Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Maritime - "Paraphernalia"


I've been a little out of sorts this last week...and my lack of quality posts has become somewhat of an annoyance for me. Not because I think the world is anxiously awaiting my next musical proclamation...but because I feel like I've had a lot to write about (musically), but I've had a hard time actually making sense of all the half-thoughts jogging about in my brain. If I can't put together a solid, coherent, musical thought I just as well should spare you, the reader, from having to wade through my nonsense. With all that out of the way, the mid-week palate cleanser is from one of my new favorite bands: Maritime.

If any of you had any good-taste moments in the late 90's you were more than likely a fan of The Promise Ring. They were the "pop" side of the "emo" spectrum back in the day...and delivered a handful of albums that were fun, upbeat, and had loads of hooks. It was music you could bounce your head to...music you could dance to...without all the trappings of having to look like you played keytar in The Faint (and without the suck-factor that came along with everything associated with The Faint). It was great music without the pretense. This brings me to Maritime, a new band fronted by Davey von Bohlen. It's amazing slices of pop goodness...mixed in with a nice nod to bands like The Cure and The Smiths/Moz. Full review of their record will come tomorrow, but until then please sit back and enjoy their new video for "Paraphernalia".

Buy their record...thank me later.

Note: This video was actually shot amidst a raging Wisconsin blizzard. That's real wind and snow for all you West Coast people. No tricks...no fake snow...no wind machines = awesome.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Weekend Picks - 04/01/11

This week my playlist was dominated by Kathleen Edwards...an amazing singer and songwriter from Canada. Sure, Canada has given us some clunkers over the years but Edwards easily makes up for it with her perfect voice set to an alt-country soundtrack. The one song of hers that stands out to me is "Copied Keys", and song about moving to a new place for someone...and trying to build a life around one that is already rooted. It reminds me of when I moved to Canada back in the day...I knew one person and was thrown into a life that already had 20+ years of stuff in it.

"...and your favorite find is just my second-hand secret..."


Brilliant. While I was devouring her "Back To Me" record, I also found time to listen to some other great bands. Again, my music tastes are usually all over the map stylistically...and this week was no different. I have never had a tough time listening to Swedish metal, only to hear Johnny Cash with the next song. Great music IS great, regardless of the genre...and everyone should have room in their play lists for In Flames, and Adele! Enjoy...

Weekend Picks - 04/01/11

-Kathleen Edwards - "Back To Me"
-Stars - "The Five Ghosts"
-Creeper Lagoon - "Remember The Future"
-At The Drive In - "Relationship Of Command"
-Killswitch Engage - "As Daylight Dies"
-Hey Mercedes - "Loses Control"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: Here is a great live video of Kathleen Edwards performing the incredible "Copied Keys". I'm always a sucker for a Pedal Steel...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ok Go - This Too Shall Pass


For the mid-week palate cleanser you're going to have the opportunity to view the greatest music video ever made. That's a big statement..."the greatest music video of all time"...but seriously, when I saw this video for the first time I needed a doctor to physically remove my jaw from the floor. Ok Go has been known for their clever videos, but this one trumps all of their previous videos, and every other video ever made. It was performed in one shot...no editing...no camera trickery...and the video doesn't even have a cameo by T-Pain! The video is based on a massive "Rube Goldberg" machine...a device, or apparatus that is a deliberately over-engineered machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction. It's like watching those falling dominos that make cool patterns...but it uses an entire garage worth of stuff to do it. From what I've read, Ok Go brought in a bunch of their fans who were engineering students to build it. The high nerdery level, coupled with the band's sense of humor, make this one awesome piece of performance art. I challenge you to show me a video that is better...that is more artistic...more entertaining...and more fun. You cannot do it, for it is impossible! Enjoy...

Buy their records...thank me later.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Top 7 Driving Songs


For the record, I'm a huge...wait...massive Nascar fan. I was fortunate enough to witness the pure awesomeness of Nascar this last weekend in Fontana, Ca. 150 laps, 43 cars, 170+ mph...it was a blast...and it was easily the loudest event I've ever been to. Spare yourself from thinking of some clever way to mock me in comment-form...I've heard all the jokes from my friends who usually pose questions like "when did Josh become a hick?", or "what life altering event caused Josh to start enjoying a bunch of cars going in circles?". Oh well...their loss. Nascar is awesome...an no amount of chiding could ever break my fanatic interest in the greatest sport on Earth. Since I was basking in the roar of V8's this weekend, I thought I would do a list featuring my top 7 driving songs of all time. There have always been certain songs that seem to lend themselves to being played at high volumes on the open road...and since I have spent a lot of time traveling those roads I thought I would compile the best for you, the avid Maniccompression reader. Enjoy...

- U2 - "Where The Streets Have No Name": This song transports me to some mysterious place every time I hear it...it's the perfect mix of lyrical imagery, and tempo that make it my not only my favorite U2 song of all time, but the best driving song of all time.

- Wilco - "ELT": The pedal-steel guitar line in this song floats above the music...music that reminds me of driving through the depths of the U.S. on some lonely road somewhere. It's "americana" at it's finest...and it is my instant transport so someplace quiet. I could listen to this song over and over while watching the mile markers click by.

- The Emergency - "Slowpoke": When I wasn't touring I would make a daily commute down the 405 freeway in Orange County to work a temp job at a mortgage company. A 5 mile drive usually took 45 minutes...and this song got me through that horrible experience. It's full-blown, unapologetic rock, with more swagger than you will probably be able to handle.

- Social Distortion - "Highway 101": Social D did an excellent job with this song because every time I hear it I have a vision of me driving up the California coast in a '63 Corvette convertible...without a care in the world. The perfect driving song for a summer afternoon.

- Hot Water Music - "Remedy": This song was easily played 5000 times on a tour we did in 2002. I remember driving through Montana, blasting this perfect slice of punk rock. Everything about this song makes me want to move...fast.

- The Exit - "Trapped": I was driving from Jersey to Penn after a show to visit some friends, and the only cd in the car I borrowed (thanks Chris) was The Exit. This song ended up on repeat for much of my trip. It was 2am...the snow was falling...and this was my soundtrack. It made an endless sea of toll plaza's a little more bearable.

- Cave In - "Big Riff": This song reminds me of driving back from shows in my little '86 Honda. I only had working speakers in the back, and this song would come close to blowing them every time. When it would end I would hit rewind on my tape player and play it again. A massive song that was heavy...spacey...and was perfect for an audience of one: me.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: Honorable mention goes to Starflyer 59 for "I Drive A Lot"...I was going to list it yesterday but got busy doing other things. It was brought to my attention that my list was sorely lacking without it...and that, coupled with the fact that I do love the song, means it gets a message now.
Check out this great video here if you have a chance.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend Picks - 03/25/11

This week finally brought us the new record by Richard Ashcroft...former front man of The Verve...all around awesome singer and songwriter. The Verve have been one of my favorite bands for over a decade, and the voice of Mr. Ashcroft is one of the main reasons I got into them. It's soulful...and I have heard more than one person say his vocal prowess is "sex" personified in voice. To each his/her own I guess...all I know is that his vocals are amazing...and this week he released his 4th solo album, "United Nations Of Sound". If you haven't heard his solo work I would recommend it...the song writing is more concise (in a "pop" sense) than his work with The Verve...but the instrumentation still sounds rich and multi-layered. What I am really saying is that his solo work is great...and you should be listening to it religiously. While Ashcroft was on rotation this week, I also broke out some records I hadn't listened to in a while. Shiner, Josh Rouse (a great songwriter), and Saves The Day (which brought me back to my younger days) all had repeated listens...and since I did a post on heavier music (riffs to be exact) I broke out "Oceanic" by Isis (massive, massive, and massive) and listened to the song "Firebreather" by Thrice around 100 times. It's a wide range of stuff this week but hopefully you, the listener, find it enjoyable. Good times...

Weekend Picks - 03/25/11

-Shiner - "The Egg"
-Josh Rouse - "Dressed Up Like Nebraska"
-Saves The Day - "Stay What You Are"
-Isis - "Oceanic"
-Richard Ashcroft - "United Nations Of Sound"
-Thrice - "The Alchemy Index (Volume 1)

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The link for Thrice is going to take you directly to them performing "Firebreather" live @ The House Of Blues. It's a great performance video...try not to rock out too hard in your cubicle.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top 7 Huge Riffs (+1)

Coalesce live
I've always been a fan of huge guitar riffs regardless of the genre...rock, hardcore, metal, post-hardcore. If there is a down-tuned guitar (we used to call it "drop-d goodness" back in the day) with any sort of groove...I'm usually into it. I remember when "grunge" broke, and major labels were signing every band that was somewhat heavy. This signing binge included great bands like Helmet (who had already released music on Amphetamine Reptile) and Quicksand (who had done an EP for Revelation Records)...bands that took the art of riff writing to a higher level. These were bands that sounded nothing like what was happening in Seattle, and they were more akin to the hardcore bands I'd been eating up in the early 90's. Helmet, Quicksand, Rage Against The Machine, Shift, Burn...these were all bands that I got into in the 90's...and these bands were able to write monstrous guitar riffs...riffs that were focused more on the groove, and less on guitar "shred". Since then I've been a sucker for a band that could write a good riff...so this is my amateurish attempt at putting down a list of what I consider to be the best hardcore/post-hardcore riffs.

Before I get to my list I have to make two clarifications: 1) Anything even remotely considered nü-metal is automatically excluded due to the overwhelming sense of "suck" that most bands in said genre exude (much to your dismay I'm sure). 2) I tried my best to steer away from what I consider "metal". That is a beast entirely unto itself...and my minimal amount of brain activity couldn't sort through which At The Gates song I would have to exclude (which is quite a chore seeing as though every song on "Slaughter Of The Soul" is awesome).

So here it is...my short list of the best hardcore/post-hardcore riffs. Enjoy...

- Quicksand - "Lie And Wait" - Heavy...fast...with lot's of dynamics. This song swells, and the riff is epic. Easily my favorite Quicksand song. Most of my friends will bust me for picking this song over "Land Mind Spring" or something else...but I think this song rocks the hardest.

- Handsome - "Lead Bellied" - One of the most ignored bands of all time...featuring members of Quicksand and The Cro-Mags. This song is massive...it's just a shame that only a handful of people bought this when it was released. I consider anyone who owns it my friend, and musical soul-mate.

- The Deftones - "Elite" - The only description I can give this song is "brutal." It's one of the most intense songs I've ever heard. I liken it to having your ears filed off with a power-sander...and enjoying every minute of it.

- Thrice - "Firebreather" - If you looked in the dictionary under "massive" it would have a footnote siting this song as personifying the word. Thrice has always perfectly balanced punk, and hardcore...but this song showcases their knack for dropping one huge riff.

- Helmet - "Smart" - Although I wasn't a huge fan of their "Size Matters" album, this track was everything great about Helmet. It's classic...and the guitar line tops everything else Paige Hamilton released...and that's a tall order considering his catalog of work.

- Coalesce - "What Happens On The Road Always Comes Home" - I've always considered Coalesce a hardcore band...and this song has what I consider their most swinging riff.

- Snapcase - "Harrison Bergeron" - I have always loved Snapcase...and this is, hands down, my favorite song by them. The drums, bass, and guitars work perfectly together to create a gargantuan wall of sound. It was heavy, without the cliched "chugga" riffs that were coming out of the hardcore scene at the time.

- Rage Against The Machine - "Bombtrack" - The first RATM album was chock full of great riffs...and "Bombtrack" is one of the best. It's proof that one guitar, one bass, and drums can create something that has an incredible amount of groove.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is the mighty Coalesce...blowing away everyone in the audience, and obliterating the stage with their mid-west brand of hardcore insanity.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ryan Adams - "How Do You Keep Love Alive" (Live)


Ryan Adams has been in constant rotation for the last few days...and he is also the mid-week palate cleanser. I've been a fan of his since I first heard Whiskeytown back when I was dj'ing in Calgary. I've always thought his music was a perfect marriage of "americana", country, and The Smiths...a mix of influences that probably doesn't do him (or his work) justice. It's thousands of times better than some pithy description I could come up with...all I know is that his music resonates with me, and today's video is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever listened to. The music, coupled with incredible lyrics, make this song one of my favorites by him. Enjoy...

Lord, I miss that girl
On the day we met the sun was shining down
Down on the valley
Riddled with horses running
Crushing them with flowers
I would have picked for her
On the day she was born
She runs through my veins like a long black river
And rattles my cage like a thunderstorm
Oh my soul

What does it mean?
What does it mean?
What does it mean to be so sad?
When someone you love
Someone you love is supposed to make you happy
What do you do
How do you keep love alive?
When it won't

What, what are the words
They use when they know it's over
"We need to talk," or
"I'm confused, maybe later you can come over"
I would've held your mother's hand
On the day you was born
She runs through my veins
Like a long black river and rattles my cage
Like a thunderstorm
Oh, my soul

What does it mean?
What does it mean?
What does it mean to be so sad?
When someone you love
Someone you love is supposed to make you happy
What do you do
How do you keep love alive?
When it won't
How do you keep love alive?

Buy his records...thank me later.

Monday, March 21, 2011

American Vitriol

I was recently reminded of why I have a never-ending flow of vitriol for the American Idol franchise. I was calmly enjoying my bowl of Cheerios when I read someone asking to name bands you like that have singers who don't sing well. The poster went on to say that there are a lot of cool bands who might not fair to well on America's #1 karaoke contest. I agree with the last statement...in fact, I could, off the top of my head, name thousands of bands who wouldn't get any recognition from American Idol (their judges, and their fans)...let alone be anywhere close to "winning" anything on the show. Maybe the mere fact that they wouldn't be honored by AI is a positive thing? I'd hate to see some of my favorite bands having to whore themselves out and be judged by 1 non-singer/kind-of-dancer (J-lo), 1 former lead singer of a once good rock band (Steven Tyler), and 1 incredible session bassist who clearly has lost his knack for discerning what constitutes "talent" (Randy). What if this was the scenario on AI: Thrice...after destroying the AI stage with pure awesomeness...having to stand in front of the judges...being told they the vocals were a "little pitchy" by J-lo (the same J-lo who probably hasn't sung something live in over a decade)...or Steven Tyler saying something like "it just didn't rock enough". Sorry, Thrice forgot their bandana's. I think I, along with thousands of other music fans, would be mortified...and I think it would prove my point: AI is style over substance...it is their mission to find an empty shell...a shell that can hopefully carry a tune (or not, depending on how current their Antares plug-in is). They aren't concerned with real musicians...because real musicians don't need AI.

Real bands/real musicians/real vocalists (notice the emphasis on real) have no need for AI with the current state of technology. Anyone with a computer can record their own music, and have it online (with videos) in a matter of minutes (Justin Beiber loves himself some youtube)...all ready for mass-consumption without the need to prostitute yourself on a karaoke tv show. I think the contestants on AI truly want to "make it" in the business...but I also think that they want fame without work...and I think the contestants are just as bad as the creators of AI. Maybe I'm making a gross generalization? I just don't see any other plausible reason for someone going on AI outside of wanting to have fame without putting in the work to attain such fame. U2 didn't have AI. Jimmy Eat World didn't win some contest to become a working band. Sade didn't need a glorified karaoke contest to record...tour...and have her work fawned over by millions of people. What we see on AI is something that happens every week day, in every airport hotel lounge, all over the world. Thousands of people singing along to their favorite songs...some incredibly talented...some to drunk to remember to read the cued words. It's been done billions of times...and despite it being somewhat fun to do occasionally, it doesn't come close to the real thing. I'll take watching (and supporting) a real band over karaoke any day of the week. So do yourself a favor...go see an actual band, or singer, or musician playing at a local bar, club, community center, basement, or church. Spare yourself from an over-hyped 2 hours of nonsense twice a week...with a group of empty-shelled voices trying to "make it".

That is my disjointed...vitriolic rant...and also my encouragement for the week. Don't watch American Idol...and go support a band or two this week.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekend Picks - 03/18/11

I have over 8000 songs milling about in my Itunes player. That is 55 days straight of music...starting with A.F.I. and ending with Zwan. It's a cornucopia of musical goodness (in my humble opinion) that seems to give me a never ending supply of things to write about. This week I was reminded of how much I love Starflyer59...and how their "Americana" record was sorely underrated. I was also brought back to my touring days hearing Moneen...Canada's finest group of rockers, and probably the nicest group of people I ever had the privilege of sharing the stage with. This weekend you have the fine opportunity to get yourself into 2 indie bands that deserve your attention (Summer Darling, and Little Hurricane)...and 4 other groups that you should already be listening to on a regular basis. I admit, I am mildly delusional thinking that anyone who reads this will actually go and listen to these records...but my hope is that you, lover of good music, will follow my lead (you didn't realize that I was the torch-bearer of awesome did you?) and dive head-first into these fine weekend music selections! Enjoy...

Weekend Picks - 03/18/11

-Summer Darling: "Summer Darling"
-Little Hurricane: "Homewrecker"
-Moneen: "Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now?"
-The Jealous Sound: "Kill Them With Kindness"
-The Deftones: "Diamond Eyes"
-Starflyer 59: "Americana"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: First, I need to thank Rosie from SDdialedin for turning me on to Little Hurricane. They are awesome...and since I am somewhat of a hermit I probably would have gone my whole life without hearing about them. Good thing for me that I frequent her blog. Second, the picture above is Starflyer 59 circa 1993...rocking the bowl-cuts and the Moto-guzzi bikes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SXSW + Buzzgrinder + Free Beer = Good Times

If you happen to be at this year's SXSW festival...there is only one show you should be going to today...and that is the Buzzgrinder 10th Birthday showcase!! This is going to be one of the best showcases at the festival...you've got The Seedy Seeds, J Roddy Walston & The Business, and The Colour Revolt to name a few. Also, there will be free beer ALL DAY! Not only will your musical taste buds be thoroughly satisfied, your liver will be as well.

For the record, Buzzgrinder has been my music-website drug of choice for 10 years now...and despite their occasional lapse in musical judgment, they have been, by far, the most consistent site in turning me on to incredible music. They've managed to do this without all the music-snobbery of other "big" websites...and they're nice people to! Do yourself a favor...go down to Valhalla in Austin...crack open 10 or 12 "tallboys"...and allow yourself to be serenaded by some of the best bands at this years SXSW!

Go to this show...your beer-soaked carcass can thank me later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Deftones - "Minerva"


Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from The Deftones. I was sitting in my office yesterday and I was able to watch the sun creep over the mountains...and this song was playing. It was "a moment"...plus, The Deftones are a great band. Darren Doane (director) was able to get some amazing shots of the southeastern corner of California...about 5 miles from the Arizona border. It's beautiful scenery...and in my opinion this song is a perfect soundtrack to it. I always admired how The Deftones could mix heavy, pummeling music with soaring melodies...and I think this song showcases their knack at doing both very well. Enjoy...

Buy their records...thank me later.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Derek Hess


Today's music buying culture is a completely different beast from what I knew growing up. Before the digital take-over, people had to really do some digging to find out more about the bands they liked...and that digging usually involved a handful of s.a.s.e.'s (for all of you kids who've never actually mailed a real letter that's "self addressed stamped envelope"), and months of waiting for catalogs and/or replies. Now I won't complain about the convenience that digital downloads give me...it's nice to not have to leave the house to find a record you want...and with one click of the mouse it's in your Itunes player...ready for digestion. Although convenience can be nice, the biggest casualty (and this is debatable, I'm sure) in the digital music age has not been the local record store (although they have sadly suffered), but actual album art-work. People don't care about the artwork anymore...it's all 1's and 0's streaming onto a computer...nothing to touch...or have in your hands. Album packaging, art, design, and how it ties in with the album it's representing...those were all things that added to the over-all music experience when buying albums. It's one of the reasons I mentioned Storm Thorgerson, and his design work with Catherine Wheel. I always loved putting on a record...then sitting down and pouring over the artwork, lyrics, and pictures...trying to not only wrap my tiny brain around the music, but around the entire concept. So many graphic designers/artists have done album work that has been iconic...that shaped a label, or band. Look at the work done for 4AD, and The Pixies, by Vaughn Oliver (v23)...or the album art done for Hot Water Music by SINC...or even the Oasis branding, and album covers, done by Brian Cannon (Microdot UK). These are just 3 examples of artists who did more than just lend a picture to some band...they created art that was an integral part of the entire music experience. Along with these artists, one of my favorite music artists has been Derek Hess. This Cleveland music fan, dog lover, and artist has been doing work for bands for decades...creating art for everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Snapcase. His work is incredible...and he has an uncanny knack for capturing motion in relation to the human body. He brings a fluid feeling to his figures (human, animal, or a mixture of both)...and uses classical techniques (Contrapposto, as one example, for all you art historians out there) as the basis for his other-worldy creations. Think Michaelangelo...if he lived right now...and no, I'm not exaggerating...Derek Hess is an amazing talent. When you see his work (and I'm sure many of you have seen it and not realized it was his) you know it's a Derek Hess piece...it's nothing less than iconic. His list of accomplishments would consume my little blog for months...and so could my fan-boy gushing. I'll spare you from having to endure my pithy ramblings and post some of my favorite works by him. Enjoy...











Buy his art...thank me later.

Note: The picture at the top of the post was done by Derek Hess for my old band, The Beautiful Mistake. It was our first release since a massive member change...and Derek thought the new songs sounded like a "rebirth"...so he drew what became our album cover. I consider working with Derek Hess as one of the high points of my music journey...he was one of the most genuine, friendly people I met while touring. A true supporter of the scene, regardless of how big (or small) your band happened to be...it was a honor to have him design an album cover for us.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Top 7 Tooth & Nail Albums

In 1993 I was finally able to land myself my first real job...at a local bookstore making $4.25 an hour. It was easy work, and most of the customers were older women who reminded me of my Grandmother. Since I was interested in music, and since I was the only one working there under the age of 40, I was allowed to help with the "music" section. Now before I go any further, this "bookstore" was also a "Christian" bookstore...a bookstore that sold "Christian" music exclusively. I won't get into arguing about how music, in my opinion, can't be one "faith" or another...that is an entire months worth of blog posts that very few people would enjoy. Needless to say, the music section was a plethora of really bad stuff. It was divided into two sections: "Gospel" and "Metal"...the latter having less to do with real "metal" and more to do with anything that wasn't "Gospel" music. It included a lot of great stuff at the time...The Crucified, The Violet Burning, The Prayer Chain, L.S.U., and Adam Again...but it was relegated to a tiny, dusty corner and was in no discernible order. Since I was already a fan of many of these bands, I took it upon myself to make the "metal" section (which I renamed "alternative" after a lengthy debate with my boss on what "alternative" meant) something worth stocking. A few weeks later we got a shipment of albums from a small indie label called Tooth & Nail Records from Irvine. I quickly purchased the first 3 releases from them...Wish For Eden, Focused, and Starflyer 59...and later that afternoon I was hooked. It was great music, and it was music that I wasn't embarrassed to show my friends. Sure, I bought it from a "Christian" bookstore, but the music was on par with all the other bands I was into at the time (Helmet, Earth Crisis, and My Bloody Valentine). Over the next few years I ended up going to more local shows (that featured T&N bands), and buying every release by T&N artists (I actually owned the first 50 releases from them at one point) I could get my hands on. Southern California was a pretty cool "scene" for music back in the early 90's, and much of the T&N roster was from the area which made it easier to see them perform...and easier to get into more bands that were similar. I always thought the "Christian" tag marginalized T&N...but then again that is only my opinion. I thought the music was great on it's own, and that it didn't need a disclaimer. Now that they've been in business for almost 20 years...and they've released hundreds of records...I thought I would take a stab at my top 7 Tooth & Nail records of all time. This list isn't definitive...and I'm sure that a label purist (read: some Christian kid in Iowa ready to take me to task) could argue whether or not any of these albums are "important" (or have the proper "gospel" message)...but it's my blog (and my opinion), and this is my snapshot of albums I've enjoyed over the years.

- StrongArm - "Advent Of A Miracle": This record was akin to being hit by a sledgehammer...and enjoying it. It was passionate, heavy, and wildly intricate. It (along with bands like Shai Hulud) opened my eyes to hardcore being more than just mindless "chugga" riffs. I consider this album to be one of the best hardcore releases of all time.

- Starflyer 59 - "Silver": It was a wall of distortion, feedback, vibrato and chorus pedals. The hushed vocals wove their way through huge riffs...the guitars (endlessly multi-tracked) were big, and the shoegazing was on "11". This album sounded like nothing else...and still sounds that way.

- Stavesacre - "Speakeasy": Although it wasn't their first record, "Speakeasy" contained their best "songs", and their best riffs. The music was heavy, driving, and the vocals (Mark Soloman) were tops. This record was so good it should have catapulted them into teen-aged stardom...they should have been huge.

- Roadside Monument - "8 Hours Away From Being A Man": This album covered every dynamic sound-wise...it was loud, soft, and everything in between...with pure emotion dripping off every note and with every lyric sung. The term "emo" could apply...but then you'd probably be thinking Fall Out Boy when you should be thinking Rites Of Spring. "8 Hours..." is an incredible record.

- Pedro The Lion - "Whole" Ep: This was my first taste of David Bazans work...a great little EP of indie-rock goodness. The music was great...and the lyrics were even better. "Almost There" is still one of my favorite Pedro The Lion songs.

- Further Seems Forever - "The Moon Is Down": This band featured members of Strongarm...and to me it sounded a lot like a mellower version of them. The songs were intricate, the arrangements were full of different movements, and the vocals (Chris Carrabba) soared. This album did a great job capturing the spirit of what "emo" had become in the early 2000's...and it's still one of my favorite records from that time.

- Plankeye - "The Spark": Plankeye was one of the bands I used to drive all over Southern California to see. Their live show was always great, and this album did a good job capturing the energy of their live performances. It's a great piece of alt-rock/power-pop circa 1995.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: There have been a lot of great releases by T&N that I didn't get to...and would once again call for another post to fit them in. I still listen to albums by As Cities Burn, Dogwood, Driver8, Morella's Forest, Za0, Underoath, Anberlin, and Mike Knott to name a few.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend Picks - 03/11/11

live at Silverlake Lounge
Tuesday is usually the day that new music is released...and it just might blow your mind if you could see just how many albums are released weekly. Loads of nonsense shipped to fill up shelves in record stores...some of it new...some of it old (with great new artwork!). Wasn't it Morrissey who said "reissue, repackage, repackage..."? Despite a truck-load of bad records released this week, there happened to be 2 excellent albums quietly put out...and people in "the know" (like myself) quickly scooped them up (Rival Schools, and Rheanna Downey). Now if you missed out on purchasing these records, you can still change course...you can still salvage your weekend so it's not a total loss! Here are my weekend picks...2 brand new records, 1 record that is yet to be released (but can be listened to here), and 3 albums you should have purchased a long time ago. Enjoy...

Weekend Picks - 03/11/11

-The Violet Burning: "The Story Of Our Lives" (still unreleased)
-Rival Schools: "Pedals"
-Rheanna Downey: "Pull The Moon"
-The Tallest Man On Earth: "The Wild Hunt"
-Gliss: "Devotion Implosion"
-Ryan Adams: "Love Is Hell"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is Gliss...rocking the stage at the Silverlake lounge. A huge thank-you to Stephanie for suggesting them. They remind me of The Jesus And Mary Chain, minus the Reid brothers fighting in between songs. They are incredible!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Catherine Wheel - Manic Compression Greatest Songs Album

The year was 1993...a time when I was wallowing through my junior year of high school. I was finally able to operate a motor vehicle without parental supervision, and thus was finally able to control all aspects of which radio station could be played in said motor vehicle (our Pontiac Sunbird didn't have the luxury of a cassette player). 91x was the station for all things "cool" in San Diego, and since my parents were a wee bit conservative I wasn't allowed to rock the only alternative station in the area when they were present. The minute I would start the car I'd turn on 91x...and usually be treated to an excellent mix of music ranging from Nirvana to The Violent Femmes. On one fateful day in 1993 (while driving to a friends house for a friday night of nintendo and pizza) I was exposed to a band that would become one of my top 5 of all time; Catherine Wheel. The song was "Black Metallic"...their "kind-of" hit stateside...and it blew me away. The song, which clocked in at nearly 8 minutes, was a slow building, reverb-drenched space assault that sounded like nothing I had heard before. It was sandwiched in between some forgettable song by Stone Temple Pilots (wait, aren't they all forgettable?) and Mazzy Star...and I clearly remember pulling over the car over and soaking it in. The next day I went out and purchased "Ferment"...then I purchased all their singles...then "Chrome"...and any other piece of their discography I could get my hands on. I was hooked...the glorious mix of vocal power, a wash of guitars, and a hint of British shoe-gaze instantly made them one of my favorite bands. My fervor for Catherine Wheel never waned over the years, buying all their records, once driving 974 kilometers to see them perform, and buying every piece of merchandise I could find before the interweb made things easier for fan-boys like myself. Sadly, they never "broke" here in the States despite an impressive discography. I always thought they were far more superior than other "alt-rock" bands...but that sentiment wasn't shared by much of the music-buying populace. So with that introduction I give you the Catherine Wheel Manic Compression greatest songs album.

1. "Heal 2" - Like Cats And Dogs
2. "Crank" - Chrome
3. "Judy Staring At The Sun" (w/ Tonya Donnelly) - Single Version
4. "Intravenous" - Nowhere Soundtrack
5. "What We Want To Believe In" - Wishville
6. "Harder Than I Am" - Like Cats And Dogs
7. "Shocking" - Happy Days
8. "Eat My Dust..." - Happy Days
9. "Mad Dog" - Wishville
10. "Bill And Ben" - Ferment
11. "Ma Solituda" - Adam And Eve
12. "Strange Fruit" - Chrome
13. "Broken Nose" - Adam And Eve"
14. "The Nude" - Chrome
15. "Here Comes The Fat Controller" - Adam And Eve
16. "Black Metallic" - Ferment

Buy their records...thank me later.

Note: Along with an awesome set of songs, Catherine Wheel also had some of the best album artwork ever released. The majority of the art was done by British designer Storm Thorgerson, who did album covers for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Cranberries to name a few. His work added a perfect visual element to their albums...sadly lost today in the world of digital downloads. The picture above was the cover of their "Chrome" album.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mew - "Am I Wry? No"


Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from Mew...an amazing band that is far too under appreciated. One of my goals with this blog is to continue to showcase music I think is awesome...and Mew fits squarely into that category. I know, I know...with every new post you (and the rest of the world) are blessed with more awesome music...music that is sure to improve your already sorry record collection. It's my attempt at doing the public a "service"...oh the humility. I wouldn't know where to begin in describing their brand of music...it's like a weird cross between Sunny Day Real Estate, Coheed & Cambria, and U2...and even that mash-up isn't a fair representation of their brilliance. Sit back, relax, and get lost in 4 minutes of pure rock bliss. Enjoy...

Buy their records...thank me later.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rheanna Downey - "Pull The Moon"

There are very few artists that reside in the "singer/songwriter" genre that I get excited about. Much of it reminds me of junior high poetry, set to a soundtrack that brings me to that sad place where severe boredom sets in. It's almost mind-numbing...hearing some sad sap gently strumming on an acoustic guitar, trying their best to imitate James Taylor, or Joan Baez...both of which are well past whatever "prime" they happened to have back in 1974. I realize that most people aren't setting out to "reinvent the wheel" per se, but come on...why must so much music in a genre be soo horribly boring?! Well perk up because there is a fresh sounding voice from San Diego that will not only blow your mind musically, but thankfully erase the musical horror your folky ears have been subjected to over the years. Rheanna Downey, San Diego's own songwriting genius, has finally released her much anticipated full length record...and all I can say is that it's amazing.

Sitting comfortably in the musical arena of Patty Griffin, EmmyLou Harris, and Shawn Colvin (which is some pretty awesome company, musically speaking), Rheanna brings us 13 well-crafted songs, that have both lyrical depth and intricate orchestration. The record starts off with "Raise My Hands", a mid-tempo song that showcases Downey's knack for placing instruments, and vocals, in all the right places. The electric guitar weaves through the vocal melodies, with the piano and drums lending themselves more to atmosphere than to conquering the mix. The vocals are "up front", but they totally lack the usual thin "folk" singing that plagues most records in this genre. This is why I think this record is so special...the music sounds vibrant (and current), without being derivative. The record meanders through different styles seamlessly, melding jazz phrasing/chords ("Walls Of Snow") , with bluegrass ("It Will Find You"...for the record, the banjo hasn't sounded this good in decades), and spacey-sounding folk ("All I Want"...easily the best song on the record). Lyrically, the record deals with ideas of Faith, God, and one's "past" in a way that is neither preachy, or shallow. I think that tackling issues of faith can be the downfall of many artists, where their zeal (which isn't a bad thing) ends up trumping honesty and/or accessability. The listener is the "outsider"...and is left with a sort of "sermon" on what they're not doing "right." In the case of this record, Downey is able to balance the feelings of yearning, questioning, and worship in a way that draws the listener in, makes them feel comfortable, and never reaches a point where the listener can't relate. It's like sitting on the porch with someone and having a conversation...it's comfortable, and it's pretty far removed from having some sweaty guy in a cheap suit throwing 'hellfire" at your face. This quality, coupled with the music, makes "Pull The Moon" a great portrait of how good the singer/songwriter genre can be. Easily one of the best records of the year...it's a perfect mix of great vocals, beautifully crafted songs, and lyrics that display true honesty and emotion.

Buy this record...thank me later.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekend Picks - 03/04/11

I was born in a tiny little farming slice of Minnesota back in 1976. The town still only has one stop-light...a Lutheran church on every corner...and most of the names in the phone book are "Johnson", "Peterson", or some other Scandinavian concoction. If any of you have ever heard Garrison Keillor talking about "Lake Wobegon," my home town could very well be the town his act is based on. Although I technically grew up in California, I've always been partial to my Minnesota roots. As I grew up I not only became more obsessed with Twins baseball (For the record, I am the biggest Twins fan west of The Mississippi), I also got into the loads of bands that have called Minnesota their home. This week it was all Minnesota for me musically (since my musical nerddom actually means I have an Itunes playlist entitled "Minnesota"), and this weekend should be all Minnesota for you!

Weekend Picks - 03/04/11

-The Hold Steady: "Stay Positive"
-The Replacements: "Let It Be"
-Low: "Things We Lost In The Fire"
-Prince: "Purple Rain"
-Husker Dü: "Zen Arcade"
-The Dillinger Four: "Versus God"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is me...Christmas 0f '87...the year The Twins won the World Series...the Christmas I ended up receiving every piece of WS memorabilia...and ended up trying to wear it all at the same time.

Note Part II: The Hold Steady, being part of the Twins faithful, wrote a "fight song" for the Twins last year...and it's awesome. Enjoy...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fugazi - "Song #1" (Live)


Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from Fugazi...easily one of the greatest punk bands of all time. Always known for their DIY ethic, they were instrumental in showing bands, and musicians, that you could do "music" on your own terms. They showed that you didn't need big-budget managers, you didn't need huge record labels, and that you didn't need to commercialize your art to be successful. Their records were always sold at a fair price, their live shows were usually $5 to get into, and their "punk" spirit inspired thousands of kids to start bands, and thousands of people to start their own record labels. I remember back in 2000 I mailed a letter to Ian MacKaye telling him how much Fugazi meant to me, and how they were an inspiration to me musically. I admit it was a fairly juvenile expression of fan-boy enthusiasm...but I sent it anyways. A few weeks later I got a letter back from him, thanking me for my support and encouraging me to keep doing music on my own terms. Probably one of the nicest notes I've ever received from someone I looked up to musically (and probably the only one). Watch the video...enjoy a few minutes of a real band rocking in a high school auditorium...playing with more emotion and passion in 2 minutes than most bands could muster in an entire career. Enjoy...

Buy their records, start a band...thank me later.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Legos + Music = Fun

MORRISSEY: Ringleader Of The Tormentors

PULP: This is hardcore

Q.) What could be better than great album art?

A.) Great album art that's been reinterpreted through a Lego-filter! I've always been a Lego fan, and seeing these albums re-done with Legos is 100% awesome. Instead of playing minesweeper this morning, please head here to see the rest of the Lego-album vignettes. Enjoy...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cush - "Always Disappear"

If you ever happen to read Billboard.com, or your try to stay "up" on new releases, you most likely have come to the sad realization that much of the "new" music being released these days is rubbish. Sure, there have always been bad albums that have been released upon an unsuspecting populace..."real" housewives singles...lindsay lohan...vampire weekend...all charlatans of suck if you ask me. Because of this phenomenon, I like to take it upon myself to "champion" bands I think deserve a little of your time. Bands that deserve to be heard above all the generic drone that's hyped on music sites. Now I don't have some overwhelming sense of self-importance...I realize that there really aren't droves of people clamoring to read about my thoughts on music (regardless of what I tell myself before I go to sleep). So with all of my rambling out of the way, I give you the new single by Cush. It's atmospheric and dreamy...and musically it picks up where they left off in 2000 with their only full length LP. It's awesome...and it's probably going to make your entire week. Enjoy...

Buy their records...thank me later.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekend Picks - 02/25/11

I have a running list of bands that I think are under-appreciated...shamefully ignored...or not as popular as I thought they should have been. The list grows every year, with many of my favorite bands cursed to swim out their existence in a sea of obscurity. What a shame that so many amazing records have been relegated to the "bargain-bin" of the local record store, sadly sharing rack space with 50 copies of "Monster" by R.E.M, or every record by Sum-41. This week was a trip down memory lane...and my play-list was chock full of bands that, in my opinion, never got their "due." Maybe you, the avid reader of ManicCompression, can listen to these records, fall in love with them, and go buy a copy or two for people who's music tastes need improving.

Weekend Picks - 02/25/11

-The Casket Lottery: "Survival Is For Cowards"
-Handsome: "S/T"
-Catherine Wheel: "Chrome"
-Cush: "S/T"
-The Myriad: "With Arrows, With Poise"
-Year Of The Rabbit: "S/T"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is of The Casket Lottery...an amazing band from Lawrence, KS. They had a huge sound, and should have had a huge following...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking Back Sunday - "Cute Without The E" (Cut From The Team)



Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from Taking Back Sunday. I loved the movie "Fight Club"...and I enjoyed their adaptation of it in this video. Back in the day (when I was making music videos), music video budgets for "indie" bands were really small...so if you look at the majority of videos from the early 2000's, you get a lot of videos that look the same. They all seemed to follow the same basic formula...one which I'll try to break down for you:

Indie-rock music video 101: Band playing in corn field. Cut to cute girl breaking up with guy (lead singer of band playing in said corn field). Cut to lead singer of band who is bummed because the girl dissed him (he deserves better, right?!). Cut to band...instruments aren't plugged in since there is no electricity in the corn field but band continues to play with reckless abandon. Cut back to lead guy writing poetry about girl (ties in with the lyrics of actual song). Cut to lead guy mailing letter to girl. Band still rocking in field. Bridge of the song: Cut to girl reading letter. Cut to "screamer of the band" getting his cameo during their "hardcore" part. Cut to lead singer picking up phone. Cut to girl calling to get back together. Cut back to "screamer" just pushing the jr. high lyrics of lead guy to "11". Cut to lead guy walking with girl (holding hands). Cut to some ironic closing scene with thousands of letters from the lead guy to girl in the trash (or something akin to that) so we can visualize his overwhelming sense of rejection/inferiority/poor writing skills. Fade out from corn field.

Did you get all that? Kudos to Taking Back Sunday for making a video that doesn't suck. Enjoy...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Morrissey - Manic Compression Greatest Songs Album

Not much can be said about Morrissey that hasn't already been put in print. An amazing vocalist, an amazing lyricist, former member of The Smiths, and accomplished solo act. Always mysterious...I've been a fan of his for a good 21 years. Ever since I heard "Panic" for the first time back in the late 80's...that perfect mix of British attitude, mixed with the voice of a "crooner." His phrasing, and impeccable sense of melody, has always intrigued me, whether it was with The Smiths, or as a solo artist...and he always had the musical chops to back his flair for the dramatic. I am of the opinion that he hasn't put out a bad record since leaving The Smiths...and despite his musical boundaries staying safely consistent (read: he hasn't tried to be the "British Yanni" like Sting), he continues to put out quality records decades into his career (His last record "Years Of Refusal" is easily one of his best). How many people quit their seminal bands and have the career longevity that Morrissey has? I challenge you to show me a solo artist who has done it better than "The Moz." Since I am a 34 year old fan-boy (and would probably fail to complete sentences if I were to meet him in person), here are my picks for his greatest songs. A few of these were his singles, but many of them were deep album tracks that I think represent some of his best work. Let the Morrissey-adoration begin...

1. "Jack The Ripper" (Live) - Beethoven Was Deaf
2. "The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores" - You Are The Quarry
3. "Hairdresser On Fire" - Viva Hate
4. "Speedway" - Vauxhall And I
5. "Glamorous Glue" - Your Arsenal
6. "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore" - Years Of Refusal
7. "Suedehead" - Bona Drag
8. "Alma Matters" - Maladjusted
9. "You Have Killed Me" - Ringleader Of The Tormented
10. "Southpaw" - Southpaw Grammar
11. "Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself?" - Vauxhall And I
12. "That's How People Grow Up" - Years Of Refusal
13. "The National Front Disco" - Your Arsenal
14. "November Spawned A Monster" - Bona Drag
15. "Mute Witness" - Kill Uncle

Note: I wanted to include his incredible live version of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"...but out of respect for Johnny Marr (and The Smiths) I didn't include it on my list.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Radiohead - "The King Of Limbs"

Oh to be Radiohead...the once mighty rock band turned "art project." Every few years we are graced with a new album, one that rabid music-critics claim is a grand "return to form" (whatever that means...). After naming the new Radiohead record the "release of the decade" (prior to it even coming out), or the "most important record of all time" (forget about The Beatles, "Pet Sounds", etc...), we are then inundated with hype...hype...and more hype than one could humanly digest in a lifetime. Countless articles, press-releases, rave reviews, and bed-wetting all come down the industry pipeline, ready to cloud the good sense and/or judgment of the music buying populace. So here we are again, awaiting the new Radiohead album with baited breath...getting to listen to a new song ("lotus flower") that sounds an awful lot like every other song they've put out since releasing "KidA." Is this a joke? Secretly I think Yorke & Co. sit around and have a good laugh with each new release. They could realistically put out a record with crickets chirping to some weak sounding drum loop and still sell thousands of copies. If that happened, Pitchfork (and other music-oriented sites) would first soil themselves...and then probably end up calling it "the future of rock." I'm not just being a drama-queen in regards to the ridiculous critical acclaim that is poured onto them. People really write that kind of nonsense...seriously!

I don't buy it...but then again I am the first to admit that I don't "get" anything they have put out after the perfection of "Ok Computer." I'm one of those Radiohead fans...give me a copy of "The Bends" and "OKC" and I'm as happy as a clam. I've purchased every release of theirs since "KidA"...and with each release I am disappointed. I'll probably be buying this new record as well, secretly hoping that it will be awesome, but I'll more than likely be content to keep Radiohead stuck in the 90's. All we (music fans) can do is wait (for the physical release)...and while we are biting our nails with anticipation we get to read post after post on how awesome "The King Of Limbs" is, and how it is going to "revolutionize rock". Maybe it will do that...maybe music, as we know it, will be turned upside down because of it. Maybe it will be one of those records that defines a generation...the heavens will part and all of us will "get it"...

Until then I won't be holding my breath...and based on the first single maybe you shouldn't either.

Note: A) The piece above is my opinion. B) The band is talented...I don't doubt that...I'm just not fond of how they've used their talents the last 11 years.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekend Picks - 02/18/11

This weekend is going to be all about variety...since my weekly play-list has been "all over the map" musically. My parents always loved music, so at the Hagquist house it was either a ton of classical music, or a ton of "oldies"...with a little "Christian" pop mixed in to negate any chance of Marvin Gaye "contributing to the delinquency of a minor (me)". Then I would retreat to my room and run through long mixes of hardcore, metal, punk, soul, and The Beatles. This variety not only exposed me to great music, but gave me an appreciation for things outside of my "generation" musically. Variety is the spice of life...and this installment of my weekend picks is a variety-pack of awesome.

Weekend Picks - 02/18/11

-Adele: "19"
-The Gutter Twins: "Saturnalia"
-The Beatles: "Rubber Soul"
-Envy: "Recitation"
-Zao: "Liberate Te Ex Inferis"
-Massive Attack: "Blue Lines"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers), and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), the duo who make up The Gutter Twins. Awesome band...awesome vocalists.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Top 7 Sub Pop Albums

I have always had favorite record labels...starting back when my allowance stopped buying baseball cards and started going towards vinyl and tapes. I look back fondly at the days when I would send an order form, and well hidden cash, to Dischord Records...only to repeat that same process and send envelopes to Revelation, Victory, Merge, Tooth & Nail, and Sub Pop. I would hear one band on a label, then pine for more...like a little indie-rock sponge. (I am sure if "scene points" would have counted back then I would have amassed a ton of them.) Many of the albums I ordered have become some of my favorite. Albums by Snapcase, Fugazi, Youth Of Today, Superchunk, SunnyDayRealEstate, and Starflyer 59...all got me through my awkward high school days, and not surprisingly still get my through my awkward 30's. One label that I was particularly fond of was SubPop...mostly for the sheer variety of music they put out. Where Dischord was a little too scene specific (not a bad thing), SubPop seemed to have a little bit of everything...from harder stuff like Soundgarden, to the mellower indie stuff like Jale and The Spinanes. It was that randomness that depleted much of my extra cash...and filled my shelves with hours of musical goodness. Despite me getting older I am still impressed with their output...so without any more fan-boy gushing I give you my top 7 SubPop releases.

- Sunny Day Real Estate - "Diary": It was (and still is) like nothing I had heard before. I could write essays on why this album is amazing...the vocals, the music...where to begin? Everyone who bought this album eventually started a band, myself included.

- The Spinanes - "Strand": This was my first introduction to the rock "duo" ("where's the bass player?" my teen-aged brain wondered). Light-years before Matt & Kim, The Spinanes were dropping indie-pop gems with just one guitar, and one drum kit. To this day Rebecca Gates is still one of my favorite vocalists.

- Velocity Girl - "Simpatico": I got way into indie-pop stuff, and Velocity Girl nailed that sub-genre for me. The guitars jangled, and the melodies were syrupy sweet. This record personified "college" rock, and they reminded me of The Posies with a girl singing...and I love me some Posies.

- The Afghan Whigs - "Gentlemen": I fell for the music...a mixture of post-punk edginess and motown soul. Greg Dulli sounded like a man possessed, writhing over a barrage of big guitars, and even bigger drums. This album had everything...lyrics...music...melody...and rage.

- The Murder City Devils - "Broken Bottles, Empty Hearts": I had soured on most "punk" that had been coming out...until I heard this. It was danceable, it was dark, and it was pissed off. 3 aspects of this record that hooked me. If this had been purchased on cassette I would have easily worn out 4-5 copies of it. Easily...

- Band Of Horses - "Cease To Begin": It was one part Beach Boys, with a little Eagles mixed in (minus the usual "suck" factor that is associated with anything "Eagles".). The songs had an ethereal quality to them...and the arrangements were about as close to perfect as you could get. Hearing this record truly blew my mind...it was inspiring and accessible.

- The Jesus And Mary Chain - "Munki": Maybe the Reid brothers were in the twilight of their career, but this record is still one of my favorites by them. It's fuzzed out pop...fueled by beer, cigarettes, sibling rivalry, and shoe-gazing. TJAMC are hard to top...and I was glad to see SubPop release it.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: Narrowing it down to 7 releases by a seminal label like SubPop is difficult. These are MY favorite albums...and I'm still leaving out records by Jale, Red House Painters, The Gutter Twins, Godheadsilo, Jeremy Enigk, Damien Jurado, and The Album Leaf. There will have to be a "part 2"...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Afghan Whigs - "Somethin' Hot" (Live)


Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from one of my favorite bands of all time...The Afghan Whigs. 1998, promoting their record "1965"...they added background singers and piano...but never lost the swagger, and edge, of their earlier material. If Marvin Gaye had been raised on 80's post-punk...and was Caucasian...he may have fronted a band like The Afghan Whigs. Enjoy...

Note: If you aren't familiar with them I would recommend picking up a copy of "Black Love"...it's film-noir set to edgy alt. rock.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gasoline Heart - "Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be"

I like good stories...and there are very few bands that pull off telling stories, and there are even fewer bands that put those stories to good music. I always think of Bruce Springsteen or Johnny Cash...excellent story-tellers who could transport you to Jersey, or Folsom, in just a few stanzas. They were masters at drawing the listener in, making the story tangible (regardless of ones experience), and using imagery that was easy to connect with. It is the art of the story that gets lost in much of what is out these days. We are inundated with media...with access to everyone, anywhere, at any time. Facebook...Twitter...television...digital downloads minus lyrics/artwork/packaging...so much so that a good story is usually lost (or ignored) in a haze of techno-convenience. Luckily for us, the music fan, the newest Gasoline Heart record easily wades through all the noise...with great stories, set to great music.

One part AA meeting, one part emotional exorcism, and one part prayer vigil...this record puts the listener squarely in the lap of lead singer Louis Defabrizo. His lyrics lack the usual high-gloss portrait of excess that easily lend themselves to ridicule. In other words, this isn't the adolescent musings of someone who thinks they know what it's like to feel pain, or be drunk, or have the one you love walk out on you. The lyrics are an honest view into the mind (and heart) of someone who has experienced these things first hand. The lyrical themes play well with a band that sits comfortably in the same musical landscape as The Replacements or The Hold Steady. It's rock-n-roll...it's spirited...it's full of energy minus stupid "rock" cliches. Uptempo rockers like "Look Up Baby...", and "Can't Keep A Good Kid Down", sit comfortably in the vein of Tom Petty, without sounding derivative. The gritty vocal delivery by Defabrizo compliments the music throughout the album, having a powerful effect on both the fast and slow songs. "Never Been Worse" (book-ended by "Never Been Better") is a great example of how powerful/honest lyrics, fused to a slow tempo, can draw you in...it's heavy, yet subtle. For the entire record there's an overwhelming sense of urgency with the songs (regardless of tempo or dynamic)...so while they might fit nicely in a bar-room, they still sound energetic and fresh. This record has been in rotation with me since I bought it. Through it all there is love, loss, depression, alcohol, and a thousand other feelings...but regardless of the subject matter there seems to be an underlying current of hope which shows the listener that life isn't solely made up of the garbage we deal with. Gasoline Heart...a rock band that plays, and sings, with real conviction...a rare, and awesome combination.

Buy this record...thank me later.

Valentines Day In Manhattan...

If you happen to be in the NYC area this Valentines Day...do yourself a favor and stop in to hear some of the best music ever released. Unpack your faded Braid t-shirt and drown your sorrows in a nice glass of Makers Mark.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

U2 - ManicCompression Greatest Songs Album

As many of you know, U2 is my favorite band. I have argued for hours, and hours, about how I believe they are the greatest "rock" band of all time, and on more than one occasion I have won that argument. (Note: I consider the Beatles to be "pop"). I am of the opinion that no other band in the history of rock has had the sheer number of quality of releases, or has stayed relevant longer than U2. The facts clearly show that U2 has never "jumped the shark." In other words, they have never released a record as horrible as "Undercover" by The Rolling Stones. Many of their peers have failed (R.E.M., Depeche Mode) to keep their music sounding fresh, without sounding contrived...and regardless of the album, U2 have always been consistent at sounding like themselves...from 1979, to 2011. No line-up changes, no drummers wanting to sing on a few tracks, and no stabs at being like John Tesh (Sting). Minor missteps have come along in their 30+ year career but nothing catastrophic, and nothing that comes close to tarnishing their impeccable record of quality releases. So without any hesitation, I give to you the 2011 u2 Manic Compression Greatest Songs album! (The songs aren't in a ranked order...just in the order I'd want to hear them in.)

1. "Where The Streets Have No Name" - The Joshua Tree
2. "Like A Song" - War
3. "Do You Feel Loved?" - Pop
4. "Miracle Drug" - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
5. "Heartland" - Rattle And Hum
6. "Ultraviolet" - Achtung Baby
7. "The Unforgettable Fire" - The Unforgettable Fire
8. "Kite" - All That You Can't Leave Behind
9. "So Cruel" - Achtung Baby
10. "Stay Far Away (So Close)" - Zooropa
11. "Bad" - The Unforgettable Fire
12. "New Years Day" - War
13. "Is That All?" - October
14. "With Or Without You" - Rattle And Hum
15. "Exit" - The Joshua Tree
16. "Twilight" - Boy
17. "In God's Country" - The Joshua Tree
18. "Breathe" - No Line On The Horizon
19. "Please" - Pop

Buy ALL of their records...thank me later.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Weekend Picks - 02/11/11

I seem to go through phases when I'm listening to music. One day I'll be listening to Brit-pop from the 90's, and the next day I'll be blaring European metal bands. I like the variety...I like revisiting records I haven't heard in a while, only to be quickly reminded as to why I enjoyed them so much in the first place. This week included a lot of that "revisiting"...and my music week was an International cocktail of OC Punk, British Space, Americana, and Icelandic "out-of-this-world-ness". Enjoy...

Weekend Picks - 02/11/11

-Jonsi: "Go"
-Social Distortion: "Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell"
-The Verve: "A Storm In Heaven"
-The 77's: "Sticks And Stones"
-Rheanna Downey: "Tour De Felicite EP"
-Kathleen Edwards: "Back To Me"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: If you don't know who the picture above features...you're beyond saving. Mike Ness (Social Distortion) and The Boss (The Boss)...two rock "peas in a pod"...live at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. They did a great rendition of "Bad Luck" with the E Street Band a few years ago. Ness came out to sing it with Springsteen at his L.A. date...and the crowd went nuts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sigur Ros - "Hoppipola" - Heima (Live)



Here's a little mid-week palate cleanser from Sigur Ros. Not only does it showcase the grandiose beauty that is Sigur Ros, but it also give us a little taste as to how beautiful Iceland really is. This is one of my favorite songs by them...and it's refreshing to see a band pull of their sound in a live setting...even if it takes half of a marching band to do it. Enjoy...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gates - "The Sun Will Rise And Lead Me Home"

As I have said before, there aren't too many "new" bands that really get me excited. Maybe I'm just a creature with refined tastes...or maybe I have turned into some sort of jaded, 34 year old arm-chair critic/hack who hates everything? What fun! I admit that my tastes might not be everyone's "cup-o-tea"...but they are mine, and I am content enjoying my record collection...even if it is, for the most part, stuck in the 90's. Despite me being out of touch with most new music, I still love that giddy feeling I get when I hear something that rocks. I recently came across Gates (Thanks to a short write-up on the WashedUpEmo blog), and when something pleases my ears as much as their new EP, I can't stop myself from gushing about it. I'll cut through all the nonsense and just come out and say it: This band is amazing...easily my favorite new band of the year and we're barely into February.

"The Sun Will Rise And Lead Me Home," is a six song slice of brilliance. This EP is perfect...and I would be hard pressed to give very many examples of "perfect" records (granted it is only six songs...but I won't disparage it due to brevity). While it loosely reminds me of other bands (The Appleseed Cast, for one), it is NOT a nostalgia trip through the Deep Elm discography. The songs swell, with delayed guitar parts weaving in between each other. The drums breathe...striking a balance between pushing the tempos a long, and pausing just long enough to allow a guitar, or vocal melody, to rise above the mix. The vocals are crisp and powerful, and the sense of good melody really shines above the beauty of the instruments. There have always been bands that were able to build amazing sound-scapes (Explosions In The Sky, Tristeza), but many of those bands lacked the pop sensibilities that people could grasp. Gates does an excellent job melding those two worlds together...beautiful mini-epics married to a strong display of vocal melody. Real "songs" that are an ideal place to get lost in during your 30 minute lunch break.

Buy this record...thank me later.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Top 7 Rock Albums From San Diego

San Diego...the place that I've rested my head for much of my life...has been the home of a myriad of great bands. The music scene here has always been somewhat eclectic, from the low-fi goodness of Truman's Water, to the rock-n-roll spectacle of Rocket From The Crypt. Once labeled "the next Seattle" by some moronic journalist, San Diego has continually been a hotbed of musical talent, some of which have slogged it out locally, and some who have been catapulted into teen-aged stardom. When I was in high school I was able to see bands like Blink 182, and P.O.D., in their infancy...years before Mtv and the rest of the world began to notice. I also had the opportunity to witness, first hand, the musical brilliance of Drive Like Jehu, Three Mile Pilot, and No Knife, destroying stages and leaving audiences (and myself) with the feeling that they had just witnessed something truly special. So here is my list...my nominations for the top 7 rock records to come out of San Diego. Maybe it won't be definitive...and maybe some San Diegan's will find it mediocre at best...but these are my picks and I'm sticking to them. Enjoy...

-Rocket From The Crypt - "Scream, Dracula, Scream!": This is rock-n-roll in it's purest form...it's primal...manic...and it's huge amounts of fun. If The Stooges had been a "Motown" band I think they would have sounded a lot like RFTC. If this album was any more "fun" it would be illegal.

-Pinback - "Blue Screen Life": For me, this record defines what good "indie" rock should sound like. Catchy songs, intricate percussion/beats, and smart lyrics. Very few bands do an adequate job of mastering the art of subtlety, and Pinback trumps them all.

-No Knife - "Riot For Romance": This record is angular, full of big guitars, and never delves to far into the realm of math-rock inaccessibility. Never derivative, No Knife truly hit their stride with this record...a post-punk classic that could easily rival anything on Dischord.

-Drive Like Jehu - "Yank Crime": This is what punk rock should sound like...It's loud, aggressive and dissonant. This record spawned a thousand bands trying their best to recreate this album, and all of them failed miserably.

-P.O.D. - "Satellite": P.O.D. had been doing the rock/rap thing since the early 1990's...so when they finally broke into the mainstream their sound was no surprise to me (or the legions of SD fans they already had). This album was a mix of everything I liked about them (heavy music/epic choruses/faith) without any of the nu-metal stupidity that went a long with most of the bands they were compared to.

-Three Mile Pilot - "The Chief Assassin To The Sinister": Epic in stature...it's an experimental trek...an emotional ride that will totally blow your mind and leave your jaw permanently stuck to the floor. It's heavy, it's quiet...it is "progressive" minus the overwhelming sense of "suck" that is associated with anything "prog".

-Delta Spirit - "History From Below": A great record that teases the listener with country, bluegrass, and rock...propelled by "Bushwick Blues"...a delicious slice of songwriting brilliance from these San Diego natives.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: This list was difficult because with each album I posted, I thought of another record I wanted to include. "Lists" are tough...so here are some San Diego bands that also deserve a mention: Lucy's Fur Coat, Rust, Convoy, Superunloader, Dryve, Loam, Buck-O-Nine, Hot Snakes, Reeve Oliver, Fluf, Tristeza/The Album Leaf, and The Rugburns.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Weekend Picks - 02/04/11

Here is the second installment of my "weekend picks"...the definitive list of music that is sure to make your weekend a glorious one, regardless of how cold it might be outside. I see it as my way to warm the hearts and minds of those readers who don't have the luxury of living in San Diego during the winter. For the record, it's 74 degrees with nary a cloud in the sky...

Weekend Picks - 02/04/11

-Gates: "The Sun Will Rise And Lead Me Home"
-Matt Pond Pa: "Emblems"
-Fugazi: "In On The Kill Taker"
-Jawbox: "Self Titled"
-The Killers: "Live From The Royal Albert Hall"
-This Will Destroy You: "Young Mountain"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture posted above is a live shot of Fugazi...one of the greatest bands of all time...and one of the best live bands you'll ever see.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Hope For Home - "The Everlasting Man"

A few years ago I attended a "hardcore" show here in San Diego to catch up with some old friends. Since it was a show full of heavy bands I thought I would do my part and choose an outfit that would help me blend in, or at least help me feel a little younger. No, I didn't wear a Bane t-shirt, camo shorts, and New Balance sneakers (my days of being a "pit-boss" never really came to fruition), but I did opt for an old Snapcase shirt...which surprisingly garnered more attention than I had hoped for. I had 3 people, who were easily under the age of 18, ask me if "Snapcase" was a new clothing company. It was a reminder to me that a) I am an old man, and 2) my frame of reference for hardcore sits comfortably in the decade of the 90's. That's not a bad thing seeing as though some of the greatest records of the genre were released during that time: Records by Snapcase, Earth Crisis, Strife, Shai Hulud, Strongarm, and Refused to name a few. I'm pretty far removed from being "up" on what's happening in the scene, and it's rare that new hardcore bands actually catch my attention. Most of it sounds contrived...it's style over substance...fashion over passion. Maybe I'm making a gross generalization, but in my opinion I think most of the "hardcore" coming out these days is laughable at best. Very few hardcore bands get me excited (read: I'm underwhelmed), and I end up just comparing the listening experience to the excitement I felt hearing Shai Hulud for the first time (1997). "The Everlasting Man," by A Hope For Home, rekindled that excitement for me.

I think it's quite a task to not only make interesting music, but to also write an entire record based on the work of G.K. Chesteron. What this album has is both lyrical depth, and musical muscle. You won't find tough-guy posturing, and you won't be bored to death by the rehashing of every riff off the "Fire Storm" EP. "The Everlasting Man" reminds me of the intricate song structures of Strongarm, mixed with the atmospherics of Isis, and the passion of Overcome. All great bands...but that is my reference point for their over-all sound. The music switches from massive guitars and gut wrenching screams, to melodic guitar leads and passionate singing. Sure, the scream/sing thing has been beaten to death but AHFH really have a fresh take on the idea. Songs like "Absolution: Of Flight and Failure", and "Masada: The Spiral Staircase" move seamlessly between massive chunks of distortion and melody, with the juxtaposition of singing and screaming actually feeling like it wasn't an afterthought. The songs move through different tempos while still managing to sound like actual "songs" instead of disjointed parts thrown together to increase their "prog-metal" cred. While the music puts a fresh spin on what "hardcore" can be, the lyrics, based on "The Everlasting Man" by Chesterton, showcase the constant struggle of humankind to make sense of the world around them. Countless bands have tried, and failed, to thematically tie in lyrics with a story or novel, but AHFH actually do it, and sound sincere. Channeling the ideas of someone else and making them your own, with real emotions behind them, can be a difficult journey, but it's one that is perfectly navigated on this record. "The Everlasting Man" is a reminder that great "hardcore" not only pummels the listener with huge riffs, but strikes an emotional chord as well. A Hope for Home has achieved both of these things while putting their own signature on a genre sadly in need of resuscitation.

Buy this record...thank me later.