Thursday, September 23, 2010

What I Listened To: A Mid-Week Recap

Truth be told, when I started this blog, it just so happened to be on a day off from work, and after a crazed record buying spree. I'm only just now starting to realize how much time I really have during the day to focus and listen to music. It seems to be not a lot. But, no matter, as I've still found time to spin some great new records, and a few old ones as well. Here's a few I've been stoked on recently -- not particularly obscure, but pretty great nonetheless.

Circus Lupus - "Super Genius"
In my still on-going quest to find some brattier, piss n' vinegar style punk that I may have missed out on in high school, I found myself downloading Circus Lupus' "Super Genius" after reading a great article about a CL-affiliated band I actually did (and do) like called the Monorchid. It got me thinking that I really should check Monorchid vocalist Chris Thomson's former band out; and boy did I find something bratty, pissy, and vinegar-y. The songs on "Super Genius" just straight up snarl; Thomson isn't so much a singer as he is a commentator, with vocal lines that eschew melodicism for snot-nosed talk that sounds at once careless and careful. He knows what he's saying, he just sounds like he doesn't give a fuck. The music is jaunts along with Thomson's voice, with tense, Zappa-esque guitars and a low-end sound that could only come from D.C. Check this out next time you want to drink glass and chew on barbed wire.

The 2-and-a-half minute blast of "Tightrope Walker"

Forgetters - "S/T Double 7"'

Come into my house on a week night and catch Angela cooking in the kitchen, and you'll be bound to hear one of three bands: Belle and Sebastian, Mojave 3, or Jawbreaker. Take a road-trip with me, and there's no doubt that we're going to jam some Jets to Brazil. So the both of us were pretty stoked to see that Blake Schwarzenbach -- one of punk's mightiest penmen -- was finally back with a new, post-Jets band (actually his second, if you count the short-lived Thorns of Life project) in Forgetters. After playing about the Brooklyn house show scene for around a year, Forgetters first recorded offering is a back-to-basics affair for Schwarzenbach, whose final output from Jets to Brazil bordered on at times -- a far cry from the 3-chord punk he perfected with Jawbreaker. The songs are short, distorted, and feature Blake's familiar rasp and wit-filled lines about vampires and -- probably -- war (or something?). I could honestly do without the lame pop-punk drummer, but it's great to hear Schwarzenbach strip down the musical approach without dumbing down his lyrical gifts.

This song isn't on the record, but it's just about the highest quality video of Forgetters out there

Jaill - "That's How We Burn"
Sub Pop's Jaill (no, not the Canadian Sub Pop Jale, somewhat sadly), seem to be one of the tinier bands that often benefit from the success of some of the label's more high-profile releases (Wolf Parade, No Age, Fleet Foxes, and all the money still rolling in from Nirvana being cool and putting the Sub Pop logo on the back of "Nevermind"). For every Shins, there's a Fruit Bats. For every Beach House, there's a Pissed Jeans -- records made by bands that the general public might not freak out for, but ones that obviously are championed by the hardcore music geeks that work at the label. In the case of Jaill, the band isn't particularly fashionable, what, with having the strange and obscure lineup of 2 guitars, bass, drums, and some singing, but then again, who knew the laptop would be the new Les Paul of 2010? They have two strikes against them being from Milwaukee of all places, and possibly another because the band is hardly new -- been around for 8 years! -- (and a fourth, in regards to a possible poor choice in name) but goddamn it if I don't love a rock and roll underdog. Jaill make vintage sounding pop sound new again, and apply a somewhat aggressive angle to their Kinks-ian jangle. It's great stuff, dynamic and tempo'd when need be, or forceful and catchy-as-fuck when it counts (the opening one-two of "The Stroller" and "Everyone's Hip" really seal the deal). They're playing later on in October that Lager House with some shitty band I play in, so you might want to see them jam these jams live.

A KEXP performance of should-be hit "Everyone's Hip"

Les Savy Fav - "Root For Ruin"
Every review I read about this record seems to imply that Les Savy Fav -- a band whose live shows often times borderline as Lady Ga Ga-on-a-budget affairs -- have gone soft. But, chances are the people writing these reviews are the same little shits who have never heard a Polvo record, and think that Archers of Loaf is something they can pick up from their local grocer (or they are British, and thus, pussies). Les Savy Fav have set out to make a record big-upping their influences (Superchunk, Circus Lupus, and the aforementioned icons), and in turn, have managed to finally secure their spot as being mentioned in the same breath of their idols. If their last record managed to proclaim that "1999" was alright, then all that's missing from "Root For Ruin" is a sister song claiming that "1993 Wasn't That Bad Either." Alas, I remember simpler times when I didn't have to buy a LSF record when it came out, but I'm super happy to have purchased this on vinyl, and to support a band that I've always thought never got their due. Hopefully this time around, they have their cake, eat it, then play a show where bear-sih vocalist Tim Harrington rubs it all over his chest and beard, dressed in a bodysuit designed to look like a human's internal organs.

A live performance of album opener "Appetites"

The Thermals - "Personal Life"
How do you follow two monster records about religion and death? If you're the Thermals, you make a simpler record about relationships and make everybody who got a bone for you last two cry and yell. But, if you think about it, it's probably more punk rock to dial it back and NOT give people what they want (ever hear "Sandinista"?) than get caught in the Green Day trap and have to make some kind of bloated political statement every time you make a record. The Thermals have always been more about the personal life anyway -- former bf&gf's Hutch and Kathy made their first record on 4-track in a kitchen, for fuckssake. People are knocking this record hard, but the more I listen to it, the more a new Thermals emerge for me -- the rhythm drives the songs more (in that Pixies "Gigantic" kind of way) and their sense of space is a welcome change after two records that crammed a shit-load of ideas into the context of a lo-fi 3-piece punk band. And who knows, this could just be the sound of a band catching their breath a bit before another Thermals-led shit-storm rears it's head as the follow up.

The claustrophobic video for lead single "I Don't Believe You"

The Sea and Cake - "Oui"
Whenever I listen to this record (which, honestly, isn't that often), I'm instantly transported back to the CMU computer labs, where I'd sit, jam Sea and Cake, check out babes, look shit up about indie rock on and basically waste a ton of time doing anything I could think of besides school work. I'm pretty sure "Oui" was one of the only good records I ever got for free for writing for my college paper, and I can recall writing a review of the record then, comparing Sam Prekop's vocal prowess to butter and thinking that I was pretty brilliant for it. How little I knew when I was 20. Either way, this record still holds up, as does most of the back catalog, and "Oui" marks a slight stylistic shift for the band, following up the more glitchy "The Fawn." Not my favorite of theirs (that actually would be "The Fawn" - perhaps for sentimental reasons), but a great reminder of my days spent trudging out of the emo-hell I was in for a few years back then.

Here's a live take on opener "Afternoon Speaker"... ... John McEntire is not human.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What I Listened To: 9.14.10

It dawned on me that I forgot to list a few of the records that I ended up spinning yesterday during my post, so here's a few hold overs, plus a breakdown of one of my favorite new discoveries from the past few weeks - The Mice.

Emitt Rhodes - "Emitt Rhodes"
I couldn't have been more stoked to find Emitt Rhodes' 1970 debut record on vinyl this past week at UHF. Honestly, if that had been the only record that I found on opening day, I would have been more than pleased. I've been pretty much obsessed with this multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter for the past year, and having a ripped version of this album doesn't even come close to owning a copy on wax. If you aren't familiar, Rhodes is something of a one man band, recording the entire album by himself, playing all of the instruments. For a sound reference, Paul McCartney seems to be the favorite name to drop when discussing Rhodes' career, but whereas Macca often seemed to rely on camp and pomp to make his mark, there's a tenderness and fragility to Rhodes' pop that makes you feel particularly "in" on something when you discover his music. During some recent research on Rhodes, I discovered that an Italian filmmaker has produced a documentary on Rhodes called "The One Man Beatles" -- the trailer of which I've embedded here, followed by one of my favorite Rhodes jams, "With My Face on the Floor."

"The One Man Beatles"

"With My Face on the Floor"

Wipers - "Is This Real?"
I've recently started a new band with John Nelson, Monday Busque, and Sean Sommer called Destroy This Place. So far, we're sounding pretty melodic, but there's also an aggressive edge to it that is becoming really fun to play. So, with this new project in the forefront of my mind, I've been on the lookout for some vintage punk records that play into my new found muscular rock streak. With Seattle grunge godfathers the Wipers' "Is This Real?" I think I've found the perfect concoction.

Noticing the striking record cover over at my friend Dave Graw's pad, I made a mental note to check Wipers out. Months later, I found myself on a lazy weekend day trolling around the Internet, downloading everything Wipers related I could find. I happened upon "Is This Real?" and it's immediate, chugging chords, and songwriter Greg Sage's desperate, imaginative lyrics really stuck out to me. I thought the record would be less poppy than it is (and their later output does bring on the grungy/sludgy sound that their fellow Seattle-ites like Nirvana, a band who often covered Wipers, surely picked up on), but the record is super catchy, in sort of a Ramones meets Hot Snakes kind of way (the Ramones surely being an influence on Sage and the Wipers, and Hot Snakes surely taking influence from Sage himself).

If you're looking for something that drives, but isn't boneheaded, this record will be right up your alley, and unlike a lot of bands from this era, everybody in the group can really shred (the basslines on the record are especially fun to listen to). The recent reissue on vinyl is pretty beautiful, too, and I couldn't help myself from ordering it when "Is This Real?" became pretty real for me.

Hear the track "Is This Real?"

The Mice - "For Almost Ever Scooter"
Because I'm such a huge Superchunk fan, I've found myself scouring the Internet for any tidbit of info I can on the band, going so far as to try and find articles that reference bands they claim as influences, in hopes of getting turned on to records I've never heard of before. One band that continuously comes up is Cleveland's the Mice. Culled from an album called "For Almost Ever" and EP called "Scooter" - both released in the mid-80s - "For Almost Ever Scooter" was put out by Scat Records in 2004, and features 16 tracks of loud, brash, and insanely catchy midwestern rock that would sit nicely right alongside the poppier moments of Husker Du and the Replacements (and, without a doubt, early Superchunk - who often covered the awesome "Bye Bye Kitty Cat"). Apparently lead singer Bill Fox has released some pretty great lo-fi solo records, but I've yet to check them out. For now, though, dig almost-hit "Not Proud of the USA" and I dare you to try and not want to start a band that sounds exactly like this.

"Not Proud of the USA"

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I Listened To: 9.13.10

Before I get into my first entry, let's establish some ground rules. 

1) A record can only be posted about once: Obviously, I'm going to listen to a ton of records on repeat. But, I will not bore you with continued blathering about the same shit over and over again.
2) Even if it's a few songs or one side of a record, talking about the record is fair game: Cos there's only so much time in the day and/or something might just kinda suck (right?). 
3) All formats count: Why? Because an hour on lunch by yourself with NO MUSIC is torture. MP3s, vinyl, CDs, cassette, whistling, free style rapping co-workers... it all counts.

Alright, now that that's out of the way, on to the jams.

Ian Dury and the Blockheads - "Do It Yourself"
I've had a mild to serious fascination with the Stiff Records catalog for the past few years, but always have trouble finding the best stuff in the stores. While making my second trip up to UHF in Royal Oak since they opened, I ironically found the first full-band release by singer/actor/current dead guy Ian Dury and his group the Blockheads. Having just read some stuff about him an hour or two before heading up to the record store, I considered it fate, and picked it up without hearing a note. 

Dury's output is different from other early releases from the Stiff crew... less punk-y/Elvis Costello type pop fervor, and more of a funky workout (maybe something more akin to Nick Lowe's "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass"), with a singer who sounds like he was socked in the mouth right before tracking the vocals. It's painfully British, and I'd be shocked if Damon Albarn and the rest of Blur weren't bowled over the first time they heard Dury. The jury's out on if I'll get into this or not, but so far I'm intrigued. 

Here's the track, "Inbetweenies":

Let's Active - "Big Plans For Everybody"
Featuring early R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter, Let's Active are always mentioned when listing off all the power-pop greats. What sets them apart from the occasionally lame pack, though, is how awesome their records sound. Whereas a lot of power pop bands will take the safe route, Let's Active channeled punk energy into a tastefully 80s-sounding result (trust me, it's a good thing). Big, wet snares, snarling, semi-effected guitars, and Easter standing front and center, as he recorded most of this record minus the band's original lineup. Their EP "Afoot" and first album "Cyprus" are also highly recommended as well.

Check out "Writing the Book Of Last Pages":

Pezband - "Pezband"
Before picking up this record on a recommendation by UHF's Scotty Hagen, I'd never heard of Pezband. When he mentioned them to me, I already had an idea of what they'd sound like based on the name, and I was mostly right. Punchy, sugary pop, but slightly more refined and less goofy than I would have assumed. So far, it's good shit. 

Here's "Baby It's Cold Outside"

The Rubinoos - "The Rubinoos"
In much the same way as I discovered Pezband, Scotty also suggested I check out the Rubinoos. Not nearly as edgy as Pezband, the Rubinoos are almost the quintessential power pop band: totally corny, but super-skilled players, singing love songs and that's about it. They cover the Tommy James hit "I Think We're Alone Now," and do a pretty good job of painting themselves as the type of typical band you'd see making a cameo in the high school dance scene of some lame 70s teen flick. Not completely horrible, but the lack of danger might make this one hard to come back to. (And if you're wondering about the weird Japanese record covers, they're SUPER into power-pop over there.)

Here's the best song on the record, "Rock and Roll Is Dead"

Superchunk - "Majesty Shredding"
A surprise gift was waiting for me on my porch when I got home from UHF today; a record that I've been waiting for for the past 9 years -- the newest Superchunk rager. I'm not going to overly gush about this record, because, frankly, my love for this band is pretty well known, and it should be of no surprise that I'm totally freaking out about this record. I will say, though, that I've been listening to it as a stream on my iPhone from the NPR music app (which I highly recommend, by the way), and that it sounds so much better on vinyl, and if you love this band as much as I do, you'll want to hear it on wax.

Here's the video for the first single, "Digging for Something":

Wreckless Eric - "Wreckless Eric"
Everybody should know the amazing, "Whole Wide World"... but to be honest, it's really the only Wreckless Eric song I've ever heard. So I was pretty stoked to find this record, on blue vinyl, so I could see if the rest of Eric's debut stood up to that song. I'm glad to say it does, and that Eric was also SUPER into saxophone on this release. Nothing wrong with a little rock sax, right?

Anyway, here's a video of the hit, "Whole Wide World":

How Sound Affects: An Introduction

To me, music is like oxygen; there's no way I could possibly breath without it. When I'm not making it, it's being made for me, in my head, while i'm awake, or while I sleep. When I'm not singing it, it's being sung for me, by all my heros, who take up space on shelves in my living room, basement, and even the songs that are shrunken down to digital bits on my computer's hard drive. It's through music that I've made some of my strongest relationships. Had some of my greatest experiences. Made some of my greatest discoveries.

It's with these sentiments in mind that I've decided to create the blog How Sound Affects. In the last year, I've gotten very much into buying music again, collecting new and vintage sounds -- mostly on vinyl -- and have felt more and more the need to share these finds with the rest of the world (or, realistically, a few of my friends). The idea behind the blog is to simply share what records I've listened to on any given day with whoever chooses to read this thing. Eventually, I'd love to open it up to other people to post what they've been listening to as well, in hopes of creating some kind of community where we can all turn each other on to new and old sounds. Seems simple, right?

So, with that, here's to hoping we can see how our favorite sounds affect us all.