Forming, "Hate My Gutz" (DOWNLOAD)

I first found out about Crooked Direction Records when they released Weed Hounds' demo tape last year. As regular readers (uh, if there are any regular readers) know, I'm a big fan of Weed Hounds, so I was really excited when Crooked Direction contacted me about their most recent release, a seven song cassette from Long Beach's Forming. This cassette is limited to 100 copies and features 4 songs previously released on a 7" and 3 new tracks unavailable anywhere else.

"Hate My Gutz," the first track on Forming has riffs that remind me of Superchunk & sincere, almost broken sounding vocals that make me think of Jawbreaker or J Church or any number of bands whose songs got me through long drives and late nights. "The Night Before" could be a lost Dinosaur Jr. jam. In general, Forming is heavy on 80s/90s punk, alternative, and indie influences -- it's hard to imagine a fan of bands like J Church, Dinosaur Jr, Jawbreaker, Archers of Loaf, or Superchunk listening to this tape and not feeling a little smitten/swept off their feet.

If I were you, I would snap one of these hundred tapes up as soon as possible, especially if you're a fan of simple, solid, & sincere punk rock tunes.

Crooked Direction Records
Forming on MySpace

Forming, "Hate My Gutz" (DOWNLOAD)

First Impressions: Best Coast

I wasn't planning on writing about the new Best Coast album, even though I listened to it three times at work today. And then I read Pitchfork Reviews Reviews's "Special Moment in Best Coast History", which makes a really compelling argument for writing about Crazy for You. As my account will attest, Best Coast is one of my most played/beloved artists of the last year (coming in 3rd place behind Fat Tulips and Liz Phair, which isn't too shabby since up until today I only had something like 20 Best Coast tracks to listen to vs. 138 for Liz Phair and 65 for Fat Tulips.) Best Coast was also one of the top shows I've seen this year (and not just because Bethany gave Drew props for his old school Weezer t-shirt.)

I basically wore out my Best Coast 7"s (and recognize that I'm in a pretty lucky position to even have actual 7"s to wear out), so I was so stoked when I heard that they were going to be releasing a full-length album on Mexican Summer. I pre-ordered it like the second it became available for pre-order and then I got kind of worried -- I noticed that I was skipping past the Best Coast track on my latest summer jams mix (preferring to listen to Prince's "When You Were Mine" or Elvis Costello's "Less Than Zero" over and over again) & that I got a little bristly when Drew said something about Best Coast being my favorite band, "They are not!" I insisted and then I wondered -- what if this meant I was getting over Best Coast? What if this meant the album would be a letdown?

And then, yesterday, that Best Coast/Kid Cudi/Rostam Batmanglij collab came out and it was awesome and my faith was totally restored. So no worries.

And the album? How have I not talked about the album yet? The album is so good. And do you know why? It has to do with the Baby-Sitters Club. I grew up reading Baby-Sitters Club books. A regular book was medium-length, big-print, about every day challenges faced by baby-sitters (i.e. having to deal with bratty kids.) But the books about summer vacation? Those were double length and they were always about going away somewhere and there was high-drama and heartache and maybe something wild and exciting, like an urgent accident? But everything was always fine by the end and everyone was on the beach or around the campfire or whatever, talking about how they wished summer would never be over so that they didn't have to go back to Stoneybrook, Connecticut? That is what this album is like. It is like a Super Special.

There are some familiar songs, "Boyfriend" and "Our Deal" have been streaming online for a few weeks now and "Bratty B" is brought back from the Where the Boys Are demo tape (and it's fantastic, just so you know.) But the new songs? The new songs are great, too. I love all of them. And because I'm home alone on a Friday night (waiting to head out for a show at the Grog Shop while watching TV on DVD), and because I've already compared the Best Coast album to a Baby-Sitters Club Super Special, I might as well go ahead and cement that Crazy for You Baby-Sitters Club connection by comparing members of the BSC to select Best Coast songs. (If you do not have a vast, in-depth knowledge of the individual members of the Baby-Sitters Club, well, that's what WikiPedia is for.)

"Crazy for You" is Stacy McGill, boy crazy but unsure, coltish, almost. Always anticipating her next great romance, but never really feeling fulfilled. Remember that scene in one of the earliest BSC books? Maybe even the first one? Where Stacy is wearing that sweet outfit made out of grey sweatshirt material? It's like a skirt and a top and it's grey with yellow numbers on it? And she's wearing yellow earrings shaped like numbers? And she's flirting with Kristy's older brother in Watson Brewer's kitchen? Talk about sass. This song is that moment -- savvy (but boy crazy) Stacey pursuing a mysterious older dude & then realizing that he's just not enough for her.

In the horrible event that MaryAnn Spier and Logan Bruno ever broke up, the soundtrack to their breakup would (CLEARLY) be "The End." It's sweetly chaste and sentimental, just like you would expect a MaryAnn Spier love song to be.

Pair together "Goodbye" & "Summer Mood" and you have the story of "California Casual" Dawn Schaffer, stuck in Stoneybrook & pining away for Palo City. Both songs are melancholy, searching for a sense of wholeness and completion. They are golden west coast valentines of the saddest, purest, most teenage kind.

The "you" in "Our Deal" reminds me of Kristy -- tight-lipped when it comes to her secret thoughts and feelings, wanting to maintain a sense of control and composure at the risk of seeming distant, alienating, maybe even bossy or withholding.

"I Want To" is Mallory Pike... Stuck at home with mono and then shuttled off to boarding school, pining for her pals in the BSC. When Bethany sings, "I want to go back to the first time, the first place," I can't help but thinking of Mallory thinking of happier times... Like the early days of her junior membership with the BSC.

"Bratty B" is Claudia Kishi, if, for no other reason, than it involves a telephone and Claudia is the only member of the Baby-Sitters Club with her own telephone line.

I love this album, I do. So much so that I will publicly embarrass myself on the internet by sharing my actual Best Coast/Baby-Sitter's Club related thoughts with you. Just like thinking about The Baby-Sitters Club brings me back to my literary first time & first place, Best Coast brings me back to the first time & first place of music and youth and independence and happiness. There is a sincerity to Best Coast that reminds me of why I love music and, especially, lo-fi pop music. I've already listened to it four times today & I'm still on pins and needles thinking about the fact that my physical copy will come in the mail at the end of the month. And that's how you know it's a Super Special.

You can order crazy for you from Mexican Summer records. It's due out at the end of July. Best Coast is currently prepping for a tour in support of the album, you can see tour dates here (scroll down to the bottom of the page.)

Ace Bushy Striptease, "Let Us Sit Quietly and Listen to Pop Punk" (DOWNLOAD)
The Smittens, "The Garden (Mesclun Mix)" (DOWNLOAD)

(Before I get into the reviews, if you're in Cleveland... Tonight Prisoners, Sun God, and Sweet Apple (members of Dinosaur Jr. and Cobra Verde) are playing at the Grog Shop! You should come out for it! Also, tonight is the Tremont Arts Hop and tomorrow is the Cain Park Arts Festival!)

Ace Bushy Striptease, A Little More Suspicion in Our Fairy Tales Plz

Birmingham's Ace Bushy Striptease have self-released several LPs and EPs, but their forthcoming A Little More Suspicion in Our Fairy Tales Plz is their first album to see a formal release. A Little More Suspicion in Our Fairy Tales Plz is hard to categorize -- its 12 songs touch on a surprising number of genres, exhibiting elements of pop punk, hard core, lo-fi, twee -- some songs (like "Bon Nuit, J'ai Changé Mon Esprit" are sweet & hooky, others sound downright sinister -- see the first 2 minutes of so of the 8+ minute album closer, "I'llfinishyrfinish (I'll Finish You.)") But the range demonstrated on A Little More Suspicion in Our Fairy Tales is what keeps it interesting -- you never know what the next song is going to sound like, which gives the album a life of its own. A Little More Suspicion in Our Fairy Tales Plz is forthcoming and can be pre-ordered from Odd Box here.

The Smittens, Dancing Shoes: The Smittens Remixed

I'll be honest... prior to listening to this album, I had never really listened to the Smittens. I had heard a few songs here and there, but had no substantial exposure to their catalogue. I think it's almost easier to go into a remixes album this way -- instead of drawing direct comparisons between the remixes and their original versions, I'm able to let the remixes stand alone without a preconceived idea of what I thought the songs "should" sound like (I wish I could hear that Mirah remixes album with this sort of perspective!) Dancing Shoes features remixes of 8 songs from the Smittens' catalogue as remixed by fellow indie poppers (among them Mark Robinson, Nixon, and Steve Williams.) It's not often that I put my dancing shoes on, but these remixes were sweet and understated and called to mind some of my indie pop favorites. I'm not sure how die-hard Smittens fans might feel about these tracks, it can be hard to hear old songs in new ways, but if you're looking for something to keep you smiling, these 8 songs will probably do it. Sonically, a lot of these remixes remind me of the Japanese compilation album Sonido Uzumaki, which is a favorite of mine when I'm at work. Dancing Shoes is forthcoming and can be pre-ordered from Odd Box here.

Ace Bushy Striptease on MySpace
Ace Bushy Striptease Official Site
The Smittens on MySpace
The Smittens Official Site
Odd Box Records

Ace Bushy Striptease, "Let Us Sit Quietly and Listen to Pop Punk" (DOWNLOAD)
The Smittens, "The Garden (Mesclun Mix)" (DOWNLOAD)

Old News: Girlysound Tapes

Girlysound Cassette #1 (DOWNLOAD)
Girlysound Cassette #2 (DOWNLOAD)
Girlysound Cassette #3 (DOWNLOAD)

So, growing up, Liz Phair was one of my favorite artists. According to, I've listened to nearly 1,000 Liz Phair songs since November of 2005, making her poised to become my second most listened to artist* And, while I have a strong and sentimental love for Liz, her last few albums really haven't clicked for me. At all. In fact, we're nearing the point where Liz Phair is just an album away from making more albums I don't like than albums I like.

Last weekend, Liz released her latest album, Funstyle, online only with little fanfare. You can sample the track "Bollywood" and buy the album for $5.99 here. I'll be honest, on my first go around, I couldn't even finish listening to "Bollywood" (which has Liz adopting a style not unlike Uffie or, perhaps more recognizably, Ke$ha.) I didn't buy the album.

I did listen to Funstyle at work this morning, though. It's a long 11 songs. Some people think it's a concept album about fame and creative control and artist agency. Some people think it's an album of weird demos/throwaway tracks from an upcoming "real" album. I'm not sure what I think, aside from not liking it.

Whenever Weezer makes a new album, Drew buys it, listens to it, gets bummed out, and then listens to a bunch of old Weezer demos. Which is a sad pattern, but an understandable one. So I thought in the wake of Funstyle it might be nice to remember Liz's humble origins and revisit the Girlysound tapes.

I've uploaded all three of Liz's Girlysound cassettes which collect 40 songs recorded on a 4-track in 1991. Many of the Girlysound songs were re-recorded/revisited on Liz's first three albums (plus the Juvenilia EP), but many of the best ones can be found only on these cassetts.

The Girlysound songs mix self-referentiality with references to popular culture ("Speed Racer," "Batmobile") and popular music ("Fuck of Die" samples Johnny Cash, "Slave" has a nod to the Jesus and Mary Chain, "Wild Thing" reimagines the Troggs.) Next year, these songs will be 20 years old, but they still sound immediate to me. I can't imagine the way I feel about songs like "Ant in Alaska," "Speed Racer," or "Elvis Song" changing any time soon.

Girlysound Cassette #1 (DOWNLOAD)
Girlysound Cassette #2 (DOWNLOAD)
Girlysound Cassette #3 (DOWNLOAD)

* She would probably already be there if my college roommate hadn't used my computer to listen to the Mountain Goats almost constantly while I was in class.

New Releases from Jigsaw Records

Goblin Universe, "Comet" (DOWNLOAD)
Spraydog, "Polaroids Not Portraits" (DOWNLOAD)
Premise Beach, "Catching Up" (DOWNLOAD)
The Gazetteers, "Trapped Inside A Skill Crane" (DOWNLOAD)

Jigsaw Records is one of my favorite mail order shops online today. It never fails, whenever I browse their site I'm able to find somewhere between a handful and a crate-full of records and CDs that I'd love to have in my collection. But not only does Jigsaw have a great selection of new and used indie pop... But Jigsaw isn't just a mail order, they're also a label with a simple goal: release music that we like and keep prices low for everyone. Their CD releases are $5 and will stay in print indefinitely. Jigsaw is run by Chris from IndiePages, which pretty much guarantees you a great selection of music. Anyway, I was thrilled when Chris e-mailed me about Jigsaw's current and upcoming releases & have finally had a chance to sit down and sort my thoughts out about them.

Goblin Universe, True to Nothing

Goblin Universe was active during 2000/2001, self-releasing a CD-R and 7". True to Nothing collects both of these releases and adds a previously released comp track as well as two previously unreleased songs. These songs have a warm-home recorded sound, fuzzy vocals, and power chords. Superchunk's 2-CD set of demos and rarities, Cup of Sand, came out in 2003. I was still in high school and I bought it right away from the only record store in town that was selling it -- a place that specialized in metal and hardcore, but occasionally bought punk and indie stuff. It was in what my friends and I called "the Punk Rock Strip Mall." Home of Ohio Surf and Skate, Gen X Tattoo, and Tie-Dye Sky, which sold bongs, incense, and paisley tapestries. Though the songs on here are A) not written/recorded by Superchunk and B) pre-date the release (if not the recording) of Cup of Sand by a couple of years, they remind me so strongly of that collection that I can't help seeing myself at 16 listening to "Detroit has a Skyline." True to Nothing is out now on Jigsaw Records, you can pick up a CD for $5 and an LP for $15. My favorite tracks: "Comet," "Wet Lips," and "Don't Carry On."

Spraydog, Impress and Defend

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne's Spraydog has a lo-fi punk rock sound that's equal parts melodic and dissonant. They remind me of something you might come across on a Teenbeat comp (the female vocals on "Trading Zeniths" remind me a bit of Tuscadero, while the band's overall sound is not unlike Unrest*.) "Polaroids Not Portraits," the albums opening track, is a gorgeous hazy punk-pop song -- definitely one of my favorites on the album. I also love "Captive Hearts" with its dual male-female vocals is another winner. The songs on this album inhabit a range -- some are straight-up pop songs while others sound heavier, more dissonant sound. I tend to prefer the album's poppier songs, which are dispersed nicely throughout. Impress and Defend is available from Jigsaw on CD only. You can get it by itself for $5 or you can purchase it as a part of the Spraydog box package, which gets you all 6 Spraydog CDs for $20.

Premise Beach, At Promise Beach

The scratchy vocals on "Sidewalk Girl," the third track on At Promise Beach are what drew me into this release from Premise Beach. They had a rawness to them that reminded me of Be Still by Carrie Nations (one of my favorite punk albums, I wrote about it here a few months ago.) I don't know that I would drawn any further comparisons to Be Still, though -- there's something else happening on this album, occasional hand-clapping, squiggly guitar lines, warbling vocals that sometimes remind me of Feargal Sharkey from The Undertones... At Promise Beach is available on CD for $5 from Jigsaw. Premise Beach has now disbanded, but this CD collects all of their recorded material & is a nice little artifact of fun, sloppy, at times awkward pop music.

The Gazetteers, We Are Here

The first thing that I noticed about We Are Here was the song titles: "Perennial Fringe Candidate," "I Want To Be A One Hit Wonder," "More People Should Resign" -- all a bit self-aware and tongue-in-cheek. The second thing I noticed was the bouncy pop sound, located somewhere between mid-sixties AM radio and mid-nineties mail-order pop catalogue. My favorite songs on the album are probably "Monkees '67," a pop ballad about the pre-fab four's yearning for creative control, and "Trapped Inside a Skill Crane," a beautiful slower (at least, compared to the other songs on the album) pop song. Jigsaw compares them to Tullycraft and Jonathan Richman, two of my favorites, and the comparisons are solid. We Are Here has all of the sincerity & silliness that you would expect from either Tullycraft or Jonathan & though the recording was completed a few years ago, it sounds timeless and fresh today. Some of the songs on We Are Here also called to mind MJ Hibbett, who was reviewed here back in May. We Are Here is a forthcoming release and will be available from Jigsaw on July 27th. In the meantime, Jigsaw does have The Gazetteers' Territory Songs, a concept album about the US, available for $8.

* Incidentally, I know that Unrest is playing a couple reunion shows -- the Teenbeat website has a news item saying that Unrest is "touring" in July -- I wonder if this refers to the reunion shows that have already been played/announced or if there will be more. I hope there will be more!

Goblin Universe, "Comet" (DOWNLOAD)
Spraydog, "Polaroids Not Portraits" (DOWNLOAD)
Premise Beach, "Catching Up" (DOWNLOAD)
The Gazetteers, "Trapped Inside A Skill Crane" (DOWNLOAD)

Summer Jams Series #4: Weed Hounds

After a hiatus, the Summer Jams Series has returned with Nick and Laura from Weed Hounds! Weed Hounds are getting ready to release a new 7", Beach Bummed b/w Skating Away From the Cops. The 7" is coming out on colored vinyl on Iron Pier records and you can order it here. Iron Pier is also giving out a free download of the single which you can download from their main page.

Weed Hounds are also preparing to embark on a summer tour of the southern US. Tour dates are listed here.

Nick's List:

"Can I Kick It?" - A Tribe Called Quest (listen to it here)

Love the way that this song utilizes the Lou Reed sample. Makes me wish I was at a block party in 1991 getting buzzed on zima and wearing fluorescents.

"Rockaway Beach" - The Ramones (listen to it here)

Keepin' it Queens. This song absolutely radiates summer warmth and the vision of Dee Dee taking the long bus ride down to the Rockaways to score some drugs. "Chewing out a Rhythm on my bubble gum, the sun is out, and i want some", just about says it all.

"Elephant Stone" - The Stone Roses (listen to it here)

This particular track always seems to recall memories of the summer nights that myself, Laura, and some friends of ours spent walking the pavement and swimming in the
warm ocean water. This is a song which will always lend itself well to lying wide awake long after the sun has risen.

Laura's List:

"Dreaming" - Blondie (listen to it here)

After coming back to this tune summer after summer, I've learned that it's perfect for driving to the beach with the windows down while singing as loud as possible. The driving guitars, Debbie Harry's vocals, and memories of singing along with friends make "Dreaming" a perennial favorite for me.

"The Moon" - The Microphones (listen to it here)

While I love spaced out songs that deal with the moon and stars, I appreciate that this song speaks to the experience of being grounded and that it sees the moon from the perspective of looking up and and feeling kind of insignificant in comparison, but not belittled. It reminds me of how being at the beach at night can put things into perspective.

"When I'm With You" - Best Coast (listen to it here)

There are several Best Coast songs that are great summer picks, but when I first heard this one a couple months ago, I had a feeling that it was going to be a summer jam of mine for 2010. It's equal parts carefree and dreamy and just makes me want to be with friends, have fun, and not care about anything else, which is what summer is all about!

In addition to their new 7" on Iron Pier, Weed Hounds also have a split with Dude Japan available from Rok Lok Records. Their now sold-out (and totally excellent) demo tape is being released on 7"s by the National Archive of Records. You can get copies of the first 7" direct from the band along with other releases & shirts. Weed Hounds also has a MySpace where you can stream songs.

New Releases from February Records

The Cavemen Go, "Forget it Claudia" (DOWNLOAD)
Bourgeois Heroes, "The Boy at the Record Store" (DOWNLOAD)

Back in May, Danny from February Records (formerly Twee Fort) got in touch with me about some new pop releases on his label. I wrote up a little review & made a mental note to keep my eye on February Records and before I knew it, Danny was back in touch about a whole batch of new releases, including EPS, full-length albums, and free downloadable singles.

Honestly, it took me a couple of listens to actually get all the way through The Cavemen Go's album New Lives. It's no fault of the band's -- I tend to listen to music while I'm at work and I just kept getting interrupted by phone calls, meetings, etc. and every time I came back to my desk, I thought, "I should really start this over" (mainly because I like the first song, "Forget it Claudia" so much.) New Lives is a rock/pop album that reminds of music I grew up listening to: Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Squeeze. Songs like "Forget it Claudia" and "We're Not That Different" have that vibe especially. The piano in "We're Not That Different" really reminds me of something you might hear on an Elvis Costello record. This album came at a perfect time for me to listen to -- I just finished reading Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis (the sequel to his first novel, Less Than Zero) -- both books are laden with Elvis Costello allusions & I've been listening to songs like "Less Than Zero" by Elvis Costello and "So It Goes" by Nick Lowe on an endless loop lately. New Lives fits neatly into that pattern while offering something new.

Musical Postcards, the new EP from Bourgeois Heroes, has a loping, melodic pop sound that reminds me of a combination of certain Belle and Sebastian singles, The Monkees, The Beach Boys (for me, the Beach Boys influence is especially strong on the last track, "Holly"), and Harry Nilsson's songs for The Point (see this video for "Think About Your Troubles" or this one for "Me and My Arrow.") Worth noting is the fact that Musical Postcards is a long-distance collaboration between Elise and Jason, who built these songs through the process of mailing demos back and forth and sharing their feedback via phone and postcard. While I'm sure the distance was a lot to work around (& it certainly adds an interesting conceptual layer to the EP), Elise and Justin's collaboration is seamless & the vast geographical distance that shaped Musical Postcards leads to a gorgeous, intimate closeness. Listening to Musical Postcards feels like being very near to someone.

Secret Charisma is the one-man project of Brad San Martin of One Happy Island (whose debut LP I reviewed earlier this month.) Complications is a three-song single that takes selections from Brad's upcoming compilation of home recordings, Satellites: Home Recordings and Demos, 2004-2009. Instrumentally, these songs are pure pop with sweet ukulele strumming and soft, melodic keyboards, but the most striking thing for me was how much Brad's voice reminded me of Bob Pollard from Guided By Voices. Pollard's voice is easily one of my favorites in pop music, so this association was a welcome one for me. Complications is available as a free download here. "Angel, Please" a simple, strummy ukulele song is my favorite of the three and it's sandwiched neatly between the keyboard-poppy title track and "Lord Thomas," an understated traditional-sounding ballad that closes out the single. There's a lot of variety in these three songs, which makes me curious about what other genres might be explored on the forthcoming Satellites.

"Splashdown," the first song on Brilliant at Breakfast's new EP, Almost Verbose, starts out with the white noise of seagulls and waves crashing, and segues seamlessly into a sad and sincere personal narrative accentuated by keyboards, egg shakers, and great vocals that remind me of rocket or chiritori. Brilliant at Breakfast have a soft, sincere sound that reminds me of something you might come across through Shelflife Records, like The Shermans, Moving Pictures, or Language of Flowers. For all the sweetness of Brilliant at Breakfast's sound, some of their lyrics tend toward the darker side, exploring heartbreak, disappointment, confusion about one's place in life -- it's a delicate balance to maintain between their music and lyrics, but they do a lovely job. Almost Verbose is available as a free download from February Records.

Buy New Lives from February Records
Buy Musical Postcards from February Records
Download Complications for free
Download Almost Verbose for free

The Cavemen Go, "Forget it Claudia" (DOWNLOAD)
Bourgeois Heroes, "The Boy at the Record Store" (DOWNLOAD)