An outstanding rock record in an era when such things are increasingly rare. Although Adam Granduciel's Tom Petty fetish is obvious throughout Lost in the Dream, he exhibits an uncanny ability to avoid sounding clicheed in a domain that seemingly has little virgin territory. Beyond his songcraft (and even his singing voice), this is Granduciel's greatest debt to Petty.
2.) Dope Body - Lifer
Those who simply lump Dope Body in with the new wave of 90s noise rock revivalists are missing a major point. Yes, there are plenty of AmRep and Touch and Go-indebted idiosyncracies embedded throughout Lifer, but I dare anyone to show me an album by the likes of Drive Like Jehu, Polvo or The Jesus Lizard that is anywhere near as hooky as this one.
3.) The Austerity Program - Beyond Calculation
Several degrees of magnitude more intense, furious, and generally awesome than two geniuses with a drum machine have any right being.
4.) Beck - Morning Phase
Taken as a companion piece to 2002's Sea Change, Morning Phase manages to deal with similar topics (heartbreak, loneliness, growin' old) without being as overbearingly morose as Sea Change. Much unlike its predecessor, Morning Phase actually winds up with a vaguely pleasant, positive overall tone.
5.) Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket - In a Dutch Haze
As the story goes, Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell was unable to make it to the gig at which this album was recorded, allowing Heavy Blanket's J Mascis (also of Dinosaur Jr, natch) and Graham Clise the opportunity to save the day in Mitchell's stead. What results is nearly an hour of pure, explosive, unbridled improv, even more berserk and unhinged than a typical Earthless live joint. Yes, there's some sloppiness and wheel-spinning on here, but the peaks on this match the most frenzied jamming from Earthless' proper catalog.
6.) The Raveonettes - Pe'ahi
While little has changed with the compositional style and framework behind Sune Rose Wagner's melodic surf-noir mini masterpieces, his eagerness to experiment with varied instrumentation gives Pe'ahi a different flavor than all previous Ravonettes releases. This time around, the subject matter touches on the recent passing of Wagner's estranged, alcoholic father, giving much of the material a particularly caustic bite.
7.) The Men - Tomorrow's Hits
After a bevy of releases featuring styles ranging from explosive noise to kraut-everything to acoustic folk, these shape-shifting Brooklyn punks (*former* punks?!) can credibly add "70s Classic Rock FM Radio" to the list of genres they've successfully conquered.
8.) Todd Terje - It's Album Time
If you're the type of bitter old curmudgeon who hates young whippersnappers *and* their crappy, soulless EDM, fear not - this is an electronic album that you can really (choose one: a.) sink your dentures into; b.) wrap your adult diaper around; c.) stir into your high-fiber supplement beverage so as to provide superior flavor). It's Album Time mixes legit bangers with cool downtempo shit and enough cleverness and humor to make even the most geriatric old-timer respect (and love!) our robot ovelords.
9.)Bobby Bare, Jr. - Undefeated
The perennially underrated alt-country lifer finds songwriting inspiration in love and loss (in particular, the dissolution of his relationship as depicted in the documentary, Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)), interminable, low-reward touring, and the inherent sadness of absentee fatherhood. But it's not all doom and gloom; "North of Alabama by Morning" is a tale of dogged perseverence, and album closer "Don't Stand at the Stove" is an undeniable barn-burning rocker.
10.) (the) Melvins - Hold It In
You'd think that the Melvins joining forces with Butthole Surfers Gibby Haynes and Paul Leary would result in some epic weirdness, but oddly the opposite happens. While Hold It In is one of the two or three least experimental / most straightforward studio efforts in the Melvins' 30-plus year history, something something bone-crushing riffs, something something hilarious song titles.
11.) Guided by Voices - Cool Planet
12.) Perfume Genius - Too Bright
13.) Haunted Hearts - Initiation
14.) Pelican - Arktika
15.) Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
16.) Hookworms - The Hum
17.) Mogwai - Rave Tapes
18.) Guided by Voices - Motivational Jumpsuit
19.) Early Man - Thank God You've Got the Answers for All of Us
20.) Floor - Oblation
21.) Queen - Live at the Rainbow
22.) Mogwai - Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1 EP
(or watch one of the *two* videos I shot of this song before Tomorrow's Hits was released)
Todd Terje - Swing Star pt. 2
The Austerity Program - "Song 32"
Death Vessel - "Island Vapors" apparently hasn't been uploaded to YouTube, so instead watch this live video of homeslice performing "Block My Eye" (from the previous Death Vessel album) live in studio.
Holy schnikies, has it been nearly five months already since my last Jalepzerz post?! Sure, time has passed, seasons have changed, and adult beverages have been consumed en masse, but honestly I still have no friggin' clue how often I'm going to be able to write for this blog going forward. Sobeit. Regardless, this past weekend, when it's disgustingly humid out and I'm dealing with the tail end of a nasty case of WookFlu, might as well fire up some of the ol' keyboard tap-tap-taparoo.
Oh, yeah - I should have a bunch of show reviews from Summer Tour coming up in the weeks ahead, but for now I'm'a try to tackle some of the best non-Phish stuff of the year. As such, here's the 10 best albums of the year, in approximate best-to-least-best order. There's obviously a ton of potentially great albums coming out over these next few months (Death From Above 1979, Melvins, Perfume Genius, etc.), so it's pretty likely this list will look much different at year's end, yadda yadda yadda.
The 10 Best Albums of 2014, So Far.
The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream -- An outstanding rock record, during an era in which such things are increasingly rare. Although Adam Granduciel's Tom Petty fetish is evident throughout, Granduciel has an uncanny ability to avoid sounding clicheed in a domain that seemingly has little virgin territory. Beyond his songcraft (and even his singing voice), this is Granduciel's greatest debt to Petty.
Earthless - In a Dutch Haze -- As the story goes, at the last minute Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell was unable to make it to the show at which this was recorded, allowing Heavy Blanket's J Mascis (also of Dinosaur Jr, natch) and Graham Clise the opportunity to save the day. What results is nearly an hour of pure, explosive, unbridled improv, even more berserk and unhinged than a typical Earthless live joint. Yes, there's some sloppiness and spinning of wheels on here, but the peaks on this match the most frenzied jamming from Earthless' proper catalog.
Beck - Morning Phase -- Taken as a companion piece to 2002's Sea Change, Morning Phase manages to deal with similar topics (heartbreak, loneliness, growin' old) without being as overbearingly morose, actually winding up with a vaguely inspirational overall tone.
The Raveonettes - Pe'ahi -- While little has changed in the way that Sune Rose Wagner composes his melodic surf-noir mini masterpieces, his willingness to experiment with varied instrumentation gives Pe'ahi a different flavor than all previous Ravonettes releases. This time around, the subject matter touches on the recent passing of Wagner's estranged, alcoholic father, giving some of the material (in particular "Summer Ends") a caustic bite.
The Men - Tomorrow's Hits -- Although a few of the moments on Tomorrow's Hits seem a little bit trite (the horns on "Another Night," in particular) these shape-shifting (former??) Brooklyn punks can credibly add "70s FM Radio" to their list of conquered genres.
The Austerity Program - Beyond Calculation -- Infinitely more intense, furious, and generally awesome than two geniuses with a drum machine have any right being.
Todd Terje - It's Album Time -- To me at least, it's high praise to mention that several of these songs could be easily mistaken for alternate backing tracks from Gorillaz' excellent Plastic Beach album. It's Album Time is relentlessly diverse, reimagining the best work of contemporary electronic artists (Holy Fuck, Maserati, Ratatat before they jumped the shark), tipping its cap to classic '80s synthpop sounds, as well as indulging in other assorted playful goofiness.
Bobby Bare, Jr. - Undefeated -- The perennially underrated alt-country lifer finds songwriting inspiration in heartbreak (in particular, the dissolution of his relationship as depicted in the documentary, Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)), interminable, low-reward touring, and the inherent sadness of absentee fatherhood. But it's not all doom and gloom; "North of Alabama by Morning" is a tale of dogged perseverence, and album closer "Don't Stand at the Stove" is an undeniable barn-burning rocker.
Sharon Van Etten - Are We There -- Three major features set Sharon Van Etten apart from generic confessional coffeehouse claptrap. First, her lyrics are so deeply evocative and self-deprecating that hearing them can, at times, be uncomfortable. Second, she possesses a singing voice gorgeous enough to swath her pointed words in soothing honey. Third, she has an uncommon gift for pop songwriting unmatched by other current artists with the dreaded "singer-songwriter" tag (this album would be worth it for the incredible "Tarifa" alone).
Guided by Voices - Cool Planet -- basically a toss-up here between Cool Planet and GbV's *other* 2014 release, Motivational Jumpsuit, this one gets the nod due to superior contributions from GbV second-fiddle Tobin Sprout. Yes, GbV's musical landscape is dotted with all manner of in-jokes and throwaways, but to those who have the necessary patience, that just makes discovering their diamonds in the rough all that much more rewarding.
Honorable mention: Guided by Voices - Motivational Jumpsuit; Haunted Hearts - Initiation; Floor - Oblation; Swans - To Be Kind; Pelican - Arktika; Low Fat Getting High - Poor Circulation; Mogwai - Rave Tapes; Death Vessel - Island Intervals.
So I went to a sarcastic late-30's white dude convention and an Austerity Program show broke out.
Austerity Program announced this as a sort of "low-key" show which was to serve as a testing ground for the new material they've been working on recently. They've said that the new stuff is the strongest of their career, and from the two new songs I heard at this show, I might be inclined to agree (and I think Black Madonna and Backsliders are both frickin' awesome).
Anyway, this was a show with a defined curfew; apparently a DJ was taking over the room , at 11, which meant the rockin' and rollin' had to get underway toute de suite. Oh, Don Pedro's... I can remember the days that I found myself mildly intimidated by the douchey "punk" posers that comprise Don Pedro's regular crowd, but those days are loooooong gone. I got inside early, and noticed that a few of these schmucks were taking regular trips to the bathroom every five minutes or so, meaning either that they all suffered from the same UTI, or that they were snortin' stuff. I shortly noticed a telltale baggie of powder being passed back and forth between these bathroom visitors, so I guess it's good to see that cocaine is still in style amongst the obnoxious attention whore trustafarian set.
Queens' own Risk / Reward got the show started around 8ish, and I enjoyed their 90s-influenced songs, at times grungy and recalling stuff like Chavez or Polvo, and at others pulling off tunes that would've fit poifectly between, say, The Gin Blossoms and and The Toadies on your favorite alt-rock radio station 15 to 17 years ago. [Looks like I fucked up and only got this brief clip - oops.]
During Risk / Reward's set, said aforementioned sarcastic ball-busting began in earnest between the members of the small crowd and the bands; of course I barely knew any of the people in the room so I had no fucking clue what they were talking about most of the time, but I usually find it at least reasonably entertaining to hear people randomly insulting each other, so that was good.
Nonagon, all the way from Chi-town, played next. Their website describes them as follows: "[t]hey play loud and abrasive rock with varying time signatures and screamy vocals." Works for me! I thought they split the difference between Am-Rep and Dischord pretty nicely.
Austerity Program closed out the show with a set of tough-as-gravel tunes which (as mentioned before) leaned heavily on new stuff, along with a few songs from their excellent 2010 EP, Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn. The new stuff is incredibly intense, and I'm obviously really looking forward to hearing the record when it comes out (probably not until early '14, according to their website, which also mentions that 1.) the new record has been written; 2.) they won't be playing many local shows coming up; 3.) aaaaaaaahhhh just read it yourself.
If you're interested in hearing another "new" Austerity Program song, check out this post from their previous show in April at Vitus. Tuddd out.
I find it hard to believe that this is the first item I've written about Austerity Program for this site, considering how many kajillions of keystrokes I dedicated to the band on my previous music blog. This is entirely due to their lack of recent news / shows - I can't "report" it if they're not "doing" it.
A little history - I first stumbled upon this band mere days after moving to Williamsburg in May '08, walking in during their set supporting Pelican at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and I was instantly hooked. I immediately bought both of their releases after the show at the merch table, and their excellent Black Madonna stayed in rotation for a loooooooooong time. But what do they sound like? Imagine Shellac's precision and wittiness, filtered through a bold, sweaty Dischord-ish presentation. Only a fuckload heavier.
After a few beers at GPT, we walked up to St. Vitus, having a few more as Austerity Program tuned up. They began their set with "Song 25" off of their excellent 2010 EP, Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn, heading right into "Song 26" next (see above for video). Next up was the finest song ever written about a vengeful, doomed cartoon character, "Song 27," followed by a new song. Although I hardly even noticed it at the time, they wound up playing the entirety of Backsliders, before closing the six song set with a second new song (see below for video of that one). It was great to see one of Brooklyn's best bands back at it after a lengthy layoff, and it was also great for a change to see folks other than myself urging Austerity Program to PLAY MORE FUCKING SHOWS.
After the set, caught up with some friends before heading back inside to catch Kowloon Walled City's set. They had a sound that reminded a friend of Young Widows, and I definitely had to agree there. The disparity between their ferocious tunes and their understated, bunch-of-regular-guys stage presence was remarkable.
Didn't stick around for Zozobra, so nothing much to report there. Ta ta for now!
So, recently, I attended 7 show in 6 days, as mentioned above. Not too shabby a showing, if I do say so myself... in fact, that might actually be a personal record of some sort. [On that tip, who th' fuck knows / cares.] Over said 7 shows and 6 days, a ton of bands were seen (including Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Colin Stetson, Harvey Milk, Occultation, Fang Island, Hollerado, Monogold, Goes Cube, Austerity Program, Rosetta, Naam, Liquor Store, Wild Yaks), comical quantities of beverages were consumed, acquaintances were renewed with old friends, and an unfair amount of fun was had. Frankly, I have no clue how I managed to avoid getting really sick / throwing my back out / collapsing due to sheer exhaustion throughout this whole debacle because, let's face, it, I'm no spring chicken.
Anyway, deets onward:
Goes Cube, Austerity Program, Rosetta and Naam at Studio at Webster Hall, Wednesday March 9, 2011
Met up with my buddy Jimmy Dogshit for some booze (including appletinis, an unfortunate tradition of ours) and mediocre burgers at the Pour House. Our waitress resembled a wholesomer version of British pornstar McKenzie Lee. That's all I'm'a say about that.
Rolled up to Studio towards the end of Naam's set. Wish I had more to report on these guys (because I've been told they're worthwhile), but sadly I don't.
Rosetta was up next, and they lived up to their reputation as being "the hardest band in the world to mic." Their set at Santos in January opening up for Kylesa during one of the blizzards really converted me from "casual fan" to "ardent admirer who has no qualms shirking responsibilities to go out and see 'em on a random weeknight." The sound sucked ass (I know, unusual for a Studio show) but the sweaty performance made up for it.
Let's just say I enjoyed a few beverages. When I got home late night, I noticed that for some reason I had 7 empty plastic shot glasses in my pocket. "THESE'LL COME IN HANDY!" As mentioned earlier, a shabby performance by me this was not.
Austerity Program's set was next, and allow me to report (it ain't no secret): the house was thoroughly ROCKED. They played the entirety of their fucking stellar EP from last year, Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn, as well as "Song 20" and... uhhhh... was that it? Fuck, I don't remember, but let me tell ya, it sure made for great drunken thrashing around.
Goes Cube finished off the evening with exactly the type of skullfuckingly brutal performance that I've come to expect from them since I started seeing them live 5 years ago. [Goddamn, how many times have I seen these guys live? 15? 20? I'm not in Brooklyn at the time of this writing so I can't consult Tuddd Archives for the answer, but it's somewhere up there. [edit: apparently it's 15 times, although that assumes that Tuddd Archives is actually accurate, which is highly unlikely.] Shee-itt.] Anyway, their set drew liberally from what seemed like all of their most recent releases: 2009's Another Day Has Passed LP, last year's 7", the digital recording from Coextinction Recordings, and, of course, their forthcoming LP, In Tides and Drifts (which ain't out yet, but which, of course, I dorkily pre-ordered). With Goes Cube singer / guitarist David no longer living in NYC, I wasn't expecting the set to be as tight as it was, and the great sonics of the Studio space really highlighted Kenny's superb drumming and Matt nimbly holding down the low end. Obviously I'm a huge fan of these guys' music, and it was great to hear that this was the brand of fury they'd be truckin' down to SXSW. RAWK.
Anyway, tried to spit game with two Norwegian (uh, I think?) chicks post-show / failed miserably / wound up drinking Heinekens in the back of a cab during the ride home. Woo Fucking Hoo.
Liquor Store at Death by Audio, Thursday, March 10, 2011
Nuff. Fucking. Said.
Friday, March 11th: Monogold at Glasslands AND Fang Island at Bowery Ballroom.
Well, not really. Actually it's more about the combination of lucky scheduling and way too much time on my hands than anything else. But nonetheless, I'm not exactly sure when the last time was that I pulled off attending two shows in one day. Hmmmm. It might have possibly been in September '06 when I saw Mastodon at Webster Hall early, then Comets on Fire at Knitting Factory late. Not gonna lie, that was pretty fucking badass. ('Twas a good day indeed.) Anyhow, the way this night shook out, I already had tix for Fang Island at Bowery, but I figured out I'd check out Monogold's early opening set at Glasslands before heading in to Manhattan, knowing that Monogold would be setting out in the van and driving down towards South by Southwest literally the moment their set was over. Good shit.
I first saw Monogold's live show at their Public Assembly record release show in mid-January - holy shitballs are they a good band, and man, was that a fun night. They have a "current"-ish Williamsburg indie pop sound without the overbearing tweeness of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Grizzly Bear or whoever, while creating well-crafted, tuneful music that makes the kids want to shake they shit. I've also been enjoying the bejeezus out of their newest album, The Softest Glow, as a nice change of pace from the usual steady diet of Melvins > Sleep > Melvins > Sleep > Melvins > Sleep playlist that more often than not can be found blaring out of my car stereo.
Monogold's set on this night was great, as it had been the first time I saw 'em. Frankly, they're another band that proves that I Don't Know Jack Shit About What Makes Music Popular, because they should be fucking huge. My personal favorites from the set were "Dead Sea Minerals" and "Ivory Tusk, Golden Teeth"... check below for studio versions of these two sick motherfuckin' jams:
I wished the gents my best on their SXSW journey and basically ran the fuck out of Glasslands the moment their set was done, heading southward back to my apartment briefly for a quick power-up / pit stop. Sadly, this brief (yet hyper-necessary) dalliance meant that I'd get to Bowery towards the end of opening band Hollerado's set, which I regretted; I'd seen them open up for (and blow away) Black Lips (who fucking blow) in this same room in September '07. Anyway, by the time I stumbled into Bowery, Hollerado was in the middle of a positively rippin' jam based on ZZ Top's "La Grange," and they looked to be having a great fucking time... again, I wish I had made it there a bit earlier, goddamn it.
Snuck way up front amongst the assembled 12 year-olds for Fang Island's set. Of course, I'm on record as being a Fang Island booster from way back in the day. Don't believe me? Here's a short, sweet, and to the the point list of accolades I've heaped on these guys:
First time I saw them live was in 2008, opening for Chairlift at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and I loved 'em instantly.
Second time I saw them live, in April '10 at Maxwell's, uhhhhh... looks like I didn't write them up or anything that time around, but my buddy OattJerk shot this video of "Daisy" at the show. Honest Injun.
When it came time compile a list of my favorite songs of 2010, Fang Island scored the year's top slot, with an unprecendented *four* songs in the Top 25. Impressive!
And, as befitting an album with so many fantastic songs, Fang Island's Fang Island topped my "Best Albums of 2010" list. It's also one of the ten best albums of all time by anyone.
Right on cue, this night's Fang Island set was somethin' special. In fact, my only real complaint about the previous two times I'd seen them -- sour vocals -- seems to have been largely remedied. And the larger Bowery stage allowed the three guitarists ample room to bust out some hilariously over the top ARENA RAWK stage moves. The setlist consted of most of songs from Fang Island (YAY!), with few older ones and one new one thrown in... I was hoping they'd have six Andrew W.K.s come out to reprise his glorious quasi-operatic vocal coda from "Patterns on the Wall" but alas it wasn't to be... regardless, even without that highly unlikely occurrence going down, this was one of the finest sets that I've seen all year.
OK, naptime. I will try to get a post up about Saturday / Sunday / Monday's shows and goings on but I can't promise anything... heading to Costa Rica on Wednesday for what's sure to be the Douchiest Bachelor Party Ever With the Douchiest Group of Douches That Ever Douched. Tuddd out.