Friday, August 29, 2014

The Apes - Bodies 7" (+ Windian Box Set)


Windian (2014)

The fifth and final entry in the 2014 Windian Subscription Series is The Apes.  Again, this is a new to me band, but I can't say that I'll be particularly interested in seeking out more tunes by them.

While I do like that they are in this box since they add yet another layer of diversity to the set, they're brand of slow, somewhat sludgy rock just isn't my cup of tea.  The A-Side "Bodies" is built over a slow, throbbing bass line with dark, gravely vocals.  I could very easily see it as a soundtrack to bury a few bodies to, so I guess it could be considered accurately named.

The B-Side picks up the tempo ever so slightly and this time the band has added some atmospheric synths to the song.  Again, it's just a little to slow to catch my interest, but I'm notoriously picky when it comes to that sort of thing.  It takes quite the band to impress me with a slow jam and The Apes just don't do it for me.

That being said, the Windian Subscription box set as a whole is a tremendous purchase.  The variety of bands is great and the Mrs. Magician and A Giant Dog 7"s are both worth the price of admission on their own.  The box set packaging is outstanding with a hefty booklet & pin.  I can't really recommend it enough.  It is every bit as good as the first volume.  Windian is getting round three going now and you can be sure I will be pre-ordering that one as soon as I can.

The Apes - Bodies:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Overnight Lows - Bullshit Self 7"


Windian (2014)

Round 4 of the Windian Subscription Series brings us a band from Jackson, MS called Overnight Lows.  Sometimes I think that the world has just run out of band names with how goofy some are these days, but I actually think Overnight Lows is a pretty great one.  I've never heard of these folks before, despite what looks like a decent amount of records that came out a few years back.  I'm unable to really find anything that they've been up to recently, so I can't say for sure they're still around, but I also haven't seen any breakup announcement.

Overnight Lows play up tempo, catchy garage rock.  The vocals are ever so slightly snotty, but not in an annoying way at all.  They still keep a decent amount of melody in everything and they do a tremendous job of layering shout-along backing vocals into their songs.  Both are pretty good, but my favorite of the two is actually the B-side, "Steady Hands."

I'd be on the fence about buying this as a standalone record.  These are two fun songs, though I'm not sure how much I'd really listen to them on their own.  However, they are a great addition to the box set. Overnight Lows add another dimension to the proceedings and they are good enough to make me want to check out some of their other records and see how they are.

Overnight Lows - Steady Hands:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Ettes - Cry On My Shoulder 7"


Windian (2014)

The third 7" in the Windian Singles Series is from Nashville's The Ettes.  I can't say that it is my favorite of the bunch, but it's not bad either.

Side A contains the song "Cry On My Shoulder."  It's a slower paced, 50's style throwback with light, clean guitar and subdued vocals.  The vocals are so subdued and wispy that they really remind be of helium induced Ween more than anything else.  While certainly not a negative comparison, it does result in me thinking the song is kind of fun and lighthearted, which I'm not sure is really the vibe they were going for.

B side "Girl I'll Never Be" is a bit harsher and calls back to the 60's more than side A.  The vocals are a little stronger here, with a decent bit of snarl thrown in for good measure.  But the song is darker and not as easy of a listen as "Cry On My Shoulder,"

Both songs are totally fine.  It's a good enough record to be part of a singles series, but I just can't imagine going out of my way to buy it on its own.

The Ettes - Cry On My Shoulder:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mrs. Magician - Friday Night 7"


Windian (2014)

Number two in the Windian Singles Series is from one of my current favorite bands in the world, Mrs. Magician.  I will admit, one of the reasons why it's taken me so long to get around to writing about this box set is because I didn't want to listen to this Mrs. Magician 7" after the band had announced they were splitting up.  Their last full length, Strange Heaven, was just so perfect and my feeble brain couldn't cope with the fact that a band would walk away after releasing something that good.  Luckily, they changed their mind, got back together and are about to disappear into the ether to record their new album.

This allows me to listen to their Windian 7" with joy and anticipation rather than treating it like a funeral.  It's a relief too, because these 2 songs are incredible.  If they were the last 2 Mrs. Magician songs ever released, it would have been a shame.  But they're not so I can rejoice in the Beach Boys gone bad harmonies of "Friday Night."  With very light organ searing through the background, this song picks up right where Strange Heaven left off.  Everything peaks with a soaring, clap your hands along chorus, but then just to keep things interesting the band cuts everything to half time (I don't know if that is a completely technically accurate term, but they make the song slower) and ride out to the conclusion repeating "She was speaking in tongues, just like an angel."

The B-side, "Crosses," takes things into a slightly different direction.  The tone is more reminiscent of "Don't Flatter Yourself," where the band manages to take a reasonably slow song, but turns the dark factor way up.  Yet somehow, they manage to sneak in a ton of hooks and a chorus that rings out "I'm alright, I'm all ri-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yight."  It's just such great stuff.  I am counting down the days until I can hear more new music from Mrs. Magician.  They are pretty much the best band playing music right now and I just hope they can manage to stay together for many, many years to come.

Mrs. Magician - Friday Night:

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Giant Dog - Creep 7"


Windian (2014)

You guys know how much I love singles clubs.  Pay a bunch of money up front and then receive a record every month or so.  Some good, some bad, but always a fun time.  Windian Records takes a slightly different slant on the idea.  Rather than spread the records out over a several month period, they drop all five records in your lap on the same day, and they give you a fancy box set to boot.  It's a different take on the concept and I'll admit it's a pretty great looking set.  Plus, unlike other clubs, Windian actually lets you buy individual singles from the set if you want.  Though I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to grab all of them right away.

This first 7" in the 2014 club is by A Giant Dog.  Having really enjoyed their pink album from a few years ago, I was pretty excited to hear some new songs and the two on this record didn't let me down.  Fun, hooky and absolutely bursting with energy.  They have such powerful vocals and the way they interplay with the huge guitar and driving rhythm section is something to behold.

Both songs are every bit as good as anything on their last full length.  My only complaint is that it just leaves me wanting more.  I hope they're hard at work on another full length because I will absolutely be buying that on day one.

A Giant Dog - Creep:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Martha - Courting Strong LP


Salinas (2014)

This was the third of three records I bought from Salinas records.  I loved the Mapmaker record, but was pretty disappointed with the new one from Delay.  I'd say Martha is in between the two, but much closer to the Mapmaker side of the spectrum.

Now, that's not to say Martha sounds like Mapmaker at all, they couldn't be further actually.  Hailing from the UK, these guys trade in clean, jangle-y guitar that's bouncy and catchy.  The alternating boy/girl vocals make for a dynamic mix and allow for some incredible backing harmonies.  When the guy is singing, things seem a little faster and more energetic to me.  However, when the female vocals take the lead the songs are extremely catchy and the melodies are top notch.  It's really the best of both worlds and they remind me of the old Japanese band Cigaretteman a bit.

I'd never really heard of Martha prior to this album, and I really bought it on the strength of 1 song I heard while perusing the Salinas website.  It's always a risk buying records by bands you've never heard of before, sometimes you end up wasting money, but sometimes you end with something great like Martha.

Martha - Courting Strong LP:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Wet - Let's Get Wet 7" - Gray Vinyl


Tall Pat (2014)

This 7" is the debut release from Chicago's The Wet, and if the songs here are any indication, there's going to be some pretty good things in this band's future.  They're playing a mix of 60's influenced surf riffs with late 70's era punk attitude.  The guitar solos are there and the earth splitting lead vocals from Mae Day are roaring through this 7".

Tracks "Let's Get Wet" and "Miss You" are powerful, creeping along at a mid tempo pace, but barely containing the band's bristling energy.  To me though, the absolute stand out is "Bad Habit."  It's one part Baby Shakes style party rock, one part "I Want Candy" by The Strangeloves and one part whirlwind of profanity.  The poppy songs are always going to be the ones that appeal to me the most, and The Wet has my number with this song.

As I'm not in Chicago and certainly not keyed into their scene of up and coming rock and rollers, finding a band like The Wet this early in the game is great. Thank goodness for the discerning taste of Tall Pat Records.

The Wet - Let's Get Wet 7":

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Science Police / Zatopeks - Split 7" - Clear Vinyl (/100)


All In Vinyl (2014)

This 7" wraps up the 3rd volume of the All In Vinyl split 7" Singles Series.  Since Art Of The Underground vanished into the night (with some unfulfilled subscriptions floating around out there I would think), All In Vinyl stands tall as the kings of the 7" subscription package.  They put out records by bands I like and they don't take my money and not give me records unlike some other singles clubs (cough, cough...Cowabunga Records).  I hope they are already making plans for their 4th series.

From the US we've got Science Police.  They're playing Ramones friendly pop-punk that's short, catchy and sprinkled with some keyboards.  Though I wish they'd invest in some longer songs, the 3 on this 7" are a pretty solid introduction to the band.  I know some of these guys were involved in The Steinways, so I'm sure that'll make some additional people check these guys out.

For me, the highlight is definitely the Zatopeks.  These UK based punkers contribute two stellar songs.  Their first track "Hang Up My Hat"is pretty straight up pop punk, fast paced and like Science Police, quite catchy.  However, when you get to their second song, "All My Dreams Are Borrowed" this band shines.  It's a bit more bouncy and mid-tempo, giving the band a chance to catch their breath and focus on some melodies.  But what seals it for me are the absolutely killer backing vocals that really elevate this song to be something special.  They should do whatever it takes to make those backing vocals a permanent part of the band.  Just a great, great song.

Science Police / Zatopeks - Split 7":

Monday, August 18, 2014

Needles//Pins - Shamebirds LP - Blue Vinyl


Dirt Cult (2014)

Let's combine 2 of my very favorite things, Canadian rock & roll and Dirtcult records.  What you get is Shamebirds, another one of 2014's best albums.  Needles//Pins shouldn't be a new band to anyone that reads this website with any regularity.  Though I missed out on some of the early singles (get in touch if you have any you're willing to part with), I've been on board since before the band's last full length.

On Shamebirds, they're just upping the ante.  Needles//Pins churn out a fiery mix of garage attitude and power pop hooks.  You can put them on right after you're through listening to Seve Adamyk Band or Mother's children, but vocally I'm actually reminded a bit of John Reis.  The lead singer is a little gravely and a bit nasal, but still manages to carry remarkable melody through the songs.  Much like Reis is able to manage.  

It's hard to point to any standouts on Shamebirds as every song on the record is so strong.  There aren't any throwaways or filler here.  But if you have to start somewhere, check out "Far Better Off" or "Hate When You're Leaving."  Both encapsulate what Needles//Pins are all about. Tight, catchy songs that just blast out of your turntable; destined to be stuck in your heads for generations to come...

Needles//Pins - Shamebirds LP:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Edsel / Jawbox - Split 7"


DeSoto (1993)

Much like I did with Seaweed a few years ago, my mission now is to amass the entire discography of Jawbox.  I'm not really going out of my way to hunt anything down, but I am picking up the pieces when I see them.  This split 7" popped up in the used section of an online distro that I frequent, so I added it to my cart during a recent order.  It ended up being a bit more beat up than I anticipated, so this may end up only acting as a place holder until I find a better conditioned copy.

The Jawbox side was no real surprise here.  The song is "Savory" which is also on their full length For You Own Special Sweatheart.  It's just a tremendous song though.  Dark and ominous, without being brooding or over the top.  Plus, they still manage to sneak in enough hooks to keep me a happy camper. 

Edsel is a band I'm admittedly not as familiar with.  Sure they are fronted by Sohrab Habibion, now in Obits, but I don't really like most of the Sohrab Obits songs.  I can't say I was expecting much from their contribution "Penaluna," but it's actually not bad at all.  With high pitched, but gentle vocals and lead heavy guitar work, it holds up reasonably well to the Jawbox side.  If anything, it reminds me of some of the lower key Pixies songs, but Sohrab never freaks out the way Frank often does.

Jawbox - Savory:

Edsel - Penaluna:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Delay - Circle Change LP


Salinas (2014)

I was so excited when I saw that Delay had a new record coming out.  I've just loved the band since 2009's Plain Language.  I got several records from the great Salinas records that order, but Delay was the first one I put down on the turntable.  If you had told me prior to listening to it that it would end up being my least favorite of the bunch, I would have never believed you.

There's nothing inherently wrong with Circle Changes.  It's not bad and nothing jumps out as being particularly cringeworthy.  Its major crime is that it's just a slow, kind of boring record.  Just about every song sounds like the intro of a great song that's about to kick in any minute.  The problem is none of them ever kick in.  They all just meander along with no sizzle.  The only time on the whole record that they even slightly approach an upbeat tempo is on "Have My Back."  It's pretty good, but honestly would have been just a background time filler track on any of their other records.

I guess you could say it's a more mature record.  Perhaps it could also be considered to be taking things more seriously.  But for me, what I liked about Delay was their youthful energy and the breakneck speed they plowed through their jangle-y pop songs.  The jangle is still there, but the energy is just gone.

Delay - Circle Change:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beach Slang - Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken 7" - Green Vinyl (/100)


Dead Broke (2014)

I had tweeted out a couple of weeks ago that I tend to get the record labels Dead Broke and Dirtcult mixed up a lot.  Part of the problem is that I'm stupid and both labels begin with the letter D, but another part of it is that they both put out so many great records, I have a hard time keeping track which is which.  Once upon a time you could always trust Lookout records and you could buy just about anything that came out or you could say the same thing about Alias records for a little bit there.  In 2014, you're really not going to find many labels consistently putting out better records than these two.  And that's where Beach Slang comes in.

Due to my never ending love for all things 90's, I probably would have picked this up no matter what as ex-Weston would have sold it to me.  Not that I can say I'm a huge Weston fan or anything, but they certainly appeal to me more now than they did 20 years ago.  That being said if you pitched this to me as ex-Weston, I wouldn't have expected Beach Slang to sound like they do. 

All four songs on this 7" are significantly more melodic than anything Weston ever did.  And while it maybe lacking just a bit in the punch department, you'll never miss it as the band has structured such warm, powerful songs.  Musically they remind me of one of my all time favorite, but sadly forgotten bands, Tugboat Annie.  Vocally, the singer has a much raspier voice that does a phenomenal job of conveying real emotion without disintegrating into yelling or shouting about everything.  I also am incredibly lucky to have managed to snag one of the limited to 100 green vinyl copies.  They sold out incredibly fast.

The band is already working on a full length and I for one cannot wait for it.  As far as Dead Broke goes, you'll have to forgive me for not being able to write anymore about them as I have to go buy the Sonic Avenues LP they're reissuing right now.

Beach Slang - Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken 7":

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sweatshop Boys - The Great Depression LP - White Vinyl (/250)


Dirtcult / Drunken Sailor / Kuskus / Crapoulet / Rapt (2013)

I kind of missed the boat on Sweatshop Boys.  Well, if nothing else I certainly missed the window of having this be a timely review.  The Great Depression came out towards the latter half of last year and for one reason or another, I just never picked it up.  Even though it may not seem this way from reading my website; occasionally I don't have enough money to pick up every record I want right away.  As a result I just kept putting off Sweatshop Boys.

I wish I hadn't as this is a hell of a record.  The band hails from Israel, but draws influence from some of my favorite bands in the world.  I can hear a bit of the high speed chaos of the Marked Men, there's a few songs that have the simple pop melodies of White Wires and every so often you'll get a little downstroke heavy darkness like Red Dons.  You couldn't ask for 3 better touchstones than those.

With big sing-along choruses and tight snappy verses, this is a record that I really hope people gravitate towards quicker than I did. quite a few different record labels from around the world co-released it, so odds are pretty good you'll be able to find someone close to you that's helped put it out.  Grab it, it's fantastic.

Sweatshop Boys - The Great Depression:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Flesh Panthers - Nice Things 7" - Blue Vinyl


Tall Pat (2014)

When I went to Chicago for the first time last year I was struck by a handful of things.  The first was how stupid good the pizza is there.  But the biggest takeaway I had was how much it reminded me of New York City in the mid 90's.  It hasn't been bulldozed and rebuilt into a giant outdoor mall like New York has.  Chicago still has great record stores.  Chicago still has a bunch of good music venues.  Chicago still has a pulse and you certainly can't say that about Manhattan anymore.

Well, I guess when you have a city that's actually alive and kicking, you're going to get a band as great as Flesh Panthers.  They manage to take a '77 style punk rock energy, filter through a 2014 garage band aesthetic and then, just to make me happy, cram in ten thousand hooks into every song. They remind me a bit of Marvelous Darlings, but with the glam turned down and vocals that make me think of the band Year Zero.

These guys play with passion, they play with fire, but more than anything, they sound like they're just having a great time.  That goes a long way with me and from the second the needle drops on the lead song "Nice Things," I wish I was right up front at a Flesh Panthers show.  I'd be singing along and high-fiving everyone around me.  Can't wait to hear more from these guys.

Flesh Panthers - Nice Things 7":

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Godzilla - 1954 Soundtrack - Blue & White Atomic Breath Vinyl (/400)


Death Waltz (2014)

Before I type another word, I cannot give enough thanks to my friend @chris_whitehead for his help in acquiring this record for me.  Death Waltz records couldn't sell this to anyone in America due to licensing restrictions, so Chris bought it for me, had it shipped to his house, reinforced the packaging with extra cardboard and then shipped it to me in America.  Record collectors get a bad rep sometimes, but I've found that they are mostly great people.  Thanks to Chris, I have this record, if it wasn't for him I wouldn't.  Go follow him on Twitter, he does a pretty great radio show as well.

Even though it is 60 years old, the first Godzilla movie had never had its complete soundtrack issued on vinyl before.  There were a few score compilation albums out of Japan that highlighted some tracks and there have been CD versions of it, but this is the first time it's seen vinyl in its entirety.  For the most part, I'm glad it was Death Waltz that was the one to release it.

They've obviously taken great care to make this a special package.  The Blue & White Atomic Breath version was limited to 400 copies and to make it even more special, it is the only version that had a gatefold cover.  The quality of this album cover is unreal.  It's so thick if feels more like a hardcover book than it does a vinyl sleeve.  The quality is off the charts.

Musically, everything sounds as great as a 60 year old soundtrack could.  Limitations in the recording technology at the time surely cut down some of the fidelity, but if you are looking for the music to sound exactly like it does in the movie; welcome to paradise.  Akira Ifukube's soundtrack is just mesmerizing. Dark, foreboding and then uplifting and triumphant when needed.  The Main Title Theme would eventually become Godzilla's theme in many, many movies going forward.  I spent so much of my childhood watching Godzilla movies when I was younger and though I appreciate the 1954 original much differently now than when I was a kid; hearing this score just takes me right back.

I do have a few complaints, but they are relatively minor.  The first is that the price of this thing ended up being pretty insane.  It wound up costing me $72 in total with all of the shipping and currency exchange rates.  It's worth it to have this in my collection, but that's quite a punch in the wallet for one record.  

2nd is I'm slightly peeved at the artwork used.  I think the artwork as art is great, like I said earlier the packaging is beautiful.  But I don't think that the representation of Godzilla being used is really accurate to the 1954 ShodaiGoji suit.  The images used on both the cover and the gatefold are much more in line with the bulkier look that Godzilla was sporting during his 1990's films.  It's a small issue, but considering the effort that went into this package, I personally would have preferred that the imagery on the cover represent the Godzilla in the film that the soundtrack is of.

Even with those minor complaints, I would recommend this album in a heartbeat to anyone.  It's such a wonderful tribute to the amazing soundtrack of an equally amazing film.

Godzilla Main Title:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mother's Children - Lemon LP - Yellow Vinyl (/100)


Taken By Surprise (2014)

Before I start to write about the music, just take a look at that glorious yellow vinyl.  Nothing makes me happier than when a label really nails the color.  It's just perfect lemon yellow and I think it adds to the overall packaging quite a bit.

Lemon is the long awaited follow up to Mother's Children 2010 debut, That's Who.  I guess in the four years between records (Aside from releasing a few killer EPs) the band must have been sequestered in their Canadian bunker, tirelessly crafting a new bunch of pop songs to unleash into the world.  That's what I assume anyway, as the resulting record is fantastic and more focused than their debut.

While That's Who had a somewhat more relaxed vibe, Lemon feels tighter with more attention paid attention to detail.  The songs are catchy, the vocals are great and the band has always had heaps of attitude which comes through as well. The guitar work sounds polished without sounding overproduced.  It's really a case study in a band's ability to balance an upbeat, fun record that doesn't devolve into sloppy chaos or go too far the other way and have the production zap the fun and authenticity from the songs.  Mother's Children are just further proof that the best rock and roll in the world is coming from Canada these days.

Mother's Children - Lemon LP:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mapmaker - Critical Path LP


Salinas / One Percent Press (2014)

When Salinas records started announcing a slew of new releases that they were putting out, I immediately jumped on board.  I knew I wanted the new Delay record, having been a fan for a while, but there were 2 new bands that I was keen to check out, Martha and Mapmaker.  Of all 3 records, Mapmaker ended up my favorite, but I'm not sure I thought that the first time I put the needle down on this LP.

I'll be very blunt; the vocals are not going to be for everyone.  They're loud, distorted, blown out and way up front in the mix.  At first listen it's a little off putting and you immediately think "why would anyone record the vocals like that?"  That being said, the more I listen to this record, the more I love it. While slightly less harsh vocals would probably help the band a little in the long run, they bring a real feeling of urgency to Critical Path.

In a lot of ways, Mapmaker reminds me of the equally excellent Tenement.  Though they don't throw around Dino Jr. style guitar solos the way Tenement can; there's a similar seriousness and an intensity.  They manage to weave real energy into surprisingly melodic songs, considering all of the shouting.  Like Tenement, they're not afraid to get a little noisy, or a little lo fi; but they manage to pull it off in a way that makes complete sense at the end.

If you are looking for an album of serious, dynamic punk rock, you're not going to do much better than Mapmaker in 2014.  If you can appreciate the vocals, this is going to become a heavy rotation album for you.  Even if you have a harder time with them, the music and guitar work is so strong, I'd still be surprised if you didn't end up spinning this more often that you initially thought you would.

Mapmaker - Critical Path (2 Songs):