Surprise! I’ve finally had a chance to update these notes! I think you’ll find in the two months since I last posted here that new music continues to be very interesting this year with some pretty terrific goodies to listen to in the dropbox. With new releases from some old favorites (Wilco, D.O.A, Matt Pond PA, Destroyer, Ryan Adams); some terrific new bands (Wolf Alice, White Reaper, Grave Babies, Rose Windows, Strange Wilds); and some surprising releases from bands long thought dead (K’s Choice, Everclear, Metro Station, Veruca Salt) this is a varied and diverse dropbox. Everyone should find something to listen to that they will love. Heck, if your old, check out the Replacements Albums box and The Jam’s Greatest Hits collection. Truly, this is as diverse as it gets from me, with Citizens! (the one with the !) lovely song “All I Want Is You” punishing me with its catchy melody and pop hook. Titus Andronicus’s latest is a rock opera “The Lamentable Tragedy” and it is not only challenging but upon reflection – pure genius.
I’ll post some reviews and the previous lists over the next couple of weeks so check back. If you are getting notifications from this list when new stuff is posted, then you will be first to know when the next set of releases is ready to roll two weeks from now. So work quickly, eh?
So, check things out – you know the drill. Here is the list:
Wilco – Star Wars 
Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool 
Turnover – Peripheral Vision 
Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy 
Titus Andronicus – Sorry About The Delay Mixtape Volume 2A 
Tame Impala – Currents 
Teenage Time Killers – Greatest Hits Vol.1 
Strange Wilds – Subjective Concepts 
Ryan Adams – Live At Carnegie Hall 
Replacements – The Complete Studio Albums 1981-1990 
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
Anti-Flag – A Document of Dissent 
Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside 
Courteeners – Concrete Love [Deluxe Version] 
Spoon – They Want My Soul 
Rise Against – The Black Market 
Nico Vega – Lead to Light 
The #1s – The Number Ones 
Ghost Wolves – Man, Woman, Beast 
Downtown Fiction – Losers & Kings 
Bleachers – Strange Desire 
Bishop Allen – Lights Out 
Big Deal – June Gloom [Deluxe Edition] 
Allison Weiss – Remember When 
Angus And Julia Stone – Angus And Julia Stone [Deluxe Version] 
Colony House – When I Was Younger 
Engineers – Always Returning 
Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt (Deluxe Edition) 
Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals 
Interrupters – The Interrupters 
J Mascis – Tied to a Star 
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again 
Muffs – Whoop Dee Doo 
Stiff Little Fingers – Original Album Series [5CD]
Rentals – Lost In Alphaville 
Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts 
Bats – Volume 1 [3CD] 
Dry The River – Alarms In The Heart 
Literature – Chorus 
Raglans – Raglans 
Real Friends – Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing 
Thousand Foot Krutch – Oxygen Inhale 
Dead Stars – Slumber 
Twin Atlantic – Great Divide (Deluxe Version) 
Ty Segall – Manipulator 
Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lose 
Allah-Las – Worship The Sun 
Dylan In The Movies – Sweet Rebel Thee 
Dirt Farmer – Free BBQ 
Darlings – Made Of Phantoms 
Arkells – High Noon 
Empire! Empire! I Was a Lonely Estate – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten 
Lucero – Live from Atlanta 
Courteeners – How Good It Was EP 
Neighbors – Failure 
Neighbors – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please 
Wax Witches – Center Of Your Universe 
Philip Selway – Weatherhouse 
Quietdrive – The Ghost of What You Used to Be 
Game Theory – Blaze of Glory [Expanded Edition] 
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.)
As we approach the dog days of summer, this month’s dropbox echoes, perhaps, this time of the year. There are some summer sunny pop gems sprinkled with a little coolness portending the approach of fall (except for Pop. 1280 which is, frankly deep winter).As J is in the middle of summer school in Santa Barbara, and K is continuing to work at the golf course until he begins at Santa Cruz in September, I’m also cognizant that the dropbox is also reflective of a change in seasons. ( That last sentence was vaguely metaphorical if you ask me).
Starting off with sounds of summer, New Jersey’s Boxed Wine provide that sunny garage pop that will make you tap your feet and sing along to these sunny positive tunes. In short, Boxed Wine is the antidote for the blues. Cheap, Fun, the bands debut LP, carries on the summer dance party with this well-crafted pop gem. Why this is not on Alt98.7 or KROQ (for those of you who live in LA) is beyond me. The four piece (Chris Mactire (vocals), Ralph Nicastro (guitar) , Mike Cerisano (bass), and Steve McCarthy (drums)), really is a throwback in some ways – a traditional rock quartet lifting early Joe Jackson / Elvis Costello grooves and recombining it with early 80’s new wave. They are self- described as indie pop with dance sensibilities, but the sound is more power pop with dance – think of Grouplove or Walk The Moon’s “Anna Sun.” Opener “Into the Nite” is stunning in its catchiness and sets the tone for the entire record with all of the songs as enjoyable as the firstl. Sure, as a whole this album, lyrically, is not too weighty, but if you are looking for something to shake off the doldrums, you can’t go wrong here. Try “Into The Nite”, (http://youtu.be/RI4xQoy6Vo4 ) “On The Run” and “Overboard.”
A little different approach to dance pop, Melbourne’s Buchanan on its debut Human Spring, combines the current elements of Australia’s pop scene into club ready guitar pop a laSan Cisco and Two Door Cinema Club but Josh Simmons vocals are way smoother. There is definitely a trend developing for this kind of music, and the band already has airplay on Australia’s alternative radio – Triple J. A good change of pace if you are listening to a diet of punk rock and metal. All kidding aside, this record would fit nicely into your growing Australian record collection. Try “Run Faster”(http://youtu.be/Y53zoaFWi64 ), “Human Spring”( http://youtu.be/-fokIF1fhLs ), and “Act Natural.”
Speaking of Melbourne, Camperdown & Out have just released Couldn’t Be Better which is connected to a different aspect of Australia’s pop scene derived from the same scene that more than 20 years earlier produced the dropbox favorite – legendary Hoodoo Gurus. Yes, you heard it here first, jangle pop is back. A genre that was in danger of becoming extinct, is finding a rebirth in the recent wave of garage acts. However, the jangle pop variant which was huge on college radio in the late 80’s and best exemplified by Let’s Active, Beat Farmers, The Clean, Fleshtones, and early Smithereens, is beginning to see new life at the fringes of the alt-rock scene. Camperdown & Out are essentially a Melbourne super group – Nathan Roche (Marf Loth), Alex Kiers (Raw Prawn), David Akerman (Dead Farmers) and Chris Shortt (Royal Headache) – formed to pay tribute to their jangle pop heroes and the originators of the genre – The Velvet Underground. The subject matter of the record drifts from the normal boy-girl relationships treading into political social issue territory and literalism e.g. “Manly” is about what you would do in Manly, a beach side suburb – drinking a beer at the pub, walking down the street, sitting in the shade, lying on the sand etc. , and “Don’t Have a Dog” is about not having a dog…no surprise) which may prevent some listeners from connecting, but I found it an enjoyable turn and worthy of inclusion. Try “Manly” (http://youtu.be/gl77zL8LF40 ) , the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed sounding “Tropics of Capricorn” and “Don’t Have a Dog.”
Who would have thought that there were four bands all named Chinaski that existed on this planet? See if you can guess which one is in the dropbox this month. According to Last.fm
1) Chinaski is a chilean stoner doom psych band from Curico, Chile.
2) Chinaski is a czech pop group formed by a leader Michal Malatný. Playing for years, started as a formal “garage rock group”, nowadays they are a popular pop group in the Czech Republic.
3) Chinaski (Los Angeles) is also a post-grunge group from California
4) Chinaski is also a group from the French Riviera.
I know you want to guess Number 1 or Number 2, but its number 3 in the list and it is a darn good rock record. I’m not to sure about calling it post-grunge. Does this even make sense? So a grunge band formed after the death of the genre is considered post-grunge. Grunge may have died, but how does this explain post-hardcore, where hardcore never died? Say what you mean. I’d characterize this more like pop-grunge. Apparently, a few people have read the works of Charles Bukowski. In this case, this is a non-metal rock record with some grunge flashes, such as the opening to the burner “I Will” which leads off You Might Like This Better Than Me. Don’t be fooled with the timing of this release. You Might Like This Better Than Me isa reissue of Chinaski’s second LP which was originally released in 2001. The band was killed in the death to grunge movement and the post Gilmore Girls backlash which played a couple of tracks from the record. (See how I did that – Post-Gilmore Girls). This fits nicely into the early 2000’s guitar rock/college rock with bands like the Refreshments. Its a record I missed, and in places sounds a little dated, but still has loads of charm. Try “I Will”, “Our Song” and “Even Now.”
I miss Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, better known as Fountains of Wayne. Well, I shxx you not, The Electric Soft Paradecould be a light version of Fountains of Wayne. On Idiots, the Electric Soft Parade traverse the same musical notes as what appeared on Fountains of Wayne’sWelcome Interstate Managers, the breakout album that produced “Stacy’s Mom” and “Hackensack”. Apparently being copyists, does not please everyone. The reviewer at NME gave this a 6/10 claiming “[s]adly there’s a deal-breaking second half to this album, exemplified by a regrettable harmony overload on the cloyingly twee meltdown ‘Mr Mitchell’, a song so drippy it’s as unlistenable as a million malfunctioning taps.” So, one duff track – and that’s the deal breaker. As I’ve reiterated elsewhere, anytime you traverse into Beatles territory, you are going to get the critical slogging as most reviewers will claim that everything the Beatles wrote was gold straight from the King’s anus. Ah… that is not the point. This is a good album with a few songs you’ll play repeatedly, and like 99 percent of the other albums in your collection, you’ll largely forget.. The White brothers, Tom and Alex, are not reinventing the wheel on Idiots – their fourth album. The band which was hugely popular in England upon the release of their debut in 2002 (Holes in The Walls) dropped off the face of the earth by 2004 with troubles at the record label and a significant change in sound. The formula is simple: Successful radio band = same sound on every record. People want to hear what makes them comfortable. Few bands are successful at changing their sound and still keeping their audience. Thought cloud opens up to reveal: Rolling Stones had a freaking disco period, Neil Young had a bizarre electronic period, U2 had a dismal dance period and R.E.M. had a dramatic lack of good songs period, etc. So, on balance, there are some pop gems on Idiots, so enjoy those. Try ”The Sun Never Sets Around Here,”, “Summertime In My Heart” and “Never Again.”
As you might have already noticed, everything old becomes new again. With the resurgence of Stone Roses as a touring act, it was inevitable that some band would pick up on how good the original baggy/ Madchester scene of the early 90’s was and bring it back to life. Jagwar Ma have accomplished that feat on their debut Howlin and people are noticing (see Noel Gallagher on Jagwar Ma: http://www.nme.com/news/temples/70028 ). Jagwar Ma is based in Sydney Australia and the duo has the knack for capturing the intersection of the best Manchester had to offer, without sounding like a poor version. Gabriel Winterfield and Jono Ma play tight grooves, the lyrics are glassy eyed and not too serious, but the groove rules on this record. Try: “The Throw” (http://youtu.be/1vU6a7Haw78 ), “Come Save Me” and “Uncertain.”
You just have to know that if a member of Wire is involved with a record, that it is likely to be….well, awesome! Coming in at a blistering 35 minutes, and filled with Lo-fi psych pop ( like Tame Impala) and shoegazing (nods to the Catherine Wheel), Matthew Simms ( guitarist for Wire) side project, It Hugs Back, should be a full time occupation. On this record it is all about pacing – one song launches into the next and at the end you are exhausted. Recommended Record is the third release from the quartet and traverse quite a wide range of music. Think of it as a singles collection from the 90’s. You can spot the influences but in many ways this is a better record than some of the touchstones you could identify. Try “Go Magic”, “Teenage Hands”( Here it is live @ The Lexington, London March 21, 2013: http://youtu.be/FwpWIPOyzS4 ) and the early Replacements, styled “Big Sighs.”
Maybe its time for a missive about the transitory nature of bands and music. New York based, Zac Coe, nee’ of Fast Forward which had a life span of about a minute but left some great tracks, has moved on with a self-produced, self-released, and apparently, self-played album under the name The All-About entitled Suburban Heart.Here is an autoharp version of title track “Suburban Heart” (http://youtu.be/Gy0ztcNxORA played by Coe in what looks like his bedroom. These are pure pop tunes, with just enough variation to avoid the disease of repetition. These are definitely songs for summer. Try “Nashville”, “Suburban Heart” and “Heat Wave.”
Another one man band, Matthew Politoski, aka Animal Flag, on his second long player, The Sounds of Sleep, picks up where his debut from last year left off. If you recall, Everything Will Be Okay (2012) ended up in my Top 100 albums of last year with the brilliant song “The Management of Grief” making my singles playlist. If you recall this is essentially electronic folk music utilizing a sound collage technique. If you like the album, check out Animal Flag’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/animalflag/posts/526741247374579 to give it a shout out. I am amazed by the quality of these recordings as the technology available today produces studio quality recordings – without a studio. So, Try “You Will Always Wonder”, “Wake Up in Heaven” and “Trap of Time.”
So, that should give you a good start until the next update, and hopefully you’ll have a chance to explore some of the many gems in this month’s box. To point you a little deeper into the list, try the Dandy Warhol’s, Teardrop Explodes, Devo, and Chixdiggit! reissues as well as Wilco’s all cover songs live show.
Here is this month’s list:
Boxed Wine – Cheap, Fun 
Buchanan – Human Spring 
Camperdown & Out – Couldn’t Be Better 
Chinaski – You Might Like This Better Than Me 
Electric Soft Parade – IDIOTS 
Jagwar Ma – Howlin [2CD] 
It Hugs Back – Recommended Record 
All-About – Suburban Heart 
Animal Flag – The Sounds Of Sleep 
Bronze Radio Return – Up, On And Over 
Wilco – Roadcase 018 
Computers – Love Triangles Hate Squares 
Mama Kin – The Magician’s Daughter 
Makeshift Innocence – Yours To Keep 
Little Children – Falling 
Little Children – In Hau 
Deap Vally – Sistrionix 
Daughn Gibson – Me Moan 
Throwing Up – Over You 
Wiretree – Get Up 
Traindodge – Supernatural Disasters 
Shivas – Whiteout 
Sugar Stems – Can’t Wait 
Superchunk – Me & You & Jackie Mittoo bw Sunset Arcade