Monday, January 27, 2020

Cheap Perfume - Burn It Down LP - Blue Vinyl

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Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

I wasn't familiar with Cheap Perfume prior to getting this record in the mail from Snappy Little Numbers.  As a label they've got a hell of a track record, so I'm always excited to check out one of their new releases.  When it comes to Cheap Perfume, it's a bit of a mixed bag for me.  There are elements I enjoy and parts that I'm not as into.

Lyrically, I can say that this is a band that puts a ton of thought and emphasis on the message they are conveying.  They deal with sexism, racism, violence, fascism and a myriad of other topics that many bands would shy away from.  They tackle these matters with ferocity and vigor.  The lyrical structures are done extremely well, nothing feels shoehorned in just to make the rhyme scheme work.  There's a narrative to their songs that are really impressive.

Musically, this isn't a band that's really my cup of tea for the bulk of the record.  There's kind of a Pretty Girls Make Graves energy to the songs, though most of them don't have the same sort of hooks.  The big exception for me is "Fauxminism."  This is by far the catchiest song on the record and the vocal melody has the sort of memorable melody that my brain tends to gravitate towards.

A lot of the other songs are more aggressive and sometimes it feels like the dual vocals are fighting rather than complimenting each other.  For the style the band is playing, they do a hell of a job.  It's just not the sort of thing I tend to listen to as much.

Cheap Perfume - Burn It Down:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/burn-it-down

Friday, January 24, 2020

Singing Lungs - Mutter Cassette

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Count Your Lucky Stars (2019)

Whenever I get a cassette, it usually breaks down into one of three situations.  The first is that I already know and like the band, so I had no choice but to buy the cassette since there was no CD or vinyl release.  The second one is that one of those tape labels from Buffalo sent me another weirdo tape from some local band that has way too much yelling in it.  The final scenario is what I've experienced with Singing Lungs.  It showed up in the mail one day, isn't from upstate New York and actually has pretty solid artwork.  I was definitely more intrigued than usual.

That intrigue paid off with a pretty solid listen.  Singing Lungs are playing a relatively poppy strain of punk rock with crunchy Armchair Martian style guitars and earnest vocals that venture into a rootsy territory from time to time.  While I wouldn't classify them as the sort of band that's going to instantly catapult into your favorites list, all five songs are genuinely good and worth a listen.

The band also sent a full CD that I haven't listened to yet.  I figured I'd tackle the tape first at is was newer.  But this EP has left a good impression and I'm excited to check out some more tunes by these guys.

Singing Lungs - Mutter:
https://countyourluckystars.bandcamp.com/album/mutter

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Grand Puba – Reel To Reel 2xLP

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Elektra (1992)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

As I had mentioned when I wrote about the first Brand Nubian album One For All, I don’t remember exactly when I discovered them. I’m pretty sure the first song I heard was the title track from that debut album, but in thinking about things a bit more, it’s actually possible that the first thing I ever heard was the Grand Puba solo debut. I am positive that I was aware that Grand Puba came from Brand Nubian when I first saw the video for "360° (What Goes Around)." I also remember how much I loved that damn song.

"360° (What Goes Around)" immediately made me hunt down the Grand Puba CD and it quickly became a favorite. A lot of the hip hop records from the early 90s are over long with a decent amount of filler. I always thought the records that had shorter track listings always seemed to be better. At fourteen tracks (fifteen on the CD as it also included an extra track featuring Puba’s contribution to the Brand New Heavies album) Reel to Reel is long enough to let Puba spread his wings and tackle a bunch of beats, but it also is short enough where the album isn’t full of unnecessary skits and filler tracks. Aside from a couple of slower beats used on tracks towards the end of the record, it's pretty strong throughout.

Production wise, I love this almost as much as the first Brand Nubian record. The beat are simple, but full sounding with innovative sampling and a vibe that just feels like a party. Lyrically, Puba didn’t often delve deep into complex topics, he tends to come off like he’s freestyling with words that sound really nice together but aren’t delivering a super specific narrative. That said, few match his easy flow and line delivery. I’ve never been someone quite so concerned with the actual lyrics as much as how they sound within the song. Grand Puba kind of mastered that, economical lyrics and beats that somehow come together to equal far more than the sum of their separate parts.

Grand Puba - "360° (What Goes Around)":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl2DFBlBmGM

Grand Puba - "That's How We Move It":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8NZpqfEEbs

Friday, January 17, 2020

Sweet Knives - I Don't Wanna Die 2x7"

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Big Neck (2019)

I wrote about a Sweet Knives LP a few years ago that I thought was pretty good.  I'll admit to not having listened to it a ton during the interim, but it makes an appearance on a work playlist every so often.  This new double 7" is the first bit of new music from them since that full length and I like it even more than that last record.

These songs feel much poppier to me than the last.  Where before they had a darker vibe, with flourishes of synth, now they've turned those forces towards a catchiness not previously explored.  There is still a lot of downstroking and fuzzy guitar tones, but the synth has been moved to more of a supporting role.  As I'm not a huge fan of synth on the best of days, this is a positive transition for me.  The synthy riffs are still there, but now they are working more in tandem with the vocal melodies.

All four songs are pretty great.  If the band continues to move in this direction, I'll be quite excited to see what they come up with next.

Sweet Knives - I Don't Wanna Die 2x7"
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/sweet-knives-i-dont-wanna-die-2x7

Monday, January 13, 2020

Holy Shit! - Not My Tempo 7"

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Snuffy Smiles / Vinyl Smash (2019)

Going into this, I already know that I don't really like Holy Shit.  I have a handful of their split 7"s on Snuffy Smiles and pretty much the only reason I bought this one is because it's a co-release between Vinyl Smash and Snuffy Smiles.  To keep the Snuffy Smiles 7" collection complete, it's a necessary purchase.

Holy Shit play really fast and the singer yells a lot.  It sounds like an older hardcore record, but one that might have been a Berkeley based sound.  There's a little bit of catchiness to their songs and I can tolerate them more than a lot of hardcore bands, but this just isn't for me.  This is a 7" that is truly not my tempo.

I will say that the last couple of years from Snuffy Smiles have been underwhelming.  They haven't put out many records and the ones they have aren't as focused on Japanese bands as I would like.  Still, I have quite a history collecting records from this label, so I'm likely to keep buying them year after year, no matter what band is actually on the record.

Holy Shit! - Not My Tempo 7":
https://holyshitwi.bandcamp.com/album/not-my-tempo

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Wannadies - Bagsy Me LP - Turquoise Vinyl

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Music On Vinyl (2019, Reissue)

Music On Vinyl has been reissuing some pretty classic albums from the 90s lately.  In 2019 they did the three best Wannadies albums on colored vinyl.  While I didn't get the colored version of Be A Girl, I was able to get Bagsy Me on turquoise vinyl.

I go back and forth on which of the Wannadies records is my favorite.  Be A Girl has a number of incredible songs, some of my favorites like "Might Be Stars" and "New World Record."  Bagsy Me more than keeps up with hits like "Because," "Someone Somewhere" and "Shorty."  Honestly, they are both pretty perfect and even though I had the original pressings of both, I like these both enough to have reissued 180 gram vinyl versions.

And this version sounds wonderful.  Everything sounds full and clear as day.  The guitars are warm and fuzzy and the vocals cut through the noise with catchy melodies.  I'll never totally understand how they didn't catch on more in America.  Other than "You and Me Song" being on that movie soundtrack and having some notoriety, you never hear of many people extolling the virtues of the Wannadies.  Well, that should stop.  They are an amazing band and I'd put their three album stretch of Be A Girl to Bagsy Me to Yeah up against just about any band's three albums.  They're that great.

Maybe we'll get a 90s nostalgia reunion one of these days.  Though I doubt they'd come to America, I would absolutely be front row for that if it ever happened.

The Wannadies - "Because" (The very beginning is cut off of this on YouTube):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGhwbANWEb4

The Wannadies - "Shorty":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gl_MDeiyyI

The Wannadies - "Hit"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFq5YucL_iE

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Casual - Meanwhile... LP

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Dope Folks (2016, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Fear Itself by Casual is one of the greatest hip hop records of all time.  Gun to my head and forced to rank my favorites, I'd probably put it at number two on my all time list.  I've listened to that album so many times over the years and it was a real staple of my junior/senior year of high school in 1994.  I didn't hear from Casual again until I was in college.  In 1997 the Hieroglyphics crew had all been dropped from their respective labels and regrouped on the internet to start self releasing their music.  I bought two cassettes from their website; Del The Funky Homosapien's Future Development and Casual's Meanwhile...

Honestly, both felt like a little bit of a let down at the time.  I had moved on from most hip hop by 1997 and even though I was really excited to finally have new music by two of my favorites, it was pretty obvious to me that hip hop's golden era was over.  Over the years I've come to appreciate these records more than I originally did.  Even though Meanwhile doesn't hit the same highs as Fear Itself, it is still a really strong record showcasing Casual's pretty unmatched battle rap prowess.

In 2016 Dope Folks freed this album from tape only purgatory and finally remastered and rereleased it on vinyl.  I was unaware that this had happened at the time and as a result missed out on the red vinyl version.  Still, I'm happy to finally have this album on vinyl and the remastering really helps out the production as it previously had sounded a little thin to me.  The bass is now fuller and the vocals a little crisper than they had been on the original version.

I hadn't listened to this album in a while before picking up this vinyl version.  I'm really glad it was reissued as I'm listening to it again with a bit more context and more of an open mind than I had in '97.  It's a good record, probably the third best one Casual put out (I also really love an early 2000's record of his called Truck Driver).  I'd still like to add the red vinyl version to the collection if I can find one at a decent price, so we'll see if one turns up.

Casual - Meanwhile:
https://casual1.bandcamp.com/album/meanwhile

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Best of Godzilla 1954-1975 - Original Film Soundtracks 2xLP

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Crescendo (2019)

I love Godzilla movies.  I have since I was a little kid watching them on Saturday and Sunday afternoons on either channel 5, 9 or 11.  Back in the 80s, it was pretty easy to stumble across a Godzilla movie on a weekend afternoon as they played them all the time.  I also ended up with a pretty sizable VHS collection so my brother and I could rewatch them whenever we wanted. While Godzilla didn't really seem to stick in my brother's consciousness, I became a life long fan hunting down bootlegs of the Japanese versions and buying figures, shirts and all sorts of other silly things.  It's only really been over the last fifteen years or so that you could buy legal versions of the Japanese cuts of these movies stateside.

Then there is the music.  I've always loved the soundtracks to the Godzilla movies.  These were impossible to come by when I was a kid.  I remember freaking out as a teenager finding a Godzilla CD in the import section of a Tower records.  It was the first time I was ever able to listen to the music on command.  I also drooled over the Perfect Collection CD box sets that came out in the early 2000s, but they were just way too expensive for me, despite containing nearly every musical note ever played in every single Godzilla movie.  Honestly, I'd still really like to get those if I could ever find them at a decent price.

This double LP is a nice compromise in the meantime.  It compiles music from the Showa series of Godzilla films that ran from 1954 to 1975.  There's at least one suite of music from every Showa Godzilla movie except for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Godzilla vs the Sea Monster).  Though we do get "Mothra's Song" from the standalone Mothra movie, so it's an OK trade.  Also interspersed throughout the record are various monster sound effects.  These are neat to hear, but kind of disrupt the flow of the music a bit.  They also scare the shit out of my cat.  I could have passed on them in order to have a more cohesive album.

That minor complaint aside, this is a fun collection fo Godzilla tunes that I'm excited to have on vinyl.  While I wish that someone would release all of the individual soundtracks on vinyl (and a couple have come out), I know that is something that is likely never going to happen.  At least this record gives me a taste of the good life.



Friday, January 3, 2020

The Absolute Best Records of the Decade - 2010-2019

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After seeing so many other folks list theirs, I thought it would be interesting to try to put together a list of my favorite albums from the past decade.  I discovered some surprising things as I went through everything.

To start, I made a rule that only 1 album per band could be on the list.  Otherwise that darn Steve Adamyk Band would have taken up too many spots.  They are hands down the band of the decade.  Six absolutely killer albums in ten years.  No one else came close to that.  Plus their debut album is my second favorite album of the last ten years.

The most interesting thing that I noticed was that the bulk of the records that mean the most to me weren't the albums that I thought were the number one record of their particular year.  As time went on certain records grew on me more and others faded away a bit.

The other thing that jumped out at me was how great of 2010 was.  There are six records from 2010 in my top twenty of the entire decade.  Taking up almost a third of the entire list seems pretty crazy to me, though in fairness, they did have the longest amount of time for me to become attached to them.  It's hard for a 2019 record to be one of the best of the entire decade, as I've only had a few months to listen to them, though Foxhall Stacks and Shoplifters were on the shortlist as I was whittling down to a top 20.

What isn't crazy to me at all is the fact that the first Mrs. Magician record was my absolute favorite of the past ten years.  When making this list, there was never even a question of that.  It is such a perfect record from start to finish.  I truly believe that it is one of the greatest albums in the history of the earth.

01 - Mrs. Magician - Strange Heaven - Swami
02 - Steve Adamyk Band - Steve Adamyk Band - Ptrash
03 - Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens - Sub Pop
04 - Year Zero - Year One - Ptrash
05 - Dead Mechanical - Addict Rhythms - Toxic Pop
06 - Title Tracks - In Blank - Windian
07 - Leatherface - The Stormy Petrel - Big Ugly Fish/No Idea
08 - The Night Marchers - Allez Allez - Swami
09 - Sonic Avenues - Television Youth - Dirtnap
10 - The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash - Dirt Cult

11 - Boat - Dress Like Your Idols - Magic Marker
12 - Dan Sartain - Dan Sartain Lives - One Little Indian
13 - Bob Mould - Silver Age - Merge
14 - Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else - Carpark
15 - Superchunk - Majesty Shredding - Merge
16 - Tenement - Napalm Dream -Mandible
17 - The No Marks - Light Of One - Brassneck
18 - Dirtbombs - Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey - In The Red
19 - Chestnut Road - Chestnut Road - Brassneck
20 - Gentleman Jesse - Leaving Atlanta - Douchemaster