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.