Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Real Numbers - Wordless Wonder LP - White Vinyl


Slumberland (2016)

Real Numbers are a band that have been on my radar for about 5 years now.  They released a 7" here, a 12" EP there, but would then go back into hibernation for an extended spell.  Wordless Wonders is their first full length and while I won't pretend I've been waiting at the edge of my seat for this moment to arrive, I was excited that the band was finally putting out an album.

The resulting album reminds me a lot more of their 12" from a few years ago than it does their earlier 7".  It's a good album, but that's as high praise as I'll be able to give the whole thing.  Most songs are pretty mellow, though still quite catchy in places.  It has a definite low key, 60's style vibe to it with the vocals having just enough echo effect on them to make you wonder if the band is slipping into the world of psych rock.  Thankfully none of the songs are far out enough to really cross that line.

Where Real Numbers really shine are when they flat out play fast songs.  When the band revs up their Vacant Lot style rippers "Just So Far Away" and "Up & About" it makes me wonder how much I would love this album if it was crammed full of tracks like that.  Regardless, it's a pretty good album start to finish with a handful of standouts.  There aren't any bad songs, there just aren't enough great ones to make this an album of the year contender.  Still worth a listen.

Real Numbers - Wordless Wonder:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bad Sports - Living With Secrets 12" - Clear Vinyl (/300)


Dirtnap (2016)

I'm not sure exactly why, but I've never liked 12" EPs.  I think it's mostly because it seems like a waste of vinyl.  Why not do a 10"? I always thought that was the perfect platform for an EP that's too long to put on a 7".  That's all just a personal preference and it has nothing to do with the actual Bad Sports songs on this EP.

I'm very guilty of being the guy that says things like, this is good, but I liked their last record better.  I do that a lot.  I think there is something hardwired into my brain that makes me have the most affection for the first album that gets me into a band.  There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but in general, I tend to do this.  And that is my big takeaway from this Bad Sports EP.  It's good, I like some of the songs quite a bit, but I don't like it quite as much as previous records that the band put out.

The songs are still pretty catchy with some solid hooks, but they're not quite as in your face poppy as some of their older material.  There's definitely a darker vibe going on here and from time to time the band is pulled into territory I would associate with another Dirtnap band, The Estranged.  All in all, it's still a good EP.  Without comparisons to their earlier records I would probably be into it more, but that's my burden.

Bad Sports - Living With Secrets 12":

Monday, November 28, 2016

Terry Malts - Lost At The Party LP - White w/ Red Vinyl


Slumberland (2016)

Lost At The Party is the second album I've purchased by Terry Malts.  Though I had a few minor issues, I really enjoyed their last record, Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere.  Lost At The Party is something a little bit different this time out.  On some songs, they come out better for it, but on others it's a move that doesn't work out as well.

Terry Malts is a band that I like the most when they are playing fast and loud.  A little bit of fuzziness goes a long way with these guys.  When the pace quickens on this album, as it does on standout tracks like "Won't Come Find You, "Seen Everything" and "Come Back," Terry Malts are at their best.  The hooks are there and with the drums pounding and guitar howling, this is a band to be reckoned with.

The biggest issue with Lost At The Party is an over reliance on slower, eighties sounding songs. These ones are schmaltzy and sound way too much like they're trying to be part of the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie. "Gentle Eyes" and "Waiting For The Bomb" are my least favorite of this bunch.  They just grind the album to a screeching halt.  That being said, when the band is upbeat this is a pretty great record in places.  I just wish they were upbeat a bit more often.

Terry Malts - Lost At The Party:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Turkey Break

OK, I'll admit it, that picture isn't of a record I bought.  But it has a turkey on it, which is big fun.  Anyway, I'm taking the week off from reviews for the holiday.  Enjoy any time off you have coming and Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Felix! (The Band) - What To Do In Case Of Fire? CD


Waterslide (2015)

When I pulled this out of the package of CDs sent to me from Waterslide records, I immediately started to smile.  The artwork for this album is fantastic, a spin on the old art used by Mutant Pop records for their 7"s back in the 90's.  Even though I didn't love everything that Mutant Pop put out, they had some spectacular releases.  If you don't have those Underhand 7"s, you really should go buy them right away.

Felix! (The Band) fits in the Mutant Pop mold as well. At their core they are the epitome of a 1990s pop punk band.  Probably most similar to bands on the pop punk spectrum like The Riverdales, Squirtgun and Zoinks!.  They've got the blasting power chords, the three chord transitions, a little bit of octaves for some dynamics and lots of catchy choruses.  They're at their best when there's a little bit of whoa-ing in the background during the choruses of songs like "Sunday" and "I'm Still Waiting For You."

It's kind of funny listening to Felix! (The Band).  They just sound so much like an American band from the 90's, you find yourself forgetting that this album only came out last year.  It's a nice and refreshing listen.  Twenty years ago this may have gotten lost in the shuffle with so many other bands around at the time, but now they stand out as something new, fresh and pretty unique in 2016 (or 2015 when the record came out). 

Felix! (The Band) - What To Do In Case Of Fire?:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

First Base - Together Again 7"


La-Ti-Da (2016)

This is the seventh and last of the 7"s that I bought as a bundle from La-Ti-Da records.  There have been way more good than bad and I would buy another bundle like this without hesitation.  The best part has been discovering some new bands and the last 7" in this set, by First Base, is one of the best.

The funny thing is, I actually thought I had a record by First Base.  Either I'm confusing them with another band that I can't remember or I've somehow lost a record of theirs.  It's probably the former, though I have misplaced the occasional album.  Regardless, this La-Ti-Da 7" is a corker.  Both songs are tightly wound, harmony soaked, power pop gems.  With the bouncy bass lines you want and the singalong backing vocals that you need.

This is a band that looks to have a bunch of records out, including an LP on HoZac and a couple releases on Hosehead (which is for sure why I know the name of the band at the very least).  You can bet I'm going to be checking out those records soon, this 7" is fantastic.

First Base - Together Again 7":

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Mallwalkers - Dial 'M' For... LP - Purple Vinyl (/100)


Peterwalkee (2016)

Dial 'M' For... is another record sent to me for review by the folks at Peterwalkee records.  They're not a band I was familiar with, but as I read the accompanying one sheet, I was intrigued by the fact that they name dropped bands like Rocket From The Crypt, Dun Narcotic Sound System and The B-52's.  That, plus the fact that the album art clearly depicts a horn section got my hopes up that this could be something great.

All the pieces are there.  I'll even go so far to say the band itself is pretty great.  They've got blistering energy as they stomp their way through each song.  A solid barrage of guitar attack with some really excellent horn section accents.  Maybe not in the same ballpark as RFTC necessarily, but I could see how this sort of thing might appeal to similar fans.  Unfortunately all of of this good will is immediately destroyed when the vocals kick in.

I'm not sure I've heard a band so good that has such awful singers.  They have the male/female interplay going on, but it's kind of a disaster.  Singer 1A, Dan sounds like he has a perpetual sore throat and is in dire need of some Sucrets.  I like some raspy vocals, but this is raspy done in the absolute wrong way.  On the flipside, Singer 1B Jaz is a shouting nightmare.  She is just screaming like a maniac most of the time and it's awful.  

The strangest part is when Jaz calms down and actually sings a song like she does on the slow, soul influence "Community," she's incredibly effective.  She is so much more suited to that style than she is to the other ninety percent of the album where she and Dan are yelling at you to "Dance til your pants are off."  It's a shame as the vocals kind of spoil would could have been a pretty fun album.

Mallwalkers - Dial M For ...:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Messrs - S/T LP


Heel Turn (2016)

I'm not going to be able to give you a particularly insightful review of this Messrs album.  To put it bluntly, I just don't really like this sort of thing.  The one sheet that came with this review copy of Messrs S/T LP compares them to early AmRep and Touch & Go bands.  I guess that might be true, but to me, this sounds like a sludgy mess.

Are you looking for a loud, thick pile of guitar that has the treble turned all the way down to zero?  Looking for some plodding drum beats?  How about some shouted vocals that you can't understand?  If the answer is yes, Messrs may be for you.

I'm sure there are people that would really like this album.  Even I went through a period in the 90's where I was listening to crazy amounts of godheadSilo, Karp, Fitz of Depression and bands like that.  But I've always felt those Pacific Northwest bands had a lot more going on than just yelling and screaming.  I can't find anything deeper with Messrs.

Messrs - "NS":

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Low Culture - Hard To Stay 7"


La-Ti-Da (2016)

A companion piece to yesterday's review of the Places To Hide LP, this is a new 7" from Low Culture on the wonderful La-Ti-Da records.

A side "Hard To Stay" is one of the best of the current crop of Low Culture songs.  It leans to the power pop side of the spectrum, particularly with the chord progressions and the generally bouncy beat.  A real killer song.  B side "Lonely Summer" is also on the new LP. It's slightly different from the album version, but not really all that dissimilar. It's just as good of a song as it is on the album, a little slower than the band usually churns out, but still a good time.

That's it for the review today.  No time for a lengthy outpouring of silly adjectives.  Stop reading and go vote.

Low Culture - Hard To Stay 7":

Monday, November 7, 2016

Low Culture - Places To Hide - Blue Vinyl (/200)


Dirtnap (2016)

I think that of the post-Marked Men bands, Low Culture is the one that doesn't seem to get quite as much attention as they deserve.  I've always thought that to be weird as this is a band that has been churning out hit after hit after hit.  If nothing else, I personally find them to be more consistently enjoyable than Mind Spiders.

The main reason I like Low Culture so much is because they are not afraid to put out basic, but extremely catchy songs.  They've not experimenting for the sake of it and they aren't trying to reinvent the wheel.  Low Culture wants to play their guitars really loud and really fast, leaving nothing but big hooks in their wake.  That formula works out on Places To Hide.  It's every bit as good as their prior full length Screens.  

In particular, songs like "Slave To You," "Hate Me When I Go" and "Evil" just get better every time I hear them.  Though, honestly, the same can be said about this entire record.  The first time I heard it, I liked everything, but it sort of passed by in a whirlwind.  The more I listen to it, the more each songs greatness starts to reveal itself.  It's just a fantastic album start to finish.

Low Culture - Places To Hide:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Market East - Orange & Me 7"


La-Ti-Da (2016)

When the needle first hit the vinyl on this Market East 7", I was immediately interested in the sounds emanating from this record.  It started off with a gentle, soulful bassline with some really nice vocal harmonies.  I figured I was in for a Ballantynes-esque soul party, though that wasn't quite meant to be.

While I enjoy A side "Orange & Me," it just kind of stalls out after the promising start.  I kept waiting for the song to kick into a higher gear that it apparently didn't have.  The end result is a perfectly serviceable 60's style throwback with truly some of the better harmonies I've heard in a long whole.  It never reaches that next level that would really win me over.  It's alright, but kind of a little boring.

Unfortunately things don't really improve on the B side.  It's not bad, but the sort of low key, vaguely psychedelic rock and roll that these guys are playing just isn't all that interesting to me.  "Our Love Will Always Win" is slower than "Orange & Me" and not quite as catchy.  It's a decent enough little 7", but it's not the kind that will keep me going back for repeated listens.

Market East - Orange & Me 7":

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Temper And Hold - The Speed Of Travel LP


Grafton (2016)

I will say this right away, when I opened up this Temper And Hold record that I was sent to review, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the packaging and art.  Sturdy, well designed and it just looks and feels like a serious record.  No skimping here, so kudos for that.  As far as the music itself goes, it's good but not great.

The bands that come to mind when I'm listening to this are a weird amalgamation of Pinback guitar noodling and Rainer Maria style vocal melodies.  Now for the record, I'm a huge Pinback fan, so I'm totally on board with that side of things, but I'm not quite as into the vocals.  When the vocals are more subdued and are gently intermingling with the lower key moments of the album, it really does work and sounds pretty great.  However, when things get a bit more intense, I'm not as into the louder wailing.

The Speed Of Travel has its moments and is a decent enough listen start to finish, but it never really clicks for me.  Nothing on it is terrible, but it's just not the sort of thing I could see listening to very often.

Temper And Hold - The Speed Of Travel:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Turquoise Feeling - S/T LP


Heel Turn (2016)

If you know my taste in music, you know that in general I prefer when bands are a little rough around the edges, especially when it comes to recording.  I've always felt that when bands get a little too produced, it tends to gloss over some of the raw energy that they bring to the table.  Occasionally, things can go a bit too far in the other direction.  

What keeps coming to my mind when I listen to Turquoise Feeling is that I wish this album was recorded just a bit better.  I'm all for a little noise and some hiss, but in the case of this LP everything is so raw and overblown, you can't really hear anything that is going on.  The vocals are a bunch of ramblings that are completely buried in the mix and the instruments are just a jumbled pile of chaos.

It's a bit of a shame too, as most of the songs on the record are pretty good.  They're short, catchy bursts of garage fueled energy.  They are catchier than you'd think considering all of the noise you need to wade through.  If I could hear everything, I think I'd be singing a much different tune about this record.  I actually stumbled across a YouTube video of the Turquoise Feeling playing one of the songs from this record live.  It sounded so much better than the recorded version did.  It makes me wonder what could have been.

Turquoise Feeling - "Fever Few":

Turquoise Feeling - "Post Partum" (Live, not the LP version)