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May 7, 2017 / bloggenstatt

J is for Japandroids, Jay Z and John Lennon. J is not for Jack + Iliza

I didn’t realize J was such a loaded letter until my thumb was frantically circling around my old iPod. Clockwise. Then Counter clockwise. “Damn, that’s a lot of good bands.”

I just snubbed Joy Division, Jimi Hendrix, James Blake, Jay Reatard, Jack White, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Cliff and John Doe.

At least a couple of those should be rectified when I get to W and X — I hope.

Japandroids

Japandroids’ body of work is unassailable. The most harsh critique I could levy against them is that not all their albums are Celebration Rock. Brian King and David Prowse are responsible for an all-time classic album sandwiched by two excellent albums.

They also put on a helluva live show.

You go into a Japandroids concert sort of assuming the triumphantly raucous sound on the albums can’t be replicated by just two dudes on a stage, but they absolutely attack their set lists. It’s even louder, faster and more fun than the fist-pumping, glorious albums, and a screaming crowd ends up filling in on backing vocals.

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Jay Z

Calling Jay Z hip-hop’s equivalent of the Beatles would undermine Shawn Carter’s longevity. Calling him the Elvis of rap would capture his larger than life branding, influence and the ubiquity of his singles, but it wouldn’t accurately represent the cohesive brilliance of Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, The Black Album or American Gangster.

The only real hard knock against Hov is that his career has spanned 21 years and counting and not everything he’s put out has been great. I really think you can boil his career down to the four albums listed above plus Watch the Throne and a sort of greatest hits playlist and be set, but you can count the number of hip-hop albums that deserve to be mentioned in the same breathe as The Blueprint on one hand, so Jay Z’s several other classic albums are gravy.

 

John Lennon

John is my favorite Beatle. With that said, I think I have to acknowledge the problems with the man who made a lot of music I love.

There’s a backlash against Lennon, who was been lionized in death. This has led to an appropriate course correction because it turns out a Liverpoolian raised in a broken home with substance abuse problems wasn’t technically speaking a great person, father or husband.

But, the annals of music are filled with some truly terrible people, so I think his shortcomings as a person should be acknowledged and his contributions to pop music should and can be admired at the same time.

Lennon was the troubled, sour, blues-rock-loving half of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team. I think Paul probably had a higher batting average in terms of game-changing hits to songwriting credits, but John’s songs were weirder, rawer and hit higher peaks. Plus, I’ve always preferred Lennon’s sometimes-reedy, sometimes-unhinged vocals.

He has my favorite solo career of any of The Beatles. Plastic Ono Band is one of my all-time favorite albums. It is a rock star reckoning with his one messianic public stature, his abandonment issues and mortality. It also rocks. Loud guitar, driving drumming and throat-shredding screams are all present.

While I think Double Fantasy enjoys a lot of its reputation by virtue of being the last thing Lennon recorded, I’d go to the mats for Imagine . It is also a wonderful album capable of bleak, cynicism(“Crippled Inside”) to one of the most enjoyable, effervescent testaments to an unconventional love ever recorded (“Oh Yoko”).

 

Jack + Eliza

I was drunk and watching Season 1 of the Judd Apatow-produced series  “Love” and a song by Jack + Eliza was used to close an episode. I downloaded an entire album. I didn’t even like the song the next morning.

 

 

February 23, 2017 / bloggenstatt

Get down to this Sick Scene

LC! sound pretty darn well on album No. 6

I adore each and every Los Campesinos! album nearly equally.

The bratty snarl and twee chime of  Hold On Now, Youngster, the guy-girl duets counterbalanced by Xiu Xiu-esque noise on Romance is Boring, the Goldilocks zone of We are Beautiful, We are Doomed and the rock-solid literary pop-rock of their later releases all have a special place in my heart and hard drives.

But for all their consistent, excellence, I’m not sure that LC! have ever had a better side one, track one than the opener for their sixth  album, Sick Scenes. “Renato Dall’Ara (2008)” is a jam.

It’s a sub-3-minute blast of guitar and Gareth Campesinos! signature  multi-syllabic, lilting bleat. It’s light, catchy and features some of the strongest group vocals since singer and keyboardist Aleks Campesinos! left the group. Imagine  if Romance is Boring started off with “Romance is Boring”. It’s like that.

And it’s wholly appropriate, because aside from a couple of tracks toward the album’s back half, the energy level hardly flags. This is the most buoyant and boisterous  record sincetheir 2008 debut, and I’d have to say it’s among their best.

 

 

It’s fairly clear from the music, and at one point even explicitly stated, that Gareth’s songwriting focus has moved past the sometimes plodding malaise that marked long stretches of No Blues and Hello Sadness. Not that LC! staples have gone anywhere. Soccer, relationship woes, self-loathing, death obsession, class-ism, anxiety and heart swells are still all over the album, but they’re presented with acceptance and urgency. A sort of declaration : I feel crummy, but I really feel it.

While the album has a uniform urgency, there’s a wide variety of sounds on the back half of the album.

“The Fall of Home” is a delicate, acoustic number about a changing, declining hometowm that musically recalls the prettiest moments of the All’s Well that Ends EP.

The shiny, electronic “Here’s To The Fourth Time” has some legitimate pop chops, and the synthesizer pops up to add a little extra crunch to “For Whom the Belly Tells”. There’s legitimate guitar heroics on the bridge for “Got Stendhal’s”. None of it is exactly earth-shattering experimentation, but it adds to the lively feeling.

And, LC! absolutely stick the landing with closer “Hung Empty”, which is a thoroughly excellent song. It finishes things off with fist-pumping ennui that you’d only expect to find on a Los Campesinos! record.

I cannot wait to sit down with liner notes and lyrics and give this another serious listen or five.

 

February 22, 2017 / bloggenstatt

Magellan goes wonderfully off course

I remember sitting on a stolen park bench in my college apartment playing NBA 2K13. A pink triangle of tongue was probing outward from the corner of my mouth, and hangover sweats dampened my clammy forehead while I tried to make Eric Gordon’s easily packed jumper work.

But even more vividly, I recall my concentration was broken when I heard a familiar World Music-tinged bursts of strings and drums that all but demand body rolls. “Dirty Projectors are on this game?” a delighted exclamation.

That was the moment, I had to explain to my friend and roommate who The Dirty Projectors were, but more importantly it should’ve been the first inkling the new, self-titled album from Dave Longstreth would sound the way it sounds.

Longstreth writing for Solange and Rihanna as well as collaborating with Kanye West should’ve been giveaways too  because Dirty Projectors shares about as much musical DNA with “Runaway” as it does with “About to Die”.

There is plenty of woozy vocoder, confessional themes, rapping and Mr. West even gets a shout out on the absolutely fantastic and introspective “Up in Hudson”.

 

 

That standout track also addresses one of the album’s other overwhelming influences–Longstreth’s breakup with longtime girlfriend and stellar guitarist Amber Coffman.

Every song on the album either reminisces about their time together, laments their separation, dwells on loneliness or in the case of “Keep Your Name” fires off some parting shots.

Aside from the thematic fuel, Coffman’s absence could explain the hard turn for the electronic since 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan.

Staccato guitar bursts have decidedly been removed from the album’s vocabulary.  Instead warbles, static and all manner of electric bleeps and bloops have joined the piano, eventful percussion and gift for marrying experimentation with undeniable melody that has always been The Dirty Projectors’ calling card.

And the album sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s almost always a sonic lasagna of  disparate parts. On any given song you might hear electronic effects, autotune, piano, drum loops, horns, violins or even organ, but it’s never muddled, and aside from a few indulgent moments of faux static, it never seems busy for the sake of being busy.

It is a wonderful headpones album.

However it was that Longstreth arrived at the new album’s sound, the result is the same: a deeply engaging album that manages to double-down on both pop influence and weirdness.

I sincerely hope “Cool Your Heart”, which includes a fantastic feature from D∆WN, a frantic drum bridge and layer after layer of brass instruments, soundtracks a future basketball video game.

January 20, 2017 / bloggenstatt

Name a more iconic duo…

 Brian King and David Prowse’s cicada-like reemergence is an excellent new album slightly out of their comfort zone.

Japandroids already have a couple of near-perfect album’s in their oeuvre. Post-Nothing, their 2009 break through, is an adored cult classic and Celebration Rock , as its name suggests, is a triumphant, rock masterpiece. At this point, their playing with house money when it comes to critical good will, and it allowed them to adventure toward some new sounds on their brilliant new album Near the Wild Heart of Life.

There are new sounds on Near the Wild Heart of Life. There’s Americana influence and electronic textures and female backing vocals, and it’s not quite the barbaric yop of raw-nerve feeling of Celebration Rock or the distorted, lo-fi “newgaze” revelation of Post-Nothing, but it is obviously a Japandroids album.

On Near the Wild Heart…Japandroids finally sound as big as they’ve always been to me. They have always produced irrepressible, energetic anthems that have conjured irresponsible levels of energy in me, and on the new album they sound ready to conquer stadiums.

The tug-of-war between roots and a chosen home, the reconciliation between ambition and humble beginnings and the bracing affirmation that to live is to feel are still omnipresent as are the wonderful guitar  sounds that strike the perfect balance between Hüsker Dü and My Bloody Valentine and the “Oh, woah-ohh” vocal fills.

The opening title track of the album makes that abundantly clear.

It sounds as much like a Japandroids song as any song that ever was and serves as sort of an origin story of a band that started in rural Canada before calling Vancouver home and later splitting time in Vancouver and New Orleans.

It’s also a carpe diem mission statement about acknowledging your dreams and being bold enough to attempt to realize them
The next song, “North South East West” manages to sound like “Ain’t that America” and “When You Were Young” but still be completely awesome despite some serious mawkishness and corny lyrics. They actually  shout N-O-L-A, USA at one point, and I don’t hate it. This is definitely the Japandroids’ road album, and it’s fun to hear a couple of Canucks grapple with the immensity of the North American continent.

“True Love and a Life of Free Will” is a pretty wonderful, understated song about two wild people finding a love that works for them and the adorably titled”I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)” sounds like a throwback to 2009.

“Arc of Bar” is a slow-burning, seven-minute epic that features electronic textures and crescendos to a gospel conclusion. It’s very different, but it’s still very easy to pick out the shimmering, chugging guitar in the background and feel like you’re in familiar territory.

The album is very heavy on  King, but “Midnight to Morning” gives Prowse a chance to handle lead vocals, and he does a great job. It’s got a fantastic, roaring guitar texture that makes its four-minute-plus running time seem completely justified.

“No Known Drink or Drug” has a real “Evil’s Sway” vibe, but with “sha-la-la” backing vocals that I don’t think I’ve heard before. It also further drives home what a love letter the whole album is to the American South, specifically New Orleans. The lyrics, “We ward off the weather with a witch’s brew of dominoes and prose and Delta Blues,” really make their past Gun Club cover make a lot more sense.

The album closes with “In a Body Like a Grave”, which brings Japandroids to a perfect 3-3 on album closers. It boasts an uncharacteristic jangly guitar that contrasts nicely with what is otherwise a meditation on the way life beats a series of imperfections into our being until we die and the way every pleasure can also hurt.

Religion, school, your hometown, love, simply living and even the life-giving sun are all painted as omnipresent, utterly necessary evils that rob us of our innate mint condition. 

 I really and truly cannot imagine any other band describing life as basically a slow demise in a flesh prison with such conviction and feeling as to actually  make the universal sentiment an affirmation. “It’s all in a lifetime and all in a body like a grave” should be the most fatalist, yet wonderful chorus of the year as long as Titus Andronicus don’t have a new album in the works.

This is super accessible, slightly weird Japandroids, but thoroughly excellent. If I had to rank each of their eight-track-long releases, I’d slide it right between Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock with it trailing the latter by just a hair.

 

January 6, 2017 / bloggenstatt

Let’s be Frank: ranking my favorite musical Franks

Last week, when discussing my favorite albums of the year with a co-worker, the topic of the new Frank Ocean album came up.

I admitted to never being much of a fan, but said I appreciated my opinion was in the minority and I had even come around to liking a few songs. I also mentioned that in my opinion, Frankie Cosmos had the stronger 2016 release.

This planted a seed in my mind that’s been germinating ever since: There are a disproportionate number of

musical Franks. For a name that’s often shorthand for working class, an awful number of people named Frank or Frankie have hit it big in the music industry.

Everything is better in unresearched listicle format, so here is my (F)ranking  of musical Franks.

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“I came in at No.6!”

Frank Sinatra

Maybe sacrilege to have him in dead last, but this is my list, and I’ve never found the Rat Pack as charming as other people do. Also, it irks me that a bunch of misogynist drunks with ties to organized crime have somehow become the de facto soundtrack for ‘classy’ events. If I have to put on a suit and tie for an event, I can be almost certain I’ll here Frank Sinatra. Ain’t that a kick in the head.

Frank from the movie “Frank”

The title character from this short, weird and funny movie that pokes fun at common tropes in indie and underground music was actually not all that interesting. Michael Fassbender imbued the oddball character with a certain level of gravity that otherwise would’ve been missing, but other than some funny non-sequitors, there wasn’t much to the character beyond a hysterical Papier-mâché head. However, Maggie Gyllenhall kills it in a supporting roll, and Domhnall Gleeson is excellent.

Frank Ocean

I really appreciate how awesome it is for an extremely influential R&B artist to be a young, non-heterosexual male. That Odd Future Wolf Gang Attack Kill Them All was Frank’s springboard to stardom makes the whole thing extra awesome, but I just don’t find his music all that compelling.

Frankie Rose

Frankie Rose. Frankie gotdang Rose. I feel like she isn’t even the highest profile female Frankie currently making indie music, but she definitely should be. She was an original member of Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls, and she made two rock-solid solo records. I’m particularly fond of 2013’s Herein Wild.

Frankie Cosmos

I know I just said Frankie Rose deserves to be more famous. This was an incredibly tough decision. This is especially true since I liked, not loved,  2016’s Next Thing and am mostly lukewarm on most of Greta Kline’s other albums. With that said, I’ve listened to Zentropy in its entirety at least 50 times. It’s one of my most-listened to albums ever. It’s the right blend of breezy indie pop, garage rock and so, so many hooks. A handful of likable releases and one slice of punchy, short and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny perfection is enough to elevate someone to the upper echelon of Franks.

Frank Zappa

Zappa might be my parents’ all-time favorite recording artist, and it’s a pretty defensible position. He was a savant-level musician, an independent force for absurdity and put on a heck of a live show. Rude, lewd but n

ever crude, Zappa managed to make a brand of very jazzy music with lots of guitar music that was actually enjoyable. He also featured prominently into the creation of some career-making albums for Captain  Beefheart and Alice Cooper.

Frank Black

If you’re the lead vocalist and principle songwriter for The Pixes, you’re the best Frank. It doesn’t matter if your solo albums are almost completely inessential. Your bestial, unhinged yowls make”Debaser”. And on “Vamos” you showed you could even do it in Spanish. Frank Black, sometimes known as Black Francis, could sing about almost anything and create a seminal alternative rock song. Some topics he managed to make into classics:  A girl named after a fabric, aliens, underwater guys,  rice, beans and horse’s lard. This is the greatest Frank in music.

December 31, 2016 / bloggenstatt

My favorite albums of 2016

There was an awful lot of music I liked this year, but not a lot of complete albums that I loved.

Even as someone who is totally nonplussed by Raidohead and can’t seem to find the appeal of Queen Bey, this was a great year for music.It seemed like there were always several good albums to parse through every month, and it was easy to do because the music was quality and there weren’t many totally transcendent albums taking up my time with repeat listens.

It took a lot of thought and pointless delineation for me to figure out which albums I would name as my favorite of the year, but the cream and the chafe must be separated, and I want to crank this list out while it’s still 2016, dammit.  So, here they are in descending order. I know it takes away some drama, but why bury the lead? If you want to stop reading by No.6 or so, it’s fine, I understand.

1. Car Seat Headrest-Teens of Denial

This was one of the few albums I got hung up on this year, and  I can’t tell if it’s because I’m a sucker for hooks and derivative guitar rock, or if it’s because it was such a sprawling statement of disaffection that it took me a while to digest it all, but I do love it. The lyrics are funny without being totally detached, Will Toledo sounds like the exact middle ground between Ray Davies and Julian Casablancas and every version of guitar-driven indie rock is represented on this sprawling album.

2. Angel Olsen-My Woman

The interesting folkie from Asheville, N.C. with the distinctive voice made a truly great album. “Shut Up and Kiss Me” alone justifies the album’s existence, but it’s joined by eight other excellent songs(“Intern” is fine, but vestigial. On a hip-hop album it’d be “Intern (Intro)”). I’d even argue “Give It Up” and “Not Gonna Kill You” are event better than “Shut Up…”. While I’m particularly keen on the album’s tighter, rocking first half, but the more ethereal, ambient second half is great too, and it includes the album’s emotional center, “Sister”, which clocks in at seven minutes and change

3. Kanye West- “The Life of Pablo”

West’s slightest and sloppiest offering since 2007’s Graduation is excellent. Production, as always, was immaculate, and “Real Friends” and “Wolves” are some of the most emotionally stirring work Kanye has done. TLOP wasn’t a grand statement like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and it contained a variety of sounds that kept in from having the cohesion granted by Yeezus’ uniformly abrasive texture. This album has been accused of feeling like a greatest hits compilation because of that lack of a through line. But in the same way you can be conditioned by a mix tape to sequentially connect two totally unrelated songs, eventually the album’s structure feels surprisingly comfortable. It easily stands among the year’s best releases.

4.G.L.O.S.S-Day of Trans Revenge

An absolutely furious onslaught of frenzied hardcore couldn’t be more topical. It’s scant run time barely exceeds seven minutes, but that’s just the right amount of profane rage to take in at one time. This is as loud, fast and vicious as you could ever want punk to be.

5.Martha-Blisters in the Pit of My Heart

I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone be as high on this album or heard someone gush about it the way I’m about to. This is without a doubt the catchiest collection of songs I heard all year. It is absolute bubblegum power pop, and that’s OK because it’s executed to perfection. Every song has at least one hook that burrows deep into your brain before re-emerging as a half-hummed melody days later.

(Tie)6. Chance the Rapper- Coloring Book/ Noname-Telefone

Gypsy first popped up on my radar during her excellent verse on Chance’s Acid Rap track “Lost”, so it felt right to have them tie for this spot. The classic backpack-sounding beats on Noname’s album are intensely comforting and perfectly compliment the dense, monotone and slightly cerebral rhymes that Telefone has in spades. Coloring Book is the sort of joyous explosion that only Chance could pull off. Both are tremendous works. It was a big of a letdown after Acid Rap, but “No Problems” is  a hell of a song, and if it leads to a joyful, vaguely psychedelic movement in hip-hop, I’d be pretty happy.

8.Mitski-Puberty 2

This is a quarter life crisis captured in a recording studio. In the same way Coloring Book could only come from Chano, I couldn’t imagine anyone else making dour expressions of self-doubt and existentialism seem so funny and fun. For me, this album is at its best when Mitski bangs out slightly abrasive pop-rockers. “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” and “A Loving Feeling” are two of my favorite songs from this year.

9.Kaytranada-99.9%

This is everything I loved about Settle by Disclosure, including an AlunaGeorge feature. This album is a little stranger and much funkier. I can only listen to it in the car if the speed limit is 55 MPH or higher.

(Tie) 10. Bon Iver- 22, A Million/ Katie Dey-Flood Network

Both of these albums are deeply weird, spacey works by interesting and supremely talented singer songwriters, both of them include songs with inscrutable titles and both are among this year’s absolute best music releases.

 

 

 

 

 

December 18, 2016 / bloggenstatt

At least the music didn’t suck this year

The idea that 2016 sucked is a full-blown meme at this point, but the sentiment makes a lot of sense.
Terror attacks devastated Paris and Orlando, civilian children are being killed daily in Aleppo and the U.S. presidential election was a mean-spirited wallow in tribal politics even before it became apparent it was heavily influenced by foreign governments and fake news.
The music world didn’t offer much respite. Quite a few brilliant artists were lost this year, including David Bowie, Phife Dog, Sharon Jones and Leonard Cohen.

Music junkies around the world suffered a kick to the ribs that mostly flew under the radar.

In late November, invite-only music sharing website What.CD came to an end after a server was raided by authorities. Over nearly a decade of existence, What.CD had become the standard-bearer for music trackers, and in the wake of its demise, a lot of former users wondered if it had hosted the most expansive and meticulously mapped library of music ever collected.

Safe to say no one is going to pull a young Jeff Tweedy and demand to have their memories of 2016 restored.

On a positive note, the strength of the music released this year offers quite a bit of redemption for 2016.

In my opinion the year lacked an obvious standout album, but there were so, so many good albums that came out this year I can’t really gripe.

This year, rap was dependably kept loopy, which for me is a huge positive. Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, A$AP Ferg and Danny Brown all put out inventive, great albums. Even Top 40 radio got in on the act as DRAM and Lil Yachty collaborated for one of the year’s biggest singles and featured a red, plastic recorder in the music video.

If you emotionally earnest rock music is more to your liking, 2016 offered an embarrassment of riches. Just like every modern comedy seems to include a painful undercurrent of loss and regret or at least a sad subplot, catharsis or an appeal to pathos seems to be a necessary part of modern rock music.

Martha, PUP,  American Football The Hotelier and Modern Baseball all revived various emo sensibilities to thoroughly enjoyable effects. (I didn’t skip Joyce Manor, their release just wasn’t particularly good).

Angel Olsen, Mitski and Car Seat Headrest both put out albums including a ton of personal detail and incredibly quotable lyrics. A Giant Dog mixed an appetite for destruction with observations about aging out of a scene. Jeff Rosenstock put out a 17-song punk opus called Worry.

While normally R&B is a bit of a blind spot for me, there were some brilliant releases in 2016 grabbed my attention.The  sisters Knowles–Solange and Beyoncé– both put out excellent, charged albums, Blood Orange’s latest offering was superb and while I still don’t really get Frank Ocean, there were definitely songs on Blonde even I realized were excellent.

While this year’s disappointments were so large that they cast the immediate global future in an anxious shadow of uncertainty, the steep decline of Western Civilization sounded as good as ever.

December 14, 2016 / bloggenstatt

My favorite songs of 2016

I have been woefully negligent of this website, and while it pains me to disappoint my three regular readers, I’ve been busy, injured, the down arrow on my keyboard doesn’t work and there haven’t been many releases I’ve felt positively compelled to write about.

However, I thought it would be worth recording my thoughts on my favorite songs of the year, and since I’ve been so derelict in my blogging duties, I’m going to run down my 40 favorite tracks from 2016.

These aren’t going to be particularly deep insights, but here they are along with the required Spotify playlist in no particular order.

  • “Have You Ever?”- Twin Peaks

    This is probably my most listened to song of the year. It’s a perfect homage to ’60s rock while also being shout-along barroom perfection.

  • “Real Friends”-Kanye West

    The non-Chris Rock parts of “Blame Game” are my favorite Kanye song. Introspective Kanye is best Kanye,

  • “You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit”-Tacocat

    A funny, insightful and ridiculously catchy song about an unexpected breakout and the anti-climax of not getting to exercise any righteous fury.

  • “Sex & Drugs”-A Giant Dog

    The jauntiest tune on a lively, awesome rock album filled with them. Naturally, the very next track is titled “& Rock & Roll”.

  • “Oh Sarah”-Sturgill Simpson

    This song embodies everything that was awesome about Simpson’s self-produces, excellent psych-country album from this year. “Oh Sarah” is sweet, it’s deeply personal, Simpson’s voice sounds fantastic and the instrumentation is varied in a way that is simply absent from a lot of modern country.

  • “Fool”-Frankie Cosmos

    I always forget she’s Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cate’s daughter, but always remember she’s an expert at crafting quirky, wonderful guitar-driven pop.

  • “Cherry”-Chromatics

    I involuntarily head bob when I hear this song. It hasn’t happened in public yet, thankfully.

  • “Back Into It”-Islands

    My dad injured is back in a severe car accident this year, haven’t gotten around to showing him this song, which is simple joy of a rock song.

  • “Unforgiving Girl(She’s Not)”-Car Seat Headrest

    Teens of Denial was not a lean, taut effort, and this is often cited as one of it’s shaggiest and expendable songs.  I love its improvised vibe, call-and-response lyrics and  varied styles. It sounds like live rock music.

  • “Door”-Nice As Fuck

    Drums, bass and Jenny Lewis come together for an excellent piece of post-punk dance music.

  • “Piano Player” The Hotelier

    Don’t judge an album by its cover, these songs are equally appealing as Goodness‘ NSFW cover art was repellent.

  • “Vroom Vroom” Charli XCX

    This song has some of the corniest white girl rapping this side of Fergie, but Charli kills the hook as she’s wont to do, and the SOPHIE production gives her both some of the sweetest and most aggro music she’s ever worked with.

  • “No Matter Where We Go”-Whitney

    I was a big fan of the Smith Westerns up to their third album and was sad when they disbanded. This whispy, summery rock scratched an itch I thought was here to stay.

  • “Strive”-A$AP Ferg

    I’d take Ferg over Rocky any day.

  • “(Girl we Got A” Good Thing”-Weezer

    The best song on Weezer’s best album in  more than a decade is a beach-ready ode to a promising relationship just starting to bloom. It’s a Blue Album type song with some Maladroit-esque guitar shredding and melody changes reminiscent of Pinkerton. Just a phenomenal track.

  • “Can’t Get Enough of Myself (Feat. B.C.)-Santigold

    In my perfect world, this song would’ve dominated Top 40 radio in spring.

  • “Audrey’s Dance”-Xiu Xiu

    I once saw Xiu Xiu open for Swans. For some reason, it was just a buff silver fox type and a machine that made pulsating sounds. This is much better

  • “We The People…”-A Tribe Called Quest

    RIP Phife Dog. Q-Tip’s flow has always been one of my favorites.

  • “Big Body”- ScHoolboy Q

    Blank Face had a lot of dark moments, but oddly the Tyler, The Creator-produced song was the party jam with a Dogg Pound feature.

  • “Learn in School”-Muncie Girls

    This is a damn fine self-empowerment punk anthem about carving your own path.

  • “Ice Cream and Sunscreen”-Martha

    It’s clear from the opening guitar strums this song is an ascendant bottle rocket destined to explode, but it is still so very satisfying when it does.

  • “To Be A Ghost”-Jeff Rosenstock

    I love that a kiss off to the internet includes a gut-punching lyric about police brutality. That a song this incredibly cynical has a soaring chorus is a testament to the weird lane in which Rosenstock operates very proficiently.

  • “Lump Street”-Frightened Rabbit

    Icy synthesizer backs much of this depressing look at a pair of ragged, impoverished lovers. Cancer and violence metaphors abound. Still, things finish with a triumphant sprint celebrating flourishing love despite a total lack of nourishment from the environment.

  • “Have a Heart”-Cymbals Eat Guitar

    Remember that catchy Goteye song? What if it was about a lifetime of personal shortcomings before finding love and becoming a better person? Listen and find out.

  • “Casket Pretty”-Noname

    This already sounds classic.

  • “Pain”-LVL UP

    Tell your friends it’s Neutral Milk Hotel, and they’ll probably believe you.

  • “Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams”-Camp Cope

    A pitch black comedy of a song about a woman disillusioned by sexism becoming a conspiracy nut.

  • “Fear O The Light”-Katie Dey

    A woozy cacophony, lots of reverb and chipmunk vocals somehow make a very compelling pop song.

  • “Here in Spirit”-Jim James

    I’ve never been a big My Morning Jacket song, but James’ newest solo album struck a chord. This song’s piano and hip-hop drumbeat particularly got a hold of me.

  • “Home”-Common

    Wish I could tell 14 year old me that both Common and Weezer would one day put out quality albums in the same year. This is the most engaged Common has sounded in years, and the beats are gorgeous.

  • “Come Down”-Anderson.Paak

    This puts the jam in “James Brown pastiche”.

  • “Dumb Baby”-The Coathangers

    This sparse punk number simply rocks. Like the rest of  the one-time The Black Lips sister band’s 2016 release was thoroughly enjoyable, and for me this was the stand out track.

  • “No Problem(Feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz)”-Chance The Rapper

    It just sounds like Chano has fun making music.  A great chorus and interesting guest spots from Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz make this one of the most memorable songs of the year.

  • “Trying to Lose Myself Again”-Bleached

    Just a gnarly rocker from the band I like to imagine as what would happen if HAIM spent time in the Thunder Dome instead of California.

  • “Ready for the Magic”-Honeyblood

    If you like Bleached and the Coathangers, you’ll like Honeyblood.

  • “Ivy”Frank Ocean

    I didn’t appreciate this hazy, perfect crooning about growing old and growing apart until I listened to the Katie Dey album. Somehow it calibrated things just right and made me open to a shoegaze R&B marriage.

  • “Patriot”-Crying

    Chiptune and cheesy, ’80s guitar licks are somehow a perfect match. Haven’t seen this hyped anywhere outside of Stereogum, where this album was super revered for some reason.

  • “A 1000 Times”-Hamilton Leithauser+Rostam

    If the Walkmen had covered the old folk tune “500 Miles” made famous by Perter, Paul & Mary it would sound a ton like that. I mean that in a really good way. Plus, Leithauser’s voice sounds great.

  • “Gamma Kinfe”-King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

    Including  cut off of an infinitely looping concept album was pretty difficult. If thise sounds good to you, listen to the whole thing.

  • “A Loving Feeling”-Mitski

    I now realize how badly I need a Mitski version of 69 Love Songs. Her hilarious and profoundly sad take on love, lust and relationship power dynamics is 92 seconds of absolute bliss.

November 5, 2016 / bloggenstatt

I is for Iggy Pop, the Isley Brothers and Islands. I is not for I Break Horses.

It took several minutes of searching through the back end of this website to figure out what letter this project had stalled out on. When I saw it was I, there was an audible, “Blech”.There’s less than a dozen bands whose names start with I on my iPod, and most of them are not particularly great.

Still, I was able to identify two all-time great I acts and one rock solid contemporary band.

Since the last entry in this series, I’ve substantially re-jiggered the site’s format. Despite the bold new look, expect the same average content.

Iggy Pop

With The Stooges, the man born Jim Osterberg Jr. was the front man on a pair of absolute classics: the seminal Raw Power and the savagely unhinged Fun House.

As a solo act, his record was more spotty, and he was always better with some type of counter balance. His David Bowie collaborations, Lust for Life and The Idiot are both Hall of Very Good albums and contain some absolutely classic songs.

A Million in Prizes: The Anthology is maybe the best way to suss through Pop’s later solo work. I wouldn’t describe any of the albums as essential, but there’s always a worthwhile song or two.

Pop has had surprising longevity for a self-mutilating former heroin addict, and the relatively recently released Post Pop Depression, a collaboration with desert rock guru Josh Homme, is not only good, it’s very interesting.

The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers are a little bit out of my wheelhouse, which definitely skews toward rockist or contemporary hip-hop, but I’ve always loved them.

I mean, they wrote “Shout”. That’s probably a strong enough justification for including them in this entry, but that’s far from their only classic song.

“That Lady”, “It’s Your Thing”, “Pop That Thang” and their version of “Twist and Shout” are all instantly recognizable.

One of the remarkable things about The Isley Brothers is the variety in their music. There’s strands of R&B, funk, soul and rock in their oeuvre.

By virtue of the Isleys’ Jim Hendrix connection and the guitar heroics of Ernie Isely, they’re an excellent stepping stone from classic rock to soul, funk and R&B.

I specifically remember being a child and hearing the extended version of “That Lady” on the radio, and immediately asking my father, “Who was that!?” To this day, I still absolutely adore the funky pop R& B song-space guitar shredding combination.

Islands

While this band primarily makes the cut because there’s a dearth of quality I bands, it’s a forced choice I can get behind.

I love Islands.Nicholas Thorburn and Co. make interesting, well-crafted, slightly weird indie rock and there’s always a place close to my heart reserved for such efforts.

This band rose from the ashes of The Unicorns, but managed and continue to be great in a way that entirely escapes the shadows of Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?

And they did it right out of the gate.

Return to The Sea, their 2006 debut, is Islands’ most evered album and probably their most essential. It’s critical darling bona fides were definitely boosted by featured collaborations with members of Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, but it deserves its reputation.

There was a middling stretch of good but not awe-inspiring releases, but I’ve been really on board with their recent work.

Both of the band’s 2016 albums are thoroughly enjoyable. Taste showed off a previously hinted at range encompassing electronic-tinged music, but of course I much preferred the rock-oriented Should I Remain Here, at Sea? 

“Back to It” might be my favorite side-one track-one of 2016. It’s perfect guitar pop and perfectly encapsulates how good this band is at it’s best.

I Break Horses

Not having many I bands on my iPod meant there weren’t many bad ones to choose from. It was either this or It Hugs Back.

They’re really not bad, just kind of boring for me. I think I got a hold of their album Hearts around the same time Dale Eernhardt Jr. Jr. was still a buzz band on the rise.

For what it’s worth, the infallible MetaCritic shows I Break Horses have a career score of 71 over a two-album career, so I’m probably wrong.

 

October 28, 2016 / bloggenstatt

P_oblematic: Three great songs that could’ve skipped the R-word

While running this morning–I know, I hate myself too–I was listening to The Exploding Hearts, and was caught off guard by the lyrics of one of my favorite tracks, “Sleeping Aides and Razorblades”.

“You know the first time you left me, babe it was so hard and it didn’t hurt that you told all my friends I’m a retard”

The whole song is a jaunty comic depiction of an off-again-on-again relationship and uses suicidal references for levity so it’s beyond obvious that “retarded” isn’t being used in a genuinely hateful way, but it’s tough to imagine the lyrics being penned in 2016.

However it occurred to me The Exploding Hearts aren’t the only band I love to flippantly include the R-word in an otherwise excellent song. Some are more defensible than others but really “retard” isn’t really integral to either “Sleeping Aides…” or these other songs.

“How Am I Not Myself” by The Shocking Pinks

In 2007, four years  after The Exploding Hearts put out the classic Guitar Romantic, The Shocking Pinks–a buzzy, one-man-band signed to DFA–released an incredible, self-titeld record.

That record includes some wonderful, emotive songs including the heavy-lidded pop of “This Aching Deal” and the utterly perfect “Second Hand Girl”.

Sandwiched in between those songs is “How Am I Not Myself?” which is a premium slice of Sad Bastard Music.

The song is pretty much an outpouring of depressing sentiment and imagery, so it’s not totally surprising when a really depressing relation dynamic is described as follows:

I love you when you’re happy/I love you when you’re sad/But I’d rather be a retard babe than be your motherfuckin’ dad

It’s an ugly sentiment in a song that’s lyrically the seeping ooze pumping out of a deep wound so it doesn’t seem out of place, just wholly unnecessary.

“Famine Affair” by of Montreal

Improbably of Montreal have been a thing for two decades. They began as a twee-indie-pop band with bizarre concept albums as likely to contain radio serial skits and character studies as songs about love.

Around 2004, things started to pick up a funky, electronic edge and glam influences crept in. Generally, this has been for the better, and it produced the masterful Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

All those influences are present and accounted for on the excellent “Famine Affair” off of 2010’s often overlooked False Priest, but since it’s included in the post you can guess what else is included–the word retard.

In what’s quickly becoming a theme for this list, the song is about a toxic relationship ending in entirely foreseeable disaster with Kevin Barnes singing about flying toward tragedy in a glass bottom airplane. But the next lines have always seemed to need more context.

Looping like a retard/Are you still playing the race card?

They basically work as a couplet in context of the song, so there’s really no reason the whole thing couldn’t have been scrapped from what is otherwise my all-time favorite breakup song for triumphant disco and Woody Allen reference reasons.

Honorable mention to: Jay Reatard and “Mongoloid” by Devo.