"Wanna hear us fuck up another new one?" grinned Torche main man Steve Brooks midway through his band's set at Vitus. Although Torche attempted a couple new jams during this show, aborting them both in humorously self-deprecating fashion, the focus at this show was squarely on Torche's (awesome) back catalog.
The set began with gusto behind a trio of classics from Torche's excellent Meanderthal album, "Grenades," "Healer" and "Across the Shields," before one of the new ones. "Pirana" and "Sandstorm" came later, along with a few from their more recent Harmonicraft album, including the uber-hooky "Kicking," "Letting Go," and "Kiss Me Dudely." "Harmonslaught," one of their heaviest jams, was played towards the end of the set, and elicited probably the most spirited reaction from the crowd, who generally seemed to favor the slower, sludgier shit played during the evening.
Props to opener Sannhet, too, and their hypnotic blend of black metal / noise / shoegaze / etc. etc. etc. See below for video from their performance.
Fuck yeah Kylesa indeed. Of course it's just my luck that the two bands I have the most interest in seeing at this year's Nortside Festival (Kylesa and Torche) played on the same night at different venues, which sucks, but since I saw Torche just a few months ago, Kylesa was the evening's pick for me.
This was my first time seeing Kylesa live since late January, '11 at Santos Party House during a ridiculous snowstorm which for some reason resulted in J train service over the Williamsburg Bridge being suspended. Shortly thereafter I recounted the evening to a friend as such:
Double high ankle sprains? Check. Black eye? Yup. Lost iPod? You know it. Bloody hand complete with embedded glass particles? Sure, why not. Paid $23 to some vulture just to take me over the bridge? Hells yeah. Would do it again because it was a GREAT FUCKING SHOW? Obviously.
Hoping to avoid similar misfortune this time around, I skipped the first two openers, entering MHoW moments before Toronto's Blood Ceremony started their set. These guys were pretty much the perfect opening band for this sort of show - theatrical, dramatic hard rock built on a rock-solid foundation of stoner / doom, with hints of virtuosity (primarily in the style of over-the-top flute soloing) peeking out from underneath the heavy grooves. And it certainly doesn't hurt when the singer delivering the tales of witchcraft and sorcery is as easy on the eyes as Blood Ceremony's Alia O'Brien. Good stuff.
After a ridiculous 40+ minute setbreak, Kylesa finally took the stage a bit after midnight. Their set was, fortunately, well worth the wait. Alternating deftly between shouty sludge, chiming melodicism and heavy psychedelia, these guys proved that although you don't always use to need a sledgehammer's approach to pummel an audience, it sure helps to know how to swing one properly. These guys have a lot more to offer than most bands bearing the "sludge" tag, incorporating theremin, moody textures, and a dual drumming setup which makes their music unclassifiable to many.
So, Saturday night Torche schlepped their superb brand of sunny stoner sludge to a sold-out St. Vitus Bar in Greenpoint. This was the sixth time I've seen Torche live, and the first since their awesome co-headlining jaunt with the mighty Big Business in July '11.
I got to St. Vitus in the middle of direct support Argonauts' set. Their sound ran the gamut of various extreme metal styles, fast, furious, sweaty, brutal and growly. I'm having trouble figuring out *which* online presence identifying itself as "Argonauts" actually is this band, so no links here, but these guys at times reminded me of stuff like Tombs, Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge, except, like, more monotonous.
Torche began their set a little after 11 PM, launching right into the opening salvo from Harmonicraft, "Letting Go" into "Kicking" (see above for some low-quality video I shot of those two songs), following those with a couple other newer highlights, "Reverse Inverted" and "In Pieces." The crowd really didn't start to get rowdy until the subsequent run of songs from 2008's excellent Meanderthal ("Grenades," "Healer" and "Across the Shields"), at which point I moved from the middle of the pit to the periphery.
Shortly thereafter, with the room filled with pot smoke, a large bouncer lumbered towards the front, planting himself directly in front of me, ostensibly to weed out (heheheh) the scofflaws. However, homeboy was thoroughly caught off guard by the small (yet active) pit; within a split second somebody hip-checked bouncer bro right into my gut, knocking my wind out and stunning me briefly. I limped back towards the bar for some brief respite and adult refreshments.
After a pickleback and a PBR tall boy, I rejoined the crowd just in time to catch the band playing both sides of their new "Harmonslaught" 7". These songs seem to hearken back more towards the earlier, undisputedly heavier recordings and, as such, it seems Torche has made somewhat of a full circle since I first saw them live in May 2006 (opening for Mogwai). Back then, the band's recorded output more closely resembled Torche main man Steve Brooks' previous band, Floor, which was lighter on the hooks and heavier on the balls-out sludge. Just as Brooks has made his Robert Pollard worship more and more public in recent years (even covering GbV's "Exit Flagger," "Unleashed: The Large-Hearted Boy" and "Postal Blowfish" for a split in 2011), so have more gorgeous hooks crept into Torche's music; the "Harmonslaught" 7" seems to hit the reset button there a bit and bring the band back to the In Return era, while still managing to retain some poppier sensibilities.
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.
The (Real) Album of the Year: Class Clown Eats the Factory for Lunch - Guided by Voices [compilation of best tracks from Guided by Voices' three 2012 album releases, Let's Go Eat the Factory, Class Clown Spots a UFO, and The Bears for Lunch]
I, for one, think this was a fine year for music. I've been called out for giving out too many B+'s amongst my album grades over the last few months, but, if you think about it, it makes sense: at this point, I'm not going out of my way to listen to albums I think are going to be horrible. There are at least, what, 40-50 acts every year that are going to put out albums that I'm going to listen very closely to just based on my previous history enjoying the work of said acts; the rest of the stuff I end up hearing is based on either a (well-informed, I'd like to think) hunch or ideas from friends (usually Beafvy and Bricer). Again, it's not like I'm going around listening to the new Danielson or Grizzly Bear or Best Coast or Vivian Girls or whatever just so I can write something snarky and rubber stamp a "D-" on that garbage. Believe it or not, my time is actually worth more than that.
When 2012 was all said and done, I heard nearly 80 albums, with the final one being the EP Mogwai sneakily released this morning (spoiler alert: it's not worth spending actual money on). The majority of the albums listed below reached double digits in my play count on iTunes.
So, here's the list, unadorned by such frivolities as relevant information about the albums, cover art, or helpful links that would make it easier to locate the individual album reviews, wherever they may be on this site. [EDIT: fixed that.] I'd love to dress this post up and make it a little less bare-bones, but I'll be heading towards JFK in a few short hours, so yer on yer own.
So that's it for now, and I'll check in with y'all before Phish's upcoming 4-night run at MSG (unofficially titled "Four Bros, Four Shows"). HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
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"
Mark Sultan - War on Rock N' Roll -- This is a recording of Mark Sultan's full live set, captured at a club in Brazil, and it's available for free download here. [Yes, this originally came out in 2011, but I believe somebody put out a physical copy of it this year for Record Store Day, and since I didn't hear of this in '11, it gets reviewed here.] As per ushe, Sultan manages to stir up quite an unholy racket, especially considering that he performs one-man-band style, singing and playing guitar while playing drums and other assorted percussion with his feet.
Now, I've long been a sucker for Mark Sultan's particular blend of doo-wop and dirty garage, but I can see how approaching an unlabeled 50 minute slab of his live material (that's what War on Rock and Roll is) might be a bit daunting for the uninitiated or the casual Sultan fan. So, if you want to check out a few representative tracks of his before taking the plunge on War on Rock and Roll, here's a woefully incomplete list of what he plays on this: "Keep 'em Satisfied pt. 1," "I'll Be Loving You," "Keep 'em Satisfied pt. 2," "Third Avenue," "I Am the End," "We're Sinking," "Nobody But You."
[As a bonus, here's video I shot of him back in May, performing the aforementioned "I'll Be Loving You:"]
Pelican - Ataraxia / Taraxis EP -- The first two songs on this EP are probably as close to the mighty Mogwai as Pelican have ever gotten on record, mirroring "Auto Rock" > "Glasgow Mega Snake" from Mogwai's criminally underrated "Mr. Beast" album. The other two songs on here are kinda meh.
Best songs: The opening salvo of "Ataraxia" into "Lathe Biosas."
Robert Pollard - Mouseman Cloud-- Hmmmmmm. I really don't want to interrupt the great flow of positive mojo Bob's accrued this year, so let's just say "stick with the three GbV albums he's put out this year, fair listener." Move along; there's nothing more to see here.
Best song: "Obvious #1."
Torche - Harmonicraft -- Since Steve Brooks started Torche (or even before Torche, if you consider his time fronting Florida sludge legends Floor in the '90s thru the early aughts), he has been on a steady trajectory that's somehow managed to make each successive Torche release both hookier and faster at the same time. These are very good things, and this is a very good album.
Best songs: "Kicking," "Letting Go," and "Snakes are Charmed" for starters, but this is a really, really consistent release.
I've been looking forward to this show for quite awhile... it's kind of a sludge dream bill, no?
During the calendar year 2009 there's no band I've listened to more (as confirmed by my iTunes play counts) than the mighty Harvey Milk, and this would be the first time I've ever seen 'em live. And although I've already seen Torche thrice, this would be the first time I've seen them as a full-fledged headliner. Love love love these bands. Headed out towards Music Hall of Williamsburg where I made it past the Snoop-lookalike bouncer and inside the venue before 9. (Preshow music was Clash, I think.)
The first band, the four-piece Pollution, didn't take the stage until well after 9, plying the crowd with their brand of downtuned, angst-y metal. Influence-wise, these guys seemed to draw a lot from the usual '90s NYC hardcore/metal hybrid mainstays as well as the classic AmRep sound from the same basic time period. Enjoyable.
After an excessively long setbreak (over 35 minutes, more than long enough for the in-house soundguy to play the entirety of Death From Above 1979's You're a Woman, I'm a Machine album), Harvey Milk took the stage. Vocalist/guitarist Creston Spiers looked like Hell's Own Janitor dressed in a one-piece charcoal jumpsuit, with greasy locks framing a weatherbeaten face. A wholly appropriate appearance for the man whose legendary full-throated bellow makes it sound like he's passing a kidney stone the size (and shape) of a hedgehog.
Starting off with the lugubrious "I Got a Love" set the basic tone for the evening -- lumbering sludge in heaping doses -- with the tempo occasionally sped up with the inclusion of songs like 2008's single-tastic "Motown" and a trio of tracks from The Pleaser ("Shame," "Misery," "Lay My Head Down") and slowed down with impossibly syncopated material like "Love Swing." Indeed, this was some bass-heavy, brutal fare which exacerbated my preexisting migraine and at times seemed to be nearly shaking my filling loose. Kudos, gentlemen.
Up next: the evening's second power trio, Torche. As I mentioned this was the fourth time I've seen these guys, with each successive concert I've attended revealing a little something more. When I saw them opening for Mogwai in May '06, I thought, "man, they're heavy." When I saw them last July with Boris, I thought, "goddamn these guys sure have fun onstage." When I saw them opening for Dredg in April, I thought "Dredg is horrible. Torche should be headlining this." And at this show I kind of realized that these guys are absolutely one of the finest live bands currently going. Of course, for me the highlight of the set was "Across the Shields" (my third-favorite song of last year), during which vocalist/guitarist Steve Brooks hopped across the stage, performing high kicks, mugging shamelessly and generally just havin' a good ol' time. I don't know how to play guitar, but hot damn I bet that'd be a fun song to play... or maybe it's just that these guys play with such vigor, animation and pure joy, they make it seem that way.
Post-show I was disappointed to learn that the Harvey Milk merch table had sold out of Anthem DVD sets, so for a cool $5 I snagged a poster from a Denton, TX show earlier in the year instead (see below). The poster has an image of an anvil on it, which could reference any number of things: 1.) the Harvey Milk song "The Anvil Will Fall," one of the finest songs ever written by anybody; 2.) the Harvey Milk song "All The Live Long Day" on which an anvil is actually used as percussion, or 3.) Anvils are fucking heavy. Harvey Milk, too, is fucking heavy. Although I'm kind of regretting not buying the set of 4 Harvey Milk plastic tumblers (bottom), which they were also selling. Haha.
As detailed in a post from earlier in the week, I recently had a bunch of clothing randomly stolen. Among the shirts taken was a nifty bright green Blood on the Wall shirt which I scored at their MHOW show back in February. Not gonna lie, that was probably my favorite tee shirt, so oddly enough replacing that shirt figured heavily in to my decision to go to tonight's Blood on the Wall show. Normally this would be a no-brainer, but alas just a scant ten or so blocks away from my apartment Torche was playing with The Sword at Yuppie Northsix, so tonight I had options. I haven't seen Torche live in almost exactly two years when they opened for Mogwai at Webster Hall, and their new record, Meanderthal is fucking fantastic. Dilemma, dilemma, and either show would have probably been great, but ultimately Blood on the Wall won out because it was a cheaper ticket.
Before the show, 'twas a beautiful day, so I wandered around for awhile before meeting up with Sluggo (aka Loud and Fat) at my new apartment for some maxin' and relaxin'. NTS, breh. Eventually Sluggo departed, but not before adding to his newly minted panda project. I wandered around aimlessly for awhile, walking briefly through a Ukranian festival dealie on 7th street before heading down towards Mercury Lounge.
Sadly, Blood on the Wall didn't have any shirts similar to the one I wanted to replace so instead I snagged a blue one. I awkwardly tried to make small talk with BOTW's Brad and Courtney Shanks a bit before firing up cell phone Tetris and waiting for the first band to come on.
Nineish, Abigail Warchild took the stage, and I really got into their set. They have a dense sound anchored around manic guitar and a menacingly heavy organ tone, with plenty of melody elbowing its way through the thick riffs. The vocalist seemed to enjoy baiting the crowd slightly, which was amusing, and his singing style ran the gamut from more traditional indie nasalisms to ear-piercing screams. I enjoyed these guys' set and gladly snagged a copy of their album, which they were giving away for free. Cool shit.
Up next was Lights, and goddamn it if I haven't had a tough time trying to find someone that fits as a comparison to these guys, so I'm not going to bother. They're a three-piece, with blonde chicks on guitar and drums, respectively, and splitting harmonized vocals, and with an older-looking dude sitting in a chair and pounding out some great bass melodies. They had a very chill sound, at times almost folky, and I dug 'em.
Finally Blood on the Wall took the stage. I'm on record as being a big fan, with their most recent album, Liferz, coming in at #4 on my Best Albums So Far in 2008 list and with the aforementioned February show being among my favorite shows in '08, as well. With these guys having a bunch of touring under their belts in support of Liferz since that show, many of the songs have changed shape somewhat, notably with nearly everything in the set -- even including the more mid-tempo songs -- being played incredibly fast. Again they opened with the awesome "Stoner Jam" and with a bunch of stuff from Awesomer as well as plenty from Liferz. When the set ended (after a tidy 35 minutes or so) the band reemerged briefly, busting into the hysterical "Acid Fight" as the encore, followed by the drummer basically destroying his drumkit by belly flopping onto it. Looked painful, but also looked pretty fun. After this they closed the set out with another song, broken guitar string flailing in the breeze, with the drummer pounding on his still-upright snare and an audience member joining in on a jettisoned floor tom. Fun, fun, fun!
Boy, I was planning on writing more, even going so far as to compare Brad from BOTW to the (hypothetical) muppet that got kicked off of Sesame Street for refusing to bathe, but I suddenly got really tired. Sorry bout that. BOTW rule, etc. Anyway I don't have tix for anything during this upcoming week, so I'll probably wind up trying to catch some bands I've never heard of before. Mealz outward/etc.