Although each of their studio releases has been enjoyable, White Denim are a band that frequently gets tagged with the "but they're so much better live!" label. For the first time in the band's career, White Denim enlisted the help of an outside producer (Wilco's Jeff Tweedy) during the Corsicana Lemonade sessions, and the results sound an awful like... a White Denim record. Meaning, there are a few legitimate standouts on here, but most of the songs could be easily switched out with tracks from previous albums without really upsetting the apple cart. That being said, it's nice to see that the buzz leading up to the release of this record has given White Denim somewhat of a higher profile, so hopefully one of the planet's most criminally underrated acts finally gets its due.
Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
This is music for the kids, because the kids like taking the drugs. Atmospheric, intense, massive, lovingly layered electronica.
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the most punchable of them all? What a happy coincidence that these guys start making shitty music right as their already-outsized public persona becomes totally unbearable. Thanks, assholes!
"I've been holed up, working on writing the most miserable batch of songs ever... it's our goal for these songs to leave you depressed and miserable," Bobby Bare Jr. announced at his recent Mercury Lounge show, before launching into one of the evening's many fine new songs. The moment was quintessential Bobby Bare Jr., in that he eagerly (and humorously) plays the part of self-deprecating sad-sack, slugging beer and shit-talking, but he delivers with better tunes and stage skills than any alt-country act, and it's not even fucking close. How his work remains so underrated, I haven't a clue.
I became an "accidental" fan of Bobby Bare Jr.'s music when I was present at his set as the opening act at a show in September, 2006 at Webster Hall, during which his country-inflected rock tunes (rock-inflected country tunes?) made the subsequent set by headliners Drive-By Truckers totally irrelevant. I bought everything I could find by the dude, noting that many of his studio albums leaned a little too much towards traditional C&W for my tastes, although I grew especially fond of his Nick Nacks and Paddy Whacks live album and the mostly live OK - I'm Sorry... EP.
Much to my delight, his next studio album (and first new one after I became a fan), the excellent The Longest Meow, was recorded mostly live in the studio (in one 11 hour session), capturing the thrills and spills of his always-excellent live show. Since then, I've seen Bobby Bare, Jr. perform many times with his always-roving cast of fellow Nashville residents, and it's incredible to me that the quality of the performances can remain at such a high level with the live lineup in seemingly constant flux.
Tonight's set kicked off with with "Mayonnaise Brain," a song Bare, Jr. has said was written about witnessing The Pixies melt faces at a live performance. [The Pixies are one of Bare's most obvious influences; he has performed in a Pixies cover band, he has covered "Where Is My Mind" in concert and on record, and many of his songs share a quirky power-pop sensibility with the best Pixies work.] "Valentine," one of my personal favorites, (and a recent Song of the Week) was up next (see above for video). A new song, one with a bassline that sounded like Booker T and the MG's playing Floyd's "Any Colour You Like" followed. Fuckin' sweet there.
The next run of songs (not including new ones, which I don't know the names of, obviously) included some of his better contemplative material - "I'll Be Around," "Don't Go to Chattanoonga," and "Visit Me in Music City." For some reason, directly following "I'll Be Around," a gaggle of 50-something striped-shirt douchebags (why were they at the show in the first place?) began streaming out of the room. Bare announced, "well, that's the best song we know; that's the best song you, the audience, will hear tonight, so yer all free to leave," which drew laughs from the faithful. Bare continued humorously complimenting the fleeing shitnutses: "see? Those motherfuckers know what they're doing! Smart folks." "Terrible Sunrise" (introduced as "a song written about realizing you need to stop hangin' out with your drug friends") fucking rocked, and contained a full-on jam of the Star Wars theme song... if only my video (below) hadn't run out before the song's thrilling climax.
I should mention that I REALLY enjoyed the new material, which was a good thing because he played at least a half dozen new songs. Most of them really rocked, which bodes well for a new album, whenever that may materialize. Bare has taken the helm on a couple of interesting projects over the last few years (shit man, whatever pays the bills), including a Shel Silverstein tribute album which featuring artists as diverse as My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, and Kris Kristofferson. His 2009 American Bread EP was a collection of his covers of songs by the band Bread. At this show, his version of the song "Cover of the Rolling Stone" (originally written by Silverstein, commonly known as a Dr. Hook song) was top notch, as was his subsequent take on The Smiths' "What Difference Does It Make?", a longtime Bare setlist staple.
The final "old" song of the evening, "Borrow Your Cape," was the only track performed off of The Longest Meow, highlighted by a cacophonous, Big Rock Finale (which unfortunately was cut off when my iPhone ran out of space... AGAIN, goddamn it). The set ended with another pair of new originals, the last one of which Bare described as being the song he's most proud of composing. (It was pretty great.) Bare graciously thanked the remaining crowd for sticking around and staying out late on a Tuesday evening, but when was the last time I got 90 minutes worth of rockin' great tunes on a Tuesday night? Sheee-it.
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.