Archive | January, 2012

Day 327: Sepalcure – Sepalcure

21 Jan

Pencil Pimp

I love music. Every now and then, a record will come along that reminds me just how awesome music can be.  This is one of those.

I have never heard anything quite like Sepalcure’s self titled debut record. Whether that’s because the album is really inventive, or because I don’t spend much time listening to Ishkur-style electronic music, I can’t tell you.  Regardless, this record has made me want more.  The problem is, I don’t really know where to look.

This stuff just sounds so cool.  It wouldn’t be all that out of place in a live setting, like a club or something, but it also works well on its own.  More than anything, the slow tempo on top of some really great beats gives off an aura that can’t be described as anything other than “night time.”

Almost everything fits perfectly on this record.  Except for the vocals.  The sparse use of lyrics and vox samples fits well with the “less is more” nature of this music, but, for some reason, the vocals that are there are pretty unsettling.  Perhaps their low-density is what makes them a little bit unnerving.  There may be a minute or two that passes voiceless, creating a dark atmosphere that is completely shattered when those vocals kick back in.  This music really could have stood on its own without them.

I’m willing to overlook that, just because of the killer synths, beats, and atmosphere that you get out of this record.  Sepalcure isn’t perfect, but it’s good and new enough (to me) to be really, really awesome.

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Day 326: The Kills – Blood Pressures

20 Jan

Satellite

Let us take a moment to discuss a very important topic, one that is all too frequently ignored: concert etiquette.

I love rock shows.  Concerts are often a major factor in determining whether I like a band or not.  However, only as much fun can be had at concerts as is allowed by the masses in attendance.  A great crowd can make a show, and a bad crowd can break one.  It doesn’t take much for a crowd to be considered good, as long as people follow a few basic rules.  Tonight, I attended a Kills show, and was faced with one of the worst crowds I have ever encountered.  If you were to name a few rules for standard concert etiquette, it’s likely that you’d hit on these two guidelines:

  1. Don’t throw things.
  2. Don’t push your way to the front.

Before The Kills even took the stage tonight, both of these rules had already been broken.  Just moments after I was knocked in the dome by a beer can, I felt that all-too-familiar shove on the back, usually signaling that a person (or group) considers themselves more important than those around them.  Still angry from the earlier headshot, I didn’t let them pass.  We were about three rows from the front of the stage, close enough to see everything, and my friend and I weren’t about to give up our spots that we waited for outside in a Chicago snowstorm.

That’s when the lecture started.  Unfortunately, this was not the first time that an inebriated person has framed me as inconsiderate for not letting them take my place at a show.

A little more went down, including the questioning of my familiarity with the workings of concerts.  Apparently, it’s acceptable in whatever backwards city in Continental Europe that these people are from to push your way to the front at a concert.  Welcome to Amuricah, that mess ain’t gon’ fly here.

But then The Kills came out, and put on a pretty good show.  They played a bunch of songs from Blood Pressures, their most recent record, but weren’t afraid to dip into their back catalogue.  There were plenty of tracks from No Wow, my personal favorite of their albums.  Obnoxious fans or no, this record (that I really did listen to for the first time today) gives you a pretty good taste of the band I saw tonight, showcasing The Kills at their finest, simplest, and heaviest.

Day 325: Ian Dury – New Boots and Panties!!

19 Jan

Clevor Trevor

As far as record titles go, this is about as funny as you can get.  Ian Dury was one of those dudes who bought pretty much every piece of his clothing from thrift stores.  The only two things that he bought new were boots and panties.  I’m assuming that is English English (as opposed to American English) for shoes and underwear, but you can never really be sure with those Brits.

This record was recommend to me yesterday by a fan of The Smiths, and then reaffirmed by someone who hates The Smiths with a passion.  I figured that if two perspectives that different could agree on a record, it must be pretty good.  My first reaction to New Boots and Panties!!, however, was more along the lines of “well this sure is annoying.”

I’ve got a few things to base that opinion on, too.  Ian Dury’s voice is annoying.  On top of that, the instrumentation that he’s got backing him up is really repetitive, and not that interesting.  It’s just your standard rock band setup—guitar, drums, more guitar—and there’s nothing all that great about it.

However, you can’t always listen to my opinions.  I tend to ignore lyrics, as I can’t possibly interpret things being sung by the singer while I’m in the process of interpreting my own jumbled thoughts. You could say that is a major flaw in the site’s concept as a whole, but it’s too late to quit at this point.  Anyway, the lyrics are supposed to be pretty good, and fairly funny, so maybe I need to listen to this stuff when I’m not trying to write this stuff.

Day 324: The Smiths – The Smiths

18 Jan

This Charming Man

I’ve somehow managed to go 323 days into this project without listening to a single record by The Smiths.  I figured that I’d be assigned a record of theirs for Dad Rock Tuesday at some point, but with the number of DRTs beginning to dwindle, I better just knock out a record of theirs on my own terms. As I’m sure you know, Wikipedia is blacked out today as part of the anti-SOPA/PIPA protests, making my daily music research a little harder than usual.  I’m not complaining, I don’t need no online encyclopedia to know just how big The Smiths are (were).

There’s just something about that ’80s/’90s English rock sound that I love.  Well, most of the time anyway.  From The Beautiful South to Belle and Sebastian, there’s been something for me in the majority of the stuff that I have checked out from this genre and era, excluding Joy Division.

With a very heart-on-sleeve approach to lyrics, and an emotional, albeit a little whiney, delivery, I have plenty to love about The Smiths.  Now that I think about it, those are two characteristics that I look for in a lot of the new stuff that I listen to, even if they come about in fairly different ways.  For example, you could apply the first sentence of this paragraph to the music of a band like Titus Andronicus, even though they sound nothing like The Smiths. It’s cool how things like that end up working out.

I shouldn’t say that I hate new wave—I’m starting to learn that it’s not all garbage.

Day 323: Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material

17 Jan

Suspect Device

I feel a major history lesson coming on this Dad Rock Tuesday.  This week, I’ve been given a record by Stiff Little Fingers, some Irish punk pioneers, who were making music at the peak of The Troubles (according to my bff Wikipedia).  So while I can’t really tell where this band stood on all that Ireland vs. Northern Ireland stuff, I feel a few encyclopedias’ worth of info coming up in the comment section.

While I can’t speak much for the politics of this record, I can discuss the music for once.  For a guy who sometimes gives me crap about all of the standard indie rock that I listen to, my dad sure recommends a ton of standard punk music.

Before I began with this record, I did a little research on last.fm.  One user asks if Stiff Little Fingers is a Green Day cover band.  For his sake, I really hope he’s joking.  The only similarities that I hear between these guys and the Day, (even their older stuff), is some simple chord progression and whatnot—and let’s face it, that’s because the two bands kind of make music in the same genre.  But on the reals, I feel like I’ve already heard this record on a bunch of other Tuesdays…everything is starting to blend together.  However, I’m sure that there isn’t much else that I’ve listened to with a level of commentary quite this high.  So now, I’m going to turn things over to the old people.  Enlighten me.

Day 322: Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes

16 Jan

Honolulu Blues

There’s always a sense of disappointment that runs through me when a stream of an album I’ve been looking forward to hits the web. For one, it always happens to be an album that I preordered, but the stream takes away any exclusivity that came along with the order.  It feels like some kind of bond has been broken between the band and the fan—almost as if the artists are saying that the ones who cared enough to preorder aren’t as important as the masses.  There’s also something amazing about ripping off the plastic wrapping on a brand new, never-before-heard CD or record, and knowing that you’re one of the first to listen to it.  Clicking play on the NPR website (where these streams always end up) gets rid of the illusion that you are #1, and lets you know for certain that tons of people handled this stuff before you did.

I can’t not check out a stream, though.  As a rabid music consumer, if the stuff of an artist I love is out there, I’ve got to listen.  So I caved, and gave the long awaited Craig Finn solo release a play.  While the mid-quality stream from the NPR music widget was disappointing, my man Mr. Finn came through.

It’s no secret that Craig has a way with words.  The Hold Steady, even with its chaotic pace and the great Tad Kubler on guitar, is a celebration of Craig Finn’s lyrics—making this solo record a wake.  The optimism that comes with the average Hold Steady song is nowhere to be found, and Finn’s colorful characters seem a lot less likely to bounce back from that crazy house party in a St. Paul suburb, or after a rough night of bar hopping in Ybor City.

Stream or no, this record rocks.  While I will have a little less fun with the CD/bandanna bundle that I ordered last week, it’ll still be nice to sit down with the album and read along with the lyrics.  I wonder how many gems like “people say we suck at sports / but they just don’t understand / it’s hard to catch with holes right through your hands” (on “My New Friend Jesus”) went right over my head this time around.

Day 321: The Abrahammer – How Dubstep Music Destroyed My Life

15 Jan

You’re My Diamonds, My Honey 

I’ve written about Mashup Breakdown before, right?  I must have.  It definitely came up at least once during one of my two Girl Talk posts.  Anyway, one day, many months ago, I was messing around on the always-awesome, aforementioned Mashup Breakdown—a site that lets you track what songs are being used at any given moment in quite a few mashup records.  Yes, it’s just as addictive as you would imagine.  Browsing through the lists of available records to track, one DJ’s name caught my eye. How awesome of a moniker is “The Abrahammer?”  I’ll tell you—it’s extra awesome.

So I may have listened to a track or two, and then I became a fan of the guy on Facebook—how could I not?  But I completely forgot about him until today, when he posted a status update declaring that his record—the also awesomely named How Dubstep Music Destroyed My Life—is available as a free download from his website.

I recommend that you download it.  Right away.  If the mashup genre has a legitimate future (outside of dudes like Girl Talk and the Super Mash Bros.) this guy is it.  He will be at their level soon.  No, Dubstep doesn’t quite reach the Girl Talk level of amazingness, but it’s really freaking close.  There are just a few minor tweaks that The Abrahammer needs to make in order to take his stuff to that next level.

I’m really being knit-picky here, but these are some of the things that occurred to me as a little whack while listening to this album.  The transitions are weak at times—often just jumping from one section to the next.  However, they do become more and more seamless as the record progresses, leading me to believe that the creation of Dubstep served as a learning experience for The Abrahammer.  There are also a few times when he speeds up the vocals in a rap section, giving dudes (who really shouldn’t have them) goofy cartoon vocals.

The Abrahammer gets a pass, though, because this record is all kinds of great.  I almost died laughing when 50 Cent’s “Just A Lil’ Bit” came on over the flute section of “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.  I learned that Biz Markie has the worst flow of all time, and it really stands out when paired with cheese-pop piano.  I discovered that Lil Wane and Birdman fit perfectly with “Such Great Heights.”  I’ve also got to give the man credit for working in the theme songs of Rug Rats, Inspector Gadget, and The Office in a single record.  You won’t find those on a Girl Talk record.

Day 320: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Vs. Children

14 Jan

Killers

Ohhh boy. That band name is a handful.  Well, at least it’s accurate, I guess.

When Owen Ashworth recorded the first songs under the Casiotone for the Painfully Alone moniker, he really was just singing over a Casio keyboard.  Since then, he has added some more instruments and a few guest vocalists to his repertoire, but his ethos remains the same.  He’s making music for the lonely, the heartbroken, and the depressed.  If you don’t exhibit any of these traits, don’t worry—you’ll pick up at least one by the conclusion of a CFTPA record.

While I can’t decide if I’m a fan of this stuff quite yet, it is clear that Owen Ashworth has some kind of Sufjan Stevens complex.  Long song titles featuring namedrops of small towns make up a huge portion of this record, and I can’t help but think “Sufjy did it.  And better.”

I love melodramatic music as much as the next angst-filled teen, really, but Ashworth takes things a little too far sometimes.  Everything seems to go wrong for his forever-alone characters, and when you put these lyrics over the album’s soft keyboard chimes and low-key beats, this music falls closer to cringe inducing than tear jerking.

I can’t say that I hate this record, but that’s probably due to the fact that I’ve only listened to it once. I can’t imagine that I’ll suddenly find the beauty in this music—in fact, I only see it becoming more and more obnoxious with each listen.  Well, haters gonna hate, I suppose.

Day 319: Wild Flag – Wild Flag

13 Jan

Romance

The indie community has showered this record with praise, so I decided to check it out.  That’s how things go around here.  Please excuse me if I seem a little out of it today, it has been a long night of applying to college and whatnot.

Usually, a zoned out state of mind does not receive indie rock albums particularly well.  Admittedly, while I would have been more in the mood for something along the lines of The Glitch Mob or Gold Panda tonight, I can’t deny that this record does rock pretty hard.

I could be like all of the other critics, and write a whole post about this being an all-woman band, but frankly, I find that nonsense pretty annoying.  Who cares? As long as they can play their instruments, their gender doesn’t matter.  However, it should be noted that Wild Flag is indeed a super group of sorts.  Members of Sleater-Kinney, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks occupy this mishmash of indie all-stars, and their wealth of prior experience shines through in their music.  It’s clear that these ladies definitely know what they’re doing, and know how to put together some solid rock songs.

There are some really cool and strong ’50s vibes coming from this album.  Harmonic group sing-alongs happen pretty much on every track, and the organ gives the tunes an extra-innocent kind of sound.  Super groups often disappoint, but not this one.  It sounds like egos remained in check with Wild Flag, and making good rock music remained the priority.

Day 318: Heavenly – Le Jardin de Heavenly

12 Jan

Starshy

While listening to Black Flag last Dad Rock Tuesday, one song on Damaged stood out in particular.  I recognized “Police Story” almost immediately, but I couldn’t remember why.  Then, about halfway through, I realized that Los Campesinos! covered it on The International Tweexcore Underground, an early EP of theirs that now appears to embarrass them.  On that EP, in addition to the Black Flag song, is another cover of some band called Heavenly.  I still listen to LC!’s version of “C is the Heavenly Option” to this day, and have discovered that it is in fact  better than the original version.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Le Jardin de Heavenly, but the Campesino gender-reversal in their cover of the song is just too funny and endearing.  Also, Calvin Johnson’s guest spot on the real thing is kind of annoying.

Fortunately, Johnson and his annoying vocals only make one appearance on this record.  The rest is left to Amelia Fletcher, who has a voice that is hard not to fall in love with.  She’s got a really quiet and soft-spoken delivery, which reminds me of Alaina Moore (of Tennis) just a bit.  The low-key vocals leave the instrumentation out in the open, which is okay because it does manage to fend for itself.  The quick tempos and trebly guitars should work against the oft-slow vocals, but somehow, everything blends together beautifully.

While “C is the Heavenly Option” ended up being the worst track on this record, I can’t hate it because the cover version is what led me to Le Jardin in the first place.  Fortunately, I’ve got a lot more to check out by these guys