Haunted Hearts toured Japan last year, but stateside shows have been scant. On this night, billed as NY's "only opportunity to hear Initiation played in full," Haunted Hearts managed to succeed while bringing few surprises to the table. The five piece band played Initiation front to back, tracks one thru eight in order, while sounding as confident and tight as though they're the tour-tested road warriors that they aren't.
"Sir, may I offer you some honey with your barbed wire?" When spitting out some of the most heartbreakingly personal lyrics ever written, it softens the blow when said lyrics are delivered by an artist with some of the finest pipes in the business.
Producer of the Year: Todd Terje
On It's Album Time, Terje manages to employ (and master) such an incredibly diverse array of sonic awesomeness that it's absolutely frickin' amazing the record doesn't sound scattershot and spread terribly thin. (It doesn't, and it's one of the year's best.)
Guitar Performance of the Year: Adam Granduciel (on The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream)
Never flashy, always classy with his "beer commercial lead guitar shit," Granduciel manages to evoke both Tom Petty *and* Mike Campbell throughout The War on Drugs' sprawling masterpiece.
Best Album for a Lazy Sunday afternoon: Beck - Morning Phase
Much more appropriate for this purpose than, say, Midnight Vultures, which is only good for dispersing crowds filled with people who have good taste in music.
Best Workout Album and Best Driving Album: Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket - In a Dutch Haze
One track, 53 minutes; all manner of ridiculous guitar solos, mindbending riffs, and galloping rhythms. Perfect for my drive from Brooklyn to Long Island (almost to the minute), and equally perfect to listen to while crushing some cardio and losing some L B's, you fat slob.
My Most Listened-to Album of the Year, According to iTunes: The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
It's only fitting that I'd award the Album of the Year trophy to the one with most listens (spoiler alert). Still immensely rewarding, 23 full listens in.
My Most Listened-To New Songs of the Year, According to iTunes:
1.) Guided by Voices - "Littlest League Possible" - 49 plays 2.) Guided by Voices - "Planet Score" - 47 plays 3.) The War on Drugs - "An Ocean in Between the Waves" - 41 plays 4.) Floor - "Sister Sophia" - 39 plays 5.) The Men - "Pearly Gates" - 38 plays 6.) Dum Dum Girls - "Little Minx" - 36 plays 7.) Mogwai - "Simon Ferocious" - 35 plays 8.) Beck - "Morning" - 34 plays 9.) The War on Drugs - "Burning" - 33 plays 10.) (tie) Bobby Bare, Jr. - "Don't Stand at the Stove" - 31 plays 10.) (tie) The Raveonettes - "Endless Sleeper" - 31 plays 10.) (tie) The Men - "Different Days" - 31 plays
Quote of the Year: Jon Fishman, 7/27/14 Merriweather
"The workers have come back from their day in the fields Jennifer Dances - and she cooks me a fuckin' meal That's all the words I know to this song Jennifer..... MY DONG!"
Assholes of the Year: Scott Stapp (and his fans)
Of course, the usual suspects (Dave Mustaine, Ted Nugent, Varg Vikernes, Exene Cervenka) would be worthy choices in pretty much any year, but Scott Stapp's recent descent into homelessness and insolvency is the freshest "what an asshole!" moment in our minds.
But should he be fully blamed? At best, he's a minimally talented, totally delusional, semi-literate Tea Party-level moron with a fucking messiah complex to boot. Mocking Scott Stapp is like stealing candy from a quadruple amputee. This is a man who would've never been anything without the legions of tone-deaf whiskey tango morons that made Creed a multiplatinum band.
Acknowledging the many roadbumps that the band encountered during this show, Dum Dum Girls' head honchette Dee Dee at one point said "this has been a difficult show... I'm going to need a lot of whiskey to get through it." As someone who was unfortunately stone cold sober at this show, I can concur that large amounts of whiskey couldn't've hurt.
This wasn't a great show for many reasons, several of which were out of the band's control. They had near-constant trouble with their sound throughout the night; soundcheck dragged on for-fucking-ever, and the soundman was compelled to rush up to the stage several times during the set to make adjustments, killing the momentum. What's more, Dee Dee appeared to be battling an illness, which clearly affected her usually outstanding singing voice.
But not everything can be rationalized. Why the hell does this band need *three* guitarists onstage? Is this the fucking Allmans? And when a large portion your image involves playing the part of sexy, well-dressed vamps (which they do well, hubba hubba), it detracts from things when said third guitarist is a bored looking stoner dude standing off to the corner wearing jeans and a tee shirt. What's more, they neglected to perform several of their best songs, including "Mine Tonight," "Coming Down," and the brand new "Little Minx."
In retrospect, my ticket to this sold-out record release show should've probably gone to someone who's a bigger Dum Dum Girls fan. (For the record, I'm several full listens in on their newest album, Too True, and I'm pretty lukewarm on it.) Not that the set wasn't without its high points. They opened with the excellent "Bedroom Eyes," and closed the encore with "Lord Knows" (see above for video).
Dum Dum Girls proper tour starts in early March, and hopefully they'll have the kinks worked out by then. The tour includes two more area appearances, one at Bowery Ballroom and one at Music Hall of Williamsburg. See below for their appearance on Letterman, recorded just hours before this show.
While Uncle Bob's recent suggestion that he may once again be growng tired of Guided by Voices as a projectis incredibly disappointing to fans of great rock music, things will be much less painful if he can continue putting out solo records like this one. This is *easily* Pollard's best solo release since 2005's From a Compound Eye, and in every way: gone are the unimaginative production and plinky guitars of the last umpteen Pollard joints, but fortunately staying put are the rejuvenated songwriting chops that made each of the four (!!) GbV albums over the last two years such a joy.
Crocodiles - Crimes of Passion
It's fitting that Raveonettes mastermind Sune Rose Wagner has taken on production duties for Crocodiles. First off, Wagner already produces Dum Dum Girls, who are fronted by Crocodiles main man Brandon Welchez' wife, Dee Dee. Second, Wagner is probably the world's foremost authority on how to make jangly, poppy, JAMC-indebted tunes sound great. Although Crimes of Passion lacks the ecstatic highs of previous Crocodiles releases, it's their most consistent record yet.
Strangelight - 9 Days
When a band names itself after a Fugazi song, you better believe that's a mission statement. Strangelight's music is indebted not only to the denizens of Dischord (and the ambassadors of Am Rep), but to the more current post-hardcore and noise bands that were inspired by those bands, some of which actually share members with Strangelight. Just as with these other bands' material, I generally tend to prefer the harder-edged stuff over the midtempo shit. This release tends to veer a little too far towards the latter for my tastes.
Torche - "Harmonslaught" b/w "Rock and Roll Mantasy"
This release should mollify the critics who felt Torche went too melodic on their most recent album, Harmonicraft (#6 on my '12 Best Albums list) - this slow, menacing jam wouldn't've sounded out of place as an album track on '08's also fantastic (but crunchier) Meanderthal.
Kim Deal - "Walking With a Killer" b/w "Dirty Hessians"
She's releasing a series of 7"es this year; this is the first of 'em. The A-side possesses that sneaky, awkward melodicism that infected most of the best Pixies, but the song itself sounds kinda unfinished / half-baked. And the B-side is no help - a fairly useless instrumental bass groove thingy with some added bleepybloops.
You had to know that Crocodiles' Brandon Welchez and Dum Dum Girls' Dee Dee would eventually formally begin a project together - not only are they a married couple, but their respective bands sort of mine similar territory in the bubblegum / shoegazy / fuzzy / hypermelodic categories. They had previously collaborated on the "Merry Christmas Baby Please Don't Die" track a couple years back, and Haunted Hearts continues very much in that same vein. Not for nothin', it's catchy as hell, but it's also pretty predictable -- it sounds EXACTLY as I would expect a song by Brandon n' Dee Dee to sound.
Seeing this relatively stripped-down Crocodiles duo show brought me back to the first time I saw Crocodiles live, in June '09 at Union Pool, when the "band" consisted of just frontman Brandon Welchez, guitarist Charles Rowell, and (I assume) a CD of beats and backing tracks which they performed to. Since then I've seen the band many times, and Crocodiles' touring outfit has expanded to include a full band, but it was the bratty audacity of that first Union Pool performance (along with the irresistable catchiness of their Summer of Hate album) which first made me a fan.
The set included highlights from Crocodiles' three albums, opening up with relative rarity "Neon Jesus" (see below for video) and continuing with several tracks from their mildly underwhelming most recent album (title track "Endless Flowers," "Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)" and "No Black Clouds for Dee Dee" among them), as well as "Mirrors" (again, see below for video) and "All My Hate and My Hexes Are for You," before closing with all-time super mega classic "I Wanna Kill" (video above).
This set was fun as hell, and it's always fun to see a band tweak with their usual formula a bit. Crocodiles are a band whose output is particularly suited for this type of experimentation: many of their songs are based on chord progressions so brilliantly simple and infectiously melodic that it seems they'd sound good in practically any style / arrangement.
As far as the openers, I caught the last few songs of SISU's set (they're fronted by Dum Dum Girls' drummer), and though they weren't bad, I see nothing that really sets their music apart from plenty of other fizzy-fuzzy indie pop acts other than the fact that they're insanely attractive. And the best thing I can say about Cassie Ramone's dreary, joyless set of solo acoustic numbers is
So, my goal was to post reviews for every '12 album I heard (about 80 or so) before posting year-end lists, but that ain't gonna happen, so here you have the first part of the "Jaleppies," aka my year-end best-of lists. Part 2 will probably be published Wednesday morning and will consist of the year's best albums, and Part 3 will be random stuff. Enjoy! (Or don't! I don't care! I'll be in Puerto Rico beetches!)
[Note that in a few of the entries below, two songs have been combined into one single entry. You can probably figure out why, but just in case you can't, it's because the songs run together on the album and as such they sound dumb when played apart from one another. Thank you for your patience and understanding.]
1.) Fang Island - "Asunder" (edit)
2.) Lower Dens - "Lamb"
3.) Melvins - "We Are Doomed"
4.) Lower Dens - "Brains" > "Stem"
[Note - I shot this video]
5.) Dan Friel - "Valedictorian"
6.) Tame Impala - "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"
7.) Torche - "Kicking"
8.) Guided by Voices - "Keep It in Motion" > "Tyson's High School"
9.) The Men - "Oscillation"
10.) Dum Dum Girls - "Mine Tonight"
11.) Beach House - "Myth"
12.) Raveonettes - "Young and Cold"
13.) The Men - "Turn it Around"
14.) Melvins - "The War on Wisdom"
15.) Baroness - "Green Theme"
16.) Two Gallants - "Willie"
17.) Sleigh Bells - "Comeback Kid"
18.) Mount Carmel - "Swaggs"
19.) Pelican - "Ataraxia" > "Lathe Biosas"
20.) Fang Island - "Chompers"
21.) Tame Impala - "Music to Walk Home By"
22.) Guided by Voices - "Hangover Child"
23.) Van Halen - "She's the Woman"
24.) Six Organs of Admittance - "Even if You Knew"