Alvvays (which I will continue to pronounce with a heavy V sound, no matter what). Both these songs are tidy samples of what you get with the band's debut album, which is strong on charm and melody and wildness. It is occasionally a wonder to me (especially when I'm feeling less than generous regarding most radio music) that any band--regardless of where they come from, how long they've been together, etc.--can produce music that holds a listener's close attention. Alvvays's songs grab your interest immediately. And it's good and fitting to be grateful for that, particularly when there is so much music (now, always) that does little more than float by in the background. Molly Rankin has one of those voices that's so bright and clear that you can't ignore it, the kind of voice that you realize in retrospect you've been longing to hear. This album is one that I've already passed on to friends and I'll continue to do so. Perfect for mid-summer, it'll probably feel even better in the fall.
The Kinks' Arthur is the last album I heard playing in a record store (in this case Amoeba Records in Berkeley) that I immediately fell in love with. I'd never heard Arthur before, and I found it totally arresting--without knowing for sure if it was the Kinks, I went up and asked the guy behind the counter and he gestured to the CD with a sort of 'voila' movement. This happened in December and I've been listening to the album intermittently since then, and it continues to fascinate and thrill me. I'm not sure why it's so difficult (i.e. impossible) to find this in a digital version, especially considering that this is the Kinks, who are not exactly what you would call an obscure band (surely there must be some convoluted and bizarre rights issue with the album--maybe it has to do with the fact that it started off as the soundtrack to a TV show?). The CD is out there, though, plus there's a pretty fancy deluxe reissue you can buy (if you like expensive import CDs).
Beverly is Frankie Rose (lately known for her own solo work, and formerly of Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts) and Drew Citron. "Careers" is their debut album. This is definitely one of the most refreshing things I've heard in 2014, not just because all the songs are catchy and extremely well written, but also because every song contains a surprise. I realized, after listening to this album a bunch of times, that what is most impressive about "Careers" is how slippery the songs are, how difficult they can be to hold on to. Their shapes do not conform to expectations. With music like this, which is mostly guitar, drums, bass--simple instrumentation--it is, I suspect, easy to fall into a plan, a trajectory: this is a ballad, this is the fast one, this is the one with the breakdown. But with this band, there is no clear-cut path from A to B. All these songs open up in weird ways. Honey Do, in particular, is incredible for the way it breathes harder during the chorus, and then there's pocket of bright guitar towards the end (impossible to see it coming). This is an awesome album and it goes by in a flash, easy to listen to it over and over again.
White Reaper want to recreate the conditions (emotional, physical, metaphysical) of 'bearing the brunt.' They want you to embrace it, take that impact in as faithfully and sincerely as you can. Conspirator shows them at their hortatory best: everything in this song is designed to urge you towards something. Every song on their debut EP is like this too--catchy, quick, fleeting, fun, strong-willed. One of the best collections of songs I've heard in a while--you can check out their page here, and enjoy a picture of the guys standing in front of a Wawa somewhere (which incidentally makes me homesick, Wawa is the apotheosis of convenience stores).
This song has been floating around in my head lately, so I thought I'd post it. This is a circa-2005 Wolf Parade cover of Atlas Strategic's A Day in the Life...which was one of the best songs ever recorded by Atlas Strategic (Dan's old band), and featured on "Rapture, Ye Minions!" (check it out). I've been thinking about just how wonderful Wolf Parade were, how insanely talented that band was. I got to see them a couple times, and I'm thankful for that--once in New York for a weird Believer 'music issue' show, and another time in Philly (after they had added Dante DeCaro). The show in Philly happened between the first and second albums, and I remember they tested out some songs that were never released (including the awesome Things I Don't Know). They also played A Day in the Life, which was incredible that night and is still pretty incredible. It would be nice if they ever get back together--maybe in 15 years or something.
This Brave Bird song, Rekindle, reminds me so much of the catchy and breathtakingly dramatic songs I used to listen to (frequently and also with great drama) from ages 19-24. Dudes and guitars, brooding! Even the most minor of quotidian events incites frighteningly intense introspection! I love it, if I'm being honest. Sometimes it's nice to have music that mimics and gives shape to the largely inexpressible (or just sort of ridiculous) turbulence that comes with the emotions (boredom/nostalgia/lust/despair) of that late-teenagerhood/early-twenties time. Brave Bird knows this well.
Rekindle *immediately* brought to mind a dozen songs, though the most prominent of these are above: Saves the Day's Take Our Cars Now!, Ozma's Eponine (great song), and Gloria Record's A Lull in Traffic. All of which at one point appeared on a mix CD given to me in college, and which I subsequently deployed on mixes I made for other people. They're all in that same tone as Rekindle, and all comforting in their own ways.
There is that other side of shoegaze, the darker, more anxious side. Waves of gray bleakness. Downy disappointment. An examination of distress; itself queasy, restive, unsure. Stagnant Pools go all-in on this kind of shoegaze on their new album, Geist. Intentions, in particular, is a good illustration of this, with the push-and-pull activity of the guitars vs. Bryan Enas's calm & declaratory vocals. It's nice to hear this sound being explored so effectively; there was a short period in the late 80s/early 90s when a few bands had jumped on this, trying to bend the conventions of shoegaze into something more immediately weird/dark/terrifying. The one that did it most successfully, I think, and a probable precedent for Stagnant Pools, is the band Loop. Loop were not, as far as I can tell, super popular. But they made a couple great albums which all deserve some attention, and so here below is Fade Out (from the album of the same name), a wiry masterpiece that dovetails well with Intentions.
Drew Daniel (of Matmos) has resurrected his side project, the Soft Pink Truth, with a new album of black metal covers, "Why Do The Heathen Rage?" You can listen to (and download) his amazing 25-minute-long cover of Burzum's Rundgang through the soundcloud link above (which will not be on the album, for reasons that Drew speaks articulately about in this wonderful interview). I did not expect another Soft Pink Truth album. There were rumors, for a long time, that Drew was working on a new project, sort of adjacent to SPT, called The Soft Pink Tube, which was to involve songs constructed from YouTube snippets that he'd extracted. One track did actually emerge from The Soft Pink Tube, the excellent (and totally weird) Party Pills (Drew searched the word “party” on YouTube and built a song out of what he found. There’s sort of a main character in this song who talks about sex, drugs, Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, and people fucking up. The music here is poised and tense). Nothing really followed that. If you've never heard anything from SPT, there were two great albums in two years--Do You Party, which was all original stuff (Satie above is taken from that album), and Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want The Soft Pink Truth, also an album of covers (punk and hardcore for that one)--totally recommended too, there is an awesome cover of L. Voag's 'Kicthen,' which is what made me fall in love with this project in the first place.
Swearin' like to go hard. I saw them play along with Waxahatchee (so this was the sisters Crutchfield bill) in Portland this past fall, and it was one of the best concerts I've been to in a long time. Swearin' play songs that are fast and loud and energetic, and catchy---some of their stuff reminds me of early Weezer B-sides, the ones that emphasized the power over the pop side of the spectrum. This is a band made for late spring/early summer. Who knows when you'll get a chance to listen to this music again in the proper context, because, for all we know, the climate might make a left turn and gently usher us into a new ice age (optimistic) or we will melt (realistic). Swearin' is a band for the NOW, for the moment. Hold on tight.
Over the last decade or so, I have occasionally put up a Labor Day mix (actually the same mix a couple times--since the end of summer is such a downer, it's the 'Dentist's Office' mix, which is all soft, numbing, deathly anodyne rock), but I don't think I've ever done a Memorial Day mix. So here's that.
The only organizing theme for this one is 'songs that you might have heard at a mid-80s family barbecue/company picnic.' I can attest to having personally heard and danced to all of these songs when I was a kid (at my dad's company's picnic/summer celebration), much as it pains me to say that, and particularly in the case of the Don Henley song, because that one is--like much of Don's work--unspeakably gross (c.f. my previous self-therapy re: Don Henley). I have some vivid and bizarre memories of drunk adults going fucking wild for "Mony Mony." Same with "Walk Like An Egyptian," a truly awesome song anyway and one that started an insane dance (though I don't know how long that lasted. Not long, I would guess).
The only song in here I actually love is Steely Dan's Reelin' In The Years, which, jeeze, I don't know if it gets much better--if you fantasize about ferocious riffs, or ever say the word 'riffs' to anyone, you will love this song. Fagen's lyrics are so good here too, just a great mix of cutting observations, smiling wistfulness, etc. Every couple years I'm reminded of how much I love this band and how rich and freaky their music is. Anyway, while caught in a Steely Dan fugue the other night, I stumbled across this amazing video of them playing Reelin' In The Years live (they look impossibly young--also this was when they still had David Palmer with the band, before Fagen took over all vocal duties), and they're introduced by Bill Cosby, who is casually smoking a cigar. Check it out: