This is an mp3 blog attempting to document the gross amount of music I listen to. About once a day, I'll post something I like. If you're a copyright holder on anything I host, get in touch, and we'll settle things in a steel cage instead of a courtroom.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The 22 Best Records of 2006 (According to Me), Part 2

Alright, yesterday we saw 12-22. Now you're getting 1-11. If you don't understand, you must be profoundly retarded. This post will likely contain many errors in terms of grammar, punctuation, and syntax; I am leaving in a few hours to interview J. Robbins and/or Vic Bondi. (I think; the dude from Alternative Tentacles never called me back.) Either way, I'm still going to the Report SuspicioU.S.A.ctivity show at the Black Cat tonight.

Alright, enough wi' that. On with the countdown!

11. Ugly Duckling - Bang For the Buck: Party record of the year. Old-school beats that drop asses and don't resort to tacky posturing. It's all playful boasting, and DJ Young Einstein is one of the best in the country. One of the best bands I saw live this year. Put this on the next time you're hosting a bunch of rowdy drunk hooligans, show off that you still know how to do the Humpty Dance, and you'll enter into hipster legend.

10. Lucero - Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers: Lucero finally flexes their classic rock muscles and rides Crazy Horse right through the best keggar you've ever been to. The ballad/loveable loser aspect is still intact, but there are more rockers than lonesome walkers for the first time in the band's history, and they wear it well. Barbed-wire rhythms and whiskey-throated howlings of a lonesome loner? I'd bet the mortgage that both Paul Westerberg and Bruce Springsteen kept this in steady rotation this year.

9. The Falcon - Unicornography: Brendan Kelly continues his winning streak with these 11 pipe-bombs. Funny, sad, drunk, and pissed-off all rolled up like multi-colored, mashed-up ball of Play-Doh used as a pre-emptive weapon against an unsuspecting sibling. "R. L. Burnouts, Inc." is the best junkie song since "How Low?", "Blackout" turns your car stereo into the best basement show you've ever seen, and "The Longshoreman's Lament" and "Little Triggers" lets melody bubble to the surface inbetween sputtering fits of rage. It may be a side project, but I hope this isn't the last we hear from these dudes.

8. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine: Attention music dorks of America: yes, the Thermals no longer record on cheap boomboxes. DEAL. They're still one of the most thrilling bands in the country. Besides, compared to shit like Jet, they're still as fuzzed-out as the Sonics fanatics on Teenage Shutdown. Even though if was the galloping thunder of "Here's Your Future" and "Pillar of Salt" that got all the attention, songs like "St. Rosa and the Swallows" prove they can play at mid-tempo and still knock the wind out of you.

7. Armalite - Self-Titled: I honestly believe I am the only person in the country who likes this record. How could people at least not be interested in checking it out? Listen to this pedigree: Kill The Man Who Questions, Atom & and His Package, and Lifetime/Kid Dynamite/Paint it Black! Holy shit! Talk about supergroup. The Travelling Wilburies ain't got a day-old turd on Armalite. Shit, I'm just happy to hear Adam Goren's voice again. And Dr. Dan Yemin absolutely killing it on bass? What's not to love? I figured the Orgcore kids would have been all over this like black on Uncle Ben.

6. The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes!: I'm such a sucker for the girl group sound that I'll go along with a calculated rehash, down to the matching outfits and predetermined "personalities" of the group members. That said, this record had some of the catchiest, most consistently hummable, memorable pop songs that it burrowed it's way into my brain, refusing to leave. Plus, there's a little spin on the old girl group approach; instead of being heartbroken victims or ecstatic lovers, these are nasty girls, more likely to cheat than to lament being cuckolded. These are the gals that act bitchy in order to drive away nice guys because they've "had just about enough of sweet." Got-DAMN!

5. Channels - Waiting for the Next End of the World: J. Robbins can do no wrong, it seems. He joined Government Issue right as the band peaked, he started one of the best alt-indie rock bands of all time with Jawbox, and Burning Airlines and Channels still slay. Two years after their debut EP, they finally delivered a full-length, but it was worth the wait. J. and his wife Janet lead on the guitar front while Darren Zentek kills in on the kit. "To the New Mandarins" and "New Logo" might be the most political songs Robbins ever wrote, but it's the haunting dread of "Mercury" that sticks with you after the thing ends.

4. The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!: Brendan Kelly makes his second appearance on the list as the Lawrence Arms deliver their fourth classic in a row. A blazing burst of punk energy fueled by beer, coke, pot, and speed as much as apathy and exhaustion, it sprints from the starting line on, pausing only for brief moments of morning-after malaise. When Kelly menacingly exhales "I've heard the devil call me by my name," you believe it, bucko. An Alkaline Trio for all us bored, drunk, depressed 20-somethings.

3. Mission of Burma - The Obliterati: Like Bad Religion, I'm sometimes really surprised by dudes in their 40's and 50's making music that's as vein-crushingly muscular (or moreso) than their counterparts barely into their 20's. I saw MoB live this summer, and it was like the evil side of acid, all feedback and jittery bass, thundering along with the pummeling of a million BPM beating of a slave galley drum. The Obliterati is their best album yet, and that's saying something.

2. Morrissey - Ringleader of the Tormentors: As most of my friends are aware, I am completely fucking obsessed with Morrissey. Like Sammy and her unhealthy interest in Christopher Walken, Mozzer and I go way back, and it's a fan devotion that hasn't wavered, even as it's been tested time and time again. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with his "comeback" album from a little while back, You Are the Quarry. I didn't care for the synth-pop backbeats (who was he, freakin' Dido?) or the directionless ballads like "Come Back to Camden." (Although, to be fair, if you'd mixed the best of the album tracks with the best of the b-sides, you would have had a smoking disc.) That said, my pop hero's offering this year was nothing short of amazing. It's his best solo album ever (well, other than Bona Drag, but that one doesn't really count), even more than Vauxhall and I. It hits all the right notes and never falters, and pairing Morrissey with Ennio Morricone is the best pop music pairing since Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. "To Me You Are a Work of Art" hits me right behind the eyeballs, "The Youngest Was the Most Loved" will creep me out for the rest of my life, "I Will See You in Far-Off Places" is HEAVY, "In the Future When All's Well" might be my favorite single this year, and and and...I could go on. You get the idea. I need to clean myself up.

1. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America: Even though it came out late in the year, I think the album I listened to more than any other was this one. I had it on loop for days straight, playing air piano and hollering along. Craig Finn's hyperliterate burnout poetry has the lived-in feel of an ancient studio apartment that smells of old weed and record sleeve cardboard. If the deliberately detached generation Y Not? finally having its own Dorothy Parker wasn't enough, the band finally says "the hell with it!" and makes no attempt to cover up their love of Thin Lizzy and Let it Be (the Replacements' one, not the shitty one from the 70's). It's rocking, rollicking, raucous, and a two-step riot waiting to find a pair of ears in order to go off. Boys and girls in America may have such a sad time together, but it's probably not while this record is blaring out of dumpstered speakers.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The 22 Best Records of 2006 (According to Me), Part 1

I figured if I was gonna be part of the herd and release a year-end countdown of quality, I might as well at least chuck round numbers out of the window. Round numbers are for the metric system and Rob Sheffield. Anyway, today I'll give you the bottom 11, and tomorrow I'll finish it off. Dig? Dug.

22. This Is My Fist - History of Rats: What can I say? I love the bands that love Discount. It's fiece, ballsy, and Annie is my new punk rock crush. The Best band out of the Bay Area since Jeff Ott and Aaron Cometbus went nuts and lost it.

21. DragonForce - Inhuman Rampage: Jonathan said it best - "It's like McDonald's; it's bad for you, but it's still so fucking awesome!" Yeah, it's bombastic power metal. Yeah, there are a million finger-tap solos. But does it rock so hard that it makes your chest start to hurt? Oh yes. PS - the "Operation Ground and Pound" video was the best one I saw all year.

20. Hank Williams III - Straight to Hell: If you missed it, my interview with Hank Williams III ( was one of the most wildly entertaining things I've ever done. He's a loudmouth outlaw country singer, and God knows we need more of them. Straight to Hell is solid from front to back, and almost as funny and cockeyed as the man himself.

19. Mastodon - Blood Mountain: Who'd'a thunk I'd be down for a prog-metal headphones record? Hometown boys Mastodon well and truly slay. Shit, they even got nominated for a Grammy! If you ever wanna freak out, take the brown acid and pop this in your stereo. When they find you, you'll be a twichy, drooling mass curled up on the floor.

18. The Bronx - The Bronx II: These dudes are like a jackhammer on your brain. Bullshit-free monster riffs pulverize you, and it's so packed with rockage that it's leaking. The Bronx are one of those rare groups where one listen is all it takes to convert. One Bronx song is all it takes to convince your little brother to stop being such a faggot, cut his bangs, buy a shirt in an adult size, and wash the shoe polish out of his hair. Imagine a metal version of Rocket From the Crypt, and you'll be on the right track.

17. The Roots - Game Theory: Whenever the Roots come out with a new record, it's pretty much a given that'll blow away pretty much any other rap album that comes out that year, and 2006 was no exception. ?uestlove is one of the coolest human beings on the planet, no doubt. Elia told me they played her college this year; a drum solo capped off their set, which was confusing to most of the crowd there, I guess because they just thought people only made music on computers. If there were more hip-hop bands, then maybe we could get away from what most Top 40 rap has been reduced to - dudes chanting over what sounds like ringtones.

16. Defiance, Ohio - The Great Depression: Defiance, Ohio made the best folk-punk album since Reinventing Axl Rose. What else do you need to know? What's really killer is that they are a folk group who play American folk music like they're the fiercest punks on the planet. Most DIY punks are annoying idiots, but D, OH makes me want to learn acoustic guitar and go on a basement tour with Aaron "Beanerschnitzel" Hale.,_Ohio_The_Year.mp3.html

15. Cat Power - The Greatest: Aside from being the hottest chick in indie rock (well, other than maybe Neko Case), Chan Marshall made the chillout record of the year, maybe the decade. When I had a porch, I'd get home at 2 or 3 in the morning and sit out there, smoking a joint, looking at the moon, thinking about one girl in particular, and listening to this record on headphones. It always seem to flush the ecstasy rush from my system so I could fall asleep and function in class the next day.

14. Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor: I guess because I don't follow the mixtape scene, it seems like this guy came out of nowhere. He's soulful, smart, and willing to rap about introspective issues and not have to put up a thug front. I'm glad Common's Be was such a hit, if for no other reason than because it made records like this economically viable. It elevates hip-hop to an art form instead of just background dance music, and I could listen to it all day.

13. The Futureheads - News and Tributes: So many people dumped on this record, but I thought it was fucking great. Light years away from the speedy spazzouts of the Renewed Wave that was their first record, News and Tributes is a dense forest that still manages to be catchier than most pop records. How many bands can say they avoid the sophmore slump? Even the Jam made a terible second record.

12. Dead to Me - Cuban Ballerina: I'm fairly certain the only four people in the world who liked this are me, Anna Wilkie, Boombox, and Mike Burkett. When they opened for Leftover Crack at the Black Cat, they were actively booed by an audience who despises overt melodies. But it kills! Which is surprising, because it's a post-rehab record, and those usually suck a cheetah's dick. But it's so catchy and heartfelt that it won me over pretty quickly. I guess having a substance abuse "problem" of my own, I can sort of relate. PS - Does anyone know what the FUCK a Cuban ballerina is? I'm guessing it's drug slang or something.

Alright, all for now. Check back tomorrow (maybe Saturday, I got a show to cover) for the rest!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"No surrender, no retreat" - Fifth Hour Hero

So, yeah. Another band "signed" to No Idea. All I'm gonna say is that when Aubin finally gets off his ass and puts out the 'Org-Core 7" of the Month Club, all he'd have to do is get Fat Wreck and No Idea to combine forces. You can bet your ass I'd have a subscription, and thanks to my new Christmas gift, probably be posting them as soon as they came out (take THAT, Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry!)

Fifth Hour Hero is a Canadian pop-punk band (okay, I guess most of you just stop reading after that last sentence fragment) that trade in constant harmonies and catchy fucking songs. Hey, any band who obliquely names themselves after an underrated Jam song ("Just Who is the 5 o'clock Hero?") deserves a chance. It's one of the female-fronted bands that worships at the altar of Discount (like This Is My Fist, who are staying together after all), which means 1) semi-melodic punk vocals, and 2) poppy doesn't have to mean free-from-grit-and-distortion.

They've done splits with split-whores Gunmoll and Annalise (both of whom ROCK) as well as two full-lengths and a couple EPs, the best of which is "You Have Hurt My Business and Reputation, Too." This year's Not Revenge, Just a Vicious Crush was excellent, and in the running for my inevitable end-of-the-year list, to be posted here and on Racket.

This is perfect music for 20-something who want to feel 15 again, but without the NOFX records or the jeans shants. Good for reckless driving, fireworks, teen-movie moments that inevitably happen, and trying to convince that cute punk chick you're not sexist. Word? Word.,_Oh_My_Bruce.mp3.html

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy whatever, assholes

Christmas might be my least favorite holiday. I much prefer the ones where I don't have to do much beyond getting drunk and pretending to care about old presidents or civil rights leaders or trees or what the fuck ever. I hate having to pretend like I have such attributes as thoughtfulness and kindness, both of which are a waste of time. Also, if I hear Manheim Steamroller one more time, someone's gonna get garroted in the bathroom.

I'm just tired of the hype and insistence on consideration and animatronic Santas and visits from extended family and tasteless holiday treats and bullshit, hypocritical "peace on Earth" sentiments that don't last past New Year's Day. It's just too much effort for a holiday that involves a day off from work.

If I have to deal with the shitty music one more time, at least I want to fire two salvos of what I like into the mix. I mean, a human being can only listen to Bing Crosby so much before one insists on the Ramones and the Pogues. Really, these are the only two Christmas songs worth listening to. They're the only ones that capture what happens on Christmas - fighting with your girlfriend and ending up in the drunk tank.

I've only had one magic Christmas memory. Back in freshman year on college, I was still dating Cristina. I went to see her Christmas day, and we ended up on her small back patio - her socked feet on my shoes, dancing together to our own music while the very first snow of the year was falling. It's still probably my favorite Christmas memory and the only thing in my life that was borderline fairy tale.

Whatever. Why are you surfing the internet instead of spending the holidays with the people you care about a smidge more than me?

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Suckin' off each other's gats and pistols" - Sage Francis

You know, sometimes it really bums me out that people like Vanilla Ice and Marky Mark made color in issue as far hip-hop cred is concerned. Even Eminem, one of the best artists the genre has ever produced, constantly faced accusations of being a honky culture thief. Basically, we're bred to believe that white boys can't rap, and there's scant mainstream evidence to the contrary.

However, a brief scan of the underground presents a different picture. While not entirely 50/50 black/white, many white artists have found credibility in what is still widely considered "black" music (like, say, Slug, El-P, Aesop Rock, Ugly Duckling, or Rjd2), something which has never happened with above-ground hip-hop.

One of the best rappers of any color working today is Sage Francis. His hyperliterate, slam-poet persona is barely masked by the skills he honed on the battle rap circuit (he won the highly-touted Scribble Jam in 2000). He's evolved into an artist who is introspective and observant, but his musings are presented with the kind of intensity that you can only develop shutting down other rappers in front of raucous crowds.

While he's been bumming around the Rhode Island scene for coming on ten years now, he finally came into his own in 2004 with his best album to date, A Healthy Distrust. It was really his first conscious album, since all of his previous CDs were essentially collections of live tapes, freestyles, radio shows, and 12" singles. A Healthy Distrust is one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time, and it captures Sage's odd mind. I can' t think of any other rap album that would feature Will Oldham or imagine a rap battle between the sun and moon. From the underground-eviscerating "Slow Down, Gandhi" to the heartbreaking "Bridle," from the introspective "Escape Artist" to the snide (and inexplicably threatening) "Dance Monkey," it's winners all the way through. Here's hoping his 2007 album Human the Death Dance is even better.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"I hate neutron bombs and senior proms!" - The Briefs

When Anna Wilkie and I get around to remaking Rock 'n' Roll High School, the band we're going to use in lieu of the Ramones are Seattle's own punk pranksters the Briefs. They traffic in the speedy buzzsaw attack made famous by the Rezillos and the Zero Boys, and they're doing what they can to bring a sense of humor back to the scene. Between emo pansies, hardcore jocks, yindie (yuppie indie) dorks playing an updated version of Jackson Browne for people who own Ikea furniture, joyless zealots who play "experimental" music for equally joyless zealots, DIYers who think they can change the world by double-tracking an acoustic guitar and touring on bicycle, and any of the other lame sub genres of music that reek of, ugh, maturrrrrrrrity, things needed a kick in the ass. Don't worry, Conor; Spin thinks you're all growed up, even if you look like a malnourished 11-year-old that stumbled into his mom's make up.

There's just something I love about stuff that's unabashedly juvenile and snide. Yeah, it might not change the world, but someone really needed to sing a song about killing Bob Seger. Of the Briefs' four albums, three are gems. Hit After Hit, Sex Objects, and Steal Yer Heart are all crucial. While the band has gotten more melodic and given more ground to straight pop over time, they've retained their snotty attitude and slacker sense of humor. Not many bands could write a song about having a thing for one-night stands with the middle-aged set and pull it off without making it a one-note joke or grating on repeat listens.

Besides, it's nice to have a band taking the piss out of political music. A song called "Destroy the USA" has so much potential to be just another lame rant of some welfare malcontent, but it's instead a hilarious litany of all the things the singer hates about America (i.e. fast food, useless wars, himself, blue drinks, getting out of bed, straight edge kids, Jell-o molds, etc.) So many bands take themselves so seriously that one with a warped sense of humor is a breath of fresh air. Remember kids, rock 'n' roll is about getting fucked up and rocking out as hard as humanly possible. Everything else is just ephemera.

PS - If you dig this, start getting stoked for the new Ergs album, out in '07.

Monday, December 18, 2006

"Like quicksand, pullin' me deeper" - Martha and the Vandellas

As Nathan Rabin so nailed it on the head in his ruminations on the soon-to-be-released Dreamgirls, for as great as Motown was, and for all the amazing songs and incredible performers, it was at heart a concerted effort to sell blackness to white America in the form of pop songs that weren't all that far removed from the Four Freshmen.

I think that's why I never really cottoned to the Supremes in the same way as so much of the Big Chill generation has. I never really cared for Diana Ross' voice, and the rest of the group was negligable at best. Of course, they were helped by the fact that Berry Gordy assigned them all the best songs coming out of the Motown house, especially 'most all of the A-list winners penned by the unbeatable team of Holland/Dozier/Holland. Shit, even Kelly Clarkson sounds pretty good when she's got a good enough song written for her. It makes sense that once Ms. Ross was removed from the protective bubble of the Motown staff, she degenerated into the frizzed-out crap soul singer that she really always was. If Fergie has a counterpart in 70's singers, it's Diana Ross.

I bring this up because I am stupidly in love with the girl groups of the 60's (not to mention their spiritual descendents, female-fronted twee bands), which is really no secret. But since most people consider the Supremes to be the greatest girl group of them all (because, hey, you can measure quality in terms of #1 singles), I'm forced to retort, "they weren't even the best girl group on Motown, much less of all time."

So who is, Mr. Know-it-all-rock-snob? That's easy, kiddo - Martha and the Vandellas. They weren't restrained; they were all for riotous dancing, being racous, shouting out your feelings, letting it all hang out and not giving a damn who saw. It was messy and soulful and unafraid. Shit, they changed their name from the Del-Phins because one time, when they were doing a backup session for Marvin Gaye and drowning out the king of soul himself, he referred to them as "vandals." How fucking cool is that? It wasn't fake, either; Martha Reeves got herself institutionalized for a while in the late 60's.

Basically, everything these gals recorded was pure gold, although you'll be pressed to find anyone under 40 who can name any of their songs that aren't "Dancin' in the Street." If you can find it, the 1965 LP Dance Party is jaw-droppingly good, and I've yet to hear a bad song from the group. Here's hoping the people that own the Motown catalogue finally get off their asses and put out a comprehensive box set.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Please destroy me" - Ladytron

News item the first: I would like to give mad TKAAD props to the individuals responsible for putting Are You Afraid of the Dark? on YouTube. You are truly the new American heroes.

News item the second: Quiche gives me gas like a motherfucker.

News item the third: My phone is still in limbo. Kind of a bitch, that.

I don't know a whole lot about Ladytron, aside from the fact that they named themselves after a killer Roxy Music song (but then, weren't they all killer?). British synth band, detached/icy, focused on image, stupid haircuts, etc. I've just been listening to their last album, Witching Hour, in a daze all of today, mostly because 1) I have no marijuana and 2) if I listen to Autolux's Future Perfect or Fugazi's Repeater one more time, I think I'm going to wear out the grooves. It's not a bad album, but I've mostly had this song on repeat. It's a good "repeat" song. It reminds me of cruising with Kristy in Athens in the middle of the night, trying to find one cheap horror movie at basically any video store still open.

No great insights here, kids. Just a great song. Add your own goddamn memories. Mine're taken.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"I've got a head like a train wreck!" - Paint it Black

News item the first: I apologize if my last entry didn't have much in common with the English language. Don't drink and blog, kids.

News item the second: Racket Mag drinking duel! You heard it here fourth.

Some loves won't change. Such a love for me is that of Dr. Dan Yemin, the man behind the iconic bands Lifetime and Kid Dyanmite, as well as the contemporary group Paint it Black (in addition to KILLING it on bass in Armalite). I advise you to check out all three groups. Last one to do so will have their sexuality called into question, or however the schoolyard chant goes.

Paint it Black specialize in the brand of hardcore that's normally pretty laughable. Bass lead-ins, chugga-chugga breakdowns, shouted vocals, distended rhythms, etc etc etc. But you know what? Yemin brings enough interesting shit to the table to make it more fun than a million other hardcore bands (well, as much fun as you can have with a self-loathing, politically aware child psychologist). Their first record, CVA, was a brutal affair. However, it was their last album, 2005's Paradise that really won me over. If you think hardcore has had nothing to offer since, oh, 1987, then this a record for you. It's hard-hitting as all fucking holy hell, but it's got a melodic edge that can't be denied. Just listen to "Memorial Day," probably the best song they ever did.

And hey, any band with the balls to name themselves after the best Rolling Stones song has got to win at least one coolness point, right?

Friday, December 15, 2006

"Shake the clouds down" - Autolux

As I mentioned in my post about the Silversun Pickups, LA seems to be putting out fuzzed out bands who love ecstasy and My Bloody Valentine, usually within the same time frame. This usually means there are a lot of bands that come across as sounding like slightly more artistic versions of the Smashing Pumpkins, not all succumb to such a fate. Some end up sounding like cheap versions of Pulp, which is a fate worse than torture. Jarvis Cocker is bad enough as it is, but when you get someone trying to knock him off, it's worse than listening to some garage case that thinks he Fredde Mercury or *shudder* Bono.

Of course, with roaring feedback that shimmers, comparisons to My Bloody Valentine are inevitable. It happens to every shoegaze band, just like every rockabilly artist from the 50's was judged in relation to Elvis. Autolux just happened to be Carl Perkins, is all.

I first heard the song "Sugarless" back when I used to read the Buddyhead mp3 blog. Remember when they used to update that site? Me neither. Anyway, it was enough for me to pick up Future Perfect, their sole record, when I found it at Record and Tape Exchange. I knew it was gold when I put on the first side of the first record, and the drums were mixed loud enough that my easy-going neighbors began pounding on the wall. Pissing off the neighbors always helps a winner to make.

They're on a label owned by the Coen brothers (yes, the ones that make the movies) and T Bone Burnett, the blueman that produced a shoegaze album. That alone blows my mind. Once again, it only supports my argument that most British-derived music is just electric white boy blues, regardl;ess of the pitch of the singers' voice.

II think "Sugarless" is probably the best song ever about not doing heroin anymore, if I'm interpreting correctly.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"I can't make the words I need to say" - Lucero

News item the first: Lemmy Kilminster and Brendan Kelly are doubtlessly the two coolest people on the planet. But you knew that.

News item the second: I don't normally post this kind of thing, but in this instance, I'm willing to make an exception: Otherwise, I dunno what to say - never been good with this kind of thing. Honestly, I normally am apathetic to stuff like this, but something this bad happened to the child of a DC musician is almost like it happening to someone in your extended family, at least to me.

Now that you're suitably depressed, I figured it'd be time to spring some Lucero on you. Of all the things my ex-wife gave to me (busted eardrum, alimony bills, an overwhelming hatred of crust punks, Hep C), by far the best thing was the love of Lucero that she fomented in me. I've always figured the only Southern things she's liked has been me and them (although not in that order).

I'm gonna guess that when most people hear the idea that there are Southern rock bands operating in the 00's, touring and writing their own material, they groan and wonder why it didn't die with Hank Williams, Jr., like it was supposed to. I have two points of rebuttal: 1) discounting "Sweet Home Alabama" and "The Ballad of Curtis Loew," Skynyrd fucking rules, and 2) remember how rap was supposed to die in the late 80's? Yeah. Never underestimate the loyalty and tenacity of genre fans, no matter what form of music it is. How the fuck else do you think Barbara Streisand commands three- and four-digit ticket prices to her concerts, decades after the apex of her popularity? Shit, even Flock of fucking Seagulls gets $40 a head in some podunk bar every night.

Of course, Lucero ain't operating in some vacuum where the Allman Brothers were the best band of all time, maaaan. Even with the barrelhouse pianos, mournful organs, and soaring arpeggios, you can very much hear the shambling, intoxicated heart of the Replacements and the open-up-and-bleed quality of Jawbreaker. It certainly doesn't hurt that Ben Nichols is a hell of a songwriter and a singer. The combination of both on "Nights Like These," is sad, angry, and lonely all at once, and you'd know this even if you didn't speak a word of English. Dipped in whiskey and set ablaze with cigarettes, his hoarse croon is as worn-down and mystical as the South I love, and it says a surrendering "fuck you" in the way that only someone exhausted can. It's one of my favorite songs of all time, and one that rips me up each and every time.

If I posted every Lucero song that meant the world to me, I'd probably be putting up enough MP3's to draw the attention of the RIAA. Suffice it to say that this sampling should be more than enough to entice those that like what they find. They just put out an amazing new album called Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers, which is probably the best thing they've ever done. Their two albums before that, Nobody's Darlings and That Much Further West are also extremely crucial, and the place to start is you prefer the ballad side of the band (which I kinda do). Of the songs on the new record, "I Can Get Us Out of Here Tonight" sounds like a bonafide radio hit without sounding like it made one damn concession to modern rock stations or the CMT Network, while "The Mountain" has some great lines ("my daddy lost most everything/On horses, whiskey, and wedding rings") combined with those promises that Southern boys make that they have every intention of keeping, but you know it ain't happenin'.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"If you wanna learn history, get outta your house" - Ghost Mice

Anna Wilkie will probably add another squirt of piss on my grave for liking Ghost Mice. Don't get me wrong, kiddos. Acoustic anarcho DIY folk-punk usually makes me roll my eyes and run screaming from the basement. And even though some of Ghost Mice's lyrics induce groans, and their harmonizing and rhythms sometimes gets grating, it's easy to look past that because they're such a burst of joyful expression. You can tell that these songs mean everything to them.

Chris (also founder and owner of Plan-It-X Records) and Hannah of The Devil is Electric formed Ghost Mice in 2002 after the former band broke up. Taking a guerrilla approach to music, they've eschewed electricity, foregoing amps and microphones (except when they play one of the million DIY festivals that seem to be popping up like mushrooms).

I'm not a huge fan of their debut album, The Debt of the Dead. It was more strident than listenable, and I wrote them off as a better concept than a band. However, over the course of splits with Saw Wheel and the incredible Defiance, Ohio, they started getting better and better. Instead of politics in a vacuum, they began focusing on family and relationships, channeling their politics through a humanizing lens. They put out a pretty good record on No Idea this year called Europe, chronicling a 90-day trip spent hitchhiking and camping across, well, Europe. It makes for an interesting listen and gets them closer to their folk roots.

Yeah, I hate uptight political punks as much as the next red-blooded American, but hey! Fiddles rule. Also, they have a cool motto ("Punk as Folk!"). I guess we're gonna have start spray-painting UP THA FOLX in alleys now, huh?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"I make a better rock revolution alone with my dick!" - Gogol Bordello

I'm super excited today. It's not because I'm rocking a Hurricane 40 oz., and it's certainly not because I spent all day sticking pins in a giant map so executives could have a visual as to where US Marshal detention centers are. No, I'm stoked because I finally got tickets to see Gogol Bordello this month. Will likely be going to see them with Elia and my sister, Liz. I can't wait to get buzzed and belly dance my beer gut around. (It ain't a concert if I'm not embarassing the people what came with me.) Jonathan made it sound like they travel with a retinue of acrobats, dancing girls, and fire breathers, but even without the spectacle, I'd still shell out $20 to see these guys, which is normally WAY more than I'd typically pay to see someone who wasn't Morrissey.

Fronted by the charismatic, spastic, utterly baffling Eugene Hutz, the 'Dello throw down a spine-twisting mix of punk rock, Slavic folk, flamenco, and reggae. People tend to think "Borat Goes Punk!" on account of the fact that Hutz sings like a ranting, drunk French sailor, but it takes only one listen of last year's classic Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike to realize it's all a part of the scheme. One of the most reknowned DJs in New York, Hutz's hobo stew approach to musical amalgamation really makes sense. Punks and Gypsies are by nature outsiders who look to music to comfort them against the down-the-nose glare of society. I dunno why it took someone so long to take a stab at being the Eastern European version of the Pogues, but I'm glad someone finally did.

One of my favorite memories from college was finding out my neighbor Lauren also loved the 'Dello, and we would rock that shit on my proch all the damn time in between blasts of James Browns' "The Big Payback." I'd hook my Creative Zen up to my bass amp, and we would blare it into our little share of the quad, getting strange looks from passerby. In my mind, spring's not complete without the sun's warmth, a cold can of Stroh's, good company, and Gypsy Punks absolutely laying down some block-rocking beats.,_Fuck_Globally.mp3.html

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"Now she is a pop star" - Talulah Gosh

Whenever the rock writers of America have a consensus that a particular band has been deemed "influential," said artists usually have a remarkable breadth of work (see: the Clash, the Kinks, Dead Kennedys, Cannonball Adderley, etc.). It's rare you'll find a group so remarkably influential based on a small output. Such a band is Talulah Gosh.

Of course, they weren't the first twee band. Television Personalities probably has a lay to that claim, but twee is really just the poppier side of 60's garage rock minus the blues rhythms (check out the Viscount IV's "She Doesn't Know.") What is it? It's less sloppy than it seems, but damn if it doesn't sound like a sput of the moment outpourings. No arrangements, off-the-cuff harmonies, and drumbeats that make Bobby Gillespie sound like Gene Krupa.
I think it helps the Talulah Gosh myth that the two lead singers met because they were both wearing similar Pastels pins. It's a story so perfect that it's still recited to this day, despite the fact that it's likely untrue. It's an epochal tale on par of the story of the first Christmas for mid-20 something Anglophiles who pick up each other in low-rent "pubs" by saying that they own an original copy of the C 86 cassette.
They only released a few singles before changing lineups and eventually splitting. No albums, really. In '96, the Backwash compilation was released, collecting all their singles, radio appearances, and live recordings of songs that never made it into the studio. Basically, if you like Tiger Trap, the Softies, All Girl Summer Fun Band, Go Sailor, the Pipettes, or the Vaselines, this is pretty much your bible.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"Self destruction is oh so romantic" - Latterman

News item the first: Despite being charged with reckless driving in Hanover County, I had a blast in Richmond. Thanks to all the cool kids I met, thanks to Miles for the beer, and thanks to Cristina and Landis for letting me crash there.

News item the second: Hipster fashion in a nutshell? Yes.

Latterman are one of those bands that I feel are unjustly overlooked in the scenes that spawned them. Like the Lawrence Arms or the Thermals, it boggles my mind that Latterman are not one of the most popular bands in the underground.

I guess being signed to that post-emo/hardcore/whatever sinkhole that is Deep Elm Records has something to do with it. Every time I pick up an album and it has the Deep Elm logo on the back, I assume it's just dull, directionless noodling from guys who like Rites of Spring way too much.

Emerging from the basements of Long Island, Latterman released the decent Turn Up the Punk, We'll Be Singing, which showed chops and passion but was lacking in the distinctive songwriting department. It received pretty much no attention from people who don't spend all day trying to find new bands on the internet so they can trump their friends.

That changed with 2005's No Matter Where We Go!, which found them channeling their Hot Water Music infatuation into shotgun blasts of gang-shout choruses, dueling guitars, hooks galore, and the kind of lyrics that make connecting with other human beings sound like something appealing. (Besides, any band who titles a song "Video Games and Fantasy Novels Are Fucking Awesome!" and avoids making it jokey pop-punk or whiny emo irony deserves a medal.) And while bands singing about their convictions make me roll my eyes and file under "Against Me! wannabe basement show freaks," you can tell these dudes fucking mean it, man. Besides, they aren't shoving it in your face; they just wanna be friends with you, is all.

They just (okay, August) put out a new record called We Are Still Alive, which isn't bad. A little filler, but destined for honorable mention on my end-of-the-year list at Racket.

For all the people who still believe and the ones who wish they could believe again.