Comments: The aesthetic of Look Forward To Nothing is totally particular to Kitchen’s Floor. The vocals are stand-out in as though Matt Kennedy’s style is clumsy Aussie shouting, like if you’d handed the mic to the dude after a few pints and asked him to start babbling some lyrics you wrote. It’s this kind of charm on top of fairly un-involved instruments that is Kitchen’s Floor in a nutshell. On a song like “Kidney Infection,” which is just Kennedy, there’s not much in the department of overwhelming accomplishment, but it justly sums up the mysteriously odd nature of this album and the band. For a geographic comparison of sorts, it’s like an incredibly slowed down/fuzzy Toy Love. So yeah, probably not much like Toy Love at all.
Band: Mikal Cronin Release: 9/2011 Label: Trouble In Mind
1. “Is It Alright?” – A-
2. “Apathy” – A 3. “Green and Blue” – A- 4. “Get Along” – A+ 5. “Slow Down” – A- 6. “Gone” – A 7. “Situation” – A
8. “Again and Again” – A- 9. “Hold On Me” – B 10. “The Way Things Go” – A+
Comments: Mikal Cronin. Get used to that name. For those of you particularly in-the-know, you might not have to put that much effort into getting to know Mikal. In his own right, he is quite prolific. Perhaps not to the degree of friend Ty Segall, but still prolific at that. Now Ty and Mikal, I’m sure they both listen to the same kind of music. I don’t think picking a song to jam to on a crisp California night has been at all difficult. Hell, when you live in the same state as Oh Sees John Dwyer, it’s tough to imagine anything less than a spectacular event of music making. Of course, we have Dwyer’s flute on the first song and a — oh snap is it that a saxophone? — on “Apathy”. So yes, Cronin has been fed a healthy diet of mixed greens and fuzz rock by farmers near and wide. The bent, so to speak, that Cronin has is a bit more melodic than what we’ve historically seen from Ty. The core of the apple we call pop is ever present on Mikal Cronin. Even in such a heavy assault as “Green and Blue,” we get a drained out sort of Radiohead at their heaviest kind of thing going on. “Get Along” deserves a place right next to the “My Sunshine” and “Melted” of the world. It’s the heavy strumming, brah. Brah-Naymith. “Slow Down” is like “Get Along” slowed down seventy-five percent. Like that time Justin Beiber was slowed down to sound like Animal Collective. Gangsta slowcore shizz. Sounds like an organ/reed to me. A droning one at that. Notes are held. Chord progressions change like seasons. The Beach Boys revival ode “Situation” features Ty Segall on drums. “The Way Things” is particularly odd, but really great bait for the experimental at heart. If you like slow, heavy, weird, funny, etc, this is a particular nice one. There’s like six song ideas all combined into one closer. Good way to go out, I’d say.
Wavves seems to cause phases, physics pun non-withstanding, in fans and non-fans. The first phase was the reaction to cramped shack garage band boy making LO-FI. The second phase was the reaction to the studio surfer equipped with Reatard’s old backing band (the super indie switcharoo). The third phase was the reaction to Billy Hayes departure from the drums. This was big news at KLYAM then Pitchfork then every other blog. The fourth phase seems to be in process. With news that Nathan is composing music for an MTV show and making songs about meeting Dave Grohl and guys not being enough, there has been quite a bit of backlash as expected. Just go watch the video and view the comments.
The song itself is, in my opinion, a lil bit of old old, a lil new new. There’s that constant noise in the background and the reoccurring oohhhhhhs, but now with precision recording and the voice of girlfriend Beth.
Band: Jacuzzi Boys Release: 9/2011 Label: Hardly Art
1. “Vizcaya” – B 2. “Automatic Jail” – B- 3. “Glazin” – B+ 4. “Cool Vapors” – C+ 5. “Libras and Zebras” – C 6. “Crush” – C+ 7. “Silver Sphere (Death Dream)” – C 8. “Zeppelin” – C-
9. “Los Angeles” – B
10. “Koo Koo With You” – C-
Comments: Upfront disclosure: I did not expect a softie album from the Jacuzzi Boys. Now, softie to one may be hardcore punk to another. This is a lite album, though, a diet rock ‘n roll. Traditional pop hooks are everywhere on Glazin’…make no mistake. It’s just that No Seasons, the band’s debut from 2009, possessed these hooks and then some. We live in times where bands with even the most marginal independent label support can spend longer time in a studio setting and complete a nicer sounding record. Sometimes, though, nicer sounding comes across as forced. The late great Jay Reatard didn’t find any remote worth in arranging a block of time for recording. He recorded whenever he felt like it. True, many bands don’t have 24/7 access to sophisticated home recording equipment, but Jay’s point holds. I feel like the experimentation that Jacuzzi Boys endeavor in is a result of them having that extra studio time available. In the end, they stick with internal familiarity. Mid-album songs like “Libras and Zebras” and “Crush” don’t sound like anything the Jacuzzi Boys have done, but by that point in the album it’s as if “oh yeah, I’ve heard something like that a few tracks ago, but it was better.” With “Silver Sphere,” we have an excessive song on our hands folks. It drags and stuff. I sense a bit of cheesiness with Glazin’. It’s fun to be fun and the Jacuzzi’s seemed to have carried that kind of spirit in the making of this record, but where’s the “Smells Dead” and “Island Avenue” circa 2011?
Band: Arctic Monkeys Release: 6/2011 Label: Domino Records
1. “She’s Thunderstorms” – A 2. “Black Treacle” – A 3. “Brick By Brick” – B+ 4. “The Hellcat Spangled Shalala” – A- 5. “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” – B+ 6. “Library Pictures” – A-
7. “All My Own Stunts” – B
8. “Reckless Serenade” – A+ 9. “Piledriver Waltz” – A-
10. “Love Is A Laserquest” – A-
11. “Suck It and See” – A-
12. “That’s Where You’re Wrong” – A
Comments: The Arctic Monkeys emerged out of nowhere in 2006 with the release of their debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Shortly thereafter the band became international sensations of sorts. This isn’t to say that they didn’t have to cover a shit load of ground in their native UK before attaining such a status. Somewhere along the line, they got recognized and quite deservingly so. It’s not so often a group of 20 year olds can so finely construct rock n roll gems. I remember checking them out for the first time on YouTube, a relatively new website at the time. I wasn’t blown away, but I liked what I heard. Five years and three records later, the band, led by principal songwriter Alex Turner, still has ‘it’. Turner’s voice is distinctive and aside from his signature vocals, the band ain’t all that different stacked next to their pop sensible “post”-punk revival contemporaries. The Arctics flirt with many a styling on Suck It and See: the soft verse/extremely catchy chorus Humbug-esque “She’s Thunderstorms,” the slow and thoughtful on “Piledriver” and “Love Is,” top notch power pop on “Black Treacle,”the guitar-driven psychedelic “Brick By Brick” and “Don’t Sit Down,” and so on and so forth. “The Hellcat” is reverb drenched with a fitting bass line included. We’ve heard about dancing shoes and the like before from these folks and we hear about ’em again on “All My Own Stunts.” That’s a good song, perhaps one of the only to not stick out too much. That’s all right, because what follows — “Reckless Serenade” — is Arctic Monkeys at their best. The bass, rhythm, and lead are all outstanding. Sometimes Alex is quite fancy with his lyrical content, but this one is fairly easy to comprehend. Humorous from the start, “Topless models…” There might be some Side A people, some Side B people. Side A people want to rock and roll. Side B just want to sit down and have some light music playing. Or maybe after rocking and rolling to Side A you’ll get tired and just toss on B as a way to rest. Either way, this is a truly enjoyable record, with a load of memorable songs. Great summer record player listening.
Band: Thee Oh Sees Release: 5/2011 Label: In The Red
1. “I Need Seed” – A 2. “Corprophagist” – A-
3. “Stinking Cloud” – B
4. “Corrupted Coffin” – A
5. “Pleasure Blimp” – B+ 6. “A Wall, A Century” – B+ 7. “Spider Cider” – B 8. “Whipping Continues” – B+ 9. “Blood on the Deck” – A-
10. “Castlemania” – B- 11. “AA Warm Breeze” – B 12. “Idea for Rubber Dog” – B- 13. “The Horse Was Lost” – B+
14. “I Won’t Hurt You” – B15. “If I Stay Too Long” – A+ 16. “What Are We Craving?”- B-
Comments: For Castlemania, Thee Oh Sees seem to have rekindled (an understatement considering the band’s output) their interest in noisy experimentalism, all in the name of the pop hook. John Dwyer and Brigid Dawson deserve a great deal of credit for crafting ‘thee song’, but I feel obligated to mention how crucial the other members, Petey Dammit and Mike Shoun, were to this album. I mean, I don’t know this for a fact, but the reason why a lot of the tunes — the tunes that aren’t obvious pop gems — simply stick is due to sturdy rhythm. I’m talking about a thing like “Corprophagist,” which is all experimental and weird, but still maintains this unprecedented sense of pop realism. The speaking guitar noises as I like to call them because on their own… they blend in so well with the parts that Dwyer sings. Instrumentally speaking, “The Horse Is Lost” has a very dreary, yet optimistic feel to it. The obvious pop gems are tunes like “I Need Seed” (a psychedelic trip in itself, if you have a strong imagination of it), the dream/space rocker “Corrupted Coffin”, and the top of the Pops-esque, Brit invasion “If I Stay Too Long.” Now, the chorus in that song (and the ending) is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It’s big. Now, now, my experience listening to Thee Oh Sees up to this point never included anything like this. It’s albums like these that might not get the end grade they deserve, but merit many listens after listens. I’ll give this one more chances and more time, but I’ve expressed my admiration for what I really dig above.
Comments: If you like ’em old punk/power-pop tunes short, you like The Hussy. This Wisconsin duo exist by creating bursts of energy that truly makes you want to click that replay button over (or pick up the needle on the record player, if that is your thing). I’ve been loving “Sexi Ladi”…replaying the crap out of it! It brings me back to the days last year when I heard Cum Stain’s self-titled. The music is recorded brash and loud and for me that is something I really love in an album. “Alright…peace…bro!” Really digging the dual vocals on “Pavement” and the sweet end jamming on “Have A Say”. Contemporary[ish] bands that have a similar aesthetic would be Ty Segall mayne, pre-Jay Reatard Jay Reatard (sup, “Lymes”), ’02/’03 Black Lips (“Pushin My Luck), Dirtbombs in the 9tees. All excellent frames of reference.
Band: High Tension Wires Release: 3/2011 Label: Dirtnap Records
1. “Get Weird” – A 2. “Incorporeal – B+ 3. “Backbone” – A 4. “Temporary Gods” – A- 5. “Subprime Love” – B+ 6. “Lose Your Grip” – A- 7. “Lose Face” – A 8. “The Universal People’s Church” – A- 9. “Handicapped Hearts” – A 10. “Dirt, Fist, Feet” – B+ 11. “I’m Too Square You’re Too Round” – A- 12. “The Secret of the Hydrogen Bomb” – B+
Comments: From the opening bass line and drum beat of “Get Weird”, you might mistake High Tension Wires for a major dance-punk band. The song is noisy, but quite groovy at that. Same goes for “Backbone,” which basks in power-pop greatness. The verses got that damn infectious drum beat and the chorus and break, of course, are the two-tier icing on the cake. High Tension Wires are definitely one of the more catchy garage/punkers out there and I think part of this stems from the short length/no bullshit tunes. Guitar solos don’t overstay their welcome and uncomplicated instrumentation dominates. Recommended!
Band: The Vaccines Release: 3/2011 Label: Columbia
1. “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) – A-
2. “If You Wanna” – B
3. “A Lack of Understanding” – C+
4. “Blow It Up” – B 5. “Wetsuit” – C 6. “Norgaard” – A- 7. “Post Break-Up Sex” – A-
8. “Under Your Thumb” – B 9. “All In White” – B 10. “Wolf Pack” – A- 11. “Family Friend” – B
Comments: To answer the title’s question, I honestly had no expectations of the Vaccines. I heard the name, was present for the hype, and so on and so forth. I never gave their singles a healthy listen so this is a fresh start kind of review — the kind I like the best because I’m left with little bias. Anyway, it’s pretty easy to point the comparison finger to homeland counterparts Fratellis (“Wreckin’ Bar), Franz Ferdinand/Editors/Early-Mid 2000s Post-Punk Revivalists, and the like; i.e bands that were able to achieve “indie” stardom with a ‘bigger’ sound — so to speak — that was a few hair-lengths and stylistic choices from the real big name, The Killers. In the Vaccines case, it does feel quite like they are aiming (probably not true) for Killers-esque fame, instead of becoming the next Arctic Monkeys. Their descent into safe pop like “Wet Suit” just goes to show you they really don’t care about developing a Vaccines signature sound. When they speed things up to a near-garage level (“Norgaard”), they become a very fun band to listen to. Single “Post Break-Up Sex” and “Wolf Pack” combine the charisma of catchy garage pop with post-punk revival delicacy. There’s a lot to like on Vaccines, but as a fan of the heavier, louder, ‘dirtier’ stuff, there does not seem to be enough.
Band: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Release: 3/2011
1. “Belong” – A+ 2. “Heavens Gonna Happen Now” – A 3. “Heart In Your Heartbreak” – A 4. “The Body” –B+ 5. “Anne With An E” – B- 6. “Even In Dreams” – A- 7. “My Terrible Friend” – A- 8. “Girls of 1000 Dreams” – A- 9. “Too Tough” – B+ 10. “Strange” – B
Comments: The first thing that is very noticeable about Belong is that it is more expansive than really anything we heard from their S/T debut. The heavy choppin’/Dino JR sounding guitars on opener “Belong” are a welcome addition, as is simply the flow of the tune. The LOUD catchy chorus transitions into a brief boom before a buiLDING verse leads back to that LOUD chorus. “Heavens Gonna Happen Now” is more like old Pains material. Excellent. “The Body” ain’t the best thing to come out of their discography, pretty solid Pains, a dancey new-wavy number. “Anne” might be their first shoe-gazey slip-up, no problem as the synths in “Even” make up for that. Belong doesn’t have the coy top-to-bottom catchiness that their s/t debut did, but this noisier, longer record does have some fantastic moments (the first three songs).