I love Canada. I really do. I grew up in Seattle so Vancouver being only a few hours away, it became a haven of chaos for my friends and I in our younger years. Mostly because the drinking age is 19, which I think is a good thing. Kids are gonna drink. Might as well have them drinking comfortably and legally in a bar, rather than in a park where they could be raped and or stabbed by a hobo. Come to think of it the drinking thing isn’t the only forward thinking they have going on up there. The government is moving toward legalizing and taxing pot. They also legalized same sex marriage nationwide in 2005. Sure we here stateside call Canada “America’s Hat” but to me that isn’t an insult. If they are “America’s Hat”, they’re a super fly lid that Don the Magic Juan would wear while he has fine ladies hanging off of him.
Not only are they up with the times socially, but their music lately has been pretty great. No longer is Canada the butt of every alt-rock joke. They’re separating themselves from the Avril Lavine’s and Chad Kroger’s of yesteryear.
SIDE BAR: Don’t send me an email to point out that both Nickleback and Avril Lavigne have sold shit loads of records. In a past article I took a jab at Katy Perry and someone sent me an email pointing out her millions in sales. You think I don’t know she’s sold oodles of albums? My point here is, no one who bought a Nickelback t-shirt back in the day is all that pumped to own it now. No one I know is still jamming This is How You Remind Me, unless they are being “ironic”. He’s a message to those people listening to Nickleback ironically. STOP
Back to the article, this week’s AOTW is one of the many new bands coming out of Canada that not only doesn’t suck, but they’re making rock music that’s interesting and fun. Hopefully these guys become as godlike as their name implies. This week’s ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Zeus.
Here’s the single How Does It Feel? off of their debut album Say Us.
Normally I’m not that big on music videos, but this one’s inclusion of ninjas won me over. I love ninjas. If you don’t love ninjas…what is your problem? Get on bored with the rest of the ninja lovers like me.
The band formed in 2009 by childhood friends Mike O’Brien and Carlin Nicholson. They had been bouncing around different bands in Toronto for years and decided to hook up and make the music they had always wanted to. They enlisted their two buddies Neil Quin and Rob Drake. They came upon the band name when the first venue they played needed a name to put on the marquee. Why not Zeus?
After a while they began releasing EPs. The first of which was titled Sounds Like Zeus from 2009 with Say Yes following soon after. The best way I can describe their sound is if you took elements of Dr. Dog, The Sheepdogs, and Teeth, and gave them a 70’s flare. The vocals are Doobie Brothers-esque and I love it. This next track is called Renegade.
After heavy touring heavily in the Great White North, the U.S. and overseas, they began releasing a series of 7” singles with the label Arts & Crafts. My favorite of which has a title that I find myself asking people everyday; Are You Gonna Waste My Time?
This year they released their second full-length album titled Busting Visions. It’s 21 songs of pure indie-rock gold. The sound is bigger and richer this time around. I can honestly say this might be my favorite album of the year currently. I can’t stop listening to With Eyes Closed.
Check these fellas out. They are up in Canada touring currently, so if any of you are up in those areas, I highly suggest checking them out. These dudes are impressive, artful musicians that are highly skilled. Thanks again Canada. You’ve got my full attention now so please keep the good tunes coming.
I’m sitting here writing this on Thursday morning, literally barely able to contain myself. Today is a day that has been 14 years in the making. For tonight, I am going to witness a performance by two of my idols. I will be within a few feet of these dudes! IT’S HAPPENING!!!! Am I getting across that I am fucking pumped? The two men I will be seeing tonight changed my life. To be honest I never thought this moment was going to happen. With the way hip-hop was trending in the 90’s, I figured at least one of them would be dead by this point, or at the very least in jail. But things have fallen in my favor. I will finally see the two rappers that made my love of hip-hop reach epic heights. I love them separately sure, but it is the collaborationsbetween that two that melted my young mind. This week’s ARTIST OF THE WEEK: REDMAN & METHOD MAN!!!!
Method Man got his start with The Wu Tang Clan back in 1992 when they released their groundbreaking album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The other week I was talking with my buddy Quinn about this record and the first time we had heard it. We both recall not really knowing what the fuck was going on. I mean, at 11 years old I heard the line from Method:
I mean oh, you check out the flow
like the Hudson or PCP when I’m dusting
Niggaz off because I’m hot like sauce
The smoke from the lyrical blunt makes me. (cough)
I literally had no clue what the hell he was talking about, but the beats and the aggression had me on board from the get go. I started following Meth’s solo stuff picking up Tical (1994) and when I first heard All I Need, I knew then and there I had found my dude. This was my favorite rapper. There was no question, his flow, voice, and rhyming schemes. I dug it all. It was fun. When I listened to it, I felt like I was included in this different world. I felt cool. I was down like four flat tires with this shit.
In the 7th grade I got my first taste of Redman when my buddy Nick Harris Gave me a copy of 2pac’s All Eyez On Me (1996), on the track Got My Mind Made Up. The song featured, Pac, Dat Nigga Daz, Kurupt, Redman, and of course Method Man.
This was the first of many Redman and Method Man collaborations. The two hit it off. So began a steady outpouring of songs from the duo, each appearing on one another’s albums. Starting of with their track Do What Ya Feel on Redman’s Muddy Waters (1996).
This was then followed with Redman appearing on Meth’s album Tical 2000: Judgement Day (1998) titled Big Dogs.
This song would also appear on their collaboration culmination. An album I put up on high with Ready to Die. It’s Red and Method’s Blackout! (1999). This album blew my immature mind. It was rap punk rock. Two dudes wildn’ out like there was no tomorrow. The very first track floors you and the rest of the record gets you movin’ on said floor. It’s loud, it’s fun, it’s fucking rad. Here’s the first track. The title track no less. Blackout!
I can’t get enough of that beat. Da, da, da, da, dum, de, dum TO MAKE YALL FEEL THAT! Man, I have flashbacks every fucking time I listen to this record. In junior high holding the disc man flat on the bus ride to school, with the anti-skip on. Sure that shit drains the battery, but it’s a must have. Can’t have these tracks jumpin’. No way, no how.
This album had it all. Banger tracks like the chaotic party Tear it Off
To the dark and venomous Cereal Killer
The duo went relatively quite musically after the release of Blackout! They did songs together here and there, but biggest pairing we got from them was the film How High and the TV show Method & Red.
The producer of this movie came to talk at my college way back when. I told her it was one of my favorite movies of all time. Pretty sure she thought I was fucking with her. The harder I stressed the fact that I wasn’t joking at all, the more she was offended. What are you gonna do? Some people just don’t know how to take a damn compliment.
Finally, ten years later, they released the sequel to their audio masterpiece, Blackout! 2 (2009). While I love this record, it’s missing some of the frenetic energy that was on the first album. I mean I can’t blame them. They are ten years older. Sensibilities change, but the kid in me just wanted them to come back and blow faces off. Not to say that some songs don’t do exactly that. The killer bass on the opening track I’m Dope Nigga certainly will. But my favorite is the late night cruiser jam, City Lights.
I’ve been waiting for this night for a really long time. Hopefully I can come on the podcast next week and gush about how awesome it was. My fingers are crossed. I’m breaking a cardinal rule about going to see ones heroes here I think. So what though? This show isn’t for me now. This is for 12 year old Kelly back in 1999, boppin’ his head with his big Labtech headphones, in the back of Mom’s Volvo. If I could talk to that dude, I’d tell him, “don’t worry man, you’ll get there one day.” Today is that day.
I don’t sleep a whole lot. I think I’ve brought that up here before. I don’t know what the deal is. As soon as the lights go out and I’m alone in the dark, my brain starts running on high. I guess I just don’t have the ability to naturally turn off. Sometimes music helps. The trouble is you gotta find the right tracks or you might find yourself worse off than when you started. Nothing like a drawn out Bob Dylan track to get you thinking on shit you don’t fully understand. Next thing you know it’s 4AM and you are starring at the ceiling trying to figure out “who you are”. You gotta find the sweet spot. Few artists are in that sweet spot. This week’s legend is one of the few that help me out as sleep eludes. This week ARTIST OF THE WEEK: LEGEND is Lead Belly aka Leadbelly. The spelling has been up for debate for some time. I think it’s that analog white noise hiss that gets me. Something about it gets me to slow down. I love that hiss. It’s comforting like nothing else I know. Good Night Irene is in heavy rotation come night night time.
Born in January of 1888 Lead Belly (Huddie William Ledbetter) spent much of his early life in the racially segregated South. The post Civil War South is a region that I find infinitely fascinating. While life was terrible for many, it was a time where one could get lost entirely. If you were in downfall, from the stories I’ve read, it seems you could really disappear. That’s the thing about the rambling lifestyle that’s always appealed to me. One minute you’re playing harmonica outside of New Orleans, poor as all get out, then after a quick rail ride, you’re sweeping out front of a record store in Chicago for studio time. Sure it isn’t the most stable career path, but damnit if the idea of being able to mix it up every few months isn’t appealing. There is no lock-down. Anything is possible.
This lifestyle was not lost on Lead Belly. The man was a wildcard. Sure he attempted to live the straight and narrow for the first twenty or so years of his life, but then he got squirrelly. Was busted for carrying a pistol in 1915, was sent away again in 1918 for killing a man. He ended up back in jail in 1930 for attempted homicide and then again in 1938 for stabbing a guy. It was during one of these several stints in jail when he was discovered by John and Alan Lomax. They recorded him for the Library of Congress while he s was still incarcerated in 1934. The songs included:
Midnight Special, Gwine Dig a Hole to Put the Devil In, Let It Shine on Me, The Titanic, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,Go Down Old Hannah.
The Lomax boys found Lead Belly to be a great resource for the songs of the South. Not only was his catalogue of southern folk and gospel astounding but the guy could play nearly every instrument he got his hands on. Sure he was noted for the 12-String guitar, but he also had his way with the 6-String, harp, mandolin, and accordion.
Later in life Lead Belly began touring with Alan Lomax. Alan would speak about his travels throughout the South, Lead Belly would play the classics. Introducing thousands to a sound they would have never known. Lead Belly became renowned as a premiere folk musician. Prior to his first European tour in 1949 he was diagnosed with ALS. His health rapidly declined and he died later that year.
I got into Lead Belly after hearing his songs cover by my favorite artists. The most famous of these covers was featured in MTV’s Nirvana Unplugged as Nirvana and members of the Meat Puppets played Where Did You Sleep Last Night. The song is haunting.
Cobain even talks of trying to convince David Geffen to buy him one of Lead Belly’s guitars.
I love Lead Belly. His life was crazy and at times violent, yet his voice and music soothe me, when I need to be soothed. It’s my comfort. I wish more music could accomplish what Lead Belly does. Check him out. You’ll love it.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, let me be the first to tell you that Daft Punk has a new album called Random Access Memories. It’s pretty damn good. The French dudes/ Robots have gone in a different direction, and it’s fun and funky. The past albums have been raucous electronic furies that have inspired many a drunken dance parties, I’m sure this record will do the same but in a more subtle way. Throw back jam style. I’m not gonna talk about the Punk Robots today though. The blogosphere has been overrun with news on them in the past few weeks. Not to say that I don’t think they deserve the attention. Quiet the contrary. I spent many a sleepless nights with headphones strapped to my head, writing, editing, or playing Halo 3 to these guys. Sure Halo 3 isn’t as productive as the other two options, but damnit if that Robot Rock doesn’t make the multiplayer experience that much crazier. While Daft Punk is the dopest, there are some fellow Frog electro cats that seem to have fallen by the wayside. This week’s ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Justice.
The Justice duo (Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosney) blasted onto the scene with the award winning video for their hit single D.A.N.C.E.
I usually hate music videos. I HATE THEM. I don’t get why we need a visual component to music. The video is just fluff. And for sure this video is nothing but fluff, but this is some stylistic fluff. D.A.N.C.E. is the jam. After I heard these guys in college, they became regulars on every party playlist I put together. Their album Cross released in 2007 was the perfect thing to hold over until the release of the next Daft Punk record. These guys rage with the best of them. The album is through and through one of the best electronic records I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Every track builds to an exploding peak that puts the listener into an all out state of party. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Phantom Pt. II is also a must listen. Total face melter.
I’m generally pretty hesitant when it comes to electronic music. I don’t know why that is. I’ll get countless recommendations from people and ignore them. I ignore them because I find no reason to trust fans of electronic music. Most of them are fried to a point where they have no discernable taste whatsoever. Club drugs will have that effect on people. Justice stood out though. The reason being, they are flat-out rock stars. I realized that after watching their rock-doc A Cross The Universe. The whole damn thing is on Youtube. Watch it here. These guys are fucking crazy. This movie has everything, great tunes, great visuals, drinking, drugs, guns, partying, and sex. It also enlightened me of the fact that you can Fedex handguns to people. Who fucking knew?
They released an accompanying live soundtrack for this movie also titled A Cross The Universe. It seems weird for there to be a live album for an electronic band, but in all honesty it’s pretty sweet. Definitely worth checking out since most of the songs are remixed for the live show. It’s on Spotify for all to hear
Their follow up album Audio, Video, Disco was released in 2011. Not as rad as the first but it is still a super fun record. It just doesn’t have the aggression that was present on that first album. Doesn’t mean you can’t get down to it though, totally worth a spin. I really love the track Ohio. The vocals are nuts, and the accompanying piano is great.
After you get done listening to the new Daft Punk, revisit these guys. You won’t regret it at all. Throw the headphones on and get lost in your own dance party. Why not?
As you may have gathered from my subtle references in these articles, I like a good drink. Oh so often when there’s a good drink, second drink follows, and then possibly a third, and then the inevitable hangover. As I find myself getting older, my hangovers have gotten progressively worse. Progressively and epically worse. I went from shaking them off with a glass of water and an Advil, to lying in bed for twelve hours in the dark with a long sock tied around my eyes. The sock sounds weird but the reality of the situation is I really need it to block out the light. Usually during these situations, I’ll have Velvet Underground playing. A guy in pain listening to Velvet Underground in the dark is what you would call a cliché. But some times there’s nothing wrong with a cliché, especially if it works.
The problem is, you can only listen to Lou Reed talk/sing for so long before you start to think about killing yourself. I needed something that had the vibe of The Underground, but didn’t push me to suicidal tendencies. The band I found to take that position just released their first single last month. This week’s ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Casual Sex (The scottish guys. Not the guys from Finland)
Casual Sex is a foursome fronted by former Mother and the Addicts front man Sam Smith, with Peter Masson on bass, Edward Wood on Guitar, and Chris McCrory. These guys hail from Glasgow, Scotland. They mash together the sounds of post-punk and glam rock with a dusting of Clash like new wave into a mess that reeks of the best parts of the 80’s (the music, not the whole coke and no AIDS bit). This week marked the release of their first single for the Moshi Moshi singles club. That single is titled Stroh 80.
According to xworldmusic.com Sam Smith attests the song is “about being caught doing the nasty with your girlfriend’s pal in the aftermath of a drug party on the floor of a local occultist”.
The song ain’t bad for a debut single. It’s minimalist upbeat track with Smith’s Lou Reed sound-alike voice is in full effect. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song shows up in the next indie-darling movie that people can’t stop quoting. It’s that type of song.
The real trouble with a new band like this is there isn’t a whole lot of information or material for me to draw from. This is their first release on a label. Prior to that the band had only put out a few singles and EP’s. The song National Unity is a fun jam that actually reminds me more of the Mt. Saint Helen’s Vietnam Band than Velvet or the Clash. I couldn’t find the studio release on Youtube. You can check it out on Spotify. In the meantime here is a live version. The quality is shit, but you can get the just of it.
You know it’s a small show when the applause at the end sounds like there are fewer than eight people in the room. That’s including the band as well. I also can’t help but laugh at the guy who crosses right in front of the camera obscuring our pixilated view of the camera.
My very favorite track of theirs thus far is the Bowie style throw back Bastard Beat. IT’s stop go vocals and the simplistic drum and other worldly guitar make it an instant hit with my ears.
These guys only have a handful of songs out, there just isn’t a whole lot to pull from. What you need to do is add Stroh 80 to your rotation and await their upcoming album. The tracks out are slices of early 80’s heaven that will no doubt be the backing my next nauseated hangover battle. be on board with these guys early before the band wagon starts. Their SoundCloud has some stuff that you can really get down to. Check it.
You ever have that thing where you’re telling someone a story about an awesome BBQ place you just went to, and you go into exquisite details on the sauce, the smoky flavor of the ribs, the bacon infused baked beans, and the juiciness of the pulled pork; and they just let you gush on and on about this place you are so hyped about, only to tell you at the end of it all, “actually I’m a vegetarian, I can’t go there”?
Why the fuck do these people let me carry on for what feels like hours, only to shit all over the point moments later? The only reason I’m telling this person about this place is so I can get the word out on good BBQ and it will stay in business so that I can keep eating there.
My point here guys is this: just as I want people getting good into BBQ, I want people digging good music. I write about music here so I can get the word out on GOOD MUSIC. You readers don’t have the time or the energy to waste precious moments of your life reading about bad music. If I started writing about bad music it would be both insulting to you and me. It’s a waste of time. A fucking zero. This is why I have a bone to pick with SPIN.
SPIN’s online site has an ongoing article series titled, Worst New Music. They have what appears to be a staff of writers dedicating their time to writing pieces about stuff that they have deemed isn’t any good. This is a waste of bandwidth and time. If you don’t like an album, a lot of that has to do with your taste in music. When I don’t like something, I’m not going to waste a sentence let alone 5 paragraphs about why I don’t like it. Generally I leave my commentary on music I don’t like to, “it wasn’t for me”. I wish major magazines did the same. Hey SPIN, if you don’t like a band, ignore them. Don’t put up their photo and name on a heavily trafficked site. That gets their name out there. What does that achieve?
I bring this up because this week at the top of this section I found a band called Merchandise. Not only is Merchandise not the “worst new music” but they are actually quite good if their sound is your thing. Merchandise is weird, they’re trying something new, and at times they are really damn fun. Here’s a fuck you to the concept of having a WORST NEW MUSIC column. This week’s ARTIST OF THE WEEK: MERCHANDISE.
Merchandise is comprised of Carson Cox and Dave Vassalotti have been a DIY band for the past five years. They got their start together in high School playing in various hardcore and punk bands holding shows mostly in storage units on the outskirts of town. The punk/ hardcore sound slowly began to fall by the wayside as the band began experimenting with a more 80’s post punk/ proto rock after they began listening to more experimental artists like Jandek and Can.
This altered their initial thrash sound into what it has now become, a Smith’s-esque throw back that can get a crowd moving. Their latest EP Totale Nite really captures that English heartbreak rock era that I once loathed but have now embraced in my softie old age. Cox’s voice even carries that Morrissey accent. It’s kooky. Anxiety’s Door, the single off the record is really a fun track that if played early, will start your off morning right. I jammed to it on my drive in to work and I’ll be damned if it didn’t put me in a great mood.
I hear this song and I can picture my friend Mike rocking out to it a Karaoke night in the near future. He’ll go a little too hard, and the other bar patrons will get uncomfortable. I can’t wait.
The second track Who Are You? continues with the good vibes. It’s a heavily layered mix, lots of instruments going on, putting the listener into a certain haze. This song would fit perfectly in any movie where some guy takes his first hit ever, or has one drink too many, and the party starts to take a turn.
Prior to this most recent release, the band had been pumping out EPs and LPs through their website like it was no one’s business. All of which are still available for free download here
I started with their debut and just powered through them all. It’s interesting when a relatively small band has a bevy of material to sift through. Since they were so young when they started, you can really hear them changing things up as they themselves figure out exactly what they want to be.
Their first release Merchandise is miles away from Totale Nite. The record feels like you’re listening to a conversation between two people suffering from dementia. You really have no idea where things started, where they are going, and what the hell to make of it when it’s over. Songs come out of the gate sounding like ambient experimental rock and then divulge into an endless punk thrash. It’s weird. Their 7’ Es Muerte which came out a few years later shows this same confusion, they lost the experimental elements entirely and went full bore into noise rock. A poor man’s Sonic Youth of sorts.
By the time they released their first LP in 2012 titled Children of Desire, they had mellowed greatly. The drawn out feedback tones had been replaced by the melodic tinkling of a cheap keyboard. The screams had moved aside for reverberated lullabies. On the track Time they really find their sweet spot as they mix in elements of The Cure, The Smiths, and The Pet Shop boys. The video is really something else.
And before you guys go all high and mighty on me for mentioning the Pet Shop Boys in a positive light, let’s all slow down and revisit their song It’s A Sin. It’s crazy danceable and super creepy at the same time. They aren’t making music like this any more. I like this song completely un-ironically. Pass judgment if you still feel it necessary.
SPIN has them as the worst but thems strong words. Words I don’t agree with. There’s something here. They have a cool sound that no one else is trying and they are putting new stuff out CONSISTENTLY. Check them out. At the very least you’ll get a few new dancing jams for your 80’s themed parties. Get into it guys.
It took me a long time to find someone who could cut my hair right. In my early 20’s I avoided cuts like they were the plague. While in college my move was to throw a ragged Red Sox hat atop the ugly mop that cascaded from my skull to keep it out of sight and out of mind. It wasn’t until I started dating a hair dresser 10 years my senior did I realize that a good trim is a necessity to good hygiene. Undoubtedly this relationship soon went south.
Being a 22 year old jackass, I thought it would be totally okay to continue hitting her up for free haircuts. Why wouldn’t it be? Why wouldn’t she still be down to do me continuous favors after I left her high and dry with no good explanation? She couldn’t possibly be holding a grudge right?
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s how you unknowingly end up with a mullet.
I went in for my cut, she cleaned up the sides, cropped the top, but unbeknownst to me, she left that back water-falling. After that happened, I had a really hard time trusting anyone near my follicles. Mullet me once, shame on me. Mullet it me two times, I’m just an asshole looking to get a mullet
So continued my habit of going months at a time without a chop. Sure I tried different spots. Floyd’s 62, an establishment operated by heavyset chicks with purple hair and daddy issues, was my first move. Not only did I never get a good cut but each mediocre effort was followed by a uncomfortable “massage” occurrence. I’m already uncomfortable with people touching my hair, I certainly don’t want a stranger going all shiatsu on my shoulder blades. Especially after listening to them complain how their baby daddy needs to step up to the plate or his visitation rights are going the way of the Dodo. They’re big on the over share at Floyd’s. Then there was Super Cuts. What can you say about a place that charges $7 for a visit?
It took me three years to finally find Rudy’s. There I met Casey. He had the haircut I wanted so I just told him, “give me what you’ve got.” I was in and out in 10 minutes. I left looking fantastic. I had six cuts with the man. Then he left me. He left me for the big city and big dreams of New York. During all of those cuts there were three topics we hit on: baseball, football, and Neutral Milk Hotel. This one’s for you Casey. This Week’s Artist of The Week: Neutral Milk Hotel.
Formed in the early 90’s Neutral Milk Hotel was the brainchild of lead singer/ guitarist/ composer Jeff Mangum. The then unemployed Mangum spent his days traveling the county, crashing on couches, and playing music. He released a series of demos and one-off cassettes under the moniker Milk. Many were circulated without any official release back and have now become coveted collectors items.
These cassettes like Mangum himself were complex, erratic, and often beautiful. Not only do they feature early tracks from a man that would become an icon, but also a varying array of strange experimental soundscapes, as well as :59 second interludes of screaming over muffled music. These demos give an idea of the what was to come from Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel.
The first official release from Neutral Milk Hotel titled On Avery Island came in 1996. This album featured Mangum backed by a collection of fellow Elephant 6 Label musicians brought in for studio work. The album is…strange. It’s not quite indie-rock. It’s not quite folk rock. It’s not all out experimental. It’s a mash up. There are upbeat rock tracks like Gardenhead/ Leave Me Alone.
Heart breaking folk songs that push the listener to tears like April 8th
and insane experimental instrumentals like Pree Sisters Swallowing A Donkey’s Eye
For Neutral Milk Hotel, On Avery Island was like the first round of a boxing match. Feeling things out. Finding out what works and what doesn’t. Never fully commits to one sound. This at times can cause the record to feel a bit disjointed. Not as much an album, more of a mix tape. The one constant throughout though are his lyrics. His words are poetic and vivid. In the realm of 90’s lyricists, I lump him with Cobain in that, often times the words on their own don’t seem to make sense but when strung together in song, they are powerfully moving. After the release Mangum found the permanent members that would come to make up Neutral Milk Hotel, Scott Spillane, Jeremy Barnes, and Julian Koster. Despite the addition of backing, the band was and always will be Jeff Mangum’s alone.
Two years later they released the critically acclaimed In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. It was inspired by the story of Anne Frank, written by Mangum after having recurring dreams about WWII. The record takes everything that worked on Avery Island and expands upon it. This is a true album. The songs flow succinctly one after another in a perfect stream, rising and falling, taking the listener on a wondrous 40-minute ride. The opening track King Of Carrot Flowers Part 1 sucks you in right of the bat. Mangum’s vocal style is unique and draws you in with its’ undeniable vulnerability. There’s an audible strain in his voice that makes the subject matter hit home that much harder.
The arraignments and instrumentation on the album are intricate and lovely. There are so many background sounds going on that the subtle nuances heard by simply putting on a pair of headphones, as opposed to a set of speakers, is astounding. My favorite track on the record is the up-beat and chaotic Anne Frank shout out Holland, 1945. It’s one of the saddest songs I know, but when the band starts up, I can’t help but feel the need to dance.
I recommend everyone sit down, imbibe a substance or two, and listen to Aeroplane all the way through. This was a very important album to a young Kelly McD, as well as many popular indie bands that we know today (Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Bon Iver). They recently reissued the record with an accompanying book with words from these very artists that you can pick up on Amazon. Do it.
The band went on a yearlong worldwide tour with Aeroplane. That can be grueling on anyone, especially if you tend to have a more fragile personality, which Mangum defiantly has. They played their last show in October of 1998. Maybe it was the fame, maybe it was the touring, perhaps it was the media, whatever it was, Mangum had a break down. Something sent Jeff Mangum into the shadows and he took Neutral Milk Hotel with him. The group disbanded in 1998. For the most part Mangum has stayed out of the limelight returning to the stage sparingly, usually only to promote various charities. Mangum is often asked about making another album, but has given no indication that it will ever happen. Outside of a few bar gigs here and there, his only big appearance in the past 15 years came in 2012 when he appeared at the Coachella Music Festival. It seems odd for a guy who hates big crowds, phony media persona’s, and being in the spot light, to have his first big show at a music festival attended by 150,000 people that are generally some of the biggest ass bags in Southern California. I’m just saying man, baby steps. Plus it’s very hot there.
That said this band is one of my favorites of all time. Maybe Mangum flew too close to the sun and lost both his wings and his mind. That’s okay. He’s got two albums in his back pocket, one of which is considered by many to be the most influential indie-rock album of the past 20 years. He doesn’t need to make more music. He’s done that. Now he can go cobble shoes somewhere like he’s Daniel Day Lewis or something.
Check them out. Great band. Great songs. Party on.
Generally these articles are pretty fun and silly. I write about my issues with the world and the music I listen to while dealing with said issues. But I’m not in a fun mood these days. I have no reason to be. My personal life is a mess, my career is in a stand still, I’m about to be unemployed, and I can’t remember the last time that laughed for the hell of it. This week was even worse. A day that I hold near and dear was forever tarnished by the monstrous acts of a few. Sure the bombing of the Boston Marathon has saturated the media for the past few days, and sure you’ve heard enough about it, but I’m going to get my fucking say. Boston was my town. For a long time I felt like I didn’t have a home. Seattle had always been the place I grew up, but after the age of 15 I had never lived in a place for more than a year. It took me six years before finally settling down. Six years of the vagabond lifestyle before I finally landed in the city of Boston. It really is unlike any other place in America. It’s a blue-collar town where the people are hardened, but once you enter that inner circle, you are there forever. Boston has a special place in my heart. I was there for five years and I will always look back on those years as some of the happiest of my life. I may never be able to say that I am from Boston, but I will forever be able to say that, at one point, it was my home. This Week is an AOTW tribute to everyone from Allston to Downtown, from Southie to Cambridge, from the North End to Fenway; big ups to Boston and the music about you. We are all hanging with you.
You can’t mention Boston without singing a Dropkick Murphys song. This band has become synonymous with the city for years, even more so since they released their track Shipping Up To Boston, which was attached to the film The Departed. These fine punk gents have been keeping the irish folk sound alive in one form or another since 1996. They rip. Huge energy, musicianship is flawless, and they can get a crowd going like you wouldn’t believe. I saw them in 2007 during the Red Sox World Series parade. They played on the back of flatbed truck as a drunk Jonathan Papelbon danced what might be deemed as a sorry excuse for a jig. The city was over run with people that day, and the Dropkick Murphies garnered nearly as much attention from the hordes as the new world champs.
I remember this shit like it was yesterday. I love these guys a lot, and then you read stuff like this and you love them more.
Another Boston song that isn’t a Boston song at all in reality, comes from the band The Standells, a 1960’s garage rock band that put out the track Dirty Water in 1966. This band is not from Boston. Hell they aren’t even from Worchester (pronounced WUHSTER). These assholes are from LA. And yeah…I count that as a knock against them. If you meet someone from LA and the first thing they say is, “I’m from LA”, you secretly hold it against them. I don’t care who you are. Hell, I live in LA now. Rarely do I enjoy the company of people who tell me they are from LA. Not only that but I generally don’t enjoy the music coming out of LA. But this song….this song is about a city I love and I am on board.
The last track I want to get into here is also forever paired with the city. Many life long locals will say they hate this track, but sometimes people don’t know what’s good for them. Since the dawn of playing Sweet Caroline during the 8th inning of Red Sox games, the team has won two World Series. One of the happiest memories I have in this town is going to a Red Sox game with three of my best friends on my 21st birthday. Beer was spilled, chats were had, and Sweet Caroline was most definitely sung.
The best part of this night was when we went to a bar afterwards where people were watching Monday Night Football in relative silence. That was until my buddy Alex took it upon himself to put on Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name. Alex is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. No one hates Alex. But at that very moment, every on at The Tam wanted to punch his face in.
The Marathon has always been a welcomed tradition. It was on Monday, no class, the Red Sox played early, and the city for the most part turned into a big party. It was a one-day Mardi Gras. Generally my friends and I would throw a party the Sunday prior before and spend Patriots day wandering the streets in recovery. That was the way things were. It was always friendly, fun, and safe. That is not the way things are now. As I write this, Boston has become the center of attention with bloody headlines again. A shooting at MIT. I don’t know what’s going on with my adopted city, but I know the people living there, and anyone that has ever lived there will stand strong. Boston is not a city that flinches. If the people of Boston shied away from adversity, they never would have developed that accent. I love you Boston. I always have. Even when I was lost in your streets while being chased by a guy whose fiancé I may or may not have hooked up with. But that’s another story for another day. Stand strong Beantown
I’m going to put something out there and you can take from it what you will. Black people are cooler than white people. You can say that’s a “racist generalization” and then make claims that not all black people are cool by pointing out Steve Urkel or something, but come on dude….Urkel was the shit and you know it. Guy was dealing with sciences that the government hasn’t even begun to tap into. If that’s not cool then I don’t know what is. If only Laura had cared enough to notice.
Since white guys especially tend to lack in cool points, we try to catch up by getting in on cool black guy culture stuff. We stole the sweet R&B songs back in the day and marketed them as our own. When hip-hop blew up, we sagged our pants and threw Vanilla Ice at the masses.
Side note: White rap was and will always be pretty lack luster with the exception of Snow and Eminem.
And now we are trying to get in on blues. English dudes did it back in the day (The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton) but we White American guys are giving it a shot now. This modern era of Blues definitely feels like it’s lacking brothers. With the exception of the recent Gary Clark Jr., for the most part, blues is being played at festivals by old white dudes with pony tails, doing their best to cover an old Son House song in between stories from the old days when they backed B.B. King once in Tucson in 1983.
Some mainstream bands are trying to keep the genre alive (Black Keys, Jack White, Mofro). What do they have in common? All white guys. And now, the WHITEST OF WHITE GUYS (Justin Vernon) has a blues album. Vernon is more recognized by his band name Bon Iver. That’s right. The sleepy dude from Bon Iver has a blues album. It doesn’t get much whiter than Bon Iver. Prior to listening to the record I was considering sending my friend a long email about the “bastardization of black music,” but then I played it. Low and behold, it’s good. This week’s ARTIST OF THE WEEK: The Shouting Matches.
Actually formed in 2006 in Eau Claire Wisconsin
(This is BIG for Eau Claire. I’ve been there. It’s a whole lot of nothing. You either leave after high school and never come back or you die there. Take your pick)
The Shouting Matches are a bit of an indie super group. Comprised of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Brian Moen (Peter Wolf Crier/ Larrks), and Phil Cook (Megafun/ DeYarmond Edison).
Vernon links up with his old buds for a good old fashioned rowdy down. Their first album Grownass Man not only has a great title, but is loaded with fun tracks that you could feel comfortable throwing on at any summertime BBQ, unlike Vernon’s work with Bon Iver which would in fact kill a party dead. Not to say Bon Iver isn’t a good band. It’s just the things they are good at aren’t conducive to day drinking. They are best for lulling people to sleep. But that just isn’t my thing.
The Shouting Matches are very different. They sound like Tom Petty got together with The Derek Truckers Band, drank a bottle of Old Crow, and decided it was time to play some down ass Southern style tunes. That’s good news for the general public for a few reasons. One being that it means Justin Vernon lacks self-importance which has become an epidemic in the indie world and prevents artists from doing fun things. Two being; these guys can really play.
Their Song Mother, When? is a driving song that is perfect for kicking a road trip off. You can really appreciate the musical talents of Justin Vernon here. I never appreciated his guitar playing abilities until now. I’m gaining loads of respect for the guy. The drumming is also superb. Reminds me of The Sonics, liberal use of the snare. I dig it.
This version is of the band’s initial EP Mouthoil.
This isn’t Vernon’s first foray into another genre. Last year he dabbled in a bit of hip hop with rapper POS. It’s good to see the man isn’t afraid to try new stuff. Too many times, guys from the indie scene keep putting out the same songs over and over again. It gets old fast. One trick ponies seem to have a longer lifespan in that genre than any other due to the fact that fans hesitate saying anything negative about it for fear of being mocked for “not getting it”.
When I said earlier that the band has a Tom Petty-esque sound, I meant it. Their song Seven Sister sounds like a lost Heatbreakers song from 1991. It’s an easy jam to throw on and vibe to. Sure this song isn’t gonna change the world, but not every song needs to strive to do that. Sometimes I just want something to drink a cold beer to. This is that type of song.
One of my favorite things on this album is the inclusion of the organ. Rarely is there the right amount of organ. It’s either way too much, or not nearly enough. Can you say that about any other instrument? I guess the Theremin. But really, when have you been listening to a song and said “Man this could really use some more Theremin”? New Theme Song features the perfect amount of organ. I’m happy about that
I hope my opening to this won’t be considered wildly racist. It’s just fact. Most white guys like myself came to terms with it a long time ago. Black guys are just cooler in every aspect of our pop culture. Music, fashion….black guys did it cooler first. Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf, Honey Boy Edwards; these guys will never be matched in the blues world, especially not by the cat from Bon Iver. But they did give everyone else something to strive for. Go check out The Shouting Matches. Worth it.
There are a few factors that played heavily into this week’s Artist of The Week. The first of which was, I needed a legend. I didn’t feel like looking back last week after finding a band like Retstavrant. When you see them live, you can’t help but want to tell people about them. The other factor was nostalgia. I spent this past weekend in the great city of Seattle watching two friends get married to each other. It’s a bit weird going back to my former home in these recent years. As I grow older the memories of my youth spent there fall further and further into the past. They start to seem less like memories, and more like a dream I had once. Details get hazy. Timelines are misconstrued. That’s what happens when you get older. It’s not so much the memories themselves that are important, it’s the spirit of the memories. We attempt to keep these memories intact the best we can by rehashing them in story form. So this weekend, surrounded by friends, after a few drinks, it was only a matter of time before we got into these stories. Stories from more innocent and albeit, more fun times, back when I was happy and hopeful.
When I first moved back to Seattle to finish up my high school career. I would have these long drives back and forth from my grand parents’ house to where all of my friends lived. During those drives I would listen to Seattle’s alternative station 107.7 KNDD ( The End). This was the peak of my happiness I think. I really didn’t are about anything. I had my whole future in front of me. This year was my reward for the time spent in the Midwest hellhole that was Carmel, IN. So I tired to find music, happy music, that matched this new found idealism. That was why I latched on to this week’s AOTW: Legend. It just sounded fucking pretty. It was uplifting. In no time at all I couldn’t get the songs out of my head. Soon I had bought the album and had it on repeat. What the hell had happened to me? I had gone from a kid who liked gutter hip-hop and grunge music to singing love songs in an attempted falsetto. At the time I thought it was kind of sad, but I look back know on the tenth anniversary of Give Up’s release and I think that I really would like to feel that way again, happy and most importantly hopeful. Good music is good music. This Week’s Artist of the Week: Legend is The Postal Service.
Ten years, ten fucking years. I feel old. That means it’s almost time for the high school reunion. Fuck that though. You’d have to pay me a fair amount to get me to attend that bullshit. Any one that I want to see from High School, I am still in contact with. Everyone else, I was more than happy to forget. Part of me thinks that Facebook really put a damper on the whole reunion thing. I don’t go ten seconds without being updated on someone’s life let a lone ten years. What do people talk about at those things anyways? Where was I? Oh yeah. Ten years since the first release from The Postal Service, comprised of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jimmy Tamborello (DNTL) AKA The Postal Service. The album is ten songs that are electro pop perfection. The harmonies between Gibbard puts together are unrivaled. He might have the most heartbreaking voice in pop music.
This initial single I heard from the album was Such Great Heights, a barrage of blips and synth. That teamed up with Gibard’s poetic lyrics and angelic voice, create a treat for the lobes. Both the frontal cortex and ear variety. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this song since it’s release. If you haven’t heard it, you’re either lying about not hearing it to sound “cool” and “different”, or you’ve ben living under a rock or the past ten years. The accompanying video is futuristically beautiful and hypnotic. Kind of like 2001: A Space Odessy but without he acid trip bit in the middle.
Upon the release of Give Up the gentlemen of The Postal Service were greeted with praise from both general public, and critics. The music just made sense. It was one of those “right time” albums. 2004 was definitely the “right time” for a sweet, sad, yet poppy album that everyone could enjoy. Just like Garden State was that “right time” movie in 2005. The difference is, Give Up holds up, whereas everything aside from the Method Man scene in Garden State feels like it’s taking itself waaaay to seriously. You was on Scrubs Zach Braff!! Take your money, buy a nice home, and start a family. Quit being so damn sad.
The Postal Service went on a very successful and lucrative tour to follow up their album. Even though there are only ten songs, every single one of them is great. Their other most notable hit found on the record is The District Sleeps Alone Tonight. It’s more of the same drum machine, looped piano, and guitar, normally stuff I hate, but Gibbard ties it all together and makes something worthwhile. The guy is talented, and his voice is one that should be more recognized by music fans and critics alike as one of the best in the game.
Here’s something I learned in doing a bit of the old research for this piece. Jenny Lewis lends here pipes for the female harmonies on that track. That’s right. Rilo Kiely’s Jenny Lewis. We can all start dropping that factoid at parties now and look like the hippest assholes on the planet.
Despite the success of the Postal Service’s record, ten years have passed and the band has been quite adamant that there will not be another. BUT despite saying that for the past ten years……there still is no new album. There is a double disc reissue of Give Up featuring two new tracks and long with a ton of B-sides and remixes. One of these new tracks A Tattered Line of String. It’s a decent song. Not great. Good. To be honest, it’s just good to hear something new from Gibbard before he buries himself in his summer hobby: tweeting about Seattle Mariners baseball.
The Postal Service will again tour of Give Up in the coming months. This is exciting, but damnit dude, can’t you just hop on the computer and record eight more songs instead? Plus Ben doesn’t seem to take this touring thing too seriously. He posted this video with the headline: Postal Service Rehearsal: Behind the Scenes.
That’s cool dude, I’ll buy your reissue, and I’ll reflect on the good ole days. The biggest bum out of it all is the fact that my favorite Postal Service song of all time won’t be on the album. It’s a cover of Phil Collins’ song Take A Look At Me Now. It’s like I always used to say, Phil Collins songs are great, if only Phil Collins didn’t spend the whole time running them with his voice and drumming.
Check out the Postal Service. Sure they only have one album, but that means getting up to date on their stuff won’t take long at all.