Ten Years is a Long Time

Ten years is a long time. I've been sort of thinking about what my favorite albums and songs of the last ten years are and it's a pretty tough list to make. I'm not even sure what the criteria would (or should) be. Anyway, here is a rough go at a few of my favorite albums of the last decade.

Bjork: Vespertine ("Coccoon", YouTube link)

Vespertine was a Christmas gift from my dad -- I listened to it while falling asleep every night for probably a year? When I think of this album I think of going to bed at 7, lying still and curled up and bundled under lots of blankets, heavy snow, dark skies, feeling safe and sad.

Carrie Nations: Be Still (Sample mp3s on MySpace, "Fireman's Bakesale" m4a)

I think a lot about the punk years: the sloppy kids in messy houses drinking and shouting and drinking some more. I think a lot about how I tried to glamorize that whole travesty -- tried to talk it up through the construction of community, intentional living, fucking the man, whatever. I ignored: substance abuse, misogyny, racism, general teenage fuck-uppery. But this: this album was the teenage punk rock utopia I dreamed of. 13 songs in less than 28 minutes. Songs that you can scream along with. Vocals that have that Westerberg edge of longing that make mediocre songs great. Especially on "Fireman's Bakesale." Be Still is $5 via Plan It X -- actually, I guess it's out of print now? If anyone's interested, I can upload it.)

Churchbuilder: Patty Darling

I know I've written about Churchbuilder before, but this album was it for awhile. This album was a whole identity and existence compressed into sweet pop songs: trying on vintage clothing at the Renaissance Parlour while "Vespa" played in the background, lounging in bed with best friends listening to "Hey Flannery," shouting along with "French Kiss Conspiracy" ("It was your kiss! That threw me! It was your kiss! You killed me!") This album was pure teenage longing and desperation and misunderstood intelligence and aptitude and I loved it. I love it.

I Like Japanese Hardcore: Live (Free download on archive.org)

I wasn't going to put this on here. I wasn't going to talk about it -- it was just a weird CD-R with little animals drawn on it and it's sort of like how when you go to an open mic night and you just know it's going to be dudes covering Jack Johnson or whatever? Except this is sort of like an indie girl open mic night where every song sounds a little bit like Go Sailor (that saccharine pop with a hidden razor sharp edge). My favorite line: I'm not a loser baby, losing you's not gonna kill me. This whole album is me trying to get up the nerve to end a relationship, singing along over and over: "You're no Calvin Johnson, don't want your lo-fi love songs!" The earnestness of this album is something that made me feel capable.

Jen Wood: This Uncontainable Light EP (Ride mp3)

I have this tremendously vivid memory of waiting and waiting for this to come in the mail and finally getting it in mid-summer, graduation party season. Driving home from a party thrown by someone I didn't know, being driven by someone I didn't like. It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I loved the song "Ride" intensely, with all the passion my 16 year old heart could muster.

Le Tigre: s/t ("Phanta", YouTube link)

I got Le Tigre's first album as a gift for my 13th birthday along with a Le Tigre t-shirt that my Uncle had won from a call-in contest on college radio. I played this CD non-stop, continuing my love affair with Kathleen Hanna that lasted well into my teens. My favorite song was "Phanta" -- I spent a lot of time feeling like I was falling apart (and sometimes actually falling apart), but something about the way Kathleen wailed, "now here's all right" helped me to feel whole. (later, when Feminist Sweepstakes came out, I felt the same way about the speaking part in "Tres Bien").

Mirah: You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This ("Telephone Wires" (Live, incomplete), YouTube link)

Everything always ends up being about Mirah. If I'm talking about what I listened to over the last decade, the answer is: Mirah. Mirah is what I listened to in middle school and high school and college and now that I'm out of college I am still listening to Mirah. This Christmas my boyfriend bought me a Mirah record (the vinyl reissue of You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This) -- he got me a Mirah record last Christmas, too (College Park is Always Ready to Party). And when I think of my best records of the last twenty years and the last thirty years of the twenty first century or whatever, it will probably always be Mirah.

The Sissies: Everything In the World ("87" m4a, "Stand Up" m4a)

When I was in the eighth grade my mom was driving me to school and we were listening to "Stone Cold Bikini" (a local college radio program) and I heard "Stand Up" by the Sissies and it stayed lodged in my brain forever after that. At the time I was really into DIY and punk and writing and music that was pro-girl and pro-queer and my whole identity was essentially rooted in these quirky interests fed almost entirely by zines and music and the Sissies were like the epitome of the tiny posi culture I was building for myself. Everything In the World collects everything the Sissies ever did and puts it out on one CD for $5. You can order it here, from Plan-it-X.

(Other things that could have gone on this list: Fevers and Mirrors by Bright Eyes, Pink Hearts Yellow Moons by Dressy Bessy, Saddle the Bridge by Bonfire Madigan, Day One by Sarah Dougher, lots and lots of others.)


"Don't Give Up" LAKE

I don't know how I did it, but I managed to leave LAKE's "Don't Give Up" off of my top songs of 2009. What was I thinking? This song is so good. So good that I listened to it at least 10 times in a row while stuck in traffic.

I love the horns in this and totally don't care that it sounds a little AM Radio/Easy Listening/whatever. It's bleak and it's cold and it's too warm to snow but too wet to rain, so slush is coming down from the sky and it generally feels like a pretty miserable existence right now, but when I'm listening to this song, I feel GREAT & great is what I need right now.

"Don't Give Up" is off of LAKE's second full-length, Let's Build A Roof. They just wrapped up a tour with Karl Blau (I'm still kicking myself for not seeing them when they were in Cleveland). You can order Let's Build A Roof from K Records.

"Don't Give Up" LAKE

College Songs

"Hipsville (Where the Frisbees Fly Forever)" (Robert Pollard)
"Untitled" (P.S. Eliot)

Oh, college! We had (and continue to have) such a trying and ambiguously defined relationship! I hated almost every moment of you -- at least, all of the social "college-y" moments -- and yet I graduated only to get a job working at a college! And have recent applied to graduate school! What is wrong with me?!

So, college songs -- as in, "songs about college," not, "songs I listened to a lot during college" (which would be a completely different list, dominated by a weird mix of saccharine pop and blisteringly depressing dirges).

Robert Pollard's "Hippsville (Where the Frisbees Fly Forever") is the view outside my dorm window -- shirtless, well-muscled fraternity brothers roaming rolling green hills with bags of frisbees for their "Frisbee Golf" and "Ultimate Frisbee" teams. (I have never used the word 'frisbee' so many times in such quick succession -- it doesn't even seem like a real word.) Not that I have anything against athleticism (or frisbees), but the idea of frisbee season (which was, loosely, March/April through October/November) always got me to gritting my teeth. As Pollard mindlessly repeats: "Don't you just like college/Don't you just like college," I am reminded of myself, headphones on, scowling for four years straight. I never learned how to throw a frisbee quite right.

P.S. Eliot's "Untitled" from their Bike Wreck!!! demo is the quintessential spring break song. Opening with a somewhat ill-performed rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the recorder and segueing into the girls chanting "Skinny bitches! Spring Break! College! Beers! Hotlanta!" over and over -- it is every post spring break conversation I've ever heard distilled into a chorus of cheap beers and mindless exclamations, concentrating all that ever was and ever will be MTV's spring break coverage into its true glory: I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.

"Hipsville (Where the Frisbees Fly Forever)" (Robert Pollard)
"Untitled" (P.S. Eliot)

Pretending to See the Future

"Secret" (Laura Watling)
"If You Leave" (Free Loan Investments)
"Tesla Girls" (F.K.A. Oedipusaurus Rex)

I bought Pretending to See the Future on a whim about 5 years ago when Shelflife Records had a moving sale (almost all CDs just one dollar! who could say no?) & while some tracks were certainly misses, there were others that were total hits.

Laura Watling's "Secret" has a soft, ethereal sound. Her vocals are sweet but unassuming & accented nicely by the little bleeps and bloops in each chorus. Shelflife has sold out of all their Laura stuff, but you can still get a few comps that Laura contributed to from Tonevendor. If you're a fan of Rose Melberg's solo stuff, I would recommend searching out Laura's full-length Early Morning Walk (actually, if anyone's looking for it, I have a second copy.)

The Free Loan Investments' version of "If You Leave" is sublime! The first time I heard it, I thought it was a touch too cutesy (I think because of the vocals), but the more I hear it, the more I love it. It's energetic and definitely brings a different kind of life to the song. Free Loan Investments have a couple of releases still available through Shelflife: The Last Dance 7" and Ever Been to Mexico? CD EP.

Full disclosure: I don't know a whole lot (read: anything) about F.K.A. Oedipusaurus Rex, but I do love their cover of "Tesla Girls." I'm not intimately familiar with OMD's back-catalogue, but in my mind, this is one of the songs on Pretending to See the Future that seems to stick a little closer to the original. F.K.A. Oedipusaurus Rex does have a MySpace where you can hear some more of their songs.

Pretending to See the Future is out of print and no longer available from Shelflife, but there are a few used copies lurking around on Amazon.

"Secret" (Laura Watling)
"If You Leave" (Free Loan Investments)
"Tesla Girls" (F.K.A. Oedipusaurus Rex)

2009 in Sum

1. Henry Rollins Don't Dance - Allo, Darlin' (Download)

Allo, Darlin' caught me completely off-guard with this single, but I've been absolutely enthralled with it since I first heard it. It's silly, but I love songs that namedrop things I like (see "The International Tweexcore Underground Will Save Us All" by Los Campesinos!, "Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend's Too Stupid To Know About" by Tullycraft, "Hot Topic" by Le Tigre & loads of others), so a song that hits on both Black Flag and the movie-musical Grease is too much. On top of that, the horns make it supremely danceable and almost too catchy for its own good.

The Henry Rollins Don't Dance 7" is sold out (& before I managed to snag a copy for myself -- bummer), but Allo, Darlin' has a new 7" out now! Get it here.

Official Website

2. Fun - Sourpatch (Download)

Oh, Sourpatch! Perhaps one of my favorite new bands of 2009 -- and when I say "perhaps," know that I mean "definitely." Sourpatch is like a combo of every 90's indie pop California band that I've ever loved and "Fun" is the perfect sweet-sad friendship anthem. Sourpatch has an upcoming full-length on HHBTM that I can't wait to hear.

SP Post.

3. new lady - Rocket or Chiritori

I pretty much never buy albums on iTunes -- I prefer to have the physical product (whether it's vinyl, CD, cassette, whatever -- I'd take almost anything over a digital release), but I made an exception for the new album by Rocket or Chiritori and I'm so glad that I did. "new lady" is fantastic -- the same stripped down, lo-fi bedroom pop that I loved on Rocket or Chiritori's previous releases, but with a slightly (ever so slightly) more sophisticated sound. Since my copy of "new lady" is DRM protected, I can't upload it for you here, but it looks like you can listen to a live version on Rocket or Chiritori's MySpace.

post on Rocket or Chiritori.

4. Save Me From My Lethargy - Weed Hounds (Download)

Weed Hounds are another one of my favorite new bands of 2009. Their four song cassette demo caught my ear & I've been happily listening to it on and off since I first heard it. You can purchase the cassette from Crooked Direction Records for $6.50 or download it from I Could Die Tomorrow. Weed Hounds have a fuzz pop shoegaze sound that reminds me of a blend of Dinosaur Jr. and Swirlies, which is pretty cool. Weed Hounds also have an upcoming 7" on Rok Lok Records.


5. My Heart - The Smith Westerns (Download)

The Smith Westerns were the first band I blogged about here! I saw them open for Los Campesinos! this year and was pleasantly surprised by their fuzz pop sound. I also really loved that they were a group of high energy young people playing infectious 2-3 minute songs. I'm a sucker for a great, brief pop song & the Smith Westerns have a whole album full, though "My Heart" (the album's closer) is my stand-out favorite. You can get their self-titled album on HoZac.

SP Post.

6. The Tenure Itch - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Download)

The Pains had a load of great releases this year -- a great album, a great EP, a great 7" -- it was hard to pick just one song, so I went with my first favorite, "The Tenure Itch" from their self-titled album. When I first heard the Pains full-length, this song jumped right out at me. I was thrilled to hear them play it the first time I saw them live & even though they've kept releasing fantastic pop songs all year long, this one is still at the top of my list. You can stock up on Pains releases from Slumberland.

Official Website
SP Post.

7. Over It - Dinosaur Jr. (Download)

This year was the year of Dinosaur Jr. I saw them three times in the span of 8 months & they wowed me every time. On top of that, they put out another amazing album with Farm & the first single, "Over It," caught my eye with what is probably my favorite music video of this year. I really don't know what else to say -- Dinosaur Jr. knows exactly what they are doing and they are awesome at it.

Official site

8. Education - Mirah (Download)

Oh, Mirah. Mirah, Mirah, Mirah. I don't even know what to say -- I just get all gushy whenever I think of her, which doesn't exactly make for great prose. I first heard Mirah play "Education" sometime in 2008? 2007? It's hard for me to remember now -- it was at a small, ill-attended show in Columbus and it knocked the wind out of me. I love how insightful Mirah is, how sharp and true her lyrics are, and how although her writing is often sad, it can also be overpoweringly hopeful.

K Recs Press Kit
SP Post

9. Like How You Are - P.S. Eliot (Download)

P.S. Eliot's Bike Wreck demo was one of my most listened to releases during my senior year of college -- I turned out many a half-hearted paper and lesson plan to P.S. Eliot's riot grrrl influenced songs & spent a long time awaiting the release of their debut album Introverted Romance in Our Troubled Minds. "Like How You Are" appeared on both P.S. Eliot's 2008 demo and their 2009 album and it's definitely one of their strongest tracks. You can order P.S. Eliot's full-length from Salinas Records.

SP Post

10. Beautiful Things - Quasi (Download)

Quasi's cover of "Beautiful Things" (originally by the 3D's) was, for me, the standout track on Merge's Score! compilation. Something about this song is extremely uplifting -- every time I hear it, I'm left feeling extremely hopeful. It's just a great, great pop song.

1. (a)spera - Mirah

I'm not going to lie -- I was feeling apprehensive about Mirah's most recent album. While I'll always call Mirah my favorite artist, some of her recent collaborations with the Black Cat Orchestra had been leaving me a bit cold. I missed the total and complete intimacy of a Mirah solo album -- & that's exactly what (a)spera delivered on.

2. s/t - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

It was my boyfriend who really, really pushed me to listen to the Pains and wow, I'm glad that he did. I had always been a Slumberland Records fan, but was ready to write the Pains off as too much for me -- I like bedroom pop, I tend to prefer groups that are less musically proficient -- I don't really know where I'm going with this, but while my boyfriend was pushing me to listen to the Pains, I was busy listening to an old Delta Dart cassette tape & not paying attention. I'm so, so glad that I finally listened. The Pains remind me of all my favorite My Bloody Valentine songs in the best possible way.

3. s/t - The Smith Westerns

The Smith Westerns came out of left field for me. I had never heard of them and they ended up as the opening act for Los Campesinos! when I saw them earlier this year. It was, obviously, a pleasant surprise. I didn't realize how much I liked the album until I realized that I had Smith Westerns songs stuck in my head on a daily basis.

4. Middle Cyclone - Neko Case

Middle Cyclone was actually my most played album of 2009, so I'm not 100% sure why it's not at the top of this list. I love Neko Case -- I love her voice and I love her stylized alt-country solo records. I love that she was in Cub, though I could take or leave the New Pornographers. I love this record. I love "I'm An Animal" and "People Got A Lotta Nerve." I love her lyrics, even in their most awkward moments -- "I love girls in white leather jackets" makes some of my friends cringe, but it makes me wish I had a white (faux) leather jacket. Writing this gives me the feeling that this album will have staying power for me that some of my other favorite albums of the year might not have.

5. Farm - Dinosaur Jr.

Oh, Dinosaur Jr. Ok, so I had never heard of Dinosaur Jr. until Grace of My Heart came out and my parents played the soundtrack incessantly. I could take or leave many of the songs on that soundtrack, but J. Mascis's "Take A Run At The Sun" was one of the most awesome things my 9 year-old self had ever heard. My senior year of college I read Our Band Could Be Your Life and seriously listened to Dinosaur Jr. for the first time. Then I graduated, just a few months before Farm came out, and set about seeing Dinosaur Jr. every time they played in the state of Ohio. Beyond was an amazing comeback & I was worried that Farm might be a let-down. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong.

I also loved: Rose Melberg's Homemade Ship, Bunnygrunt's Matt Harnish and Other Delights, Girls' Album, Pants Yell!'s Received Pronunciation, Now We Can See by the Thermals (who also put on a great show in Cleveland in April) & though it's not technically out yet, I have high hopes for Sourpatch's upcoming album on Happy Happy Birthday To Me.

1. Los Campesinos! (with Girls and The Smith Westerns) in Cleveland, OH

I bought tickets for Los Campesinos! immediate after they went on sale & the closer the show got, the less I felt like going. I even considered dipping out at the last minute, mainly because I can be a bit socially anxious and hate to get beer spilled on me, which can be sort of inevitable at these sorts of events. But oh my god, what a great show. The Smith Westerns and Girls were the two best openers I saw this year & Los Campesinos! BLEW MY FUCKING MIND. I'm not even kidding. I had intended to be "cool" at this show, but could not stop myself from dancing, jumping, screaming, and throwing my fist in the air for all of my favorite lines. The band was remarkable -- consistently high energy throughout the entire set, coming down into the audience, making their way to the back of the venue & staying long after the night had come to an end to chat with everyone who was around. Color me impressed, Los Campesinos!

2. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (with the Afternoon Naps and Zaza) in Cleveland, OH

I saw the Pains twice this summer, once in Cleveland, OH and once in Portland, OR. While the Portland show had better openers (Girls, the Champagne Socialists), the sound and vibe at the Cleveland show was way better. The Pains won me over at their Cleveland show & I'm still bumming about not having the opportunity to see them more that twice before they took off for their overseas dates.

3. Jonathan Richman (with Vic Chestnutt) in Cleveland, OH

I saw Jonathan Richman for the second time this summer and it was an amazing experience. Jonathan played a perfect set blending newer numbers with some of my old favorites (it was particularly nice to hear "Velvet Underground"). Jonathan played with such complete and total enthusiasm, which was really wonderful &, unfortunately, all too rare sometimes.

4. Dinosaur Jr. (with Lou Barlow and the Missingmen) in Columbus, OH

I saw Dinosaur Jr. three times this year, but their show in Columbus was, by far, my favorite. Lou Barlow opened with the Missingmen (Mike Watt's group) & it was awesome to see Lou on his own playing solo material. The group played more or less the same set each time I saw them, but the Columbus show had a nice energy & the venue was great. I was also surprised by how relaxed the crowd was -- there was a lot of fighting when I saw Dinosaur Jr. in Cleveland, but none of that in Columbus, which was much appreciated since I tend to be the poor, oblivious fool who catches and elbow in the face or a foot in the head.

5. Sufjan Stevens (with Cryptacize) in Cleveland, OH

Seeing Sufjan Stevens was an unexpected experience for me, but a very, very good one. You can read my review of the show here.

(See a complete list of attended shows here.)

In order to see what I actually listened to the most this past year, you can creep on my last.fm.

"3 Wise Men and a Baby (Xmas Song)" (The Cavedogs)
"Piece for Christmas" (Big People)

I'm not exactly 100% crazy about Christmas or Christmas music & neither is my family & neither is my partner, & really, the only Christmas music I recall hearing my parents play is the Beach Boys' Christmas Album, my mom's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" 45" & a 1991 comp called Yuletunes: A Collection of Alternative Pop Christmas Songs which is -- surprisingly -- stunning. While I more or less dread hearing Christmas classics & original Christmas type songs recorded by popular artists, there are a few notable exceptions: the aforementioned Beach Boys' Christmas Album, the Pretenders' "2,000 Miles," & the majority of the songs on Yuletunes.

"3 Wise Men and a Baby (Xmas Song)" by the Cavedogs is weird -- it skips around genres, has a few "sound collage" elements and sometimes I forget why I profess to like it so much -- but right around 2 minutes and 45 seconds in, it gets really, really beautiful. the band incorporates some sound clips from Capra's It's A Wonderful Life, which sounds like a cheesy and terrible move until you hear it for yourself & the whole song enters into this really gorgeous, blissed out space that I absolutely love.

"Piece for Christmas" by Big People reminds me a bit of Tullycraft recording a Christmas song (probably because of the lead singer's voice). I love the opening lines: I saw you in a parking lot/Where they used to sell pumpkins and Elvis paintings/You were buying a Christmas tree/I recognized you but you could not place me." (As an aside: this group is not the same Big People that featured the late Benjamin Orr. Sorry Cars fans.) Whenever I hear this, I feel impossibly, explodingly happy, even though it's a little bit goofy.

Yuletunes is not out of print & though used copies crop up from time to time on Amazon, they typically sell for a bit more than I would recommend paying. If anyone's interested in hearing the rest of the album I'm happy to upload it, just ask in the comments.

"3 Wise Men and a Baby (Xmas Song)" (The Cavedogs)
"Piece for Christmas" (Big People)

Indie Pop Plays the Monkees

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (Coloring Book)
Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) (Bike Ride)
Pleasant Valley Sunday (MaryKate O'Neil)

The other day I was musing that I would really like to do for the Monkees what the girls over at nogoodforme are doing for the Beatles, but honestly? I just don't think I have that kind of dedication.

That said, there's certainly a special place in my heart for the Pre-Fab Four and there has been since my childhood. I have many exceptionally fond memories of listening to my mother's Monkees records and watching old video cassettes with various episodes of their TV show taped off of MTV. (A long-time favorite was that one where the Monkees had to tutor that girl whose dad owned some sort of country club.) I was also a proud owner of the Monkees novel Who's Got the Button? whose plot eerily mimics that of David Benioff's City of Thieves, except it is not set in Leningrad during WWII and it stars the Monkees.

I found the Planting Seeds Records comp Through the Looking Glass: Indie Pop Plays the Monkees in the used bin at an Amoeba Records in Los Angeles. And it was worth every penny.

The standout tracks for me are Coloring Book's cover of "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (instrumental) and Bikeride's "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)." Fact: Both of these songs were written by Neil Diamond. Fact: Neil Diamond wrote all of the best Monkees songs (take that Boyce and Hart!) Goffin & King come close to dethroning Diamond based solely on "Pleasant Valley Sunday," which is performed by MaryKate O'Neil on this album.

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (Coloring Book)
Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) (Bike Ride)
Pleasant Valley Sunday (MaryKate O'Neil)


Where Eagles Dare pt. II (Bunnygrunt)
Alone in My Principles (Bunnygrunt)

Last night I saw what will probably be my last concert of the year -- a Bunnygrunt in-store performance at Used Kids records in Columbus. I've never seen Bunnygrunt before, but they're a long-time favorite of my. I thought about not going, but my boyfriend said I should ("When are you going to get the chance to see Bunnygrunt again?") and I'm glad that I did. They put on a wonderful show & were joined by an accordion player for their last two songs, which was unexpected, but really sweet.

I'm assuming that Bunnygrunt took their show on the road to promote their new album, Matt Harnish & Other Delights, but it was a GBV tribute show that brought them to Columbus. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the GBV show (I've seen a few GBV shows in my time, but just don't think I have the stamina to make it through 10+ bands playing their favorite GBV songs -- though I can't help but wonder what a Bunnygrunt version of "Let's Ride" or "My Valuable Hunting Knife" might have sounded like).

I've uploaded two Bunnygrunt songs & my reasons for choosing them have a lot less to do with Bunnygrunt and a lot more to do with my outside interests -- "Where Eagles Dare pt. II" (while a sweet song in and of itself), speaks to the still 15 year-old part of me know for bellowing along with my favorite Misfits' HITS FROM HELL and "Alone in My Principles" strikes a chord because I have seriously seen That Thing You Do upwards of 30 times and picturing Steve Zahn ("There he goes, off to write that hit song Alone in My Principles") never fails to bring a smile to my face.

ANYWAY, I sure am glad that I went to see Bunnygrunt last night. You can see a running list of concerts I attended in 2009 here.

Where Eagles Dare pt. II (Bunnygrunt)
Alone in My Principles (Bunnygrunt)


Video for "I Want You Either Way" by Sourpatch

Oh this poor neglected blog! Things have been incredibly hectic lately -- work days have been more crowded with actual work than ever before. There are a lot of things that I've wanted to write about (recent used bin finds at favorite record stores, most listened to albums of the year, concerts attended in the past few weeks), but finding the time has been hard.

All that said, I finally got around to preordering the upcoming Sourpatch album from Happy Happy Birthday To Me records and I'm already so, so pumped for it to arrive in the mail in (hopefully) mid-December. I discovered Sourpatch through WIAIWYA's free monthly downloads. Their Fun EP is blistering, bouncy, pop. It's what my boyfriend calls "girl music" and sighs disparagingly about -- but who cares? His favorite band is Weezer.

The Fun EP is evocative of the music I came to call my own in middle and high school -- though Sourpatch might not sound exactly like Cub or Go Sailor or Bratmobile or the Sissies, the raw, sweet, tough, sing-alongable elements are there and I am left reminded of afternoons spent learning how to skateboard, walking to the comic book store and the movie theater, and talking with my best friend about how we should start a band. When I hear the opening lines of "Fun," I remember what it's like to feel smart and tough and invulnerable, while also knowing how painful those teenage afternoons and nights often felt.

You can preorder Sourpatch's upcoming full length album from HHBTM. &, of course, they have a MySpace account.

The Blake Babies

So, I'm starting to realize that I don't listen to a whole lot of new music. So much of what I listen to now (with a few critical exceptions here and there) is exactly what I listened to in high school or middle school or, in certain cases, even further back.

When I was in middle school, my aunt taped her copy of Sunburn by the Blake Babies for me. I already knew about Juliana Hatfield -- I had seen her play a homeless teenager on My So-Called Life and my dad had bought the Juliana Hatfield Three's Only Everything for me, but even though this Blake Babies album was old, it was new to me.

I loved Sunburn from the very get go, even though it wasn't until much later on that I was able to relate to what Juliana was singing about in songs like "I'm Not Your Mother" & "Out There," but when I got to the point where I was able to integrate these songs into my own adolescent experiences, they were invaluable. Especially "Out There."

So often my friends and I talked about the decisions we made and why we made them, tried to break down our own mistakes and figure out how we ended up where we had ended up, and it's those conversations that I think about whenever I hear Juliana say, "I have a body and a brain and I turn them off again and again, I know, it's stupid."

Mary Timony

Blood Tree by Mary Timony

Today has not been a good day. It's cold, windy, busy in the office, my lunch was mediocre and my reading material was depressing. Sometimes, when I'm having a bad day, I find myself gravitating toward media that will only make it worse: case in point, I spent my lunch break reading The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison.

At any rate -- I've been listening to Mary Timony's "Blood Tree" on repeat for 20-30 minutes now and, honestly, it's fantastic. I mean, every song on The Golden Dove is great, but "Blood Tree" is really wonderful.

I love that this song is simultaneously dark and sad and rich and full of life -- I love its world weariness and it's forward momentum. I love that it seems to say, "Go, go, it's just not worth it, I give up," while also building up this glorious sense of defiance and nonchalance. Which, is, you know, essentially how I feel about things like work and Mondays: defiant and nonchalant.

Blood Tree by Mary Timony

Rocket or Chiritori

Vacation by Rocket or Chiritori

God, what is not to love about this girl? In some ways, I believe that the internet's tendency to hook me up with music that I would have loved when I was fourteen and had no friends is its only true redeeming talent.

I have always loved things that feel private, like they happened in isolation. I love spare sounding music that seems like it was recorded in someone's bedroom while they were hiding from their parents or trying to occupy the hours spent not attending a party they weren't invited to anyway. I love things that sound sad, but in that beautiful way, like when you're a teenager and you think there's something really brilliant and tragic and misunderstood about never having anywhere to go except, maybe, the convenience store to buy something to drink and maybe run into the older cooler kids who are trying to get frustrated adults to buy beer for them.

It takes literally NO IMAGINATION for me to picture myself as a teenager lying face down on my bed listening to "Vacation" on repeat, losing myself in the sound of Satako's tentative and perfect strumming.

(This version of "Vacation" appears on the Darla Records comp Little Darla has a Treat for You vol. 9.)

Vacation by Rocket or Chiritori

(I used to spend a lot of time listening to Hole in this house with my high school BFF.)

Olympia (Alternate Mix) by Hole

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend was trying to figure out what he should give his younger sister for her birthday and he asked me, "What were you listening to when you were seventeen?"

And it was in that moment I realized that the only album I have listened to consistently since I began to develop a taste in music outside of what my parents played in the car was Hole's Live Through This.

It is sort of a weird thing, to realize that one of the only albums I've cared about deeply for the last 10+ years is by a band that my boyfriend refers to as "Girlvana."

So, I tried to explain -- very clumsily -- what it means to me (and to at least one other girl I can think of) to love Live Through This in an unabashed, forever-and-ever sort of way.

I think a lot of it has to do with growing up with low self-esteem and not much money, to sense a difference in yourself so deep and profound that you don't know how to conduct yourself in complicated and overlapping teenage spheres -- to be out of place in the classrooms, the hallways, the cafeterias, the parties, the malls. Some of it probably has to do with knowing what it means to be a victim of sexual and emotional violence. Another part of it is loving art that reflects your struggles and seems to fight your battles for you -- I love Live Through This for many of the same reasons that I love Joyce Carol Oates' Foxfire and envied the older punk rock girls who were sent home for "acting out."

Now, years and years and years later, I find myself awkwardly defending Hole when my boyfriend and I discuss music. Pathetically trying to articulate the power of certain sneered sentiments (particularly Courtney's near-perfect, "Don't you touch me, don't you dare" in "She Walks On Me.")

I love the alternate mix of Olympia for it's clarity -- you can hear every word, every whisper. The first time I heard it, I was finally able to decipher the answer to Courtney's question, "What do you do with a revolution?" ("You just forget your name.")

Olympia (Alternate Mix) by Hole


Surfwax America (mp3)

So, a couple of nights ago my boyfriend woke me up in the middle of the night (well, he says I woke up spontaneously, but whatever) to tell me how bad the new Weezer album is. I guess you could preview songs on iTunes or something? And they're all terrible? I don't know, he just kept saying, "God, it's so bad. It's so, so bad. I was expecting it to be bad... but not this bad. It's just terrible." The whole time he was talking I just kept thinking about that time I had The Heart of Darkness as my summer reading book for school. I kept expecting him to shout, "The horror! The horror!" and then collapse. It was a dramatic moment. Then he came home from work the other day and said that he pre-ordered it on not one but two different formats. Say what? I guess old nineties habits die hard.

Anyway, I suppose the point is that some people just have those bands/artists that they keep loving even when they start to make godawful albums that leave you feeling alone and betrayed and wondering why you ever liked them to begin with (this is sort of how I feel about both Hole and Liz Phair).

I basically stopped paying attention to Weezer when the Green album came out and I've considered that to be a pretty sound move. That said, their debut album is still one of my favorite CDs to listen to in the car.

"Surf Wax America" has always been my favorite Weezer song. I was only seven when Weezer's first album came out, but I was already headlong into a surfing obsession that lasted well into my teens -- I read all of Frederick Kohner's Gidget novels and would watch any terrible sixties beach party movie that showed up on television. The fact that there's a song called "There's No Surf in Cleveland" was more or less heartbreaking for me.

Anyway, it's no surprise that I would latch on to a pretty ridiculous song about surfing written by people who probably don't surf.

(Side note: the similes in this song! Whoa! I love the continuous comparisons made between the ocean and alcohol -- "the sea is foaming like a bottle of beer," that one about the waves rolling like a keg, yadda, yadda, yadda.)

Side note: I am well-aware that this photo features a seriously out-of-date Weezer line-up, but would you believe that no good promo photos of Weezer exist! Also, I don't really care about their current line-up anyway.

Surfwax America (mp3)

The Pretenders

The Wait (mp3)

My mind is going in all different directions on this post, so I'll try and keep things coherent.

1. Today is Friday! Well, not anymore! I initially started this post on Friday while I was waiting for the last few hours of the working week to pass me by. Of course, I didn't get it finished & now it's Monday and I'm waiting for the last 30 minutes before lunch hour to pass by. So at least the theme of "waiting" has retained some relevance.

2. Growing up, my dad really pushed me to be aware of female musicians, especially female musicians who played instruments other than the bass and/or were the driving creative force behind musical projects. While I took pretty quickly to Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney, & a host of other contemporary girl bands, my dad never quit pushing Chrissie Hynde -- as far as he was concerned, she was made to be a role-model for me if for no other reason than the fact that she was born in Akron, OH. Of course, my dad is also a lifelong Pretenders fan & growing up I was often regaled with stories about "that time your dad shoved that girl down to keep her from getting Martin Chambers' drum sticks." (To this day, the drum sticks sit on top of my dad's dresser and he maintains that this girl, whoever she was, "fell.")

The Wait (mp3)


Peeking Shows His Ignorance (mp3)

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Rose Melberg and her new album, Homemade Ship and in that post I sort of talked a little bit about the growth process I went through when it comes to Rose's music. I first started listening to Gaze in high school when I ordered their Shake the Pounce album, but it wasn't until I was in college that I really grew to love their music & was because of songs like "Peeking Shows His Ignorance."

I guess I have this reputation for being sort of uptight/politically correct/whatever, so when my boyfriend caught me listening to this in the car he was like, "Of course you would like this." As in: of course you, the aforementioned uptight politically correct girl, would be really into a song about the difficult process of calling someone out after they've said something questionable/offensive.

And yes, of course I would love it. How could I not love a song with lines like: I guess I'm just typical "university", typical "older", "politically correct"? Not since the Parcels' "Minor Disturbance Grrrl" has a song so closely lined up with my personal sensibilities.

Peeking Shows His Ignorance (mp3)

Guided By Voices

The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory (mp3)
I am a Scientist (mp3)
I am a Tree (mp3)

So, a couple of days ago I read this pretty intense post about Guided By Voices on I Could Die Tomorrow (really, check it out) and it got me thinking about GBV & why I listen to them and what goes on in my brain when I hear certain GBV songs.

So, here are three memories about three different Guided By Voices songs, originally written a few months ago, these thoughts & experiences still ring true for me.

The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory

cold hands touching my face
don't hide - the snake can see you
old friends you might not remember
fading away from you

Drew and I are lying in bed listening to Bee Thousand, we are not talking. When "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory" starts, Drew breaks the silence by saying, "I heard he wrote this about an acid trip." Suddenly the lyrics seem a lot more sinister. I can hear the recorder being played in the background and am ripped in two, thinking of two entirely different things. 1) Is this recorder left over from Pollard's days as an elementary school teacher? 2) Ang, slumped on the floor of the Cardboard Mansion, her tiny hands wrapped around an old Cleveland Browns mug filled with rum. "I think you should do acid, I really think you could handle it." Britt sitting up sharply, her pigtails askew and her face unwashed, "Ang, Kathee could handle anything.

(For a completely different take, see this video of a German choir performing the song.)

I am a Scientist

i am a scientist - i seek to understand me
all of my impurities and evils yet unknown
i am a journalist - i write to you to show you
i am an incurable
and nothing else behaves like me

My bedroom windows face the east and the room is filled with harsh morning light when Drew places his hand on the back of my neck and pulls me into a kiss. "I am a Scientist" is on the stereo. I should be thinking about this kiss -- one of the first in a new relationship -- but instead I am thinking about riding in the car with my aunt, how she put a cassette in and said, "This is my favorite band. I love them more than I've ever loved any other band before, ever," and I thought she was being ridiculous, but then this song started and by the time it was over, I found myself thinking, "This is my favorite band, I love them more than I've ever loved any other band before, ever." I was in elementary school.

I am a Tree

i am a tree - counting my rings will do no good
i won't live long but I would be with you if I could
when you take flight, remember me to one who lives there
since you have flown, there's something special in the air

It is Thanksgiving and my dad is drunk. Drew and I are the last to get to my aunt's house for dinner and my dad has put himself in charge of the stereo. He points toward Mark's CDs, his finger indicating the Hardcore UFOs box set and he says, "I used to own that, I won it here, at a raffle." He pauses, taking a big swig from a bottle of Chimay and says, "Gave it back, though. There was only one song I really liked -- Pollard didn't even write it." Drew is working hard to make conversation, I know my dad makes him nervous and I am on edge, "Really? What song?" My dad is unsure -- there are so many, he says -- but he settles on "I am a Tree." "This one," he says, "this one." And he starts it, mimes playing the first few riffs, and Drew's face lights up -- "That's one of my favorites too!"

The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory (mp3)
I am a Scientist (mp3)
I am a Tree (mp3)


Smoke (mp3, Mediafire)

This post has been sitting in Blogspot's "drafts" folder for almost a week now -- it's funny how things happen like that, how you start something so small and simple and find yourself without the time to complete it properly. It rained almost all week last week, I stayed inside and read Watership Down by Richard Adams and thought about how I'm just not ready for winter yet.

I like songs that are repetitive -- songs that have a certain I don't know what to call it. The best word that I can think to describe the sound is "circular." Circular songs are what I like to listen to when I ride my bike. When I was in college, circular songs are what I would listen to when I was writing a paper (or when I was lying in bed bemoaning my very existence.)

"Smoke" by Bedhead is one such circular song. It seems to spin around and around in a simple way, building on itself & then fading away, leaving you feeling deeply reassured.

Smoke (mp3, Mediafire)

Hot Pursuit

Summer Song (mp3, Mediafire)

It's late September and it is officially fall in Ohio. This morning I was woken up by the sound of pouring rain and this Monday has felt more like a capital-M Monday than any other Monday I can remember in recent months.

"Summer Song" by Hot Pursuit really seems more like a fall song to me. The lyrics are very much about summer, but the overall tone seems more nostalgic, more indicative of fall. It seems like a song that's about remembering summer afternoons and evenings, a song that's trying to recapture those things and preserve them, however imperfectly.

For some reason, whenever I hear this song I think about my best friend growing up and her younger brother -- his birthday was in October and every year it was celebrated with a bonfire at the side of the river. I remember cold nights, hot cider, climbing trees, making s'mores. I don't know why "Summer Song" brings up memories steeped in fall, but I'm glad that it does.

Hot Pursuit's album, The Thrill Department, is available via Teenbeat Records and InSound. I would also recommend picking up their Basketball 7" -- the A-side is insanely catchy and wonderful.

& in case you're curious, AllMusic's keywords for Hot Pursuit include: earnest, intimate, amiable, poignant, & a bunch of other complimentary things.

Summer Song (mp3, Mediafire)

Little Red Car Wreck

Breaks (mp3, Mediafire)
Crashing Cars (live) (mp3, Mediafire)

I've been listening to Little Red Car Wreck for a long time now. Maybe seven or eight years? Still, they were something I didn't discover until high school and, every now and then, I find myself rediscovering them.

A few days ago I was driving home late at night. It was dark and the traffic was bad because of night-time construction. My car was stopped on the highway and the song "Breaks" came on and it felt like I was hearing it for the first time.

I'm trying hard to think of the right way to describe how "Breaks" makes me feel -- just the first few lines: The brakes on my car just went out, the brakes on my bicycle, too. The brakes on my heart just got up and walked out of the room. And my rollerskates, well, they didn't have any to start with. (These lyrics are paraphrased because I cannot remember exactly how they go and there's too much noise for me to hear the CD right now.)

Anyway, when I think about this song, I think about varying degrees of autonomy and control. I think of wishing that you had the means to spare yourself from something, but knowing that you are ultimately powerless.

"Crashing Cars" is simpler for me -- I think of the friend who gave me a ride home through mose of my high school days, how she drove her sister's beat up Chevy, a boombox duct-taped to the dashboard so that we could listen to music. I think of the years when it felt good and right to have so little and live so fully.

From an AllMusic review of Motor Like A Mother:
As one of the best -- albeit one of the most unheard -- debuts of the late '90s, the album feels like one young woman's coming-of-age diary of family, love, life, and adult responsibilities. These are songs of grocery shopping, roller skating, and dishwashing; these are songs of laundry, dirty diapers, and car seats. And while it may not sound very glamorous, that's exactly the point. Motor Like a Mother chronicles with almost obsessive, and sometimes whimsical, detail the day-to-day routines and dreams of -- as one song title states -- a "Teenage Welfare Mother." The result is an album that's wise beyond Water's years, a startlingly honest, impressive, and introspective look at life's ups and downs, ins and outs. And, quite simply, it just may be the most compelling album of 1998.

Little Red Car Wreck releases on Yo Yo Records
An interview with Mary Water (excerpt from the Hip Mama book)

Breaks (mp3, Mediafire)
Crashing Cars (live) (mp3, Mediafire)

Sufjan Stevens

Joy! Joy! Joy! (.mp3, Mediafire)

When my boyfriend told me that Sufjan Stevens had announced a show at one of our favorite venues, I had mixed feelings about whether or not I wanted to go. I was concerned that the venue would be oversold, resulting in wall-to-wall hipsters with digital cameras (not too far from what the show ended up being like) and I was also worried that I just didn't like Sufjan that much anymore. (My peak Sufjan listening years were probably 2003-2005, with a brief resurgence in the summer of 2007 when one of my housemates and I would spend hours lying on the dirty, carpeted floor or our miserable sublet listening to "The Dress Looks Nice On You" on repeat.) But, tickets were only $15 and the show fell pretty close to my birthday so I thought, why not? And, you know what? It was a pretty nice night.

The show was an almost even mix of new and old songs -- the newer songs were, I think, a shock to many of the fans there. I mean, the opener was 11+ minutes & a lot of it was a severe, guitar-driven noise collision. So, you know, people who were there for the soft banjo tunes ended up being a bit thrown. While my boyfriend and I were walking back to the parking lot after the show he said (he's not much of a Sufjan fan at all), "I didn't know Sufjan was such an interesting guitarist," so, I guess you can take that for whatever it's worth.

Personally, the new songs left me feeling sort of cold (probably because of their length & structure, honestly, I'm a 2-3 minute, verse-chorus-verse sort of music fan about 90% of the time, so it's not at all surprising that I wouldn't respond to something sonically and structurally unconventional). I did like the last new song that he played quite a bit. It was called "Too Much Love" and it reminded me quite a bit of "Joy! Joy! Joy!" (easily my favorite song off of A Sun Came! & the song I've chosen to post here & now). You can hear "Too Much Love" (& see a live video of it) over at I Guess I'm Floating. "Too Much Love" was played as the first encore and we left before the second, if there was a second.

& I guess that leaving is the second (and smaller) part of this story. I found out that a friend of mine passed away this past Wednesday and while we were not especially close, I found myself reeling with small memories and to hear songs like "Casimir Pulaski Day" and "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands" was, honestly, a little much for me. But, "Joy! Joy! Joy!" is an oldie & a goodie & is celebratory in spirit. I think it meshes perfectly with the new song & yes, yes, I'm glad that I went.

Joy! Joy! Joy! (.mp3, Mediafire)

Rose Melberg

Bear in a Cave (.mp3, Mediafire)
Moon Singer (.mp3, Mediafire)

I was, I think, about to explode with excitement when I heard there was going to be a new Rose Melberg album out this month -- so, I've been pretty much on the verge of explosion since July.

The first time I heard Rose Melberg's voice, I was in middle school. My ambiguously employed uncle (he works for a record company in, uh, some capacity -- I don't know, his basement is filled with boxes of promo albums and label comps) gave me a Lookout Records compilation featuring Go Sailor and I was in love -- I ordered the Lookout album that compiled Go Sailor's 7"s and would spend hours lying on the floor listening to my favorite Go Sailor songs ("I'm Still Crying" and "Dreaming" on repeat). When I was older (high school age), I got into the Softies (Jen's two girls with guitars project with Jen Sbragia) and when I was older still (college age) I got into Gaze (a Vancouver based pop band that Rose drummed for).

Rose's solo efforts are soft -- they're perfect music to read to, to have on in the background while you make dinner -- I can already tell, this is a record that I am going to listen to when it gets cold, when the sun starts to set at 5PM.

I chose two songs from Rose's new album to post here -- "Bear in a Cave" and "Moon Singer." I love their melancholy air, the use of animals, the way they seem to amble along. I know that this album with ultimately be a "grower" for me, that it doesn't have the raw urgency and immediacy of some of Rose's other work, but with a few listens, it will be there.

This interview with Rose in Vancouver's Westender is almost a year old, but it's great reading. I especially love this bit:
Motherhood inevitably took precedence in Melberg’s life during the next several years, so when she finally began writing again in 2004, setting aside a block of time each Sunday, she was concerned about what her efforts would produce – if anything at all. “It was difficult, and I was really afraid of what I would find,” she says. “And I remember one thing that [K Records founder] Calvin Johnson said to me when I was having difficulty writing. He said, ‘Rose, it’s a river; it’s not a well. It’s not going to run dry. It’s always there.’
Rose's new album is out now on K Records. You can order it here.

Bear in a Cave (.mp3, Mediafire)
Moon Singer (.mp3, Mediafire)

Tattle Tale

Erica (.mp3, Mediafire)

It's been something like 10 or 11 years since a penpal told me about Tattle Tale and those nights I spent lying in a too-small twin bed listening to a cassette tape that concluded with an incomplete version of "Erica" seem so far away and so close at the same time -- I can still remember the streetlight coming in through the window, the sound of the train racing by a few blocks away, feel the hum of the tape turning in the walkman (I always set it to rest on my chest, just beneath my collarbone, because I liked the weight of it).

"Erica" is, at least, as far as I can figure, the last song that Tattle Tale released together. And it's certainly the one that hit me the hardest -- it's all too easy for me to picture my teenage self scribbling the lyrics down in my diary thinking, as teenagers do, "Oh my god, you don't even understand, it's like this song is my life! Etc., etc.!" The thing, I think, that I really loved (and still love) about Tattle Tale is the use of both space and dissonance in their songs -- I felt like there were gaps there, gaps that I could fit into. Something about the moments of emptiness followed by the intense collision of vocals and cello and guitar and drums drew me in and kept me there.

"Erica" appeared on a compilation album called Move Into the Villa Villakula which you can read more about here. It was released on both vinyl and CD and is certainly getting hard to come by, but if you can track it down, it's worth it. Tattle Tale contributes two beautiful songs and I'm also exceptionally fond of Sleater Kinney's contribution (a cover of Boston's "More Than A Feeling.")

Erica (.mp3, Mediafire)


Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover, version 1) by Mirah (mp3, Mediafire)
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover, version 2) by Mirah (mp3, Mediafire)

So, for people who know me in real life, it sort of goes without saying that I have this thing when it comes to Mirah and I've had it for something like 8 or 9 years now. It began when I first heard her Small Sale EP and it only intensified with the release of You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This. While it was riot grrrl that made me think, "I could potentially be in a band," it was Mirah's deeply personal (but funny and sad and complicated) songs that helped me to feel at home and also helped me to think of the non-musical writing and creating I was doing as being valid and interesting.

Of course, the songs I'm posting today aren't actually original works of Mirah's -- instead I have two delightful versions of the same song: Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark." It seems sort of like a weird choice -- you know, a song by the Boss -- but when you think about it, it works. It's a song that explores loneliness and insecurity and desperation, a desire to be something more and a fear that you are somehow incomplete and will never be completely whole, no matter how hard you struggle.

Semi-related: I really recommend reading this excerpt (written by Mirah) from the Rock 'n Roll Camp for Girls book. The essay is called "How I Got Out of My Bedroom (in Eleven Lessons)." It's short, sweet, and more than worth a read. My favorite part (well, one of them):
You will have plenty of time to have other people help you make things later. In the beginning, and maybe forever, make it yourself.
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover, version 1) by Mirah (mp3, Mediafire)
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover, version 2) by Mirah (mp3, Mediafire)

Mission of Burma

Mission of Burma (studio electro-acoustic live sessions, Mediafire)

Sometime last year I read Michal Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 (easily one of the best music-related non-fiction texts I've ever read) and while it rekindled my love for bands that were long time favorites of mine (Beat Happening, Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, & others), it also inspired me to check out bands I otherwise probably wouldn't have listened to, and one of those bands was Mission of Burma.

A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I had the chance to see Mission of Burma for free and I was, obviously, super, super stoked. The show was a part of WRUW's annual Studio-A-Rama concert showcase. The band was amazing! Absolutely brilliant & in spite of bad traffic an an awful crowd (including a total jerk who wouldn't stop playing air guitar or screaming, "PLAY IT LIKE YOU WROTE IT!!!") & the fact that I somehow managed to open the car door into my face post-show (I don't even drink! How do I do these things?!), I don't regret the decision to attend.

Semi-related: The kids in the pit kicked up so much dirt that when my boyfriend and I got home our teeth had been blackened by dirt and we were sneezing out black snot. Dirt had also dried to any part of us that had been sweating, so I had dirt caked on my neck and face. Ridiculous. I did feel a little "too old" to come home covered in dirt (and beer and, probably, spit), but oh well.

That said: Here is some (studio) live Mission of Burma, probably more interesting to fans than newcomers, but still a very enjoyable listen. For those who haven't heard any Mission of Burma, have a video of "Academy Fight Song."

Mission of Burma (studio electro-acoustic live sessions, Mediafire)

Sonido Uzumaki

Sonido Uzumaki (compilation, Mediafire)

It's hard to find music that I can listen to in the office -- most of my office mates are more or less okay with a bit of noise, but there's just one who's opposed to people listening to music at their desks. Sonido Uzumaki is a great compromise -- just poppy enough to keep my attention, but generally subdued so that no one in the office has a complaint. Which -- I guess -- means it might be in the vein of elevator music? Maybe not. It's definitely more enjoyable than most elevator music.

Via Music Related:
sonido uzumaki is a joint project between visual artists Friends With You, Mumbleboy, GAGA Inc., and Music Related. we put togeather a sound track for their group artshow ‘Aqui Uzumaki. Sonido Uzumaki compiles a wide range of musical styles, and collection of known, and unknow groups. original songs from groups within the music related, and audio dregs camp. plus songs from artist from around the world, never heard before. acoustic pop, to glitched out electronic romps. songs by, phofo, yacht, lem jay, ymck, marxy, kiiiiiii!, e*rock, shugo tokumaru, pandacrash, red colour cat, messer fur frau muller, dim dim, digiki, crusher, midori hamada, mikimi tablets, and lullatone, round out this eclectic collection of songs.
A quick look around the internet turns up copies of Sonido Uzumaki at ToneVendor for $9.99, so if you like what you hear, definitely pick it up!

Sonido Uzumaki (compilation, Mediafire)

The Manhattan Love Suicides (S/T album, Mediafire)

Sometimes I don't want to listen to a band because I think they have a goofy name. I often make the decision not to listen based solely on instinct. And, honestly, I very rarely find out whether or not I'm wrong, so I have absolutely no idea how many great bands I'm probably missing out on, which is a bummer if you think about it.

So, I guess my instinctual snobbishness is what led me to almost miss out on the Manhattan Love Suicides, who I probably never would have listened to if my boyfriend hadn't brought a copy of their first album for us to listen to in the car. His lure to get me to listen to them was two part:
  1. "They're on some label that the All Girl Summer Fun Band released something on." (I had to prod to get at the root of this, but it turned out that he was talking about Magic Marker Records.)
  2. "They cover "Indian Summer" by Beat Happening." ("Indian Summer" is easily one of my favorite songs of all time.)
So, we gave their first album a listen and I was honestly really, really impressed and pleased. They have a really blissful sound -- guitars that are both fuzzy and jangly (sometimes when I use these descriptors I find myself wondering what I even mean, but I suppose they'll do well enough.) I also love the echo-y vocals. At any rate, I find them very, very fun to listen to and am extremely happy that I was goaded into giving them a chance.

I would (obviously) recommend buying this. If you're in the US, check out Magic Marker Records (you can currently get this album on CD, they also have Burnt Out Landscapes and the Kick It Back &".)

The Manhattan Love Suicides (S/T album, Mediafire)


Microdancer EP (Mediafire)
Patty Darling (album, Mediafire)

One of the things I've always loved about growing up in Cleveland is the sheer number of fantastic bands from Ohio. True, the local pop scene is a touch on the small side, but there are some real gems if you're willing to dig.

Churchbuilder was a favorite local (enough) band of mine in high school; I've practically worn out my copy of Patty Darling. They have the perfect blend of upbeat and melancholy and I love, love, love their lyrics. "Castle of Blood" and "French Kiss Conspiracy" are perfect snide pop songs and "New Critics" and "Hey Flannery" are topical, but catchy as well, and "Spanish Song" is just all around delightful.

Patty Darling is, to the best of my knowledge, out of print and I get the feeling that the Microdancer EP is on its way out as well -- though if you're quick you can snag a copy for just $1 as a part of Shelflife Records' September Sale.

Though it's been several years since Churchbuilder disbanded, they do have a MySpace where you can preview some of the songs from Patty Darling.

Microdancer EP (Mediafire)
Patty Darling (album, Mediafire)

Lois (Maffeo)

Shy Town (m4a, Mediafire)
Never Last (m4a, Mediafire)
Not Funny, Ha-Ha (mp3, Mediafire)
Strumpet (mp3, Mediafire)
The Way I Feel Inside (Zombies cover) (mp3, Mediafire)
Davey (Live) (m4a, Mediafire)

There is certain music that I turn to (have turned to) over and over again, music that is powerful, reassuring, and hopeful. Songs that comfort me when I feel like I'm being overcome with despair while simultaneously nurturing sorrowful feelings. Much of this music is of the girly variety -- girls with guitars, with cellos, with violins -- and one of the girls at the top of my list is Lois Maffeo, who often releases her work under just the first name "Lois" (you know, sort of like Madonna.)

I honestly can't remember how old I was when I started listening to Lois, though I am 99% sure that the first song of hers I heard was the live version of "Davey" on Yo Yo A Go Go: Another Live Compilation (which is still available on both CD and LP for just $5). "Davey" was one of those songs that I listened to over and over, particularly during my freshman year of college -- it's actually #7 in my top-played tracks on last.fm. (That whole Yo Yo LP is amazing, expect more selections from it in the future.)

So, here are some of my favorite Lois tracks and if you like what you hear, be sure to seek her out. A bunch of her releases are still in print and are available from K Records on vinyl, CD, and cassette.I also recommend reading this really excellent interview with Lois, it's several years old, but really wonderful and inspiring.

Shy Town (m4a, Mediafire)
Never Last (m4a, Mediafire)
Not Funny, Ha-Ha (mp3, Mediafire)
Strumpet (mp3, Mediafire)
The Way I Feel Inside (Zombies cover) (mp3, Mediafire)
Davey (Live) (m4a, Mediafire)

Le Tigre

Sweetie, Le Tigre (mp3, Mediafire)

The main things that helped me to sustain (and grow) my interest in music throughout my tenuous middle and high school years were 1) college radio and 2) small mail order record labels. Without labels like K Records, Yo Yo A Go Go, and Mr. Lady, my interest in music would be completely different.

The main amazing thing about small labels is the samplers they put out. Many of my favorite songs have been culled from label samplers & "Sweetie" by Le Tigre is no exception. "Sweetie" was featured on Mr. Lady's 2001 comp, Calling All Kings and Queens. Honestly, I think it's the perfect Le Tigre song -- Kathleen's vocals are right on and are more in line with wistful yet powerful songs like Bikini Kill's "For Tammy Rae" and Julie Ruin's "Apt. #5." I love the funky electronic additions (especially the harp sound effect) and am not kidding when I say that I listened to it something like 5 times in a row while I was stuck in traffic the other day.

Sadly, both Mr. Lady and Le Tigre are no longer with us, but Le Tigre does continue to maintain a pretty comprehensive official website.

I'm scouring my shelves for favorite label comps & will definitely be posting more tracks from small label compilations. Until then, enjoy "Sweetie."

Sweetie, Le Tigre (mp3, Mediafire)

P.S. Eliot

Introverted Romance In Our Troubled Minds (album, Mediafire)

I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say that I am heartbroken by the fact that I missed the opportunity to see P.S. Eliot several times on their summer tour with Hop Along. But, I'm really jazzed about the fact that they toured to promote a full-length album and that their album is out now on Salinas Records. (You can order a copy via PayPal or mail order here for either $7.50 or $10, depending on how you choose to pay).

P.S. Eliot is a four-piece from Birmingham, Alabama that plays fantastic fuzzed-out pop with catchy hooks and lyrics that are easy to learn and sing along with (which is fantastic -- honestly, most of the time, if it's not fast-paced and you can't sing along with it, I'm really not all that interested).

"Like How You Are" is one of my stand-out favorite tracks from the album (it appeared on the band's Bike Wreck demo and I'm really glad they found a place for it on their full-length). Whenever I listen to it, I can't help but be reminded of My So-Called Life and an intense conversation between Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano that culminated with Angela saying, "Why do you have to be like that?" (Jordan: "Like what?") "Like how you are."

I love this record because it sounds like something I could have made with my best friends. These are lyrics we could have written, hooks we could have fumbled through in my parents' basement, sentiments we could have shared sitting on the edge of the railroad bridge over the river. These songs are young, but in the most adult and aware of ways.

I really want to see P.S. Eliot next time they're in the area. You can check them out on their MySpace

(Side note: You do not even want to know how many times I listened to their demo before I caught onto the fact that their name is a pun on "T.S. Eliot.")

Introverted Romance In Our Troubled Minds (album, Mediafire)

103 (mp3, Mediafire)

Honestly, I am super-stoked about the upcoming Pains of Being Pure at Heart releases. I got my copy of the Come Saturday 7" in the mail yesterday (this blog sharing a name with the b-side, "Side Ponytail," is a happy (and welcome) accident -- I registered this blog 4 or 5 months ago and have been in the process of figuring out what to do with it ever since) and listening to their most recent 7" has only heightened my anticipation of their upcoming EP.

I saw a lot of concerts this summer (and am slated to see quite a few this fall) and the Pains are one of the only bands I committed to seeing more than once. (The only other groups that I'll be seeing more than once this year are Girls and Dinosaur Jr.) They put on a fantastic show and they totally blew me away with their enthusiasm on two totally different sides of the country. I wish that I could say I'll be catching them again, but I don't think it'll be happening any time soon.

The first time I heard "103" was when I saw the Pains perform in Cleveland back in April. I loved it the first time I heard it and am thrilled that it will be included on their upcoming Higher Than the Stars EP.

103 (mp3, Mediafire)

More information on the Pains (including tour dates and discography) is available on their website. The Pains have been releasing records with Slumberland and Fortuna Pop. They also have a MySpace.

Be My Girl (mp3, Mediafire)
My Heart (mp3, Mediafire)

I saw a number of shows this summer but one of the best came unexpectedly -- Los Campesinos!, Girls, and the Smith Westerns at the Grog Shop. I knew that Girls would be great (I saw them earlier in the summer at Backspace in Portland, OR) and had high hopes for Los Campesinos!, but the Smith Westerns were new to me.

Honestly -- it was a summer of bad openers, so I wasn't expecting much (well, I was expecting mediocre songs and a bad mix at the sound board), so I was super stoked when they started to play and turned out to be fantastic!

There are a couple of things that I really like about the Smith Westerns:
  • They play super-catchy pop songs
  • They look like they have a really great time playing said super-catchy pop songs
  • They are actual teenagers writing teenage songs about teenage feelings and experiences
Their album is currently out on HoZac and I definitely recommend ordering it. For a sample, check out my two favorite tracks: "Be My Girl" and "My Heart."

Be My Girl (mp3, Mediafire)
My Heart (mp3, Mediafire)

More Smith Westerns:

The Smith Westerns on MySpace
Buddyhead reviews the Smith Westerns full-length
Pitchfork reviews the Smith Westerns full-length
Pitchfork interviews the Smith Westerns