This week's an absolute monster.
Top Five New Releases:
The Broken West: I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On (Merge) – Local good guys do well on their Merge debut. What I’ve heard I really like, but I haven’t heard it all the way through yet so I’m not going to put a rating on it. I didn’t make it out their show last night, but I’ll be at the record release party tonight at Sea Level Records in Echo Park and I promise to make it to their Spaceland show next Monday. The All Music Guide pretty much nails it in their review when they say: “…they reside at the crossroads where indie rock, power pop and country-rock meet and mix together into something quite wonderful.” Support local music and buy this record and see them tonight at Sea Level and Monday at Spaceland. They’re heading out on the road for the next couple of months, so you might not get a chance to see them for a while. Letter Grade: ?
Rob Crow: Living Well (Temporary Residence) – I’m on board for most of the stuff Rob Crow does. I’m a big Pinback fan, I like the Ladies record, and I even have that Goblin Cock record. This one’s on par with the best Pinback records, so I recommend picking it up. The songwriting’s a little more personal; you can tell from the (unprofessional) album photos that he’s got his wife and new baby on his mind. He’s from the pre-image stylist 1990’s era of indie rock and I’ll keep supporting him as long as he keeps making good records like this. Download “I Hate You, Rob Crow (Single Version)” See him at the Troubadour on 2/15. Letter grade: B
The Earlies: The Enemy Chorus (Secretly Canadian) – I’m a sucker for psychedelic headphone music. While the first album had some more traditional songs that worked outside the record, this album’s a little more atmospheric with one song flowing into the next. This record’s more consistently interesting than the first one with some political lyrics. If you like heady music like the Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd then this might be up your alley. I recommend picking it up. Download “No Love In Your Heart” Letter Grade: B+
The Good, the Bad and the Queen: The Good, the Bad and the Queen (Virgin) – This band is Damon Albarn from Blur, Paul Simonon from the Clash, Simon Tong from the Verve, and Tony Allen from Fela Kuti’s band. The record was produced by Danger Mouse. I’m not a huge Gorillaz fan but I’m curious about this one. It’s getting mostly positive reviews. Anybody heard it yet? Is it student rock? See them at Coachella on 4/28. Letter Grade: ?
The Shins: Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop) – Let the (minor) backlash begin. Pitchfork gave this one a 7.0/10 (which only makes it the fourth best album they reviewed yesterday, and it would only be third highest score today). Robert Christgau called Mercer’s lyrics “clumsy” and “overreaching” (pretty harsh coming from a guy who ranked both Liz Phair’s third album and Fountains of Wayne’s third album higher than Chutes Too Narrow in his 2003 poll). I’m calling bullshit. Some tastemakers (people like P’fork and many unnamed bloggers, not Christgau) are only concerned with breaking new artists and trying to stay ½ step ahead of the masses. I’m not one of those people. Guess what, this record might not immediately grab you like the last one. It’s a little bit longer. They experiment with some different keyboard textures. Some of the songs aren’t all that upbeat. But this album is still really good and will probably be one of my favorites of the year. This might be like Beck’s Sea Change. It’s an album that probably won’t make the Shins any more famous, but it’s a record you’ll still be able to put on in a couple of years and still enjoy the subtleties of it. Download “Phantom Limb” See them at the Troubadour for free on Thursday at Noon or Amoeba on Friday night at 6:00PM. If you hear of any secret shows hit me on my email. Letter Grade: A-
Other Things I’m Curious About:
Arbouretum: Rites of Uncovering (Thrill Jockey) – From what I hear, this one’s kind of hauntingly rural. The lead singer has performed with Will Oldham and Anomoanon. I think I’ll probably like it. His voice sounds a bit like Will Oldham to me. Download “Pale Rider Blues”
The Bird and the Bee: The Bird and the Bee (Blue Note) – This is a local group featuring Greg Kurstin and Inara George. They’re playing the Troubadour tonight and they’ll appear on the Tonight Show on Thursday. According to their Myspace page they sound like: “a futuristic 1960's American film set in Brazil...”
Lee Hazlewood: Cake or Death (Ever Records) – Lee Hazlewood is a country-pop legend. Sadly, he was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and has a life expectancy of less than one year. This is likely his swansong. It’s getting solid reviews. If you’re not familiar with his work, I strongly encourage you to check this unique artist out. Probably like a lot of younger people, I was turned onto him when Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth reissued a bunch of his albums in 1999. Just last night I was making a mixtape for a friend and I included “Vem Kan Segla” (which isn’t from this new album, but perfectly displays his sense of humor).
Menomena: Friend and Foe (Barsuk) – Menomena are one of those bands that gets called post-rock and experimental. They manage to stay on the good side by not being pretentious or headache-inducing. Appearing at the Echo on 3/10. Download “Wet and Rusting”
Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer (Polyvinyl) – This is probably one of the most popular indie pop bands that I’ve never bothered to listen to. I plan to fix that with this new record. I’ve already got it at home, but I just haven’t played it yet. The weird thing is, I think I’ll like them. Appearing at the El Rey on 1/26 (sold out), the Avalon on 1/27 and the Troubadour on 1/28 (sold out). Sea Level’s giving away a free ticket to the Avalon show for the first ten people who buy the album. Download "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse"
Peanut Butter Wolf Presents: Stones Throw Ten Years (Stones Throw) – They’re a local label and they release some of the best independent rap in the world. Here’s a great chance to familiarize yourself with their history. J Dilla, Madvillian, Mablib, Quasimoto are all included.
David Vandervelde: The Moonstation House Band (Secretly Canadian) – This dude likes Marc Bolan of T. Rex a lot. I mean a lot. Download “Jacket”
Other things that I know less about:
The Affair: Yes Yes to You (Absolutely Kosher) – Appearing at the Scene in Glendale on 2/11. Download “Left at the Party”
The Berg Sans Nipple: Along the Quai (Team Love) – Indie electronica? Download “Mystic Song”
Chris Garneau: Music For Tourists (Absolutely Kosher) – This is one of those singer-songwriters that seems to toe the line of maybe being too precious. I need to hear more to decide which side of the line he’s on. Download “Not Nice”
Clinic: Visitations (Domino) – I used to like Clinic, then I saw them live and was so annoyed by their shtick that I decided I hated them, now every once in a while I hear a Clinic song and think it sounds pretty good. At the Troubadour on 3/2.
Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity (Kill Rock Stars) – This is quintessential headache rock. Music that only music critics, Jeff Tweedy and Thom Yorke like. I’m supposed to see them live at the El Rey on Wednesday so maybe I’ll com around a little bit. Pitchfork gave this an 8.9/10 (of course they did). Download “Plus 81”
Julie Doiron: Woke Myself Up (Jagjaguwar) – She was in that band Eric’s Trip back in the nineties. Download “No More”
Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else (Thrill Jockey) – Improvised jazzy music.
Mark Fosson: Jesus on a Greyhound (New Light Entertainment) – Drag City recently put out his unreleased folk album that was originally recorded for John Fahey.
Fujiya and Miyagi: Transparent Things (Deaf, Dumb & Blind) – They make krautrock fun - or so the critics say. Appearing at Spaceland on 3/14.
Ghost: In Stormy Nights (Drag City) – Japanese freak noise.
Macromantics: Moments in Movement (Kill Rock Stars) – White, female Australian hip-hop. Download “Scorch”
Mum: Peel Sessions (Fat Cat) – Icelandic electronic music
New Young Pony Club: New Young Pony Club EP (Modular) – They’re one of those synthy indie dance bands. This one got sent to me and I’m not really feeling it. If you’re into those indie dance parties, you might like it. Letter Grade: C-
Nurse & Soldier: Marginalia (Jagjaguwar) – Oneida side project. Download “Green Tea”
Orthodox: Gran Poder (Southern Lord)
Rafter: Music For Total Chicken (Asthmatic Kitty) – Download “Monsters”
Alasdair Roberts: Amber Gatherers (Drag City)
Six Parts Seven: Casually Smashed to Pieces (Suicide Squeeze)
VietNam: Vietnam (Kemado)
John Weise: Soft Punk (Troubleman Unlimited) – Appearing at the Smell on 2/17.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy: Lay and Love single (Drag City)
Camera Obscura: If Looks Could Kill (Merge) – See them at the El Rey on 2/17.
Bee Gees: 1st, Horizontal, Idea Reissues (RGE)
Glenn Branca: Indeterminate Activity of Resultant Masses (Atavistic) – For the serious music snobs only. This has pre-Sonic Youth Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo.
Chrome Cranks: Diabolical Boogie (Atavistic) – “A super-swank enhanced double CD collection of singles, demos, and rarities, plus three music videos from NYC's prime dirt blues movers, culled from their golden 1992-98 era. Copious, soul-bearing liner notes by Peter Aaron, the Cranks' mouthpiece and official public face. Includes covers of AC/DC, Devo, Television, Pere Ubu, T. Rex, The MC5, Daniel Johnston, The Germs, Sky Saxon, and Brainiac.”
Mew: Frengers (Columbia)
Various Artists: Forever Changing – The Golden Age of Elektra 1963-1973 (Elektra) – Five disc collection
Built to Spill: You In Reverse (Up Records) – That cover art’s so bad I’m not sure I want it 12” high.
Secret Machines: Ten Silver Drops (Reprise)