Day 348: Mitchmatic – It’s Probably Raining

11 Feb

Why Don’t You Know

When Mr. Chops, one of our more prominent commenters, linked to an up-and-coming rapper, going so far as to compare ‘em to De La Soul, I’ll admit, I got a little excited.  Three Feet High and Rising has been one of my favorite records of the Swole-sperience so far, and that trio’s originality is a factor behind my feelings.  But, their inventiveness also means that I haven’t heard anything else like Three Feet.

I eagerly clicked on the link to the hilarious YouTube video for Mitchmatic’s “Why Don’t You Know,” and kind of fell in love.

“Why Don’t You Know” is a great track, showcasing both Mitchmatic’s lyrical ability, as well as his knack for making beats.  I got my hands on the man’s newest mixtape (It’s Probably Raining, available on his Bandcamp for however much you want to pay), and absorbed myself in all 8 of its tracks.  At a disappointingly short 20 minutes all in, I’m currently on my third rotation.

I don’t know nearly enough about hip-hop to make any good comparisons, but I can draw from other records of the genre that I’ve listened to.  A better, less whiney Childish Gambino comes to mind, but I even heard Lemons-era Atmosphere in “Sorry” and “Discovering Pain,” and darker/angrier Seven’s Travels in “Work in the Method.”  Comparisons don’t do this stuff justice, though.  Mitchmatic is really doing his own thing, and I’m a little confused as to why the dude’s only got 100-something listeners on  Big things are in the works for this guy, I’d imagine.

Day 347: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

10 Feb


Yes, I’m listening to a compilation album, but hear me out.  This isn’t your normal “derp, let’s pull a bunch of random, unconnected songs together in an arbitrary order so we can make some more monies” comp record.  Being a considerate punk rock band, Minor Threat decided to gather every single studio recording of theirs and combine them all, in chronological order, on a single disc.

That sounds intimidating, doesn’t it?  I figured that I’d be listening to this thing for a few days before getting through every song.  Fortunately, Minor Threat only had 26 tracks (recorded in a studio) at the time of Complete Discography’s release.  In true punk rock fashion, this record wraps up in just about 47 minutes.

I was a little worried about flow going into this.  Sure, the songs are in chronological order by release, but most albums, even if by the same band, don’t transition well from one to the other.  I kept waiting for an obvious break to occur, but before I knew it, Complete Discography had run its course, and I couldn’t tell Salad Days from Out of Step. 

That’s just the type of music that Minor Threat made.  In fact, it probably doesn’t matter what song I linked you to up top—you’ll still get the general idea.  Fast, sloppy guitars, reckless drumming, and a whole lot of shouting are prominent in every single song.  Minor Threat knew what they were good at.  Sure, it may get old after 47 minutes, but in smaller chunks, this is really potent stuff.

Day 346: Mucca Pazza – Plays Well Together

9 Feb

Borino Oro

Currently, you may be wondering something along the lines of “Swole, why are you listening to records that sound like they came from some strange and twisted 19th century Eastern European Carnival?”  While that is certainly a valid question, I have an inquiry of my own: how on earth could I not check out the music made by a band described as a “circus punk marching band?”

I’ve listened to plenty of weird stuff over the past 346 days, but Mucca Pazza may take the cake.  Comprised of twenty or so ever-changing members that seem to play every instrument in existence (and some that haven’t even been created yet), in a really fun and over-the-top manner, Mucca Pazza is a band that just doesn’t get boring.

Going into this, I guess I kind of ignored the “marching band” part of their description—quite a large portion of Plays Well Together sounds like the half time show of some demented football game. The band even has cheerleaders, who add even more pep to the already hyperactive music.

Mucca Pazza is one of those bands that needs to be seen live.  As much fun as I had listening to this record, every now and then, I found myself thinking, “Why on earth am I sitting in my room listening to a pep rally?”  When there’s no way to express the—for lack of a better word—happiness that comes with listening to this music, you find yourself a little embarrassed.

Day 345: Franz Nicolay – Major General

8 Feb

Jeff Penalty

Had I known earlier in the Swole processes that my mustachioed hero, Franz Nicolay, has released a few solo records, believe me, I would have been all over those albums.  Nicolay, the former keyboardist for The Hold Steady, was around and featured prominently, on that band’s best albums.  His departure before 2010’s Heaven is Whenever was a little traumatic for me, as that record proved to be The Hold Steady’s weakest effort to date.  Their live shows are also missing something without him—while not quite as in your face as always-hilarious frontman Craig Finn, seeing the permanently-jubilant Nicolay jumping behind the keyboard was fun.

Having never really heard the man’s voice before, I didn’t know what to expect from his solo work.  I figured there’d be a ton of fast-paced keyboard stuff going on, with a sound similar to THS’ best piano pieces.  After listening to Major General twice, I’m still not entirely sure of what I just heard.

Mainly, there’s way more guitar on this record than piano.  I definitely wasn’t expecting that.  In fact, the album starts up with a straight-up punk song (“Jeff Penalty”), but by no means sticks solely to that genre.  On the record, I heard Franz playing all the previously-mentioned instruments, plus the banjo and accordion.  Naturally, with instruments that varied, the music is all over the place.  The constant genre-switching does keep Major General from flowing as a whole, but most of the tracks on here stand well enough on their own to make that a moot point.

Day 344: BoDeans – Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams

7 Feb


It’s Dad Rock Tuesday once again, and for some reason, I’ve been assigned a BoDeans album that doesn’t have “Closer to Free” on it.  While I can’t say that this upsets me—I’ve never really liked that song—it is not what I was expecting.

Having only heard that chart-topper, I can’t say that my hopes were very high going into Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.  I was pleasantly surprised, though. It’s still clearly the same band, but you can tell that they weren’t just trying to put radio-ready hits together on this album.  The charming-Midwestern-twang-thing is definitely evident, but perhaps it wasn’t going in full force on this record.  That’s one of the things I can’t stand about “Closer to Free” . . . those vocals.

Something else I wasn’t expecting: a coherent and connected album.  I know for a fact that the first two songs (“She’s a Runaway” and “Fadeaway”) are related, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are more tracks that rely  on each other in order to make sense.  I had to stop looking out for those things because I have to write this, but, chances are, there’s a little love story within this record, as implied in the title.

So maybe BoDeans, believe it or not, is a band that I need to look into further.  I never thought I’d be saying that, but I love being wrong about good music.  With eleven solid, infectious, and actually interesting standard rock songs, there’s nothing not to like about Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.

Day 343: Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

6 Feb

Stay Useless

“I must have gotten my hands on a mis-tagged album,” I thought to myself only 30 seconds in to Cloud Nothing’s new LP, Attack on Memory.  This stuff sounds almost nothing like Turning On, which I discussed on Day 37.  Since that post, I’ve become a fan of the band, even going as far as to see them in concert last September.  The group’s drastic change in direction—from fuzzy-buzzy-lo-fi-indie-gloriousness, to almost Nirvana-esque grunge-ish rock—was disappointing at first.  Once I came to terms with the fact that the old band I have grown to love is gone, I was able to embrace this new, remarkably darker sound.

A big reason behind the change in Cloud Nothings’ attitude seems to come from improved recording and production quality.  In contrast to the band’s earlier releases, Attack sounds like it was recorded in an actual studio, as opposed to in a kitchen (straight to a MacBook).  Frontman Dylan Baldi’s lyrics are actually comprehensible—you would never have been able to understand a shout of “I thought I would be more than this!” on Nothings’ earlier releases, whether the lyrics were there or not. And while the twangy guitar hooks are still all over the place, they’re noticeably less cute when not hiding behind a massive layer of fuzz.

Sure, Attack on Memory is a little different. But it’s really good, and can definitely stand on its own.  If a band can make such dramatic alterations to their sound, but still remain good (and clearly the same band), well, that’s just awesome.

Day 342: Screaming Females – Power Move

5 Feb


Story time.

I’ve seen these guys live twice, but only in opening spots.  The first time was at a Dead Weather show, which makes complete sense.  Screaming Females’ harsh, lo-fi sounds goes pretty well with The Dead Weather and their faux-fi mediocrity.  However, the second time I saw these guys, they took the stage before Arctic Monkeys, of all bands.

In case you don’t know, those two groups have absolutely nothing in common.  From sound (Arctic Monkeys are about as polished as a rock band can be) to the stereotypical fan (think 16-year-old girl with a Tumblr for Arctic Monkeys, and punk that lives in a dumpster for Screaming Females), it could be said that there was a slight mismatch in this pairing. The crowd at The Dead Weather show tolerated the Females, but things didn’t go so well for the band at that Arctic Monkeys show.  A restless crowd full of obnoxious pre-teens almost booed them off the stage.  That made me sad, and I made a mental note to buy a record of theirs after the show, but then I forgot.

So Screaming Females faded into the deep recesses of my brain until I saw that they’re currently on a record store tour, where they are the headliners.  I figured I owe it to them to check out one of their records.

If you’ve been able to put up with the “shouty” and “screamy” stuff that I have written about in the past, Screaming Females’ Power Move will be a breeze.  Frontwoman Marissa Paternoster sounds more like a Fever to Tell-era Karen O, or maybe even Joan Jett than, say, someone trying to cause permanent damage to her vocal chords.  In front of some fast-paced and distorted (but impressive) guitar work, what’s not to like?

Day 341: Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

4 Feb

Death Rays

Mog what?

If you find it strange that there have been more post-rock reviews in these four days of February than in any other month combined, then you don’t know Swole Ear too well.  I’ve gone on a few multi-day genre-benders, so all of the haters can step to the left.

Don’t be surprised if this is my last foray into the genre of post-rock, though.  I just don’t know enough about it to separate the good from the bad.  I think that all post-rock sounds cool, but that’s probably because the idea of grand instrumentation in my indie music is still new to me.  Posts that go along the lines of “it sounds awesome, you all should listen to it” can’t be that interesting to read.

So I ask you to put up with just one more of them.  I promise to get back to the Swole standards at some point.  I’m going to go out and find the indie-ist of rock records tomorrow, and then we’ll have something to talk about.

But what is it exactly that I’ve come to expect from post-rock?  Here’s a list:

  • Long songs
  • Minimal use of vocals
  • An “abstract” feel, often brought about through the use of static and other distortions
  • Ever-changing and ever-complicated guitar playing
  • The use of instruments not often associated with rock (orchestral stuff)

Hardcore Will Never Die has all of these components and more.  Well, not really more, but it has all of that stuff.  And not much more, now that I think about it.  In fact, the record is kind of . . . boring.  Perhaps an important component of good post-rock is the ability to keep the listener on edge . . .

Day 340: Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album

3 Feb


I promise, I’m not actively seeking out weird records during this final month of The Swole; they’ve just been making their way to me.  Richard D. James Album is one that I’ve been meaning to get to since the start of this project, mainly because of its interesting/unforgettable cover.  So, not knowing anything about Aphex Twin, I decided just to dive in.  This is a strategy that works about half of the time with Swole Ear, so no reason to abandon it now.

I am impressed.  A fairly unperceptive person would describe this music as electronic.  So that’s what I’m going to do, but I’ll manage to stretch it out over 250 words. Somehow, I have readers…

But poor writing technique aside, I’ve met many people who have trouble getting into music made primarily on a computer.  One of their main gripes usually has to do with the long song and album lengths that dominate this infinitely expansive genre.  Similarly, dissenters and haters are quick to classify this music as boring and repetitive

I understand this.  As a fan of brief records myself, I’ve been known to cut a 12-minute track short every now and then.  That’s why Richard D. James Album is almost perfect.  There isn’t a single song that reaches the five-minute mark, and the whole thing wraps up in 33 minutes—around the length of your average punk record.  For those looking for a gateway into the world of electronic music, this record provides a great opportunity.

Believe me, it helps that these tunes are actually jammin’.  These beats are so fresh (snap), I thought I was at my local farmer’s market.  With samples of everything from orchestral sections to various unrecognizable speeches, there’s a whole plethora of material that Aphex Twin effectively uses in this record.  Seriously, check this out.

Day 339: Swans – Soundtracks for the Blind

2 Feb

The Sound

Perhaps, in an attempt to put together a month of incredible posts on incredible albums, I’ve gotten myself in a little bit over my head.  I’ve talked about records that are hard to digest after one listen plenty of times, but man, the comments on this bad boy are filled with people trying to figure out the insanity that is this record.

Let me set things up for you.  In total, Soundtracks is two hours, 21 minutes, and 37 seconds long.  Its 26 tracks were released on two discs, making it a double album of sorts.  Believe me, I didn’t know that going in.  It was the band’s last release before going on a 14-year hiatus, and while it’s often thought of as their magnum opus or something, all it is doing is scaring the bejesus out of me.

Constantly switching between sections of static, creepy and dark post-rock (that clearly influenced bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor), frightening monologues shouted by what I think is supposed to be the voice inside the listener’s head (which has a southern twang, for some reason), listening to Soundtracks has been a fairly frightening experience for me, and I’m only a third of the way through.

I’m not getting bored with this stuff, not by any means, but I definitely wouldn’t say I’m enjoying myself.  I have been on the edge of my seat this whole time.  I just don’t know if I’d willingly listen to Soundtracks again.  I can’t stand horror movies, so it makes sense that I’d have a little trouble with what is clearly a horror album.