Dropbox Notes February 8, 2016

For those of you whom have patiently waited for a new list – well here it is! The first list of 2016! As you can see, the list includes a number of things from the podcast, plus a few extras that haven’t made it yet. I have also included a couple of reissues that every collection needs. As always, this list represents my opinion of the best new(ish) releases that are worth the time and trouble (and money) to locate and download or more preferable purchase the vinyl.

So, for your enjoyment…. Here is the list:

  1. Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum [2016]
  2. DIIV – Is the Is Are [2016]
  3. What’s Eating Gilbert – That New Sound You’re Looking For [2015]
  4. The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab [2016]
  5. Savages – Adore Life [2016]
  6. Jungle Giants – Speakerzoid [2015]
  7. Daughter – Not to Disappear [2016]
  8. Grizfolk – Waking Up The Giants [2016]
  9. Hinds – Leave Me Alone [2016]
  10. Sea Pinks – Soft Days [2016]
  11. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony [2016]
  12. Two Inch Astronaut – Personal Life [2016]
  13. Basement – Promise Everything [2016]
  14. Cheerleader – The Sunshine Of Your Youth [2015]
  15. Banners – Banners [2016]
  16. Danko Jones – Live At Wacken [2016]
  17. Dynamite Pussy Club – Shakedown
  18. Jezabels – Synthia [2016]
  19. Her – Tape #1 EP [2016]
  20. Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger [2016]
  21. Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation [2016]
  22. Last Shadow Puppets – Bad Habits [2016]
  23. Fat White Family – Songs For Our Mothers [2016]
  24. Dollyrots – Mama’s Gonna Knock You Out [2016]
  25. Teen – Little Doods [2015]
  26. Waters – Follow the Beam of Light [2016]
  27. Wild Nothing – Life of Pause [2016]
  28. The Cult – Hidden City [2016]
  29. Bloc Party – Hymns [Deluxe Edition] [2016]
  30. Eliza & The Delusionals – The Time Spent On The Inside EP [2016]
  31. Suede – Night Thoughts [2016]
  32. Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth [2016]
  33. Working for a Nuclear Free City – What Do People Do All Day [2016]
  34. Coffee Or Not – Everything Is Falling Down [2016]
  35. Battleme – Habitual Love Songs [2016]
  36. Harriet – American Appetite [2016]
  37. Cold Engines – Better Off Dead [2016]
  38. Spring Break – Beer Me [2015]
  39. David Bowie – Blackstar [2016]
  40. Death By Pleasure – No Stall Geek [2015]
  41. Milk Teeth – Vile Child [2016]
  42. Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow [2016]
  43. St. Lucia – Matter [2016]
  44. Half Japanese – Perfect [2016]
  45. Chairlift – Moth [2016]
  46. Milk ‘N’ Cookies – Milk ‘N’ Cookies [Special Edition] [2016]
  47. Lush – Chorus (LUSH BOX 1) (Limited Edition) [5CD][2015]
  48. Jam – Fire and Skill [2015]
  49. Replacements – The Complete Studio Albums 1981-1990 (BOXSET) [8CD] [2015]
  50. Long Ryders – Final Wild Songs [2016]

Quite a bit to sample, so enjoy!

KFR

February 11, 2015 Dropbox Notes

Picking up where we last left off (and you should check the dropbox if you haven’t taken a peek in the past couple of weeks) the start of the New Year usually is pretty slow for new releases, but there are already some worthwhile contenders for your dropbox love. As promised, these notes will cover some of the releases from the second half of last year that appeared and which, if you have not already given these a spin, should spend some time re-discovering. Why? Because they were #%^$ stellar releases that I keep coming back to listen, again and again, without growing tired of the early favorites but discovering along with those early contenders for best song, something I missed in earlier listens. Funny, that is usually the truth about most of the albums that I eventually cherish – I had to let the album penetrate – and then I am hooked. For example, I am currently enamored by the Mixtapes and particularly the vocal interplay between Ryan and Maura, and have watched or listened to “Bad Parts” probably 50 times. Magic. (Terrific video as well!) Now, I can’t get the song out of my head! So, with a number of the albums last year, there was a synergy of band-sound-listener that made several of these records worthy of my time …and hopefully yours.
With a head start on the “cherish” scale, there were a couple of reissues last year that you should have spun to rediscover the magic of those special albums:

Afghan Whigs - Gentleman At 21Afghan WhigsGentleman (at 21) (Reissue) [2014]

Greg Dulli easily had the smoothest voice of alternative rock in the 90s. And on Gentleman, the Whigs 4th album and major label debut, the Whigs managed to smooth the sonic rough edges of the first three records without losing the power of the band’s obvious vocal point – Dulli’s vocals. It also helped that these vocals also disguise some rather disturbing lyrical content that most listeners I assume just happily sang along with missing the pain filled messages that fill the record. Notably, the darkest song on the record is not actually sung by Dulli, but by Scrawl’s Marcy Mays whose own vocals are an equally strong counterpoint to Dulli’s. And perhaps this is why the record works so well – the Whigs were taking a huge chance on a very non-commercial record but one that emotionally connected outside the typical alt-rock fair of the time. The demos included on this record are also revealing and when you compare the versions of “My Curse” (with the demo being sung by Dulli) the risk taking is obvious. A terrific record when released, the demo and bonus material rounds out the record nicely giving perspective on the thought process of crafting a work of art. If you’ve never listened to the Afghan Whigs before, start with the hits “Gentleman” and “Debonair”, then turn up the headphones and listen to the rest. Try to pick out the influences – they are easy to find Motown (Temptations), the Pixies (likely subconsciously) (see below), and Neil Young. Try “Gentleman,” “What Jail is Like” and all 7:00 minutes of “My World Is Empty Without You I Hear A Symphony (KTCL Live Music At The Mercury Cafe, Denver, CO May 10th, 1994)”

Game Theory - Blaze Of GloryGame TheoryBlaze Of Glory (Reissue) [2014]

This is an expanded reissue of Game Theory’s 1982 debut album, remastered for this release which captures Scott Miller‘s home recorded DIY debut in all of its glory but removes some of the “sludge” of the original. Formed after Miller’s first band Alternate Learning ended, Blaze of Glory adds the 4 tracks from the Alternate Learning EP released in 1979 and these tracks forecast the future of where Game Theory would ultimately end up – an “experimental power pop” band. Check out “Beach State Rocking.” Like Greg Dulli above, Miller’s vocals are immediately recognizably and the sound – a mixture of garage, lo-fi, psychedelia (note synth/organ), and pop was the imprimatur for what became college rock of the 90’s. The sound on the original was very thin (and as noted above Blaze of Glory is a home recording) but the reissue makes it a little fuller highlighting the enthusiasm and remarkable simplicity of these uncomplicated positive songs. Later albums incorporate these early sounds that culminate with Game Theory’s masterwork – Lolita Nation, but as a debut, this was a huge step along the path. Try “Date With An Angel,” “Bad Year At UCLA” (Note: Miller attended UC Davis – but UCLA sounded better), and “The Girls Are Ready To Go.”

There were also two huge reissues that collect nuggets, B-Sides, Outtakes, and Live offerings from two of the better bands from the past 30 years – The Pixies and Wilco.

Pixies – Doolittle 25 B-Sides, Peel Sessions and Demos [2014]PixiesDoolittle 25 B-Sides, Peel Sessions and Demos [2014]

Doolittle might be, at least for me, one of the top 10 records of all time. I distinctly recall this coming out in 1989 and immediately playing this for my biology classes. As second albums go, this is an anomaly, as there is strong evidence to suggest that many bands leave there best work on the 1st record – after all, they’ve had a lifetime to perfect those first songs. Not so with Doolittle. This is essentially a greatest hits record. There is not one bad track on the record and as I saw them perform live during this period, the ability to translate these songs to the live format was amazing. Sure, there were some college radio hits – “Here Comes Your Man” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” but wow the album was full of sonic gems with Frank Black (then called Black Francis”) howling like a tortured animal and it all worked. A perfect record. Really. Superlatives aside, Doolittle has aged remarkably well. Still current, topical, exciting Doolittle captures a magic moment of time. Particularly interesting is the tension between Francis and Kim Deal which would eventually explode the band with Kim leaving to form the Breeders as an outlet for her songs, but here, the tension is captured in the furious and tight playing of the Pixies. 50 songs on this collection explores the original record, all of the records demos (gives these a listen – the starting point is sometimes as good as the end) and finally the Peel Sessions which illuminate these terrific songs further. A remarkable achievement. Try “Debaser,” “Wave of Mutilation” and “There Goes My Gun (Peel Session).”

Wilco - Alpha Mike Foxtrot Rare TracksWilcoAlpha Mike Foxtrot Rare Tracks 1994-2014 [2014]

Wilco is an enigma to me. It always takes me a few songs to get into the sonic space that Wilco occupies. A mix of Americana, indie rock, and folk, Wilco is a mood band. That is, I’ve got to be in the mood for Wilco, but when I am, I can stay in that mood for several days. Alpha Mike Foxtrot Rare Tracks is an exhaustive compilation of rare studio tracks, demos, and live recordings from a twenty year span of what is Wilco. And the journey is full of highlights. For me, there is Jeff Tweedy’s tender cover of Alex Chilton’s “Thirteen” is stunning and the song choice is impeccable as “Thirteen” remains among my favorite songs of all time. The tender vocals accentuate the love Tweedy has for the song. At the end of this capsule, I usually tell you to “try” three songs. Well, I’m not really able to do that here. Wilco’s career is highlighted by a staggering number of diverse songs that traverse the rock spectrum. So, over the 77 songs collected on Alpha Mike Foxtrot, there are some straight country covers (“Don’t You Honey Me”), some garage rockers (“Kicking Television”) and some things wildly in the middle (“Jesus Etc. (with Andrew Bird”). My advice is to skip around and find something that captures your attention, and then explore the record song by song. This is an exploration record, not a listen all the way through record. Beautifully crafted songs which represent Wilco in a variety of settings highlight what is the magic of Wilco a band that plays there asses off and all of whom are master musicians – every note perfect with vocals that fill the song creating a mood that captures your heart. For me, Wilco is the perfect antidote for whatever ails.
Also, if you are going to take a spin of this collection, Wilco also released a companion greatest hits collection: What’s Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994 – 2014 that is obviously an easy introduction to the band. I just can’t stop listening to “I Might”. Damn, now it stuck in my head. I’m watching it again.

Big Star - Live In MemphisBig StarLive in Memphis [2014]

Omnivore Records is quickly becoming one of my favorite reissue labels. Not only are they responsible for the Game Theory reissues, but now they have released the only known professional recording of Big Star live. As noted above, Big Star featuring Alex Chilton, is not only responsible for the terrific song “Thirteen” but is the historical antecedent and touchstone for power pop, but is also just as likely to have been the impetus for many bands to start forming bands as Kiss ever was. From the opening track “In The Street” which is better known today as the theme song for That 70’s Show, to the closer “Slut”, this late version of Big Star (The Posies assist original members Chilton and Jody Stephens) on Live In Memphis blast through a mix of honkey-tonk, southern rock, and straight forward rock n roll mixing the best elements of 70’s AM radio with Alex Chilton’s distinctive vocals to produce a memorable rock listening experience. Although the sound is a little uneven, the recording captures the best known of Big Star’s classics including “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “September Gurls,” and “Big Black Car” mixed with several 70’s covers from the Kinks, T-Rex and Todd Rundgren. Try “When My Baby’s Beside Me,” “September Gurls,” and “Jesus Christ.”

As I am very short of time, there is one recent release I can highlight and that should get your heart racing and your foot tapping:

Chumped - Teenage RetirementChumpedTeenage Retirement [2014]

As I wrote somewhere previously, pop punk still has some legs, at least for me. As debut’s go, this is pretty strong combining a number of easily identifiable influence (Weezer, Superchunk and Jimmy Eat World come to mind) into something unique while still fitting within the confines of the genre. Also, you might have noticed I’ve got a thing lately for girl vocals and Anika Pyle has the tools to produce what is a very charming sound – urgent and distinct. So, if you like albums in this vein, you can’t go wrong with Chumped. Teenage Retirement is an interesting debut full of well-crafted songs that would make for a pretty fun show. Try “Songs About Boats,” “Long Division” and “Old and Tired.”

Before you read January’s Dropbox list below, I also note, that this drop box truly contains  some of the strongest records from an excellent 2014. Not only is the list diverse (Really – did you expect to see the Meghan Trainor, Tove Lo and Matthew Ryan records in the dropbox?) but I genuinely enjoyed each and every one of these records in their entirety, which is a rarity. Most records I like a handful of songs that standout, and then there a couple for which I’d take a pass. For most of these records I enjoyed almost every song. My favorites of the month, you ask? Dwarves, Guster, Nude Beach, Sleater-Kinney, Modern Baseball and the Riptides. However, try them all as I think there will be something you like in this batch!

Here is the List:

  1. Dwarves – The Dwarves Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll [2014]
  2. Guster – Evermotion [2015]
  3. Ty Segall – Mr. Face EP [2015]
  4. Meghan Trainor – Title [2015]
  5. Fall Out Boy – American Beauty American Psycho [2015]
  6. Nude Beach – 77 [2014]
  7. Major League – There’s Nothing Wrong With Me [2014]
  8. Mannequin Pussy – Gypsy Pervert [2014]
  9. Meatbodies – Meatbodies [2014]
  10. Ought – Once More with Feeling EP [2014]
  11. Ryan Adams – 1984 [2014]
  12. September Girls – Cursing The Sea [2014]
  13. Institute – Salt [2014
  14. King Tuff – Black Moon Spell [2014]
  15. September Girls – Veneer [2014]
  16. Cassie Ramone – The Time Has Come [2014]
  17. Black Wine – Yell Boss [2014]
  18. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance [2015]
  19. Dodos – Individ [2015]
  20. Moon Duo – Shadow Of The Sun [2015]
  21. Melbourne Cans – Moonlight Malaise [2014]
  22. Mighty Lemon Drops – Uptight The Early Recordings 1985-1986 [2014]
  23. Overlake – Sighs [2014]
  24. Velociraptor – Velociraptor [2014]
  25. And We Danced – Back To The Middle [2014]
  26. Blood Red Shoes – Blood Red Shoes [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  27. Coachwhips – Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine (2003, Remastered) [2014]
  28. Dappled Cities – Many Roads [2014]
  29. Dropkick – Homeward [2014]
  30. Lemuria – Turnstile Comix 3 [2014]
  31. Little Envy – Little Envy [2014]
  32. Matthew Ryan – Boxers [2014]
  33. Pvris – White Noise [2014]
  34. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love [2015]
  35. White Heat – Kill Your Idols [2014]
  36. Little Big League – Tropical Jinx [2014]
  37. Melted Toys – Melted Toys [2014]
  38. Mitski – Bury Me at Makeout Creek [2014]
  39. Modern Baseball – Techniques [2014]
  40. Wand – Ganglion Reef [2014]
  41. Len Price 3 – Nobody Knows [2014]
  42. Tove Lo – Queen Of The Clouds [2014]
  43. Riptides – Tombs of Gold [2014]
  44. Mallory Knox – Asymmetry [2014]
  45. Melody Fall – The Shape Of Pop Punk To Come [2014]
  46. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent [2014]
  47. Lunchbox – Lunchbox Loves You [2014]
  48. Midnight Snack – The Times [2014]
  49. Misun – Superstitions [2014]
  50. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper [2015]

So there you have it until next time. I’ll catch up soon. I guarantee it!

So, let’s be safe out there.

 

January 11, 2015 Dropbox Notes

Okay, so I have been off the grid for a while. Hopefully you’ve missed me, because I certainly have missed the interaction with you, each and everyone of you. Really, I think about the Starbucks gang quite a bit after having moved my office. Same goes for the Canadian group whom I missed this Christmas.  C&K&J if you are reading these notes, I miss you always when you are not around. Maybe one day you’ll explore the dropbox and find out why I really love this type of music.  Nuff’ said.

I also know that I was remiss in getting dropboxes and these notes out for the past couple of months, but life sometimes gets in the way of the music. Not that I stopped listening to new tunes in any imaginable way, but I just wasn’t able to get the writing part underway. I thought about it on a number of occasions but wasn’t able to properly put pen to paper or word document on screen. The dropbox was also kind of quiet, so if you are reading this in early January, give me a shout and I’ll help you out with the stuff that you missed along the way. However, I’ve dropped a new drobox to coincide with these notes so you should take a peek, eh?

As this is generally the time of year when I take a look at the past year and reflect on what I spent most of my time listening to, I seem to have reached a new level of listening diversity. I definitely enjoyed a more diverse year in terms of albums I enjoyed, discovered some new areas of listening enjoyment that were off my radar in the past i.e. pop records, and discovered that pop-punk and punk rock as genres are in really good shape with excellent albums by the Menzingers, Fireworks, Copyrights, and Masked Intruder last year. Most surprising is my new found appreciation for electronic albums. However, don’t get carried away. I still can’t appreciate EDM, most industrial, goth, classical or Hip Hop. I’m still kind of old so its not likely I’m going to move that far from where I’ve started.

If you are new to the Tales From The Dropbox, I only put in albums that I like. So, there are no negative reviews. If I didn’t like a record or was lukewarm or bored, or I missed it along the way, then it’s not going to show up. I’ve got enough to do in my life without wasting energy on things that don’t bring enjoyment or the cash necessary to buy enjoyment! It is called work because its not fun. If work was fun then you could use the terms interchangeable – I’m not there yet.  I do actually miss quite a few things because there were over 15,000 releases last year and there are only so many hours in the day. 24 hours I think, right? So if you don’t see it, you can point out what I’ve missed and lead me to discover a record that gives you joy. Truly exciting!

So, the next couple of issues of the Dropbox Notes is designed to accomplish a couple of important tasks:
1. Catch up on releases that I dropped but didn’t have time to give you a capsule review;
2. Give you my thoughts on my favorite records of last year;
3. Post the complete list of releases that made the dropbox;
4. Update you on the new releases in this month’s dropbox.

Whew! That’s a bunch of stuff. So, I’m going to break those tasks up into pieces and post as I go. So, there will be dribs and drabs for the next thirty days or so. Please bear with me. 2015 is already looking good for new music and we will get there….together! ….and hopefully all in one piece…

Finally, I hope that your 2015 is an exciting, prosperous, healthy, and successful year. After the major news events of the past couple of months including #icantbreathe, Ferguson, Ottawa parliament shooter, last week’s Paris attack on a newspaper, and last month’s Australian hostage situation, it, at least on the surface, appears that the degeneration of the human soul is accelerating. Hopefully these tragic events are only an anomaly.

Last year there was also some brilliant evidence of the compassionate and empathetic human spirit where people took it upon themselves to make the world a better and safer place. It is these stories of courage and compassion during difficult situations that give me hope that evil will not win even though these same “good” events don’t get the same press attention. And perhaps these quiet and individual efforts to erase the evil of murder committed in the name of religion will someday create a roar of positive life affirming goodness and we can begin again to enjoy life without the threat of darkness.
Looking forward, and back, at the same time. Happy New Year!

Now to the regular program…

First, you should take a look at what you might have missed in the second half of 2014. My last observations were in July, so here is the list of releases from the second half of 2014 that made the Dropbox:

August 07, 2014 Dropbox

  1. Anti-Flag – A Document of Dissent [2014]
  2. Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside [2014]
  3. Courteeners – Concrete Love [Deluxe Version] [2014]
  4. Spoon – They Want My Soul [2014]
  5. Rise Against – The Black Market [2014]
  6. Nico Vega – Lead to Light [2014]
  7. The #1s – The Number Ones [2014]
  8. Ghost Wolves – Man, Woman, Beast [2014]
  9. Downtown Fiction – Losers & Kings [2014]
  10. Bleachers – Strange Desire [2014]
  11. Bishop Allen – Lights Out [2014]
  12. Big Deal – June Gloom [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  13. Allison Weiss – Remember When [2014]
  14. Angus And Julia Stone – Angus And Julia Stone [Deluxe Version] [2014]
  15. Colony House – When I Was Younger [2014]
  16. Engineers – Always Returning [2014]
  17. Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt (Deluxe Edition) [2014]
  18. Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals [2014]
  19. Interrupters – The Interrupters [2014]
  20. J Mascis – Tied to a Star [2014]
  21. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again [2014]
  22. Muffs – Whoop Dee Doo [2014]
  23. Stiff Little Fingers – Original Album Series [5CD][2014]
  24. Rentals – Lost In Alphaville [2014]
  25. Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts [2014]
  26. Bats – Volume 1 [3CD] [2014]
  27. Dry The River – Alarms In The Heart [2014]
  28. Literature – Chorus [2014]
  29. Raglans – Raglans [2014]
  30. Real Friends – Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing [2014]
  31. Thousand Foot Krutch – Oxygen Inhale [2014]
  32. Dead Stars – Slumber [2014]
  33. Twin Atlantic – Great Divide (Deluxe Version) [2014]
  34. Ty Segall – Manipulator [2014]
  35. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lose [2014]
  36. Allah-Las – Worship The Sun [2014]
  37. Dylan In The Movies – Sweet Rebel Thee [2014]
  38. Dirt Farmer – Free BBQ [2014]
  39. Darlings – Made Of Phantoms [2014]
  40. Arkells – High Noon [2014]
  41. Empire! Empire! I Was a Lonely Estate – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten [2014]
  42. Lucero – Live from Atlanta [2014]
  43. Courteeners – How Good It Was EP [2014]
  44. Neighbors – Failure [2014]
  45. Neighbors – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please [2014]
  46. Wax Witches – Center Of Your Universe [2014]
  47. Philip Selway – Weatherhouse [2014]
  48. Quietdrive – The Ghost of What You Used to Be [2014]
  49. Roadkill Ghost Choir – In Tongues [2014]
  50. Sports – Sunchokes [2014]
  51. Cool – Paint [2014]

December 18, 2014 Dropbox

  1. Hard-Ons – Yummy [2014 Reissue Expanded Edition] [2CD] [2014]
  2. Royal Blood – Royal Blood [2014]
  3. Screaming Females – Live at The Hideout [2014]
  4. Merchandise – After The End [2014]
  5. Moon Duo – Live in Ravenna [2014]
  6. OBN IIIs – Third Time to Harm [2014]
  7. Ballroom Babies – Change To Silver [2013]
  8. Bad Things – Bad Things (Deluxe Edition) [2014]
  9. Colourist – The Colourist [2014]
  10. Copyrights – No Knocks [2014]
  11. Twin Atlantic – Great Divide (Deluxe Version) [2014]
  12. Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen at 21 [2014]
  13. Gob – Apt 13 [2014]
  14. War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream [2014]
  15. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent [2014]
  16. Alvvays – Alvvays [2014]
  17. Yo La Tengo – Extra Painful! [2014]
  18. Pixies – Doolittle 25 B-Sides, Peel Sessions and Demos [2014]
  19. Wilco – Alpha Mike Foxtrot Rare Tracks 1994-2014 [2014]
  20. Republic Of Wolves – Covers (Vol. 1) [2014]
  21. Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea (Official) [2014]
  22. Springtime Carnivore – Springtime Carnivore [2014]
  23. Superfood – Don’t Say That [2014]
  24. Ty Segall – SINGLES 2 [2014]
  25. Viet Cong – Viet Cong [2015]
  26. Big Star – Live in Memphis [2014]
  27. Walk The Moon – Talking Is Hard [2014]
  28. Cult of Youth – Final Days [2014]
  29. Girlpool – Girlpool [2014]
  30. Fox & The Law – Stoned To Death [2014]
  31. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways [2014]
  32. Baby Ghosts – Ghost Walk [2014]
  33. Chumped – Teenage Retirement [2014]
  34. Ex Cops – Daggers [2014]
  35. Fugazi – First Demo [2014]
  36. Game Theory – Blaze of Glory [Expanded Edition] [2014]

So, which of these releases should you have not missed? Well, the next Tales From The Dropbox Notes will cover the key releases that belong in everyone’s collection! (No…. the Foo Fighters record is not one of them. Sadly, not in the top releases of 2014. Solid record, but not one that I’m going to keep coming back to listen. Shelf life = 3 months, perhaps 6 months at best.)

Dropbox Notes July 7, 2014

Well its Glastonbury weekend in the UK and as I write these notes (June 29, 2014) although I’m likely publishing them much later (and as evidenced by the date above, much later), and Metallica seems to have pulled of what many thought nigh impossible – a positive review for commercial heavy metal at a place full of largely commercial pop acts and old people. Really. Billy Bragg is still playing, as is today’s highlight Dolly Parton who follows last night’s appearance by 69 year old Brian Ferry alongside a number of very diverse but slightly older skewing alternative-indie-pop acts. So, how was the show? I noted that the first comment on the Guardian blog was this ( I’ve cleaned up the spelling a little bit):

Mr. Svejk – Sick[enin]ing to see all the media raving about a bunch of rich has-beens, must have been bunged free tickets judging by the sycophantic coverage of this year’s yuppyfest, £200 a pop for a mud and cow faeces bath, plus another few hundred spending and travel money, what a rip off

Perhaps, not all is right with the world of popular music at least as live shows go. However, I will also affirmatively state that there is very likely a salon in Los Angeles that will start offering an exclusive “mud and cow faeces bath” for $750.00 claiming that it will remove all of the wrinkles from your skin.

I preface all of the above comments with this observation: I would like to have the chance to visit and experience the festival – perhaps crowdfunding, eh?

So, what was good in music this past month or so? Well, quite a bit. A glance at the dropbox list shows at least one band played Glastonbury (Kasabian), and 48 other acts whom did not, but that is not to say that you won’t find something intriguing to play in the list. There are several almost assuredly characterized as unknown acts making the list, and consequently, I had trouble locating information. Rest assured, none of the information in these notes is fiction, it may just be a little thin. Some other observations: James Blunt makes the dropbox for the first time and possibly last, with a really catchy single, and it is squeezed between I Heart Sharks and the new Masked Intruder album. So, not your usual assortment of list makers.

As I insist every month, feel free to explore the dropbox. You might find something that you actually like rather than something you are being force fed by mass media marketers, commercial radio, and professional review magazines who coincidentally are full of advertising from the labels of bands they are reviewing. Tales From The Dropbox exists to fill a gap because these are not really reviews as there is no criticism provided at all.  These capsules are merely introductions to music I actually like to listen to from a fairly wide spectrum of what could be considered the “rock genre.” After almost three years of putting these notes together, there are some obvious biases in my selections, which I hope I’ve pointed out along the way. I am positive that there are certain acts that you like everything they put out until that day arrives when you can no longer defend the purchase of the next record. For me, there are several of these points which I vividly recall: Here are the list of bands and the last album I purchased i.e. the point where the train stopped and I was no longer the all forgiving fan:

Rolling Stones – Some Girls (1978). In fairness, I probably really stopped purchasing Rolling Stones records in 1974 with the purchase of It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll which I consider their last really good record. Sure, Some Girls had a couple of great tracks, such as “Shattered” and “Beast of Burden” but at this point, I believed the band was largely phoning in their records and the danger of the past was non-existent.

Elvis Costello – Mighty Like a Rose (1991). Like the Rolling Stones, Elvis for me was overdone by the time Mighty Like A Rose was released. I had difficulty listening to Spike (1989) but at least I enjoyed a few songs. How anyone lasted through any of Elvis’ efforts after Mighty Like A Rose is beyond me. Quick, name one song that Elvis recorded after 1991 that you liked and can recall. You can’t. Don’t lie to yourself. It’s okay. Elvis was always a little old but really after the magnificence of the first five albums released between 1977 and 1980 (Get Happy!), he can be forgiven for some inconsistency (like most of the rest of the records he released during 80’s). However, once Elvis hit the 90’s, he was like the Rolling Stones – old and more interested in being an “Artist” rather than communicating with his audience. I know I was hugely disappointed by Spike, but Mighty Like A Rose took the bloom off the flower that was Elvis. Not a single track on this album can I recall. In fact, my disappointment was so huge, I stopped listening to Elvis altogether.

Paul Weller – Stanley Road (1995). You would think that I would hang in longer with the leader of one of my top three bands ever – The Jam – but even the modfather turned into an annoying folkie with a series of limp releases during the 90’s and early 2000’s. I know, the British music press continue to heap praise, but true fans have watched Weller end the Jam, suffer through the mostly forgettable Style Council (although there were a few worth moments) and then move on to his “solo” career which is only relevant because he is old. Stanley Road was a good record, but not as great as the readers of Q Magazine gave it, ranking it in 1998 as the 46th greatest album of all time. Can I name any of the songs on the record other than the title track, “Stanley Road”? Nope. Not a one. Anything memorable that I play constantly? Nope not a one. To be fair, recently, Weller has had a couple of moments of renewed inspiration, most notably Sonik Kicks (2012), but all that good will has gone away with his most recent release More Modern Classics which rounds up songs Weller thinks are “classics” from 2000 onward with a couple of new tracks and like the emperor has no clothes, the collection can best be described as underwhelming.

Kiss – Unmasked (1980). There are a number of reasons why I stopped listening to Kiss in 1980 and none of them have to do with this being the last album that original Kiss drummer Peter Chris was in the band and he didn’t even play on this record. Anton Fig did. The problem for me was that punk rock had revealed that Kiss were just pretenders at that point. The danger the band represented was limp, and after the 4 solo records which were thin in terms of songs (Ace’s record was easily the best), Kiss fans, myself included, who had survived all the punishment of being a Kiss fan, and who were rewarded by the acknowledgment of number of punk bands who like me, were inspired by Kiss to start bands (Replacements immediately come to mind), easily could point to all of the albums prior to the solo records as being great. Heck, I even survived the impact of “Beth” as a popular single. I always considered the song a joke – WTF??? So, after listening to the solo records, trying to find anything worth listening to on Dynasty (1979) which was slim – Kiss as a disco band. At that point I was desperate. Hopefully they would find the path towards greatness. What really sucked was that Dynasty was a commercial success and that spelled doom as the songs were really weak. Okay, I’m being nice. They were terrible.  Little did I know what a pile of crap Unmasked would be at the time because now in hindsight, the songs on Dynasty are hit singles compared to the tragedy that is Unmasked. Absolutely worthless. Kiss had obviously believed their own hype and believed that their fan base could survive not only being unmasked, playing disco music, and kicking Perter Chris out of the band. Well, some of us felt stupid and betrayed. Finally, Gene and Paul – choosing not to play with Peter at your HOF induction? Are you kidding me? How do you sleep at night you hypocrites. It’s all about business and Ace and Peter’s contributions to your “business” cannot be stated more clearly: Kiss (1974), Hotter Than Hell (1974), Dressed to Kill (1975), Destroyer (1976), Rock and Roll Over (1976), and Love Gun (1977). Kiss – you suck.

So, where does this leave us now? Well, as I pointed out earlier – these notes are an introduction. That is, an opportunity to find music that fits with your passion. The dropbox is about finding things good to listen to and it doesn’t matter where they are in their career, if its good, its good and you’ll know it. The goal is to avoid the end – that point in a band’s career where they have overstayed their welcome and in your heart saying positive things about their new release is much the same as trying to make a fart small like a rose – impossible. So, you won’t see the new Weller record, and I don’t even know if the others are still making music, but as a fan I will always give the new record a try, hoping to regain the “thing” that made me a fan in the first place.

Finally, I have jumped around a bit in the notes this month to make sure that I hit some records that wouldn’t immediately catch your attention due to their unfamiliarity. I think you’ll find some winners all around this month.

Fireworks - (Oh), Common LifeDetroit’s, Fireworks on their third full length (Oh), Common Life have found the perfect blend of mature lyrical theme and pop punk to produce an album that breathes new life into a largely dying genre. Pop punk’s biggest problem was the acceptance by the masses of the sound and the lyrics dealing with teen viewpoints on life that grew tiresome after you reached the age of 25. No so with Fireworks. The band is not trapped by the genre form and the expansive sound on (Oh), Common Life is a game changer. Never will you experience a record where the big sing-a-long choruses fit so well with the fairly reflective and serious lyrics and the hooks…killer. I’ve played this album about fifty times since I found it and every spin I discover something new to enjoy. The real secret is that the second half of the album is actually better than the first half, but you will find immediacy in the first half and latency in the second. Comprende? Try: “The Hotbed Of Life,” “The Only Thing That Haunts This House Is Me,” and “Play “God Only Knows” At My Funeral.”

American Suitcase - LighthoursAnother throwback of sorts, is Oslo Norway’s American Suitcase, who have also reached an apotheosis on Lighthours, their 5th album. From the beginning, American Suitcase has channeled the Byrds adopting the jangle guitar and harmonies, but on Lighthours, the songs have a new level of sophistication and reminded me of Game Theory in their approach – simple jangle pop with huge melodies. Teenage Fan Club also comes to mind as a good comparison for American Suitcase’s approach – the vocals are layered into the guitars so that the guitars shimmer adding a layer of consonance to the vocals and harmonies. I cannot think of another band still making this delicately crafted music, so enjoy it as we are unlikely to see much more in the future. And I for one, will be disappointed. Try” The Driver,” “Bright Holes,” and “Things About You.”

WYR0514tubejktnoguidlinesParquet Courts new release is another great garage rock record with ample amounts of fuzz that makes for a great listening experience. Sure, there is the Velvet Underground/ Jonathan Richman vocal intonation but the guitar work is sonically several layers enhanced from 2012’s Light Up Gold and in some ways Sunbathing Animal reminds me of Television, particularly on a track like “Dear Ramona” which deftly plays homage to those bands and musicians. Sunbathing Animal, is more than the sum of its parts – each song fits perfectly with the others such that the assemblage connects to a unified whole. Angular and disjointed, rhythmic and hypnotic, the songs on Sunbathing Animal update the earliest proto-punk (I’m positive that they lifted directly from Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba” on “What Color Is Blood.”) to a modernist take on punk now 35 years on and the results are fascinating. Try “Sunbathing Animal,” “Black And White” (Is that the B-52’s?) and “What Color Is Blood.”

Saskwatch - Nose DiveIf you’ve noticed lately a predominance of Australian bands in the dropbox, then you are not alone and not mistaken. There are some things that Australia does better than the U.S. and indie-pop is one of them. In a world full of electronic sounds, Saskwatch have ….wait for it…..a …horn section! Melbourne based, this nine piece on their second album, Nose Dive, have produced a melodic and stunningly brilliant throwback record, with touches of 60’s Motown and modern garage. I was hooked from the beginning – the songs are “soul heaven” particular the jazz inflected soul of vocalist Nkechi Anele whose warm tone will make this a favorite in you evening record selection. I was blown away by “Born to Break Your Heart,” which should be a worldwide hit. Can’t say enough good about this record really. Try “Born to Break Your Heart,” “You Don’t Have to Wait,” and “Hands.”

James Blunt - Heart to HeartFurther evidence of Tales From the Dropbox penchant for enjoying discriminating pop music is found in the simple melody and pure pop of James Blunt’s new Heart To Heart EP containing the pleasing 3:29 minutes of the single “Heart To Heart.” Admittedly, I am not a James Blunt fan – at all. Previous experience was forgettable as the melodramatic whining was not pleasant. However, for contemporary AOR pop, the Heart To Heart EP is fairly catchy, whimsical and sincere, and as such dropbox worthy. I’m not sure those are the qualities that made for the EP’s inclusion, but the EP is short, with 2 acoustic songs of a kind of folk pop, that exposes Blunt’s particular form of romantic balladry. So, in another dropbox first, I’ve only got one song for you to try, so try “Heart To Heart.”

Tigers Jaw - CharmerTigers Jaw’s new record, Charmer is a difficult record to analyze on a metaphysical and philosophical level. The Scranton PA band split with three of its members after deciding to take a new direction in 2013, but as all good pals, the departing members participated fully in the recording of Charmer, the band’s fourth album. What makes this all the more amazing, is that the duo who remain, keyboardist Brianna Collins and guitarist Ben Walsh, have managed to balance what must make for a difficult recording situation – giving some control over the recording process to old members who no longer have skin in the game. Charmer’s charm ( see how I did that there) derives from the interplay between old and new with Collins and vocalist Adam McIlwee trading vocals on the delectable track, “Hum.” And for much of Charmer it is exactly as the the band self-describes – Fleetwood Mac meets Brand New indie pop with a blend of old and new sounds comprising a collection of songs that struggle to break away from the sadness of a band imploding. Try: “Charmer,” “Hum,” and “Nervous Kids.”

Alvvays - AlvvaysToronto’s Alvvays self-titled debut is another slice of reverb laden indie-pop with a bit of a twist as the band sprinkles its blend of twee-pop with early C86 scene markers producing an album with a sound in a similar manner but not tone of the Smiths. This “sound” is readily apparent on a song such as “Archie Marry Me.” Now that you’ve got the “sound” of Alvvays, try putting the delicate vocals of Cape Breton immigrant, Molly Rankin into the mix (she sounds nothing like Morrissey). (If you have been to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, then you know traveling to Toronto is like immigrating to a foreign country.) The songs are also awash in Jesus and Mary Chain reverb with sunny guitar runs breaking free from the fuzz – like sunshine emerging from clouds. Keyboard fills by another Cape Breton native, Kerri Maclellan, highlight the delicate nature of these songs brimming with life. Try ” Archie Marry Me,” “Adult Diversion,” and “Party Police.”

Animal Years - Sun Will Rise [Deluxe Edition]Another debut record hits the dropbox, with Brooklyn quartet Animal Years re-releasing its debut in a deluxe edition format (collecting several B-sides) in May of this year. If you look back, the original version of the album hit the dropbox. Released in September 2013, this album of indie rock with country flourishes was mostly recorded in Baltimore before vocalist and bandleader Mike McFadden moved to Brooklyn. The album, which deals primarily with transitions, heartache, loneliness and leaving, is a consistently good record full of atmospheric indie rockers all crooned by McFadden – you can smell the beer in the bar where Animal Years plays. I swear the songs on this record made me want to pick up a guitar and drive over to Old Towne Pub in Pasadena to play. What strikes me most upon listening is the pacing of this record. I know, odd thing to write about. However, the songs feel like the soundtrack to a road movie with each song a capsule on that journey. Try “Meet Me,” Let Go of Your Head,” and “Fear of Falling (B-Side).”

A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Sea When AbsentDefiantly dream pop, Philadelphia originating A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s fourth album Sea When Absent is the byproduct of change. ASDIG is essentially Ben Daniels and whomever else is available and wants to record, and consequently, each record although genred as dream pop does not simply follow the formula. Each ASDIG record adds an odd assortment of very divergent sounds which serves to break up the traditional dream pop formulation. Consequently, on Sea When Absent, these new sounds are compelling. The new lineup which adds Jen Goma is produces a huge vocal leap as her voice adds significant depth and feel to these shoegaze type pop songs. Try “Boys Turn Into Girls (Initiation Rites),” “Never Nothing (It’s Alright [It’s OK]),” and “The Things They Do to Me.”

Bad Suns - Language and PerspectiveIt would be a contradiction to put the EP in the dropbox one month and then fail to include the full length the following month, so here you have Bad Suns full length debut Language and Perspective as the follow up to Transpose EP from last month. So, without having to refer back to those notes, Language and Perspective is Bad Suns doing their version of Bastille. The album mines the same electronic backed indie dance sounds as typified by Bastille‘s Bad Blood album, and Language and Perspective should find a home on stations that play records like this, which is practically every alternative radio station in the universe. I am confidant that once this album finds a place on radio that it will be overplayed, but for now, you should play it, say 30-40 times, so that you don’t have to play it again when it comes on radio. The hit is “Cardiac Arrest” but you know what, Language and Perspective has more than one good song, so the frequent spins will help you discover the quiet beauty of songs like “We Move Like the Ocean.” The album transports 3 of the 4 songs on the EP to the full length, but in context, they work to fill out the album nicely. Try” Pretend,” “Take My Love and Run,” and “Transpose.”

Alex G - DSUAlex G, real name Alex Giannascoli, from Philly, is the bedroom equivalent of Pavement. DSU sounds like the results of Stephen Malkmus recording Pavement albums in his basement. What is most interesting about this prolific 21 year old, is his apparently extensive familiarity with 90’s indie rock pioneers such as Elliot Smith and Guided By Voices all of which end up on DSU. Alex also has voice that is somewhat reminiscent of Alex Chilton which when spun through the mixer end up on DSU as a collection of very interesting experimental indie rock songs. Sure, there are several songs which are obvious derivatives from other artists, but that’s not a dis-qualifier to enjoyment – something new always came from something old and it is the smart artist that can dress it up so those lifts from others look new and fresh. The real question about acceptability as an artistic effort is whether the current artist under review has produced something equally charismatic and rewarding as the predecessor from which the sounds derive and in the case of Alex G, DSU, although sometimes uneven, is a very rewarding listen with a couple of real standout efforts – specifically the slacker anthem “Harvey.” Something unique is present in these sonic experiments and that is good enough for the dropbox. Try “Harvey,” “Black Bear,” and “Boy.”

Bear in Heaven - Time Is Over One Day OldBrooklyn quartet Bear In Heaven return with their 4th album on August 5, 2014 entitled Time Is Over One Day Old. Bear In Heaven’s music can be best described as electro-psychedelic which in lay terms is music you can dance to on an empty dance floor. i.e. adrift on the floor untethered to the ground by that troublesome gravity. At times a little techno feel to this record, but overall, an interesting take on textured driven indie rock with both the vocals and the music capable of producing floating. Try “If I Were to Lie,” “Memory Heart,” and “Way Off.”

Cambridge - Create. Destroy. RebuildBack to Australia for Cambridge’s new release Create. Destroy. Rebuild. Former lead singer of Sydney’s Heroes For Hire is back with a new band and a slightly new direction on this debut. Still pop-punk at its core, Create. Destroy. Rebuild is full of anthemic pop punk much in the same direction as Every Avenue, Hit The Lights, and The Maine – catchy, bouncy pop-punk that is not too serious lyrically and fun to play around the house very loud. Try “Head over Heels [Feat. Danny Stevens of The Audition],” “Create. Destroy. Rebuild,” and “All or Nothing.”

Candy Hearts - All The Ways You Let Me DownSticking with the pop-punk part of the list, this time female fronted, New York’s Candy Hearts return with the immensely near perfect version of the genre in the form of All The Ways You Let Me Down. I guess I’m hedging a bit when I say near perfect. There are no observable flaws in any of the performances on this record. On All The Ways You Let Me Down, Candy Hearts’ vocalist Mariel Loveland sweet matter-of-fact vocals with this ear-gastic “twang” effectively tell the albums songs which are really stories of requited love and longing. There is something compelling about the tone of her vocals which are brought to the front of the mix. The melodies on all the songs big bold and bright so that you find yourself soon singing along. My only nag would be with the …. Ah heck. I don’t have any nags. A solid fun record that will keep you happily singing along. Try “I Miss You,” “The One To Get Me Out,” and “All The Ways You Let Me Down.”

Masked Intruder - M.I.By way of comparison to the Candy Hearts, this month also finds the male contender to the punk-pop genre crown in the dropbox. Masked Intruder’s second album M.I. carries on the inside joke with another album full of catchy pop-punk.  Intruder Orange, Intruder Green, Intruder Red and Intruder Blue continue where they last left off with no let down in either song quality or style. Claiming to be from Madison Wisconsin, M.I. is 13 songs all sung and played in the style of Chixdiggit (hell, “The Most Beautiful Girl” intro sounds like “Chupacabra!”) which is a great thing! So, given my bias for this type of music, you will have to decide for yourself whether this mash-up of the Beach Boys meets the Ramones styled punk rock is worthy of your attention. For me, it all works. Try: “When I Get Out,” “Hey Girl,” and “Almost Like We’re Already in Love.” ( I’ll bet you’ll be surprised by this song – 50’s solid)

Reigning Sound - ShatteredNorth Carolina garage rockers Reigning Sound are now on Merge Records and their latest release Shattered is a burner. Greg Cartwright (ex of Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers) orchestrates and sings on this latest Reigning Sound album blending psych-pop, garage, soul, country and guitar into a distinctive sound. I particularly like the soul influences and Cartwright’s delivery keeps the album fresh upon repeated listens. If you are a garage pop fan, then this is a great album. I will note that Shattered is a step up in sound with the normally predominant use of fuzz remarkably sparse and controlled making for a consistently great sounding record from beginning to end. Try “Never Coming Home,” “Falling Rain,” and “In My Dreams.”

Ty Segall - FeelI slipped the new Ty Segall single into the dropbox, because I’ve been on a bit of a Ty Segall jag lately. I am consistently fascinated by the amazing guitar work on each of his releases, the past several of which highlight the heavy metal influenced psych-garage style of music that he seems focused upon. This single, like the last several releases, offer Ty’s unique version of indie garage music. These two tracks “Feel” and “The Fakir” were released as a 7’’ on Drag City on May 20, 2014. “Feel” is electric and “The Fakir” is acoustic but you’ll get an idea of where Ty’s sonic approach is right now (could change but I’m not thinking so in the near future). If you can find it, pick up his last record Sleeper (2013) or the Live At Death By Audio 2012 (2013) releases I put in the dropbox last year.

Cerebral Ballzy - Jaded and FadedA couple of punk albums made the dropbox this month. First up is Brooklyn’s Cerebral Ballzy who on their second full length Jaded & Faded have properly captured the perfect balance between 80’s punk rock and NYHC with this release. Jaded & Faded is also a sharp left turn from their debut album as it by incorporates a healthy amount of garage fuzz into the sonic mix. As such, the fuzz addition, which goes against the traditional punk grain, will also likely detract from the listening pleasure of punk purists whom expect punk rock to have a distinct sound. However, after several listens to this record, I find that the addition is welcome as it changes the dynamic of these songs – which are still short and sharp – into fully formed ideas with much more range than Cerebral Ballzy‘s first efforts. There is a reason why punk is a difficult genre to be successful – the form is guarded by purists who need to hear a certain sound and that prevents albums which try to expand the form from being adopted/ promoted by the traditional punk media (you know who you are). As should be obvious by now, great songs don’t need to follow the form. Try: “Better in Leather,” “Be Your Toy,” and “Off with Your Head.”

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! - Pardon My French (Deluxe Edition)French pop-punk band Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! released their uniformly excellent sophomore album Pardon My French in April last year and now have released a Deluxe Edition of the album on June 17, 2014 which adds 3 unreleased tracks and an acoustic version of “Taking Chances.” Pardon My French was in the dropbox the first time, but for those of you who missed it, really give this album a second chance. There are only a couple of pop-punk records really worth listening to each year, and in 2013 this was definitely one of them. I like the metal core edges which break up the flow and add variety to these songs. However, conceding the obvious, for those of you who don’t like loud, perhaps give this album a pass. For those of you into something a little different, this is the goods. Try ” Taking Chances,” “I Am Nothing Like You,” and “Kids.”

Damn Seagulls - Let It ShineFinnish rockers Damn Seagulls 5th album Let It Shine continues the Damn Seagulls exploration of their unusual rock variant – adding brass instruments to pop flavored rock. Let It Shine will make you feel all warm and fuzzy because I think that is the band’s goal – to try to worm each song into your heart. It should also be noted that all of these songs are designed for commercial radio in Finland and what a world place Finland must be if this can make it on pop radio. When was the last time you heard woodwind instruments on a rock record? Plus it is hard to resist any record which has a song named Paul Weller obviously named for the mod-father. Try “Let It Shine,” “Paul Weller,” and “Grateful.”

Dukes - Smoke Against The BeatFirst of the not much about bands, are The Dukes who are apparently from France and have recorded a slab of garage rock in Los Angeles with Jamie Candiloro, mixed by Charles de Schutter, and mastered by Tamas. As a second album, Smoke Against The Beat, is a mixture of garage, pop-punk, and straight up rock n’ roll with big fat sing-a-long choruses’ ( I’m thinking a mix of The Monks, The Strokes, and early Mando Diao with a slice of Jet) that will have you singing along and wishing they were playing a small club near you. Maybe someday. Great rock record for your summer listening pleasure. Try “Just In Case,” “Daisy’s Eyes,” and “The Grey People.”

Kasabian - 48-13 [Japanese Edition]Well how about Kasabian’s latest effort 48:13, now that they have played a triumphant headlining show at Glastonbury? The most important yet unstated question is how the ^^3%$& are they so massive, playing for more than 200,000 people, and not on any radio in Los Angeles? Good question. Perhaps I can answer it – Kasabian play a British centric form of evolved Madchester derived form of dance pop that Americans have trouble relating to because we cannot dance or sing along with without looking completely idiotic. It is still difficult for me to conceptualize the Stone Roses as a dance band, but in England they are – in the form of Kasabian. Kasabian  owes a debt to the Stone Roses ( there is not any debate about this), but if you listen to the hit single “Eez-Eh” you can hear a touch of Madness in those dance beats. To judge Kasabian as mere copyists would miss the point entirely. Kasabian have managed to find a way to capture the sound of movement – albeit that movement is the aftermath of the 90’s ecstasy culture. So, what you have on 48:13 is an amalgam of psychedelic influenced dance music comprising several excellent songs that will play well live – as evidenced by the massive crowd response to their shows. So, where do Kasabian stand now? On their 5th album, with a playing time of 48:13, hence the title, there is a little more variety in the delivery when compared with past efforts, and the instrumental interludes sprinkled throughout the record are important palate cleaners before you jump back into another frenzied dance moment. For most of Kasabian’s career (at least in my mind) I have always lumped them together with the Klaxons and Hard-Fi, but on 48:13 there is a distinct sonic break from those other two bands. After the first couple of tracks you are immediately aware that this is Kasabian effort to take their sound in new directions and most of these songs are successful. Decide for yourself. Try “Stevie,” “Eez-Eh,” and because I’ve included the Japanese version of the album, “Beanz.”

Klaxons - Love FrequencyAnd because I mentioned the Klaxons, their latest, Love Frequency, the London three-piece have produced as close to an electro-nu-rave pop record as could be thought possible. If you play the Klaxons back to back with Kasabian, you can see how the early comparisons are no longer appropriate as Love Frequency amps up the psychedelic and drug references to produce a sort of space-synth-disco that is absolutely catchy but unrecognizable to earlier Klaxon efforts. For their third album in 10 years, the Klaxons are barely recognizable as the band that brought you Myths Of The Near Future. It is obvious that the Klaxons are headed to the dance clubs and the rock band from yesteryear is now only a memory. Not a bad thing – just different. Try “There Is No Other Time,” “Children Of The Sun,” “Invisible Forces.”

Kitten - Kitten [Bonus Edition]Speaking of throwbacks, Los Angeles 80’s alt rock throwback band, Kitten has produced a really good debut album. It helps that they have a really good singer in Chloe Chaidez who has a bit of Cindy Lauper mixed with Patty Donahue (Waitresses) in her vocal tone. Some reviewers will likely make the immediate Annabella Lwin (Bow Wow Wow) comparison (age), but that would miss the mark. On its own, the music on Kitten’s debut, is more than just a singer with some capable players. Rather, the band has the chops to spice up the 80’s themed alternative pop ( think Missing Persons) into a much more modern endeavor so that the tired sounds of the 80’s that most would hope to avoid sound fresh. For those of us who grew up with 80’s radio, these sounds will all be very familiar yet, like a fine wine, the impact is subtle and the bouquet bold. So, sit back, put on your favorite John Hughes movie, slide on your headphones and listen to Kitten’s self titled debut – you will be amazed how it all seems to fit. Try “I’ll Be Your Girl,” “Sex Drive,” and “Kill the Light.”

Clientele - Suburban Light [Expanded Reissue]Merge Records has reissued the Clientele’s debut album, Suburban Light which was originally released in late 2000. While not quite a proper album in the strict sense of the word, but rather a collection of several singles released in the 1990’s on a couple of different small labels – Pointy and Fierce Panda, Elefant and Johnny Kane, Suburban Light is a fantastic accomplishment. Originally intending their debut to be recorded in a proper studio, these songs were all recorded in much smaller and more intimate settings and yet these efforts produced a defining sound which comprises the songs on Suburban Light – warm reverb laden and complex all accomplished without the full production they were hoping with this initial release. This collection captures a feeling with a nod to the Chills  Galaxie 500 and the 60’s. This is an early morning or late evening after party record, and is simply magic – you know, an album where you ask yourself, how did they get this all together?. This version of Suburban Light reproduces “the album in its original European track listing, restored from original analog tapes to sound warmer and a bit less like a batch of demos. The bonus material includes a revelatory set of covers, rehearsals, B-sides, and three unreleased tunes.” I play this record on Sunday mornings as I quietly work alone in my office. Try “Joseph Cornell,” “I Had to Say This,” and “What Goes Up.”

Kevin Costners - Pick Up the PartsKevin Costner has a band (called Modern West) but the Kevin Costners are a band from Amsterdam by the looks of things. And a really good one at that. Recording on Excelsior Recordings based in the Netherlands, the Kevin Costner’s second album is a weirdly interesting form of garage rock n’ roll – simple chords and melodies (no fuzz) that is uniformly good, with some well-crafted choices of tribal beat rock. Tempos are slow, lyrics are in English, and the playing tight. Try “Pick Up the Parts,” “Lunatics,” and “Pretty Life.”

Flags - Oil And SparksBristol based indie four piece Flags return after a fairly lengthy hiatus with a new EP entitled Oil And Sparks, which is in some ways reminiscent of Bastille, but there is something edgier about the delivery, making it an excellent selection for the singles playlist. The lilting vocals and haunting melodies set Oil And Sparks songs apart from the usual electronic indie dance pop of others in the same ilk. Oil And Sparks is only an EP, but they’ve captured something special in just four songs. Just a suggestion though, start with track 2 “Once More With Balance,” then hit the rest in order 1, 3, 4. Try “Once More With Balance,” “Oil and Sparks,” “Restless Machine.”

lacrosse_coverAnswering the question, Are You Thinking Of Me Every Minute Of Every Day? Sweden’s Lacrosse have apparently found that a mix of humor with mirth goes a long way to creating magic moments. This album is admittedly a bit long, but there is never boredom. What I liked best was that the quality of playing, at times sounding like The Arcade Fire/Broken Social Scene, which is complex, evocative and pretty darn catchy. This is not your typical indie rock album in that there is a lot of things going on with each song which suggested that Lacrosse‘s strength is songs staged as bizarre choir experiments. Some of the music on AYTOMEMOED hits you immediately – like the opener “Don’t Be Scared” – but repeated listens are amply rewarded as there is much to discover and like about this album. Try “Are You Thinking Of Me Every Minute Of Every Day,” “Don’t Be Scared,” and “Easter Island.”

Matt Pond - Skeletons and FriendsMatt Pond quietly released a free gift for fans entitled Skeletons and Friends available on noisetrade.com for the downloading. As Matt puts it:

This album is a thank you. …

It’s an album of brightened corners and beautifully incomplete sentences. It’s the structure and skeleton of what’s to come. With help from the always-amazing Chris Hansen, the singing of Lauren Miller and Alanna Trees, and the speaking voices of Maggie Wray Crowell, April Votolato and Danielle Eaton.

Perhaps strangely, it’s mostly about hope. Sometimes the forces surrounding will set you adrift, amiss in the sea of music. This year, we’ve taken control of our navigation.

We were able to pull of[f] a successful Pledge campaign because we’re lucky enough to have people who support us, freeing us from having to rely on anyone other than our audience. That’s huge. (thank you)

We’re lucky enough to be playing shows across the country, supporting one of our previous albums, Emblems. And the feedback we’ve been getting is inspiring. I’m honestly thrilled to be back on stage. (thank you)

I know, from the larger kingdoms across the ocean to the minor kingdoms inside my mind, nothing is perfect. That right there is crux, the engine, the heart and the blood behind every word I write and sing. Because in the right light, a broken gear can be slightly stunning.

Our ability to navigate this imperfect world is bestowed upon us by you, the listener. You’re basically riding shotgun, guiding us to wherever we’re going next.

Thank you. A million times. Thank you.

So, what you have on Skeletons And Friends is another great collection of Matt Pond songs that are uniformly excellent. ( Come on – you know by now I’ve got a bias for certain artists) . What is surprising is that while I typically listen to what could be broadly defined as punk rock, there is something about certain types of indie pop that is equally pleasing. Perhaps it’s the vocal tone (“perhaps we should move to Canada”) or the witty and wry lyrics full of honesty…who knows. I will figure it out one day. There are some standouts on this release for me, so perhaps one day, I’ll get out to see Matt Pond play live. But for now try these diamonds: “Heaven’s Gate,” “You Can See Everything,” and “Austin, Texas. 10:27 PM.”

Jack White - LazarettoBy now you’ve also either read a review or heard a track from or seen a video of the new Jack White album Lazaretto. It is in the dropbox isn’t it? So, it must be good right? Try “Lazaretto,” “Would You Fight For My Love?” and “Alone In My Home.”

 

 

White Lung - Deep FantasySomehow the version of White Lung’s newest has all of the tracks in alphabetical order which I apparently didn’t notice as I listened to this album on shuffle. So who is White Lung? And what is Deep Fantasy? Well White Lung is an in your face female fronted punk rock band from Vancouver, BC where they have obviously picked up some of the long history and culture of excellent punk rock emanating from this very Canadian punk rock source (Come on now– DOA, Subhumans, UJ3RK5 (I’m in love with the song “Work For Police”) , Modernettes, K-Tels (Young Canadians), Pointed Sticks, Active Dog etc.) and now with the Japandroids, have everyone (okay just a few people) grooving on the Vancouver scene. Really, I saw at least one internet publication proclaim Vancouver as the next big thing (So it was Rolling Stone, eh?). So, is White Lung deserving of attention? Of course they are and for all the right reasons – short sharp punk rock played at scorching speed with an exceptional vocalist in the form of Mish Way who front a very competent group of musicians – Kenneth William (Guitar) Anne-Marie Vassiliou (drums) and Hether Fortune (Bass). Really, worth the check out. Try “Face Down,” “Lucky One” and “Drown with the Monster.”

Rival Sons - Great Western ValkyrieRival Sons are an anachronism. Formed in Long Beach and the product of that scene, Rival Sons play classic rock n’ roll in the vein of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Bad Company with such panache you would think that they invented the genre. This is all blues based rock with plenty of power chords and stadium ready anthems. The most interesting thing about the Rival Sons (at least to me) is that they are making inroads with a sound that is at best 40 years old and appear relentless in their pursuit of breathing new life into this genre. There is also some Doors influence all over Great Western Valkyrie particularly on tracks like “Good Luck” which honestly makes you want to strut around the house as this plays. Sonically as odd a record to come out in this genre in the past twenty years. Not normally in my musical wheelhouse, but they converted me. Try “Good Luck,” “Play the Fool,” “Rich and the Poor.”

iSeo - Red GardensBarcelona, Spain’s iSeo’s Red Gardens EP is an unusual selection for the dropbox much like the Rival Sons immediately above. iSeo is apparently Leire Villanueva and Rubén Rogero who play beautiful simple melodies comprising their acoustic pop. This is coffeehouse stuff, but Leire’s vocals are captivating hence its inclusion. Catch a glimpse of greatness here: Stop The World. Try : “Stop The World,” “Barcelona” and “Am I Losing My Mind?

Before I forget, Happy CANADA Day to my Canadian friends and family, and Happy 4th of July to my American friends and family. I have much to be thankful. Well, I think I’ve covered enough territory for now, so until I either update these notes, or publish a new Tales From The Dropbox, here is this month’s list (I know there are only 49 – I apparently have lost the ability to count):

  1. American Suitcase – Lighthours [2014]
  2. Fireworks – (Oh), Common Life [2014]
  3. Tigers Jaw – Charmer [2014]
  4. Alvvays – Alvvays [2014]
  5. Animal Years – Sun Will Rise [Deluxe Edition] [2014]
  6. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent [2014]
  7. Bad Suns – Language and Perspective [2014]
  8. Alex G – DSU [2014]
  9. Bear in Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old [2014]
  10. Cambridge – Create. Destroy. Rebuild [2014]
  11. Candy Hearts – All The Ways You Let Me Down [2014]
  12. Cerebral Ballzy – Jaded and Faded [2014]
  13. Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! – Pardon My French (Deluxe Edition) [2014]
  14. Damn Seagulls – Let It Shine [2014]
  15. Dukes – Smoke Against The Beat [2014]
  16. Eugene McGuinness – Chroma [2014]
  17. Gum – Delorean Highway [2014]
  18. Heart To Heart – Dulce [2014]
  19. How to Dress Well – What Is This Heart [2014]
  20. Clientele – Suburban Light [Expanded Reissue] [2014]
  21. Happyness – Weird Little Birthday [2014]
  22. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell [2014]
  23. Kasabian – 48-13 [Japanese Edition] [2014]
  24. Klaxons – Love Frequency [2014]
  25. Lower – Seek Warmer Climes [2014]
  26. Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head [2014]
  27. Pure Love – The Bunny EP [2014]
  28. Reigning Sound – Shattered [2014]
  29. Ty Segall – Feel [2014]
  30. White Lung – Deep Fantasy [2014]
  31. iSeo – Red Gardens [2014]
  32. Jack White – Lazaretto [2014]
  33. July Talk -July Talk [2014]
  34. Kevin Costners – Pick Up the Parts [2014]
  35. Kitten – Kitten [Bonus Edition] [2014]
  36. Lacrosse – Are You Thinking Of Me Every Minute Of Every Day [2014]
  37. Flags – Oil And Sparks [2014]
  38. I Heart Sharks – Anthems [2014]
  39. James Blunt – Heart to Heart [2014]
  40. Masked Intruder – M.I. [2014]
  41. Matt Pond – Skeletons and Friends [2014]
  42. Midnight Faces – The Fire Is Gone [‘2014]
  43. Only Crime – Pursuance [2014]
  44. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal [2014]
  45. PAWS – Youth Culture Forever [2014]
  46. Rival Sons – Great Western Valkyrie [2014]
  47. Saskwatch – Nose Dive [2014]
  48. Sleeper Agent – About Last Night [2014]
  49. Spring Offensive – Young Animal Hearts [2014]

December 15, 2013 Dropbox Notes

December 15, 2013 Dropbox Notes

Now that you’ve had a little time to digest this month’s offerings, I figured I’d try a little different method of introducing this month’s dropbox offerings. As you know, if an album is on the list, then I like it. It is pointless to “criticize” a record. Over the years I have read reviews in a large variety of publications, including fanzines, almost religiously, with a singular purpose:  to determine whether I would like an album enough to purchase it. However, when I actually thought about the information I was processing, in the end it was all about the quality of certain information in a review. Most reviews are rather worthless fluff. It seems as if writing more about how the band feels about the record was somehow important, or where it was recorded, or how it compares to the last record ( always harder, faster, more fully realized, etc.), or the difficulties one or more band members experienced during the writing process (Alternative Press – I’m talking about you here) was somehow important in making me decide to make a purchase. I am a slow learner. It is only recently I realized that I was only just scanning theses so-called reviews to see if I could gleam valuable nuggets of information that would help me decide on whether I would actually like the record. Some reviewers are better than others at giving me the information I needed to make that decision and I find that I am sometimes guilty of excessive descriptors.

So, after plenty of thought, I have divined the minimum amount of knowledge required to make a decision:

1. Band Name + Album Cover – You can often determine what genre a record falls into pretty quickly by looking at the album cover and in knowing the genre, you’re probability of determining whether you’ll actually like the album will increase, sometimes, significantly (in the true meaning of the word significance). Art is very much a part of the record buying experience. Death metal and thrash albums look different than indie records which look different from pop artists and country. There are exceptions, but generally, the formula, band name + album cover art = genre can help you narrow things down. As noted below, this is why a video of the band performing live is really helpful. Than you YouTube!

2. What other sound/influences are present? This is a different question than one that is often asked of the musician’s themselves. If the information comes from a band member, the “influences” question (which in my opinion is a fairly lazy and poor question) can produce a wide variety of answers none of which will actually help with the decision to listen to an album based upon a review. For example, here are Sky Ferreira’s claimed musical influences: Madonna,[19][20] Prince,[19] Gwen Stefani,[19] Britney Spears,[20] Alice Cooper,[19] Nancy Sinatra,[19] and The Runaways.[20]

So, when you listen to the record, which is in this month’s dropbox, do you hear any of these influences? No. Not a single one is present on this record. Not much help.The real question for PIP (purchasing information purposes), are those elements of artists that have a similar sound to the artist being reviewed, so you can kind of figure out if it is a sound/artist you would like to listen to and then take the leap from there.  For example, it is not much of a stretch to say that the early Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers records sound like Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. How do I know? I asked Jonathan in Vancouver and he said “I ripped them off, I tried to sound like them.”

There should be little debate that throughout the history of recorded music, artists have incorporated elements from other artists into their compositions. Whether by design, accident, coincidence, the limitations of human imagination, or genetics, popular music is derivative. The past is a predictor of the future, right? Comparison should not be avoided when it can lead to finding something worth treasuring.For me, these comparisons are helpful. If I know and like the other artist to which the comparison has been made, then the probability of me liking the unknown artist, increases proportionately to the reputation of the comparison artist. For example, if you tell me an artist sounds like the dBs or Replacements – I’m in. I will purchase the record. I love those sounds.

3. Where is the artist located? Regionalism in music is important. For example, the English punk rock scene, Seattle’s grunge scene, Athens GA, North Carolina alternative rock, Minneapolis punk rock, Vancouver punk rock, even Toronto, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York developed some interesting variants in the same genre, i.e. a sound associated with a city.  Once a particular type of music becomes moderately successful in an area i.e (playing shows that people are attending) then other bands in the area start developing a similar sound. This may be a result of bands playing together on a concert bill, or attending each others shows (British punk is an excellent example of this), or in areas where college radio still has an influence, hearing like minded musicians playing and incorporating those sounds into a bands oeuvre.

All this is not meant to infer that bands are mere copyists, but this “regionalism” is one of the qualities that I have found helpful in determining whether I am going to like a band. The place of origin alone is not very helpful, but as an additional piece of information, sometimes you can connect the dots to discover a connection to a particular sound.

3. Who produced the record? In certain genres this is an important piece of information. Depending on your familiarity with a particular type of music certain producers names have considerable influenced my decision to purchase an album. For example, Mitch Easter has produced a huge number of records by bands whose records I’ve liked. ( R.E.M., Ben Folds Five, Pylon, Helium, Pavement, Suzanne Vega, Game Theory, Marshall Crenshaw, The Connells, Velvet Crush, Ken Stringfellow (of The Posies), and Birds of Avalon). Same goes for Don Dixon ( Marti Jones, Chris Stamey, Tommy Keene, Smithereens, Richard Barone) , Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey), Steve Lillywhite (U2, The La’s), John Leckie ( Stone Roses, Radiohead), etc. Hopefully you get the idea. Sometimes a producer’s influence can make the purchase decision easier, although I note that few reviews mention a producer, unless it is Dangermouse.

4. A video. YouTube is among the greatest innovations in music. Why? Because now you can actually see an artist play live, and this for me is a huge influence in the purchasing process. Some artists make good videos but they are incapable of putting on a show that I would want to see. Perhaps its my growing up in Vancouver in the late 1970’s where the can-punk scene was huge. I attended hundreds of shows between 1977 and 1986 and this spoiled me forever. It is difficult to imagine the cognitive dissonance created in having experienced Dead Kennedys, D.O.A., Subhumans, as well as a steady stream of British acts including XTC, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gang of Four, Stranglers, Clash, Buzzcocks, Jam, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Police, and American acts including the Cramps, Minutemen, Toxic Reasons, Replacements, Plasmatics, and Husker Du and then try to experience a Tom Petty show, which I did, regrettably.  I loved Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers ( Released November 9, 1976 containing the songs “Breakdown” and “American Girl”, but the record did not translate well live because Tom Petty puts on the absolutely most mind-numbing and boring live performances ever. YouTube cures this problem. However, as noted in these notes, live performance is just a fact to the equation, because some great songs are recorded by bands that should never perform live. See Tom Petty above.

4. What record label is the artist on? This information used to be terrifically helpful, but now, not so much. As self-released and self-funded (or crowd funded) releases now start to predominate the market label associations are becoming relatively meaningless. I mention the importance of the record label as another excellent fact for PIP, because I would be remiss to dismiss the influence of some great record labels that were remarkably consistent, some for a very lengthy period of time. Often,  I would purchase an album just because of the label. Just as Blue Note is the touchstone for Jazz, Stiff Records, Sympathy For The Record Industry, Sub Pop, Car, Rough Trade, XL Recordings, Touch and Go, SST etc., represent (ed) classic punk, indie, and alternative records, and you could buy a record just because it was on the label. I note however, that many of even these labels are now either extinct, have expanded the range of their releases and therefore are not as consistent in quality, or owned by the few remaining major labels, and ascribe to a different perspective as a consequence ( make more money).  I haven’t dropped label as a requisite item of information,  but as time goes on, I fear this information will be less relevant for PIP.

So there you have it – not a lot of information is truly necessary to discern good from bad or potential interesting from not so much. I would add that sometimes you like a particular reviewer, and will go along for the ride, but even in my case, some winners could be losers in your mind. So, tread lightly my friends, and if I don’t update before the end of the year… happy holidays.

Here is this month’s list: (Also, I know about the numbering issue – I’ve tried to fix it, but WordPress #$^ stuff up. It took me an hour to get things to line up. As for the numbers, I’ll have to wait for another time.

1. Go VioletsHeart Slice EP (Brisbane popsters channeling Breeders/Belly.)Go Violets - Heart Slice EP

Try: “Teenager,” “Josie,” and “Beside Me.”

 

 

 

  1. Iron ChicThe Constant One (Long Island punk rock super-group claiming Gaslight Anthem territory – you’ll love it’)Iron Chic - The Constant One Try: “Sounds like A Pretty Brutal Murder,” “What Ever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow,” and “Bogus Journey.”

 

 

  1. ChumpedChumped EP (Slacker Superchunk channeling female fronted Brooklynites sing catchy as F… songs about…..feelings.) Chumped - Chumped EP

Try: “Someday,” “Eleanor,” and “Something About Lemons.”

 

 

  1. Sky FerreiraNight Time, My Time (Model Sky actually can sing and gets it right – well-crafted electro-pop in an Annie Lennox light way.)Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time

Try: “24 Hours,” “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay),” and “I Will.”

 

 

  1. Super Best FriendsHandshake (Canberra 3 piece party synth garage punk rock with headbangin’ appeal! Shouting choruses!)Super Best Friends - Handshake

Try: “Karma Karma,” “No Logo Is A Joke,” and “The Bleachers.”

 

 

  1. Davey LaneThe Good Borne of Bad Tymes (Aussie You Am I guitarist debut EP a throwback to mod influenced shoegaze with power pop elements.)Davey Lane - The Good Borne Of Bad Tymes

Try: “You’re The Cops, I’m The Crime” (Awesome single!) “Sinking May,” and “You Got Me On Side.”

 

 

  1. The ProctorsEverlasting Light (exceptional sunny jangle pop from Gavin Priest led trio – has perfected the Game Theory/Windbreakers sound.)The Proctors - Everlasting Light

Try: “Trouble With Forever,” “Perfect World,” “Ember Days.”

 

 

 

  1. CaseworkerVoices Out There (4th album from San Francisco based garage dream pop trio with boy girl vocals who explore inner ambient/minimalist textures.)Caseworker - Voices Out There

Try: “Voices Out There,” “Ultramarine,” and “Dependence Day.”

 

 

  1. Upset – She’s Gone (former Best Coast/Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler led all girl trio produce energetic fuzz ladeUpset - She's Gonen 90’s influenced pop punk echoing Koehler’s past and the gooeyness of the Ramones.)

Try: “She’s Gone,” “You & I,”Oxfords & Wingtips.”

 

 

  1. White HillsSo You Are… So You’ll Be (8 years and 7 albums in band perfects haunted Hawkwind space rock – garage psych with light fuzz. Prepare to be blown away.)White Hills - So You Are... So You'll Be

Try: “In Your Room,” “So You Are… So You’ll Be,” “Forever in Space (Enlightened).”

 

 

  1. ChillsSomewhere Beautiful (NZ Indie pop legends and sound originators with a live return (as a five piece) playing the hits at private party on New Year’s Eve 2011 in Central Otago, N.Z. )Chills - Somewhere Beautiful

Try: “Heavenly Pop Hit,” “Soft Bomb, Part One,” and the hauntingly lovely “Submarine Bells.”

 

 

  1. Less Than JakeSee The Light (Veteran ska punkers make a return with first LP in 5 years – and its good)Less Than Jake - See The Light

Try: “My Money is on the Long Shot,” “Do the Math,” and “Sunstroke.”

 

 

  1. Dead GazeBrain Holiday (Missisippi’s Cole Furlow’s project is lo-fi garage based fuzz pop in the same vein as Ty Segall with groovy hooks to make you smile.)Dead Gaze - Brain Holiday

Try: “Yuppies Are Flowers,” “Stay, Don’t Say,” and “Possible Embrace.”

 

 

  1. Wild ChildThe Runaround (Austin-based group led by the husky voiced Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins’ sophomore effort finds success in folk influenced indie pop, unfortunately a little overproduced, but some catchy hooks right the ship.)Wild Child - The Runaround

Try:  “Victim to Charm,” “Living Tree,” and “The Runaround.”

 

 

 

  1. Roman CandleDebris (Chapel Hill N.C. fourth LP changes pace with a darker guitar pop record featuring a rarity – some strong lyrics. Beautiful sounding album.)Roman Candle - Debris

Try: “End of the Street,” “Nowhere to Start,” and “Not Strangers Anymore.”

 

 

  1. SadiesInternal Sounds (Canadian desert rockers still evoking their Byrds and Band with all the jangle that means on their 16th album.)Sadies - Internal Sounds

Try: “The First 5 Minutes,” “Starting All Over Again,” and “Leave This World Behind.”

 

 

  1. StraightawayLast Exit To Nowhere (straight forward no fills skate punk from France.)Straightaway - Last Exit To Nowhere

Try: “My Own Demise,” “Last Exit To Nowhere,” and “Right Choice, Wrong Feeling.”

 

 

  1. Blue RodeoIn Our Nature (Canadian alt-country legends edge closer to their Band roots with a beautiful but very dark folk rock record – 13 is a lucky number.)Blue Rodeo - Nature Noir

Try: “New Morning Sun,” “In Our Nature,” and “When the Truth Comes Out.”

 

 

  1. Minor AlpsGet There (Blake Babies + Nada Surf = sweet folk harmonies – Juliana Hatfield and Mathew Caws.)Minor Alps - Get There

Try: “Far from the Roses,” “Mixed Feelings,” and “Waiting for You.”

 

 

  1. Alex LloydUrban Wilderness (Very catchy Aussie sing-a-long folk pop that’s punchy with this 6th album as good as his award winning first, 2002’s Black the Sun.)Alex Lloyd - Urban Wilderness

Try: “Waterfall, “Black Cat” and “Turn the Light On.”

 

 

 

  1. Templeton PekSigns (melodic punk rock from Birmingham England in vein of Billy Talent, Rise Against (with whom they toured in 2011) still retaining some metal edges.)Templeton Pek - Signs

Try: “Who We Are,” “Slow Burn,” and “Signs.”

 

 

 

  1. Radical FaceThe Family Tree – The Branches (Ben Cooper recording under Radical Face moniker 2nd LP of trilogy traverses Death Cab For Cutie indie/alt-folk territory – successfully.)Radical Face - The Family Tree - The Branches

Try: “Holy Branches,” “Reminders,” and the pastoral “Summer Skeletons.”

 

  1. The SoundsWeekend (5th album from Swedish dance party rockers contains classic (Blondie) elements of the Sound’s past while showing a little more risk with a couple of indie pop efforts. Gotta love Maja Ivarsson’s vocals which are gruff sweetness.)The Sounds - Weekend

Try: “Hurt the Ones I Love,” “Shake Shake Shake,” and Weekend.”

 

 

  1. Gary NumanSplinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) (20th release, Goth electro-robot’s triumphant return.)Gary Numan - Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind

Try: “I Am Dust,” “Splinter,” “Everything Comes Down to This.”

 

 

  1. CurbsideThe Sound I Know (2012 release, Canadian throwback 90’s pop-punk rock in same vein as Overwhelming Colorfast.)Curbside - The Sound I Know

Try: “54 Queen Street South,” “For Those Left Behind,” and “Saving Face.”

 

 

  1. Alex ChiltonElectricity by Candlelight (Alex illuminates genius through impromptu cover set recorded at Knitting Factory NY 2Alex Chilton - Electricity by Candlelight/13/97 after power outage cancels second show.)

Try: “Surfer Gril (Beach Boys)” “Solar System (Beach Boys),” and “My Baby Just Cares for Me (Nina Simone).”

 

 

  1. LovespoonCarious Soul (Italian (Ravenna, Italy) Green On Red meets Alex Chilton – loads of reverb.)Lovespoon - Carious Soul

Try: “Anyway,” “Carious Soul,” and “Another Pale Moon.”

 

 

 

  1. Twin ForksTwin Forks EP (Boca Raton FL based Dashboard Confessional singer Chris Carrabba’ folk rock project – and its good.)Twin Forks - Twin Forks

Try: “Back To You,” “Cross My Mind,” and “Can’t Be Broken.”

 

 

  1. Craft SpellsRoom 205 Session EP (Stockton California’s regrettably too short Cure influenced lovelorn indie electro-pop – beautifully crafted.Craft Spells - Room 205 Session)

Try:  “From The Morning Heat,” “Party Talk,” and “Love Well Spent (Live at MFNW).”

 

 

  1. Loon LakeGloamer (Melbourne brothers led five piece command indie surf pop and channel Weezer and INXS.)Loon Lake - Gloamer

Try: “City Lights,” “Cherry Lips,” and “Carolina.”

 

 

  1. Swearin’Surfing Strange (Second LP from Brooklyn’s Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride co-fronting the Pixies (a little bleaker without the howl))Swearin' - Surfing Strange

Try: “Dust in the Gold Sack,” “Watered Down,” and “Loretta’s Flowers.”

 

 

  1. MoistboyzV (Dean Ween‘s post Ween heavy punk -metal band with heavy debt to Billion Dollar Babies (Alice Cooper’s backing band on the classic albums) and the Beat FarmMoistboyz - Vers – @#$%@#% awesome! NSFW.)

Try: “Paperboy,” “Chickendick,” and “Protect And Serve.”

 

 

  1. Future of The LeftHuman Death EP (See #56. Andrew Falkous led Cardiff Wales alt-punk rockers synth punk EP follow up to amazing 4th LP.)Future of The Left - Human Death EP

Try:  “Not Entirely Present,” “The Knife That Is Not A Knife,” and “Not Entirely Present.”

 

 

  1. Young KnivesSick Octave (Mercury Prize-nominated Leicestershire indie rock trio kickstarter funded 4th LP indie-synth noise pop with Cabaret Voltaire leanings and David Bowie/Byrne vocals.)Young Knives - Sick Octave

Try: “We Could Be Blood,” “Marble Maze,” and “Maureen.”

 

 

  1. Wooden ShjipsBack To Land (Velvet Underground inspired 6th album from San Francisco based psychedelic drone rockerWooden Shjips - Back To Lands emphasize their 60’s influences all to great effect.)

Try: “Back To Land,” “These Shadows,” and “Everybody Knows.”

 

  1. White DenimCorsicana Lemonade (Southern boogie indie rockers 6th LP finds the perfect balance between the 70’s (Allman Brothers) and today)White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade

Try: “New Blue Feeling,” “At Night in Dreams,” and “Pretty Green.”

 

 

  1. Western LowsGlacial (ex-Mezzanine Owls front man Jack Burnside, with help from friends Michael Stipe, Azure Ray’s Orenda Fink, and Andy LeMaster produce an excellent shoegaze Bon Iver record with Echo & The Bunnymen elements)Western Lows - Glacial

Try: “Last Known Rivers,” “Lazy,” and “Grapevine.”

 

 

 

  1. We All Want ToStreets of Your Town (Single) (catchy single from another Brisbane Australian band finding comfort in the sound of Michael Stipe fronting Let’s Active/ Go-Betweens. LP is great too!)We All Want To - Streets of Your Town

Try: “Streets Of Your Town,” and “We’re Not Perfect.”

 

 

  1. TV GhostDisconnect (Lafayette Indiana’s shoegaze Joy Division meets Echo & The Bunnymen in haunting post punk epic.)TV Ghost - Disconnect

Try: “Veils,” “Others Will Be Born,” and “Dread Park.”

 

 

  1. The ToddlersThe Toddlers (Baritone vocalist Nathan Tobin’s Carrboro NC, Mitch Easter recorded, Americana post punk influenced desert rock meets Pavement with the National’s Matt Berringer sound-a-like.)The Toddlers - The Toddlers

Try: “You Can Keep The Wheels,” “Who Is The Kingdom,” and “Little Man.”

 

 

  1. Smallpools – Smallpools EP (Vocalist Sean Scanlon’s Phoenix meets Grouplove/Imagine Dragons indie-pop.)Smallpools - Smallpools EP

Try: “Dreaming,” “Mason Jar,” and “Over & Over.”

 

 

  1. Polar Bear ClubDeath Chorus (less howling and decidedly more poppy version of this terrific upstate Polar Bear Club - Death ChorusNew York punk rock band in transition – still rocks hard.)

Try: “Blood Balloon,” “When We Were College Kids,” and “Upstate Mosquito.”

 

  1. Mystery Twins – Ghost In The Ground (Nashville rockers singer-guitarist Doug Lehmann and drummer Stephanie Brush produce garage rock kissed by X, the Everly Brothers and the 60’s.)Mystery Twins - Ghost In The Ground

Try: “The World Within,” “Your Heart Won’t Let You Down,” and “Mary.”

 

 

  1. Love JunkiesMaybelene (Perth Australia trio funnels Jet through the White Stripes traversing no new ground but rocks like a mother*&&$$.)Love Junkies - Maybelene

Try: “Oxymoron,” “Hurt You,” and “Maybelene.”

 

 

  1. John Steel Singers – Everything’s A Thread (Aussie angular and jangly indie rockers with Beach Boy harmony flourishes achieve perfection.)John Steel Singers - Everything's A Thread

Try: “Common Thread,” “The Marksman,” and “Everything’s A Thread.”

 

 

  1. ConnectionsBody Language (3rd excellent 2013 release from scrappier Columbus Ohio GBV indebted lo-fi rockers who actually write better songs)Connections - Body Language

Try: “Aimless,” “She’s Cheering Up,” and “Jeni and Johnny.”

 

 

 

47. Day RaviesTussle (Sydney Australia quartet wear proudly their Kink’s/ Velvet Underground/ Sonic Youth influence on their Jesus & Marychain shoegaze sleeve)Day Ravies - Tussle

Try: “Double Act,” “I Don’t Mind,” and “Staring Is Caring.”

 

 

 

  1. Anna Calvi – One Breath (Sophomore release from the biggest thing since Patti Smith according to Brian Eno with powerful soaring nuanced vocals utilized to spectacular operatic quality effect.)Anna Calvi - One Breath

Try: “Suddenly,” “One Breath,” and “Carry Me Over.”

 

 

  1. Ty SegallGemini (Demos from 2012 Twins LP sessions for vinyl only release.)Ty Segal - Gemini

Try: “Would You Be My Love,” “Gold On The Shore,” and “Ghost.”

 

 

  1. Entrance BandFace The Sun (turbulent history California psych prog rockers return to the program with trippy moody LP )Entrance Band - Face The Sun

Try: “Fire Eyes,” “Spider,” and “Night Cat.”

 

 

  1. Georgia FairTrapped Flame (Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley, Sydney-born, now Melbourne-based duo mine travel to L.A to produce 2nd LP full of Americana flavored inspired alt-country rock (BoDeans).)Georgia Fair - Trapped Flame

Try: “Love Free Me,” “Plain Girls,” and “Someday Soon.”

 

 

  1. Jake Bugg – Shangri-La (2nd LP containing more of the same up-tempo rockabilly tinged folk rock as his debut. Carry on lad – what you are doing works.)Jake Bugg - Shangri-La

Try: “What Doesn’t Kill You,” “Messed Up Kids,” and “Kingpin.”

 

 

  1. Songs: Ohia The Magnolia Electric Co. (Late Lorain Ohio musician Jason Molina masterwork reissued ala Death Cab for Cutie acoustic.)Songs Ohia - The Magnolia Electric Co.

Try: “I’ve Been Riding with the Ghost,” “Almost Was Good Enough,” and “Farewell Transmission.”

 

 

  1. SpiderbaitSpiderbait (9 year hiatus over for band together for a quarter century. Best known in U.S. for Ram Jam “Black Betty” hit cover, these Aussie alt rock legends return with explosive propulsive electro-hard rockin’, banger of an album.)Spiderbait - Spiderbait

Try: “It’s Beautiful,” “Supersonic,” and “What You Get.”

 

 

 

  1. SwellersThe Light Under Closed Doors (Flint, Mi. Diener brothers return solid effort of well-crafted mature pop punk with sad feel.)Swellers - The Light Under Closed Doors

Try: “Should,” “Got Social,” and “Big Hearts.”

 

 

  1. Future of the LeftHow to Stop Your Brain in an Accident (4th album is best punk rock record of the year, diverse, humorous and Johnny Lydon inspired vocals.)Future of the Left - How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident

Try: “Johnny Borrell Afterlife,” “She Gets Passed Around at Parties,” and “Why Aren’t I Going to Hell.”

 

 

  1. FuzzLive In San Francisco EP (It’s Fuzz. It’s Ty Segall. What more is there to say?)Fuzz - Live In San Francisco EP

Try: Them all.

 

 

 

58. HedleyWild Life (Canadian pop rockers with hooks to spare, “Anything” subversively brain coma inducing.)Hedley - Wild Life

Try: “Anything,” “Beautiful Girl,” and “Dreaming’s For Sleeping.”

November 10 2013 Dropbox Notes

Bet you thought with the timing of the release of this month’s dropbox (on Halloween) and these notes that there might be a holiday theme to the drop box. No such luck. What there is this month, with this latest version of the drop box, is another month of really good music. Rarely does the wave of good tunes extend past September. Historically, October and November begin the Christmas music season and often signals a time of year that is littered with greatest hits and anthology albums, Christmas albums (I kid you not, Bad Religion has a Christmas Album that is as terrible as it sounds. Filled with traditional songs sung in the style of Bad Religion – brutal) and those artists who are not on major labels. The “major labels” (whatever those are now) have already released their biggest albums of the year, e.g. Lady Gaga, Kanye, etc. to time their sales for Christmas shoppers desperate for a gift for someone whom they think will like the album they purchased for them and invariably, they do not. At least in the pre-digital age, when you ended up with the Bee Gees greatest hits vinyl, you could always return it for the latest KISS album.

Not only is this month’s drop box filled with some really good records, but what is most striking about this month is the diversity of the releases – from the Clash to Cassadee Pope – you should find something appealing as you begin the holiday season. Consistent with the release schedule of the major labels, the large number of reissues and anthologies has produced several worthy of inclusion in the drop box. I have selected a couple of these to introduce the band or the record to those of you whom likely have never heard of these artist, such as the Undertones and Public Image Limited.

After speaking with Russell last week about the diversity of musical styles, and for those of you who care about these things, there is a pattern that has developed over the past several months.  If you scroll back through the notes, I have tried each month to provide something old, something, new something pink and something blue in each dropbox. This month there are a few extra oldsters that made the box.

So, with that said, lets introduce a few that made it:

Clash - Hits BackThe Clash should need no introduction, right? The Clash, like Elvis Costello and The Who, are reissue kings with numerous repackages of their albums. This latest round of reissues however may be the final statement on their reissues. The Clash Hits Back, and the simultaneous release of Sound System, a massive boom box containing all of the Clash albums that Mick Jones played on (the band essentially disavowing the Cut The Crap album) and containing a treasure trove of unreleased demos and goodies, easily supplants the Clash on Broadway box set as the best of the Clash reissues.

The Clash Hits Back is of interest, not only for the upgraded re-mastering of classic Clash songs making them sound much closer to what the records sounded like on vinyl – raw and vital, but also for the sequencing of this two disc set. The Clash Hits Back is sequenced almost exactly as the set played by the band at the Brixton Fair Deal (now the Academy) on 10 July 1982. The place apparently held a special place for the Clash according to bassist Paul Simenon who was responsible for the Hits Back and Sound System projects. I was able to see the Clash play in Vancouver at the Commodore Ballroom (January 31, 1979) at the peak of their powers. When you scan the set list for this show it is amazing – essentially a greatest hits album from the first song to the last. I have a bootleg of this show, unfortunately an audience recording, but you can hear the energy of the crowd and the band as they ripped through these songs. Strummer was a master at timing the emotions of the crowd in response to the songs. I’m not going to make song picks here. This is perfection.

Undertones - Introducing The UndertonesComing from a completely different musical direction in the same punk genre as the Clash were a little band from Derry Northern Ireland – The Undertones. Like Stiff Little Fingers, the Undertones played a pop version of punk rock with well written short sharp songs propelled by the O’Neil brothers and the unique sounding vocals of Feargal Sharkey. The O’Neil’s later went on to form the amazing That Petrol Emotion when Feargal Sharkey left the band to go solo.

Drawing from not only punk and new wave but also pop and northern soul, the Undertones represented a very distinct branch of the new wave movement from 1979. Hugely popular in England and Ireland and a large following in Canada, they didn’t connect with the U.S. as many a band who tried to break in to the U.S. market largely failed. I note that even the Clash had difficulty early on only finding success when the band was nearing the end of its initial run. People think the Clash’s London Calling was a huge record. Although now it is considered by many as one of the greatest albums of all time, it peaked in the U.S. Billboard charts at number 27 in 1980 (released in the U.S. on January 18, 1980), and did not reach RIAA gold certification until December 4, 1991, almost 11 years later.

So back to the Undertones. What made the Undertones so unique, and unlike Stiff Little Fingers, was despite the time and place of their formation (during the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland) the songs are focused on love, teen angst, and youthful exuberance. It is difficult not to smile when you hear the catchy pop-punk singles of this unique sounding band that incorporated a wide range and diverse number of influences. UK radio DJ John Peel’s favorite song of all time was “Teenage Kicks” which is hard to argue as the best in the Undertones catalog but for me, on Introducing the Undertones, “Hypnotized,” “Here Comes The Summer,” and the Motown influenced “The Love Parade” do nicely.

Public Image Limited - First IssueThe third oldie record in this month’s drop box is Public Image Limited’ s debut release First Issue – a remarkable album that changed the public’s perception of what popular music should sound like upon its release in 1978. Following the death of the Sex Pistols and the resultant trauma from the mess the Sex Pistols left in their wake, Johnny Rotten’s formation of Public Image Limited shortly thereafter was not only a surprise, but the uncompromising quality of the music on First Issue was a shock to the public. At the time, the record was considered too un-commercial to be released in the United States. The influence on post punk following the release of First Issue is undeniable.

From the band name, Public Image Limited, to the songs on this record, First Issue is a deliberate attempt to exorcise the taste of the Sex Pistols from Lydon’s psyche. The album is a direct slap at Malcolm McLaren and the lyrics, in part, are directed to the bitterness Lydon felt towards the manipulation by McLaren in creating the infighting and tension that lead to the demise of the band. This back story to the record puts songs like “Public Image” and its wry observations such as “[y]ou never listened to a word that I said/ you only see me for the clothes that I wear” in context. There is nothing like psychological pain to inspire brilliance.

Listening to this album more than 35 years after its original release, the songs now sound akin to present day rock, but at the time, this sound was revolutionary. Jah Wobble’s thumping baseline expanded the sonic template for guitarist Keith Levine’s grind and the union of these divergent sounds exposed the underbelly of rock – in a very exciting way. This reissue of First Issue also includes a Lydon interview and the b-side “The Cowboy Song” which is really a true b-side, as this song leans more towards noise punk. First Issue is at it’s heart anti-rock created by a guy who hated conventional rock and roll. First Issue was a dangerous record in 1978, and frankly, it still is. Try “Public Image”, “Low Life,” and “Annalisa.”

Tears For Fears - The HurtingFast forward a couple of years later into the 1980’s, English new wavers Tears For Fears, comprised of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, represented the prototypical sound of new wave in the mid 1980’s and by the end of that decade were ubiquitous on radio – both AM and FM. In the same manner as like-minded synth pop bands, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and the Human League, Tears For Fears initial impact is lost in the syrupy overproduced major label influenced pop that followed each band’s debut record. But as a debut, The Hurting, still resonates. The Hurting was a UK Number 1 album, but the U.S. missed the initial wave of popularity, with the follow up album, Songs From The Big Chair, reaching stratospheric popularity levels upon its release in the U.S – peaking as a Billboard No. 1.

So, why was The Hurting so special? The vocal qualities of Roland and Curt over top of the sly synth-pop disguised the serious nature of the lyrical content on the album. It is difficult to reconcile the subject matter on songs like “Mad World,” “Pale Shelter” and “Suffer The Children” with the dance music underlying these lyrics. e.g. from “Pale Shelter”: “[y]ou don’t give me love/ you give me pale shelter/ you don’t give me love/ you give me cold hands…” Remarkably, this album found a niche with the Cure loving Goth kids who adopted the band as an alternative to the dower Cure who had left the comparatively upbeat song craft found on their debut Three Imaginary Boys for the post punk of Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography – three of the darkest records in the Cure discography. Tears For Fears looked like Goth’s, and the dark lyrical content fit within the Goth world, but The Hurting is filled with remarkable pop songs and TFF were definitely not a Goth band, so this anomaly possibly lead to increasing importance and popularity which TFF later capitalized upon commercially. Try “Change,” “Suffer The Children (7’’ version),” and “Pale Shelter.”

PrintLast, but certainly not least in this month’s plethora of reissues, is Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism Demos, which is the bonus record attached to the 10th anniversary reissue of Transatlanticism which was Death Cab’s fourth album and commercial breakthrough record.

Death Cab For Cutie - TransatlanticismWhile I rarely, if ever, am excited by the demos of a band, these demos caught my attention because the textures present here give further meaning and context to songs that I loved from this record. Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla’s approach on Transatlanticism was never to be a rock band putting out a rock record. Rather, these demos demonstrate the care the pair took in developing a sonic approach to indie rock that creates a tension that touches your heart. The simple approach to these demo songs bring the released versions into perspective. “Lightness” in particular stands out as the simple melody that penetrates your soul. Give this a whirl at least once. You won’t be disappointed. Try” Lightness,” “Death of An Interior Decorator,” and “Tiny Vessels.”

October also had some new releases worthy of a few lines:

Arcade Fire - ReflektorIt is hard to argue with the commercial popularity of Arcade Fire’s new release, Reflektor. For those expecting The Suburbs mach II, Reflektor is really a left turn. Debuting at No. 1 in the Billboard charts shows that the record company knows how to release a record and the No. 1 debut is more the result of great publicity, a last album by the band that was spectacular, and timing of the publicity in advance of the release date, than the quality of record itself. That is, few people who purchased the record had actually heard the record before purchase. So what makes Reflektor, which is a staggering 85 minutes long, a great record? In short, the songs on Reflektor comprise a certain phase shift in the Arcade Fire’s sound and the result is an unconventional album uniquely positioned for mass appeal.

There is nothing on this record that would signal conventional hit record. The songs are lengthy, and like the National song structures, build to crescendo and upon the reaching that sonic peak, explode into smaller yet no less interesting waves. The songs don’t attack you, but rather flow like water, not a gentle stream, but like the ocean… and that is the magic in this record. The songs are constructed in such a way to give you the feeling that you are floating within each song. You float and consequently the need for instant gratification typical of most pop songs i.e. the chorus, is no longer a necessity. This record would make for a long sweaty night in a nightclub and I can envision the endless remix possibilities. Finally, there is a rhythmic awareness on this record unlike any other Arcade Fire record. It is impossible not to listen to this record with a foot tap. Songs like “We Exist” and Here Comes The Nigh Time” are prime examples of this new approach with interesting rhythms propelling the songs and the Win Butler’s vocals weirdly hovering in these rhythms. Try “We Exist, “Normal Person,” and “Afterlife.”

AFI - BurialsAFI makes a return after a lengthy hiatus. After 4 years, Davey Havoc and company make a very lush sounding imaginative record that is undoubtedly the darkest record the band has made. This is Havoc’s personal pain examined in depth. Knowledge is power, so be forewarned, this is not a dance pop record and nor is it in any manner similar to the straight forward rock that was present on Crash Love. This is still progress for AFI and not a return to the commercial popular version, except that the Goth rock leanings are reinvigorated on Burials. Other than the radio friendly “17 Crimes,” there are no other songs on this record that should make any commercial playlist. I guess that is perhaps the point AFI is trying to make on this album. Burials is clearly not an attempt to produce a radio friendly unit shifter (Nirvana). Look, any band who can sing “I Hope You Suffer” with such ferocity, is no longer grasping for the brass ring. If you are already a fan, then you will get this record and what AFI is trying to accomplish. I also hope that anyone who listens to this record doesn’t have a personal connection to these songs, because if you do, my heartfelt deepest regrets. This record makes the dropbox, because of its honesty and commitment to the craft of making music that is personal. Very few artists are willing to commit to their art, but AFI have done that in spades here. Honest and intense, this is a great record. Try” I Hope You Suffer,” “Heart Stops,” and “Greater Than 84.”

Chris Stamey - Lovesick BluesRadically switching things up (because after listening to Burials, you are reminded that perhaps a break from despair is required, at least sometimes), legendary (at least to me) musician and producer Chris Stamey (formerly of the Sneakers, and dBs) releases Lovesick Blues, his first record since 2005’s collaboration with Yo La Tengo, A Question of Temperature. This is a beautiful record in the true meaning of that word – pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically. The addition of strings to these delicate compositions add sonic highlights to the simple and straightforward approach of Stamey on these intimate tales. For those of you whom have grown up with pop music on radio, then Lovesick Blues will be an acquired taste. I find Stamey’s approach to these songs remarkable. After repeated listens to this album I find nuances to each song that I didn’t discover on earlier listens. It is the work of true genius to make complex songs sound so simple. Try “Skin,” “You n Me n XTC,” and “Lovesick Blues.”

Dandy Warhols - This MachineNever thought I’d see the Dandy Warhols pop out a new record as good as this at this point in their career. This Machine is the 8th album from the Portland mainstays who continue to tour and play but not with the same fervor as earlier in the band’s development. Prior to listening to This Machine, I had read some mostly negative reviews and as a reader of Pitchfork’s blog, I was dismayed by Pitchfork’s reviewer’s 5.1 overall rating for the album. The reviewer found the Dandy Warhols stripped down approach to psych rock unappealing and the album overall uninteresting. With that as foreshadow for my own listening experience, I was hesitant to even give the record a spin. I’m glad I did. Pitchfork’s review is wide of the mark and they are just plain wrong in their assessment of This Machine. Perhaps there is something else going on with the politics of rock criticism as Pitchfork becomes less relevant in the big picture. I know, some of you are thinking why I would make such a bold statement.

An Aside: Pitchfork has like many a blog, evolved over the years. As it attempts to monetize its blog, after all who writes this stuff for free, there has been subtle, but noticeable change in the review content. Sure, there is still an attempt to review nearly everything released, but in the last year, there is major label creep. I note the positive reviews of Katy Perry (I agree with the review), Kanye West (9.5 for largely an average and uninspired record. Note: Hype does not make a record good. The test, as always is time, and I can think of no time where I would play this more than the few times I tried to listen to this record), Drake (8.6), Janelle Monae (8.3) etc. The point here is that Pitchfork is shifting its focus to try to be popular, i.e. increase readership, which by no means is a bad thing, but at what expense? Since, the focus of the dropbox is always only on things I personally like, I do not offer or pretend to offer criticism, only information. Hopefully it’s relevant and interesting. If not, let me know. I’ll do better. So, back to the point of this aside – Pitchfork is becoming less relevant as a place to read valid criticism because it has lost its focus – it is not Spin or Rolling Stone and it shouldn’t try to be. Rather, Pitchfork’s best asset was always information – exposure to unique sounds and artists. This I feel is what it has lost.

Now, back to the program:

Dandy Warhols’ leader and rock savant Courtney Taylor-Taylor, has produced an interesting and yes, different, Dandy Warhols record. The secret on This Machine is the Dandy’s capacity to move the listener by changing the sonic direction of each song. The strength of the Dandy Warhols has always been the capacity to sonically fuse pychedelia to indie rock, and that is accomplished here is spades. Perhaps, Pitchfork doesn’t like the ethereal vocals, noticeable present on “The Autumn Carnival,” or the straightforward Cramps sound of “Enjoy Yourself” but in the main, I was pleasantly surprised by both the depth and variety of the songs. Sure, there is not the vigor of youth present in Taylor’s vocals, but maturity should not be taken for merely going through the motions. Also, nothing on This Machine approaches the level of craftsmanship found on the first three DW records, but, for most bands, it is difficult to get one great record let alone three, and on album eight it is refreshing to see a band not traipsing around the same sound with little thought to creating something new. This record works because it demonstrates range, uncompromising quality, and the songs still fit the band. Sure there are a few missteps, such as the cover of Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons,” but overall a very good record. Try “I Am Free,” “Rest Your Head,” and “Sad Vacation.”

Fall Out Boy - Pax-Am DaysNeed a change of pace and direction? Not you as a listener, but as a band, then look no further than Fall Out Boy’s latest release. I thought their last album Fall Out Boy Save Rock and Roll was a very strong record, but this follow up EP, Pax-Am Days, is a palate cleaner for the band. This is eight songs of short sharp punk rock touched by the pop sprinkles of Patrick Stump, and the results, unlike similar attempts by bands looking to take a harder left turn in their careers, are uniformly excellent. Perhaps, FOB’s members actually like punk rock – because they play it like they mean it.  While this type of punk rock is likely a genre where the band will likely end up on their next full length, Fall Out Boy successfully plays these eight tracks like the band is still part of the scene, not merely aping the sound. A great effort. Try ”American Made,” “Caffeine Cold,” and “Love Sex Death.”

If you’ve been following the dropbox for the past couple of years, then you are likely aware that when I like a record I become a fan of the band and so, when something new appears, I am eager to give it a listen. Such is the case this month with some great new tunes from some past offenders:

Kurt Vile And The Violators - It's A Big World Out ThereKurt Vile and The Violator’s latest, It’s A Big World Out There (And I’m Scared), is scheduled for release next week (November 13) and continues Vile’s distinctive indie rock sound explored earlier this year on Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze and will comprise the bonus disc for the deluxe version of that album as all of the tracks were recorded during those sessions. All of these are previously unreleased, and as a standalone, this EP works great as a companion to that record. I am looking forward already to the next installment. Try “Feel My Pain,”, “Never Run Away (string synth),” and “Snowflakes Extended.”

Fuzz - FuzzSo, you’ve probably already guessed I have a toner (a musical boner, see the Pitch Perfect movie), for the very prolific Ty Segal who seems to release something every month. This month it is in the form of Fuzz, consisting of life long pals Charles Mootheart & Ty Segall and rounded out live by ex-Moonheart Roland Cosio on bass who have released a gem of a record in the form of the self-titled debut Fuzz and a 7’’ “Sunderberry Dream” b/w “21st Century Schizoid Man.” Like Segall’s other projects, the touchstone is always some point in rock history as filtered through Segall’s brilliant reinterpretations of the genre. Here, Fuzz takes on the heavy rock of the early to mid-70’s with Black Sabbath, Hendrix, and similar post 60’s psychedelic Blues based fuzz rock. The record makes you sweaty just listening. I want desperately to get my Bic lighter out, particularly after the opener “Earthen Gate” where at the end you could almost imagine the stadium cheer. Less a throwback than a homage, Fuzz won’t sell a ton of records – but they should. Try “Sleigh Ride,” “Loose Sutures,” and “One.” Get a Live peak here: Fuzz (Ty Segall) – This Time I’ve Got a Reason (KDVS: Live In Studio A.

Static Jacks - In BlueWestfield New Jersey’s Static Jacks are back with their follow up to one of my favorite records of 2011, the magnificent If Your Young, with the also stellar In Blue. This is, if you recall, sing-a-long pop punk that is so catchy I dare you not to be captured by the melody present here in abundance on the songs comprising In Blue. I loved the entire record which is currently playing on repeat. “Wallflowers” has hit song written all over it, so start there and bounce around because there is not a dud on the album. Apparently the band has been listening to the trend to explore “fuzz”, so this record has more of that presence than on the past albums all to great effect. Try ”Wallflowers,” “Katie Said,” and “Ninety Salt.”

So, until I can get to an update, here is the list:

  1. Dirtbombs – Consistency Is the Enemy [2013]
  2. Fuzz – Sunderberry Dream EP [2013]
  3. Fuzz – Fuzz [2013]
  4. Static Jacks – In Blue [2013]
  5. Cage the Elephant – Melophobia [2013]
  6. Public Image Ltd. – First Issue (Reissue) [2CD] [2013]
  7. Cassadee Pope – Frame By Frame [2013]
  8. Electric Six – Mustang [2013]
  9. Undertones – An Introduction to the Undertones [2013]
  10. Panic! at the Disco – Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! [2013]
  11. Andrew Belle – Black Bear [2013]
  12. Chris Stamey – Lovesick Blues [2013]
  13. Fratellis – We Need Medicine [2013]
  14. Teen Agers – I Hate It [2013]
  15. Tears for Fears – The Hurting [30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  16. William Beckett – Genuine and Counterfeit [2013]
  17. AFI – Burials [2013]
  18. Arcade Fire – Reflektor [2CD] [2013]
  19. Best Coast – Fade Away EP [2013]
  20. Dandy Warhols – This Machine [2013]
  21. Dirty Projectors – Offspring Are Blank EP [2013]
  22. Fall Out Boy – Pax-Am Days EP [2013]
  23. Future of the Left – How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident [2013]
  24. Gaslight Anthem – 45 RPM Club (7”) [2013]
  25. Clash – Hits Back [2CD] [2013]
  26. Cass McCombs – Big Wheel and Others [2013]
  27. Control – Ballad of The Working Man [2013]
  28. Cult Of Luna – Vertikal II (MCD) [2013]
  29. Cults – Static [2013]
  30. Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism Demos [2013]
  31. Echosmith – Talking Dreams (Deluxe Special Edition) [2013]
  32. Kurt Vile and The Violators – It’s A Big World Out There (And I Am Scared) EP [2013]
  33. Los Campesinos! – No Blues [2013]
  34. Ocean Party – Split [2013]
  35. Papa – Tender Madness [2013]
  36. Polica – Shulamith [2013]
  37. Rude Tins – State Of Flux [2013]
  38. Crystal Antlers – Nothing Is Real [2013]
  39. Drag the River – Drag the River [2013]
  40. Kickdrums – Thinking Out Loud [2013]
  41. Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond [2013]
  42. Parlotones – Stand Like Giants [2013]
  43. Velojet – Panorama [2013]
  44. Unwound – Kid Is Gone [2013]
  45. Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals [2013]
  46. Polly Scattergood – Arrows [2013]
  47. Royal Bangs – Brass [2013]
  48. Phosphorescent – Muchacho de Lujo [2013]
  49. Wolf & Cub – Heavy Weight [2013]
  50. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [2013]