Saturday, December 03, 2016

Currently Listening

1.  "Spirit of the Streets" by The Business (from The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth)
2.  "Nosebleed Song # 2" by The Fairweather Band (from Meow)
3.  "California" by Happy Accidents (from California)
4.  "Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones" by Swingin' Utters (from Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones)
5.  "Death to the Lads" by The Smith Street Band (from Death to the Lads)
6.  "Graveyard Shift" by Uncle Tupelo (from No Depression)
7.  "Soul Mate" by No Use For A Name (from Leche Con Carne!)
8.  "Bad Catholics" by The Menzingers (from Bad Catholics)
9.  "Fire In The Rain" by Agent Orange (from This Is The Voice)
10.  "I'm Free" by The Forty Nineteens (from Rebooted)
11.  "Christian Rock" by John Moreland & The Dust Bowl Souls (from Everything the Hard Way)
12.  "The Smile I Left Behind" by The Circus Act (from The Feeling / Never Lasts)
13.  "Escape And Run" by 7 Seconds (from Ourselves)
14.  "Thanks Obama" by Adam Darowski (from Yay!)
15.  "Hollywood, We Did It All Wrong" by Bleached (from Welcome the Worms)

Friday, December 02, 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

EP Review: 'Move Like a Ghost' by toyGuitar

Title:  Move Like a Ghost (BandCamp, Fat Wreck Chords, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk)
Artist:  toyGuitar (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp)

toyGuitar's follow-up to last year's excellent In This Mess is the equally brilliant EP Move Like a Ghost.  Over the course of three releases the band has created and perfected a sound that mixes elements of power pop, garage rock, punk, and surf resulting in music that is high energy, catchy as hell, and unique and familiar all at the same time.  Singer/guitarist Jack Dalrymple is a masterful songwriter that has been churning out classic tunes for nearly two decades as part of One Man Army, Dead To Me, and Swingin' Utters and now with toyGuitar he's spread his wings even farther showing the world what longtime fans have always know:  Dalrymple is a genius.  This is the kind of record that should appeal to a wide range of fans from punks to indie rockers to garage rockers to everyone in-between.  Hell this should even appeal to the hipster kids that are into all of those bands with the fuzzy guitars that the cool music websites talk about, only this band is actually really good.

EP Review: 'Moving Out' by Old Fox Road

Title:  Moving Out (BandCamp)
Artist:  Old Fox Road (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, BandCamp, Storeny)

Old Fox Road's latest EP Moving Out is nothing short of pop punk perfection.  The four-song collection is painfully catchy and scarily infectious to the point of daring you to not sing and dance along.  What's great about Old Fox Road, aside from the killer hooks and top notch songs, is the slightly gruff edge in the vocals.  Far too often pop punk singing is pristine, clean, and spotless completely lacking any edge or sense of danger.  That is not the case with Old Fox Road and it is an absolute breath of fresh air.  The only downside to Moving Out is that it is only four songs and is over in a matter of minutes (no joke, the running time for the entire this is 6:41), so not only does this band know how to craft great songs, they also know how to leave you wanting more.  I seriously can't wait to see what these guys do next!

Album Review: 'The Edge Of The Light' by Floating In Space

Title:  The Edge Of The Light (Deep Elm Records, BandCamp [Deep Elm], Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Floating In Space (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloudDeep Elm Records)

Floating In Space's debut The Edge Of The Light is a lavish, beautiful, and mythic record.  The brainchild of composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer/engineer/mixer Ruben Caballero who stated the following about the record --
“This album is a travel through time, space, distance and feelings.  Through my songs, I try to show my vision of a world where light and shadows, calm and fears, solitude and togetherness meet in the vastness of space."
The Edge Of The Light's 12 instrumental songs take you on a journey that is vast and soaring with its "lavish soundscapes, epic climaxes, dramatic builds, intimate piano moments and inspiring orchestral arrangements" that is a "merging of both delicate and energetic sounds."  Yes I did just quote Deep Elm's press release about the record because I honestly couldn't think of a better way to explain Floating In Space.  This record is majestic, epic, and boundless and an shining example of what cinematic post rock is all about.  This is a must for fans of Lights & Motion, U137, or epic movie soundtrack scores.

EP Review: 'See/Sea' by Restorations

Title:  See/Sea (BandCamp)
Artist:  Restorations (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp, Limited Run, Wikipedia)

The best word to describe Restorations' latest EP See/Sea is epic.  The two-song release is stirring and uplifting while also poignant and stoic evoking a wide array of emotions from not only the lyrics but the sheer sound of the music.  Restorations has always been a band that has defied categorization.  What does one call music that enlists elements of post hardcore, punk, progressive classic rock, arena classic rock, college rock, Americana, indie rock, and emo?  Other than awesome, I have no clue.  Well you can now add cinematic post rock to that list of elements.  The opening track "See" begins with a haunting lonely guitar and biting lyrics that could be bitter but instead conjure thoughts of concern and reassurance --
This must be some kind of signal
I can barely speak English
You should see me overseas
I’m not sure about much
But I can tell you with certainty
That little screen won’t make you happy  
You could still write me letters
We’d still breathe the same air 
The song then builds like a rolling wave, before crashing down on the shore with a thunderous crescendo.  The entire song feels huge and sweeping, like a long slow pan over a great and beautiful landscape, perfectly concluded in the releasing howl of the final verse --
Turn it off
They don’t speak for us
To just listen
How I miss it 

"Sea" is the unintentionally perfect post-election song that sums up the frustration, disappointment, and irritation of 2016 with all of its loss and tragedy without once being overtly political, heavy-handed, or condescending.
I’m so damned tired I don’t remember who won
I might have voted but I might have just read that at work
As float above or underneath the ground
I hear the Sunday bells
I hear you sleeping it off  
As far from home as you have left to go  
Are you high enough?
You know, for when the flood comes
I know I lit the match
You bet I’d lit the filter
“So, pick a side”
You laughed and said
“What kind of choice do you have?”
I took the medicine down
You bet I’d just feel worse  
As far from home as I have left to go 
One of the great things about Restorations' music in general and this song specifically is the poetic nature of their lyrics.  These words are written in such a way that they can easily mean different things to different people, but whatever mean you gleam from them there are powerful emotions behind the music driving the words home.

In a lot of ways, Restorations goes against a lot of things that I like in music--a lot of songs that are over the four to five minute mark, obvious prog. rock elements, complex and exuberant musical moments--yet somehow it works and I love it.  Sometimes, especially with this release, I liken their music to the truly epic moments from bands like INXS and U2 (think "The Stairs" and "Bad") because these songs truly are epic in every sense of the word.  Restorations have really outdone themselves this time around.  See/Sea is a perfect EP and an excellent release to hold fans over until their next full-length, which can't come soon enough.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Currently Listening or What Should Have Been on the AMAs

Last night was the American Music Awards, a show that I haven't watched since probably 1991 until last night.  So why would I subject myself to watching three hours of television devoted to top 40 music and mainstream pop culture?  My daughter asked me to and I'm a good father, that's why.  I had planned on spending my evening watching Survivor Series, but why your 16 year-old wants to spend time with you, you don't say no.

The American Music Awards (AMAs for short) was created in 1973 by Dick Clark after ABC lost the contract to air the Garmmy Awards.  Now while the Grammys are chosen by members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the AMAs are determined by public polling with nominees based on things like record sales, radio airplay, video views, streaming service data, etc. making it the award of the people (thank you Wikipedia for the info).  This year's edition was hosted by model Gigi Hadid and actor/comedian Jay Pharoah and included liver performances from the likes of Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Green Day, Sting, and a bunch of people I didn't know.  Some of the performances were good (Bruno Mars, Niall Horan, John Legend), some were okay (Green Day, Sting), some were terrible (DJ Khaled, The Chainsmokers & Halsey, Justin Beiber), but most were just there with people "singing" over their pre-recorded tracks.  The show was dominated by lots of vanity, bad jokes, and people in the audience trying to get themselves over.  There were a few actually funny joke and some touching moment (Selena Gomez's acceptance speech for example) but the show didn't have an "in memorandum" segment (though Prince did win for best soundtrack with a heartfelt speech from his sister) and despite the claims, it didn't really seem to be about the music.  In fact that is exactly what co-host Gigi Hadid said the show was all about, the music, but in reality it was a glorified love letter to fame, fortune, glamour, and modern internet pop culture.  I wondered how many people in the audience truly knew anything about Sting, The Police, or his legacy while they were bopping along to his performance of "Message in a Bottle" and "Every Breath You Take."  Now to be fair, most in attendance weren't alive during The Police's heyday, hell they probably weren't even alive in the late 1980s when Sting had his solo hits, so it isn't unreasonable that they wouldn't be familiar with his material or career, but they sure tried to look like they were (and again to be fair, The Police's hits are still played on the radio in regular rotation to this day so there's certainly been plenty of opportunities for those in attendance to be exposed to his work).

Throughout the night I couldn't help but think of all of the artists and musicians, bands, singers, and songwriters that should have been on that stage.  Folks that make incredible music that tears into your heart, grabs your soul, brings tears to your eyes, and makes you want to dance that never gets heard on that kind of level.  It's a crime really.  Far too often, vapid and plastic entertainers make truckloads of money off of their looks and lowest common denominator songs while artists struggle to make a living off of living in a van and a smattering of t-shirt and record sales.  Not all mainstream music is bad but a lot of it is and it has been for a very long time.  This isn't about glorying the past or deriding the present, it's about the quality of the music that gets the big pushes and lives on top 40 radio (which is still very much a thing).  This is about the bands that I think people should be listening to and highlighted on award shows and year end lists.  The following playlist consists of songs/artists that I would have booked for this year's AMAs, in the order I would have had them appear on the show.  Now obviously this isn't a comprehensive list of my favorite artists/records of 2016 (that's coming later) but instead the bands and songs that I thought would make a compelling three-hour television awards program.

1.  "Future Mixtape For The Art Kids" by Beach Slang (from A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings)
2.  "Festival Song" by Jeff Rosenstock (from WORRY.)
3.  "Highway 57" by Don't Make Ghosts (from Death Ride)
4.  "Respect" by Muncie Girls (from From Caplan to Belsize)
5.  "The Enemy Within" by Ben Lee (from Freedon, Love and Recuperation of the Human Mind)
6.  "Miserable Again" by Worship This! (from Mint)
7.  "Wednesday Night Melody" by Bleached (from Welcome the Worms)
8.  "A Wonderful Life" by Brian Fallon (from Painkillers)
9.  "Crash" by Against Me! (from Shape Shift With Me)
10.  "I Wanna Die in Los Angeles" by Dead To Me (from I Wanna Die in Los Angeles)
11.  "By the Time I Got to Georgia" by Billy Pettinger (from You Can Have It All)
12.  "Near To The Wild Heart Of Life" by Japandroids (from Near To The Wild Heart Of Life)
13.  "Voices in My Head" by Bob Mould (from Patch The Sky)
14.  "Say U Want Me" by Chris Farren (from Can't Die)
15.  "Pretective Boy" by Skating Polly (from The Big Fit)
16.  "Bad Catholics" by The Menzingers (from Bad Catholics)
17.  "Always the Rebel" by Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves (from The Cross and the Switchblade)
18.  "Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt" by Masked Intruder (from Love and Other Crimes)
19.  "Space" by Mary Lynn (from My Animal)
20.  "Outta My System" by The I Don't Cares (from Wild Stab)
21.  "Shame" by The Gomes (from Pronounced Nirvana)
22.  "Up To Us" by The Bouncing Souls (from Simplicity)
23.  "Beyond the Music" by Descendents (from Hypercaffium Spazzinate)
24.  "Thin Line" by Shit Present (from Misery + Disaster)
25.  "Brand New Flag" by Two Cow Garage (from Brand New Flag)
26.  "F.E.F.E." by Tender Defender (from Tender Defender)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Album Review: 'Freedom, Love, And The Recuperation Of The Human Mind' by Ben Lee

Title:  Freedom, Love, And The Recuperation Of The Human Mind (Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Ben Lee (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, BandCampWikipedia)

Ben Lee's 11th proper studio album Freedom, Love, And The Recuperation Of The Human Mind is an indie folk pop masterpiece.  Perfectly picking up where last year's excellent Love is the Great Rebellion left off, this record dives even deeper into the spiritual nature of love, the human mind, and the entire notion of self.  An incredibly simple album, Freedom, Love, and... is driven by Lee's gentle acoustic guitar work and passionately unique vocal delivery resulting in a tranquility that eases the mind, body, and soul.  Lee has always been at his best when writing undeniable pop songs and while this is some of his most stripped down material to date, it certainly still showcases his brilliant sensibilities.  Now here's the deal: Ben Lee is a bit of a polarizing figure.  I'd even venture to say that you either get Ben Lee or you don't (and even if you do, sometimes you don't...for example I had a hard time wrapping my head around the Deeper into Dream and Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work records).  Rolling Stone Australia stated "Ben Lee walks a blurred line of dewey-eyed idealistic optimism and insufferable pretension, but his transition from precocious pop maestro to folksy ‘adult' pop has been quietly impressive."  The second half of this sentence completely hits the nail on the head in regards to his music while the first half pretty much describes how people most likely perceive and react to Ben Lee (hell The Ataris went so far as to put their dislike of the man into song).  I for one love Ben Lee's music, admire the man and his work, and find great comfort in Freedom, Love, And The Recuperation Of The Human Mind in these trying times.

EP Review: 'Cobblestones' by Nothington

Title:  Cobblestones (Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Nothington (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp, AllMusic)

San Francisco, CA's Nothington has been on hiatus for a number of years, with their last releases coming in 2013 in the form of a split EP with Paper Arms and a b-sides collection Lost Along the Way.  Fast forward three years and the band has announced a new album coming in 2017 and released Cobblestones, a new two-song EP containing a song from said new record and an acoustic version of "The Last Time" (which originally appeared on the band's 2007 debut All In).  The new song "Cobblestones" is pure, classic Nothington filled with gruff vocals, incredibly infectious hooks, and that southern tinged take on melodic punk that the band has become synonymous with over the years.  In fact, it is this sound that has become hugely influential on many newer bands (see Arms Aloft, Shallow Cuts, Red City Radio, Timeshares, Deforesters, MakeWar, Habits, Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves) and with this song they showcase just how good they really are and why so many have followed their lead.  As it stands, Nothington's new album is my most anticipated release of 2017 and I absolutely cannot wait to hear it.

Currently Listening

1.  "Cobblestones" by Nothington (from Cobblestones)
2.  "Your Rock and Roll" by Northcote (from Your Rock and Roll)
3.  "Loner" by American Television (from Reaction)
4.  "Festival Song" by Jeff Rosenstock (from Worry)
5.  "An Elastic Band" by The Fairweather Band (from Meow)
6.  "Ode" by MakeWar (from Developing a Theory of Integrity)
7.  "My Heart Went Cold" by The Thermals (from We Disappear)
8.  "II" by Old Fox Road (from Moving Out)
9.  "Guided Meditation" by Hurry (from Casual Feelings)
10.  "Faith" by The Exquisites (from Home)
11.  "Space" by Mary Lynn (from My Animal)
12.  "Autumn Breaks" by Signals Midwest (from At This Age)
13.  "Evil Way" by Shit Present (from Misery + Disaster)
14.  "Smudge" by Save Ends (from Hug Your Friends)
15.  "By the Time I Got to Georgia" by Billy Pettinger (from You Can Have It All)
16.  "Near To The Wild Heart Of Life" by Japandroids (from Near To The Wild Heart Of Life)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

EP Review: 'Reaction' by American Television

Title:  Reaction (BandCamp, Google Play)
Artist:  American Television (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BandCamp)

American Television's latest EP Reaction is five songs of '90s influenced melodic punk rock at its finest.  Following up last year's excellent Let's Play Two, American Television take things in a darker direction with songs that tackle the loneliness of being an outsider and misfit, the flaws of memory, the monotony and disappointment of daily adult life, and self destruction bringing a new found maturity and serious urgency to their music.  Sonically the band still hits that melodic punk sweet spot that is somewhere in-between The Methadones, Pegboy, and The Explosion.  What's great about Reaction is that it shows new growth and depth to American Television's already excellent music.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Album Review: 'Developing A Theory Of Integrity' by MakeWar

Title:  Developing A Theory Of Integrity (Red Scare Industries, BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  MakeWar (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BandCamp)

MakeWar's sophomore full-length Developing A Theory Of Integrity picks up where the Brooklyn trio's self-titled debut left off but adds new depths and nuances to the band's punk/alt country sound.  Gritty and gruff anthems with big hooks and sing-along choruses dominate Developing... resulting in a sound that is mix of sub-genres and scenes or as the fine folks at Red Scare Industries so perfectly describe it -- "their sound blends Gainesville/Chicago drinking anthems with Long Island emo-punk like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New."  Are you a fan of Hot Water Music and Against Me!?  Do you like The Lawrence Arms and Pegboy?  How about acts like Timeshares, Arliss Nancy, Shallow Cuts, Red City Radio, or The Tim Version?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to be listening to MakeWar right now.  What's great about Developing A Theory Of Integrity is that it actually surpasses its predecessor and thus shows the world that the best from this band is yet to come and I for one can't wait to see what they come up with next.

EP Review: 'Misery + Disaster' by Shit Present

Title:  Misery + Disaster (Specialist Subject Records, BandCamp, iTunes)
Artist:  Shit Present (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

Exeter, UK's Shit Present has followed-up to their brilliant 2015 debut with the equally brilliant Misery + Disaster.  The six-song EP is another fantastic blast of indie punk power pop perfection that drips of early '90s influence and modern punk energy.  Singer/guitarist Iona Cairns' (formerly of Great Cynics) songs are crisp and timeless with their hooks and poignant and personal lyrics that strike a powerful chord, cutting straight to the heart.  This is the kind of record that would have fit as perfectly in 1991 next to Bandwagonesque, Nevermind, and Trompe Le Monde as it would have in 1994 next to Foolish, Bee Thousand, and Bakesale as it does today next to A Loud Bash of Teenage FeelingsPronounced Nirvana, Welcome The Worms, and From Caplan to Belsize.  Misery + Disaster is the perfect sophomore release in that it picks up where the debut left off and takes things to the next level.  I truly can't wait to see what this band does next.  Also, Specialist Subject, please see about putting these two EPs on a CD, I'd love to have them in my personal, physical collection.

Album Review: 'Simplicity' by The Bouncing Souls

Title:  Simplicity (Rise Records, MerchNOW, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, Wikipedia)
Artist:  The Bouncing Souls (Official, Facebook, Twitter, InstagramYouTube, MerchNOW, Wikipedia)

Here's a simple fact:  no one does the punk rock anthem like The Bouncing Souls.  For nearly three decades, New Jersey's favorite sons have knocked out consistently powerful, energetic, and hopeful records that mix the best elements of classic hardcore punk, oi, and pop punk and Simplicity is no different. From the opening onslaught of "Driving All Night" to the mid-tempo crescendo of the "Satellite" to the rousing and empowering conclusion of "Up To Us" this record is classic Bouncing Souls and a shining example of everything great about punk rock.  This band has always been the natural next step of the positive youth crew movement of the 1980s but they have not only taken that mantle and run with it, they've improved upon it and turned it into something greater than it was before.  Simply put The Bouncing Souls have created some of the most empowering and inspirational music of the last 25 years and Simplicity takes its rightful place in this band's masterful catalog.