July 7, 2013 Dropbox Notes

Happy Canada Day and 4th of July to those on both sides of the 49th parallel. Well, this past month saw some interesting releases featuring some bands that you’ve likely heard of before as well as some newcomers of note.

Janet Devlin - Hide and SeekI dropped a late add into the box today as the debut album from Janet Devlin called Hide and Seek finally leaked, and it is frankly a really good pop album. Janet, you might remember was the startling contestant on the 8th series of England’s X Factor who rejected Simon Cowell’s recording contract offer after finishing 5th. If you have not seen here amazing cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” then check it out, because her voice is so unique, it seems as if she actually wrote the thing http://youtu.be/f4EE4bIFixQ . As for the new record, it captures the unique quality of her voice, and there are a couple of terrific tunes on the record. Should be a massive hit when it finally comes out in September, 2013. Try “Wonderful, ”“Working For The Man,” and “Things We Lost In The Fire.”

Beware of Darkness - OrthodoxFitting somewhere between Jet and the Black Keys, Los Angeles based Beware of Darkness plays gritty alt-rock and roll which on their debut Orthodox demonstrates a broad range of influences, but eventually you come out at the end finding that there is something more here than just their influences. Although the opener “Howl” is the public relations hit, having performed it live on Conan (here: http://dai.ly/xzxuxk ), the track that made me love this album was the slow burner “All Who Remain.” Solid throughout, given that there is still no place in the universe that consistently plays great music, you might as well expose everyone to this. The album falls off a little at the end as it diverges into new psychedelia, but overall is well worth the listen. Try “All Who Remain”, “Howl” and the stones influenced “Sweet Girl.”

Fox And The Law - Scarlet FeverI found a couple of older things lying around and figured as I had missed them, they should be brought to your full attention. Like Beware of Darkness, Fox and The Law plays garage blues rock at full speed. If you were going to go to a small club and wanted to see a straightforward rock n roll show – Fox and The Law is who I’d see.  Fox and the Law are essentially new generation pub rockers. Great energy throughout, the single “Treat Me Right” is catchy and the blues grunge feel of the record, suits those late night evenings. Try “Treat Me Right,” “Unbelievable,” and “Something Bad.”

Saint Alvia - Static PsalmsSaint Alvia blew me away. Another rock record, I love this record and have played it endlessly for the past couple of months. From Burlington Ontario, I had never heard of these guys before stumbling upon this record. Who knew they were nominated for a Juno award in 2008? Named after Ernest Alvia Smith, Canada’s last living recipient of the Victoria Cross for valor in WWII, they are a patchwork of influences from punk, grunge, blues, and pretty much everything in between. On Static Psalms, the band produces an amalgam of catchy punk influenced rock with some dance tracks stuffed in between. I ShXX you not.  Try “Define Me” (extra credit if you can name the sample, great video too: http://youtu.be/d2bMimAZtPw ( Is that snow?)), “Murder in a Motel,” and “The Pressure.”

Jonas & The Massive Attraction - Live Out LoudKeeping with our theme that Canada produces great rock bands (if you ignore Nickleback), and following the rock and roll theme established by this month’s dropbox, Jonas and the Massive Attraction are a hard rock band from Montreal led by another Juno award nominee Jonas Tomalty who is better known for his blues albums, but with this new project, is producing killer melodic hard rock. Not sure who produced the cover art, as it makes the band look more like the Jonas Brothers, and effectively disguises what is underneath. This is traditional Canadian hard rock – think April Wine, updated, and anthemic. I had a great time, and found myself singing along to some of the tracks. Try the blistering “Riot,” the catchy ballad “Bonnie & Clyde” (here is a great live version in Montreal at L’Astral 27-04-2013 http://youtu.be/waZnZ9ARjeA  ) and “Hope Your Happy.”

1975 - IVThe 1975, have appeared in the drop box previously. Although they’ve been playing around since 2002, they tested out a number of different names, before they finally settled on The 1975. The name was inspired by a note hand written inside a book vocalist Matthew Healy found, which, coupled with some other writings on the previous owner’s descent into insanity and desire to take their life, struck a chord with Healy. IV is the band’s fourth EP, and is the build up to the band’s first full length album, which is expected to be released in September. It is hard to go wrong with this band’s sound, exemplified by the opening track “The City” with its upbeat dance friendly repetitive chorus. The electronic under bed highlights the hauntingly beautiful “Haunt/Bed” (See how I did that… ). A great introduction to the band if you missed the earlier EPs, so stay tuned to see how this all comes together. Not quite electronic, not quite indie pop, falling somewhere in the sweet spot in the middle. Try …them all. It is an EP after all.

Bicycles - Stop Thinking So MuchSome more Canadians, but now of the twee pop variety, the Bicycles broke up in 2009 (their website says hiatus…but it was a long one). Now after 4 years, the Bicycles return with a gem of an indie pop record on Stop Thinking So Much. The album bounces seamlessly through indie folk to power pop and with a large amount of variety to keep the album from stumbling in its quieter moments. A great change of pace. Try the Beach Boys influenced “Congratulations,” “Break This Hold” and “The Sun Don’t Want To End.”

Blitzen Trapper - Blitzen Trapper [Deluxe Edition]Sub Pop describes them as experimental country folk, but Portland’s Blitzen Trapper is much more than the label would indicate. Blitzen Trapper is the reissue of the band’s debut record recorded in 2003 and remastered with 5 additional songs. The album as originally released was available in very limited quantities, so to have it re-released in all its sonic goodness is well worth the listen. As this was released on record store day, it was pressed on 180g black vinyl, but also a very limited edition of 200 LPs was available on Coke-Bottle Clear vinyl and mixed in at random with the standard pressing at participating Record Store Day stores only. Looking back on the album, Blitzen Trapper’s frontman Eric Earley stated, “I don’t remember much about making this first record, too long ago maybe. I guess I remember this Mexican dive bar we’d go to after sessions with GW (Gregg Williams) who was engineering the record. We’d drink tequila and play pool and watch Blazers games. Drew took the cover shot down at the coast at some junk shop off the highway. An Indian and a zebra.” There is quite a wide variety of sounds on this album which is essentially well-crafted indie rock. Try “All Girl Team” “Pink Padded Slippers” and “Cracker Went Down.”

Boxer Rebellion - PromisesBritish indie rockers Boxer Rebellion have taken a beating in the English music press, and on Promises, they will likely take some more abuse. For the uninitiated, Boxer Rebellion have poppier leanings than most bands in the new progressive rock genre, typified by Explosions in the Sky, but here the atmospherics of prior records are clearer and more reliant on Roxy Music than on any marriage to the new progressive sound. There are nods to the National with the buzz saw guitar sounds and emotive vocals, and other like-minded Indie rock explorers, but the Boxer Rebellion traverses their own road in finding the balance between synth rock and indie, so as to avoid Yes comparisons. Try “Diamonds”, “Dream” and “Keep Moving.”

State of Drama - FighterRule Number 1 in the record business – start your album off with a great song. Swedish pop rock band, State of Drama follows the rules with catchy opener “Can’t Find You Anywhere.”  Essentially a competition band, having performed in Sweden’s numerous music contests including participating in the Eurovision Song Contest, this self-titled debut includes their competition hits “Maybe” and the aforementioned “Can’t Find you Anywhere.” Hey it’s a pop rock record, so you should be able to find something you like. For me, it was “Fighter,” “Can’t Find You Anywhere” and “Rain.”

Rise Against - Revolutions Per Minute [10 Year Anniversary]I am an admitted Rise Against fan, and have been since their debut. Not to establish credibility, but rather to acknowledge that long before they were popular on radio (for once!) there was something different about this band. On RPM, their second album, the band found their sound, a mix of street punk and anarchism with a focus on the social political themes and relationships. Tim McIlrath said in an interview with Punknews.org “RPM was kind of sarcastic; so many bands just throwing the word “revolution” around and that kind of thing you were led to believe there was a revolution every minute and it was a word that I still didn’t take lightly and I was upset that it was being taken lightly.” Well, as their last release on Fat Wreck Chords, RPM was a game changer of sorts as this released propelled them to Geffen Records and essentially stardom. However, RPM is raw in many aspects and after ten years, the songs upon reflection have taken on a life of their own. Hard to beat, and still sounds fresh today. Try “Like The Angel, ” “Heaven Knows (Demo)” and “Broken English (Demo)”. Crunchy guitars rule!

Roshambo - Lonesome Men From The WoodsDid you like San Cisco from last year? If so, then Roshambo is for you. On Lonesome Men From The Woods, Karlskoga Sweden’s Roshambo traverse similar pop rock territory with such charm, that it is impossible not to like this record. Following our record rule Number 1, Roshambo start with the killer track “Babylon” which is impossible not to sing-a-long with. The trio is energetic and the songs well-crafted. I would love to see these guys live. A little like Capital Cities, but with Australia’s pop sensibilities, Roshambo is likely a Swedish anachronism. Available only on Bandcamp, give this a spin. Try “Babylon,” Koalas” and “We Gag.”

Puggy - To Win The WorldOn To Win The World, Puggy, ( a trio consisting of Matt Irons, bassist Romain Descampes, and Swedish drummer Egil “Ziggy” Franzén, continue their unique blend of melodic acoustic flavored rock with smooth vocal harmonies. There is a French rock feel to the music, likely caused by the influences absorbed from living and touring in Belgium where the band who is based and where all of the members met. Consequently, Puggy is massively popular in Belgium and France. There are a diverse array of influences and styles on this record which traverses both acoustic and dance rock territory. Try “To Win The World, “Goes Like This,” and the instantly likeable “Move On.”

Postelles - ...And It Shook MeNew York four piece, the Postelles, write power pop with an edge that will grab your heart immediately on their second LP, …And It Shook Me. The greatest aspect of this album are the well-crafted songs that are punchy and not given over to the saccharine pop that one often finds in records in this genre. There is a Brooklyn feel on the tunes, likely the influence of producer Albert Hammond (Strokes). However, this is not a Strokes copy band, but something else altogether, more in the vein of Saturday Looks Good To Me. The songs bounce along, and the melodies melt your heart. I found myself putting this on repeat in the office, the Knack (Remember them?) – like cover “Caught By Surprise” (http://youtu.be/VZi2CMZT3zc ) instantly hummable. Try “Caught By Surprise,” “And It Shook Me”, and “Running Red Lights” (http://youtu.be/ZeSgKrStQG0 ).

Portugal. The Man - Evil FriendsWho would have ever thought that I would hear Portland weirdoes, Portugal. The Man ( Yes, that period belongs there just to throw off the grammar check in word) on KROQ. However, just like KROQ to play one of the weaker songs on the record “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” rather than actually spend time listening to the LP before deciding on which track to expose to the mindless masses who blindly follow the formula espoused by the corporate radio dictator in an effort to exert mind control in the form of mass consumerism (sorry blanked out there……). Back to the point. Portugal. The Man’s latest record, their 7th LP, Evil Friends, does take a stab at the commercial entertainment but still largely retaining the charm and uniqueness that makes their earlier releases essential listening. This is indie rock blended with psychedelia, and lyrically progressive. The songs are instantly memorable and with each listen of the record, new discoveries are made. If “Creep in a T-Shirt” isn’t a hit record then nothing is. See for yourself: Portugal. The Man performing “Creep In A T-Shirt” Live on KCRW (http://youtu.be/TTgC6BszjQk ). Note to KROQ – stop playing the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I can’t take anymore….really….and play more like this. It’s okay to expose the masses to a variety of great records, popularity is not the demon. Try “Creep In a T-Shirt,” “Hip Hop Kids” and “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)”

Pigeon Detectives - We Met At SeaOn the Pigeon Detectives latest record We Met At Sea, their 4th, the band finds itself at a bit of a crossroads. This is particularly true when NME gave the record a score of 3/10 and accused the band of ripping itself off. Brutal. However, having listened to this record for the past couple of months, there is still enough life in the record to warrant inclusion. Gone are the rough edges of the brilliant first two albums Wait For Me (2007) and Emergency (2008) that brought instant fame to the band, and produced 5 top 5 singles. It is difficult to imagine the pressure of trying to follow up the massive fame explosion, and We Met At Sea is the bands second attempt to create something more lasting than the raw enthusiasm that propelled the band into the spotlight. The mod edges are still intact and like the Palma Violets and Miles Kane this record fits nicely in the mod-dance genre but shows the band trying to grow a bit. It is easy for NME to dismiss the record, particularly when the memory of those earlier records and constant exposure to the band (unlike here in the U.S. where absolutely no one has ever heard of them), is so fresh. Really, this is worth the effort, you won’t be disappointed. Try “I Won’t Come Back,” (http://youtu.be/tl4vg-de0n4  ) , “Light Me Up,” and “I Don’t Mind.”

Paper Aeroplanes - Little LettersIf She & Him were Welsh, and a little more folk oriented, they would likely be Paper Aeroplanes, comprised of Sarah Howells and Richard Llewellyn who on their third album, Little Letters, produce an album of delicate songs brimming with melody and carried by Sarah Howells distinctive voice  which reminds me a little of Janet Devlin mentioned earlier). These are lovingly crafted acoustic songs tell stories which are atmospheric, emotional, and compelling. Most striking is the production on this record, which provides depth and space with a warm tone uncommon in this digital age. Try “Multiple Love,” Little Letters, (http://youtu.be/wC29jfNE7PQ ) and “Palm of Your Hand.”

Oblivians - DesperationMemphis blues-garage band the Oblivions return after 17 years with a brand new release of swampy garage rock, picking up where the left off. Progenitors of the 90’s garage punk scene with the Gories, Supersuckers and New Fast Automatic Daffodils. the Oblivions are a sonic force even though they must be older than dirt (okay about my age). Unlike the current garage scene with its psychedelic underpinnings (Tame Impala, Ty Segal), the Oblivions have not changed their garage punk formula staying true to their roots, stepped in Memphis blues and the late 60’s garage bands like the Seeds, Kingsman, and the Shadows of Knight. Perhaps a little much for the uninitiated to play all the way through, but in small chunks, you’ll become a devotee. Try: “Woke Up in A Police Car,”, “Fire Detector,” and “I’ll be Gone.”

New Politics - A Bad Girl In Harlem

It must be difficult to be a band with a hit record on its first try. What goes unnoticed is that many bands have had essentially a lifetime to produce that first batch of songs, and when they see the light of day, and are loved and appreciated, the pressure to write more of the same must be oppressive, and as history has taught, that sophomore record is going to determine whether the band stays or breaks up in a raging heap of bitter disappointment. Look the odds are against survival. In the 2000s, the list of bands that are essentially one hit wonders is much larger than the list of bands with repeated hit records. This is not to mention the endless number of quality bands that are only discovered after their useful existence. So where does Copenhagen’s New Politics fit in this discussion? Well, in the realm of faceless Anglo bands, this record shows that the trio (David Boyd, Søren Hansen, and Louis Vecchio) who wrote the ubiquitous hit “Yeah Yeah Yeah”  (http://youtu.be/II0uqBUewD0 )has real staying power. The first single “Harlem” (http://youtu.be/NVOUTkFkMNU  )  is a catchy, throbby, dance pop track and the rest of the record contains other alterno-pop songs that will have the kids dancing in the aisles at their shows. Nothing deep here, but overall an enjoyable record. Try “Harlem”, “Tonight Your Perfect” and “Just Like Me.”

Front Bottoms - Talon of the HawkReally, more thought should be put into band names. If you’ve spent some time in my office, we’ve spent numerous hours crafting a fine number of useful and memorable band names. So how does one decide that Front Bottoms should be a band name? Stuck with a terrible name, no one will be able to ask for this record at the local retailer, as it is impossible to recall. What is unusual however, is that the Front Bottoms songs are way better than there name. Maybe it’s the fact that they are from Jersey, Bergen County, NJ, to be precise. Essentially a two piece, on Tales From The Talon, the band’s fourth LP, the band produces finely crafted funny tales that are catchy pop-punk with a surprisingly huge sound. This is a light-hearted upbeat record, that will leave you wanting more.  Vocalist/Guitarist Brian Sella’s voice has a great tone and the talk-singing is very effective here. Try “Skeleton,” “Twin Size Mattress” (http://youtu.be/-1rzsT2t2YY ) and Funny You Should Ask.”

All-About - Suburban HeartOn the All-About ‘s debut, Suburban Heart, Zac Coe produces a superior pop-punk record, with a similar talk-singing vocal similar to the Front-Bottoms above, but whereas the focus for the Front Bottoms was semi-serious, even light-hearted lyrics, here The All-About’s cover a much broader lyrical palate, with songs about love and loss, carefully crafted into a mesmerizing, albeit brief, release. Sure, there are some songs that take a little work to get into, but the acoustic synth-pop is easy to digest, and like it or not, even on the most lyrically difficult songs, you find yourself wanting to sing-a-long. Essentially a well formed bedroom project, this is a terrific start. Try “Summer Sheets”, “Suburban Heart,” and “Nashville.”

There are lots of great albums at the bottom of the list this month, but little time to cover it all. Among my favorites are the mod revivalists Riots, the new Editors, and American Fangs. I’ve also upgraded the Miles Kane with the deluxe edition. Anyway, until next time, let’s be safe out there!

Here is this months List:

  1. Beware of Darkness – Orthodox [2013]
  2. Fox And The Law – Scarlet Fever [2012]
  3. Saint Alvia – Static Psalms [2012]
  4. Jonas & The Massive Attractions – Live Out Loud [2013]
  5. 1975 – IV [2013]
  6. Bicycles – Stop Thinking So Much [2013]
  7. Blitzen Trapper – Blitzen Trapper [Deluxe Edition] (RSD) [2013]
  8. Boxer Rebellion – Promises [2013]
  9. State of Drama – Fighter [2013]
  10. Rise Against – Revolutions Per Minute [10 Year Anniversary] [2013]
  11. Roshambo – Lonesome Men From The Woods [2013]
  12. Puggy – To Win The World [2013]
  13.  Postelles – …And It Shook Me [2013]
  14. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends [2013]
  15. Pigeon Detectives – We Met At Sea [2013]
  16.  Paper Aeroplanes – Little Letters [2013]
  17. Oblivians – Desperation [2013]
  18. New Politics – A Bad Girl In Harlem [2013]
  19. Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk [2013]
  20. All-About – Suburban Heart [2013]
  21. Beady Eye – BE [Japanese Edition] [2013]
  22. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest [2013]
  23. Psychic Ills – One Track Mind [2013]
  24. Rhett Miller – The Dreamer Acoustic Version [2013]
  25. Smith Westerns – Soft Will [2013]
  26. These New Puritans – Field of Reeds [2013]
  27.  Olms – The Olms [2013]
  28. Miles Kane – Don’t Forget Who You Are (Deluxe Edition) [2013]
  29. Limousines – Hush [2013]
  30. Hooded Fang – Gravez [2013]
  31. Anarbor – Burnout [2013]
  32. Abandon Kansas – A Midwest Summer [2013]
  33. Gaslight Anthem – Singles Collection 2008-2011 [2013]
  34.  Jimmy Eat World – Damage [2013]
  35. Big Deal – June Gloom [2013]
  36. Capital Cities – In a Tidal Wave of Mystery [2013]
  37. American Fangs – American Fangs [2013]
  38. Kodaline – In a Perfect World [2013]
  39. Sir Sly – Gold [2013]
  40. Tijuana Panthers – Semi-Sweet [2013]
  41. Banquets – Banquets [2013]
  42. Builders and The Butchers – Western Medicine [2013]
  43. Captain, We’re Sinking – The Future Is Cancelled [2013]
  44. Editors – The Weight Of Your Love [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  45. Middle Class Rut – Pick Up Your Head [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  46. Mowgli’s – Waiting for the Dawn [2013]
  47. Riots – Time For Truth [2013]
  48.  Japanther – Eat Like Lisa Act Like Bart [2013]
  49. Electric Guest – Good America [2013]
  50.  Janet Devlin – Hide & Seek [2013]

April 07 2013 Drop Box Notes

Notes 04.07.13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

December 09 2012 Drop Box Notes

12.09.12

As the end of the year approaches, I have decided to clean up some things I missed along the way this past year. So, this month’s offerings include some albums from as early as January that were either missed, ignored, or re-discovered (Chairlift, Empires, Delorentos, and Django Django, all come to mind) as well as some new releases, and some that are still awaiting release (Yo La Tengo doesn’t come out until January 15, 2013). At the end of the month, I’ll drop into the box a playlist full of what I thought were the best songs of 2012 and my picks for best albums of the past year. If you’ve been keeping up with the drop box, you’ll find that you have most of the albums that will appear on a large number of best of the year lists including Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Consequence of Sound. If there is something you missed, feel free to drop me a note, and I’ll add it to the box.

First up is a reissue. Old 97s reissue Too Far To Care the band’s 3rd record after 15 years was not only their major label debut but demonstrated the band at the peak of its powers effortlessly blending country and rock into a potent mixture. Punks loved this band because the tempos were in synch with the punk ethos, and they were already familiar with other attempts to find the balance between punk and country in the form of Rank and File, Beat Farmers, and KD Lang and the Reclines. Check out “Timebomb” a masterpiece in the genre. This is a 2 CD effort with the first CD the original album plus a couple of rare outtakes and a promo. The second CD, They Made A Monster: The Too Far to Care Demos features 11 previously unissued demo recordings from the original album sessions. Try “Timebomb,” “Just like California” and “House That Used To Be.”

Freemantle, West Australia’s four piece indie pop-stars, San Cisco are huge in Australia, so they are not huge in the U.S. ( I have no idea about Canada J). They should be massive, but in the glut of new music, and the new regionalism that is developing, they have largely been ignored state side. I hope that will change, because these are catchy, enjoyable sing-a-long songs with some great hooks. This is their debut album, but the disc includes the EP with the killer song “Awkward” featuring the boy-girl vocals of lead singer Jordi Davieson and drummer Scarlett Stevens. (Check out the great old school video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukNOaKeUEQY ) This is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of the year: Try also “Rocket Ship”, Wild Things” and “Stella.”

Los Angeles’ Allah-Las (get it?) play better than there weak ass name. On their self titled debut, Allah-Las is essentially a 60s California beach garage psychedelic sound played through a modern lens, and frankly, for a couple of record store clerks from LA’s best music store “Amoeba” the music is like the fabulous Fleshtones, balancing the two major influences. Think small smoky bar at the end of the 1960s with the Doors as the headliner. You’ll get the feel. Try “ Busman’s Holiday” (http://youtu.be/IpRh5bChBSM ), “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind) (http://youtu.be/fiJYecS0vU0 ) and “No Voodoo.”

 As you might have guessed, Canadian music hold a special place in my heart (April Wine, Triumph, Moxy, Prism and Trooper – the 70’s were awesome!). What I find most interesting is the creativity of bands coming out of the great white north. A prime example is Toronto’s Crystal Castles who on III capture the feel of the city in the winter. Ethan Kath met Alice Glass are the perfect duo with Ethan producing the tracks and Alice’s creepy ethereal vocals laid over the top. This is video game melancholic music but rewarding when you are in the mood. There is really nothing like this out there commercially and Crystal Castles occupies a unique niche in the indie world. Well worth the exploration. Try “Plague” (http://youtu.be/JxVm2_ojQtk ), “Affection” (http://youtu.be/JCVPB6eMN4I ) and “Child I Will Hurt You.

In a similar vein Vancouver vocalist Claire Boucher who records under the name Grimes, has produced a record that will likely end up on a number of top 10 list this year. Visions is an electro-pop record for lack of a better description and is filled with a vast array of styles and influences and words do not adequately describe what is going on. This should make sense as she is much smarter than me, having studied Russian literature and neuroscience at McGill. This is a very satisfying record, full of very interesting song structures. Try” Genesis” (http://youtu.be/1FH-q0I1fJY ) “Oblivion” (http://vimeo.com/38987284 ) and “Visiting Statue.”

Brooklyn’s Chairlift is one of the albums I missed earlier this year. I’m not sure why, because this is the 80s synth-pop that I loved growing up when I was a kid. Recall New Musik or perhaps the Reels? Probably not. So check them both out. Here is New Musik’s “Straight Lines”: http://youtu.be/9Ysr0A14o24 ) ( I had no idea these guys looked like this!!!); and here is the Reels doing “Love Will Find A Way” (http://youtu.be/FTp0Cf2k_7E) (from 1979 – love these outfits!). Anyway, as synth-pop finds its way into the mainstream consciousness, Chairlift are on a roll. “Bruises” from 2008’s Does You Inspire You? launched the band as also launch the 4th generation iPod Nano to the world. Fast forward to 2012 and in January, Something is released with more of the extremely pleasant pop. Try “ Met Before” (http://youtu.be/atKuhrPnLq8 ), “Amanaemonesia” (http://youtu.be/98XRKr19jIE ) and “I Belong In Your Arms” (http://youtu.be/3e8Ql9qFA2o ).

Adelaide, South Australia’s Atlas Genius debut record was released in Australia in January, but didn’t find its way to these shores until June 2012 where Through The Glass was released as an EP. With a clean indie pop sound these songs should be a hit with the young hipster crowd. Try “Trojans” (http://youtu.be/Sd2yr12abg8 ), “Back Seat” (http://youtu.be/PeAUf-VeXbE ) and “Symptoms.” ( Really there are only 4 songs on the EP and one of them is the acoustic version of Trojans. You’ll like ‘em all J).

Sticking with the EP pattern, Birds of Tokyo released This Fire earlier this year and while I missed it the first time around, this is also a gem and also from Australia. From Perth, this EP was released domestically in October, but has been available in Australia for more than a year. They are recording their 4th album March Fires which is due out in March 2013. For now, this will have to do. The music is in the same vein as Carolina Liar and Augustana.  Try “This Fire”(http://youtu.be/sSpwcAvoo2o ), “Glowing in the Streets”, and “Boy”.

Sweden’s 1000 Gram are an enigma. Stepping away from the fervent rock n’ roll emanating from this part of the world, 1000 Gram occupy an entirely different niche possibly because the band (comprised of Germans and Swedes) have fought hard to find middle ground for their electro-acoustic indie music. This is a singer-songwriter type record with sweeping melodies and some Strokes influences, particularly on “Cut Me Some Slack.” Try: “Come Back To Me,” “That’s How We Love” and “We Ain’t Waiting.”

Since we are already talking about Europe (having moved on from Australia) it is just a short distance from Sweden to Denmark, where we find the Blue Van channeling 60s soul music through its hip filter. Would You Change Your Life?  is the 5th album from this band which has toured the U.S. continuously throughout their existence and have even played Austin City Limits. This album rocks and you will find yourself singing along at various points. This would be a great band to see live. Think Hives as a soul band.  (Just a note – the Blue Van is derived from “Den blå varevogn” which is what we would call the “short bus” in America). Try “Would You Change Your Life?” “Wake The Tiger” and “Tightrope.”

West Yorkshire’s Above Them, 2nd LP Are We A Danger To Ourselves hints at what is quickly becoming a resurgence of punk rock as a viable form of music. I put this in the drop box last month, but removed it to make space, so here you are again! In the past year there have been several spectacular punk rock records dropped into this box ( Mezingers, Static Jacks etc.), and this is the first of three such great punk records this month alone (including Hostage Calm and After The Fall reviewed below). For those who follow this genre and its various subgenres (of which there are a great many) the past couple of years have been a little flat, but things are starting to come around. This falls into the Rise Against type of punk rock. Straight forward lyrically, this is melodic punk rock without the political bent. Try “Temper Like A Hand Grenade,” “Giving Up On Sorrow” and “Something To Keep You Positive.”

Hostage Calm extend the pop-punk genre a little bit bringing a mixture of punk rock and hardcore to Please Remain Calm which is the Connecticut bands second full length. This is Ultimate Fakebook type territory: Melodic punk pop with the catchy bits in all the right places. Try” Brokenheartland”, “Don’t Die On Me Now” and the amazing “May Love Prevail” (with its throwback 60’s sound!).

After The Fall bring something different to the punk rock mix. Heading back to Australia, where the band is from, they have incorporated the rhythms of their forefathers, the Saints and Hoodoo Gurus, to capture the power of the fertile rock scene and update it for the second decade of the 2000’s. There is a hint of Nirvana in these tunes, and that possibly may be from the vocals of Ben Windsor which are forceful and energetic, particularly on “Nothing But Black.” Bittersweet is the band’s fourth album and the growth of the band is clearly evident particularly on “The Fire Is Gone” which should be a hit anywhere. So, in three albums this month, I’ve covered but a few of the punk genre’s range, so if you never thought to give punk rock a try, maybe now is the time. Try “The Fire Is Gone,” “Bittersweet,” and “Dirty Sheets.”

I’ve liked all the prior Classic Crime records, so it is not surprising that I would like the new LP, Phoenix. This Seattle based band formed in 2004 and released their first three records on Tooth and Nail, so there was no shortage of distribution. Phoenix is a Kickstarter financed record as the band left the label. Phoenix continues the Classic Crime sound falling somewhere between rock and hardcore. At its heart, the band’s sound is melodic rock with big choruses. Rather simple I’d say. Try” Beautiful Darkside”, “What I’d Give Up” and “You And Me Both.”

Titus Andronicus have appeared in the drop box recently as I dropped the new release, Local Business and the bands first record The Monitor last month. However, what I neglected to drop was a mix tape put out by the band in March of this year that streamed free for a week. Well, for those who missed it, here it is in all its glory. The Mix tape will give you some idea of the bands influence, which is in the alt-rock sweet spot: Thin Lizzy, Bobby Fuller, Weezer, Replacements etc. Full track list here: http://consequenceofsound.net/2012/03/download-titus-andronicus-llc-mixtape-vol-1/

  Try: “Treatment Bound (Replacements cover)”, Heroin (Velvet Underground cover”) and “Undone [The Sweater Song] (Weezer cover).”

 If Joy Division and T-Rex had a love child, Empires would be that band. On Garage Hymns you get just that – an LP full of garage rock hymns. Although this is only the second lp from Chicago’s Empires, the songs are fully realized traversing territory similar to the National, but this is definitely more up tempo and anthemic. From the opener “Can’t Steal Your Heart Away” to closer “Lord Have Mercy” this is a breathtaking and spectacular record that sounds amazing. You will not be disappointed. Try “Hell’s Heroes” “Shame” and “We Lost Magic.”

Until next time, here is this month’s list:

1000 GramKen Sent Me [2012]

Above ThemAre We A Danger To Ourselves [2012]

After The FallBittersweet [2012]

Allah-LasAllah-Las [2012]

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave [Deluxe Version] [2012]

Atlas GeniusThrough The Glass [2012]

Birds Of TokyoThis Fire EP [2012]

Blue Van Would You Change Your Life [2012]

Chairlift – Something [2012]

Classic Crime Phoenix [2012]

Concrete KnivesBe Your Own King [2012]

Crystal Castles(III) [2012]

Dash Rip Rock Black Liquor [2012]

Delorentos Little Sparks [2012]

Django DjangoDjango Django [2012]

EmpiresGarage Hymns [2012]

Evens – The Odds [2012]

Ex-CultEx-Cult [2012]

FoxygenIntroducing Foxygen (Promo) [2012]

Green DayTre! [2012]

GrimesVisions (Deluxe Bonus Edition) [3CD] [2012]

Grizzly Bear Shields [2012]

GuardsIn Guards We Trust (Advance) [2013]

Hope And Social – All Our Dancing Days [2012]

Hostage CalmPlease Remain Calm [2012]

Jellyfish Stack-A-Tracks [2012]

Kate NashDeath Proof EP [2012]

King TuffKing Tuff [2012]

Knife & ForkThe Higher You Get, the Rarer the Vegetation [2012]

Nations AfireThe Ghosts We Will Become [2012]

New Bruises – Chock Full Of Misery [2012]

Of Monsters and MenMy Head Is An Animal [2012]

Old 97’sToo Far to Care [15th Anniversary Edition] [2012]

Organ ThievesSomewhere Between Free Men And Slaves [2012]

PolicaGive You The Ghost [2012]

Retrospective Soundtrack PlayersThe Catcher In The Rye (Advance) [2012]

San CiscoSan Cisco [2012]

Sharon Van EttenTramp [2012]

TennisYoung & Old [2012]

The 1975Sex [2012]

The Babies – Our House on the Hill [2012]

Titus AndronicusTitus Andronicus LLC Mixtape Vol. 1 [2012]

WalkmenHeaven [2012]

Yo La TengoFade [2013]

November 11 2012 List Update 1

11.11.12 Part 1

 Part 1 of a two part post. I know that most of you read these in blog order, i.e. reverse chronological, but for those who asked, here is a list of the albums that have appeared over the last couple of months, so if you missed them, you can check here. I get it – lists are quicker – so think of this list as an index to the year, and you can search the notes by name and get a quick idea of what the album is going to sound like and some background. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, a large number of these records show up on Consequences of Sound, Pitchfork and Stereogum, so you can always get information (and videos) from those sources as well. With those caveats, here are the lists by date posted:

11.11.12

Above ThemAre We A Danger To Ourselves [2012]

Alcoholic Faith Mission Ask Me This [2012]

American Aquarium Burn.Flicker.Die [2012]

Anberlin Vital (iTunes Bonus Track Version) [2012]

Benjamin GibbardFormer Lives [2012]

Beth Orton – Sugaring Season (Deluxe Edition) [2CD] [2012]

Blue VanWould You Change Your Life [2012]

Dirty ProjectorsAbout to Die EP  [2012]

EpiloguesCinematics [2012]

Further Seems Forever Penny Black (Repack) [2012]

Gaslight AnthemHere Comes My Man EP [2012]

Green Day ¡Dos! [2012]

Hooded FangTosta Mista [2012]

Ian MccullochLiverpool Cathedral Live [2012]

Jake BuggJake Bugg [2012]

Jets Overhead Boredom And Joy [2012]

Jungle Giants – She’s A Riot [2012]

Last Day Before HolidayThe Way Out [2012]

Life In FilmNeedles And Pins EP [2012]

Lilly Wood And The Prick The Fight [2012]

Lions Among UsThe Unfailing Answer EP [2012]

Mac Demarco 2 [2012]

Mazes Mazes Blazes [2012]

Modern SuperstitionsModern Superstitions [2012]

Murder By DeathBitter Drink Bitter Moon [2012]

MusgravesYou That Way I This Way (Advance) [2012]

Naomi PunkThe Feeling [2012]

Nations AfireThe Ghosts We Will Become [2012]

Nevermind the Name A Gaze into the Abyss [2011]

Nine Black AlpsSirens [2012]

Noonie BaoI Am Noonie Bao [2012]

Ringo DeathStarrMauve [2012]

Set It OffCinematics [2012]

So Many WizardsWarm Nothing [2012]

Soft Moon – Zeros [2012]

Something For KateLeave Your Soul To Science [Deluxe Edition] [2012]

SoundgardenKing Animal [Deluxe Edition] [2012]

State RadioRabbit Inn Rebellion [2012]

Sugar ArmySummertime Heavy [2012]

Tes Elations Tes Elations [2012]

The CadsLessons Illustrated [2012]

The Tragically HipNow For Plan A [2012]

Titus AndronicusThe Monitor [192][2010]

Trail Of The DeadLost Songs [2012]

Twang – 10-20 [2012]

Walking PapersWalking Papers [2012]

We Show Up On RadarSadness Defeated (Advance) [2012]

Wedding PresentLive 1991 [2012]

Whigs – Enjoy the Company [2012]

XXThe XX [2009]

10.16.12

AC NewmanShut Down The Streets [2012]

Bat For LashesThe Haunted Man [2012]

BlondsThe Bad Ones [2012]

CryptsCrypts [2012]

Cult of YouthLove Will Prevail [2012]

Danko JonesRock and Roll Is Black and Blue [2012]

Dark Dark DarkWho Needs Who [2012]

Dead Bunny The Truth is A Fucking Liar [2012]

Dead Rat OrchestraThe Guga Hunters of Ness [2012]

Die! Die! Die! Harmony [2012]

ErrorsNew Relics [2012]

Green Day – Uno! [2012]

I Was A Teenage Satan WorshipperThere [2012]

Joe Strummer & The MescalerosThe Hellcat Years [2012]

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

Maine – Pioneer And Good Love (Deluxe Edition) [2012]

MetzMetz [2012]

New Electric Sound – The New Electric Sound [2012]

Patterson HoodHeat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance [2012]

Rival SonsHead Down [2012]

Sex PistolsThe Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (Remastered) [2012]

Sic Alps – Sic Alps [2012]

Soft Pack – Strapped [2012]

St. AugustineSoldiers [2012]

Stars The North [2012]

SwansThe Seer [2CD] [2012]

Tame ImpalaLonerism (Rough Trade Bonus Edition) [2CD][2012]

Teen Daze – The Inner Mansions [2012]

Title FightFloral Green [2012]

Titus AndronicusLocal Business [2012]

Ty SegallTwins [2012]

Walk The MoonWalk The Moon [2012]

White StripesLive at The Gold Dollar [2012]

WilcoRoadcase 008 [2012]

09.16.12

Alberta CrossSongs Of Patience [2012]

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

Animal CollectiveCentipede Hz [2012]

Ariel PinkMature Themes [2012]

Band of Horses Mirage Rock [Deluxe Edition] [2CD][2012]

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

Billy TalentDead Silence (iTunes Edition) [2012]

Blasters Fun on Saturday Night [2012]

Bob MouldSilver Age [2012]

CalexicoAlgiers [2012]

David Byrne & St. Vincent Love This Giant [2012]

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

Divine FitsA Thing Called Divine Fits [2012]

Early November – In Currents [2012]

Elvis Costello – The Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook [2012]

Flobots The Circle In The Square [2012]

Future Of The Left The Plot Against Common Sense [2012]

Gallon DrunkThe Road Gets Darker from Here [2012]

Gallows Gallows [2012]

Get Well Soon The 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 Grounds In Hindsight [2012]

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

MastersonsBirds Fly South [2012]

NOFXSelf Entitled [2012]

NoisettesContact [2012]

Owl CityThe Midsummer Station [2012]

Patterson Hood Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance [2012]

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

Raveonettes Observator [2012]

Saint MotelVoyeur [2012]

Script #3 [2012]

SharksNo Gods [2012]

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

SugarFile Under Easy Listening (Deluxe Edition) [2CD] [2012]

Tender TrapTen Songs About Girls [2012]

08.18.12

Alabama ShakesBoys & Girls [iTunes Edition] [2012]

Alex WinstonKing Con [2012]

Audience Hearts [2012]

Berserk BastardsSailing Away [2012]

Bloc PartyFour [Deluxe Edition] [2012]

BlurParklive (iTunes) [2012]

Crookes Hold Fast [2012]

D.O.A.We Come in Peace [2012]

DarlingtonsDecades Dance [2012]

Dirty ProjectorsSwing Lo Magellan [2012]

DowsingIt’s Still Pretty Terrible [2012]

Dropkick Paper Trails [2012]

DustedTotal Dust [2012]

Family BandGrace & Lies [2012]

Gaslight AnthemHandwritten [Deluxe Edition] [2012]

Grace Potter And The NocturnalsThe Lion The Beast The Beat (Deluxe Edition) [2012]

Henry Clay PeopleTwenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives [2012]

Hot PandaGo Outside [2012]

HotlinesThe Hotlines [2012]

JEFF The Brotherhood – Hypnotic Nights [2012]

Jukebox The GhostSafe Travels [2012]

Lightships Fear And Doubt [2012]

Local Resident FailureA Breath Of Stale Air [2012]

Lost In the TreesA Church That Fits Our Needs [2012]

LumineersThe Lumineers [2012]

Make Do And MendEverything You Ever Loved [2012]

Marcy PlaygroundLunch, Recess and Detention [2012]

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

MixtapesEven On The Worst Nights [2012]

Newton FaulknerWrite It on Your Skin [2012]

Passion PitGossamer [2012]

Peggy SuePeggy Sue Play the Songs of Scorpio Rising [2012]

Purity RingShrines [2012]

Pussy RiotPussy Riot [2012]

Redd Kross – Researching the Blues [2012]

Rocket Summer Life Will Write The Words [2012]

Runner RunnerRunner Runner [Japanese Edition] [2012]

SebadohSecret EP [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]

Two Door Cinema ClubBeacon [2012]

VaccinesCome Of Age [2012]

VaccinesNo Hope EP [2012]

VaccinesPlease, Please Do Not Disturb EP [2012]

ViewCheeky for a Reason [2012]

White ArrowsDry Land Is Not A Myth [2012]

White WiresWWIII [2012]

Wild NothingNocturne [2012]

Work DrugsAbsolute Bearing [2012]

XXAngels (Single) [2012]

XX – Coexist [2012]

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.”