Quick Review (LP): For Your Own Special Sweetheart by Jawbox

jawbox for your own special sweetheart Jawbox
For Your Own Special Sweetheart
Atlantic; 1994

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “FF=66”, “Savory”, “Breathe”, “Cooling Card”, “Whitney Walks”

The only problem with Novelty was the production. All I can say is that it sounded a bit off, sort of glossed and imbalanced. The drums, for example, popped with too much pizzazz. The guitars came off a little too metal. All that has been remedied on For Your Own Special Sweetheart, apparently by the efforts of Fugazi-standby producer Ted Nicely. With his assistance, the band made the defining Jawbox experience, an album that captures the band in all of their gorgeous, hyper-melodic dissonance. Everything – and I mean everything – about this record brims with sonic glory. The choruses are fist-pumpingly mighty, the drums and bass are pummeling and full, and the guitars are explosive and razor-sharp. The only drawback, and it is minor, is that the best material seems to be packed into the record’s first half. Still, it could just be that tracks 1-6 are so strong that nothing could compare, and to be honest, “Chicago Piano”, “U-Trau”, and “Whitney Walks” are all pretty amazing anyway. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sweetheart is one of the great post-punk records, and certainly Jawbox’s masterpiece. It’s a record that deserves to be listened to on full blast, so pop it in, crank it up, and savor every second.

Wikipedia article
Pitchfork review
AMG review

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Quick Review (EP): Glenn by Slint

slint glenn rhoda 10" Slint
Glenn EP
Touch & Go; 1994

My Rating: A+

Best Tracks: both tracks

Spiderland gets all the recognition, but when it comes down to it, this is the record that truly DOCUMENTS the reality of this band of bands. First of all, the recording is amazing, the sound of Albini completely redeeming himself after sabotaging Tweez. Second, the band never sounded better, more Slint-ish, than this. “Glenn” is perhaps the essential Slint track, immediate and mysterious, sprawling and meticulous, an epic crafted to precision that proceeds to blow your mind. “Rhoda” refurbishes the poorest track on Tweez, thrusting it forward as perhaps the best. When Walford crashes in near the end of the track (“One two three four!!!!!”) and the band goes insane, you get a sense of what this band was capable of live. Doubters, beware. This EP just might convert you.

AMG review
Wikipedia article
Hardcore For Nerds review

Quick Review (LP): Novelty by Jawbox

jawbox novelty Jawbox
Novelty
Dischord; 1992

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Cutoff”, “Static”, “Tracking”, “Channel 3”

Bill Barbot joins the crew, and greatness is unleashed. The progression from Grippe to Novelty is without a doubt one of the most remarkable in the history of rock and roll. Between albums, the band learned how to harness massive feedback walls, wrote a killer set of songs, and slowed things down just enough to nail you in the gut. “Cutoff” is so good that they re-wrote it on their 4th LP, “Channel 3” leans heavily on the muscular pop that was starting to rock the mainstream, and “Static” is quite simply an amazing tune. The dueling vocal attack of Robbins and Barbot is something to behold as well, creating a sort of hypnotic effect that’ll suck you in. But it’s the emotional arc of the songwriting that makes Novelty such a giant leap. The highs are galactic, the lows are subterranean. Novelty is one massive moment of greatness, one of the greatest post-hardcore records of all time, and deserves to be cherished by you.

AMG review
Wikipedia article
Punk Mecca review

Quick Review (LP): Repeater by Fugazi

fugazi repeater Fugazi
Repeater
Dischord; 1991

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Turnover”, “Merchandise”, “Shut The Door”

After their mighty debut EP, Fugazi struggled through a couple of shorter efforts before nailing it on this, their debut LP. Repeater is the ultimate Fugazi full-length. It’s the record you can imagine them playing to throngs of sweaty teenagers and good-for-nothings in packed all-ages clubs. It’s the record that defines the band, and even sees them hinting at the manic musical directions they would take on future albums (“Sieve-Fisted Find”, “Greed”). The first three tracks run seamlessly into one another, allowing the band to essentially out-do itself after “Waiting Room” and demonstrate the kind of pugilistic fury they were capable of. “Shut The Door” seals the deal, putting the lid on one of the most memorable records of the pre-alternative era, and most everything in between is great too. The thing about Repeater is it opens up, exploding into incredible mixes of melody and fury that are simply unparalleled. Highly recommended, and worthy every second of your time.

AMG review
Wikipedia article
The Daily Guru review

Quick Review (LP): Tweez by Slint

Slint
Tweez
Jennifer Hartman; 1989

My Rating: A-

Best Tracks: “Charlotte”, “Ron”, “Carol”, “Darlene”

They probably didn’t realize it at the time, but what the guys in Slint did with Tweez was deconstruct hair metal and hardcore. The guitars, drums, and vocals explode convention (at least the conventions punk kids were used to) and bleed into jazzy noodling and (classical?) dissonance. Most of the lyrics are fractured, dangling, and impressionistic loose ends that yield for the record a remarkably wide open sense of narrative. Albini‘s production is controversial and intentionally ugly, but to be honest, I can’t imagine the record any differently. All that random noise and nonsense just sounds right here, making this the Slint record with a sense of humor. Tweez is a strange and fascinating piece of work, a record with an inexhaustible sense of mystery, and one of the most consistently original rock albums you’ll ever hear. Seventeen years on, I’m still trying to figure out what there is “past where they paint the houses…” Sure, it pales in comparison to Spiderland, but what doesn’t?

AMG review (not entirely accurate)
Wikipedia article
DK Presents review
Pre-Slint article from the guy who wrote the book on Slint

Real Estate: s/t LP (2009)

Real Estate
Real Estate
Woodsist; 2009

My Rating: 95/100

As a kid, I never stepped foot on a beach north of Cumberland Island, Georgia. I was a complete southern surf snob, and to this day I find myself cringing at the thought of putting my bare feet onto oceanside territory north of Myrtle Beach. Jersey shores? I would have said a big “no way” even a year ago, but having had the opportunity to bask in the warm, slow sunrise of Jersey’s own Real Estate for the last few months, I might just learn to see the Garden State’s beaches in a different light. Real Estate is neck and neck with The Low Anthem for my favorite breakthrough act of 2009, and the more time I spend with their eponymous debut, the more these beach kings seem fit to ascend. At first, Real Estate rubs off like any given garage act recorded on a ceiling-suspended vocal mic, with a few gobs of vaseline slathered on for maximum haze. But for all the amateurism apparent in the recording quality, this record achieves the same lo-fi grandeur that Pavement achieved with Slanted & Enchanted, resulting in a magical, misty band-next-door aura shot through with melody and wit. The album wins because the songs themselves are gorgeous and perfect. The chattery, twin guitar interplay of Mathew Mondanile and Martin Courtney dwells on the winsome side of the Marquee Moon, and Etienne Duguay’s understated percussion shepherds the tracks into dreamland. It’s hard to identify standouts because this is an incredibly consistent record, but I’d to say my top three are “Beach Comber”, “Green River”, and “Suburban Beverage.” Overall, this is a record brimming with nostalgia and good vibrations, as true to the beach life as you can get. It also might be the last classic debut LP of the decade now past, but for what its worth, I think it makes the case that Real Estate’s best days lay ahead of us.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Beach Comber (5/5)
2. Pool Swimmers (5/5)
3. Suburban Dogs (5/5)
4. Black Lake (5/5)
5. Atlantic City (5/5)
6. Fake Blues (5/5)
7. Green River (5/5)
8. Suburban Beverage (5/5)
9. Let’s Rock the Beach (5/5)
10. Snow Day (5/5)

Big Star: #1 Record (1972)

Big Star
#1 Record
Ardent/Stax; 1972

My Rating: 100/100

Just what can be said about this record that hasn’t already been said, especially in the last few weeks? It’s brilliant, no doubt. And while it was legendarily ignored upon its initial release, it has since become the universally recognized stepping off point for all things power pop. You don’t need me to tell you any of that. All I can really say is that for every year that my youth fades into the rearview mirror, this record gets a little sadder and a little sweeter, all at the same time. With the record’s two chief songwriters having since departed for Indias all their own, even the sunny, powerhouse optimism of lines like “You give me life/And that’s right” come off as bittersweet at best. Over the years, I’ve come to love the song “When My Baby’s Beside Me” most of all, but there is no denying the overpowering nostalgia of “Thirteen”, a song so fragrant and pacifying you’ll feel like you’re slowly slipping into a Downy commercial. God, can any other song make a grown man cry? Whenever I hear it, I visualize all of my childhood friends, bridging the gap between innocence and experience, naive and childish, without a clue and all the better for it. Who wouldn’t want to capture that era forever? Chilton did it in that single song, but the full set of twelve manages to grab all the other angles as well. As I close this review, I’m struck by my utter inability to communicate all that this album means to me. I’d rather just let it speak for itself…

Once I walked a lonely road
Had no one to share my love
But then you came and showed the way
And now I hope you’re here to stay...”

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Feel (5/5)
2. The Ballad of El Goodo (5/5)
3. In the Street (5/5)
4. Thirteen (5/5)
5. Don’t Lie to Me (5/5)
6. The India Song (5/5)
7. When My Baby’s Beside Me (5/5)
8. My Life Is Right (5/5)
9. Give Me Another Chance (5/5)
10. Try Again (5/5)
11. Watch the Sunrise (5/5)
12. ST 100/6 (5/5)

Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism (2003)

Death Cab for Cutie
Transatlanticism; 2003
Barsuk Records
My Rating: 85/100
I’m a pretty late comer to the DCFC-wagon, and I’m far more familiar with their later work than early. However, I’m conversant enough with the band’s first three full-lengths to recognize that TRANSATLANTICISM is pivotal. Achieving the sort of sonic magic that warrants classic status, the band combines the rain-soaked majesty of Seattle forebears like Sunny Day Real Estate and the overcast atmospherism of The Cure to create a masterpiece. Seriously, no record has achieved such lovely and resplendent mope-aggression since Sunny Day’s own DIARY nine years prior. There are a handful of absolute classics, such as “Title and Registration”, “The Sound of Settling”, even the glacial “Transatlanticism,” while several other tracks come close to achieving classic status (“The New Year”, “We Looked Like Giants”). Yet the overarching thematic structure, the sense that the record is a seamless work of art, sets TRANSATLANTICISM above the fray of second and third generation emo-albums. The only fault I can find is that some of the tracks can arrive at their ends feeling unfinished, such as the otherwise fantastic “The New Year.” Overall, though, Death Cab proves with TRANSATLANTICISM that they are entirely capable of transcending their emo roots in much the same way that Radiohead left Brit Rock in its wake or Wilco big adieu to Alt Country. Like any great album, TRANSATLANTICISM pulls you into its world. It’s a beautiful waking dream and a fantastic listen.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks:
1. The New Year (4.5/5)
2. Lightness (4.5/5)
3. Title and Registration (5/5)
4. Expo ’86 (4.5/5)
5. The Sound of Settling (5/5)
6. Tiny Vessels (4/5)
7. Transatlanticism (5/5)
8. Passenger Seat (4/5)
9. Death of an Interior Decorator (4/5)
10. We Looked Like Giants (4.5/5)
11. A Lack of Color (4/5)
My Top 5 Moments:
5. all of “The Sound of Settling”
4. the lyrical passage beginning “Well everybody put your best suit or dress on” in “The New Year”
3. the angulo-elliptical acoustic guitar riff that creates “Title and Registration”
2. the DISINTEGRATION-esque atmospherics
1. the climactic “Come on!!!” chorus of “Transatlanticism”

TransatlanticismDeath Cab for Cutie
Transatlanticism; 2003
Barsuk Records

My Rating: 85/100

I’m a pretty late comer to the DCFC-wagon, and I’m far more familiar with their later work than early. However, I’m conversant enough with the band’s first three full-lengths to recognize that TRANSATLANTICISM is pivotal. Achieving the sort of sonic magic that warrants classic status, the band combines the rain-soaked majesty of Seattle forebears like Sunny Day Real Estate and the overcast atmospherism of The Cure to create a masterpiece. Seriously, no record has achieved such lovely and resplendent mope-aggression since Sunny Day’s own DIARY nine years prior. There are a handful of absolute classics, such as “Title and Registration”, “The Sound of Settling”, even the glacial “Transatlanticism,” while several other tracks come close to achieving classic status (“The New Year”, “We Looked Like Giants”). Yet the overarching thematic structure, the sense that the record is a seamless work of art, sets TRANSATLANTICISM above the fray of second and third generation emo-albums. The only fault I can find is that some of the tracks can arrive at their ends feeling unfinished, such as the otherwise fantastic “The New Year.” Overall, though, Death Cab proves with TRANSATLANTICISM that they are entirely capable of transcending their emo roots in much the same way that Radiohead left Brit Rock in its wake or Wilco big adieu to Alt Country. Like any great album, TRANSATLANTICISM pulls you into its world. It’s a beautiful waking dream and a fantastic listen.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. The New Year (4.5/5)
2. Lightness (4.5/5)
3. Title and Registration (5/5)
4. Expo ’86 (4.5/5)
5. The Sound of Settling (5/5)
6. Tiny Vessels (4/5)
7. Transatlanticism (5/5)
8. Passenger Seat (4/5)
9. Death of an Interior Decorator (4/5)
10. We Looked Like Giants (4.5/5)
11. A Lack of Color (4/5)

My Top 5 Moments:

5. all of “The Sound of Settling”
4. the lyrical passage beginning “Well everybody put your best suit or dress on” in “The New Year”
3. the angulo-elliptical acoustic guitar riff that creates “Title and Registration”
2. the DISINTEGRATION-esque atmospherics
1. the climactic “Come on!!!” chorus of “Transatlanticism”

Mark Knopfler: The Ragpicker’s Dream (2002)

Mark Knopfler
The Ragpicker’s Dream; 2002
Warner Brothers
My Rating: 89/100
Singular. If Mark Knopfler has proved anything in the new millenium, it is that his years spent as the frontman for the Dire Straits were merely formative. His most vital and meaningful work has happened in the last fifteen years, and at this point, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to his latter day glories. His third solo effort, THE RAGPICKER’S DREAM, is his greatest, and a classic album, though criminally under-recognized at present. Knopfler’s genius as a solo artist rests in combining the pub-to-prog rock aesthetic of his Dire Straits era with the atmospherics and localization of his numerous soundtrack works, such as THE PRINCESS BRIDE and LOCAL HERO. While “Why Aye Man” certainly harkens back to the Dire Straits track “Calling Elvis”, the music transports the listener to the world of German expatriates seeking a new and better life. “Hill Farmer’s Blues” similarly transcends its folkish roots and finds an epic arc, yet Knopfler can keep it light and matter-of-fact just a few tracks later with “Quality Shoe.” Still, RAGPICKER’S canonical status is afforded by its sheer vision. For all of its inherent darkness, it is a hopeful and idealistic record, a musical good times brew. While Knopfler sings with deep sadness of “A Place Where We Used to Live”, he also sums it all up in optimistic fashion with the title track. A “ragpicker”, says Merriam-Webster, is “one who collects rags and refuse for a livelihood.” Thus, THE RAGPICKER’S DREAM may well be the Knopfler album most representative of his vision, a collection of tracks yielding to the simple joys of human existence, a theme wondrously captured in the Elliott Erwitt photo that graces the cover. It’s a “mulligan stew” of pure delights, a feast of the “brotherhood of man.” Now go on and dig in.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Why Aye Man (5/5)
2. Devil Baby (5/5)
3. Hill Farmer’s Blues (5/5)
4. A Place Where We Used to Live (5/5)
5. Quality Shoe (5/5)
6. Fare Thee Well Northumberland (4/5)
7. Marbletown (5/5)
8. You Don’t Know You’re Born (4/5)
9. Coyote (4/5)
10. The Ragpicker’s Dream (5/5)
11. Daddy’s Gone to Knoxville (4/5)
12. Old Pigweed (5/5)

the ragpicker's dream-mark knopflerMark Knopfler
The Ragpicker’s Dream; 2002
Warner Brothers

My Rating: 89/100

Singular. If Mark Knopfler has proved anything in the new millenium, it is that his years spent as the frontman for the Dire Straits were merely formative. His most vital and meaningful work has happened in the last fifteen years, and at this point, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to his latter day glories. His third solo effort, THE RAGPICKER’S DREAM, is his greatest, and a classic album, though criminally under-recognized at present. Knopfler’s genius as a solo artist rests in combining the pub-to-prog rock aesthetic of his Dire Straits era with the atmospherics and localization of his numerous soundtrack works, such as THE PRINCESS BRIDE and LOCAL HERO. While “Why Aye Man” certainly harkens back to the Dire Straits track “Calling Elvis”, the music transports the listener to the world of British expatriates seeking a new and better life in Germany. “Hill Farmer’s Blues” similarly transcends its folkish roots and finds an epic arc, yet Knopfler can keep it light and matter-of-fact just a few tracks later with “Quality Shoe.” Still, RAGPICKER’S canonical status is afforded by its sheer vision. For all of its inherent darkness, it is a hopeful and idealistic record, a musical good times brew. While Knopfler sings with deep sadness of “A Place Where We Used to Live”, he also sums it all up in optimistic fashion with the title track. A “ragpicker”, says Merriam-Webster, is “one who collects rags and refuse for a livelihood.” Thus, THE RAGPICKER’S DREAM may well be the Knopfler album most representative of his vision, a collection of tracks yielding to the simple joys of human existence, a theme wondrously captured in the Elliott Erwitt photo that graces the cover. It’s a “mulligan stew” of pure delights, a feast of the “brotherhood of man.” Now go on and dig in.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Why Aye Man (5/5)
2. Devil Baby (5/5)
3. Hill Farmer’s Blues (5/5)
4. A Place Where We Used to Live (5/5)
5. Quality Shoe (5/5)
6. Fare Thee Well Northumberland (4/5)
7. Marbletown (5/5)
8. You Don’t Know You’re Born (4/5)
9. Coyote (4/5)
10. The Ragpicker’s Dream (5/5)
11. Daddy’s Gone to Knoxville (4/5)
12. Old Pigweed (5/5)

Pavement: Slanted & Enchanted (1992)

Pavement
Slanted & Enchanted; 1992
Matador Records
My Rating: 88/100
There aren’t many records that I would call “incredibly pretentious” and “brilliant” all in the same breath, but here it goes: SLANTED & ENCHANTED is brilliant in an incredibly pretentious sort of way. For the novice, Pavement’s debut will most likely sound like the schizophrenic garage-band antics of middle-class white kids who’ve been playing their instruments for, oh, three weeks. But don’t be so shallow, you! Here’s the big secret: Pavement could write some great songs! Yes, beneath all the fuzz there’s a juicy fruit waiting to be enjoyed, but SLANTED & ENCHANTED can’t be approached head-on. You have to accept the inherent contradictions (the inverted beauty of “In the Mouth a Desert”), the off-kilter rhythms (“Conduit for Sale!”), and the off-key guitars (“Zurich is Stained”) on their own terms. When you do, you’ll start to see them as a necessary part of the experience. “Here” wouldn’t be nearly so great in the hands of someone with a soulful voice – there’s an undeniable authenticity in Malkmus straining to hit those high notes. But the record’s title really says it all: these songs come from a world of paradoxic landscapes and schizoid vision, the sound of running Escher’s and Picasso’s collected works through a blender. Every piece has its place, and while some tracks are better (“Trigger Cut”, “Two States”) than others (“No Life Singed Her”, “Our Singer”), SLANTED & ENCHANTED is a jigsaw that wouldn’t quite fit together if a note was missing. Obtuse? Yes. Inscrutable? Fer sure. Esoteric? To a point. A waste of time? Not at all. Give SLANTED & ENCHANTED as many listens as it takes. You will believe.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks:
1. Summer Babe (Winter Version) (4.5/5)
2. Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17 (5/5)
3. No Life Singed Her (4/5)
4. In the Mouth a Desert (5/5)
5. Conduit Sale! (5/5)
6. Zurich is Stained (5/5)
7. Chesley’s Little Wrists (4/5)
8. Loretta’s Scars (4.5/5)
9. Here (5/5)
10. Two States (5/5)
11. Perfume-V (5/5)
12. Fame Throwa (5/5)
13. Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era (4/5)
14. Our Singer (3.5/5)

Slanted_and_Enchanted_album_coverPavement
Slanted & Enchanted; 1992
Matador Records

My Rating: 88/100

There aren’t many records that I would call “incredibly pretentious” and “brilliant” all in the same breath, but here it goes: SLANTED & ENCHANTED is brilliant in an incredibly pretentious sort of way. For the novice, Pavement’s debut will most likely sound like the schizophrenic garage-band antics of middle-class white kids who’ve been playing their instruments for, oh, three weeks. But don’t be so shallow, you! Here’s the big secret: Pavement could write some great songs! Yes, beneath all the fuzz there’s a juicy fruit waiting to be enjoyed, but SLANTED & ENCHANTED can’t be approached head-on. You have to accept the inherent contradictions (the inverted beauty of “In the Mouth a Desert”), the off-kilter rhythms (“Conduit for Sale!”), and the off-key guitars (“Zurich is Stained”) on their own terms. When you do, you’ll start to see them as a necessary part of the experience. “Here” wouldn’t be nearly so great in the hands of someone with a soulful voice – there’s an undeniable authenticity in Malkmus straining to hit those high notes. But the record’s title really says it all: these songs come from a world of paradoxic landscapes and schizoid vision, the sound of running Escher’s and Picasso’s collected works through a blender. Every piece has its place, and while some tracks are better (“Trigger Cut”, “Two States”) than others (“No Life Singed Her”, “Our Singer”), SLANTED & ENCHANTED is a jigsaw that wouldn’t quite fit together if a note was missing. Obtuse? Yes. Inscrutable? Fer sure. Esoteric? To a point. A waste of time? Not at all. Give SLANTED & ENCHANTED as many listens as it takes. You will believe.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Summer Babe (Winter Version) (4.5/5)
2. Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17 (5/5)
3. No Life Singed Her (4/5)
4. In the Mouth a Desert (5/5)
5. Conduit Sale! (5/5)
6. Zurich is Stained (5/5)
7. Chesley’s Little Wrists (4/5)
8. Loretta’s Scars (4.5/5)
9. Here (5/5)
10. Two States (5/5)
11. Perfume-V (5/5)
12. Fame Throwa (5/5)
13. Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era (4/5)
14. Our Singer (3.5/5)