Is this record worth a spin? Should I buy it? Will it add to or detract
from my credibility? Should I care?
I wish someone could break it down for me.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Records That Licked My Face in 2013

Charli XCX- True Romance
 Great pop record from up and coming Brit hitmaker

Disclosure- Settle
Most enjoyable dance record from barely out of their teens English brothers

Montage- Phases

This exceptionally gifted Montreal native, Antoine Bedard, wrote a composition every month for a year, the result being Phases, a pastiche of psychedelia, krautrock, dance music, and muted electronic ruminations. It's simply a really thoughtful collection of superb songwriting.

  Kurt Vile- Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze

Philly's favorite slacker delivers another satisfying slab of Neil Young inspired jams

Ketamines- You Can’t Serve Two Masters
Infectious punk pop record displays this Calgary quintet's burgeoning songwriting chops.

Hooded Fang- Gravez
 Another North of the Border band delivering frosty surf psychedelia.

Glenn Jones- My Garden State
Beautiful acoustic finger-picking, a la John Fahey.

Parquet Courts- Light Up Gold

 "I was walking through Ridgewood Queens/ I was flipping through magazines/ I was so, so stoned and starving"

Purling Hiss- Water On Mars
Some blistering guitar work from Philly native Mike Polizze, harkening the heyday of Blue Cheer

Obits- Bed & Bugs

 Preeminent garage rockers explore some different sonic structures, an evolving sound.

Speedy Ortiz- Major Arcana

Interesting chord progressions, very reminiscent of great late 80’s indie rock, with vocals that harken Liz Phair.

Foxygen- We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

-Dylan, The Stones, & The Kinks all wrapped up in a silly Mexican blanket on a Santa Monica beach.

Rhye- Woman
Official reissue of 2012 release from sultry, understated lounge burning LA duo

Queens of the Stone Age- Like Clockwork
 America's favorite stoner rock band is back with a mature, but no less satisfying, effort.

Bill Callahan- Dream River

The most distinctive voice in American music dives into his version of acid folk with flute, bongos, and some distorted slow jams.
Blood Orange- Cupid Deluxe
My favorite album cover of the year and best stone-cold grooves from in-demand producer Dev Hynes.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME opening next week

BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME is a feature-length documentary from Magnolia Pictures about legendary Memphis band Big Star.  The film opens in New York at the IFC Center on July 3 and will also be available that same day on iTunes and via most on demand video services. A special Los Angeles opening is also set for July 5 & 6 at the Nuart. Big Star tribute concerts in Chicago and New York are taking place this weekend, featuring Jody Stephens, the band's sole surviving original member & drummer, in anticipation of the film's release (more info. here). The film's soundtrack was just released this week via Omnivore Recordings.

While mainstream success eluded them, Big Star's three albums have become critically lauded touchstones of the rock music canon. A seminal band in the history of alternative music, Big Star has been cited as an influence by artists including REM, The Replacements, Belle & Sebastian, Elliot Smith and Flaming Lips, to name just a few. With never-before-seen footage and photos of the band, in-depth interviews and a rousing musical tribute by the bands they inspired, BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME is a story of artistic and musical salvation.   

Among many ardent music fans and critics the band, Big Star, is widely regarded as one of the greatest bands in rock history. Never experiencing popular success in their time; even today their greatest notoriety is from their song, "In the Street" the title theme for the Fox sitcom, That 70s Show. But despite their unique distinction of being famous for not being famous, today Big Star's influence can be heard in the music of artists as diverse as R.E.M., The Replacements, Wilco, Beck, Jeff Buckley and Elliot Smith, just to name a few.     
BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME traces the origins and history of the legendary band from the late sixties with lead singer Alex Chilton sky-rocketing to stardom at the age of sixteen with The Box Tops and their #1 hit, "The Letter" to the serendipitous meeting of Chilton and local Memphis singer-songwriter-guitarist, Chris Bell; through the tumultuous recording of the group's three landmark albums, #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers (Ardent Records); culminating with their implosion due to failed record sales, personal breakdowns and the tragic death of Chris Bell in 1978.    

This film is a unique portrait of an incredibly talented group of musicians who crafted three albums now considered pop masterpieces (all of which charted on Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums of all time). The group strived for stardom but fell victim to the corporate stranglehold of the major record labels and radio stations who dominated the music business at that time. BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME is seen as a cautionary tale of the growing corporatization in pop music in the 70's as great American independent labels like Memphis-based STAX (Ardent's distributor), were swallowed whole or marginalized by the music conglomerates. Artists whose musical vision and style were not deemed worthy of radio play were doomed to obscurity until many were discovered by a new breed of musical upstarts who arose from places like CBGB's in New York and in college towns throughout America. Eventually aligning under the term "Punk Rock," the movement by the late 1970's sought to topple corporate control over the music industry and remind the world what rock and roll is all about. It was the leaders of this movement-bands such as REM, The dB's, The Replacements--and the passion of many frustrated music writers at such publications as Rolling Stone, Creem, and Musician Magazine who brought about Big Star's resurrection and eventually defined the term "alternative music," articulating a genre lying outside of the mainstream and brimming with the vitality and soul on which rock and roll was built.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Drink A Toast To Innocence: A Tribute To Lite Rock

This compilation is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign started by Andrew "The dream is still alive in Portland" Curry. The music genre represented here is often referred to as "soft" rock or "yacht" rock, I've always called it dentist office waiting room music because these are the types of songs I would here while waiting to have my braces cleaned & tightened once a month. I looked forward to hearing this music about as much as I looked forward to having my gums pinched by tiny rubber bands. The craftsmanship and sheer hooks put into a lot of this music has grown on me as I've matured (aged!), and I can say that I was intrigued when I heard about this project.
Drink a Toast To Innocence states that the listener will "hear the classic Lite Rock hits of the late '70s and early '80s, reinterpreted by today's best power pop and indie pop artists". The record covers two discs and over 25 artists doing everything from "Dance With Me" to "Sentimental Lady", to "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)". This particular project would be better served if incongruent artists did faithful renditions of some soft rock songs, ex. Queens of the Stone Age covering Chicago's "Wish You Were Here" or Nick Cave doing Ambrosia's "Biggest Part of Me". The production is good and the performances are strong, but there's nothing here to convince you that hearing the original versions wouldn't be more rewarding.

Buy this record if the Captain lost Tennille on a desert island while Loggins hunted for wood to help Messina build a fire.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Charli XCX- True Romance

Charli XCX, nee Charlotte Aitchison, has been working on her debut record since she was fourteen (she's twenty now).  A co-single she released with Icona Pop in May of 2012 called "I Love It" became the theme song for Jersey Shore alums JWoww & Snooki's spin-off show, creating an instant, albeit alternative, fan-base for the British singer/songwriter. A subsequent series of supporting tours for Marina and the Diamonds, Coldplay, and Ellie Goulding further broadened Charli XCX's appeal and increased anticipation for the release of True Romance.
Ms. Aitchison's music is a mixture of bubblegum pop and dance music with liberal references to clubbing and drug use, sample lyric from the ludicrously catchy "Take My Hand":
Why you gotta go to sleep
Don't go to sleep
Don't go to sleep
Let's go out
Get blown away
Lost in the dark
Get real high
And never come down
She has a penchant for bridging verses with spoken-word raps delivered in a hushed British Cockney that is equal parts sultry and callow, fellow Brit artist MIA immediately comes to mind.
Aitchison has stated she would love to become a hitmaker for the likes of Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani. This is entirely plausible, True Romance has at least four legitimate, potential singles: "Nuclear Season", "Take My Hand", "What I Like", and "You're the One".  She can deliver mass appeal hooks but there is a slightly Gothic quality to her pop songs. Her subject matter, while sometimes generic, tends toward adult themes and she laces her songs with occasional profanity. This elevates her above standard teenybopper fare to a place where both five-year olds and hipster parents alike can appreciate it without a wink of irony.

Buy this record if your wife insists you play children's music when driving the kid to karate class.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Tribute to Scott Miller feat. AC Newman, Will Sheff, Ted Leo

SATURDAY, JUNE 29th AT Cake Shop: A TRIBUTE TO SCOTT MILLER of Game Theory and The Loud Family

All proceeds go to The Scott Miller Family Memorial Fund

featuring performances by:
A.C. Newman
Will Sheff of Okkervil River
Ted Leo
Doug Gillard
Charles Bissell of the Wrens
Jennifer O'Connor
Home Blitz
Beth Wawerna of Bird of Youth
Tim Thomas of Babe the Blue Ox
Kleenex Girl Wonder
BELLS with Matt LeMay
Tiger Dare

Plus readings by Matthew Perpetua, Jon Solomon, Greg Milner, and more.

$30, 8pm doors
21+, please bring your ID

Tickets go on sale Monday, 6/10 at noon: http://scottmillercakeshoptribute.brownpapertickets.com/

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Disclosure- Settle

The Lawrence brothers were still teenagers in the London suburb of Surrey when they released their first single "Offline Dexterity" in 2010. A string of remixes and the four song Face EP followed, with each successive release showcasing the brother's uncanny ability to tap into the mainstream currents of modern electronic dance music. The first single from Disclosure's debut record, "Latch", had already reached top 20 status in the UK months before the June stateside release of Settle. Hype was beginning to turn into mania in the EDM world. While the coincidental release of Daft Punk's new opus Random Access Memories blunted some buzz here in the U.S., Settle has (ahem) settled in nicely as the current number one download on itunes.
The first U.S. single "When A Fire Starts To Burn" revolves, weaves, and flutters around a motivational speaker's plea "When a fire starts to burn, and it starts to spread, she gonna bring that attitude home". It's very reminiscent of the work on Dan Snaith's Jialong project Daphni, where he sampled heavily from 70's West African rock songs. The song is fairly monotonous, but signifies a progression from the comfort zone of Disclosure's earlier candy-coated club songs. The Lawrence brothers are keenly aware that the proliferation of EDM into the mainstream is dependent on tracks with professional singers and a good deal of the record features vocals from the likes of Sam Smith, AlunaGeorge, James Woon, and Jessie Ware.
Settle finds Disclosure falling back on some generic beats and samples but the innate talent here is undeniable. In a recent interview, after their 2nd U.S. show, the brothers said that the only time they fight it's usually about food. Let's hope that there's plenty of steak and lobster waiting for them in future backstage dressing rooms, because they're bound for A-list treatment.

Buy this record  if you need to find faith in a future generation.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Purling Hiss- Water On Mars

Here comes another crew of long-haired Hesher types from Philly. Is anyone from Philly anymore? You used to go there and you'd never run into someone who wasn't from Philly. Now everyone you meet there is from somewhere exotic like Wichita, Kansas or Milton, Delaware. They all want you to try out this great new restaurant in West Philly, but all you can think about is bombs being dropped down someone's chimney. Then you remember that Hall & Oates used to have long hair just like Kurt Vile. Kurt Vile is another homegrown Philly talent and the person responsible for spreading the Purling Hiss gospel. The Hiss play guitar-centric rock that is unrefined, unprocessed, and unfettered. What began as a one-man project, Mike Polizze recording blues-inspired, static-charged bursts of sonic grandeur on a 4-track, has grown into a (dare I say) semi-polished power trio. Polizze's music is a convergence of Dinosaur Jr. and Crazy Horse, yet despite the fuzzed and distorted guitar sounds, he seems to have a bit of the folk songwriter's soul in him.
Call me crazy but, after the smoke rings clear and the psychedelic squeals have dissipated, I can envision Purling Hiss playing a twilight set on stage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the next generation of Heshers nodding intently as they search the parking lot for fresh cigarette butts.

Buy this record during those late night runs to Wawa for 6" turkey/cranberry shorties, Tasty Klairs, & Rosenbergers Ice Tea.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Waxahatchee- Cerulean Salt

Another sparse, emotionally revealing effort from Alabama cum NYC cum Philly native Katie Crutchfield. Katie's guitar playing is simple, alternating between acoustic ballads and distorted three-chord punk arrangements, often recalling Guided By Voices. Her vocals alternatively recall Jeff Mangum, Alanis Morissette, and Mirah. Katie took umbrage with her own statement in a NY Times article in which she said that she doesn't identify herself as "punk", that labels in general stifle self-expression, but you can confidently apply the terms DIY and Riot grrrl to Waxahatchee's Cerulean Salt.

Buy this record if salt in the wound is a salve for the soul.


Terry Reid- Superlungs: The Complete Studio Recordings

Terry Reid will go down in infamy as the guy who turned down an offer from then Yardbird's guitarist Jimmy Page to front a new version of the Yardbirds, a band that would soon become Led Zeppelin. Always the gentleman, Terry politely declined and recommended a young Birmingham singer named Robert Plant instead. Terry was also considered for the lead vocalist role with Deep Purple but lost out on that as well. Coulda Shoulda and Woulda's aside, Terry Reid has led a revered musical career. He's done supporting tours with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Cream and The Rolling Stones and has had his songs covered by The Hollies, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, REO Speedwagon, and Cheap Trick.
Reid's trademark has always been his powerful voice, his Superlungs, a soulful, piercing instrument that bears a good resemblance to Steve Marriot's (Small Faces, Humble Pie) unrestrained belting, equally effective on tender ballads or breezy pop songs. "Funny How Time Slips Away" is the perfect amalgam of Reid's allure: understated doo-wop style vocals with inflected vocal accents that evolve into extended multi-octave runs, all over a sublime musical accompaniment of Hammond organ, xylophone, and horns. This is pretty much the definition of the perfect timeless song. Terry Reid is pretty much the definition of a supreme singer.

Buy this record if you imagine this is what you sound like singing in the shower.


Monday, February 18, 2013

SBTRKT Live at Shepherds Bush Empire

There is a reason radio personalities are behind microphones, not a television camera.  There's a reason baseball managers are in the dugout and not on the field playing. And there is a good reason DJs are behind the turntables and not in front of the mic: their voices are terrible. SBTRKT fits this category. A lot of successful recording DJs are realizing that they need competent vocalists to attain crossover appeal to a mainstream audience, but most can't afford to take them on the road with them. It's painful listening to this set.

Buy this record when the Panda-faced ear muffs your wearing start speaking in tongues.


Foxygen- We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

Foxygen lead a fun-house tour into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where lines dividing sincerity and parody are constantly blurred. Its often hard to tell if you should applaud the songwriting, the hooks, or the simple fact that this band crams an intense amount of 60s influences into any one song: here's a Dylan vocal, there's a Rolling Stones verse, here's a Pink Floyd breakdown followed by a Kinks chorus. This is the traditional rock equivalent of a Girl Talk mash-up. It's a refreshing journey through the pantheon or rock.

Buy this record if your ipad has an acid flashback.