Links List: Nov 29

  • Happy Thanksgiving!  Now browse though this creepy article about Macy’s parade balloons from the 1930s.
  • The new Superchunk video for “Void” is really tuned in to what its like to feel old at a show.  And it features Jon Glaser, H. Jon Benjamin, and Jon Wurster, hilarious as always.

New Tunes Reviews, August 20: Laura Veirs, Crocodiles, Kurt Braunohler, Superchunk, and more


Laura Veirs released an album called Warp & Weft this week.  As a fellow glasses-wearing-girl, I always appreciate her smart lyrics and old-worldy style.  There is something very retro about the way she sings and constructs songs.  This is another strong album from her. It has a lot of heart and takes her normal sound a step further with more complicated instruments.  It is a great follow-up to 2011’s Tumble Bee, an album full of originals and a bunch of folk song covers many of us (or just me) grew up with.  

Crocodiles are a San Diego-based band, often mentioned in the same breath as Dum Dum Girls and Wavves.  On their latest album, Crimes and Passions, the melodies are catchy and there are elements of both rocking distortion and breezy harmonies.  I especially enjoyed the two opening tracks, “Marquis De Sade” and “I Like It In the Dark,” as well. The last track, “Un Chant D’amour,” is definitely a stand-out.  It takes the listener out of the noise-pop aesthetic into a new tone of quiet guitars and muted vocals.  It is one of the strongest outro sounds I’ve heard in recent memory. 

On the comedy front, Kurt Braunohler called How Do I Land? Having seen Braunohler perform two New Years in a row (and being a fan of Bunk), I was looking forward to this release.  Spotify only previewed 6 tracks. Out of that small sample (& my previous experience with his stand-up), I believe he is a comedian to watch. I recommend “Three Fun Things” and “Chat Pack.” 

The new Braids album, Flourish // Perish, is no doubt a buzzy release, but the psychedelic electro-indie scene is over-saturated with similar releases that I think I’ll just stick to last year’s Grimes’ release. 

No Age is an experimental-punk band on Sub Pop. Their new release, An Object, is gritty. It reminds me of earlier releases by Japandriods, but a little less accessible.  The grit-punk genre never appealed to me much, but its an album worth a listen if you are into that.

I Hate Music, the new album from Superchunk, is very good.  It is an impressive release from this consistently great band and features some of the catchiest songs of the year. “Overflows” and “What Can We Do” are reminiscent of Portastaic songs.  Other songs “Me and You and Jackie Mittoo,” “Trees of Barcelona,” “Your Theme,” and “FOH” are upbeat songs. Overall, I highly recommend it. It will be stuck in your head for days.

(Editor’s Note: We are planning a post that will highlight bands who started in the same era as Superchunk – like Guided By Voices and Yo La Tengo – and are currently releasing some of noteworthy material).

New Tunes Reviews, August 13: Yellowcard, The Wild Feathers, Washed Out

Continuing the trend of nostalgia-laced albums, Yellowcard released Ocean Avenue Acoustic this week. This is song-for-song re-do of their classic album from 2003. Because I did not remember the original release all that well, I put each track side-by-side in my queue to compare.  

Overall, these two recordings are pretty similar. Yellowcard was an acoustic(y) band to begin with so this “stripped-down” production really isn’t anything new. As a whole, it isn’t as much re-imagination as Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends Acoustic from earlier this year. In general, I think if a band is going to do this type of release, take chances! Do something different! Some of the instruments are deconstructed once you reach the chorus, like in “Breathing,” and as expected, “Ocean Avenue” and “Empty Apartment” are all great. The guitar and violin-style in “View from Heaven” makes the track seem as a country song. 

(Random thought: If Yellowcard embraced the finger-picking violin and guitar tone used in this song on future albums, they would probably be lumped in with successful bands like Mumford & Sons and Lumineers. Was this is the plan all along?!) 

Final thought: I enjoyed this album more than the original.  It is more refined. It seems they took away all of those frivolous parts and just kept the essential pieces. 

Chill-wave never really appealed to me as a genre. But when I saw that Washed Out released a new album, I decided to give it a chance. This album, Paracosm, is in-line with the basic elements of chill-wave: lo-fi with looping effects.
washed out - paracosm

Another noticeably summer-time album, it captures the pool-party/drugged-up aesthetic with melodies and whimsical tones. One reviewer hypothesized that albums like this are a direct response to this generation’s float-along, paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. To me, it feels like background music. I can imagine situations where this album may be a good soundtrack. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t anything exciting. 

No doubt Paracosm will be considered for Album of the Year honors, though. 

Wild Feathers
The Wild Feathers was my stand-out of the week.  This Nashville alt-country band released a very strong self-titled album that reminds me of Lucero and Jason Isbell. With multi-layered instrumentals and harmonies, the songs do not feel tired.  If you are a fan of accessible alt-country with robust lyrics and good musicianship, check out this album (especially “The Ceiling” and “Hard Times). The Wild Feathers are definitely one to watch. 

Also, Rilo Kiley‘s rkives (released in April) is finally on Spotify! I was charmed by many of the tracks, including “Bury, Bury, Bury Another” and “Let Me Back In.”  The album, which was described as a b-side record, also includes “The Frug” (from Initial Friend EP) and “Emotional” (originally from “The Execution of All Things” single). 

Next week, Superchunk‘s I Hate Music comes out.  NPR featured this album on First Listen. I took a listen yesterday and it is very catchy, especially the opening track. I will most definitely post a full review for its official release date. 

Happy Summer! Here is a video of Mac from Superchunk covering Jonathan Richman for AV Club

AV Undercover is one of my favorite parts about Tuesday. At the beginning of each series, AV Club editors pick a bunch of songs and enlist bands to pick and perform the track however they please  The end products range from delightful to terrifying.  Sometimes bands put their own spin on classic songs and ther times they do not.  Filmed in their Chicago offices, there have been a lot of gems (including Frightened Rabbit performing “Confetti”, The Swell Season performing “Two Headed Boy”, and Young the Giant performing “Ignition (Remix)”.

Each summer, AV Club takes a break from their initial list of covers and lets the band choose a song that fits in with the season (ie. summer).  Below is a video of Mac from Superchunk performing Jonathan Richman’s “That Summer Feeling.” He is joined by Kelly Hogan for this song that clocks in at over 6 minutes.
Mac McCaughan & Kelly Hogan cover Jonathan Richman

Also, check out the new Superchunk song “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” on Pitchfork. Their new album, “I Hate Music,” will be out in August. If you don’t already listen to Superchuck, they are definitely worth checking out.  They write some of the catchiest songs ever.

Best Songs of 2012: Part 2

Here is Part 2 of the best songs of 2012:

“Continuous Thunder” – Japanadriods (from Celebration Rock)
Without a doubt, this album should be on just about everyone’s list for the best of the year.  This song is one of the best.  It is strong like the single (“The House that Heaven Built”), but a bit quieter.  The fuzzy guitars are subdued and wonderful.  Even though Japandriods are just two people, they create a exuberant sound. As this song progresses, its hard not to imagine driving down a road with windows open during the summer.   Its just a great track.

“Heartbreaker” – Walkmen (from Heaven)
The Walkmen are often described as a “Musician’s band” because of their tight melodies and generally strong musicanship.  This album is a great display of all of these characteristics. I was able to see the band perform at Bowery Ballroom on June 6, 2012 and they really dazzled the audience during this intimate record release show. This song is one of the best of the album (although just about every other song is great as well).

“I Never Knew You” – The Avett Brothers (from The Carpenter)
These brothers construct a lush sound in every one of their songs.  This song starts off with piano and draws the listener in.  The harmonies are at the forefront and created a sing-along atmosphere.  This is another strong song from a strong album.

“The Descent” – Bob Mould (from Silver Age)
As mentioned in a previous post, Bob Mould is back.  This opening track to Silver Age sets the stage for a bunch of charming loud songs about growing old.  This one specifically is the most upfront.  The lyrics weigh success over artistic individuality. To answer Mould’s question towards the end of the song, he does make it up to us.

“National Anthem” – Gaslight Anthem (from Handwritten)
I was not thrilled by this album’s single (“45”).  It seemed too overproduced and too obvious.  Instead, I was charmed by “National Anthem.” This song is much simplier and quieter.  It showcases Brian Fallon’s voice and lyrical prowess. He is quiet but strong.  It is similar to other Gaslight gems like “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” (from The 59 Sound) and “The Navasink Banks” (from Sink or Swim).

Honorable Mentions:
“1957” – Milo Green (from 1957)
“Harder Before It Gets Easier” – David Wax Museum (from Knock Knock Get Up)
“This Summer” – Superchunk
“Hey Ho” – Lumineers (from self titled)
“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” – Glen Hansard (from Rhythm and Repose)
“Love Love Love” – Of Monsters and Men (from My Head is an Animal)
“In a Big City” – Titus Andronicus (from Local Business)
“Maria” – Justin Townes Earle (from Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now)