Comments: Back when I first heard of Kurt Vile in March 2009, he was a relative nobody. He had released a solo record entitled Constant Hitmaker in 2008, but that hardly got any attention until its year later reissue. Vile and his group The War on Drugs had also just put a record called Wagonwheel Blues on Secretly Canadian. Some songs on that record like “Arms Like Boulders,” “A Needle in the Eye…,” and “Taking The Farm,” really won me over and convinced me to go see the band perform at TT The Bears. They played a short, but enjoyable set featuring those songs. All ten of us in the venue (that actually paid attention) seemed to have had a decent enough time. Fast forward to…right now. Vile is signed to Matador Records, is still touring a shitload both solo (with his back-up band The Violators) and as the lead guitarist of The War on Drugs, and put out a fairly well received Matador LP Childish Prodigy later in 2009. Well, Vile is not slowing down. There’s this seven song EP that has just been released for free digitally. And, if Matador isn’t lying, another LP is due out soon enough. You, at this point, may be asking yourself if it is worth downloading the 50.5 MB MP3 folder. It’s only 50.5 MB so you might as well just give it a try anyway. The simple acoustic “Ocean City” ain’t nothing spectacular, but captivates the spirit for a little while. The dude strums heavy, by the way. Instrumental from Vile on “Losing Momentum”??? He’s too young for that. Even though it is a chill tune. Haunting vocals and an excellent rhythm section make up “I Wanted Everything.” If you are a sucker for acoustic rock that is filled with heartfelt emotion and passion then you will enjoy this. If you are someone like me that finds value in this kind of music, but isn’t easily convinced of its beauty, this may only come across as a decent/good record. There’s a slew of similar artists that excel at this craft, perhaps leaps and bounds better than Vile (perhaps not) so it really is a matter of opinion. I guess it is more apropos to mention that for this record than others — minus the instrumentals.
Band: BLK JKS Release: 6/2010 Label: Secretly Canadian
1. “Iietys” – C 2. “Bogobe” – C+
3. “Zol!” – A-
4. “Paradise” – B–
5. “Mzabalazo” – B+
Comments: Direction. It’s something BLK JKS had in their excellent debut track “Lakeside,” but is something that this release is lacking. I liked how “Lakeside” was short and immediately catchy. Going the route of six minute aimless tracks isn’t a viable route for most bands. “Iietys” is a tough listening journey with spurts of neatness, thanks in large part to a solid beat. Besides that, though? Too long. Even the experimentally inclined “Bogobe” is backed by a bare-bones bass-line that makes it borderline enjoyable. The Carribean flavored title track is absolutely outstanding in comparison to the first two. Think early 2000s Animal Collective intertwined with African tribal shouts. “Paradise” is a bit too maniacal for my tastes and wears its harder rock influences on its sleeves. Comparatively, though, it’s got a fine flow…something much needed when length is taking into account. Despite the craziness of the final tune, I find it pretty good. There’s a lot of layers in it, but like its two predecessors is relatively easy on critical ears.
Band: The Homostupids Release: 3/2010 Label: Fashionable Idiots
1. “R Companion” – C 2. “The Donovan (chop chop chop)” – C+ 3. “Wearing Sammy” – D+ 4. “Our Week Is Ending” – D 5. “Swearing Sammy” – C- 6. “Sea Wolf” – C+
Comments: If this is the group’s self-proclaimed best release, then may I ask what kind of shit came before it? Instrumental sounds of shattered glass and farts? Stick to making hardcore funk and cut the so-easy-even-I-could-fucking-do-it shit on “Wearing Sammy” and “Our Week Is Ending.” Great Lightning Bolt impression on “Swearing Sammy.” Nawt. This isn’t even punx.
Band: The Fresh & Onlys Label: Captured Tracks Release: 3/2010
1. “Diamond in the Dark” – B 2. “Dreaming is Easy” – B+ 3. “You’re Known To Wander” – A- 4. “August in My Mind” – A 5. “Garbage Collector” – B+ 6. “Save Your Soul” – B+
Comments: Girls. Girls. A little Vivian, a little Dum, and a little plain old Girls. I like the psychedelic/surf sound of The Fresh & Onlys. Credit to them for staying fresh in a climate where music just ain’t as fresh as it used to be. They are too chill to be considered straight up garage or punk or what have you, but they draw from the lighter aspects of those genres. It’s cool.
1. “Dead I” – A-
2. “Hipster Grandma” – B
3. “Local Band” – B
Comments: “Hardcore punk” that your average non-hardcore punk might like. Prerequisites: an admiration for punk, garage, noise, and lo-fi. I find the three chord verse in “Dead I” to be engaging and jamming. Good tune. “Hipster Grandma” is sped up and pretty decent. What else is expected in 1 minute and 22 seconds? All of this shit has been done before by better bands, but it’s nice for a little flashback.
Band: Cold War Kids Release: 2010 Label: Downtown/Universal
1. “Audience of One” – A+ 2. “Coffee Spoon” – B+
3. “Santa Ana Winds” – A
4. “Sermons” – A+
5. “Baby Boy” – N/A
Comments: “Audience of One” is pretty damn slick. The bridge is absolutely fantastic, but in general it’s a great song. “Coffee Spoon” is pretty chill with a neat drum sequence, but it’s nothing worth going crazy over. “Santa Ana Winds” is reminiscent of “Audience of One” in terms of what it has: a great flow and a great bridge. “Sermons” is the foremost soul/gospel number on this EP and is quite addicting. I didn’t really want to assign “Baby Boy” a grade because it’s over before it is started and is three sentences long. This probably will turn out to be one of my favorite EPs of 2010, but considering it’s Christmas Day 2009, it’s still early.
Band: Animal Collective Label: Domino Release: December 18, 2009
1. “Graze” – 9.0 – Forget about the droning space psychedelia that the first few minutes bring…3:35 and on is what’s up.
2. “What Would I Want Sky?” – 9.6 – The long introduction isn’t so hot. 3:09 and on is what’s up. I get a “feel-good” vibe that’s sort of cold and fitting for this time of the year as opposed to the other kind of “feel-good” like in “Summertime Clothes.”
3. “Bleeding” – 8.2 – Initially, I’m not really digging it. I like the flow, but there isn’t anything outstanding.
4. “On A Highway” – 8.9 – The kind of song that you don’t want to introduce to prospective listeners. Any elements of pop have been toned back drastically. The ending brings the song together, but should have happened earlier.
5. “I Think I Can” – 8.3 -This one doesn’t do much for me until about the 5:11 mark. From there, the multiple vocal tracking is funny and sounds fine.
Comments: Oopsie doopsie another really early leak from the Collective. The last time an AC leak came, it turned out to be an instant classic wrought with premature “best album ever made” status. This EP is a let down for me. It doesn’t ride the Merriweather Post Pavillion coattails, which is sad, but I’m pretty sure they’ve had these tracks sitting around for a while and just wanted to release them in some form.
Band: Lady Gaga Label: Interscope Release: November 18, 2009
1. “Bad Romance” – 7.3 – This is okay. The “ra ra” makes it okay. The chorus is the worst part.
2. “Alejandro” – 4.6 – Basic dance song with Spanish inclinations.
3. “Monster” – 5.8 – Boring. There is a decent background beat, but the main one is redundant.
4. “Speechless” – 6.1 – Dumb, Queen (the band) imitation.
5. “Dance in the Dark” – 5.3 – Watered down sort of like Monster.
6. “Telephone” – 6.3 – Silly concept.
7. “So Happy I Could Die” – 5.0 – There’s only so much Lady can do to change it up.
8. “Teeth” – 3.9 – Terrible. One of the worst songs of the year. Yup.
Band: Pains of Being Pure at Heart Label: Slumberland Release: September 22, 2009
Comments: Pains of Being Pure at Heart, on this EP, are still the Pains of Being Pure at Heart we’ve always known and loved. For whatever reason, the Pains did not churn out hardcore poppy numbers a la their eponymous debut LP, but they did make a quality recording! “Higher Than The Stars” is the best song of the bunch, featuring barely audible vocals, a neat keyboard riff, and a straight ’80s guitar melody. “103” is heavier, perhaps the band’s best attempt at post-punk revival. “Falling Over” is structured around an awesome drum beat. “Twins” sounds like it belongs on the LP…and is just awesome on all levels! I highly recommend this EP to existing fans and to those who love good old fashioned twee!