Fireworks? Or terrorist attack?
Well, another year is upon us.
While I don't much care for New Year's celebrations, I do particularly like the idea of a new year, especially with graduation and potential permanent residency on the horizon for the 2010.
Now I don't much care for Christmas-themed music (because it almost always sucks), but I'll admit I get down to a few songs about the New Year. One of my personal favorites is a Dismemberment Plan track from 1997 called "The Ice of Boston". In it, Travis Morrison narrates his own New Year's experience, choosing to forego the messy Boston streets for a little naked R&R.
This song always gives me a (figurative) chuckle, and I hope it does the same for you.
03 The Ice Of Boston by regularexpress
To the year ahead!
30 December 2009
28 December 2009
1) Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
They've managed to retain their style for over 20 years, yet continue to sound fresh and adventurous. One of the best bands in existence.
Fun with fruit:
2) Superchunk - Leaves in the Gutter EP
This EP completely rocked my shit for like three months straight.
3) Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
I know of at least one contemporary female piano player that I like. And it doesn't hurt that she covers both Harry Nilsson and Sparks.
4) Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
This was the year in which we see Grizzly Bear become a household name, and for good reason.
5) Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
Bill Callahan returns to his sparse, wry, and manically depressing songwriting. Because happy Smog just doesn't cut it.
6) Group Bombino - Guitars from Agadez Vol. 2
Unlike the first volume, this one is half acoustic, half electric. But it’s still completely raw and messy and awesome. What else would you expect from a Nigerien rebel group?
7) Piano Magic - Ovations
Girlfriend dump you? Take a bunch of ketamine? Paranoid that your heart is about to collapse into itself? Or just generally feel like offing yourself? Well, the good news is you’ve found your soundtrack.
8) Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family - My Ancestors
Technically a release from the early 70's, this album boasts simple melodies, fuzzed-out psych guitar solos, and heavy drums. This sounds a bit like Cream if they were Zambian and Clapton had any balls.
9) A.C. Newman - Get Guilty
Newman’s second solo album is more introspective than his first, but it’s still full of endless hooks and skillful songwriting. And it proves once again that he’s at his best when in total control.
10) Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy
It might not be Built to Spill's best album, but it's got everything they've come to be known for (namely, triple guitar beard attack). And props to them for including slide guitar again- "Hindsight" is a jam reminiscent of much of Doug Martsch's solo album.
11) Bell Orchestre - As Seen Through Windows
Horn-heavy orchestrated post-rock. Less doom and gloom than some of their contemporaries, it’s at times lilting, pastoral, and ethereal. Definitely more cohesive than their previous effort.
12) Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
The original Dinosaur Jr. line-up once again prove that they're capable of sounding exactly the same as they did 20 years ago. And who doesn't need another Dinosaur Jr. record? But if you're a fan of Mascis's guitar solos, beware. This album only averages 1.5 solos per song.
13) Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
This sounds nothing like Belle & Sebastian! Where do people get this stuff? It's a girl singing...come on, Belle & Sebastian have a guy singer. A little wimpy one. So what if they're both Scottish bands. Wait, you're telling me that that little twee turd photographed one of Camera Obscura's album covers? And Belle & Sebastian have girls that sing too? Hmm. Did Wet Wet Wet release anything this year?
John McVie stand-in:
14) M. Ward - Hold Time
Last year's She & Him record didn't hurt M. Ward's cause at all. Hold Time features Ward's familiar songwriting and production skills, with a couple of cameos from everybody's mind-mistress, Zooey Deschanel.
Slow motion accident:
15) The Flips - That Girl Stacey 7"
Fresh out of Brew City, these girls marry the 60's girl-group sounds of the Shangri-Las and Martha and the Vandellas with the lo-fi aesthetic of the Vivian Girls (but much more classy and charming).
16) Mulatu Astatqe & the Heliocentrics - Inspiration Information Vol. 3
Steeped in the Ethiopian jazz that Mulatu came to patent and popularize, and coupled with the funk backbone of the Heliocentrics, this album is reminiscent of the Ethiopian Quintet’s Afro-Latin Soul.
17) Implodes - everything I heard on myspace
They released a cassette on plustapes this year, but since I don't own a cassette player anymore, it did me no good. Shoegaze guitar tones for creaming jeans.
18) Zombi - Spirit Animal
If this album were a spirit animal, it would be a shark being eaten by a rhinoceros being ridden by Geddy Lee.
19) Other Animals - Other Animals
Debut from Chicago-area dudes sounds like Explosions in the Sky, but with less explosions and more sexy guitars.
20) Tyondai Braxton - Central Market
Battles meets 20th Century composing. Complete with Wizard of Oz munchkin vocals (and even some human vocals).
22 December 2009
Christmas is right around the corner, as I'm constantly reminded by the vast array of horrible Christmas songs and gaudy Christmas displays polluting the urban environment. I'm amazed and disgusted by the sheer amount of no-name and big-name performers cashing in on covering traditional Christmas songs, without any attempt at making a quality recording. Last year I posted a few Christmas songs that I thought were actually worthwhile, though they've since been lost in the internet ether. (If anybody wants me to share them again, just leave a comment).
It's come to my attention that one Christmas song is a bit more prurient than I had ever realized. People always mention "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" as being dirty, but "Santa Baby" is by far dirtier. (It's also despicably comsumeristic, which I thought was only a phenomenon that's come about in the last few decades.) But it's the overt sexuality that gets me on this song, with such lines as "come and trim my Christmas tree" and the constant pleading for Santa to "hurry down the chimney tonight". Dirty bird!
This is probably the most famous version, as sung by Eartha Kitt. It's funny how the coy and semi-conservative sexuality of music stars in the 50's and 60's is by far more appealing than the overtly desperate sexuality of the stars of today. All I can think of when I hear names like the Pussycat Dolls or Rihanna is a roaring case of the clap.
15 December 2009
This album is pretty chill, if totally overhyped.
The water theme on this album is really prominent- "Beach Comber", "Pool Swimmers", "Black Lake", "Green River", and "Let's Rock the Beach" (which doesn't rock at all). There's a pretty clear correlation between this theme and the music- it's summertime surf jams, all barbeques and limeade, rooftop parties and bike rides.
Real Estate is a relaxed, lo-fi album with good pop sensibilities. The singer is also a member of Ducktails, who shares a similar aesthetic of tropical grooves, relaxed jamming, and mountains of reverb. Maybe mountains isn't the right word, since all that reverb makes it sound like they recorded this stuff underwater (check out the vocals on "Pool Swimmers"). We'll say...eddies of reverb.
Much like Ducktails, some of the jammier songs on this album tend to lose me a little bit. since a lot of the songs are on the slower side of things, some of the jammy parts tend to plod along unconvincingly. Fortunately it picks up again about halfway through, starting with "Atlantic City", then "Fake Blues", and "Green River" (which is in no way related to the CCR song). "Suburban Beverage" starts out with a promising build-up, but eventually ends up in another half-baked jam. The album does end on a high note, with the inappropriately titled "Snow Days". It's all harmonies and slide guitars (and, from what I can tell, the only song with acoustic guitar), until it warps into a country jam, all drum rolls and fake endings.
As much as this album is generally decent, the main issue I have is that it's all a little same-same. The instruments, tone, and tempo are all the same song after song. So while a lot of the songs are good individually, they're not entirely memorable as individual songs. And while the album is generally good, there's too much idle jamming to make it memorable as a whole, replacing memorability with a vague notion of enjoyment.
Snow Days by regularexpress
10 December 2009
So what can one expect from a solo album by the Strokes singer?
Songs sung in that typical strained croon. [✓][✓][✓][✓][✓][✓][✓][✓]
Songs about NYC. [✓][✓]
Songs about drinking. [✓][✓]
Songs about regret. [✓][✓][✓][✓][✓][✓]
So why is this different from a Strokes record? For one, the production is cleaner. Two, the songs are long. Three, it's a lot more varied than any Strokes record to date. There's the typical fast rock songs with berating keyboard ("Out of the Blue", "River of Brakelights"), Nashville gospel lament ("Four Chords of the Apocalypse", "Ludlow St."), straight-up pop songs ("Left and Right in the Dark", "11th Dimension"), and a couple of snoozers at the end ("Glass", "Tourist").
Incidentally, the pop songs and country laments are the best on the record. While both pop songs are synth-heavy, the underlying pulsating guitar in "Left and Right in the Dark" make this the best song on the album. And while "11th Dimension" (is that a reference to string theory?) is ear candy to the, er, 11th degree, it's a song that gets tiresome after multiple listens. But it's exactly at this point that following "Four Chords of the Apocalypse" and "Ludlow St" start to stand out. The former is the type of song featured in a romantic comedy, about three-fourths of the way through, when the lead characters have gotten into a fight and have both independently decided that they should get back together- female character looks vaguely sad while staring through a rainy window, male character walks the boardwalk alone, ruefully watching laughing couples, cue missed phone calls, an aborted flirtation with a blind date, and Drew Berrymore and Zac Efron are back together, more in love than ever. And Ludlow St, a song about dranking and the bitterness that so often accompanies a failed relationship.
The songs that sound most like the Strokes are ok, but they're in need of serious edits. All the songs on this album clock in at over 4 minutes, and about half are at least 5. If some of these songs were streamlined (really, who needs a mandolin solo? What is this, Medeski Martin and Wood?), they'd prove to be a lot more effective. This album- 8 songs, 40 minutes- would probably do better as a 5 song EP.
There's this guy Frank Sartor- he used to be Mayor of Sydney, now he's a member of the State Cabinet- who came to speak to my class. "It's all about managing expectations," he said. "If you give a girl flowers every day, she'll come to expect them. But if you only give her flowers once a year, you look like Don Juan." (I'm paraphrazing). And after the last Strokes record, this could have been half as good and still smelt like roses.
02 Left & Right in the Dark by regularexpress
07 December 2009
Felt is one of those bands that I've always meant to listen to, but for one reason or another, just haven't. Someone once mentioned to me that Yo La Tengo, especially in their early years, were clearly influenced by Felt. Yep, they were right. If Ira Kaplan sang more like a mix between Lou Reed and Tom Verlaine, as Felt's main member Lawrence Hayward does, some of these songs would sound indistinguishable between the two bands. "September Lady" has it all- the Hammond organ, 80's treble-heavy arpeggio guitars, and soft female backing "oohs" and "aahs".
The first two songs on this album- "Rain on Crystal Spires" and "Down But Not Yet Out" are upbeat, catchy indie-pop numbers. The Hammond riffs are particularly stand-out on these tracks. "September Lady" changes the pace slightly with a more sentimental bent- it's Marquee Moon's "Guiding Light", if you will. "Grey Streets" is another impressive organ-heavy track with hooks galore.
Unfortunately, the album's centerpiece, "All the People I Like Are Those That Are Dead", doesn't get the job done. It starts slow, and ebbs and flows over its lengthy 5 minutes. Hayward whispers the chorus for much of the last few minutes. Whether it's in an attempt to be creepy or poignant is besides the fact- the song simply meanders. It's long in length and short on ideas.
After this track, it's a little difficult to get back into. "Gather Up Your Wings and Fly" returns to opening form with upbeat guitar and organ, and, once again, those same pleasant backing vocals. However, it's not quite as strong as the first half of the album. "A Wave Crashed on the Rocks" is a bit of a throwaway track. There's nothing wrong with it, it just simply doesn't stand up to the memorable tracks on this album. The closer "Hours of Darkness Have Changed My Mind" is another slow track with little to show for it. "September Girls" would have made a more appropriate closer, though the album is obviously front-loaded, and stuck at the back end that song wouldn't have gotten its just desserts.
Overall the album is definitely something to return to, if only for the upbeat pop songs. It's 80's and British in all the right ways. While the album tries a little too hard in some spots, the only real disaster is "All the People I Like Are Those That Are Dead".
Felt - Forever Breathes the Lonely Word
Before I stray too much from that Fugazi post from last week, I also wanted to post this Peel Sessions recording from 1988. Two tracks from Fugazi, and two from the then yet-to-be-released Repeater.
Although the songs don't generally sound as clear as on record, they definitely highlight how fervent the band was live. Guy's songs are definitely the more intense ones- just check out the screeching guitar at the end of "Glue Man" to see what I mean.
There's not that much to say about this really, but assuming most Fugazi fans are pretty hardcore Fugazi fans, this is worth grabbing.
1) Waiting Room
4) Glue Man
Fugazi - Peel Sessions 1988
While I'm on the subject of guitarists influenced by John Fahey, I'd like to pay respects to Jack Rose, an extremely talented solo guitarist who sadly died today of an apparent heart attack. While Rose was strongly influenced by Fahey, he also incorporated eastern music, especially raga, into his vast body of work, much like Sir Richard Bishop and Robbie Basho. Rose also played in a prominent drone band (as prominent as a drone band can be, I mean) called Pelt.
Rose was immensely talented, somewhat prolific, and hardly well-known throughout his 15+ year career. His music was characterized by its often dark style of folk and blues, the result of playing a 12-string slide guitar. There's a lot of solitude in his music, especially evident on the excellent s/t release on Tequila Sunrise. It was also released on CD after the LP version sold out, which is available here and here. I picked up that record without knowing anything about it really, and I've since invested serious hours into it.
Although much of his work is generally pretty haunting, here's one of his more upbeat ragtime songs off the Kensington Blues album.
07 Flirtin' With the Undertaker by regularexpress
M. Ward - Transfiguration of Vincent
This album is good, but not great. While it's similar in most ways to his more recent albums, it lacks the distinct charm and breeziness of Hold Time and Post War. What's immediately apparent on this album, both through the instrumentation and lyrics, is the degree of melancholy with which most of these songs are written. Songs of sorrow, sadness, and heartbreak are all too cliche for the sensitive singer-songwriter type, and without the constant guitar work that's become Ward's M.O., this album as a whole is not something I'd return to regularly with such better albums in his discography.
Not surprisingly, the stand-out tracks are the few upbeat numbers like "Duet for Guitars #3" and "Helicopter". The former is an instrumental John Fahey-esque jam, while the latter is a pretty straightforward folk-rock song with a melody line lifted straight out of Paul Simon's "Graceland". The album also features a horribly depressing version of Bowie's "Let's Dance", which, quite frankly, is a song that's only notable for its staccato guitar and percussion (which Ward does away with completely) and video of two teenage Aboriginals dancing in an outback bar, and then suddenly transferred to a busy Sydney street, being forced to do manual labor. For a video that makes such a strong statement, the song itself does not. And for a song with seemingly very little meaning, it's a strange choice for an acoustic cover whose foundation is the lyrics. On a high note, Ward definitely had his Grand Ole Opry style production down already on this album, which certainly makes this album worth a listen at least once.
Here's a video of the aforementioned "Duet for Guitars #3" (performed solo, as it were), which starts about 2:30 in after some pretty impressive jamming.
03 December 2009
I was hoping to post this yesterday, though work obligations prevented me from doing so. In the time between then and now, Pitchfork has gone ahead and stolen my thunder (which, I realize, I initially stole from Chunklet anyway).
This is 45 minutes of stage banter between Fugazi (really just Ian and Guy) and the crowd. Most of that banter is essentially crowd control and calling out excessively violent morons in the crowd. But they harp on these people better than stand-up comedians are sometimes able, and at the same time manage to exude such love and respect for their fans. It's entertaining, funny, affronting, and kind of life affirming at the same time.
Fugazi Talks Talk
30 November 2009
A new feature for the Regular Express:
Aside from whatever singles/movies/fact/crap I decide to post about, I am also planning to select approximately 5-10 albums per week, give them a couple spins each, and offer an opinion of them. I've been doing this for a little while on my own, and it's allowed me to actively listen to the things I haven't given enough of a chance or new stuff that I've been meaning to listen to.
The records for this week include
Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings and Food
Felt - Forever Breathes the Lonely Word
M. Ward - Transfiguration of Vincent
Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights
Fela Kuti - Confusion/Gentleman
Real Estate - s/t
Them Crooked Vultures - s/t
Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young
And by the way, I got to see Lightning Bolt last weekend. Best show of the year. I felt like I was under water afterward. Three cheers for tinnitus!
The ol' Regular Express is back on track.
I thought it apt to start again where I left off way back in June with another Jeff Lynne-related song.
The Traveling Wilburys were a 5 guitar band, featuring the dried up talents of Lynne, Bobby Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison. In fairness, the Big O, despite being generally past his career prime, still had every bit of the talent that he possessed in the 50's and 60's, and probably had the most to do with the Wilbury's success upon releasing their first album.
Their first album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, was generally acclaimed and recently reissued with the other volume, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (the second volume is said to be Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever", for which all the members contributed). I grew up listening to the first volume, but never really listened to Vol. 3 until recently. As Orbison passed away of a heart attack prior to the recording of Vol. 3, the album misses his presence. Lynne and Harrison attempt to ape his vocal delivery, but it simply doesn't stand up to the velvety voice of Mr. Orbison. The album is decent, though somewhat uneven, and doesn't quite stand up to the first volume. If he didn't sound like complete garbage before, Dylan is seriously phoning it in on this one (note the backwards baseball hat on the cover), but the other three were obviously capable enough songwriters, using this outlet to experiment with different 50's and 60's rock styles that prove mostly simple and effective.
My personal favorite from this album is "New Blue Moon", a Harrison-penned track that Dylan takes the verse vocals for. Fortunately, this song is all chorus, and it's probably the only track that Dylan is actually having any fun on. Where many of the other songs sound like watered-down blues and gospel (read: white), this one actually has a bit of real R&B flavor, what with the loose drums and sustained piano and whatnot.
Traveling Wilburys - New Blue Moon
09 - New Blue Moon by regularexpress
12 June 2009
The last week or two I've been waking up with really strange songs in my head. Just the other day I was looking for this ELO song that popped into my head one morning (I almost wrote pooped into my head, isn't that FUNNY?). Songs seem to be coming up out of nowhere lately, dusting themselves off from the archival abyss in the annals of my brain, and taking center stage in my consciousness. It's not by choice, at all. Two days ago it was Goo Goo Dolls' "Slide", I shit you not. There's some messed up wiring going on in my upstairs, you know what I'm saying?
So I was looking for this song, and I wasn't really sure what it was called, but figured I had it on my computer. So I searched through all 9 GDing ELO albums on my computer, only to come up empty. But about a year ago, before I got a turntable in my possession, I bought the ELO album "Discovery" from a dollar bin somewhere. Discovery came out a couple years after their back-to-back masterpieces, but right before their disco cheeseball phase. At this point they were only borderline disco cheeseball. Anyway, voila! Song's called "Shine a Little Love".
Electric Light Orchestra - Shine a Little Love
As it's the first song on this particular record, it opens with the obligatory space-time warping synth sounds, before quickly shifting into a huge hook, laden with hand claps and searing violin work. Discovery is kind of a hit and miss record, but it's worth that crate dig and 100 cents for the few noteworthy tracks on the record.
Here's the sweet, sweet video for the song.
Check out those glittering vests! See what I'm saying about borderline disco cheeseball?
03 June 2009
Back in my record store days, this great Dandelion Records single compilation(John Peel's record label) came in that first introduced me to the music of Medicine Head.
Although their later output treads toward the boogie side of British blues and folk, Medicine Head's early singles, off their debut New Bottles, Old Medicine, are right up the London equivalent to Tin Pan Alley. Bert Jansch, Jackson C. Franke, the softer personality of Peter Green, and John Martyn are all contemporaries. It's ambling, pensive, and warm folk music that all those guys did so well, and that nearly nobody has been able to do since.
Medicine Head - This Love of Old
And here's some of that boogie I was talking about:
So there's this band called Church, not to be confused with 80's and 90's (and, unfortunately, 00's) Australian rock band The Church, or the San Francisco punk band J Church. Just Church. I'm beginning to think bands have stopped trying to come up with decent names. It's become a reflex- SeeSomethingNameSomething. Women. Woods. Yacht. The Field. Church. As artists, aren't you meant to be creative? Adjectives, people!
So back to the music. Church are a Portland indie-pop band, through and through. I heard this song called "Happiness" a year ago, and because their name and obscurity made it difficult to find anything out about them, I gave up. But somehow I recently managed to stumble upon their myspace, and in honour of my great triumph, today I'm posting this "Happiness" song that I heard so long ago. It sounds a lot like Grandaddy, although their other stuff is more akin to The Minus Story or Menomena or something. Basically I just really like this one song. It's on an EP called Gold that came out last year on soHItek.
Church - Happiness
And here's their myspace, for the record.
23 May 2009
New video for Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks". With all the over-stimulating videos being made these days, it's nice to see technology being used for simple effect. And that simple effective has either turned the members of Grizzly Bear into real-life Wii people or LSD users. Just look at those dilated pupils and shit-eating grins!
21 May 2009
Crystal Stilts released a 7" for a nice little tune called "Love is a Wave" nearly two months ago. In the time between then and now, they've managed to scrape together enough couch change to compile a video montage of 60's and 70's type things. Beaches and monkeys and drive-in movies.
The song sounds a bit like the Magnetic Fields if Stephen Merritt were a transsexual. Neat!
18 May 2009
Tell me this song doesn't instantly make you feel good.
Dorothy Berry - You're So Fine
16 May 2009
And while I'm going on about pop-punk from my younger years, it's probably an appropriate day to post this Lagwagon song.
I've spent this particular May 16th watching the Lost finale, failing miserably at the "Good Weekend" quiz in the Sydney Morning Herald, and reading bicycle articles. Nerdy, insular, and empowered, respectively. It's just another Saturday.
Lagwagon - May 16th
It seems like that Japandroids album Post-Nothing has been out for a long time, but I didn't bother listening to it until the other day. I think it's actually only been out for maybe a few weeks, or a month or two at most. But it got a lot of hype, and I hate hype. I try to avoid listening to anything getting lots of hype that I wouldn't otherwise listen to, because
A) I like my music opinions to be my own, and
B) I don't trust people.
Hype: I don't understand how it hyppens.
If you were able to make it through that terrible pun, I thank you. When I first heard Japandroids, I was instantly reminded of something pop-punkish from my younger days. I was having trouble placing it though, and it was starting to eat away at me. It finally dawned on me: Japandroids are the lo-fi reincarnate of Brand New. Without all the spite and death threats, I guess.
So I figure I'll just binge on the couple of Post-Nothing tracks that I like and then be done with it. But for now, I'm quite enjoying it. Guilty pleasure of the year so far.
Japandroids - Young Hearts Spark Fire
13 May 2009
As an addendum to the last post, there's a Homestead compilation called Human Music that features a song by Big Dipper as well as lead singer Bill Goffrier's other band, the Embarrassment. The Embarrassment had broken up well before the assemblage of Big Dipper, but reunited during Big Dipper's prime. It was during this period in 1988 that Human Music was released.
The compilation features just as many Homestead bands as not, including a bunch of Flying Nun bands (the Clean, the Chills, the Verlaines, and the Tall Dwarfs) since apparently Homestead was Flying Nun's first US distributor. We haven't seen a New Zealand-U.S. collaborative powerhouse of media since...well...Flight of the Conchords. Rest In Peace.
Fun fact about this Embarrassment song- it was covered on an Ass Ponys EP in the mid-90's. You remember the Ass Ponys don't you? "Little Bastard"? Nothing like the heyday of 90's alternative music. Check out that killer goatee and Jncos on the lead singer.
The Embarrassment - Two-Week Vacation
Big Dipper - He Is God (which is an anagram for "hogs die", for whatever that's worth)
The only Embarrassment videos on Youtube either sound like garbage or are from their recent reunion tours, and I won't settle for either. So instead here's the video for Big Dipper's most popular song, "Faith Healer".
I haven't been so good about updating regularly, but I'm looking to fix that, I swear. We just got a Wii up in this bitch, and with that, papers and reports and speeches to prepare, a vegetable garden in need of nurturing, and baseball season in full swing, I get a little distracted. But I have good intentions!
I'm a big fan of The Best Show on WMFU. In the few years that I've been listening to it, one of the best things I've gotten out of it is an introduction to the band Big Dipper. Big Dipper come from Boston USA, and are a spin-off of a spin-off of Mission of Burma. It's like the indie/post-punk version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Ok, I admit, it's nothing like that.
Big Dipper put out a couple albums, signed to Epic, and as it is with the major label curse, broke up after only one Epic release. Fortunately the pure and mighty Merge Records released a retrospective anthology of the band's work just last year, giving them another moment in the sun. If you're a fan of college rock, you will like!
This track is off that aforementioned anthology, although I don't think it was released previously. From what I can gather, it was recorded after their Epic failure and then stowed away in an overhead compartment once the band took off on their separate life journeys. Get it? Like an airplane! Hey-o!
Big Dipper - Wake Up the King
02 May 2009
Fresh out of Brew City, The Flips are a new 6 piece girl group that mix the songwriting style of 60's groups like Martha & The Vandellas and the lo-fi aesthetic of the Vivian Girls. Unlike the Vivian Girls, however, these girls are all class. Just check out their Brady-esque record cover!
The band recently released their debut, a 7" called "That Girl Stacey". The songs on this recording can be found on their Myspace page, or you can listen to the one I've got queued up for you below.
If these girls can get the quality of their recordings up to snuff, they definitely have some potential for upward mobility.
The Flips - I Still Wanna Be His Girl
01 May 2009
Tactics were a late 70's/early 80's Australian post-punk group, originally out of the Canberra (where, like Rodney Dangerfield, they got no respect).
As I mentioned in my post about the Go-Betweens, I wanted to start delving into Australian music that I don't think gets proper recognition. Tactics are definitely one of those bands. I hadn't actually heard of them until earlier this year when my friend Andrew, the invisible third party in the electro-pop "duo" Walter Meego, turned me on to them.
It appears that their albums are near impossible to locate, as they're not even listed on Amazon or Allmusic. Fortunately a compilation was released a few years back entitled "The Sound of the Sound", compiling their first two full lengths as well as some live stuff and demos. A second volume was released last year, and those are both readily available on Amazon.
Tactics were formed in 1978 in Canberra, but quickly moved a few hours north to the urban sprawl that is Sydney. Band members came and went. Tactics' only constant was guitarist/vocalist Dave Studdert, who up and left Australia altogether in 1989 for the greyer skies of the UK, where, from what I can tell, he still plays in bands today.
Here is a track that I especially like from their first album My Houdini, called "No More Talking".
Tactics - No More Talking
27 April 2009
Wassup? I'm all settled in at the new place. I've been getting my education and gardening on, but now that we've got the internet up and running I have something to distract me.
Rick Froberg has been at it for a while now, first with Drive Like Jehu, then with Hot Snakes, and now back with Obits. John "Speedo" Reis and Froberg parted ways after an Australian Hot Snakes tour in 2005, and last year Reis' new outfit the Night Marchers released their debut album. Now it's Froberg's turn, as Obits released I Blame You in March on Sub Pop.
Prior to this release, Obits released a 7" with a song called "One Cross Apiece". The music is less aggressive than that of his former bands, but it's got a style all its own. Judging from this track, the band is more focused on melody (albeit still obsessed with Wipers-style guitar riffs) and less on charging through tracks with gritted teeth and bloody knuckles. But just like Hot Snakes, this band does their own ass-kicking. They just use swagger instead of fury to achieve it.
Obits - Once Cross Apiece
08 April 2009
I just want to let you all know that The Regular Express won't be updated regularly (or expressly) for a few weeks. The main reasons are school assignments and moving houses, both of which are very good and productive activities. Since this blog is neither of those things, it has been bumped down on my list of priorities while I straighten out all the chaos.
Don't fear, I have many good and bad things to share. For now, enjoy this old clip of Australian-turned California post-punker-turned world's funniest comedian, Neeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiill Ham-burg-er!
06 April 2009
Boys and girls, get out your rally caps, sunflower seeds and your lucky Shawon Dunston Fleer rookie card. It's time. Starting tomorrow, housewives will start complaining about their Maury Povich being interrupted, vomit will readily appear on Lakeview sidewalks, and all the Jewish suburban diehards and fairweather fans alike will flock to Wrigley Field in a deep blue sea of disorderliness. Get ready for a season of dingers and disappointment, overpriced peanuts, and bad middle relief pitching!
The annoying sounds of Ronnie Woo Woo! (no relation to Bubb Rubb)
The mumbling curses of Ron Santo!
B-list celebrities singing the 7th Inning Stretch off-key (and 40,000 drunk morons doing the same, only a half second behind said celebrity)!
Let's GoooOOOOOO Cubbies!
The Mountain Goats - Cubs in Five
04 April 2009
Next week sees the release of Score! 20 Years of Merge Records. Much of the music on this label compilation is written by bands of years past, covered by bands of years present. There's plenty to get your mouth watering, with covers by Bill Callahan, Ted Leo, Broken Social Scene, Death Cab, etc. Hot shit indie bands. Now for pre-teens and parents alike!
The song I want to post this evening is a Shins cover of a Tenement Halls song called "Plenty Is Never Enough." I had never heard this song or the Tenement Halls before this release, but if I may judge a song by its cover, then I think the original is worth checking out (and since I'm posting the original video below, you don't have to put in much effort to do so). This is the first Shins release since their last long-player (as far as I know), and it comes out like much of their poppier work (think "Phantom Limb" or their cover of "We Will Become Silhouettes"). It's like a stroll in the park, rolling pastures and ladies in sundresses.
The Shins - Plenty Is Never Enough
As for the original version, it's urgent without the angst. Right up my alley.
02 April 2009
I'm not the biggest expert on hip-hop, but I've always really liked Gang Starr (as well as the other solo and collaborative works of Guru and DJ Premier). Hard to Earn has staying power.
There's this track that I've always been really into by them. It's called "Work," off Moment of Truth. It may have been the first song I heard by them, I can't really remember. It just evokes memories of watching skate videos in my friend's basement after high school.
There are two versions of the song- the album release, and then another (sometimes referred to as a remix, which it is not, and sometimes as part 2) with a verse from the late Big L. In my opinion, a little Big L (get it?--------------------->) is never a bad thing. So hostile. He only released two albums before he was killed. I don't know if I've ever heard the first one, but The Big Picture has some great songs on it- Ebonics, Flamboyant, Holdin' It Down, Platinum Plus (produced by DJ Premier)...
I'm not sure where the part 2 version was released, but here it is, for your listening pleasure.
Gang Starr feat. Big L - Work Pt. 2
And also a Big L track from The Big Picture.
Big L - Holdin' It Down
30 March 2009
Last night I got to watching Melvin Goes to Dinner again. I've seen it four times. It's my favorite movie (besides maybe Home Alone). It mostly stars a bunch of character actors, though it features cameos from Jack Black, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk (who also directed and produced it), Maura Tierney, Jenna Fischer, and that guy who plays Pete on 30 Rock. The guy who wrote the movie and stars as Melvin, Michael Blieden, played a special agent in Arrested Development along with the other male star, Matt Price. The two lady leads are Annabelle Gurwitch, previously the host of "Dinner and a Movie" back in the day on TBS, and Stephanie Courtney, who has recently landed a role as a switchboard operator on Mad Men.
These accolades aren't very impressive, I realize, but the movie is nothing but excellent and captivating from start to finish. Here is Jack Black's scene in the movie:
David Cross and Bob Odenkirk starred together in Mr. Show, which was usually fucking hilarious. But they also starred together in a Yo La Tengo video for what's probably their most famous song, "Sugarcube." As you probably know from reading this blog, I don't miss opportunities to write about YLT, especially when there's funny involved.
28 March 2009
Cocaine is a funny drug when it comes to music. It makes some artists actually create better music (Sly and the Family Stone), and it gives some artists the illusion that their music is better than it really is (Conor Oberst). Some artists, after kicking the habit, get bloated (John Mayer), and some die a cocaine death (Ike Turner). A lot of musicians have written songs about the pitfalls of cocaine (Phish, Bob Dylan). But it takes something special to write a song championing the love for such a notorious substance.
Enter: Little Feat (and possibly Van Dyke Parks). Little Feat were a Southern rock band in the 70's. The first time I had ever heard of them, it was on the recommendation of my dad.
One day a few years ago he mentioned this Little Feat to me. "Oh yeah, they were smokin'!" or something. "Ok cool, I'll have to...check them out...someday..." and then I didn't.
It wasn't until I saved a copy of Robert Palmer's Sneaking Sally Through the Alley from becoming dumpster food that I first got to know what Little Feat were all about. The backing band on this album are a couple dudes from Little Feat and a couple dudes from the Meters, and the first track is a cover of Little Feat's "Sailing Shoes". The cover is pretty funked out, with a heavy bass line and some sultry ladies complementing Palmer's soulful pipes. And then I still didn't seek out the original until I was at my parents' house last September. I was digging through some of my records, some of which got mixed in with my parents'. And there it was: 1972's Sailing Shoes, by Little Feat.
I was watching the Cubs trying to clinch the division with the sound off, and popped the old bird onto the platter. The original "Sailin' Shoes" is much more sparse than the Palmer cover. It's Southern, but not in that dumb rock Skynyrd kind of way. It doesn't try to rock at all. Laid-back slide guitar, plodding honky tonk piano, gospel chorus. In a word, this song owns.
I had my computer music on shuffle this week, and what should pop up but a Van Dyke Parks song entitled "Sailin' Shoes" from the same year as the Little Feat version. "What is this all about?" I asked myself.
Well it turns out, Parks probably had something to do with the writing of this song. He and Little Feat's frontman (and member of Zappa's Mothers of Invention) Lowell George were good friends. It seems a little odd, then, that Parks never got credit for the song.
So here are the three versions:
Robert Palmer - Sailing Shoes
Van Dyke Parks - Sailin' Shoes
Little Feat - Sailin' Shoes
26 March 2009
It's always nice when people put a lot of effort into a music video. The new Department of Eagles video for "No One Does It Like You" features an astonishing amount of choreography, some pretty great costumes, and a whole lot of bloodshed. It's fun artsy fartsy, not to be confused with heavy artsy fartsy. You feel me?
25 March 2009
Matthew and Son, Cat Stevens' first album, is by far the least introspective of his releases. This album is full of AM-radio-oriented tracks, nearly all of which clock in at under 3 minutes. There are better Cat Stevens albums out there, but none with as much ear candy.
Some of these songs are certified hits. The album opens with the title track, which is one of the more dynamic tracks on the album. It has baroque pop written all over it, which signifies the rest of the album's style. The following track, "I Love My Dog", is a more contemplative affair. Interestingly, it features Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones on bass. It was Cat Stevens' first single, though it's not as well known as "Matthew and Son" or the third track, "Here Comes My Baby". This track seemed to gain in popularity after it was featured in Wes Anderson's "Rushmore". It was also covered by professional cover band Yo La Tengo on 1990's Fakebook.
The sugary sweet keeps cruising along on the next track, "Bring Another Bottle Baby". The song is a sexy French affair, which I can't help but think shaped the Flight of the Conchords song "Foux du Fafa".
Another significant track on this record is "I've Found a Love." Anyone familiar with Panda Bear's 2007 Person Pitch will recognize the guitar strumming and tambourine-tapping right after the chorus. Somewhere in the middle of that album's epicenter, "Bros", features that sample. Record nerds!
The rest of the album features songs that aren't quite as ambitious, though decent all the same. And there's the album closer, "I'm Gonna Get Me a Gun", which a bit unnerving. The title suggests exactly what the song is about, though it's no ballad. The music sounds a bit like the background for a Tom and Jerry chase. Weird stuff. Apparently it was written for a musical about Billy the Kid, but the musical was never produced. Strangely, despite not having any context, it was released as a single in the UK and never had any controversy along with it.
Cat Stevens - Matthew & Son (1967)
Yo La Tengo - Here Comes My Baby