New album from Prisoners

Prisoners, "Fix Yer Head" (DOWNLOAD)
Prisoners, "Brain Drain" (DOWNLOAD)

So, Drew asked me to write about the new Prisoners album, Pass the Stone, & was even kind enough to send me a Mediafire link with a download of the album, which is a big change from him handing me a CD and asking me to burn 5 copies of it, which is why I actually have three different versions of this album on my computer, BUT ANYWAY, it's actually pretty hard/weird for my to write about it for a lot of reasons, including, but not limited to:
  1. The inevitable conflict of interest one enters into when they write about a project that their partner is involved in. (I worry that I will be either too nice as to avoid hurting feelings or too critical to prove that I'll say whatever I REALLY feel, even if my boyfriend is in the band.)
  2. The fact that I'm actually accustomed to writing complete and total gushing praise for indie pop and lo fi indie rock bands, and what Prisoners do is something pretty different.
  3. Also, thinking about writing about this album makes me feel like I'm really bad about writing about music.
So, that's my "full disclosure" list. All that aside, there are a lot of things that I really, really like about this album & two of those things are the first two songs, "Fix Yer Head" and "Brain Drain." In fact, I'd just as happily have accepted a 7" with just these two songs in place of an entire album (which is not to say that the album doesn't have any other good songs, it's really just that I like 7"s and have a relatively short attention span.) Honestly, it was an act of pretty good faith on Drew's part to even ask me to share my thoughts on Pass the Stone since my previous nuanced commentary of Prisoners has included such jams at, "It's so sad that you guys will never have a song as good as 'Freewheel' by Team Dresch."

Anyway, I think that part of what makes this album so interesting to me is that, over the last few months, I was really able to hear it develop. (You know, because every time they had a new set of mixes Drew would A) make me listen to it in the car and B) put it on my computer and burn copies so that other people in the band could listen to it.) The fact that I was able to hear these songs in various stages of development and sequenced in multiple ways really lends something to the experience of listening to the final product. In fact, the experience of watching the band in general grow, writing new songs, working to tighten up their live shows, etc. has helped me to reframe my own feelings about them (initial feelings: Does a band really need three guitars? Really?, present day feelings: It is sort of hard to imagine this band playing a show with only two dudes playing the guitar.)

The aforementioned "Fix Yer Head" and "Brain Drain" are both fantastic (and will be familiar to anyone who has seen Prisoners play a show in recent months), but aside from these two, the album's closing track, "Art Song," is probably my favorite (which is really saying something considering how frequently I complain about not liking slow songs.) The album also includes live show staples, "Boom Cha Cha," "Make You Cry," & "Street Creep," which are all all right songs (I know, I know, this is a really, really noncommittal statement -- I think talking about these "middle of the album" songs is where I really, really struggle, partially because of the overload of having heard these songs so many times & partially because, for me, some of these songs just don't "click.")

Prisoners have garnered a lot of comparisons to The Replacements in Cleveland's local music press -- something that Drew has whined to me about at length because he "just [doesn't] think [they] sound like The Replacements." I think that The Replacements comparison is an easy (and, to a degree, lazy) one to make, based largely on the fact that they wear flannel, have sloppy live shows, & feature a lead singer with a sometimes raspy sounding voice. I think there's also the fact that they're more or less a straight up rock and roll band with some garage and country influences at a time when there aren't many other young bands in Cleveland with a similar sound. I can see how comparing them to The Replacements might seem like a natural thing to do (especially when you hear the last 45 seconds of "Goner," which has undeniably Westerbergian elements.) Regardless of Drew's thoughts and feelings, I think that this comparison is one that's going to follow them for a long time.

I'm not going to lie, albums are all well and good, but I think that Prisoners' strength is really their live shows. They're honestly just a fun band to go see. I know I've seen them upwards of ten times this year & it's not just me -- I see a lot of the same people coming out for show after show. In fact, they have a show tonight with Wooly Bullies and The Prohibitionists at The Boo Box (1834 W. 45th in Ohio City).

If you can't make it out tonight, their album release show is December 30th at the Grog Shop with Cloud Nothings and Very Knees. Their new album will be available on cassette from Cylindrical Habitat Modules. (Their first album is still available on vinyl from Smog Veil.)

Prisoners, "Fix Yer Head" (DOWNLOAD)
Prisoners, "Brain Drain" (DOWNLOAD)

Brave Irene (New music feat. Rose Melberg!)

I am so excited about this!!! This morning I got an e-mail from Alexa (who, practically a lifetime ago, hosted some of my poorly made websites) saying, that she was sure I had already heard, but just in case I hadn't, Rose Melberg was releasing a new EP this February. I hadn't heard! I am thrilled!

According to this Exclaim article, Rose has been fronting an all-female five piece band, Brave Irene, since December of 2009. They'll be releasing a debut 8 song EP on Slumberland Records on February 15, 2010.

Midheaven Mailorder has reviewed the EP and based on their description I am super stoked to hear it!
Melberg’s latest project is the Vancouver-based Brave Irene. Formed in December 2009 around the core of Melberg and Caitlin Gilroy, Brave Irene is comprised of five best mates whose friendship and camaraderie shines through the warmth of these lovely recordings. Gilroy’s and Jessica Wilkin’s keyboards play a prominent role in Brave Irene’s songs, adding a slightly psychedelic vibe that slots in well with early Flying Nun releases and even some of the Los Angeles Paisley Underground scene.

Opener “No Fun” is a fuzzy gem that recalls New Zealand legends Look Blue Go Purple in its organ-driven folk / pop groove. The rhythms are really key here, with Laura Hatfield’s muscular drumming giving the songs a real oomph and momentum that perfectly complements their catchy-as-heck tunes. “Tangled Line” is an uptempo rocker that sports a unforgettable melody and droning organ lines. “Longest Day” continues where “No Fun” leaves off, the harmony vocals pushing the song forward. The EP wraps up with “Good Ideas” and “Campfire,” two more uptempo tunes full of great melodies, jangling guitars and those bubbling organs.
Brave Irene's EP will be available on 12" and CD on February 15th, 2010. According to Exclaim, the tracklist is as follows:

1. "No Fun"
2. "River to Sea"
3. "Tangled Line"
4. "Bank Holiday"
5. "Longest Day"
6. "Hit the Grass Running"
7. "Good Ideas"
8. "Campfire"

Brave Irene does has a MySpace, though there are no songs on it yet. (Hopefully as we get closer to February, the band will throw something up there.)

Though I've really enjoyed Rose's solo work, I'm very, very excited to hear that she's working with a full band again and hearing that this new release would fit well with early Flying Nun stuff has me even more excited. Thanks again to Alexa for so thoughtfully remembering how much I love Rose and sending this e-mail my way!

2010 in Review: 7"s

Slowly (but, hopefully, surely) I'm continuing with my 2010 year in review posts. Last week I wrote about my favorite albums of 2010, this time I'm working on 7"s. There are a few other posts I'd like to make before the end of the year (most listened to artists, albums, and songs, best shows, & maybe a post about the handful of releases that don't fit in either the 7" or the album category...) Anyway, here are my 10 favorite 7"s of 2010 presented in alphabetical order by artist.

Best Coast, Something in the Way (PPM, out of print)

I tried not to double up on these lists (i.e. if someone was on favorite albums, I tried not to put them on favorite 7"s as well), but I couldn't help it. As much as I love the glossy (at least, comparatively glossy) sound of Best Coast's debut album, there's a soft spot in my heart for the fuzzed out pop sounds of this 7". "Something in the Way" is great, but "Already Gone," a sorrowful, drone-y meditation on lost relationships is (for me) the standout track.

("The Road")

The Blanche Hudson Weekend, Hate is a Loaded Gun (Squirrel Records) BUY IT!

God I love The Blanche Hudson Weekend. Really, I do. The Blanche Hudson Weekend consistently releases some of the most amazing songs out there. It sounds cheesy, but you get the sense that they really craft their songs. Every track on Hate is a Loaded Gun is a perfect mix of layered guitars and echoing vocals. Hate is a Loaded Gun's dark title and stark cover art suggest a series of bleak songs, but "Let Me Go" is an uptempo tune with driving pop guitars and a beat that, at times, mimics hand claps. "So Sick" is a little darker, with a composition that actually mimics the feeling of having a pounding headache (at least, as someone who currently has a pounding headache, that's what it sounds like to me.) The EP's closing track, "Song for Kristen," finds the space between "Let Me Go" and "So Sick" and settles in perfectly. It's just amazing.

("Let Me Go")

Cloud Nothings, Didn't You (Old Flame Records) BUY IT!

2010 was a big year for Cleveland's Cloud Nothings. They released a handful of great 7"s, did a ton of touring, and recorded their second album (forthcoming on Carpark), their 2009 debut Turning On (originally released on Bridgetown Records) was reissued on Carpark and Whichita... But my favorite thing Cloud Nothings did in 2010 is the b-side of this 7". "Even if it Worked Out" is the perfect pop song. I first heard the band play it earlier this year at the Happy Dog. I was sitting down playing a game of Ms. Pac Man, turning around in between completing boards so that I could see the band. Everything about "Even if it Worked Out" is just right on. I can't wait to see/hear was Cloud Nothings does in 2011 and am stoked about attending what is (I believe) their last show of 2010 (at the Grog Shop with Prisoners and The Very Knees on December 30th) -- hopefully Jami will be there with me!

("Even if it Worked Out" (live))

Japandroids, Younger Us (Polyvinyl) BUY IT!

Japandroids are probably the bro-est music I listen to, excepting the hardcore punk of my teen years that I refuse to let go of. "Younger Us" is the ultimate youth anthem -- the opening line, "Remember when we had them on the run," conjures up every last late night, legs up on the dashboard and out the window while friends drove, walking along train tracks, spitting at dudes who catcalled us. It doesn't hurt that the b-side, a cover of X's "Sex and Dying in High Society," is totally solid, too.

("Younger Us")

Mirah, Don't! (Mississippi) BUY IT!

What would any list of mine be without something by Mirah? Though Mirah didn't have any new albums in 2010, she did release this stunner of a single. "Don't!" originally appeared on Ragazza Pop, a girl group inspired comp, & I had initially thought that this single was just a re-release of that version -- instead, Mirah re-recorded it with a slight country twang, mixed with girl group-esque backing vocals, and just a hint of horns and piano. It sounds fresh and perfect and Mirah's voice is clear as a bell. I sincerely hope that 2011 brings me another Mirah album because I could listen to a solid hour of songs that sound just list this.

("Don't!" (Ragazza Pop version))

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Say No To Love (Slumberland/Fortuna Pop) BUY IT! US and UK

My favorite thing about "Say No To Love" (aside from the moment in the impeccably crafted video where Peggy eats a soft pretzel) is the line where Kip sings, "with the parking lot kids, with the loneliest crowd." Those few words hit me with such intensity and such precision, calling up the most specific, beautiful, and dark teenage memories I can recall. This song is heartbreakingly gorgeous and the Pains' second album is high atop my list of things to look forward to in 2011.

("Say No to Love")

Seapony, Dreaming (Double Denim, out of print)

It's fitting that Seapony should follow the Pains in this alphabetical list since it was Kip's recommendation that motivated me to listen to them in the first place. Seapony makes some of the music that I like best -- jangly, poppy, "Hey, I could do this!" sort of music. Though I occasionally venture into something edgier or harder or more "advanced" sounding, it is this kind of simple pop that I am most grateful for, that really reminds me of why I collect records and why I occasionally get my guitar out and play the few simple chords my tiny hands can handle. Though this 7" is sold out all over the place, you can stream it here.


Sourpatch, Mira Mija (HHBTM) BUY IT!

Sourpatch is the perfect band and it's breaking my heart that I have yet to catch them live. (I'm not writing an entry about the biggest letdowns of 2010, but if I was, my boss denying my request for time off and preventing me from attending the Athens Pop Fest would DOMINATE LIKE NO OTHER.) Anyway, Crushin' (released last December) was one of my favorite albums of 2009 and for good reason -- it took everything I like, mixed it all up, and spit it back out in a perfect half hour. The Mira Mija 7" brings four new songs echoing (and, in some cases, advancing) the pure pop perfection that was Crushin'. "Sky is Falling" is probably my favorite track -- it starts out with a dark guitar riff that reminds me of something from Black Candy and quickly builds into a simple & beautiful love song built around incredibly simple lyrics and accented with moments of feedback.

("Deli Dream")

Sweater Girls, Pretty When You Smile (HHBTM) BUY IT!

I was late to the game as far as Sweater Girls are concerned & only started listening to them earlier this month thanks to Matthew from Skatterbrain Good god, what I've been missing out on! Finally, a band that perfectly occupies the space between All Girl Summer Fun Band and The Softies. I'm so glad that I gave Sweater Girls a chance prior to the end of the year so that they could assume their rightful place on this list!

("Pretty When You Smile" (live))

Weed Hounds, Beach Bummed (Iron Pier) BUY IT!

Weed Hounds consistently produce some of my favorite shoegaze-pop blends out there. The two songs on Beach Bummed continue right where last year's debut tape left off. The b-side, "Skating Away from the Cops" is hazy and winding, like a summer afternoon in suburbia. Something about Weed Hounds' songs feels rough, incomplete, not quite form, and in that absence of perfection: perfect. Beach Bummed happens to be the only Weed Hounds release with the privilege of still being in print & I'm not sure how long it will last, so snap a copy up while you can.

("Skating Away from the Cops")

2010 in Review: Albums

It's so hard for me to make end of the year posts. I know (without a doubt) that I will forget something, that I will misremember my relationship with an album, that something I will absolutely fall in love with will come out as soon as I "publish" my list, etc. Last year I did a post with my 10 favorite songs, 5 favorite albums, and 5 favorite shows of 2009. This year I'm going to start things off with my 10 favorite albums (UNRANKED, I cannot rank things!) and see how things go from there.

Allo Darlin, s/t (Fortuna Pop) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD and vinyl)

Allo Darlin topped my list of favorite songs last year with their single "Henry Rollins Don't Dance" and their full length album was probably one of my most anticipated albums of 2010. Thankfully it didn't disappoint! In fact, it probably exceeded my expectations. I don't know exactly what it is, but something about Allo Darlin just strikes a chord with me -- their lyrics are thoughtful, but never pretentious, their songs are catchy, and each one leads seamlessly into the next. The songs on Allo Darlin work well as songs but they work even better as a whole, coming together to assemble an album that works its way deep into your heart and stays there, keeping you young and sentimental.

Song That Caught Me By Surprise? Normally I don't like slow songs. In fact, I may or may not whine, "No slow songs!" any time Drew tries to listen to something slow in the car. Because of this, I didn't expect to develop any deep affinity for "Let's Go Swimming" & was more or less shocked when I found that it's one of the songs from Allo Darlin that's most likely to be stuck in my head at any given time.

(video for "My Heart is a Drummer")

Best Coast, Crazy for You (Mexican Summer) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD and vinyl)

So, I really have to give April credit for getting me into Best Coast. I wasn't a huge fan of Pocahaunted, so it's very likely that Best Coast would have flown right under my radar if she hadn't been actively championing their cause. Over the last year or so, I snapped up every Best Coast 7" I could find & fell in love with Bethany and Bobb's brand of sun drenched power chord driven pop ballads. I was worried that Crazy for You would be almost like a Best Coast Best Of, collecting their out of print 7"s, so I was stunned & surprised when they released an album that was almost 100% new material! "Goodbye" and "I Want To" are perfect pop songs -- they go as straight as an arrow right into the most teenage part of my heart, tapping into a sense of nostalgia that I didn't even know I had.

My favorite thing about this album? That it motivated me to start playing the guitar again.

(video for "Boyfriend")

Grass Widow, Past Time (Kill Rock Stars) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD, vinyl, and mp3)

Just like I owe April for Best Coast, I also owe her for Grass Widow. So much great music came out in 2010, but Grass Widow's Past Time was one of the first albums I heard in a long time that made me catch my breath and say, "Who is that and what are they doing?" Grass Widow is art and science. Listening to their music is like watching something come to life -- small sounds knit themselves together and unlikely words and phrases weave in and around each other and all of these elements come together in this beautiful, fragmented whole. Listening to a Grass Widow album is like getting the auditory equivalent of a micromosaic. I feel simultaneously overwhelmed and comforted by the mysteries of the universe.

Something weird that comes to mind when I listen to Past Time? About a million years ago, I remember seeing this animated show about kids who were enrolled in a mysterious academy where they were engaged in a series of duels that took place in an upside-down castle in the sky. The song that played as they were preparing to duel (an odd and frantic mix of pop, rock, and opera) comes to mind whenever I think of Grass Widow.

(video for "11 of Diamonds")

jj, jj n°3 (Sincerely Yours and Secretly Canadian) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD and vinyl)

You know? I really wasn't sure that I was going to put this album on this list, mainly because I was worried that people would think it was a bad pick. But you know what else? Nobody cares what I think, so why should I care what other people think? jj was one of the most disappointing live acts that Drew and I caught in 2010 & I know that experience totally ruined them for Drew, but I'm not gonna lie, I still really like jj. A lot of people panned this album when it came out & it does have a slow start, but there are some really, really gorgeous songs toward the middle/end of the album. Cleveland is literally enshrouded in snow today -- you can't see anything except this moving blanket of snow -- and it's perfect weather for listening to this album. I'm sitting at my desk with a mug of hot chocolate, a peppermint brownie, and "You Know" on the stereo and it just sounds/feels perfect.

If you still like jj in spite of their mega-bad live performances They have a new mixtape that will be dropping on Christmas eve!

(video for "Let Go")

Marnie Stern, s/t (Kill Rock Stars) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD, vinyl, and mp3)

I first got into Marnie Stern during my senior year of college. I was working in a data entry job for a non-profit. The work was mind numbing and there were days when Marnie's tapping was the only thing that could keep me going at my desk. I was so stoked when I heard that Marnie was going to have a new album and the more I heard about it, the better it sounded. Stylistically, this album is not a departure from Marnie's previous work, but there's something else happening here... There's an emotional undercurrent, a sense of immediacy -- I feel like on this album you get to hear Marnie as a person, not just as a guitarist. Maybe that's why this one is self titled?

Loving this album in spite of that bizarre Marnie Stern/Best Coast "feud."

(video for "Nothing Left")

No Joy, Ghost Blonde (Mexican Summer) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD, vinyl, and mp3)

There's a lot to love about No Joy's debut album. The first track, "Mediumship," is one of my favorite first songs on an album this year. I loved No Joy's first 7" on Mexican Summer and had been looking forward to their album for the last couple of months. Ghost Blonde is a dense swirl of guitars -- the albums ebbs and flows in terms of intensity, but it never stops being engaging. No Joy is definitely a band that I would love to have the opportunity to see live.

(video for "You Girls Smoke Cigarettes")

Robyn, Body Talk (Konichiwa) BUY IT HERE! (CD only)

The first CD single I ever owned was Robyn's "Show Me Love." The video was in heavy rotation when I was in the 5th grade and I vividly remember hanging out at my neighbor's house & watching video countdown shows so that I could hear & see Robyn. Much, much later, I saw the movie Fucking Åmål (notable not just for being a good movie, but for reminding me that "Show Me Love" existed), and even later, Robyn reinvented herself, ditching RCA & starting her own label. I feel like Body Talk seems almost out of place on this list, but seriously? It is so good! I mean, there are a dozen amazing songs on this album & I love it because listening to this record is like having my musical interests come full circle. Now, the kid I was like 15 years ago can connect with the person that I am now.

The only letdown? Robyn is coming to Cleveland and I would totally go, except she's playing at the House of Blues and I have a strict policy about not supporting chain venues in Cleveland. It's one of the few areas in my life where I can afford to "vote with my dollars." BUMMER.

(video for "Hang with Me")

Sleigh Bells, Treats (N.E.E.T.) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD and vinyl)

I spent a big portion of time (here on this blog) trying to decide whether or not I should write about the Sleigh Bells album. I mean, calling it "polarizing" makes it seem like a really big deal, but seriously? I feel like I spent a ton of time this year watching people bicker about whether or not the Sleigh Bells album was "good" or "interesting" or "gimmicky" or whatever. You know what? I really don't care. This album is full of jams! You know that Sweet Valley High book where Jessica Wakefield decides that she is sick of being a goody two shoes (which is sort of weird because it's not like Jessica was ever a particularly "good" person) and she dies her hair black and starts acting really bitchy? This album is that book! (Without a French accent.) Seriously, Sleigh Bells is the band that could have happened if Jessica Wakefield decided she wanted to adopt an edgy "musical" persona and stole the guitarist from The Droids (Sweet Valley's most popular and only band.)

What makes this album is The riffs! The riffs on this album fucking rule. Sometimes they're lifted from Funkadelic songs, sometimes they sound like they could have come from a lost Waitresses demo, sometimes you wonder if someone has replaced the lead guitar with some weird space guitar gun. RIFFS, PEOPLE. RIFFS.

(video for "Tell Em")

Surfer Blood, Astrocoast (Kanine) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD, vinyl, and mp3)

Astrocoast came out way back when in January -- it's almost like a distant memory. The songs still sound just as fresh, though. Surfer Blood came out of nowhere for me -- Drew mentioned offhand that he had heard something about them and that he wanted to hear their album & the next thing I knew, I was gushing all over the place about how good Astrocoast is. If jj was my surprise live act disappointment of 2010, Surfer Blood was my surprise live act "hey, they turned out quite well, didn't they?" They had a dynamic stage presence & seemed to honestly be having a great time playing their songs for an audience which is something that I feel like I sometimes don't see a whole lot of. I was shocked to hear that they'd signed to a major label (Warner Brothers), but it will be interesting to hear whatever comes from them next.

It was weird (but cool) to hear "Fast Jabroni" on last year's season finale of Community.

(video for "Swim")

Superchunk, Majesty Shredding (Merge) BUY IT HERE! (available on CD, vinyl, FLAC, and mp3)

It's no secret that I love Superchunk. I would probably put any old Superchunk album on my top ten list, whether or not I even liked it all that much, just out of solidarity with my love for Superchunk. In fact, I actually listened to Majesty Shredding twice before writing this just to make sure it's actually good & I'm not just looking at the world through Superchunk colored glasses. Fortunately, I am not delusional and Majesty Shredding really is an awesome album. Superchunk has been a constant for me for something like the past ten years & Majesty Shredding was a particularly exciting album for me because it was more or less the first "new" Superchunk album since I started listening to them.

In case you were wondering, the best thing about a new Superchunk album is that it's just as strong/good as an old Superchunk album.

(video for "My Gap Feels Weird" here -- embedding disabled)

A sampling of additional albums that could have been on this list...

Dum Dum Girls, I Will Be
Janelle Monáe, The ArchAndroid
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kevin Greenspon and Cloud Nothings, split CD
Let's Wrestle, In the Court of Wrestling Let's
Los Campesinos!, Romance is Boring
Tender Trap, Dansette Dansette
Wavves, King of the Beach
Wild Nothing, Gemini

Double Murder Suicide (Yes, Again)

Double Murder Suicide, lexlugersexmagik (DOWNLOAD)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an entry about lexlugersexmagik, a lo-fi concept album about wrestling that Drew brought home a mystery copy of. Josh (the mind behind said lo-fi concept album about wrestling) has since given me permission (via a very friendly blog comment) to upload the entire album here (thanks, Josh!) So, for those of you who read about lexlugersexmagik & were, perhaps, intrigued by what you read, you're welcome to download the entire album.

You can read some really thoughtful prose on Josh's work at Coke Machine Glow. You can read my not so nearly as thoughtful prose here.

Double Murder Suicide, lexlugersexmagik (DOWNLOAD)
I have been keeping these little post-it notes on my desk at work with reminders of things that I wanted to write about at great and extra-lengthy-length here, but the list just keeps getting longer and longer to the point where I am feeling not so much like "It will be fun to write about these things," but more like "Help me, help me, oh god, oh god." So here is my list, offered up with minimal commentary! I promise, I'll write more soon (I've been working on my end of year lists, so hopefully I'll actually get those done before, uh, the end of the year...)

Seapony (free EP + 7" on Double Denim Records) Seapony has been getting a lot of buzz lately & that buzz is well-deserved! Their free downloadable EP (available on their Bandcamp site) is a pop delight and so is their 7" (released on Double Denim Records.) Sadly, the 7" seems to be sold out (I snagged a copy from Rough Trade last week, but it looks like they're all gone now!), but you can still stream the 7" tracks here. I wouldn't be surprised if this was repressed (I also wouldn't imagine that it's too difficult to find mp3s online.) Seriously, though, if you're into Sourpatch or any number of great recent and classic pop groups, this won't be a disappointment.

Bad Banana Bad Banana's Crushfield demo is 10 songs of pop-ish, punk-ish nature written & performed by sisters Allison and Kate (who you may be familiar with by way of P.S. Eliot.) Their demo is up for free download and you can stream four of the demo tracks on Muxtape. On December 12th they're getting ready to hit the road with Sourpatch for a handful of east coast dates (Sourpatch will then head over to the UK and Bad Banana will continue touring the US.) You can view tour dates here.

Johnny Reb Okay, okay, I'm always talking about how I get these e-mails saying, "Listen to this!" and I am like, "Oh, okay," and then I don't and then months later, I think, "Well, maybe I'll give this a shot" and it turns out that it's something I would have really liked all along? Well, that happened again (surprise!) Johnny Reb has three tracks up for streaming on their MySpace along with relatively little information to accompany them. I don't really know who Johnny Reb is or if they have any official releases, but I do know that "When Were Spring" is an awesome song that I could listen to for quite awhile before burning out on it. Really, all three of the songs are quite good in a way that takes you by surprise in bits and pieces -- a lyric here, a guitar line there. I can sincerely say that I'm looking forward to hearing more. (You can read another write up of Johnny Reb on Brill Dream, who clearly responded to their press release in a much timelier fashion than I did. When will I learn?)

New 7" & video from Allo Darlin Allo Darlin's debut album was one of my top albums of 2010 (an entry with more on these "top albums" is likely forthcoming) and I have basically accepted the fact that I am just going to buckle down and buy every single single that this band releases. "My Heart is a Drummer" (a gorgeous Paul Simon-esque pop song) was one of my favorite tracks on their self titled album & it's just been released as a single on Fortuna Pop. You can pick up a copy direct from the label (to my knowledge, there aren't any US distros currently carrying this.) "My Heart is a Drummer" also recently got the video treatment -- you can check the video out here.

New 7" from Sweater Girls (& re-press of their first 7") Sweater Girls have a new single out on HHBTM (featuring great pop jams and adorable cover art by Leslie Dallion.) I'd heard a lot of buzz about Sweater Girls, but didn't give them a chance until recently (thanks to Matt from Skatterbrain.) I've ordered the new single from HHBTM along with the repress of their first 7". You can stream some Sweater Girls tracks on their MySpace.

New single from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart On December 14th Slumberland will release a new single from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The a-side, "Heart in Your Heartbreak" has been floating around on the internet for awhile, but the b-side, "The One", recently became available for free download via Fortuna Pop (which will release the single in the UK.) You can download it for free (you just need to supply an e-mail address) here.

New Blanche Hudson Weekend Release The Blanche Hudson Weekend was one of my top bands of 2010, so I'm so stoked to say that Squirrel Records has put together a CD compilation of their 7"s. Reverence, Severance, and Spite features tracks from The Blanche Hudson Weekend's 3 7"s along with a handful of new tracks and early demos. You can view a full tracklist and order direct from the label here. To my knowledge, there aren't any US distros that have this in stock, though Jigsaw Records does have the first 2 Blanche Hudson 7"s.

Broadcast One (Dandelion Radio Compilation) I always look forward to hearing from Odd Box about their new releases because they're either things that are right up my alley or they're things that challenge me & push me in new directions. Odd Box's latest compilation, Broadcast One, pays tribute to Dandelion Radio, an online radio station broadcasting in the tradition of John Peel and named after Peel's Dandelion Records label. Broadcast One features over an hour of music handpicked by Dandelion DJs (you can see a listing of who chose what song here.) You can pick up a copy of Broadcast One from Odd Box.

Odd Box Singles Club And speaking of Odd Box, they've sold out of the early bird edition of their singles club, but it's not too late to subscribe at the regular price. For (roughly) $56, you get 6 split singles featuring exclusive tracks from 12 different bands. I'm most excited about The Blanche Hudson Weekend and Bracelettes, but there's loads of great artists (you can view a full lineup and get more ordering information here.)

November Singles from EardrumpsPOP There's been another batch of free downloadable singles from EardrumsPOP. November offered new originals and covers from Insect Guide, Sometimes Always, and Baffin Island. These singles continue the series that EardrumsPOP began in October. I absolutely loved "Bats" from the Insect Guide single and "You Can All Hide" from the Sometimes Always single, both of these tracks are available to stream online on the EardrumsPOP site. Keep an ear out for new singles on the 10th and 20th of every month!

Old News is Good News: Free to Fight Comp

Various Artists, Free to Fight (DOWNLOAD)

Two things:

1. So, the other day I was watching videos of Team Dresch on YouTube and I was watching a performance of "Freewheel" from a few years ago and there was this really sweet (as in heartwarming) moment where Jody Bleyle pumped her fist in the air at the point in the song where everyone shouts "Freewheel!"

2. I was reading this post on Tobi Vail's blog Jigsaw Underground where she poses some really interesting questions about the "meaning" of being in a band/being an artist. The question that really caught my attention was: is it really enough to make a cool sounding record? Was it ever?

I don't think that all art has to be political in intent, and I suppose it doesn't have to become political in interpretation, but I do think that over the years, I've become the kind of person who is unable to depoliticize their media consumption. In response to Tobi's question, I don't think it's "really enough to make a cool sounding record." BUT, as a consumer of cultural products, I think that people on the consuming end have the same opportunity to politicize a cultural product as the producer does and, in my opinion, I think that the consumer is invested with more power than the producer when it comes to acknowledging/interpreting/acting on political messages that may or may not be encoded into cultural products.

So, Tobi's question, for me, intersected with that moment of watching Jody Bleyle pump her first in the air & I was brought back to my early teens and listening to a copy of Jody's Free to Fight compilation dubbed onto cassette. Free to Fight was released on Jody's label, Candy Ass Records, in 1995 on double-CD and double-LP. The songs on Free to Fight mingled seamlessly with spoken word tracks featuring self defense tips. The compilation was accompanied by a 72 page booklet featuring work by feminist theorists, writers, and artists (if only I had a .pdf of the booklet to share with this!)

I'm not the kind of person who says things like "punk rock saved my life," but I am the kind of person who can sincerely say that Free to Fight helped me learn not just how to take steps toward better defending myself, but (more importantly) that I had the right to defend myself. As a young person, I saw and heard Free to Fight in the most immediate of senses: I was experiencing violence and needed help in learning how to respond -- now, I'm able to step back and consider (outside of the violence I experienced as a young person) the systemic issues that facilitated the need for a compilation like Free to Fight. I'm able to think about the fact that, in many ways, creating Free to Fight and touring behind it was an innovative way for artists to educate themselves and their communities about violence against women, how women can respond to acts of violence in the moment, how women can work with each other to address violence in their communities, etc.

Free to Fight is a cool sounding album, yeah, but it also speaks to a larger need. I don't think that every artist is obligated to do what Jody and the artists featured on Free to Fight did, but I do think that art can be made more meaningful and interesting when artists and listeners seek to engage politically, whether that engagement is direct or indirect*.

Trigger Warning The songs/self defense tips/spoken word on Free to Fight may be triggering for survivors of assault. Listen with caution.

Track List

1. Sarah Rides the Greyhound (spoken word)
2. Monster Snack - The Third Sex
3. Definition of Self Defense (self defense strategy)
4. Song for Anne Bannon - Team Dresch
5. Sleep'n wit' the Enemy - Mizzery
6. Violence is Violence (self defense strategy)
7. Killing Your Clone is Still Murder - Sue P. Fox
8. Carnation Red - Rebecca Gates
9. Body Language (self defense strategy)
10. Don't - Fifth Column
11. Yelling (self defense strategy)
12. Real Defense - 151
13. Make a Scene (self defense strategy)
14. The Martyr - Containe
15. Assertiveness Practice (self defense strategy)
16. New Terror Story - Nikki, Jen, Rueben
17. St. What's Her Name - The Lois
18. Alice's Story (spoken word)
19. Primary Targets (self defense strategy)
20. Target Practice (self defense strategy/song)
21. Striking (self defense strategy)
22. Disgracias - Cheesecake
23. Laura Sister Nobody Crosses the Street (spoken word)
24. Daddy's Crazy - Azteca X
25. Get Out of My Head - Heaven's to Betsy
26. Sylvia Gets Fancy (spoken word)
27. Forever Fired - Excuse Seventeen
28. Lucky One - Nikki McClure

Various Artists, Free to Fight (DOWNLOAD)

* I'm definitely interested in thinking more about music that is political, but that doesn't share a direct political message. I think Tobi's review of Grass Widow's Past Time speaks pretty eloquently about this.

Double Murder Suicide

Double Murder Suicide, "Jake's A Snake" (DOWNLOAD)
Double Murder Suicide, "Turned Heel too" (DOWNLOAD)

Some people, especially people who actually know me, will probably think I'm kidding when I say that the best new (or, at least, new to me) album that I've heard lately is by a band called Double Murder Suicide, is called lexlugersexmagik*, and is all about wrestling.

But seriously, I'm not kidding.

Drew brought lexlugersexmagik home on Friday night after his show at The Happy Dog and I didn't really think much about it. I may have said, "That's cool," sort of half-heartedly, you know, in the way one does when one has been woken up at 2:30am after falling asleep while reading a particularly trying passage of Infinite Jest, but I'm pretty confident that I didn't have any profound commentary to share.

So, the next day Drew and I listened to the album in the car and I was really surprised when it turned out to be totally fucking awesome.

Okay, I don't know anything about wrestling. At all. I didn't watch wrestling growing up and I'm an only child, so I didn't have brothers who watched wrestling, and this morning while I was brushing my teeth and thinking about writing this, I tried to remember anyone I knew who had watched wrestling and only three people came to mind: two boys that I went to grade school with who wore oversized black t-shirts with famous wrestlers on them and who were always drawing swastikas and bomber planes on their desks and a boy I went to high school with who went to great lengths to try and cover up the fact that he watched wrestling as a kid and still had a massive wrestling action figure collection. Drew and I did watch The Wrestler once, so I guess that sort of gives me an idea (albeit a totally depressing one) of what wrestling is all about. Full disclosure: I actually had to google the names used in song titles (Lex Luger, Eric Bischoff, Chris Benoit, Kevin Nash) so that I could get a sense of who was being talked about.

Fortunately, you really don't need to know anything about wrestling to listen to this (though I would imagine that it's a more engaging listening experience/there are more opportunities for deeper level discourse around the album if you know a little bit -- or even a lot -- about wrestling.) Double Murder Suicide layers guitars, drum machine beats, and audio clips from televised wrestling matches to create amazing lo-fi pop songs... about wrestling. Really, the "about wrestling" part can even sort of be secondary. The primary thing you need to know is that these songs are super-catchy and fun to listen to.

I'll be honest -- the opening track didn't really grab me, but things pick up fast. "Jake's a Snake," "The Warrior Lives in Me," and "Turned Heel Too" are all fantastic. If you'd like to get a copy of lexlugersexmagik, send an e-mail to Sorry I don't have any actual information (like, you know, how much it costs.)

* I feel like an idiot for even typing this out because I assume it's the kind of thing that everyone already knows, but just in case: The title is clearly a parody of (homage to?) the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Double Murder Suicide, "Jake's A Snake" (DOWNLOAD)
Double Murder Suicide, "Turned Heel too" (DOWNLOAD)

Live in Oberlin, Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices, "Big School" (DOWNLOAD)
Guided By Voices, "A Good Flying Bird" (DOWNLOAD)
Guided By Voices, "Let's Ride" (DOWNLOAD)
Guided By Voices, "Mincer Ray" (DOWNLOAD)

On Sunday night I saw the Guided By Voices "Classic Lineup" show down in Oberlin. I was really apprehensive about going (I always get nervous before "big" shows), but ended up having an amazing time. The band was tight and they played a near-perfect set. Every single song was a song that I wanted to hear -- though I was especially stoked on all the Tobin Sprout songs that were played ("A Good Flying Bird"!!!) All in all, it was totally worth the $30 ticket price.

I think that when bands reunite, it becomes even easier to view them as being commodities and/or potentially disingenuous in their performance. (Though the "genuine" nature of performance is, of course, negligible to begin with.) But I think it's especially interesting to consider the question of performance as a commodity in conjunction with a band like Guided By Voices. Throughout the show, Pollard frequently reminded people that the band members were from Ohio, that Ohio has a superior drinking culture, and that Guided By Voices is a drinking band. There's definitely an element of performance to GBV's drinking but that performance plays a critical role in the way that the band constructs community within their fan base (example: last night Pollard passed a bottle of tequila from the stage into the crowd and encouraged fans to pass it around amongst themselves.)

Last night's show definitely drew a varied crowd -- it wasn't difficult to differentiate GBV veterans from people who just really liked Bee Thousand from people who had friends that caught them earlier in the day and said, "Hey, are you doing anything tonight? Because if you're not..." The great thing about a show like last night's was that it welcomed people at all levels of interest in/experience with Guided By Voices. Of course, as someone who enjoys (but is not obsessed with) GBV, it may have been easier for me to have a good time. I know my Aunt (who first saw GBV in 1991 and spent the better part of the following 15-ish years attending any show they played within reasonable distance), struggled a little more with the crowd and construction of community than I did. On the way home, she brought up the "feel" of the show and mentioned how disheartening it was that last night's show didn't have the same sense of community as past Guided By Voices shows.

I really wish that I could have been at this show with friends. It had been such a long time since I was at a big show where the crowd didn't make me feel freaked out or uncomfortable. I mean, there were some displays of aggression at the show, but they were (for the most part) comfortable and enthusiastic. It would have been awesome if Jami or Brittany could have been there (on our first Columbus Dream Date, Jami and I were able to realize our dream of driving around in a car with Brittany and Alana singing along with Bee Thousand. Best day!)

The rash of recent indie rock and pop reunions (Pavement, GBV, Unrest, Go Sailor, etc.) also has me thinking about the expectations that people have for bands they grew up with (but have maybe never seen live) and how those expectations play into the experience they have when they attend a reunion show. I know Drew felt let down after we saw Pavement and he felt the same way about GBV last night. But I was thrilled with both shows (ok, so the crowd at Pavement left something to be desired, but the band was great.) I missed the Go Sailor reunion shows (San Francisco, CA and Athens, GA), but I feel like my coming of age was knit so tightly to their music that I'm almost uncomfortable with the idea of seeing them play -- it would just be too much. I'm honestly not sure what you're supposed to expect from a band that's recently reunited. I mean, I expected to see old dudes playing songs that I loved & that's what I got & I thought it was awesome. Maybe other people were expecting something different?

The only real disappointment last night was the $5 pizza Drew bought from the pizza truck waiting outside the venue. NOT A GOOD PIZZA!

Remaining tour dates for the Hallway of Shatterproof Glass Tour can be found here
Everything you've ever wanted to know about Guided By Voices can be found here
Guided By Voices is working on making out of print releases available via download here

Old News: The Poop Alley Tapes

Various Artists, The Poop Alley Tapes (DOWNLOAD)

Last night, Drew woke me up at like one in the morning because he was losing his mind over the fact that the deluxe edition of Weezer's Pinkerton had leaked. My initial thoughts on the matter: I really don't think that I give a fuck about this. Of course, it's almost 12 hours later and I'm listening to the DE at my desk at work. Some of these songs are still great ("Tired of Sex," definitely still great, "I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams" (b-side featuring Anna Waronker from that dog., still great.) The best songs on Pinkerton would have fit perfectly on The Poop Alley Tapes, a 2 CD compilation of L.A. bands who had recorded at Tom Grimley's Poop Alley Studios (though not featured on this comp, Madigan and Jen from Tattle Tale both recorded at Poop Alley.)

Anyway, the high notes on this comp are HIGH. "California" by the Rentals is amazing (it's only about a hundred thousand times better than the tweaked version, "Barcelona," that showed up on Seven More Minutes), "Adam in June" by June Blake is another winner. Like any comp, this has its share of forgettable songs, but the good ones are so good that you totally forget the bad ones.

If nothing else, The Poop Alley Tapes is an artifact of a mostly lost scene & the only place you'll hear most of these bands. Which is a real shame, because I could listen to album after album by June Blake or The Strawberry Jams.


1. The Rentals - "California"
2. Benett - "Love On The Rocks"
3. Recess - "Study No. 1 For Symphony No. 1"
4. Josh Haden - "Ten Nights"
5. Jackknife - "Teenage Blues"
6. that dog. - "Ridiculous"
7. Too Much Girl - "Fascinating Girl"
8. Radies Man - "Honky Tonky Woman"
9. The Strawberry Jams - "Kinda Sorta Maybe"
10. Rump - "Alan's Got An Axe To Grind"
11. Crib - "Sty"
12. Fleabag - "Fading Fast"
13. The Haves - "Nevadaesque"
14. The Neptunas - "Hot Custom Long Board"
15. Bobby & The Magic Pacer - "Drinking Dogs"
16. Waldo The Dog Faced Boy - "Turkey's Lament"
17. Speculum Fight - "Hello There Chico"
18. Rod Poole - "Excerpt From The Composition"


1. Polar Goldie Cats - "Reverb Wa Doko"
2. Geraldine Fibbers - "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
3. Beck - "Girl Of My Dreams"
4. June Blake - "Adam In June"
5. Lowercase - "My Shame Your Shame"
6. Kryptonite Nixon - "Whiffle Ball"
7. Charles Brown Superstar - "Solid Gold"
8. Shady Ladies Of The Mother Lode - "Moistened"
9. Danny Frankel - "Rainbow Wig On Haight St."
10. Brown Cow - "Out?"
11. Nastassya Filippovna - "Ungodly Purple Watt"
12. Vector 3Niner - "The Deep Complexity Of Quotidian Chaos (Let's Vector)"
13. Slug - "Silver Man"

Both discs are included in the same .zip file.

Various Artists, The Poop Alley Tapes (DOWNLOAD)

Inaugural Singles from EardrumsPop

So, have you heard about the singles project that EardrumsPop have been working on? Each month this fall they plan to release two free download-only singles (singles will be released on the tenth and twentieth of each month.) All singles will feature three songs (two originals and one cover) and will be accompanied by a pdf booklet featuring more original artwork, an interview with the band, and a photo interview conducted in collaboration with A Negative Narrative.

In the past, I've really struggled with digital releases/netlabels. In theory, I love the idea of music that is free and accessible to anyone with internet access, but I miss the feeling of exploring a new package, of having a physical product to hold. I think what I like best about the EardrumsPop singles is that they work to approximate that feeling of opening something new and listening to it for the first time & while all elements of their singles series are strictly digital, they come pretty close to hitting the mark.

The first two singles in the fall series (the October 10th and October 20th releases) are out now and are available to download here. Tiny Fireflies and Paper Fangs have each released a three song single for the series. Both bands craft warm and welcoming indie pop with electronic influences -- perfect for the time when (at least, here in Ohio) fall begins to turn into winter.

If you're interested in keeping up to date on future EardrumsPop releases, you can sign up for their newsletter here.

Haunted Houses + Drew Hill

Remember a long time ago when I said I got a big box of tapes in the mail from Bathetic? It took me ages to get around to reviewing their reissue of Angel Olsen's Strange Cacti cassette (review here) & then it took me even longer to get around to assessing the rest of the mystery box's contents (okay, so I am actually still in the processing of addressing the rest of the box.) In addition to the Olsen tape, there were four other tapes (two of which are now sold out out -- Jon wasn't kidding when he said their stuff goes fast) & a 7". I'm coming to the end of a long, slow Sunday & thought that now might just be the right time to dig back into that box and see what else Bathetic has to offer.

Drew Hill, Seasons in Rust

Yesterday my friend Kate and I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art where we worked our way through three floors of immaculately preserved/restored artwork, ending up in the basement at the precipice of a traveling exhibit called "Treasures from Heaven." The words "Treasures from Heaven" make me think of Precious Moments figurines -- porcelain girls sheltering wide-eyed lambs, first communion dresses, and specially engraved mementos from Things Remembered -- but the actual exhibit was dark and sinister, tiny pouches containing saints' teeth and chips of bone, hunks of petrified wood with rust-colored blemishes on them, oxidized nails, boxes never meant to be opened. The songs on Seasons in Rust are like the audio equivalent of these artifacts and the reliquaries they were housed in -- eerie and unsettling, but you can't not look, you can't not listen.

You can view a track list & stream "Show Me a Grave" here.

Haunted Houses, Make Believe You're Dead

The first song on Make Believe You're Dead, "Dark Abandoned Rooms," sounds exactly like it's title would lead you to believe -- these are the sad and scary sounds of every abandoned party house. Make Believe You're Dead sounds like my life from ages fifteen to twenty condensed into a 35 minute cassette -- mournful, distorted sounds that bring up images of sunken in couches and rooms littered with cigarette butts and empty red plastic cups. For every moment of audibly palpable desperation, there are seconds of unexpected beauty (not unlike the moments in Guided By Voices albums -- the two songs out of 35 -- that remind you that people are probably right when they call Bob Pollard a genius.)

You can view a track list & stream "Evil Practices in Ritual" here.

I like listening to these tapes from Bathetic because they challenge me in a way that most music doesn't. I'm the kind of person who likes what they like, and most of what I like is easy to listen to. I know I've said it before, but I'm a fan of conventional pop music. I tend to focus on lyrics, I like to sing along to things. These tapes are, generally speaking, not sing along music. They force me to focus on something other than words -- to find meaning in the way that sounds are arranged.

Bathetic is currently running a special where US customers can get any 2 items for $12, North American (non-US) customers can get any 2 items for $14, and customers in any non-US/North American country can get any two items for $17. Shipping is included in these prices. You can view Bathetic's catalogue here.

MiniBoone/Sippy Cup Everything Showcase Info

Oh man, when am I ever going to learn to stop letting things linger in my inbox? About a week ago Mike from Sippy Cup Everything sent me a quick e-mail about a new track from MiniBoone from their forthcoming 7" & he tagged on some CMJ information as well. And, of course, I let it sit there and thought, I'll definitely get to it soon. And then I went out and bought the new Marnie Stern album and listened to it over and over again all weekend long while Mike's e-mail languished in my inbox.

Anyway, after tearing myself away from the Las Robertas album this morning, I decided to listen to the track Mike passed on to me so that I could at least post the CMJ showcase info in good conscience & whoa! It's nearly six minutes long & not a second of those six minutes is boring.

"The Other Summer" is a high energy epic pop song -- Mike compares it to Springsteen, Queen, & Andrew WK, & yeah, yes, all of those -- but I also hear the good humored power pop of Pansy Division & the driving, sincere sound of J Church. This is a sleek six minutes -- it doesn't sound like anything else I've been asked to listen to or write about lately. If you're a fan of frenzied pop ballads, you probably ought to listen to this (you can stream it here.) "The Other Summer" is the a-side of a forthcoming 7", so keep your eye out for that.

If you're going to be at CMJ this week, you can catch MiniBoone at any of their six performances:
10/20 WED @ 9:00pm | Gigmaven Showcase @ National Underground
10/22 FRI @ 8:00pm | Whitesmith Entertainment Showcase @ Otto’s Shrunken Head
10/22 FRI @ 9:30pm | RethinkPopMusic Showcase @ Crash Mansion
10/23 SAT @ 7:00pm | Showcase @ Parkside Lounge
10/23 SAT @ 10:15pm | Deli Magazine Official CMJ Showcase @ Spike Hill
10/23 SAT @ midnight | AMI Entertainment Showcase @ Ace of Club
Sippy Cup Everything is hosting a showcase of their own on Friday, the performance schedule is as follows & all performances are taking place at Spike Hill:
1:00pm Little Racer (NYC)
1:50pm The Big Big Bucks (Boston)
2:40pm Young Adults (Boston)
3:30pm Slow Animal (New Jersey)
4:20pm Young Mammals (Houston)
5:10pm Pretty & Nice (Boston)
MiniBoone on Bandcamp
MiniBoone on MySpace
MiniBoone official site
MiniBoone releases on Drug Front Records
Sippy Cup Everything on Tumblr

Last week Art Fag Recordings released Cry Out Loud the debut full-length from Las Robertas, a sun-drenched-noisy-all-girl trio from Costa Rica. The record is 10 songs long and it's longer than half an hour, but shorter than 31 minutes. It sounds like you might expect it to -- crashing cymbals, buzzsaw guitars, layered, echoing vocals... I go back and forth in my feelings re: contemporary garage rock. Most of the time, I think it's boring, hollow sounding, and overdone. I'm not especially interested in current garage-style bands &, more often than not, just don't pay any attention to them. I guess that Hipster Runoff called Las Robertas “‘the final piece’ in commodifying the genre of ‘female garage rock bands,’” and in some ways I can get behind that, but in others I think it's important to push back on that statement.

I recently finished reading Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus. While I had mixed feelings about the book overall, one of the ways it succeeded was in reminding me of the importance of recognizing the challenges that women making music in a "traditionally male" genre often face. (And, to a larger extent, the challenges that women musicians in general are confronted by on a daily basis.) I think that garage is one of those genres that tends toward being male dominated (for lack of better phrasing), but lately there's been a shift in that. I'm hearing more and more all-girl garage bands, which is cool, but sadly, most of these groups don't strike me. I may listen to an album or a few songs and think, "Oh, that was nice," but I'm rarely motivated to listen again or to dig deeper.

So, here is where I stand with the Las Robertas LP -- Cry Out Loud is growing on me. At first listen, I wasn't exactly wowed. There is an overwhelming sense of sameness between songs. For me, it's a kind of sameness that isn't exactly suggestive of a pervasive aesthetic or a desire to create an album that moves seamlessly between songs... Instead, it's just sort of... the same. (This "sameness" is usually what prevents me from enjoying garage rock in general.) But, I'm on my third listen now (I'm really, really trying not to write this album off, especially since I have a copy of it coming in the mail) and what I'm finding is that there are some great moments in this record. Repeated listening helps to give you a sense for the way the album feels and, slowly but surely, individual songs begin to emerge ("In Between Buses" and "The Curse" are especially striking.)

If you're a fan of girl garage in the vein of Vivian Girls and/or ramshackle homemade pop, this album is not a hard sell. You will like it! It is that simple. If you are not a die-hard fan of these things, this might not catch you right away. It might grow on you slowly. It might not grow on you at all. It's easy to write groups off, especially all-girl groups working within male dominated genres. It's easy to choose not to give something a second or a third chance, but it's hard to predict what albums will do, so I recommend giving this time and space to grow on you.

"V for You," Las Robertas

Cry Out Loud is available from Art Fag on cassette, CD, and LP. You can stream some tracks from the album on Las Robertas' Bandcamp and MySpace pages, you can also (links below.)

Las Robertas Official Website
Las Robertas on Bandcamp
Las Robertas on MySpace
Las Robertas on Blogspot
Art Fag Recordings

What's In My Car

I know that this is, for all intents and purposes, a music blog, but there's a lot that I think about and one of the things I've been thinking about lately is the ways in which the consumption of cultural products contributes to the creation/presentation of identities. People get ideas about other people based on what they like, what they own, etc. People who read this blog probably get a certain idea about me based on what I write about/how I write.

Anyway, I cleaned out my car today and pulled the following 15 CDs out of my glovebox and I was thinking, the music that you listen to when you're alone and have no one to impress is probably the music that speaks the most to your actual (non-constructed) identity. So, in the interest of transparency (and to better advance my quest to prove just how un-cool I am), here is what I pulled out of my car:

Asobi Seksu, Asobi Seksu (Friendly Fire Recordings, 2004) I got this for $1 from the Half Price Books in Mayfield. Shoegaze, dreampop, cheap as all get out.

Big Star, #1 Record/Radio City (Stax, reissued 1992) This belongs to Drew -- it's perfect for late night drives. The last time I listened to this I think we were driving back from Oberlin. It sounded just right in the country-dark.

The Casual Dots, The Casual Dots (Kill Rock Stars, 2003) I bought this when I was a junior (?) in high school because I was obsessed with their cover of "Bumblebee." It's still my favorite song on the album.

Gaze, Mitsumeru (K Records, 1998) Best pop CD! I could listen to this album over and over -- "Jelly Beans" and "Peeking Shows His Ignorance" are perfect songs.

Husker Du, The Living End (Warner, 1994) Husker Du live album. I got this from the used bin at Music Saves. Normally I'm not crazy about live albums, but this isn't half bad. I mainly keep it in the car so that I don't have to keep more than one Husker Du album with me.

Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville (Matador, 1993) Another album that I bought in high school. It will never get old.

Lois, Strumpet (K Records, 1993) If you're going to keep just one Lois album in your car, it should be Strumpet. I feel like a lot of people overlook Lois, which is a real shame -- she writes solid songs and has collaborated with some great musicians. She's definitely one of my favorite K artists.

Los Campesinos!, Hold On Now, Youngster... (Arts and Crafts, 2008) These songs are just so good! Honestly, when this first came out, I thought I would burn out on it pretty quickly, but years later I still feel my heart get caught in my chest during "This Is How You Spell "HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics"" when Gareth says, "I know. I am wrong. I am sorry."

Mary Lou Lord, Got No Shadow (Sony/Work, 1998) Mary Lou Lord can be kind of tepid, it's true, but "Some Jingle Jangle Morning" is perf -- especially the "no one sees much of anyone these days" line.

The Microphones, Mt. Eerie (K Records, 2003) Drew bought this for me for $1 from the CD/Game Exchange on Coventry -- honestly, I'm not super crazy about this for general listening, but it's good for solo nighttime drives.

Mirah, C'mon Miracle (K Records, 2003) My favorite Mirah album for the car is actually that rarities comp that Modern Radio put out a couple of years ago, but C'mon Miracle is full of sweeping, majestic pop songs tinged with sophistication and sadness.

The Promise Ring, The Horse Latitudes (Jade Tree, 1997) From the second this starts up and I hear that opening line ("There will be ice cream"), I always feel my spirits lift.

Shonen Knife, Heavy Songs (Confidential Recordings, 2003) Another Music Saves used bin find -- Japanese all-girl pop punk trio.

Sugar, Copper Blue (Ryko, 1992) I love Husker Du and I love Bob Mould and I love Sugar and "If I Can't Change Your Mind" is singular in its greatness.

Various Artists, Fall Mix '09 (made by Alana, 2009) This is a mix that my friend, professional tattoo artist and karaoke enthusiast, Alana, made me. It's all nineties emo (The Promise Ring, American Football, cap'n Jazz, etc.) and it rules. Maybe I'll upload it since it's fall again.

New Release(s) from MJ Hibbett & The Validators

So, I keep referring to this "backlog" of things I have to listen to, you know, like I'm just so overwhelmed with things to listen to (what a tragedy!), but it's true, I have a huge backlog of things that I was e-mailed about ages and ages ago and I feel downright awful (and ridiculous) that it's taken me so long to get to some most of them, especially when people made the effort to, you know, e-mail me well in advance so I can do things like talk about the shows they're playing to promote their releases.

Back on September 3rd (so, like, a month and a week ago which is like a zillion years in internet time), MJ Hibbett was kind enough to send me an e-mail about his latest releases with The Validators: Forest Moon of Enderby and Hibbett's Superstore. It is like MJ Hibbett is exactly in tune with how long it typically takes me to get things done, because I'm able to squeak this in just in time for his tour information to still be relevant(!!!) and for this to be posted before Forest Moon and Superstore are officially released.

Forest Moon of Enderby collects 12 rare b-sides and it comes packaged with a second rarities collection (a multimedia album entitled Hibbett's Superstore, containing an additional 23 tracks.) Back in May, I reviewed the MJ Hibbett & The Validator's album Regardez, Ecoutez, et Repetez and it's hard not to just copy and paste big quotes from that review because so much of what I liked about Regardez is done just as well in the songs on Forest Moon of Enderby, especially the fact that while MJ Hibbett & The Validators have such a great, youthful pop sound, their songs are, lyrically, deeply thoughtful and reflect a wide range of adult attitudes and experiences. I think you hear this especially in "Billy Jones is Dead," "Leave My Brother Alone," and "Graffiti On The Cenotaph."

While Forest Moon of Enderby collects rare full-band material, Hibbett's Superstore is focused primarily on Hibbett's solo recordings. The songs on Superstore range wildly in topic and length, but they're strung together by the same sensibilities that ground Hibbett's full-band work with The Validators: the lyrics are both sincere and clever and the music is relentlessly catchy.

MJ Hibbett & The Validators are unable to do a "traditional" tour in support of this release, but they've worked out a nice way of getting around that. Starting tonight, MJ Hibbett will be performing an acoustic set every two weeks in the upstairs room at The Lamb in London. Each performance will then be released as a free to download podcast. Hibbett's shows at The Lamb will involve collaboration with Chris T-T, The Bobby McGees, Gavin Osborn and members of Pocketbooks. If you can't make it out to The Lamb, podcasts will be available to download from Totally Acoustic and iTunes starting October 15th.

Forest Moon of Enderby (packaged along with Hibbett's Superstore) will be released on Oct. 18th and is currently available for pre-order right here. If you're interested in even more MJ Hibbett & The Validators, be sure to peruse their website.


Mon 11 Oct with Gavin Osborn and Dr Neil Brown
Tue 26 Oct with Winston Echo and Pete Green
Mon 8 Nov with Frankie Machine and The Bobby McGees
Tue 23 Nov with Dave Green and Jenny Lockyer
Tue 7 Dec with Keith TOTP and Tim Eveleigh
Tue 21 Dec with Chris T-T and Andy from Pocketbooks

All gigs take place in the upstairs room of The Lamb at 94 Lamb's Conduit Street, London WC1N 3LZ and start promptly at 7:30pm, finishing at 9:15pm.

Silje Nes, "The Grass Harp" (DOWNLOAD)
Silje Nes, "Crystals" (DOWNLOAD)

Miranda Lange from PMA PR first e-mailed me about Silje Nes about a month ago -- I don't know why, but I hesitated to act on her e-mail. To be honest, I'm not used to being e-mailed by PR people, I typically get e-mails from either bands/artists or labels (or I don't get e-mailed by anyone at all.) So, I let Miranda's e-mail sit while I went about my usual business of listening to the same mix CD 30 or 40 times in the car & then I got another e-mail from Miranda and then I got another (persistence and follow up is also something new to me.)

This morning I finally gave in and listened to Opticks, Silje's latest release. Opticks is Silje's second album and like her first it's home recorded and works within layers upon layers of sound, blending organic and inorganic elements to create pop songs that feel like cocoons. Opticks is not the type of music I typically listen to, so it's hard for me to come up with solid points of comparison, but I think that if you imagined a mix between Björk's Vespertine and Lykke Li's Youth Novels, you wouldn't be too off the mark.

Final Thought: It's fall here in Cleveland and soon it will be winter. Opticks seems destined to be a winter album -- something for crisp, colorless mornings spent indoors with a laptop and your headphones.

Order Opticks direct from FatCat Records here (US release is this coming Tuesday, 10/12; it's already available globally.)
Stream more songs by Silje and check out her UK/Europe tour dates on her MySpace

Silje Nes, "The Grass Harp" (DOWNLOAD)
Silje Nes, "Crystals" (DOWNLOAD)

Live in CLE (Last Night)

Last night I went to a four-band, $5 show at the Happy Dog, which is probably one of my favorite places to see bands play. Full disclosure: as much as I love going out, sometimes instead of being packed in elbow to elbow with a bunch of people I don't know, I kind of just want to sit down, eat a hot dog, and listen to some music and the Happy Dog is the only place in Cleveland that lets that dream of mine come true. Also, I don't know why, but the older I get, the more skeptical I am about going out, but last night was a temporary break in my bad attitude and a nice reminder that cheap late nights can easily be as fulfilling as nights where I literally fall asleep face down in an English translation of a Norwegian novel, which is actually how most of my nights have gone lately.

Anyway, last night offered up four bands, two local (Library Time and Prisoners) and two touring (Party Photographers from Philadelphia, PA and SPORTS from Rochester, NY.)

I had never seen Library Time before -- they play fractured pop songs held together by synths & a saxophone. To my knowledge, they don't have any releases currently available, but you can stream their song "Africa" on their MySpace and if you like what you hear, they have a Cleveland show set up at the Cool Ranch on Nov. 12th.

Party Photographers were a four piece with a lead singer who looked like Clare Grogan and sang like Calvin Johnson, which is basically all I could hope to dream of re: people who front bands. They were touring in promotion of a new 7" (if they're not playing in your city, you can order it online via their MySpace.)

SPORTS from New Rochester reminded me of Elvis Costello & The Attractions. They were passing through Cleveland on a two day mini-tour and will (I hope!) tour more extensively when their LP is released. I'm currently having non-buyer's remorse over the fact that I didn't pick up one of the CDs they were selling because they were just so solid & fun (definitely listen to "Side Effect of Talk" on their MySpace.)

Prisoners played last & they sounded great. If you're in the Cleveland area & you haven't seen them play yet, you should come out next time they play. They've got a full-length LP out on Smog Veil and their second album is forthcoming. Prisoners have upcoming shows at Now That's Class and the Happy Dog, you can get the dates on their MySpace.

Upcoming Shows at the Happy Dog can be seen here.

Angel Olson

When I was in high school, I had a friend who lived in what was probably a haunted house. It looked haunted, it sounded haunted, and at night, while we tried to sleep in her drafty, creaky bedroom, it felt haunted. I remember one night when we were fifteen, sitting in the kitchen with her dogs, making a tape of Christmas songs for her mother and at the end of the night, when we played the tape back, there wasn't a single song on it -- instead it played back the sound of us talking and laughing and the dogs' tails thumping against the floor. I remember how we tried to explain it -- the cassette deck didn't have an external microphone, there was no way for us to have accidentally recorded ourselves -- but somehow, there it was. There we were. "Maybe," I said, already certain that I was wrong, "maybe it has to do with magnets or something?"

Listening to Strange Cacti reminds me of that night. Angel Olsen's voice sounds like it is coming from somewhere else entirely -- she is not in the kitchen with us, though. She is in the barn out back, or the basement down below, or the attic that you had to climb a flight of dangerously narrow steps to get into.

Strange Cacti is a six song cassette recently reissued on Bathetic. Angel's songs are slow and mysterious and otherworldly. She has a rich, sad voice that reminds me of a cross between Jolie Holland and Leslie Gore (except I mean "You Don't Own Me" (YouTube), not "It's My Party.) The songs on Strange Cacti are night songs -- songs for dark places and sad, scary times -- but they're touching, too, haunting in all the right ways.

My favorite track on the cassette is "If It's Alive, It Will." You can stream it here.

Again, you can get Strange Cacti from Bathetic. Angel also has a cassette forthcoming on Love Lion. You can stream a few of Angel's songs on her MySpace.

Old News: Delta Dart Albums!

Delta Dart, Lone Star LP (DOWNLOAD)
Delta Dart, Fight or Flight LP (DOWNLOAD)

So, when I posted that link to the Delta Dart demo tape uploaded to Soul Ponies, I received a request in the comments for Delta Dart's albums. I took a quick look around to see how available they still are and although they're still up for sale on the Paroxysm Records site, said site hasn't been updated since 2008, so you'll likely want to e-mail and check availability before sending them any money.

That said, here are Delta Dart's two full length LP's, Fight or Flight and Lone Star. Fight or Flight is complete, but for some reason I'm missing the last two tracks ("Fifteen" and "Extra Extra") are missing. I did some quick searching around the internet to see if I could recover them from another source, but didn't have any luck. So, sorry, but if you want a complete version of Lone Star, your best bet is to get in touch with the folks at Paroxysm or search out a used copy.

Anyway, as mentioned last week, Delta Dart is an all-girl three piece who made loud-quiet-loud riot grrrl type songs. They sound sort of like a cross between Tattle Tale and The Third Sex. You can get (slightly) more info on Delta Dart at the Paroxysm Records site.

Delta Dart, Lone Star LP (DOWNLOAD)
Delta Dart, Fight or Flight LP (DOWNLOAD)

Old News: Weatherbeat Scene and Delta Dart Demos

Again I've got a huge backlog of stuff to listen to & review, a quick scroll through my inbox tells me that you can look forward to thoughts on the upcoming Katrina Stonehart/Vehicle Blues split on A. Karina tapes, songs by Hope Slide, two new releases from MJ Hibbett, songs by Summer Library, the list goes on and on... Plus I just got a big box of tapes from Bathetic Records that I'm hoping to listen to this week.

Anyway, I just wanted to direct you to two out of print releases recently uploaded by other blogs. Take the Pills! recently uploaded Welcome to the Wetherbeat Scene 1988-1991, an amazing comp put together by Stewart Anderson (Boyracer, 555 Records.) Wetherbeat features 36 songs from bands formed at Wetherby High School (many of them featuring Stewart himself.) I did some googling last night and while this is getting increasingly hard to come by, it looks like you can still get copies from Midheaven Maiorder for $7.25, which is TOTALLY WORTH IT. (Order here.)

Also worth a download is the Delta Dart demo tape recently uploaded at Soul Ponies. Delta Dart was a sort-of riot grrrl three piece out of (where else?) Olympia, WA. I picked up this demo tape a zillion years ago from the now-defunct Moon Rocket Distro which operated out of New Zealand.) The dual female vocals Delta Dart makes use of remind me of Tattle Tale (whose discography I uploaded awhile back.) I'll be honest, there's not much to differentiate Delta Dart from other female vocal driven riot grrrl type music, but I do have a soft spot for Delta Dart. To my knowledge, their albums Fight or Flight and Lone Star are both out of print, so I'm happy to upload them for anyone who might want them. Just ask!