Welcome to another year of Dropbox Notes ! This month’s offerings are the best of last year, i.e. my favorite records from 2013.
In the past, I have posted my best albums of [insert year] list with little regard to the order on that list. That is, I just posted my favorite records of the previous year in an approximation of what I liked the best. This year, I struggled to try to get through at least the first 30 albums in order of how good I thought they were; how much I enjoyed listening to them, and how likely I would go back and play them after not listening to them for a year.
That qualifier – whether you would go back and listen to a record after a year of not playing the album – appears (at least to me) to be the real test of a list like this. In the past, most of the other lists I have reviewed (you can find some at rocklist.net) from some of my favorite magazines have not contemplated the long term impact of the records they claim are the best and greatest of the year. Some magazines do a better job of this (and I am confident it is completely unintentional) than others.
For example, looking back just 5 years to 2008, compare these two top 20 lists from Q Magazine and Spin:
Q Magazine 2008 Top 20
1. Kings of Leon – Only By The Night
2. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
3. Coldplay – Viva la Vida
4. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
5. Glasvegas – Glasvegas
6. Duffy – Rockferry
7. TV On the Radio – Dear, Science
8. Elbow – Seldom Seen Kid
9. Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
11. Sigur Rós – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
12. Keane – Perfect Symmetry
13. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
14. Kaiser Chiefs – Off With Their Heads
15. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III
16. Hot Chip – Made In the Dark
17. Adele – 19
18. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
19. Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree
20. Gaslight Anthem – ‘59 Sound
Spin 2008 Top 20
TV On the Radio – Dear Science
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III
Portishead – Third
Fucked Up – Chemistry of Common Life
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Santogold – Santogold
Deerhunter – Microcastle
Hot Chip – Made In the Dark
Coldplay – Viva la Vida
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
Elbow – Seldom Seen Kid
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Pt 1: 4th World War
No Age – Nouns
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Beck – Modern Guilt
My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
Roots – Rising Down
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
Okkervil River – Stand Ins
Gnarls Barkley – Odd Couple
There is a little overlap on these two lists but on average from the Q Magazine list, I would listen to 5/20 (25%) and from the Spin list I would listen to 4/20 (20%). Can you guess which records I’d probably revisit?
With this personal observation i.e. that there are very few records that I would continue to play after a gap of a year, this list is prepared with that objective also in mind – looking forward 1 year from now.
And perhaps that is the goal of this “Best of 2013” list – to check back in a year and see how many of the 100 listed here you would go back and listen to in 2015.
With that said, here is my list of the BEST OF 2013 (all capitals because I am shouting):
Tales From The Dropbox Best Albums of 2013
Savages – Silence Yourself
FIDLAR – FIDLAR
Pacific Air – Stop Talking
Guards – In Guards We Trust
The Men – New Moon
Arctic Monkeys – A.M.
Kurt Vile – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze
Paper Lions – My Friends
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
Palma Violets – 180
Fuzz – Fuzz
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Paper Aeroplanes – Little Letters
Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
Pure Love – Anthems
California X – California X
Foals – Holy Fire
Future Of The Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Mikal Cronin – MCII
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of The City
Starflyer 59 – IAMACEO
Miles Kane – Don’t Forget Who You Are
Lydia – Devil
London Grammar – If You Wait
Royal Bangs – Brass
Upset – She’s Gone
Waaves – Afraid of Heights
Deerhunter – Monomania
The Julie Ruin – Run Fast
Jagwar Ma – Howlin’
Haim – Days are Gone
Bad Sports – Bras
Bastille – Bad Blood
My Bloody Valentine – m b v
Deap Valley – Sistrionics
So So Glos – Blowout
Wooden Shjips – Back To Land
Drenge – Drenge
Hookworms – Pearl Mystic
These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds
The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
Julia Holter – Loud City Song
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
Iceage – You’re Nothing
Yo La Tengo – Fade
Superchunk – I Hate Music
Volcano Choir – Repave
Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Purling Hiss – Water on Mars
Roshambo – Lonesome Men From The Woods
Pissed Jeans – Honeys
Queens of The Stoneage – Like Clockwork
Phosphorescent – Muchacho
Local Natives – Hummingbird
Factory Floor – Factory Floor
Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Riots – Time For Truth
Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll
Forest Swords – Engravings
James Blake – Overgrown
Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin
Mutual Benefit – Loves Crushing Diamond
Strypes – Snapshot
Acres of Lions – Home(s)
Daughter – If You Leave
Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
Ballet – I Blame Society
Tegan and Sara – Hearthrob
Peace – In Love [Deluxe Edition
Taymir – Phosphene
Chastity Belt – Ne Regerts
Auto Defiance – Running on The Edge
Jimmy Eat World – Damage
Courtney Barnett – The Double EP – A Sea Of Split Peas
Dirtbombs – Consistency Is The Enemy
Fitz & The Tantrums – More Than Just A Dream
Hungary Kids of Hungary – You’re A Shadow
Imperial State Electric – Reptile Brain Music
Iron Chic – The Constant One
Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
Matt Pond – The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand
Jake Bugg – Shangri La
Murder By Death – As You Wish Kickstarter Covers
Cage the Elephant – Melophobia
Teen Agers – I Hate It
Beware of Darkness – Orthodox
Super Happy Fun Club – All Funned Up
Middle Class Rut – Pick Up Your Head
Banquets – Banquets
Cults – Static
RVIVR – The Beauty Between
Exxonvaldes – Lights
Mama Kin – The Magician’s Daughter
Swearin’ – Surfing Strange
Dead Sons – The Hollers And The Hymns
Growlers – Not. Psych!
Guster – Live With The Redacted Symphony
I’ll add the covers if I get a chance, but otherwise enjoy the list. Part 1 of the list ( 1-50) dropped today. I’ll drop part 2 (51-100) around February 1, so a slightly shorter turnaround this month/
Let me know if you think I’ve missed something, or your thoughts on the list. If you have a list you’d like to share – post a comment or send me the list and I’ll post it.
Until later alligator! I wish you all a terrific and happy 2014. Peace out.
As promised last month, September delivered great new music and October promises more of the same. Hopefully some of the music from this month’s dropbox will inform the soundtrack to your fall. If you take a quick browse through the list you’ll find there is quite a balance of genres this month, so everyone should find something that meets their individual needs. Whereas last month was filled with almost entirely of new releases, this month some of the highlights are a couple of reissues. As always, if you missed something or are looking for something, please feel free to drop me a note, and I’ll try to help you out. So, I am starting with the reissues, because they are rather special, albeit for completely different reasons.
Also as a complete aside: If you are a resident of San Marino or know someone in San Marino who votes, then either vote or have them vote for: SHELLEY RYAN on November 5 for SAN MARINO SCHOOL BOARD
When Nirvana released In Utero in 1993 there was not a more popular band anywhere on the planet. Period. I was teaching at San Gabriel High School and recall vividly the day that In Utero arrived and as I played the album for the first time. CD’s were just starting to make major inroads in replacing records, but I was still caught in between and as I stared at the cover while the album played, I thought that Nirvana had finally made an album that captured the band in its freshest and rawest state – melodic and very aggressive and, without the overly produced sheen of big record company all over the songs. “Rape Me” stood out as the clearest form of rebellion and captured perfectly what was being played out in the press – the battle lines being drawn between massive popularity and the band’s desire to be what they believed they were – a small band playing for friends in small clubs. Recall that it was only three years earlier that they were playing really small clubs, such as The Town Pump in Vancouver BC (March 12, 1990), and at that time the northwest was all about the punk rock. For a band who had arisen from that scene the sellout stink probably was overwhelming. Nevermind was never a Nirvana record. That is, Nirvana had lost control of the production and in the process of being packaged into “radio friendly unit shifters” became disenchanted with that loss of control and the fun of being in a band. These facts are borne out by the release of In Utero – which is as diverse a record as one will find by a band after producing one of the biggest selling records of a decade. Alternating between soft, introspective (“Dumb”) to aggressive (“Very Ape”) and parts in between, In Utero may be the achievement of every band’s ultimate desire – finding the perfect balance between commercial and extreme. For me, In Utero represents the band balancing its self on the razor’s edge, both lyrically and musically, and for that brief moment roughly achieving perfection. Sure, there are a few moments on the record that somehow don’t quite achieve the same level as “Rape Me”, “All Apologies”, “Heart Shaped Box” “Dumb” and “Pennyroyal Tea” but how could they? This Super Deluxe Box Set includes the “Live and Loud” show from Seattle’s Pier 48 as well as a number of B-sides and rarities from the period, including a couple of excellent demos, the most notable being Dave Grohl’s “Marigold.” In this case, Try: them all.
The Mountain Goats 10th anniversary reissue of 2003’s All Hail West Texas is also remarkably excellent but for different reason’s than Nirvana. John Darnielle started Mountain Goats in 1991 and most of you will have never heard of the band. This is a bedroom record, and from the opening track “The Best Death Metal Band in West Texas” you are transported into another world. It is a stark, sparse and very lonely record and these songs are reflective of a specific period in Darnielle’s life. The album was recorded on a boom box and almost all of the songs were recorded within hours of being written and captured in one or two takes. This process was necessary, according to Darnielle, because of his limited attention span lasting exactly one day for each song. Simple melodies make for complex emotion as these songs are raw. Darnielle succeeds in capturing dreams delayed or rejected as well as the excitement inherent in a loving relationship. These themes are all explored though the people introduced to the listener in each song. Although the cover indicates that the album contains “fourteen songs about seven people, two houses, a motorcycle, and a locked treatment facility for adolescent boys” the looseness of the concept is what actually creates the magic – warmth radiates all over this record. Try “Jenny,” “Balance,” and without a doubt, “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.”
Although the Irish rockers The Boomtown Rats were major stars in Canada and the other European colonies, they were relegated to one hit wonders in the United States. For a brief moment in time the Boomtown Rats looked like they would break big in America with “I Don’t Like Mondays” a song about the Cleveland Elementary School shooting which took place on January 29, 1979, in San Diego, California. 16 year old Brenda Ann Spencer who lived in a house across the street from the school, was tried and plead guilty as an adult of killing the principal and a custodian as well as injuring eight children and a police officer. During the shooting, a reporter telephoned homes near the school looking for information and in so doing actually reached Brenda Ann who admitted that she was the one doing the shooting. When asked why she was doing what she was doing, she was reported to have stated: “Because I don’t like Mondays.”
However, to dismiss the Rats as one hit wonders is to give short shrift to one of the best live acts of the time. The Rats initially played an upbeat proto-type punk best exemplified on Back To Boomtown: Classic Rats by the inclusion of “Mary of the 4th Form” “Like Clockwork” and She’s So Modern.” Over time, the Rats evolved into a reggae influenced rock act typified on this collection by “Banana Republic” and “Diamond Smiles.” Most notably, Sir Robert Geldof (yes, that is the knighted title) singer and one time journalist, is the mastermind (with Ultravox’s Midge Ure) behind Band Aid – the charity effort to raise money for anti-poverty efforts in Ethiopia who, in 1984, released the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas? Back To Boomtown: Classic Rats is a compilation of the 2005 re-mastered tracks, but for those of you whom have not experienced the Rats, this album is a great introduction. Of note, this collection is being released in advance of the Rats announcing that they have reformed to play a series of live shows after a 10 year absence.
A couple of other interesting facts. There is nothing record companies like more than reissuing the same material repeatedly in several different variants. Like Elvis Costello and The Who – two bands who are the acknowledged kings of the repackage and reissue, Back to Boomtown: Classic Rats Hits represents the fifth greatest hits album by this Irish band and perhaps surprisingly, upon release earlier this month charted at number 35 in the Irish charts (Virgin EMI, September 9, 2013) There are also two new tracks (“The Boomtown Rats” and “Back To Boomtown”) recorded for the collection with the remaining 14 tracks being the Boomtown Rats’ best known works. For me, those tracks are “She So Modern,” “Looking After No. 1,” and “Rat Trap.”
Kings of Leon’s latest, Mechanical Bull is, in part, a return to form following the underwhelming performance of their previous outing 2010’s Come Around Sundown. That album likely left many fans of KOL confused as it came after the massive success of 2008’s Only By Night and the two massive radio hits from that record: “Use Somebody” and “Sex on Fire.” Come Around Sundown was released on the heels of relentless touring and inter-family/band squabbles as well as the well-documented alcohol abuse by Caleb Followill. It seemed at that time, like many a band whose flame had burned far too bright, that the flame was be extinguished. Not so fast. Mechanical Bull (which coincidentally as I write this entry is a UK Number 1 album) is not a reissue of Only By Night and the Lynyrd Skynyrd meets U2 riffs on that album. More aptly, Mechanical Bull is a return to the days of the bands earliest success found on their 2003 debut, Youth & Young Manhood and 2005’s Aha Shake Heartbreak. Look, you were never going to experience on any Kings of Leon record the most awesomely written lyrics nor were you ever going to see a true return to the type of songs found on Youth & Young Manhood, but Mechanical Bull strikes a happy balance between old and new and for that reason, this is a fairly enjoyable record. Sure, there is the record company required hit song “Supersoaker” stuffed at the front, but if you dig a little deeper, the material is a little stronger, particularly, the bonus track “ Work On Me” which is a workmanlike Kings of Leon jam that shows what was missing on Come Around Sundown – restraint. This is refreshing for a band who has become the record company directed pimp for every nuanced attempt to reach mass commercial appeal a la dressing them up like pop stars. I expect that at some point, the Followills will figure out, like Nirvana, their In Utero moment, and in fairness, Mechanical Bull is certainly not that type of moment. However, it is a great start on that journey. For a band surviving superstardom – Kings of Leon deliver a restrained record to begin the healing process. The fans and the press might not like the whole thing, but I bet the band does. Try “Work on Me,” “Wait For Me,” and “Comeback Story.”
Parquet Courts are back with a couple of gap records prior to their next full length. As you may recall, I wrote extensively about their last record, the brilliant Light Up Gold from last year. On these two releases, Parquet Courts play their Velvet Underground meets the Replacements sound at full speed, which is not a departure in any manner from the sound of Light Up Gold. Go back and compare “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now” with Light Up Gold’s “Master of My Craft” and you’ll see precisely what I mean. Just so we are clear – from my perspective it is perfectly acceptable not to screw with a sound that works for a band and is consistent with their personality.. Far too many bands alter their sound just to alter the sound – hoping to “grow” as a band or achieve some modicum of success by fitting into a sound/genre that is popular. Recall the mass appeal of autotune? However, some bands you always knew what to expect and that made them perfect – e.g. the Buzzcocks, D.O.A., Dead Kennedys, Husker Du and the Replacements. Parquet Courts can one day be mentioned in the same breath if they continue putting out music like that found on Tally All The Things You Broke EP (which comes out October 8, 2013) and the Borrowed Time 7″ single.
You can imagine this work played live – 4 guys just bashing it out. I would pay $$$ to see that. Try: “Borrowed Time,” “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now,” and the lengthy “The More It Works.”
I have also previously covered Kathleen Hanna’s work with Bikini Kill in earlier editions of Tales From The Dropbox. The Julie Ruin, is Hanna’s latest project and continues, in some measure, where her previous bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, left off.
However, do not be misled. On their debut, Run Fast, the Julie Ruin sound is, like the B-52’s, dance rock with Kenny Melman providing a nice counterpoint for Hanna’s vocal styling’s (which are very raw to say the least). Currently residing and recording in Brooklyn, the band comprised of Carmine Covelli (the Tender Moments), Sara Landeau, Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox (The Feebles, The Frumpies,Star Sign Scorpio, as well as Bikini Kill) , and Kenny Mellman (Kiki and Herb) create angular dance rock that without too much trouble reminds me of early B-52’s but that label should not narrow your view of the record which is remarkable exciting and catchy. It is a very safe bet to say that Run Fast will very likely end up near the top of many year end best of 2013 lists this year – and for very good reason. Try “Kids in NY,” “Ha Ha Ha,” and “Girls Like Us.”
Brooklyn’s American Authors, all dropouts from the Berklee School of Music, have kick-started their career with their self-titled debut. Nothing challenging on this EP but the songs all hit the sweet spot for alternative music as evidenced by “Best Day of My Life’s” inclusion in a Lowe’s Home Improvement store commercial. As major labels, in this case Island Records, fight to have any relevance in the marketplace, the new outlet for music is not radio anymore but instant commercialization through advertising. Although the American Authors EP is gaining some regional airplay in the New York, Boston and Chicago markets, Islands marinating efforts are directed primarily to exposing American Authors via television advertising, much like X Factor and American Idol which are just 2 hour length commercials. That is, the few major labels which are willing to even venture into the rock/alternative genre are doing so in a very limited and targeted manner, and releasing EPs and singles only if they can ensure an immediate revenue stream. While this new model will in all likelihood have only limited success, the touring that American Authors has already done, most recently on the Lollapalooza tour, should help their survival to a full length. Oh, what about the music? Take this as completely positive, as after all it is in the dropbox. You will like American Authors if you like sugary commercial alternative music that is very well written. Hopefully future releases will demonstrate some willingness by American Authors to try to expand the formula a bit. Still, it is difficult to not like the band or their music as each song on American Authors is built for maximum alt rock catchiness. Try “Best Day of My Life,” “Believer,” and “Home.”
The British-American rock band Hey! Hello on their self-titled debut.
A lengthy aside follows. So if you don’t want to read a minor, as compared with major, rant skip the next couple of paragraphs.
Aside Number 1. That’s two releases in a row by bands or their labels that are too freaking lazy to title their record with something other than with the band name. There is a reason why bands should actually title their records. It makes it easier to collect everything by the band and keep songs organized. Imagine the iTunes confusion with a band who repeats the self titled album concept for several albums. A prime example, is Peter Gabriel whose first 4 records were all called Peter Gabriel . Creating some desperation with the crappy album titles, some Gabriel fans left trying try to describe what album a particular track was found have retitled the albums based upon the cover art, now naming them in order of release as: Car, Scratch, Melt, and Security. The U.S. release of the 4th album actually entitled Security but not for the rest of the world. Rather than force a band to actually try coming up with a name, these bands should default to the acceptable lazy default naming convention: naming the record after the title of the song found on side one track one. By way of example, the four Peter Gabriel records would now be called (in order): Moribund the Burgermeister, On the Air, Intruder, and The Rhythm of the Heat.
Aside to Aside Number 1: Don’t even get me started on the artists who are too lazy to even come up with titles for the songs on their records. Darn you Buckethead!!!
Aside Number 1, continued: Why are bands who are making fairly creative music unable to actually think of a #$^%# interesting title for their record? This has to be some major label marketing ploy. It must. See a recent prime example of this marketing phenomenon where MGMT’s whose new record, their 3rd, is awesomely titled, you guessed it MGMT. Or how about Blitzen Trapper whose 7th record, and latest, is entitled VII? Does repetition really work to get potential purchasers to actually to buy the record? I have no idea, but it is really frustrating and tiring. So those of you who produce the music or work at labels that are reading this blog – stop that crap now. Perhaps we can start a revolution.
Whew…..anyway, Hey! Hello was formed by New York based singer Victoria Liedtke and British singer-songwriter, Ginger Wildheart. Their debut is a stunning and powerful rock record full of riff heavy, hook laden, and thunderous rock music that magnificently updates the sound of the 70’s act, The Sweet, best known for the two classic hits “Ballroom Blitz” and “Fox on the Run.” “Swimwear” actually sounds exactly like The Sweet’s “Little Willy.” I loved this record. Try “Black Valentine, ”“How I Survived The Punk Wars,” and “Burn The Rule Book (Fuck It).”
So, perhaps I should deal with the MGMT record, since I slagged the title previously in this post. Despite what you have possibly read in far more popular publications than Tales From The Dropbox, on MGMT,MGMT continues the sonic explorations of a band whom have consciously tried not to make the record that made their bones, which unfortunately for MGMT was their debut. History has shown where a debut record is so accepted by the masses (e.g. Green Day’s “Dookie”) that it cripples the artist as their record label is unwilling to commit to anything but to a retread of the sound that made that debut record a hit. This may seem contrary to my thoughts expressed earlier about artists who change their sound for the sake of change, but MGMT has stayed true to its own thought process and artistic belief about the direction of their music releases, and have done so within the context and constraints imposed by being an artist on a major label record. So, to give credit where. as here, it is fully due, the record company, in this case, Columbia, has permitted the duo to (a) release a record that is not highly commercial, and which will not sell millions of records, and (b) extends the vision expressed on their last noncommercial record, 2010’s psych rock leaning Congratulations. Although the ideas on Congratulations were not fully formed the purpose of that record was clear: it was designed to distance MGMT the artists from a debut album that changed modern alternative rock. 2007’s Oracular Spectacular, with its three ubiquitous singles “Time to Pretend”, “Kids” and “Electric Feel” was incapable of repetition. So, MGMT didn’t attempt the retread.
Where do we stand now? MGMT on MGMT is essentially asking the listener to evaluate the release as a debut. The duo, consisting of Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden ( with some help) find themselves delving full throttle into the third variant of the new psychedelic revival (along with other similar travelers such as Tame Impala and Pond), with trance-like elements creating sonic tapestries reminiscent somewhat of the 90’s shoegaze scene. Released on September 17, the album will take some time for the listener to get into, but I found the journey generally quite pleasing. However, if you are looking for the MGMT singles, stop looking. There are none. This is an album as entirely conceived by a band committed to change and the resulting sonic explorations are worth the effort to look past, MGMT‘s past. Try” Introspection,” “Cool Song No. 2,” and “I Love You Too, Death.”
Earlier this year, I told you about the reissue of Blitzen Trapper’s amazing first record which after 10 years, was and is still an exciting listening experience. Seven albums later, Blitzen Trapper is still figuring itself out. And that is acceptable to me having followed their progression, because VII expands their indie-folk with country tinges into new areas with some terrific up results. VII is a sonically pleasing record with a dynamic range that makes the space between the instruments a powerful force into itself. It is difficult to describe the feeling you experience when you are listening to a record that just sounds good and you feel the recording. The gospel revival experience of “Shine On” bumps up against the beautiful country ballad “Ever Loved Once” which is one of the strongest songs on VII and perhaps in Blitzen Trapper‘s entire catalog. The harmonies and banjo (yes, banjo) play off and highlight each other, and the result is an instant classic. Eric Earley’s crisp vocals driving the record and the space created is very effective in creating warmth to a somewhat staccato delivery.. Try” Ever Loved Once,” the country influenced “Don’t Be A Stranger,” and “Shine On.”
As promised last month, the dropbox finds the U.K. equivalent of the XX in the form of electronic art rockers, London Grammar, with their debut album entitled If You Wait. This album and band is already massively popular record in Europe having spawned three hit singles (all included on If You Wait) prior to the album’s release. London Grammar‘s form of chamber pop is carried by the beautiful and powerful vocals of Hannah Reid. The three piece, comprised of Hannah Reid, Dot Major and Dan Rothman have already played several festivals, and this record transports the listener to a sonic soundscape from the opening notes of “Hey Now” through If You Wait‘s last track. Hannah sings with strong emotion over the mostly electro-pop tracks. The single, “Wasting My Young Years” will find its way on to may best of 2013 pop collections, and, similar to the Savages debut from earlier this year, If You Wait is amongst the best records of 2013. No surprise that London Grammar has not found its way to the U.S., but hopefully some station will pick it up, as the record was only released two weeks ago. I’ve found that KROQ takes about a year to discover new music, so there is a chance that KROQ or 987 FM will add the song and then overplay it. Try” Wasting My Young Years,” Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me,” and “Metal and Dust.”
As I’ve got regular work to attend to at this time, I’ll update this post as I get a chance, because there is gold in them there hills!
American Authors – American Authors 
Balance And Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing 
Bastille – Bad Blood 
Two Cow Garage – The Death of the Self Preservation Society 
Underground Youth – The Perfect Enemy For God 
September is going to be a great month for music. Traditionally, this is the time of year where a number of new releases hit the market because like it or not, Christmas is the time for giving and giving starts early. To that end, you have a couple of things that are not scheduled to hit the marketplace until later this month.
As an added note, I’ve been thinking for a while about the state of indie music (to be fair I’ve not really spent much time thinking about the state of affairs given that there are many more important events and issues to occupy my time) and hopefully, my inclusion of a playlist of recent singles ( for lack of a better term – these should be singles, but there is no commercial distribution/ review etc.) that should find a place in your own playlist and eventually, if there is any good in the world, actually end up on the radio so that some of these bands actually achieve some commercial success that will be more valuable in the long run than my meager version of critical acclaim. Given the fast pace of new music and the flood of new releases hitting the market in a number of countries, there is definitely a lag before a great song finds enough support that it ends up on radio. As what passes for indie/alternative radio now is decidedly dance/pop or new folk, programmers should take note – there is a broad palate of music that passes for indie/alternative now and not all of it fits neatly into the mass marketed force fed genres marketed by the radio stations.
So with that somewhat length introduction, there really are a number of spectacular new releases, some of which are already on radio and others which will never find a place in that world but hopefully will find a place in your heart.
Arctic Monkeys new release AM was recorded in California and the subject of extensive coverage and hype in this week’s NME. Scheduled for release next week in the UK and the U.S, AM is the 5th full length and was recorded in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree and if you believe the hype, this is “the greatest record of their career.” I’m not sure I would go that far, but there is a definite twist in direction. The psychedelic flourishes are still present, but there is a smoothness to both the lyrics and the “beats” which make this closer to a crossover pop record than a traditional rock record. The playing is very tight and the hip hop influence, although present, are filtered through the Monkeys, rock sensibilities. Josh Homme makes an appearance on a couple of tracks, which will sell a few copies, but the tone of this record is not frenetic, rather it is a late night driving around the city record with your buddies at 3 A.M after hitting the clubs. Perhaps, the best example of this is on the track “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” There is a flow to this record unlike anything the Arctic Monkeys have done before and undoubtedly this will end up on a number of year end best of lists. Try” Do I Wanna Know,” “R U Mine?” and “I Want It All.”
Prolific would be an understatement to describe Ty Segal. In the past 5 years he has released solo records while playing and releasing albums in a number of other “bands” usually with Mikal Cronin. On Sleeper, Segal’s latest release, the garage elements are still present, but this is a much more introspective offering. And also much more focused. Often accused of just bashing away on his guitar, the songs here are as if Ty was channeling Oasis. Written following the death of his father, the songs presented here capture the reflection of Segal himself in his father’s life and present a compelling study of loss, loneliness, and Ty’s own relationship with other people in his life. Sung with the same earnestness present in all of his records, the directness of the lyrics make for captivating listening. These are still garage pop nuggets – think Neil Young’s “Harvest” as sung by Noel Gallagher and you perhaps have the correct context for this record. Try “The Keepers”, “The Man Man” and “She Don’t Care.”
The long awaited record by Manchester based four-piece The 1975, entitled simply The 1975 fully realizes the components present on the earlier EPs a number of which I have covered previously. It is rare that the actual product matches the hype, but The 1975 have matched those expectations on their debut. The dropbox has the full on steroid deluxe version, with essentially all of the songs from the previous EPs. Some of the songs on the actual LP should be familiar as “The City” appeared on IV as did the title track “The 1975.” They have prior to this released 4 EPs: Facedown, Sex, Music for Cars and IV. For those of you just catching up, The 1975 are a melodic and atmospheric synth pop band with an ear for the hook. A little bit like Owl City, they traverse a less sugary aspect of this particular genre. Varied, interesting, and intimately likeable, the album should find a home in most collections. Try “Sex”, “Girls” (Live at Dot to Dot Festival Manchester 24.05.2013) and “Robbers”(Live at Radio 1’s Big Weekend July 10, 2013).
Never thought I’d see another Three O’clock record – ever. Original purveyors of the Los Angeles based paisley underground of the early 1980’s (with The Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, and the Rain Parade), the Three O’clock were somewhat classicists within that scene playing psychedelic rock of the late 1960’s as if it was being experienced for the first time in the 80’s. Flash way forward to 2013, and the Three O’clock are back and actually touring having played Coachella earlier this year and performing live on Conan O’Brian. Starting out as The Salvation Army in 1981 (only to be sued over the use of the name). What is remarkable is that following the bands breakup in 1988 all of the original members played in other amazing bands, several of which I’ve offered in the dropbox over the past couple of years:
Michael Quercio briefly joined Game Theory in 1990. Thereafter, he founded Permanent Green Light, who released two albums, and, later, The Jupiter Affect.
Louis Gutierrez played with Louis and Clark (I loved this record!) and then became a principal member of Mary’s Danish.
Jason Falkner joined Jellyfish (who were the prototype alternative/college rock band of the early 1990’s), then The Grays, before launching a successful solo record career in the mid-1990s.
Troy Howell started the group The Eyes of Mind, who recorded on Bomp Records. He also played with Cee Farrow and the band OOSoul (double oh soul).
The Hidden World Revealed is a compilation of some of their greatest hits as well as a number of unreleased and never before heard rarities and demos. My favorite is the dB’s sounding “Around The World” but I think you’ll discover why the Three O’clock deserved the success they briefly garnered in the later 1980’s incorporating the doors sounding organ into garage riffs. Try also “Jet Fighter” ( Great original Video from the early 1980’s – Check out the new wave dancing!) , “I Go Wild (Alternate Version)” and “Seeing Is Believing.”( Take A look: Three O’clock Live In-Store at Freakbeat Records Sherman Oaks 06.23.13)
Note: I saw them play with the Rain Parade sometime in 1984 at, I think, the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. As I recall it was a great show. At the time, cowpunk was huge in Vancouver and this was in the minds of some – close.
I’ve already proclaimed my passion for Rise Against previously. So I’ll cut to the chase. How is it that this band’s B-Sides are better than many albums put out by other bands? Is it the passion? While the band considered these songs to not be worthy of inclusion on the main releases, the songs on this collection entitled Long Forgotten Songs comprise a number of interesting B-sides and covers compiled over the length of the bands career. You’ve got to appreciate consistency as the quality of these songs is excellent over the period. The most interesting thing about this collection however is that it is remarkably cohesive. There are several excellent cover songs covering a wide range of “popular artists” including Bruce (Springsteen of course!) (“The Ghost Of Tom Joad”), Face to Face (“Blind”), Bob Dylan (“Ballad of Hollis Brown”), Malvina Reynolds (“Little Boxes”), Minor Threat (“Minor Threat”), Black Flag (“Nervous Breakdown”), Lifetime (“The Boy’s No Good”), Journey (“Any Way You Want It”), Nirvana (“Sliver”), and a version of Danny Elman’s song from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas movie, “Making Christmas.” Try” Death Blossoms”, “Generation Lost” and “Sliver”. Need further evidence of the awesome power of Rise Against? Try: Live at Rock Am Ring 2010 (Full Show) – Simply amazing!
Going backwards in time….all the way back to 2012, I came upon a record I missed the first time around. It happens. Swedish rockers Durango Riot (from Karlskoga, Sweden) hit the sweet spot with their punk n’ roll influenced album Backwards Over Midnight. This was actually recorded here in Pasadena CA much to my surprise (and probably theirs). This album, like last year’s album by You and Me At Six, is really a melodic rock record with catchy melodies all sung by a gruff voiced swede over a spaghetti western movie. Take my word for it, this is a fun rock record worthy of your time. There is a little Parkway drive influence present here (which is a good thing) so, if this is in your style zone – pick it up. Try “Shiny Season”, “Everybody´s Got to Go” and “Backwards Over Midnight.” (Live in Nürnberg, Löwensaal 09.10.12).
Franz Ferdinand are back and fresh. You might recall listening to this band a long time ago (remember “Take Me Out”?), but with their new record, entitled Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action,Franz Ferdinand will be omnipresent again in popular radio. Already down here the new and remarkably catchy “Right Action” (from which the title to the album is lifted) single) is huge and likely to be overplayed. However, before it does, take a trip through this release which essentially is a return to form for the band. This is catchy dance rock for the most part, but there are some left turns along the way that keep the album interesting. Remarkably, for me, the single is not the best track on this record. It is the pop scorcher “Fresh Strawberries” that makes the playlist. So, do some exploring and your efforts will be well rewarded. Try” Fresh Strawberries” (live at “Lots of Poor Losers” aka Lollapalooza Brazil March 30, 2013), “Goodbye Lovers and Friends” and “Right Action).”
Ever heard of experimental chamber pop? Well that is precisely the genre that Julia Holter occupies on her magnificent third album Loud City Song. The Cal Arts grad lives in Los Angeles, and on the local scene is hailed as a masterwork largely because of the quality ensemble present on this record and the charm that evokes memories of the late 50’s. This album, apparently based on the MGM film Gigi, evokes a completely different mood from traditional indie pop scene and although the source material is dated (Holter has said that the album is her own loose interpretation of Gigi— both the musical and the original 1944 novella by the French writer Colette – the plot in a nutshell is “A Parisian girl is raised to be a kept woman but dreams of love and marriage.”). Fascinating and compelling, the centerpiece of this record are the two songs “Maxim’s I” and “Maxim’s II” which is the night club from the movie and the jazz influences are palpable. Try “Maxim’s II”, the beautiful rendition of Barbara Lewis’’ “Hello Stranger” (live at Cecil Sharp House, London August 20th, 2013 ) and “This Is a True Heart” (live at Cecil Sharp House, London August 20th, 2013) . A diamond of a record and a unique record for its time.
Ah…the Libertines undoubtedly were one of the greatest bands to come from Britain. Really, I know…you probably have never heard of them. Look em’ up. They were paparazzi favorites as the drug addicted lead singer and head Libertine (Pete Doherty) dated Kate Moss. Out of the ashes of the Libertines, Doherty formed Babyshambles, and since forming in 2003, Sequel To The Prequel represents only the third full length offering from the band. But what an offering. Compared to the first two albums Down in Albion (2005) and Shotter’s Nation (2007), Sequel To the Prequel is inspired and contains the spark that makes the Libertines records great. Most importantly, be prepared – Babyshambles is prototypically British and this is a very English sounding record. So, try to ignore what will be an avalanche of very bad press – Babyshambles are a train wreck at the best of times and as they are habitually late (e.g. 90 minutes late for their showcase for this record coupled with Doherty’s mostly unstable personality, the press are brutal waiting for spectacular failure. However, the results on this record present little indication of the self-created and manufactured road blocks to success of the past, and the end result is brilliance. Try “Seven Shades of Nothing” (Bar Fontania, Paris, March 22, 2013) “The Very Last Boy Alive,” And “Nothing Comes to Nothing.”
King Tuff traverses the same musical territory as Ty Segal but not nearly as prolific. Signed to Sub Pop after his debut Was Dead found underground success, King Tuff actually made Billboard reaching No. 21 on the Heatseekers Chart and No. 2 on CMJ’s college chart with the self-titled King Tuff. So, what makes Was Dead so special? So few were pressed that it has quickly become a high priced collectible. So, who is King Tuff? Kyle Thomas. He’s been using that name on-and-off for a long time, but pre-2007, he was Kyle, one-eighth of the freak folk band Feathers, makers of gentle, Eastern-tinged acoustic tracks. With Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, he was in the stoner rock band, Witch. King Tuff is his outlet for the garage pop offerings he was writing during the period 2003-2006 that didn’t quite fit with his other projects. Was Dead is not as cohesive as the critically acclaimed King Tuff record, but who cares. Jammed with solid garage pop reflective of Alex Chilton’s early work and wearing his Detroit influences on his sleeve, the results are charismatic and catchy – exactly like a garage rock record should sound. The Big Star influences ripple throughout the record, particularly on tracks like “Connection” and “A Pretty Dress.” Try “Dancing On You,” (Live at The Glasshouse April 17, 2013 includes “Bad Thing”) “Freak When I’m Dead” (Live at Music Feeds Studio) and “Ruthie Ruthie.”
Superchunk were always the forerunners of indie music as we know it today. If you were around in the early 90’s they represented the torchbearers for independent music, like Fugazi, who were producing consistently cool music with little or no money and without the assistance of a major label. On I Hate Music, Superchunk returns with renewed energy rarely found in bands who have been around as long as they have. Formed in Chapel Hill NC in 1989, Superchunk was synonymous with that scene and despite having found indie cred, they were unable to break through commercially. Like previously albums this is well written indie rock that will make you smile. And this is what is disturbing. How can a band make such an upbeat downer record? Dedicated to a friend of the band who died last year, the album explores themes of loss e.g. innocence, friends, youth, isolation etc. On balance I think the results show a band coming to grips of where they are now – a little older, a little wiser, and experiencing their own transitions, all with a sort of class. Try “Overflows,” “FOH” and “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.”
Formerly known as the Chucky Danger Band, Canadian indie rockers Paper Lions, should be Sirius XM stars. And for the life of me I cannot figure out why they are not huge in America. Perhaps it is they are from Belfast, Prince Edward Island. Now located in Charlottetown, PEI the band crowd funded this latest offering, My Friends, their 4th long player the follow up to the Trophies EP and the results are power pop perfection. If you like this genre, then you will love this record. There are some Weezer flourishes here and there as well as some Fountains of Wayne (e.g. Little Liar”) melodies, but the record with its Beach Boy harmonies stands out for the excellent songwriting and production. My Friends in a less than perfect world should be huge in the U.S. Try “Little Liar,” which is also on this months playlist (Check the video out – hear some real Canadian accents. This is a semi-acoustic version from the Here On Out Sessions), “San Simeon” and “My Friend.”Live from Dias Iron Works Welding Shop in Liberty Village August 26, 2013).
London trio White Lies has a secret weapon – a tenor Harry McVeigh who can bring a stunning quality to White Lies songs. Accused of being too generic in the past, Big TV, the band’s third full length takes great steps to shed that criticism, but it will still fail to excite professional critics. And perhaps that is the point. It is hard to garner any acclaim when the sound of the band is derived from more noteworthy acts such as Interpol and Joy Division where the centerpiece is the vocals over an atmospheric beat. However, this album is filled with better songwriting than the two prior efforts which were cringe producing, and the complexity of the songs is vastly approved. It took me a few listens to find the groove so as to truly enjoy the songs. This deluxe edition offers demos and this is where you discover the power of McVeigh’s vocals, particularly on the demo of “There Goes Our Love Again.” So, rather than fall victim to temptation to merely conclude that this is a generic offering by a pleasant sounding band, mix it up. Try” There Goes Our Love Again (Demo)”, “Tricky to Love” and “Change.” Here they are live at BBC Radio 1′ in Swindon from last year: White Lies BBC Radio 1s.
Torch bearers for a new generation of pop punk, Oakland’s Emily’s Army combine elements of their forebearers including the Ramones, Green Day,Blink-182, and Lookout! Records to update the sound, and keep it fun. When I say forebearers, I am using the term in its literal meaning as Emily’s Army is comprised of brothers Cole and Max Becker (vocal, guitar and bass, respectively), guitarist Travis Neumann, and drummer Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong, who also produced the LP). So, with that, you get a collection of pop punk songs to play at the summer barbecue, not too serious, dance worthy, and after a few spins you catch yourself singing along. Will this record end up in your collection forever. Likely not. But for a moment in time, its perfect. Try “Kids Just Wanna Dance”, “War” and “Lost at 17.” (I am amazed at the proficiency of these kids – yes kids – still in high school!)
Another group of Swedes making headway in the dropbox, Sad Day For Puppets on Come Closer, the bands third long player, wear their 90’s alt-rock influences on their sleeves and it is all good. Vocalist Anna Ekland’s sweet melodies carry these tunes which in many ways harken back to the golden age of the alt-90’s with song structures like the Lemonheads’ Shame About Ray, but in all reality, I could care less about the lyrics because, like Janet Devlin and Die Antwoord’s Yolandi Vissar, Anna Ekland’s vocals are beautiful, spellbinding, and the melodies as if written by the Beach Boys. I dare you not to like this record. Theoretically the band describes their music as vocals over noise, but on first listen you will get the bands deceptive direction – simple melodic rock with stunning vocals. Try “Senseless”, “Human Heart” and “Shiver & Shake.” To bad there is so little video available, but maybe in some parts of Sweden You Tube doesn’t exist. Truly a shame.Here there are in 2009 playing “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” at a Sonic Cathedral night at The Borderline on November 16, 2009.
While I enjoy cover songs, it is the rare band that does a good job on an entire record full of them. A stellar example of this is Rod Stewart who has on several occasions served up steaming piles of terrible cover albums which actually !@$@ sold a ton of records. Sad, really. So, while a little skeptical when one of my long time favorites Tommy Keene announced a couple of months ago that he was going to release a record of covers. I’ve seen Tommy live on a couple of occasions and the covers played live sound like he wrote them for the artist who made them popular. So, on Excitement At Your Feet, scheduled to be released later this month, Tommy plays the most unusual set of covers and each case the song takes on new meaning and renewed life, that is if you could even identify the original. The record mines cult gems and even well-known artist’s such as the Rolling Stones the songs are deep cuts in the catalog. So, give it a spin and be surprised. Try “The Puppet (Echo & the Bunnymen)” “Ride On Baby (Rolling Stones)” and “Out of the Blue (Roxy Music).” Here’s a bonus: Tommy playing “Kill Yer Sons (Lou Reed) live at Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco.
Ellicott City, Maryland’s Dangerous Summer are back with their fourth album, entitled Golden Record this month and continue the promise of their last record, 2011’s War Paint. It seems that Hopeless Records is one of the very few punk rock labels still left alive and kicking in the wake of the recent label catastrophes of the past few years. I’m not sure this record will develop a huge following, but it is in the dropbox because my great hope is that this type of punk rock, like Rise Against, continues to thrive because I will lose my mind if all that is left is KROQ and the mindless dance pop that characterizes the playlist. Really, it is too easy to criticize the playlist so, I in an effort to present an unbiased viewpoint have provide the link here for this week’s list: KROQ Playlist.
You will see Imagine Dragons, Lorde (just !@#$ terrible), the endlessly played “Mountain Song” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers which have now reached a point of saturation that I actively switch the radio off when I hear any of their music. Really, KROQ has pummeled me into submission. And they are actually proud of what they play. I used to love that station, now it is generic and unlistenable and they overplay everything. Brutal. Sorry…I’m back now. I snapped.
Back to Dangerous Summer. Like most of this month’s releases there is a wide variety of music. The Dangerous Summer represents only a small portion of the spectrum but it is important. This is emo in its original form and still relevant although many will be dismissive. This record is well written and Al Perdomo is a master at capturing the feeling behind these songs. So, give it a chance, change it up, and freshen your musical palate. Try” Catholic Girls” (Acoustic Version) “Honesty” (Acoustic Version) and “We Will Wait In The Fog.”
In a similar vein, The Almost with their new record Fear Inside Our Bones continues to traverse a more traditional punk rock road. And perhaps that is the difficulty with new punk records. People have become so used to listening to pop music, whether it is fed on radio or more likely by the proliferation of Cinderella music shows (American Idol, X Factor, being the two largest and most popular miscreants) that perhaps we forget that music is meant to move people in a variety of ways, and language is a part of that process. Formed by former Underoath singer/drummer Aaron Gillespie in 2005, as a more melodic outlet for songs that did not fit Underoath’s hardcore ethos, on Fear Inside Our Bones, the band has found its true identity and have produced an album of melodic punk rock thoughtful and inspiring, but without the hardcore elements present on the first two releases. And the result is a thoroughly entertaining rock record. You should check out the great cover of Andrew Gold’s 1977 AM Radio smash hit “Lonely Boy.” The hard edges are still present but this is how modern rock should sound – no indie dance pop here. Play loud. Try “Ghost,” (Live at the Balcony in Westchester) “So What” and the Nirvana influenced “Come On.”
As we are currently in a discourse about punk rock, it should come as no surprise that you would find Philadelphia based Restorations new album entitled LP2 in the dropbox. Upon first listen it sounds like Rise Against mentioned earlier, but this is largely because Restoration’s vocalist Jon Loudon sounds distinctly similar to Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, and if you listened to opener “D” you would think they are the same band. However, there is much more going on here musically as the band incorporates a number of genre shifting elements into the complex songs from metal, pop, street punk, 90’s alternative rock to weave into a unified whole that is a definite foot tapper. Try “The Plan”, “D” and “Quit.”
Changing pace significantly, Toronto’s Trouble & Daughter are my new pop obsession. Really. You would never guess that something this warm and sunny would come from the north. This has the same vibe as much of the new Australian pop scene with its bright sparkly boy-girl vocals and simple catchy melodies which are instantly likeable. The trio of James Mascola (vocals), Jenni Pleau (vocals), and John Doherty (guitar, vocals) creates alt-county flavored folk rock that will capture your heart. The only negative is the fact that Alcohol & Nicotine is too short as it is only an EP. Hopefully a full length will soon follow. Anyway, try: “The West Coast,” (live from The Rivoli in Toronto, Ontario November 2012) and another version of The West Coast from the Condo Sessions, “If You Want It All” and “ Rooftops.” (Live on a rooftop, of course.)
New to the garage rock duo genre (White Stripes, Black Keyes) British duo Drenge, on their self-titled debut, don’t just bash it out. As we approach the mid 2000-teens, if anyone is paying attention, there is a new garage rock revival in full blossom. The difference between Drenge and other new-garage revivalists is that Drenge sounds like Gene Vincent and the others sound like the Seeds. This is not a bad thing, only different. British garage rock has a decidedly different flavor than the U.S. version and it is precisely those differences that make Drenge such an interesting record. At this point in our relationship you all know that I love this genre of music – from both sides of the pond. Check out Ty Segal, Mikal Cronin, King Tuff and below, King Khan & the Shrines and the Dirtbombs.
What is enjoyable about all of these garage bands is their divergent and unique takes on a genre that is almost 60 years old. There must be something deep inside man or woman that creates empathy for this sound so that after all of this time and a few generations that this music still resonates. Its hypnotic and sexy, and as performed by Drenge, the music tinged with psychedelic flourishes. Brothers Rory and Eoin Loveless pummel you with their version of this genre and its catchy as hell and enjoyable. There is something here that reminds me of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club circa Miami and of course, I have a like-on. Try “Backwaters,” I Want To Break You In Half” and “Nothing.” (Live at Edinburgh Electric Circus, August 26, 2013).
Continuing the garage rock explosion, King Khan & The Shrines, after 6 years, release their latest Idle No More and the results are very positive. Continuing his updated Little Richard act, Arish Khan, the leader of the Shrines at times containing up to nine members, play a much more traditional version of the garage pop and roll and to good effect. Now based in Berlin Germany having moved there because this type of 60’s beat influenced garage rock has a larger following, King Khan’s greatest contributions are consistent adherence to garage rock’s fundamental principles while mixing in a health dash of 60’s soul music. Lyrically the album traverses the transitions that Arish has faced over the past several years with the passing of his friend Jay Reatard (“So Wild”), a tribute to his wife for putting up with his shxx (Pray for Lil), and his own descent into madness (“Of Madness I Dream”). Try “Of Madness I Dream”, “Darkness” and “I Got Made.”
Finishing up the trio of new garage releases, Detroit’s Dirtbombs return with their tribute to 70’s bubblegum pop tribute, in the form of Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! Mixing punk and soul into their garage mix machine, on their 6th album, Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! the Dirtbombs, in their fifteenth year, take a new tack by harkening back to the early 70’s bubblegum era and laying its own mark on this traditional sound. Recall the Osmonds, Monkeys, Davey Jones, Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company? No? Well then this will be a new sound for many, but it ruled the AM radio dial two generations ago. Just listen to “We Come in the Sunshine” As writer, front man, vocalist Mick Collins explained the album, which took more than two years to make:
The “concept” is that this is a Bubblegum album: the Dirtbombs as done by Don Kirshner and Kasenetz & Katz. I wasn’t trying to make a period piece; I was more seeing if I could pick up where bubblegum left off around 1975. I had the benefit of 40 years of hindsight, so I could pick and choose the bits I thought would work.
This is a fun record and those who were actually around at the time will recognize several songs have elements of the original hits that spawned these 10 originals. Try” Hey! A Cookie” “We Come in the Sunshine” and “It’s Gonna Be Alright.”
The Suburbs were part of the original Minneapolis scene that spawned Husker Du and The Replacements, but their journey was markedly different. Not truly punk rockers, they were part of the emerging alt-rock scene and in the early 80’s it looked like they were going to break through into the mainstream – but they didn’t. So in 1987 they broke up. Done.
So imagine my surprise to find a new record after 27 years. (Recall that this could be a trend – recall Magazine last year recording an album after 30 years of being broken up?). Si Sauvagefeatures founding members Chan Poling, Hugo Klaers, and Blaine John “Beej” Chaney, plus new band mates Steve Brantseg and Steve Price and special guest vocalists like Janey Winterbauer and Aby Wolf. Original guitarist Bruce C. Allen passed away in 2009.
So, what does a band sound like making a new record after so long? Well, given that they have in the past 27 years played a couple of shows a year in very small venues, remarkable tight and alive. There is more of a bluesy feel to the record which is essentially a straight rock record. I love the horns on the record which provides energy to a number of the songs which actually jumps with energy. Try “Reset the Party”, “Turn the Radio On”, and “Si Sauvage.” Here they are on MTV in 1984 with “Love is The Law.” (More 80’s new wave dancing!)
German three-piece Uncle Ho have been around since 1994 but albums are few and far between. Since it’s not often the dropbox finds a release from Germany, perhaps it will help explain the rarity – German bands usually sing in German. Hence, I’m usually not too interested.
What was interesting in The Manufacture of Madness was the way the album harkens back to the period in the late seventies affectionately known as the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Metal) that spawned Def Leppard, Motorhead, Girlschool, Iron Maiden, Tygers of Pantang,Saxon, etc. This was compared to the old wave of British Heavy Metal featuring Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. “You Are Mine” could have been lifted off the first Def Leppard record. If you recall the birth of the genre, the goal was to keep it sharp, quick and still be heavy, all of which is accomplished by Uncle Ho on this record.
There is definitely more than a little INXS feeling and vibe on this album. This is a late night party record. For those of you whom still have hair – headbangin’ is appropriate. Try” I Wanna Do it Again”, “ “You Are Mine”, and “Talk! Talk! Talk! Talk! Talk!”
From the opening of “Alright” you will know that there is something different going on with New York Trio Ballet’s record I Blame Society. There are touches of power pop ala Fountains of Wayne, with a dash of Magnetic Fields, and my favorites from the early 90’s Los Angeles’ Sugarplastic, throughout the record. If you like those touchstones, you will like this record. Some will note the Jesus and Mary Chain as another touchstone, but what makes this different is that the band makes it all seem fun without being simply derivative.
The synth-pop is lovely and the only real regret is that the auto-tune vocals are a little cold. I could only imagine if Greg Goldberg, Craig Willse and Marina Miranda had the confidence to sing in a natural tone. However, on I Blame Society, the band’s third album the rest of the album is pure pop perfection. Try” Alright”, “Feelings” (which sounds like an outtake from a John Hughes movie performed live with special guest Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris live at The Lexington, London on August 1st, 2013),and “All the Way” (which could be an outtake from the Jesus and Mary Chain).
On No Regerts (misspelling intentional), the debut from Seattle pop-punk band Chastity Belt carry on a long held Seattle tradition of providing exceptionally smart indie rock dealing with complex subjects in this case how the focus of one’s sexual desire becomes inappropriately important in one’s life and the situations that influence and shape that focus. Formed in college and self-taught musicians, the band, like Savages, from earlier this year, have released a markedly focused and competent record that will also likely end up on several year-end best of lists. Lead vocalist Julia Shapiro asks the questions that kids who are transitioning from college often ask – “are we having fun, yet? and the answer is likely not yet but we are trying. Try “Black Sail” (Live on KEXP Seattle, December 29, 2012), “Healthy Punk” ( “I drink when I want to get drunk”) (Columbia City Theater, Seattle, WA, 21 February 2013)
and the happy sounding “Evil”.
The Cheatahs’Extended Plays is precisely that – two EPs pasted together to form a full length release and doesn’t suffer for the effort. The Cheatahs achieve an update of the early 90’s shoegaze genre and if you recall Ride, Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine, then you are probably properly oriented to the direction of Extended Plays. The London based band consisting of a Canadian, German, American and one Brit, do a really good job of resurrecting what made that scene so popular in the first place by staying true to the form and emphasizing the control of distortion and feedback while retaining the vocal nuances of those earlier bands trademark sounds. Sure, there are some lyrical weakness, but so what. The idea of the shoegaze scene was to float – shoegaze bands didn’t look at the audience anyway, they felt them. And this album will make you feel good. Try: “Coared”, “The Swan” and “Fountain Park.”
I have covered a fairly large number of bands this month, but time prevents me from getting to them all. Don’t miss the two EPs from London Grammar (whose full length will be in the dropbox next month), Okkervil River, Islands and the new Dodo’s record. And if you have read this far, the best pop rock record of the month by far is by Pacific Air, which I’ve played the virtual cover off. I’ll post the playlist in a few days!
Have a great month and let’s be safe out there.
Here is this month’s list:
Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 
Ty Segall – Sleeper 
Uncle Ho – The Manufacture of Madness 
Trouble and Daughter – Alcohol and Nicotine 
Ballet – I Blame Society 
Chastity Belt – No Regerts 
Cheatahs – Extended Plays 
Pacific Air – Stop Talking 
Dirtbombs – Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! 
London Grammar – Metal And Dust 
London Grammar – Wasting My Young Years [‘2013]
1975 – The 1975 [Deluxe Edition] 
Three O’Clock – The Hidden World Revealed 
Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium 
Tommy Keene – Excitement at Your Feet 
Suburbs – Si Sauvage 
Arctic Monkeys – AM 
Babyshambles – Sequel to the Prequel [Deluxe Edition] 
Polyphonic Spree – Yes It’s True 
Rise Against – Long Forgotten Songs B-Sides and Covers 2000-2013