Initial Reactions (2011): Atlas Sound, Primus, Fruit Bats

Atlas Sound – Parallax – (++): This guy Cox comes up with some pretty melodies, and I like the Zombies-vibe that his music puts off. "Te Amo" is a neato moment and a standout cut. As is common with Deerhunter, he often launches with a killer melody but lands with a disappointing follow-through in terms of arc and/or narrative. Promises the stars, but fails to really engage at a gut level. Still, pretty. ("Angel Is Broken", "Te Amo", "Mona Lisa")

Primus – Green Naugahyde – (+++): This is a strong record. There were a few moments that reminded me of Modest Mouse’s recent work. If I was a diehard Primus fan, I’d be really happy with Les Claypool for giving me an album that is essentially as good as the band’s early work. Think of Dinosaur Jr.’s 2 reunion albums rather than reunion albums by pretty much any other band. Strangely and surprisingly enjoyable. ("Hennepin Crawler", "Tragedy’s a’ Comin’")

Fruit Bats – Tripper – (++): I suspect this one is a grower. At first glance, it sounds like pretty typical indie-pop, but there is at least one undeniably great track here (“Wild Honey”), and I suspect a few more shall slowly reveal themselves. I’m not crazy about the vocals (in general), but I don’t hate them either. All in all I find myself liking this more and more on repeated listens. ("Wild Honey", "Shivering Fawn")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

Quick Review (LP): Lollipop by Meat Puppets

Meat Puppets
Lollipop
Megaforce; 2011

My Rating: B (72/100)

Best Tracks: "Incomplete", "Orange", "Shave It", "Damn Thing", "The Spider and the Spaceship", "Amazing"

A sunny little pop record that should have been a little more gloriously cross-eyed.

NOTES

  • Meat Puppets are, in my mind at least, of a kin with Dinosaur Jr. in that they are enjoying a comeback that is arguably as prolific as their initial run. That being said, I doubt they’ll ever top Meat Puppets II.
  • Thanks brothers Meat for singing. I so love the harmonies.
  • "Shave It" sounds like they are positioning themselves to market Hawaiian Shave Ice. Catchy tune.
  • It’s funny – a lot of these tunes sound like I would have had a good chance of hearing them on the radio in the early 90’s. Too bad it’s not the early 90’s.
  • Though I do like the songs here, I will say that it can feel a little too modern rock-ish at times. The MP sense of identity is still intact, but at times it seems a little too "business as usual”, like they’re going to grab a beer after they finish up in the studio.
  • Is it just me, or are the Meat Puppets sort of an indie, non-jam version of the Grateful Dead? Come to think of it, I’d love to hear these guys cover "Touch of Gray."
  • "Amazing" is a cool tune.  I dig the lyrics.
  • "I’d like to slap the face of alien…"
  • I prefer it when these guys make things very cross-eyed. It makes them standout from the pack. For that reason, I really like "The Spider and the Spaceship" because the lyrics are silly, it sounds like a drinking song, and it features a tuba.
  • I like this record. I just wish I was blown away by it. Pitchfork and I are apparently on the same wavelength: “Where their records once strained and burst from too much wildness, now they threaten to get so competent they’ll go flat. There are plenty of great tunes here, just not much character.Lollipop’s as catchy as your average power-pop record, but still hardly as essential as the band’s peaks.”

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Consequence (3/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Several Shades of Why by J. Mascis

J. Mascis
Several Shades of Why
Sub Pop; 2011

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "Listen to Me", "Several Shades of Why", "Is It Done"

For a guy with a frog-fart of a voice, J. Mascis sure writes pretty tunes, and doesn’t sound half-bad singing along with them. For his reputation as an indie rock grinder, he makes some really great chamber pop, which we’ve known since Where You Been? at least.

NOTES:

– I dig this record, but I did find myself wondering at one point whether some of these tracks were acoustic re-workings of previously released Dinosaur, Jr. tracks. Case in point: "Can I."
– The title track is a real standout. Very nice string accompaniment.
– OK, what is the deal with Mascis song-naming? I’m pretty sure that at least 90% of the songs he has written are titled purely with pronouns, common verbs, and prepositions. His greatest hits will undoubtedly be titled "Liked These."
– I really love laid-back, acoustic pop records like this. In my mind, it’s a sign of a truly great songwriter when they can effortlessly switch from full-form rock band mode to catchy, hyper-melodic folk pop.
– Mascis’ songs have always been more about the fabulous guitar arrangement than the voice or the lyrics, but his croak has the same hear-2-believe quality as Dylan’s.
– Some cool guests here: Kurt Vile (I’m name-dropping here), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), and Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses).
Pitchfork puts the record in perspective for me: “The specter of loneliness and aging is a through-line here, too, brilliantly visualized by artist Marq Spusta’s gorgeous cover, which shows a pair of fuzzy, unmistakably J-like creatures– one big, one tiny– using a sea monster’s back for an island. (Mascis had a son in 2007.) Though dour, Mascis’ sleeve avatar is also kind of cute. Several Shades of Why gives us that softer, gentler J Mascis. But it’s not kids’ stuff– these are lullabies for adults, offered up with a compassion that doesn’t come easy.

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Songs (4/5)

Thank You Emusic

This blog is not about advertising, but given that I have a healthy dose of writer’s block tonight, I thought I’d switch gears and just appreciate the fact that Emusic has pretty much drowned me in music over the last month.

1. There’s the standard 37 tracks per month at $15.
2. I purchased 100 tracks using a $30 gift card in August.
3. Last night, they gave me 50 extra downloads for being a loyal customer through their transition in bringing Sony onboard.
4. I will shortly be receiving 10 more downloads for rating 10 albums. Yes, I select stars for my favorite records, and I will get 10 free songs.

That’s 197 tracks in one month at $45.  That’s 23 cents a tracks. Muy bueno.

And what did I purchase? Well, here’s an incomplete list:

1. Modest Mouse, No One’s First and You’re Next EP
2. 12 tracks from Bob Dylan’s first two greatest hits volumes (i.e. “All Along the Watchtower”, “I Shall Be Released”)
3. 5 tracks from Pearl Jam (i.e. “Nothingman”, “Once”)
4. Nathan, Jimson Weed
5. Hem, Funnel Cloud
6.  Neu! 75
7. Arcade Fire EP
8.  The Swell Season
9.  The Inbred, Kombinator
10. Sandra McCracken, Red Balloon
11.  The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime (43 tracks for the price of 12!)
12.  5 tracks from Modest Mouse’s Sad Sappy Sucker
13. Son Volt, The Search (Deluxe Edition)
14. Sandra McCracken, Gravity/Love
15.  Dinosaur Jr., Farm
16. 6 tracks from Modest Mouse’s Epic releases
17. Bruce Springsteen, Hammersmith Odeon London ’75

And while there’s more where that came from, I’m not even done buying yet. I don’t know of a deal that even comes close to that in music downloads. So if you haven’t done a free trial with eMusic, what are you waiting for?

Weekly Review Roundup 8/29/2009

Radiohead’s Top 12 Non-Album Tracks…
10 to 12
7 to 9
4 to 6
1 to 3

Other reviews:

R.E.M., Out of Time
The Fire Theft, The Fire Theft
Dinosaur Jr., Beyond

Coming next week:
– a look back at one of my top tracks of the decade (the first in a series that will produce my top 20 or so)
– CD reviews of:

  • Modest Mouse’s  This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About
  • Mark Knopfler’s Golden Heart
  • Nathan’s Key Principles
  • Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut

Dinosaur Jr.: Beyond (2007)

Dinosaur Jr.
Beyond; 2007
Fat Possum Records
My Rating: 82/100
Huzzah – another indie legend gets the band back together. By 2007, after reunions by Pixies, Slint, and every other 80’s/90’s act that could possibly swing it, a new Dinosaur Jr. record barely registered with me. And why would it? With a few exceptions, I never really dug the OLD Lou-era stuff, and only bona-fide classics like “Out There,” “Start Choppin’,” and “Get Me” made a dent with me in the mid-90’s. Well, this here record is proof-positive that hype CAN be a good thing, as I finally gave this one a shot round about early 2009 and was surprised to find one beefcake of a record. Seriously, upon investigating the band’s back catalog, I don’t think they ever made a record as consistent and cohesive as this. “Crumble” tugs the heartstrings like only the best hard rockers can, and late album beauties like “We’re Not Alone” and “I Got Lost” avoid Mascis’ tendancy to frontload the best tracks. Barlow’s contributions are good too, especially “Back To Your Heart”, a big, melodic, mid-tempo sludgefeast. (It’s kinda funny to think about the subtext there – “Back to your heart, J.” Awwwww….) Dinosaur Jr. have truly distinguished themselves by reuniting and delivering what fans really want – a second go at making records. And what a record! As far as indie reunions go, that means Dinosaur Jr. gets my award for best of the decade.
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks
1. Almost Ready (5/5)
2. Crumble (5/5)
3. Pick Me Up (4/5)
4. Back to Your Heart (5/5)
5. This is All I Came to Do (4/5)
6. Been There All the Time (4.5/5)
7. It’s Me (5/5)
8. We’re Not Alone (5/5)
9. I Got Lost (5/5)
10. Lightning Bulb (3.5/5)
11. What If I Knew (4/5)

DinosaurBeyondDinosaur Jr.
Beyond; 2007
Fat Possum Records

My Rating: 82/100

Huzzah – another indie legend gets the band back together. By 2007, after reunions by Pixies, Slint, and every other 80’s/90’s act that could possibly swing it, a new Dinosaur Jr. record barely registered with me. And why would it? With a few exceptions, I never really dug the OLD Lou-era stuff, and only bona-fide classics like “Out There,” “Start Choppin’,” and “Get Me” made a dent with me in the mid-90’s. Well, this here record is proof-positive that hype CAN be a good thing, as I finally gave this one a shot round about early 2009 and was surprised to find one beefcake of a record. Seriously, upon investigating the band’s back catalog, I don’t think they ever made a record as consistent and cohesive as this. “Crumble” tugs the heartstrings like only the best hard rockers can, and late album beauties like “We’re Not Alone” and “I Got Lost” avoid Mascis’ tendancy to frontload the best tracks. Barlow’s contributions are good too, especially “Back To Your Heart”, a big, melodic, mid-tempo sludgefeast. (It’s kinda funny to think about the subtext there – “Back to your heart, J.” Awwwww….) Dinosaur Jr. have truly distinguished themselves by reuniting and delivering what fans really want – a second go at making records. And what a record! As far as indie reunions go, that means Dinosaur Jr. gets my award for best of the decade.

Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Almost Ready (5/5)
2. Crumble (5/5)
3. Pick Me Up (4/5)
4. Back to Your Heart (5/5)
5. This is All I Came to Do (4/5)
6. Been There All the Time (4.5/5)
7. It’s Me (5/5)
8. We’re Not Alone (5/5)
9. I Got Lost (5/5)
10. Lightning Bulb (3.5/5)
11. What If I Knew (4/5)

Weekly Review Round-Up 8/16/2009

Here’s a list of the CD reviews I did this week:

Monday
Radiohead, OK Computer

Tuesday
Dinosaur Jr, Farm
Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Wednesday
Radiohead, The Bends Collector’s Editions Disc 2
Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career

Thursday
REM, Fables of the Reconstruction
Josh Ritter, The Animal Years

Friday
Tortoise, Beacons of Ancestorship
Radiohead, OK Computer Collector’s Edition Disc 2

Saturday
U2, No Line on the Horizon
Jeremy Enigk, OK Bear

Enjoy!!

August 11, 2009

Two new reviews today:

– Dinosaur Jr.’s FARM
– Modest Mouse’s GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BAD NEWS

News from around the web:
– Built to Spill got a new LP on the way (PASTE)
Sufjan’s hitting the road. [Pls pls pls let this be to road test songs for a new full-length!] (Pitchfork)

Just gotta say, today it’s SGB 2, Pitchfork 0, for those keeping score. AND I’VE GOT A DAY JOB AND A FAMILY. Who loves you baby???

Dinosaur Jr.: Farm (2009)

DINOSAUR, JR.
FARM; 2009
JAGJAGUWAR RECORDS
MY RATING: 81/100
I was never THAT into Dinosaur Jr. back in the day. I had good pals that worshipped J. Mascis and all, and I really dug a handful of the tracks on WHERE YOU BEEN, but to me the band seemed awfully one-dimensional, essentially an excuse for an alternative guitar hero to display his sickening guitar prowess. Isn’t that why we had cock rock? As a testament to the power of all-the-fuss, though, I dipped my toes into BEYOND a few months back, and found an exhilirating, fresh, tuneful rock record. Some people said it was all the chemistry of the original lineup getting it back together, but I’d assign the beast’s present winning streak to the wisdom and foresight of middle-age. After a while, the best artists finally figure out what it is they’re really good at. Some then rebel against it; some, however, embrace it. With FARM, the Dinosaur 3 have settled into the suits they wear so well and created one hell of a great rock and roll record AGAIN. I mean, I’ve heard the old stuff, and BUG is a pretty good record, true, but all twelve tracks herein are just so gorgeous and chunky and sludgy that it makes me want to learn to play guitar all over again. “Plans?” “Pieces?” NICE!!! Barlow contributes some fine stuff too, “Imagination Blind” being his best work since BAKESALE. All in all, this one is gloriously visceral, ebbing and flowing in all the right ways. Kudos for selecting a great cover, too.
TRACKS:
1. Pieces (5/5)
2. I Want You To Know (5/5)
3. Ocean in the Way (5/5)
4. Plans (5/5)
5. Your Weather (4/5)
6. Over It (3.5/5)
7. Friends (4.5/5)
8. Said the People (5/5)
9. There’s No Here (3.5/5)
10. See You (4/5)
11. I Don’t Wanna Go There (5/5)
12. Imagination Blind (5/5)

Dinosaur-Jr-FarmDINOSAUR, JR.
FARM; 2009
JAGJAGUWAR RECORDS

MY RATING: 81/100

I was never THAT into Dinosaur Jr. back in the day. I had good pals that worshipped J. Mascis and all, and I really dug a handful of the tracks on WHERE YOU BEEN, but to me the band seemed awfully one-dimensional, essentially an excuse for an alternative guitar hero to display his sickening guitar prowess. Isn’t that why we had cock rock? As a testament to the power of all-the-fuss, though, I dipped my toes into BEYOND a few months back, and found an exhilirating, fresh, tuneful rock record. Some people said it was all the chemistry of the original lineup getting it back together, but I’d assign the beast’s present winning streak to the wisdom and foresight of middle-age. After a while, the best artists finally figure out what it is they’re really good at. Some then rebel against it; some, however, embrace it. With FARM, the Prehistoric 3 have settled into the suits they wear so well and created one hell of a great rock and roll record AGAIN. I mean, I’ve heard the old stuff, and BUG is a pretty good record, true, but all twelve tracks herein are just so gorgeous and chunky and sludgy that it makes me want to learn to play guitar all over again. “Plans?” “Pieces?” NICE!!! Barlow contributes some fine stuff too, “Imagination Blind” being his best work since BAKESALE. FARM is gloriously visceral, ebbing and flowing in all the right ways. Kudos for selecting a great cover, too.

TRACKS:

1. Pieces (5/5)
2. I Want You To Know (5/5)
3. Ocean in the Way (5/5)
4. Plans (5/5)
5. Your Weather (4/5)
6. Over It (3.5/5)
7. Friends (4.5/5)
8. Said the People (5/5)
9. There’s No Here (3.5/5)
10. See You (4/5)
11. I Don’t Wanna Go There (5/5)
12. Imagination Blind (5/5)