Friday, December 28, 2018

The Absolute Best Records Of 2018


2018 was an interesting year to say the least.  From the highest of highs when my wife and I purchased our first house (with a dedicated music/records room) to the lows of watching the rest of the world seemingly burning down around us.  Once again I had a pretty great soundtrack to get me through everything.

It's probably no surprise that Hot Snakes tops the list this year, it's almost impossible to believe they wouldn't.  But I have to point out again just how great The Pretty Flowers album is.  It would likely have grabbed the top spot in any year that didn't have a John Reis band record released.  It's an incredible album that everyone really needs to go check out.

The top 10 is really strong this year.  Custody put out an unbelievably good album and followed that up with a great show that I was able to go see.  The Stayawakes also deserves your attention if they slipped under the radar.  I didn't even review Unlikely Friends this year as I didn't buy the CD in the hopes that it would eventually be released on vinyl.  It never was so I just ordered it.  I'll have a full review up in a few weeks.

Usually I have a top 30 list, but this year there just wasn't quite enough to fill it out since I don't count singles compilations (Marked Men, Carbonas) or reissues.  I'm uncertain as to why I had less records than usual.  Was it just a weaker year?  Am I getting older and more out of touch? Did I just not have as much disposable income due to the house purchase?  I'm not really sure.  I guess we'll have to wait until next year to see if this is a trend or a one year anomaly.

I'll be back writing my daily reviews on January 7th.  Until then, I'm just going to relax, enjoy some days off from work and sit on my couch and watch the New Japan Pro Wrestling Tokyo Dome show on January 4th.  See you next year.

01 - Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens - Sub Pop (Listen)
02 - The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash - Dirt Cult (Listen)
03 - Custody - Custody - Little Rocket (Listen)
04 - The Stayawakes - Dogs And Cats / Living Together - Bad Horror (Listen)
05 - Unlikely Friends - Crooked Numbers - Swoon (Listen)
06 - JD McPherson - Socks - New West (Listen)
07 - Hateman - Radio Hate - 1000% D.I.Y. (Listen)
08 - Clearance - At Your Leisure - Top Shelf (Listen)
09 - Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive - Merge (Listen)
10 - Summerman - Fan - Super Capsaicin (Listen)

11 - Wild Animals - The Hoax - Waterslide
12 - Lawsuit Models - Off The Pavement - Snappy Little Numbers
13 - Down And Outs - Double Negative - Waterslide/All In Vinyl/Yo-Yo
14 - Hurry - Every Little Thought - Lame-O
15 - New Junk City - Same Places - Night Animal
16 - Songs For Snakes - Crystal Vapour Figure - Timid Crusher
17 - Cloud Nothings - Last Burning Building - Carpark
18 - V/A - A Tribute To Broccoli - Fixing A Hole
19 - Hooper - No Monument - Snappy Little Numbers
20 - V/A - 14 Soda Punx - Top Drawer

Other Records I Picked Up This Year:

Abolitionist - The Instant - 1859
Bedford Falls - Send More Bees - Brassneck/Dead Broke/Boss Tuneage
Carbonas - Your Moral Superiors - Goner (Singles Compilation)
Creeps - Beneath The Pines - It's Alive
Four Lights - Kobayashi Maru - Bomb Pop/Stardumb
Hard Feelings - Sideways - Dirt Cult
The Marked Men - On The Other Side - Dirtnap (Singles Compilation)
The Mr. T Experience - Shards Volume One - Sounds Rad (Singles Compilation)
The Mr. T Experience - Shards Volume Two - Sounds Rad (Singles Compilation)
Spells - Loose Change Vol. 1 - Snappy Little Numbers (Singles Compilation)
Treepeople - No Mouth Pipetting - Self Released (Reissue)
Soundtrack - Katamari Damacy - Mondo (Reissue)


Thursday, December 20, 2018

JD McPherson - Socks LP - Green Vinyl


New West (2018)

If you know me well, you probably know how much I love Christmas music.  While it seems that Christmas music can be a source of frustration for many, I have always embraced the warm sounds of songs singing the praises of Santa Claus.  I've be curating a playlist of Christmas songs for years now, fine tuning it constantly. Adding new songs, purging ones that don't quite cut it, it's a living breathing organism that I play with every year.  This year, I was able to add the best new addition I've found in ages, Socks.

I discovered this album on Instagram.  I follow a guitar maker called TK Smith and they posted a picture of this album on their feed.  As I picked up on the Joel Paterson Christmas album from them last year, I figured I would check out JD McPherson and see what it was all about.  What it's about is probably the best Christmas album released in the last forty years or so.  Every single song on this album is incredible and each deserves to be enshrined as classic Christmas songs going forward.

The album has a retro, 60s rock feel to it.  The tempo of the Beach Boys mixed with the energy of the Phil Spector Christmas album mixed with the vocal story telling of Gene Autry.  It's a conglomeration everything I love about Christmas records.  "All The Gifts I Need" has a horn accented swing feel to it, while "Bad Kid" is more of a Ventures-style (though with vocals) guitar track.

I've been debating which song on this album is my favorite and it tends to come town to the title track "Socks" and "Hey Skinny Santa."  "Socks" is a wonderful tale of disappointment in opening up the gift you've been waiting for all year only to find footwear waiting for you.  "Hey Skinny Santa" is a culinary tour of various cities and foods that Santa needs to make sure he's at the appropriate level of rotundness by the time the big day rolls around.

The thing about this album that makes it special is not only is it an incredible Christmas album, it's an amazing album period.  It's easily one of my favorite albums that has been released the entire year.  Even though this record will likely be relegated to December spins going forward, I can't fathom not listening to it every year for the rest of my life.  It's going to be a new staple of the season and I cannot recommend it enough.

JD McPherson - Socks:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Lisa Marr with the Tranzmitors - In The Summer 7" - Yellow Vinyl


Top Drawer (2019)

This 7" is really great.  I have to be honest that when I heard that Lisa Marr (from Cub) was getting together with The Tranzmitors to release a 7" of primarily cover songs, I though it sounded neat, but not particularly necessary.  Since two of the covers are Cub songs, I wasn't really sure what a rerecording could add to the musical canon as the originals are already out there existing on their own quite nicely.  Well, I was wrong.  This 7" is so much fun on every level.

First up is "In The Summer," originally by the Fastbacks, a band I was embarrassingly late to the party on.  This version of the song by Lisa & Co. is pretty faithful to the original with the same sort of bouncy rhythms and dynamic guitar work.  While it's not a reimagining of the original, it succeeds based on the sheer joy that comes through on this recording.  You can tell that everyone involved loves this song.

Next up are two Cub songs; "Magic 8 Ball" and "Pretty Pictures."  These two interpretations are much more different than the originals than "In The Summer" is.  Both have a little more fuzz and distortion on the guitars and maybe just a pinch more volume than you may be used to.  In particular the new dueling vocals on "Magic 8 Ball" are excellent and worth the price of admission all on their own.  Wrapping things up is a new composition called "Salvation."  If this is a hint of what could come of a longer term collaboration between Lisa Marr and The Tranzmitors, all I can say is someone really needs to book that studio time right now.

Lisa Marr with the Tranzmitors - In The Summer 7":

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Marked Men - On The Other Side LP - Teal Vinyl, White Vinyl & Black Vinyl


Dirtnap (2018)

One of the bands I miss more than any other is The Marked Men.  Yes, the Radioactivity records are great and give me my biennial dose of Jeff Burke songwriting, but there was a certain magic that The Marked Men had that puts them apart from all of their members various other projects.  Since it seems unlikely that The Marked Men will ever make a new album, it is nice that they've finally released a singles compilation.

One thing that I particularly enjoy about this release is that it's actually a complete compilation.  So many bands put out these sorts of things and then leave songs off of them, a decision that I will just never understand.  But The Marked Men do it right and every single song from every single 7" is represented along with a couple of previously unreleased songs.  Even though I had all of the prior singles, I was still pretty excited to have them compiled onto one easy to listen to LP.  As much as I adore the 7" format, I just don't listen to them as much as I listen to LPs.  This album gives me the chance to give these songs the attention that they've deserved all along.

On The Other Side is almost as strong as any of The Marked Men's full lengths.  There is very little in the way of filler and some of these songs like "She Won't Know," "Oh My Pretty Face," and "The Other Side" are just flat out incredible. 

Even though I tend not to go as variant crazy as I once did, it was important to me to keep my Marked Men collection complete.  I bought both limited version on teal vinyl (/300) and white vinyl (/300) plus the standard black.  While I still wish that we will hear from The Marked Men again, On The Other Side is a pretty incredible finale to one of my favorite bands of the past fifteen years.

The Marked Men - On The Other Side:

Monday, December 17, 2018

Hollie Cook - Sweet Like Chocolate 7"


Merge (2018)

I subscribed to the Merge Born Under A Good Sign, 30th anniversary subscription thing.  The description of what would be in this subscription was somewhat vague, but I couldn't run the risk of a Superchunk release that I might miss out on.  After all, I really can't fathom a Merge 30th celebration that didn't include something from Superchunk.  I guess we'll have to wait and see what 2019 holds.

2018 brought the first surprise release from this subscription.  I received a 7" from Hollie Cook.  I don't know anything about Hollie Cook and have never heard of her prior to this 7".  I can say that this isn't my bag at all and it'll likely just be filed away in the collection.  The A side is "Sweet Like Chocolate."  It's an unoffensive little slab of light, reggae tinged pop.  There's nothing bad about it, but it's really just kind of there.  Background music maybe.  I don't know, it's a mid tempo song that exists in some tropical club that I'd never go to.

The B side is a dub version of the same song.  So it has more sound effects.  That's about it.  Hey, it's a free surprise as part of the subscription.  I'm certainly not going to complain that it was sent, but it isn't the sort of thing I would have ever bought on my own.

Hollie Cook - Sweet Like Chocolate 7":

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Blues Brothers - Briefcase Full Of Blues LP - Japanese Version


Atlantic (1978)

I made mention of this record in the 40th birthday tribute to Briefcase full of Blues I wrote a few days ago.  Unfortunately this Japanese version didn't show up in time for the group portrait.  Since it's here now, I figured I'd take a picture and write up something really quick.

I won't spend too much time talking about this record again.  It's great.  You probably know that already or at the very least, you know that I think it's great.  This version has the super cool Obi strip that's the standard for Japanese releases.  It also has liner notes that include the lyrics to every song in English and Japanese.  They even transcribed Elwood's speech thing during the "Can't Turn You Loose" introduction.  The little things like this are what fascinate me and make me collect multiple versions of certain records.

Sound quality wise, it sounds great.  It sounds a little bit crisper than most of the other versions I have.  I won't go so far as to say it's drastically different from any of the other pressings, but there is a clarity on this Japanese version that probably moves it to the front of the line.  That said, It was mostly the artwork that made me pick this up.

The Blues Brothers - "Soul Man":

The Blues Brothers - "Rubber Biscuit":

The Blues Brothers - "Messing With The Kid":

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Modern Goon - This Empty Space 7" - Red Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

I'm trying to do some end of the year clean up to get through the last few items that were sent to me to review this year.  I've been putting off this 7" as I haven't been sure what exactly to say about it.  I guess what it boils down to is that this is the very first release on Snappy Little Numbers that I flat out do not like, with no caveats.

There were times where something they put out wasn't exactly up my alley, but it had the hooks or some other positive characteristic that made me understand where they were coming from.  That way, I can at least acknowledge the skill of the band and recommend it to people who are more into that particular sub-sub-genre.

I can't really find anything redeemable about Modern Goon.  It's just blunt force, punk/hardcore.  There's lots of yelling, lots of guitar noises that I'm not positive can be classified as chords and there's just nothing remarkable about any of the four songs.  It seems like the sort of thing you could hear from any high school band playing at any VFW punk show in the country.  Sorry SLN, everything else is great, but this one isn't for me at all.

Modern Goon - This Empty Space 7":

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Cyber Bullies - Leather And Lazers Cassette


More Power Tapes (2018)

I'll admit it, while looking through the small pile of tapes I have looking for one to review, I chose Cyber Bullies because of what complete dorks these guys look like on their album cover.  I'm sure it's supposed to be some kind of ironic, tongue in cheek thing that I don't get.  But seriously, look at these dudes.  I have no words.

Musically, it's fast and sloppy, with really loud keyboards. I wouldn't go so far as to say the songs are catchy, but they're not offensively bad and in general breeze past pretty quick.  The vocals, however, are pretty awful.  I can't say that the singer is screaming, because that's not accurate, but he's yelping in a way that pretty close to screaming and it's high pitched and all over the place.

I don't seem to like many of the releases that More Power Tapes put out.  Occasionally there will be something nice and surfy, or maybe leaning towards power pop, but the bulk of it seems to be by weirdo punk rockers doing weirdo punk rock things that go sailing over my head.  Maybe I'm an old square now, but I cannot wrap my head around who this tape would actually be geared towards.

Cyber Bullies - Leather And Lazers:

Monday, December 10, 2018

Winstons / Invisible Teardrops - Split 7"


Snuffy Smiles (2016)

As I got ready to review this split 7", I had to look it up on Discogs to double check the year it was released.  I cannot believe this is from 2016.  I definitely haven't been sitting on this for two years, so maybe it was out in Japan for a while before I managed to pick up a copy.  It's not like me to be so behind on writing about a Snuffy Smiles record.

The Invisible Teardrops seem like an odd fit for a Snuffy Smiles release.  They have sound that reminds me a bit of Sedatives, in no small part due to the extremely prominent use of organ.  There's lots of good downstroked guitar chords that I like, but I'm not really into the reverb drenched, echo-y vocals.  Perhaps I was expecting something with a bit more pop punk behind it.

Winstons also aren't the sort of band I would typically associate with Snuffy Smiles.  With their jangly guitars and soul-style delivery, it's totally out of left field.  I like this a lot more than the Invisible Teardrops side as it has a vaguely Stax-esque flavor to it and I do dig that sound a lot.  It's just not the sort of release I'd expect from my favorite punk rock label of all time. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Otis Redding - Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul LP (From Definitive Studio Albums Box Set)


Atlantic (2017)

Over the next few months, I will be writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Redding Definitive Studio Albums box set. It would be far too daunting a task to try to summarize so many great albums into one review for the entire set. Otis Redding is one of my favorites and each album deserves to be savored.

The third full length album from Otis Redding in this box set is the classic Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul.  I already have another version of this LP, but I'll probably let that one go now that I have this box set.  Otis Blue is pretty much nonstop hits from start to finish.  Whether it's on his version of "Respect" (quite different than Aretha's, but just as good) or the undeniable energy of "Shake" or Otis' take on the Rolling Stones classic "Satisfaction" every song on here is just amazing.

I would be hard pressed to pick my favorite Otis Redding album.  He has so many songs that are all so incredible, but if you wanted to argue that Otis Blue is the best, that's an argument that I would take seriously.  It's definitely one of my favorites.

Otis Redding - "Respect":

Otis Redding - "Shake":

Otis Redding - "Satisfaction":

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Cheap Clone - Barely Smile 7" - Green Vinyl


Just Because / Peanut Butter (2018)

I wasn't familiar with Cheap Clone prior to Just Because sending this record to me to check out.  I've ended up being pretty impressed by it.  And that is my favorite thing about someone sending me a record to review, you never know when you're going to stumble across new sounds that really click with you.

Cheap Clone definitely have a 90s indie rock feel to them.  There is a bit of a ramshackle feel to their jangly guitars that makes me think of a less boozy Replacements.  But that's kind of a lazy, half ass comparison and the band is very obviously not trying to sound like the Replacements with their dynamic harmonies and the way they seem to pursue the song's melody above all else.

Of the four songs, "430 Miles" is my favorite of the bunch.  Likely because it's the fastest, but also the vocal melody of the chorus really stands out from the other free.  It's an earworm in the best possible way.

Cheap Clone - Barely Smile 7":

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Great American House Fire - Promise Me Endings 12" - White Vinyl (/300)


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

I have to say that I was completely taken aback by Great American House Fire when I put this record on the turntable.  I've come to expect plenty of great things from Snappy Little Numbers over the years, though in general, their releases have a pretty strong pop lean that is right up my alley. So I was quite surprised at how soulful this Great American House Fire EP is.

Musically, they seem to have one foot in the Jawbox school of punk rock witch crunchy guitar sounds and a penchant for start/stop riffs.  But the vocals layered on top of this are more in line with bands like The Ballantynes or something out of the 70s Stax catalog.  All I can say is it's just a warm, soul drenched delivery that is in pretty stark contrast to the music, but somehow works better than you'd think just reading that description.

On paper, I don't think this should work.  But when the record is actually playing and the songs are coming out of the speakers, it seems like this sort of pairing absolutely goes together.  Oh, this is also a really cool one sided 12" with a screen print on the B side.  So, it's sharp looking to boot.

Great American House Fire - Promise Me Endings 12":

Monday, December 3, 2018

Superchunk - Our Work Is Done 7"


Merge (2018)

Superchunk released another in their series of benefit 7"s recently and it features two new songs, one original and a cover.  I opted to get the black vinyl version of this 7" this time.  From the stats they posted online, it looks like there were actually less black pressed than the autographed, colored vinyl version.  While I am a sucker for colored vinyl, autographs aren't anything I really care about all that much.  With the holidays coming up, it was just easier for me to opt for the version that was $15 cheaper.  That said, the funds go to a good cause, so this is in no way me griping about any costs.  It's a benefit and people should give as much as they can.

The A side is a new Superchunk original called "Our Work Is Done."  It's almost great.  As a song, it's one of the poppiest they've done in a while.  It scratches every itch I have for a Superchunk song, and I probably like it more than any of the songs on their also great last full length.  But then there are the backing vocals by Fucked Up's Damian Abraham.  I don't know why they were added.  The harsh, hardcore scream along with Mac's higher pitched, melodic vocals is a total disconnect for me and it really drags down an otherwise incredible track.

The B side is "Total Eclipse" and that's a cover song that was originally done by Klaus Nomi.  I'm not familiar with Klaus, but a quick Google search brought up some pretty interesting videos.  The Superchunk version of the song is heavy on background guitar feedback, but that doesn't overtake the hook the same way that Damian does in "Our Work Is Done."  "Total Eclipse" is a perfectly serviceable Superchunk B side.  It's not incredible, but it's good and a solid addition to my ever growing Superchunk 7" collection.

Superchunk - Our Work Is Done 7":

Thursday, November 29, 2018

New Junk City - Same Places LP


Night Animal / Secret Pennies / Real Ghost (2018)

New Junk City is a band that keeps randomly popping back into my life when I'm not expecting them.  I had a split 7" of theirs sent to me to review a few years ago, they ended up as one of the bands on an All In Vinyl single series that I subscribed to and now a full length album has shown up at my door. 

Same Places is a full length album's worth of all of the things that have made me like the New Junk City 7"s I've heard over the last several years.  This is a band playing energetic, punked up pop songs.  In reading the bio sheet, the label compares the band to several other bands that I don't think they sound like much.  Looking around the internet at other reviews of this album, it seems like most websites are essentially copying and pasting that bio and trying to pass it off as a review.  That sort of thing annoys me to no end.

What I hear are gruff vocals that remind me a little bit of that guy from Flatliners, but over top of music that's significantly better than anything The Flatliners ever released.  There's a certain amount of late 90s energy, in a Burning Airlines sort of way, but more straightforward and with a heavier emphasis on being catchy.  Or maybe a less polished version of late era Samiam, keeping the hooks in tact, but assembling things a bit rougher around the edges.

However you want to try to describe New Junk City, it boils down to the fact that the record is really good and worth checking out.  I might not being paying as much attention to them as I should, but I'm happy that outside forces keep putting this band back in front of me so I don't miss out on anything.

New Junk City - Same Places:

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Blues Brothers - Briefcase Full Of Blues - 40 Years Old Today


On November 28th in 1978, the Blues Brothers album Briefcase Full of Blues was released.  Today marks forty years since this album came out.  I was still a week away from my second birthday, but this album being released still ranks as one of the most important events of my life.  Now, as a not-quite two year old, I have no memory of the day this was released.  I also don't know exactly how long it was before I heard the record for the first time, but I can say that by the time I was three, the Blues Brothers were my favorite band in the world.

I've asked my parents how I got into The Blues Brothers and neither one of them really seem to remember.  My mom thinks she was the one who bought the record as she liked them on Saturday Night Live, but the actual music they are playing is more in line with the sort of music my dad liked a bit more.  Neither one of them view the moment as life altering as I do and I wish they had been paying a little more attention to the events as they unfolded.  However this record came into my life, its impact has never waned and while I've said it many, many times in the past, I don't think I would be the same person and I'm not sure I would have ever gotten so into music if it weren't for the initial spark that the Blues Brothers provided.

Over the years I've listened to this album countless times.  I've bought it repeatedly to have different versions on colored vinyl, remastered reissues and various singles that were released from it.  I even recently bought the Japanese pressing of the LP, but it didn't show up in the mail in time to take a picture of it for today.  I've reviewed this record several times on this site in the past.  You can read those if you want more of a song by song account and further details of how important this record is to me.  For today, I just want to make mention of this milestone and say how thankful I am to everyone that played a part in putting this record out.  It means more to me than I could ever articulate.

The Blues Brothers - "Soul Man":

The Blues Brothers - "Rubber Biscuit":

The Blues Brothers - "Messing With The Kid":

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cloud Nothings - Last Burning Building LP - Clear Vinyl


Carpark (2018)

I spent  a great deal of 2018 counting down the days until the new Cloud Nothings album was released.  Everything I read about it made it seem like it would be right up my alley.  While their last album, Life Without Sound, took things in a slightly quieter direction for the band, Last Burning Building was advertised as a return to the loud, heavy guitar sound that the band had employed on earlier albums.  I think they went too far in the other direction.

Here And Nowhere Else is the album that got me into Cloud Nothings and I still that record is essentially perfect.  A wild blend of crunchy and loud guitars, mixed with big hooks and impassioned melodies.  Everything else I've listened to from Cloud Nothings has been me chasing that perfect mix.  Last Burning Building falls short.  In general it's just too dour and is lacking the melodies that are the reason I fell for the band to begin with.

Whether it's the non-stop screaming in album opener "On An Edge" or the plodding guitar riff of "So Right So Clean" or the super unnecessary, never-ending feedback mess of the ten plus minute long "Dissolution," Life Without Sound is directionless and lacks cohesion as an album.  That said, when the band does stick to the upbeat and noisy pop songs that they are best at, the results are incredible. Both "Leave Him Now" and "Another Way Of Life" are outstanding songs, as great as anything else the band has ever churned out.  What I wouldn't give for an album full of songs like these.

Cloud Nothings - Last Burning Building:

Monday, November 26, 2018

Bud Bronson & The Good Timers - Between The Outfield and Outer Space LP - Green Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

I think this band has a silly name and although I'm not one that typically puts too much stock in a band's name (I do have four Goober Patrol records, after all), I wonder if some folks might overlook this record.  I certainly wasn't expecting such strong pop hooks based on the band name and album artwork.

While I do appreciate all of the singalong choruses and the general catchiness of most of these songs, there is probably a bit too much lead guitar noodling for my personal taste.  I find myself digging into a song only to have it morph into a Minibosses style shred fest.  Those are the moments where I'm less interested, but when the band keeps is simpler and relies more on the riffs than the leads like on "Back To The Womb" or "Leave It Open" I'm completely captivated.

Ultimately Between The Outfield And Outer Space is a bit of a mixed bag for me.  There are moments in every song that I like and a handful of the songs are pretty great.  But there's so much lead guitar on this record and I keep having late 80s pop metal flashbacks when they kick in.  I'm just a simple man and I guess I like music that's a bit simpler as well.

Bud Bronson & The Good Timers - Between The Outfield and Outer Space:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Otis Redding - The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads LP (From Definitive Studio Albums Box Set)


Atlantic (2017)

Over the next few months, I will be writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Redding Definitive Studio Albums box set.  It would be far too daunting a task to try to summarize so many great albums into one review for the entire set.  Otis Redding is one of my favorites and each album deserves to be savored.

Next up is Otis Redding's second full album, The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads.  It's a lengthy little album title and it does seem a little presumptive to be calling Otis great on just his second album.  But by the time the album ends, there's just no doubt that he richly deserves that moniker.  Incredible song after incredible song reveal themselves as the record plays.  I think the most famous song from this album is the classic "Mr. Pitiful," and it's a classic for a reason.

That's just one of so many great tracks on this album. "That's How Strong My Love Is," "I Want To Thank You" and "Home In Your Heart" are easily on par with "Mr. Pitiful" and show just how much Otis grew from his first album to this one.  You can tell already that he's something special and is every bit as great as the album title suggests.

Otis Redding - "Home In Your Heart":

Otis Redding - "That's How Strong My Love Is":

Otis Redding - "Mr. Pitiful":

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Jamie 4 President - The Heartbreak Campaign CD


Waterslide (2017)

Jamie 4 President is another project from Wild Animals singer/guitarist Jamie Ruiz Green.  I really think Wild Animals are a fantastic band, so I was excited to listen to this album.  While you will absolutely hear similarities to his other band (it is the same singer after all), Jamie 4 President explores new sounds that really differentiate it from Wild Animals records.

What I hear most from Jamie 4 President is a similarity to the sort of lower-fi US indie rock of the mid 90s. Maybe a little bit like poppier Guided By Voices (though not quite that lo-fi) or perhaps owing some inspiration to the more upbeat moments of the Polyvinyl catalog.  I tend to enjoy the louder songs the best like "Everything Fades" and "Power Ballad Prince," but every song on this album is worth checking out.  I'd also be remiss not to point out "Far From Blue," with it's "Lucky Denver Mint" style drumming and big, catchy chorus.

The Heartbreak Campaign is a great listen.  Whether you're already familiar with Wild Animals or not, it's worth checking out.  And if you haven't heard Wild Animals, you should correct that oversight right away.

Jamie 4 President - The Heartbreak Campaign:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Black Paw - Bait 7"


Night Animal (2018)

I've been missing the band Rumspringer for years.  They were one of my favorite discoveries of the past ten years or so and I still have both of their albums in heavy rotation.  It's so exciting to see Wes from Rumspringer with a new band called Black Paw.  Formed from the ashes of the short lived New Colonies, Black Paw provide four songs of the sort of crunchy, melodic pop punk that I love.

Black Paw is gruff without sacrificing the hooks and they are aggressive without losing sight of the melody.  The four songs on this 7" are every bit as good as anything Rumspringer ever cranked out.  I'm so thrilled it exists and the only issue I have is that there are only four songs.  A fourteen song full length would be much better and would have certainly placed high on my records of the year list if the other theoretical songs were as good as the four on this 7".

 I have nothing further to add.  This is excellent.  Go buy it right now.

Black Paw - Bait 7":

Monday, November 12, 2018

V/A - Mainspring Tribute CD (/300)


Further Platonic (2017)

I will have to admit up front that I am not familiar with the band Mainspring.  I bought this compilation CD based on the fact that The Hum Hums and Short Straw Fate were both on it.  Though after listening to this six song tribute, it's pretty clear to me that I may have missed out on a band that is probably right up my alley.

The CD starts off with a band called Springwater.  I've also never heard of them, but their contribution "The Sun Has Not Yet Come Out" is a hell of a song and a great way to start off this CD.  It's got guitar octaves in just the right places and an incredibly catchy chorus.  I think this is another band I need to hear more from.  The Hum Hums's song "Turn Up" is exactly what I would expect from one of my current favorite bands.  Lots of wonderful harmonies and a melody that will be stuck in my head for weeks.  Short Straw Fate (another of my current favorite Japanese bands) takes things up a notch with their rendition of"Ordinary Persons."  They have a bit more of an aggressive sound, channelling their mid 90s influences.   They would sound right at home on Crackle or Snuffy Smile. 

I don't know Cody and The Checkmates, but their song stands out as being mellower than some of the others.  A little less distortion than some bands, but they still have a great guitar tone and this is another extremely catchy song.  Passive Chord turns the fuzzy guitars back up and their song "Still"  reminds me a little bit of the band Thirsty Chords.  They are another band I'd like to hear more from.  Wrapping things up is Slugger Machine, a band that I do have other records by.  "Belief" is their contribution and it's great.  The way the guitars sound remind me of a much faster Silver Scooter, but with stronger vocals and more emphasis on the hooks. 

This is a great CD.  It makes me want to hear more of the band that wrote all of these songs, Mainspring, plus it's given me my first taste of three new bands that I'd like to find more records of.  It seems like every time I buy a record from Kazu, it makes me want to buy ten more.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mudhoney / Hot Snakes - Split 7" - White Vinyl


Sub Pop (2018)

This week, I'm going to go through each of the four split 7"s that Sub Pop released as part of their SPF30 singles spectacular.  These 7"s were available at the Sub Pop 30th Anniversary show and then were later sold online.  Last on the list is the split 7" between Mudhoney and Hot Snakes.  This 7" is the reason I wanted these.  I was very lucky as a friend in Seattle picked up a copy for me at the festival itself.  At the time it was unclear if the records were going to be available elsewhere, so I just wanted to say than you Sir.

Mudhoney is a band that I don't think I've tried listening to in twenty five years.  They were never really my thing and I always felt they had more noise than hooks.  Their contribution is "One Bad Actor."  They still seem to have a fair amount of lead guitar wanking and a sludgy, heavy sound that's probably not too dissimilar to what they were cranking out in the 90s.  Chances are if you already like Mudhoney, you're going to like this.  For me, it's just not a sound that's ever been close to my heart.

A band that is very close to my heart is Hot Snakes.  They are one of my all time favorites and it's no surprise that I love this song as much as I do.  "They Put You Up to This" ticks all of the boxes that I want to hear from Hot Snakes.  It has a riff that is reminiscent of "Bye Nancy Boy" and it builds while the drums pound into a deceptively catchy crescendo.  It's another in a proud line of mid tempo maulers from the Snakes and I couldn't love it any more if I tried.  It's an essential addition to your Hot Snakes collection.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Frankie Cosmos / LVL UP - Split 7" - Red Vinyl


Sub Pop (2018)

This week, I'm going to go through each of the four split 7"s that Sub Pop released as part of their SPF30 singles spectacular.  These 7"s were available at the Sub Pop 30th Anniversary show and then were later sold online.  Next  up is the split 7" with Frankie Cosmos and LVL UP.

Frankie Cosmos took me by surprised as it reminded me of something that would have fit in on K Records in the mid 90s.  There are elements of "Home is Where" that bring Go Sailor to mind, but it's not quite as cuddlecore as that.  I also think it's something that probably could have fit in on the Juno soundtrack as it has a similar vibe to those songs.  The vocals seem a little loud in the mix to me, but it's a decent enough song.

LVL UP on the flip side is slower and has some psychedelic leanings.  There's a bit of fuzz on the vocals and the music itself is very full, with the bass guitar very prominent.  It sounds like a cross between a less poppy Mikal Cronin and some of the bands on Trouble In Mind that are too far out for me.  "Orchard" isn't a bad song, but it's nothing I find that exciting either.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Shabazz Palaces / Chad VanGaalen - Split 7" - Blue Vinyl


Sub Pop (2018)

This week, I'm going to go through each of the four split 7"s that Sub Pop released as part of their SPF30 singles spectacular.  These 7"s were available at the Sub Pop 30th Anniversary show and then were later sold online.  Next  up is the split 7" with Shabazz Palaces and Chad VanGaalen.

Shabazz Palaces is another group that I hadn't heard (or even heard of) before I put this 7" down on the turntable.  I can't really say I know what to make of it.  It's drum machine beats paired with a warped bass sound that sort of makes me think of godheadSilo, but with no distortion.  The vocals as kind of spoken word, but also somewhat odd.  This might just be one of those things I don't get.

Chad VanGaalen is someone who I'm familiar with, but I've never been particularly impressed with the songs I've heard.  On "Friendly Aliens" it starts off pretty much like I would expect.  Minimal drums and electric guitar, but it's just barely louder than being acoustic.  There's a few sound effects buried in there and it seems like the sort of song that's boring indie rock to me.  But, as the song progresses things really pick up in the chorus.  Everything thing gets louder and the drums are pounding and the guitars are roaring in a way that reminds me of the first Black Eyed Snakes album. Probably the best song I've ever heard from Chad.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Metz / Clipping - Split 7" - Orange Vinyl


Sub Pop (2018)

This week, I'm going to go through each of the four split 7"s that Sub Pop released as part of their SPF30 singles spectacular.  These 7"s were available at the Sub Pop 30th Anniversary show and then were later sold online.  First up is the split 7" with Metz and Clipping.

Metz is a band that I always want to like a lot more than I actually do.  There's something intriguing about every song that I hear from them, but for whatever reason there is also something that keeps me from really getting into it.  Their contribution, "Escalator Teeth / On and On" has pounding drums and a repetitive, but quite excellent, guitar riff.  It's somewhat marred by spacey sound effects inserted here and there and vocals that I don't really love.  It's noisy, but still pretty catchy.  Again, I want to like this, but I'm not there yet.

I've not heard Clipping prior to this 7" and I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  It's hip hop, but it's lacking the sort of thing I look for.  The flow of the rapping itself is very good and reminds me a bit of Akrobatik from The Perceptionists, but musically I just don't get what they are doing.  There is no real beat to speak of, just an electronic drone that sounds a bit like Flash Gordon background music whenever Ming is on screen.  It does get progressively louder throughout the song, but it's a total case of blue balls as you keep waiting for that beat to kick in, but it never does.  While I think this song is kind of a bust, I am intrigued enough to check out some of their other stuff to see if that's more my speed.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Otis Redding - Pain In My Heart LP (From Definitive Studio Albums Box Set)


Atlantic (2017)

As I continue to grow and document my collection of old soul records, I figured I would write up each of these Otis Redding records individually as opposed to just trying to cram in everything I want to say into one review about the entire box set.  That said, I really like having the box set as a whole, I just wish it had included the other main posthumous albums so I could have everything in one nice and easy set.

First up is Otis Redding's debut album, Pain In My Heart.  As great as it is, you really can tell this is his first release.  It's a little sparser than some of his other albums and in a lot of ways you can hear how he was still trying to find his voice.  The really plays like a collection of random songs than it does a cohesive album.  It's a little scattershot with a few chugging rockabilly songs, some slower soul ballads and a somewhat unnecessary version of "Louie Louie."

But, when Otis is playing to his strengths on songs like "Pain In My Heart" and "Security" you can tell that he's really, really close to hitting on the formula that he's been looking for.  Pain In My Heart may not be the Otis album crammed with the most hits, but it's probably the only record of his where you really see his talents coming together.  By his next album he emerged a full blown soul superstar, so it's really interesting to listen to his first crack at it, even if there are a few moments that don't hold up as well as the others.

Otis Redding - "Pain In My Heart":

Otis Redding - "Security":

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

V/A - Radical Punk For Shits CD


Anti-New Waves (2000)

This compilation CD is one that I definitely picked up while I was in Japan.  In addition to the fact that it has quite a few bands that I'm already a big fan of, it's also the very first release that Anti-New Waves ever released.  While that label isn't really known outside of Japan as well as a label like Snuffy Smile, they've put out quite a few records that I really enjoy, so it was kind of cool to be able to buy the record that started it all.

The basic concept of this compilation is Japanese punk rockers covering older UK punk songs.  While cover songs aren't always the most exciting thing for me to listen to, I certainly understand how much fun it is for a band to play a song that they love and was influential to their music.  The good news is that most of the covers on this comp are pretty great.

For me the standouts are Cradle To Graves' take on "Kleenex" by Generation X, Oval's version of "Ulster" by Stiff Little Fingers and Short Circuit taking on "In The City" by The Jam.  Each manages to pay homage to the original version of the song, while still allowing the band's to put their own stamp on the recording.  But really, all eight songs on this are pretty solid.  They all manage to capture the energy and passion that I love about Japanese punk bands, and pour that into some classic punk rock tunes from a prior generation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Carbonas - Your Moral Superiors 2xLP - Red Vinyl


Goner (2018)

The Carbonas are a band that I haven't really written about much as I had purchased the vast majority of their records prior to starting up this site.  I don't remember how I heard of the Carbonas originally and I'm not sure if I bought one of their records or the first Gentleman Jesse 7" first, but I kind of came into both bands around the same time and spent a lot of time hunting down weirdo variants of 7"s and LPs.  Some of that was a little frustrating for The Carbonas as several of their really early records were perhaps just a bit too punk rock for me.  But as time went on their songs got poppier and I became more obsessed with finding everything.

This double LP acts as both a singles compilation and an outlet for a bunch of unreleased songs that never saw the light of day when the band was still together.  Like their overall discography, this double LP set can be uneven at times.  For every surefire hit like "Blackout (Waiting To Happen)" or "Frothing At The Mouth" you are going to come across a song or two that is more concerned with being a fast and loud blunt object than making sure the hooks and melodies are all in the right place.

That's one of the charming things about the Carbonas.   While you know that they could bust out the catchiest song in the world if they wanted to, they also just had a love of trash and fuzz that couldn't be contained.  While I think their third full length album that came out on Goner is their best, if you aren't familiar with the band this compilation is actually a really great starting point.  You get a lot of songs from several eras of the band and at least seven or eight songs that are just incredible.  Even if you have all of their 7"s like I do, there's plenty of new material to keep you entertained.

Carbonas - Your Moral Superiors: Singles And Rarities:

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Pretty Flowers / Last Good Sleep - Split 7" - Yellow Vinyl (/250)


Self Released (2016)

I've mentioned a few times that I've been completely obsessed with The Pretty Flowers' full length Why Trains Crash.  It's one of my absolute favorite records of this year and I have essentially been playing it nonstop since I bought it.  More than anything, it's made me want to hear even more from the band, but unfortunately there aren't too many other releases out there.  One of the few is this split 7" with a band called Last Good Sleep.

We'll start with the Pretty Flowers songs since they're what made me pick up this 7".  The first song is "Inconsiderate Dreams."  It doesn't appear on Why Trains Crash, but it could very easily fit right in with the songs on that album.  It has the dynamic guitar work and insanely catchy hooks that just make me love this band.  The second song on their side of this split is a cover of "Year Of The Cat" by The Lemonheads.  It's a good take on the song and The Pretty Flowers do a nice job of making it sound like one of their own, but let's be honest - I like The Pretty Flowers more than the Lemonheads and would rather just have another original song.

Last Good Sleep isn't a band I'm familiar with.  They have such a strong early 90s feel, I can't even believe this record came out two years ago.  In particular the first song, "Jacranda Mimosifolia" really reminds me of a lot of the fuzzy punk that came out of the Pacific Northwest.  It sounds so much like Some Velvet Sidewalk to me, and that's a band name I haven't written down in a really long time.  The second song, "Candy Knife," is a bit more straightforward, but still sounds like the sort of thing that could have come out on K records in 1992.  That's a compliment, I really dig both of these songs.

The Pretty Flowers / Last Good Sleep - Split 7":

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pavement - Wowee Zowee LP

Domino (2010, Reissue)

There are a few reasons I bought this Pavement reissue.  One is it is one of my favorite albums of all time.  Two is because the version I already had was the original pressing on Big Cat and the vinyl was just so damn thin and flimsy (I don't know why I have the Big Cat version and not the Matador version - though I had the CD originally and picked up the vinyl at some point later on).  And three, I really just wanted to write about it on this site, and buying a new version is a good excuse to do that.  I can say that this 180 gram reissue sounds incredible, better than my original copy.  Though that’s not really why this record means so much to me.

Simply stated, Wowee Zowee is one of the most important records of my life.  It came out at the absolute perfect moment for me to be super impactful and I've just been obsessed with it forever.  I know that Crooked Rain and Slanted & Enchanted were bigger for a lot of folks and I also am aware that as the years have gone by Wowee Zowee has finally started getting the praise it so richly deserves, but for me it's always just been my favorite Pavement album.

Wowee Zowee was the first Pavement record I ever heard.  My friend Scott played it for me when it came out our senior year in high school.  I don't actually know where Scott heard of them.  Of my high school friends he didn't seek out music in quite the same way some of the rest of us did, but he definitely brought this to the table and I will always be indebted to him for doing so.  Right away I was taken by the the fast, noisy songs.  "Flux = Rad" (still my favorite Pavement song), "Best Friends Arm" and "Serpentine Pad" immediately scratched the itch I had at the time for loud raucous tunes.  But as time went by, the slower songs and the variety of the album just started to consume me.

The first one to hit was "We Dance."  Something about that song just started to dig its claws into me.  It's the perfect album opener and my high school group of friends were so into the idea of somehow trying to have it made into the senior prom song.  Didn't happen, I grew up in the northwestern, rural part of NJ, so of course it ended up being a Garth Brooks song.  But I still think of that every time I hear the song.  As the years went by new songs would assert themselves as being incredibly important.  "AT&T" became a mixtape anthem.  "Rattled By The Rush" turned into that song that I just couldn't figure out why it wasn't a huge hit single.  "Fight This Generation" was the one that I blasted in my car when I was feeling a bit riled up.  And way later in the story I figured out that "Grounded" was probably one of the most beautiful and incredible songs ever written.

This is an album that has been with me forever, but the sheer audacity of the different sounds that Pavement crammed into it means I'm always discovering something new and exciting, even twenty three years later.  It's the perfect album to put on when I'm feeling stressed out or overwhelmed.  It's instantly familiar and instantly soothing.  It makes me nostalgic for some things, but never makes me dwell on the past since I've never stopped listening to it.  It's been a constant in my life and something I've always been able to count on.  No matter how fucked up the world gets, Pavement still released Wowee Zowee and it's just perfect.

Pavement - Wowee Zowee (Youtube Playlist):

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Him Kerosene - Loser Outfit 7"

Telegram (1997)

There will never be enough words in the English language to express how much I love Him Kerosene.  They are one of the greatest bands to ever pick up instruments and the fact that they are not remembered as one of the best ever is a never ending source of frustration for me.  Their second full length album Start. Stop. is a masterpiece and is the absolute #1 record on my I-wish-they-would-press-this-on-vinyl list.  Sadly, I don't think that's like to happen anytime soon.  The demand probably just isn't there, despite the fact that it is one of the most incredible albums I have ever heard in my life.

That album's lack of vinyl brings us to this 7".  I've had the Loser Outfit CD single since the late 90s.  Two songs, both perfect.  It wasn't until very, very recently that I discovered it had also been released as a 7".  I stumbled across it on Discogs and added to my wants list.  A couple of weeks ago it popped up for $30.  Honestly, I'm not sure there is a price that it could have been listed at that would have stopped me from buying it immediately.

These songs are so damn good.  From a band at the height of their powers, "Loser Outfit" is a showcase for the insanely dynamic guitar work that is what sets Him Kerosene apart from every other band out there.  They fly from chord to chord, jumping from palm mutes to octaves to feedback in the space of seconds while still somehow manage to compliment the almost angelic and poppy vocals they accompany.  It's unbelievable to me.

B side "Raceday" is slightly more straightforward, but still is a rush of energy, hooks and insane guitar work.  Both songs are incredible as is pretty much everything the band ever did.  It is a crime they are not more well known and again, it's a shame they don't have more releases on vinyl.  I will tell you, if I ever win the lottery, the first thing I'm going to do is buy the rights to the Him Kerosene catalog and give everything the love and attention it deserves.

Him Kerosene - "Loser Outfit":

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Cross Brothers - Living On Sheepheads

Just Because (2018)

I don't feel like I have anything particularly interesting to say about this album.  I like it.  It's got a bunch of pretty good songs on it.  It never gets overly loud or crazy, it's never slow and boring and from start to finish it's really pleasant.  But for whatever reason when trying to figure out a way to describe what it is I like about it, I keep finding myself at a loss for words and comparisons.

It's generally pretty catchy, with really nice jangly guitars that reminds me just a little bit of Title Tracks, but then again not really.  The same kind of sensibility is there, but the bands go in totally different directions.  Sometimes I think a couple of the songs sound a little bit like Tom Petty, but then just as quickly something will happen in the song to completely change my opinion.

I will say that the songs I like the best are "Back From The Dead,"Where The Water's Fine" and "Hard Earned Trap."  Go check those songs out at the Bandcamp link below.  I feel like there's a pretty good chance you'll enjoy if you're reading my dumb website.  Maybe you'll think of a better way to describe it and start up your own website so I have something to read.

Cross Brothers - Lining On Sheepheads:

Monday, October 22, 2018

Headsparks - Vs. The Metric System CD

Fixing A Hole (2017)

I few weeks ago I wrote about another Headsparks album called Beastro.  This time out, we've got the band's most recent release, Vs. The Metric System.  As I said last time, it seems insane to me that this band has existed for as long as it has without me being aware of it.  I've said in the past that I'm probably slipping a little as I get older, I think Headsparks are Exhibit A in that argument.

Vs. The Metric System is another amazing album of the kind of melodic, UK punk rock that I've been going crazy for the last twenty-five years.  Headsparks manage to isolate everything that I love about the 90s era of Hooton 3 Car style punk, but it a way that never sounds dated or pandering for nostalgia.  The songs on this album are immediate and urgent sounding, with blistering guitar blasting its way throughout.  The hooks are incessantly catchy and honestly I just can't say enough about how great each of the songs are.

If anything, the only thing I wish were different would be for there to be a vinyl version of this album.  I'm very happy to have the CD in my collection, but there's a warmness to the sound of Headsparks that makes me think would sound even better rocking out from my turntable.  Still, no matter the format, this is great, great stuff.

Headsparks - Vs. The Metric System:

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sam & Dave - Soul Men LP


Stax / Rhino (2017, Reissue)

I'm out of Wilson Pickett records for the time being, but I'm going to keep going through some older soul records every other Thursday until I completely run out.  Luckily I either picked up (or received as gifts) quite a few records that fit the bill towards the end of last year.  This week's entry is Sam & Dave.

Sam & Dave were one of the very first bands I learned about stemming from my love of the Blues Brothers as a kid.  They were the original artist responsible for the Blues Brother's biggest hit, "Soul Man."  I remember as a kid watching some Atlantic Records anniversary TV special and Dan Aykroyd came out to sing the song with Either Sam or Dave, I don't remember which (I suppose I could look it up, but I'll just keep the memory warm and fuzzy as opposed to finding footage of it that makes it seem less magical). Since John Belushi had passed when I was about 4, this special was one of the only 'new' Blues Brothers events that happened.

Anyway, I've always had a Sam & Dave greatest hits CD.  But, like with Wilson Pickett, I thought it was time to pick up some of their actual albums.  Soul Men is the first and only one I have so far.  I want to get more, but the record buying budget is currently a bit tighter than it's been in a while.  Luckily this album has "Soul Man" on it in addition to some other incredible songs like "Broke Down Piece of Man" and "Hold It Baby."

I just love all of these old Stax record.  They're very much a part of the building blocks that made me love music to begin with, but they still sound as fresh to me as they did the very first time I heard them.

Sam & Dave - "Soul Man":

Sam & Save - "Broke Down Piece of Man":

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hateman - Radio Hate CD


1000% D.I.Y. (2018)

As most people who bother reading this website know, I am pretty obsessed with Japanese pop punk bands.  They have been an obsession of mine for over twenty years and I always want to hear as much as I possibly can.  That said, when Kazu at Waterslide asked me if I wanted to buy a CD from a band called Hateman, I wasn't immediately sure it was something I would be interested in.  When bands get too loud or too screamy, I tend to lose interest pretty quick.  Surely a band called Hateman would be end up being more of the hardcore side of punk rock, right?  Wrong.

This CD is unbelievably great.  I can't even wrap my head around how much I love it.  It's almost a distillation of every style of Japanese pop punk that I love.  There are poppy songs like "Heartache" and "Change Your Jive" that are catchier than anything a band like Popcatcher ever wrote.  Then you have faster, noisier songs like "Dancing In The Darkness" and "Radio Hate" that lean much more towards the more melodic moments of the Snuffy Smile side of the punk spectrum.  And then you'll hit a song like "Summer Rain" that doesn't have a super obvious comparison, but it just blows your goddamn mind with how catchy and incredible it is.

I've gotten so many great bands from Kazu, but this might be one of the very best.  The band has a few other releases, 7"s and CD demos and that sort of thing (some of these songs appear to be from those other releases, though I'm not entirely sure) and I really want them all.

Hateman - Radio Hate (Two of the album's twelve songs are streaming):

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 1 LP - Red Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers / Anxious & Angry (2018)

I've let this LP linger in the to-do pile a little longer than I probably should have.  It certainly wan't because I wasn't excited about the record, I've been writing about Spells for a few years and I have never had anything but wonderful things to say about them.  That trend continues with this record, though I already knew I liked a handful of these songs going in.

Loose Change, Vol. 1 is a singles compilation from Spells, but only two songs are from an actual Spells 7".  Aside from "Take Time" and "Slice Away" everything else on this album was either from a compilation, a digital only release or relegated to cassette hell.  If you're keeping track at home, that's fourteen songs making their way to vinyl for the first time.  And thank goodness for that, these songs are way too good to just disappear into the ether or be eaten by someone's shitty Sony walkman from 1989.

I've always made Rocket From The Crypt comparisons when writing about Spells.  It's not because I think they sound similar, it's always been more about the attitude and energy that the band is able to harness on their records.  They just have a way of writing songs that capture a certain sort of party vibe, without being overtly silly.  It also doesn't hurt that the songs are super catchy, so that's a big part of the reason I've always liked them so much.

This is a really good starting point if you want to check out Spells.  It's mostly early material from the band, but since so little of it had a proper release before It's not going to end up getting replaced if you decide to go all in and track down their entire discography.  Hell of a band, hell of a record.

Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 1

Monday, October 15, 2018

Record Store Visit: Creme Tangerine - Costa Mesa, CA - 09/26/18

I had to go out to Costa Mesa, CA for work a couple weeks ago (it's looking like I'll be out there again soon as well).  Though I was only there for a couple of days, I had to hit a record store while I was there.  After all it's a city I've never been to before, so I always try to get to at least one record store when I am in a new town.  At the recommendation of my friend Casey and with the help of my other friend Chris, I managed to get out to Creme Tangerine.

This record store is located in an "anti-mall" called The Lab.  I guess the gimmick is that it's supposed to be a bunch of cool stores that you won't find in a traditional mall.  While I did think it was a pretty neat place overall and had several interesting looking stores, the presence of an Urban Outfitters in it kind of kills the gimmick a little bit.  Despite that, Creme Tangerine still ranks as one of the wackiest record stores I have every been to.

The whole store is an old trailer.  Gutted out, filled with records and parked next to Urban Outfitters.  I will give them points for originality, that's for sure.  Selection-wise it was a decent store.  It seemed to be all used records with a definitely lean towards older 60s and 70s albums.  Not that there wasn't some newer stuff, there was but your more likely to find a Rascals record here than a newer indie rock band.

I didn't end up getting anything while I was there, but Chris picked up a Turtles LP.  If I was local it's definitely the sort of place I could see myself popping into every so often to see if anything interesting came in, but it's not the sort of place I could see being able to consistently supply you with the latest goods.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Mr. T Experience - Shards Volume Two LP - Red Vinyl (/200)


Sounds Rad (2018)

This is the second of two LPs of Mr. T Experience songs that had no real home on any albums or EPs.  It will also be another instance where I write about this band and aside from this sentence will exclusively refer to them as The Mr. T Experience and not MTX.  For reasons I cannot explain, but will attempt to describe, the use of the three letter abbreviation as the defacto band name has always kind of bugged me.

When I worked in the music 'biz,'  I worked at the company that did the college radio promotion for Yesterday Rules when that album came out.  Lookout insisted on using the abbreviation for the promo materials and on the CD itself and how the album was listed in the trade charts.  When I asked them why they were burying a band name with almost twenty years of history at that time - who were also, by the way one of my very favorite bands - I was given some sort of non-committal answer about it being hipper and for 'the kids' and to definitely not mention it to Dr. Frank when he came to our office to say hi.  I didn't mention it.  I've always wondered what would have happened if I did as it was the only thing on my mind the entire time he was in our office.  Oh well.

Back to the matter at hand, this is a compilation of a lot of random Mr. T Experience songs from a lot of different eras of the bands existence.  Some are great and I've always loved like "Hello Kitty Menendez" and "T Shirt Commercial," both from influential compilation albums I had as a youngster.  Others are somewhat newer to me like "We Are The Future People Of Tomorrow" and "Crash."  These are also from compilations, but I didn't have those when they originally came out, so I don't have the preexisting connection and nostalgia.

Lastly, it also includes one of my very favorite songs, "How'd The Date End?"  But, it's not the same version as the one that's on the Tapin' Up My Heart 7".  This one has an extra part with more lyrics that wasn't on the 7" version, but I just don't like it as much.  That 7" version has a certain roughness and energy to it that has always connected with me and I have loved it just the way it is for the last twenty-four years.  Part of me thinks that it is kind of humorous that all these years and rereleases later, it is still sort of the hidden gem you can only get on that specific 7", but then the other part of me wonders how many people have never heard the version of the song I like the best.  I also wonder why on earth I would possibly care?  I still have the 7" and the song, why does it matter what anyone else hears?  I do not have answers to quandaries like this.

I can say that it is nice to have all of these songs compiled into one nice and easy LP.  I will also echo a point I made from the last Shards review and that is I really hope that somewhere along the line, an actual singles compilation with every 7" and EP song gets released. That's what I would most like to see next in the Mr. T Experience reissue project anyway.

Once again I can not find a version of this album to listen to online to point you towards aside from a Spotify listing.  If that's your thing, you can give it a whirl here:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Part-Time Lover - Kelly Cruise Kelly 7"


Just Because (2017)

Part-Time Lover is a band I was not previously familiar with prior to Just Because sending me a copy of this 7" to listen to.  While I do get a chuckle out of the band name, the music isn't really anything that stands out as being particularly interesting to me.

A side "Kelly Cruise Kelly" starts out with a lead guitar riff that sounds so similar to the opening of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees that I had to double check at first to make sure it wasn't a cover song.  Unfortunately "Kelly Cruise Kelly" doesn't have the same sort of pop hooks that the Monkees were able to churn out.  The song is somewhat psychedelic in nature with swirling guitars and echo-y vocals.  But again, aside from the similarity in the opening guitar riff to a song I actually do like, this one by Part-Time Lover just doesn't go anywhere.

"Shee-Ra" is the B-side and is remarkably even slower than the A side.  It's dreary and kind of depressing.  Not the She-Ra I'm used to.  Again, Part-Time Lover just meanders through the song, never turning it into anything interesting aside from briefly making it more annoying with a crummy keyboard solo.  If you're into dreamier sounds, this might be up your alley, but it's not for me.

Part-Time Lover - Kelly Cruise Kelly 7":

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Big City - S/T CD


Self Released (2017)

Following up on the Big City EP that I wrote about yesterday, this self titled CD is the first full length release from the band.  They build off of the early promise of that EP and in almost every way exceed expectations.  This album is a big leap forward in songwriting and production, while still hanging on to the passion and energy that made the EP so thoroughly enjoyable.

The first thing I notice about the songs on this album is the increased fidelity of the production.  Everything sounds a little more polished and the songs themselves are just a touch slower.  Often times this is where bands start to lose the charm that made them fun to listen to in the first place, but for Big City it is exactly what the band needed.  Like their first EP, you can hear the connection to bands like The Urchin and Dillinger Four.  That said, this time out there are more melodic tendencies.

I hear similarities to bands like RVIVR and Iron Chic, especially when it comes to the choruses and backing vocals.  There's a definite increase in anthemic singalongs.  But the way they combine this with the faster paced, driving energy that's more in tune with the Japanese scene they call home, the end result is a mix unique to Big City.

Big City - Big City:

Monday, October 8, 2018

Big City - 4 Songs CD


Self Released (2016)

This four song CD EP is one of two CDs that I have from Big City.  I will actually review the other one tomorrow, rather than hang on to it for a later date.  This EP is one in a pretty big pile of Japanese punk rock CDs that I've acquired over the past two years that I haven't been able to write about.  In some ways, I feel like I will have a pile like this forever, especially since Kazu is already making another pile in Japan for me to buy at some point.

On their EP, Big City rushes out of the gate with a fast paced pop punk sound that makes me think of bands like The Urchin and Dillinger Four right away.  They have just the right mix of powerful aggression and catchy hooks. For me that's always been one of the main reason I gravitate towards Japanese punk bands.  There's just a little something extra in the energy department, I always feel like everyone in the band believes in every single note they play and every word they sing.  Passion.

This EP is a solid introduction to Big City.  Fast and catchy is the best way to describe things.  The EP is good, but the full length I'll write about tomorrow is even better.

Big City - Four Songs CD:

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Wilson Pickett - The Sound of Wilson Pickett LP


Atlantic (2014, Reissue)

This is the last of the Wilson Pickett Reissues that I've added to the collection over the past year.  It doesn't seem that the reissue campaign extended past The Sound of Wilson Pickett.  I'm not exactly sure why (not being as familiar with his non-Greatest Hits output as I would like to be), but I'm definitely going to be looking around for decent condition copies of The Midnight Mover and I'm In Love.  I can't imagine his work falls off a cliff over the span of a year.

Back to The Sound Of Wilson Pickett.  First off it has one of my absolute favorite Wilson Pickett songs on it, "Funky Broadway."  When I was a little kid, there were times that my dad would take my brother and I to a little lake where they had a pseudo 'beach' and swimming.  He'd set up at a picnic table with his little hibachi-style grill that could cook two hamburgers at a time and break out one of his three mix tapes on his little portable tape deck.  One of those mixes had "Funky Broadway" on it (Another had "All I Need Is A Miracle" by Mike & The Mechanics, but we'll not talk about that one).  "Funky Broadway" always felt like a missing Blues Brothers song and I truly feel that had John Belushi not died, they would have eventually recorded a version of it.  I just love this song.

The rest of the album is just as great if I'm being honest. From slower crooning jams like "I Found A Love" (both Parts I and II) to uptempo hits like "You Can't Stand Alone" there's no filler on this album.  I'm not sure it's ultimately quite as strong as some of his other full lengths like The Exciting Wilson Pickett or The Wicked Pickett, but it's pretty damn great.

Wilson Pickett - "Funky Broadway":

Wilson Pickett - "You Can't Stand Alone":