A record that I wrote about that I liked: Power Animal – Exorcism
“And my initial reaction to Golden Ages’ ‘Mold Spores’ remix was that I had to include it in my next party mix, so perfectly were the 1980s synth lines and electronic drums crafted. …But then I shook myself back to reality – I don’t do party mixes. Nor do I party.
God I’m old.
But dude … dude. This has been one of my favorite things I’ve heard so far this year. Make it one of the favorite things you’ve heard this year as well. And it’s for a good cause! What are you, a heartless monster?”
I apologized to The Walkmen (and I meant it): The Walkmen: A Hundred Miles Off
“It took me six years to make this right. Six years of missing out on some choice tunes, a number of which rival the best the band has recorded. See, it turns out I didn’t need something as cynical and selfish as Bows + Arrows Part 2, and I was a fool for not recognizing that. I could’ve – I should’ve – accepted A Hundred Miles Off for what it really was: an evolutionary step for a band growing, maturing, and experimenting within its strengths, and an overall fine listen. It wasn’t going to sound exactly like I expected, or even misguidingly wanted to – it was going to sound like what it was going to sound like, and that was that.”
A record that I wrote about that I liked: rRope – We Are You There
“Guitars squeal and shriek, and barely-there spoken vocals simmer beneath the din. Real melodies peek through the squawk, and despite not existing within any sort of pop structure (I can’t think of a track off the top of my head with any sort of verse-chorus-verse structure that the Philistines will be hankering for), the composition as it is is immensely satisfying. The best part about the band is picking out your favorite noise or sound in a song and hoping to God it gets repeated.”
You should check out this record label, part 4: Crash Symbols
This is the only record label to feature releases that I’ve listed here. Not only that, but they’ve got two: Nomadic Firs and Power Animal. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed others, it’s just that those were the ones I’ve written about. They’ve got a backlist that includes the apparently immortal Foot Village, the vicious jitter-pop of Born Gold, and the laptop synth fuckery of label co-maestro Jheri Evans’s Pariah Carey project. That new Window Twins tape is pretty great too. What’s new for 2013, you guys?
A record that I wrote about that I liked: Freak Owls – Orchestrates EP
“[T]ake a more meta look at the meaning of ‘orchestrates,’ as a structural progression or organization, where the subject constructs or arranges aspects of life in an attempt to control, and therefore guarantee safety and security, on multiple levels, free from the interference of outside factors. But that’s just it, isn’t it? Those outside factors always creep in, reminding us again and again that no matter what we do, we’re going to be consistently thwarted by fate, or even life itself (is there a difference?), and we’ll have to readjust our outlook and act accordingly. Sounds kind of bleak, doesn’t it? Not to Freak Owls. What they’ve tapped into and reconstituted into an easily accessible format is the joy – yes, I said joy – of life’s unpredictability. We’ve got to revel as our carefully placed and designed pillars of configuration crumble in the presence of the uncontrollable.”
Band I didn’t write about, but should’ve: Workin’ Man Noise Unit
This is noise rock at its finest. Both Serious Power Hour (its title a play on evangelical revival but obviously really about being swept up in the utter awesomeness of rocknroll) and the brilliantly monikered Drinkin’ Stella To Make Music To Drink Stella To (… such a good homage) buzz and thunder like the best albums by The Jesus Lizard, Melvins, and The Men that these four blokes from Reading, UK, obviously have in their collections. Here’s what their page says: “basic music by basic people for whoever. made by wimps getting hyped up on rock n’ roll. breaking out the cold ones since 2010.” Drinking beer, playing tunes. Really loud. It does not get better.
A record that I wrote about that I liked: The Men – Leave Home
“[I]t’s obvious that The Men have pored over the Touch & Go, SST, Amphetamine Reptile, and Alternative Tentacles catalogs from the 1980s and 1990s, as well as some other notable sources, and cherrypicked some key elements for a writhing, grinding post punk / noise rock hybrid that sounds as reckless as it is tightly wound. Remnants of The Stooges, obviously, Killdozer, Unsane, and early … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead records litter Leave Home like a roadmap of a disgusting forgotten highway littered with candy wrappers and empty cigarette packages. The asphalt is warped and cracked and you get a headache driving on it. It probably ends up in Centralia, Pennsylvania.”
You should check out this record label, part 5: Northern Spy
Apparently I’ve got Foot Village on the brain. Northern Spy is releasing Make Memories early in 2013, but that’s not why they’re here. I’ve been introduced this year to the specific brand of experimental music they tend to peddle, from the solo sax workouts of Diamond Terrifier to the … solo sax workouts of John Butcher … OK there’s more here, like the freaking ZS box set Score and the posthumous USAISAMONSTER record. And of course Dan Melchior’s album, The Backward Path, released in conjunction with and in response to his wife’s battle with cancer, is not one to be missed. Besides Make Memories, I’m sure Northern Spy’s release schedule’s gonna be awesome in 2013.
A record that I wrote about that I liked: Moonface – With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery
“Siinai turns out to be a perfect foil for Krug, and even manages to up the melodrama ante. I don’t think anyone’s ever going to accuse Krug of holding back on his Wolf Parade or Sunset Rubdown releases, but if we were ever going to see a big-time stadium-rock renaissance hit the man, here it is. Siinai is so adept at layering and complementing one another within a neo-prog framework that it’s easy to see the difference between them and Krug’s leaner, meaner previous bands. Of course all this is relative – Random Spirit Lover anyone? – but I’m hard pressed to think of a fuller, richer example over which Krug’s sung/played. He’s always garnered vocal comparisons to Bowie, but here it actually sounds like he’s in the studio with the Thin White Duke in the late 1970s or early 1980s – or he is the Thin White Duke in spirit and performance. Maybe. At least the Chunkier Browner Weirder-Haired Duke, anyway. (Please, Spencer, haircut.)”
Over the hype: Das Racist
Sit Down, Man is one of my favorite rap albums in recent memory, so I was super excited that the group’s two main vocalists – Victor Vazquez/Kool A.D. and Himanshu/Heems – each released two solo mixtapes this year. Sadly, neither was very interesting, and sounded about as phoned-in as Relax, the group’s official debut. So I barely shrugged when the stumbling half-announcement that the group was breaking up hit the airwaves (Heems tweeted it, Kool A.D. said they had planned it all along, Heems was like “my bad,” and DJ/third member Dapwell let it slip that they had basically broken up in May). So, whatever – like I said, I’m over the hype. But the mixtapes Sit Down, Man, and its predecessor Shut Up, Dude are filled with such geeky tongue-in-cheek fun that I’m bound to spin them whenever I’m in a good mood. It’s just too bad the group’s output and subsequent dissolution was more a fart in the wind than anything else.