Monday, December 29, 2014

The Absolute Best Records Of 2014


2014 was another year where I bought way too many records.  Luckily there was no shortage of fantastic albums released this year.  Everything on my list is a great record and worthy of a listen, but in particular the top 5 records on this list are all essential purchases.

Cloud Nothings and The No Marks dominated my turntable in 2014 as I couldn't even tell you how many times I listened to each.  I'm always extra excited to add bands to my year end list that have never been on before.  Sonic Avenues and Steve Adamyk Band are both longtime stalwarts of my end of the year lists and once again they each delivered a truly fantastic album. So Cow and Stay Clean Jolene couldn't be more different, but they both jumped way up on my list despite the fact that they came out later in the year and I haven't spent nearly the amount of time with them as some of the others.

I also wanted to make sure I specifically point out Minutes, Bear Trade and Freak Wave as I think they are bands that likely didn't get as much attention as some of the bigger name bands in 2014, but all three put out amazing records that really shouldn't be missed.

01 - Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else - Carpark  (Listen)
02 - The No Marks - Light Of One - Brassneck  (Listen)
03 - Sonic Avenues - Mistakes - Dirtnap  (Listen)
04 - Steve Adamyk Band - Dial Tone - Dirtnap  (Listen)
05 - So Cow - The Long Con - Goner  (Listen)
06 - Survival Knife - Loose Power - Glacial Pace  (Listen)
07 - Minutes - Roland - Self Released  (Listen)
08 - Gold-Bears - Dalliance - Slumberland  (Listen)
09 - Unwelcome Guests - Wavering - Dirtcult / One Percent Press  (Listen)
10 - Stay Clean Jolene - Stay Clean Jolene - Dead Broke / Rad Girlfriend / Drunken Sailor / Eager Beaver  (Listen)

11 - Murmurs - Bound - Dead Broke
12 - Blank Pages - Blank Pages - Dirtcult
13 - The Blind Shake - Breakfast Of Failures - Goner
14 - Herzog - Boys - Exit Stencil
15 - Bear Trade - Blood And Sand - Dead Broke / Everything Sucks
16 - Freak Wave - Don't Let Me Down - Poison City
17 - Dan Sartain - Dudesblood - One Little Indian
18 - Bob Mould - Beauty & Ruin - Merge
19 - Your Pest Band - Time To Go - Snuffy Smiles
20 - Needles//Pins - Shamebirds - Dirtcult

21 - Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End - Republic
22 - The Capitalist Kids - At A Loss - It's Alive / Toxic Pop / Rad Girlfriend
23 - Wringer - Bullfighter - Smellhound
24 - Songs For Snakes - Year Of The Snake - Self Released
25 - The Creeps - Eulogies - It's Alive
26 - Nude Beach - 77 - Don Giovanni
27 - Average Times - Average Times - Hosehead
28 - Mother's Children - Lemon - Taken By Surprise
29 - The Estranged - The Estranged - Dirtnap
30 - Matthew Melton - Outside Of Paradise - Southpaw

Other Records I Bought & Enjoyed This Year:
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues - Total Treble
Banner Pilot - Souvenir - Fat Wreck
Beck - Morning Phase - Capitol
The Both - The Both - SuperEgo
Brick Mower - Teenage Graceland - Don Giovanni
The Cry! - Dangerous Game - Taken By Surprise
Failures' Union - Tethering - Dead Broke
Hospital Job - The Believer - It's Alive / Insubordination
Hurry - Everything/Nothing - Hot Green
Jet Black - In Paradox - Self Released
Mapmaker - Critical Path - Salinas / One Percent Press
Masked Intruder - M.I. - Fat Wreck
Martha - Courting Strong - Salinas
The Men - Tomorrow's Hits - Sacred Bones
Missing Monuments - Missing Monuments - Dirtnap
Napalmpom - The Unconditional Love Of - Teenage Rampage
The Pixies - Indie Cindy - Pixies Music
The Raging Nathans - Losing It - Dead Broke / Rad Girlfriend / Recess
The Yolks - Kings Of Awesome - Randy
The Young Leaves - Alive And Well - Baldy Longhair
Warm Soda - Young Reckless Hearts - Castle Face
"Weird Al" Yankovic - Mandatory Fun - RCA


Friday, December 26, 2014

Napalmpom - The Unconditional Love Of Napalmpom LP - Red Vinyl (/500)


Teenage Rampage (2014)

I picked up this Napalmpom record at the recommendation of a friend.  I didn't check out any of the songs prior to ordering, I just took a blind leap.  I can't say the album was exactly what I was expecting.  I wouldn't call it bad and I wouldn't call it great, all I can really say is the band is playing a style of rock and roll that's just not my favorite.

Napalmpom are a rock and roll band, very much in the traditional late 70'sand 80's version of the term.  The songs are poppy enough where I enjoy them, but they tend to go a little further into a glammy, lead guitar driven direction that isn't my thing as much.  If you like Thin Lizzy or maybe T. Tex or if you really love "Jump" or "Panama" by Van Halen, this is probably the album for you.  

Napalmpom are all about on huge guitars, backing vocals and making the sort of music where I assume the guitar player jumps up in the air and kicks from time to time. They do this style of music very well, but it's the kind of thing I really have to be in the mood for to listen to.  A big plus is that the artwork is super cool and the record also came with a set of colored pens so you can color the cover yourself.  I may actually do that while I'm off from work next week.

That's going to wrap up 2014 for me as far as new reviews go.  I've been able to knock out just about every full length that came out in 2014 that I bought.  On Monday I'll be posting my Absolute Best Records of 2014 list, and Then I'll be hibernating for the rest of the week.  When I come back, I have a ton of reissues to get to that I've been putting off, so there's never a shortage of things to write about.

Napalmpom - The Unconditional Love Of Napalmpom:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Los Straitjackets - Yuletide Beat 10" - Red Vinyl


Yep Roc / Spinout (2009)

As has been my tradition the last few years, I try to buy at least one new Christmas album for the holiday season.  After last year's discovery of Los Straitjackets, I've been keeping an eye out for their other Christmas album, Yuletide Beat.  Thanks to eBay and a record seller in Germany I was able to add it to the collection this year.  At $25 shipped, it was a little more costly than a typical record purchase, but considering it's been out of print for a few years, I was happy to grab it when it came up.

Like The Ventures before them, Los Straitjackets have arranged some traditional Christmas carols into surf inspired rock songs.  While they never quite capture the same kind of magic that The Ventures were able to harness, it's still a strong collection.  Opening track "Deck The Halls" is probably the highlight of the bunch, with a upbeat rocking version of the song.  Another standout is the horn tinged rendition of "Joy To The World."  It puts some real soul into a song that's often times something of a downer.

In comparison to their first Christmas Album "Tis The Season for Los Straitjackets," the song selection isn't as good for my personal tastes.  That album focused more on upbeat songs of the season, while Yuletide Beat has an awful lot of more religious type songs.  Granted, make them instrumental and rocking and they're still pretty good, but I just prefer my Christmas music to be about snow, candy and Santa Claus.  Regardless, it's a great pick up if you like Christmas music, but still have the need to rock out a bit during this time of the year.

Merry Christmas!

Los Straitjackets - Deck The Halls:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Raging Nathans - Losing It LP - Red Vinyl (/100)


Dead Broke / Rad Girlfriend / Recess (2014)

OK, this is the home stretch for 2014.  After today, tomorrow's Christmas record and one more 2014 record on Friday I should be all set to post my year end list on Monday.  It's been a real scramble these last few days of 2014 with way more records being released at the tail end of the year than usual.  This Raging Nathans record didn't get quite as close to the end of the year as Stay Clean Jolene did, but I did end up ordering them together as I was slacking a bit.

First things first, I'll get the negative out of the way.  I don't like the art for this record.  I'm not sure what it is about it that irks me, but I've seen a lot of these super cartoony covers on punk rock records lately.  For some reason I just have a hard time taking them seriously.  No matter how good the music could be, there's something about art like this that makes me think the band is probably just making dick jokes over power chords.  

That's definitely not the case with The Raging Nathans (despite rhyming "shit" with "bullshit" in one song), as the music on this record is really strong.  They definitely are a pop punk band, but with more of an emphasis on the early 90's version of the genre.  They're a lot gruffer than say Zoinks! or Squirtgun, but have a similar knack for song structure.  Everything on Losing It is quite catchy and at times they come across like a more straightforward version of Rumspringer, with perhaps a slightly higher ratio of songs that require raising your fist in the air and holding out the last word of the chorus.

The Raging Nathans have put out one of the better no apologies pop punk records of the year.  There are a lot of pretty bad and generic pop punk bands in the world, it's nice to see a group like The Raging Nathans can still keep things exciting.

The Raging Nathans - Losing It:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stay Clean Jolene - S/T LP - Red Vinyl (/200)


Dead Broke / Drunken Sailor / Rad Girlfriend / Eager Beaver (2014)

Now it's gotten to the point where I am scrambling to get the reviews I need to have done before I am able to put up my top albums of the year list.  I'm actually delaying the list now, in large part because of this Stay Clean Jolene album.  Even though it's a really late entry into the list of 2014 releases, I had a feeling it was going to be one of the best.  I wasn't wrong.

As I had bought and written about the band's debut 7" a while ago, I was pretty confident I'd be into this record.  Stay Clean Jolene even exceeded my lofty expectations.  UK based, Stay Clean Jolene drawing from the rich history of amazing melodic punkers they have over there.  You can hear the touch stones of Leatherface and Snuff, especially in the way the guitar weaves in and out, creating layers of leads and chords that elevate each song to be something special.  The vocals actually remind me a bit of bands like Dan Padilla.  There's some gravel in the raspy delivery, but it's a bit smoother and really carries melody better than a lot of bands that go down this path. 

I do have one negative thing to say and it's not even anything about any of the actual songs.  I was a little disappointed that 3 of the 10 songs on the album had already been released on the bands first 7".  Being the selfish bastard I am, I would have preferred 10 new songs.  But, if you don't already have the 7" for some reason, it just makes picking up this full length even more essential.  Stay Clean Jolene was worth holding up my year end list for.  Hopefully I can have it finished up early next week.  Stay tuned.

Stay Clean Jolene - S/T LP:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Matthew Melton - Outside Of Paradise LP - Green Vinyl


Southpaw (2014)

Metthew Melton is probably best known for fronting the breathy, garage pop band Warm Soda.  Even though Warm Soda did release a somewhat disappointing record this year, I jumped on this solo record the moment it went on sale.  Even though I thought the last Warm Soda record was something of a let down (it had great songs, but the recording zapped a lot of the energy out of it for some reason), I have supreme confidence in Matthew Melton's songwriting.  I figured this would be a slam dunk of a record.

Well, in some ways it is and others was it is not.  In general, these sound like Warm Soda songs that fall somewhere in between their debut Someone For You and this year's Young Reckless Hearts.  It's not quite as half baked as Young Reckless Hearst ended up being, but it's not as fully realized as Someone For You.  The songs are kind of like rough sketches of great songs.  The production is a bit more lo fi than typical Warm Soda, but the songs are absolutely there.

When Melton really is hitting on all cylinders as he is on "Painted Sign," "Are You Taking Her Home" or "Glass Diamond Green Roses" he cannot be touched when it comes to crafting a perfect pop song.  The one problem that Outside Of Paradise runs into is that it doesn't quite have the kind of album cohesion that Warm Soda records have.  It's to be expected as these songs have been piling up over years.  The hits way outnumber the misses on this album and as a whole it is just as good if not a bit better than Young Reckless Hearts was.  Definitely worth picking up.

Matthew Melton - "Painted Sign":

Thursday, December 18, 2014

V/A - La Marraca Compilation 7"


Roto (1995)

On Twitter one day there was an exchange between someone and one of my favorite bands, Bum.  Bum tweeted a picture of a record of theirs that I did not have.  I inquired about it and immediately set off to add it to my Bum record collection.  I'm a completest for them after all.  What we have is a 4 band comp 7", that sadly I can't tell you much about other than it's from Spain and that Grunnen Rocks website thinks it came out in 1995.  I can also tell you a bit about the music.

The main event was obviously was bum and their contribution is a live cover of a The Viletones' "Screaming Fist" (or "Screaming Fen" as the 7" says).  It's a fast and loud shouty punk rock song, that is a good time, but it's nowhere near as dynamic and catchy as a Bum original. What can I say, I like Bum songs more than their cover songs, but the collection is complete again (aside from the colored vinyl version of the Magic Teeth #2 record).

The Pleasure Fuckers give us a song built around the "Oh EEE Oh" chant from Wizard Of Oz, then they shout a few words, then goes back to the "Oh EEE Oh" chant again.  There's a good hook in the chorus though.  

Dr. Explosion is slightly fuzzy power pop.  The vocals have a slight sneer to them, almost like something El Vez would do.  It's actually a really strong song and I'm curious about the other albums this band put out, though there seem to be about 4000 of them.   

Vivoras are fast and upbeat.  They remind me of the Shitbirds a bit.  It's also a good song, total Sympathy For The Record Industry style garage rock.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jet Black - In Paradox LP


Self Released (2014)

I'm now on a mad scramble to get in all of my reviews for 2014 records in time for my end of the year wrap up.  I feel like there's way more November and December releases this year than usual and I'm typically a real stickler for counting December releases on the year end list.  So the point is, get me that Stay Clean Jolene record as soon as possible!

On to the matter at hand. Jet Black is a band from Quebec that came into my view with their 2011 album Escape Measures.  I was pretty thrilled when the band got in touch with me and offered to send me a copy of their new album In Paradox.  As I've mentioned in the past, I don't get a lot of records sent to me, so I'm always grateful when someone takes the time to pass one along.  But to get an album this good is an extra treat.

In Paradox has a similar feeling as the bands' debut.  They're very much inspired by the lush guitar sounds of the 90's.  You can hear a bit of Swervedriver here and there.  But particularly striking to me this time out is the similarity I hear to later era, slowed down Doughboys.  I love the Doughboys, so rest assured that is the sort of comparison that should absolutely be taken as a compliment.  

Jet Black never really pulls the trigger to start blasting through any of their songs fast.  They always keep a reserved tempo.  Sometimes this could play against a band as it might stifle a hook or a catchy chorus, but Jet Black manages to pull it off in a way that makes it seem like they're a dam ready to burst.  It keeps the music full of energy and gives the album a powerful vibe that builds from song to song.

It's a latecomer in 2014, but I'm sure you can tell from this review that I'm going to have to make room in my 2014 list for these guys.  Next year, can everyone who plans on putting out a really great record just make sure their album is ready by late October?  

Jet Black - In Paradox LP:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cloud Nothings / Relaxer - Split 7"


My Mind's Eye (2013)

You'll have to wait only a few more days to see where the Cloud Nothings LP finished up on my best of the year list, but know that it was high enough to make me start digging around their older records.  I saw this 2013 Record Store Day 7" pop up in one of my favorite distros (Green Noise), so I added it to my order.  I really like this band, but this 7" is nothing special.

The Cloud Nothings side is a cover of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town."  I can't say I really like the original version of that song too much on the best of days. Cloud Nothing doesn't offer a fresh version of it either.  I can't say it's a note for note take on it, but it doesn't sound too far off to me.  It's a Record Store Day novelty and isn't much more than a collection filler.

On the flip side we have Relaxer who, for the lack of a better description, are kind of funky.  I'm not sure that funky is the best adjective in the world, but whatever you want to call it, it's not good.  The vocals are pretty much just someone moaning the lyrics.  There's no real chorus to speak of.  When the singer lets up, they just throw some more instruments on top of the never ending drum and bass riff.  There's a little bit of a change up in the middle bit, but it's really kind of weird.  This plays like a bad Doors song (I know, like there's a good Doors song).

I couldn't find either of these songs online, so buy at your own risk.  Or just go buy the Cloud Nothings album Here And Nowhere Else.  That is money much better spent.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Brick Mower - Teenage Graceland LP


Don Giovanni (2014)

When I ordered the new Nude Beach record from Don Giovanni, I also perused their other records to see if there was anything else I wanted. I settled on Brick Mover who, from their description, seemed like they would be right up my alley.  After spending some time with the record I can't really say for sure if I was right or not.

The components that I like in a band are there.  The songs are pretty upbeat for the most part.  The vocals are strong, with just a slight raspy quality to them.  There's a good amount of hooks crammed in to each song.  If you look at it from the surface, Teenage Graceland sounds like a hell of a record.

In some respects it is, but what really hurts this album is the way everything was recorded.  All of the songs sound so muddy and flat.  The energy that they should have is just completely zapped out of them.  I'm not sure what they did exactly, but if they had just brightened up the sound quality just a little bit, this could have easily been one of my favorite records of the year.  

As it stands now, I do like it and plan to keep on listening to it.  But it's the flat quality to it that allows the record to just slip into the background when you're playing it.  I would absolutely check out another record of theirs when it comes out.  I just hope they change up how they record everything to truly showcase how good their songs really are.

Brick Mower - Teenage Graceland:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Fadeaways / The Pine Hill Haints - Split 7"


Snuffy Smiles (2014)

I'm always happy to pop a new 7" from Snuffy Smiles on the turntable, though I must admit I ended up being a little surprised about this one.  It's still very good, but I think I'm just used to there being a bit more pop-punk in my Snuffy Smiles bands.

The Fadeways are lo fi and kind of garage-y, but the songs still have those hooks that I so desperately need.   The first two songs are very good, even if they may not be my all time favorite Snuff Smile band.  The third song, however is a little bit annoying.  Despite it's upbeat and bouncy main riff, "My Little Bird" has the weirdest, distorted guitar noise layered over top of virtually the entire song.  I can't say I'm a fan of that move.

The Pine Hill Haints take a different approach.  The first song is somewhat subdued, but it has a cool surf rock vibe with lots of reverb.  Track two, "Wanderin Star," is not as surfy, but still harkens back to bands from the 60's.  It has an almost Herman's Hermits simplicity about it, but one of the slower Hermits songs.  This isn't a "Henry The 8th" style rocker.  Like The Fadeaways on the other side of the record, Pine Hill Haints get a little weird on their third entry "Full Moon Pie." It's slow and totally blown out. 

Like I said earlier, this was kind of an odd 7" for Snuffy Smiles.  While I do like parts of it and I'd be curious to hear more of each band, I can't give it my usual unconditional recommendation.  Although I wasn't able to find anything, you may want to try to check out some songs first before you just grab it.  Unless you're like me and need to own every 7" that Snuffy Smiles has ever released.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Unwound / Versus - Split 7"


Troubleman (2000)

Unwound Wednesday.  I can tell you for sure that I never had this 7" when it originally came out.  I was not really listening to much Unwound by 2000 and I can't say I was ever a huge fan of Versus either.

I will say this about the Versus side, this song is better than I remember them being.  It's very possible that my tastes have just changed over the years.  There's also a chance that they stand out a little bit more now then they did back in the 90's when they were part of a pretty incredible glut of amazing bands.  Regardless, their gentle guitar picking mixed with an ebb and flow bass line is a nice combination.  Maybe not enough for me to go dig deeper into their catalog, but better than I was expecting.

The Unwound side is pretty great.  I can't say I'm that familiar with the last two Unwound albums at all.  I heard them both once or twice back when they came out, but really paid no attention to them at the time.  I'm eager for the fourth installment of the Numero Group reissues so I can give those records another chance.  "Torch Song" is great.  Though it is lacking a little bit of the shouting and dissonance that I like in Unwound, it's an amazing and surprisingly catchy song.  It's actually more like Survival Knife than any of the Unwound songs I'm familiar with.  I really like it though and am now even more intrigued to relisten to those last 2 records.

Unwound - "Torch Song":

Versus - "All In Doubt":

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Nude Beach - 77 2xLP


Don Giovanni (2014)

I was truly blown away by II, the second album released by Nude Beach.  It put the band on my radar and in my frequently spun pile of records.  When it was announced that their new album would be a double LP, I just thought 'great, even more new songs.'  I still feel that way a bit, but after spending time with this record, I wonder if a double LP was really the way to go.

There's no better way to say this, 77 just feels too long.  It's not even ridiculously long, it's only an hour and nine minutes, but for some reason the album can feel like it's dragging about 45 minutes in or so.  It's possible I don't have the attention span I used to and it's probable that I've always favored records that come in at around thirty to forty minutes and leave you wanting more.  What's somewhat frustrating is that aside from the length, this is a pretty incredible album.

Nude Beach are the closest thing to Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers that we have in 2014. Well, aside from the actual Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, but Nude Beach is putting out way better records than they are these days.  The songs on this album are perfectly crafted and have a wonderful storyteller vibe that never drifts off into pretentiousness.  Hooks are crammed in each song and the album has a warm, comfortable feel to it; like you're sitting down with an old friend.

My only criticism is the length, and that's likely one hundred percent a personal preference that I have.  I think that Nude Beach could have easily release two separate amazing records and the songs would have had more impact.  That being said, this record is so good, I really shouldn't complain all that much about thinking there are too many good songs on it.  Hopefully this review doesn't sound too negative because this is absolutely a record that should be picked up.

Nude Beach - "I Can't Keep The Tears From Falling":

Nude Beach - "For You":

Monday, December 8, 2014

Freak Wave - Don't Let Me Down LP - Port Wine Vinyl


Poison City (2014)

This wasn't a band or an album that was on my radar, but when I was going through the Poison City website reading up on the Screamfeeder reissues they are putting out (You'll get a review of one of those pretty soon), Freak Wave caught my eye. Their description name dropped Superchunk, Archers of Loaf and Dinosaur Jr., so that caught my attention right away.  Along with Leatherface, comparing a band to Archers of Loaf is a pretty surefire way to make me check something out.

Though I can see the comparisons to both Archers and Superchunk, in general I think using them as descriptors is a little misleading.  There's nothing quite as blatantly catchy or bouncy as anything from the Chapel Hill area.  Freak Wave are definitely a little bit darker and somewhat more subdued.  When listening to Don't Let Me Down, I'm much more taken back to 1990's releases on Headhunter/Cargo.  You can hear some of that muted and clean guitar sound that Pinback and Three Mile Pilot were spearheading.  

It's a refreshing sound that I just don't feel like I hear much anymore and it really makes Freak Wave stand out.  This is one of the better records I've hear all year and I've been listening to it pretty much nonstop since it arrived from Australia.  I haven't seen anywhere in the US that is carrying it, so picking up Don't Let Me Down is a bit of a financial commitment.  It's absolutely worth it and while you're picking this up you can grab some Screamfeeder and Knapsack reissues to spread the postage costs around a little.

Freak Wave - Don't Let Me Down LP:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sonic Avenues - S/T LP - Green Vinyl (/100)


Dead Broke (2014, Reissue)

I've written about this record twice before on this website, though it was in the early days of doing this when I was pretty much just writing a sentence or two on Flickr.  The first time is when the album originally came out on Going Gaga and then again when it was re-released on Taken By Surprise.  Why the need to buy it a third time? Two reasons really.  The first is that this is one of my favorite records of the last ten years and that makes it worthy of some variant collecting, if you ask me.  But a bigger reason than that is that this version on Dead Broke has two new songs on it that were not on either of the other pressings.  That makes it an easy buy for me.

The first of the new songs, "Bored With Love" is a little bit slower some of the songs on this album.  Though it is certainly not lacking in the hook department at all.  The one thing that Sonic Avenues does better than almost every band going these days is the way they layer their vocal melodies in their songs.  It's actually amazing to me and this song is as good as anything else in their catalog at showcasing that.

The second is called "Sixteen Years" and it is an almost White Wires kind of old school rock and roll style song.  Once again the vocals elevate it to something pretty special, but I just can't get The White Wires out of my head when I'm listening to it; not that you could consider that a bad thing - I love The White Wires too.

I will say that I can sort of see why they may have left these two songs off the original release.  The album they released originally was so perfect that you just didn't need these two songs to make it better.  It certainly wouldn't have detracted from it, but they just weren't absolutely necessary. That being said these two songs are incredible and it blows my mind that they didn't end up on a 7" or something as they definitely needed to see the light of day. I'm really glad the band finally decided to release them.

The other bonus is that this is the very first time that this Sonic Avenues record has been available in America, so hopefully that gives new people an easier way to pick up this truly incredible record.

Sonic Avenues - S/T:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Spoon / Eleanor Friedberger Split 7" - Gray Vinyl


Merge (2014)

I'll be all caught up on Merge's Or Thousands Of Prizes 7" series with this record.  That only leaves one last package containing November and December's releases.  I sure hope they go out with a band as this 7" doesn't really thrill me.

We'll start off with Eleanor Friedberger's contribution "Open Your Soul To Me." It's just slow, NPR style indie rock.  Kind of like a female fronted Ted Leo song that is missing all of the exciting things that Ted adds to his music.  The song just never grabs me and it quickly turns into background noise.  There's a sort of interesting Bright Eyes style flute thing that pops up halfway through, but it still isn't enough to really make me care all that much.

Spoon is one of those bands that just never clicked for me.  I know a ton of people who really, really love Spoon, but I never latched on to them.  Their song on the split, "Waiting To Know You," certainly isn't about to change my mind.  It's build off of bass guitar and 80's sounding synth through the intro and then once the verse hits, you get an awful lot of xylophone.  I would kill for some loud guitars right about now.  I realize I'm getting older, but maybe I'm not quite old enough to enjoy this sort of thing.

As a whole, Merge's singles series is putting out more boring records than good ones.  Part of me wonders if I should have just bought the Superchunk/Mikal Cronin split on eBay and called it a day.  There are two more records coming to hopefully change my mind, but I have a feeling I'm going to end up with quite a few records that I'm probably not going to play very often.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Unwound - Negated 7"


Troubleman (1994)

Welcome to another Unwound Wednesday.  I probably only have a few more of these left honestly, but this one is a good one.  With a gun to my head, I'll probably pick this as my favorite of the Unwound 7"s.  At least, it was for sure when I was younger.

It came out in 1994, right around when my favorite full length, New Plastic Ideas, was released.  The 3 songs on this 7" are of the same spirit.  In 1994, I'm not sure if anyone had mastered the quiet/loud dynamic as good as Unwound had.  They manage to take things down, dragging the song through Vern's sludgy bass and then just explode into chaos, energy and furious guitar.

"Negated" and "Said Serial" are both worth the price of admission alone, but even the 3rd, mostly instrumental song "Census" is still pretty great.

Unwound - "Negated":

Unwound - "Said Serial":

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hiss Golden Messenger / Matt Scuggs - Split 7" - Red Vinyl


Merge (2014)

More Merge madness from their 7" series.  Though the deeper we get into the series, the less interested in it I'm becoming.

Case in point is Hiss Golden Messenger.  They're a band I'm not familiar with, but that's not the problem.  Half of the reason I sign up for singles clubs is to hear about new bands.  But I don't really need to hear more like this.  It's another blast of generic NPR style rock.  The singer has a nasal vocal delivery, aiming for a Bob Dylan sort of thing, but never really pulls it off.  The song has a slight alt country tinge to it, but at the end of the day is just boring.

Matt Scuggs is significantly more interesting.  It comes off a bit like Modern Guilt era Beck with its muted bass guitar and drums driving the verse.  At the tail end of the song, Scuggs delivers that loud blast of guitar that you felt building up, but the song is far too short.  It's very good and I do like it, but it could have been much longer and really needed a killer chorus to push it over the top.

Monday, December 1, 2014

East River Pipe / Reigning Sound - Split 7" - Yellow Vinyl


Merge (2014)

I'm going to spend the next few days getting caught up with the Merge singles series records that have been piling up.  I've only got 3, but I imagine a couple more will be en route pretty soon.  So let's clear this backlog.

On the East River Pipe side there's a kind of slow song called "Did The Bank Boys Fool Ya."  It's got distorted vocals with a pretty heavy echo effect on them.  The song itself is somewhat simplistic and it almost reminds me of little kids' music.  I've never heard of this band before and this song didn't really leave much of an impression on me.

The flip side is an acoustic song by Reigning Sound.  They are one of those bands that my friends all seem to like way more than I do.  I think they're totally fine, but nothing they have done has really elicited the sort of emotion in me that I see in others.  "Falling Rain" is primarily built on the strumming of an acoustic guitar with some hints of sliding steel guitar sounds in the background.  It's a nice song actually, but not really anything I think is special or noteworthy.  It's not bad, it just isn't the sort of thing I see myself listening to more than once or twice.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Blind Shake - Breakfast Of Failures LP - White Vinyl


Goner (2014)

Every time I write something about The Blind Shake I always make mention of how I think it's a little weird that I like them as much as I do.  The recording and vocals tend to be blown out and in the red all the time.  The songs aren't obviously catchy.  But for some reason this band just gets me every single time.

Breakfast Of Failures is their latest and it's full of the same sort of chaotic fuzzy blasts of rock and roll.  The guitar sound that this band manages to get is just ridiculous.  It's just so huge, noisy and powerful.  I would say this album is a bit darker than their last, Key To A False Door, but it's every bit as good.  This is a band that can pair driving rhythms and howling vocals better than pretty much anyone else and I;m just drawn in by the energy and enthusiasm they manage to capture in their recordings.

Also of note, just yesterday it was officially announced that The Blind Shake and John Reis are going to release a surf record together early next year.  They also posted a small handful of tour dates.  You can bet I bought my tickets to that immediately.

Oh, some housekeeping notes.  With Thanksgiving looming, I'm going to be taking next week off from writing up reviews.  I'll be back with some new records on Monday, December 1st.  We'll then begin that December march into the top records of 2014.  This year is flying by.

The Blind Shake - "Parachute":

The Blind Shake - "Old Lake":

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Your Pest Band - Other Bore 7"


Episode (2014)

You could make an argument that Your Pest Band is the hardest working band in punk rock.  I feel like every other month, I look up and they have a new single or a new album.  Not that I'm complaining as they hit it out of the park nearly every time.

In fact, this 7" is one of my favorite things they have ever done.  A-Side "Other Bore" is built off of a lead guitar line that takes me back to 60's girl group rock.  Now, the vocals change up that feeling very quick, but it's a great song.  Somewhat slower than a lot of what Your Pest Band typically puts out, but extremely poppy.  I hope to hear more from them in this vein.

B-side "Dice" is just a hit song.  Fast, driving with big hooks.  It's classic, straightforward Your Pest Band mod/punk.  I can't really say enough good things about it, it is one of the best things they've put out.  Plus the video they have up for it just makes them look like the coolest bunch of dudes you've ever seen.  Great stuff.

Your Pest Band - "Dice":

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Unwound - Kandy Korn Rituals 7"


This week's Unwound Wednesday is the Kandy Korn Rituals 7".  While I can say for sure that I do not like candy corn, my thoughts on this 7" are a little bit mixed.  The first two songs, "Kandy Korn Rituals" and "Against" are really loud and screamy.

While I give Unwound more slack than I would most bands about that sort of thing, these particular songs end up seeming kind of one dimensional.  What I always liked about Unwound was their ability to sharply cut from slow and brooding to loud and full of rage at the drop of a hat.  Both of these are pretty much non stop chaos aside from some feedback between the two songs.

The third song, "Hating In D" is much more in line with the Unwound that really gets me.  The chorus is an explosion of energy, but the verse is much more laid back and is driven by the bass guitar.  The problem with this song is that it was recorded live, so you lose some fidelity there.  The more I'm revisiting these old 7"s the more obvious it is how much Unwound evolved over the course of their time together.  But as my goal is to have a complete 7" collection of theirs, I'm going to end up with some crazy loud early singles, that's for sure.

Unwound - Kandy Korn Rituals 7":

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Koji Kondo - Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack 7" - Orange Vinyl (/500)


Do Jo Music (2014, Reissue)

Let's be clear about this.  Buying this 7" was a real waste of money if you're looking at it from a music perspective.  I'll be the first to admit it, and it's kind of silly that I bought a record I'm almost never going to listen to.  But the other side of the coin is that it's a pretty neat little thing just to own.  I collect records. I loved Super Mario Bros. as a kid.  This 7" is just a combination of the 2 things and I thought it would be neat to own.

I tried to pass on it.  When it originally went on sale I hemmed and hawed over the $16 price tag for a 7" and while I was hawing, the record just sold out.  I thought that was it, I just missed out.  No big deal.  But then it got restocked and I just couldn't resist.  I don't know what makes me buy things like this sometimes.  It's a character flaw I guess, but I can tell you that I am glad I got it because the packaging is pretty cool if nothing else.

The sleeve folds out into a little six panel poster with one side being a big illustration and the other side has screen shots from the actual video game.  There's also this sheet of paper with pictures of all the characters that seem to be meant to be cut out for reasons I can't fathom.  It would make more sense as a sticker sheet.

Music wise, the A-side is simply the music from the video game.  Well, it's the music from the above world boards from the video game.  There's no underworld music here, I would have liked that.  But a nice touch is that towards the end of the 'song' it shifts into the 'time running out' sped up music and ultimately concludes with the noise of your time running out.  Kind of cool.

The B-side says it contains on orchestral version of the song.  But it's really just the normal video game music with some odd sound effects and musical accents over some of the parts.  I would have preferred just more video game music honestly.  Maybe a split 7" with the Legend Of Zelda Theme? Regardless, I'm happy I bought it.  It's a cool thing to have, but as far as being a record that I'd listen to, I can't imagine it will really come out for any reason other than just to show it to someone who happens to be at my house and really likes Super Mario.

Koji Kondo - Super Mario Bros Soundtrack - Original Version:

Koji Kondo - Super Mario Bros Soundtrack - Orchestral Version:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cloud Nothings - Now I'm Blind 7" - Clear Vinyl


Polyvinyl (2014)

As most are aware, I love a good singles club.  I sign up for them all the time and I'm reasonably sure I still have a subscription to the Art Of The Underground series that just stopped putting out records for some reason.  Anyway, Polyvinyl's 4-Track Singles Series isn't one I subscribed to, but it's a pretty neat idea.  They have a 4-Track recorder.  They then take that same 4-Track recorder and mail it around to a bunch of bands who then record some new songs on it.  A neat concept, buy they didn't really sign up enough bands I like to make me want to subscribe.

There were two bands that contributed that I did want to track down though, Mikal Cronin and Cloud Nothings.  I managed to score the Cloud Nothings 7" for $16.  A bit pricey for a 7", but worlds cheaper than subscribing to a series I really had little interest in.  The two songs contributed are interesting listens, but cannot hold a candle to the greatness that is their last album.

The A-Side "Now I'm Blind" is a loud and explosive song. Cloud Nothings didn't cop out and contribute a few acoustic songs.  They went full band and really tested the limits of this little 4-Track.  It's blown out, fast and you can barely make out the echoey vocals floating in the background.  I would actually be interested in hearing a version of this song that wasn't quite so lo-fi.  There's just something about it that I'd like to hear more of.

B-side "Living World" isn't really my thing.  It's more of a slower, noisy offering.  I wouldn't exactly call it a noise collage or anything, but it's certainly not a pop song.  It's dark and somewhat meandering.  Again, interesting, but not the sort of thing I'm going to be rushing back to the turntable to play again and again.  

I am glad I was able to get this record without having to commit to eleven other 7"s.  As Cloud Nothings' album Here and Nowhere Else is battling for my number one album of the year, I absolutely want to grab everything that they're currently releasing.  And as I had mentioned earlier, if anyone has a lead on the Mikal Cronin 7" from this set at a good price, please let me know.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Low Culture / Needles//Pins - Split 7" - Clear Vinyl (/200)


Dirtnap (2014)

I just love Low Culture and Needles//Pins.  I've been writing nice things about both bands for a while, but I feel like they've never really gotten their due.  Low Culture, I think, tends to get lumped in with and then somewhat overshadowed by other Marked Men spin-offs.  Needles//Pins also end up being grouped in with a lot of the current exceptional Canadian garage-y/pop bands of the moment and I've always felt they weren't being given their due.  This 7" lets both bands shine and if there is any justice in the world, both will be recognized for the phenomenal bands that they are.

Low Culture provide 2 fast paced, energetic and extremely catchy songs.  Both are as good if not better than anything on their 2013 album Screens (Go get that now if you don't already have it).  "Reservations" builds off of a deceptively simple guitar rift for the verse and then just explodes into the chorus.  It also has a really cool instrumental breakdown popped in the middle.  "Don't Tell Me" is a bit more straightforward pop, but every bit as great with those "ooh ooh" backing vocals that get me every time.

Needles//Pins are definitely a little scuzzier and less refined than some bands, but in that scuzz the band is writing such incredible pop songs it blows my mind.  The lead guitar riff that starts off "Hateful" (and then kind of acts as the chorus for the rest of the song) is so great.  It's a hit single in every sense of the term. "Bored" sounds like it would have easily fit in on their last album Shamebirds.  Classic Needles//Pins with scratchy vocals, fuzzy guitars and a killer hook.

Hopefully this 7" will really show people the greatness of these two.  Not only should you pick up the 7", it's a crime to not have both of these bands' recent full lengths in your collection.  I suggest you correct that oversight as soon as possible.

Low Culture / Needles//Pins - Split 7":

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Unwound - Corpse Pose 7"


Kill Rock Stars (1996)

Unwound Wednesday! By the time 1996's Corpse Pose 7" came out, I wasn't listening to as much Unwound as I had the past couple of years.  I was actually starting to burn out on a lot of that Pacific Northwest scene and had had my fill of bands like godheadSilo and Karp.  I was moving on to focus on poppier bands at the time, but in doing so, I really missed out on some killer Unwound songs.

"Corpse Pose" is just quintessential, brooding Unwound.  The steady bass line and drumming provided a really strong canvas for Jostin Trosper's guitar antics.  The verse is a bit more upbeat than the chorus, but the way the song just kind of freezes for the repetition of the phrase "corpse pose" in the chorus is some pretty masterful songwriting.  It's deceptively simple, but extremely effective.

B-Side "Everything Is Weird" is equally great.  It's a bit more fast paced and punk driven, but it maintains the more mature elements that Unwound had been bringing into their records.  Just like "Corpse Pose," the bass lines just holds the whole song together and really stand out as being something special.  Granted, I had been listening to these two songs a bit more regularly due to their inclusion on the most recent third Unwound box set that came out, but it's still pretty great to add the original 7" to the collection.

Unwound - "Corpse Pose" (This is the album version, not the single version, the mixing is a little different):

Unwound - "Everything Is Weird":

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The No Marks / Not For... - Split CD


Fixing-A-Hole (2014)

Though I do not really buy too many CDs these days, I always give a pass to anything released in Japan, where CD is still king.  This CD wasn't something that I thought I urgently needed to add to my pile of records, but I do want to have a complete No Marks collection.  Maybe not every variant, but certainly every release.

For the No Marks part of this split, it's the 4 songs that were already released on vinyl through 2 split 7"s.  The songs are every bit as fantastic as they were when I originally wrote about them, but as a quick refresher, they're absolutely stellar melodic punk rock.  File them under 90's influenced UK pop punk.  They're truly one of my favorite bands at the moment.

Not For... did provide something new on this CD and their three songs are played in the key of Snuffy Smiles.  Being from Japan surely has something to do with it, but these guys would fit right in on a Snuffy Smiles 7".  They're big on anthemic choruses with gruff vocals and they particularly remind me of a mix between The Urchin and Cradle To Grave.  Chances are, if you like any of the Japanese pop punk that I write about on this website, there's a pretty good likelihood that Not For... will be right up your alley.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Moderns - When She Gets Back 7"


UT Records (2014)

So I can't pretend to know a lot about the history of this 7", but in a nutshell this was recorded some 35 years ago and best I can tell was never released.  UT records has corrected that tragedy and thank goodness they did, as losing these songs forever would have been a real shame.

70s - 80s power pop can be a dicey thing for me sometimes.  While I virtually always like it, I'm not often completely blown away by anything.  Then, I watch other people, whose musical taste I really respect, go crazy for something and I'm left feeling like I just don't get it.  Well, this is not a problem for me with The Moderns. I definitely get this. I'm especially glad that UT records sent this to me to review.  I honestly don't know if I would have ever known how much I'd like it if left to my own devices.

On this 7" are 3 songs worth of upbeat, clean guitar driven pop songs.  There's a slight amount of echo on the vocals (as bands were wont to do back then), but other than that the production is very strong and all 3 songs are quite catchy.  These songs remind me a lot of Gentleman Jesse (for a modern reference) meets The Vacant Lot (for a dumb, not so modern reference that's probably not all that helpful to a lot of people).  Regardless, all 3 songs are top notch and if power pop is your bag, this 7" should be that bag.

The Moderns - When She Gets Back 7":

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dan Sartain - Romance In Stereo LP - Pink Vinyl


Shed House (2014, Reissue)

Romance In Stereo is one of the 'lost' Dan Sartain albums.  Though a lot of the tracks later appeared on the Sartain Family Legacy CD, even that is getting harder and harder to find these days.  Aside from its original and extremely limited 1st and only pressing on CD, Romance In Stereo has mostly just existed as a record that people heard about but few actually had.  I was a lucky one and managed to snag a copy of the CD on eBay a few years back, but I had always wished it had come out on vinyl.

It seems that wishes do come true and finally this lost gem is back and on vinyl.  Some of my favorite Dan Sartain songs are on here such as "Boy She Knew, " "Walk Among The Cobras Pt. 2," and "Carry Weight."  Dan's crooning on top of the lo-fi and sparse instrumentation captures a certain kind of magic. Although I think my favorite Dan Sartain record will probably always be Join Dan Sartain; Romance In Stereo and Dan's other early self released album Crimson Guard will always hold a special spot for me.

When I was originally looking into buying this record from the record label that released it, Shed House, I got really pissed off.  I was going to write this whole big article about record labels screwing over record collectors and what BS it was.  I've calmed down a lot over the past few weeks and the label did actually lower their album prices at their website, so I guess he's trying.  But I wanted to bring up a few things that I think are wrong.

1. There was a pink splatter variant of this record limited to 25 copies.  The only way that you can purchase it from the label is by buying a pack of 4 copies of this album. The pack contains one copy on pink splatter, one copy on solid pink, one copy on black and a copy of the test pressing.  The cost of this package is $200.  I think it is completely and utterly absurd that you are forced to drop $50 per record if you want to get all of the variants.

And $50 per record is being generous since 2 of the 4 versions in the pack could be bought for way less than $50 bucks each, you end up paying a simply gigantic amount for the splatter variant and for the test pressing.  That is, of course, assuming that you have any interest in test pressings.

There have been labels in the past that have offered the opportunity to buy several variants of a single release in a bundle, sometimes even offering exclusive versions in that pack (Tiny Engines and their recent Beach Slang 7" comes to mind).  However, these labels typically offer a discount to the buyer for purchasing multiple copies of the same record, they don't jack up the price.  Isn't the fact that you're willing to buy several copies of the same album enough? Why try to get more out of your most hardcore buyer?

I realize no one is forcing anyone to buy this pack, and as you can tell, I didn't buy it.  But, I think it's pretty lame that I have to give up on my Dan Sartain variant collection because the guy at the label wants to charge high end eBay prices for his own records.

2. The standard version of this record is on pink vinyl limited to 250 copies.  The label was selling it for $20 plus shipping (which for reasons I don't fully understand they will only ship priority mail so that's another $9.50 in shipping costs).  While I think that's a little steep, it's not out of this world and I wouldn't call it unfair pricing for a small label in today's world.  I am not picking up the pitchfork over that.  But the next limited version is on black vinyl and that is limited to 50 copies.  When this was put on sale, the cost was $25 for this version.  Why is it $5 more than the pink vinyl version? Because it's more limited.

I contacted the guy at the label to ask why on earth a black vinyl version would cost $5 more than a colored vinyl version and he gave some vague answer about circumstances dictating it being necessary and concluded "With only 50 copies made, it's not a bad price.  I would pay it and I don't expect others to pay prices I wouldn't pay." Black vinyl traditionally costs less than colored vinyl to produce, so the only thing I can come up with is that Shed House records is trying to get more money out of record collectors by creating an intentionally limited and higher priced version of this version.  I just think that's nuts.

There are plenty of labels that charge a buck or two more for the more limited colored vinyl version of their releases.  Fat Wreck Chords, Dirtnap and Goner all do this.  I have never once complained about this practice and regularly (and happily) pay the extra money to own the more limited version of the record.  I am totally fine with this because colored vinyl costs more to make and it's only one or two dollars.  But to gouge someone for five extra dollars simply so they can have the privilege of buying a rare version of your record (which isn't even the rarest version) just doesn't sit well with me.  Now in fairness, since these records went on sale, the label has dropped the price of both versions and the pink vinyl is now $15 while the black vinyl is $20.  I assume because they weren't selling at their original prices.  But he's still going after that extra five bucks.  It just makes me crazy.

I spoke with my wallet.  I wasn't comfortable with the record collecting/punk rock ethics of the label.  So I was thrilled when Dan Sartain himself started selling some copies of the pink vinyl version of Romance In Stereo on his Bandcamp page.  I happily paid the $20 for the pink vinyl version to Dan (only $5 for him to ship it) and I feel great knowing the money has gone right to the artist.

I'm honestly not trying top start shit.  I, more than a lot of people, know the costs of running a label.  That's why PopKid records has been dormant for the past 10 years.  It's an expensive hobby and I applaud anyone who is out there trying to get music they love out to people.  I am also ecstatic that someone put out Romance In Stereo out on vinyl.  But all of the weird pricing and overcharging for variants leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.

At the end of the day I'm mostly just complaining because I can't afford to buy them.  I want them, I can't have them and I'm annoyed.  I don't mind missing out on a rare record because I wasn't paying attention or didn't get my order in quick enough.  That's the law of the jungle.  If I then have to over pay on eBay to get the record in my collection, so be it.  At least other collectors are setting the price.  I just don't see how a small indie label can arbitrarily decide how much their 'rare' record is worth.  I would never do that with my record label.  But that's just me.

This wound up being way longer than I meant it to be.  Apologies to Dan if this bothers him.  Apologies to Shed House records if this causes anyone to not buy the now very fairly priced $15 normal version of this record.  I'm happy the record is in my collection, and it really should be in everyone else's too.

Dan Sartain - Romance In Stereo:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End LP


Republic (2014)

I have to admit, never in a million years did I ever think I would end up buying or reviewing a new Weezer album on this website.  Sure I have written about fancy versions of their first two albums, they are two of my all time favorites, but I have flat out hated everything they have released since then.  I'm not even one of those Green Album apologists.  Just because it's a little better than the others doesn't mean that it isn't awful.  And it is truly, truly awful. Go listen to "Hash Pipe." I dare you.

Time and time again a new Weezer album has come out and someone said "Oh, it's their best since Pinkerton."  I'd give it a listen online and come to the same conclusion.  Weezer and Jimmy Eat world must be in some sort of contest to see who can write the most awful and embarrassing record.  Weezer typically was the winner.

When Everything Will Be Alright In The End was ramping up to be released, I heard the same scuttlebutt I always hear, it's the best since Pinkerton.  As usual, I fell for it and gave it a listen online.  You know what?  This record is legitimately the best thing Weezer has done since Pinkerton.  Not only that, I actually like it.  Quite a bit - to the point where I spent money on buying a copy on vinyl.  Who would have thought?

Now, if you're of the mindset, you can absolutely pick this record apart and find several annoying things.  All of the 2nd track "Back To The Shack" is terrible with really awful lyrics.  There's this weird riff breakdown that pops up on "Cleopatra" where the band inexplicably starts counting by fives ("Five ten fifteen twenty...") that almost kills the whole song.  The whistling on "DaVinci" is kind of annoying and the 3-song "Futurescope Trilogy" that closes out the album is a little self indulgent.  Being that Weezer has been making me so mad for so many years, I could be hyper critical of this record and not allow myself to like it.  But I don't see why I'd do that.

From start to finish, Everything Will Be Alright In The End is a fun Weezer record. Is it comparable to Pinkerton or Blue? Of course not.  But I think many of the songs are just as good as the B-sides from that golden era.  If this had come out instead of the Green album, I would have been a little let down, but still perfectly happy with a new third Weezer record.  Plain and simple, I just like listening to it.  The songs are good for the most part, I find that the hooks are constantly getting stuck in my head and I feel like I can just ignore the last 15 years of terrible records.  I hope this album does well enough for Weezer to encourage Rivers to keep writing songs like this.  If he keeps writing them, I'll keep buying them.

Weezer - "Ain't Got Nobody":

Weezer - "Eulogy For A Rock Band":

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Unwound - You Bite My Tongue 7"


Gravity (1993)

More Unwound Wednesday action.  This time in the form of their one sided 1993 single from Gravity (Though this appears to be the 1996 repress with the grey sleeve).  This is only one sided as on the B-side there is an elaborate etching of just a bunch of text.  It's pretty neat actually, but I wouldn't mind that space being taken up by some more songs.

This era of Unwound is pretty good stuff.  It's punky and fast and shouty, but is starting to show signs of the underlying sludge and darkness that would start to creep into their songs over the next few years.  It's the band at the height of their angry and loud phase.

Despite it being one sided, they still manage to cram 3 songs on here: "You Bite My Tongue," Kid Is Gone Chant Of Vengeance," and Understand And Forget."  "You Bite My Tongue" is likely the highlight of this bunch as it's a but more textured and dynamic than the comparative straightforwardness of the other 2.  I'm starting to run out of Unwound 7"s already, I'm going to have to pick a few more up so I can keep Unwound Wednesday going.

Unwound - "You Bite My Tongue":

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Creeps - Eulogies LP - Grey Vinyl (/200)


It's Alive (2014)

I've been a fan of The Creeps for a few years now.  While some dismiss their dark lyrics as gimmicky, I always found that it was more like the band was picking a specific sandbox to play in.  Regardless, one thing is for sure, these fellows sure know how to write some catchy songs.

The best part about the The Creeps fixation with darkness and depression is that it keeps their pop punk songs from slipping into something goofy.  I can take their music seriously and still appreciate the phenomenal hooks and catchy choruses they're cramming into every song.  Every time I write about The Creeps I always end up comparing them to an old 90's band from England called Reverse. In particular, I still think the singers have similar deliveries, but both bands also know the subtle art of making your song full of energy without having to rely on playing it 1000 miles an hour.

Of all of The Creeps' records I've heard, to me Eulogies is their best.  The band has been around for a while and have been getting better and better with every record.  They're reached the top of their game with this new album and it's been in heavy, heavy rotation for me since it arrived a few weeks ago.

The Creeps - Eulogies:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Samiam - Soar LP - Purple Vinyl


New Red Archives (1991, 2012 Reissue)

Soar is one of only 2 Samiam records that was missing from my budding collection of their full length albums (the last one left that I don't have is Billy).  So far my favorite of the bunch has been Clumsy, but they've all been pretty good.  The one that I've liked the least was their first self titled one, so I was slightly apprehensive on whether or not I would like Soar, as it is Samiam's sophomore effort.

I had no reason at all to be concerned, the leap in songwriting quality from the self titled debut to Soar is remarkable.  It's so much more melodic and well paced.  To me, Samiam;s debut was just a little too shouty and 'punk rock' for a band that was so obviously striving for a poppier sound.  They shelved all of the over the top angst and crafted an album full of energetic, passionate songs.

There are so many highlights, but for me to shining moments are "Slumbering," "Someone's Got To Lose" and "Sky Flying By." They're just perfectly crafted.  I am extremely excited to pick up Billy next.  After hearing what the band achieved on Soar and knowing what they accomplished on Clumsy; the fact that Billy is the album that got them signed to a major makes me think it's probably pretty great.  I guess we'll see.

Samiam "Sky Flying By":

Samiam - "Slumbering":

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Small - Silver Gleaming Death Machine LP


Alias (1995)

Whether you want to call them Small or Small 23, this band is just so great.  Though their legacy isn't as well remembered as some of their peers like Archers Of Loaf, Superchunk or Knapsack; Small is another one of those quintessential 1990's bands that deserve a spot in any well respected record collection.  Though the acquisition of this on vinyl is new to me, I have had the CD of this album forever.

You really could make a strong argument for 1994's Chin Music, but with a gun to my head I'd probably pick Silver Gleaming Death Machine as my favorite Small record.  From the moment that chugging guitar riff on album opener "Steal Some Candy" fires up, I'm just hopelessly captivated by this Chapel Hill powerhouse.  While they are fully entrenched in indie rock, Small, like Superchunk, always pushed towards an upbeat more punk rock sound.  They are masters of the catchy chorus and every song just contains hook after hook.

Honestly I could go on and on about this band, But all you really need is to take a listen to "The Bert Factor."  With its start stop guitar in the verse, its gigantic chorus hook and some tasteful lead guitar shredding; it's a pretty perfect representation of what an incredible band they were.  To me, it seems that every band from the 90's is getting back together for a victory lap, whether it's deserved or not.  While I have a feeling Small probably won't be one of those bands that receive a big money offer for a reunion, they're one of the older bands I'd like most to see come to town and play the hits.

Small - "The Bert Factor":

Small - "Do The Math":

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unwound - Caterpillar 7"


Kill Rock Stars (1991)

Maybe we'll do Unwound Wednesday for a few weeks here.  I've got a small pile of Unwound 7"s that I bought recently along with their 3rd box set on Numero, so I can keep it up for a few weeks anyway.

Caterpillar was Unwound's very first 7" on Kill Rock Stars.  The fact that this record is 23 years old is kind of crazy, not that I had it way back then.  But in 93-94 I was probably at the height of my Unwound fandom and was grabbing anything of theirs I could find. As I had mentioned last week, for some reason I got rid of all of my Unwound records in my mid 20's, but now I at least want to replenish my 7" collection.

Listening back on this 7" now, it's very obvious that this is a rough outline of what Unwound was going to become.  It's much more straightforward for the most part with some random outbursts of noise.  They're definitely going for a more traditional sludgy punk sound in these early days and were only just starting to figure out the kind of band they wanted to be.  It's an interesting listen for sure, but at best it's a blueprint for the future of Unwound.

Unwound - "Caterpillar":

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The No Marks - Light Of One LP - Clear w/ Splatter Vinyl


Brassneck (2014)

I know that at some point in the history of this website I've brought up the old T-shirt that Snuffy Smile records used to have.  It said "You Have Your Punk I Have Mine."  Now if anyone can get me that shirt, I'll pay handsomely for it, but the relevance that phrase has for me is enormous.  There has always been a strain of punk rock that has appealed to me the most and being in the US, there's really only been a small handful of people I've been able to share that with.  The No Marks epitomize this phrase to me as they are playing the exact kind of punk rock that I want to listen to.

UK based, The No Marks are tapping into that deep artery of amazing UK punk rock that flourished in the 1990s.  They are culling the best parts of bands like Chopper and Broccoli and Hooton 3 Car to create their incredible brand of melodic punk rock.  Like Broccoli, and to a lesser extent Leatherface, The No Marks keep the vocals full of melody, but still a little bit gruff and raspy.  While they're significantly smoother than Leatherface, the vocals still carry that same sort of lived in quality that really sets them apart from so many other bands.

Musically, you're going to get big hooks in the chorus and palm mutes in all the right places.  The band is masterful at intricate guitar work when the song calls for it, without crossing into self indulgent wanking that serves no purpose.  The songs are tight and the album just flies by.  For me to really try to spotlight the best songs on this album is nearly impossible, I'd end up writing about all of them.  It's one of the strongest, most consistent albums to come out this year.  

Frankly, it may be the best album that's come out this year.  I can only think of 2 others that even come close.  Light Of One has my absolute highest possible recommendation.  This is my kind of punk rock and I just hope there's a lot more from The No Marks in the future. 

The No Marks - Light Of One LP: