Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wild Animals - Basements: Music To Fight Hypocrisy CD


Waterslide (2016)

Wild Animals was one of the CDs that Waterslide records sent over to me to review.  Though the artwork didn't stand out to me when I first started shuffling through all of the CDs, once I popped it in to listen to I was immediately struck by how amazing this album is.  If it isn't the best CD that Waterslide sent me, it's certainly vying for that top spot.

Wild Animals hail from Madrid and while I can't say that I'm super familiar with a ton of bands from Spain; this is a record that makes me want to get more acquainted with that scene.  That being said, I'm at something of a loss of words on how to describe this band.  

Basements tends to be on the fast side of things and the guitars are typically crunchy enough where you could say it's good poppy punk, but that is kind of selling this album short.  There are elements of bands like Silver Scooter, particularly the way the bass is all sorts of loud and fuzzy, providing a driving and melodic foundation.  The occasional early Built To Spill sounding guitar solo sears through some of the songs, giving ones like "Avacado" a decidely indie rock vibe.  The songs are varied enough where every one has something unique to offer and the truly, truly outstanding male/female vocal harmonies make the choruses in these songs simply soar.

It's really a fantastic record and probably one of the best I've heard all year.  This is absolutely the sort of album that will make me dig through Wild Animals' back catalog to try to catch up.  I highly recommend this one.

Wild Animals - Basements: Music To Fight Hypocrisy:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Flintettes - The Choice Is Ours 7"


La-Ti-Da (2016)

Quite some time ago I pre-purchased a big batch of records from the label La-Ti-Da.  They were offering a discounted rate and I was pretty confident I'd like what I received considering that the label has done good by me over the years.  I got a few full lengths last year and frankly, I kind of forgot about it.  Then I received a box with eight 7"s in it the other day.  A nice surprise and I'm currently making my way through them.

First up is The Flintettes.  I'm not really familiar with them, but that's also one of the reasons I make purchases like this; to be surprised by new bands.  On "The Choice Is Ours," The Flintettes are tapping into a slightly less new wavy version of The Cars.  It has the sort of vocal inflections you'd expect from Ocasek, some decent guitar riffage and a couple of oddly placed, synthetic sounding handclaps. 

On the B side we have 2 more songs.  "Same Faces" is a faster tempo, straight ahead rocker.  It still reminds me a lot of The Cars, particularly in the verse with its chugging guitar.  The backing harmonies accentuate the chorus along with some punchy drumming.  Next up is "To Hold You Close."  It's a more laid back affair then the prior two songs with lots of 'ooohing' backing vocals .  Nothing about this song really stands out.  It's not bad or anything, but it quickly fades into background noise.

As a whole it's a decent enough 7".  I don't love it and wouldn't say it's a must buy, but I do like some of the songs and might be worth picking up if you're grabbing some other records.

The Flitettes - The Choice Is Ours 7":

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Made In Japan - Instant Hit 7"


HoZac (2016)

Another 7" from the random pack of records HoZac sent me to review.  I know that HoZac has been doing quite a few of these archival releases the last few years.  I've admitted it before and I'll repeat myself now, I've never been all that interested in the power pop scene from the late 70's and early 80's.  Not that I haven't heard plenty of good songs from that era, but it's just not something I get as excited about as a lot of others do.

With that said, the two songs on this Made In Japan 7" are pretty good.  Both are strong, catchy slices of power pop.  I don't think there's anything all that remarkable about either song, but they are both easy listens.  "Instant Hit" reminds me a bit of "Jesse's Girl," though a thousand times less cheesy. "You Never Had It So Good" on the flip side is actually my preference.  With its frantic chorus and bouncy bass lines it definitely gets my head nodding.

The issue I have with this 7", and also with a lot of records from this era, is that the recording quality is a bit muffled and stuffy.  I am not dumb, I realize that this was recorded in a completely different era, especially for punk bands, but it's just one of those things that always seems to jump out at me.  At the end of the day, it's a good enough little 7".  I'm not sure I would have bought it, but I'll be keeping it in the collection.

Made In Japan - "Instant Hit:

Made In Japan - "You Never Had It So Good":

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lutheran Heat - Louder From The Other Side LP


Pinata (2016)

I'll admit it, I was taken in by this band's name and that's why I started looking into them.  Something about the name Lutheran Heat struck me as being funny, but not in a 'stupid band name' way.  I thought it was clever.  I think they had one song up at the label's Bandcamp page at the time along with a preorder for the record.  I liked the song, so I decided to take a chance.  Lucky for me, the whole record is pretty darn great.

I actually find Louder From The Other Side similar to the Laika's Orbit record that I recently reviewed.  Maybe a bit more restrained, with more songs that run mid tempo, but especially the recording and the general aesthetic of the two records have a lot in common.  Lutheran Heat is playing jangly and bouncy guitar, weaving in stupendous male/female vocal harmonies and toe tapping hooks.  This is a band very much playing the sort of carefree and catchy pop as bands like Title Tracks and White Wires.

Needless to say I really dig this album a lot.  It's always especially rewarding when you take a chance on a new band's record and it ends up being this good.  I absolutely recommend checking out Lutheran Heat, this is one of the better records I've bought all year.

Lutheran Heat - Louder From The Other Side:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sega Genocide - "TRYS" LP


Just Because (2016)

Whenever I get an album for review I just don't know what to expect when I pop this on the turntable.  For some reason the things I get sent tend to be on the noisier side of things and usually that's not my bag.  So when I put on Sega Genocide for the first time, fearing some sort of hardcore attack, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a warm, fuzzy guitar.  Luckily, we've got some pop on our hands here.

The first band that immediately popped into my mind when I hear the lead track "New Words" was W.H Walker.  The way the song bounced along the verse only to be met with upbeat gang vocals in the chorus gave me that same sort of shout along enthusiasm.  While that type of energy isn't consistent throughout the record, what is consistent is that warm fuzzy guitar and some pretty top notch pop hooks.

I definitely favor Sega Genocides more upbeat tracks.  The aforementioned "New Words" is a highlight as are songs like "Despite Me," "Peer Mediator" and "Immediate Contact."  The latter of which really reminds me a lot of the quirky pop of bands like Boat.  All in all, this is a pretty good record.  Not a band I was familiar with prior to being sent this record, but I definitely foresee more spins of this guy in the future.

Sega Genocide - "TRYS":

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Steve Adamyk Band - Graceland LP - Clear Vinyl (/300)


Dirtnap (2016)

I have been such a gigantic fan of the Steve Adamyk Band since their very first 7" that came out on Ptrash so many moons ago.  When I picked that record up based on a "this is a dude from Sedatives" descriptions, I really don't think I realized it would turn into the starting point of one of my favorite bands of the entire decade.  Adamyk & company have kept up a furious pace of releasing records and Graceland is their fifth full length since 2010.

I've never really had anything resembling actual complaints about anything that Steve Adamyk Band has ever released, but if I had to point to one hing, it was that I didn't completely love the recording/production of their last album Dial Tone.  The songs were there and it was still one of my favorite records of that year, but the recording felt a little flat on some songs.  Any issues with that have been completely resolved with Graceland.  The production is bright, crisp and punchy.

Graceland starts out with the speedy burst of frantic energy that is "Through My Fingers." It's a burner of an album opener that instantly grabs your attention, but from there the band takes things down half a notch with "Carry On." For me, this is always where Steve Adamyk band hits their sweet spot.  Slightly slower than their fastest songs, the verse has the "whoas" in the right places and it builds into a supremely catchy hook.  I just love stuff like this and it throws me back to my favorite Adamyk song from their first album "Your Only One."  No one can touch Steve Adamyk Band when they're hitting songs like this.

The rest of the album varies from excellent to stupidly good.  Hit after hit with buzzsaw guitars, catchy vocals and even some tasteful synth here and there to give the album a little extra flavor.  If you've been reading this website for any length of time, none of this should be news for you.  I've been screaming at the top of my lungs about how much I love this band for years.  What's really amazing to me is how they are just as incredible on their fifth album as they were the first time I heard them.  Keep it up guys!

Steve Adamyk Band - Graceland:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Rutabega - Unreliable Narrator LP - Clear w/ Black Smoke Vinyl (/250)


Comedy Minus One (2016)

Record labels out there, never underestimate the power of your email list.  I think I ended up on the Comedy Minus One email list from buying an Obits 7" a few years back.  But as the old saying goes, I came for the Obits but stayed for the Karl Hendricks Trio.  Anyway, Comedy Minus One cranks out their update emails every so often and that is where I first heard of The Rutabega.  I guess these guys have been kicking around for an awfully long time, but I had never heard of them prior to now.  The description sounded intriguing and I checked out a song online and I was in.

Unreliable Narrator is a diverse record.  There are some songs that have the sort of concise and hooky guitar pop song structure that I love.  Opener "Shiny Destination" is just a blast of bouncy guitars and sing along rhyming.  It's my favorite song on the album, but the good times certainly don't stop there.  At times The Rutabega strike me as being sonically similar to The Posies, with the higher pitched vocals and the way the guitar weaves in and out between them.  But there are other times where the music gets more complex and demanding like the nine minute plus "Lip."  In this song you can hear the channeling of the Doug Martsch guitar gods as the songs sprawls out in front of you, quiet in places but building more intense moments at the close.

This album has a very late 90's feel to me.  It was a time when some of the poppier bands from the mid 90's began to tinker around with longer songs and more contemplative moments.  The Rutabega has definitely perfected those ambitions.  I'm not sure if their past records are as good as Unreliable Narrator, but I aim to find out.

The Rutabega - Unreliable Narrator:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Creeps / The No Marks - Split 7" - Green Vinyl (/300)


All In Vinyl (2016)

Even if I had never heard of any band in the All In Vinyl singles series this year, I would have bought the entire series based purely off of this one 7".  Sure, you could also just buy it separately, but in my mind, anyone smart enough to release a split like this probably has their act together and is going to provide more gems than just this.

We'll start off with The Creeps; another in a long line of great Canadian bands.  They've taken a slightly darker view of popped out punk.  Not as goofy haunted house as say The Hex Dispensers, but The Creeps have a gloomy vibe that comes through again on these two songs.  I find it impossible to write about this band without saying how much I think the singer reminds me of the guy from that old UK band Reverse, but I say it as a complement. Reverse were great and so are The Creeps.

On the flip side are two new songs by The No Marks.  Along with Chestnut Road, The No Marks are just about my favorite band playing the sort of melodic punk rock that was so tied to the mid nineties UK scene.  If you want to try to describe a certain sound that I'm most drawn to as a music fan, this is pretty much it.  Their side of the split offers two more outstanding songs.  Catchy in all the right places with the sort of hooky choruses that I always go crazy for.  Think the poppier side of Leatherface, Hooton 3 Car or the slower moments of Chopper.  The No Marks are simply one of the best.

The Creeps / The No Marks - Split 7":

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tender Defender - S/T 12" - White w/ Splatter vinyl (/100)


Dead Broke (2016)

There is a strain of melodic punk rock that certainly wasn't invented by either Iron Chic or RVIVR, but those are the two active bands that I most associate with the sound.  Considering that the band contains a member of Iron Chic and a member of RVIVR, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that Tender Defender does kind of fall right into the middle of this strain.

If you are familiar with either Iron Chic or RVIVR (or Tender Defender's other precursor band, Latterman), you'll probably be pretty content with this 12" EP.  While I have never been a fan of the 12" EP as a format (I'll take a 10" every time as my personal preference), Tender Defender certainly make the most of their time and leave you clamoring for more songs.  Tracks like "Hello Dirt" and "f.e.f.e." feel like home with their fast and powerful guitar work and sing along choruses.  It's hard to not imagine a group of people at a Tender Defender show with their fists in the air singing along to every word.  Even when the band slows things down and takes some chances on longer songs like "Rudes and Cheaps," they still hit it out of the park.

Now, I am going to take some points away for the band having a song called "The Tender Defender," as I've never liked it when bands have songs with the same title as the band name, but I don't have anything bad to say about the song itself.  It's another solid entry on this 12".  Tender Defender has come storming out of the gate with a debut that is really worth checking out.  Hopefully it's the first of many releases and not just a one off side effort in between the member's main bands.

Tender Defender - S/T 12":

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dead Bars / The Kimberly Steaks - Split 7" Cream Vinyl (/300)


All In Vinyl (2013)

More singles club action from All In Vinyl, the last label standing with a good singles club worth subscribing to.  Step it up, other labels.  This 7" is a prime example of why I like singles clubs so much, it's giving me the chance to listen to two bands that I've never even heard of before, chosen by a label whose taste in music I trust.  Even though I'll admit that I don't love either of these bands, they're still both pretty good and I might not have ever listened to them if not for the club.

I'll start off with Dead Bars.  They're from Seattle and as soon as I heard them I though that they sounded like the kind of band that would fit in on No Idea records.  Then I found out they already have a 7" on No Idea so I guess I was right about that.  They have something of a Dear Landlord vibe to them with lots of fast guitar rhythms and some catchy choruses.  The vocals are a little too crackly and shouty for my person taste, but it's pretty alright.

On the other side we have The Kimberly Steaks.  They hail from Glasgow and are playing a much different kind of punk rock than Dead Bars.  They are also rooted in fast guitars and hooks, but they remind me much more of bands like Fear Of Lipstick, a little more Ramones and a little less gruffness in the vocals.  Both songs just go whizzing by pretty fast, but they're catchy and a fun listen.  Neither band is the reason I signed up for the singles club, but both remind me why I like to sign up for clubs like this.

Dead Bars / The Kimberly Steaks - Split 7":

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hot Mass - Nervous Tensions LP - Coke Bottle Clear Vinyl


Brassneck / Waterslide / All In Vinyl (2016)

There was a time where I felt that every single band coming out of the UK was untouchable.  So many great bands for so many years.  Then things seemed to start quieting down over there.  At least to me, it seemed like there weren't anywhere near the amount of killer bands as there once was.  Over the recent years the pendulum is starting to swing back in the other direction and a new band that I like is popping up all of the time. The most recent of these bands is Hot Mass.

They're boasting a pedigree of 'ex members of' when you read the descriptions of Nervous Tensions, but I have to admit that I never really was a huge fan of any of their other bands like The Arteries.  Hot Mass, on the other hand, is a band I have become an instant fan of.  They're capturing a whirlwind of noisy punk energy and forcing it into catchy pop nuggets.  I'm reminded a lot of the band Rumspringer, but with about 37% more chaos in each song.  Early Spraynard might be another touchstone, but Hot Mass exceeds anything and everything that Spraynard ever put out.

Do you like your punk rock catchy, but rough around the edges?  Do you want a vocalist that's shredding his vocal chords, but doing so in a melodic way that doesn't involve unnecessary screaming?  Do you want super dynamic guitar work and big anthemic choruses?  If you answered yes to any of these, you should probably check out this Hot Mass album.  It'll scratch all of those itches

Hot Mass - Nervous Tensions:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Marvelous Darlings - Single Life LP - Pink Vinyl


Deranged (2011)

It's pretty crazy to think that this record came out five years ago and it's been that long since Marvelous Darlings released a record.  I'm not sure why they split up, but man do I miss them.  This is the pink vinyl version of their singles compilation.  I'm kind of surprised it was still kicking around all of these years later.  

When this album was originally put out, Deranged listed a black vinyl version and a blue vinyl version, which I bought right away.  A few weeks later they listed this pink version and I was just never willing to commit the crazy Canadian postage rates required to pick it up.  Fast forward a few years and Deranged started offering a cheaper shipping alternative for the folks in the US, so I picked this up while ordering another record.   There are only a few bands that I really go variant crazy for, but Marvelous Darlings is one of those bands.

This LP is a collection of every 7" that Marvelous Darlings released over their active years.  The way this band combined a rock and roll swagger with some of the biggest pop hooks you've ever heard was something to hear.  It's been especially weird to watch singer Ben Cook's other project Young Guv go off the rails with his first full length after releasing a slew of 7"s and then just kind of go dark.  The torch is still being carried a by Marvelous Mark who is crafting some awfully nice pop tunes, but even those are missing some of the crunch and fervor that Marvelous Darlings were able to capture.

Single Life ends up being a picture perfect document of a band that was together for a few years, wrote some of the best damn songs you've ever heard and then vanished into the night.  It's a pretty essential record if you ask me.  What I wouldn't give for the band to do another.

Marvelous Darlings - Single Life:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Hum Hums - Back To Front CD


Waterslide (2015)

It's impossible to say as many good things about Waterslide records as I want to.  The pile of CDs they sent me to review has yielded gem after undiscovered gem and The Hum Hums is right at the top of the pile.  I will admit, I'm not nearly as up on the current crop of non-Snuffy Smiles Japanese bands as I was when I was a bit younger.  More of them are slipping through the cracks as it is difficult to keep up with a scene that gets so little exposure in America.  I'm positive that if the spotlight was a little brighter over there, more people would be likely to listen to this sort of thing.

I had never heard or even heard of The Hum Hums prior to popping in this CD, but let me tell you I sure am glad I've heard them now.  Back To Front is a little different to describe.  At its core is the very essence of a Ramones-core, 1990s pop punk band.  But the way that The Hums Hums craft their songs, in particular the truly glorious vocal harmonies, elevate every song on this album to something special.

If you listen to "She Won't Spread It" (which is about someone keeping secrets - I know where your mind was going), I just can't imagine you not being impressed with the way the backing vocals lift the song up.  It's nearly impossible for me not to sing along every time it comes on.  That's just one of a myriad of hits on this album.  "Introvert," "Sidewalk Surfers" and "Starway" all have just as many incredible moments that suck you into the record.  All I can do is thank the folks at Waterslide for sending this over to me.  This is great stuff.

The Hum Hums - Back To Front: