jellyfish produced two titles that demonstrate that the 90’s was not all grunge and nu-metal. Remarkable consistent and immediately likeable, Bellybutton and definitely worth a listen. Try “The King Is Half-Undressed,” “Calling Sarah,” and “The Ghost at Number One.”

Go-Betweens - G Stands for Go-Betweens Volume 1 1978-1984The Go-Betweens, like Jellyfish, were also a musical anomaly, oh, and also Australian. G Stands for Go-Betweens: Volume 1 1978-1984 collects the chaotic early period of the career of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan (who died in 2006) which was largely overlooked (although not by me as I collected the releases during this period) and not commercially successful because at the heart of their genius was that they produced great singles but their albums were not considered great at the time. Not coincidentally then, you should likely start your exploration of this box set with the First 5 Singles in this 8 disc box set. After the taster set, try my favorite album, the excellent second album 1983’s Before Hollywood, then skip to their debut, Send Me A Lullaby, and then next listen to Spring Hill Fair. From there, you are on your own. This is a great compilation highlighting releases that attracted zealous fans worldwide but in the mainstream stands largely overlooked. Sad, really, because buried in these records are some classic songs that are impressive today. To be clear, I am not saying that everything here is gold – there are some obvious warts and bumps in the catalog, but who am I to judge (not intended to be an ironic statement). Try “Two Steps Step Out,” “Careless,” and “Bachelor Kisses.”
Leftover Crack - Fuck World Trade (Reissue)Also reissued is Leftover Crack’s last record, now 10 years old, the exceptional Fuck World Trade which is a mix of classic NYC Hardcore and ska that left an indelible mark on me when I first heard it.  Leftover Crack achieved on this release what few bands during this period were able to accomplish – an intelligent (although the views expressed are somewhat over the top cartoonish radical) blend of punk, hardcore and ska with touches of metal blended into a truly classic sound. Defiantly different – Fuck World Trade is a punk rock masterwork. Even the covers and additional tracks add to the original album fit seamlessly on this reissue. If you’ve never heard of Choking Victim before today, the two covers included here are better than the originals – tight and speedy – perfectly transforming the songs into Leftover Crack essentials and making you forget the originals. Try “One Dead Cop,” “Apple Pie and Police State,” and the lengthy “Soon We’ll Be Dead.”

Title Fight - HyperviewStill hanging out in the punk world, is Title Fight’s whose latest, Hyperview continues a string of excellent punk rock releases. Hanging out is an inaccurate descriptor of Title Fight’s sound or songs. Rather, Hyperview marks the logical progression of a band whose earlier work was a potent mix of pop punk and bouncy guitars, now directly focused on a more angular guitar attack that is sonically superior, still melodic, and is more akin to post-punk than the pop punk of the early years. This is a powerful listening experience, and I have only one small nag – the mix buries the vocals a little too deep in the sonic wash, but overall its still Title Fight, a little more mature (is that a negative?) but a study in blending power and melody. Try “Mrhac,” “New Vision,” and “Liar’s Love.”

409 - PurpleMissed entirely by those in the know (you know who you are!), is the debut from Beaumont Texas 3 piece Purple, who has managed to capture what has been missing lately from traditional rock – energy. This is a mix of the White Stripes, the Strokes, Jet, and a Brodie Dalle sound-alike for a singer, making for an eclectic mix of boy (guitarist and vocalist Taylor Busby) and almost girl vocals (drummer and vocalist Hannah Brewer) that drives this record. The White Stripes influences are felt most strongly on tracks like “Leche Loco” where the vocals could be Jack White, but there is something much more interesting going on here. More modern reviewers will point to those bands as the touchstone ( I get it – female drummer means it must be a White Stripes cover band) but the sound on (409) is really derived from the Led Zeppelin song book and it is all good. Modern flourishes on a classic rock foundation with maximum riffage doesn’t disappoint. As a change of pace, this is an excellent record. I promise you’ll love something on this record. They are on a massive tour of Europe, so if they eventually get over to this side of America, try to catch them live. Try “Beach Buddy,” “Target,” and “Head On The Floor.”

Teen Daze - A World AwayNow on the other end of the sonic spectrum is Teen Daze’s latest A World Away. For those who will listen to this record and are familiar with my tastes for punk rock and indie pop, you will obviously say upon first listen – what the F#$^? This is an electronic instrumental record and entirely outside of my usual musical comfort zone as I’m not a huge electronic fan. I was actually caught off guard by A World Away, because the melodies and the massive sound collage created in each song are very effective. Remarkably diverse for an electronic record and never boring, the songs created images. A refreshing way to look at music. Not an everyday experience for me, but as a one-time event, I’ll come back to listen to this. For example, “Reykjavik, January 2015” actually reminded me of those morning walks in the bush behind my house in Whitehorse, YT as a teenager. Remarkable. Try “Reykjavik, January 2015,” Sun Burst,” and I Feel God In The Water.”

California X - Nights In The DarkLet’s get back on track, eh? One of my favorite records of the year so far is Amherst Massachusetts California-X’s Nights In The Dark which steps away from the obvious Dinosaur Jr. comparisons on its debut release into new territory by dialing back the 90’s fuzz and distortion into the more pleasant Overwhelming Colorfast variant. California-X still manages to be powerful on Nights In The Dark and this is still an alt-rock record (think Pavement and Meat Puppets) but not a 90’s throwback as much as a 2015 update including those sounds. There is much to like about the variety and the catchiness of the songs on Nights In The Dark and it doesn’t all work for me (for example “Ayla’s Song,”, huh?) but I don’t fault the band for trying to push their sound in new directions. Exploration is good. Try “ Hadley, MA,” “Nights In The Dark,” and “Summer Wall Pt. 2.”

Danko Jones - Fire MusicNext up is the band I consider to be the best traditional rock band (yes, I said best!) on the planet. I’ve been hooked on Danko Jones since I first heard “Lovercall” and if you can get over the obvious Kiss references (when they were still good i.e. prior to 1979), then Danko Jones is the sole occupant of the sweet spot of rock and roll. Danko Jones is remarkably consistent for the past 15 years. As a 3 piece, Danko Jones is the real deal as a traditional power trio. Fire Music, the bands 7th comes out April 21 and continues the tradition of the exploding drummers with new drummer Rich Knox behind the kit. At last count I believe that Rich is the 7th Danko Jones drummer. Perhaps it’s the in your face mix of Ramones and Kiss, but Fire Music is a solid record throughout. Miss this and you are missing out. Try “Body Bags” (reminds me of D.O.A.), “Gonna Be A Fight Tonight,” and the awesome (difficult not to smile throughout this) track “Do You Wanna Rock.”

Carl Barât & The Jackals - Let It ReignMoving to the other side of the ocean (I bet you thought I was going to write “pond” but I’ll get to Pond next) is the distinctly British take on rock and roll in the form of Carl Barât & The Jackals debut Let It Reign. The obvious point of reference for comparison is the Libertines which will end up in every review – somewhere. It is hard not to make such comparison as the Libertines were among the best punk bands of all time – mixing rock n roll excess with British punk and tabloid behavior perfecting the appearance of genius disaster. While Pete Doherty gets the cred – dated Kate Moss din’t he? – Carl deserves equal credit for that band’s success and spectacular failings. Now as the Libertines try to thrash together new material, Carl’s latest with a new band, the Jackals, is a solid rock album, that took me a couple of listens to find the gems buried in its contents. I can see how the Clash echoes throughout the record and for me that’s not a bad thing. You’ll get the obvious Clash references from the very first track, “Glory Days” but as I indicated at the beginning, the Clash are the obvious reference point for traditional British Rock. Taking off from that touchstone, the album is powerful, furious at points, the songs have a direct oft times angry punchiness and there is a determination in the vocals making for a great listen. Try “ A Storm is Coming,” “War Of The Roses,” and the Buzzcock’s like “The Gears.”

Pond - Man It Feels Like Space AgainNow we should discuss Pond. Australia (again) has a better grasp on the hippy, trippy, psychedelic with a nod to the goofiness of rock music. Sharing members with Tame Impala, Pond is a being unto its own mixing on this record more synth and dance rhythms into its sonic stew but retaining the psych-rock leanings of earlier outings. Six albums into a career, this, for me, is their best record as it notches up the fun, keeps things still a little weird, but the most relevant tidbit is that it still rocks hard for as much synthesizer as there is on this record. Clap your hands and sing along to “Elvis’ Flaming Star,” “Outside is the Right Side,” and “holding Out For You.”

Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love AgainJessica Pratt’s latest On Your Own Love Again is a home recorded lo-fi acoustic affair that is remarkable in its simple complexity. On Your Own Love Again is Jessica’s voice mostly accompanied by acoustic guitar filled with songs that are complex in both vocal delivery and songwriting. Jessica’s vocals integrate beautifully with the rich guitar and on On Your Own Love Again, her second effort, the songs present both feeling and color. This is an album that demands listening and the effort is rewarded with a thoroughly pleasurable listening experience. Again, not normally my thing, but change is good. Try ” Game That I Play,” “Greycedes,” and “Back, Baby.”

Natalie Prass - Natalie PrassA different approach to the singer-songwriter dynamic is Nashville’s Natalie Prass’ self-titled debut effort. A former backup vocalist for Jenny Lewis, and now on tour with Ryan Adams (which is how I came to find out about this gem) Jenny Prass creates a pleasurable listening environment for some very well written songs. The band is tight and showcase Natalie’s obvious vocal skills. These are powerful vocal performances but still delicate (if that somehow makes sense) and all these tracks are both charming and interesting – a perfect blend. Try “Why Don’t You Believe In Me,” “Birds of Prey,” and “My Baby Don’t Understand Me.”

Vietcong - Cassette EPI have repeatedly and often highlighted my love of Australian bands, but it should also be obvious that Canadian musicians are the spine in my book of awesome bands. (See Danko Jones (Toronto) above). Calgary based Woman were an awesome band until an on-stage fight broke up the band and the tragic death of guitarist Chris Reimer in 2012 took the band with it forever. It seemed like the remaining members would seek an entirely different musical path following Women’s unfortunate demise. Not so fast. Dissolving the band and reforming with two members of Woman in 2013, Vietcong incorporates obvious elements from Woman’s prior outings, particularly from the Public Strain LP and specifically the “cold” feeling created by the dissonance on the record. In 2013, the release you are now listening to was put out as a “tour only cassette” by the band as a kind of introduction to Vietcong.  the songs on the Cassette EP are warmer by a few degrees than Woman, but more importantly, they also represent a significant sonic departure. Their label has cleaned up the original recordings and the new version of the Cassette EP makes the bridge to the new record released in January more obvious. For me, as I saw Bauhaus play live in 1981, the live cover of “Dark Entries” sold me initially on the reconsituted and renamed band, but the rest of the tracks on this EP are essential. Try” Static Wall,” “Select Your Drone,” and “Dark Entries.”

Make Do And Mend - Don't Be LongNew England’s Make Do And Mend have taken their sweet time in releasing their latest excellent effort Don’t Be Long. It’s been three years since their last album and one would think that Make Do And Mend‘s core audience would need a re-introduction. As you likely know, the music industry savagely discards bands at a greater rate compared with earlier decades.  Don’t be worried – Don’t Be Long is going to be considered a classic punk rock record from this era 10 years from now. Sure, there are a few hick-ups along the way, but I prefer to think of them as beauty marks. This is thoroughly enjoyable pop punk with a harder edge and, like the Menzingers latest album, you will find your way back to this album again and often. Try “Sin Miedo,” “Don’t Be Long,” and “Begging For The Sun To Go Down.”

Knuckle Puck - While I Stay SecludedChicago’s Knuckle Puck have returned with another in a series of what seems to be EP only releases with While I Stay Secluded. Released late in 2014 so it didn’t make the dropbox, Knuckle Puck leans more towards the pop end of the pop-punk spectrum and this EP is a great introduction for those who’ve not had the pleasure previously. Knuckle Puck have put together a complete package embracing the genre and figuring out how to take the lyrical themes common to this genre (alienation, isolation, success etc.) and restate them in an interesting manner. Start at the end first – Try “Bedford Falls,” “But Why Would You Care?, “ and “Transparency.”

Drug Church - SwellStill on the east coast, Albany New York’s Drug Church second effort, Swell, is a too short taster of an EP. From beginning to end this is an in your face attack – raw and powerful and playing on the edge of punk rock and alt-rock at times. Nothing new to the genre but the clean sound and excellent musicianship remarkable offer enough to make this a winner. Try “Mail Swat,” “But Does It Work,” and “Zero Zero.”

 

I’d be remiss to not offer up reviews of LVL Up, Perfect Pussy, Hoodoo Gurus and Menace Beach but as I’m short of time, I can only say make sure you dig these out and give them a spin. The Waterboys, Purity Ring, St. Vincent and Imagine Dragons you should already know about. The year is off to a great start and although a few of the releases are from last year – they really shouldn’t be missed.

Before you go check out this month’s list below.

Live long and prosper. #Missing Spock

The list:

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

February 8, 2014 Dropbox Notes

Sorry, February got away from me. I know this is being published this first week of March, but better late than never, right? So, here are the notes for the first batch of new year releases that are still in the dropbox, so if you missed them – get them quick because I have already lined up this months. I am starting with the original version of the notes – hence the date and unintentionally funny prose:

Welcome to the first batch of new releases for 2014. I had considered starting the year off with a rant regarding the Grammy’s but reconsidered as the rant would only continue to point out the obvious – the Grammy’s are an award ceremony recognizing the talents of capable marketers of major labels and corporate radio who have successfully convinced the masses, that these individuals and groups (what these individuals/groups largely produce is not art and consequently they are not artists) receiving a Grammy award are somehow representative of what is good about music. It is not. Rather, the many genres of music not represented by the Grammy awards continues to evidence two glaring symptoms of the failure of the corporate music structure to find ways to introduce artists to the masses in a manner that focuses on the music, as art, and the artist:

(a) corporate radio failing to care that there are members of the listening audience that actually are concerned about the quality and diversity of music ( KROQ – Alternative first (Ha!); and

(b) the focus on music as personality rather than music as art.

It is easy to cite examples of this disturbing trend. Miley, Justin, Kanye, Rhianna, Beyoncé, are relentlessly promoted as artists concerned about their art. Really? Does anyone truly believe that any of these individuals really care primarily about the quality of their music? Perhaps at the beginning, but the objective evidence is that there is little of the soul that made them popular in the first place left in their music. Does anyone truly believe that any of these individuals have anything meaningful to say? Sure, there is a place for mindless drivel in music. But should this be recognized as the pinnacle of the music industry? This is not to say that these artists are not capable of producing great music – it is just that they have lost the thread of where the genius lies – and in all likelihood they will never find it –ever. I am reminded that perhaps with the passage of time some Grammy performances will stand the test, but looking at this years list, I am somehow doubtful. The disproportionate number of rap/hip-hop releases that are of little essential value and a radio partner that force feeds sponsor selected music to the masses is more than payola. It is a scheme designed to deprive the main stream listener from exciting music and instead promote parodies of real persons and their twisted interpretations of conventional feelings and emotion as “normal” and popular. I hope it changes and that radio finds a way to make money from variety of new artists in a genre rather than the pummeling the listener must take as radio constantly repeats the same songs – often at the same time each day. In Los Angeles, KROQ (106.7) and 98.7 now play the same songs nearly simultaneously. My hope is that they both figure out that change is good. It doesn’t even have to be new music, just stop playing the same songs repeatedly. (As an aside – I can do with a 10 year radio ban on the Red Hot Chili Peppers).

I am sure that this rant is largely inspired by my recent listening experience. I’ve been listening to a compilation of songs entitled “1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die” which is full of songs from a wide variety of genres and decades. It is an interesting spin, because I’ve rediscovered the beauty and genius of some songs that I’ve not heard for a while including: Big Star – “Thirteen”, Libertines – “Can’t Stand Me Now”, Suede – “Animal Nitrate”, Lemonheads – “My Drug Buddy”, Dolly Parton – “Jolene”, The The – “Uncertain Smile”, Mott The Hoople – “All The Young Dudes”, Jimmy Cliff – “Many Rivers To Cross” etc. What sets these songs apart is the “wow” factor – something in each of these songs that reminds you of the genius it must take to create these songs. i.e. How did they come up with that?

Here’s to the “wow” and hopefully you find some of it on this month’s releases, some of which are leftovers from last year that I missed the first time around.

You Me At Six - Cavalier YouthSurrey five-piece pop metal act, You And Me At Six, have a hit record with Cavalier Youth, their 4th, released January 28, 2014. Really, in its first week of release, the record reached No. 1 in the U.K. Now, if you’ve followed the dropbox for a while, I raved about their last record “Sinners Never Sleep” which ended up on my best of year list. This record, continues the trend with anthemic pop metal that is bouncy and will have you singing along, sometimes at the top of your lungs. As the London Observer gave this a one star rating (its worst) dismissing the album as formulaic corporate alternative rock, then why is it in the dropbox? Because I like the friendly sounding formula that has the capacity to make you want to move your feet as compared with always trying to find the deeper meaning. That is, the impact is somehow more important than the constant search for creativity. Have we learned nothing over the recorded history of rock n’ roll – consistency is greatness. Not a perfect record, but an enjoyable spin with well-crafted catchy tunes. Try ”Lived A Lie,” “Win Some, Lose Some,” and “Wild Ones.”

VA -Killed By Deathrock Volume 1Ahhhh… the rare compilation hits the dropbox in the form of Killed By Deathrock Volume 1. Garage label, Sacred Bones (whose releases have often made the dropbox), delves into the fringes of early 80’s post-punk, garage, and death rock, and with a title that is intended to remind everyone that this is a reclamation project of obscurities a la the bootleg series Killed By Death, this compilation of gems is worth repeated listening. Try: ”Twisted Nerve – “When I’m Alone,” Afterimage – “Satellite Of Love,” and Taste Of Decay – “Factory.”

Rifles - None The WiserOne of my favorite bands still mining (albeit only slightly) mod pop territory, The Rifles, return with a crowd funded pop gem in the form of their 4th album None The Wiser. In danger of being a middle of the road faceless UK band, the Rifles deserve with this record a little applause for finally figuring out who they are as a band and with the return of two members who had left before the third release, the album is replete with catchy tunes. A better sequencing would have put the standout track “Heebie Jeebies” in first position so that more listener’s would find the record, rather than the pleasant but not too interesting “Minute Mile.” The record is solid throughout and after a few listens you’ll discover some favorites. Try: “Heebie Jeebies,” “Go Lucky,” and “Under And Over.”

Uncle Tupelo - No Depression (Legacy Edition)Hard to argue with the inclusion of groundbreaking, genre inspiring reissue of Uncle Tupelo’s debut album No Depression (recorded in Boston at Fort Apache), this month. For those who missed it the first time around (1990) or are too young to have heard this underplayed diamond, Uncle Tupelo is the culmination of the country-punk first heralded by Rank And File, K.D. Lang & the Reclines, Jason And The Scorchers, the Blasters, etc. but transcending those earlier records and layering alternative rock into the mix producing rock influenced country that is labeled alt-country genre, aka as No Depression. The tile of the album is taken from J.D. Vaughan’s “No Depression in Heaven”, a gospel track made famous in 1936 by the Carter Family. Although in my mind, a big tip of the hat for this genre should go to the Replacements, the songs on this album define the genre and after more than 20 years, still inspire: Try: “Outdone,” “I Got Drunk,” and “Before I Break.” And here is a 4th song to try: “Life Worth Livin’“.

Maximo Park - Too Much InformationOn To Much Information, Maximo Park, like the Rifles, take a step further from their mod-influenced Brit-pop roots producing a more thoughtful synth laden atmospheric record that utilizes Paul Smith’s voice to the fullest. And this is what is immediately likeable about Maximo Park. Smith’s voice and lyrics are the focus on this record and frankly, he could sing the telephone directory and it would be an enjoyable listen. In short, Maximo Park have made the step forward from angular dance rock band to electronic rock band. Five records into their career, each record highlights the quality of Smith’s particular voice – silky smooth and full of emotion. Sure, given that Smith is essentially a crooner, and Smith’s comparisons will arise, but unlike Morrissey, Smith and Maximo Park have managed to miss the self-indulgence landmine and produce quality songs with the trademark unconventional lyrics that have characterized the band since their initial single “Apply Some Pressure from 2005. Try: “Brains Cells,” “Leave This Island,” and “I Recognize the Light.”

Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long See You TomorrowReleased the same day as Maximo Park’s record, February 4, 2014, So Long, See You Tomorrow, the 4th album from North London’s Bombay Bicycle Club finds them in the same place as Maximo Park – experimenting and tweaking their sound and obviously not content to stay in one place. On prior albums, Bombay Bicycle Club have demonstrated their willingness to genre hop, and this record continues that process. The songs are a little sprawling, beat laden, and an eclectic blend of electronica and indie rock, pulsing rhythms and layered vocals producing overall a very vibrant and uplifting record – uniquely Bombay Bicycle Club. Try: “Luna,” “Overdone,” and “Carry Me.”

Broken Bells - After The DiscoNow that the critical blasting of Broken Bells second record After The Disco has died down following its release in late January, now is a good time to examine the second record from the “group” consisting of the Shin’s front man James Mercer and producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse (Brian Burton). As the title suggests, the record evokes the moment after arriving home from the club after a night out and the intense need to decompress. After The Disco is a much more cohesive record than 2010’s Broken Bells which sounded like the product of a weekend of experimentation. Here, three years later, we get a record produced by people who have had an opportunity to take those results, process them, and produce an eclectic record which touches 70’s light disco, and experiments with Mercer’s range and tonality with good effect. Title Track “After The Disco” is typical of the 70’s mood on this record and you could picture “Holding On For Life” ending up on the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack. I swear that’s the Bee Gees on the track. All that said, there is enough enjoyable moments on the record to make it dropbox worthy. Try: ”Holding On For Life,” “No Matter What You’re Told,” and “Control.”

BNLX - Produit CollectéMinnesotan post-punk trio BNLX (Ed Ackerson, Ashley Ackerson, and David Jarnstrom) are an awesome band with absolutely no west coast presence. And that is sad. Much like Kevin Love who is a superstar in Minnesota but with only minimal recognition in Los Angeles where he played 1 year for UCLA before heading to the NBA, BNLX are also in need of a trade (to Los Angeles) in order to gain recognition for their particular brand of punk rock. Catchy and melodic punk rock in the vein of the legendary Wire with some shoegaze aspects, this collection hits the sweet spot. BNLX may be the biggest force in local music in Minneapolis organizing a successful BNLXFest, and a successful marketing program resulting in all of their vinyl releases, from which these tracks are drawn, selling out. Produit Collecté is an assemblage of tracks from BNLX EP’s 1-8. The tracks on the fourteen song vinyl LP Produit Collecté “are representative sampling of musical highlights and odds-and-ends from all eight BNLX EP releases. And that is what makes this collection so varied and interesting – this collection offers a glimpse into the bands influences: New Order (“Blue and Gold”), Wire/Elastica (“Opposites Attract”), and an amazing cover of Black Flag’s “Rise Above.” Try: “Rise Above,” “Opposites Attract,”  and “Where Is the Love.”

Against Me - Transgender Dysphoria BluesAgainst Me are an enigma. On Transgender Dysphoria Blues the band finds themselves at a crossroads on their 6th record. What do you get when you attempt to cross what was a very political punk rock band with a lead singer who is still dealing with the fallout from a very homophobic contingent of the punk rock community as a consequence of her announcing she is transgender (Laura Jane Grace aka Tom Gabel)? Well, this album is the answer for now – a band still aware of its presence as anarcho punks and fiercely engaged in the discussion of its ideology. That ideology is now filtered through the emotions of its lead singer whom, as far as I can tell, has not changed her focus. Rather, it appears her focus is created through adversity – as the backlash and rejections of the past several years (labeled sell-outs after jumping from FAT WRECK to a major label, Butch Vig smoothing out the rawness of the earlier releases in order to make them radio friendly unit shifters, and the announcement that Tom identified with being a female) have influenced the writing of the songs comprising this record. Sure there is palpable anger, but there is something else going on as the record attempts to reconcile these songs into a cohesive work – a cathartic acceptance of Against Me and Laura’s place in the punk rock world. As a work of art, Transgender Dysphoria Blues represents Against Me as both a force for change, and a marker for further explorations as the band moves from the dark to the light, recognizing that the past is that – the past. The closer, “Black Me Out” is a bitter statement – “I want to piss on the walls of your house” – that encapsulates the place where Laura has been but also signals an effort to move forward. At times this is a difficult listen as I would think that new listeners will have difficulty connecting with some of the material, but as a chance of pace there is enough on the record to make this compelling listening. Try: “Dead Friend,” “”Black Me Out,” Transgender Dysphoria Blues.”

BeckBeck, on his twelfth record Morning Phase, finds himself in a reflective place building on the melodies and feel of what he calls the companion record to 2002’s Sea Change. However, these records are dissimilar with their starting places. On Sea Change, Beck was dealing with the end of a longtime relationship with his girlfriend, whereas on Morning Phase Beck is a married father of two and from that place it is undeniable that the songs on Morning Phase are much more even, less tumultuous, than his past work, and undeniably full and rich with life. This is the sound of contentment. And some will say it is boring. I didn’t get this record on first listen, but taking the time to experience the record rather than merely listen, it is very deceptive – the arrangements are perfect, the little highlights, layered vocals, the strings, and Beck’s surprising vocal tone, set this record apart from his own catalog which has often taken trips to the bizarre and disorienting. The conventional acoustic flourishes somehow are captivating in Beck’s hands. This is overall a mellow late evening record beautiful and moving. Try: “Morning,” “Unforgiven,” and “Blackbird Chain.”

Dum Dum Girls - Too TrueGreat name – Dee Dee Penny. Vocalist and primary songwriter for Sub Pop recording artist Dum Dum Girls, Dee Dee on the Dum Dum Girls, third record neatly balances the 60’s garage rock they are known for with the angular and muscular New York inspired angular rock that was the rage with the Strokes, Interpol, etc. Less Lo-fi and less fuzz than on their previous outing, Too True, is perfect. The result is a captivating amalgam – muscular garage rock with interesting sing-a-long melodies with 80’s reference most notably Blondie (“In The Wake Of You”) and the Ramones. This is thirty minutes of fun that bears repeated listening. Try: “Rimbaud Eyes,” “Too True to Be Good,” and “Trouble Is My Name.”

Hold Steady - RagsRags is a fan club only release by the Hold Steady in advance of the bands next record, their 6th , entitled Teeth Dreams out March 25. This EP, a crowd funded (Pledge music) release of cover songs recorded to assist the K + L Guardian Foundation to benefit the children of fan, writer, and event booker “Jersey Mike” Van Jura, who died in November 2012. The EP has one song selected by each of the 5 band members as follows: (1) “All Through The City” (Dr. Feelgood) (2) “Closer To The Stars” (Soul Asylum) (3) “Hard Luck Woman” (Kiss) (4) “I Gotta Get Drunk” (Willie Nelson) (5) “The Last Thing I Ever Wanted Was To Show Up And Blow Your Mind” (Those Bastard Souls). Try: them all.

Warpaint - WarpaintLos Angeles’ Warpaint self-titled second LP is a bit of a throwback. Perhaps it is the presence of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and Flood who share production duties on this record. Perhaps it is the ethereal dream like vocals of singer Emily Kokal whose vocal presence along with Theresa Wayman float throughout the hazy post-punk synthesizer and guitar dreamscapes created by the very capable band. There are hints of other bands throughout the record but these influences don’t mar the beauty of some of these sonic outings. Perhaps it is the attraction of another all-female band (compare with Savages) that has England excited (the band recently accepted an offer to play Glastonbury), but there is something interesting about this project, if the overall effect is muted. For me, some of the songs are a little too long, but that may be simply the presence of Godrich, as these songs get a lengthy workout. Try: “Love Is To Die”, “Feeling Right,” and “Keep It Healthy.”

Republic Of Wolves - Empty VesselsFrom the things I missed in 2013 list, Long Island New York’s indie rockers Republic Of Wolves, had two self-releases in 2013, the Empty Vessels EP and their second studio album No Matter How Narrow, and both should not have been missed. However, I did, and hopefully their omission previously will not detract from their listening pleasure that these releases brought me, as I re-discovered the band and actually went back and found the debut, 2010’s Varuna. Empty Vessels is an acoustic EP highlighting the bands crazily catchy songwriting and simple melodies. Highlights here are the opener “Spare Key” and the alternate version of “Strays” both of which appear on No Matter How Narrow.

Republic of Wolves - No Matter how NarrowNo Matter How Narrow is brilliant, with the vocals of Mason Maggio carrying the emotional songs without falling into emo-rock trap. This is the danger of a record released in late December (December 16) – great records are often overlooked. This is a great record throughout. Try: “Keep Clean,” “Spare Key,” and “Pioneers.”

In case you are keeping track of things, there are times when WordPress ( at least the free version) does funky things I can’t even begin to want to spend the time to fix. So, I’m writing this here to hopefully correct a formatting error that is created when you drop two photos together. Okay, back to the program:

Transit - Future And SuturesAnother acoustic affair is Transit’s Future And Sutures EP which revisit their past catalog and adds one brand new track. For the Boston punk rockers the record revisits tracks from their previous two albums, Listen & Forgive and Young New England (both of which previously appeared in the dropbox). The acoustic presentation works, particularly for songs like “Long Lost Friends” which explores the underpinnings of a classic rock song carried by singer Joe Boynton’s distinctive vocals. These are not re-imagining’s of the songs, but rather creative rearrangements of some of the band’s finest songs. Feel free to shout along. Try” “Long Lost Friends,” “Listen & Forgive,” and “Over Your Head.”

View - Seven Year SetlistScottish alt-rockers The View have compiled their greatest hits into a career spanning imaginary setlist in the form of Seven Year Set List. Hard to argue with the inclusion of every song on this list and it is highlighted by the fact that for a band that is unrecognizable in the United States (and I mean that in all seriousness) it is a tragedy that the radio never found a band as good as this. I dare you to listen to “The Clock” and not question why the gods of radio ignore good songwriting. Alternative first – my ass KROQ. The View know their strengths and for a band that is largely supplanted in the U.S. by the Mumfords, these songs stick in your head, and in several cases I found myself affecting a Scottish accent. The bands last album, 2012’s Cheeky For A Reason, ended up in the top 10 of my year end best of list, and their previous albums are Top 10 albums in England and Scotland (Hats Off To The Buskers was a #1 record). So, what is wrong with U.S. radio? Apparently lots. Much to discover here, so try: “The Clock,” “Wasted Little DJ’s,” and “How Long.”

Young The Giant - Mind Over MatterSecond records are tough when the first record produces a hit. Comparisons are inevitable. So, I’m going to try to ignore the fact that Irvine, California’s Young The Giant’s first record was overplayed by local radio ( “My $#^&% Body”) and try to examine album two Mind Over Matter on its own merits. Mind over Matter’s strengths come primarily in the form of an explicit understanding of melody – the guitars shimmer brightly and the vocals of Sameer Gadhia take the songs to unexpected places, particularly on “Eros” and it is these elements that keep the album from being bland. The U2 influenced “It’s About Time” is a standout and as radio has already figured out, worth a play a time or two or 100. But, I digress. The album is filled with sonic experiments disguised as pop gems and while it may be a little overtly commercial, still worthy of its inclusion in this month’s dropbox. Try: “Daydreamer,” “It’s About Time,” and “Eros.”

Hidden Cameras - AgeCanadian chamber popsters Hidden Cameras return this month with their 6th album, and first since 2009 in the form of Age. The ever-changing lineup continues to evolve with Joel Gibb moving scenery to Berlin, this album features the distinctive guest vocals of Mary Margret O’Hara whose interplay with Gibb highlights the intricacy of this sound. With “Bread for Brat” featuring an opening riff reminiscent of the opening of Goddo’s hit “So Walk On” (On AnacanaPanacana (Start at 2:37), it momentarily prevented me from listening to the rest of the record as I replayed this track at least a dozen times before moving on. The rest of the album is just as good, as Gibb’s distinctive baritone sounding somewhat like Ian Curtis, particularly on the excellent “Year of the Spawn.”. A great chamber pop record. Could be a year-end contender and its only February. Try: “Bread For Brat,” Year Of The Spawn,” and “Gay Goth Scene.”

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Wig Out at JagbagsPerhaps we are at a point in the evolution of Stephen Malkmus, where we can review a record without a reference to his old band – Pavement. With the Jicks, Malkmus, continues to evolve as an artist and songwriter, offering on Wig Out at Jagbags, observations from left field, mostly self-reflective as compared with self-absorbed, and focused on aging and the relationships impacted by the passage of time. Unlike many of the albums in the dropbox, the lyrics on Malkmus’ records take a center stage with the songs built to fit a particular mood. On Wig Out at Jagbacks, there is a definite 70’s a.m. radio feel to some of these songs, but the hooks are infectious disguising some darker subject matter. (See “Lariat”). Like most of Malkmus’ solo work, not everything works, but also like similar bands surviving the fallout of 90’s indie rock stardom ( I’m thinking the Lemonheads as well), there is enough going on to make the entire experience enjoyable. Whether it is from country shuffle, to mock punk rock, the music provides supporting emotion to the lyrics and that my friends is part of the adventure. Try ”Lariat,” “Independence Street,” “Rumble at the Rainbo.”

Taymir - PhospheneWell here is a first from the dropbox – Taymir, a band from The Hague, Netherlands, produces a killer debut record that reminds me of the much loved Hoodoo Gurus from Australia. This is a melodic rock record with big songs and terrific riffs that warrant repeated, I repeat – repeated listening. For those of you afraid of bands from foreign countries because they don’t sing in English, no worries here because the band is fluent in rock and roll. Singer Bas Prins has the pipes to make him the vocalist for Jet, with all of the swagger, and such a clear tone, and with the up tempo 60’s rock feel to this record (check out last track “Jenny”) this is a solid record from track one forward. I particularly like the “girl” songs on the record “Melanie”, Jenny” and “Taymir.” Catchy alternative pop. Have a good time! Try: “Aaaaah,” “Taymir,” and “All of the Time.”

Notwist_cover_2400The Notwist achieved brilliance on 2002’s Neon Golden and following that record nearly dropped off the map, resurfacing in 2008 with The Devil You & Me, which marked a left turn for the band both musically and sonically. For those who were expecting a repeat of Neon Golden were thrown a sharp curve with The Devil You & Me, and that curve is continuing to break on Close To The Glass. ( I like sports analogies – also see the Kevin Love example previously). For those of you who actually know me, this album is also a dramatic curve and not normally within the range of my typical sweet spot – melodic punk. This is an electro gem and I was surprised one day when I heard by accident the song “Kong” which had come up randomly in my iTunes playlist. Perhaps it was singer Markus Acher’s approach to the song, but the slightly buried vocal in the sprightly electro-pop was enough to seek out the album. There are a few oddball songs that feel out of place (the acoustic “Casino” for one), but maybe it is the palate cleaner, because its followed by another disconnected, discordant track “From One Wrong Place To Another” and then by the amazing “Seven Hour Drive.” While uneven overall, there is enough to recommend. Try: “Kong,” “Seven Hour Drive,” and “Run Run Run.”

Guster - Live With The Redacted SymphonyGuster has produced one of the best live albums I can think of in a while, and they actually gave it away for free. Live With The Redacted Symphony puts new energy into songs spanning the bands career which began in 1993 and over 6 albums has produced remarkably consistent songwriting and music. Guster has toured with several symphony orchestras and these tracks are apparently some of their favorite performances. Opener “Satellite” is stunning and from there forward the album is a collection of brilliant performances of fan favorites. For me, these orchestral versions highlight the genius of the originals – so after you’ve digested these, seek out the albums from which they were birthed. You won’t be disappointed. Try “Satellite,” “This Is How It Feels To Have A Broken Heart,” and “Demons.”

Razorcut - Gone Are Those DaysMelbourne’s RazorCut captures Australia’s fascination with Oi! and streetpunk updating the primitive sound in the very decent offering in the form of Gone or Those Days – a 10” EP released on Rebellion Records. Nothing new in this genre, but the EP is a good time workout and for those who appreciate this type of music, something to add to the playlist of modern bands recapturing the spirit and energy of the original Oi! records such as the 4 Skins and Cock Sparrer, but the female backing vocals are a twist. Try: “Saving Grace,” “Marching On,” and “No Loyalty.”

PINS - Girls Like UsPINS debut Girls Like Us, is worthy of the critical attention, but probably not for the reasons the band would hope. Because the record is going to be compared with a number of bands from way back (primarily Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Creatures) because of the Throbbing Gristle bass line and singer Faith Holgate’s sincere Siouxsie/Karen O vocal styling, it would be easy to dismiss this as another copyist/clone band. As this month’s dropbox demonstrates, there is nothing wrong or incorrect with a good copycat. While it may be helpful to have the predecessor bands as musical touchstones, the truth in application is that PINS has captured the best of Manchester’s history from its Zoo and Factory Records beginnings, from Echo & The Bunnymen though Joy Division with pit stops along the post-punk way. The most compelling part of Girls Like Us is that the sound is overwhelmingly hypnotic and at high levels causes dizziness. Hell,“Get With Me” flirts with the Go Go’s “We’ve Got The Beat.” In short, a twisted hypnotic journey through everything great about Manchester’s history with just enough of a difference to make it all – memorable. Try: “Lost Lost Lost,” “Girls Like Us,” and “Play With Fire.”

September Girls - Cursing the SeaDebut LP from Irish noise pop band September Girls collects four singles from previous EPs and thus you could predict that Cursing the Sea will be a hit in countries other than the United States – which as we have already noted, is a %$#%@% island isolated from the rest of the musical planet. No mind, because you get a chance to hear Cursing The Sea and let the September Girls subversively influence your close and trusted friends and associates who enjoy listening to things that are not on the radio and believe that there are great new artists and music being created that are perfectly enjoyable without the radio promotion and marketing. As a consequence the cult of personality does not influence the sonic results. Such is the case with September Girls. This is a reverb heavy garage-y type noise pop that doesn’t tread new ground; has no No.1 hit single present on the record, and is girl group intense with the fuzzy lo-fi production thoroughly enjoyable. Try: “Left Behind,” “Daylight,” and “Someone New.”

A Great Big World - Is There Anybody Out ThereWant to know the power of the Voice television show? Well on A Great Big World’s new release Is There Anybody Out There (which by the by was in the dropbox before the Voice show) there is a track called “Say Something” that is suddenly ubiquitous after the duet with Christina Aquilera. Can you say massively big. Essentially a bedroom project composed by duo Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, and consequently is being killed by the critics. And I mean absolutely killed for Axel’s grating vocals (sure – they are a little grating), overwrought piano stylings ( a clumsy Bill Joel), and as the New York Times critic wrote a “painfully executed” release marked by dullness and clumsiness. “Mr. Axel especially has a grating voice with no color, almost digital in its simplicity.” So, why is it in the dropbox, you might wonder? Because we don’t need no stinking critics. The record, is what it was intended to be – a debut record consisting of a number of songs written at different times, highlighting an interest in pop music. I do like the critic who called it nerd pop – an apt description for this particular genre. I’m a sucker for piano (Ben Folds Five) and it is the moments on this record that work and that is why it made the dropbox. Sure, there is some very weak songs lyrically on the record ( “Everyone is Gay” comes to mind) but this is more than made up by songs like “Rockstar” which are like a fun record – happy and well crafted. What’s wrong with Broadway show tunes? So for what’s its worth the NYT critic is just plain wrong. Try” Rockstar,” “Say Something,” and the clumsy Billy Joel like song “I Really Want It.”

Bad Things - Bad Things (Deluxe Edition)Another Los Angeles band seeking its fortunes overseas, Bad Things, prior to the release of its debut were only known as the band in which snowboarder Shawn White plays guitar. Apparently, that was enough to get the band some notice, and on this debut, White’s playing is workmanlike, because the real star is former Billy Boy on Poison singer David LeDuk, who turns in an excellent performance on this straight forward alt-rock record. The sound is kind of what you would expect – part Killers, part Augustana (former bass player Jared Palomar is part of Bad Things), with some angular guitar and throbbing bass, big choruses – everything radio ready. There is just enough in LeDuk’s voice to prevent the band from becoming another group of faceless white guys, but its going to take a little luck. Try this trio of catchiness: “”Saturday Night, ”“Anybody,” and “Lonely Eyes.”

Moon Taxi - Acoustic on West 56th EPNashville’s Moon Taxi is kind of in my indie sweet spot right now. Having recorded this EP in New York the day before their excellent third album Mountains Beaches Cities was released last year, I had neglected to drop this in the box. So, here you have it. This is a solid performance highlighting the bands distinctive songwriting and musicianship with stripped down versions of songs on Mountains Beaches Cities. There is a Kings Of Leon flavor on these songs, possible because of the country rock feel to some of these tracks – but this is not country. Intricate songs with excellent vocals by Trevor Terndrup feature on this outing, but Moon Taxi is more than just a one man band. Try: “The New Black,” “River Water,” and “Running Wild.”

Crunch - Busy Making NoiseI love the supergroups. And The Crunch is not your typical supergroup by a long shot. Featuring former Clash member Terry Chimes alias Tory Crimes, Dave Tregunna (Sham 69, Lords Of The New Church), Mick Geggus (Cockney Rejects), and vocalist Sören “Sulo” Karlsson (The Diamond Dogs) these lesser members of other bands have actually produced a well written punk rock record fully of catchy choruses, tight playing and in short – a great listening time. It’s easy to poo poo these types of records as they filter through the sonic sphere, often dismissed and easily forgotten, but this record avoids the problems with other punk rock supergroup records. The players in The Crunch get it – they are done with trying to be something from their past – they have brought spirit and life to these songs as a group. They are busy making noise and it sounds like fun. This is straight forward punk rock in the vein of later Stiff Little Fingers, which would go down live very well. I’d pay for the ticket. Try” Fire Again,” “Busy Making Noise,” and Right About Now!”

Jellyfish - Radio Jellyfish Live Radio Broadcasts 1993An unreleased radio show from Jellyfish whom have previously graced the dropbox following the reissues by Omnivore records last year. So, I had neglected to put this one in the dropbox. I was a fool. This ten-track compilation of radio broadcasts recorded two decades ago, showcases the strength of the band immediately prior to the release of the bands second LP, Spilt Milk in 1993. Recorded in two locations – the Netherlands and Australia, the acoustic setting, which was novel at the time, showcases the Beatles flavored power pop of what turned out, in hindsight, to be the band’s greatest hits. Try the stunning version of “The Man I Used to Be,”, “The King Is Half Undressed,” and “The Ghost at Number One.”

Imperial State Electric - Reptile Brain MusicHard To argue with the inclusion of Imperial State Electric release Reptile Brain Music which I neglected to include last year in the dropbox. I’d already pegged them as one of my favorite bands previously, but as I was extremely busy, I goofed and just plain missed the record although I had played it easily 50 times since first grabbing it. Why is it good? Because it picks up where the Hellacopters left off – straight forward very loud melodic rock all carefully crafted into a fun record. In many ways Imperial State Electric is an anachronism featuring all of the elements of early Kiss and Thin Lizzy amped up on musical steroids – and as you know, all good things in music for me can trace back to Kiss (except the makeup). Thanks Mom! Try: “Underwhelmed,” “Stay the Night,” and “Eyes.”

Hospitality - TroubleMerge recording artists, Hospitality new record entitled Trouble is a quietly loud record. That is, the Brooklyn three piece have on this second album altered their approach slightly away from the bouncy pop rock of the debut, expanding their palate to allow the songs some ah… breathing room. This is particularly true on the beautiful single “Rockets and Jets” with vocalist Amber Pampini’s delicate vocals floating through the synthesizer and bright guitar’s. The ballads work best on Trouble. Some great moments and great tunes with some restrained guitar playing that would come off great played live. Imagine a dark lounge with a small stage and this trio playing beautiful head turning music as you relax on your barstool. Try: “Rockets and Jets,” “It’s Not Serious,” and the delicate acoustic number “Sunship.”

Pretty Little Empire - Pretty Little EmpireHailing from St. Louis, Pretty Little Empire’s self-titled third album, highlights a band ready to break out of their hometown and in a most deserving manner find a much broader audience. This band is also in my sweet spot – indie pop with a touch of alt-county sheen. This, like the Hospitality record, Pretty Little Empire is delicate as most of the songs are slow, but unlike Hospitality, there is a grittiness to the singing and playing that captures you from the first track – the intricate guitar work of William Godfred over the throbbing bass and then vocalist Justin Johnson’s whiskey touched vocals. Well worth a mention as there is no way any of this would end up on any commercial rock station or even a college indie station because there is no way Pretty Little Empire will achieve any street credibility. This is a working person’s record – for those who still go out Friday night for a good time. Perhaps Pretty Little Empire could be my favorite bar band. Try: “The Way You Say It,” “Talking Loud,” and the lo-fi recording of “Nest.”

States - ParadigmAnother victim of being a December release, States’ second album Paradigm is also a thing of beauty. The band is a blend of former Lydia vocalist Mindy White and several members from indie rockers Copeland: Jonathan Bucklew, Stephen Laurenson, Brian Laurenson, and Dean Lorenz. States retains all of the dream pop charm from the first record, but have mixed things up by varying the tempos throughout the record, adding some interesting elements, i.e some fuzz, both of which makes for a very interesting and cohesive record sounding like – States. That is, Mindy White’s voice is a throwback to the 60’s girls groups and captivating, particularly on tracks like “All In My Head.” Great indie record arrives all sunny in December: Try “All In My Head,” “The Night,” and “I Hope You Stay Gone.”

Temples - Sun StructuresFor those of you not old enough to remember XTC – the U.S. one hit wonders only known here for the track “Dear God,” – then you missed a band full of brilliant songwriters and experimenters willing to take huge risks and one of the best bands in the form of their alter ego band the 60’s psychedelic gurus The Dukes Of Stratosphere. So, what does that have to do with U.K. rockers, Temple’s debut album, Sun Structures? A great deal it turns out. Temples make no bones about their efforts to incorporate all of the best of 60’s psychedelia into a crate digging marathon as you try to figure out the influences. Sure, this could come off as a little pretentious, as the sound on this record is like the Dukes of Stratosphere record thirty years earlier – note perfect. There are elements of new psychedelia present and the tempos are definitely more modern, but for me, it has the correct blend of T. Rex, 13 Floor Elevators (particularly on the title track ”Sun Structures”), the Electric Prunes, and the Byrds – a nice amalgam of the sounds of an era, updated for today’s listeners. I’d love to see this show live. Try “Sun Structures,” “Mesmerise,” and “Test of Time.”

Toy - Join The DotsWith a different take on new psychedelia, British psych-rockers Toy’s second album Join The Dots, is more focused album than the previous release but still mixes the Stone Roses informed shoe-gaze dream pop with experimental flourishes that transcend the typical psychedelic records that are becoming more prominent given the recent success of Tame Impala. On Join the Dots, the lyrics are still a little clumsy but musically the song structures are energized. The songs, overall, still fit the conventional structure – the guitars are the centerpiece. They announce their presence to great effect by building tension and then suddenly releasing that tension is an explosion of sound. Be forewarned, the tracks are lengthy as the band prefers not to edit but rather – flow. Opening “conductor” is a lengthy instrumental that fits nicely as an introduction exposing the listener to the overall feel of the record, and the closing track “Fall Out of Love” puts the finishing touches on an exciting experience. Try” Fall Out of Love,” “You Won’t Be The Same,” and “Left To Wander.”

Fight The Bear - 38 DegreesShropshire, UK-based rock band Fight the Bear (I know – where the #$&^$^ is Shropshire?) on Thirty Eight Degrees, have perfected the sound present on their two fine earlier releases Dead Sea Fruit (2009) and Gutter Love (2006). Thirty Eight Degrees is a mix of Pastel’s pop and Del Amitri guitar that bounces along, particular on the single “It Gets Better” with its catchy sing-a=long chorus. The album works on several levels, and is a pleasant listening experience throughout. I think if there is a flaw is that there are no massive moments that would turn it from an above average listen to an excellent one. However, a minor flaw. Try” “Fall Apart,” “It Gets Better” and “Thirty Eight Degrees.”

Delay Trees - ReadymadeI love the jangle. Jangle pop is that sound produced by R.E.M. in its early days and made famous by a host of bands including Let’s Active, Don Dixon, Guadalcanal Diary, dBs, and Game Theory in the early to mid-1980s has arisen in the form of Helsinki Finland’s Delay Trees on their exceptional record Readymade. Three albums in, the band still plays the sedate version of jangle pop like they invented the genre. For me, it almost makes me want to wax nostalgic. Killer track “Fireworks” with its chorus “It’s Not Enough” and the dramatic chord change at the end hits the sugar meter hard. Absolutely I am blown away by this record. Try” Perfect Heartache,” “Fireworks,” and “Sister.”

Rollergirls - Satisfied With LessRollergirls has flirted previously with a couple of styles – post punk and screamo come to mind, but on Satisfied With Less, I think they have found the balance – producing a noise punk record that it interesting and stands on its own merit without the weight of its past creating an uncomfortable burden in the present. For most of those reading the review Rollergirls will be a new band and a new opportunity to discover a band without knowing what the previous albums actually sounded like. The production on Satisfied With Less is an improvement at least in the mix as the guitars are crisper and the jazzy elements resonate much like later Husker Du/ Minutemen records. Hell, Rollergirls is from Darnstadt, Germany – a city in the Bundesland (federal state) of Hesse in Germany, located in the southern part of the Rhine-Main-Area (Frankfurt Metropolitan Region). So there, now you know. Try “Satisfied with Less,” “Everything Will Work Out,” and “Bastard.”

Schematic - Color (n.) Inside The LinesDave Elkin’s the former lead singer of Mae, after leading that band for more than a decade has emerged after relocating to Nashville as Schematic. On his debut Color (n.) Inside The Lines, Elkins, working in collaboration with some friends – Jeremy Lutito (Leagues), Chase Lawrence (Coin), and Eleanor Denig, has produced a very fine indie rock album which displays some of his prior bands expression, but mixes it up with some synths and bleeps as well as the piano that was present in Mae. All of these new elements don’t detract from the overall quality of the record. Sure, it is not a Mae project, but if you liked that band, then this is not a great leap forward. Quality songwriting can’t be denied. Still has a tendency to be indie prog rockish (autocorrect had this word as rockfish) at times, but the vibe is great. Elkin’s is still moving forward…and I like it. Try: “Stand,” “All-Time Quarterback,” and “I Am The Car.”

Self Defense Family - Try MeIf a band want’s to move in a new direction, and fresh start the project, then of course – you change your name. Debut album by Self Defense Family is really the band’s fourth – having previously recorded under the End Of A Year moniker. So, staying true to their post-punk roots, Self Defense Family has tried to expand the definition of art-punk by including an approximately 40-minute-long interview with the 1980s pornographic actress Angelique Bernstein (known by industry name, Jeanna Fine), split between two tracks titled “Angelique, Pt. 1” and “Angelique, Pt. 2”. According to Wikkipedia (and confirmed by me as I listened to the compelling interview of the very smoky voiced Angelique): The interview was conducted by Self Defense Family vocalist Patrick Kindlon and guitarist Andrew Duggan in a motel in New York, and the original recording is over three hours long. The portion of the interview that appears on Try Me tells Bernstein’s early life, including as Lukas Hodge of Noisey puts it, her “fatherless, bullied, sexually confused childhood, to living on couches and in doorways, to an abusive relationship, told in disturbing detail, in which she essentially becomes a prisoner,” but ends before she can get into her porn career. About the interview Kindlon said, “She’s just an interesting person. She has an amazing personal history and you don’t need an interest in pornography to find her story compelling. You just need an interest in human beings.”

And so it is here. You may not be familiar with Self-Defense Family’s genre of music which tends to the darker side of post-punk, but it is compelling. There are some recognizable Pere Ubu/ Fugazi elements and “Nail House Music” is an amazing track – loud, angry and dark. Great stuff! Definitely not a KROQ record. Be forewarned some NSFW lyrics – almost all highly effective. Some of the tracks are a little long (such as the beginning of “Dingo Fence” with a mindless studio rant that it much better when we get to the actual song at 1:51) Try: “Nail House Music,” “Fear Of Poverty In Old Age,” and “Mistress Appears At A Funeral.”

Bent Shapes - Feels WeirdAnother band with a new direction and new start is Boston’s Girlfriends who have kicked around town for a couple of years, briefly added a new member who abruptly left, and now have a new name…The Bent Shapes on their debut Feels Weird mine the pop-garage vein lie early Modern Lovers (but without Jonathan’s distinctive voice) but perhaps its just the guitar work. Not quite ready for the big leagues, not a hipster favorite, but definitely an enjoyable sound in particular on tracks like “Panel of Experts” where the flavor of Material Issue shines through the track. Just the right amount of fuzz on the album keep it all very interesting, and these guys have mastered the three minute or less song. Try: “Panel Of Experts,” “Brat Poison” (which has a pop Dead Kennedys feel – when you listen to it you’ll hear the resemblance to “I Am The Owl”), and “What Do You Get??”

Cheatahs - CheatahsBased in London, Cheatahs self-titled debut has everything the UK press would love – hints of the Stone Roses, and a complete submergence in the 90’s shoe gaze scene with the U.S. equivalent of distortion laden guitar noodling’s a la Dinosaur Jr.; Irish equivalents like My Bloody Valentine; and a number of U.K. period bands such as early Catherine Wheel and Ride. Some hate it when bands mine old territory as not being terrifically original or authentic. Who cares? Really, as I am so tired of everything that radio plays now, something loud, noisey, fuzzy, kind of feels right. Also, has one Canadian from Edmonton! Try: “Get Tight,” “Cut The Grass,” and “The Swan.”

The Growlers are prolific. Not Psych!, released in October of last year, was an advance blast before the release of the excellent Growlers - Not. Psych!Hung At Heart LP  and was the second EP of 2013 for the California surf poppers. Not Psych! highlights the rockabilly/ garage roots rock of a band with a Doors fetish. Try: “Hiding Under Covers,” Humdrum Blues,” and “Nobody Owns You.”

Time for a little break in the action. At this point, I’m getting a little tired, but we are almost at the end. So, onward and downward:

Like Like The The The Death - Cave JennyMilwaukee’s Like Like The The The Death on their second album Cave Jenny pack a ton of interesting stuff into each noise rock track on this amazingly diverse record. Hard to miss when the opening track “Here Comes the Irregular” is a play on the Replacements awesome hit “Here Comes A Regular.” It’s loud, raunchy, ridiculously catchy punk rock that ends far to quickly at only 30 minutes of energy. That’s the secret to a great record in this genre. Short, sharp, and every song should feel like the band’s last and, in LLTTTD’s case, they have achieved greatness. Play really loud – it will cause your dad to yell “turn that #@%$% off!” Awesome. Try” Here Comes The Irregular,” “Cry Tag,” and “Hypnic Jerk.”

Number One Gun - This Is All We KnowChico California and Tooth & Nail recording artists, Number One Gun have been kicking around for a while and after a four year hiatus are back with a crowd funded release in the form of This Is All We Know a straightforward melodic rock record that actually works pretty well. Perhaps it’s the return of the original members of the group who left lead singer Jeff Schneeweis two record the last two records using the Number One Gun name. All I know is that there is an energy to the songs on this record that transcend the emo laden lyrics. Definitely accessible, although even I admit that there could be a few more tempo changes as there is a sameness creep to the album. For me, I listened to this on shuffle with the rest of the stuff on my iPad and when I hit upon a track from this record, I would always look to see who it was. ‘Nuff said. Try” Heartbeats,” “Get A Little Weird,” and “Disappear.”

Spires - Eternal YeahAnother fairly local act, Ventura California’s Spires, arrive with another offering of California sun drenched jangle pop containing Byrdsian riffage and remind me of the much loved Game Theory in a number of ways. Having released a number of fine albums over the past decade or so, the Spires are remarkably consistent. So, if you are a jangle pop aficionado, look no further than Eternal Yeah. Try: “Rats Win The Last War,” “Everyone Went Home,” and the lengthy “Cracked Mirror State.”

Sundials - Always Whatever (A Collection of Songs from 2009-2012)Richmond Virginia’s Sundials have compiled a collection of 7” records and unreleased songs that trace their evolution from a conventional pop-punk Weezer inspired band through their Alkaline Trio hero worship phase (given a not to subtle nod by the album cover art which replaces the cassette tape of the original with a CD also now an anachronism) and beyond in what is a great introduction to the band and their brand of catchy three minute pop-punk. Varied sound quality, but excusable given the obvious talent of the band. Try: “Always Whatever,” “Mosby Street,” and “Shelter Girl.”

City Lights - The Way Things Should BeAnd last but certainly not least this month – City Lights, hailing from Columbus Ohio finally released their latest version of punk rock in December after nearly a three year wait. And, to me, the album is a complete success. True punk rock in the mainstream is much like the rhino ( I was going to say slowly going the way of the buffalo, but they are on the rebound). Tragically, pop punk as a genre is dying off as bands compromise their intensity for nonexistent radio play and perhaps a slot on the warped tour. This, to me, squeezes the life out of this narrow niche of bands as they must either conform to the want of the money holders or suffer the inevitable breakup. Why, you think is this relevant? Because on The Way Things Should Be, City Lights offers a collection of songs exactly the way things should be – fast, loud, and catchy and without compromise. This is straight forward pop punk. Like it or leave it. Try: “See You at the Top,” “Leaving Here,” and Idols.

I’ll be back at you shortly – I promise!

Here is the list:

  1. You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth (Deluxe Edition)(2014)
  2. VA – Killed by Deathrock Vol. 1 [2014]
  3. Rifles – None The Wiser [2014]
  4. Uncle Tupelo – No Depression (Legacy Edition) [2CD] [2014]
  5. Maxïmo Park – Too Much Information [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  6. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow [2014]
  7. Broken Bells – After The Disco [2014]
  8. BNLX – Produit Colllect (Collected Product) [2013]
  9. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues [2014]
  10. Beck – Morning Phase [2014]
  11. Dum Dum Girls – Too True [2014]
  12. Hold Steady – Rags [2014]
  13. Republic Of Wolves – Empty Vessels [2013]
  14. Republic Of Wolves – No Matter How Narrow [2013]
  15. Transit – Futures And Sutures [2013]
  16. Warpaint – Warpaint [2014]
  17. View – Seven Year Setlist [2013]
  18. Young The Giant – Mind Over Matter [2014]
  19. Taymir – Phophene [2013]
  20. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags [2014]
  21. Notwist – Close to the Glass [2014]
  22. Guster – Live With The Redacted Symphony [2013]
  23. Hidden Cameras – Age [2014]
  24. Razorcut – Gone Are Those Days [2013]
  25. PINS – Girls Like Us [2013]
  26. September Girls – Cursing the Sea [2014]
  27. A Great Big World – Is There Anybody Out There [2014]
  28. Bad Things – Bad Things (Deluxe Edition) [2014]
  29. Moon Taxi – Acoustic on West 56th EP [2013]
  30. Crunch – Busy Making Noise [2013]
  31. Jellyfish – Radio Jellyfish Live Radio Broadcasts 1993 [2013]
  32. Imperial State Electric – Reptile Brain Music [2013]
  33. Hospitality – Trouble [2014]
  34. Pretty Little Empire – Pretty Little Empire [2013]
  35. States – Paradigm [2013]
  36. Temples – Sun Structures [2014]
  37. Toy – Join The Dots [2013]
  38. Fight The Bear – 38 Degrees [2013]
  39. Delay Trees – Readymade [2014]
  40. Rollergirls – Satisfied With Less [2013]
  41. Schematic – Color (n.) Inside The Lines [2013]
  42. Self Defense Family – Try Me [2014]
  43. Bent Shapes – Feels Weird [2013]
  44. Cheatahs – Cheatahs [2014]
  45. Growlers – Not. Psych! [2013]
  46. Like Like The The The Death – Cave Jenny [2013]
  47. Number One Gun – This Is All We Know [2014]
  48. Spires – Eternal Yeah [2013]
  49. Sundials – Always Whatever [A Collection of Songs from 2009-2012] [2013]
  50. City Lights – The Way Things Should Be [2013]

September 7, 2013 Dropbox Notes

September is going to be a great month for music. Traditionally, this is the time of year where a number of new releases hit the market because like it or not, Christmas is the time for giving and giving starts early. To that end, you have a couple of things that are not scheduled to hit the marketplace until later this month.

As an added note, I’ve been thinking for a while about the state of indie music (to be fair I’ve not really spent much time thinking about the state of affairs given that there are many more important events and issues to occupy my time) and hopefully, my inclusion of a playlist of recent singles ( for lack of a better term – these should be singles, but there is no commercial distribution/ review etc.) that should find a place in your own playlist and eventually, if there is any good in the world, actually end up on the radio so that some of these bands actually achieve some commercial success that will be more valuable in the long run than my meager version of critical acclaim. Given the fast pace of new music and the flood of new releases hitting the market in a number of countries, there is definitely a lag before a great song finds enough support that it ends up on radio. As what passes for indie/alternative radio now is decidedly dance/pop or new folk, programmers should take note – there is a broad palate of music that passes for indie/alternative now and not all of it fits neatly into the mass marketed force fed genres marketed by the radio stations.

So with that somewhat length introduction, there really are a number of spectacular new releases, some of which are already on radio and others which will never find a place in that world but hopefully will find a place in your heart.

Arctic Monkeys - AMArctic Monkeys new release AM was recorded in California and the subject of extensive coverage and hype in this week’s NME. Scheduled for release next week in the UK and the U.S, AM is the 5th full length and was recorded in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree and if you believe the hype, this is “the greatest record of their career.” I’m not sure I would go that far, but there is a definite twist in direction. The psychedelic flourishes are still present, but there is a smoothness to both the lyrics and the “beats” which make this closer to a crossover pop record than a traditional rock record. The playing is very tight and the hip hop influence, although present, are filtered through the Monkeys, rock sensibilities. Josh Homme makes an appearance on a couple of tracks, which will sell a few copies, but the tone of this record is not frenetic, rather it is a late night driving around the city record with your buddies at 3 A.M after hitting the clubs. Perhaps, the best example of this is on the track “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” There is a flow to this record unlike anything the Arctic Monkeys have done before and undoubtedly this will end up on a number of year end best of lists. Try” Do I Wanna Know,” “R U Mine?” and “I Want It All.”

Ty Segall - SleeperProlific would be an understatement to describe Ty Segal. In the past 5 years he has released solo records while playing and releasing albums in a number of other “bands” usually with Mikal Cronin. On Sleeper, Segal’s latest release, the garage elements are still present, but this is a much more introspective offering. And also much more focused. Often accused of just bashing away on his guitar, the songs here are as if Ty was channeling Oasis. Written following the death of his father, the songs presented here capture the reflection of Segal himself in his father’s life and present a compelling study of loss, loneliness, and Ty’s own relationship with other people in his life. Sung with the same earnestness present in all of his records, the directness of the lyrics make for captivating listening. These are still garage pop nuggets – think Neil Young’s “Harvest” as sung by Noel Gallagher and you perhaps have the correct context for this record. Try “The Keepers”, “The Man Man” and “She Don’t Care.”

1975 - The 1975 [Deluxe Edition]The long awaited record by Manchester based four-piece The 1975, entitled simply The 1975 fully realizes the components present on the earlier EPs a number of which I have covered previously. It is rare that the actual product matches the hype, but The 1975 have matched those expectations on their debut. The dropbox has the full on steroid deluxe version, with essentially all of the songs from the previous EPs. Some of the songs on the actual LP should be familiar as “The City” appeared on IV as did the title track “The 1975.” They have prior to this released 4 EPs:  Facedown, Sex, Music for Cars and IV. For those of you just catching up, The 1975 are a melodic and atmospheric synth pop band with an ear for the hook. A little bit like Owl City, they traverse a less sugary aspect of this particular genre. Varied, interesting, and intimately likeable, the album should find a home in most collections. Try “Sex”, “Girls” (Live at Dot to Dot Festival Manchester 24.05.2013)  and “Robbers”(Live at Radio 1’s Big Weekend July 10, 2013). 

Three O'Clock - The Hidden World RevealedNever thought I’d see another Three O’clock record – ever. Original purveyors of the Los Angeles based paisley underground of the early 1980’s (with The Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, and the Rain Parade), the Three O’clock were somewhat classicists within that scene playing psychedelic rock of the late 1960’s as if it was being experienced for the first time in the 80’s. Flash way forward to 2013, and the Three O’clock are back and actually touring having played Coachella earlier this year and performing live on Conan O’Brian. Starting out as The Salvation Army in 1981 (only to be sued over the use of the name). What is remarkable is that following the bands breakup in 1988 all of the original members played in other amazing bands, several of which I’ve offered in the dropbox over the past couple of years:

  • Michael Quercio briefly joined Game Theory in 1990. Thereafter, he founded Permanent Green Light, who released two albums, and, later, The Jupiter Affect.
  • Louis Gutierrez played with Louis and Clark (I loved this record!) and then became a principal member of Mary’s Danish.
  • Jason Falkner joined Jellyfish (who were the prototype alternative/college rock band of the early 1990’s), then The Grays, before launching a successful solo record career in the mid-1990s.
  • Troy Howell started the group The Eyes of Mind, who recorded on Bomp Records. He also played with Cee Farrow and the band OOSoul (double oh soul).

The Hidden World Revealed is a compilation of some of their greatest hits as well as a number of unreleased and never before heard rarities and demos. My favorite is the dB’s sounding “Around The World” but I think you’ll discover why the Three O’clock deserved the success they briefly garnered in the later 1980’s incorporating the doors sounding organ into garage riffs. Try also “Jet Fighter” ( Great original Video from the early 1980’s – Check out the new wave dancing!) , “I Go Wild (Alternate Version)” and “Seeing Is Believing.”( Take A look: Three O’clock Live In-Store at Freakbeat Records Sherman Oaks 06.23.13)

Note: I saw them play with the Rain Parade sometime in 1984 at, I think, the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. As I recall it was a great show. At the time, cowpunk was huge in Vancouver and this was in the minds of some – close.

Rise Against - Long Forgotten Songs B-Sides and Covers 2000-2013I’ve already proclaimed my passion for Rise Against previously. So I’ll cut to the chase. How is it that this band’s B-Sides are better than many albums put out by other bands? Is it the passion? While the band considered these songs to not be worthy of inclusion on the main releases, the songs on this collection entitled Long Forgotten Songs comprise a number of interesting B-sides and covers compiled over the length of the bands career. You’ve got to appreciate consistency as the quality of these songs is excellent over the period. The most interesting thing about this collection however is that it is remarkably cohesive. There are several excellent cover songs covering a wide range of “popular artists” including Bruce (Springsteen of course!) (“The Ghost Of Tom Joad”), Face to Face (“Blind”), Bob Dylan (“Ballad of Hollis Brown”), Malvina Reynolds (“Little Boxes”), Minor Threat (“Minor Threat”), Black Flag (“Nervous Breakdown”), Lifetime (“The Boy’s No Good”), Journey (“Any Way You Want It”), Nirvana (“Sliver”), and a version of Danny Elman’s song from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas movie, “Making Christmas.” Try” Death Blossoms”, “Generation Lost” and “Sliver”. Need further evidence of the awesome power of Rise Against? Try: Live at Rock Am Ring 2010 (Full Show) – Simply amazing!

Durango Riot - Backwards Over MidnightGoing backwards in time….all the way back to 2012, I came upon a record I missed the first time around. It happens. Swedish rockers Durango Riot (from Karlskoga, Sweden) hit the sweet spot with their punk n’ roll influenced album Backwards Over Midnight. This was actually recorded here in Pasadena CA much to my surprise (and probably theirs).  This album, like last year’s album by You and Me At Six, is really a melodic rock record with catchy melodies all sung by a gruff voiced swede over a spaghetti western movie. Take my word for it, this is a fun rock record worthy of your time. There is a little Parkway drive influence present here (which is a good thing) so, if this is in your style zone – pick it up. Try “Shiny Season”, “Everybody´s Got to Go” and “Backwards Over Midnight. (Live in Nürnberg, Löwensaal 09.10.12).

Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right ActionFranz Ferdinand are back and fresh. You might recall listening to this band a long time ago (remember “Take Me Out”?), but with their new record, entitled Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, Franz Ferdinand will be omnipresent again in popular radio. Already down here the new and remarkably catchy “Right Action” (from which the title to the album is lifted) single) is huge and likely to be overplayed. However, before it does, take a trip through this release which essentially is a return to form for the band. This is catchy dance rock for the most part, but there are some left turns along the way that keep the album interesting. Remarkably, for me, the single is not the best track on this record. It is the pop scorcher “Fresh Strawberries” that makes the playlist. So, do some exploring and your efforts will be well rewarded. Try” Fresh Strawberries” (live at “Lots of Poor Losers” aka  Lollapalooza Brazil March 30, 2013), “Goodbye Lovers and Friends” and “Right Action).”

Julia Holter - Loud City SongEver heard of experimental chamber pop? Well that is precisely the genre that Julia Holter occupies on her magnificent third album Loud City Song. The Cal Arts grad lives in Los Angeles, and on the local scene is hailed as a masterwork largely because of the quality ensemble present on this record and the charm that evokes memories of the late 50’s. This album, apparently based on the MGM film Gigi, evokes a completely different mood from traditional indie pop scene and although the source material is dated (Holter has said that the album is her own loose interpretation of Gigi— both the musical and the original 1944 novella by the French writer Colette – the plot in a nutshell is “A Parisian girl is raised to be a kept woman but dreams of love and marriage.”).  Fascinating and compelling, the centerpiece of this record are the two songs “Maxim’s I” and “Maxim’s II” which is the night club from the movie and the jazz influences are palpable. Try “Maxim’s II”, the beautiful rendition of Barbara Lewis’’ “Hello Stranger” (live at Cecil Sharp House, London August 20th, 2013 ) and “This Is a True Heart” (live at Cecil Sharp House, London August 20th, 2013) . A diamond of a record and a unique record for its time.

Babyshambles - Sequel to the PrequelAh…the Libertines undoubtedly were one of the greatest bands to come from Britain. Really, I know…you probably have never heard of them. Look em’ up. They were paparazzi favorites as the drug addicted lead singer and head Libertine (Pete Doherty) dated Kate Moss. Out of the ashes of the Libertines, Doherty formed Babyshambles, and since forming in 2003, Sequel To The Prequel represents only the third full length offering from the band. But what an offering. Compared to the first two albums Down in Albion (2005) and Shotter’s Nation (2007), Sequel To the Prequel is inspired and contains the spark that makes the Libertines records great. Most importantly, be prepared – Babyshambles is prototypically British and this is a very English sounding record. So, try to ignore what will be an avalanche of very bad press – Babyshambles are a train wreck at the best of times and as they are habitually late (e.g. 90 minutes late for their showcase for this record coupled with Doherty’s mostly unstable personality, the press are brutal waiting for spectacular failure. However, the results on this record present little indication of the self-created and manufactured road blocks to success of the past, and the end result is brilliance. Try “Seven Shades of Nothing” (Bar Fontania, Paris, March 22, 2013) “The Very Last Boy Alive,” And “Nothing Comes to Nothing.”

King Tuff - Was DeadKing Tuff traverses the same musical territory as Ty Segal but not nearly as prolific. Signed to Sub Pop after his debut Was Dead found underground success, King Tuff actually made Billboard reaching No. 21 on the Heatseekers Chart and No. 2 on CMJ’s college chart with the self-titled King Tuff. So, what makes Was Dead so special? So few were pressed that it has quickly become a high priced collectible. So, who is King Tuff? Kyle Thomas. He’s been using that name on-and-off for a long time, but pre-2007, he was Kyle, one-eighth of the freak folk band Feathers, makers of gentle, Eastern-tinged acoustic tracks. With Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, he was in the stoner rock band, Witch. King Tuff is his outlet for the garage pop offerings he was writing during the period 2003-2006 that didn’t quite fit with his other projects. Was Dead is not as cohesive as the critically acclaimed King Tuff record, but who cares. Jammed with solid garage pop reflective of Alex Chilton’s early work and wearing his Detroit influences on his sleeve, the results are charismatic and catchy – exactly like a garage rock record should sound. The Big Star influences ripple throughout the record, particularly on tracks like “Connection” and “A Pretty Dress.” Try “Dancing On You,” (Live at The Glasshouse April 17, 2013 includes “Bad Thing”) “Freak When I’m Dead” (Live at Music Feeds Studio) and “Ruthie Ruthie.”

Superchunk - I Hate MusicSuperchunk were always the forerunners of indie music as we know it today. If you were around in the early 90’s they represented the torchbearers for independent music, like Fugazi, who were producing consistently cool music with little or no money and without the assistance of a major label. On I Hate Music, Superchunk returns with renewed energy rarely found in bands who have been around as long as they have. Formed in Chapel Hill NC in 1989, Superchunk was synonymous with that scene and despite having found indie cred, they were unable to break through commercially.  Like previously albums this is well written indie rock that will make you smile. And this is what is disturbing. How can a band make such an upbeat downer record? Dedicated to a friend of the band who died last year, the album explores themes of loss e.g. innocence, friends, youth, isolation etc. On balance I think the results show a band coming to grips of where they are now – a little older, a little wiser, and experiencing their own transitions, all with a sort of class.  Try “Overflows,” “FOH” and “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.”

Paper Lions - My FriendsFormerly known as the Chucky Danger Band, Canadian indie rockers Paper Lions, should be Sirius XM stars. And for the life of me I cannot figure out why they are not huge in America. Perhaps it is they are from Belfast, Prince Edward Island. Now located in Charlottetown, PEI the band crowd funded this latest offering, My Friends, their 4th long player the follow up to the Trophies EP and the results are power pop perfection. If you like this genre, then you will love this record. There are some Weezer flourishes here and there as well as some Fountains of Wayne (e.g. Little Liar”) melodies, but the record with its Beach Boy harmonies stands out for the excellent songwriting and production. My Friends in a less than perfect world should be huge in the U.S. Try “Little Liar,” which is also on this months playlist (Check the video out – hear some real Canadian accents. This is a semi-acoustic version from the Here On Out Sessions), “San Simeon” and “My Friend.”Live from Dias Iron Works Welding Shop in Liberty Village August 26, 2013).

White Lies - Big TVLondon trio White Lies has a secret weapon – a tenor Harry McVeigh who can bring a stunning quality to White Lies songs. Accused of being too generic in the past, Big TV, the band’s third full length takes great steps to shed that criticism, but it will still fail to excite professional critics. And perhaps that is the point. It is hard to garner any acclaim when the sound of the band is derived from more noteworthy acts such as Interpol and Joy Division where the centerpiece is the vocals over an atmospheric beat. However, this album is filled with better songwriting than the two prior efforts which were cringe producing, and the complexity of the songs is vastly approved. It took me a few listens to find the groove so as to truly enjoy the songs. This deluxe edition offers demos and this is where you discover the power of McVeigh’s vocals, particularly on the demo ofThere Goes Our Love Again.” So, rather than fall victim to temptation to merely conclude that this is a generic offering by a pleasant sounding band, mix it up. Try” There Goes Our Love Again (Demo)”, “Tricky to Love” and “Change.” Here they are live at BBC Radio 1′ in Swindon from last year: White Lies BBC Radio 1s.

Emily's Army - Lost At SeventeenTorch bearers for a new generation of pop punk, Oakland’s Emily’s Army combine elements of their forebearers including the Ramones, Green Day, Blink-182, and Lookout! Records to update the sound, and keep it fun. When I say forebearers, I am using the term in its literal meaning as Emily’s Army is comprised of brothers Cole and Max Becker (vocal, guitar and bass, respectively), guitarist Travis Neumann, and drummer Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong, who also produced the LP). So, with that, you get a collection of pop punk songs to play at the summer barbecue, not too serious, dance worthy, and after a few spins you catch yourself singing along. Will this record end up in your collection forever. Likely not. But for a moment in time, its perfect. Try “Kids Just Wanna Dance”, “War” and “Lost at 17.” (I am amazed at the proficiency of these kids – yes kids – still in high school!)

Sad Day for Puppets - Come CloserAnother group of Swedes making headway in the dropbox, Sad Day For Puppets on Come Closer, the bands third long player, wear their 90’s alt-rock influences on their sleeves and it is all good. Vocalist Anna Ekland’s sweet melodies carry these tunes which in many ways harken back to the golden age of the alt-90’s with song structures like the Lemonheads’ Shame About Ray, but in all reality, I could care less about the lyrics because, like Janet Devlin and Die Antwoord’s Yolandi Vissar, Anna Ekland’s vocals are beautiful, spellbinding, and the melodies as if written by the Beach Boys. I dare you not to like this record. Theoretically the band describes their music as vocals over noise, but on first listen you will get the bands deceptive direction – simple melodic rock with stunning vocals. Try “Senseless”, “Human Heart” and “Shiver & Shake.” To bad there is so little video available, but maybe in some parts of Sweden You Tube doesn’t exist. Truly  a shame.Here there are in 2009 playing “When You Tell Me That You Love Meat a Sonic Cathedral night at The Borderline on November 16, 2009.

Tommy Keene - Excitement At Your FeetWhile I enjoy cover songs, it is the rare band that does a good job on an entire record full of them. A stellar example of this is Rod Stewart who has on several occasions served up steaming piles of terrible cover albums which actually !@$@ sold a ton of records. Sad, really. So, while a little skeptical when one of my long time favorites Tommy Keene announced a couple of months ago that he was going to release a record of covers. I’ve seen Tommy live on a couple of occasions and the covers played live sound like he wrote them for the artist who made them popular. So, on Excitement At Your Feet, scheduled to be released later this month, Tommy plays the most unusual set of covers and each case the song takes on new meaning and renewed life, that is if you could even identify the original. The record mines cult gems and even well-known artist’s such as the Rolling Stones the songs are deep cuts in the catalog. So, give it a spin and be surprised. Try “The Puppet (Echo & the Bunnymen)” “Ride On Baby (Rolling Stones)” and “Out of the Blue (Roxy Music).” Here’s a bonus: Tommy playing “Kill Yer Sons (Lou Reed) live at Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco.

Dangerous Summer - Golden RecordEllicott City, Maryland’s Dangerous Summer are back with their fourth album, entitled Golden Record this month and continue the promise of their last record, 2011’s War Paint. It seems that Hopeless Records is one of the very few punk rock labels still left alive and kicking in the wake of the recent label catastrophes of the past few years. I’m not sure this record will develop a huge following, but it is in the dropbox because my great hope is that this type of punk rock, like Rise Against, continues to thrive because I will lose my mind if all that is left is KROQ and the mindless dance pop that characterizes the playlist. Really, it is too easy to criticize the playlist so, I in an effort to present an unbiased viewpoint have provide the link here for this week’s list: KROQ Playlist.

You will see Imagine Dragons, Lorde (just !@#$ terrible), the endlessly played “Mountain Song” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers which have now reached a point of saturation that I actively switch the radio off when I hear any of their music. Really, KROQ has pummeled me into submission. And they are actually proud of what they play. I used to love that station, now it is generic and unlistenable and they overplay everything. Brutal. Sorry…I’m back now. I snapped.

Back to Dangerous Summer. Like most of this month’s releases there is a wide variety of music. The Dangerous Summer represents only a small portion of the spectrum but it is important. This is emo in its original form and still relevant although many will be dismissive. This record is well written and Al Perdomo is a master at capturing the feeling behind these songs. So, give it a chance, change it up, and freshen your musical palate. Try” Catholic Girls” (Acoustic Version) “Honesty” (Acoustic Version) and “We Will Wait In The Fog.”

Almost - Fear Inside Our BonesIn a similar vein, The Almost with their new record Fear Inside Our Bones continues to traverse a more traditional punk rock road. And perhaps that is the difficulty with new punk records. People have become so used to listening to pop music, whether it is fed on radio or more likely by the proliferation of Cinderella music shows (American Idol, X Factor, being the two largest and most popular miscreants) that perhaps we forget that music is meant to move people in a variety of ways, and language is a part of that process. Formed by former Underoath singer/drummer Aaron Gillespie in 2005, as a more melodic outlet for songs that did not fit Underoath’s hardcore ethos, on Fear Inside Our Bones, the band has found its true identity and have produced an album of melodic punk rock thoughtful and inspiring, but without the hardcore elements present on the first two releases. And the result is a thoroughly entertaining rock record. You should check out the great cover of Andrew Gold’s 1977 AM Radio smash hit “Lonely Boy.” The hard edges are still present but this is how modern rock should sound – no indie dance pop here. Play loud. Try “Ghost,” (Live at the Balcony in Westchester) “So What” and the Nirvana influenced “Come On.”

11298_fullsizeAs we are currently in a discourse about punk rock, it should come as no surprise that you would find Philadelphia based Restorations new album entitled LP2 in the dropbox. Upon first listen it sounds like Rise Against mentioned earlier, but this is largely because Restoration’s vocalist Jon Loudon sounds distinctly similar to Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, and if you listened to opener “D” you would think they are the same band. However, there is much more going on here musically as the band incorporates a number of genre shifting elements into the complex songs from metal, pop, street punk, 90’s alternative rock to weave into a unified whole that is a definite foot tapper. Try “The Plan”, “D” and “Quit.”

Trouble and Daughter - Alcohol and NicotineChanging pace significantly, Toronto’s Trouble & Daughter are my new pop obsession. Really. You would never guess that something this warm and sunny would come from the north. This has the same vibe as much of the new Australian pop scene with its bright sparkly boy-girl vocals and simple catchy melodies which are instantly likeable. The trio of James Mascola (vocals), Jenni Pleau (vocals), and John Doherty (guitar, vocals) creates alt-county flavored folk rock that will capture your heart. The only negative is the fact that Alcohol & Nicotine is too short as it is only an EP. Hopefully a full length will soon follow. Anyway, try: “The West Coast,” (live from The Rivoli in Toronto, Ontario November 2012) and another version of The West Coast from the Condo Sessions, “If You Want It All” and “ Rooftops.” (Live on a rooftop, of course.)

Drenge - DrengeNew to the garage rock duo genre (White Stripes, Black Keyes) British duo Drenge, on their self-titled debut, don’t just bash it out. As we approach the mid 2000-teens, if anyone is paying attention, there is a new garage rock revival in full blossom. The difference between Drenge and other new-garage revivalists is that Drenge sounds like Gene Vincent and the others sound like the Seeds. This is not a bad thing, only different. British garage rock has a decidedly different flavor than the U.S. version and it is precisely those differences that make Drenge such an interesting record.  At this point in our relationship you all know that I love this genre of music – from both sides of the pond. Check out Ty Segal, Mikal Cronin, King Tuff and below, King Khan & the Shrines and the Dirtbombs.

What is enjoyable about all of these garage bands is their divergent and unique takes on a genre that is almost 60 years old. There must be something deep inside man or woman that creates empathy for this sound so that after all of this time and a few generations that this music still resonates. Its hypnotic and sexy, and as performed by Drenge, the music tinged with psychedelic flourishes. Brothers Rory and Eoin Loveless pummel you with their version of this genre and its catchy as hell and enjoyable. There is something here that reminds me of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club circa Miami and of course, I have a like-on. Try “Backwaters,” I Want To Break You In Half” and “Nothing.” (Live at Edinburgh Electric Circus, August 26, 2013).

King Khan & the Shrines - Idle No MoreContinuing the garage rock explosion, King Khan & The Shrines, after 6 years, release their latest Idle No More and the results are very positive. Continuing his updated Little Richard act, Arish Khan, the leader of the Shrines at times containing up to nine members, play a much more traditional version of the garage pop and roll and to good effect. Now based in Berlin Germany having moved there because this type of 60’s beat influenced garage rock has a larger following, King Khan’s greatest contributions are consistent adherence to garage rock’s fundamental principles while mixing in a health dash of 60’s soul music. Lyrically the album traverses the transitions that Arish has faced over the past several years with the passing of his friend Jay Reatard (“So Wild”), a tribute to his wife for putting up with his shxx (Pray for Lil), and his own descent into madness (“Of Madness I Dream”). Try “Of Madness I Dream”, “Darkness” and “I Got Made.”

Dirtbombs - Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey!Finishing up the trio of new garage releases, Detroit’s Dirtbombs return with their tribute to 70’s bubblegum pop tribute, in the form of Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! Mixing punk and soul into their garage mix machine, on their 6th album, Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! the Dirtbombs, in their fifteenth year, take a new tack by harkening back to the early 70’s bubblegum era and laying its own mark on this traditional sound. Recall the Osmonds, Monkeys, Davey Jones, Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company? No? Well then this will be a new sound for many, but it ruled the AM radio dial two generations ago. Just listen to “We Come in the Sunshine” As writer, front man, vocalist Mick Collins explained the album, which took more than two years to make:

The “concept” is that this is a Bubblegum album: the Dirtbombs as done by Don Kirshner and Kasenetz & Katz. I wasn’t trying to make a period piece; I was more seeing if I could pick up where bubblegum left off around 1975. I had the benefit of 40 years of hindsight, so I could pick and choose the bits I thought would work.

This is a fun record and those who were actually around at the time will recognize several songs have elements of the original hits that spawned these 10 originals. Try” Hey! A Cookie” “We Come in the Sunshine” and “It’s Gonna Be Alright.”

Suburbs - Si SauvageThe Suburbs were part of the original Minneapolis scene that spawned Husker Du and The Replacements, but their journey was markedly different. Not truly punk rockers, they were part of the emerging alt-rock scene and in the early 80’s it looked like they were going to break through into the mainstream – but they didn’t. So in 1987 they broke up. Done.

So imagine my surprise to find a new record after 27 years. (Recall that this could be a trend – recall Magazine last year recording an album after 30 years of being broken up?). Si Sauvagefeatures founding members Chan Poling, Hugo Klaers, and Blaine John “Beej” Chaney, plus new band mates Steve Brantseg and Steve Price and special guest vocalists like Janey Winterbauer and Aby Wolf. Original guitarist Bruce C. Allen passed away in 2009.

So, what does a band sound like making a new record after so long? Well, given that they have in the past 27 years played a couple of shows a year in very small venues, remarkable tight and alive. There is more of a bluesy feel to the record which is essentially a straight rock record. I love the horns on the record which provides energy to a number of the songs which actually jumps with energy. Try “Reset the Party”, “Turn the Radio On”, and “Si Sauvage.” Here they are on MTV in 1984 with “Love is The Law.” (More 80’s new wave dancing!)

Uncle Ho - The Manufacture of MadnessGerman three-piece Uncle Ho have been around since 1994 but albums are few and far between. Since it’s not often the dropbox finds a release from Germany, perhaps it will help explain the rarity – German bands usually sing in German. Hence, I’m usually not too interested.

What was interesting in The Manufacture of Madness was the way the album harkens back to the period in the late seventies affectionately known as the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Metal) that spawned Def Leppard, Motorhead, Girlschool, Iron Maiden, Tygers of Pantang, Saxon, etc. This was compared to the old wave of British Heavy Metal featuring Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. “You Are Mine” could have been lifted off the first Def Leppard record. If you recall the birth of the genre, the goal was to keep it sharp, quick and still be heavy, all of which is accomplished by Uncle Ho on this record.

There is definitely more than a little INXS feeling and vibe on this album. This is a late night party record. For those of you whom still have hair – headbangin’ is appropriate. Try” I Wanna Do it Again”, “ “You Are Mine”, and “Talk! Talk! Talk! Talk! Talk!”

Ballet  - I Blame SocietyFrom the opening of “Alright” you will know that there is something different going on with New York Trio Ballet’s record I Blame Society. There are touches of power pop ala Fountains of Wayne, with a dash of Magnetic Fields, and my favorites from the early 90’s Los Angeles’ Sugarplastic, throughout the record. If you like those touchstones, you will like this record. Some will note the Jesus and Mary Chain as another touchstone, but what makes this different is that the band makes it all seem fun without being simply derivative.

The synth-pop is lovely and the only real regret is that the auto-tune vocals are a little cold. I could only imagine if Greg Goldberg, Craig Willse and Marina Miranda had the confidence to sing in a natural tone. However, on I Blame Society, the band’s third album the rest of the album is pure pop perfection. Try” Alright”, “Feelings” (which sounds like an outtake from a John Hughes movie performed live with special guest Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris live at The Lexington, London on August 1st, 2013),and “All the Way” (which could be an outtake from the Jesus and Mary Chain).

Chastity Belt - No RegertsOn No Regerts (misspelling intentional), the debut from Seattle pop-punk band Chastity Belt carry on a long held Seattle tradition of providing exceptionally smart indie rock dealing with complex subjects in this case how the focus of one’s sexual desire becomes inappropriately important in one’s life and the situations that influence and shape that focus. Formed in college and self-taught musicians, the band, like Savages, from earlier this year, have released a markedly focused and competent record that will also likely end up on several year-end best of lists. Lead vocalist Julia Shapiro asks the questions that kids who are transitioning from college often ask – “are we having fun, yet? and the answer is likely not yet but we are trying. Try “Black Sail” (Live on KEXP Seattle, December 29, 2012),  “Healthy Punk” ( “I drink when I want to get drunk”) (Columbia City Theater, Seattle, WA, 21 February 2013)
and the happy sounding “Evil”.

Cheatahs - Extended PlaysThe Cheatahs’ Extended Plays is precisely that – two EPs pasted together to form a full length release and doesn’t suffer for the effort. The Cheatahs achieve an update of the early 90’s shoegaze genre and if you recall Ride, Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine, then you are probably properly oriented to the direction of Extended Plays. The London based band consisting of a Canadian, German, American and one Brit, do a really good job of resurrecting what made that scene so popular in the first place by staying true to the form and emphasizing the control of distortion and feedback while retaining the vocal nuances of those earlier bands trademark sounds. Sure, there are some lyrical weakness, but so what. The idea of the shoegaze scene was to float – shoegaze bands didn’t look at the audience anyway, they felt them. And this album will make you feel good. Try: “Coared”, “The Swan” and “Fountain Park.”

I have covered a fairly large number of bands this month, but time prevents me from getting to them all. Don’t miss the two EPs from London Grammar (whose full length will be in the dropbox next month), Okkervil River, Islands and the new Dodo’s record. And if you have read this far, the best pop rock record of the month by far is by Pacific Air, which I’ve played the virtual cover off. I’ll post the playlist in a few days!

Have a great month and let’s be safe out there.

Here is this month’s list:

 

  1. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action [2013]
  2. Ty Segall – Sleeper [2013]
  3. Uncle Ho – The Manufacture of Madness [2013]
  4. Trouble and Daughter – Alcohol and Nicotine [2013]
  5. Ballet – I Blame Society [2013]
  6. Chastity Belt – No Regerts [2013]
  7. Cheatahs – Extended Plays [2013]
  8. Pacific Air – Stop Talking [2013]
  9. Dirtbombs – Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! [2013]
  10. London Grammar – Metal And Dust [2013]
  11. London Grammar – Wasting My Young Years [‘2013]
  12. 1975 – The 1975 [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  13. Three O’Clock – The Hidden World Revealed [2013]
  14. Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium [2013]
  15. Tommy Keene – Excitement at Your Feet [2013]
  16. Suburbs – Si Sauvage [2013]
  17. Arctic Monkeys – AM [2013]
  18. Babyshambles – Sequel to the Prequel [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  19. Polyphonic Spree – Yes It’s True [2013]
  20. Rise Against – Long Forgotten Songs B-Sides and Covers 2000-2013 [2013]
  21. Bed Wettin Bad Boys – Ready For Boredom [2013]
  22. Drenge – Drenge [2013]
  23. Grooms – Infinity Caller [2013]
  24. Growl – What Would Christ Do [2013]
  25. Ida Maria – Love Conquers All [2013]
  26. Islands – Ski Mask [2013]
  27. Julia Holter – Loud City Song [2013]
  28. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon [2013]
  29. King Tuff – Was Dead [2013]
  30. Liar’s Club – Come and Go [2013]
  31. Never Shout Never – Sunflower [2013]
  32. O’Brother – Disillusion [2013]
  33. Potty Mouth – Hell Bent [2013]
  34. Restorations – LP2 [2013]
  35. Superchunk – I Hate Music [2013]
  36. Paper Lions – My Friends [2013]
  37. USA!USA!USA! – What’s Your Name [2013]
  38. White Lies – Big TV [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  39. Mallard – Finding Meaning in Deference [2013]
  40. Surprises – Goes Without Saying [2013]
  41. Sweet Talk – Pickup Lines [2013]
  42. Emily’s Army – Lost At Seventeen [2013]
  43. Durango Riot – Backwards Over Midnight [2012]
  44. Almost – Fear Inside Our Bones [2013]
  45. King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More [2013]
  46. Old Major – In Dog Years [2013]
  47. Sad Day for Puppets – Come Closer [2013]
  48. Dangerous Summer – Golden Record [2013]
  49. Ski Lodge – Big Heart [2013]
  50. Dodos – Carrier [2013]