Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Plow United - Everything 7"


33 Forever (2016)

I was pretty psyched to open up a package that was addressed to this website and find that it contained the new Plow United 7".  I've said it before, but I'll repeat it again: I always am appreciative of an label that sends me something to review, but if you send me a record by a band I already like that's worth some bonus points.  

I've been listening to Plow United for twenty some odd years at this point and they still manage to the create these anthems that make me want to ball up my fist and shout along.  "Everything" is a perfect example of this and is also going to be on the band's upcoming full length.  The verse builds off of rapid fire vocals describing different ideologies and beliefs until the chorus kicks in to explain that "I've been everything."  With this being Plow United, be sure that the chorus is delivered in the catchiest  and most triumphant way possible.  

Exclusive to this 7" is the B side "'39."  It's a Queen cover from the Night At The Opera album, though you may not pick up on that listening to Plow's version.  Clocking in at an economical one minute and fifty-three seconds, Plow turns this into a fast paced, slightly country tinged interpretation.  If I have one complaint, it's that it seems to fly by too quick, but both songs do a great job of whetting my appetite for the new Plow United full length.  Expect a review of that in the next few weeks as well.

Plow United - Everything 7":

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Holiday Weekend - Buy PopKid Stuff!

It's a long holiday weekend coming up here in the US, so I'm going to get an early start.  Reviews will be back on Tuesday, but in the meantime, don't forget to pick up the new records on PopKid - Custody & Chestnut Road:
Custody - Blistered Soul 7"


Purchase the record from our webstore here: 

Stream both songs and buy the digital version on our Bandcamp page here: 

Chestnut Road - LPII


In North America, you can buy the full length vinyl LP from PopKid records at:

If you're not into records and just want MP3s, the PopKid Bandcamp page can assist:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Color Animal / Magic Mint - Split 7" - White Vinyl


Hail Atlantis (2016)

This split 7" was one that I received to review and I was immediately taken with the artwork.  It may not really look like much in the picture, but the quality of the sleeve is outstanding.  It's printed on really thick card stock and all of the images and text have a raised, embossed feeling to them.  Pretty top notch.

The bands themselves don't impress as much as the art does.  First up is Color Animal.  They contribute two indie pop songs that are OK.  The problem with both is they sound like they are building to a big catchy hook that never actually arrives.  I think you should only be allowed to repeat a guitar riff a limited number of times before you are required by law to hit that hook.  Again, both songs are OK, but it would have only taken a catchy chorus to make them stand out.

On the flip side is Magic Mint.  They suffer from a similar malady; the chorus just never seems to arrive.  It's significantly less poppy that the Color Animal songs, leaning on a repetitive, dreamlike vibe and washed out vocals.  It's not as good as Color Animal as once you get a little too far out there with your atmospheric sounds, you will inevitably lose my attention.  But again, the artwork is pretty great.

 Color Animal / Magic Mint - Split 7":

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Unwound - Peel Sessions LP


Numero Group (2016)

Normally I would have written this up immediately following the last Unwound box set as this was a bonus add on you could order when purchasing the set directly from Numero Group.  It's out of order because on Friday I wrote up the new Custody 7" on PopKid (Still for sale, go buy!) and yesterday I just forgot.  Today I remembered, so here it goes.

Considering this was the add on for the last box set, Empire, this could have ended up being Peel Sessions for only the later songs in the career of the band.  Lucky (for me anyway since I don't really like the last two albums all that much), there is a bit of variety on this album.  Well at least as much variety as you can get when there's only 3 songs played.

It starts off with a pretty cool version of "Hexenszene" from New Plastic Ideas.  The bass is a little low, but the guitar antics are right up front and sound great.  There's a nice little noisy freak out at the end and it's a good version of the song. Next up is "Side Effects Of Being Tired."  It's probably one of the best, if not the best song from Challenge For A Civilized Society.  A little faster and noisier than the vast majority of that album.

Last up is "Kantina/Were, are and Was or Is."  The original version of "Kantina" was from Fake Train and even back then clocked in at a hefty four plus minutes.  This Peel Session version is creeping up on fifteen minutes long with a long instrumental section/jam tacked on to the end.  It's an interesting listen, but I prefer the album version.

This may very well mark the last time I write about Unwound on this site.  I've done all four box sets, I've done all four bonus LPs and I even did all of their individual 7"s as I picked those up a couple of years ago.  I suppose there is always the chance I may grab the original pressing of their LPs, but I'm thinking that's somewhat unlikely.  Still, a great band for the most part.  I just hope we get another Survival Knife record soon.

Unwound - Peel Sessions:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mrs. Magician - Eyes All Over Town 7" (Import) - Yellow Vinyl & Black Vinyl


La Castanya (2016)

I reviewed the US version of this 7" on Swami a few days ago, but there is another version of this single release by La Castanya in Spain.  In addition to a different color scheme for the artwork and the fact that it's available on yellow vinyl, this 7" is sporting a completely different B side than the American version.

That B side what I'll focus on for the purpose of this review.  "Do You Wanna Walk Around In The Dark" has a slightly odd 80's sound to it.  It's the sort of song you could probably imagine in the context of a John Hughes movie when the main characters are having a heart to heart moment and are realizing they've been right for each other all along.  Despite my general dislike of most 80's music, Do You Wanna Walk Around In The Dark" doesn't bug me as much as I would think it could if you were just telling me about it.

Luckily, Mrs. Magician picked one of the only decent 80's vibes to be influenced by as the "Don't Fear The Reaper" guitar tone keeps the song rooted and prevents it from drifting into cheesy novelty territory.  I certainly prefer when Mrs. Magician is blasting out louder, fuzzier surf tinged pop songs, but "Do You Wanna Walk Around In The Dark" is a fun little B side.  If Mrs. Magician made a whole record like this, I'm not sure I'd be on board, but it's totally fine as a one off.

Mrs. Magician - Do You Wanna Walk Around In The Dark":

Friday, May 20, 2016

Custody - Blistered Soul 7" - Red, Blue or Yellow Vinyl


PopKid / Waterslide / Different Kitchen / Shield / Keep it a Secret (2016)

This will be my second conflict of interest post this year as I am writing about another record that I'm releasing on PopKid records, the label I do with my buddy Alan.  I never really expected that we would be releasing another record so soon after putting out Chestnut Road a couple of months ago.  That had been the first PopKid record in twelve years.  I think you have to go back to 1999 to find the last year that PopKid had put out two releases in the same year.

The thing about is we just couldn't not put this record out.  I had written a few nice things about the first Custody 7" on this website.  It was a great record then and it's still in my frequent rotation.  The guys in Custody got in touch to see if PopKid wanted to be the American label for their next 7".  We were flattered, but weren't sure we really should fire up another record so soon after the last.  All it took was a few listens to these songs and we were hooked.  We HAD to release this 7".

The A side "Blistered Soul" kicks things off with its palm muted Samiam inspired verse that chugs along as it builds towards the chorus.  When that chorus hits, the hook just explodes into life with a vocal melody that gets lodged in my head for days on end.  The guitar work roars along side the vocals with a rich, full sound that kills me every time.  Perhaps a result of the bang up mastering job done by Mass Giorgini at Sonic Iguana?  I'm sure he didn't hurt things!

For me personally, the B side "Whatever We Decide" takes the cake on this 7".  I can say with no hyperbole whatsoever that this is one of my favorite songs I've heard all year.  When the chorus of this song kicks in, you're treated with some of the most dynamic guitar work this side of Starmarket.  The way the band is able to weave these guitar leads through the vaguely Iron Chic style passionate vocals is just amazing to me.  Sure, I may have bias because this record is coming out on my label, but the reason it is is because we just love these two songs.

I hope that Custody keeps cranking out hits forever.  I consider us very lucky to be able to be a part of this release and I can only hope that we will be able to do more with them in the future.  Surely a full length will be needed at some point, right?

Purchase the record from our webstore here: 

Stream both songs and buy the digital version on our Bandcamp page here: 

PopKid is the lucky label releasing this record in North America.  If you are from another land, there may be a label close by that is co-releasing this great 7" with us:

Available in North America from PopKid Records 
Available in the UK from Different Kitchen Records 
Available in the Netherlands from Shield Recordings 
Available in Germany from Keep it a Secret Records 
Available in Japan from Waterslide Records

Custody - Blistered Soul 7":

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Unwound - Empire 4xLP Box Set


Numero Group (2015)

When you look any the quality of this box set and when you look at the amazing job that Numero Group has done for their entire Unwound reissue series, it's difficult to start writing a bad review of this release.  It's not that Numero Group did anything wrong, but it has a lot to do with the fact that I just don't like the Unwound records in this box set.

Empire wraps up Unwound's career with their last two albums, Challenge For A Civilized Society and Leaves Turn Inside you.  When Challenge came out, I really wasn't paying much attention to Unwound anymore.  I can't even say for sure that I had even listened to it prior to getting this box set.  I was actually excited about maybe hearing something new from a band that I had just neglected a bit towards the end.  Unfortunately, this is a record that doesn't hold up.  It seems like it just meanders without purpose, never really kicking in with the sort of ferocity the band had been known for.

Leaves Turn Inside you, on the other hand, definitely seems to have a direction over the course of its two LPs.  It just seems that the direction they chose was to make a record full of long slow songs that I don't like.  I remember when this one came out and I remember coworkers listening to it when I worked in the music biz.  I thought it was a boring record then and I still think it's pretty boring now.   The third LP of singles, B sides and demos doesn't really inspire either.  I guess since it is from the same era as the two LPs, I shouldn't really have expected it to be much different.  

Presentation-wise, Numero Group knocked this one out of the park just like all the prior sets.  The art work is phenomenal and the booklet that they have included is just as well written and engrossing as the previous volumes.  It just really comes down to a band that decided to make a few slow records that I don't like.  I'm glad to have the set to round out the collection.  But I'm more glad to have the prior box sets so I can listen to Unwound when they still had teeth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Beatles - Stereo LP Leftovers


Capitol (2012)

As I had mentioned yesterday, the only things that The Beatles In Mono box set didn't contain were the albums that were only released in stereo.  For whatever reason, you have to buy those separately.  As far as full lengths go, that meant only having to pick up Let It Be and Abbey Road.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but neither of these two rank all that high on my list of favorite Beatles albums.  The issues that plagued Let It Be during its recording are pretty well documented and I think the general consensus is that those issues bled through to the quality of the album, so my feelings are probably echoed by some.  However, I definitely seem to lack company regarding my opinion of Abbey Road.

Many view it as the exclamation point of their career; that one last stab at greatness from a a band that will likely never be equaled.  I think it's OK.  There are a handful of songs that you could even say are pretty great, but if you set it up next to virtually ever other album in their catalog, I'll likely favor that other album (sans Let It Be).

The weirdest thing about the In Mono box set is that its singles collection, Mono Masters, doesn't contain two songs that the Stereo Past Masters release does: "The Ballad Of John and Yoko" and "Old Brown Shoe."  It seems ludicrous that they left off two songs just because they are in stereo.  Do they really expect you to buy the entire other Past Masters LP for these songs?  Seems silly, so I just picked up the old 7" release and now my collection of Beatles songs is complete.  At least until you start looking at those Anthology or Live at the BBC albums.  I haven't gone down that dark road just yet...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Beatles - In Mono Box Set


 Capital (2014)

Since I reviewed the Monkees box set to wrap up my Record Store Day reviews, I figured I would try to get some of these other box sets that I have written up.  I have been sitting on this Beatles In Mono set for over a year after picking it up as a part of a very nice sale.  Even attempting to review Beatles records with all of these years of hindsight is a daunting thought and I don't feel like I could ever really do any of these albums justice.  Trying to describe records that are all such insane classics is borderline ridiculous, so I will mostly stick to writing about the box set itself.

And as far as the box set itself goes, I can't think of a better presentation than they came up with for this guy.  Each album is presented in its original mono version on 180g vinyl.  Each album's original artwork is faithfully recreated to the most absurdly small detail it's crazy.  The box itself is a hefty, sturdy and elegant in its design.  They even had the foresight of leaving extra room for the two Beatles albums not included in this set.

Though that is my one beef with this.  I had to buy Let It Be and Abbey Road separate because these two records were never released in mono.  I guess if you go with the theory that they're already in the Beatles In Stereo box set and why put them in the Mono set as well, that almost makes sense.  But are  people really buying both of these sets?  I would figure most would purchase one or the other.  Regardless, at least they left room in the box to add them.  Also included is a nice hardcover book that is a fascinating read with lots of good recording information and other historical tidbits.

The records themselves all sound amazing.  Off the charts amazing.  In ways that I can't even describe.  This is some of the nicest sounding vinyl I own and all of these songs just jump out of the speakers in ways I've never heard before.  All of the records, except for Magical Mystery Tour, are the UK versions with the UK track listings and I really feel like this set should just be issued to you if you have a record player and you listen to guitar focused rock music.  It should just be mandatory.

I grew up listening to The Beatles.  They were my dad's favorite band and were pretty high on my mom's list as well.  They also happened to write some pretty incredible songs.  This box set is absolutely the best way possible to listen to these iconic records.  Even if you don't want to shell out the money for this entire set, at least go buy the mono version of Rubber Soul.  It's pretty much one of the most perfect albums ever written.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Record Store Day Haul #6: The Monkees - Classic Album Collection 10 LP Box Set


Rhino (2016)

Amazingly, this is the one Record Store Day release I was actually able to buy at my local record store.  At least there was one I didn't have to mailorder.

When I was a kid they used to rerun the old Monkees TV show on Nickelodeon.  I loved watching that show and I really dug the music as well.  I had More of The Monkees and Then & Now: The Best of the Monkees on LP and I had their dreadful-in-retrospect 1987 comeback album Pool It on cassette.  I've always kept some version of a greatest hits album of theirs handy.  When it was announced that all of their 60's and 70's albums were being released on vinyl for Record Store Day, this was definitely one I wanted to pick up.  Given the amount of albums in this set (10 LPs), the price was surprisingly reasonable as far as these things go.

It's kind of impossible to write a succienct review of 10 Monkees records in the confines of this one review, so I'll try to summarize as best as I can.  The Monkees hits are still hits no matter how you slice it. Also, the first few albums are pretty strong top to bottom.  From Meet The Monkees through Pieces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD these are just flat out good records.  The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees and Head both have their moments, but for me, this is where the cracks start showing as many of the deep album cuts aren't quite as strong as their prior work.

By the time we get to their 1969 album Instant Replay, we're starting to get into a real freefall as far as song quality goes.  Sure, the Michael Nesmith, country tinged ones stay consistently strong for the most part, but, in particular, the Davey Jones songs really start to tank.  They quickly become gaudy show tunes in the worst possible way.  The Monkees Present is saved from total irrelevance by the outstanding Michael Nesmith song "Listen To The Band," and by the time the album Changes hits, there's just nothing left in the Monkees soul.

Lastly, this set comes with a tenth bonus LP containing some singles and B sides that aren't on any of the other albums.  It's a strong little collection and ends up being a better album than many of the later era Monkees records that were released as full lengths.  The Record Store Day pressing of this box set is pretty great.  Each album is on a different color vinyl and the sound quality is nice and perfectly serviceable.  I probably would have preferred the mono versions of the early albums, but for a band like The Monkees, that's a minor gripe.

It is nice to have all of these classing albums in one place in my collection.  There are a ton of Monkees songs that I love, but I guess I wasn't as familiar with their entire catalog as I would have thought.  There's some pretty awful stuff mixed in here, but those hits will always be hits for me.

That actually wraps up my Record Store Day purchases for the year.  It was a pretty quiet year as far as releases that I was actually interested.  If not for the Swami releases, it would have been a real down year.  I hope that the Record Store Day folks get their head back in the game next year.  It's gone from a cool little event I looked forward to every year to a day filled with many releases that seem to only exist for me to mock.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Record Store Day Haul #5: V/A - Hardcore Matinee - Clear Vinyl


Swami (2016)

By now you're probably noticing a trend here, but I'll continue it again in case you haven't read any of the prior write ups I've done on my Record Store Day hauls.  My local store didn't carry the Hardcore Matinee compilation, so once again I was forced to look elsewhere and like with the other Swami RSD releases, I was able to nab this from Interpunk.  So, thanks for that Interpunk, you came through big time this year.

Hardcore Matinee is a throwback to the days of compilation albums that cram tons of bands and variety into a blender and serve it up to you, the listener.  Being of the appropriate age myself, I can't even tell you how many compilations I bought back in the 90s.  It was essentially one of the main ways I discovered new bands.  You find a comp that has a band or two on it you already like, and then you go through the rest looking for new sounds.  It's actually how I discovered Rocket From The Crypt oddly enough.  Swami John Reis has compiled a bunch of bands from his hometown of San Diego, CA and the results are pretty striking.

It starts off with a one-two punch of The Schizophonics and Octagrape, both are bands that I was familiar with, but hadn't really heard all that much by.  While neither song ends up being a true highlight on this stacked compilation, they are both good enough to warrant looking into both bands a little more closely in the future.  

There's some bands already familiar to me who expectedly knock it out of the park.  Pinback, The Heartaches and Mrs. Magician are all at the very top of the best songs on this record and by listening to each it is clear that they were not turning in leftovers for this compilation.  Every one of those songs could have easily ended up on an album or 7".

Of newer bands (or at least newer to me bands), Teenage Burritos and The Soaks really stand out.  In particular, The Soaks stake a real claim at possibly having the best song on the entire compilation.  I already have a demo tape by these guys, but I really hope to hear more from them very soon.  

Next we'll talk about the two John Reis bands on this record.  Chronologically, the first one is the first new Hot Snakes song since they started playing together again.  It's as fantastic as you would hope and instantly makes it obvious this is a band that has lost none of their fire over the years.  If anything it's interesting how much it seems to call on Rick's time with Obits.  Closing out the album is The Sultans.  Despite having been out of action for so long, they are the band battling with The Soaks for my favorite song on the record.  Their inclusion "Hardcore Matinee" is something of a theme song for the entire record.  It showcases all of the incredible chord changes, warm, jangly guitar and catchiness that The Sultans displayed on their last album.  I want new records by all of John's band, but part of me would like to hear some more from The Sultans the most.

There are a few bands that don't get to me quite as much.  The Gary Wilson song strikes me as being a little goofy and I'll never be into the kind of noisy hollering that bands like Death Eyes, Ghetto Blaster and WHA bring to the table.  But as a whole this is an incredibly enjoyable compilation packed with old favorites and new hit songs.  It brings me right back to the 90s, digging through compilation albums, looking for gold.

Octagrape - Rabalais:

The Soaks - "Boyfriend":

The Sultans - "Hardcore Matinee":

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Record Store Day Haul #4: Superchunk - Tossing Seeds LP


Merge (2016, Reissue)

You may be noticing a trend here, but this is yet another album I was not able to procure from my local record store on Record Store Day.  While the prior three where not carried at all in any capacity, this one is on me.  As there were so few items on my list that my store was carrying, I didn't bother lining up during the wee hours of dawn.  I went later in the day, so I missed my shot of picking up this Superchunk reissue in person.

I was fine with that honestly.  The original pressings of this aren't really that much on Discogs, I've had the CD release of this for ages not to mention the fact that I have all of the 7"s that make up this compilation from when I decided to fill the gaps in me singles collection a few years ago.  On the Sunday after RSD, this popped up online in the leftover stock posted by 1-2-3-4-Go records.  At $20, it was pretty reasonably priced for a Record Store Day full length, so I decided to grab it.

I'm glad I did, it's been remastered and pressed on 180 gram vinyl, so it does sound about as good as I could imagine these twenty five plus year old songs could sound.  This record does have some of my favorite early Superchunk songs like "The Breadman," "Fishing" and the perennial hit "Slack Motherfucker."  It's always been a great little compilation of singles and I'm happy to have it in the collection, especially as it was priced fairly and required virtually no effort to pick up.

Superchunk - "Slack Motherfucker":

Superchunk - "The Breadman":

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Record Store Day Haul #3: Metz & Swami John Reis - Let It Rust 7" - Green Vinyl


Swami (2016)

This was another 7" not carried by my record store for Record Store Day, but luckily Interpunk came through gain with this one.  As I'm sure you can imagine, this was a record very high on my priorities list because as soon as you add John Reis to anything, it becomes a mandatory addition to my record collection.

The funny thing is, when you add John Reis to anything it also becomes an amazing record.  I've tried to give Metz a chance in the past and while I wouldn't say they are bad, in general they're not my cup of tea.  I've always found them just a bit too noisy.  However, once you add John Reis to the mix, he can't help but bring a catchiness and a bit of a melodic undertone to whatever he is involved in.  His addition instantly makes this 7" something I could listen to every day.

The A side is "Let It Rust."  It's built off of a fast changing, repeating guitar riff that wouldn't be out of place on some of the noisier moments of Reis' back catalog.  But what really drives this song home is the back and forth vocals of the chorus that really bring together the chaos of the verse.  I'd also be remiss to not mention the breakdown towards the end of the song that cements this as a top notch hit.

B side "Caught Up" seems like it could very easily fit on any Night Marchers record.  With its lighting quick guitar licks and abrupt changes in tempo, this song is dynamic to the point of almost being ridiculous.  Reis has always been one of my favorite guitar players in rock and roll.  I'll present this song as a definitive example of why.  It's just an incredible song.

I'm not sure what the future holds for the Metz and Swami John Reis working together, but I really hope they reconvene for a full length like John did with The Blind Shake.  At this point, I'm fine with you adding John to just about any band.  Whatever it takes to get me more records.

Metz & Sami John Reis - "Caught Up":

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Record Store Day Haul #2: Mrs. Magician - Eyes All Over Town 7"


Swami (2016)

When this Mrs. Magician 7" was announced for Record Store Day, it instantly became the record I was most concerned about tracking down.  If you've been reading this website for any length of time, you're probably aware that Mrs. Magician put out just about my favorite record of the last ten years with Strange Heaven.  I couldn't even possibly count the number of times I've listened to that.  The fact that they are finally following it up with a new full length in a few weeks is such great news.  I preordered that one a while ago and now I'm just waiting.

In the mean time, Mrs' Magician released this 7" for Record Store Day.  This was another record that my local stores just weren't carrying for whatever reason.  Luckily, the website Interpunk was selling it online and had advertised it as a preorder a few weeks earlier.  I wasn't positive it would actually show up, but I decided to take a chance anyway and order this along with the other Swami Record Store Day items.  When I finally got that shipping notification I was very relieved that I wouldn't have to go crazy trying to track this thing down.

The A side "Eyes All Over Town" will be on the next full length.  I'm purposefully trying to avoid listening to any of the preview songs of the record until I can just sit down and listen to the whole thing.  I'll write this song up when I review the full length, though I've put a link to the song below if you want to check it out.  The B side "I'm Glad You're Dead" is exclusive to this 7".  It's another hit for Mrs. Magician.  The production of the guitars is slightly cleaner than on past releases, but it only heightens the greatness of their start stop riffs and breezy surf tinged rhythms.  The vocals have a nice little layer of fuzz on them and the band has not lost any of their dark wit and humor.

It's been way too long since the last Mrs. Magician album.  If this 7" is anything to go by, I'm probably going to be pretty happy with the next album.  It's only two weeks away.  I hope it goes quick.

Mrs. Magician - "Eyes All Over Town":

Monday, May 9, 2016

Record Store Day Haul #1: The Thermals - Hey You 7"

Saddle Creek (2016)

Every year it seems like Record Store Day has fewer records to offer me.  It's gone from a neat little thing where there were a bunch of cool records to buy, to something that leans way to heavy on reissues for my own personal taste.  Sure, there were a few really cool records this year.  The number of cool records nearly doubled by the Swami releases that came out this year.  But as a whole, I can't think of a Record Store Day I had been less excited about.  Hopefully they right the ship next year.

This 7" that The Thermals have released wasn't one I was able to find at my local store, but my buddy Charles was nice enough to pick me up a copy.  I've been a big fan of The Thermals for quite some time, so I needed this record to keep my collection up to date.  In all honesty though, I'll probably never listen to it again.

The A Side is "Hey You." which is also on their most recent album.  It's a solid little song, but since it is on the full length, it's kind of unnecessary to listen to this side of the 7".  The real draw is supposed to be the exclusive B side.  The first ever cover song that The Thermals have released: "White Rabbit."

Maybe it's because I hate the original song.  Maybe it's because an old coworker thought this was her jam at karaoke.  Maybe it's because The Thermals don't take their cover anywhere interesting.  Whatever the reason, this side of the record may hold the dubious distinction of being the first Thermals song I actively dislike.  They have others in the past that maybe I didn't like as much as some of their hits, but this cover is flat out bad.  Unless you are like me and would feel a hole in your heart if there was a hole in your Thermals collection, this really isn't worth picking up.

The Thermals - "White Rabbit":

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mr. Lif - Don't Look Down LP - Black & Grey Swirl Vinyl


Mello  Music (2016)

When I picked up the I Phantom reissue a few months ago, I was surprised to see that the same label also had a pre-order up for a new Mr. Lif album.  Eager to hear more from one of my favorites, I ordered a copy right away.  This is the first Mr. Lif album in quite some time and other than the obligatory Del The Funky Homosapien album every couple of years, it this first new hip hop album I've picked up in a long, long time.

Sadly, as a whole I'm kind of disappointed.  The album definitely has its highlights.  The one-two punch of the first two tracks, "Pounds of Pressure" and "The Abyss" set up some pretty high expectations.  The beats are full and uptempo and Lif's rapping is as dynamic and exciting as ever.  Unfortunately the album goes downhill quickly from there.  "Everyday We Pray" is a slow muddled song with a good lyrics, but boring production.  

Things seem like they're going to pick up with "Let Go."  Its bouncy beat and keyboard samples immediately make me think of "Passin' Me By" by The Pharcyde.  Mr. Lif takes full advantage of the old school sound, but unfortunately this is one of two songs virtually ruined by unnecessary R&B style crooning added in by some singer I'm not familiar with.  I've always hated when solid rapping is interrupted with nonsense singing.  It just doesn't work and the exact same thing happens on the very next song "A Better Day."

Fortunately there are a few saving graces.  The Edan produced "Whizdom" is a real standout as Edan provides a strong, oddly paced beat that really gives Lif a platform to showcase his style.  Lif's collaboration with Del The Funky Homosapien, "World Renown" also provides some solid lyrics from both, although the beat isn't particularly enthralling.  That's really the problem with this album in a nutshell.  The beats are slow and uninspired.  Mr. Lif has such a unique style and the way he structures his lyrics stand head and shoulders above most, but if he doesn't have off kilter and innovative beats that compliment this, it just takes him down a level.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say this is a bad album, because the good songs are pretty good, it's definitely the weakest Mr. Lif album to date.  If I had heard it before I went to buy it, I may have passed.

Mr. Lif - Don't Look Down:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rob Crow's Gloomy Place - You're Doomed. Be Nice. LP - Orange w/ Splatter Vinyl (/300)


Temporary Residence (2016)

I don't remember exactly how long ago it was that Rob Crow had said he was done with music.  While I applaud someone for trying to take the necessary steps to get their life on track, I was selfishly sad that the world might not get more music from him.  Luckily, it seems that Rob has managed to do both; overcome some demons and continue to put out records.  I hope he's always able to balance the two.

You're Doomed. Be Nice. is the first album Rob has made along with a new backing band he's started called Gloomy Place.  In the past Rob Crow solo records tended to be just that, with Rob controlling most if not all aspects of the record.  I'm not sure how the dynamic of having this backing band has changed his songwriting process, but this album is easily my favorite non-Pinback record Rob Crow has ever released.  In fact, it gives a couple Pinback albums a run for their money as well.

What really stands out about this album is how effortlessly the songs are able to incorporate Rob's trademark guitar plucking into extremely catchy hooks and choruses.  This is definitely one of the poppiest albums that Rob has been involved in, so it's probably no surprise that I dig it as much as I do.  For me, you're just not going to get much better than the "whoa whoa's" in the chorus of "Business Interruptus."  But that is just one song that is somehow, amazingly topped by the very next track "Paper Doll Parts."  Top to bottom it's a fantastic record.

If you have even a passing interest in Rob Crow or Pinback, this is absolutely an album you should check out.  I hope it's the first of many more albums from Rob and/or Pinback.  

Rob Crow's Gloomy Place - You're Doomed. Be Nice.:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tenement - 5 Song Cassette


Self Released (2015)

This is actually one of my favorite things that has happened since I started doing this website.  Several months ago, I received a package in the mail from Wisconson.  In it was this tape and a letter from someone that only identified themselves as "BE."  This person wrote that they had recently seen Tenement and they had been selling this cassette.  They picked up two copies and sent the extra to me because they like my website.  Honestly, that's one of the kindest gestures anyone has done since I started doing this thing.  "BE" wasn't looking for anything, they only wanted to share good music.  That's a sentiment I can get behind, so "BE," wherever you are, thank you so much for this cassette.

Unfortunately, the tape ended up getting squirreled away as I was reorganizing some things in the house.  I should have written it up a lot quicker than I've done, but hey, cassettes are small and easy to stack in piles.

As far as the music goes, this tape contains five new Tenement songs that were not on their most recent full length, Predatory Lights.  Will they end up on another release in the future?  I would think so, as there are some pretty great songs here, but Tenement also has something of a reputation for blowing out a ton of songs and not really looking back.  Maybe there will be a third volume of Bruised Music at some point.

Things kick off with the excellent "Everyone to Love You." A ferocious mix of stuttering guitar riffs and melodic vocals.  It's got a huge, huge hook and I only wish it was twice as long as it is.  From there, things settle down a bit as the rest of the songs are slightly lower key, but all are quite catchy and a joy to listen to.  All five songs are straight up rock and roll, leaving some of the more experimental leanings of Predatory Headlights in the rearview.  

Though I'm very happy to own a copy of this cassette, I do hope the band doesn't forget about these songs.  They're all too good to not get the vinyl treatment at some point.  Luckily they have put the songs up to stream on their Bandcamp page so you can give them a listen at least.  And again, thanks "BE" for sending this over.  If there's anything you're on the lookout for, pop me an email and I'll try to return the favor.

Tenement - 5 Song Cassette:

Monday, May 2, 2016

V/A - Condo City Noise 7"


Five-Five Hole (2014)

Five-Five Hole sent me this record to review a little bit ago (no, I haven't been sitting on it since 2014, but I have had it a few months), but I've been slacking on getting it written up.  I'm not sure what it is about compilations, but I tend to drag my feet on them.  I think it's because you end up writing multiple mini reviews instead of one larger one. Condo City Noise No. 1 boasts four bands in total from the Puget Sound area in Washington State, three of which fronted by female vocalists.

First up on side A is NighTrain, who I hope were named after the Public Enemy song, but that's probably not the case.  This is a slow burn of a song, built on a pounding drum beat, creepy organ and stormy vocals.  Tons of tension bubbling under the surface of this one. Next up is Wild Berries, who take a more traditional rock and roll approach to their contribution.  A nice chugging guitar riff lays the foundations for another strong vocalist who reminds me of the more soulful moments of The Ballantynes.

Flipping over to side B we've got Acapulco Lips.  Theirs is probably the poppiest song of the bunch and no surprise it's also my favorite.  A bouncy lead guitar riff leads you through the verse into a loud punchy chorus, with "ba ba ba ba ba" backing vocals that really seal the deal for me.  Closing things out is Killer Ghost, the one band fronted by a dude on this 7".  It's a solid song with vaguely surfy guitar licks and some nice "whoas" as backing vocals in the chorus.  It's a good closer, probably my second favorite song of the bunch.

V/A - Condo City Noise No. 1: