Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Absolute Best Records Of 2015


Many times throughout the year I had commented on how 2015 seemed like a year that had a lot of really good records, but seemed to be lacking in drop dead great ones.  I'll admit that when I sat down to work on this list, I ended up being presented with a lot more records that I loved this year than I was expecting.  The top 20 in particular is damn strong.  Aside from Clearance, I didn't have those records that I just played non stop over and over again this year, but looking back at it, 2015 was nothing to sneeze at.  Some pretty good records came out this year.  I don't have time to discuss them all, but I do have some extra thoughts on a few.

The record that really did it for me this year was Clearance.  I am a sucker for Pavement, so when Clearance decided to pop by and pick up that torch, I was all too pleased to follow along.  It's such a perfect record from top to bottom.  I can't think of a record that I went back to over and over again as much as Clearance.  These guys are on the right track and I really hope they keep pumping out new tunes.

The Mountain Goats and Royal Headache also both received a ton of play out of me this year.  Even though the record was about pro wrestling and I figured that would be fun for a listen or two, I was shocked at how much I genuinely enjoyed the Mountain Goats, especially as I had never been that much of a fan previously.  Royal Headache was top notch, but there were a couple of songs in the middle of the record that slowed things down a bit and may have kept it from the top spot. Third of the year is still pretty great.  Good Shade technically was released digitally in 2014, but the LP came out this year, so it's going on my list.  Wonk Unit may not totally deserve to be on the list on a technicality as it's a compilation of previously released songs, but it was their first time on vinyl, and I hadn't heard them previously, so on it goes.

Lastly at number fourteen is Unlikely Friends.  I didn't review that record this year.  It didn't come out on vinyl, so I kept putting off buying it hoping it would eventually be released.  It didn't happen so I finally ordered the CD but I waited too long.  I'll get a review of that up first thing in the new year, but it's really worth a listen.

01 - Clearance - Rapid Rewards - Tall Pat (Listen)
02 - The Mountain Goats - Beat The Champ - Merge (Listen)
03 - Royal Headache - High - What's Your Rupture (Listen)
04 - Good Shade - Good Shade - Gut Genug (Listen)
05 - Wonk Unit - Feel The Wonkness - Drunken Sailor (Listen)
06 - Swami John Reis & The Blind Shake - Modern Surf Classics - Swami (Listen)
07 - Warm Soda - Symbolic Dream - Castleface (Listen)
08 - Red Dons - The Dead Hand Of Tradition - Taken By Surprise (Listen)
09 - Outtacontroller - Television Zombie LP - Southpaw (Listen)
10 - Lost Balloons - Lost Balloons - Alien Snatch (Listen)

11 - Widows Watch - This Message Repeats - Toxic Pop
12 - Radioactivity - Silent Kill - Dirtnap
13 - Hungry Tiger - Hungry Tiger - Sex Sheet
14 - Unlikely Friends - Solid Gold Cowboys - Jigsaw
15 - Sweet John Bloom - Weird Prayer - Tiny Engines
16 - Ash - Kablammo - E.A.R.
17 - Tenement - Predatory Headlights - Don Giovanni
18 - Beach Slang - The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us - Polyvinyl
19 - The Barreracudas - Can Do Easy - Oops Baby
20 - Beach Party - Broken Machine - Sex Sheet

21 - The Ballantynes - Dark Drives, Life Signs - La-Ti-Da
22 - ИO​​/​​​/​​​/​​sé - Lower Berth - 1859/Man In Decline
23 - The Blind Shake - Fly Right - Slovenly
24 - Nervous Talk - Nervous Talk - Hosehead
25 - King Khan and BBQ Show - Bad News Boys - In The Red
26 - The Sonics - This Is The Sonics - ReVox
27 - Built To Spill - Untethered Moon
28 - Mikal Cronin - MCIII - Merge
29 - Legendary Wings - Do You See? - Dirtnap
30 - Apocalypse Meow - The End Is Nigh - Sex Sheet/Rad Girlfriend

Other Records I Picked Up This Year:
Archers Of Loaf - Curse Of The Loaf - ARRA Music
Baby Shakes - Starry Eyes - Lil Chewy
Built In Sun - Built In Sun - PIAPTK
The Butterscotch Cathedral - The Butterscotch Cathedral - Trouble In Mind
Casual - Casual - Dead Broke / Square of Opposition
Hex Dispensers - III - Alien Snatch
Hysterese - Hysterese - Dirt Cult
Hospital Job - Never Get Cold - Rad Girlfriend / It's Alive
Jaill - Brain Cream - Burger
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Freedom Tower - Mom + Pop
The Knew - Schmew - Greater Than
Mandates - In The Back Of Your Heart - Hosehead/Taken By Surprise
Maniac - Demimonde - La-Ti-Da
Mac McCaughan - Non Believers - Merge
Nervosas - Nervosas - Dirtnap
Pale Angels - Imaginary People - Recess
Phylums - Phylum Phyloid - Dirtnap
The Rubs - The Rubs Are Trash - Tall Pat
Sanhose - Pi - Snuffy Smiles
Shadow In the Cracks - Shadow In The Cracks - Goner
The Soaks - The Soaks - Riot House
Spraynard - Mable - Jade Tree
Wavves - V - Mom + Pop
World's Fair - Leisurely - Rok Lok


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hospital Job - Never Get Cold LP - Purple Vinyl (/100)


Rad Girlfriend / It's Alive (2015)

It's very difficult to tell from this picture, but the vinyl color is actually a very dark purple.  You can really only notice when you hold it up to the light, but it's there.  This will be my last normal review for the year.  Tomorrow I'll be posting my end of the year list and then I'll take another little break until Monday of next week.  

Hospital Job comes in right under the wire as the last record I picked up in 2015.  It'll be the last one eligible for my year end list, but it's kind of difficult to rank (and review for that matter) as I've only been able to go through it a couple of times.  I am, however, familiar enough with the band from their past albums to know that if you like the prior Hospital Job records, chances are you'll dig this one as well.

I've always felt that Hospital Job walks a tightrope between the big guitar rock of ill fated major label rock bands of the mid 90's and poppy-punk sounds of the late 90's/early 2000's.  When the band is leaning on the crunchy guitar attack of bands like Treble Charger and The Figgs is when Hospital Job is at their best.  The times where they drift over to the sounds of bands like Blink-182 (which vocally they are always on the cusp of doing) are the times where Never Get Cold doesn't resonate as strongly with me.

The one thing you can count on when you listen to a Hospital Job record is a solid album with a handful of pretty great songs.  They never write any bad songs and there's usually enough monkeying around and weirdness thrown into the mix to keep things interesting.  I'm not sure that I'll ever rank them as one of my favorite bands, but I always end up enjoying their songs and will always buy their new records.

Hospital Job - Never Get Cold:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Apocalypse Meow - The End Is Nigh LP


Sex Sheet / Rad Girlfriend / Bigger Boat / Catnap / Night Animal (2015)

I ended up getting a few albums kind of late in the year and now I'm scrambling to get them reviewed in time for my end of the year list. Last year I posted my list on the 29th of December. This year, it's looking like the 30th will be when I'll be able to get it up.  I have to review today's record and one more LP for tomorrow.  There's a third, final album that I really should get to, but it's not going to be here in time.  I've listened to it enough times to rank it on my list, but it never got the proper review for the year that it should of because I held out hope for too long that it would eventually be pressed on vinyl.  The CD is now finally en route.

That being said, 2015 is ending on a positive note.  For today we have Apocalypse Meow.  They're a band with a silly name, but they are definitely not a jokey band.  The End Is Nigh is seriously good and I'm thrilled that Sex Sheet sent me this to review.  That's three for three from those guys; they are definitely a label to keep an eye out for.

If you have to categorize Apocalypse Meow, they definitely lean towards the pop punk end of the rock and roll spectrum.  They are not, however, one of those goofy pop punk bands singing about high school love problems.  The songs are tight, catchy and lyrically they stand out from the crowd.  One of the things I like the most about the album is the tone the band gets out of their guitar.  They eschew the big loud fuzz that you may expect from a band like this and instead employ a less distorted, but somewhat muddy tone that adds real warmth to their songs.  It sounds a little dirty, but it compliments the mood the band is creating on the album.

I honestly didn't go into this record with super high expectations.  Apocalypse Meow were a band I was aware of, but hadn't taken the time to listen to.  Aside from a goofy rap part in the middle of "Life Is Hard" that sounds like it was taken right out of the song "Tangerine Speedo" by Caviar, this is a great record top to bottom.  I wish I had a bit more time to spend with it before I make up my end of the year list, but rest assured,  The End Is Nigh will make the list.

Apocalypse Meow - The End Is Nigh:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Knew - Schmew LP


Greater Than Collective (2015)

The fine folks from the band The Knew sent me their LP recently as I had written some nice things about a prior 7" of theirs that had come out on Snappy Little Numbers.  While I'm not sure anything on this album hits me quite as hard as the two songs on that 7", there is no denying that Schmew is a fun album to take for a spin.

What originally drew me to The Knew, and what continues to be what I like most about this band, is their infectious party attitude.  The energy very much reminds me of the band W.H Walker.  The big difference is that where W.H Walker leaned more on older 60's rock references, The Knew take it a decade later and really seem inspired by poppier 70's glam.  Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy and all that.  For a modern reference, this album reminds me a lot of the band Napalmpom, though I think The Knew pulls off this style of music significantly better.

While I'll admit to being partial to the songs that are heavier on the power pop side of things like "We're Coming Back" and I could probably do with a few less screaming guitar solos, the record as a whole is just an upbeat good time.  While it's probably not the kind of record I can see myself listening non-stop on repeat (I'm just not as big on glam as some), if you are looking for a record to motivate you while you are dusting the living room, give Schmew a try.

The Knew - Schmew:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Just Jeffrey - Coffee, Tea & Me LP


La-Ti-Da (2015)

The man behind this Just Jeffrey album is Jeffrey McCloy, familiar to me (and maybe to you) from his work in Tranzmitors.  While McCloy recruited some musicians to help flesh out the tracks on this album, this is essentially his solo album and very much plays like one.

It's not unusual for someone who is used to the dynamics of being in a band to let loose a little when they start up a new project.  You can see lots of examples of this going well, but you'll find even more examples of this not working out at all (hi Eric Bachmann!).  Just Jeffrey kind of runs the gamut over the course of this record.  I really enjoy the more upbeat, mod leaning songs on Coffee Tea & Me like "Hello Eleanor" and "Disposable Culture".  He's tapping in to a catchiness that always gets my attention.  

Less successful are the handful of songs that are sparser and more introspective. There are times where I'm very much reminded of bands like So Cow and The 'Tone over the course of Coffee Tea & Me, but there are some times where it just sounds like some dude dicking around by himself.  Those are the songs that I don't get as much mileage out of.  Still, at eighteen songs there is a lot to like on this record.  A little editing probably could have made it tighter, but it's worth checking out regardless.

Just Jeffrey - Coffee Tea & Me:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Outtacontroller - Television Zombie LP


Southpaw (2015)

Sorry for the unannounced break at the end of last week.  Real life occupied my mornings for a bit, but things are getting back on track.  I can't think of a better return than being able to write about this Outtacontroller LP.  I really dug their last album and couldn't wait to get my hands on this new one.  It was definitely worth the wait and is every bit as good as their debut.

For some reason I think Outtacontroller tends to get left out of the conversation when people talk about all of the great Canadian bands that are floating around right now.  They very much fit in with the heavy hitters of that scene like Sonic Avenues and Steve Adamyk Band.  This album, in particular, also reminds me a lot of the second Something Fierce album There Are No Answers (also known as the really, really good Something Fierce album).

Outtacontroller are masters of stitching together downstoke heavy chord progressions, vocal harmonies and ultra catchy choruses.  The hooks on this album are, pardon the really, really bad pun, out of control and I've been playing this album pretty much nonstop since getting it in the mail the other week.

2015 is wrapping up and I'm getting my best of the year list in order.  Television Zombie is so good that it's really shaking up my list.  Don't be surprised to see them quite high on my list when it is eventually posted.  This is a hell of a way to close out the year.

Outtacontroller - Television Zombie:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Chandeli'ers - S/T 12"


Tender Buttons (2012)

This record is a few years old, but it just ended up on my radar recently courtesy of a tweet from the fabulous Dead Broke Rekerds.  All I needed to listen to was the first 30 seconds or so of the opening track "Sweet Time" and this was an immediate purchase for me.  The lightly distorted guitar with the bouncy riffs and mod-ish tendencies immediately made me think of the band Smalltown and that's all I needed to convince me to buy this 12".

The rest of this EP has some ups and downs, at least as far as song tempo goes.  The other two tracks on side A slow things down a bit but the alternating boy/girl vocals are wonderful and create some killer harmonies.  The B side picks the pace back up and at times reminds me a little bit of the poppier moments of The Ballantynes, especially with the prominent keyboards.

Chandeli'ers is a really easy band to listen.  They simply write good, catchy songs.  The rumor is these guys are working on a full length for next year and this EP has certainly built my anticipation to hear more from these guys.  

Chandeli'ers - S/T 12":

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lawsuit Models - Dudeman 7" - Red Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2015)

Somewhere along the line the word pop-punk turned into a criticism as opposed to a description.  These days, I feel like if you call a band pop punk you're somehow insinuating that you shouldn't be taking their music seriously.  It seems a bit silly to me as I've been know to take pop punk pretty seriously myself.  You should feel totally fine calling Lawsuit Models an awesome pop punk band and know that the band should take that as a compliment.

These guys have put two songs down on this 7" that take me right back to 1995.  You want a catchy hooks?  Both songs have them.  Want some of that palm muted, chugga-chugga, start/stop guitar work?  That's here too.  Octaves and guitar leads? Check and check.  You could just run down the list of everything that makes for a great punked out pop song and Lawsuit Models always seem to fit the bill.  Vocally, they remind me of a slightly smoother Paddy from Dillinger Four, though the songs in general are more upbeat and lean towards that 90's West Coast sound.

Snappy Little Numbers has done it again.  They always send me records by bands I have never heard of and miraculously they're always good.  Very few labels have that kind of track record.  I really dig this 7" and I'm hopeful the band is already hard at work mixing up some more pop punk greatness.

Lawsuit Models - Dudeman 7":

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Conan Neutron And The Secret Friends - The Enemy Of Everyone LP - Blue Vinyl


Seismic Wave (2015)

I virtually always mention when I am about to write about a record that someone sent me to review to help distinguish them from the records I actually buy.  I'm not sure where that need comes from, but it is just one of those things I do.  When I opened up the package containing this record I very much did a book/cover/judgment sort of thing based on the artwork.  It just didn't look like the sort of record that would be up my alley.  That being said, if you send me a full length record to review, damn it, I will review that record.  Luckily The Enemy Of Everyone was much better than I thought it was going to be.

That's not to say that I love this record or that it's the sort of see I can see myself listening to all that often.  It is heavier and more 70's glam rock leaning than I typically like.  But, it is way poppier and catchier than I would have anticipated from the art.  There are a lot of big, crunchy guitar riffs, some strong vocals and the drumming is really tight and locks down this entire record.  That's probably due to Dale Crover of the Melvins on drums.  Not that I'm really much of a Melvins fan either, but that guy sure can hit those drums with those sticks pretty good.

The albums starts out with a bang and "Casuually Intense" is arguably the best song on the album.  It's one of those upbeat and infectious songs that has a way of making you nod along whether you realize you were doing it or not.  The rest of the album is hit or miss for me.  The slower sludgier songs aren't really my bag and some of the faster ones drift a little too far into glam for my tastes as well.  While someone with more of an affinity for heavier bands would probably enjoy this record a lot more than me, Conan Neutron And The Secret Friends doesn't really captivate me in a way that would make me go back and listen again and again.  It's not bad (OK, the song "Fight Math" is kind of bad, but it's really the only one), it's just not really the sort of thing I tend to spend time with.

Conan Neutron And The Secret Friends - The Enemy Of Everyone:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Shadow In The Cracks - S/T LP


Goner (2015)

Discovering The Blind Shake is one of the smarter things I've done over the past few years (thanks again @swamipat).  Their potent blend of noise, punk and hooks have made quite an impact on me.  Shadow in The Cracks is two thirds of The Blind Shake (Jim & Mike Blaha) and chances are if you dig The Blind Shake, you will dig parts of this record as well.

I won't pretend to like this quite as much as I like The Blind Shake.  One of the things that I think really defines that band is how deceptively catchy they are.  Sure those hooks are buried deep in the grime, but they are there.  Shadow In The Cracks is much more of a dissonant record.  Not to say that there aren't any hooks, but the grime is thicker and there is a more experimental sound.  If anything, you'd have to say these are much more in line with the further out there, weirdo Blind Shake songs.

This Shadow In The Cracks album is an economical nine songs and thirty minutes long.  It's long enough to let the ideas of each song play out, but not so long that they become self indulgent or overbearing.  It's an interesting listen, with lots of unique ideas.  I hate to bring up The Blind Shake in nearly every sentence in this review, but that's going to be your touchstone as what to expect.  If you like one, it's probably likely that you'll like the other as well.

Shadow In The Cracks - "Timeless":

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Lost Balloons - S/T LP - Clear Vinyl


Alien Snatch (2015)

Very few things will get me to buy a record quicker than saying one of the guys from The Marked Men is in the band.  Not only was The Marked Men one of my very favorite bands, but every single other band that has splintered off in their wake tends to be incredible as well.  Just add the fact that the particular Marked Man on this record is Jeff Burke and there is literally no way I am not buying this, import from Germany or not.

The other important factor in Lost Balloons is Yusuke Okada of Suspicious Beasts and formerly of the great, great Japanese band Blotto.  Combine these two songwriting titans and you are essentially guaranteed a great record. Lost Balloons does not let down.  Both Burke and Okada share the singing duties on this record, but I would say that in general the sensibilities of Burke shine through a bit more.  You can certainly hear echoes of his other bands in quite a few of the songs.  Chances are that if you like The Marked Men or Radioactivity, there's a pretty good chunk of this record that will make you just as happy.

The remaining chunk tends to slow things down a bit and play with the texture of the songs.  While most of the songs on this album tend to be a bit poppier than the Suspicious Beasts records, Okada brings an element of experimentation to the party.  But don't assume catchy aspects of the songs are all Burke as when Okada was in Blotto, he knew a thing or two about creating perfect two minute punk rock hits.

Needless to say, I really dig this record.  If forced to choose (and I will be in a couple of weeks while making my best of the year lists), I might even say I like this album even better than the stellar Radioactivity release from earlier this year.  Lost Balloons is a can't miss collaboration of two tremendous songwriters.  Even as a pricey import, it's still very much worth picking up.

Lost Balloons - "Too Many Eyes":

Monday, December 7, 2015

The First Part - S/T EP (CD Single/Cassette)


Self Released (2014)

I stumbled across The First Part through fellow Texas band Gentleman Rogues.  As it turns out, both have members who were previously in a band that was active in the mid 90's called Jill.  I enjoyed those guys immensely and still go back to their their small, but potent discography all these years later.  While The First Part is not as straight up 1990's pop punk as Jill was, they still write supremely catchy songs and I really enjoy this first release of theirs.

This EP is available on two formats, a cassette and a CD single.  No vinyl, which is obviously the format of choice for me, but I'd rather have a CD any day of the week over a cassette only release.  So, kudos to the band for providing some options.  This EP starts out with the songs "Would Be Queen" and "The Catalyst."  Both are hook filled, mid tempo rockers that remind me a bit of Hospital Job if I'm going to make a current reference. Really good stuff.

Just when I thought I had The First Part pegged, the third song comes on, "Perfect Hair."  To me, this is totally different than the prior two songs.  It's heavy on harmonies and has a slight British Invasion feel to it.  It immediately makes me think of the Resonars and that is certainly not a bad thing.  Things wrap up with "Honor Among Thieves."  It's a great closing song with a driving rhythm section, jangling guitar riffs and soaring vocals.  A great capper to a very strong debut EP.  I hope to hear more from these guys soon.

The First Part - The First Part EP:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Beach Slang - The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us LP - Clear Vinyl (/800)


Polyvinyl (2015)

The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us is the first full length from Beach Slang, following up on two prior 7"s that I've also reviewed on this site.  While they maintain a similar sound, there's something about The Things We Do... that gives it more impact and makes it feel like it's making a real statement.

When I listen to the record, the statement I hear it making is that singer James Snyder is getting older and at times doesn't really know what to do with himself.  He spends a lot of time singing about being young or conversely being older.  I described James Snyder to a friend as a living, breathing Instagram filter.  There are times where things come across a little over dramatic and perhaps borderlining on cheesy, but in general Synder's filter is one that highlights specific details and brings aspects of his stories into sharper focus.

Musically, this is a band that's trying to channel the raw emotion of bands like The Replacements and to a lesser extent Jawbreaker.  Snyder's prior band Weston dealt in the currency of upbeat catchy pop punk tunes.  Beach Slang is much more somber in nature, but still manages to maintain the hooks that you'd come to expect from a guy who served time playing 90's pop punk.  As I'm sure it's obvious to long time readers, I'm a total sucker for 90's pop punk, but Beach Slang blows away anything Weston ever did. 

As someone who is also getting older (today is my 39th birthday, actually) and who also doesn't always know exactly what to do with himself (let's face it, look at all these records I'm still buying), it is interesting to hear a record that seems pointed towards folks in my age group.  While I may not love this record quite as much as a lot of other people seem to judging from the never ending stream of extremely positive reviews I've seen, I do think this is a pretty great record and absolutely one worth checking out.

Beach Slang - The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sanhose - π Japanese Cassette


Snuffy Smiles (2015)

I had already discussed the music on π Japanese back when I reviewed the CD version of this album a couple of months ago.  You can read that here, but to briefly recap, this is a sterling example of a Japanese punk rock band putting out a record on Snuffy Smiles.  Fast, catchy and just one of my favorite strains of melodic punk rock music.

Despite my typical aversion to cassettes, the real reason I needed to get this on top of already owning the CD version really just comes down to the matrix number used.  Snuffy Smiles has 2 matrixes that they use: SMILE-xxx for CDs and SNUFF-xxx for 7"s and LPs.  While I do not quite have a complete collection of Snuffy Smiles CDs, I do have all of the 7"s, all one hundred and thirty something so far.  When this cassette was released, Snuffy Smiles used the SNUFF-131 matrix number and that meant there was sort of a hole in my 7" collection.

I realize that probably doesn't make a ton of sense.  Sure, I'm not actually missing a 7" but just having that gap in the numerical order drove me crazy.  Luckily the Dead Broke Rekerds distro restocked this tape, so I picked it up and once again the collection is complete.  At least until the next batch of 7"s.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wavves - V LP - Purple Vinyl


Mom + Pop (2015)

V is the newest album from Wavves, though it's only the III one of theirs that I've picked up.  I've been paying attention since 2010's King Of The Beach.  Since then, Wavves has been a pretty reliable band for me.  While I don't think they've ever released a slam dunk classic of an album, they have a respectable catalog of songs and it's always a good time when I break out one of their records.

V starts off the way it seems that most Wavves albums start, with the very best song right up front.  "Heavy Metal Detox" is everything you'd look for in a Wavves song.  Upbeat, tight chorus, wacky lead riff could go so far as to say it's quintessential Wavves.  The rest of the album follows suit.  I would rank this ahead of 2013's Afraid Of Heights album, but it doesn't quite reach the level of King Of The Beach.

Chances are that if you are playing catchy, punk pop with big guitars and bigger choruses I'm going to like your record.  Maybe Wavves haven't knocked me on my ass with the perfect song, but there's something to be said for putting out three extremely solid records that are fun to listen to.  That's a formula that will get me to pick up the next record every time.

Wavves - "Heavy Metal Detox":

Monday, November 30, 2015

Beach Party - Broken Machine LP


Sex Sheet (2015)

A few weeks ago I had reviewed another Sex Sheet record by a band called Hungry Tiger.  At the time I called it potentially the best unsolicited record I was ever sent to review.  One of the records that is its main competition came in the same package from the same label.  Sex Sheet also sent this Beach Party record and it's also on the short list of greatest records anyone has ever sent me for review.

There are a lot of beach bands these days: Beach Slang, Beach House, those pesky Beach Boys.  For future bands, I think the word beach is pretty well used up at this point.  That being said, Beach Party is worth every bit as much of the attention that those other bands have been receiving.  Beach Party is playing a 90's leaning indie rock that owes something of a debt to the lead guitar shredding of bands like Dinosaur Jr.  I wouldn't say that Beach Party sounds much like Dinosaur Jr. overall, it's mainly the lead guitar riffing.  

The band leans more towards the poppier side of things reminding me at times of Superchunk, but certainly occupying the same space that melodic bands like Overwhelming Colorfast did. The two singers layer on some great harmonies in the always catchy choruses and elevate each vocal melody.  Songs like "Hardwick," "Nightmares" and "Carelessly Undefined" really drive the point home and are some of the highlights of the album.

Beach Party was not on my radar at all.  If I hadn't been sent this record to review, I'm not sure I would have ever found it on my own and that would have been a real shame.  It's one of the better records of the year so don't miss out.

Beach Party - Broken Machine LP:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pleasers - Reject Teen 7" - Yellow Vinyl (/100)


Southpaw (2015)

This will conclude my three day run of Matthew Melton related 7"s released on Southpaw records.  I have saved the best for last as this Pleasers 7" is miles better than the other two.  That being said, I don't completely understand why Melton formed another band that for all intents and purposes sound pretty much exactly like Warm Soda.  If Warm Soda broke up, I could understand, but I'm a bit confused as to why he needs two bands that sound like this (and a solo record that only strays slightly from the formula).

I'm not going to get too worked up about it as both songs on this 7" are quite good.  A-side "Reject Teen" spins a yarn about not fitting in during high school and some of the hijinks gotten into.  It's a bit goofy, lyrically, but the song is saved by a super catchy vocal melody and some good lead guitar work.  The thing that most reminds me of Warn Soda is the same type of click track style drumming and what ever they do while recording to make the snare drum sound like it was plucked from a 1986 Boogie Down Productions album.

On the flip is "Judy."  It's slightly lower key in nature, but just as easily stuck in your head.  The highlight being the way the pre-chorus gradually builds into the simple but ultra catchy hook.  Of the two songs I probably prefer "Judy," but both are excellent and could easily work their way on to a Warm Soda full length and fit right in.  Of the three 7"s I've reviewed this week, this one is the one I most recommend picking up.

That's going to wrap up this week as tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I'll be back on Monday, but don't forget that PopKid records is having a black Friday sale at  Help me clear out some of these old records and make room for a new LP coming in 2016.

The Pleasers - Reject Teen 7":

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Matthew Melton - Too Many Hearts Lack Lovers 7" - Red Vinyl (/100)


Southpaw (2015)

As I had mentioned yesterday, I was a little disappointed with the newest Warm Soda 7".  After knocking it out of the park with their full length earlier this year, I felt that the 7" was OK, but not anywhere near as good.  Today, we have Matthew Melton of Warm Soda's solo 7".  This is also following up a solo LP that I enjoyed quite a bit, but just like the Warm Soda 7" from yesterday, these two new songs are something of a let down.

I'm not sure what exactly is going on with these new Melton tunes, they feel so weirdly produced and so very, very 1980's.  The recording has this swirling ambience that gives the songs an odd dream-like feeling.  I don't really like either of these two songs.  "Too Many Hearts Lack Lovers" covers Melton's often revisited topic of heartbreak.  Typically, he wraps those discussions in a power pop coating that makes everything seem optimistic despite the breaking of the heart.  This time, the song is just a major league bummer.  I have about as much hope for the situation as I do after listening to "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics.  Which is to say no hope at all.

On the B-side "Was It A Song" isn't quite as much of a downer, but it's kind of a throwaway song.  It's a simple mid tempo song with a clockwork drum pattern and is just sort of there.  I wouldn't say it's bad, but it's just not the sort of thing that really grabs your attention.  

It's kind of odd writing such a critical review of something Matthew Melton is involved in.  He's done so much that I really love including releasing one of my very favorite albums of the year with Warm Soda.  Unfortunately this 7" just doesn't work for me.  Hopefully it's more of a blip on the radar than a sign of things to come.

Matthew Melton - "Too Many Hearts Lack Lovers":

Monday, November 23, 2015

Warm Soda - Renegade Mode 7" - Blue Vinyl (/100)


Southpaw (2015)

I think I'm going to knock out the 3 new Matthew Melton related 7"s that I recently picked up from Southpaw records.  I'll start up with the Warm Soda one.  I was relieved to have been able to pick up a copy on the limited to 100 blue vinyl.  My understanding is those sold out pretty quick.  While I'm not sure either song is as good as anything from the most recent Warm Soda full length, it's still a fun little 7".

"Renegade Mode" is upbeat with a little dash of synthy keyboard lead.  It's not the octave rock party that that their full length Symbolic Dream was, but it still keeps the music catchy and the vocals breathy.  The song was originally available on a split cassette that the band sold on a tour, so it's nice to have the tune committed to wax.

On the B-side we have a completely new song, "No Place To Fall."  I can't say I'm as big of a fan of this one.  It's built primarily on low key drums and bass, with a smattering of guitar accenting here and there in the verse.  The chorus sounds much fuller than the skeletal verse, but in general this feels very much like the kind of song that would have come out in the 80's.  It's not really my thing as I prefer when Melton & co keep things fast and loose.

Oh, in other news and if you care at all, I just posted a news update about PopKid records on the PopKid website.  So give it a look if you can.  Or don't if you can't.  Your call: 

Warm Soda - "Renegade Mode":

Friday, November 20, 2015

Your Pest Band - Never Fall You Again 7" - Test Pressing (/10)


Brassneck (2015)

I'm not going to write about the music again, you can read yesterday's review of this same 7" for that.  When I purchased the regular version of this record, I also won a copy of the test pressing.  I was pretty psyched, I never really win anything, so that was neat.  Brassneck made a special sleeve and they're hand numbered out of ten copies.

Pretty neat.

Your Pest Band - Never Fall You Again 7":

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Your Pest Band - Never Fall You Again 7"


Brassneck (2015)

I've been a huge fan of the Snuffy Smile(s) record label for decades at this point.  They've released records by some of my very favorite bands of all time.  But of all the bands to spring from that fertile scene in Japan, I have never seen one as prolific as Your Pest Band.  These guys put out so many records it's actually difficult to keep up at times.  In addition to the sheer number of records they release, the myriad of different styles they manage to incorporate into their songs is kind of nuts.

This wonderful 7" on Brassneck records is a great example of Your Pest Band in a nutshell.  The record starts off with "Never Fall You Again," a slower paced song with liberal use of a keyboard melody that accentuates the earnest vocals.  On the surface it may seem like an odd song for Your Pest Band, but the way it's recorded and the sounds they are able to capture makes it fit right in with their prior work.

We then move on to "Escape" which is much more of a traditional upbeat and catchy punk rock ripper.  When Your Pest Band unleashes a song like this, they do it better than almost any band I can think of.  There's a certain strain of punk rock that Japanese bands have perfected and this is a shining example of that.  The 7" closes with "You Fit."  With its bouncy rhythm section and shining acoustic guitar, it almost has something of a Tom Petty sound to it.  It's impressive the way the band can put out a 7" with three absolutely different songs, but yet they all manage to compliment each other and all sound unquestionably like Your Pest Band.

Your Pest Band - Never Fall You Again 7":

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Archers Of Loaf - Curse Of The Loaf 2xLP


ARRA Music (2015)

Let's stick with another 90s band this week, and one of my absolute favorites, Archers Of Loaf.  Curse Of The Loaf is a live album recorded over 2 days at Cat's Cradle in 2011.  At the best of times I don't love live albums.  Some of my favorite bands have them, Rocket From The Crypt, Snuff, Letherface and more, and they don't come up in rotation all that frequently.  It was more of a need to keep my collection complete that I purchased this Archers record.  I will admit, I'm pretty surprised by how great it is.

First off, the song selection is stellar.  There's only one song from that turd of a record White Trash Heroes and only a couple from the somewhat disappointing All The Nations Airports.  Everything else is solid gold taken from the high point in the band's existence, their first two albums and their Vs. The Greatest Of All Time EP.  The recording quality is quite amazing.  The vocals are crisp and clear, but they're not unusually loud sitting on top of the music the way a lot of live albums can go.  The band sounds big and powerful and still tight after all that time apart.

Even when they played the one song that I actively don't like, "Dead Red Eyes," within the context of the show, surrounded by all of these other amazing songs it doesn't even sound so bad.  I think I would have saved it for a deeper cut rather than plop it down as track number three, but still, it's the most I've ever enjoyed that song.

Usually when I have a live album from a band I listen to it once, maybe twice and file it away into the collection.  I've already listened to Curse Of The Loaf way more times than I typically would.  It's a testament to just how good the recording is and also how great this slice of songs from their catalog is.  It sounds like one of the best shows you could have gone to, although since the songs were culled from 2 days, I'm not entirely sure which day each song was recorded or what the actual set list from either looked like.  Still, it's a hell of a live record.

Oh, it comes with a live DVD as well, but I haven't actually watched that yet.

Archers Of Loaf - Curse Of The Loaf 2xLP:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jawbox - S/T LP


Dischord /DeSoto (2015, Reissue)

Since I was already in the reissue state of mind with yesterday's Built To Spill LP, I figured I would keep that going today with the new reissue of the final Jawbox album.  The big difference between yesterday and today is that with Built To Spill, I was writing about an album that I had 20 years of history with and had listened to hundreds of times.  Jawbox, on the other hand, is a band I completely missed out on the first time around and have only started picking up their records over the past couple of years.

The good news about getting into Jawbox right now is that most of their albums have recently been reissued.  This S/T final album of theirs was the last one I needed.  I'll still be on the hunt for some 7"s, as I want to complete the collection, but I do have all of their full lengths on vinyl now.  I'm not sure what the perception of this record was when it originally had been released.  I don't remember it being as big of a deal as some of their prior albums, but again, I couldn't say I was paying very close attention back then.  

What I can say is that this is a pretty stellar record.  The one thing I didn't know back in the 90's and the thing that I still don't think Jawbox gets enough credit for is how catchy some of their songs can be.  Even though their music is complex, with lots of interesting shifts and chord progressions, they manage to sneak in some of the catchiest hooks into their choruses.  All you need to do is look to songs like "His Only Trade," "Excandescent" or "Mirrorful."  While decidedly more complex than your run of the mill poppy punk song, you can argue that they're every bit as catchy the moment the chorus blasts off.  It's a remarkable show of songwriting talent and it's really what keeps me coming back to these records.

Hopefully you were paying more attention than me and already know how great Jawbox is, but if not, you can grab just about all of their records on the cheap now.  Too me, they seem like the sort of albums that should be n everyone's collection.

Jawbox - "Mirrorful":

Jawbox - "Excandescent":

Monday, November 16, 2015

Built To Spill - There's Nothing Wrong With Love LP - Yellow Vinyl


Up/Sub Pop (2015, Reissue)

I first discovered Built To Spill, probably sometime in 1995.  At the recommendation of a friend, I picked up the "So And So, So And So From Wherever, Wherever" 7" from a used bin.  I was pretty floored with how great it was and that continues to be one of my favorite Built To Spill songs all these years later.  Very soon after that, I grabbed a copy of this record.  I am one of the lucky ones who has been sitting on an original pressing of There's Nothing Wrong With Love for about 20 years.  Because of that, I'm probably not quite as excited about this reissue as a lot of folks are, but I still decided to pick up a copy and at least I can compare it to the original pressing here.

So as far as the pressing itself goes, I think it sounds great.  It's every but as warm and inviting as my original copy.  The treble leaning guitars shimmer just as brightly and the low end of the bass is as full as it has ever sounded.  Unlike the recent Leatherface reissues where I could notice a real difference between the original and new pressings, There's Nothing Wrong With Love sounds just as good as the original.  From a sound standpoint, there's no reason to not grab this pressing and be pretty content.

Musically, this album is just wonderful.  Though I think Built To Spill eventually topped this when they released Keep It Like A Secret, There's Nothing Wrong With Love still stands as my second favorite of their records.  The songs are not as complex as some of the extended jams they would go on to release later in time, but there is something so perfect about the simplicity and honesty of this album.  The songs are all supremely catchy and with surefire classics like "Car," "Big Dipper" and "In The Morning," some of Doug Martsch's very best work is collected here.

If you've been one of the many waiting so long for this reissue, there's no reason to be on the fence.  It is absolutely worth picking up and is really an essential part of any good indie rocker's record collection.

Built To Spill - "Car":

Built To Spill - "In The Morning":

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Butterscotch Cathedral - S/T LP - Orange Vinyl


Trouble In Mind (2015)

This Butterscotch Cathedral record is one that I had been looking forward to ever since I first heard about it.  I was admittedly late to the party when it came to The Resonars, but I really enjoyed the soaring British Invasion style harmonies.  Once I heard that Matt Rendon had another band and was putting out this album, I waited in anticipation and then ordered a copy the day it went on sale.

After spending some time with Butterscotch Cathedral, I have mixed feelings.  I'm not sure how to describe it other than I don't think it's bad, but I don't really enjoy listening to it. Many of the things that I like about The Resonars are here.  Huge vocal harmonies mix in to predominantly upbeat and catchy songs.  There's some nice guitar work and a rhythm section that can really get your head nodding from time to time.  At the end of the day, I think these positives get lost in the meandering psychedelic aspects of the album.

First off, this record is essentially three songs.  Side A is one song.  Though that song is then split up into seven sections.  On side B you have one song called "Loud Heavy Sun" and then a second song called "Lisa's Dream."  "Lisa's Dream," however, is then broken up into nine parts.  I'm not entirely sure why the album is arranged like that, but whatever, that's not a deal breaker. What does drag the album down for me is the way the band sinks into these overblown and self indulgent moments of oohing and ahhing complete with swirling noise and over the top guitar solos.  

We've got some machine gun sound effects here and little dream sequences there.  Looking for a call back to an earlier moment?  Yep, it's got those too.  While I can't say that the songs themselves are bad, I think the album is a little gimmicky and gets bogged down in extra noise that detract from the songs rather than enhance them.  I've ended somewhat bummed out by the record.  I wanted to like it more than I do but it looks like I'll just wait for the next Resonars album.

The Butterscotch Cathedral - Side A:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Yolks - Don't Cry Anymore 7"


Randy / Bachelor (2015)

When I came across the first Yolks record, I became an instant fan of the band.  That record was so catchy and just so much fun it would have been pretty difficult to not get caught up in its infectious grooves.  On the second Yolks album, Kings of Awesome, the band changed things up a little bit.  They took a somewhat mellower approach overall with mixed results, for me at least.  I liked it sure enough, but it didn't grab me like their first LP.

This newest Yolks 7" is kind of a like a microcosm of those feelings.  The A-side reminds me of a lot of the songs on Kings Of Awesome.  Built over a gently strummed, distortion free guitar, "Don't Cry Anymore" is a showcase for the softer, Everly Brothers influenced sounds The Yolks have been tinkering with.  Tightly woven vocal harmonies put a bow on this package and while it's a perfectly good song, it's difficult to get too excited about.  The best way I can sum it up is that I just think it's a nice song to listen to, but not an attention grabber.

However on the B-side we have "I Wanna Be Dumb."  This one is very much a throwback to the first Yolks album.  Loud, fuzzy and brash; this is the version of the Yolks that I like the best.  Just a bunch of dudes pounding out downstrokes, but keeping everything nice and melodic.  I'll never say I dislike the A-side, but songs like "I Wanna Be Dumb" are what keep me coming back for more Yolks records.

The Yolks - Don't Cry Anymore 7"

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Clearance - Rapid Rewards LP


Tall Pat / Unsatisfied (2015)

It's possible that you've read my lament about how 2015 has been a year of quite a few good records. Some of them have been very good, but what I think 2015 has been lacking so far is drop dead great records.  The instant album of the year contenders.  It may have taken until November to get there, but please everyone welcome Clearance.  They have not only created a great record, but as it stands right now, I'm calling it and saying this is the best record of 2015 so far.  There's only a month and a half left in the year, but it's going to take a hell of a record to knock Clearance out of my top spot.

A recurring theme for me is that I tend to favor bands that have a 90's leaning sound.  I think that the music you listen to in those formative late high school/early college years becomes your base and there's always a part of you looking for sounds that excite you in the same way.  Clearance has that in spades.  Not only does this record knock me off my socks now, I'm positive they would have been just as much of a heavy hitter in 1995 as well.

Clearance is playing the sort of warm, jangly indie rock that I adore.  Vocally they're very reminiscent of Pavement with a talking sort of delivery and obtuse lyrics.  On the music side, while you can get hints of Pavement there as well, I tend to think that Clearance pulls together a slightly tighter sound.  It's more deliberate, not as ramshackle and doesn't drift out into weirdo noise freak-outs as Pavement was wont to do.  Rapid Rewards is thirteen songs of glorious mid tempo pop.  I dare you to listen to the churning rhythm of "You've Been Pre-Approved" or the bright, cherry guitar part making up the bridge of "Rather Not Bother" or the fuzzy background squall of "Swiftboating (Onto The Reels)" and not be blown away.

I had very nice things to say about both of Clearance's prior 7"s.  Those were some great songs and are absolutely worth picking up.  But man, Rapid Rewards is light years ahead of those records and is without a doubt the best record I have listened to all year.  See you in December for the Absolute Best Records of 2015 list.  I'm saving a spot for Clearance right at the very top.

Clearance - Rapid Rewards LP:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Wooden Waves - Wilder Dreams LP


One Percent Press (2015)

If you send me a full length LP, it's a guaranteed review out of me.  Though honestly, if you send me most anything I'll eventually review it.  (Though the dude in Buffalo that sent me 13 cassettes is probably going to have to wait a little bit for those.)  When I received this Wooden Waves album in the mail, I had high hopes.  The artwork made it look like the sort of playful indie rock record that I enjoy.  Low and behold, I do enjoy it.

Playful indie rock is a reasonably good description for Wooden Waves, but I can't help but feel it sounds somewhat dismissive of the band's songwriting chops.  These are not throwaway novelty songs.  Wooden Waves has gathered a very stong set of songs rooted in a sort of jumpy, 90's indie rock sound.  Perhaps a more upbeat Silver Scooter with some early Jejune style of back and forth vocals?  Maybe a slightly less fuzzy version of Tugboat Annie?  Regardless of what touchstones you want to use, fact is, this is a pretty great record.

One of my absolute favorite things about doing this dumb little website is discovering a new band thanks to someone else getting in touch with me.  So thanks One Percent Press, you've made a new fan for Wooden Waves.  Hopefully I can do the same for someone else reading this.

Wooden Waves - Wilder Drerams LP:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dickie Hammond - 1965 - 2015

Dickie Hammond
Photo by @AlanRappa

I've been sitting with the news that Dickie Hammond died for a few days now.  I've posted about it briefly on Twitter and I also re-tweeted a few little articles about it, but in general it's been something that I've just been thinking about a lot.  Considering I've never met him, it's amazing the profound influence he's had on my life.  I only had the pleasure of seeing him play with Leatherface one time and for reasons I'm not sure of, I didn't say hello to him.

Leatherface has been one of my top tier favorite bands since I first heard them.  I admittedly got into them kind of backwards and perhaps a bit later than some other folks.  I am pretty sure the first time I had heard them was in 1995 or 1996 when I purchased the Do The Right Thing CD single at Flipside records in New Jersey.  I had really gotten into the band Broccoli and was told that Leatherface would be right up my alley as they were sort of the grandfathers of that sound.

Ever since that moment I have simply been obsessed.  I tracked down every record of theirs I could find, including a great many of them on a trip to England in 1997 that consisted almost exclusively of trips to record shops.  I paid $110 for a copy of Mush on Vinyl in the earlier days of eBay (Outbidding Billy of Dillinger Four it turned out).  I flew to England to see Leatherface, Snuff and Wat Tyler play a show to memorialize Andy Crighton.  

Leatherface stayed at my apartment when I was in college for a night after a show in New York City. This and the Andy gig were both Dickie-less versions of the band, but rest assured, Dickie was always there in spirit as the band raced through so many of the genuine classics that he helped craft.  

Listening to Leatherface not only made me love that band, but it really shaped the way I looked at music and specifically punk rock.  While the sounds that poured out of their records were fierce and blistering with energy, they had humanity in them.  Soul, if you will.  These were not a bunch of angry punks shouting, these were artists crafting magnificent and beautiful songs.  To this day, if I read a review comparing any band to Leatherface, I always go and take a listen.  I've discovered so many bands this way and the number of bands I listen to that were influenced by Leatherface is almost impossible to count.

I also don't want to pigeonhole him with Leatherface.  I have records by HDQ, Doctor Bison, The Jones and Stokoe that all benefit from this man's mastery of the guitar.  Everything he touched turned to gold, but Leatherface is always the one that spoke to me the most.

Dickie Hammond is one of the greatest guitar players I have ever heard.  The world is a sadder place without him.  I feel so awful for the people that actually knew him, were friends with him and shared stories with him.  Their loss eclipses mine by a mile.  What I can say is it's depressing to think that I will never hear any new sounds emanating from his guitar.  It's a real bummer, but I take solace in how much joy this man has brought me over the years.  How many perfect records he was a part of.  How he set me down a path that would help me discover so many bands and meet so many people that I consider friends.  I didn't know him and he didn't know me, but despite that, I will never forget Dickie Hammond.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dirty Few / Rootbeer And Mermentau - Set 'Em Free Split 7" - Gray Vinyl (/300)


Snappy Little Numbers (2015)

Snappy Little Numbers has quietly become one of my favorite labels over the past few years.  With little fanfare they've steadily built the sort of catalog that showcases newer, incredible bands.  They always manage to turn me on to some new sounds and every time I get a package in the mail from them there is much rejoicing.

First up in their new batch of releases is a split 7" with two bands: Dirty Few and Rootbeer And Mermentau.  Starting up with Dirty Few, the guitar sequel in the first seconds of "Yo Loco" instantly took me back to the opening moments of The Figgs song "Favorite Shirt."  From there, the band settles in to a more of a stomping garage sound that reminds me a lot of Welfare Problems era Randy.  Both songs on their side of the split are catchy and energetic.  I've never heard of these guys before, but it's a solid first showing.

On the flip side is Rootbeer And Mermentau.  Now, as a big fan of the beverage root beer, I was hopeful that the band would do justice to their namesake.  While taking a somewhat similar tact as Dirty Few, Rootbeer And Mermentau leans more towards a fast paced, lo fi sound.  At times they remind me of the more heated moments of Boyracer.  Again, both songs are pretty good, but with a gun to my head, I probably prefer the Dirty Few side of the record.

It's always worth giving a Snappy Little Numbers release a spin.  I'm rarely disappointed and always end up with some new bands to listen.  Oh and if Mr. Snappy is reading, any new Hooper music in the future? The world is waiting for more of that greatness.

Dirty Few / Rootbeer And Mermentau - Set 'Em Free Split 7":

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Son Of A Gun - No Bread LP - Mixed Vinyl


Tall Pat (2014)

I'm still marching my way through the Tall Pat records that I picked up while in Chicago to see Drive Like Jehu.  While I had known that I fell somewhat behind on things, I didn't realize it had gotten so bad that I hadn't bought albums that had come out in 2014.  Well, shame on me because that's when this Son of Gun LP was released.

I couldn't tell you why I was denying myself this album.  Son Of A Gun are another in a line of great bands playing that Tall Pat Sound .  Son Of A Gun just tear through the album's twelve tracks, leaving a pile of hooks and energy to spare in their wake.  You're going to get the catchy choruses that keep me coming back to the table, but the songs all have that slight grimy haze to them that keeps things crunchy and honest.  

When No Bread is firing on all cylinders, the band takes the very best moments of 60's garage trash, but filters it through a modern lens, never sounding like a rehash of something from the past.  It's an impressive balancing act and one I can't see many bands being able to pull off like this.  If you can't tell, I really dig these guys.  If you like your rock leaning on the garage side, but you still want catchy songs and a strict avoidance of psych-rock trappings; Son Of A Gun is absolutely worth checking out. 

Son Of A Gun - No Bread LP:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Jawbox - My Scrapbook Of Fatal Accidents 2xLP - Purple Vinyl (/400)


Arctic Rodeo (2015, Reissue)

Long time readers of my website know that the two bands I most regret not listening to in the 90's are Seaweed and Jawbox.  I've gotten into both way after the fact and had to do some digging to get those records into my collection.  Seaweed was tough, but I've been pretty lucky to have been presented with quite a few Jawbox reissues to make their quest a little easier.  I was especially excited to see that Arctic Rodeo was involved in this 2xLP as they did such great work with their Burning Airlines reissues.

That high water mark for quality is still being met with this Jawbox reissue.  The artwork is printed on thick, sturdy cardstock.  There's not one, but two hefty booklets with pictures, discography information and what looks to be a list of every single show the band ever played.  I'm pretty blown away by everything before even listening to it.

Musically, it just annoys me that I wasn't able to appreciate this band when they were around.  The way they are able to craft serious, powerful songs, but still cram in deceptively catchy hooks and melodies is something that so few bands are able to do.  This album compiles a slew of 7" and compilation tracks, a Peel session and a few live nuggets.  It's a pretty essential add on to the other Jawbox full lengths.

At an hour and twenty minutes, it is a bit long to get through in one sitting.  I've always thought forty-five minutes was a pretty ideal album length, though I certainly understand the desire to present as complete a package as possible and wouldn't dream of cutting anything from this set.  You'll just need to block off a bit more time to listen to it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hungry Tiger - S/T LP - Blue Vinyl


Sex Sheet (2015)

When I got a package of records in the mail from a label called Sex Sheet, I had pretty low expectations.  I am certainly guilty of a little pre-judgment here and there when it comes to band names and things like that.  Sex Sheet didn't sound like the sort of label that would really be putting out records that I would be into.  Still, when someone sends me something to review, I feel something of an obligation to listen and write about it.  I did hold out some hope for Hungry Tiger as I thought the artwork looked pretty cool.

Turns out, I love this record.  I was completely floored by how great it is.  This is probably not going to sound like a compliment, but to me they sound like one of the late, great, failed guitar pop bands of the mid '90s.  I'm talking of amazing bands that never got their due like The Figgs, Pluto, Treble Charger, Fig Dish, Flop and the rest of the champions of the 1990s dollar bins.  These were bands that were great, but for whatever reason, never caught on the way they should have.

I hope the same fate doesn't fall on Hungry Tiger (though not being on a major label in 1996 is probably a good start).  They have everything I'm looking for in a band.  All of the songs are tight and punchy.  Catchy verses lead into even catchier choruses.  They have great backing vocal harmonies and huge, full sounding guitars that maintain the band's obvious melodic leanings while providing enough crunch to keep things from sounding over produced.  The singer reminds me a lot of the guy from the old Canadian band Punchbuggy.  Especially the My Norwegian Cousin incarnation of those guys.

Hungry Tiger is a band that may not be on your radar, but man oh man they should be.  This is in the running for the absolute best thing I've ever received unsolicited as a review.  I am thrilled that it has snuck its way into my collection and have been playing it pretty non-stop for a few weeks now.  Go get it!

Hungry Tiger - S/T LP:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Iron Chic - Ys 7"


Poison City (2015)

Maintaining a complete discography by a band can be an expensive proposition sometimes.  This is especially the case when you start factoring in buying different variants of the same record.  Luckily, I never got sucked into that level when it comes to Iron Chic, but I do try to maintain a complete collection of at least one copy of each of their records.  The first thing I ever bought by this band was their 2008 demo tape, so I kind of feel like I have a responsibility to keep up.

The expense comes in as this particular 7" comes from Poison City records from Australia.  The cost of importing it was a bit prohibitive, so I waited patiently in the hopes that an American distro would pick up a few copies.  This did eventually occur, but the cost of the 7" was still pretty high.  It's not really a complaint, I understand the distro had to cover the cost of shipping and it was probably for the best that I didn't have to worry about the post office destroying the package all the way from Australia.

As usual with Iron Chic, musically this 7" was absolutely worth the wait and the cost.  At this point, you can almost say that this sounds like Iron Chic.  I tend to use them as my standard bearer for this kind of passionate, melodic punk rock.  They are band with the biggest anthemic choruses in the world and as a result, I usually compare everyone else to them.  The two originals on this record, "Ys" and "The Dreaming And The Waking World," are everything I want out of Iron Chic songs.  Verses that build up into that trademark punchy chorus.  They stand shoulder to shoulder with anything the band has released previously.

The third song, "Dog Bite," is a Dead Kennedys cover.  I'm not as into this as the originals.  It's a good enough version of the song, but I honestly can't say that I've ever like The Dead Kennedys quite as much as a lot of other folks do.  Regardless, the originals are as great as ever and I think are worth grabbing, if you were on the fence about picking up this 7".

Iron Chic - Ys 7":