Archive | September, 2011

Day 214: Andrew Jackson Jihad – Knife Man

30 Sep

American Tune

 Swole Ear, you’re killing me.  I didn’t just miss the announcement of the new Andrew Jackson Jihad record, I didn’t hear the actual album for almost an entire month after its release.  I blame this blog because it sucks up all the time that I can possibly devote to music—instead of wasting my time by reading other music blogs, I’m wasting my time on a music blog of my own.  I figured that this site would keep me in the loop—with a record a day, how could I possibly miss anything?  I was wrong.  No regrets, though.

Yes, there will be a discussion of an album in this post, believe it or not.  Way back in March, I listened to Andrew Jackson Jihad’s People Who Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World, and fell in love.  I immediately ordered everything that I could find by them, which didn’t even cost too much, as they really do stay true to their punk ethos.  The duo’s furious brand of folk rock remains exactly what I’m looking for in my angry music.  While Knife Man is not as strong as either of their other LPs, it’s still better than most music that I listen to.

Knife Man’s main problem is its length.  Like any good punk band, AJJ usually keep it short and sweet—both of their other albums clock in at under half an hour.  This time around, the two hardly keep it under 45 minutes.  This wouldn’t be a problem if the energy level remained high for the record’s duration, but there are a few too many filler tracks this time around.

I’m going to overlook that, though.  Sean Bonnette remains today’s greatest lyricist, as far as I’m concerned.  The darkly hilarious American Tune, a satirical track about the joys of being a heterosexual white man in the United States, sees Bonnette wailing “…no one clutches their purses when they’re in a room alone with me / …I’m a straight white male in America / I’ve got all the luck I need.”  Whether hating on love songs or jams about the summer, I’m glad that Bonnette maintains a not-so-cheery disposition in his writing.  He says it himself on Sad Songs, “I’m happy that you’re happier than me.”  

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Day 213: Dr. Dre – The Chronic

29 Sep

Nuthin’ but a G Thang (Feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg)

The Chronic has been providing me with entertainment for years now, even though for many of those years I didn’t even know of its existence.  Seeing Ben Folds cover Bitches Ain’t Shit at Lollapalooza a few years back remains one of the highlights of any live show I’ve seen—I’ve probably relived that moment a hundred times since via the YouTubes.  Additionally, we owe the spread of the always hilarious “deez nuts” fad to this record as well.  It’s probably in my best interest not to explain that one on here, but Urban Dictionary can help you out if you’ve managed to miss out on this American pastime.

This record may have led to some hilarious covers and ridiculous jokes, but most of this album is a dark romp through early-nineties Compton.  Recorded only months after the L.A. riots, racial tension, drugs, and violence are common themes on The Chronic.  Even Snoop Dogg’s appearances are fairly serious in nature.  As someone who only knows Snoop as a joke rapper—a washed-up parody of himself—it’s interesting to hear some of his stuff from before he completely sold out.  He was actually pretty good.

As someone still relatively new to hip-hop records, I’m slowly learning what I should be looking for, and what makes an album of this genre good.  Don’t worry, I still judge them by my gut more than anything, but I can now identify solid beats and a good flow.  The Chronic has both of these.  Dre can rap.  It really makes you wonder what people see in Odd Future.

Day 212: Little Joy – Little Joy

28 Sep

Keep Me in Mind

When a friend recommended a member of The Strokes’ side project (a whopping thirty minutes ago), I was a little wary.  I imagined that I was facing yet another generic indie rock record, and I’d end up writing yet another generic indie rock review.  Then, I found out that the only Strokes influence found on this particular record comes from Fabrizio Moretti, the band’s drummer.  That calmed me down a little bit—as important as drummers are, they really only hit things with sticks.  They may all have their individual styles and whatnot, but the rest of the band has much more influence over the sound of the music.  At some point during this random thought-frenzy, I managed to press play on the record’s first track.  Then it took me a few songs to realize that I had the record on shuffle.  Isn’t that the worst?

Anyway, I was very surprised to hear that this band actually does sound a lot like The Strokes.  Considering that there’s no Julian Casablancas or Albert Hammond Jr. in sight, the resemblance is uncanny.  How to Hang a Warhol, for instance, could find itself a home on any Strokes release.  I don’t think that Fabrizio’s inclusion has too much to do with it, though.  The similarities between the bands are most noticeable in Rodrigo Amarante’s vocals and guitar work.  Maybe the beats are the same, but that’s not something that I’m going to pick up on after a single listen.

Little Joy is not a complete rip-off of The Strokes, as the band does bring their own style to their music.   The steel guitar is a nice touch, and multi-instrumentalist Binki Shapiro does add something to the record with a few lead vox spots.  I’ll always think of this album as a by-product of The Strokes, though.  Little Joy would have to do something pretty amazing for that opinion to change.

Day 211: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced

27 Sep

Purple Haze

I’ll admit it, this is the first Dad-Rock Tuesday that I’ve been excited about in quite a while.   It’s Jimi Freaking Hendrix.  Buddy used his massive thumb as a fifth finger on the frets.  How can one not get excited about this?  Sure, I’ve heard Purple Haze, Foxy Lady and a few others on this record before, but I was psyched to have 40 uninterrupted minutes of guitar genius wash over me.

Are You Experienced doesn’t disappoint.  You know an older album is good when it gets the seal of approval from Swole Ear.  Usually, I’m pretty quick to label anything made before 1995 as overrated. That would be blasphemy in the case of this record, though.

Listening to this album makes me want to learn more about the technical aspects of music.  I want to be able to describe what exactly Jimi is doing with that guitar, and why it’s sounds so cool.  Instead, we’ll have to settle for something along the lines of  “HOLY CRAP, THAT SOUNDS AWESOME.”

Believe it or not, the lyrics on this record are pretty solid as well—Jimi had more than one talent.  There’s some scary stuff going on here, as Jimi actually invites us inside of his mind quite frequently.  And I’m not referring to the never-ending debate between Purple Haze’s “kiss the sky” or “kiss this guy.”  Hey Joe, for example tells the story of a man preparing to shoot his girlfriend for cheating on him.  And then there’s Foxy Lady.  Yeah.

Day 210: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get it On

26 Sep

Let’s Get it On

Subtlety is not Marvin Gaye’s thing.  Then again, it’s not mine either.  Perhaps that’s why—when I finally managed to stop snickering at the oh-so in-your-face lyrics all over Let’s Get it On—I found that I was enjoying myself.

No, Marvin Gaye’s sex-minded, soulful tunes don’t have too much in common with what I normally listen to, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get behind this record.  The biggest deciding factor in my opinions on music is, and always will be, answered with this question: do it sound gewd?

As abstract as that may be, it allows me to like stuff from all over the place.  What do I enjoy about this record?  I’m still trying to figure that part out, actually.  Because it’s not much like what I’m used to, I need to think a little harder than I normally do.  If you’ve read a couple of posts here, you already knew that.

So, what exactly is going on in Let’s Get it On?  First off, Gaye’s voice must be acknowledged.  That thing is impossible to hate.  He pours all he’s got into all of his songs, while still managing to hit some crazy-high notes.  And I mean crazy-high.  The soulful accompaniment doesn’t hurt either.  Not only does it mesh perfectly with Gaye’s lyrics and vocals, but it really does sound like nothing I’ve listened to before.   It’s just so relaxed and easy-going.

I should also point out that not every track on Let’s Get it On is about sex.  Sure, the vast majority are, but there’s a little more substance to this record.  The album deals a lot with loss and heartache, as a little research (read: 30 seconds on Wikipedia) indicates that many of the lyrics on this record draw from a messy divorce of Gaye’s.  Let’s just say, it’s much more heartbreaking than Best Coast’s whining about boys and marijuana.

Day 209: Wilco – The Whole Love

25 Sep

I Might

*note* I’m currently being attacked by a cold of monstrous proportions.   In that previous sentence alone, I misspelled 5 different words.  One of them was “by.”  I’ll clean this post up and add a song tomorrow, as the nyquil is quickly going to worhuiiiiiiiiewU;EF

I’m not going to try to hide anything.  I’m a huge fan of The Wilcos.  If you’ve been here for a while, you already knew that—I welcomed in Day 100 with an entire week dedicated to the band.  More recently, I gathered my entire family around our laptops in a quest to snag tickets to Wilco’s upcoming Chicago show at the Civic Opera House.  We got ‘em, and will be laughing at all of the suckers that got sold out from our seats in the third row from the back in the upper balcony.

Just figured I should let you know that this post will be anything but unbiased.  Now, it should not come as a surprise to you that I believe that The Whole Love is yet another fantastic record by a fantastic band.  However, I understand why some fans have been a little disappointed after listening to the record’s stream.  The Whole Love will be the first record released on Wilco’s own label, and they did take a few “artsy” liberties that they might have stayed away from in the past.  Songs are a bit longer than usual, with a little static and fuzz finding its way in every now and then.

None of that should keep any fan of Wilco from finding something to like about this album.  The Whole Love acts as a  summation of everything that Wilco has ever done.  They go back to their countrier-than-recently roots, hit on some of the more abstract stuff from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and there’s plenty of the poppier stuff that they’ve leaned on over the past couple of records.

Day 208: Calories – Adventuring

24 Sep

Adventuring

The guys that make up Calories don’t mess around.  Adventuring, the trio’s debut record from 2009, is a great example of what I look for in my music.  At only 23 minutes in length, this record showcases some great tunes from the harsher end of the indie spectrum, and then ends before you know what hit you. While this album may not be as polished or pretty as some of its indie-brit-rock competitors, its got heart, something that lots of these other albums are missing.

It’s obvious that these guys put everything they had into this record.  The voice cracks and miss-hits (that would have been edited around on an album with a little higher production value) actually add to the character of the piece. There’s no denying that these guys cannot sing, but the front man’s attempt does sound pretty cool.  You’ve got to respect him for putting his terrible vocals on the front line, announcing to the world that he is aware that haters gon hate.

I always seem to find myself gravitating toward music with a DIY sound to it.  There’s just something appealing about it to this teen that has always wanted to play in a band, but has never taken the time to get good at an instrument.  I think that’s why most fans of “crappy” sounding music are attracted to it.  Sure, there may be a little bit of the “screw the pigs at the major labels” ideology going on, but really, it sounds like stuff that we could actually make ourselves.

Day 207: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Pershing

23 Sep

Think I Wanna Die

Let’s flash back to 203 days ago.  Just beginning this impossible project, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  But that didn’t stop me from realizing that I couldn’t waste time on picking records.  I needed an album for Day 3, and I decided to check where I found most of my music pre-Swole.  Back then, my last.fm homepage gave me some pretty solid recommendations—this was before I had completely ruined the algorithm by breaking my listening habits and playing music of every variety under the sun.  Swole Ear may have significantly broadened my musical horizons, but it has also significantly effected my musical recommendations.   Last.fm, I’ve had enough under-produced folk-punk for now, thank you very much.

Anyway, I saw a band on the list called Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. How could I not check them out?  It’s been love ever since.  I’ve listened to Broom a million times over the past seven or so months.  Today, I decided that I wanted to hear more, so I listened to the group’s second album, Pershing.

I was not disappointed—there was no sophomore slump for SSLYBY.  Yes, the band still sounds exactly like Wilco, but I’m willing to overlook some statements that I’ve made in the past 203 days regarding my dislike of non-innovative bands.  There’s no denying that this is some good alt-country, regardless of whom they may be influenced by.  Plus, this is Swole Ear, so I’m sure that I could find half a dozen of my previous statements that would back up my current position. Haters gon hate.

Day 206: Washed Out – Within and Without

22 Sep

Eyes Be Closed

Perhaps one day, I’ll grow tired of chillwave.  The reverb-heavy vocals may begin to wear, the dreamy, drawn-out synths might grow tiresome, and the sappy, ’80s beats may become annoying.  That day is not today.

Yes, although there is an astonishing lack of creativity and invention amongst the fairly new genre of chillwave, I still love that gimmicky, new-wave-on-acid sound.  From Blackbird Blackbird to Neon Indian, the sound has not yet started to grow old.

I say this because today, I listened to yet another hyped chillwave artist. Ernest Greene, the man behind Washed Out, brings absolutely nothing new to the table.  But hey, Within and Without is catchy as hell, and I just can’t bring myself to hate on it.

The repetitive and uncreative nature of this genre isn’t going to fly for much longer, though.  Artists are going to have to start branching out, and incorporating other things into their releases.  There’s going to come a day when we won’t buy yet another record full of only fuzzy-buzzy-bleepy-bloops.  The recent popularity of Washed Out shows that we’ll have to wait a little longer for that day, but mark my words, it’s coming.

That’s pretty exciting to me.  Chillwave is cool, but I can’t wait to see it updated.  How sweet (and oxymoronic) would chillcore be? How about chill-punk, anybody?  I’d stay away from chilldrone, but I’m sure it would  find an audience.

But for now, we’ve got to stick with the wave.  And I don’t have a problem with that yet.  Just disregard that post on Toro y Moi from a few months back.

Day 205: The Postelles – The Postelles

21 Sep

White Night

Sometimes, we’re a little hypocritical here at Swole Ear Incorporated.  I realize this, I try my best to avoid it, but sometimes it’s impossible.  Over the past seven months, I’ve ragged relentlessly on standard indie rock.  It’s often boring, uncreative, and a huge pain to listen to.  I’ve also hated on music that doesn’t know what it wants to be—both music with all kinds of ridiculous, poorly meshed influences, and records that change genres ever other song.  Sometimes I have to eat my own words.

The Postelles have put together an album that draws from every corner of the rock n’ roll world.  First of all, the lead singer (who I can’t refer to by name, as this band doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry or list of members anywhere on the internet) sounds just like Buddy Holly mixed with a bit of Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone.  Musically, the band draws from The Stones, The Clash, and just about everybody else that’s ever picked up a guitar.

Somehow, it all comes together in a record that’s a lot of fun to listen to.  This self titled piece sounds pretty happy throughout, which may explain a bit of my attraction to it—I love me some happy music.  It’s pretty light lyrically, as the bands sticks mainly with the indie rock standby of love and relationships, most of which end up working out.

Honestly, if I had listened to this record tomorrow, I may have ended up hating it.  So many of our (well, my, at least) opinions of music depend on our (my) mindset at the time of listening.  This record could have been subjected to the same ridicule as The Drums if I had been in the mood for something complex.

At the end of the day, it’s not Radiohead.  That’s something for which we all can be thankful.