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.


  1. Highly recommend The Monorchid's "Let Them Eat..."

    Good article here:

    Also recommend another short-lived Chris Thomson/Andy Coronado project Skull Kontrol.


  2. yes! skull kontrol rules! i totally forgot about them... i've been wracking my brian trying to remember the name of chris' other other band... i should have just looked at my cd collection and found "deviate..." i gotta break that shit out! and yes, that DCist article is actually the one i referenced in my post... i should have linked it. thanks man!