Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beach Fossils
Clash The Truth 
Captured Tracks [2013]

As much as I relish the chance to pan any and all current bands as hackneyed, self-important bores, there is a shortlist of bands who by my standards can do no wrong. Tobacco, Why?, Tame Impala, and Bon Iver routinely make this seldom requested list, but Beach Fossils are always first on my lips. Dustin Payseur's obvi-Brooklyn pop project intrinsically connected with me from the moment I first heard it and basically they've never made a song I didn't like. Though not as stripped down as 2010's self titled debut, or as immediately emotional as 2011's What A Pleasure, Clash the Truth is an honest and admirable addition to an overflowing and rightly suspect genre. Album opener "Clash the Truth" is intriguingly familiar in it's chanting (and incredibly familiar in it's gentle theft of "Pretty Vacant") and sets the stage perfectly for the remaining thirteen tracks. Beach Fossils' strength has always been their ability to meld obvious influence and organic personal inspiration. A track-by-track breakdown seems unnecessary, "Generational Synthetic" and "Careless" stand out though the entire collection is strong, and I'm becoming slowly obsessed by the spoken "um" which introduces closer "Crashed Out". Dreamy, jangly pop is beautiful when it's done right, and Beach Fossils do it better than anyone. In short, it's make out music for the loneliest kids in town, and who can't get behind that?  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bell Argosy
The Wreck of Bell Argosy
Donkey Town Records [2012]

From the awkward shipwreck cover art, to the crudely drawn comic-strip liner notes, to the post-it submission note beginning with "Hey Jeff!" (what am I? Chopped livah?) I really wanted to dislike this record. And I did upon my first listen. Alright, it's the kind of dime-a-dozen lo-fi garage-y "pop" that's so hideously popular with the kids today. But once I flipped the 45 the song "Yer Business" gave me pause, it's kind of…fun? From there I come to find that the aforementioned comic-strip was written/drawn by chief creative force, Billy Lopez and is kind of a charming little tale of perserverence in the face of age/laziness/and (if the drawing is in any way anatomically correct) advanced conjunctivitis. But it endeared me to this recording in a very real way. Subsequent listens, free of cynicism, revealed the torn-up, sunglassed, rambling bar band camouflaged by my trend-weary prejudices. I can fully recommend picking up one of the other 199 copies of The Wreck of The Bel Argosy - or you can just go see them, they're probably playing right down the street to five people and enduring every minute of it.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Joyce Manor
Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
Asian Man Records [2012]

Many, many moons ago my friend and blog-mate Jeff Ogiba called me to ask for a train station pick-up. Since I'm SUCH a good friend (and the train station is five minutes away from my house) I said, "No problem buddy". My reward for this great inconvenience was two free LP's: The Sidecicks' Awkward Breeds and Joyce Manor's Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired. Devotees will recall that I reviewed the former back in May as the latter sat collecting dust. I'm writing today to atone for this egregious error in judgement. As good as The Sidekicks record is, OATIWSGT is just as remarkable. Joyce Manor strike me as (and this is nothing more than an assumption) a group of hardcore kids who decided to get together and do something energetic and fun. I hesitate to call it pop punk, due to the extremely negative connotations this term brings up, but I'm gonna do it anyway because I LOVE pop punk. Though they inhabit space closer to Jawbreaker than The Queers or Green Day, the intensity and youthfully ramshackle songwriting certainly abide the title. Songs like "Bride of Usher" and "Comfortable Clothes" are completely infectious pop, "These Kind of Ice Skates" and "If I Needed You There" come off as an all-out attack, and "Drainage" sounds like it was written on a porch swing and recorded to a dictaphone. Thankfully OATIWSGT can maneuver across genres effortlessly due to the compact and precise execution. The only real missteps are "See How Tame I Can Be" which has an oddly out-of-place sequenced drum track, and their cover of "Video Killed the Radio Star", which is forgivable because, ya know, they're punks or whatever. "Violent Inside" is the absolute stand out, a 90 second collision of heartfelt lyrics and pitch-perfect guitar work that I've listened to probably every day for the last few months. This record goes by FAST but it's an absolute gem. This is as simply as I can put it: If you've ever had your favorite hoodie stolen by a girl who WAS NOT your girlfriend - you will like Joyce Manor.   

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rev. Charlie Jackson
Lord You're So Good: Live Recordings: Vol.2
50 Miles of Elbow Room [2012]

Gospel music is a bit of a secret obsession of mine, I guess until now perhaps, but I just can't seem to find anyone who really digs into it the way I try to. I constantly scoop up private label gospel 45s and small run major label subsidiary releases in an effort to find that one song that really hits home. I'm not a religious man by any means, but something about the intense belief systems behind the performers of a good soulful gospel group really hits the nail on the head for me. In all my travels I've come across some wonderful stuff, most of which I bury away in my personal collection and break out late at night to ensure a private listen, but I am yet to come across one of the original Rev. Charlie Jackson 45s. Sometime in the 70's the southern evangelist guitarist cut a few records on his imprints "Booker" and "Jackson". I'm almost tempted to drop a few hundred bucks the next time one turns up in auction, but for me the fun really lies in the random, Zen discovery of the records. In other words, I wait for them to come to me. In the meantime, however, there are these fantastic collections on Brooklyn's 50 Miles of Elbow Room label. This one happens to be the second volume in a potential series of three. Some of the tracks found on Vol. 2 are sourced from actual cassettes or 8-tracks that 50 Miles's owner traveled to hunt down and rescue from obscurity. It's the sort of thing every next-level music fan dreams to be a part of: music archiving. This second volume of tracks featuring the Reverend who spread his music from Louisiana to Mississippi for decades before passing away in 2006, contains more of his minimalist reverb blues sound accompanied by moving vocals, subtle choirs/crowd interaction and guest singers (some unknown to this day). The record itself is pressed on high quality RTI vinyl, packaged with a heavy duty Tip-on paste back jacket, brilliant full color insert, and audio that is restored/remastered for an optimal listening experience. Here's another chance to find out how truly gifted the Reverend was.