2010’s Most Dedicated Radio Journalist/DJ: Ben Tan


The first annual KLYAM Most Dedicated Radio Journalist/DJ Award goes to Ben Tan of Emerson College’s WERS 88.9. Ben is probably the most dedicated (volunteer?) staff member at that station as he is News Director in addition to being a reporter for news segment You Are Here (interviewing the likes of anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan and economist Jeffrey Miron, etc) and being a DJ on programs such as the Playground and late-night slow jamz Secret Spot. Ben even braves blizzards to show up behind the microphone. This guy deserves a round of applause for his dedication.

Feliz Navidad From Tandoori Knights/CD Review

Bloodshot Bill and King Khan!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJMmEw2Hx-w&feature=player_embedded#!
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Title:
Curry Up, It’s The Tandoori Knights
Release: 11/2010
Label: Norton Records

1. “Pretty Please” – B+
2. “Bucketful” – B-
3. “Roam The Land” – B-
4. “Tandoori Party” – B-
5. “Books and Ribs” – B-
6. “Bandstand” – B+
7. “Big Belly Giant” – B
8. “Into Her Arms” – B+
9. “Dress On” – B-
10. “Lovers Moon” – B-
11. “Brown Trash” – B-
12. “Beauty and The Feast” – B-

Comments: About time for a review of this record, which is surely something else. The story is warm one: rockabilly Indo-Canadian Bloodshot Bill gets together with fellow Indo-Canadian, garage/punk/soul master Arish King Khan and they decide to make a record. They could’ve stuck to a traditional script that utilized the best of both worlds as Bill and multi-talented kingpin Mark Sultan did when they got together and recorded The Ding-Dongs. Curry Up sounds like a natural export of Hindustan, at least as soon as the guitar begins on “Pretty Please”. Bill takes the lead vocals on pretty much all of the tracks, which kind of makes this sound pretty Bloodshot Bill-esque. Bill’s vocal flexibility and plethora of musical skill means that he can pull something like this off pretty well. King is heard sparsely on this record, which is disappointing as a bigger King fan. These songs are quite humorous, making me think I probably shouldn’t take this record too seriously! As a cheesy one-off, it is what it is. At the apex of funniness is probably “Into Her Arms,” a tale of falling into the octo-arms of some nice Indian lady. What’s the purpose of the eight arms? Well, “one to whore me, one to score me, two to spank me, four to thank me!”

Grade: B/B- 

Glen’s Best/Worst of 2010: Record Labels

Congratulations to Matador Records for taking the cake in this one. The three Matador/True Panther albums that I noted below were securely in my Top 10 Albums of 2010 list. So, good job, Matador! Keep it up and here’s to 21 more years! Sub Pop and Fat Possum, two other large independent labels, put out some great records as well. On the smaller scale, Goner Records, based in Memphis, released a handful (probably even more) of quality records and I can only guess that 2011 will be another great year for that label and store. Burger Records, which has garnered national attention for its release of cassettes, is small as well, but their devotion to music and the bands that they put out is overwhelmingly large. As far as “better luck next year” labels go, we’ve got In The Red. In The Red has been a consistent favorite for me, but nothing that they put out this year really floored me. It was a bit of an off-year for Domino Records as well. Of course, that can go out without saying the year after releasing two stellar records, Merriweather Post Pavilion [Animal Collective] and Humbug [Arctic Monkeys]. EMI did pretty awful, but that’s expected too…it is a major label after all. Warner Brothers was a mixed bag; Devo’s LP was pretty good, but nothing else really tickled my fancy. I know a lot of people were feeling Dr. Dog and the Black Keys (especially) this year. 

Top 5!
1. Matador/True Panther Records – Notable Releases: Hippies [Harlem], Gay Singles [Hunx & His Punx], Memphis [Magic Kids]
2. Sub Pop – Notable Releases: Teen Dream [Beach House], I Will Be [Dum Dum Girls], Everything In Between [No Age]
3. Fat Possum Records – Notable Releases: King of the Beach [Wavves], Lisbon [Walkmen]
4. Goner Records – Notable Releases: First Blood [Nobunny], Melted [Ty Segall]
5. Burger RecordsNotable Releases: Cum Stain [Cum Stain], Shame, Shame [APACHE]

Worst!
1. EMI – Un-notable Releases: Of the Blue Colour of the Sky [OK GO], Sea of Cowards [Massive Attack]
2. Domino – Un-notable Releases: There Is Love In You [Four Tet], Hidden [These New Puritans]

Glen’s Best of 2010: Songs


Rock and Roll/Pop/Etc
1. “Linus Spacehead” – Wavves
2. “Walk In The Park” – Beach House
3. “Cum Stain” – Cum Stain
4. “Gay Human Bones” – Harlem
5. “Motorhead With Me” – Nobunny
6. “Fresh” – Devo
7. “My Sunshine” – Ty Segall
8. “Chem Trails” – No Age
9. “Be Brave” – Strange Boys
10. “Candy” – The Magic Kids

Honorable Mentions:
“Roxanne” – White Wires
“Sea Lion Goth Blues” – The Growlers
“Girls FM” – Happy Birthday
“Broken Dreams Clubs” – Girls
“He Would Have Laughed” – Deerhunter
“Summer In The Kitchen” – Prismo Perfect
“Chem Trails” – No Age
“Angela Surf City” – The Walkmen
“Waiting For Me” – Mark Sultan
“It Only Takes One Night” – Dum Dum Girls
“Ambling Alp” – Yeasayer
“Brian Eno” – MGMT
“Broken Up” – Wheels On Fire

 

Rap and Hip-Hop
1. “Power” – Kanye West
2. “Black and Yellow” – Wiz Khalifa

Glen’s Best/Worst of 2010: Albums

With over one hundred reviews in the books (108 to be precise), I think I’m  all done with reviewing music in 2010. Going forward, I plan on exclusively publishing reviews of music that I like. I’d rather not be an influence in turning away people from music. If someone likes something that I don’t, that’s just how it is! Ain’t nothing I can do. It turns out that I liked most of the music I heard this year; the mean score for a CD Review was 84. In the grand scheme of albums that I’ve heard over the course of my lifetime, there weren’t any top-to-bottom gems. A top-to-bottom gem, in case you are wondering, is an album with at least 75% “A+” songs. Such albums would be considered instant favorites. That said, I gave out “A-” or better to 23 albums.

Best Albums [Album, Band, Label]:
1. King of the Beach – Wavves – I listened to this pretty much non-stop during the summer of 2010. It was perfect listening material, whether it was blasting from the inside stereo as I chilled outside or blasting in the car radio on my way to work. I like my music loud and pretty much every instrument is mixed really loudly on this record. That might be annoying to some, but for me, it was pleasantly nice. A record that never gets boring despite numerous listens over a lengthy period of time is a sensational record. The songs (which I was skeptical of at first) that dabble in experimental rock/psychedelia (“Baseball Cards,”When Will You Come, and “Mickey Mouse”) fit right in with the warm vibes that is King of the Beach. This is the best.

2. Teen Dream – Beach House – Sub Pop – Let me give you a little history of my experience with this album. I first heard it in early December 2009…it leaked really really early. This was also when I was grading albums kind of funky. As a result, I really nit-picked this one to the bone. Early in 2010, I revisited this mainly after reading nearly universal acclaim. Could I have possibly missed something? Surely. There was a time in February/March when I obsessed over Teen Dream. It’s a powerful mesh of dreamy tunes that are extremely uplifting, yet direly haunting. The atmosphere that surrounds the album is truly what wins me over. It’s unlike anything I really heard before.

3. The Maine Coons – The Maine Coons – Spent Planet – I have to really give a bunch of credit to The Maine Coons. When I first heard them open for Nobunny, I thought they were a great opening band, but not so noteworthy as to further look them up after the show. I then heard this album sometime later and thought, well, this is a good album! Upon further investigation, it turned out to be my most highly rated one. It’s garage-pop, at its finest. It’s almost as if the ghost of King Khan & BBQ Show past revived itself, but with a big ole’ keyboard on top of the traditional guitar/drums/tambourine set-up. This is 2010’s Invisible Girl.

4. Hippies – Harlem – Matador – Way back when, I was pretty convinced that this was going to sit at the top of the list. While it’s not #1, it is #4 and #4 is damn good. For a 16 track record, there’s surprisingly little-to-no rough patches along the way. Every song can’t be “Gay Human Bones” after all, but a whole bunch of them continue the spirit that commenced when Harlem released their fine 2008 debut LP Free Drugs ;-). While they sometimes get compared to some KLYAM-recommended contemporaries, these guys are pretty unique in their style of song and Hippies exemplifies that at length.

5. First Blood – Nobunny – Goner – Let me start off with something: Nobunny is a great songwriter. While he often (unfairly) gets lumped into the gimmick or rip-off-dead-punk-legend-wearing-bunny mask-and-nothing-but-underwear category, he’s got skills that allow him to successfully dabble in a variety of rock and roll styles. He can manipulate his voice to quasi-Joey Ramone on punk songs, while on others he toys around with a more country or power-pop twang. My favorite Nobunny songs are the fast ones, but he can get all romantically twisted and confounded on a lot of the slower ones. The enhanced studio production of First Blood should give the bunny-man more recognition than ever before and he deserves it more than anyone in music.

6. Cum Stain – Cum Stain – Burger Records 
7. WWII – White Wires – Dirtnap Records
8. Memphis – Magic Kids – True Panther Records
9. Gay Singles – Hunx & His Punx – True Panther Records
10. Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter – 4AD

Honorable Mentions: Be Brave (Strange Boys), I Will Be (Dum Dum Girls), Melted (Ty Segall)

Worst Album
1. There Is Love In You – Four Tet – Domino Records – I might be the only one who disliked this album, but man was it painful. It’s like a bad hangover…it’s something you’d rather forget than ever bring up again.

CD Review: WWII [2010]


Band:
White Wires
Release: 11/10
Label: Dirtnap Records

1. “Let’s Go To The Beach” – A
2. “Roxanne” – A+
3. “Did You Forget My Name?” – A
4. “I Can Tell” – A-
5. “Just Wanna Be” – A
6. “Be True To Your School” – A
7. “Popularity” – A
8. “Hands” – A
9. “Are You Mad? – B+
10. “Outta My Mind” – A
11. “Summer Girl” – A
12. “Bye Bye Baby” –  B+

Comments: Power-pop — like music of all genres — has a tendency to tell tales of romantic failings, hopes, and dreams. It rarely forms substance over being popular or “true to your school,” but on this record it does. “Let’s Go The Beach” is packed from start to finish with hooks and a story-line of “running away” to California. The hooks and catchy parts outweigh their less interesting counterparts on WWII and this is precisely why this is a great album. The drums and chorus during “Roxanne” bring us back to simpler times when just an easy melody and a few chords were needed for greatness. The intensity and punch, at least from listening to the first two tracks, is similar to that of Atlanta pop group Gentleman Jesse and His Men. All these songs clock under three minutes, but this doesn’t inhibit memorable moments. There is a mixture of pure hitters (“Hands,” “Summer Girl,” “Popularity,” notably) and slower, more melodic tunes (“Outta My Mind,” the instrumental closer “Bye Bye Baby”), but this variation isn’t too dramatic. In other words, what’s thrown at us is very likable music. Despite this coming out pretty late in the year, it sticks and will have appeal lasting into the foreseeable future.

Grade: A- (92)

CD Review: First Four EPs [2010]


Band:
OFF!
Release: 11/2011
Label: Vice Records

1. “Black Thoughts” – A-
2. “Darkness” – B+
3. “I Don’t Belong” – A-
4. “Upside Down” – B+
5. “Poison City” –  B+
6. “Now I’m Pissed” – B
7. “Killing Away” – B+
8. “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” – A-
9. “Panic Attack” – B
10. “Crawl” – B-
11. “Blast” – B+
12. “Rat Trap” – B-
13. “Fuck People” –  B
14. “Full of Shit” – B
15. “Broken” – B
16. “Peace In Hermosa” – B

Comments: This is the kind of record that you simply can’t review while doing something else. If you decide to go the multi-tasking route, which I did, you might just find yourself listening to the sixth track of the record while you’re under the impression that you’re still on the second. For long-time followers of punk rock, such a perception is child’s play. At any rate, I haven’t heard many hardcore punk songs…sad, I know. OFF! is the latest band of Keith Morris, a rather prolific person in hardcore punk (front-man of Black Flag, Circle Jerks). That’s that. The songs on this record are very good. You can tell these guys have been around for a while. Loads of recycled chord progressions and stuff like that. That’s kind of expected in any genre of music, but these kind of things seem to particularly stick out on here.

Grade: B (86)

EP Review: Hot Tropics [2010]

Band: The Growlers
Release: 10/2010
Label: Everloving

1. “Graveyard’s Full” – A-
2. “Nosebleed Sun” – B
3. “What It Is” – A-
4. “The Moaning Man From Shanty Town” – B
5. “Sea Lions Goth Blues” – A+
6. “Badlands” – B
7. “Let It Be Known” – B
8. “Camino Muerto” – B+
9. “Underneath Our Palms” – A
10. “Hula Hula Hideout” – B

Comments: The Growlers are pretty distinctly So. Cal, which is a pretty daunting statement to make in an age where there is striking diversity among bands from that area. What I meant to say is they aren’t too far away from Mexico and listening to their music confirms this. Opener “Graveyard’s Full” features lead and bass guitar riffs that border on traditional Mexican/Caribbean. Singer Brook Nielson’s vocal style — part raspy/part laid-back eerie — fits genuinely on tunes like this. Short ditties like “Nosebleed Sun” add to the mystique of the band. What the hell are they singing about, anyway? I haven’t been able to discern such, but such does not matter much. Rhyming, for the win. Anyway, “Sea Lion Goth Blues” is this release’s best song and it’s not like its new or anything. Far from it. Other versions of “Sea Lion” have featured a more prominent lead guitar — one of the best of its kind that I’ve heard in the last year or so. The surf notes are compelling. Still, the added echo and reverb on Brooks’ vocals and the respective instruments are refreshing. My second favorite song on here is probably the second-to-last ditty entitled “Underneath Our Palms.” It’s plainly neat.

Grade: B+ (88)

CD Review: The Liminanas [2010]


Band:
The Liminanas
Release: 2010
Label: Trouble In Mind

1. “Darkside” – B-
2. “Down Underground” – B
3. “Je ne suis pas tres drogue – B-
4. “Funeral Baby” – A-
5. “Chocolate in my Milk” – B
6. “Tigre du Bengale” – C+
7. “Mountain” – B-
8. “Je suis une go-go girl” – A-
9. “Berceuse pour Clive” – B
10. “Tears” – B-
11. “Tigre du Bengale” – B-
12. “Got Nothing to Say” – A

Comments: To quote insound.com’s description of this album: “This LP has a very cinematic feel.” As a result, a lot of the songs feel pretty orchestrated and calculated. Don’t let some of the English titles fool you — this is mainly a French affair. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my knowledge of French is very minimal. I don’t know what they are talking about, but that’s okay…I’ve never been all that good at/interested in interpreting lyrics anyway. “Funeral Baby” is the band’s first attempt at no frills garage-pop and the result is an awesome song. It reminds me of Davila 666, but from the South of France. As far as the rest of the record is concerned, it’s an all-together different approach to music making. There are some semi-instrumental tracks and other consistently weird rockers. Album closer “Got Nothing to Say” is a favorite from this. “Tu m’a dit que tu t’es “okay” — “You told me that you are okay” — is what I think is repeated, BUT this does not matter!

Grade: B (84)

CD Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [2010]


Rapper: Kanye West
Release: 11/2010
Label: Roc-A-Fella

1. “Dark Fantasy” – A+
2. “Gorgeous” – A
3. “Power” – A+
4. + 5. “All Of The Lights (Interlude)/All Of The Lights” – A-
6. “Monster” – A-
7. “So Appalled” – A
8. “Devil In A New Dress” – A
9. “Runaway” – A-
10. “Hell of a Life” – B+
11. “Blame Game” – B+
12. “Lost in the World” – B
13. “Who Will Survive in America” – B-

Comments: My history with listening to Kanye West is brief and to the point.  I bought The College Dropout in the summer of 2004. I really loved that album. It’s still pretty great. After that, I fell out of touch with West, not necessarily because he was gaining fame or anything (no such ‘indie’ mindset for a thirteen year old), but because…well, I don’t know. This album, along with man himself, has received a lot more hype in the past few months than I can ever recall before. Initial reviews have near universally dubbed this one of the best pop albums of all time. “Dark Fantasy” certainly gives these claims some validity. The beat. The lyrics. The chorus of “Can we get much higher?” is something that is overwhelmingly more luscious and “bigger” than most of the shit that gets played on Top 40 radio today. I think “Power” is one of the best songs of the year. I must say this was looking like something special by the end of “Power,” but ultimately fails to keep up that pace. He didn’t fail to jot down his thoughts on paper and get a bunch of great guests to spot on this record. As an all-encompassing work of art, this kind of album will be hard to surpass. To put it simply, it doesn’t (through-and-through because as I’ve mentioned there are some ace tracks) sound as great as it looks on Wikipedia. Realistically a top 30 album of the year. Top 10 or top 5? Definitely not.

Grade: A- (90)