March 02 2013 Drop Box Notes

Notes 03.02.13

Well another month has passed without incident. Picking up where last month left off, this month’s batch of new releases continues the trend with a number of excellent releases in a wide variety of genres. I’ve had a few extra minutes to drop some notes about the releases this month, and have also included a few nuggets from last month as well.

I am somewhat addicted to the FIDLAR (Fuck it Dude, Life’s A Risk) record. The debut from this Los Angeles based proto-skate-punk (see a new sub-sub-genre of punk!) is interesting beyond the fact that it also signals a revival of a beloved sound from the early 80’s hardcore scene (think Descendants/All, Black Flag and the Circle Jerks) updated with modern sound recording and splashed with early southern flavored new wave (B-52’s, Dash Rip Rock) and the Orange County punk scene (Agent Orange, Channel 3) all perfectly balanced. In short, there is nothing like this currently in the punk universe. Catchy melodic choruses, with California retard themes. Once you hear “Cheap Beer” you will be hooked. The album is short in time but long in songs. Awesome crunchy guitars! Try “5 to 9”, “Wake Skate Bake” and “Wait for the Man.”

First up this month, is The Fiery Piano. Apart from the crappy and somewhat deceptive band name, Second Space is pop great record. Essentially a bedroom project, the sound is somewhat like Bright Eyes, and the electro-indie-pop is catchy, and at times gorgeous.  This debut LP, which Gustaf Montelius recorded in his home of Stockholm, Sweden, opens with an instrumental which flows nicely into the album’s centerpiece, the insanely catchy “ More Like A Tiger, Less Like A Dove.” For a one man record, this is not self-indulgent or precocious like most of these types of projects. Try, “Keep Dreaming On”, “Companions” and “Pegasus.”

I recently read an article on “noise rock” as a genre. As I thought about some of the bands mentioned, Velvet Underground, The Birthday Party (more about Nick Cave later!), Sonic Youth, and Scratch Acid, as well as a number that were not, Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, The Contortions, Arto Lindsay, and the entire Amphetamine Reptile roster in the late 80’s, it dawned on me that Pissed Jeans, on its latest, and IMHO greatest record, Honeys has finally achieved the perfect balance between noise terrorists and melody. From Allentown PA this is a working person’s hardcore band. The distinguishing feature from hardcore as a genre, is that there is no metal influences (or prog rock signature lyrics/ death metal decapitation soundscapes). It would take a while to sort the differences in writing, but trust me, you no the differences when you hear then. In the noise genre, there is still a garage rock undercurrent that is palpable, and unlike hardcore, there is actual singing as opposed to growling. More to the point, on Honeys, Pissed Jeans translates their considerable live performance to a solid record. Try “Cafeteria Food,” “Romanticize Me” and “Teenage Adult.”

Moving to the other end of the rock spectrum is Matt Pond (no longer going by Matt Pond P.A) who writes solid alt-rock songs in the vein of the Replacements. For those who know me, the inclusion of The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand in the drop box is not a surprise. I have followed this band for the last 15 years and still play on my iPad songs from the debut, Deer Apartments in 1998. Over the span of 8 LPs and 8 EPs, Matt Pond is consistently excellent. This record continues the trend. Catchy electro rock with thoughtful lyrics, these records suck you in and I often catch myself singing along. Like the greatest college rock albums of the 90’s (Marshall Crenshaw, dB’s, Smithereens) these are traditionally structured modern rock songs that do what all great songs do – they touch you emotionally, and make you want to sing along. So, put this in your car, turn it up loud, and feel the positive vibrations emanating forth. Try “Hole In My Heart,” “Let Me Live,” and “Love To Get Used.”

Another sunny pop record is Alpaca Sports. Much like last years San Cisco record, this is an alternative pop record of the highest order. It is hard to not like a record where the chorus of the song is “I used to kiss her…just for fun.” This is another one person project, from … wait….I’ll bet you can guess….Sweden. This time, Andreas Jonnsson, from Gotenberg, is the tunesmith on the self-titled Alpaca Sports an immensely enjoyable jangle pop record. Andreas gets some help in the form of some great back up vocals from Amanda Akerman and a couple of other friends that add highlights to these sunny songs. Not much you can say, really. Jangly to the max, this is pure candy. So, with that said, be forewarned, this can be easily overplayed, and puts that fun record that was so popular last year to shame. Try “Just For Fun,” “I Was Running” and Telephone.”

Pure Love is something of a punk super-group comprised of former Gallows singer Frank Carter and former Hope of Conspiracy/Suicide File guitarist Jim Carrol. Pure Love is a long way away from either of these bands hardcore roots. This is as the name suggests punk rock for the big screen in the form of Anthems. Frank Carter can actually sing and these are well formed, punk songs tinged with power pop (think Cheap Trick/ Blue Oyster Cult). When you need a loud rock record to play for your friends without wanting to scare them off – this is it. Like always, in a perfect world some of this would be on radio, but as you know – it is not. “Beach of Diamonds” was made for radio and would fit nicely on a Gaslight Anthem record. Try: “Handsome Devils Club,” “Riot Song” and “Bury My Bones.”

Ready to enter the mod garage? Palma Violets distill elements of the Jam/Who with the Arctic Monkeys, and for a band that formed in 2011, are already touted as the next big English thing. Formed in Lambeth, England, obvious influences are the Libertines. Like all of the records in the drop box, this is not perfect, but if 180 is any indication of where they are going as a band, then the hype is real. While I have finally conceded that popular radio may never see a guitar band again, it is precisely why I love music is bands like this who form, release a couple of youthful blast of energy into the ethos, and then either breakup, write shit or die. Hopefully that doesn’t happen here…but the odds are that it does. So, enjoy this for a time, because this is a pretty damn sweet record. Try “List of the Summer Wine”, “Step Up for The Cool Cats” (Love the mellotron!)  and “I Found Love.”

Like the Guards record last month, the National Rifle record took me by surprise. (I note here that The National Rifle is the 3rdPennsylvania based band in this month’s drop box). The National Rifle is from Philadelphia, and Almost Endless is their debut record). You know how there is certain sound that drags you into listening further to a song? Well, this record has a ton of tat particular sound. Maybe its Hugh Moretta’s voice, or the harmonies with keyboardist Lynna Stancatto, or the crunchy guitars. But whatever combination of elements, this record has it for me. Lyrically, the album is themed around frustration and the songs emphasize the inability to release tension through repetition.  If you can get past playing “Almost Endless” on repeat, try also “Night High” and “Coke Beat.”

Nick Cave is older than me. That is old. He also should not need any introduction. He is the former leader of the Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds, and Grinderman, an author, screenwriter, actor and odd looking dude. And he has made a record in Push The Sky Away that I am positive will end up on many of the year end best of lists, and frankly, deservedly so. This is a masterwork in the true sense of the word. For those unfamiliar with the genre, Nick Cave delves in murder ballads but this record is very accessible to the casual listener. I saw some recent video from this tour, and it is captivating. Try “Wide Lovely Eyes” (Sounds a little like Bono here), “Water’s Edge” and “Push The Sky Away.”

On Out of View, London hipsters the History of Apple Pie contextualize early indie heroes like Pavement, Pixies, Throwing Muses through a blender adding layers of feedback and singer Miki Berenyi’s sharp vocals with heaps of pop melodies into a catchy assortment of tunes that will put some bounce in your step. Sure it is reminiscent of the 90’s college rock (originally called alt-rock ie. alternative to rock n roll) but the pleasure derived from the experience is hard to deny. Start with “Mallory” which is four minutes of psychedelic pop awesomeness, then try “Your So Cool” and “Do it Worng.”

Keeping with the aggressive garage sound theme of this month’s drop box, Scottish indie pop trio of Eilidh Rodgers, Ruary MacLean, and Rachel Aggs better known as Golden Grrrls also bring around the 60’s garage sounds in a fresh way. Opener “New Pop” sums up where we are, 35 years after the Buzzcocks broke open the punk pop barrier. There is always something interesting in boy-girl vocals, and although Golden Grrls is lumped in with what is quickly becoming the indie lo-fi scene, there is more going on with this record than other contemporary purveyors of this sound. A scant 30 minutes of playing time, but it passes quickly and leaves you wanting to hear a little more, a mark of distinction in the glut of new music hitting the world as seemingly everyone has a band. We’ve Got is a consistently good record, though be forewarned, there are some thin moments ( Paul Simon) but in context, it maybe I’ve not spent enough time with the record to discern the lyrical charms of this song. Try “Older Today”, “Take Your Time,” and “Date It.”

This is probably a good time to bring up modern guitar god (winner of the 2013 Godlike Genius Award from NME) Johnny Marr (ex of the Smiths, Modest Mouse & The Cribs) and his first solo record The Messenger. Although Marr claims that the Smiths invented indie ( not really true – I’d put Joy Division (“Love Will Tear Us Apart” 7”) , Buzzcocks (Spiral Scratch EP), Television (“Little Johnny Jewel” 7’’) and The Nerves ( The Nerves EP) at the forefront of the who started it first debate, but it is hard to argue with the melodies this guy has written over the past 35 years or so. All that said, The Messenger is a straight forward indie rock record that has some great guitar work and leans heavily towards the type of music he was writing with the Cribs as a gun for hire. Although the vocals are a little weak (somewhat the same vocal tone throughout) there is enough here for a good time as long as you mix this within a playlist and do not play the whole thing from front to back. The guitars shimmer, the choruses are catchy, and although this record will fade quickly from most people’s memory given the difficulty of comparing this album to Marr’s previous bands, particularly the Smiths recordings which still sound relevant and amazing after more than 30 years. Note: If you are going back to check, then skip the Morrissey solo years which are crap. The first Smiths record blows the doors off of everything Morrissey recorded by himself. The reason why that record is till amazing is of course, Johnny Marr. Try “Upstart”, “Generate! Generate!” and “New Town Velocity.”

Speaking of people who have been around for a while, but not nearly as prolific, Kevin Shields finally completes a My Bloody Valentine record. Originally formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1983 the band’s lineup has since 1987 consisted of founding members Kevin Shields (guitar and vocals) and Colm Ó Cíosóig (drums) with singer-guitarist Bilinda Butcher and bassist Debbie Googe. If you have not heard Loveless, a record which I put in the dropbox a last year, then go back and take a listen. Released in 1991, the album which took 2 years to make and nearly bankrupt their label (Creation) is a masterpiece. After the critical acclaim of that record, Shields, an admitted perfectionist, has claimed he has shelved 7 albums worth of material in the interim. So how long has it taken to release this new record, the bands third? 22 freakin’ years. Was it worth the wait then becomes the question. I had given up long ago; when suddenly without warning, m b v was dropped on the world on February 3, 2013. On m b v , after listening to the record with my headphones for a week and trying to not make the inevitable comparisons to Loveless, Shields has definitely captured the dynamic dissonance and the impenetrable wall of sound that changed guitar music forever. You have to think about what music means to you when you listen to m b v. This is about textures and how those textures make you feel. For example, on “Who Sees You” there is a feeling of claustrophobia and a sensation of tightness in your chest as the sonic assault relentlessly pounds you. Gripping. Try “Who Sees You,” “New You,” and “In Another Way.”

Iceage have previously appeared in the drop box and so it is not a surprise that the follow-up to New Brigade (one of Pitchfork’s best albums of 2011 receiving an 8.4) should also appear here. As noted in Pitchfork’s review of New Brigade, Iceage have found the sweet spot for punk rock “mixing the black atmosphere of goth, the wild-limbed whoosh of hardcore, and the clangor of post-punk. Such continues the trend here. Maybe Danish punk rock is ready for wide exposure, because Your Nothing is actually a better record with a bulkier sound. Perhaps it’s the move to Matador, or more likely, the band which is a road beast often playing chaotic shows, is more accomplished in both sound and structure. This is classic punk rock ( not street punk) that as mentioned above finds the soft underbelly of this particular genre and rips it wide open. Try “Coalition” “Morals” and “Everything Drifts” ( shades of Husker Du).

Similarly, The Men improve on their massive second record Open Your Heart which also appeared here last year. Like Iceage, this is a stronger record than the previously stunning record. However, unlike the Iceage record, the band is taking their sound in some new directions, muck like the Replacements did in their career arc and of whom The Men remind me.  For example, the Replacements followed up their punk record Sorry Ma Forgot To Take Out the Trash with the powerful Hootenanny. Which begs the question; will The Men’s next album be their Let It Be? From the get go The Men signal their new direction with the sweet countrified punk of “Open the Door”. Look the Byrds influences on New Moon are undeniable, as is the fact that the band acknowledges that they recorded this gem in the Catskills (like The Band). My god, they could be secretly Canadian. There is some Crazy Horse (see Neil Young reference – more evidence that they are Canadian!) references here, but the most powerful elements definitely owe a debt to the Replacements.  Try “The Seeds”, “The Brass,” and “Bird Song.”

This is probably a good time to talk about the Parquet Courts. Admittedly I missed this one the first time around. But heck, at least I found it. They have played a number of shows with the aforementioned The Men, and like The Men are based out of Brooklyn. Where else given the sound of this record. Like a punk rock Strokes, the band consisting of Andrew Savage (lead vocals, guitar), Austin Brown (guitar), Sean Yeaton (bass), and Andrew’s brother Max Savage (drums) are likely where we are going with modern punk rock – sharp fairly witty lyrics, twangy guitars, and plenty of attitude. I’m looking for their debut cassette if you can find it, but on their official debut Light Up Gold, they are a fully formed punk rock machine. This is a quick listen and there are sounds you would recognize from the first days of British punk but filtered though decades of sweat, the Hives, and moving to New York from Texas. Great stuff here. Reminds me a little of David Thomas of Pere Ubu vocally. But for most of you, this will likely be not a helpful reference. Anyway, Try: “Donut Only,” “Light Up Gold II” and “Tears O Plenty.”

Son Volt is Jay Farrar’s project formed in 1994 after the collapse of one of the best bands of the 1990s – Uncle Tupelo. Son Volt’s first life was surprisingly brief with only three albums recorded between 1995-1998. However, Jay’s released a number of solo records in the interim and his form of alt-country has stood the test of time. Finally, and after 20 years; Jay Farrar has reformed the original band and is now paying tribute to the country side of his roots head on. This is the Bakersfield sound (Buck Owens, Wynn Stewart and pedal steel player Ralph Mooney) lovingly performed. Honky Tonk is exactly what it is – 11 songs of pure country. Not for everyone, but in my view, there are few records as lovingly constructed as this one. The pedal steel work is prominent and that sound makes some people grit their teeth. For me, having loved the cowpunk of the late 80s of K.D. Lang and the Reclines, Beat Farmers, and Rank and File, this is a palate cleaner for your listening pleasure. Really, try this after the Parquet Courts record and you’ll get the idea. Try “Hearts and Minds”, The Wild Side” and “Angel of the Blues.”

Phoenix returns after a four year hiatus, with a new record entitled Bankrupt!. I have no idea why the title, but if you liked the previous record, which was massive, then you will like this one as well. The French electronic rock pop band’s 5th album, Bankrupt! Is scheduled to be released on April 22, 2013, so you will be able to tell everyone how good it is, and that is sounds very similar to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix which was released in 2009. Look a four year gap in releases after the massive success of that record is understandable. Perhaps the album title is a signal that they are not bankrupt of ideas because like Green Day after Dookie, over-exposure on the level of the songs “Lisztomania”, “1901”, and “Too Young” is pretty difficult to overcome. So, what is the new record like – pretty amazing. But don’t take my word. Try: “Trying To Be Cool”, “Entertainment” and “Chloroform.”

November 11 2012 Drop Box Notes Part 2

11.11.12 Part 2

Now that I have the list thing out of the way, let’s move forward with an intimate discussion of this month’s latest and greatest. I’m starting with a release that Russell dropped at the end of last month Nevermind the Name’s A Gaze into the Abyss which is atmospheric post-rock available on bandcamp. This is a terrific album for long drives around the city (and the drive from Orange County to Pasadena during rush hour can last over two hours!). The album isn’t that long, but is all instrumental. While not normally in my skill set, this album incorporates a diverse range of influence, with a touch of Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! (look them up- they were there first!) elements throughout. Thoroughly enjoyable if you are in the mood. Try “Walking the Endless Road,” “Beat Death” and opening track “In a Second.”

Yorkshire four piece, Above Them bring forth a pretty interesting second album with Are We A Danger To Ourselves. Representing a cross-section of melodic punk rock reminding me of a hybrid between Chixdiggit and Against Me, this is a straight forward melodic punk rock record with some fairly good songs. The great thing about this record is that upon each listen I find myself singing ( not loudly because my kids can hear and will complain J) along to a different track each time. Add this to your playlist on shuffle, and surprise yourself. Try “Concrete Forgiveness” “Temper like a Hand Grenade” and “Something To Keep You Positive.”

Danish indie sextet, the Alcoholic Faith Mission’s 4th album, Ask Me This incorporates more electronic elements into their indie-folk music crafting lush soundscapes with pretty melodies highlighting the differences between other practitioners of the art, such as Bon Iver and those guys who sing “The Cave” ( Mumford and Sons). This is a very modern, clean sounding record which over the course of 36 minutes, bounces around with the varied vocals broadening the band’s sound. Try”Alaska,” “I’m Not Evil” and “Reconstruct My Love.”

Raleigh North Carolina Alt-Country rockers American Aquarium appeared in the drop box earlier this year with Dances For The Lonely and the lovely track “Katherine Belle.” They return here with another excellent album, Burn.Flicker.Die. Let’s face it, BJ Barnham writes simple melodic country rockers with a flavor of Springsteen, and makes no secret of his desire to traverse the same territory. I think what makes this different, is that American Aquarium is much more comfortable with their country roots making even those songs which reference rock territory (see “Lonely Ain’t Easy”) sound authentic. There is something about this country rock blend that makes for a great listen. Try “ Abe Lincoln” “Burn.Flicker.Die.” and “Saturday Nights.”

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead return after what seems like forever unleashing Lost Songs on an unsuspecting public. Since 2010’s The Tao of the Dead Trail Of The Dead have bulked up their already massive sound and restrained their prog- rock tendencies to find the perfect balance between melody and noise. Think late period Husker Du. When you need something loud and strangely beautiful, give this record a spin. Try “Awestruck” “Pinhole Cameras” and Heart of Wires.”

October 14 2012 Drop Box Notes

10.14.12

October. Oops, ROCKtober is going to be a great month. Every year, in case you are keeping track, labels release their biggest albums in advance of the Xmas rush. I am not sure exactly what this means in the musical landscape as it currently exists, but from my perspective, there is an amazing amount of terrific, and very diverse new music coming your way in the next couple of months. In case you are keeping track, each month there is approximately 1 DVDs worth of music, which I’m finding is about the right amount to keep track of ( since I play DVDs in my car).

Also, in case anyone is keeping track, a few of last month’s releases didn’t make the drop box so you will find them in the next couple of drops. Also, while I try to make a note of everything, I find I’m running out of the time I’ve allotted for this project, so, some of these you’ll have to discover on your own as I’ve not put in any notes for those releases. For example, I mention that it would be a tragedy if you didn’t take time to try out the Noisettes record, Contact from last month. (Eve, this was the one I was telling you about!). Contact is the band’s third album, and is another pop gem. I am not really sure why they are almost universally overlooked, even though their last record went gold, but perhaps they don’t look like a conventional band. For whatever reason, this is poppy, hook-laden shiny pop music, not too deep…but why care. Some music should be the stuff that makes you want to shake your hips and not too think too hard. Singer Shingai Shoniwa has a special voice and that is precisely why this is worth a listen. To be clear I am not comparing the Noisettes to the disposable pop acts out there today with overtly retarded lyrics – think Carly Rae Jepson, Call Me Maybe and this sample lyric: Before you came into my life I missed you so bad I missed you so bad I missed you so, so bad .. Are you serious, she missed him before she met him? You get the idea. The lyrics on some of the songs on Contact are sometimes “off” but this is an enjoyable record. If you are not hooked by “That Girl” then you have no pop soul. This is an early 60’s girl group homage updated for 2012. Amazing.

Anyway, on to this month’s releases:

Joe Strummer & The Mescalaros – The Hellcat Years. Joe Strummer, who as leader of the mighty Clash brought punk rock to the masses, and passed away on December 22, 2002 far too young, finally with the Mescalaros was able to achieve the balance he struggled with in the Clash to bring his passion for reggae music to a rock crowd. Post Clash, Joe was still following his muse mixing punk rock passion with reggae and dub sounds into a unique vision that will likely never be repeated. This box is a digital compilation consisting of all three of the Mescaleros-era albums, plus newly released live material and rare B-sides. So, if you missed the records the first time – no worries. Of the three records, I like Streetcore the best, but have over time come to love both  Global A Go-Go  and Rock Art and the X-Ray Style. Also included are some amazing b-sides and a very cool live show with Joe and the band playing the Clash’s greatest hits. I think you’ll find that these three albums fit somewhere in the middle of London Calling and Sandanista – a true blend by a man with a unique vision. Try “Redemption Song” ( Bob Marley cover), “Coma Girl” and “ White Man in Hammersmith Palais.”

Carl Newman ( who goes by the name AC Newman) was a member of Superconductor and Zumpano in the 1990s later reemerging as the leader of The New Pornographers in 2000 and finding commercial success. On Shut Down the Streets, his third solo release, Newman finally has arrived at the perfect balance between all of his prior bands. This is a beautifully wrought record which Newman describes as follows:

Here is my album, Shut Down The Streets. Maybe you know me from The New Pornographers, and you may recognize Neko Case’s voice in these songs, you may even think “This one sounds so much like a New Pornographers song” and you may ask yourself “Who the hell are the New Pornographers?” All that aside, this album is all about birth, death, happiness and sadness, chronicling a time in my life where all those things had to learn to coexist side by side. There was that and a sudden obsession with the song “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty. That led to an obsession with the psychedelic sounds of the late 70s singer songwriter. So my most personal songs ever somehow made the most sense when I played them in a mutated version of an outdated style from my childhood. That’s just how things go.

I was blown away by the power and warmth on this record. These are beautiful well written songs which will connect with you. Definitely a late night after the party record, sounds amazing in the car. Try “I’m Not Talking,” “They Should Have Shut Down the Streets, and “Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns.”

On the Haunted Man, Bat For Lashes pick right up where they left off last time. Haunted Man is British singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan’s third record and the ethereal quality to her voice and the songs contained here, are indeed “haunting.” If you listen carefully, you will hear elements of other distinctly British chanteuses who have traversed some of this ground ( Kate Bush & PJ Harvey instantly come to mind) but there is something special about Khan’s take on this gothic dream pop, something that captures you instantly and transports you instantly. Try” Laura,” “Lillies” and “The Haunted Man.”

Blonds, The Bad Ones is a retro take at the torch song ballad, and with the duo Jordy Asher and singer Cari Rae (from Brooklyn) capturing the balance between the early 60’s soul singer and 90s shoe gaze pop. For example “Heartstrings” has a “girl group” feel but there is something about Rae’s phrasing that takes this song into distinctly new territory. This is a unique pop record, with a great retro feel, plenty of well placed reverb. These are slow paced songs, more likely to be felt than merely experienced by listening. Think Torch Ballad with an indie pop feel. Try “Run”, “Mr. E” and “Locomotion.”

A new project from ex – These Arms are Snakes, front man Steve Snere, Crypts, sounds exactly what the Crypts name conjures: a cross between Revolting Cocks, Ministry, and the grave. While I don’t recommend this as a “play through the entire record type album” the music is strangely affecting with its mix of sci-fi electronica and filtered vocals. A strange and depressing record, but a worthwhile addition if you are interested in exploring new territory. Try “Territories,” “Completely Fucked” and “Bloods.”

Remember the Stranglers and their original vocalist Hugh Cornwell? I do. Why am I mentioning this connection with the new Cult of Youth record Love Will Prevail? Well, Sean Ragon, the former Love is Laughter bassist, sound strangely like Hugh and this record, touches some of the Stranglers less aggressive areas and caught me a bit off guard. These acoustic tinged folk-punk songs are aggressive and like a smoldering fire, build into something that is deeply affecting. Really, I was kind of blindsided by this record. “Try “Garden of Delights” New Old Ways” and “Golden Age.”

Never thought you’d see a folk band in the drop box list did you? I didn’t think so either, but there have been hints in the past that I’ve become more reflective over time. Remember First Aid Kit? Well, Dark Dark Dark is one of those folk bands worth a listen. On Who Needs Who that band effortlessly mixes a dizzying array of sounds into songs that highlight the pitch perfect vocals of Nona Marie Invie who breathes life into these captivating songs. Who would have thought something as unique as this would hail from Minneapolis, Minnesota? Well perhaps the home of Prince, Replacements and Husker Du has space for truly beautiful indie pop. Who knew? Try “Tell Me,” “Patsy Cline” and ‘It’s A Secret.”

For me, Toronto’s Danko Jones is the model of consistency and over the span of 8 albums have established themselves as perhaps the greatest pop-metal bands in the world. Yup, I said it – the world. On Rock and Roll is Black and Blue, Danko Jones continues its tradition of straight-forward male team themed (See “Get Up”)  melodic punk infused metal with choruses so big and catchy that you can’t help but sing along. Lyrically every Danko Jones album, contains the same themes as found on Rock and Roll is Black and Blue – a laser focus on women and their various attributes ( See “Legs”), relationships ( You Wear Me Down”, and more songs about women ( “Don’t Do This” and “Type of Girl”). Pretty simple. No picks on this one. Just put it on, play loud and enjoy.

Try to forgive Green Day as they fight their slow decline into douchebagedness. See Billy Joe Armstrong appearing on the Voice- Season III; going into rehab for substance abuse issues, etc. What is unique about the Green Day experience, is that for a band that has been around as long as they have, the band has consistently taken chances and fought the good fight while attempting to remain relevant in a time where popular music has sucked the life out of the majority of alternative music. Uno! Isn’t going to bring them all the way back but is a valiant effort at straight ahead punk pop lyrically revisiting themes from at least one generation ago. Sure, there is a commercial gloss over the album and what is abundantly clear is that this album will sound much better live. Some of this is droll for guys in their 40’s (really “Stay The Night”?) but upon reflection and several spins, what you find is a band struggling to keep its passion, write simple pop songs, and have some fun. Perhaps the struggle here is that after so much time as a band the audience’s perception has colored how we listen to Green Day music. You can’t go back. This album assembles elements of Cheap Trick and The Cars as filtered by classic Green Day and consequently, upon reflection (my own) is worth a trip to the drop box. Not perfect, but satisfying in the long run. Try “Carpe Diem,” “Troublemaker” and “Oh Love.”

If you are going to give an album a tryout from this month’s offerings, then give Australia’s Tame Impala release Lonerism a spin. An amalgam of 60’s psychedelia, 90’s Brit Pop and modern indie, this is a fascinating record. You can hear the Sgt. Peppers era Beatles influences all over this record. You are unlikely to find a hit single on this record because this is nontraditional music. Sure, there is an emo quality to the songs, given Kevin Parker’s vocals and several songs dealing with the male/female love relationship. However, the songs stick inside your head and as a whole the album works well, but there are a few missteps – “Why Won’t They Talk To Me” being a good example. However, I was fascinated with Lonerism as it travels in a much different sonic space then most indie-rock records. Try “Music To Walk Home To” “Elephant” and “Apocalypse Dreams.”

I Was A Teenage Satan Worshiper. Well, I bet you thought I was going to admit that I was. Although, my mom thought that the music I was listening to certainly was the devil’s music. However, IWATSW, is the first Finnish band to make the drop box. More, My Bloody Valentine meets The Jesus and Mary Chain, the band originally was only My Lovin’ Martian (Pasi Viitanen) who recorded all instruments, but over the course of 4 albums, has evolved into a full fledged ensemble. The synths work on There, and I’m not usually the guy who jumps up and goes wow those synths @$##$ rock!. However, in context of this record, they work and positively accentuate some of the best tracks. Try “Lucid Dreaming,” “Higher Highs” and “Show Em’ Love.”

Metz is another change of pace in this month’s drop box and at the other end of the musical spectrum from IWATSW. Toronto’s Metz debut will leave you breathless. Brutal post-hardcore that is so melodic you will wonder why you don’t regularly listen to albums in this genre. Well, you can’t unless you are an eighteen year old male and are in the early stages of trying to destroy your hearing. Further, most of this genre is so concerned with making the heaviest record that they can with vocals that are more growl than sung, they fail to make a lasting impression. Metz is different. The music is still firmly in the genre, but they have actual melody and that is why this album will be on many best of lists at the end of the year. What do you get when you combine 90’s best punk rock bands and instead of them recording on major label they instead were incubated on the Amphetamine Reptile label (home of Tad, Boss Hog, Helios Creed and Lubricated Goat)? You get Metz and they should be big. Try “Wasted” “Sad Pricks” and “Negative Space.”

In a more conventional vein, is the Maine. Classic pop punk, this is well wrought catchy sing-a-long music made for the kids. Pioneer And Good Love is the bands third album and I swear you will be hooked on the candy on this record. Like the All American Rejects, it is obvious the goal is to write songs that leave you powerless to resist the melodic choruses. Go ahead…you can like this music. Sure there is no deep meaning, but if you were going to go out on a Friday night to a club to see a show, you could do much worse than the Maine. There are elements of early Tom Petty, the Refreshments, and the Rembrandts (remember the Friends TV show Theme?) From the opener “Identify” though track 19 “Good Love” you are taken on a diverse tour of this genre’s catchiest themes and hooks designed to make your brain explode. “Good love will find me”…and if you find the Maine, then you will find a measuring stick for other albums to compare against when you think of catchy music. I’ll bet this one will stay in the rotation on your music device for a long time. Try “Time”, “Misery” and “Jenny.”

In kind of the same vein, The New Electric Sound mines another corner of indie pop, and does it so convincingly. With a retro sounding pop rock, this Provo Utah based band led by former rapper/DJ Scott Vance writes catchy melodic pop rock that will have you singing along. Like the Maine above, New Electric Sound wear their influences on their sleeve and on their debut incorporate their Beatles influences into a sound that sounds like a cross between Neon Trees and Carolina Liar. So, sit back and enjoy as you listen to “Boston Shuffle”, “Heartbeat” and “Before I Fall Apart.” [ Note for John B: I still do not like the Beatles, but as you know, I love everyone who has ever ripped them off: See Marshall Crenshaw]

Okay, everyone knows the Sex Pistols. But, after 35 years, a record like this, which arguably was the fire starter for all forms of music in the punk/alternative universe after its release bears some reexamination. No, this is not the debut record, but The Great Rock And Roll Swindle –  the albeit soundtrack from the movie (mockumentary) which although released under the Sex Pistols moniker was released after the band had already broken up; which Johnny Rotten then called Lydon had disavowed any participation and from which he was largely excised; and which consisted largely of  tracks written by the band after the breakup and sung by the other members of the band – primarily Sid Vicious, Cook and Jones. BUT, this remixed version is a fascinating exploration, a complete mess, and portends the future of punk rock music. I particularly like the disco mix “Black Arabs” which is disco medley, including “Anarchy in the UK”, “God Save the Queen”, “Pretty Vacant” and “No One is Innocent” performed by a group called Black Arabs. Try “Substitute”, “Belsen Was a Gas” and obviously “Who killed Bambi.” Fascinating.

Los Angeles based blues rock band Rival Sons has finally arrived. You will get this record immediately upon listening to the first track, “Keep on Swinging.” This is pure revivalism. This is Led Zeppelin as if Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were just starting out again as young lads. Jay Buchanan updates Zep’s classic sound and sings in such an assured manner, you would swear this was 1978 and that you were playing “Stairway To Heaven” endlessly in a very smoke filled bedroom with a keg in the corner. It takes a lot of machismo to try to carry this type of record off without sounding like a parody. This record works amazingly well. So, get out your lighter, raise your arm in the air, and move your head up and down. Try “Wild Animal” “Until The Sun Comes” and “Three Fingers.”

Staying in California, San Francisco’s Sic Alps, also has a classic sound, but these garage rockers, traverse different territory labeled for lack of imagination “new garage.” However, these are sun drenched offerings of psychedelic garage. On the self titled Sic Alps, the bands fourth album, is still an exercise in disorientation (the opening track even has strings!) but something on this record is different. The songs have a laser focus compared to their last record and the production on this record is light years ahead of anything the band has ever done. It seems, the band has discovered some elements of the modern recording process were worth considering. It’s still lo-fi with plenty of reverb, but wow – the garage sound has at least caught up with the 90s and the slacker melodies now sound more like Pavement than the Seeds. A gem of a record, worth the time to investigate. Try “God Bless Her, I Miss Her,” “Drink Up!” and “Moviehead.”

The third California based band to make this month’s drop box list, San Diego’s The Soft Pack mines the same garage rock territory as Sic Alps but this is a distinctively modern sound that is full of energy. Where the Sic Alps play a rather laid back form of garage rock, the Soft Pack is twitchy and nervous and full of life. On Strapped, the band fixes some of the mistakes that were present on 2010’s debut, and now have focused on writing fully formed songs showing both range and diversity but preserving the carefree nature of their debut. In short, it works and is a much stronger and consistently excellent record. Try “ Tallboy” “Chinatown” and “Second Look.”

September 29 2012 Drop Box Notes

09.29.12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 16 2012 Dropbox Notes

09.16.12

So here we are with the fall installment of new music and the fall is shaping up to be a good one. I am a little short of time these days, so the notes are going to be updated as I get time to complete them over the next couple of weeks. So, here is the new proposed format: I am going to post a drop box list, and then I’ll update the list with details as the month progresses. I am finding that it takes about thirty days for everyone to get what they need, so it should give me enough time to give you at least a capsule of the month’s artists during that time. Here is this month’s list:

Alberta CrossSongs Of Patience [2012]

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra Theatre is Evil (Deluxe Edition [2CD][2012]

Animal CollectiveCentipede Hz [2012]

Ariel PinkMature Themes [2012]

Band of HorsesMirage Rock [Deluxe Edition] [2CD][2012]

Ben Folds FiveThe Sound of the Life of the Mind [2012]

Billy TalentDead Silence (iTunes Edition) [2012]

BlastersFun on Saturday Night [2012]

Bob MouldSilver Age [2012]

CalexicoAlgiers [2012]

David Byrne & St. VincentLove This Giant [2012]

Death By Unga BungaThe Kids Are Up To No Good [2012]

Divine FitsA Thing Called Divine Fits [2012]

Early NovemberIn Currents [2012]

Elvis CostelloThe Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook [2012]

FlobotsThe Circle In The Square [2012]

Future Of The LeftThe Plot Against Common Sense [2012]

Gallon DrunkThe Road Gets Darker from Here [2012]

GallowsGallows [2012]

Get Well SoonThe Scarlet Beast O’Seven Heads [2012]

Get Well Soon The Scarlet Beast O’Seven Heads [Bonus Disc] [2012]

Gold MotelGold Motel [2012]

Grizzly BearShields [2012]

Hunting GroundsIn Hindsight [2012]

Joe Strummer & The MescalerosThe Hellcat Years [2012]

KillersBattle Born [Deluxe Edition] (iTunes) [2012]

KissDestroyer (Resurrected) (2012, Web) [AAC] [2012]

MastersonsBirds Fly South [2012]

NOFXSelf Entitled [2012]

NoisettesContact [2012]

Owl CityThe Midsummer Station [2012]

Paper RouteThe Peace Of Wild Things [2012]

Patterson HoodHeat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance [2012]

Raconteurs – “Open Your Eyes”  bw “You Make a Fool Out of Me” [7 ”] [2012]

RaveonettesObservator [2012]

Saint MotelVoyeur [2012]

Script#3 [2012]

SharksNo Gods [2012]

St. AugustineSoldiers [2012]

StarsThe North [2012]

SugarCopper Blue – Beaster (Deluxe Edition) [3CD] [2012]

Sugar – File Under Easy Listening (Deluxe Edition) [2CD] [2012]

SwansThe Seer [2CD] [2012]

Tender TrapTen Songs About Girls [2012]

UltravoxBrilliant [2012]

Walk The Moon – Walk The Moon [2012]

We The KingsParty, Fun, Love & Radio [2012]

Wild CubYouth [2012]

Many of you will recognize a number of names this month, but give the Sugar reissues, and Bob Mould’s new album a try. Sugar was an amazing live band formed by Bob Mould after the demise of Husker Du (in my top 10 bands of all time). Sugar had the balance of punk rock and melodic rock perfect – Try “If I Can’t Change your Mind,” “Changes,” and “Hoover Dam.” I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Also here are the artists I missed from last month ( If you haven’t listened to any of these yet, do try the Shoes ( Amazing power pop) and Turboweekend ( punk pop) to pick up your day!. I’ll fill in the details as we go!)

 Margot & The Nuclear So And So’sRot Gut, Domestic [2012]

Secret ColoursEP3 [2012]

ShoesIgnition [2012]

SkydiggersNorthern Shore [2012]

Slug GutsPlayin’ in Time with the Deadbeat [2012]

St. AugustineSoldiers [2012]

Susanna HoffsSomeday [2012]

The SpitfiresSongs From The Debt Generation [2012]

ToadiesPlay Rock Music [2012]

TurboweekendFault Lines [2012]

ViewCheeky for a Reason [2012]

White ArrowsDry Land Is Not A Myth [2012]

White WiresWWIII [2012]

Wild NothingNocturne [2012]

Work DrugsAbsolute Bearing [2012]

August 25, 2012 Drop Box Notes

08.25.12

I know…you all had thought I had forgotten about completing the note. No so fast. Here is an update to this month’s dropbox. Also, if you were a little quick on the draw, you might have missed a couple of late additions to the dropbox that I think you will find very interesting. I put in the new XX album (Coexist) and for those who missed the record the first time around, the Alabama Shakes by request. (See Notes 04.15.12) Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve started to put these notes in the dropbox in two formats – word (so you can click on the hyperlinks) and text (because of the small size and easy search). Finally (Eve), please read these notes if you want some kind of idea as to what type of music I’ve dropped into the dropbox. I’ve tried to give you some kind of clue as to the general type of music, some videos, and hopefully a tidbit or two as to why I like the music. If you missed something in the past (and you think you might like it because you are reading these notes), let me know and I’ll re-upload. You can drop me a note in the dropbox for Kelly and I’ll pick it up.

So, away we go:

On  their latest release, English indie pop band the XX have followed up their massive debut from 2009 with a terrific new record that shows progress and is amazingly, for a sophomore record, easily as good as their first. The difficulty with sophomore records is that a band has usually a whole lifetime to prepare the songs for the first, and the time to write and record the second is usually much shorter, so the songs are unusually not as strong. Complicating matters, the XX’s debut received critical acclaim and for very good reason. All of the songs on the first record were catchy, interesting and very well written. Hence, the difficult second record syndrome. None of that is present here. The first single from Coexist, “Angels” is going to be a massive hit. Here is a killer live version in a Tokyo hotel room: http://youtu.be/dYXejsku99Q . Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sims dream pop vocals over sparse instrumentation, is irresistible. Second single, “Chained” (http://youtu.be/DD7IwXWfDW4 ) picks up where the massive hit from the first album “Crystallized” (http://youtu.be/Pib8eYDSFEI) left off Take a minute to look and refresh your memory!). The XX know where their sweet spot is, and this album does not disappoint. Try in addition to “Angels” and “Chained” described above, “Sunset.” Released September 10.

 Alex Winston is a girl. Alexandra Winston’s enigmatic record captures the pop vocalist incorporating a diverse range of influences into uplifting and captivating record. Think 50’s and 60’s pop vocals with a modern edge and you can place King Con in context. Based in Detroit, Alex, whose classically trained vocals shines through these upbeat tracks, competes with the best female vocalists around in music today. If I had to make a comparison, this is like a young Kate Bush. Check out “Locomotive” for the vocal comparison. Try “Velvet Elvis” (http://youtu.be/820ygbHjKto ), “Choice Notes” (http://youtu.be/HNT_KGweANU ) (which is the first single) and “Sister Wife” (http://youtu.be/qzObsfboaJ0 ).

Nuremberg Germany’s the Audience put a new twist on Brit-pop on their new release called Hearts. If you had any doubt that the world has significantly and creatively expanded, at least in terms of music, then the Audience gives hope that one day the U.S. will discover that the crap they have force fed everyone on commercial radio for the past 40 years has largely missed the boat. Assembling elements of Brit Pop, and early 80’s post punk rock (Gang of Four and Public Image Limited) the Audience makes dance oriented music that catches you off guard with its catchy melodies. Try “Wolves” “Waves” and “We Are Just The Hearts.”

Berserk Bastards continue a recent trend of bizarre offerings from Norway. Sailing Away was recorded in various stops as the band sailed from Puerto Rico in the Caribbean through the Northwest Passage (Havana, Boston, Nashville, Prague and Oslo). Sailing Away is more than a bunch of sea shantys. Most interesting, at least to me, is that lead vocalist Fredrik Juell Andreas sounds a little like Ian Dury ( See Ian Dury and the Blockheads perform “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” (http://youtu.be/Xq4NZEtNTAo )) Try “ Me, Jeffrey and You”, “Sex Train” and “Into the Sun (http://youtu.be/WN9qxXAJSVU ).

Bloc Party is back. Really, if you were freaked out by the last record, which was dismal, the newest record is a rewarding return to form. Like the XX, the Bloc Party’s debut was a massive record (Remember Silent Alarm (2006) and the single “Helicopter?” http://youtu.be/2R6S5CJWlco ) with the band winning NME’s Album of the Year? Skip forward a few years, and the rumors that the band was breaking up after the lackluster Intimacy in 2009. After a three year hiatus the band seems re-energized. “3*3” is a full blast sonic assault that should pick you up. Here it is very live: http://youtu.be/uoUwfqaRMI8 at a Bloc Party fan club gig at the Garage, Glasgow on June 19, 2012. Overall, Four is a welcome return to form. Try, “Octopus” (http://youtu.be/TkeUFRK4i7w ), “Day Four” and “Truth.”

The Darlingtons’ debut, Decades Dance, is like most first albums, a little flawed, but showing huge potential once the band finds their own voice. Decades Dance is a little over produced, and the New Order/ Smiths elements are a little pervasive (the singer has a little Morrissey in his voice), but I found the songs were worthy of repeated playing. I only wish that whoever produced this record had thought to leave the rough edges in the mix. Hailing from Somerset, in southwest England, the band is probably a great live act having played together for 4 years in small clubs, and on the right bill, the anthems would find their way as pleasing crowd sing-a-longs that are always fun. So, don’t skip this “diamond in the rough.” There is enough about this record that makes it worthy of the drop box inclusion. Try “It Hangs” (http://youtu.be/6oVPB8B4bIM ), Everything” (http://youtu.be/2Kfa-a-DXYQ ) and “Ship at Sea.”

 You would never know that the Dirty Projectors have already released seven albums since their inception in 2002. What makes their records so interesting and captivating is David Longstreth’s vocal styling and phrasing which catches your ear and brings you along the journey with him. The bands simple clean playing never detracts and the songs are full bodied melodic alt-indie, that make you smile. That’s it. It’s the smile factor that makes this different from most albums. Often associated with the same New York scene from which the Strokes emerged, this indie rock doesn’t traverse the pop vein, and the songs on Swing Lo Magellan are fully realized such that you would kill to see them on a small stage in a dark bar. Sure, there is a somewhat folk feel to the songs, but this is a great change up from the verse chorus verse of modern rock. Try “Gun has No Trigger” (http://youtu.be/-KAc2BrsF5s ) (a little David Bowie like), “Dance For You” and “The Socialites” (http://youtu.be/SqG_MuesCog ) (Live from Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on July 9, 2012).

Chicago’s the Dowsing, travel similar territory to the Weakerthans and the Get Up Kids, with their own unique style that on It’s Still Pretty Terrible, their debut results in some catchy pop punk songs with witty lyrics. Upbeat, with a wry sense of humor, the band doesn’t mine new territory, but who cares. What are you really looking for in a record anyway – something that makes you want to sing along while you are driving or working out, that makes you shake your head up and down – right? This record does exactly that. As I mentioned in an earlier note, the test is really, would I want to go out and see these guys perform live. Yup. Enough said. Try “What Did You Ever Do?” “Gengar! Gengar! Gengar!” and “Midwest Living.”

Moving through the D’s, Dropkick, on Paper Trails finds Scotland’s power popsters (or as they describe themselves an “alt-country power pop band from Scotland” with “fabulous melodies a-plenty and more hooks than Bob Nudd’s fishing bag”) in terrific form. Like the Shoes, Dropkick’s brand of power pop is catchy; Beatles influenced, and well played. You’ll find yourself sing-along with the harmonies on the choruses, which are big, acoustic flavored and catchy as hell. See for yourself, as Dropkick play “Paper Trails” in their rehearsal studio: http://youtu.be/hIj-ruiA8mE .If you like power pop as a genre, then you’re going to love this record. Try “Until I Fall Away,” “Hang Around” and “Going Where You’re Going”.

Last of the D’s is Dusted from the mind of Toronto Ontario’s and Holy Fuck’s leader Brian Borcherdt, who in the form of alt-county rock, has produced a truly captivating record. The haunting vocals on opening track “All Comes Down” segue into “(Into The) Atmosphere” (http://youtu.be/yifZZKbAccg ) both hinting at what is to come – a beautiful lo-fi album with slightly distorted vocals making for a truly great record. You are going to love the guitar on this record, and there are some surprises along the way, with several of the songs having the potential to break into the popular territory, in particular, the grunge drenched “Cut Them Free.”  If you are expecting Holy Fuck (which is Canadian electronica) – this is not it. The pastoral leanings of Total Dust are a great change of pace, and therefore dropbox worthy. Try also “Bruises”, “Cut Them Free” and “Dusted.”

Brooklyn indie-folk husband and wife duo that make up Family Band, Kim Krans and Jonny Ollsin (Children, S.T.R.E.E.T.S.) on Grace & Lies, their second album, capture the correct balance between the visual performance and sound. Not to say this is a perfect record. What makes this compelling is the vocals of Kin Krans wrapped around the chord progressions of early Cure sounding (See The Cure Pornography) guitar. There is a little sameness to some of the tracks, but when scattered through a playlist, these are in sharp contrast to most indie rock. Try “Lace”, “Moonbeams” and “Keeper.”

Picking up the pace, rather dramatically, The Henry Clay People, like the Vaccines play fast paced Brit-rock with flair although they are not British (from Glendale, CA!) and who formed in 2005 solely to play Coachella. From these rather humble beginnings and after multiple tours, HCP’s brand of punk rock is going to save music. On Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives brothers Joey and Andy Siara play high energy rock and roll like they are the sole saviors of punk rock, and they just might be. Like a crazy mix of the Replacements, Ramones, Blur, and Stiff Little Fingers, the Henry Clay People, pack 11 songs into 31 minutes, and capture the energy of what music is supposed to sound like – high energy, spirited rock n’ roll. If you liked the Japandroids, you’ll love the Henry Clay People.  Try “Ever Band We Ever loved”, “25 For The Rest Of Our Lives” and “Keep Our Weekends Free.”

Edmonton’s Hot Panda mine a completely different territory than most bands, and that is why, for something Canadian, they are somewhat of an anomaly. Perhaps moving to Vancouver has something to do with the sound of their latest record (F&J go see them!). On Go Outside, their third full length, Hot Panda has integrated their influences (probably from touring with their influences – The Ravonettes, The Von Bondies (with whom they toured Europe), Art Brut and Tokyo Police Club) into a complete indie rock vision. Try “Future Markets” (http://youtu.be/Ke3du31qLz4 ), “Maybe Now” and “Winter Song.”

Brooklyn based, but formed in Washington D.C., Jukebox the Ghost is a three piece, who on Safe Travels, take a slight detour from their previous records. Its still energetic pop rock, but now the songs are more personal (and no sci-fi themed as on their past work). There is a slight 70’s a.m. feel to some of these songs, but I didn’t find it too distracting, and like the Bay City Rollers, these are sonically light pop rock with strong melodies that sink into your brain. You’ll get why they have found success on tour with the likes of Ben Fold’s Five and The Moldy Peaches (Adam Green). Really, this is a strong record, it just represents a reorientation of your music brain to encompass what they are trying to achieve. Try: “Say When,” “Don’t Let Me Fall Behind” and “Devil on Your Side.”

Newcastle Australia’s Local Resident Failure has been around awhile, so the fact that it took 5 years to release their debut record, A Breathe of Stale Air, is somewhat surprising as I’ve seen a number of video posted on You Tube demonstrating their proficient straight forward punk rock in small clubs around the countryside. Like most of the new generation of punk rock bands, the sledding is a little tough because it is difficult to find places to play where the bands are not forced to perform with hardcore and metal core bands. This doesn’t seem to have influence Local Resident Failure’s debut however, as this is a throwback to the early days of 2nd generation punk rock with short, sharp and witty songs, played fast and meant to be played loud. The record is short, clocking in around 25 minutes, but thoroughly enjoyable. Try “Playing The Race Card,” “Sad Beginning, Happy Ending” and “The Funeral.” Also check out this pretty cool promo slagging the band (needs some Aussie subtitles though) http://youtu.be/QVu-C1h1dgA

 Lost in the Trees occupies the other end of the spectrum that Local Resident Failure inhabits. Although not a fan of classical music, Lost in the Trees, led by Berklee music grad, Ari Picker, A Church That Fits Our Needs is a tribute to his mother who took her own life in 2009. The songs are orchestral and moving and Picker’s vocals contrast nicely with Emma Nadeau’s soaring harmonies and melodies. Amazing cello (Never thought I’d write that – ever.) Don’t be put off by the subject matter, as these songs are really uplifting in a quiet way. Simply beautiful music. Try “Golden Eyelids” “Neither Here Nor There” and “Garden.” Here are a couple of songs from their last record here for NPR: http://youtu.be/QkEjJpuZbog

Post hardcore band Make Do And Mend move to the middle on Everything You Ever Love their second full length record. Formed in West Hartford and then moving to Boston, the band has softened a little and developed more of an anthemic hardcore approach to their songwriting, which on Everything You Ever Love represents a great leap forward. The songs here are tight, melodic and sweeping that make you want to sing along. Opener, “Blur” is the first single, probably because it is the most radio friendly. Not bad, but there is better stuff on this record. Try Disassemble,” “Count,” and “Drown in It.”

What do you get when you cross the Beach Boys with the Ramones? Well you get the Hotlines, a British pop punk band (from Brighton – a beach community) that incorporates harmonies with early Green Day song structures. Okay Hotlines is a little derivative, but still, in my mind, a terrific amount of fun. Try “Easy for Me” to get a feel for this “surf” type punk without actually being “surf punk” ala Agent Orange. These are light, bouncy, and upbeat songs about stuff the Beach Boys actually would have sung about. Try “Take The Wheel,” “Psycho Girl” and “It’ll Be Alright.”

What do musicians who are hiatus from their regular jobs do on vacation? Well they form a super group and record lovely indie pop. Lightships is Dave McGowan (guitar, Teenage Fanclub), Brendan O’Hare (drums, from the first incarnation of Teenage Fanclub), Tom Crossley (flute, International Airport and The Pastels) and Bob Kildea (bass, Belle & Sebastian) and this is a tender EP of acoustic pop as a follow up to their debut Electric Cables. This EP released on July 30, 2012 is kind of a teaser to a small tour in Scotland and England beginning this week. These are optimistic, love songs that are hauntingly beautiful. There is only four songs – so try them all!

I know, you all have probably heard Marcy Playground’s ubiquitous hit “Sex and Candy” (1997). Maybe you are even tired of it …a little bit. So skip that track on Lunch, Recess & Detention, a collection of rarities (Recess) b-sides (Detention), and new material (Lunch) released on July 17, 2012. I don’t know, I still love that track, but with this collection, you get to see why the band shouldn’t be relegated to one hit wonder status. Marcy Playground writes some of the catchiest power pop imaginable and surely there is something on this record that will get your foot tapping. For me, it’s the lovely “Bye Bye.” So, try “Bye Bye,” “The Needle and the Damage Done (amazing cover) and “Bang Bang Bang.”

If you haven’t heard of the Mixtapes yet, then really give this record a chance. Formed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 201, the Mixtapes blend of Replacements styled punk rock is a real pickup. They have released 48 songs in over a year and a half, and on the Even The Worst Nights debut they have captured the perfect blend of fun and songwriting that make this one of the most played records in my collection right now. Vocalists  Maura Weaver and Ryan Rockwell voices blend the way that John Doe and Exene Cervenka did in X and make this smart pop punk record a gem. Want to know what the songs are about? Then look here: http://www.altpress.com/features/entry/track_by_track_mixtapes_even_on_the_worst_nights/

Otherwise Try: “Seven Mile,” “You Must Not Be From Around Here” and “I’ll Give you A Hint.”

Surry, England’s Newton Faulkner has distinctive Adult Contemporary vibe to his music, and that alone, for some, might be a little off-putting. However, I’ve come a long way over the past 40 years or so and found this latest record more like Del Amitri, a 90’s British band I loved, and the light acoustic rock, although at times a little “samey” thoroughly enjoyable. Definitely, for me, you have to be in the mood for Write It on Your Skin. Maybe I’m just getting old. Try “Brick By Brick,” “Clouds,” and “Write It on Your Skin.” (Note: ignore the lyrics – sing the choruses!)

Bristol based band Peggy Sue, play all of the songs of the movie Scorpio Rising a record that is due out on September 18, 2012 but you are getting to hear it a month early. What is so special about this is that the band Peggy Sue performs rocking updates of Kenneth Anger’s 1963 cult movie hit “Scorpio Rising” and the results are smashing! (Like that? I bet you thought I was going to say amazing, right?). You are going to know several of the songs on Peggy Sue Play the Songs of Scorpio Rising as they are classic pop and rock hits, but these updates are with a modern twist and revitalize the songs. Try “My Boyfriends Back, “Hit The Road Jack” and “Torture.”

 On Gossamer, Boston based Passion Pit follow up their successful debut Manners (2009) with more electropop that, like Phoenix, is catchy, compelling, and travels new ground while not distancing them from what made them successful in the first place. So, in short – this is a good record, every bit as good as their debut. The subject matter is somewhat odd for this type of genre, but vocalist Michael Angelakos is dealing with some odd stuff in his life and has used this album as an opportunity to work it out. Put in context, the songs are hummable, and although there is some deep soul searching amongst the tunes, I enjoyed all the bleeps and synth-gadgetry that smart musicians make. Try: “Take A Walk,” “Love is Greed” and “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy.”

 I’ve covered the Rocket Summer previously, so I’m not going to traverse the same ground. On Life Will Write The Words, Bryce Avary (who is all of Rocket Summer) is a return to his earlier records of simply constructed acoustic based rock songs ( in this case about the value of experience and learning through doing). In short, this record is a pleasant return to what was great about the Rocket Summer – melodic and heartfelt songs that are easily relatable (even at my advanced age). The songs on this record would make a compelling live show. I could see a mass sing-a-long with the crowd. Like Ryan Adams, these songs are meant for the crowd as much as for the writer. Try: “Revival,” “Old Love” and “Underrated.”

Huntington Beach is the birth place of Runner Runner but they don’t sound like any of the bands you might recall from the OC, because, although pop punk, this is more like the All American Rejects variant than traditional Blink 182 variant. Like candy, too muck of this will make you sick, but when dispersed throughout your playlist, you’ll find your self humming the choruses on Runner Runner, and looking for the sweet piano hooks present throughout the record. Nothing too deep on this lyrically. A little too slick, but still a worthwhile addition to the collection. Try: “Unstoppable,” “She’s My Kinda Girl” and “See You Around.”