Friday, January 24, 2020

Singing Lungs - Mutter Cassette

Untitled

Count Your Lucky Stars (2019)

Whenever I get a cassette, it usually breaks down into one of three situations.  The first is that I already know and like the band, so I had no choice but to buy the cassette since there was no CD or vinyl release.  The second one is that one of those tape labels from Buffalo sent me another weirdo tape from some local band that has way too much yelling in it.  The final scenario is what I've experienced with Singing Lungs.  It showed up in the mail one day, isn't from upstate New York and actually has pretty solid artwork.  I was definitely more intrigued than usual.

That intrigue paid off with a pretty solid listen.  Singing Lungs are playing a relatively poppy strain of punk rock with crunchy Armchair Martian style guitars and earnest vocals that venture into a rootsy territory from time to time.  While I wouldn't classify them as the sort of band that's going to instantly catapult into your favorites list, all five songs are genuinely good and worth a listen.

The band also sent a full CD that I haven't listened to yet.  I figured I'd tackle the tape first at is was newer.  But this EP has left a good impression and I'm excited to check out some more tunes by these guys.

Singing Lungs - Mutter:
https://countyourluckystars.bandcamp.com/album/mutter

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Grand Puba – Reel To Reel 2xLP

Untitled

Elektra (1992)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

As I had mentioned when I wrote about the first Brand Nubian album One For All, I don’t remember exactly when I discovered them. I’m pretty sure the first song I heard was the title track from that debut album, but in thinking about things a bit more, it’s actually possible that the first thing I ever heard was the Grand Puba solo debut. I am positive that I was aware that Grand Puba came from Brand Nubian when I first saw the video for "360° (What Goes Around)." I also remember how much I loved that damn song.

"360° (What Goes Around)" immediately made me hunt down the Grand Puba CD and it quickly became a favorite. A lot of the hip hop records from the early 90s are over long with a decent amount of filler. I always thought the records that had shorter track listings always seemed to be better. At fourteen tracks (fifteen on the CD as it also included an extra track featuring Puba’s contribution to the Brand New Heavies album) Reel to Reel is long enough to let Puba spread his wings and tackle a bunch of beats, but it also is short enough where the album isn’t full of unnecessary skits and filler tracks. Aside from a couple of slower beats used on tracks towards the end of the record, it's pretty strong throughout.

Production wise, I love this almost as much as the first Brand Nubian record. The beat are simple, but full sounding with innovative sampling and a vibe that just feels like a party. Lyrically, Puba didn’t often delve deep into complex topics, he tends to come off like he’s freestyling with words that sound really nice together but aren’t delivering a super specific narrative. That said, few match his easy flow and line delivery. I’ve never been someone quite so concerned with the actual lyrics as much as how they sound within the song. Grand Puba kind of mastered that, economical lyrics and beats that somehow come together to equal far more than the sum of their separate parts.

Grand Puba - "360° (What Goes Around)":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl2DFBlBmGM

Grand Puba - "That's How We Move It":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8NZpqfEEbs

Friday, January 17, 2020

Sweet Knives - I Don't Wanna Die 2x7"

Untitled

Big Neck (2019)

I wrote about a Sweet Knives LP a few years ago that I thought was pretty good.  I'll admit to not having listened to it a ton during the interim, but it makes an appearance on a work playlist every so often.  This new double 7" is the first bit of new music from them since that full length and I like it even more than that last record.

These songs feel much poppier to me than the last.  Where before they had a darker vibe, with flourishes of synth, now they've turned those forces towards a catchiness not previously explored.  There is still a lot of downstroking and fuzzy guitar tones, but the synth has been moved to more of a supporting role.  As I'm not a huge fan of synth on the best of days, this is a positive transition for me.  The synthy riffs are still there, but now they are working more in tandem with the vocal melodies.

All four songs are pretty great.  If the band continues to move in this direction, I'll be quite excited to see what they come up with next.

Sweet Knives - I Don't Wanna Die 2x7"
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/sweet-knives-i-dont-wanna-die-2x7

Monday, January 13, 2020

Holy Shit! - Not My Tempo 7"

Untitled

Snuffy Smiles / Vinyl Smash (2019)

Going into this, I already know that I don't really like Holy Shit.  I have a handful of their split 7"s on Snuffy Smiles and pretty much the only reason I bought this one is because it's a co-release between Vinyl Smash and Snuffy Smiles.  To keep the Snuffy Smiles 7" collection complete, it's a necessary purchase.

Holy Shit play really fast and the singer yells a lot.  It sounds like an older hardcore record, but one that might have been a Berkeley based sound.  There's a little bit of catchiness to their songs and I can tolerate them more than a lot of hardcore bands, but this just isn't for me.  This is a 7" that is truly not my tempo.

I will say that the last couple of years from Snuffy Smiles have been underwhelming.  They haven't put out many records and the ones they have aren't as focused on Japanese bands as I would like.  Still, I have quite a history collecting records from this label, so I'm likely to keep buying them year after year, no matter what band is actually on the record.

Holy Shit! - Not My Tempo 7":
https://holyshitwi.bandcamp.com/album/not-my-tempo

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Wannadies - Bagsy Me LP - Turquoise Vinyl

Untitled

Music On Vinyl (2019, Reissue)

Music On Vinyl has been reissuing some pretty classic albums from the 90s lately.  In 2019 they did the three best Wannadies albums on colored vinyl.  While I didn't get the colored version of Be A Girl, I was able to get Bagsy Me on turquoise vinyl.

I go back and forth on which of the Wannadies records is my favorite.  Be A Girl has a number of incredible songs, some of my favorites like "Might Be Stars" and "New World Record."  Bagsy Me more than keeps up with hits like "Because," "Someone Somewhere" and "Shorty."  Honestly, they are both pretty perfect and even though I had the original pressings of both, I like these both enough to have reissued 180 gram vinyl versions.

And this version sounds wonderful.  Everything sounds full and clear as day.  The guitars are warm and fuzzy and the vocals cut through the noise with catchy melodies.  I'll never totally understand how they didn't catch on more in America.  Other than "You and Me Song" being on that movie soundtrack and having some notoriety, you never hear of many people extolling the virtues of the Wannadies.  Well, that should stop.  They are an amazing band and I'd put their three album stretch of Be A Girl to Bagsy Me to Yeah up against just about any band's three albums.  They're that great.

Maybe we'll get a 90s nostalgia reunion one of these days.  Though I doubt they'd come to America, I would absolutely be front row for that if it ever happened.

The Wannadies - "Because" (The very beginning is cut off of this on YouTube):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGhwbANWEb4

The Wannadies - "Shorty":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gl_MDeiyyI

The Wannadies - "Hit"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFq5YucL_iE

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Casual - Meanwhile... LP

Untitled

Dope Folks (2016, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Fear Itself by Casual is one of the greatest hip hop records of all time.  Gun to my head and forced to rank my favorites, I'd probably put it at number two on my all time list.  I've listened to that album so many times over the years and it was a real staple of my junior/senior year of high school in 1994.  I didn't hear from Casual again until I was in college.  In 1997 the Hieroglyphics crew had all been dropped from their respective labels and regrouped on the internet to start self releasing their music.  I bought two cassettes from their website; Del The Funky Homosapien's Future Development and Casual's Meanwhile...

Honestly, both felt like a little bit of a let down at the time.  I had moved on from most hip hop by 1997 and even though I was really excited to finally have new music by two of my favorites, it was pretty obvious to me that hip hop's golden era was over.  Over the years I've come to appreciate these records more than I originally did.  Even though Meanwhile doesn't hit the same highs as Fear Itself, it is still a really strong record showcasing Casual's pretty unmatched battle rap prowess.

In 2016 Dope Folks freed this album from tape only purgatory and finally remastered and rereleased it on vinyl.  I was unaware that this had happened at the time and as a result missed out on the red vinyl version.  Still, I'm happy to finally have this album on vinyl and the remastering really helps out the production as it previously had sounded a little thin to me.  The bass is now fuller and the vocals a little crisper than they had been on the original version.

I hadn't listened to this album in a while before picking up this vinyl version.  I'm really glad it was reissued as I'm listening to it again with a bit more context and more of an open mind than I had in '97.  It's a good record, probably the third best one Casual put out (I also really love an early 2000's record of his called Truck Driver).  I'd still like to add the red vinyl version to the collection if I can find one at a decent price, so we'll see if one turns up.

Casual - Meanwhile:
https://casual1.bandcamp.com/album/meanwhile

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Best of Godzilla 1954-1975 - Original Film Soundtracks 2xLP

Untitled

Crescendo (2019)

I love Godzilla movies.  I have since I was a little kid watching them on Saturday and Sunday afternoons on either channel 5, 9 or 11.  Back in the 80s, it was pretty easy to stumble across a Godzilla movie on a weekend afternoon as they played them all the time.  I also ended up with a pretty sizable VHS collection so my brother and I could rewatch them whenever we wanted. While Godzilla didn't really seem to stick in my brother's consciousness, I became a life long fan hunting down bootlegs of the Japanese versions and buying figures, shirts and all sorts of other silly things.  It's only really been over the last fifteen years or so that you could buy legal versions of the Japanese cuts of these movies stateside.

Then there is the music.  I've always loved the soundtracks to the Godzilla movies.  These were impossible to come by when I was a kid.  I remember freaking out as a teenager finding a Godzilla CD in the import section of a Tower records.  It was the first time I was ever able to listen to the music on command.  I also drooled over the Perfect Collection CD box sets that came out in the early 2000s, but they were just way too expensive for me, despite containing nearly every musical note ever played in every single Godzilla movie.  Honestly, I'd still really like to get those if I could ever find them at a decent price.

This double LP is a nice compromise in the meantime.  It compiles music from the Showa series of Godzilla films that ran from 1954 to 1975.  There's at least one suite of music from every Showa Godzilla movie except for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Godzilla vs the Sea Monster).  Though we do get "Mothra's Song" from the standalone Mothra movie, so it's an OK trade.  Also interspersed throughout the record are various monster sound effects.  These are neat to hear, but kind of disrupt the flow of the music a bit.  They also scare the shit out of my cat.  I could have passed on them in order to have a more cohesive album.

That minor complaint aside, this is a fun collection fo Godzilla tunes that I'm excited to have on vinyl.  While I wish that someone would release all of the individual soundtracks on vinyl (and a couple have come out), I know that is something that is likely never going to happen.  At least this record gives me a taste of the good life.



Friday, January 3, 2020

The Absolute Best Records of the Decade - 2010-2019

Untitled

After seeing so many other folks list theirs, I thought it would be interesting to try to put together a list of my favorite albums from the past decade.  I discovered some surprising things as I went through everything.

To start, I made a rule that only 1 album per band could be on the list.  Otherwise that darn Steve Adamyk Band would have taken up too many spots.  They are hands down the band of the decade.  Six absolutely killer albums in ten years.  No one else came close to that.  Plus their debut album is my second favorite album of the last ten years.

The most interesting thing that I noticed was that the bulk of the records that mean the most to me weren't the albums that I thought were the number one record of their particular year.  As time went on certain records grew on me more and others faded away a bit.

The other thing that jumped out at me was how great of 2010 was.  There are six records from 2010 in my top twenty of the entire decade.  Taking up almost a third of the entire list seems pretty crazy to me, though in fairness, they did have the longest amount of time for me to become attached to them.  It's hard for a 2019 record to be one of the best of the entire decade, as I've only had a few months to listen to them, though Foxhall Stacks and Shoplifters were on the shortlist as I was whittling down to a top 20.

What isn't crazy to me at all is the fact that the first Mrs. Magician record was my absolute favorite of the past ten years.  When making this list, there was never even a question of that.  It is such a perfect record from start to finish.  I truly believe that it is one of the greatest albums in the history of the earth.

01 - Mrs. Magician - Strange Heaven - Swami
02 - Steve Adamyk Band - Steve Adamyk Band - Ptrash
03 - Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens - Sub Pop
04 - Year Zero - Year One - Ptrash
05 - Dead Mechanical - Addict Rhythms - Toxic Pop
06 - Title Tracks - In Blank - Windian
07 - Leatherface - The Stormy Petrel - Big Ugly Fish/No Idea
08 - The Night Marchers - Allez Allez - Swami
09 - Sonic Avenues - Television Youth - Dirtnap
10 - The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash - Dirt Cult

11 - Boat - Dress Like Your Idols - Magic Marker
12 - Dan Sartain - Dan Sartain Lives - One Little Indian
13 - Bob Mould - Silver Age - Merge
14 - Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else - Carpark
15 - Superchunk - Majesty Shredding - Merge
16 - Tenement - Napalm Dream -Mandible
17 - The No Marks - Light Of One - Brassneck
18 - Dirtbombs - Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey - In The Red
19 - Chestnut Road - Chestnut Road - Brassneck
20 - Gentleman Jesse - Leaving Atlanta - Douchemaster


Monday, December 30, 2019

The Absolute Best Records of 2019

Untitled

Wrapping up my eighth year of doing this dumb website, I'm really impressed by how many great records came out this year.  While it felt like a slow year for a while, it really picked up in the latter half.  Any year where Snuff and Steve Adamyk Band don't make the top ten is a pretty incredible year of music (and both of those records were great, I think they would be easy top ten most years).

To be completely honest, my favorite record of the year was probably the one I helped put out on PopKid:

Shoplifters - Secret Free World - PopKid /Brassneck / Waterslide / Bartolini / White Russian

That said, I feel weird ranking records I released, so I'm going to disqualify them from the official ranking.  It would have been a tough battle for first place as I think I listened to Foxhall Stacks, Shoplifters and Warp Lines more than any other records this year.  Potty Mouth was right up there as well.  Denomi and Turncoat represented Japan this year, though I didn't actually write about the Turncoat record as a vinyl version is going to come out next year, so I'll take pictures of that one once it's out.

It was also great to hear the hitmakers from years past still kicking ass this year.  The Subjunctives, Bob Mould and J. Robbins all put out records just as good as any of their former bands put out in the 90s.

01 - Foxhall Stacks - The Coming Collapse - Snappy Little Numbers (Listen)
02 - Warp Lines - Human Fresh - Dirt Cult (Listen)
03 - Potty Mouth - SNAFU - Get Better (Listen)
04 - Denomi - It's Never Too Late, Go Forward - With One Accord (Listen)
05 - The Subjunctives - Sunshine And Rainbows - Top Drawer (Listen)
06 - TurncoatMy Dear Ex - Waterslide (Listen)
07 - Jacob Turnbloom - Cemetery Luau - Cheddar Goblin (Listen)
08 - Bob Mould - Sunshine Rock - Merge (Listen)
09 - J. Robbins - Un-Becoming - Dischord (Listen)
10 - More Kicks - More Kicks - Dirt Cult / Snap / Beluga / Wanda / Adrenalin Fix (Listen)

11 - Steve Adamyk Band - Paradise - Dirtnap
12 - Snuff There's A Lot Of It About - Fat Wreck
13 - Notches - New Kinda Love - Dead Broke / Salinas
14 - Adult Magic - Adult Magic - Dead Broke
15 - Chilton Little Birds - Dead Broke
16 - Laika's Orbit Chosen No Ones - Dead Broke
17 - Good Shade Way Out - Dirtnap
18 - Crocodile God - Thirteen - Brassneck / Crackle
19 - Hidden Spots - New Me / New You - Dead Broke
20 - Unlikely Friends - We Blast Last - Bill Clinton

Other Records I Picked Up This Year:

Abolitionist - Ugly Feeling - 1859 Records/No Time Records/Between The Days/Different Kitchen
A Giant Dog Neon Bible - Merge
Brat Curse - Brat Curse - Just Because
Flashlights Shadows and Lights - Secret Mission
Herzog - Me vs. You - Exit Stencil
Mike Krol Power Chords - Merge
The Pretty Flowers - Golden Beat Sessions - Self Released / Dirt Cult
Spit-take - Falling Star - Dead Broke
State Drugs - Takings & Leavings - Snappy Little Numbers / Toxic Pop
Superchunk - AF - Merge

Previously:
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009

Friday, December 27, 2019

Notches - New Kinda Love LP

Untitled

Dead Broke / Salinas (2019)

This will be my last post of 2019 aside from my end of the year list that I'll have up early next week.  There are still some records from this year that I didn't get to, but I wanted to make sure I fit in most of the real heavy hitters.  You can definitely call New Kinda Love a heavy hitter as even though it's come out at the very, very end of the year, it's good enough to be a decent disruptor in my 2019 album rankings.  

I wrote about the first Notches album a few years ago (and somehow missed the 2nd one entirely?) and back then I compared them favorably to Rumspringer.  I still that's a pretty solid comparison, though I think Notches have an even stronger grasp of putting together a killer vocal melody.  They maintain a really great balance of noisy and crunchy guitar sounds with super melodic hooks and choruses.  In some ways they reming me of early Archers of Loaf with their guitar squalls, but Notches are more rooted in a pop punk sound than Archers were.

I really dig this album a lot and only wish I had a little more time to spend with New Kinda Love before writing about it.  I have a feeling that if it had come out a little earlier in the year I probably would end up liking it even more than I do right now, but it's very obvious how strong a record this is with only a week's worth of plays.  Probably the last great record of the decde.

Notches - New Kinda Love:

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Brat Curse - S/T LP

Untitled

Just Because (2019)

I've been trying desperately to get through as many of the 2019 records as I can before I put together my end of the year best of list. While this felt like a slow year for records overall, it feels like the floodgates have opened over the past couple of months.  There's no way I'm going to get through everything as I plan on posting my year end list on Monday, but I'm trying to get through a few last minute additions.

Brat Curse are a band that my buddy Scott likes, he's where I first heard their name mentioned.  Now that I've been able to listen to the record, I can see what he was on about.  Brat Curse are playing a fuzzy, lower fidelity strain of guitar pop that has rough edges where I like them and strong hooks where I need them.  There are elements of Superchunk to their songs, particularly when they slow things down a bit.  But in their faster moments, what they remind me most of is a slightly noisier Tight Bros.  I loved that Tight Bros record and wish they had made more, but Brat Curse is standing in nicely with their debut LP.

I really like this record and though I've only been able to listen to it a few times, it already feels like a grower to me, the sort of album I'm going to enjoy more the more I listen to it.  Could be a good last minute gift to yourself.

Brat Curse - S/T LP:
https://justbecauserecords.bandcamp.com/album/brat-curse

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Gene Autry - Merry Christmas Christmas You All 7"

Untitled

Columbia (1952)

As Christmas day falls on a Wednesday, we're going to skip Ed Lover Dance Day for this week.  While I know a lot of folks would try to make me believe that "Christmas In Hollis" fits the bill as a Christmas song, for me it's just a little too gimmicky and doesn't really put me in the same sort of place as something a bit more melodic.

When it comes to melody at Christmas time, you'd be hard pressed to find someone better than Gene Autry.  Gene Autry is the purveyor of many of my very favorite traditional Christmas tunes and while he doesn't always get mentioned in the same breath as a Bing Crosby or a Perry Como (Or those Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer people), his catalog of Christmas tunes is second to none.

The two songs on this 7" are not two of his most well known, but they are two of my favorites.  Gene was known as the Singing Cowboy in the 50s and was part of many of the kid friendly westerns of the era.  Now I'll be honest, I've never seen any of those, but I'm impressed by the cross marketing he came up with to make those cowboy fans grab a Christmas record of his.  "Merry Texas Christmas You All" is one of my all time favorites.  Over a bed of slide guitar, acoustic strumming and rousing woodwinds, Gene tells us about how Texans see things a bit differently from the sort of Christmas songs you usually hear full of snow, but they are as jolly and festive as the next folks.

"Twas The Night Before Christmas (In Texas, That Is)" goes down a similar path as the A side, paining Santa Claus as more of a cowboy character on his 'buck board' filling little kids boots with candy galore.  While I always really liked these songs as a kid, I've grown to love them even more as I've gotten older, especially as my wife is from Texas.  While she never heard these songs growing up, I've really enjoyed sharing them with her and they've become part of our yearly Christmas music traditions.

Gene Autry - "Merry Texas Christmas You All":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onGs1BaA7co

Gene Autry - "Twas The Night Before Christmas (In Texas, That Is)":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agLmsP3wZIk

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Mavericks - Hey! Merry Christmas!

Untitled

Mono Mundo (2018)

I came across this album digging through Connor Ratliff's Rolling Stone article where he reviewed fifty plus Christmas records that had come out last year (I keep waiting for his 2019 version, but alas, it hasn't shown up yet).  I came across that list as I was trying to find records similar to last year's sensational JD MacPherson album.  That is one of the all time great additions to my Christmas playlist, so if I could find more like that, I'd be quite pleased.  That's would led me to this Mavericks record.

While I was originally taken by the fun artwork, it was the opening track "Christmas Time Is (Coming 'Round Again)" that sealed the deal and made me pick up the vinyl.  It has that Phil Spector influenced instrumentation along with a timeless vocal melody that I can really get behind.  There's so many wonderful Christmas songs in the world that have been kicking around for decades.  I'm most excited by the folks writing new songs that fit into that mold rather than a new take on a song I already have seventeen versions of.

The one unfortunate thing is that this first song is probably the highlight of the album.  Aside from the excellent title track "Hey! Merry Christmas!," most of the other songs are merely good.  While fun songs to throw down on a mix, listening to the whole album start to finish does kind of highlight the overall shortcomings of record.  Still, the songs "Hey! Merry Christmas!" and "Christmas Time Is (Coming 'Round Again)" are bonafide hits and many of the others work fine plugged into my sixteen and a half hour Christmas playlist.

The Mavericks - Hey! Merry Christmas! (YouTube full album playlist):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3MEA2U72fk&list=OLAK5uy_kENw09AzNWrPu-gie8MXikAW9vOShbt-E



Monday, December 23, 2019

Los Straitjackets - Complete Christmas Songbook 2xLP

Untitled

Yep Rock (2018)

Every year I spend a lot of time fine tuning my Christmas music playlist.  It's a yearly tradition where I add some new tunes, remove some that no longer hold up and generally try to set the mood for the holiday season.  This year, nothing from 2019 has really jumped out at me, but I have picked up a couple of records from last year, one of which is this Los Straitjackets LP.

This LP compiles their Christmas 10" Yuletide beat, their LP 'Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets and a few 7" and compilation songs.  Since I already had the LP and 10", I also already had the vast majority of the songs on this double LP, but for some reason I was still drawn to add this to the collection.  Partly for the few extra songs I didn't have, but also so I could have everything in one nice, easy to play package.

These songs are great. Christmas tunes done in the surf instrumental way very similar to what the Ventures did on my favorite ever Christmas album.  Maybe too similar from time to time as the Los Straitjackets version of "Sleigh Ride" is essentially a cover version of the Ventures tune.  But Los Straitjackets also take on songs that the ventures never did and it's here where their contributions to Christmas really shine.  "Marshmallow World" is one of the best and it's actually the song that made me look into these guys in the first place.  I think I heard it first in The Gap one year and my wife managed to figure out who it was.  I'm glad she did as Los Straitjackets have really become one of my favorite yearly Christmas traditions.

Los Straightjackets - Complete Christmas Songbook:
https://losstraitjackets.bandcamp.com/album/complete-christmas-songbook

Friday, December 20, 2019

More Kicks - S/T LP

Untitled

Dirt Cult / Snap / Beluga / Wanda / Adrenalin Fix (2019)

We've got another late entry into the 2019 record list sweepstakes, creating havoc for me as I try to put together my best of list.  This is one of the reasons why I always wait until a day or two before the end of the year to post my list.  There's always a few records that I end up getting at the last possible moment.  When a record is as good as this More Kicks album is, I absolutely do not mind the list disruption.

What a great power pop record this is, reminding me right away of the less frantic moments of the Cute Lepers at times.  There are so many tremendous hooks and vocal melodies throughout the album.  They are on display during the more uptempo numbers like "What A Mess You Make" and "It's a Drag" just as much as they are on the more subdued "You Left A Stain On Me" and "Ain't That Just The Way."  There are moments where I get the same sort of feelings as I get when listening to early Ted Leo and there are other times where I'm positive this is straight up Mega City Four worship.  No matter what references I hear hints of, I'm always in the moment and digging what More Kicks are laying down.

I feel like I listened to a lot of bands in 2008-2010 that straddled that line between garage, power pop and pop punk.  Over the decade, I feel like most of those bands drifted too far into the garage territory for me.  There used to be a sweet spot for me and I haven't heard a band hit it like More Kicks has with this record in many years.

More Kicks - S/T:
https://dirtcultrecords.bandcamp.com/album/more-kicks

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Boogie Down Productions - By All Means Necessary LP

Untitled

Music On Vinyl (2015, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

There are not many records as important to my musical education as By All Means Necessary was when I first heard it.  This was pretty early into my hip hop explorations of the early 90s.  I had seen some BDP videos on Yo MTV Raps and had liked pretty much all of them, but it was the purchase of a Yo MTV Raps compilation CD that introduced my to one of the greatest hip hop songs ever written, "My Philosophy." The extended remix on that comp was something that I played over and over and over.  I was totally obsessed, so of course I had to find the album it came from.

While "My Philosophy" is the highlight of By All Means Necessary, let's be honest, it would be the highlight on just about any album.  The rest of By All Means Necessary is equally vital and powerful throughout the duration.  From the storytelling prowess of "Stop the Violence" to the battle rap perfection of "I'm Still #1" to the reggae fusion of "Part Time Suckers," KRS-One stands taller than just about any other MC out there.  In 1988, this was super cutting edge and the growth from Criminal Minded to By All Means Necessary was a quantum leap in terms of beats and production.

To me, this album and Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back are the corner stones for the late 80s and early 90s golden era of hip hop.  Rap would have sounded a lot different without these two groups paving the way and it's a testament to their visions that both records could sound so potent over thirty years later.

Boogie Down Productions - "My Philosophy":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1vKOchATXs

Boogie Down Productions - "I'm Still #1":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw_UMdFSSlo

Monday, December 16, 2019

The First Part - Offset From The Normal 12" EP

Untitled

Self Released (2019)

I was very pleasantly surprised to have this new 12" EP by The First Part show up at my door a couple of weeks ago.  I really liked a CDEP of theirs a few years back, but had honestly lost track of them a little bit.  As I get older, I notice I have a more difficult time keeping up on current bands and what they are up to.  I do my best, but inevitably things slip through the cracks for one reason or another.   I'm glad this EP didn't become one of them.

Boasting a former member of "90s pop punk sensations" Jill, I'm going to be inclined to like these guys since I was such a big Jill fan back in the day.  But if this record was a total turd, no amount of good will for a prior band would make me like the new one.  Crooked Fingers really blows, for example, and those first two Archers of Loaf records are among my very favorite ever.  Luckily, I can happily report that the four songs on this EP are pretty great.

One of the things I remember about the bands first EP is how I felt they had a similar, mid tempo pop structure that reminded me of bands like Hospital Job.  While I would still classify the tempo on the bulk of this EP as "mid," I feel like these songs have more of a pop punk feel to them.  Maybe a little closer to Jill, particularly in the vocal melodies.  My favorite song of the bunch is "We're No Strangers" and while it certainly doesn't feel dated, it makes me think back to the 90s in the best possible way.

This is a great record.  That said, I always have weird feelings for 12" EPs.  It always seems like it would make more sense to stick more songs on there.  Why not have thrown the songs from that first CDEP on the B side?  Anyway, my bizarre person feeling about EPs aside, this is a worthwhile record to check out for the pop kids out there.

The First Part - Offset From The Normal:
https://thefirstpart.bandcamp.com/album/offset-from-the-normal



Friday, December 13, 2019

The Missed - Stiff 7" - Gray Vinyl (/50)

Untitled

Just Because (2019)

I hadn't heard of The Missed prior to receiving the 7" in the mail from Just Because.  I little perusing around the internet and I think this is their second release, after a tape that came out a couple of years ago.  It's possible they have more out there, but Discogs isn't particularly helpful and The Missed isn't an especially easy band name for Google to parse the results of.  Regardless, they seem to be a reasonably new band if nothing else.

I like all four songs on this release.  The guitar has a nice warm tone with just the right amount of fuzz.  The band is playing catchy rock and roll, it's not really poppy enough to be pop punk or fast enough to be labeled as garage, if you are trying to dole out basic genre assignments.  But whatever you want to call them, they've cranked out four really solid songs.

Of the four, my favorite is "I Wanna Know."  The choppy guitars in the verse build up to a really nice hook in the chorus and each time I've listened to the song, I end up bobbing my head along.  That's always the sign of a well written hook.  Worth checking out.

The Missed - Stiff 7":
https://justbecauserecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-missed-7

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Black Sheep - A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing 2xLP

Untitled

Get On Down / Universal (2014, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Like most folks in the 90s, I was taken by the Black Sheep video "The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)" which I saw on Yo MTV Raps pretty often in 1991.  That song is one of those that broke out of Yo and had pretty big impact on the rest of the world.  Recently I heard used on a car commercial with CGI hamsters, so for whatever it is worth, this isn't one of those songs that didn't make a dent in the mainstream.

The record as a whole is one that I have grown to appreciate more and more as I've gotten older.  For whatever reason when I was fourteen in 1991 I was a little disappointed the first couple of times I listened to my CD.  I think it's because the vast majority of the album is much more laid back than the video that made me pick it up to begin with.  However as the years have gone by, my appreciation has only grown and in some ways I like the rest of the album even more than the single that initially caught my interest.

Most beats are the sort of mellow Native Tongue style jazz loops that I always associated most closely with A Tribe Called Quest.  But Dres and Mista Lawnge have a darker approach that doesn't have the sort of upbeat hopefulness that Tribe pulled off.  Black Sheep are more content to wallow in the shadows a bit and spin songs that are a bit edgier, but also allow Dres to opportunity to showcase his smooth multisyllabic flow.

This version of the LP is one of the only ways to get all of the songs from the original CD on vinyl.  Most single LP versions are missing "Flavor Of The Month (Revisited)" (which seems pretty insane when you think about it) and the closing track "Yes."  For me to upgrade my CD to vinyl, there was no way I was going to lose those songs.

Black Sheep - "The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9F5xcpjDMU

Black Sheep - "Flavor of The Month"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F01fzPwBwc4


Monday, December 9, 2019

Jacob Turnbloom - Cemetery Luau LP - Pink Vinyl (/100)

Untitled

Cheddar Goblin (2019)

Jacob Turnbloom is the main singer in one of my favorite bands, Mrs. Magician.  He's started up a record label called Cheddar Goblin and his first release is a solo record of his own.  It's going to be hard to not compare them to prior work done with Mrs. Magician, but if you are a Mrs. Magician fan, I cannot fathom you also not digging Cemetery Luau.

More than anything, these songs remind me of early Mrs. Magician.  The types of songs they were releasing on their 7"s prior to Strange Heaven or some of the tracks compiled onto their B Sides compilation.  You aren't going to get the sheen of Bermuda, but you also aren't going to get the lo fi hiss of the Jacob Turnbloom Death Tape.  Cemetery Luau is kind of that perfect middle ground, and that really lets the songs shine through.  Even though this is a solo album, it's not one of those sparse 'dude with a guitar' records.  Jacob handles the bass and drum duties as well resulting in a full band sound.

While there are minor surfy elements in Jacob's guitar playing, to me I find the songs on this album to have more of a Bakesale era Lou Barlow in Sebedoh type of lived in quality to them.  Low key for the most part and mostly concerned with telling the story of the song.  And the songs tell great stories.  Jacob Turnbloom is one of my favorite current lyricists as he always manages to cast a wry eye at the world and at relationships, but never comes across as bitter or hopeless.  I really love this record.  It's one of the best in a year crowded with some pretty incredible records.

Jacob Turnbloom - "Ride The Past Waves Of The Future"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjBA0qxxcg8

Jacvob Turnbloom - "Suncoast Digest":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqmqrPrJJv4

Friday, December 6, 2019

Chilton - Little Birds LP

Untitled

Dead Broke (2019)

Chilton is a newer band and Little Birds is their debut album.  This record was put out by Dead Broke, who are on just an absolute tear through 2019 when it comes to releasing incredible records.  Chilton is another notch in their belt and I can't say enough good things about it.

Here's the deal with Chilton, in my opinion.  If you miss Seaweed and that sort of aggressive, but melodic, rock from the 90s, Chilton has you covered.  Vocally, the singers from Chilton and Seaweed have undeniable similarities, but musically the bands are kindred spirits as well.  Both have a knack for noisy guitar squalls that still manage to convey a hook and both bands are able to capture an energy on their records that elude so many other bands.

Here we are in December and I'm still writing about a record that will undoubtably end up on my year end best of.  For most of 2019 I felt that it was something of a quiet year for new music.  Yes there had been some really great releases, but quantity-wise, things seemed to be a little slower than years past.  All of a sudden, over the last two months or so, I feel like there's been on onslaught of great music.  2019 is closing out incredibly strong and suddenly making my year end list is becoming a more arduous task than I originally thought it would be.  I'd like to thank Chilton and Dead Broke for adding to the pile of great records to go through.

Chilton - Little Birds:
https://deadbrokerekerds.bandcamp.com/album/little-birds

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Edan - Beauty And The Beat LP

Untitled

Lewis (2005)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Beauty And The Beat is probably the best hip hop album that I've heard the most recently.  Even though this came out nearly fifteen years ago at this point, I still consider it a modern album and don't group it in with my favorites from high school.  I got the CD version of this right when it had come out as I was familiar with Edan having worked on tracks with Mr. Lif and also a friend had recommended the first Edan record, Primitive Plus, to me.  I did like Primitive Plus, but it was on his sophomore release where Edan truly blew my mind.

The beats on this album are incredible.  They border on being psychedelic, but always stick to a tried and true rhythm that allows the rapping to stay focused and on point.  Edan takes chances as well and the biggest payoff for me is the album closer, "Promised Land."  Over a string fueled beat, the lyrics have this unique repeating quality where a line closes one section and then starts off the next.  It's difficult to explain without hearing it, but an example is "I slapped a 40-ounce out of a young man's hand / and fed him lesson's of life to formulate a plan / I wore the Prime Meridian as a wrist band... / I wore the Prime Meridian as a wrist band / and gave away my riches but I still remained a rich man / I thought of freedom and I jetted to the Promised Land"  It probably doesn't reads on paper as interesting as the actual execution sounds, but it's hands down one of my very favorite hip hop songs of all time.

Funny thing is that I picked up this album on Discogs at a somewhat inflated collector price.  I didn't pay an absurd amount for it, but I paid enough and was OK to do so as the album had been out of print for quite a while on vinyl.  Literally the day after I got my shipping notification I found out that the album was being rereleased as part of the Record Store Day Black Friday list.  I could have picked it for about twenty bucks less than I paid for my copy.  Bad timing I suppose, but I am still happy to finally have a copy of this on vinyl.

Edan - Beauty And The Beat:
https://edan2.bandcamp.com/album/beauty-and-the-beat

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Subjunctives - Sunshine And Rainbows LP - Red Vinyl

Untitled

Top Drawer (2019)

The final full length Sicko album, You Are Not The Boss Of Me, came out in 1997.  Ever since then, it feels like there's been something of an eMpTiness.  A missing piece of music that I had been able to count on for the prior few years.  As far as American pop punk goes, my favorite bands were Mr. T Experience, Zoinks and Sicko.  By 1998, Sicko broke up, Zac left Zoinks and the Mr. T Experience wasn't making records that I really liked that much anymore.

My interest in overseas bands was already reaching a fever pitch and with the essential disappearance of my three favorites from America, I pretty much figured pop punk was something I'd have to find outside of the states.  There have been exceptions over the years, but for the most part this has remained true for me.  Japan and the UK have long housed my favorite bands that play hooked filled, loud guitar punk rock.

It's 2019 and Ean from Sicko has released an album with his new band The Subjunctives.  This isn't the first time that I've listened to a new Ean band.  I've always liked most of his output.  Tales From The Birdbath had some wonderful songs and the more recent Date Night With Brian also produced some real hits.  But, those bands didn't scratch that Sicko itch, they tended to lean a little more to the indie rock side of things, which is fine by me, I like good indie rock too.  Then came the Subjunctives.  Ean playing pop fucking punk.  I love it.

The Subjunctives are definitely going to get Sicko comparisons.  It's impossible for them not to.  While the Subjunctives have a similar energy and knack for killer hooks, sonically they also share a similar space with Sugar.  The warm, crunchy guitar sound is one that Mr. Mould would be proud of and the songs, in general, are a tad slower than what Sicko cranked out.  To their benefit.  As Ean and Co. tell tales of growing older and the joyful tedium of day to day life, the music is perfect.  Fast where it needs to be (No one is going to accuse "Waste My Time" of being a slow song), but finding that perfect upper mid tempo groove needed to spin their yarns.

Ean doesn't sing every song on the album (the ones he doesn't are also fun and a nice change of pace), but he does handle the lion's share.  This is easily my favorite post-Sicko Ean project.  Combine this with the fantastic songs that Denny and Josh are cranking out with their band, The Drolls, and for the first time in a while, I'm not mourning the loss of Sicko.  I'm excited about what everyone is working on now and planning for the future.  Though it doesn't hurt that Sicko reunion shows are happening from time to time.  They help scratch that Sicko itch as well.

The Subjunctives - Sunshine and Rainbows:
https://thesubjunctives.bandcamp.com/album/sunshine-and-rainbows

Friday, November 29, 2019

Beezewax - South Of Boredom LP

Untitled

Boss Tuneage / Sellout! (2019, Reissue)

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this Beezewax record finally coming out on vinyl twenty years after its initial release.  I'm thrilled that it's available and I'm happy that labels that I love like Boss Tuneage and Sellout! are the ones who released it.  But, there is a part of me that's a little sad that this isn't on PopKid.  The original CD came out on PopKid records back in 1999, but we just never figured out a good way to do a vinyl version.  It's super cool to have this record in my collection.  I'm just a bit jealous that it's not in my collection as a PopKid records release.

Still, that's a just a weirdo thing for me to work through.  Everyone else should rejoice that one of my favorite records of all time is finally available on vinyl.  I remember when @alanrappa first played me the band's debut album A Dozen Summits.  They had sent it to PopKid HQ along with some other tunes.  I remember liking it right away, but Alan was the one who really loved it and knew they were the perfect fit for PopKid.  Alan & I both did radio shows at my old college station back in the 90s.  It was there where Beezewax finally sunk in and I understood it like Alan did.  He would play the song "In The Stands" on his show before we had the CDs actually pressed.  Or as I referred to it as "THE HIT."  That's the song that really made me fall for the band.

It's still my favorite song on the album, but South Of Boredom is a virtually perfect record front to back.  All of the songs are now "THE HIT" in my mind and it's been something I've been playing constantly for the past twenty years.  For the uninitiated, Beezewax play melodic guitar pop, not too dissimilar from the very, very best of The Posies.  But they also have their own way of structuring songs that in my minds, make them even better than The Posies.  I would put the first three Beezewax albums up against just about any three album run.  They're all so perfect.  I hope that those ones are next on the Sellout/Boss Tuneage agenda.  Vinyl versions of A Dozen Summits and Oh Tahoe would look pretty great on my record shelf next to South of Boredom.

Conflict of interest time.  I have a few copies of this record available on the PopKid website.  Seriously, just a few - single digits.  If you want to pick up a copy, grab it quick:

http://popkid.limitedrun.com/products/656755-beezewax-south-of-boredom-lp

For those in the UK, Boss Tuneage is the place to go.  For Norway, Sellout! is your source.  And in Japan, Waterslide has some in their distro as well.  No matter where you get it from, you'll be a better person with this record in your collection.

Beezewax - South Of Boredom:
https://popkid.bandcamp.com/album/beezewax-south-of-boredom

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Black Moon - Enta Da Stage LP Box Set

Untitled

Fat Beats / Duck Down / Wreck Records (2017)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Enta Da Stage by Black Moon was one of the last handful of hip hop records that really resonated with me back in the 90s.  The album is another one that I don't really remember how I discovered, but I imagine Yo MTV Raps or The Source were probably behind it.  What I do remember is that the gnarly rumbling bassline of "Powaful Impak!" was just about one of my favorite beats in the world in that era.  Not to mention the lyric "Get on my skateboard and do a motherfucking drive by" is also one of the best lines of the 90s.  That said, I didn't really know anyone else who listened to these guys and I always sort of felt that they were a forgotten band that didn't get their due.

I certainly didn't think they were the sort of band that would end up getting a six LP box set dedicated to their debut record.  As it turns out, Black Moon are beloved and fondly remembered and that makes me really happy.  I don't know that I personally needed a six LP box set for the record, but it appears to be the only way to get every song from the original CD I had on vinyl.  If you buy just the LP separately, a few tracks are cut out of the vinyl version.  This box seems to be the only way to get everything on vinyl.  So be it.

I still love the main LP.  The beats are jazzy and soulful, but are really hard edged and have more in common with DJ Premier type production, even though the source elements are the sort of thing you'd expect to hear on a Tribe Called Quest track.  Lyrically, Buckshot Shorty is on fire for the entire album.  He's telling tales and battle rapping and generally coming off as the sort of MC that you want to follow down whatever path he feels like leading you on.  It's a true classic release.

Instrumentals haven't really ever been a big thing for me, but I am starting to gain more of an appreciation for them lately.  So, it's cool to have those are part of this set.  The remixes are something that I've never heard before.  I assume most are from 12" singles and B sides, but the liner notes don't really source them, so I'm not sure.  I did think it was weird that there was no remix for my favorite song on the album, the aforementioned "Powaful Impak," but there are some interesting variations on most of the album's songs.  I'll probably always be partial to the album versions that I've been listening to for twenty five plus years, but it's still cool to hear something new.

Black Moon - Enta Da Stage (Full Album YouTube Stream):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ae3WZAH_2uM&list=PLrbFUdbfepXVlVL8nJLOBxI5BVebYc7BQ

Monday, November 25, 2019

Laika's Orbit - Chosen No Ones LP - Clear Vinyl (/100)

Untitled

Dead Broke (2019)

No Matter What It Takes, the 2016 album by Laika's Orbit knocked me on my ass when I first heard it.  I've been anxiously waiting for their follow up and I'm happy to say it's finally here.  Chosen No Ones picks up where the last LP left off, with hook-filled guitar pop songs and a bouncy energy that fills the room.

The first comparison that always comes to mind when I listen to Laika's Orbit is with the band Title Tracks.  Vocally, I think both bands are very similar and both singers have a knack for writing earworm melodies that rattle around in my head for weeks at a time.  Both bands also lean towards the jangly guitar power-pop spectrum of rock music and share similarities with a band like The White Wires on one song and Tom Petty on the next.  In fact, there's something about the song "Lucky Ones" that really puts my brain in Damn The Torpedoes mode.  This song feels like a kindred spirit with "Even The Losers."

The whole album is a fun listen.  I tend to listen to a lot of vinyl on Sunday mornings and there's something about throwing on this Laika's Orbit record that really fits the mood.  No Matter What It Takes had the advantage of coming out of nowhere to impress me.  With Chosen No Ones, I came in with high expectations, but Laika's Orbit had no problem at all living up to the bar that I had set for them in my mind.  It's a really great record.

Laika's Orbit - Chosen No Ones:
https://laikasorbit.bandcamp.com/album/chosen-no-ones

Friday, November 22, 2019

State Drugs - Takings & Leavings LP - Blue Vinyl

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers / Toxic Pop (2019)

This isn't the first time I have heard State Drugs.  I really liked their contributions to a split cassette that they were a part of that I heard a few months ago.  That said, I ended up liking this LP even more than I thought I would.  This album collects a bunch of EPs and demos that State Drugs put out over the last few years.  I don't have any of these (the songs from the aforementioned split cassette are not part of this release), so for me, this is essentially like getting a new full length album to listen to for the first time.

What's really striking to me is how cohesive this sounds as a full record despite culling the recordings from several different sessions with different band members.  If you didn't tell me that up front, I don't think I would have realized that this wasn't meant to be a full album all along.  Anyway, This is rootsy indie rock that has one foot in Tom Petty and the other in The Replacements (there's even a cover of "Left of Dial" to really drive that home).  If you are into bands like Nude Beach, or to a lesser extent Unwelcome Guests, you should probably check out Takings & Leavings.

State Drugs - Takings & Leavings:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/takings-leavings

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Das EFX - Dead Serious LP

Untitled

Music On Vinyl (2017, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Das EFX was something of a revelation when I first heard them.  This was a band that was spitting out lyrics that were almost ninety percent pop culture references, mixed in with a little creative jibberish and the occasional story telling plot point.  I had never heard anything like it prior to its release in 1992.  The first Del record was probably my first experience with a hip hop record that was light and comical, without being a joke, but Das EFX took the silliness to a higher level while keeping the music grimy and tough.

As part of the EPMD led Hit Squad, Das EFX instantly had cred, but it's the quality of the ten songs on this record that make it a bonafide classic twenty seven years later.  The beats are sludgy, but still punch in a way where it's impossible to not nod your head along.  Album opener "Mic Checka" sets the stage for what's to come, highlighting Das EFX's "diggedy" style flow and name dropping The Captain and Tenille for no real reason.  It's hard hitting, but ridiculous and I just love it.

Considering that a lot of the 90s had hip hop acts cramming their CDs full of music to the maximum run time, Dead Serious coming in at a lean forty-ish minutes makes each song more impactful.  Plus there's not much in the way of filler or stupid skits that weigh down a lot of other albums of the era.  In 1992 this was one of my very favorite albums.  In 2019 I still think it's as great as ever.  I also really dig their often slept on sophomore album Straight Up Sewaside, but I haven't picked up the vinyl for that one just yet.

Das EFX - "Mic Checka":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXSBk_ebq-A

Das EFX - "They Want EFX":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF61j4Re2io

Das EFX - "Straight Out The Sewer":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLST66gKEyA

Monday, November 18, 2019

Flashlights - Shadows and Lights LP

Untitled

Secret Mission (2019)

Over the last couple of years, Secret Mission records has been giving me a real education.  I have often felt that I was reasonably tied in to Japanese punk rock.  At least more so than your average bear here in America.  Yet with release after release, Secret Mission drops a band I have never heard of into my lap.  Flashlights are another great one to add to the list.  This album originally came out in 2016 on Stay Free records in Japan.  That is a label that I know as the band Three Minute Movie put out a couple of records on Stay Free.  But it makes it all the more perplexing that I haven't heard of Flashlights before popping this on the turntable.

Anyway, this is fast and jangly power pop at its very best.  Sonically, I think they are somewhat similar to Ron Ron Clou, though probably leaning a little poppier and less of that punky energy that Ron Ron Clou harnesses so well.  That said, the pop that Flashlights churn out is pretty perfect.  Wonderful harmonies wrap themselves around the band's hooks and really elevate the proceedings.

Top to bottom, Shadows and Lights is a fun listen.  Perfect for a sunny weekend morning while you are kicking around the house, not really wanting to do much other than take in the tunes and relax.

Flashlights - Shadows and Lights:
https://secretmissionrecords.bandcamp.com/album/shadows-and-lights

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Wannadies - Be A Girl LP

Untitled

Music On Vinyl (2019, Reissue)

I adore The Wannadies.  As far as pure pop guitar bands, I'd be hard pressed to think of a band that does it better than they do.  I've had the CD of Be A Girl since the 90s and I also had the import first pressing of the vinyl that I picked up in maybe 2009 or so?  But, recently Music On Vinyl reissued the three Best Wannadies records on 180 gram colored vinyl.  Due to an Amazon snafu, I didn't get the colored vinyl version of Be A Girl.  But the price was nice and this pressing of the record sounds outstanding, so I decided to keep it anyway instead of looking for and paying collector prices for the colored version.  Though I make no promises I won't buy that as well someday.

Be A Girl starts off with their biggest hit, "You and Me Song."  This was a legitimate hit song, featured in some Romeo & Juliet movie I never saw and actually getting radio play in America.  Bizarrely enough, they played this song at the McDonalds in Pennsylvania that I went to a couple of weeks ago making my pilgrimage for a McRib.  As great as that song is (and it's great), it is just a small sample of the incredible songwriting throughout this album.

"Might Be Stars" is probably my favorite song on the record with its forward pushing beat, huge fuzzy guitars and chorus harmonies.  There isn't a bad song on this album.  You could throw a dart at the tracklisting and you're always going to hit a stellar song.  The craziest part is that this isn't even my favorite Wannadies record.  This is definitely a band to revisit if you've never given a whole record of theirs a close listen.  The hooks are undeniable.

The Wannadies - "Might Be Stars":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFdBX_jn9Zg

The Wannadies - "How Does It Feel":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh8GU64gDOg

The Wannadies - "You And Me Song":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_e_45Szprk

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The UMC's - Fruits Of Nature LP

Untitled

Wild Pitch (1991)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

This album stands out from some of the others that I have written about over the past few weeks.  I didn't have any UMC's records back in the 90s.  I heard them for the first time in the last few years.  Like I've done with many rock and roll bands, I have spend some time going backwards and checking out records and groups that either I never heard during their heyday or that I just didn't like for one reason or another.  In the case of The UMC's, I'm not sure I ever listened to them in the 90s.  I think a lot of that was because of their name.  As I was already a fan of Ultramagnetic MCs, I didn't like that The UMC's name was so similar.  I get that this is a dumb reason, but I was a teenager at the time.

Unfortunately, I was missing out on some excellent records for twenty plus years.  On Fruits of Nature, UMC's are hitting that exact style that I loved back then.  Catchy beats that lean on jazz and soul samples, uptempo rhythms and lyrical flows that are a little left of center.  Whenever a hip hop act of the 90s was taking chances, that's when I tended to jump up and take notice.  Why it took me so many years to finally notice UMC's is something I can't quite explain or rationalize.

I will say this, Fruits of Nature will slide into your record collection very neatly next to your Souls Of Mischief, Tribe Called Quest and Pharcyde records.  If you are into that sort of laid back style, this is an album you need to add to your piles.  I've also picked up the second UMCs record, Unleashed.  It's different from Fruits of Nature, but is also excellent in its own way.  I'll write a bit about that one in the next few months.

The UMC's - "Blue Cheese":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLV_Vl9ttoc

The UMC's - "Swing It To The Area":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1-LgEQ7xxo

Monday, November 11, 2019

Adult Magic - Adult Magic LP

Untitled

Dead Broke / Specialist Subject (2019)

There are a handful of bands that are sure fire hits for me if you drop their names in a RIYL list.  The most obvious one is Leatherface.  You mention the Sunderland boys and it's a guarantee that I'll give that band a chance.  Also very high on the list are two that were used to describe Adult Magic; Superchunk and Sugar.  As soon as I saw that those two were referenced, I knew I had to add Adult Magic to the collection.

Now I certainly can see touchstones of those two bands.  Adult Magic employs a thick and crunchy guitar tone that is so very much like Bob Mould and other guitar heroes from the 90s.  And the way they are able to wrap their vocal melodies around around the guitar riffage certainly brings to mind moments of Superchunk.  Acknowledging those two bands, Adult Magic isn't a copy of either.  They are forging their own way at times bringing in other influences and sounds.  Sometimes I hear a nod to mellower bands like Silver Scooter, while at other times things get a little punchier not unlike the very best of The Weakerthans.

I'll be honest, that's a lot of comparisons for one paragraph, but ultimately what you need to know is the Adult Magic are creating some really excellent, 90s influenced guitar pop songs.  They've got the hooks where you want them and the melodies where you need them.  Their debut is definitely worth checking out, especially if you dig on the sounds of twenty five years ago as much as I do.

Adult Magic - Adult Magic:
https://adultmagic.bandcamp.com/album/adult-magic-2

Friday, November 8, 2019

Somerset Thrower - Godspeed LP - Gray w/ Splatter Vinyl (/100)

Untitled

Dead Broke (2018)

So I am definitely late to the party with Somerset Thrower.  This record came out last year, but for whatever reason, I never bought it.  Honestly, I think I probably just forgot about it as 2019 started up it faded in the rear view a bit.  Luckily when perusing the Dead Broke website, I was reminded that I never got this album last year and rectified that oversight.  I'm glad that I did as Godspeed is a strong record with a huge 90s sound that would have made me crazy in 1995 or so.

Somerset Thrower has a way of mixing melodic guitar rock with earnest, scratchy vocals that is something to behold.  I hear some elements of Seaweed when I listen to Godspeed, but I think that Somerset Thrower is taking that sound and dragging it a little more towards a Sunny Day Real Estate vibe.  Though I'll be totally honest, I like this album a lot more than most of the Sunny Day Real Estate I've heard in my life (they're one of those bands that just never clicked for me, despite multiple attempts and relistening to them to try to figure out what I'm missing).

Just about every song on the record is pretty great.  The only one that's not really doing it for me is "Eject."  It's a bit slower than the others and clocking in at six and a half minutes, by about the four minute mark, I'm ready to get back to some catchier songs.  Luckily, the very next song is "Jellyfish Scene," which is probably my favorite on the album.  It has a driving rhythm section, with punchy guitar riffs layered on, forming a foundation for a vocal melody that simultaneously reminds me of Fluf, Knapsack and The Posies somehow.

If, like me, you missed out on this record last year, it is worthwhile to backtrack and check this album out.  If you like the rock and roll sounds of the 90s, there are few bands delivering those sounds as well as Somerset Thrower does.

Somerset Thrower - Godspeed:
https://somersetthrower.bandcamp.com/album/godspeed

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Brand Nubian - One For All 2xLP

Untitled

Traffic/Elektra (2004, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop.  In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life.  During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music.  As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

I don't exactly remember when or where I heard of Brand Nubian for the first time.  Like so many other artists of the era, I can't fathom it not being from Yo MTV Raps, though it's possible that the legend of the five mic review in The Source was one of the first times I was made aware of them.  I distinctly remember being drawn to singles from each of the groups albums that were released between '90 and '94, but I'm not sure which one I heard first.  I figure it was probably the title track from the first Brand Nubian record One For All, but there is a chance that I originally picked up this CD after the group's second album In God We Trust.

All these years later, I can say with certainty that One For All is my favorite Brand Nubian release.  Although Lord Jamar and Sadat X held down the fort admirably on their next two records, the group was never as potent as they were when Grand Puba was part of the act.  His laid back, nasally flow is a perfect mix with the funk and R&B fueled beats.  However he was never better than when he was able to play off of Jamar and Sadat.  The three MCs together have a chemistry that is undeniable.

Considering that this record came out in 1990, the production feels ahead of its time.  This is one of those albums that really changed the game when it came out and it holds up unbelievably well all of these years later.  The next two Brand Nubian records were really strong and I love Grand Puba's debut solo album, but when everyone was still together on One For All, that's when the magic really happened.

Brand Nubian - "One For All":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6n7ZXxGbio

Brand Nubian - "Concerto In X Minor":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBM2C97Mdhg

Brand Nubian - "Drop The Bomb":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKVWWwZ0eyU



Monday, November 4, 2019

Guns n' Wankers - The Complete Recordings LP - Yellow Vinyl (/200)

Untitled

One Wank/Unless You Try (2019)

I finally picked up the yellow vinyl variant of the Guns n' Wankers compilation LP.  I don't go as wild variant hunting as I did ten or fifteen years ago, but there are still a few bands where I feel that I really need to make sure I have everything.  Snuff and Guns n' Wankers are bands that still fit in that category.  As of now, I am comlpete.  Until Duncan & Co. press it again anyway.

I don't really have much to add to this write u regarding the music that I didn't say when I talked about the other versions of this LP that I bought.  But to quickly summarize, this LP contains some of my very favorite songs of all time.  I highly suggest picking up a copy.

Guns n' Wankers - "Raise Your Glass":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZqqydweYtA

Guns n' Wankers - "Blah Blah Blah":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8KYC1eYbTo

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Giant Dog - Neon Bible LP - Purple Vinyl

Untitled

Merge (2019)

This record was part of the Merge Records Born Under A Good Sign subscription series.  I've now received everything from the subscription, though I haven't written about everything just yet.  I'm not sure how I feel about it overall, but there have certainly been highs and lows.  Going into things I would have thought that a full album from A Giant Dog would be one of the records I'd be most excited to receive, as I've really enjoyed everything I've heard from them previously.  But, these aren't A Giant Dog songs, they've instead covered the Arcade Fire's album, Neon Bible, in its entirety.

I don't like Arcade Fire.  I don't have any of their records, but I had promoted some during my stint in the music biz in the early 2000s.  Whatever it is that they're selling, I was never buying.  Now that's not to say that their songs, when run through the A Giant Dog filter, couldn't end up being pretty good, but the end result is an album that's uneven at best.  When A Giant Dog takes on a rocker, like album opener "Black Mirror" or other louder songs such as "The Well and the Lighthouse" and "(Antiochrist Television Blues)," it's a huge success.  This is a band that knows how to push the pedal to the floor and blast out some high energy and catch rock.

That said, the majority of this record is mired in slower songs and a bit more keyboard/synth than I typically like.  I think it's probably due to the source material.  I don't like Arcade Fire, so unless the songs really sound like ones from another A Giant Dog album, it's just not for me.  There's a few standouts worth your time, but the record as a whole isn't something I see myself listening to very much.

A Giant Dog - Neon Bible:
https://agiantdog.bandcamp.com/album/neon-bible

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Redman - Whut? Thee Album LP

Untitled

Rush (1992)

For this Ed Lover Dance Day Wednesday, I have the first Redman record, Whut? The Album.  The first time I heard Redman was on the EPMD posse cut "Headbanger" from Business Never Personal.  That's always been my favorite EPMD record.  "Headbanger" was one of the highlights and Redman's verse is pretty much the highlight of the song.  After hearing that one, it was a guarantee I'd be picking up Redman's debut.

Back when I got this album in high school, I actually ended up being a little disappointed.  It didn't hit me as hard as Business Never Personal and felt kind of long.  I honestly didn't end up listening to it a whole lot aside from the undeniable first single "Time 4 Sum Aksion."  That song ruled back then and is still my favorite thing on the record.  But past that, it felt like there were too many skits and not enough songs that had the same sort of energy I was expecting.  The CD ended up lingering in the collection as Redman went on to be a pretty well known dude.  I never really listened to anything else of his during his ascent.

I rediscovered the record in the mid 2000s when I started relistening to a lot of my hip hop records.  It ended up being much better than I remembered.  I still think there are too many skits, but in no way is "Time 4 Sum Aksion" the only track worth listening.  "Rated R," "Watch Yo Nuggets" and "Tonight's Da Night" all prove that I was way too dismissive of this record when I was younger.  I still do wish I could trim some of the skits out and shorten the record as a whole just a bit, but even in it's current form it's a great listen.

I definitely wanted to have the vinyl in my collection as the highs are really high on Whut? The Album.  Unfortunately, when this copy showed up from eBay, I discovered that it wasn't in the sort of condition I expected.  The A side, in particular, is in rough shape with hiss and pops and a few skips.  Don't worry, the seller made good and I didn't get swindled out of any money.  But for now this copy will end up as a placeholder until something better comes along.

Redman - Whut? The Album (YouTube Playlist):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9FrcyJgMY4&list=PLX8B0DqjbT28XbRTyT4HTE8hEv2YdoAhU


Monday, October 28, 2019

Roka Hueka - Que No Quedo Huella 7" - Blue Vinyl (/155)

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

Full disclosure, this is a ska 7".  I haven't listened to a new ska band of any kind since 1996.  I really liked Operation Ivy and Less Than Jake back then, so I tried listening to a few other bands of that era, but nothing really stuck with me.  I quickly assumed that I just didn't like ska and Op Ivy and LTJ were the exceptions not the rules.  Even those Less Than Jake records didn't age particularly gracefully.  Have you heard Losing Streak lately?  That might be the worst guitar tone ever captured on a record (Op Ivy still blasts though).

And now in 2019, we have Roka Hueka, a latin ska band from Denver, Colorado.  To say I wasn't sure what to expect going into this record is an understatement, but I quickly discovered something.  Ska was absolutely meant to be played with the singing in Spanish.  It just makes so much more sense.  The way the bouncing bass lines and horn accents mix with the lyrics on "Que No Quedo Huella" transform this genre of music that seems comically out of style into something that sounds fresh and contemporary.  I could absolutely see this being played in a packed club filled with enthusiastic folks dancing the night away.  This song is a hit.

The B side is "Back To You" and is in English.  I don't like this song quite as much as the A side, but it is slower and has a sincerity to it that keeps it from sounding cliche and dated.  To quickly quote the Snappy Little numbers website: "This record is a Community Collaboration project and is fully sponsored by Cereveceria Colorado with 100% of the money raised from the sales of this release benefiting Casa de Paz and Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition, two organizations dedicated to fighting for immigrants' rights."  That is absolutely something I can get behind, whether you like ska or not.

Roka Hueka - Que No Quedo Huella 7":
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/que-no-quede-huella-b-w-back-to-you-version

Friday, October 25, 2019

Rocket From The Crypt / Dead Bolt - Split 7" - Pink Cover

Rocket From The Crypt / Dead Bolt - Split 7" - Pink Cover

Standard (1992)

It's rare that I get to buy a new Rocket From The Crypt release these days.  I am committed to trying to track down every single stupid variant of every one of their records, but at this point there's really not many left.  That said, something new always manages to pop up and this 7" is an example of that.

I have had a version of this record since around 1995.  That version had a blue sleeve.  In the early 2000s I found out there was a version with a yellow sleeve as well, so that was added to the archives.  Well, it turns out there was a third version that showed up on eBay a few weeks ago.  This one has a pink sleeve.  Aside from that it's the same as the other two, but whenever I find a Rocket From The Crypt record that I previously didn't know about, it makes me wonder what else could be floating around out there.  Probably more than I really want to know at the end of the day.

Song wise, I can't say too much about Deadbolt.  Their spooky surf didn't really grab me in the 90s and I've probably only listened to their side of this record a couple of times at the most.  But the Rocket side is a favorite of mine.  "Cha Cha Cha" blasts forward with pick slides, hammered chords and that fuzzy vocal feedback that was present on so many of those early RFTC masterpieces.  I just love it and it still gets me pumped up all these years later.  Give it up for the band.

Rocket From The Crypt - "Cha Cha Cha":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF_jMxwopk0

Deadbolt - "Down In The Lab":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJs7SzQOPx0