The Hanes Music Review 022
(Originally gained awareness during May 2012)
Creating a music review is the perfect context for sounding like a broken record in decrying the lack of time to produce said music review. But we shall have none of this “time scarcity” conversation, we’re all about making it happen! So here’s some cool and not so cool shit I’ve listened to over recent months. As usual, spanning recent eras haphazardly. On the whole, some decent stuff digested this time around, sweet.
Dirty Beaches – The musical landscape is littered with individuals who record music under a name, perhaps creating the impression to many that it’s a real band behind the sound. Dirty Beaches is no exception, a one man outfit with plenty of sound boxes in reserve. The 2011 album Badlands is a pitch perfect example of lurid “noir” sounds, you almost feel like you haven’t bathed in days from a foggy bender just listening to it. It’s all so calculated while remaining organic, the essence of any good pulp fiction novel. Lo-fi and crackling and hissing, so much of it has that feel of someone backed into a corner screaming loudly if silently in their mind “Don’t open that door!” even as they watch that person reach for the knob. At other times the sounds evoke the lovelorn charms of early 60’s “girl groups,” albeit with a thick veneer of grime. There’s really not a clunker on the album and I’d say the mood and context of the moment will guide preferred tracks as much as any sustained likes or dislikes. With this in mind, I’m voting for “Sweet 17,” “Lord Knows Best,” and “Horses.” This album will provide a big jolt of atmospherics into any music collection. Two thumbs up!
Department of Eagles – OK, so this is the work of two dudes who went to undergrad together at NYU, and one of them ended up in the band Grizzly Band. They have two proper albums out so far. One came before Grizzly Bear achieved fame, one after. They are fairly different, not in any familial way, more in terms of execution. The latter album received many accolades while the former remains obscurely appreciated. To Hanes, which is naturally all that counts, the former kicks the latter’s ass. Not to say that the latter ain’t good. Anyway, we begin with 2003’s The Cold Nose which possesses a high quirkiness factor as well as a natural diversity and unforced rhythmic pulse throughout, in the vein of “block rocking beats” delivered in the lead track “On Glaze” and onto the bossa nova inflected second track “Sailing by Night” and beyond. The appreciation of 60’s era psychedelia comes through on meandering tracks like “The Piano In The Bathtub” or “Origin of Love.” Some songs emphasize rock and roll, others veer more towards electronica, the theme which binds them together is the unforced attention to detail coupled with a pervasive sense of fun and experimentation. There’s few low points, beyond the tracks already mentioned “The Horse You Ride,” “Family Romance” and “Ghost in Summer Clothes” bear repeated listening. 2008 gave the world In Ear Park which is marked by much cleaner production values and an overall crisper sound, albeit at times sacrificing the loosey, goosey fun which made the first album so appealing. I agree with other reviews that this album yearns for the cheery experimental pop of the 60’s a la The Beach Boys or Beatles or maybe even stuff in the vein of Roy Orbison. Listening to this album is a seamless, fluid experience. “No One Does It Like You” is a top track that immediately drops into the ruminative follow up song “Phantom Other,” good track sequencing for contrast. The somewhat baroque “Herring Bone” is not a great song but it is very effecting and makes a lasting impression. Again, this album fits together well enough that it is difficult to pick out singular tracks. Beyond this, the B side of the “No One Does It Like You” single entitled “Too Little Too Late” is very good, earnest with clean guitar work and a cadence of steady swells. It would be a cool thing for Department of Eagles to release another album, it’s been awhile now.
Serengeti & Polyphonic – Let us return to the year 2009 when the two man duo Serengeti & Polyphonic offered us Terradactyl. As is my wont, I don’t break things down into micro-categories. Life is too short. I’d bucket this band as rap or electronic music but probably the former. Everything is so “hybrid” these days. Anyway, this is truly a terrific album, diverse in its sounds, arrangements and overall cadence, allowing for uptempo moments, phases of smooth flows and beats that get you shifting in your chair more than compelled out onto a dance floor. The lyrics are allusive and at times direct, they easily weave into the music and most of the time do not force themselves to the forefront. In sum, if you enjoy older style hip-hop/rap and appreciate intelligent use of loops and beats in a sparser, freer arrangement, this is something to seek out. In some ways it’s in the same orbit as the best of Fatboy Slim (and there is a worst of Fatboy Slim for sure). I dig “My Negativity” for not only its intricacy and moodiness but its fun homonymic play on the title phrase. “Patiently” gets the blood flowing and “My Patriotism” is just fun like the best of Edan. If you need a cool rainy day song then “Playing In Subway Stations” fits the bill. It is too bad there appears to have been no output since this 2009 album. The future is still unwritten.
YOU May Like It
Collections Of Colonies Of Bees – This is a band categorized under “post rock” which seems to mean something which eludes me. Unconventional? Beyond rocking? Ehh, who cares. They have a bunch of stuff out but here we shall focus mainly on 2007’s album Birds which is comprised of four instrumental tracks ranging from seven to eleven minutes in length. There’s a certain meandering grandeur to the tunes, all entitled “Flocks” with numerical ordering, they lean on a rhythmic intensity and drum-based back beat accompanied by a more or less droning guitar or keyboard. They are arranged so as to warm you up with a slow beginning then hit a jogging pace and then trail off. You can’t help but feel that the scale of the tunes are meant to impress more than be enjoyed, although they are by no means impenetrable, particularly the final track “Flocks IV.” The density yields an intellectual more than emotional quality, for all of its exact pacing the songs never lose their rigidity. As a bonus I gave some listens to the tune “Lawn” off of 2011’s GIVING album, it’s pretty much more of the same, a touch more open. This music just wears me out.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver is a dude who has lots of talent, is fairly depressed and sad and wants you to know it. I will straight out that this is very good music. If not exactly what I dig the most. I can see why Bon Iver (named Justin Vernon in real life) has become a darling of the online music critic world. That said, when an album is rated a 9.5 out of 10, an incredibly rare achievement, one expects “timeless” music as in this album will be played and revered like forever, as a true classic. I’m not sure Bon Iver is in that class. Hell, I’d hesitate to put him in the same league as, say, Gordon Lightfoot even. His voice is unique and he melds it into the overall musical orchestration wonderfully. On the whole the songs are delicate and evocative of pure, true emotion without becoming self-indulgent. And they allow a natural diversity among themselves to flourish without feeling forced or managed. I shouldn’t be too hard on Bon Iver for his popularity as there is appeal here and if you want to listen to beautifully sad music, this is as good a choice as anything else being put out right now, few could legitimately deny this. So! 2008’s For Emma, Forever Ago starts out the analytic journey here, the very titling of the album should conjure up deep pools of introspective sadness. The two first tracks, “Flume” and “Lump Sum” are truly exquisite in differing manners, the former loose and almost whimsical in its maudlin presentation, the latter more uptempo and easy to digest yet rife with an anxious undercurrent. The serious banjo action of the third track “Skinny Love” brings it about as close as Bon Iver gets to anthem quality, raw nerves and compliant defiance. The rest of the album tends to coast, if hits some highs in “Creature Fear” and the almost uplifting “For Emma.” “Re: Stacks” is a good come down to end with, like a managed denouement from a quality ’shroom fest. 2009’s EP Blood Bank starts off extremely accessible with the eponymous title track, perhaps one of my favorite Bon Iver songs to date. An intelligent, affecting song. I like “Beach Baby” and can see how people might like the experimental feel of “Woods” but it don’t do it for me. 2011’s Bon Iver is really where the critical money shot got unloaded but I remain unconvinced that the earlier stuff isn’t better. It has that “elegiac” quality and it’s all left out to hang for inspection but, but, but… It’s starting to get slick. If I had to favor a few tracks, they’d be “Towers,” “Michicant” and “Hinnom, TX” – a solid troika right in the middle of things. In the end, I’d prefer to be wrong and witness Bon Iver make more of a deep historical mark than I suspect will be the case.
Volcano Choir – After Collections Of Colonies Of Bees and Bon Iver, what else could possibly be reviewed but the collaboration between the two. In focus here we have the 2009 album Unmap. It would be way too easy to call this “the worst of both worlds,” but the sad truth is it does kinda strip away the most appealing parts of both sides of the equation. Said while applauding the general theme of experimentation and intriguing juxtaposition. If you tend to dig experimentation as an end in and of itself you will likely feel more kindly towards Volcano Choir than moi. Or if you really just wanna hang with the cool kids. The first track “Husks and Shells” is definitely more Bon Iver and starts things off mellowly. It’s weird that the critics all seem to pick out the second track “Seeplymouth” as the winner but it just never fully coheres and flows, the deep instrumental redundancy does not match up with the lilt and quicker pacing of the vocals. Hell, the next track “Island, Is” is vastly superior to these denuded ears. “Still” is the only track to come close to hitting any highs, if you read about these two bands on their own more keyboard diarrhea here won’t help you reach a different conclusion.
Could’ve Had a V8
New Young Pony Club – Damn, Hanes has had this music lurking in the background for so long and nothing has come of it. Well, that stops just now. This London outfit seemed poised to meet just about any criterion for the “next big thing” but who knows what has really come of them of late? The single “Ice Cream” hit in 2005 but the band didn’t seem to start cranking out product seriously for some time after. 2007’s EP Ice Cream with the original plus three remixes makes a case for a calculatedly blasé dance club sound, the female vocals affectless while spouting words which would seem to desire more “frisson.” Which is what most twentysomethings crave. I think I am going with the Herve Goes Bananas remix as the top track here. The 2007 full album Fantastic Playroom is one of those things that could easily turn out to be a summer season sensation with no longer term legs whatsoever. And given that their next album (unpossessed by Hanes) was panned, maybe that’s the way it goes. But better to put out a single album that makes waves than none, no? It’s sad that this music lacks the interesting qualities to warrant more than a few listenings before moving on. The guitars, drumming, quirks use of other percussion always seem lost in between rocking and becoming truly danceable. The original version of “Ice Cream” plus “The Bomb” and “The Get Go” are really the only tracks worth holding onto. And so it goes.
Memory Tapes – This is basically one guy going by the moniker Memory Tapes. They call this sort of music “chillwave” or some shit. It’s pop music that’s light and breezy and full of lilting quirks and intended to connect on a basic emotional level rather than engage the brain. What I find most humorous about the band is that the first album got glowing reviews and the second album panned. Which might lead one to assume that the first album was good and the second album bad. Unfortunately, both albums kind of suck, it’s just that it’s more obvious with the latter one. It’s all so cutesy and like intentionally infantilizing, in this regard certainly of its time. And, yes, he sounds exactly like a woman too. Anyway, 2009’s Seek Magic has a few moments where the aping of musical motifs of the past don’t annoy that vividly. The tune “Bicycle” has appeal, almost like an Indian pop song, the instrumental “Pink Stones” works for me too. From 2011’s Player Piano it’s hard to find high points. Here, the songs are more by rote and lacking in even the emotional drama which, for better or worse, made some of the first album palatable. Two tunes here which work decently are “Humming” and “Sun Hits.” A band not to be committed to memory.
Lightning Dust – If I wanted to reimagine Fleetwood Mac as the macabre love child of Lynyrd Skynyrd and any of a host of 60’s hippie pop outfits, I’d ask for it. In this world you don’t have to ask to receive. Glory be. Lightning Dust’s 2009 album Infinite Light is well produced and arranged and stale as all hell, played out before played. Comprised of a gal and a guy from the band Black Mountain, what is most painful here is that the music doesn’t outright suck. Then you could just dismiss it and move on. Instead, you keep listening to the plaintive vocals and classic rock orchestrations searching for something you feel you must be missing. The gravely quality of the female vocals may appeal or grate, depending on taste. In the end, it’s an easy pass for Hanes. Might want to listen to “Antonia Jane” or “The Times” again but not especially soon.
Black Mountain – If I am doing Lightning Dust, why not do the main outfit as well? This is the kind of psychedelic tinged classic rock outfit that almost must be recreated by every generation, a sort of natural law. If for no other reason than to have such a band to go see live and, as importantly, see as age group peers. The emotions feel so tethered to being a certain age, the bond forms between band and fans. So, I can’t be too harsh on Black Mountain even though they kind of bore me. 2004’s Druganaut EP starts off adequately with the title track and then “Buffalo Swan,” sludging along with heavy hitting drums and basslines and equally thick vocals. The last two tracks are uneven at best. 2005’s eponymous album Black Mountain seems to want to feel looser and more like a band jamming in the park while everyone gets high and grills burgers and dogs. While it does shake its moneymaker to greater effect, there’s not “great” songs here. “Modern Music” is fun and “No Hits” is about as diversely layered as this band gets. 2008 offered us the two disc album In The Future which one might argue has a slicker production sound but does not deviate much from the established script. Highlights include “Angels,” “Wucan,” “Stay Free” and “Bastards Of Light.” In 2010 the world received the album Wilderness Heart which strikes me as a step back to more stripped down Sunday afternoon jamming in the park. “The Hair Song,” “Buried By The Blues,” “The Way To Go” and “The Space In Your Mind” do it most for me. But still that isn’t saying much. I surrender to the infinite possibilities of alternative interpretations of Black Mountain.
The Hanes Music Review 021
(Originally shed its skin January 2012)
Had this much done in August 2011 and, as with ye olde wine review, ended up focusing my energies on other activities. So, might as well just pop out what’s done here and start afresh with the new year. It is quite clear that Hanes will never catch up investigating and assessing all the music in his collection. But it is the intention and effort that counts! The music reviews shall now be dubbed “reviews of music that was acquired when newly released but not assessed until the album was at least five years old…”
Harmonic 33/Harmonic 313 – This collaboration is a blend of electronic and hip-hop, although it appears to be more the case of which album one is discussing. As the initial incarnation of Harmonic 33, we find 2005’s Music For Film, Television & Radio, Volume One offering exactly what it says it does, a selection of tunes which could easily be part of background music as well as fit many “ambient” moods. Most of the “songs” are brief, some just seconds long, but each crystallizes its own internal sound very well. The album is similar to but more moody and diverse than Arling & Cameron’s project Music For Imaginary Films (scoring for non-existent movies is not an original move at all). You know an album hits the right spot when you listen to it like twice a day for weeks and barely register the fact. Almost hate to pick particular tracks as this diminishes those not mentioned but “Optigan,” “Bossa Nova Supernova,” “Funky Duck” and “Departure Lounge” are excellent. Harmonic 313 is only one-half of Harmonic 33 and very different although only slightly less enjoyable. Here there is a much heavier emphasis on thumping bass lines and beats as well as motifs from the world of rap. The “313” change is supposed to evoke the Detroit telephone area code and thus the “Detroit techno” sound. 2009’s When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence is a wonderfully sinister and at times creepy effort that succeeds in articulating its intent. Again, no less moody than the earlier album but the presence of the block rockin’ beats ensures that it will appeal to a different audience. This album is itself easy to listen to repeatedly although no background music per se, at least half of it could be played in a club or louder lounge atmosphere. “Dirtbox” starts things off with a big bang and other winners are “Cyclotron,” “Quadrant 3,” “Köln” and “Word Problems.” I would advise acquiring both albums and I feel I should look for Harmonic 33’s first album as well.
Red Snapper – Formed in 1993, Red Snapper is an “acid jazz” ensemble, here’s another musical genre I am not sure I fully comprehend. I mean they play instruments, including horns. Got that part. And there’s an “electronica” background, a kind of club dance break beat thing. It’s trippy at times, for sure. Maybe it’s because I have always preferred mushrooms to acid that the meaning escapes me. Anyway, Red Snapper is a fun band to listen to. 1995’s Reeled and Skinned is a compilation of three previous EPs and definitely provides an excellent introduction to the band. They’ve got the sax and the flute in full effect with a staccato drum back beat, easy to see this stuff getting major “lounge” play. “Snapper” is a classic track and “Swank” brings more old school funk to the fore. “Hot Flush” in turn has a surf rock feel to it with long drawn out guttural horn notes. “Lobster” is funny because it is soooo 70’s mellow jazz fusion it ain’t funny. Or something like that. 1996’s Prince Blimey is an album of new tracks. The sound is “heavier” and fuller with less antic fun as the previous material but no less interesting. The double bass action likely makes it too intense for loungey background muzak. I’d pick “”Digging Doctor What What” and “3 Strikes And You’re Out” as the signature tracks here. 1998’s Making Bones is a slight improvement based on branching out some musically plus loosening up the weave of the music and getting back to more of a “chill” sound. Albeit with a distinct rap patina. Here I’d go with “The Sleepless” and “Bogeyman” as the best tracks. 2000’s Our Aim Is To Satisfy Red Snapper is an adequate effort but just that. It does not reach the highs of previous output although there are a few credible tracks such as “The Rake.” The tracks with vocals are almost uniformly weaker. 2003 finds the band releasing the eponymous Red Snapper and it’s a very mellow, subdued effort that in many ways reaches back to the lounge music appeal of their earlier stuff, especially the tunes with a 70’s vibe. That said, it’s so mellow that it’s also unlikely to be heard in any lounge unless they wanted their customers to take a nap. Best used as background music for sure. 2008 gave us Red Snapper’s latest album, Pale Blue Dot. This is a jazzier album, relaxed yet tightly constructed, it sounds “mature” when heard against the earlier albums. Based just on the “fun factor” the first two tunes “Brickred” and “Lagos Creepers” stand out. If you like jazzy electronic club lounge chill tunes, hard to imagine you would not like Red Snapper.
Gang Starr – This rap outfit released their first album in 1989, around the height of the progressive hip-hop sound. I’m not as super-crazy about Gang Starr as others but they are solid and definitely belong in the conversation of the best rap acts of their era. That first album, No More Mr. Nice Guy, suffers from a certain lack of central guiding principle, at times hitting on jazzy hip-hops sounds close to Digible Planets or De La Soul, on others such as “Gotch U” the track could be an Ultramagentic MC’s b-side or something. “Jazz Music” is one of the era’s edifying type of tracks and “Positivity” is also in the same vein. History has been kinder to the new next albums, 1990’s Step In The Arena and 1992’s Daily Operation. The lyrics are crisper and more socially relevant and the beats deeper and more rocking but the jazzy background is maintained a good portion of the time. There’s not much evolution through 1994’s Hard To Earn, 1998’s Moment of Truth, and 2003’s The Ownerz. In reassessing Gang Starr it has become clear to me that rap/hip-hop as a genre has not held my interest over time and that I likely enjoyed it more in my youth, this even for rap that is more in my musical “sweet spot” than others and/or most contemporary acts. Sure, songs like “Check The Technique” or “Soliloquy of Chaos” are highly listenable, yet, you have to really either be in the mood or be heavy into rap to listen more than every blue moon.
Jeff Mills – A name well known to techno fans, Mssr. Mills is one of the stars of the Detroit techno scene and is recognized for the relentless pounding beats, so repetitive they could put a jackhammer to shame. The thunder he lets loose is danceable in its own manner, especially if one is mechanized and/or entirely drugged out of one’s mind. The comparison to industrial noise music is apt, it’s as hard-edged as the most assaultive Krautrock. As such, it’s fairly polarizing music. I like it but most of the time only in very measured doses. The latter stuff does “mellow out” somewhat but it’s simply a matter of degrees. The earlier Waveform Transmission albums plus the Purpose Maker Compilation show Mills at his most crystallized, a couple of my favorite tracks are “The Bells” and “Changes of Life.” Although only an EP, “La Force” and “Division Delignes” from 1997’s Force Universelle may be two of Mills’s best tracks period. With 2000’s Lifelike one may say that Mills begins the turn to a different sound. There’s more thoughtfulness and restraint than brute power, as evidenced by tunes like “Yantra” and “Global Factor.” 2005’s Contact Special and 2007’s Gamma Player Compilation return to more abstract themes but remain within the general feel. As a full body of work, Mills certainly has earned his spot in the techno hall of fame.
YOU May Like It
Pere Ubu – Thought I would give this proto-art punk band another chance, having never really impressed in the past. Same basic response, though, for all of it having the “right ingredients” the final product just does not stand the test of time as well as so many other of their contemporaries. I am sure they were great fun to see live in 1978 or something but in 2011 the shit is just ehh. Fat ass David Thomas cuts a unique presence as the singer and general tone setter and the music has as much noise and hiss as any purer No Wave band. There’s no lack of self-referentiality and self-awareness in the oeuvre. Over the years the sound mutated a little here and there and it’s hard to say that the earliest stuff is better than the later, just kinda different. I admire Pere Ubu for existing but I don’t want to listen to that much by them. Songs like “Street Waves,” “Ubu Dance Party” or “Untitled” do stand tall among the peers of the era and it’s not that Pere Ubu sucks or anything. You just have to have a serious jones for early punk to be really into them. Or have a degree from RISD or something.
High Places – A female and male duo from Brooklyn (where else?) that specializes in quirky vocals emphasized noodling with lots of clicks, whirrs, loops and “world beat” percussion. It’s alright and has some initial attraction but I don’t find the stuff to have much legs. The appeal here is to young smarty pants who think this is “intelligent” pop and maybe even something new under the sun. The execution is fine enough and, apparently to the chagrin of many, even improves with their latest effort. Every era in music has their perfectly acceptable pop bands of the moment, those to be forgotten except by the most ardent archaeologists of music’s past. High Places is likely one of those pop bands. In any event, it starts out with a collection of singles released in 2008 entitled 03/07-09/07. “Sandy Feat” is fun bubblegum, “Granola” is a decent instrumental diversion, “Head Spins” sounds like you are in a new age store but it’s alright. 2008 also birthed their eponymous album High Places. This is pretty much an extension of the previous material. The top tracks to me are “The Storm,” “From Stardust to Sentience” and “Namer.” Move to Los Angeles and tweak the sound and everyone pitches a fork, err, fit. So it went with 2010’s High Places Vs. Mankind, an album that loses the percussive quirks and mixing board noodling in favor of a straightforward electronica sound, at times close to dance floor quality. Whereas as others see this album as a fall from grace, to Hanes it’s just a different stripe of blandness. You can listen or not listen, it cashes out about the same. That said, if I had to listen, it would be to “The Longest Shadows,” “On Giving Up” and “When It Comes.”
Could’ve Had a V8
Poni Hoax – A French electronic rock outfit with decent reviews and cred. Unfortunately, on the whole, they kinda suck. The lead male singer’s voice can get nasally and annoying and 2008’s Images of Sigrid suffers from a lack of imagination more than sameness per se. The beat is danceable but more like a disco goth club or something, not what you’d call fluid movement. Good amount of heavy drumming involved. It’s not like the music is unlistenable, okay, maybe “Antibodies” is unlistenable, but nothing here really sticks in your head. The album starts out decently with “The Paper Bride” and “The Bird In On Fire” and then wobbles from there. Some folks might want to marshal a defense for Poni Hoax but I’m not buying it.
The Hanes Music Review 020
(Originally reached for its jammy May 2011)
Well, this time around there’s a bulge in the middle. Not much out-and-out sucked. A few made solidly favorable impressions. But most feel into the vast middle ground where personal taste may prove as important as the musical abilities of any given band. As is usually the case, Hanes is mining the past as much as focusing on current releases. This is endemic as by the time I get around to formally assessing any album it’s already a few years old. Oh, well.
Archive – I guess this is a vaguely electronica sort of outfit. Their tunes are all over the map. Sometimes they feature vocals, either a semi-sultry female doing R&B over processed beats or some dude rapping in a somewhat hardcore style. In any event, give Archive credit for ingenuity but most of the time the stuff flops. Beginning with 1996’s album Londinium the sound never coheres as something definable and allowing one to soak deeper into it. Most of it is downbeat with slower tempos. But if you listen to the stuff long enough you are bound to find at least a handful of tunes to enjoy. I will say that, contra many bands, Archive seems to have improved over time, especially once you hit the 2002 to 2004 timeframe and beyond. The song craft seems better and less dependent on dance floor music exaggerations to get by. Examples include “Numb” and “Men Like You” from 2002’s You All Look The Same To Me as well as “Noise” and “Fuck U” from 2004’s Noise. There’s a few live albums which underscore that they’re more than a studio or dance club outfit. Not mind blowing but enjoyable on the whole.
Vampire Weekend – OK, it’s easy to root for the “home team,” Hanes graduating from the same college as these guys (albeit much earlier). They write fun pop songs explicitly for the most part aping Paul Simon circa Graceland. Which is odd, since they should themselves favor the home team of Art Garfunkel. OK, whatever. There is a cerebral, borderline musicological, quality to many of the songs, as if the goal was to master the idiom rather than write a banging song. So, this oeuvre to date may be considered student-becoming-master stage. It’s utterly charming and cunningly stops short of twee, the lyrics probably make sense to like five people alive, four of them in the band. But select verses when taken in isolation fit the songs perfectly and allow you to forget the rest. The African rhythms percolate throughout, sometimes embellished by classical motifs among others. 2008’s eponymous Vampire Weekend features a cover showing the heads of a party of crackers with a French door in the background, no wall adornments save a speaker, like, say, a Washington Heights three bedroom apartment. Ahh, youth. Anyway, the music. “A-Punk” to me is by far the best track on the album, a ska-inflected, uptempo number that is close to summer hit anthem quality. A big yes here. The next song, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” likely has broader appeal and channels Paul like someone should call his lawyers. “M79” brings the classical flourishes from Music Hum out to play to fetching effect. On the whole solid, “bryn” and “One” are clunkers but the album ends on a solid note with “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance,” a midtempo number that blends many influences into a well-crafted tune. There’s also a Chromeo remix of this last tune which is pretty rocking. 2010’s Contra is a worthy follow-up but lacks the few superlative tunes which makes an album truly memorable (not that Vampire Weekend is destined to be remembered 20 years from now). But amiably enjoyable songs abound, such as “Horchata,” “Giving Up The Gun” and “White Sky.” Fun, witty party music for the literate crowd who still end up throwing up at the end of the night.
The Bug – Hanes is unsure exactly what finely sliced genre the kids use for music like The Bug but to me, it’s contemporary electronic dub, closer to heavy club beats than reggae. The patois is down stone cold but the baselines are so thick and suffocating that it’s miles away from the more open playfulness of reggae or early dub. Maybe this is close to the “grime” genre, who knows. Anyway, checked out 2003’s Pressure and 2008’s London Zoo. The former is much closer in general feel to dub although it would be hard to consider the album “playful” as it balances political consciousness with dance beats. It’s a solid enough effort, however, the songs suffer from an overall sameness. “Night Steppa” is the likely high point, creating a moody backdrop for lyrics which could easily be part of a Clash song. “Killer” and “Living Dub” end the album well, the best two tracks after the previously mentioned. London Zoo is much more sonically engaging and challenging. To me, the best tune by far is “Poison Dart” although it’s hard to understand the lyrics as sung by Warrior Queen, even after looking them up on the internet. I remain confident they make perfect sense. “Angry” starts off the album nicely. The instrumental track “Freak Freak” is high quality, as are “Jah War” and “You & Me.” On the whole, I can’t imagine listening to The Bug all that frequently but very much enjoying it when I do. You take what you get in this world.
Santagold – Basically a vehicle for the singer Santi White, 2008’s Santagold often veers closely to uninteresting mainstream pop territory, however, manages to retain a more layered and complex appeal, mixing dub, reggae with electronic and more basic indie rocks motifs. “L.E.S. Artistes” is a breezy bit of musical whimsy and it’s hard to avoid its bouncy charms, leaning on sparse drumming and guitar. Then “You’ll Find A Way” comes across as a darker, more powerful opportunity for White to let loose, you could almost see someone like Pat Benatar sing this song. Then, boom, it’s a deep dancehall rhythm and rap to “Shove It.” So, the point is Santagold evidently revels blending genres and proving how deft they can pull it all off. “Creator” was the hit from this album, hell if I know these things. But it is a decent tune, supposedly close in sound to White’s pal M.I.A. — I own some M.I.A. but never listen to it so damned if I know. Just sounds like electro-dub type shit to me, not close to the best tune on the album. “Lights Out” is another fun summertime trip, a blend of early 60’s girl group harmonies with 80’s synth pop, innocent bubblegum for all. There’s a few cool remixes out there too, notably Chewy Chocolate Cookies’ take on “Creator” which barely resembles the original. Santagold is a decent artist and it is surprising that nothing of real note has appeared since this first album.
YOU May Like It
The Raveonettes – The Raveonettes were one of Hanes’s most beloved bands of the earlier 2000’s. Their powerful sonic distortions, coolly dispassionate posturing, and patina of 50’s to 60’s girl group heartbreak all made for one heady trip. If a chick didn’t like The Raveonettes, she’d have to be pretty damn hot for Hanes to suck it up and boff her anyway. But one things age teaches you, nothing lasts forever. In an attempt to ignore such truisms, Hanes has ignored the band’s recent output and now is the time to set the record straight. They ain’t no good no more. I’d pretty much have to say that 2008’s Lust Lust Lust is the band’s swan song as a top tier outfit. Tantamount to the J&MC’s Automatic in 1989. Solid, pleasing, but from the first to last song you know it’s ending here. The magic is over. With this album The Raveonettes bring the fuzz and distortion back but not the reckless danger, the full-on noir feel. It’s a studio adaptation of a great pulp novel. The highlights are “Aly, Walk With Me” which is really kind of a remix of “Sidewalking,” then “Hallucinations,” “Dead Sound” and “Blitzed.” Much of the rest sinks below memorable status. The train goes off the rails with 2009’s In And Out of Control which is a boring, flat, uninspired effort way too heavy on early pop sounds for its own good. There’s barely a hint of snarl or energy or ’tude. After more listenings than the album deserves nary a single iPod worthy tune to be found. Alas, 2011’s Raven In The Grave simply ain’t much better, a sign that this band is more or less toast. Maybe you could argue there’s more of a soaring sonic quality here, even if dialed back in terms of loudness. But it’s way too mellow, none of that initial “let’s steal a car and just drive as far as we can” vibe of the early stuff. What can you do, every dog has their day and then fades to black. Right.
M83 – This is a really weird trip, on paper this is an outfit I should truly enjoy but after immersing myself in them for days it’s still “ehh.” They can’t possibly have received more general glowing reviews from the usual suspects. They’ve got a track record. At times they kinda sound like Boards of Canada or Air, two pluses. At other times it’s more like pure cheese out of Chariots of Fire. I guess the music should be categorized as “ambient,” probably makes the most general sense. for the first album, 2002’s eponymous M83, the “band” was a duo, purportedly of equal halves. To Hanes, this might remain their strongest output. Yeah, it’s ambient but there’s more power when it “soars” and more backbeat, staccato or otherwise, to keep your brain from nodding off from the mellower fuzziness. Some of the tracks most enjoyed here are “Sitting,” “Night” and “Slowly.” The next album is 2003’s Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and seems to have been the critical breakthrough, perhaps the album most beloved by general reviewers yet. At least I agree with most that “Unrecorded” and “America” are two of the top tunes, but “0078h” is pretty good too. 2005’s Before The Dawn Heals Us, 2007’s Digital Shades, Vol. 1, and 2008’s Saturdays=Youth all stay close to the established script. Not much to say, Digital is mellower, Saturdays at times wants to take a time machine back to 1982. In the end, there’s some appeal here but the oeuvre as a whole falls short of the hype.
Cut Copy – Australian techno indie rock, alright. Bring it on, yo. They started out back in 2001, my word, ten years ago already. Funny thing happened listening to this band. I went in expecting to not only like them but have them grow on me and gain appeal. But the opposite occurred. Particularly with the earlier music, repeated listenings increased the boredom factor as the 80’s cheesiness calcified. You keep thinking there’s going to be some interesting stuff hidden in the layers. But there’s not. Anyway, Cut Copy does not suck but, in the end, they are a one trick pony, synth-pop out the wazoo. In the beginning circa 2001 you get an okay tune once in awhile like the solid groove busting “Nine Summertime.” 2004’s Bright Like Neon Love offers a couple of decent tracks in “The Twilight” and “Going Nowhere.” 2006 brought a turn at the tables of Fabriclive, this being Fabriclive.29. A solid mix of stuff, not too random nor cute, keeps on balance throughout, credible live mixing for sure. I think that 2008’s In Ghost Colours makes a solid step forward because the songs have more heft and bottom to them and less of a mindlessly disposable, throw-away manner. While definitely still dance pop in orientation, things just feel more fleshed out. Maybe it’s because Cut Copy has become more of a “band” by now than a one man show, as it started out. Dunno. One thing is for sure, each track seems to have a remix EP dedicated to it, kind of overboard here. Funnily, my preferred tracks as often not remixed on EPs as are, these being “Unforgettable Season,” “Midnight Runner” and “So Haunted.” Cut Copy’s latest offering is 2011’s Zonoscope. To Hanes this album is a step back with less energy and sense of rambunctious fun to make up for the overall homogeneity and sameness of the sound. The songs strive for and achieve a tepid warmth that could never offend nor inspire. That Zonoscope garnered such praise is yet another sign of the vacuity of today’s youth. Harrumph.
No Age – A sort of indie punk band from Los Angeles, it’s actually kind of easy to peg them as being from Southern California, the sound has this kind of mindlessly cheery surface with simple beats and an overall “big” sound, underneath bridges of dissonant anomie and shouted lyrics which bespeak of unfocused anger and aimlessness. From the Tendencies to today, plus ça change, moins ça change. There’s a certain pastiche-like element to the music, borne of youthful experimentation with a variety of musical influences and genres. I can easily see how young folks would be more impressed with No Age than moi, they aren’t bad but they aren’t original either. So, starting with 2007’s Weirdo Rippers we see them mixing in early Dinosaur with more power pop riffs, such as during “My Life’s Alright Without You.” It’s charming and infectious enough. Some tunes remind me of Oxford Collapse. “Every Artist Needs A Tragedy” is decent, same for “Escarpment.” 2008’s Nouns doesn’t mix up the formula too much, maybe adds some studio production polish. The latter makes it more boring, though. “Brain Burner” and “Teen Creeps” are alright tunes. Their latest appears to be 2010’s Everything In Between, no new territory broken, doesn’t appear necessary nor desired. The best tunes are likely “Fever Dreaming” and “Shred and Transcend.” Album helped by more instrumental or mostly instrumental tracks.
Robyn Hitchcock – It’s odd that I spent so much of my life owning but a single Robyn Hitchcock album, 1988’s Globe of Frogs. Which is a great album and I was also lucky to see him and his band play live on the supporting tour. Hanes subsequently decided to explore the life and times of Mssr. Hitchcock, an artist of sterling repute. From his first band during the late 70’s The Soft Boys through solo stuff to albums with The Egyptians and then The Venus Three, here we go. It must have been tough to be a “punk” musician with a brain back in the 70’s to early 80’s, any sign at quirk or inventive lyrics might have branded you as a pop sell-out. It seems some of these issues undermined The Soft Boys. Even at this early stage Hitchcock’s greatest strength and weakness appear, his sheer prolificacy in cranking out tunes. At the rate he goes, there’s a high clunker to hit ratio. The mainly recognized albums are 1979’s A Can of Bees and 1980’s Underwater Moonlight but there’s plenty of other stuff, especially live albums/bootlegs. The latter is a good thing since it seems to me that The Soft Boys were more effective live than in the studio. Most of their output has stood up decently over time but I can clearly see how those who grew up with the band when new would have a deeper affection for them. The Soft Boys have earned their place in the canon of their time. The same can really be said for Robyn Hitchcock’s solo work as well as albums with The Egyptians and beyond. There’s no doubt that the oeuvre is solid, distinctive and at times close to cutting edge. That said, from the early albums such as Black Snake Diamond Role through Fegmania! to Spooked and beyond, there’s as much forgettable material as not. The world of music needs guys like Robyn Hitchcock to exist but that doesn’t mean you want to listen to them all the time. It’s simply not gripping enough as true “time capsule” music. But every college art major should listen to the quirky and erudite Hitchcock in-depth at some point and maybe that’s enough.
A-Trak – A scratching DJ wunderkind from Canada, he’s been around for a long time. Hanes has a few things by him and now his place in the review queue has come. Being an old man, Hanes naturally has a fondness for quality scratching and mixing. Same for Good Times and All In The Family, natch. First up is 2006’s Sunglasses Is A Must Live which is a live mano-a-mano battle with the outfit called The Rub. The talent is indisputable, very fluid and manages to blend many disparate sounds together adroitly and inventively. The problem is when they mix in more contemporary rap and hip-hop songs, most of which I find abominable. They say that Kayne West had A-Trak tour with him as a DJ, easy enough to see from a pure talent perspective. However, Kayne West sucks ass and his sort of music eventually seeps into A-Trak’s mixes. Then there’s 2008’s Showdown between A-Trak and DJ Q-Bert. Solid scratching, most fine turntabilism. It’s a sign of talent that mid-tempo scratches can still stay interesting over 12 minutes. Fans of the genre should deservedly enjoy A-Trak.
Hercules and Love Affair – Having grown up in the West Village during the 1970’s I have much love for disco and those who enjoyed it during its heyday. So, an outfit like Hercules And Love Affair and their, uhh, love affair for disco (and early house) is fine with me on that score. Assuming it’s well done. Which, on the whole, it is. The main force behind the ensemble knows his stuff. However, at least on the first album, 2008’s eponymous Hercules And Love Affair, the usage of odious guest vocalist Antony Hegarty of Antony And The Johnsons fame [sic] ruins a lot of the songs. Just cannot abide this man’s voice. Anyway, while danceable many of the tracks are not simply for dancing, powered with layers of nuance in addition to a rock steady beat. However, the shit is so over-stylized that after a few listens it starts to wear you down. “Hercules Theme” is close to the best track simply based on its full-on cheese factor. The main dude ditched the singers from the first album for 2011’s Blue Songs. It is more of a mid-tempo effort without the flamboyance of its predecessor. As an integrated whole it works better, good background music to a loungey scene. But no one song leaps out at you as a “winner.” I can see how some people might dig this stuff more than moi.
Could’ve Had a V8
Ponytail – This band seems to effect a free form, rollicking rock and roll adventure. From the meandering (and mostly indecipherable) lyrics to the haphazard drum rolls and guitar bursts, not much here is cohering into what might be termed “song craft.” Not to say it’s all random, it doesn’t seem that way. Just dissonantly arrayed enough so that you’re not going to be humming along much. This is likely the key to their being media darlings of sorts. So, we have 2008’s Ice Cream Spiritual to consider. The musicianship is fine and the eclecticism would likely help the band fit into any era from say 1977 on. But Hanes can’t see anything in this band that would help it endure the test of time and remain relevant in the future except to the most ardent of musical archaeologists. Especially those who like bombastic guitar lines. Probably the three most palatably relistenable tunes are “Beg Waves,” “Small Wevs” and “Die Allman Bruder.” Not that I plan on listening to them again any time soon.
The Hanes Music Review 019
(Originally slapped your mammy down April 2011)
Good blend of different stuff rummaged through this time around. Happy with the results. Happy Hanes. That’s weird.
Quickspace – Sometimes a really good band slips through the cracks unnoticed. So it is with Quickspace. From 1997 through 2000 they produced three full albums, with a few EPs and such scattered in too. Their sound is more early 90’s with the obligatory nod to the Velvet Underground. Basic indie noise band, however, quiet noise with more emphasis on quirkiness than blowing your speakers or melting your ears with a wall of sound. All three albums are solid but I have to go with 1997’s eponymous Quickspace as the best of the bunch. The mix of female and male vocals works well and the laconic pacing of many of the songs plays off the steady backbeat, creates a nice tension. At times they can veer into Pavement or Sea & Cake territory, why maybe even Stereolab. The first two tracks, “Rise” and “Swisher,” set an early tone for Quickspace’s meriting being mentioned alongside such august bands of the era. “Quasi-Pfaff” is the true standout and perhaps the best track the band ever laid down. Better be good, it’s over eight minutes. The next track “Winona” sucks ass, though. “Docile One” another winner. 1998’s Precious Falling is a solid sophomore effort but doesn’t hit the same highs as the first album. The lead track “Death & Annie” sets a steady forward moving ramble, fittingly ominous like John Cale is sitting in. The next track “Take Away” is one of the album’s better, a playful, whimsical ditty with a solid bottom to keep it from getting too poppy. “7 Like That” is a fairly straight-up rocker for the band. Then there’s immediately “Quickspace Happy Song #2” which could be an unreleased basement track by My Bloody Valentine. Throwaways include “Hadid” and “The Mountain Waltz.” If you like Quickspace’s first album, the second is an easy purchase. 2000’s The Death of Quickspace is their last full album with some lineup changes but I don’t think the title meant it was a conscious swan song. Overall, it’s more uptempo and rocking but doesn’t deviate that far from the general template. I’d take “The Lobbalong Song” and “Gloriana” as my preferred tracks. There’s also a bunch of Peel Sessions stuff out there, “Song for The BBC” is very good as is the revamping called “Quasi Brow.” No idea what happened to Quickspace, guess they just disappeared.
Shed – Throughout 2008’s Shedding The Past the dude going by the name Shed manages a neat trick. He makes a retro-techno sound seem fresh and vital again, this done in a self-conscious manner, witness the spoken introduction to “Waved Mind” which succinctly lets it be known that the quest is in large part an attempt to (re-) capture the purity and authenticity of early techno. On the whole, the music is best suited for large lounges where the boom adds energy to the air rather than get people dancing. Maybe swaying. Some songs are mellower but the best percolate at a medium plus tempo, not the downbeat, yo. “Boose-Sweep” could be the soundtrack to any Soho lounge circa 1995. “Another Wedged Chicken” and “Flat Axe” also support this general theme. The best moment on the album, though, is the spoken word segue at the end of “Waved Mind” into “That Beats Everything!” – you know it’s quality Kraut dance music when they say “v-eye-gor” instead of “v-eh-gor”… Sweet. Need to get more stuff by this band, thumbs up!
Air France – It is hard to imagine a better named band. Their entire sound seems to spill forth from an airlines commercial, dripping the allure of the exotic. While it certainly runs the risk of lampooning itself, it’s hard not to feel entranced by the innocent sensuality the airy vocals, synths to pianos, and drums to handclaps all collectively evoke. Plenty of harmony, appropriately lush or sparse as desired, at times bombastic enough you expect it to fall flat on its face while onlookers laugh. But it just doesn’t happen. So, with the full output so far only being two EP’s, 2006’s On Trade Winds and 2008’s No Way Down, you can’t help but crave more. It’s like emptying the bag of Doritos during the third quarter, “Noooooo!!!!” With ten songs in total, favorite tracks tend to fall back into the desire to hear them all, still, Hanes has a certain affection for “Beach Party” as well as “Collapsing At Your Doorstep” slightly above others. I would be hard-pressed to find people who could not accommodate this musical arrow in their quiver.
The Scourge of The Sea – Now this kind of twee sensitive indie rock is far, far away from Hanes’s preferred types of music. But, you have to give credit where due and this sole release, 2006’s Make Me Armored by The Scourge of The Sea is an excellent album. Centered around the vocals and guitar work with additional moodiness delivered by the rhythm section, there’s both tender vulnerability and a wry knowingness in the lyrics and supporting music. Not world weary but ruefully experienced. This is the sort of music I’d expect to gain more popularity than it seems it did. Maybe being from Lexington, KY doomed them to obscurity, who knows. The songs truly form an ensemble album and are more impactful when listened one after the other. Allowing for this “Chasing Roses” and “Goodbye, Darkness” stand out as does the humorous ditty “My Sweet One.” A band that likely deserved better than what it got.
Bonobo – I guess this is what they call downbeat, moody, atmospheric electronic music, kind of loungey after a fashion. As with most of these “bands” it is the project of one dude, doing shit either by himself or bringing in others as needed. The output runs a solid decade. I have to say I tend to prefer the earlier music. Over time, Bonobo gets this fascination with Asiatic sounds and soul vocals which dampens my enthusiasm. Albeit, likely expands the base sound into something more capable of crossing over into the general consciousness. Based on what I just typed, my fave album is the first, 2000’s Animal Magic . “Sleepy Seven” and “Terrapin” are excellent tracks. 2002 brought us an album of remixes and originals entitled “One Offs... Remixes & B-Sides” which has a few good efforts on it, notably Bonobo’s remix of the Pilote tune “Turtle” as well as the new tune “The Sicilian.” 2003’s Dial ‘M’ for Monkey is one solid effort, doesn’t reach the heights of the earlier stuff but no clunkers and the basement is higher too. Works more as a whole, best to not isolate tracks too much. Sadly, 2006’s double album Days to Come is “ehh” at best, kudos for exploring and pushing established limits but the end result ain’t all that. 2010’s Black Sands is a worthy continuation of the ongoing theme, but too much female vocals for my overall enjoyment. Curiously, start to finish the album I probably like best is Bonobo’s 2005 “Solid Steel” mix entitled It Came From The Sea, that’s something really worth having.
Blind Guardian – What more can you want out of life than heavy metal with a serious Tolkien obsession? From Germany, this outfit spans from 1988 to the present and appears to still be going strong. Not quite “speed metal” but certainly fast-paced and, to these ears, straight down the plate, no-frills metal. If someone told you this band was from the 1970’s you’d believe it, no prob. I really can’t help but crack up listening to this stuff, it’s classic. The album covers are epic too, 1988’s Battalions of Fear is pure cheese with cloaked cheese players using leotard clad live pieces while some dragon looking muthafucka beams from its eyes onto the proceedings. 1989’s follow-up Follow The Blind is more of the same, not that anything different was needed or wanted. Maybe a touch tighter and faster in its instrumentation. It does make me sad to see titles of songs like “Banish From Sanctuary” — shouldn’t everybody be entitled to a nice, safe home? Not much sense is picking out the best tunes as it’s a matter of both how much cheese you love and one’s true affection for metal. Given these, the choices will likely be pretty random. 1990’s Tales From The Twilight World through to 2010’s At The Edge of Time it’s all predictable in the best way. Rock on, stalwart soldiers, rock on.
Arms – This is a dude from the band Harlem Shakes (yet unreviewed by Hanes, sigh) and even though he’s from Brooklyn, dammit, I can’t help myself. I really like this effort, this being 2008’s Kids Aflame. Die, Brooklyn, die. Brooklyn here read as anything close to the first half a dozen stops on L train leaving Manhattan. Anyway, a good sign about this album is that even the weak tracks are pretty good and there’s ample diversity among said tracks. The vocals have a youthful insouciance without getting smarmy, at times you might catch a glimmering resemblance to early Strokes or Gomez. On the whole, the songs are tight and concise, full of either punch or a slacker attempt at earnestness. The guitar work usually leads the way with a solid percussive background but Arms also blends in kitschy moments of banjo, ukulele or other such instruments. Overall, comes close to the heart of what “indie music” was considered to sound like back in tha day. To me, the best tracks are “Shitty Little Disco,” “Whirring,” “Construction” and “Fall.” Thumbs up and regrettable that Arms has not released anything since. Tempted to search for their earlier stuff.
YOU May Like It
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – A band I rarely paid any attention over the years despite having friends who luv thems. Eventually Hanes gets around to most things. The obvious influence of the Stones guitarist isn’t as obvious on their 1995 debut Methodrone as are other shoegazer bands of the era as well as Spacemen 3, and that works well for Hanes. On the whole, as a 15 track album (all their albums seem to be crazy long) it works very well and may be close to brilliant. Again, the sort of album you just put on and listen, no track skipping or such, first to last. After this album it appears that “revert” to what is their real sound, one more indebted to 60’s rock and psychedelia than fuzzy guitar alt rock. As a result, Hanes has less interest in them and more or less considers the initial album their best. 1996 saw the band release three albums in succession, Take It From The Man!, Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request, and Thank God for Mental Illness . The influences and the sounds vary so much song to song that it’s near impossible to find a common theme to comment upon. Which in many ways can be construed as a positive. Each person will just have to find the tunes that resonate with them. I easily deleted lots of tracks. Checked out virtually everything through to 2010’s Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? and can basically take them or leave them, if some of the preferred tunes were on could easily listen, if I never heard the band again don’t think I’d notice. I will say that they seem like a band worth seeing live once or twice. So, there is that.
HEALTH – I feel like I should like this band more than I do. They have an abrasive, dissonant sound that oft times is like a fuck you to the listener. They seem more in releasing energy and creating cacophony than crafting “songs.” Which can be a good thing. Here, what’s missing might simply be called purpose borne of maturity. 2007’s initial release HEALTH has a few decent tracks on it, notably “Triceratops” and “Heaven.” 2008 brought us a remix album of the debut, this entitled HEALTH//DISCO . As is usually the case these days, who knows why, the remixes tend to be better than the original tunes. Mostly because here the remixes focus heavily on creating a beat and some semblance of rhythm. Hence, the album name, duh. I think most of the cognoscenti agree that the remix of “Crimewave” with Crystal Castles is the tops. Another album of originals appears in 2009, this being GET COLOR . Here the tempos are more consistent and easier to digest, to a point. “Die Slow” is probably the best track, adverbial omission notwithstanding. Then “Nice Girls” and “We Are Water.” Keeping with the originality theme, their next effort is 2010’s ::DISCO2 is a remix of the second album. Some decent remixes of “Die Slow,” “Nice Girls” and “Eat Flesh” but nothing spectacular. Just like HEALTH in general.
Baroness – It’s the same old, same old when it comes to contemporary metal. Some of the instrumentation may be the most kick ass in the world but will someone just get that guy to stop SCREAMING already? There’s a dense grind to the music with typical speed guitar lines rising above the sludge. 2005 birthed two EPs, pithily titled First and Second, three songs apiece. Of the two EPs the best tunes are “Tower Falls” and “Son of Sun,” mostly because of long instrumental beginnings before the vocals come in. The full length 2007 Red Album displays more rhythmic polish and grooves, hooks, much less sludge. And once in awhile the vocalist stops screaming. Definitely a step up from the EPs, there’s just more thought and “intelligence” in the songs with a clear emphasis on instrument virtuosity. I’d go with “Rays on Pinion” and “Isak” as the best tracks. 2009’s Blue Record is not necessarily a step back but just comes across as slightly too slickly produced and just is not as interesting overall as Red Album . At least the vocalist tries to sing more rather than scream, appreciate that. My votes for best tracks go to “O’er Hell And Hide” and “The Gnashing,” the latter a fun, straight ahead, traditional metal romp. If you dig metal, you would be hard pressed not to like this outfit.
Au Revoir Simone – Three chicks make up this band. As far as Hanes can tell, sometimes they look really hot, sometimes pedestrian. This may be very important. Such facts should not go unremarked upon. Otherwise, this is a decent enough indie pop band that really, really deserves the categorization of “indie pop.” Winsome vocals, harmonies, bouncy synth lines, it’s all there by the script. Three albums assessed, 2006’s “Verses of Comfort, Assurance, & Salvation,” 2007’s “The Bird of Music” and 2009’s “Still Night, Still Light” with no real, discernible growth arc, just more of the solid pop bubblegum and dreaminess. Bust out that farfisa beat, yo. I could pick a few random tunes such as “Sad Song” or “Anywhere You Looked” as among the best but it’s more likely that my list of best selections would vary a great deal from peeps who really dig this sort of music. As the heading goes, you may like it.
Could’ve Had a V8
School of Seven Bells – Bland. That’s the best word to describe this band. The band gets super-duper reviews and after a few listens they seem worthwhile. Then the law of diminishing returns kicks in with a vengeance. I think sometimes young music critics simply will themselves to like certain bands because they sound like the paragons of the past or something. School of Seven Bells is competently boring and sounds like an amicable derivative of dozens of early 90’s bands. 2008’s album Alpinisms and 2010’s Disconnect From Desire both offer a basic gloss on the history of shoegaze and indie rock with nothing really new to say. Again, if someone just wants to like a band because they are simply contemporary but sound like the past, that is their right. But I was there.
The Mountain Goats – Major mistake. Major, major mistake. This dude with an acoustic guitar mouthing off bratty witticisms is definitely not my scene. It’s like a very pale shadow of that album Camper Van Beethoven did with Eugene Chadbourne (which itself was not the best of ideas). Hanes suffered through 45 EPs and albums, spanning 1991 through 2009 and they uniformly could make a deaf man commit suicide. This was really painful and you will all suffer for what you put me through.
Gossip – Not sure if this band is THE Gossip or just plain Gossip. They may have changed in the middle of things. Don’t matter much. They ain’t all that. A bluesy garage rock to punk kind of minimalist sound, leans a lot on the depth of the female vocalist’s voice. Wow, hard to say what there’s worth checking out here unless one is a devout fan of the general genre. Not that they suck, they don’t, just it’s as boring as paint drying. Checked out a whole lot of shit from 2000’s That’s Not What I Heard through to 2009’s Music for Men and the decision is fully rendered. This seems like the kind of music The Sloth would like, back in tha day. Just about all that can be said is that the most recent effort shows a great deal more polish and production, which may not be for the best as the connection to rawer blues traditions were one of the most likeable parts of their music. Next.
The Hanes Music Review 018
(Originally digitized October 2010)
General winning streak with musical explorations continues. Of course, some highly touted music has blown chunks. C’est la vie. It’s about the process, not the destination.
Milosh – As noted elsewhere, time to review music has been highly sporadic. As a result, Milosh has been in the queue for much longer than most, listened to again and again but not officially assessed. Well, the time has come. Milosh’s music is typically categorized as “down tempo” electronica, which more or less fits. There’s a strong lushness to the atmospherics and deep, repetitive rhythms, the vocals often drawn out rather than clearly enunciated, flapping like a flag in a soft breeze. For all of its mellowness, it’s not lazy or somnambulistic, rather it’s relaxing and warming. To date there’s three albums and, to me, a clear and steady improvement in quality through them. First, there’s 2004’s You Make Me Feel which has an emphasis on semi-clipped, staccato noise doodles in the background, lending the tunes a kind of geeky quirkiness. Milosh’s voice is very polished and, I’d guess, produced to maximal effect within the whole, aiming as a lowkey soulful quality. The eleven tracks here blend together well, making it a sort of perfect lounge album. The title track is probably the best with “Push” and “Your Taste” right behind. 2006’s Meme is a step forward in that there’s a shift to a faster tempo (albeit not “fast”) and general improvement in developing the groove and backbeat. Plus there’s an increase in the emotional urgency of the songs. “My Life” is an extremely pretty song, for some reason reminds me of Roxy Music. The top tracks, though are “Run Away,” “It’s Over” and “Couldn’t Sleep.” Continuing the evolution is 2008’s iii which is breakthrough of sorts for Milosh. The grooves are deeper and there’s a greater sense of control and firmness in the song structures without sacrificing the more fragile beauty of the earlier works. Just a greater sense of clarity of sound and arrangement too. Highlights include “Remember the Good Things,” “Leaving Samui” and “Warm Waters.” The track “Then It Happened” from the 2008 various artists album Ghostly Swim is pretty top notch too. Two thumbs up for Milosh.
Mi Ami – Recommending this band is like recommending the band Electric Company to someone. They really don’t know what they are getting into, almost no matter what you say. But I have been listening to 2008’s Watersports for a few weeks now and this one seriously grows on you like crazy. I even don’t mind the female vocalist’s screeching, which is usually at the top of the “turn off” list. Seven songs running from like 4:30 to 9:00 long, all impelled by crazy staccato drum bursts and rolls and a thumping bass line. The guitar work is equally energetic but folded into the whole as part of the beat rather than a more individual presence. The overall sound has a nervous dissonance to it and although each song has its own distinct flavor, the total effect is best as an album, listened to start to finish. But it is de rigueur to select at least a couple of top tunes some I hereby name “Peacetalks/Downer,” “The Man In Your House” and “”Echononecho.” I give this a big thumbs up and if you can’t enjoy this band you are a big, fat loser.
Earth Leakage Trip – This is really weird because there appears to be huge, gaping temporal holes in this outfit’s output. I got hooked via the tune “No Idea” from the 1991 EP Psychotronic, which is I mean a killer track of electronic breakbeats that rivals the best of that era. The tune other tunes from that EP are also of very high quality. Got Hanes all hot and bothered to find more! Only thing I could hunt down, though, were two albums both from 2007, Development and Research. And, whoa, are these entirely different than the earlier stuff. These two albums are lowkey, down beat loungey stuff where you’d expect supermodels to be dressed in black sipping martinis. As such, it is harder to pick out individual tracks since the general intent seems to be one of creating a “moodscape” than memorable individual songs. They all have that dreamy jazzy background stuff with enough insistent electronic drum beats to “keep the vibe up” from the dimly lit bar to the shadows of the long couch against the wall. Any tunes with vocals emphasize soft, lush phrasings. While the quality is high, if maybe a bit dated by 2007, nothing here can be taken out of its immediate context and put on an iPod. I don’t hang out in lounges much. But the cats seem to like these albums, easy to nap to I guess. Me, I wish it was 1991 again.
Nisennenmondai – Three Japanese chicks pounding out hard core industrial noise beats. What’s not to like? Now, of course, you really have to like this sort of sound because there ain’t no melody here to tap your foot to. But, as noisy as it is, it is intelligently put together and the weave is tighter than you might think at first. So, it is hard to “recommend” 2008’s Neji/Tori per se because this sort of sound will only capture the fancy of a few. However, if you do enjoy the rhythmic violence of industrial noise, these gals are at the top of their game and deliver the goods. About the only thing I dislike is the all-too-common “hidden track” at the back of the purportedly 17:20 long final track. Fuck, enough already with this stupidity. Anyway, there are two versions of the song “Ikkkyokume” but the second one is more epic in feel. If you want a tune with a more propulsive forward momentum, go with “Kyuukohan” or “Pop Group.” Oddly, the tune “Sonic Youth” is one of the least interesting tracks, albeit the homage is very clear. Quality stuff, they have a more recent album that I shall endeavor to check out one day before I die.
Numbers – This trio is solid if unspectacular, words indeed penned before. The key to their sound are the synthesizers, the vocals don’t contribute much, the beats at times help carry the tunes. 2007’s Now You Are This is, as far as Hanes can tell, their most recent album, with out previously (never heard them). The lead track “New Life” is head and shoulders above the rest, a pure play out of the VU songbook. The keyboards and drumming fit perfectly, even the chanting of the song title at the end isn’t that annoying. The second track “Mind Hole,” “The Mapping of E8” and “Hey Hey Dream” are pretty good, “Kosmos Love” and “Fly On The Window” pretty much suck. It’s to get really “excited” about the band but they are competent and I’d have no problem listening if the album got put on. The high points are numerous enough to wash out the clunkers. I’d recommend listening to online snippets before buying but, overall, can be given a thumbs up.
Sunn 0))) – I can easily confess that “dark ambient metal” is not my “go-to” category of music. Really, I’m not even sure what arcane criteria fit such a category. That’s for the kids to decide. That said, this stuff is really good for brooding background music! There’s a steady drone to the music which doesn’t always equate to noise per se, but there is a dirge-like, slow repetitive aspect that unfolds so that virtually every small change gets magnified. As with Earth Leakage Trip above, this is not iPod music to bounce around to, with many of the songs between 7:00 and 16:00 in length. There’s hardly any vocals which is great in my book, as far as recent metal goes.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow – A band is not breaking any virgin territory but, hey, it’s all about the execution, right? And most of the time they nail it. Dreamy shoegaze cum psych rock, there’s a quiet violence in the muted music which plays nicely off of the singsong, ethereal female vocals, which themselves are more like instruments than enunciating clear lyrics. They go back a little further but it appears that the band hit their stride with 2007’s Scribble Mural Comic Journal. 2009’s Ashes Grammar is also very good, but adds a layer of polish that, arguably, was not needed, making the former my preferred of the two. This album really utilizes the open spaces to increase the haze factor without losing an insistent backbeat. This is clear on tunes like “A Mundane Phonecall to Jack Parsons” and “Ghost in The Graveyard.” There’s an attractive crackling hiss to “5:15 Train” – Hanes is always a sucker for crackling hiss. Overall, Scribble Mural Comic Journal is very coherent as a full album. Ashes Grammar takes a lot of the crackle and thumping beat out, smoothing the general sound out a good deal. This likely makes it more approachable to a wider audience. The kiss of death. There’s 22 tracks on the album with shorter and longer songs interspersed throughout. “Shy” is right out of My Bloody Valentine playbook, quality tune. “Failure,” “Canalfish” and “Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs)” are cool tracks. The more you listen to this album the more it sounds like Stereolab. Easy to approve this band.
YOU May Like It
Phoenix – Having already reviewed the band’s 2006 album It’s Never Been Like That, one thing is clear. This is an average band, yet one capable of winning over non-critical ears. For every quality song, there’s three that make you yawn and want to nap. 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix got lots of props when it came out so thought I’d give the band another shot. Sadly, there’s nothing really new or revolutionary in their sound on this latest offering. The music is a standard mix of rock instrumentation supplemented by electronic lines, the singer’s nasally, high pitched voice seems right out of the indie cookbook. “Lisztomania” is an overrated track but “1901” is decent. The two parts of “Love Is Like a Sunset” are also highly listenable, maybe could stand to hear “Fences” once or twice more before I die. Ehh. Anyway, used this opportunity to go back over 2000’s United and 2004’s Alphabetical and there’s little in the earlier days of Phoenix that beats the latest stuff. If anything the earlier stuff underscores that the musicianship and emphasis on instrumentation might have improved over time. “School’s Rules” and “Embuscade” are nice tunes off of United while Alphabetical can at least offer “Run Run Run” and “Victim of the Crime.” I think I’ll just skip whatever next album this band produces.
Wolfmother – To call this band a throwback to early 70’s heavy rock slash metal doesn’t come close to doing them justice. They literally stepped out of a time machine circa 1974. Truly, they do not ape the past as much as belong there. For better or worse, this genre of music isn’t my favorite as it would be two thumbs up. I mean, I like Deep Purple’s hits but don’t listen to their full albums all afternoon. But if this is your scene, screw the naysayers, pick this shit up. 2006’s eponymous Wolfmother has plenty of worthy tunes on it, leading off with the Sabbath-like “Dimension.” “White Unicorn” adds a touch of prog rock to the sound while “Love Train” brings out the 70’s funk edge. 2009’s Cosmic Egg stays close to the roots, maybe you could say that it is even closer than its predecessor, keeping the tempo up ands comes across as more thought-out and even slickly produced. “California Queen” is another winning leadoff track while “Phoenix” and “New Moon Rising” are both good tunes. That said, if I had to pick I’d take the first album over the latter. Can’t say Wolfmother will get heavy Hanes rotation but they definitely do not suck at what they clearly want to do.
Could’ve Had a V8
Cymbals Eat Guitars – I really, really tried to develop some appreciation for this band. But it was just not meant to be. 2009’s Why There Are Mountains is just basic formulaic indie rock that isn’t anywhere near offensive but, by the same token, is easily forgotten. In some ways, it deserves to be in the “YOU May Like It” section but only if “you” haven’t listened to any quantity of better music. Earnest, nasally, somewhat screamed vocals, thunderous drum rolls, intimidating walls of sound moving glacially from start to finish, yadda, yadda. Just not interesting. And songs like “Share” make you wince from its pretentiousness. “Living North” is a nice Ride cover even with the screaming and the lead track “…And The Hazy Sea” is OK. I’m gonna stop here, no need to go further.
Monade – OK, so Hanes really likes Stereolab. So, makes sense to buy an album by one of the main member’s side project? Sounds good in theory, in practice big negatory. 2008’s Monstre Cosmic has got to be one of the most boring start to finish albums I’ve heard in some time. I wish I could say the album sucks, as in horribly flawed. But it is not. It is simply boring. Not a single song worth remembering. And, knowing how most excellent Stereolab can be, all the more painful. If someone has a counter-argument in favor of Monade I’m all ears. Easy pass.
YACHT – In the end, the cheese factor was too high. There were times I was tempted to put this in the “You Might Like It” category but really I’d have to question the mental stability of anyone who kept this in the listening rotation. It’s full of poppy hooks and charm which comes off as smarm. No doubt, there are decent tunes scattered through 2004’s Mega, 2007’s I Believe in You. Your Magic Is Real., and 2009’s See Mystery Lights. But, c’mon, the dude is like the poster child for all that is wrong with skinny jeans indie music these days. Like you feel the gravitational pull draw him from Portland, Oregon to Williamsburg. Some 23 year old music geek but probably come up with a turgid counter-argument but I’d be hard pressed to find a sizeable listenership staying with YACHT over the near term. Coming soon to a used CD bin near you! Well, maybe not the way kids download music these days. From the three aforementioned album highlights are, as they were, “Vacationland Guitaroo,” “Don’t Stay in Bed” and “Don’t Fight the Darkness.” More like a rowboat than yacht.
Dan Deacon – Anytime it is mentioned that a dude is part of a “collective” it is not a good sign. Deacon takes “noodling” to its apex, pretty much an über-geek with lots of shiny new toys. Maybe someone can ascribe some intellectual layering or clever pastiche to Deacon’s tunes. But, really, must of them just suck ass. Checked out 2003’s Meetle Mice, 2004’s Twacky Cats, 2006’s Acorn Master, 2007’s Spiderman of The Rings and 2009’s Bromst. Maybe came up with a dozen tunes worth listening to. There is a slight growth/progression towards “music” from the earlier to most recent stuff. But not much. Actually, some of the more fun tracks are from the earlier albums. Weird. Anyway, easy pass here unless you are looking to boost your “I dig obscure, unlistenable music” quotient.
The Hanes Music Review 017
(Originally dubbed June 2010)
Had some pretty good luck this time around. Plenty of credible muzak in the queue although the clunkers clunked quite loudly. Even a lot of the stuff I was tepid about didn’t suck, just not for me. But, so, so much more ahead to listen to. Don’t wait up…
Bibio – Bibio is basically some English dude. He mixes electronica with a more folk temperament to create some a pastoral sound full of electronic glitches and pings with an emphasis on acoustic guitar as well. Supposedly he grooves heavily on Boards of Canada and it shows. One thing to note at the outset is that Bibio’s sound changes from the earlier stuff to the later stuff. I have nothing against an artist stretching out in new directions. But the earlier stuff is better. 2004’s Fi is the first album and it is top notch, basically makes you want to be in a half conscious state outside in a hammock with the sun barely peeking through the breeze-tossed leaves. Yeah. It’s very mellow and you have to want it that way, works best as a whole rather than select specific tracks. Personally, I think 2006’s Hand Cranked is Bibio’s best. There’s a richer layering to the sound while it still keeps its olde timey appeal and quirkiness. “Cherry Go Round” is an absolutely gorgeous song. “Quantock” is another proven winner™ but more somber in tone, introspective. “Zooprakiphone” is another stand out track. This is the album to have. 2009 was a busy year for this Bibio fellow with three albums released. The first, Vignetting The Compost, stays close to the established theme with perhaps an even lusher overall sound. There’s numerous exemplary tracks but as with Fi it is more of a whole than set of tunes. Still, “Dopplerton,” “Flesh Rots, Pip Sown” and “Odd Paws” stand out above the rest. OK, I like “The Ephemeral Bluebell” too. The big addition with this album is the presence of vocals on some of the tracks. A harbinger of things to come! The next album, Ambivalence Avenue, is a big departure in sound with a much stronger emphasis on vocals, both the dude and some new chick. It has a more accessible, pop melody sound, energetic still but eschewing the delicate fragility of many of the earlier tunes. Some of the songs even sound like club dance music which is weird. But, again, can’t fault the guy for wanting to stretch his wings some. Being a child of the disco era I do like “Lovers’ Carvings” quite a bit. Bibio ended 2009 with The Apple and The Tooth, which is sorta an EP plus a bunch of remixes. The title track is pretty sweet and arguably the best fusion of their earlier and most recent sounds to-date. The rest is very credible but nothing above the sum of the total output, none of the remixes decisively trump the originals. It will be interesting to see what direction Bibio takes in the future. Should we live so long.
The XX – It took me awhile for 2009’s debut album XX to grow on me but, gosh, it sure did. There's a sluggishness to many of the songs which is sort of offputting at first but once you sink into their vibe it seems more “languid.” There’s also a childlike simplicity to the arrangements which given that they play guitar and vocal driven electro-pop-rocks leaves you expecting a more layered complexity. The female vocals are clear as a bell, in contrast to the almost mumbled male vocals. The rhythm section stays firmly in the background most of the time and when they get more aggressive, so does the volume level of the vocals. Again, the music is deceptive and while the themes of the lyrics break little new territory, the band’s pop sensibility is real honed to blend with their patina of outsider cool. At times it reminds me of like early basement tapes of Roxy Music or something. XX is one of the few albums I could listen to 4-5 times a day without ever getting pissed or bored, it excels in the background as well as listened to more intently. The Hanes fave tracks are “VCR,” “Islands” and “Shelter.” Thumbs up.
Real Estate – Now this is pretty good indie pop, heavy on the melodies and innocent early Beatles styled backbeats. The vocals often draw out the final word of a lyrical line into more of a musical note. 2009’s eponymous Real Estate is intelligently crafted to seem much simpler than it is, a nifty achievement. The pacing is sometimes slow enough as to nudge against brooding yet the overall sunniness of the arrangements of lightness of the vocalist’s voice consistently carry the day. It would be hard to imagine someone not tapping their toes to the opening track “Beach Comber,” reminiscent of the best of the Guillemots. The next tune “Pool Swimmers” switches it up with something close to a bossa nova beat and the feel of a mellow Yo La Tengo tune. “Let’s Rock The Beach” is a winning mid-tempo cooker. Have to say that there’s nary a clunker on the album, perfect for background music in the backyard or on a long drive with the windows down. Or huddled naked and shivering in the back of your closet.
Yppah – This is a great band. Or, rather, a dude who started out more electronica-based and then expanded further into more alt rock territory. Two albums out so far, there is a clear resemblance but the overall vibe shifts one to the other. A good deal of the first album, 2006’s You Are Beautiful at All Times, recalls the best of Pell Mell, a band too often overlooked these days. In any event, Yppah here fuses melodic lines with some heavy beats to create a pleasing yin/yang character to many of the tunes. The lead track “Ending With You” sets a fine pace for the rest, the next one “I’ll Hit The Breaks” is truth in advertising, bringing the heavy block rockin’ beats. “Again With The Subtitles” seems to be “favored” track on the album and it is definitely like a Pell Mell B-Side. The second half of the album gets a little “dreamier” and places the beats in a more supplementary role. In my mind, 2009’s follow-up They Know What Ghost Know is a superior effort. The songs have a tighter weave to them and more intensity than melody. As if looking to be more hard rocking dance electro in the beat heavy vein. Hell, the first few bars of the first tune “Son Saves The Rest” makes you wonder if it is gonna be a cover of “In Da Gadda Da Vida.” The winning tracks proceed from there, “Gumball Machine Weekend,” “Playing With Fireworks” and “Shutter Speed.” “City Glow” deserves mention as a solid tune full of blips and beeps and shit. Thumbs up on “The Tingling” as well. But the true winner by a good distance is “A Parking Lot Carnival” which is “top 100 tunes of the year” worthy. Just an excellent ripper anyone should enjoy. ANYONE. Yippee for Yppah.
Deerhunter – Many of Hanes’s favorite bands started out with a bang on their first album and never quite duplicated the feat. In some select cases there is noticeable growth as the band “matures” into a better, ore cohesive sound. While I am still not crazy about Deerhunter, this is certainly the case with this band. Their first album, circa 2004, known as both Deerhunter and Turn It Up Faggot and tends to be a noisy mess and I usually like noisy messes. I do appreciate that they named one song “Adorno,” just wonder if they ever read any of the man’s works. A lot of the songs seem to be going for some “metalized” grunge punk or something, the lyrics are all muffled even as they are screamed at you. There’s a lot of redundant nose freak outs and “free rock” meandering to the detriment of actually, umm, creating a song. The lead track “N. Animals” is a better one with at least a sense of flow and movement to it. “Adorno” shows the kernels of a danceable beat, a sign of a more pop orientation to come later. There’s nothing else which mentioning. In 2007 the second album appears, Cryptograms. This is a quantum leap forward. Why, they actually sound like they are playing music. The “Intro” tune does a good job setting the stage for what you’ll be getting, launching right into the title track “Cryptograms” which is a fast-paced winner, very dependent on the drumming, with the vocals close to coherent. Actually, what makes most of the album enjoyable is the deemphasis of the vocals. “Lake Somerset” is another cool song, in many ways reminiscent of Slint. “Octet” is a slow cooker, nicely layered sound and, ahh, those vocals stay in the background almost as a chant or supplementary instrument. The last few tracks tend to meander some but are by no means unlistenable. “Strange Lights,” though, definitely has that early 90’s indie sound down pat, a la Superchunk or something. 2007 also gave us the EP Fluorescent Grey which fits nicely with the true album. “Wash Off” is likely the most notable track. Released more or less together, 2008’s Microcastle and Weird Era Continued trace further movement towards a more polished, thought out sound. More vocals, alas, but mostly inoffensive on Microcastle. “Never Stops” has a fine frenetic feel to it, sinewy beat with good guitar fuzz. “Little Kids” has a sort of artistic grandeur to it, punk prog rock. To this listener, this album is a step back from Cryptograms, it loses a lot of the jagged backbeat and the vocals come to the fore, albeit dressed nattily. It’s just too accessible without the hooks of the previous effort. Sounds too much like late stage Pavement, which is not a good thing. Weird Era Continued is much more like Cryptograms, more lo-fi and muddied and dependent on a standard rocking beat. “Vox Celeste” delivers the amped up goods. Still, this album lacks true stand-out tracks, just easier to listen to passively start to finish. Most recently there is 2009’s EP Rainwater Cassette Exchange. Nothing here exciting. My guess is that Deerhunter peaked with Cryptograms and that’s it.
Jennifer Gentle – Here’s something different, rather than the millionth Scandinavian band, this group is from Padua, Italy. I don’t remember just how I came across them but picked up 2007’s The Midnight Room so time ago but haven’t gotten around to it until now. Definitely an interesting group, almost baroque in a space rock way at times, but there’s also no doubt they are laughing at themselves the majority of the time. When you listen to some songs you’d almost call them an Italian version of Ween. There’s a kind of “oompa” sound to many of the tunes, especially when they whip out the kazoo. The vocals have that same “good” amateurish feel that Ween has. Other tunes have a close to chamber music arrangement which makes you smirk at the ridiculousness of what you’re hearing. This is definitely not music for everyone but it kind of grew on me. The songs differ enough that it is more difficult than most to separate out the best tracks but I think I like “Twin Ghosts,” “Take My Hand” and “The Ferryman.” If a high degree of quirk suits your tastes give ’em a listen.
YOU May Like It
Apse – This is real dense, slog-through-it kind of rock, the kind you have to cut with a knife. In this vein 2006’s Spirit should be considered as an integrated “album” and listened to as such rather than a collection of tracks, some better than others. It has the epic feel familiar to a lot of prog-leaning heavy metal bands, there’s not a lot of vocals and they are muted anyway. The music leans on heavy drumming as extended melodic lines floating above. It has that “serious” demeanor, wants you to feel every note and all that. To me, this is excellent background music for when you are in the mood for this sort of sound but nothing to actually listen to actively. Maybe even best when you’re sick in bed, floating in and out of consciousness, you focus for a bit then fade off, hardly notice if you miss a song or two along the way. I like it but not enough for it to skip over stuff I enjoy much more.
Fever Ray – This is the solo project from the chick with the weird, intentionally overwrought voice from the band The Knife. The eponymously named Fever Ray came out in 2009. The general consensus among reviews is that this album is more “accessible” than stuff by The Knife. Which is in many ways true. I am not the biggest fan of The Knife but when they nail a song such as “Bird” or “Silent Shout” they do nail it. On the other hand, Fever Ray loses the raw intensity that can achieve greatness although, again, it is overall, start to finish, much more listenable. Then one has to acknowledge that if Hanes is searching for “listenable” music, there’s a zillion bands ahead in line. So, I am not displeased with Fever Ray per se, I simply don’t have much use for it, as in “utility.” The first two tracks, “If I Had A Heart” and “When I Grow Up,” have garnered most praise and deservedly so, especially the latter. “Concrete Walls” is a decent tune. What is most disappointing is the ho-hum Fuck Buttons remix of “If I Had A Heart” – this should have been a slam dunk winner but clanged off the rim.
Woods – This band doesn’t suck, they just ain’t Hanes’s cup of tea. Sort of retro in a hippie way, like where’s the sitar? The 60’s and Summer of Love inspired with a solid dose of indie kid sincerity. I.e., a life lived so far all on someone else’s dime, no workee for the rent. Ehh. Anyway, 2009’s Songs of Shame and 2010’s At Echo Lake are seemingly quite popular and, to be fair again, they don’t suck. If you want to hear bongos. “September With Pete” is a good old-fashioned instrumental jam, almost ten minutes of spacey rock. The second album is much better, albeit still not stirring my pot much. The bestest tunes are “Blood Dries Darker,” “From The Horn” and “Get Back” which strike me a close to some work by The Byrds. I can see some folks digging this band. Hence, you may like it.
Japandroids – File under “nothing new under the sun.” A couple of kids pounding out loosely organized, kinda punk but more straight up garage rock. Done well enough, the lyrics speak to the angst of the 18-25 set. The nagging question is “why?,” why when there’s already so much of this type of music available? I think it has to do with wanting to see the angst and anger literally portrayed by someone your own age, not someone who felt those emotions when they were your current age. You want to go to a show and see… yourself. It’s the same way with fiction, there’s more quality fiction already written that a bookworm who lives to ninety couldn’t read it all. But we demand the new or the contemporary and books keep getting written, perhaps representing the zeitgeist of the day but still likely not much better, if, Magic Mountain, Rabbit, or Fathers and Sons. How many people read that shit these days? Anyway, 2009’s Post-Nothing will satisfy it’s core audience and likely fade to black. I would be tempted to see end up in the used CD bin but the album’s core audience probably downloaded it as MP3’s and will simply trash the tracks after they get bored with it. The lead track “The Boys Are Leaving Town” is probably the strongest.
Fujiya & Miyagi – It’s not that F&M’s 2006 album Transparent Things was a great “album” but it had some killer tracks like “Ankle Injuries” or “Sucker Punch.” Their latest output, 2008’s Lightbulbs is not that different from its predecessor but, alas, it lacks any standout tracks and thus leaves you feeling let down. Kind of like they are in a creative rut, semi-uninspired. Not that the album is unlistenable by any stretch, just after about 5-6 listens there’s not much more to be gained. For best tracks I’d give the nod to “Hundreds & Thousands,” “Uh” and “Rook to Queen’s Pawn Six.” But there’s nothing here truly iPod worthy. Which is sad.
Could’ve Had a V8
Wild Beasts – You ever like walk into a bar and immediately realize it was a mistake? That’s what listening to Wild Beasts is like for me. You freeze, but you don’t want to freeze in a way that attracts attention to yourself. You have to act natural, don’t disturb the beehive yet get the fuck out of there as quickly as you can. Anyway, 2008’s Limbo, Panto and 2009’s Two Dancers suck ass royally. Sure, if you like dramatic theatrics and forced falsettos you may dig them. But you probably like Antony and The Johnsons too, and they suck worse. Look, there’s no lack of instrumental chops nor depth of knowledge of multiple genres of music. But the best thing about reviewing music is that it’s a swift and final judgment which leaves more time to listen to other music. The hardest part is choosing one song from each album as a reminder that you have indeed listened to this band before, no sense wasting more time.
The Dirty Projectors – Whew, thankfully this is going to be easy. This band sucks ass. The only difficult part is that there’s a few albums to slog through before never having to listen to them again. These are 2003’s Morning Better Last!, 2003’s The Glad Fact, 2005’s The Getty Address, 2006’s New Attitude, 2007’s Rise Above, and 2008’s Bitte Orca. I don’t know what the mastermind behind this wants it to sound like, maybe today’s indie Eugene Chadbourne or something, but this crap is nothing but a mish-mash of cacophonous, self-indulgent nonsense. Ugh, painful shit.
Ho-Ag – Not sure how I got snookered into buying this album. Because 2006’s The Word From Pluto is definitely not my cup of tea. Geeky metalesque, cacophonic rock with close to no sense of harmony and flow. It’s hard to admit, but Hanes just ain’t 19 years old anymore. Staccato bursts of guitars and drums, rapid tempo shifts, vocals screamed more than sung (if ever actually sung as in “in tune”). As opposed to the album by The XX which I could listen to all day, this one was painful to get through once. There’s just no real explanation for the existence of music like this.
The Hanes Music Review 016
(Originally seeded April 2010)
A few decent bands found in the listening queue of recent weeks. As usual all randomly picked due to the recurring reverberations from the loss of Hanes's entire music collection in late 2009. Luckily for the sake of freeing up hard drive space, more than a few bands which suck ass. But that is generally to be expected. The journey through space, time and music continues.
Endless Boogie – Have had this stuff for forever and a day and never managed to formally do it justice, although have loved listening to it now and then. This down dirty, grungy blues inflected rock done right. The production lets the slime ooze out at all the right times, the basslines and guitar riffs would fit any large outdoors arena in the 70's. And the male vocalist's voice is just "off" enough to intrigue for its uniqueness. So, while 2008's Focus Level is not breaking any new territory, it covers its ground adroitly and fully. Most of the songs are longer jams, over five minutes with the longest at 16:19. Why, at times, it's like a contemporary version of early Ted Nugent. Which is a good thing. The opening track "Smoking Figs In The Yard" is the big winner. All the tunes have their relative strengths and weaknesses but after that opener me likes "Coming Down the Stairs" and "The Manly Vibe." "Jammin' With Top Dollar" sounds like a riff on Canned Heat's "On The Road Again." Just old fashioned rock and roll.
Mahjongg – Now here's a diverse set of tunes based around an "electronica" base with a whole bunch of "kitchen sink" thrown in around it. Plus, the big bonus is that they sound like, as a band, they are genuinely having fun doing what they are doing. Whatever that is. 2007's album Kontpab offers a variety of rhythmic beats from song to song while the lyrics on many of the best tunes are more like chants than lyrics per se. Or just random mumbled repetitions. Which is right up Hanes's alley. From time to time puts some funk in the guitar and bass lines too. The energy is almost always high and quirky enough to elicit a cocked ear. The lead track "Pontiac" is most excellent with an Afro beat character, could almost be a bonus track from My Life in The Bush of Ghosts. The next track "Problems" is probably the most accessible track, yet, at the same time, it is most effective when not listened to that frequently. "Tell The Police the Truth" is more straight-up electro-rock, perhaps a la Bloc Party or something, effective tune. "Those Birds Are Bats" could be a contemporary techno remix of a Ramones cover of an early 60's tune. Real fun.
Lindstrøm – A dude from Norway who does all that electronic noodling all the kids are into these days. The vibe is usually mellow and popish, soothing while fun enough to nudge you towards the dance floor. Or at least tap your toes while stuck in traffic. We'll start with 2006's It's a Feedelity Affair, ever so wittily titled. The opening track "Fast and Delirious" is just a playful romp that at times has the innocence of a high school musical composition. "Cane It For The Original Whities" is another enjoyable tune and "I Feel Space" might be the best track on the album. Overall, there's not a loser track and it comes across as the sort of album you can just put on the music system at a lounge or chi-chi restaurant and let it go first song to last. 2008 brings another album although it's hard to categorize Where You Go I Go too in that manner since it is three songs long. Three good songs but not built for iPod listening, more background listening or lounge music. It seems that Mssr. Lindstrøm is more well known in good part for his collaborations with a certain Prins Thomas. So, why not check this out as well? 2009's album II gets the nod, overall a gentler vibe, deeper and more "cool lounge" than pop, like it helps if you're dressed in black when you listen to it. All the tunes are long, as if intended to hypnotize. Which they are good at, mind you. The lead track "Cisco" is a standout as is "Gudene Vet + Snutt" whatever the hell that means.
Spring Heel Jack – An electronica duo who have multiple albums out, Hanes has 1996's 68 Million Shades. One reviewer calls the a "dub-inspired take on jungle." I believe him since I don't know what the fuck that means. Full of solid beats, almost cacophonous at times, sudden drops and curious juxtapositions of random sounds. All are good things. "60 Seconds" has a nice sexy loungey feel to it, kinda samba like. "Eesti" and "Midwest" are enjoyable as well. Other tunes have a more "ominous" feel to them, so you know they try to mix it up. "They say" this is not one of Spring Heel Jack's best albums so maybe Hanes would like other stuff just as well if not better. And maybe one day we'll find out.
Adult. – The hardest thing to figure out about this band is this, capital "A" or ALL CAPS? The period I got. I still don't know if Adult. is correct or if it's ADULT. Anyway, an electronic duo from Detroit which apparently strives to live on edge. The edge of what is the question. Lack of feeling, total insensateness? Deviance? Transgressivity? Ehh, who gives a shit, just listen to the tunes and decide if they rock or not. Go. Well start with the 2000 EP New-Phonies. They nail the beat, deliver the mindless robot and the rebellious android. Kind of recalls Whale. Or maybe Ladytron at moments. All the songs are listenable although none galvanize you. "Hand to Phone" arguably the best. Then there's the EP Nausea which has more polish and a new wave like sound, channels the visceral rawness a touch better. "Skinlike" and "Contagious" are cool tunes with pop music appeal and detachment. 2001 brings a collection of singles, B-sides, remixes, etc. in Resuscitation. Top tracks include "Human Wreck (Radio Edit)" and "Private Conversations." In 2003 Adult. offers their first full length album, Anxiety Always. It's hard not to see this more of the same with just more tunes. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. "Kick In The Shin" is a winner the instrumental "The Cold Call" ain't bad neither. 2005's album Gimmie Trouble continues the general theme, can't say there is an swerve to merit note. The title track "Gimmie Trouble" and "In My Nerves" come out on top here. 2007's album Why Bother? underscores the sentiment of "If it ain't broken, don't fix it." However, it's actually one of their least interesting efforts. Despite the usual shrill vocals, "You Don't Worry Enough" is probably the best track on the album with "Plagued by Fear" next. I do like Adult. but simply am unsure when I would ever choose to listen to them over 60,000 other options. Even though I typed this much about them.
YOU May Like It
Mr. Scruff – A DJ dude and electronic artist from Manchester of some repute. So, what's not to check out? Lots of stuff out ranging from 1995 to the present. Originally called Mr. Scruff in 1997 and then rechristened Mrs. Scruff in 2005, the first album has some high points where the beats find counterpoint is the other random sounds. "Chicken In A Box" might be my all-time favorite tune from Mr. Scruff. There's a definite soul, R&B inflection to a lot of the earlier stuff, as a result on 1999's Keep It Unreal Hanes doesn't really go for the tracks with the floating R&B female vocals. That's just the way these things go. So, while others have praised this "breakbeat master" for this album it only about half works for me. The most worthy tunes from this album are "Spandex Man" and "Chipmunk" with 3-4 others a cut below. The next album, 2002's Trouser Jazz is arguably a step back, less catchy and interesting and a touch more by-the-numbers. Forgettable. There's apparently a series of efforts by various artists called the Solid Steel series. Mr. Scruff contributed to this in 2004, Mr. Scruff Presents Keep It Solid Steel. Given that there's 31 tracks, there's some decent samples here. "Ing" by Mungo's Hi-Fi is one. "Check the Vibe" by Dred Scott and "Funky Axe" by Spaghetti Head are others. You have to really be into the scene to dig more than half a dozen songs. 2008's Ninja Tuna is actually a little better with more tunes I enjoy even though it met with a more tepid response from the general press. "Donkey Ride" and "Whiplash" are both winners. To me, all of Mr. Scruff's output could be reduced to an extended CD's worth of tunes. But those tunes would be good.
Les Rythmes Digitales – One from the vaults that was never fully and properly assessed. Which might be telling in its own way, if it demanded attention it would have received it. Anyway, 1999's Darkdancer is this English parents, raised in Paris dude's second album and supposed to be his best. It's pastiche techno with frequent nods to old school roots. The album starts off very promisingly with two excellent tracks in "Dreamin'" and "Music Makes You Lose Control." But then it falls off a cliff with the third track "Soft Machine" which sucks ass, hackneyed and self-important without any flow. The rest of the album only marginally improves from there. Minor props for working in a recurring sample from "Disco Duck" into one of the songs. "About Funk" is a positive blip towards the end of the album. It's not hard to see why Les Rythmes Digitales petered out within a few years. But, to be fair, the few good tunes are good.
JJ – From Sweden, didn't Hanes foreswear listening to more Scandinavian bands? Hmmm. OK, this duo has been called "neo-Balearic" which is enough to send Hanes running. Delicate pop melodies with a borderline "new age" or "world" feel, like you'd expect their stuff to come out on Putymayo or some shit. This is waaaaay too "pretty" and precious for me but it's not poorly executed. Both full albums, 2009's N° 2 and 2010's N° 3 are very similar and saccharinely sweet. Floating female vocals, echoing instrumentation, moody but always positive. I can't take it anymore.
Gang Gang Dance – When a band is labeled as "avant-garde rock, experimental rock, and art rock" it's usually a bad sign. This is no exception. I can imagine some young Williamsburg jerk in skinny jeans putting this on the stereo after getting some chickie back to his apartment, thinking it might help him get laid. Uhh, not, no matter how much Adorno you whisper in her ear. Admittedly, this band gets better over time but it's just a matter of degrees. It's hard to excel when your primary singer sounds like Björk with a severe case of bronchitis. Their earliest album I have access to, 2004's eponymous Gang Gang Dance consists of two songs, "Side A" and "Side B." Both are unlistenable. And I like bands like Electric Company. Too much grad school navel gazing posturing as avant-garde. Heywood. 2005's God's Money gets the animal out of the sea and flopping on the land in hopes of growing usable limbs. Here the "experimentation" continues but at least there's some vestige of rhythm and coherent song structure to get beyond mere musical masturbation. "God's Money V" and "Untitled (Piano)" could be considered decent tunes. It's hard to tell if the 2007 EP Retina Riddim is a step back or forward, or just a single sprawling 24 minute musical bowel movement. The next 2007 EP RAWWAR is a lateral move, nothing new to be heard although "Oxygen Demo Riddim" might be the most listenable track they released to that point. 2008's full album Saint Dymphna is seen as the band's breakthrough. And it's probably correct, albeit this doesn't mean greatness. That slam aside, "Bebey," "Princes" and "Dust" are worthy tunes. My Bloody Valentine's lawyers should sue over "Vacuum."
Could've Had a V8
The Kills – OK, it's a chick and a dude grinding out bluesy, fuzzed out semi-punk rock. Hey, it could work. There's definitely the lo-fi aesthetic in play, as if aiming more for fun or drunken lack of attention to detail than polish. See: The Sonics. This music is probably aimed at people who find The White Stripes listenable, not moi. Overall, out of maybe 60 songs I'd listen to half a dozen again willingly. For main albums they offer the following. 2003's Keep On Your Mean Side offers lots of attitude and a minimalist punk musical structure. Kind of boring. Like crap by Peaches after her first album. "Kissy Kissy" is an alright tune. Then there's 2005's No Wow. Aptly named. "Murdermile" is OK. Then there's 2008's Midnight Boom. Here they seem to embrace their inherent cheesiness and basic hollowness. Actually to slightly better effect than their previous efforts, at least it comes across as more honest. Still sucks though. "Cheap and Cheerful" is OK. Nothing to see here, kids, keep on moving.
Little Dragon – Sometimes I think it is as impossible to swear off Scandinavian bands as it swearing off breathing. They just pop up like mushrooms after a rain storm. So, they wear you down, you read the glowing reviews, and you just go with the flow. The world is such a sad place, why not at least try to be ecumenical? OK, so the natural place is to start with the first full album, 2007's eponymous Little Dragon. First, I would like to say I hate using the word "eponymous" but the fucking bands lack imagination in titling their albums, not my fault. Their Japanese-Swede female singer at least adds some exotica to the mix. Definitely a bluesy diva affect. Some tunes strive for an early Prince-like funk. Others try to hit a down tempo lounge techno vibe. Anyway you cut it, it isn't working for Hanes. That said, "Recommendation" and "Forever" are sufferable. The big follow-up, 2009's Machine Dreams, is indeed an improvement, which couldn't have been that hard to do. The album just seems to flow better, even though no greater quantity of stand out tracks. "Looking Glass" and "Blinking Pigs" are OK. If there is an testament to potential lameness of this band, they have willingly played Charlotte twice during the past three years. To what I understand were like seven people each time.
Dappled Cities – It's a crime what a 7.8 on Pitchfork will make a man do. Like listen to a band called Dappled Cities. Wow, they are lame. 2009's Zounds is full of overreaching pseudo-intellectualism and throwing shit in there without much apparent thought to why. It's basic rock orchestral indie stuff that tries to use hooks to toy with your emotions but just ends up a mess. There's two male vocalists alternating through the album, sometimes in harmony. Basic indie pop orientation. Maybe someone can provide a good counter-argument to throwing up listening to this band. I'm all ears. But you'd have to pull my head back out of the porcelain goddess for me to catch what you're saying. The most difficult part was picking one song to keep so I'd remember I had already heard them before.
Great Lakes Myth Society – Been holding onto this for some time now without reviewing. Which is telling. A decent band but far too "twee" for Hanes. Not sure exactly what "sound" they are going for, a kind of dreamy indie folk? Throughout 2005's eponymous Great Lakes Myth Society there's lots of emotional, tremulous crescendos and about as much earnestness as one can take in a single sitting. Harmonies, plaintive solo instrumentation, geez, just make it stop. What's next, you gonna make me listen to Sufjan Stevens? Really, I am at a loss for words here as this sort of music has close to zero appeal to me. If someone an explain, please feel free.
Fucked Up – Naturally, the band's name leaves some living up to do. As in, with a new such as this the onus is on you not to suck. Basically it's hard rock with a punk veneer, a loud sort of "fuck you" sound. Which dovetails nicely with the band name. Their oeuvre begins in earnest in 2006 with the EP Triumph of Life and full album Hidden World. The instrumentation isn't bad, particularly if one is fond of Suicidal Tendencies and like sounding bands. The screamed vocals are lame and forced and ring hollow. I would suspect even more hollow were the lyrics barely decipherable. It's actually quite enjoyable to try and review bands like this because they make it so, so easy. Spend an hour or two and you can feel the confidence of your assessment swell. Yes, you say to yourself, they do suck! More EPs and albums are offered by this band. Each has a name. After more enough repeated listenings to be more than fair, 15 songs remain undeleted and this represents Hanes in a generous mood, thinking of arrows in quivers and all that. If only we were all 17 year old boys all would be good with Fucked Up.
White Rabbits – Wow, this band is lame. Just makes you want to go out and beat the shit out of anyone who likes this crap. Bleech. AllMusic says of the band, "it's easy to mistake the White Rabbits for just another set of New York City dance-rock hipsters." Uhh, no, it is MANDATORY. Nothing here that isn't predigested, regurgitated pabulum. It's like every note, every lyric was lovingly crafted to be as clever as possible, yet, instead, is achingly self-impressed. I guess "pastiche indie rock" would be the best description for 2007's Fort Nightly and 2009's It's Frightening. The back beats seem to indicate danceable rock music. Like they want their audience to sway back and forth if not outright dance. Because we're having so much fun up here on the stage we'll infect you with our good mood! The 2009 album was produced by a dude from Spoon so it is marginally better [less worse]. The world will be a safer place when these guys get 9-5 desk jobs.
The Hanes Music Review 015
(Originally remastered March 2010)
Hanes’s iTunes collection is mostly rebuilt after the total systemic breakdown of December 2009. But the scars will last forever. Trying to catch up on music assessment now, lots and lots to slog through. Can we order a “no new music timeout” for the next six months?
Anyway, this time around there seems to be a big bulge in music that is generally credible but not suited for Hanes’s delicate sensibility. A few winners and only a couple of real clunkers. But you make your own decision, that’s what American democracy is all about.
Crystal Stilts – The winner of the “battle of bands whose names start with Crystal”! And who doesn’t like stilts, after all? A band right up Hanes’s alley, channeling VU, full of echo chamber vocals and static crackling guitars, laconic in a drug fueled the brain is going a million miles an hour way. Some tunes add that surf sound that helped make the J&MC what they were. All I gots is 2008’s full length album Alight of Night but that’s enough for now. The hottest track is the eponymous “Crystal Stilts” which throws it all in there – 60’s keyboards, heavy bassline, more high hat beats, and vocals which sound like they are slowly drowning in the song. Totally sweet. The lead track “The Dazzled” rocks too, “The SinKing” no slouch either. Actually, none of the songs suck, it’s simply a matter of personal taste as to which would be preferred. And, of course, following Hanes’s taste in all things of import. Golly gee, I hope they have a new album out soon!
The Ting Tings – Just about ever major music review outfit out there slagged this band. So, naturally, Hanes kind of likes them. They have a fun, ultra-repetitive sound with just enough hooks and stylized vocals to recall some of the best early 80’s pop. That is, to people, who actually lived through that zeitgeist and aren’t simply living in a state of nostalgia for the unremembered 80’s. Their 2008 album We Started Nothing breaks no new territory. That, along with some assorted singles and other shit, get the thumbs up here. The sound is subtly heavy on the drums, subconsciously getting you nodding your head or tapping your toes and the synth and guitar accompaniment lull you into a steady rhythm. The lyrics are more or less meaningless or forgettable but the female singer’s voice can adapt to many different sounds and fits the whole quite well. Best two tunes lead off the album, “Great DJ” and “That’s Not My Name.” “Traffic Light” is a nice change of pace track.
Atlas Sound – A side band of Deerhunter’s singer, the dude has put out two albums so far, 2008’s Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel and 2009’s Logos. I can never accurately remember the name of the first album, too long and pretentious. But the music itself ain’t bad, mostly highly emotive, dreamscape type stuff full of indulgent harmony close to an electronic age Beach Boys. The vocals fit the music OK, the lyrics have minimal impact except for a few tunes, notably “Sheila.” Overall, the two albums make it seem the dude takes himself way too importantly but, shit, when is that not the case with l’artiste? Anyway, it’s not like I have to actually meet the guy, thank god. The first album is the better, it is widely noted that the second album took some time and effort to suitably complete. The first album standout tracks for me are “River Card” (he breathes the words rather than sings keeping the lyrics muted, whew), “Scraping Past” and “Ativan.” For Logos the best ditties are the aforementioned “Sheila” and “Quick Canal,” the latter because the chick from Stereolab does the singing. A sense of humility would help here, like not putting your nasty naked body on the cover.
The Field – Already have issued a pronouncement on 2007’s From Here We Go Sublime with a full Roman coliseum thumbs up. So, now we have 2009’s Yesterday and Today as well as a few other assorted trax. From the 2007 and 2008 Pop Ambient series The Field has blessed us with “Kappsta” and “Kappsta 2” and both are excellent tracks, with some preference for the first. Now, we have 2009’s album proper Yesterday and Today. What I enjoy most about The Field is that it is uptempo ambient music. It makes you want to move but not necessarily dance. There’s a kinetic energy about to be released. You can listen to the whole album time and again and never get bored but also never quite recall what you heard, as in humming the tune to yourself. While, again, it coheres as a whole, I have a preference for “Leave It” and “The More That I Do.” For iPod purposes part of the problem is that the songs are mostly six to twelve minutes long which may be too much of a commitment when bouncing around the urban jungle. Anyway, more good stuff here.
Crystal Castles – Here’s an electronic sound driven duo of recent years that creates some catchy, if harsh and jagged, tunes. A lot of the best stuff are remixes, of course, say all the kids. There’s a few EPs, an album of b-sides and etcetera, and an album proper, 2008’s eponymous Crystal Castles. Oddly, nothing since as far as I can tell. Anyhoo, there’s some fair danceability here, again the keyboard noodling gets your toes tapping. 2006’s Alice Practice EP is a bit unevolved and unnecessarily harsh, tad too much screaming by the girl singer. However, “Dolls” is a fun 1:30 of fucking around on the decks. 2007’s collaboration with HEALTH, aptly named Crystal Castles vs. HEALTH, as are so many other collaborations, has more polish. Hard to parse out who did what on the eight tracks. No tracks really jump out at you but the final four harkens back to the raw harshness of their earliest stuff.The 2008 EP Crimewave comprised of remixes of the tune “Crimewave” (surprise) is pretty gosh darn cool. The L.A. Riots remix is probably the best of the bunch. 2007’s Thrash Thrash Thrash collection is a decent “hold the fort” release. The 2008 album proper rehashes some tunes but it solid overall. “Good Time” and “Vanished” are notable new songs. I think this guys may be capable of improving and producing even better stuff. But I may be wrong. We all remember the events of 1992.
YOU May Like It
Delta Spirit – This is about as authentic as today’s hipsters get. Which is, yes, damning by faint praise. They are good after a fashion, a kind of folksy, bluesy indie sound that at times evokes Dylan, just without deep self-awareness and intelligence. In a sense, a pale shadow of groups like The Felice Brothers or Pernice Brothers. Again, the pain and anguish doesn’t ring through as truly lived, the essential bitterness is missing. So, 2007’s Ode to Sunshine turns out to be a decent effort but nothing for the time capsule. Got the harmonica, jingle jangles and high toned drum back beats. It could speak to you if you hadn’t already tasted the pure, uncut stuff. But, but, but, not unlikable per se. “Trashcan” and “Strange Vine” are good tunes, the latter (as others note) almost a Gomez tribute song. Four songs kept out of ten, not that bad a percentage.
Calvin Harris – This dude actually produces some amazing stuff. Amazing in that he produces tune after tune of highly danceable, listenable inanity. Listening to his music is like eating a bag of Doritos in one sitting, you keep going not knowing what you’re doing until it’s over. Both 2007’s I Created Disco and 2009’s Ready for the Weekend are testaments to the simple silly fun of being young. The beats and the lyrics represent no breakthrough but that’s the genius of being young, you create oblivious to the act of recreation you are participating in, it’s fresh to you. And that’s what counts. Summer time, sex in the air, beer in the hand. Songs don’t really stick out for the obvious, aforementioned reasons, the first album might be a bit tighter while the second has a touch more diversity of sound while still hewing to The Beat. I’m not the intended audience of this music, I like it well enough but I’ve never been to Ibiza.
Alberta Cross – I’m not much into the alt-country and roots rock scene. You mistook me for someone else, sorry. But I still like to think I can tell when a band is decent or not. And so we come to such a band, from London of all places, called Alberta Cross. They are pretty damn good and can competently slap you with a harder rocking number or a quietly moody ballad. Hanes would definitely likey if, err, he liked this sort of sound. The vocals are crisp and evocative, genuine and not close to overwrought. Most of the tunes, though, are mid-tempo and try to blend in some bluesy qualities into the basic rock foundation. 2007’s four song Leave Us or Forgive Us EP is a solid introduction and the title track is quality. This EP would suggest the band started out rocking more then smoothed the sound out over time. 2007’s proper album The Thief & The Heartbreaker delivers more of the goods, again the title track noteworthy (alternate version is on the EP) as well as “Old Man Chicago” and “Hard Breaks.” Moving on to 2009’s album Broken Side of Time we find some duplication in songs included. At the same time, the new tracks evoke more of the ongoing Neil Young homage feel. That’s all there is to say now, folks.
The Budos Band – I had been meaning to check this group out for some time. The first problem I had was deciding what “genre” to choose for it in iTunes. Funk? Afro-Beat? The sound is right out of the 60’s and 70’s when funk and more native African and Latin music collided. So, I went with the wimpy “World” music genre. Curiously, this outfit is based in Staten Island, home of many proudly white people. Hmmm. Anyway, we have 2005’s The Budos Band and 2007’s The Budos Band II. One assumes they are due for a new album soon, if the band still exists. The music is full of soaring horns, tricked out bass lines, down tempo rhythm guitar and some reeds for good measure. You get more keyboards on the second album. This just isn’t my sound, hell, I remain tepid on Fela and he’s one of the paragons of this stuff. If it rocked a little bit like War maybe I’d be down with it. From the first album I like best “Up From the South” and “Ghost Walk.” From the second “Budos Rising” and “Ride or Die.” Whether it suits your fancy or not they are good musicians.
Beach House – Oy, vey. Another example of Hanes swimming against the current. Every reputable online musical outlet has busted a nut over this band. Sure, it’s dreamy pop, but it’s also pretty damn boring. I mean, indulgent in an uncompelling fashion. There’s no musical hooks, the lyrics are lame when scrutable, Listened more times than I cared to to 2006’s eponymous Beach House, 2008’s Devotion and 2010’s Teen Dream. Each album was progressively less interesting. I can see how liking this band could get a fella laid but I’m fresh out of skinny jeans plus I shave on a regular basis. So, the floating vocals and sparsely lush musical accompaniment can drift off without me. That said, four tunes from each of the first two albums and two tunes from the latest album merit the hard drive space, notably “Master of None” and “D.A.R.L.I.N.G.” Thanks for the trip, kids.
Alpha and Omega – Here’s a reggae/dub outfit from England which started out around 1988 and seem to still be around as of 2006. This is a genre I enjoy but am very picky about. I’ll find certain tracks I just love and then a dozen tracks will leave me flat. Same thing happened with Mad Professor, there’s like 4-5 tracks in his discography I could listen to everyday. The rest, ehh. So, anyway, thought it was time to give Alpha & omega a look-see, listen-see. Nothing here that is so incredibly fantabulous but it’s listenable, out of eight albums spanning 1988 through 2003, there’s like 30 songs worth holding onto. The shit just gets tired after like 30 minutes. Admittedly, Hanes is not stoned while listening. The woman’s voice annoys me for some reason. Anyway, it’s good to have some music like this around. Never know when it might get you laid.
Engineers – Everyone describes this band as “neo-shoegaze” so I guess that is a legitimate category. Sure, why not, works for me. After all, I have liked shoegaze since the first guitarist looked downward at his kicks. They have an earlier album from 2005 but here we assess 2009’s Three Fact Fader. Well, to Hanes, Engineers better keep gazing for ways to make more interesting music. Sure there’s the strings and extended notes floating away but the music isn’t quite lush as the best of the genre is. And the angsty frenetic flourishes lack real power. It’s more like “shoegaze lite” to moi. there must have been some review I read which made them sound better than they are. Which is entirely par for the course. Kids today. Couple of decent tunes in “Sometimes I Realise” and “Clean Coloured Wire” but that’s about it.
Skream – Being an out of touch old man has its disadvantages. Like trying to understand the incredible appeal of the musical genre called “dubstep.” Now, there’s some decent tunes in the genre, don’t get me wrong. That said, as with the guy calling himself Skream, you have to wade through hundreds of highly repetitive songs to find the few gems worth listening to again in the future. And I mean hundreds of songs, this Skream is nothing if not prolific. I’m too tired to list the few dozen songs left. But there’s OK. Probably won’t get you laid, though.
Could’ve Had a V8
Oh No – I say I won’t and then I do. Nothing new under the sun. Hanes yet quests for enjoyable contemporary rap. There has to be something wrong with me. The music is lame, the raps are boilerplate boasting, nothing even remotely clever. Dissected 2004’s The Disrupt, 2006’s Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms, and 2009’s Dr. No’s Ethiopium and the only reason to keep any tunes is just to remind oneself that one has heard and assessed this music. Naturally, instrumental tracks curry the most favor with Hanes. Which is sadder, Hanes or the raps?
Crystal Antlers – This is a tough call because this band gets all but uniform raves from The Music Press. Each time I listened to 2008’s EP and 2009’s full length album Tentacles it was deeper attention and focus. What was I missing? Well, I have to say not much. The frenetic screaming of the singer is tiresome after a song or two. The equally frenzied drums and guitar riffs possess time-tested hard rock psychedelic roots. The songs never “coalesce” and it’s almost by intent, free form jamsters don’t coalesce. Man. There’s the temptation to include this band under “YOU May Like It” but if you do, you shouldn’t. History shall cast this band into the dustbin next to Nerf Herder.
The Hanes Music Review 014
(Originally carefully considered December 2009)
More troubling times for Hanes. Not only did my computer die (only five years old, so much for the indestructibility of Macs). Now my external hard drive crashed and they want $1,900 to recover the data. I kept all my music files on that external drive with, of course, no backup. I will now buy a backup external drive for the primary external drive. Anyway, the upshot is that poor Hanes has lost most of his music files. Luckily, I still know what files they were so it’s just a matter of replacing them all over time. Over time. Over time. Lots of work, but what meaningful lessons in life do not require hard work?
Here’s some stuff I reviewed recently, pre-crashes. Who knows when I will get to my next music review but I suspect future reviews will track the alphabet from A to Z as the recovering process shuffles along!
Jowe Head – A solo album from a member of Swell Maps and Television Personalities, Unhinged was first released in 1994. It’s an eclectic mix of styles and sounds and the diversity might be annoying to some as it’s much more a “collection” of random songs than an “album” proper. And with 21 songs on it, no doubt each individual listener will find their own favorites. Unless they just hate on the whole thing. The one thread tying most of it together is his voice, the deep sinister growl, world weary, sardonic and sarcastic. Hanes thinks this is a great album and heartily recommends it for, if nothing, quirk factor alone. The tune “Istanbul” is so hilarious it could easily be slid into a Modern Lovers album without any noticing. Other notables include “Nebelwerfer,” “Sudden Shower,” “For Whom The Bell” and “Marzipan.” Three songs make it onto the iPod, which is a lot these days from any single album. A good nugget from the past.
Osborne – If you like soft steady beats and a certain prettiness in your electronica dance music, why then Osborne might be for you. 2008’s Osborne is incredibly easy to listen to and has a sunshiny energy that bespeaks the desire to have fun more than make one’s DJ bones publicly. In one tune he all but pokes fun at himself and how DJs add the breaks. The album starts off with two total winners in “16th Stage” and “Downtown,” warm and enveloping with a strong and steady pulse, the kind of music you want playing when you enter the darkly lit lounge at 2:00 AM. While Hanes finds the whole album solid, after these two the best tracks universally put are “Suffer” and “Detune,” the latter is so most excellently Miami Vice 80’s in sound. If you want to put your hand-cut go-go boy jeans shorts on and get in the game on the dance floor “Ruling” is probably the cut for you. Good shit overall. Just wish I could afford the drugs to go with it.
Wavves – It with great pleasure that Hanes declares that bands yet exist which merit the all but universal hype. There is still hope for humanity yet. The 2009 eponymous Waaves album is just the ginchiest. Recalling the best lo-fi efforts of Pavement, Ramones, Superchunk, et. al. and at times echoing the overall sound of contemporaries Wooden Shjips (albeit more straightforwardly rocking), they seem more than willing to sound “natural” and make mistakes rather than lean too heavily on studio production. So, there’s an organic “murkiness” to a lot of the sound, this deepens the rhythmic intensity of a lot of the tunes. The extended choral phrasings add to the intelligent dumbness of the sound. While the entire album is solid, personal faves include “Gun in The Sun,” “No Hope Kids,” “So Bored,” “To The Dregs” and “Weed Demon.” Yes, kiddies, that’s five songs that are iPod worthy. That might be a contemporary world record. That’s scary good. Naturally, their sophomore effort will blow chunks…
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – While we are lavishing kudos on the kids, here is another band which pays the tab on their hype. Picking up the august dream pop, shoegaze thread, they never really get close to the “wall of sound” but create similarities to Ride, Slowdive or The Boo Radleys and, at times, Teenage Fanclub. The lyrics have the typical detached, floating, if not eerie, quality to them. The guitars are quietly furious in the background. The drums move at a steadily manic beat. However, melody is never sacrificed to the beat. There’s a saccharine sweetness to so many of the songs which betrays the band’s devotion to the sound of their forebears, it’s hard not to just mindlessly give in to the pop love fest. Why, you even forgive the incredible cheese of the album cover. Starts off fast out of the blocks with “Contender” and “Come Saturday” (which could be a Fanclub cover). “Everything With You” and “This Love Is Fucking Right” also hit the pleasure nodes. 2009 brings the EP Higher Than The Stars which seems kind of like “tide me over” filler. It’s mellower and less decisive, and there is a conscious harkening to early 80’s synth euro-pop. I like the band enough to give them a pass on this. Anyway, if you liked the aforementioned bands above this could be your next flava.
Passion Pit – One of those bands that starts out as one guy’s brainchild, takes off, needs other humans to play live shows, and so it goes. It started with 2008’s EP Chunk of Change which was supposed to be songs the dude wrote for his girlfriend. Which is so sweet. All six songs are solid, the sound is like indie dance music, ubiquitous uptempo back beats with funky keyboard noodlings and other hodgepodge sounds throw in. The vocals are more instrumental in feel than expressing lyrics, part of the musical fabric. Overall, you can see a bunch of similarities to the Hot Chip sound. “I’ve Got Your Number” is very solid and “Better Things” just about as good. “Sleepyhead” seems to be the break out number and it also appears on the full band album. Which is 2009’s Manners. OK, this album does not have the “focus” of the first and there’s definitely an undercurrent of trying to make the sound inclusive as a band and not just one guy whacking off. That said, it is not a bad successor and augurs well for more integrated efforts going forward. The album retains a bright, optimistic gloss and what quirk may be lost may in turn be gained via a more familiar indie sound. Pour moi, the most enjoyable tracks are “Little Secrets,” “The Reeling” and the aforementioned “Sleepyhead.” Worthy.
Fuck Buttons – Fuck, yeah! Electronic, industrial noise just the way Hanes likes it. It’s got the solid beats, the narcotic, repetitive fuzz, the pianos and organs from on high, any vocals just more like emotive embellishments than true lyrics. There’s a swirling density to many of songs, like walking through a smoke machine. The best songs have a narcotic repetitiveness which almost helps you skim over the underlying complexities. 2007’s 7” release Bright Tomorrow consists of two tracks and the title track is most iPod worthy. To Fuck Buttons’ credit there is also in 2008 a split EP with Mogwai, they cover each other (think they toured together or something). Both covers are OK, nothing that crazy good. However, 2008’s full length album Street Horrrsing is the shit, consisting of six pretty long tracks. Actually, what’s nice about the album is how the tunes flow together and no single one shines over the rest. From this album the 2008 EP Colours Move offers one stellar track, the Andrew Weatherall remix of “Sweet Love for Planet Earth.” As a teaser of sorts for the new 2009 album Tarot Sport they release a killer track called “Surf Solar” as part of the eponymous EP. Most excellent. As for Tarot Sport, besides the longer version of “Surf Solar” there’s “The Lisbon Maru” and “Phantom Limb” (which is similar to stuff by Electric Company). As with any album by essentially DJ’s the songs blend into each other so it isolation the starts and finishes can sound weird. Hmmm, “Space Mountain” ain’t too shabby neither.
YOU May Like It
The Puppini Sisters – A novelty act out of England, similar in some respects to Combustible Edison in that they copy an older sound with a patina of modernization. The Puppini Sisters’ genre is the jazzy group vocals of the 30’s and 40’s and they do a decent job of recalling the sound of this bygone era. They mostly stick to traditional classics of the genre while also covering newer tunes like “Walk Like an Egyptian” or “Heart of Glass.” Checked out 2006’s Betcha Bottom Dollar and 2007’s The Rise & Fall of Ruby Foo. It’s not that the music here is devoid of interest. Nor is it clumsily executed. It just doesn’t have the “legs” to stand up to repeated listenings and retain your interest. This is not to say that the ladies’ don’t have gams, as they do. From both albums the songs that stand out the most to me are “Java Jive,” “Wuthering Heights,” and “Old Cape Cod.” You may like it, that’s why it’s in this section. Duh.
Pas Chic Chic! – A band from Montreal, which explains the French lyrics. Doesn’t necessarily account for the dramatic, should have taken a Xanax, style of pop. Blending chamber and psychedelic music, 2008’s Au Contraire comes across as a period piece of the early 70’s prog rock scene. There’s a soaring grandeur to many of the songs that will either have you cracking up out loud or mindlessly tapping your foot to it. In the end I’d have to consider it cheesy in a good way, albeit without much shelf life for me. At times sounds like a movie score. I’d go with “Vous comprenez pourquoi” and “Haydée Morcelée” as the best tracks. Maybe I’d feel differently if my French was better. Hmmm.
Times New Viking – Now Hanes likes the lo-fi sound as much as the next guy, if not waaaay more. He’s a fan. But, logically speaking, this does not mean that all lo-fi music has to be good. And as Exhibit A we present Times New Viking. A total DIY styled band that has slowly grown to upper tier indie status since 2005 and that year’s album Dig Yourself. But the sound has not changed at all, perhaps to their credit if not to the enjoyment of the listening audience. There’s 2007’s Present The Paisley Reich and 2008’s Rip It Off. After listening to these three albums a dozen times or so there’s like maybe ten tunes worth keeping and no need to acquire their new 2009 album. Feel free to disagree, just keep it to yourself.
Could’ve Had a V8
Innerpartysystem – This band is hilariously bad. An overproduced pastiche of focus group approved techno rock pop, an amalgam of false emotions and I-wanna-be-a-rock-star preening. It’s good to know that talent poor bands can still be signed and shaped into industry laboratory approved releases. A theatrical farce that might lure in clueless fifteen year olds. The beats, the lyrics, the synthesizers, the guitars, it’s all super-lame. Thank god there’s only the 2008 eponymous album foisted on the world. I don’t even want to type more description, they don’t deserve it.
Islands – OK, this a band from Montreal, born from the ashes of another band called The Unicorns. One review called an album “rich, exciting and emotionally deep.” Hanes prefers “they suck donkey dick and their lowest common denominator indie schtick can lick my hairy balls.” Damn, this is boring, uninspiring pabulum from a bunch of guys who never had their teeth literally kicked in the way they deserved. Once more, we ask who falls for this shit? From 2006’s Return To The Sea through 2008’s Arm’s Way to 2009’s Vapours, there’s barely a tune you’d want to hear twice. Yet, of course, the review accolades pour forth. Kids today, yeesh. So. Incredibly. Forgettable.
Streetlight Manifesto – Technically labeled as ska-punk, there’s also some Eastern European sounds filtering in and out and just general “world music” stuff. Hailing from New Jersey, this band is naught but an extended exercise in mediocrity. Mediocre vocals, mediocre instrumentation, mediocre arrangements, mediocre lyrics. The progenitors of ska must be sad up in heaven that the sound is now only adopted by the untalented. Three albums assessed, 2003’s Everything Goes Numb, 2006’s Keasbey Nights, and 2007’s Somewhere In The Between and not one song worth holding onto. One assumes record stores won’t even take
these as used CD trade-ins.
The Hanes Music Review 013
(Originally adumbrated August 2009)
Got the August wine review done, whew. Gives me more time to attend to zee muzak, the continual battle to stay current with the kids. It keeps a fella young! And the iPod filled with new tunes or forgotten old ones. Life is good.
The Remote Viewer – Chanced upon this band and checked out 2005’s Let Your Heart Draw A Line. This appears to be their latest and final effort. It’s a great album, reminiscent of Town & Country, Boards of Canada, Japancakes and other moody, lower tempo sounds rife with electronic notes, sparse snare sounds and repetitive foundations that slowly drift off the path as the songs progress. The vocals, both male and female, are barely uttered most of the time and in turn drift off. Blips, pings, crackles. Has all that kind of shit in spades. I love this sort of stuff. Which means I will universally abstract that so that everyone loves you. Everyone means you. All the tracks are good but I especially highlight “Last Night You Said Goodbye, Now It Seems Years,” “The Fucking Bleeding Hearts Brigade” and “To Completion.” While not a new band, worth getting into them.
Mogwai – Hanes has always had a respect for Mogwai and their “post-rock” sound, more of a respect than primary enjoyment. There’s some stellar tunes, indeed iPod-worthy, but after an hour or so of listening to Mogwai it’s just too repetitive and it starts to fade out on you or melt into a singular mass. Their most recent album, 2008’s The Hawk Is Howling, got lots of press. Plus you have to know it’s hot if there is a release poster taped to the door of an “indie” record store in Charlotte! It just doesn’t get any hipper than that. Any real or perceived hipness aside, The Hawk is Howling is one of Mogwai’s best efforts to date, perhaps rivaling personal fave Rock Action. It starts with a bang with the track “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead,” which is a slow builder and in the end shows more melodic restraint than many Mogwai tunes, a definite plus as the lack of release keeps the listener in a tense state and interested in the song. Other songs which come close to some of the best Mogwai has ever put out are “The Sun Smells Too Loud” and “Thank You Space Expert.” Good stuff.
White Williams – Took awhile before getting around to buying it, happens, but got lucky that money was well spent on White Williams’s 2007 album Smoke. The tunes are kind of poppy with a knowing pastiche approach, in many respects Beck-like. Channels a lot of T-Rex era glam flourishes. And funky basslines and twinkly keyboard notes. This is the dude’s only album so hard to follow a progression but, again, it is intelligently put together, and without trying to show off the fact. A decided bonus in these dark times. As with someone like Beck, there will be divergence among listeners as to the best tunes. The Hanes vote goes to “New Violence” and “Headlines.” But hats off to anyone who can do a pretty decent cover of “I Want Candy” too. A couple of other songs run a close second, “Going Down” and “In The Club.” The album stands up to repeated listens, both back-to-back and over time. A strong recommendation. And it’s hard for Hanes to be positive.
Ragga Twins – A duo from London circa the early 90’s, they were making music THANKFULLY before there was all this compartmentalization of sounds. In 2008 a compilation of their early stuff came out, Ragga Twins Step Out. This is the shit. Dancehall, reggae, electronic, jungle, who gives a flying fuck. Sometimes it sounds like the best of Sean Paul, sometimes the best of The Chemical Brothers. It just gets you up out of your seat and wanting to move. The energy level is high and infectious, the beats always draw you in. It’s supa-fresh today, I’ve listened to the album over and over for hours in a row and not been bored. That in itself is grounds for sainthood. You don’t even have to love the “genre” they work in/through to recognize that you’re listening to some unique, cutting edge shiznitz. Hard to pick “best” tunes here but what got onto the iPod are “Illegal Gunshot,” “18” Speaker,” Spliffhead (Original),” Wipe The Needle” and “Hooligan 69 (Remix).” This is the shit, gots to be checking it out.
Flying Lotus – After many repeated listenings I have to say I like this dude, don’t love him. It’s competently put together electronica, on the mellow side, more loungey than fueled by block rocking beats. For albums there’s 2006’s 1983 and 2008’s Los Angeles. Plus a couple of EPs and a remix EP (and is often the case, some of the remixes are more interesting than the original tracks). The title track off of 1983 sets a nice slow groove and there’s a good rhythmic cadence to “Untitled #7.” But the best tune on the album is “Unexpected Delight” which features female vocals rather than just music. 2007’s Reset EP provides one of Flying Lotus’s all-time best tracks in “Dance Floor Stalker.” As in keeping with most of his stuff the songs on Los Angeles are all pretty brief. Here you get a strong Middle Eastern flair to many tunes, not always that interesting. It’s a decent effort overall but no real stand out tracks, maybe the best is “RobertaFlack” but the remixes are better. On the remix of Los Angeles EP the best are Exile’s version of “Infinitum” and Martyn’s remix of “RobertaFlack.” In the end, Flying Lotus may be best suited to listeners who really like electronica rather than the casual fan of the genre.
The Felice Brothers – Their brand of folk, bluesy rock and soft melodic desperation really is not my cup of tea. That is, there’s other types of music I’d prefer to listen to. But if I did want to listen to such music, it would be The Felice Brothers. It’s an almost impossible feat these days but this is one outfit that is genuinely authentic. They are really all brothers and their name is Felice. They come from the country area of the Catskill Mountains. You believe when the sing the songs that they lived the words. The songs drip experience, awareness and acute remembrance. From 2007’s Tonight at The Arizona through 2008’s The Felice Brothers to 2009’s Yonder Is The Clock, there’s nary a misstep or false note. If you enjoy the Americana sound and classic folk rock, can’t recommend The Felice Brothers enough.
The Golden Palominos – Recently reacquired a gem of an album, 1985’s Visions of Excess, arguably one of the best albums released that year. The band was the brainchild of Anton Fier, percussionist and former drummer for The Feelies, among other bands. The Golden Palominos were a revolving collection of “who’s who” of musical stars, popular and underground. This includes Bernie Worrell, Richard Thompson, Arto Lindsay, John Zorn, et. al. On this album they have Michael Stipe, Jack Bruce and John Lydon providing vocals as well as the overall introduction of Syd Straw, who has one of the best female rock voices of the era, if not more. The sound is typical “indie” of the time, experimental but not without pop moments, sparse arrangements with lots of open spaces. “Boy (Go)” is an excellent lead off track with Stipe providing quality work sans the angst/drama of many R.E.M. songs. “The Animal Speaks” is a great change of pace track, John Lydon providing the usual haughty sneers above a steady backbeat and more ripping guitar work. The highlight of the album, though, was and remains “Kind Of (True)” sung powerfully by Syd Straw with perfect musical accompaniment surrounding her muscularly emotive voice. This tune is one of Hanes’s all-time favorites and will always be. So say we all. A seminal album, one that should have more recognition today than it does.
The Del-Lords – Since we’re on a trip back in time, recently released on CD for the first time is one of the best roots rock albums of the early 80’s, The Del-Lords’ Frontier Days. It came out in 1984 and fit in perfectly with the sounds of other contemporaries The Blasters and The Smithereens, honest rocking out, songs about the grit of daily life but not in a depressing manner, more of an early 60’s rock vibe, breaking out on the weekend after a week of sweaty work. With dudes from The Dictators, Joan Jett and such they had cred before even forming. While playing up the blue collar aspect of the sound, there’s also a political edge to many of the lyrics, typical of the times and more or less absent today. The music is heavy on rhythm with some soloing but it stays close to full rocking, all instruments and vocals competing for space, the studio work here has a decided live performance character to it, produced but not overproduced. When an album starts off with a track entitled “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live” you know its blue collar rock. But the best tracks might very well be “Livin’ On Love” and “I Play The Drums.” Another classic album of its time, hard to believe it took this long to get released on CD. Bonus tracks are, err, a bonus too.
Her Space Holiday – This is basically the creation of one dude, going back to circa 1997 or so (“circa” makes the “or so” redundant, right?). It all started out closer to shoegazer stuff and over time took on more pop tones with a little spacey drones thrown in as well. Lots of acoustic sounding guitar chords. The lyrics are mostly forgettable, however, there are some songs that really click. Over time the dude incorporated his girlfriend and her vocals and shit. It basically starts with the album Audio Astronomy, which is maybe the most solid album they have done. Which is often the case with first albums. The album starts off well with “Slow Down Smile” and “Through The Eyes of a Child” and stays at that altitude throughout. Best tracks probably “Hair Cut Short” and “Gravity Fails Us.” Moving on we get Home Is Where You Hang Yourself, gets points for cutesy title. Not much new here, more vocals, yak. “Sleeping Pills” is a decent tune. Then there’s Manic Expressive, here same old, same old. “Key Stroke” makes it onto the iPod. 2003’s The Young Machines hews to the formula, however, over time you sense more self-indulgence in the lyrics. The lyrics and music combine into more “song” like form but the net isn’t necessarily better than earlier stuff. That said, “Sleepy California” is likely the most honest song the guy has written. Even more of the same with 2005’s The Past Presents the Future. See a trend here? This overview ends with 2008’s XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival, a fairly stupid name for an album. And the album is much more “cutesy” than things in the past. And likely the weakest of their output. Overall from first album to most recent, the sound is solid but, given limited time to listen to music per se, this doesn’t quite make the cut. But nothing not to like.
YOU May Like It
The Explorers Club – Reviews note that this band sounds just like The Beach Boys. Hanes will take it one step further and say they are basically a Beach Boys cover band, except they play their own originals. 2008’s Freedom Wind is a decent album, the harmonies and production values are there. The musicianship and richness of vocals can’t necessarily be faulted. But I already own enough Beach Boys albums. So, who needs this band? Not moi. There’s really not much more to say since there’s zero divergence from the game plan of channeling The Beach Boys every second of every song.
Parts & Labor – Finally getting around to a thorough listening of 2007’s Mapmaker. They are from Brooklyn which is a strike against them, Brooklyn always rings in the Hanes ear as Williamsburg, the place most deserving of being tented and fumigated until all moving creatures within are dead, dead, dead. But back to the music. The band really isn’t so bad. Maybe they are like from Coney Island or something. There’s an interesting sparseness to the sound which is actually caused by the rapid clip drumming and lifting group vocals. It’s like horses galloping, there’s lots of action but not so much density, just the power of forward movement. The guitars are tuned to an indie jangle and they throw in electronic tweaks and shit. The lead tune “Fractured Skies” is one the best. The rocking and guitar squalls continue throughout, certainly this is a band that may be better live than in the studio. “New Crimes” and “Ghosts Will Burn” both good too. Nothing here gets onto the Hanes iPod but you can do a lot worse than Parts & Labor.
The Notwist – I was tempted to include this in the “Likey” section but after three days of listening to four albums, it started to sound so homogenous and slightly bland that I couldn’t really tell the songs apart. This is a German band and they are not bad but any stretch. But the guitar led drone to electronica/techno sound never climbs above acceptable background music. I’d suspect that whatever sound a person prefers, few, if any, of the songs will leap out at you and make you pay attention. From 1998’s Shrink to 2008’s The Devil, You + Me, that’s a lot of songs so you better have a lot of background which needs music. All the repeated listening left me a bit flummoxed, like they aren’t bad and this is consistently the best they can do? Weird, man, weird.
A.C. Newman – OK, it’s a solo album from the frontman of The New Pornographers. 2009’s Get Guilty. Has a very similar feel, like duh. Possesses all the obligatory craftsmanship and attention to detail and thoughtful arrangements. Honestly, it’s kind of hard not to like the songs. But, as with much of The New Pornographers, it’s hard to pay attention to all of the songs when a few stand out head and shoulders above the rest. Now, anyone who likes TNP will enjoy this album and, again, don’t want to damn by faint praise. If you were young and listening to this without the history of 28,478 other tunes rattling around your brain you’d think, wow, this is something special. But, in the end, it’s just rock solid pop that may or may not have the legs to last. The likeliest candidates to be played by an indie DJ five years from now are “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer” and “Submarines of Stockholm.” Too much music, too little time.
Could’ve Had a V8
ah*nee*mah – Well, if you like high quality new age, Native American inspired music that would make a perfect soundtrack to any dentist’s waiting room, look no further! It’s not bad for what it is and, actually, I’d rather listen to this in most doctor waiting rooms than what’s usually playing. But, life is short and Hanes is in relatively good health so there’s no need to keep The Spirit of Mesa Verde in iTunes. I will miss the flute, rhythmic drums and cymbals of tunes such as “Spirit Dance,” “Winds of Time” or “The Painted Cave.” But life is all about sacrifice.
Future of The Left – The vocalist seems trapped between sounding like he’s in The Dead Kennedys or The Hold Steady. Maybe it’s their being Welsh. Dunno. Anyway, 2009’s Travels with Myself and Another is a basic thrash, rocking hard in an “indie” way without much sense of a plan or desire for cohesion. The lyrics lean more to the seeming DK influence and given their overall sound it’s not surprising that Steve Albini produced a previous incarnation of the band. Listening to this shit makes one appreciate Queens of The Stone Age and Gomez and quality bands all the more. Hard to figure out why the usual music critics would like this except that it’s current. Must be an affectation with things prefixed with “post,” post-punk, post-pop, post-me ever listening to this again.
The Grammatics – Here’s a band from Leeds that brings a tragic, artsy sound to the table, gaining more emotive jolt from the cello being part of the ensemble. Too bad it all comes off as whiney, the usual art school stürm und drang bullshit. The female vocalist tries to wring out as much drama out of the lyrics as possible. When other bandmates take the mic it isn’t much better. So, while 2009’s eponymous The Grammatics may sound similar to many early 1990’s rock bands that blended in electronica sounds while gazing at their shoes, there’s not much here either new or particularly good at recalling a past era’s sound. It’s sad that bands like this get so far when someone could have just taken them aside and recommended becoming a dental hygienist or something.
The Hanes Music Review 012
(Originally hummed a ditty July 2009)
It’s crazy how employment sucks up one’s time. Factor in a part-time job too as well as all the intense study of wine and beer and, why, music just gets listened to and not assessed thoroughly. That sucks, I mean, what’s the point of just listening to and enjoying music? Fuck that noise.
So, here’s stuff I am catching up on, some entirely new bands to me, others latest releases from the usual suspects. Hopefully more to come soon, too much music, too much music…
Pernice Brothers – Now here’s an excellent band crafting touching pop tunes with the ability to rock as well as tug at the old heartstrings. In some ways they remind me of Big Star or Teenage Fanclub, in a ballady way. Reviewed five albums spanning from 1998 through 2006, all good in their own right. The first album, 1998’s Overcome by Happiness is a true gem, and starts off with two fantastic numbers in “Crestfallen” and “Overcome by Happiness.” The moody alternation between optimism and pessimism continues throughout, hitting a high in “Clear Spot.” “Monkey Suit” also a tune worthy of note. In 2001 they followed up with The World Won’t End which hews to the same basic themes. If there’s any complaint it may be a little too polished and produced and thus “poppier” than ideal. Very melodically pretty. The craftsmanship continues in 2003’s Yours, Mine & Ours. If anything, this album is more somber than its immediate predecessor. The march keeps on coming with 2005’s Discover a Lovelier You and 2006’s Live a Little. Duh, Hanes likes the first album best as it is most uptempo of the lot. But if you dig the general sound of Pernice Brothers, there is not a clunker of an album to be found.
Holy Fuck — Another entry in the canon of dumb band names but, whatever. Anyway this Toronto band appears to be categorized as “electro-rockers.” Why not. No vocals just drums, boards, bass. No tuba. Their tunes could be considered “danceable” were they not rocking out in deep rhythmic grooves which would probably leave any dancer reduced to a pool of warm sweat. In 2005 they produced the eponymous Holy Fuck and in 2007 produced LP. This really the kind of music Hanes digs, you will probably think it’s lame. Casio geeks jamming out. Deep, repetitive rhythmic structures that allow for well-spaced changes and bridges. The idiom is familiar just perhaps not the execution. Anyway, if you don’t get it, sucks for you, loser. From the first album the most killer tracks are “Casio Bossa Nova” and “Korg Rhythm Afro.” From the latter, “Super Inuit” and “Milk Shake,” this tune possessing a most excellent allusion to Michael Jackson. Whatever you do, please just give a fuck.
Rogue Wave – A band truly capable of moments of greatness. Finally getting around to 2007’s Asleep at Heaven’s Gate, what took so long? Gosh. Anyway, this offering matches up with the quality of previous albums and represents their sound well. So, if you like well-paced cascades of sound with squeaky clean vocals and production which heightens the emotional resonance of the sound, hey, check out Rogue Wave. Their brand of “lively introspection” allows the listener to choose between just enjoying the music or following the lyrics. Nothing that grand but thoughtfully conceived and executed with tact. A highly credible follow-up to their two previous efforts. Here, me likey “Lake Michigan,” “Like I Needed” and “Christians in Black.”
Gnarls Barkley – Having broken through decisively in 2006 with St. Elsewhere, these two dudes have come up with a pretty good successor album in 2008, The Odd Couple. The basic feel and sound remain the same. To me, it’s just quality output of “rap” styled music which equally straddles R&B and rock in a conscious effort to cross over and appeal to as broad of an audience as possible. Including broads. It’s like gospel on crank. The frenetic electronic beats on some songs drip with sweat and fervor. Even though the songs sound fairly similar, to me there’s clear peaks and valleys. After repeated listenings, “Charity Case,” “Going On, “Whatever” and “Surprise” consistently stand out for Hanes. Not unexpectedly, these are among the fastest paced tunes on the album. Hard to imagine anyone who dug St. Elsewhere not liking this effort too.
Guillemots – A band I have liked in the past, well-crafted and “pretty” pop music that at times comes as close to “singer/songwriter” as I can abide. Their latest album, 2008’s Red, is another credible effort from the band. It’s a tight album, doesn’t reach the heights of previous efforts but the vocals remain beautiful and the music offers diversity from danceable tracks to almost completely acoustic musings. This is a very talented outfit and, while not Hanes’s favorite type of music, it’s a good thing they exist and they should be explored by fans of top drawer pop. Pour moi, “Falling Out of Reach” and “Words” are the best tracks.
Oxford Collapse – Hanes has much respect for the previously reviewed 2006 offering Remember the Night Parties. So, a measure of eagerness is felt when sitting down to assess 2008’s Bits. There seems to be more emphasis here on basic rocking à la Superchunk and a tempering of the generalized quirkiness in their sound. The off-center quality of the vocals, are still reminiscent of The Feelies on Crazy Rhythms. The tunes as a whole just seem to have lost some of the oddball, plaintive naïveté found in previous tunes like “Please Visit Your National Parks.” That said, it’s a solid effort, worthy of like a B+. I find the top tunes to be “For The Winter Coats,” “John Blood,” and “Electric Arc.” Likely that real indie music geeks will get more jazzed for the effort than Hanes.
Tones on Tail – Started to get back into this mid-80’s band. Yes, it sucks that one of their best tunes was co-opted for a commercial, this being “Go!,” but thankfully the song transcends this (as a song can do with a bad video or something). From the same album – 1985’s Everything! – the tune “Twist” could fit just as easily on a Love & Rockets album. Don’t know who penned it but methinks Daniel Ash. Their other two albums from that period, Pop and Tones on Tail, offer solid tunes like “War,” “Now We Lustre” and “Movement of Fear.” Fans of L&R who never gave Tones on Tail a thorough listen should explore what was at first a Bauhaus side project and then the launching pad for Ash and Kevin Haskins into Love & Rockets proper.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Me likey because this shit is just weird lo-fi randomness. For every track which rocks, there’s probably one which sucks donkey dick. The shit is pretty whack, at times reminiscent of Ween but after downing a couple of Klonapin with a whiskey chaser, all mellowed out. There’s a loopy, humorously mocking psychedelic sound to many songs too. The fun dizziness or giddiness doesn’t stand up for a too extended single exposure. It’s more like 20 minutes tops, a few tunes and move on to keep it fresh. If you really like esoteric lo-fi music check it out otherwise you’d probably think “what the fuck is this?” and with good cause.
Moderat – A collaboration between Modeselektor and Apparat. This collaboration name is ten times cooler than the respective artists other names. The eponymous 2009 album Moderat is pretty much straight-up electronic music, at times embellished by dub or ska flourishes. Half the songs have a serious bass backbeat so those tunes are definitiely dance floor friendly. On the whole, this is not one for the time capsule but it’s catchy and solid, particularly if you like the genre in general. I would not be surprised to see the album remixed by others in the future, it has that sort of vibe. The highlight tracks pour moi are “Nasty Silence,” “A New Error” and “Porc #1.” That’s what I’m saying.
YOU May Like It
The King Blues – One reviewer called this Billy Bragg-like folk-punk and it’s not that far off. There’s a fair bit of diversity among the songs on 2008’s Under The Fog all wrapped in a light-hearted kind of rebelliousness, almost a youthful naïveté about one’s ability to change the world through song. Reggae and dub influences abound, at times lends it a more streetwise character. But, in the end, this comes off as a frat boy rebellion, a little college blowing off of steam before finally settling into a more sensible bourgeois existence. They’re from London, London is extremely expensive, I smell a “they coulda been from Williamsburg” kind of scenario, in the bad way. Naturally, I can see how they could become really popular.
Ladytron – Hey, ladies! 2008 brings us the fourth album from stylish Ladytron, the icy cool band with the simmering heat behind the façade. Or something like that. Anyway, it’s called Velocifero and while it is very much in keeping with the band’s general sound, well, it just doesn’t measure up. It’s not bad per se, it just gets redundant a lot quicker than previous material and seems a little by rote at times. Or maybe a simulacrum of themselves. As a whole, the album can stand up to repeated listening but it’s easier to cull the personal faves and keep them fresh by not wading through the whole 13 tracks. Here, the best for me are “Deep Blue,” “Black Car” and “I’m Not Scared.” But there’s nothing here as cool as, say, “Another Breakfast With You.” I still think Witching Hour is their best album. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Sunset Rubdown – So, the main dude from the band is also like in Wolf Parade and sometimes Frog Eyes. Bad start. But these tunes are, as a whole, definitely a cut above and more palatable to these, err, ears, than that other stuff. Jangly indie pop with more of the dreaded “quirk” factor but not slathered on you. 2006’s eponymous EP stays close to the airy production values of the Beach Boys albums so worshipped by kids today. The vocals come as intentionally strained falsettos or choruses. Best track is “A Day in the Graveyard.” 2006’s full album Shut Up I Am Dreaming comes across as a little more downbeat, if diverse song to song. Appears to strike after an ethereal nostalgia for old timey arrangements and a contemporary rock pacing. Which is not easy to pull off. You decide if they do or not. 2007’s Random Spirit Lover does not diverge much from the formula. On the whole, this album could be considered more uptempo. I’ll pass but won’t make fun of those who do not. Well, not too much. 2009’s Dragonslayer isn’t much better although all the kids are busting a nut over it. “Idiot Heart” is maybe the only song I’d ever want to hear again. Enough about this crap.
The Breeders – OK, it’s time for the throw down. Hanes has performed a thorough reinvestigation of most of this band’s output, from 1990’s Pod through 2008’s Mountain Battles. And, the fact is, most of the songs are dull and boring. Yes, dull and boring. Maybe they are great live or something, but there’s nothing going on during this 18+ year period which suggests “Music Hall of Fame” the way some fans have it. Now, to be fair, I do think the tune “Cannonball” from 1993’s Last Splash is one of the best songs of that year and time capsule worthy. But no other song in their oeuvre even comes close (maybe “Opened”). Last Splash remains their most viable “album” start to finish (although most online music reviewers appear to award that accolade to Pod). However, pour moi, there’s really not more than 4-5 songs on each album worth keeping. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and there’s Hanes by the stove.
Could’ve Had a V8
Walé – OK, sure the 2008 rap album The Mixtape About Nothing is indeed self-aware as a gimmick of sorts, with the rampant samples from Seinfeld and general theme around the TV show. But even as straight-up rap, it’s just decent. At least it manages to avoid the R&B inflections which plague so much hip-hop today. But, at the same time, it lacks the super-dope, block-rocking beats of the best of the genre. I’m sure this album was, and still is, quite successful. But Hanes ain’t playing that.
Man Man – I may be getting old and crotchety but there are too many “shtick” bands out there. Have to lump Man Man into this category, trying to sound like the house band in a border town bordello or something. Gypsy ass shit. Checked out 2006’s Six Demon Bag as well as 2008’s Rabbit Habits and there’s nothing here that Camper Van Beethoven couldn’t have cranked out in three minutes without thinking about it twice. As is the case more often than not, just unsure who digs bands like this. Sure, cutesy song names like “Van Helsing Boombox” or “The Ballad of Butter Beans” may appeal to freshmen at Brown but come on. If there’s a defense for this band, I’d like to hear it.
The Hanes Music Review 011
(Originally unleashed the beast September 2008)
I think it is now officially safe to say that Hanes is in the thrall of a deep romance with techno and electronica. After years of listening to old jazz and old country with a little rock interspersed here and there, it’s the techno beats which are currently catching my fancy. Just saying, that’s all, so you realize that this “crush” on the genre probably colors how I look at other types of music. Of course, in the end my opinions are completely objective and correct. That goes without saying. But let it never be said that Hanes is not introspectively fair and impartial in a manner not seen since the days of Solomon.
Maps – Out of the U.K., this one man outfit’s first full album release is 2007’s We Can Create. This is done in the tradition of guitar/synthesizer orchestral drone rock, although it does fall short of “wall of sound” richness. The beat is the core of the music yet it’s those cresting waves of finespun sound that tantalize the most. All the usual comparisons pertain, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Boo Radleys. That’s a good deal of polish to the sound in a positive sense. Rarely would I say this but there’s not a lousy track on the album. They all fit together into a cohesive whole, without an undue sense of sameness. What more could you want? Yes, you damn you! If you believe in the historical merit of the late 80’s to early 90’s indie cum college rock scene, you likey this band. Personal faves are “So Low So High,” “Elouise” and “Back + Forth.” No point in going on and on when you should be out buying the album instead of reading.
Tunng – This is a band I am surprised I like. At base it’s pastoral folk music. I got your glockenspiel right here. Yet, at the same time, it’s as much grounded in electronic errata. Together both elements are scrubbed to a crystal clear openness, there’s not an element in any note or buzz or whirr that you are not supposed to hear 100%. The sparseness of quantity of notes or harmonies at any given moment thus doesn’t diminish the ambient quality of the music. And it does draw you in and surround you without ever closing in on you. Tempo-wise, as you’d suspect, most of the music is slow or mid-tempo in nature. But the pacing fits the vibe, you wouldn’t want them to rock harder. And, in the end, they are probably more of an electronica band with folk embellishments. I waffle here. And elsewhere. The main albums are 2006’s This Is Tunng: Mother’s Daughter And Other Songs, 2006’s Comments of the Inner Chorus and 2007’s Good Arrows, along with a few EPs. From This Is Tunng “Out the Window With the Window” and “Kinky Vans” tickle my fancy best. From Comments it would be “Jenny Again” and “Stories” whereas from Good Arrows the choice cuts are “Bricks” and “Arms.” Not all bands with dumb names are stupid. Or was that not all bands with stupid names are dumb?
Studio – Not sure how best to categorize this Swedish duo. There’s an 80’s alt-rock sound similar to early Love & Rockets or The Cure at times, they blend in a fair dose of “world beats” and it’s mostly instrumental (which Hanes always likey). At times it’s highly danceable, at others more for moody withdrawal into black mascara. Solid degree of diversity among the six tracks on their sole full length album, 2007’s West Coast. Basically it’s electronica but not so strident about the fact. If there’s a bummer about the album it’s that two songs are longer than 12 minutes and two others longer than 7 minutes, which makes them sort of “unshuffable” in today’s music listening parlance. Put if you just put it on in the background it’s supa-chill. Get on the bandwagon!
Monster Magnet – Serious heavy rockers, this is the shit. The tunes hearken back before heavy metal was widely recognized as a category and bands just rocked out hard. Like, is Deep Purple really “heavy metal” or a rock band? I say the latter. Was Guns ’n’ Roses a heavy metal band? AC/DC? Harumph. The singer has a great thick voice for this sort of music and the guitars and drums are always sizzling. Good swagger without getting caught up in it, no preening. So, we have now their latest, 2007’s 4-Way Diablo. Which is a credible effort in their collection and, as one would expect and want, doesn’t deviate much from the general successful template. After all, rocking out is rocking out! That said, “Freeze and Pixelate” has that crazy far eastern vibe that is the shizznitz. “2000 Lightyears from Home” and “Blow Your Mind” also hit it. For newbies, it might be best to check out the canonical 1998 album Powertrip or 1995’s Dopes to Infinity. Pure and uncut.
Digitalism – While it’s not quite the “block rocking beats” of The Chemical Brothers, Digitalism can easily be placed in the same general area of LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk. The drums are perpetually in the forefront and there’s sufficient “scratch-like” notes to give many songs a hip-hop accent. As you’d expect from an intelligent mind working in this genre, there’s a fair degree of diversity among the tunes. Is it the very “best” of its genre, probably not. But they do nail the sound and have a lot to offer those who some rock in their techno. The tracks Hanes digs most are “Pogo,” “Homezone” and “Echoes.” Seems like there’s promise enough too that new albums might improve on the basic formula.
YOU May Like It
Battles – I like this band and I like that I like them. But I don’t love them. It’s like metal prog rock, as has been noted and there’s no other way of really putting it. At times it sounds like Yes circa 90125. This is music made by boys who were fans and now are men. There’s a “look at me” feel to the musicianship but not in the all too prevalent “because I’m a rockstar” vein of today, more so look at me because we’re jamming man! I got no beef with that, as it’s essential to the inventive egoism of most prog rock. And you can’t complain that the music, as basic rock and roll, is simple or ever rests on its laurels. I can see some broad appeal here, even if it’s unlikely their “message” will ever reach the masses. Went through a few EPs and their only full-length album, 2007’s Mirrored, and while it’s not going to get heavy rotation it’s not going into the trash can neither. Would make a good birthday gift for 45 year old hardcore video gamers.
The Knife – Yet another Swedish techno duo, here brother and sister. They’ve been around for awhile now. The chick’s voice has that annoying lilt like Björk. If you can get past that, they establish a cool synthesizer groove with suitable mechanical drum beatbeats. These kids have style and a flair for the dramatic, that’s for sure. And a strong handle on the sounds of their most direct forebears, they borrow but don’t ape. Listened to four of their albums and the music did grow on me appreciably. Yet, in the end, I just don’t think I am down enough with the sound of her voice to be a stalwart fan. I can understand their popularity and critical acceptance, like I said they gots panache. Anyway, from their oeuvre I like best the tunes “Bird,” “Silent Shout,” “Wanting to Kill” and “The Bridge.”
Sybris – At times this band almost sounds like a stripped down Sonic Youth. There’s really crisp, tightly wound tempo to most of the tunes with credible internal to each song cresting and falling. Sometimes the vocalist’s voice gets too high and reedy and breaks up some, she could use a little more oomph in the guttural part of the register. They can slow it down for more melodic tunes which not only suits her voice better but also plays up the guitar work too. A few songs come closer to a metal sound, very full and crashing all around you. Even in a minimalist way, that is, it ain’t no orchestral fullness. I can really see folks digging this a lot more than moi, for me, it’s almost not quite avant-garde, artsy enough given the foundation of the sound they seem to want. Plus, the vocals grate on me after a few listenings. I am sure they will become rock and roll stars. These sentiments based on 2008’s Into The Trees full length album. Of which the strongest tunes may be “Oh Man!” and “The Mary.”
Shout Out Louds – Sigh. Yes, they are from Sweden. The Swedish government must give away millions to the country’s youth to coerce them into forming rock bands. They are basically a mid-tempo pop band that hangs its hat on earnestness and youthful optimism as well as the attendant pain and suffering when s/he eventually breaks up with you. Timeless themes, for sure. Each generation is the first generation ever, after all. And who would want it any other way? So, it’s back to the question of execution. Which is charming, pretty, winsome, jaunty, polished, all that shit. Nothing truly wrong with the band and both 2007’s Our Ill Wills and 2005’s Howl Howl Gaff Gaff are perfectly find within their stultifyingly boring idiom. Thankfully for the band, there exists many kinder souls alive who appreciate these sort of pop ditties.
Minus The Bear – Here’s a band from the Seattle area that’s been around for like 7-8 years without Hanes noticing. How did they perform this trick? Crazy. It’s catchy pop stuff based on jangly guitars which swerve into heavier chord action paired with power drum rolls. The vocals are decent enough and, on the whole, seem content to sneak around behind the instruments. There’s no lack of catchy hooks here, the same for superior production values and innate musicianship. Me, after listening to a bunch of albums and EPs, I can’t get excited. Usually I’d take the same approach as with literary endeavors, there’s just so many stories to tell so success is based mainly on execution. Minus The Bear executes their sound well. But I’ve still read the story too many times before. I could see disaffected college kids liking their quirky song titles, though. I believe this is a popular band.
Thurston Moore – Here’s my problem. I have always both liked and admired the music of Sonic Youth. But I have never been able to warm to the actual human band members themselves. They just don’t strike me as peeps I’d like to hang with. Why? Gut instinct, no real reason. Maybe I should return their incessant invites for dinner. So, the issue is how to approach Thurston Moore’s latest solo album, 2007’s Trees Outside the Academy. Just listen to it as if it’s SY? Or try to dig to see why this is a solo effort, representative of Mr. Moore himself? Which is an interesting experiment because it’s not like Moore is the drummer who never gets to write any songs, he is arguably the centerpiece of SY. One the whole the songs are mellower here but it’s not like SY never offers slower tunes. There’s a few sonic wails to be had, especially on “Wonderful Witches” and the first part of “American Coffin.” To me the songs are good but few really rise to “want to hear that again right now” status. But there’s solid listenability to “Fri/End,” “Frozen Gtr” and “The Shape Is in a Trance.” For a point of comparison, I went back to Moore’s first solo album, 1995’s Psychic Hearts. I don’t find much of a qualitative difference. But Moore was more rocking out on his first album and perhaps more interested in clear production on the latest. Both appear for hardcore fandom alone.
Efterklang – Well, now, here’s a switch! A band from Denmark! Kind of new-agey pop with wafting pretty female vocals laid over sparkling pianos, strings, horns and the more usual accoutrement. I am hesitant to call this rock and roll as it’s probably closer to small orchestral pieces or light free jazz than rocking. Very moody and intent on evoking Scandinavian landscapes and seasons. A lot of it sounds like it could be the soundtrack of a beautifully filmed historical war film, with the virtuous warrior conquering all so he can return to his wife and family back in the village. Again, very pretty, if not downright coquettish at times. But I don’t get it. I am small, nasty and brutish and such tender emotional yearnings and reachings are beyond my ken. I suppose Mel Gibson will never wear a kilt in the story of Hanes.
3 Inches of Blood – OK, it’s metal. But the band’s name is super-sweet! Can’t stand the shouting being passed off for singing/lyrics. That said, the music is a killer throwback to the best 80’s metal, surging guitars and pounding drums out the wazoo. None of that foo-foo hair metal band shit. If you have the need for speed of some new metal in your quiver, check it out. Otherwise, not hard to keep on walking by.
Could’ve Had a V8
1990s – Ouch, this band sucks big donkey dick. One should’ve known better when critics mention them in the same breath as other crappy outfits such as Art Brut and The Libertines. 2007’s Cookies is redundant, unimaginative smarm foisted onto the usual legion of mindless potential listeners. “Pop-punk” is something created on some hidden island by a mad scientist, right? Right now I have so much free time on my hands I am tempted to follow them around and beat the shit out of them after every show just to try and balance the cosmic scales of justice.
Band of Horses – OK, nothing wrong with this band per se. Except that they play entirely toothless, non-threatening pop rock for the masses under the guise of a somewhat “indie” sound. Through in some acoustic countrified sounds now and then, push the lyrics into saccharine territory and, voila, musical darlings. Boring, boring, boring, Neil. As with other bands like this who serve up lowest common denominator pabulum, I wonder if the band members really like the music they play. I mean, what kind of human beings get psyched to play these songs over and over, month after month, year after year? Anyway, 2006’s Everything All the Time and 2007’s Cease to Begin both blow equally, pick your poison.
The Weakerthans – Man, there are a lot of bands out there. From Canada, this outfit isn’t horrible by any stretch, power pop punches and earnest lyrics delivered in sarcastic, knowing tones. Tightly constructed tunes built on crashing drums and jangly guitar wailing, sort of in the mode of Superchunk or Dead Milkmen. Hell, some tunes could have been done by They Might Be Giants. Easy to admire their political stances peppered throughout their songs. Unfortunately, they write a lot of redundant tunes without catchy hooks and/or exemplary musicianship. And we listen to music, not speeches. Plowed thoroughly through 1999’s Fallow, 2000’s Left and Leaving, 2003’s Reconstruction Site and 2007’s Reunion Tour and, alas, there’s not a single tune I’d put on my iPod. That’s no good, man. But, hey, they’ve been around almost a decade so somebody must like them.
Oxbow – Was never the greatest fan of this noise, heavy rock band but figured, ehh, why not give them another try? And so picked up 2007’s The Narcotic Story for a listen or two. They’re still on the clunky side with heavy metal-esque drum rolls and power chords and, naturally, nearly indecipherable lyrics more shouted than sung. Despite the latent energy there seems to be a reluctance to consistently get beyond sluggish tempos and really rock out. As with less personally favored musical genres, maybe the true devotee may dispute the claim that they are boring and basically suck. But I’m not waiting for anyone to step up to the table on this.
M.I.A. – OK, so this woman named Maya Arulpragasam is “M.I.A.” and supposedly her two albums got lots of critical exposure for her blend of dancehall, dub, techno, hip-hop, sub-continent beats and all that jive. Maybe this shit plays well in the U.K. but it sounds like basic, mindless party dance music. Which I suppose has it’s place. Somewhere. Not much for Hanes to draw from 2005’s Arular or 2007’s Kala but if you go to dance clubs maybe your conclusion shall differ. Best I defer judgment with such music.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Big whoops here. Seriously hardcore metal thrashing with all kinds of crazy beats and staccato rhythms. Mixes in some synthesized sounds and beats to go with all the angry screaming vocals. Sometimes the beats even appear to echo hip-hop. Anyway, tried to listen as much as possible to 2007’s Ire Works with little success. I have some confidence that this is good for its type but I’m not in the eleventh grade anymore and don’t know any eleventh graders I could ask.
The Perishers – When will Swedish people stop forming rock bands??? Aarrggh! This band is kinda slick and over-produced and too often feels “by the numbers.” Something here is reminiscent of early 80’s ballad rock, albeit The Perishers probably have sparser arrangements than most of that fluff. Only really takes a few listens to 2007’s Victorious to figure out that it’s great pop emotional stürm und drang, which is, duh, verboten. I hope the band all looks pretty so the girls will swoon over all the shirt sleeve emoting. The litmus test: how many record stores do you have to go to before one will take the used CD on trade-in? Good luck there.
The Tough Alliance – Screw vodka. The number one Swedish export is music! Hanes is sure to become one of the world’s foremost authorities on contemporary Swedish rock. Anyway, this band isn’t half bad. It’s more or less dance pop. A sizeable portion of the songs blend in reggae rhythms and medium tempo syncopation. The lesson here is that Hanes needs to stay away from music contemporary music writers call “pop.” The “pop music” Hanes likes was popular in an entirely different era by an entirely different listener aesthetic. I am finding that a glowing review of a contemporary pop band is asking for it. Particularly if the word “infectious” is bandied about. From 2005’s The New School to 2007’s A New Chance, including a host of EPs, the only thing halfway worth listening to is 2006’s Escaping Your Ambitions because it is a lyrics-less ambient techno album, very different from their usual modus operandi. I’m getting tired.
The Hanes Music Review 010
(Originally cogitated August 2008)
Yes, that was fast! If not for poverty and utter dependence on others, Hanes could get used to this unemployed shit! Well, at least the time is not being wasted. Applying for jobs online and listening to music to scribble about. The only thing missing right now is a nap! The way my luck is going, there will be another music review done soon. Bless you all.
Psapp – One of so many bands Hanes missed upon release. But I am sincere in catching up! Psapp is a band that just sounds “lovely.” Which is an apt word since they are from Britain and the Brits adore that word. But, seriously folks, they do craft a fragile space age pop sound of almost squeaky clean clarity, there’s not a sound in the vocals nor instruments nor keyboards that does not ring out. It’s not folk although there are scatter shots of acoustic strings and there’s a relaxed earnestness in the singer’s vocals, she often sounds like she is singing to a group of children sitting Indian style around her. Their first full length album, 2004’s Tiger, My Friend, can be lush and sparse at once. Spoken words are stretched out while samples flit in and out like firecrackers. This is nothing to listen to at the gym, more like sitting with some tea while gazing out the window at the rain. Personal faves include “Leaving in Coffins,” “Chapter” and “About Fun.” The follow-up album is 2006’s The Only Thing I Ever Wanted, don’t believe there is anything newer. But the quirkiness keeps on coming here, the major difference being more “singing” in the vocals than speaking. While I tend to favor the first album, here I do like “Needle and Thread, “Tricycle” and “The Words.” Very good band, pronounced “sap” with a silent “P.”
Portugal. The Man – I’m not sure exactly why I like this band. I tried not to. But I failed. Again. Their name is way dumb. But the rock out in a way that is also dumb but very genuine. Kind of like Kiss. I guess I like the way some rock bands think they are smarter than they are and actually benefit from it. They are hard rockers, not heavy. They hit all the standard tropes and don’t really deviate from the norm in any interesting way. Maybe it’s because they are originally from Alaska? Their two album are 2006’s Waiter: “You Vultures!” and 2007’s Church Mouth. I think the second album is the better one but not sure why. As you’d expect, it’s hard to finger favorite tracks. They just are, in sequence or not. Is there such a category as hard rock background music? If so, this fits the bill just fine.
The House of Love – Once in awhile you have to mine the past for neglected gems. Hence, a reimmersion in The House of Love, one of the flavor of the days from the late 80’s to early 90’s. Right up there with Ride, My Bloody Valentine and other “tortured soul” wall-of-sound bands. Complete with smoothly contoured vocals which even Bryan Ferry would be proud of. I can’t say that every song has proven to have legs over the ensuing years but certainly enough have. Which makes them an excellent candidate to revisit, or visit for the first time. Which is why Hanes revisits them. Duh. Their first two albums were both called The House of Love, one released in 1988 and one in 1990. One of the core members left after the first album so maybe everyone else thought the second one was a mulligan and could use the same name. “Christine” from the first album remains a killer track. Same for “Shine On” from the second album. What is best about the band is that they are not objectively great which fits the fragility of their overall sound and mood better than if they were a great band. Wistfulness and introspective melancholy fit the second place finisher more aptly than the winner.
Panda Bear – Comparisons to the sound of The Beach Boys are inevitable, expected and apt. But the vocals, the arrangements and the production values are all there. The man behind Panda Bear, Noah Lennox, is a part of the Animal Collective band, of whom Hanes is very tepid. But the music of Panda Bear is gorgeous and original in its own right. With each listening there’s something new or different to focus on or follow. And the internal structure of the songs stretch out and evolve without ever breaking a sweat. 2007’s album Person Pitch is a collection of seven songs, only one under four minutes as it takes time for each to unfold fully. There’s a sensitivity to blending processed and organic sounds to best mutual effect. The highlights for Hanes are the lead track “Comfy in Nautica” and the twelve minute plus “Bros” which never sounds like it’s that long. Fans of music should give Panda bear a big hug! Ugh, did I just type that?
Wooden Shjips – This is the kind of trippy, fuzz-laden rock that sounds completely authentic and genuine. There’s great rhythmic intensity and enough freak-outs to satisfy any stoner. In many ways the band inherits the legacy of The Doors… and doesn’t fumble the ball. Maybe even Spacemen 3 as well. From what I can glean, from San Francisco, they started out intentionally not looking to be “discovered” and almost reluctantly appear live. Nevertheless the live recordings rock too. The only full album to-date is 2007’s Wooden Shjips plus there’s a compilation album too. While there may be an expectation that “stoner rock” lacks intelligence or thoughtful arrangement (except to sound heavy, heavy, heavy when listening through earphones) there is not the case here. This stuff has legs and will withstand years of listening. That’s right. Years. So there. Among the killer tracks are “We Ask You to Ride,” “Dance, California,” and “Shrinking Moon For You.” Only a total loser dork would not buy this album.
YOU May Like It
Blonde Redhead – Hanes has a lot of friends into this band and he keeps on trying to get with the program. So, checked out their latest album, 2007’s 23. Yes, I will prostrate myself before the world and admit I should like this band more. But I can’t, I just can’t! It’s just too mellow and moody and melodic. Maybe the true problem is that Blonde Redhead’s sound is so close to other, more rocking, bands I like that I can’t help but expect them to do the same. Mea culpa #6,841. But, again, there’s no reason for you not to like them! If pushed, the most attractive cuts may be “Spring and By Summer Fall” and the title track “23.”
Pelican – For some reason I find myself more interested in hearing contemporary metal rock than over the past few years. I think that the genre has spawned as many sub-genres as any other main genre of music, shucks, maybe more. Pelican is a band that seems to specialize in thickly layered, bordering on noise rock, with lots of droning thrown in for good. Pretty sure it’s all instrumentals. Which is admirable since you get the mood from the music not the screaming nor moping vocals. Lots of dirge like cadences, heavy bass lines and music to march into battle to. Plus there’s always these vague electronica notes popping up unexpectedly — this music is orchestrated cunningly, people! After 2001’s eponymous EP Pelican they pick up the rocking pace with 2005’s EP March Into the Sea. 2007’s full length album City of Echoes has a more mature, robust sound, doesn’t sacrifice density to achieve speed and more guitar virtuosity. With a few exceptions such as “Winds with Hands,” I think you have to be knowledgeable about this sub-genre to tell the differences between the songs. So, you’re either down with the sound or not. I like it but can’t see it getting heavy rotation vis-à-vis other stuff I like better. But it’s excellent material for the thinking metal head.
Zach Hill – As with metal, trying to get “au courant” with the noise rock or experimental rock genres. The stuff off of 2008’s Astrological Straits is pure kinetic energy, whirls of sound which, like in free jazz and some contemporary classical works, almost never seem to jell during the first few listenings. Or, shit, ever. These aren’t songs as much as a bunch of fireworks lit at once. Mostly impelled forward by drum arrhythmia, not for the lack of screaming guitar feedback and distorted/synthesized vocals. This music must have its fans but listening to more than ten to fifteen minutes of it wears me out. Not only due to its loudness but also because it taxes your brain in trying to put the pieces together into a coherent whole. Again, I suspect that this is very good work within its idiom. But this idiot no understand the idiom too much.
Good Shoes – Here’s some innocent, up tempo pop music from London with all the jangly guitar and tight drumming to match the earnest sounding vocals. Lots of youthful verve and exuberance, you can see yourself brushing your teeth and tapping your toes in an early morning sun drenched bathroom as well as in a nightclub. Has nice melodic lines and overall the sound is crisp and always on beat. 2007’s Think Before You Speak is a perfectly credible effort and I don’t know why I can’t get more jazzed for it. Hmmm. But others may appreciate it more as it’s not poorly executed at all. If I had to pick, I’d go with the tracks “Morden” and “We Are Not the Same.” Maybe they’ll mature into something more compelling.
Lifesavas – Coming out of Portland, Oregon these rappers are pretty good, lean more towards old skool beats than R&B smoothness. Not a lot of scratching or real turntabilism, the raps are the definite centerpiece. The two main albums are 2003’s Spirit in Stone and 2007’s Gutterfly: The Original Soundtrack, the latter being a concept album. While I admit it takes some scratching and big beats to get my juicing flowing, from the first album “Hellohihey” and “Me” are legit tunes. Off the next album the title track as well as “Shine Language” hit it. As per usual, the true diehard rap fan should enjoy this more than moi.
Stars of Track and Field – This must be the indie version of “soft rock,” like finding the contemporary bands who will be played in dentists’ offices 15 years from now, replacing the lite hits of the 70’s and 80’s. There’s nothing wrong per se with this music, the arrangements are fine, the quality of vocals and musical chops more than acceptable. There’s this quivering emotional fragility throughout it all, though, that prevents it from really rocking. In this vein, the digital noodling which plays softly in the background continues to soften the edges and contour. So, we have 2006’s Centuries Before Love and War, a title which, as is frequently the case, should have been the clue. Even the guitar solos, such as during “Arithmatik,” are too restrained and tamed. If you like moody indie rock and bands as much as more solo “singer/songwriter” efforts this is a band to check out. Otherwise, err, don’t check them out.
The Bird and the Bee – Kinda like “Stereolab Lite.” this duo nails the airy, orchestral lushness of so much 60’s pop, naturally mixing in more current advances in keyboard, drum machine beats. It’s like a fluffy croissant that looks solid until you bite it and it’s all golden flakes and air. The chick has an extremely pretty voice that is produced here for utmost clarity, as if she is singing directly into your ear. I think that the tune “Fucking Boyfriend” achieved some notoriety from 2007’s self-titled The Bird and The Bee. And it’s easy to see why as it’s one of the “bounciest” tunes on the album. The lead track “Again & Again” also bounces nicely. It’s easy to see this music have broad appeal and creating a devoted following, it’s deftly layered and maintains an ethereal charm grounded in the vocals. If you are in need of new music for the background soundtrack of sipping tea over gossip with friends, check it out.
Von Südenfed – This is a pastiche sound of techno with indie production values, a sort of freer form amalgam of sounds. The vocals at times sound like they are matched with the wrong music and there’s lots of general quirkiness. I think the dudes who got together to produce this under the name Von Südenfed had a fun time. But it doesn’t do it for Hanes. I mean, 2007’s Tromatic Reflexxions isn’t tripe, there are interesting moments. Despite the overall annoying sound of the vocalist’s voice. If a listener is deeply committed to this genre of music, this album would likely represent a refreshing divergence from the same old. Otherwise you may feel like you kind of aren’t getting the straight, uncut dope here.
Could’ve Had a V8
Frog Eyes – Look, the name itself should have been the needed tipoff that Hanes would not like this outfit. One reviewer mentioned The Cramps as an influence. Wash his mouth out with soap. This is as overwrought as a bad postmodern literature essay by an overreaching undergrad. Listened to 2006’s The Golden River and 2007’s Tears of the Valedictorianmore times than anyone should ever have to. Just make it stop, I’ll tell you whatever you want to know! What kind of person can convince themselves this is worth listening to???
The Cat Empire – This band is a mixture of a lot of sounds: jazz, ska, rock, New Orleans funk, Latin rhythms, “World” music, etc. It’s all put together into one helluva of a boring, lowest common denominator stew. I can’t imagine how sober people can keep their brains from oozing out of their ears when listening to this easygoing, party jam band which most of the time sounds circa 1982. Where’s Billy Ocean when you need him? Anyway, if drunken white people trying to get their funk on during outside concerts can pay The Cat Empire’s bills, more power to them. I listened to more albums and EPs than I care to remember and am trying to forget them all. More grain alcohol, please, barkeep.
Gogol Bordello – OK, gotta love the name. But this very explicit mélange of gypsy music with punk is pure schtick cheese. Maybe it’s a fun band to see live, I’ll definitely give them that. But try to slog through listening to 2005’s Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike and 2007’s Super Taranta! gets to be a bit painful. And I love the accordion as much as anyone. There is a great deal of emotional punch and conviction in this music. It just sucks, that’s all. I hope their shows are sold out and their albums go gold, though.
The Cribs – Christ, this is the lamest derivative dilution of Strokes like rock. Talk about band-by-the-numbers. Listened to three albums charting their career and I am mailing them to Guantanamo Bay now to be used as a new source of insidious torture. No one could keep their secrets under these extreme conditions.
Blitzen Trapper – A curious situation. The more I listened to this band, my assessment moved from “like” to “maybe you’ll like” to “maybe they actually suck.” Their sound centers around basic rock and rolling but they throw the elements together as if they are using whatever ingredients are in the house without going shopping. There’s psychedelic jamming, electronic noodling, folksy country riffs, and so on. It just makes it hard to relax with the music and it lacks the intellectual heft to connect on that level instead. So, 2007’s Wild Mountain Nation ultimately tastes like what it is, food without a recipe. I ain’t that hungry.
Okkervil River – More music in a vein of indie music I don’t go for, the Americana emo scene. Rather than gaze down at the fuzz pedals near the Converse, it’s try to gaze somberly into some sun splashed distance with horns and banjos and shuffling tempos which rise and fall like tortured, deep sighs. This band gets great reviews but after listening to 2005’s Black Sheep Boy and 2007’s The Stage Names I’m not positive they are even superlative within their genre (whether one likes the genre or not). It’s not for a lack of musical competence per se, more so excessive self-indulgence and thus lack of a connection with the listener which bespeaks of a desire to connect and please. Which is pretty much “emo” in a nutshell, I’m hurting or feeling bad, please listen to me! Not. Even if you play a banjo.
Imperial Teen – This is a pop band that appears to have been around for awhile. Somehow snookered into acquiring 2007’s The Hair The TV The Baby & The Band. Which isn’t a lousy album per se. It’s just innocuously uninteresting. There’s no lack of appropriate hooks and light-hearted whimsy. But I can’t find any compelling reason to listen to this versus the 40 or so years or similar music which has come before. There’s always the benefit of being “new” but I remain impervious in this instance. “Do It Better” and “Sweet Potato” are kinda OK tunes. Can’t really say why someone would think they stick out from the unwashed masses.
Dizzee Rascal – A rapper from London, Hanes continues to quest here after rap or hip-hop he can enjoy. Keep searching, keep searching. Actually, I think maybe not. Hip-hop as Hanes knew it seems to be a thing of the past and any comparisons made to the early days of the 70’s to 80’s (even early 90’s) is specious at best. It’s evolved into something which is simply different, not necessarily better nor worse. How’s that for being fair? And, to be fair, Hanes will no longer review rap nor hip-hop unless he actually does find something he likes. Whew.
The Hanes Music Review 009
(Originally served with a smile August 2008)
My gosh, it has been since November of last year since I have made the time to review some music. Naughty Hanes! Not to say I have stopped buying new music, just no time to do what Hanes does best, analyze. Thankfully, being unemployed frees up a few extra hours! Here’s a bunch with hopefully more to come soon! Yippee!
Air – Last year a new album came out by the two dudes who make up the band Air, 2007’s Pocket Symphony. So, thought this would be a good opportunity to delve back into their back catalog too (they don’t have a tremendous output). Naturally, it takes Hanes like forever to get the job done. Anyway, my take on the band seems to diverge some from other reviewers, go figure. They are kind of “ambient techno” in sound with a mellow vibe that often belies the complexity beneath, letting strummed acoustic guitar and other acoustic instruments provide counterpoint. I see the noted Brian Wilson influences but there’s also stuff like Peter Gabriel, Suicide and Roxy Music in their tunes. Methinks these are songs best listened to in succession as albums rather than in isolation. They hit the set in 1998 with their first complete album Moon Safari. This spun off minor hit “Sexy Boy” which is, honestly, one of their least compelling songs. As throughout their oeuvre, there’s female vocals which at times actually sing lead vocals but more often act as a soothing instrument of sorts. The latter is preferred by moi. “Kelly Watch the Stars” was also a minor hit and more my speed, more synth-driven with processed voices and a stronger backbeat. The “Moog Cookbook” remix of this tune is also stellar. Again, a lot of peeps are lukewarm on 2004’s album Talkie Walkie but I think it might be their best. Ever the contrarian. There’s a cleaner sound and the layers are more easily discerned, making for a more open, relaxing sound. “Cherry Blossom Girl” has a pleasing pop prettiness to it. “Universal Traveler” also has a cool hypnotic feel. There’s a breezy charm to “Alpha Beta Gaga” as well. The latest album, Pocket Symphony, offers a more “somber” sound overall. There’s a general nervous energy as if a car is going to crash into a wall any second. This more than the other two albums should be listened to the whole way through. That said, I like “Mer du Japon” and “Photograph” best. Easy to request the reader to check out.
The Aliens – Excellent retro-rock sound here, a lot of this could legitimately pass for being done in the 60’s. Most of the band are Scots who used to be in the Beta Band. 2007 gave us their first full length album, Astronomy for Dogs. Yes, even dogs want to go to the stars, man. They rock out extremely fluidly and both express a genuine happiness in playing their music as well as a deep intellectual understanding of the tropes and rhythms which made the original bands back then click. Vocal harmonies appear often and add to the “anthemic” feel of many songs. “Tomorrow” is a great tune, makes you think Roy Orbison could have done it. “Only Waiting” and “I Am the Unknown” also stand out. A band in control of its musical vocabulary and you enjoy it more with each successive listening. Get your air guitar out and get ready to jam!
The Sunburned Hand of The Man – This is sort of a free form collective which specializes in psychedelic jams and vaguely avant garde arrangements and interplay. They’re pretty prolific and have been cranking out the sounds since the late 90’s. It’s hard to focus on any one album or EP because there’s no real “theme” to any album, the tunes are pretty much self-enclosed soundscapes. But if you have a soft spot for stuff like Captain Beefheart, Can, early Pink Floyd or Sun Ra you might want to give this band a spin. While their niche isn’t my most favorite, I do wish I could spend more time listening to music like this. But when each song is like thirteen minutes… Maybe the thing to do is get really stoned in an Arizonan desert and crank up the car stereo while laying on the sand staring at the stars. Yup.
Brakes – Dag, can’t even remember how I heard of this band from the U.K. But they are pretty damn good, playing straight ahead, uncomplicated rock and roll in the style that pays equal attention to rocking out as well as crafting understandable lyrics and some harmony. Throughout the album the keep the tempo fluid, slowly cresting and falling through the songs. Thus, there’s an underlying intelligence in the music which is missing in ever so many bands. Checked out 2006’s The Beatific Visions (their most recent effort it appears) and it’s quality shit, hard to see why they have not achieved wider appeal. Except for the fact that there’s an underlying intelligence in the music. It’s actually difficult to pick the “best” tracks because each one has its own appeal and will connect differently with each listener (deep thoughts). I like the lead track “Hold Me in the River” for its unbridled energy, “If I Should Die Tonight” for its country twang, “Isabel” for its more haunting acoustic echoes and the title track “Beatific Visions” because it is a cool tune. Well done, lads.
Dungen – Sweden ROCKS. Dungen is one of those bands (even though it’s basically one guy) which plays firmly in the 60’s idiom of psychedelia and folk rock without ever sounding derivative. Like, heavy man, if you didn’t know they were contemporary you’d think you just found some long lost vinyl down in the basement. Hanes is not the first to give Dungen its props in this regard and it’s all true. Can’t comment on the lyrics since, oddly, my Swedish has gotten way rusty. But they fit the music well. A few tunes bring to mind Traffic, some are Beatlesque, others evoke Jethro Tull, most are just psychedelic veering into prog rock. Checked out 2004’s Ta Det Lungt and 2007’s Tio Bitar. Picking out tunes is like standing on the beach staring at the Atlantic Ocean and saying which part of the horizon is prettier. It’s one big ocean, dammit! Anyway, on the first album Hanes would go with “Det Du Tänker Idag Är Du Imorn,” “Lipsill” and “Om Du Vore En Vakthund.” On the 2007 effort sticking out are “Gör Det Nu” and “C Visar Vägen.” If you are a fan of top notch classic rock, like Scharf, Friday and Ginsburg, this is a band to trip out with.
YOU May Like It
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – I am in a perpetual jones for music with a political edge or something even vaguely approaching class consciousness. There’s no doubt that Ted Leo fits this requirement and legion are his fans, perhaps mostly for this reason. Unfortunately, I just don’t find the music particularly compelling. He rocks out, for sure, in a “roots rock” kind of way, like he could’ve been hanging out with Jackson Browne or Warren Zevon during the 70’s and 80’s with a slightly updated twist. So, tried real hard to dig 2007’s Living with the Living but, uhh, I can’t listen to a full album of Browne or Zevon either. All this said, I heartily recommend this album because it is very well put together and I sense I’m in the minority in being unmoved by it. I did find it quite humorous that in my iTunes the next band it plays after Ted Leo is Ted Nugent whose politics is probably as diametrically opposite as possible. Sweet!
Matthew Dear – More techno beats here, courtesy of this dude from Michigan. Checked out 2007’s Asa Breed and it’s good but there’s something kind of, ummm, smirky about it. Sometimes it sounds too clever. Not overproduced, more so overthought and tinkered with too much. Most of the songs have a decent beat and have a good sense of rising and falling, allowing for points of rest along the journey. It’s just that the songs seem to refer more to spaces outside themselves than inside themselves creating a distracting sensibility. Then again, no faulting the ingenuity on display here and there’s an obviously active mind behind it all. To this listener “Deserter” and “Good To Be Alive” are the strongest tracks.
Low – I don’t know this band’s other work but 2007’s Drums And Guns is supposed to be inspired in good part by opposition to the Iraq War. Sure, why not. It’s certainly gloomy and moves at a dirge like pace. While I’d call it “alt rock” it’s got enough synthesizer and artificial beats to count as electronica in part. There are some pretty moments, as in poignantly so, especially on “Dragonfly” and “Belarus.” The only real “upbeat” song “Hatchet” and I like that cut best. With any luck Low’s other work is closer in spirit to this tune. No questioning the musical arrangements and skillz of the band but kinda wish they could express their sentiments without making it seem like they are dressed in black shrouds or something.
Papercuts – Another “band” (it’s the product of one dude, really) that eludes me in its appeal. It’s more that dreamy vocals arranged over a lush cascading cornucopia of instruments, rising and falling as if about to faint. Like, from the beauty and sadness of it all. I got an idea, man, put down the guitar and get a job and suck it up, that’s life. 2007’s Can’t Go Back can easily be liked by people who like it. That does make sense, dammit. Especially if you like that wimp, Sufjan Stevens. Some songs have that mid-60’s pop sensibility, plush and soft yet with an up tempo jangle to it. But since can just put an album by The Mamas & The Papas, why screw around with this shit?
Ugly Casanova – Mining the distant, but not too distant, past we have 2002’s Sharpen Your Teeth. This is kind of a side project of Modest Mouse. I don’t know why I thought it would be cool to pay attention to this album after barely listening to it when new. I get like that. Anyway, it’s not a horrible album. But there’s also a reason I don’t listen to much Modest Mouse. Besides the lack of immodesty. This album has a fair degree of earnestness and, that word again, authenticity in a stripped down while cleverly arranged tunesmanship. A few songs are almost Gomez-like. I like Gomez. I’d vote for “Cat Faces,” “Ice on the Sheets,” and “So Long to the Holidays” as the best tunes. If you are a fan of Modest Mouse you might conceivably check this out.
Ozomatli – A band that’s been around for about a decade, out of Los Angeles and mixing the kitchen sink blend of hip-hop, Tejano, rock with other latin sounds, scratching, ska, who the hell knows. It works to a point, especially if one is already a fan of “world” music, which I can’t say I fully am. It’s a fun band to listen to and they certainly seem to be enjoying themselves. It’s simply not connecting with The Hanes Way. Hence, it’s in this category of “you might like it.” Gave the first album, 1998’s eponymous Ozomatli many spins. Gave their latest, 2007’s Don’t Mess with the Dragon many spins. Nothing close to iPod-worthy. Sigh. Sorry, kids.
Could’ve Had a V8
VHS or Beta – A dance oriented band which, on occasion, can jam out in a deeper rock vein. Plenty of repetitive beats based in synth sounds, distorted vocals and drum machines. Or at least drums that sound mechanical. Not my scene at all, even given a childhood weaned on disco. The strongest effort probably their earlier Le Funk from 2002, they had enough of a raw edge to retain a veneer of authenticity and fun (almost sounds like a more disco-oriented !!!). 2004’s Night on Fire moves things into the 80’s with clearer vocals, at times reminiscent of Robert Smith from The Cure. The instrumentation sounds more live too, less synthesized. However, to me, it’s a slight step back. The big step back is on 2007’s Bring on The Comets, where being on a major label like Astralwerks must have proved the final lobotomizing force. Very slick and over-produced, albeit in a semi-subtle fashion to fool the kids. Too much sameness song to song, blah.
Dinosaur Jr – There’s a lot to regret in life. The older you get, the deeper the regrets and the lines on your face. Unless you are a rockstar. Then you don’t know when to leave well enough alone. Witness the weak rehashing of the same tropes of the past DJ slaps on us with 2007’s Beyond. Most critics seem to have started reviews with a few harsh words about how badly J Mascis treated Lou Barlow and then immediately genuflect before this ho-hum effort. C’mon, man, is there one song here you can play air guitar to until you start sweating from an elevated heart rate? I’m not asking for a latter-day “Freak Scene,” hell just give me something as complex as “Poledo.” Beyond reaches its apex towards the end with “It’s Me” and “We’re Not Alone” but this is forgettable. What the hell were we talking about?
The Electric Soft Parade – One band thing about the internet is that you can easily access people’s opinions about things. Like, say, music. And then you act on what you read. Which means, stop reading this now you moron! Lads from Brighton, this band seems to want to create a vaguely psychedelic sound but not in a rocking vein, more like floating on a cloud through a sunny sky over a verdant landscape. Which means it’s lame as hell. 2007’s No Need to Be Downhearted just about says it all, in a condemnatory sense. And, anyway, who the hell says “downhearted” anymore? You ever use that one in casual conversation? Sheet. The obligatory plaintively toned strength resides in the singer’s voice, the arrangements enacted to support said vocals. Besides the basics of guitar, bass and drums there’s some keyboard tweaking and piano. Can’t even call this a latter day fusion of Squeeze and Ride. Send this to The Strand of music forthwith.
The Twilight Sad – It seems that in life really cool cartoon album covers only gets you so far. That’s a damn shame. Because, gosh darn it if this band don’t sound like a whole lot of others one may make the mistake of listening to. The name should have tipped Hanes off. There’s a sort of dance between harder rock and more folk sounds on 2007’s Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, the latter gaining some ascendance due to the singer’s Scottish brogue. Most of the album is a mish-mash, directionless mess where either the reach exceeds the grasp or the dudes are clueless. Maybe they went to art school. That would explain a lot.
Thee More Shallows – OK, how to best describe 2007’s Book of Bad Breaks? Well, good isn’t going to come up. The execution is fine enough, the sound is “familiar” in today’s alt rock idiom. The highlight on the album might be during the second song when there is a spoken reference to a song by the band Whale. A palpable attempt is made to play more noise-oriented, angular songs off versus more melodic interludes but in the end it’s lame. The singer has a limited range so it’s mostly spoken lyrics over the music. By the end of this paragraph I am no longer sure what band I was writing about, that lost in the fuzzy morass it be.
The National – Put it off and put it off but finally had to give 2007’s Boxer a thorough listening. Don’t ask me why, my broad masochistic streak is well known. These tunes are so simple and redundantly boring that if they don’t put you to sleep, the vocalist’s “one whiskey too much” slurring, growling vocals will. It’s like the indie version of Hootie & The Blowfish, maybe sped up to a faster beat. Nothing here rings truly in the lyrics and the music often sounds canned. It’s scary to think that so many people find this to be a collection of thoughtfully emoting songs. The lord has indeed forsaken us.
The Hanes Music Review 008
(Originally banged on the drums all day November 2007)
Yielding to incredible pressure, Hanes will respond to public demand. Rather than the random, in whatever order listened to, presentation of music reviews, sigh, I will now put the music I like first, then the music I don’t like second. So, a reader may then choose to stop when the reviews turn negative. Or, better put, after a review or two. But don’t blame Hanes if you read some other jerk’s review of a band and they sound great only you didn’t realize they in fact suck by reading Hanes’s negative reviews. The blood is on YOUR hands…
The Ponys – Despite the inability to spell, this band rocks. Three full albums out, from 2004 to the present. They’ve had some lineups changes but no major changes in overall quality of product. Different singers, the main one seems to sound like a mix between 60’s pop like The Turtles and a more hardcore Sonics warble. A lot of the music sounds like the Sonics too with, gosh, some Sonic Youth thrown in too. But not in a very “experimental” way, more like the songs where SY rocks harder. 2004’s Laced with Romance shows a fair amount of musical range while at the same time not pushing it so far as to hamper developing “a sound.” The lead track “Lets Kill Ourselves” is a fun, full of strumming and wah-wah romp. “Little Friends” and “I Love You ’Cause (You Look Like Me)” among the most solid tracks. 2005’s Celebration Castle was produced by Steve Albini. So, it should be their best album. Except it’s not. It’s the weakest of the troika, the least rocking and “fun.” Then the main guitarist dude left and we have 2007’s Turn The Lights Out, which is, to me, their best effort to-date. Polished but still “dirty” with a focused sleaziness to rock out to. The first song “Double Vision” is a fantastic tune, great tempo switches and pacing. The next song, “Everyday Weapon,” is a sturdy follow-up. “Poser Psychotic” sounds like a Sonic Youth B-Side. “Harakiri” is a winner for slow to mid-tempo boilers. You gots to be checking them outs.
Klaxons – This is a relatively new band and, to me, still finding their way. Albeit they have lots of promise and deserve a solid listen. They have one full album, 2007’s Myths of the Near Future and a bunch of singles/EPs which overlap with the full album. As others have noted, there is a lot of new wave in their sound along with a basic pop punk foundation. They maintain a solid, danceable back beat which is cool but also makes their songs sound a little more the same than perhaps desired (hence the growing part). Any given person may not love them but they’re innocent fun enough that it’s hard to see someone hating them. Myths starts off with a solid one-two punch of “Two Receivers” and “Atlantic to Interzone,” the latter iPod worthy. “Gravity’s Rainbow” is likely the best song on the album, hence the fact that their EP Xan Valleys has remixes of both “Atlantic to Interzone” and “Gravity’s Rainbow” meaning they are the two songs most worthy of getting remixed and also the two songs Hanes likes best, validating once more his superior musical taste. Hah! “It’s Not Over Yet” also a killer tune.
Earl Greyhound – Saw this band last year live with my boy Ron G and it took awhile to acquire studio work to check out. The live show was very good, energetic and intelligently arranged. Venue might not have been ideal but hey. Anyway, listened to 2006’s Soft Targets and it bespeaks of a band still on the way to fully finding its true voice. It’s like they need a great producer to help them gain the clarity to decide on their best direction. Butch Vig, where the hell are you? Not Albini, dammit. This is a trio that rocks pretty hard, you can feel the tug towards “classic rock” but they can provide more contemporary arrangements and hooks as well. There’s something about them that makes me think Superchunk with a more bluesy streak. Among the best tunes are “Like a Doggy,” “Back and Forth,” and “Yeah I Love You” while for an eight minute plus tune, “Monkey” ain’t bad at all. Easy to recommend you check them out and see if they hit the right chord or not.
The Earlies – This is a band with promise. There’s a pop music feel like some of the Beatles stuff around Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s when they moved out of straight-up pop to a more subtly complex sound. 2007’s The Enemy Chorus has a good amount of internal diversity while also maintaining an overarching consistency. Some of the songs are too “pretty” for me but that’s hardly a complaint. There’s judiciously interesting use of horns and strings to embellish the base rock ensemble. The keyboards often hit a twangy 1970’s prog rock backbeat. Given the type of music they play, one might wish that the vocals were sung more but they do try, and wisely stay within the range of their abilities. “Enemy Chorus” is a notable track, as are “No Love in Your Heart” and “Breaking Point.” Definitely worth a listen.
LCD Soundsystem – Finally got around to a more thorough listening to 2007’s Sound of Silver, quite overdue, bad Hanes. Everyone loves the first album except for losers. But what of this second effort? (Not counting the thing done for Nike, fuck Nike.) Taken as a whole, the album is mellower in the sense that it pulls back on the “cool factor” as well as the desire to get up in your face (even if sneakily through the back door as many songs on the first album did). Once more, though, the balance between rocking out and dance rhythms is adroitly mastered, something for everyone. There’s nothing truly canonical here but highlights abound with “North American Scum,” the slow cooker “All My Friends” and “Watch the Tapes.” Of course, there’s the obligatory album of remixes called Sounds Like Silver and the highlights there are “All My Friends (AMIGAMAN Remix),” “Get Innocuous! (Geek Chic’s Harm-Free Retouch)” and “North American Scum (Dunproofin’s Not From England Either Mix).” But, really, most the remixes here are super-solid.
The Field – Good “electronica” or “techno” or whatever the kids call it these days can be hard to find. So sayeth Hanes. Especially when one lives in back of one’s dark closet under a pile of old blankets. Nevertheless, The Field is pretty gosh darn legit. 2007’s From Here We Go Sublime is heavy on the drum beat, rock steady, full and ready and willing to shatter glass. Which is useful for how it contrasts to the layering of the other sounds, which curiously might seem repetitive were it not for the incredible repetitive insistence of the drum beat. Some of the songs are more danceable than others, especially if you’re tranced out or something. “Mobilia” is the most intellectually engaging tune, works hard on the collision of rhythms in a highly interesting manner. The title track “From Here We Go Sublime” is a tricky slice and dice of The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You.” But the most complete tracks are probably “Over the Ice,” “Good Things End” and “Sun and Ice.” Grab that black turtleneck and get out there on the dance floor!
Stars of The Lid – It’s not a complete music review without mining the past for some overlooked gem. Thus, we have here 2001’s The Tired Sounds of Stars of The Lid. Now, this is the kind of ambient, droning music Hanes loves! Why, even Brian Eno would be proud. The music cascades across your synapses at the speed of a lava lamp after ten hits of acid – you feel every note but damn if you can feel your toes. The whisper of a warm hum accented by strings, piano, keyboards, guitar, its sense of movement is both deliberate and subtle. This is serious genre music, if laconic droning doesn’t do it for you, please avoid. But if you need a bath in music, check it out. It’s just like watching an iceberg melt over 200 years! Yippee!
!!! [pronounced Chk! Chk! Chk!] – Having caught this band live and loved their act, time to see if it translates well into studio work (usually it’s the other way around). Myth Takes came out in this year of our lord 2007 and, yes, it doesn’t exactly crackle with the energy of their live performances but it is a worthy album just the same, representative of their general sound. Which is hard rock with a danceable beat, danceable in shack your money maker in a dive bar, not techno Sprockets dancing. Very centered on drum/bass rhythms and rhythm guitar, if it wasn’t so dance until you sweat in orientation it might pass for more of a slackers with instruments jam band sound. But !!! brings the funk, hence the final difference. While “Must Be the Moon” may come closest to their live act, the title track “Myth Takes” and “Yadnus” may be the most compelling for home listening.
YOU May Like It
Adam Franklin – Everyone loves Swervedriver, so why not check a new album by former band frontman Adam Franklin? Indeed, why not? The signature voice is there, duh, but on his own Mssr. Franklin is just a touch too mellow and lacks the rich guitar-driven sounds of the best Swervedriver. 2007’s Bolts of Melody is not a bad album by any stretch and those who don’t already adore Swervedriver may like it better as no comparison can be made. “Morning Rain” and “Theme from LSD” are the best tunes and could easily be B-sides or unreleased tracks by Swervedriver. It’s just too damn mellow and introspective.
Bloc Party – Curiously, before I even heard this band there was a part of me that didn’t want to like them. Yet, after listening, why, like them I did. Not all the tunes, ’natch, but when they clicked, they clicked way hard. Even some of the de rigueur “remixes” that sully the musical landscape. In any event, not sure where the band is heading but 2007’s A Weekend in the City seems like a step back, which may be interpreted as a step towards broader acceptance. On the whole, the songs lack the edge and bite of earlier efforts. Prettier, more melodic yet more homogeneous for it. If anyone thought Bloc Party was too noisy or angsty before this may be the album for them. “Kreuzberg” is probably the best tune here, “Waiting for the 7.18” and “On” ain’t bad neither. But nothing hear truly iPod worthy. Sigh.
Sondre Lerche – Supposedly this dude has been famous for some time, like since 2002 or something! How did Hanes miss out on all the fun? Not sure how I got suckered into repeated listenings of 2007’s Phantom Punch but there it is, no sense denying it now. Waaaaay too close to the dreaded “singer/songwriter” genre I despise. But, let’s be fair, it is quite well done and the production values here are excellent without coming off as slick. Lerche’s voice is light and wiry but strong and can carry a variety of types of tunes, a fact not lost on him. Thus, there is a diversity among the songs even if the emphasis remains on clear vocals with pop-oriented guitar work and steady drumming in constant support. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest some songs over others, that right belongs to those who dig this general type of music. Ack.
Howling Bells – So, here’s something that could have promise to some listeners out there. A band from Australia via London, they feature a female singer who wrings every dreamy note out of her vocal chords and lays them over a foundation of clean, crisp supporting instrumentation that mildly allows itself some quiet “wall of sound” feedback for something like complexity but never comes close to challenging the vocalist’s right to the spotlight. There’s a certain moodiness to the music on 2006’s Howling Bells without it being dark, almost naïve in this regard. The college sophomore reading Goethe? Anyway, nothing here works me up but purely from a qualitative standpoint it’s pretty good. Hence, you may like it better than me.
Could’ve Had a V8
The Coup – Was jonesing for some politically oriented music and decided to hit up The Coup, a second generation hip-hop band with a social conscious and radical left lean. They’re from the mid to late 90’s on the whole but still going these days too. From their debut, 1993’s Kill The Landlord, through to 2006’s Pick A Bigger Weapon there’s a basic consistency of sound and attitude. The problem with that is that they are educated to the point of academic discourse and seem barely capable of having mindless fun. Something most of the first generation political hip-hop bands could be, without sacrificing the message. It’s sad that, even with the funky foundation, this does do it more for me. After all, music with a social consciousness remains ever so in short supply. I’d go so far as to say they wised up and that Pick A Bigger Weapon may be their most complete, enjoyable effort. At least it’s fun to listen to “Laugh/Love/Fuck.” But that’s not surprising.
El-P – A white rapper keeping it real. Regrettably, “real” these days equates to more boring, redundant music. No one can accuse the man of selling out or fronting or pinching twenties from his grandma’s purse. But, at the end of the day, what about the music? Nothing here on 2007’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead breaking new territory, no rhythmic flow nor ingenious layering. It boggles the mind that this is the genre of rap in ascendance these days. Shit’s unlistenable and boring.
Asobi Seksu – A NYC band with a cutie little Japanese girl as the lead singer. I was wondering what all those cheerful little Japanese girls in the East Village were doing and it seems singing in bands. How ’bout that? Songs performed in either Japanese or English. There’s some sparkle in the pop arrangements and some lilting flow in the vocals, at times the songs are like Stereolab Lite. There’s 2004’s self-titled Asobi Seksu and 2006’s Citrus. Seems they swapped out the rhythm section between albums. Not that it makes much difference as both efforts are beyond Hanes’s powers of comprehension. Just not something that I’m qualified to judge, not my cup of tea, and all that. Citrus seems a bit more up tempo and rocking but emphasis on “a bit.” Maybe I need to be a 5’0” Japanese schoolgirl to get it? Hmmm, maybe, just maybe…
Aqueduct – Not sure how this outfit came to my attention. Which is a way of saying I don’t know who to blame. The is pretty damn boring pabulum that reminds me of stuff from the early 80’s like Christopher Cross and his peer groups. Boppy, poppy, synthesizer adorned tunes with no balls and totally incapable of offending anyone, including the family pastor. 2006’s Or Give Me Death is ever so tempting of a title as it’s hard to not want to bestow death upon them. My god, this is horrible shit.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – It’s great how bands are the flava du jour just like in the world of wine. Will a band with a small cult following which eschews the main paths to glory have legs? Can they keep it up despite the grind and the lack of major corporate sponsorship? Hey, what was the name of that band again? So, anyway, 2007’s Some Loud Thunder. Hate to fulfill the cliché but, yeah, this album is pedestrian at best. The vaguely annoying quality of the lead singer’s voice persists but the music has eschewed much of the nervous edginess which made it interesting. It all just shows a lack of commitment and interest themselves, save cutesy tropes and the like. Boring, boring, boring, Neil!
Dälek – Based off of a couple of reviews I had high hopes for this rapper. But, with the exception of a more bursts of semi-layered complexity, it turns out to be the same old, same old speaking rapping over tired, redundant beats with little sense of ingenuity or a desire to musically engage the listener. 2007’s Abandoned Language is an act of pastiche and not vision. Plus, it’s not enjoyable to listen to, to me the best hip-hop achieves its “message” while still pumping out the jams until 5-0 has to hit the set. Thus, the same blah, blah, fucking blah sterility regardless of the actual content of the lyrics or the presence of an incongruous instrument or two. If I had to choose, “Paragraphs Relentless” and “Stagnant Waters” are the most complete tunes here.
Wolf Parade – A band from Montreal with a fair amount of buzz about them, after all, they’re on Sub Pop. So, checked out their most recent schizznitz, 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary (seems nothing else done since then). The thing is, though, they’re lame. More of the same-old, same-old, threadbare indie crap we’ve been force fed for the past decade or so. It’s not that they outright suck, it’s that five minutes after you stop listening to them, you can barely remember what it was you heard. There’s no distinct personality and, alas, “cutesy” just doesn’t cut it. Plus the singer has the same whiney voice that plagues so many indie bands. If the kids love this schtick so be it but life’s too short to spend listening to this sort of crapola.
I’m From Barcelona – Sigh, yet another band to elude Hanes’s comprehension. Billed as a 29 member band from Sweden, you gotta at least give it a listen, right? Well, 2006’s Let Me Introduce My Friends is all sugary sweet pop, bursts with sunshine and smiling kittens and random strangers hugging on street corners. All harmony and easy to snap your fingers and tap your toes arrangements, listening to this makes me want to go out and beat up some longshoremen. Makes 60’s bubblegum music seem morbid. Save us all.
The Hives – The Hives have a new album out! It’s called The Black and White Album! And The Hives still suck donkey dick! One of the most unoriginally derivative and clichéd bands of its generation. If you wonder how stupid people must be to vote for Bush consider how stupid people must be the listen to this dross. Stick that in yer pipe and smoke it.
The Hanes Music Review 007
(Originally stage dived July 2007)
OK, I’m obviously be punished for sins in another life. Or should I say, this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you? Wow, I haven’t listened to this kind of sheer quantity of lame music in a long time. But I guess that’s what taking chances is all about. And you know Hanes, he lives on the edge. Well, hey going nothing. Figuratively and literally.
Cut Chemist – Hanes can’t get enough turntablism and, gosh darn it, who can? Cut Chemist spins the wax with Jurassic 5 as well as on his own and in many collaborative efforts (including with the ever-so-revered DJ Shadow). His effort with DJ Shadow, 1999’s Brainfreeze is cool and all but as it is comprised of two 25 minute songs it’s a little hard to pick out winning tracks. Unless one plays roulette. His collaboration with Shortkut, 1998’s Live At The Future Primitive Sound Session at least is broken up into digestible bits. Nice deep scratching and basso profundo action. “No Mistakes in This Number” is solid and “Let’s Dance on Planet Rock” is about a fun “who’s who” sample fest as you can find. “Werd!” says it all. Cut Chemist’s 2006 solo album (is there such a thing in the world of scratching?) The Audience’s Listening is a big step up in terms of establishing a thematic listening experience. “(My 1st) Big Break” Is just a plain and simple fun tune and “What’s the Altitude” comes close to an Outkast vibe. Solid stuff for the discerning aficionado of this genre of music.
Chavez – This is another one of those 90’s bands that eluded me, never having explored them when they were extant. Now, in 2006 Matador has released their entire output as one album, Better Days Will Haunt You. I say, what better day to explore them then? Not like I can be anymore haunted. Listened to this album like a zillion times. They are cool and all but I guess there is a reason I didn’t pay much attention back in the day and all. They sound a little like Slint, whom I do like. “Unreal Is Here” and “You Faded” are cool. But nothing makes the iPod. Sorry, ya’ll.
Oxford Collapse – Here’s an “in yo face” to all the haters who say Hanes is the hater! I like this band quite a lot. Great jingly guitar sound with a healthy splash of sarcastic attitude and the ability to craft easily accessible (and thus memorable) hooks. 2006’s Remember The Night Parties should impress even the jaded indie music lover. At the top of the playlist is “Please Visit Your National Parks” which has slacker anthem quality. Right behind that in groovability is “Let’s Vanish,” “Forgot to Write,” and “Molasses.” Hey, man, it’s a lowkey Superchunk for the 00’s! Hanes awards thumbs up.
Fujiya & Miyagi – Listened to this via Miron many months ago but haven’t had the time to really “assess” the stuff until, why, now. Transparent Things hit the world in 2006 and it’s been in full force since. Yo. A band of Howlies from Brighton, England, the name is just tongue in cheek homage to bullshit. Besides genetic makeup of the band, the leadoff song “Ankle Injuries” sets the tone exceedingly well, laying down a steady beat with just enough funk to ground the more “techno” vibe, laconic vocals float above. The next two songs, “Collarbone” and “Photocopier,” are solid mid-tempo cookers. Pretty much the whole album is real polished and this prevents specific songs from standing out too much. “Sucker Punch” has a real Can vibe to it. I think that “danceable” techno has to have a solid enough beat that it can’t quite rock out enough to attract my deepest devotion. That said, this is a very solid offering.
The Future Sound of London – Mining the past once more. The kind of band I used to ignore but, hey, the world changes. Their heyday in the techno, trance, ambient scene was the early to mid 90’s. Snagged their 2006 singles compilation Teachings from the Electronic Brain. It’s still hard for me to listen actively to the whole album (15 songs), as it is for any dance music. But in moderate chunks it’s very good and the band is deserving of the accolades it has received. “Papua New Guinea” is pretty much my fave track, then the CD gets all mellow and shit before elevating back through “Smokin’ Japanese Babe” and “Antique Toy.” “Expander” is an excellent track and “We Have Explosive” not far behind it. Overall, maybe a little dated but, shit, so am I.
Lambchop – Yet another attempt at liking this band. With all due respect to devotees of their sound, it’s just not happening for me. The “singer” can’t sing, he just slowly emotes words. The music is almost over-orchestrated, there’s no doubting the sheer talent of the musicians but most of the time the songs come off more “clever” than compelling. Gave a thorough listening to both 2006’s Damaged as well as 2006’s The Decline of Country & Western Civilization, Pt. 2: The Woodwind Years. Maybe I would like it more if I had a really bad flu and was all medicated and in bed. From the two albums, if forced, perhaps “Loretta Lung,” “Two Kittens Don’t Make A Puppy” and “Smuckers” could count as decent tunes.
Some by Sea – This must be the kind of music the super-skinny boys who work at American Apparel listen to. Is this what is meant by “Indie Folk”? Painfully earnest, often in the face of their musical averageness, their melodies have some prettiness to them but the songs rarely hold your interest beyond the halfway point. Listened to 2006’s On Fire! Igloo like ten times and that’s more than any sentient creature should have to endure.
The Blood Brothers – Here’s a band that is just so gosh darned angry it’s hard to imagine they’ve spent five minutes this year not striking a “punk rocker” pose and sneering disdainfully. For the cameras. They’ve got five albums out so someone must be into the sound. If the sound was like if Jane’s Addiction was a thrash metal band. 2006’s Young Machetes doesn’t offer much to this listener. Been there, done that. Twenty years ago too. As always, please note and take to heart that my musings on music is not a presentation of good music! It’s a mostly comprehensive capturing of what I listen to, in no order, and an exercise forcing me to focus on new bands (as well as some old). By reading of your own free volition you release Hanes from any and all responsibility in the potential affront to your own aesthetic sensibilities.
The Hold Steady – Had this now for awhile but time to sit down and really try to get into their latest, 2006’s Boys and Girls in America. First, it still pisses me off that as of this writing I have not seen The Hold Steady live, as that is supposed to be their forte. So, all I have to go on are their studio efforts. Liked Separation Sunday well enough but that was it. This newer album is about the same. You either like the singer’s voice and accept it or not. Not that he’s a singer per se. The musicians are very good and the arrangements tight, they rock hard without losing sight of intellectual heft nor curious musical embellishments. The more I listen to them, the more they remind me of a band like Dire Straits. Of course, I very, very rarely listen to a whole Dire Straits album. There’s no songs on Boys and Girls in America that stinks but there’s none you need to hear again either.
Built to Spill – Old band, new album. You just can’t stop these fuckers, can you? I’ve always been lukewarm on Built to Spill, never really clicked with them. But try, try again. The coming of 2006’s You in Reverse may be that watershed moment we have all been looking for. This is a very solid effort, lots of guitar-led jamming without the usual navel-gazing or over-dependence on arrangement when the musicians should be rocking out. There’s still plenty of slower numbers for those who dig that shit. The singer still maintains his distinctive edge but doesn’t press it. Per one review, this appears to be their first album in five years and I agree that the time off has helped. My fave tunes are “Conventional Wisdom,” “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” “Liar” and “Mess With Time.” Worth checking out to see if the album clicks with you too.
Cold War Kids – I have to admit that this is a good band. Many listeners will like them a lot more than I. There’s echoes of The Walkmen, Spoon, Gomez in them with a more bluesy patina. Maybe it’s that they try too hard, that’s the reason they don’t fully click with me. I am tempted to use the word “optimistic” to describe many of their songs. Ack. Maybe “earnest” is better. Slightly. 2006’s Robbers & Cowards is their first full-length album after a few EPs. As is always the case, I enjoy the more up tempo numbers best, including “Hang Me Up to Dry” and “Hospital Beds.” As said at the outset, this band deserves exploration and anyone kind enough to read this far has a higher chance of digging them than me.
Menomena – Here’s a band that indeed does portray me as a hater! They have this classic indie sound, the singer has this fragile, sensitive artist voice, they blend in all kinds of quirky horns and percussive instruments to broaden the sound. But to me, it’s much more style than substance with no real meat on the bones. It’s music for geeks who like to noodle with computers rather than figure out how to feel their way to creating memorable hooks and music that will prove more than an ephemeral smirk. This is not to say that they are not good at what they do, it’s just that this is where the bar is set these days for musical innovation and newness. Yak. Anyway, 2007’s Friend and Foe must have the three guys who make up the band getting laid in every city on the tour. The tune highlights for me are “Wet and Rusting,” “Weird” and “Boyscout’n.” Probably best you make up your own mind on this band.
Oh No – There’s no doubt that my taste in hip-hop is caught in a time warp, pretty much caught in the late 80’s to early 90’s. But, damn, does every contemporary rapper have to bore you to death? To me, one of the primary signs of the lack of singular vision and ability to create albums with personality can be summed up with the ubiquitous “Feat.” Umm, why the fuck is it that every song “features” someone else? How about, like, doing a song by you? Listened to 2006’ Exodus into Unheard Rhythms about twenty times and that’s a lot of wasted time right there. I could listen to Boogie Down Productions’ “My Philosophy” fifty times in a row and learn more. Just why???
Clinic – Sigh. Yet another band that has been around for like a decade without me adequately checking them out. Well, better late than never. That’s what I get for spending a whole decade listening to little but 1940’s country and jazz. Might as well start with 1999’s Clinic which is a collection of EPs from the previous couple of years by this Liverpool outfit. A band that worships well at the altar of all that is good, mixing in Suicide to Spacemen 3 styled organs with enough guitar virtuoso and staccato backbeats to evoke VU and Yo La Tengo. Vocals similar to The Undertones. But enough of this comparison tripe. “Monkey on Your Back” is a rocker and “Evil Bill” is not far behind. There’s enough planned-out rawness here that no tune is a clunker. 2000 brought the first full-length album, Internal Wrangler. There’s absolutely better production here, crisper and tighter, albeit no always for the better as if oft the case. “Voodoo Wop” starts it off with a quirky groove and this could fit on like a dozen YLT albums. The title track has a lush fullness to it with a menacing rocker bite. Hard not to like a song named “Hippy Death Suite” and “2/4” also top notch. Next up is 2002’s Walking with Thee, another solid effort, pretty seamless with the first true album. Except for the fact that there’s less “garage rock” going on and even more focus on production values over making honest mistakes in the name of rocking out with your cock out. Ahh, we’ve all seen this happen with bands before, no? This said, it’s still head and shoulders above most of the crap out there. “The Equaliser” is a good tune but they don’t know how to spell. Lotta tunes sound like the Archie Bronson Outfit. “Mr. Moonlight” and “The Vulture” also do it for me. 2004’s Winchester Cathedral continues the plateau or backsliding, depending on your taste. It’s just weird how a band can forget what made them interesting in the first place. Sadly, the stasis continues through 2006’s Visitations, which is a pretty fun album if your expectations are nil. See, lobotomies do come in handy sometimes. Nine years of music to review and no progress. At least I was drinking throughout.
The Hanes Music Review 006
(Originally played killer air guitar June 2007)
OK, I’m obviously be punished for sins in another life. Or should I say, this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you? Starting to catch up on like 6-8 months of musical backlog. Lots more to come when not scribbling wine tasting notes. So many bands, who can keep up?
The Matches - I’m not sure which genre to place this in, it’s a little more “heavy metal” than pure power punk pop (PPPP). Doesn’t really matter since they suck. Totally formulaic, by rote, nothing new under the sun. The world needs bands like this like it needs another country with nuclear weapons. Although, maybe nuclear Armageddon is the only way to stop the record companies. Whoops, we’re talking about 2006’s album Decomposer here. Just so you know what to avoid.
The Curtains - There’s a kind of 1960’s vibe to this band, sometimes the kind of pop music you’d imagine listening to through an open window as it rains, suited up in a warm turtleneck with stretch pants and a goatee. The album cover would be a semi-blurry image of a woman with thick mascara smiling. At other times the 60’s thing takes on a more bubblegum feel, when not indulging in experimentation for newness’s sake. Other songs lapse into basic sparse indie arrangements with emotion but not the angst. Another, whatever it is, it doesn’t do it for Hanes. 2006’s Calamity is an OK album I suppose. But, really, why do people listen to this kind of music? What do they get out of it? If you have the answer, Hanes wants to know.
Yo La Tengo - 2006 brings us the 4,739th Yo La Tengo album, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. I listened to this album many, many times. This is a good YLT album. Not great but solid. After all, this is a band that really would have to try to suck. Like most of their albums, it is not short, clocking in at 13 songs, two of which are longer than 10 minutes. The album does grow on you, duh. But that’s just further credit to their status as a giant of their era. So, for what it is worth, my favorite songs from this effort are “Mr. Tough,” “The Race Is on Again,” “The Room Got Heavy, “Sometimes I Don’t Get You” and “The Story of Yo La Tengo.” Solid.
Boards of Canada - I thought I had already mentioned this band but I must have been drunk. Note this outfit is two guys from Scotland, not Canada. It’s moody electronica that mostly moves at a languid pace, the music always seems to be alluding to something outside of it, hence, the background noise in many songs. They can pick up the tempo on occasion but the steadiness of the songs are part of the appeal. There’s a curious “mature” feel to their music. First release was in 1998 and think the 2006 EP is their latest release. Starting from the, err, start, 1998’s Music Has the Right to Children, which lays down the basic template but doesn’t quite layer the complexity as later efforts do. “Sixtyten” is an excellent tune and one of the truest to their complete sound. Also, as up tempo as they seem to get. “Aquarius” and “Happy Cycling” also pleasurable to one’s ears. 2000’s EP In A Beautiful Place Out in the Country finds the sound growing into its own. All four songs are superb but “Kid for Today” and the title track are really gems. The full length album Geogaddi came out in 2002 and really represents the band well. It’s like rummaging through a flea market of sounds, the tables and aisles provide a well-known structure but what displayed at any given stand remains unknown until you poke around. “1969” is a drop dead gorgeous song. Other highlights include “Sunshine Recorder” and “Music Is Math.” Three years later in 2005 comes The Campfire Headphase. “Chromakey Dreamcoat” might be my favorite song by them to-date. The album is moodier on the whole and maybe not the kind of iPod stuff you want at the gym but “Satellite Anthem Icarus” and “Peacock Tail” can be moving to hear. A long EP called Trans Canada Highway hit the scene in 2006. Seems “tighter” with a smoother and more focused sound. Good, but to my tastes, a slight notch below previous work. “Dayvan Cowboy” is a good tune.
The Rapture - A band that many people apparently like enough. Dunno, they are good, certainly don’t suck. I think they are for people who like to dance at rock shows. The Rapture doesn’t quite rock the rock but they’re not really a dance band either. Kind of lost in a muddled middle. This based on 2006’s Pieces of the People We Love. The title track is OK. “The Sound” is probably the best track on the album. I dislike songs like “Get Myself Into It” and “The Devil” - if I wanted 80’s music, I’d listen to the real thing. Hanes may be in the minority, but an overrated band.
Planningtorock - Now this is a fun outfit, apparently the creation of a Janine Rostron from the ever-happening Berlin scene. 2006’s Have It All is very fun with a decided intellectual complexity should one decide to pay attention to such things. A worthy heir to the 70’s “prog rock” sound without aping the former. Quirkily inventive arrangements don’t impede enjoyable rhythms. “Have it All,” “Changes” and “Local Foreigner” are the songs most impressing me now but, in the tradition mentioned before, it’s an “album” before a collection of isolatable songs. It’s refreshing to know that there’s new music coming out that isn’t cookie cutter redundancy.
Professor Murder - They only have 2006’s EP Professor Murder Rides the Subway to their credit, but definitely a band worth watching. Highly rhythmic with sparse punk rock arrangements which give clarity to the individual instruments employed, they yet form a meaningful whole. In some respects like a jazz ensemble. Can’t say the lyrics are incredibly moving but they are more of another instrument in the mix than something to pay attention to. All four songs are excellent and iPod worthy. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday! Am quite curious to see what they come up with next. Very fine indeed, dear chap, very fine indeed.
Magic Hour - A band for the true indie cultist. Unfortunately, you know who you are. And we do too. Although not the ones who started the band, Magic Hour is probably most famous (as if) for being the band Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang joined after Galaxie 500 went kaput. Based on that, seemed worth checking out. 1994’s Will They Turn You On Or Will They Turn On You is the album in question. Very much in the same musical idiom as Galaxie 500, Yo La Tengo and that scene. Laconic rocking, heavy on drawn out, dreamy vocals and a strong backbeat, heavy on the cymbals with the periodic guitar semi-freakout solo. Nothing like a “signature song” on this album (e.g., “Fourth of July”) but solid enough throughout. Me likes the lead off tune “Something Else” best.
Whitest Boy Alive - Wow, this is hard to assess. Listening to 2006’s Dreams is like listening to two different elements forced to co-exist. The music can be very fun and rocking and danceable and foot tapping fun. The vocals are almost always annoying, both in their phrasing as well as literary content. The latter is just too “cutesy.” It’s a damn shame they don’t release an instrumental version of the album too. “Burning,” “Figures,” and “Inflation” would be the best tunes on the album if someone gagged the singer. Unfortunately, it’s the singer’s band.
A Change of Pace - Ohmigod! This shit is soooo cheesy! I have no idea what prompted me to check out this band but it’s hilarious! They are so bad in a pop-punk vein, so incredibly cookie cutter, so vapid and redundant it’s making my ears bleed, if not beg for mercy. What blows me away is that I can listen to three albums, Change Is The Only Constant, An Offer You Can’t Refuse, and Prepare The Masses and it all sucks royally. I defy anyone to defend this music. Seriously.
Beck - It’s weird that Beck puts out a new album and you just kind of take it in stride, like, alright, I’ll get to it. No sense of urgency to absorb and assimilate. Ecce 2006’s The Information. Bought it, listened to it, forgot about it until, err, just now. The bloom is certainly off the rose. That said, it’s not like it’s a bad album, he’s too intelligent for that. There’s just a sameness to the songs, however, without the raw emotion that might have forgiven the “same sameness” in earlier outings when he was more viscerally vulnerable. Too high of a percentage of songs are “listenable” versus “memorable.” If only. See how cults kill the rock star? Anyway, “Think I’m In Love,” “No Complaints,” “Soldier Jane” and “The Information” strike me as the best cuts. Decide for yourself. Punk.
Thermals - Here’s a band that you suspect could be better than they are. Instead, they seem to listen to their manager, producer, label because they want to be rock stars. You want to like them but they are just too over-massaged into palatable pabulum. Who knows what they really want to sound like, were this a possibility. Anyway, 2006’s The Body, The Blood, The Machine is what we have to listen to. Tried hard to find the good in the bad. Hence, the lead off track “Here’s Your Future,” “A Pillar of Salt,” and “Returning to the Fold” get honorable mention.
Junior Boys - Hey, this is like listening to dry ice! It’s cold. And yet it’s dry! This is 2006’s So This Is Goodbye. Dispassionately aloof electronica, it has to be well put together since it’s hard to imagine music more over-thought. In some regards not that different from many potential peers, however, it leaves you with like zero sense that people create this music. It’s just really hard to feel a bond with the music even as you can intellectually tell it’s more than proficient. I can’t even pick a favorite song because I’ve listened to the whole album more than a dozen times and each time a different song inches in front of the others. Stop the angst!
The Roots - This band seems to be very popular. Or at least there’s a great deal of buzz about it. Laziness has prevented me from digging deeper into 2006’s Game Theory. Or the fortuitous hand of fate. Rap has fallen on hard times indeed. The Roots seem forced to deal with too many sub-genres of rap, too many disparate sounds they have to “respect” and thus get caught doing a poor job of excelling at any. There’s a hard political edge, a mellifluous soulful sound, a heavy backbeat, an emphasis on sassy vocals, etc. All it leaves you with is a sense of trying real hard while it doesn’t forge an immediate affinity. The closest they seem to come to “focus” throughout an entire song is “Here I Come” and “Long Time.” All this said, it is easy to see why they have a buzz given the current musical climate. That is, they do not out-and-out suck.
Pigeon John - More hip-hoppy rap, this guy obviously wants to have fun rather than impress with street cred. 2006’s Pigeon John And The Summertime Pool Party gets the listen here. It is fun, true, easy to listen to. Is there such a category as background music rap? The beats never get too heavy, the raps are wry and self-deprecatory, minimal attempts at “soulful” posturing. Like “Do the Pigeon” and “I Lost My Job Again” best. Again, not sure Pigeon John will impress hardcore rap fans but could appeal to a broader audience.
Persephone’s Bees - Solid pop music here, nothing for the time capsule but you can give it many listenings before the inevitable wearing out. Their only album to-date, 2006’s Notes From the Underworld, does a good job of highlighting the female vocalist’s very pretty voice and unusual accent and phrasings (she’s originally from Russia and all that). But the band is credible too, they do much than frame her voice and stay within themselves and the chosen musical idiom as well. It’s easy to see why “City of Love” was a minor hit, catchy enough. Same for “Nice Day” and “Walk to the Moon” as both tug at emotions more through the vocals, even if neither are the best songs on the album. “Paper Plane” has more appeal. But that’s just to me. Right? A band worth listening to and getting tired of.
Basement Jaxx - Never quite clicked with this outfit. So, thought I would give the latest album, 2006’s Crazy Itch Radio, a go and see what’s up. It’s not like I don’t understand what they are trying to do. It’s just that it’s pretty rare I guess that dance music does it for me. Even as a child of the 70’s who isn’t afraid to openly like disco. Since the music really is not comprised of “songs” as music as themed samples (it’s a concept album about a date or some shit), it’s hard to pick out tracks to like best. But I do like “On the Train” best for its sampling of a Stray Cats beat. Hanes is not qualified to judge music such as this.
Agalloch - After all that Hanes needed some heavy metal rocking! So, off to listen to this band, Agalloch. They are from Portland, Oregon and apparently there is some feud over whether they are “black metal” or death metal.” Does this have something to do with aging in oak barrels? Anyway, 2006’s Ashes Against the Grain is a pretty awesome album. Yes, the raspy vocals are too over-the-top and kind of make you want to smack the guy across the cheek and tell him to grow up but the music is top-notch and very moving and melodic for what it is, more complex than you’d think too. And the vocals are sporadic and mostly in the background. There’s not a lot of “thrashing” and in many ways it’s close to thickly constructed “alternative rock” as metal, or what I consider metal from growing up. Each song is like five to ten minutes long so you have to be committed to the listening experience, not gonna work on random play. “Limbs” and “Not Unlike the Waves” are the standouts to this listener.
Squarepusher - Again, Hanes avoids the usual more sophisticated categories used by music geeks and calls this music “techno.” Of course, it is more than that and fairly adroitly blends electronic beats with live instrumentation. It kind of reminds me of fusion jazz stuff from the 70’s and 80’s like Brand X. Oh yeah, the album here is 2006’s Hello Everything. Sometimes there’s a bit too much of a “mathematical” feel to the music but when it hits, it hits right. The lead off song “Hello Meow” is pure cheese fun. “Welcome to Europe” and “The Modern Bass Guitar” are also fun. Overall, the music is inventive but the hectic pace and relentless shifting doesn’t make for relaxed listening.
The Mountain Goats - The more specific genre for this band seems to be “indie folk.” I’m less concerned with that than with no falling asleep listening to it. The only thing which separates this from the ever-odious singer/songwriter label is that they appear to be a definite band and not one guy who gathers musicians around him. 2006’s Get Lonely has few highs or lows, a lowgrade depression permeates each song, burst of optimism perhaps fueled by coffee and/or Klonapin. The singer is more of an “enunciator” than singer per se. Someone must like this shit but he’s probably in college and deserves to get his ass whupped by the field hockey team. Boys’ or girls’.
The Hanes Music Review 005
(Originally embarrassed contemporary rock bands November 2006)
Boy Kill Boy – The longer I review music now the more I believe I am going senile and have reviewed a band before. I mean, are you sure I haven’t heard this band before? Gosh, 2006’s Civilian sounds awfully familiar. Pop punk with all the usual clichéd hooks and fake stürm und drang. Ok, let’s cut to the chase. This band blows. Derivative is being kind. No sense mincing words, I’m not a 14 year old boy wondering why Mom doesn’t understand me and Ashley doesn’t notice me.
TV On The Radio – It galls Hanes to have to admit it but, even though this band is from Williamsburg, they are really good. Ouch, that hurt. They seem to have been around for about 3-4 years and have really hit their stride of late. They have an eclectic “indie rock” sound, good thickness with some moments where they stir the pot slowly and others where they rock out hard. The Young Liars EP from 2003 is a good start for them with “Satellite” and the title track “Young Liars” most cool. The cover of the Pixies’ “Mr. Grieves” also fun (first played for me by Dan when I was too wasted to remember). 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes keeps the forward progress going, tighter sound with more depth as well, more compositional chances taken. “Dreams,” “Staring at the Sun” and “The Wrong Way” all iPod worthy. Their latest album, 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain is the best effort yet, despite the dumbass name. Lots of tempo shifts, excellent layered sound, good production clarity. Personally, the standouts are “Playhouses,” “Dirtywhirl” and “I Was a Lover.” Hanes recommends!
Brightblack Morning Light – The buzz on this band seems to be growing and for good reason. They’re really good! Apparently they are a bunch of hippies in Alabama or something who live in the outdoors most of the time. The sound is very hypnotic and full of drones, tranced out with a “nature” vibe. A hippie Spiritualized? There’s also an element of 70’s funk at times. The music seems simple at first but it’s truly not, a lot is going on here. Mellow jamming on the bayou, maybe a touch of CCR influence. It’s really an “album” and not a collection of songs so it’s difficult to pick the best out. That said, “Friend of Time,” “All We Have Broken Shines” and “Everybody Daylight” are the shit. Highly recommended.
Particle – Now, this is a real jam band! It’s kind of hard to imagine their studio work being better than them live. While I checked out 2004’s Launchpad, I think their latest album is indeed an actual live album. Smart move. This is a synthesizer/guitar fueled dance rock sound that harkens back to early 80’s style prog rock for those who liked to boogie. Definitely arranged and orchestrated and executed to a “T” without ringing false. Give them credit for that. Most of the songs are over six minutes, definite jam length. I know this type of sound well so it’s not new to me. But their execution is top-notch, even if I can only listen to like three songs in a row without getting bored. The title track “Launchpad” and “Road’s A Breeze (@3am)” are among the best efforts here. Worth checking out. I’d absolutely go see them play live.
Archie Bronson Outfit – This band has grit. Dirt under their nails. Balls. These are good things. A hard rockin’ trio from Great Britain that keeps a heavy beat with thick guitar licks and a reckless abandon in the vocals. They have a rare trait these days: they are believable. And they’re not stupid, even though they play heavy rock it does not lack for intelligence. 2005’s Fur has its bright points in the songs “Butterflies,” “Armour for a Broken Heart” and “Here He Comes.” 2006’s Derdang Derdang shows cleaner production values and a tightened focus to their sound. Here the winners are “Cuckoo,” “Dead Funny,” “Rituals” and “Got to Get (Your Eyes)” although top-to-bottom it’s a solid album. Very much a band to keep an eye on and probably excellent live too.
Grizzly Bear – A difficult band to peg. At times they sound like Dinosaur Jr’s Green Mind played too slowly at the wrong speed. But there’s a country touch to a lot of the songs too. And a certain orchestral theatricality given that the sound can be very dense. No doubting that there’s an “emo” element, albeit not in a “tortured” skinny boy way. It’s not party music, that’s for sure. Horn of Plenty is their first album, released in 2004. Most of the songs are interesting, in an intellectual fashion more than making you feel like you’re rocking. Grad students in the humanities probably own most of the copies produced of this stuff. To me, the highlights are “Eaves Dropping,” “Deep Sea Diver” and “La Duchess Anne.” 2006’s Yellow House shows a bit more variety in the songs and the usual added polish in follow-up albums. More ethereal and the country music edge comes through more often. Hanes likey “Knife” and “On a Neck, On a Spit” best. Some parts here are like a non-electronic Boards of Canada or something. Or something.
Guillemots – This is an inventive pop band that is just quirky enough that they should never achieve widespread fame. That’s a compliment. Distinctive vocals and lush, but not overstuffed, arrangements combine with a pop backbeat to draw you in. There’s horns and piano and all the stuff that made bands like Squeeze, The Go-Betweens and other such intelligent pop bands successful. There’s also plenty of slow, semi-mournful crooning numbers too for those who like to glaze over romantically to music. On the whole, this isn’t a band that would find itself in heavy rotation for Hanes but it’s kind of inspiring to know they are out there. And without too much emo indulgence nor singer/songwriter navel gazing. 2006 brought both the From the Cliffs EP and full album Through the Windowpane. There’s some song overlap. For me, the best songs are the catchy “Trains to Brazil” as well as “Made Up Love Song #43” and “We’re Here.” A band worth checking out to see if they shall tickle your fancy.
Gecko Turner – Pete G. slapped this on me. They’re an innocent enough, loungey band with a hearkening back to 70’s style mellow jam bands like War, Santana or Sly. This especially so when they sing in Spanish. It’s eclectic without being pushy about the fact, rhythmically agreeable to toes tapping. High quality background music for late afternoon summer hanging out outdoors. Don’t know how much close attention one could pay to it in a single sitting. Anyhoo, 2006’s Guapapasea! is the album in question, their sole effort as far as I know. The tunes which jump out at me most are the leadoff “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and then “Monka Mongas” and “Dime Que Te Quéa.” But, like I said, it’s smooth and integrated for easy background listening so the point is kind of individual songs are not supposed to jump out at you.
Slowdive – This was a band I basically ignored back in the day. Their 1993 album Souvlaki was remastered last year (with the usual bonus tracks) and Dandy Dan gave it a spin for me. Real shoegazer stuff, more towards dreamy than “wall of sound” in focus. But that’s why the dive is slow, no? Personally, I’ll take Ride over them any day but it’s not bad music. Nice vocal harmonics, overall warm and inviting sound without losing a sense of architectural arrangement. Won’t have you up and out of your chair playing air guitar but maybe that’s not always necessary. Maybe. “When the Sun Hits” and “40 Days” among the better tunes. The two bonus remixes of “In Mind” are better than the original. Can’t say how improved the sound is due to the remastering but if you are already a fan it might be worth checking out.
Prototypes – OK, I’ll admit it right away. I think this band is great. In a highly cheesy way, but great none the same. Will not be for everyone. Because everyone sucks. First, most of the lyrics are in French. Hanes’s French is very rusty. But it’s saucy, tongue-in-cheek pop rock so maybe the lyrics are besides the point. Strong 80’s influence, couple of songs sound like Falco covers or something. I think 2006’s self-titled Prototypes is their only album to date. I have fun listening to just about every song, my brain starts playfully oozing out of my ears. That said, “Je Ne Te Connais Pas,” “Danse Sur La Merde,” “Medicalement” and “File De Bourge” stand out from the pack. There’s enough diversity among the songs to avoid homogeneity. I say listen to this album. Or I’ll shoot this dog.
Nouvelle Vague – The question here is that of the “sophomore slump.” Is this band a one album phenomenon or does it have legs? The self-titled debut was very good, even if mocked by some. Now comes 2006’s follow-up effort, Bande a Part. Will their insouciance and French pop sensibility carry through again? Will they continue to choose worthy covers to interpret as lounge music/the kind of stuff you’d hear in some bar along the Mediterranean seaside? Well, the answer is yes and no. At first, I was ready to totally trash this album. Initial listenings painted it as a pale shadow of the former effort. But over time it has grown on me. So, let’s just call it a semi-substantial wraith instead. On the whole, it’s mellower than the first album. Thus, to me, the standouts are the songs with some get up and go such as The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love,” Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” The Cramps’ “Human Fly” or New Order’s “Blue Monday.” All in all, it’s OK but I think you have to be a real fan to get repeated enjoyable listenings out of this over a longer period of time.
Allan Holdsworth – Few of today’s youth recognize the name of Allan Holdsworth. However, for those of a certain age and musical inclination, he is a true guitar giant. He played a sort of rock and jazz fusion sound that captured the essence of that scene’s vibe in the 1980’s and into the 1990’s. Today, it does sound dated. Yet, there’s something about it that can occasionally warm Hanes’s heart. The great synthesized runs, the soaring theatricality and pensive moments of stringed introspection! Hanes recently came into twelve Holdsworth albums, running from 1977 to 2001. Now, this is certainly more Allan Holdsworth than anyone needs. And, frankly, I’m not going to listen to them very often. But it’s nice to know they are there. If you want to check out some of his stuff, Hanes recommends starting with 1982’s I.O.U., 1983’s Road Games or 1987’s Sand. This is when the dude was truly at the top of his game. Perfect for a Sunday morning rock/jazz fusion extravaganza with lox and bagels!
The Longcut – There’s nothing altogether unfamiliar in this basic rock band’s sound. Let by the guitar work, solidly laid down and without excessive bravura. Steady back beat. Vocals come in and out, allowing the instruments to shine. No stupid screaming or preening in the vocals either. The end result: no new ground broken but eminently listenable. They’re from Manchester, England so this might provide some background as to their immediate influences. Checked out a couple of their EPs, 2004’s Transition and 2005’s A Quiet Life. Both have a more earnest sound, more experimental feel than their later full length studio album. In fact, I may prefer these earlier EPs. “Transition” and “Dead Man” are very good tunes. 2006 brought the album, A Call and Response. More polished, more focus on the vocals, less jangly indie guitar. Noticeable as there’s song overlap between the album and the earlier EPs. Anyway, “Holy Funk,” “A Tried and Tested Method,” “Gravity in Crisis” and “Vitamin C” strike me as the standouts. The Longcut gets a Hanes recommendation!
Tokyo Police Club – Dumb name, does not augur well. At least the music follows up on this initial suspicion. Cookie cutter indie rock. 2006’s EP called A Lesson in Crime is pretty much a big yawn. Seven songs of undistinguished, by-the-numbers rocking. This is not to say it’s flawed. Simply that their sound fades into the generalized white noise that is today’s lame rock scene. Easy pass.
The East Village Opera Company – OK, crank up the cheese factor. The band’s name tells you all you need to know. It’s more or less a 70’s prog rock lovefest, channeling the ghost of Queen too. Taking this at face value, it’s not bad. As far as I can tell, and Hanes is no classical music expert, all the songs are interpretations of actual classical music pieces. As one would hope, the abilities of the vocalists and musicians are high quality, clearly able to pull it off. But it’s really a strict matter of taste as to how much of this any given person can listen to. Or how much you like Queen. For me, it’s like 2 or 3 songs. I like “Overture (Nozze di Figaro)” and “La Donna e Mobile” best. It’s a curiosity.
Mew – This is an intriguing ensemble from Denmark who adroitly blend heavy metal rocking with more feedback alt rock from the 90’s as well as a strong sense of prog rock arrangements. 2005’s And The Glass Handed Kites defies easy description. For all of its dense, rumbling guitar and drum work, there’s a lyrical quality to the vocals which relieves a lot of dead weight in the songs. There’s an easy to appreciate clarity to the songs. Whether slowly or swiftly paced. This band will appeal to real rock geeks but it’s 50/50 beyond that. Maybe if you like crap like Radiohead you might appreciate this more. I like the lead track “Circuitry of the Wolf” as well as “Special” and “Apocalypso” best.
Scanners – File this under “close but no ceegar.” Led by female vocals, this band nods strongly to late 80’s to 90’s pop rock before the whole riot grrl thing defined what rock chicks were supposed to sound like. Plenty of synthesizer, leading a tightly bound guitar/drum beat. Very clean production values. There’s an earnestness in the vocals that stops short of screaming or shouting while maintaining its emotional undercurrent. I suspect that this band will appeal to listeners whose taste in late 80’s to 90’s music diverges from my own. And, for what it’s worth, I am tepid on Pat Benatar too, not helping here. 2006’s Violence Is Golden strives for a futuristic bleakness like Blade Runner lite or something. I prefer the tunes “In My Dreams,” “Evil Twin” and “Raw.” You’re on your own with this band, make up your own mind.
Heavens – The year 2006 graces us with the album Patent Pending. That is, minus the “grace us” part. This band was hatched by some record company laboratory. They strive for an up tempo new wave sound while also straining for a quasi-goth emotional aloofness in the vocals. Incredible amount of sameness throughout all the songs, even if they slow it down on a few numbers. Heavens is not evil but it is soulless. I really don’t want to have to type more. Please.
Ratatat – This is a duo from NYC that breaks down some funky beats in an engagingly eclectic manner. That is to say, they are not writing new annals in the history of rock music. But they have a frenetic energy and wry sense of how to push the cheese envelope without getting it too far. There’s really no vocals, it just two guys doodling with guitars, synths, drums, etc. As such, it’s not like you can identify with the songs, more so you just kind of tap your toes or fingers or stare with a smile into the sun. Mindless fun, even if the rhythms are more complex than first gloss might suggest. 2004’s eponymous album Ratatat gets the ball rolling well. Lots of weaving drones and hypnotic drum breaks. It’s hard, though to pick out individual songs, they are too similar. Like an album played at a live alternative rock club before the first band goes on. Not too loud but quietly works the crowd into the mood. In 2006 they released their next album, Classics. Their sound has matured quite a bit. More diversity among the songs, as well as more nuanced instrumental interplay within the songs. Still don’t push this too far, the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree. I personally prefer “Wildcat,” “Montanita” and “Gettysburg.” Hard to truly recommend this band but worth you investigating if you get the chance.
Be Your Own Pet – Cellarmaster and rock impresario Jason L. recommended this band. Knowing Mr. J’s taste I am not surprised he loves this band. However, it’s not quite my cup of tea. That said, if you like thrashing, “can’t play fast enough” indie punk rock you should like Be Your Own Pet. They are very, very good at what they do. Plenty of rock bravado and brass balls, the biggest balls on the female singer for sure. She rocks out with her cock out. From two EPs, 2004’s Damn Damn Leash and 2005’s Fire Department to 2006’s full length album Be Your Own Pet, it just gets more intense. They should invest in companies that make drum sticks and guitar strings since they probably break a lot. On the main album, I like “Bog,” “Wildcat!” and “Fill My Pill” best. If you can’t rock hard enough, take it to 11 with this band. That means you, Sloth.
My Brightest Diamond – Hanes makes mistakes. It’s true. Ask anyone who knows him. Let’s add listening to My Brightest Diamond to the list. This is the brainchild of a chick named Shara Worden. She has toured as part of Sufjan Stevens’s band, that should be warning enough. This is over-the-top indulgent chamber music rock that is made to be played in a hall of mirrors. 2006’s Bring Me the Workhorse is one song after another of Ms. Worden exercising her ability to feature herself in what she takes for self-flattery. This album is meant to be mainlined by black cashmere turtleneck, $800 glasses wearing hipsters who wouldn’t know reality if it smacked them upside the head. So, let’s leave this to them and call it a day. Ouch, this hurt me as much as it hurt you.
Kudu – I guess this is what the kids call dance electronica or something. It’s pretty much a fusion of different styles, warrants the cliché of being “eclectic.” Checked out 2006’s Death of the Party and it’s a smooth effort. At times they throw a little Prince vibe at you, other times they turn more hip-hop, yet again they really milk new wave synth sounds, sometimes even if in a bluesy way. It’s fun, they sound like they are having fun, and it really grows on you. That said, there is enough diversity among the songs that you may like some, dislike others. It’s a stew where they throw in all the ingredients they can find and mix it all around, a kitchen sink blend that maintains its intelligence. It’s difficult to pick out favorite songs but at the time of this writing “Suite Life,” “Hey 50” and “Love Me in Your Language” doing it most for me. I reserve the right to revise. Check Kudu out, Hanes says.
The Sleepy Jackson – This is a band that has a steady, solid buzz about it. And, of course, Hanes loves to get on the bandwagon whenever possible. Spineless sycophant that he is. So the investment was made in a thorough analysis of 2003’s Lovers and 2006’s Personality (One Was A Spider, One Was A Bird). No shortcuts were taken, every possible approach was exhausted. After such, one can see that the leader of the outfit, Luke Steele, has done his homework. There’s not a single musical type not nodded at or thread into one song or another. So, yes, it’s “eclectic” too. Although it does more or less stay close to a home of folk pop rock or lyrical singer-songwriter emoting. Which is pretty much the kiss of death to Hanes. So, yes, The Sleepy Jackson does put me to sleep. But you may like it if you enjoy the aforementioned abysmal Sufjan Stevens. Lovers starts out OK with “Good Dancers” and “Vampire Racecourse” and then gets blah after that. Personality tries to milk this late Beatles-like dreaminess, more of a lilting, soaring quality to the songscapes. Intolerable. But “I Understand What You Want But I Just Don’t Agree” is an OK tune. Long title, though.
Kasabian – The dreaded sophomore slump. How and when will it strike? That’s the question, see? Kasabian is in the same position as The Strokes were, when the latter was trying to follow up Is This It with Room on Fire. Which The Strokes did with fair to middling success. At best. Being kind. So. Kasabian’s 2004 album Kasabian was a pretty good intro effort. At least half the songs were worth listening to, and while slick, it wasn’t slimy slick. Alas, the latent “we’re too cool for school” smarm in the first album runs rampant throughout their second album, 2006’s Empire. First, it doesn’t rock enough, instead attempting to make “grand statements.” And the production tightens up the sound too much, squeezes or constricts better ways of putting it. Here, Kasabian is just taking themselves way too seriously and need to take a pill and have some fun. It’s not that the album sucks, it’s just a disappointment. Like Room on Fire. Anyway, I like “Last Trip (In Flight)” and “Sun Rise Light Flies” best.
M. Ward – Another mistake. Whoops. My bad. This dude is all singer/songwriter and adds in a country folk edge too. I listened to his 2006 album Post-War about a dozen times, hoping against hope to find something I could enjoy and grow from. I want to evolve! As moody and emotive as he can be, as jingly and jangly as he can strum his six-string, it’s all to no avail. It appears that there will be whole worlds of musical promise closed forever to Hanes and his tin ear. OK, “Neptune’s Net” is a decent tune. Maybe because it’s an instrumental.
Joanna Newsom – This is the musical equivalent of opening multiple corked bottles of wine in a row. Statistically possible but not likely. Yet, no denying… it happened! Other musically inclined writers have indicated that Ms. Newsom’s work is a love it or hate it affair. I cannot agree more. This shit sucks royally. Those who incline in the other direction speak of 2006’s album Ys achieving incredibly lush harmonic layering, an exquisite pastiche of references to other music, Ms. Newsom’s hauntingly ethereal voice, her sheer breadth of expression. I am sure all this is true. That said, this shit sucks royally. Is it classical music? Is it rock and roll? Is it it’s own new category? Who cares. Just, please, don’t make me listen to it ever again.
Girl Talk – Not so much a band as an exercise in non-stop sampling by one dude, very much akin to how 2 Many DJs roll. I mean, it’s like playing “Name That Tune” on crank. The samples come and go so quickly it’s difficult to assess, first, what they are and, second, if they fit well together or not. Which is an achievement of sorts. On 2006’s Night Ripper it seems entirely arbitrary where this guy decided to cut one song off from another, never mind name them. Which is supposed to be part of the fun. I saw a review of Girl Talk that said this album would be like the party album of the summer. I guess Hanes doesn’t go to those kind of parties anymore. But if you want something you can play really loud that crosses every genre possible and will get the frat boyz and the chicks with diamond studs in their belly buttons out on the dance floor breaking a sweat, this is a safe bet.
Comets on Fire – OK, get ready for a time warp. This band reaches way back to the British psychedelic 60’s and then moves forward a couple of years to snag riffs from the Detroit hard rock scene and the beginnings of glam rock. It’s hard to imagine them rocking any harder unless they went into cardiac arrest. Total jam band sound framed loosely around something vaguely recognizable as a song written beforehand. They manage to pull this off pretty damn well and give every indication that they would kick butt live too. They are even wise enough to throw in a few slower songs (or moments within songs) to give the listener time to catch their breath. 2004’s Blue Cathedral features enough freakout jams such as “Whiskey River” or “The Bee And The Crackin’ Egg” to satisfy any gear head. 2006’s Avatar has a much more matured sound, much denser and tightly composed, kinda reminds me a little of early Led Zeppelin, Cream and their peers. The most impressive tunes are probably “Holy Teeth,” “Jaybird” and “Dogwood Rust.” If you need to play air guitar to something new, this album should be on your Amazon wish list.
Bonnie Prince Billy – OK, might as well get more mistakes out of the way before letting them fester too long. This dude/band is just another downer singer/songwriter type who writes the kind of lyrically poetic songs that hold no interest for me. God knows who likes this music. Depressed sophomore chicks at Bard? 2006’s The Letting Go is a mope fest from start to finish. I wish there was something positive about this album. Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t kill myself after listening to it a couple of times? Let’s settle for that.
The Hanes Music Review 004
(Originally annoyed music lovers September 2006)
Yet even more stuff Hanes has recently listened to (you should never end a sentence with a preposition). As always, not all are “new” per se but at least new to Hanes or something he may have listened to in a cursory manner years ago and thought it time to reconsider. The main decision is what (a) gets selected/deselected for play on iTunes on my Mac and (b) what gets past the velvet rope onto my precious (and full) iPod. Ohh, Hanes you elitist!
The Spinto Band - Can’t remember how I heard of this band. That happens. But they are kind of funny in a quirky way, lo-fi and jangly, the way Hanes usually likes it. Their only full effort one believes is 2005’s Nice and Nicely Done. With lots of good elements, this is still an uneven effort. Methinks it is because there is a fair amount of diversity among the songs and some hit it and others don’t, with the expectation that the songs that do and don’t will vary from listener to listener. Even though Hanes doesn’t like them, they sound a little like the band Of Montreal or maybe that Sufjan guy. Dunno, “indie” guys in cardigans and big frame glasses? Anyway, my favorite tunes are “Brown Boxes,” “Oh Mandy,” and “Spy vs. Spy.” But, again, your mileage may vary. A thumbs up with some reservations.
Gomez - Out in this year of 2006 is Gomez’s new album How We Operate. It is a solid effort for this band. This said, their brand of blues/country-inflected power pop is certainly mellowing with age (their first album, Bring It On, having come out in 1998). It’s hard to not like the album yet, for me at least, it lacks the sarcastic or wry edge that many of their best, earlier songs had. Think songs like “Pop Juice” or “Click Click” or “Ballad of Nice & Easy.” Repeated listenings to this new album do not reveal a song of that caliber. Naturally, Miron will disagree. A couple of the better tracks are “Charley Patton Songs” and “Cry on Demand.” Nothing here gets on Hanes’s iPod.
Spank Rock - This is just basically “nasty rap” full of sexual bragging and all that good stuff. Which is fine as it goes (cf. Peaches in the rock world) as long as the music is complex and interesting. Otherwise you are just sitting next to a braggart on some bar stool or something. 2006’s album YoYoYoYoYo is kind of a yawner. The guy can certainly rap at a breakneck pace, hardly taking a breath. In the final analysis, though, there’s just not enough non-derivative, been-there, done-that stuff going on to merit the time to listen to the songs. So young, what a shame.
Head Automatica - Popaganda is the band’s album, out this year, 2006. It’s really so bad, it’s cheesy and you have to chuckle. Nothing new, nothing catchy, just slick and overproduced pabulum that only a 13 year old with no sense of musical history would like. It could be a great Harvard Business School case study of a soulless band crafted for heavy video rotation and adoring pubescent girls. Hell, it’s so pitch-perfect in this regard it’s hard to hate them. But it’s easy to not listen to them.
Art Brut - Could have caught them live this summer at Coney but was too tired to hang for a few more hours at a daylong music festival. Ruth saw them in Chicago and said they were actually pretty good in a fun, don’t take them too seriously way. Anyway, been meaning to give 2005’s Bang Bang Rock & Roll a thorough listening and that’s why I do this review, force myself to make the time to do these things. They are OK and better in many regards than the majority of their immediate peers. Does this make them great? Hell, no. Bands like Art Brut underscore how hard it must be to write about rock music for a living. Or, worse, to run a website based on music reviews like Stylus or Pitchfork. When you have such a website you have to find something positive to write if you write that all the bands reviewed this week suck, you don’t create any hype and your whole operation goes kaput. This is why I really take all the major music review outfits with a grain of salt. They need the music to be good, even if it sucks. Anyway, Art Brut. The leadoff track “Formed A Band” is kind of catchy in a pop-punk manner. There’s a general jangly whimsy that at times recalls early Kinks work in songs like “Emily Kane” and “Good Weekend.” “Moving to L.A.” might be the best song on the album. But, alas, that may not be enough.
Slint - This is a band that avoided my gaze back when I was in college and just out into the big, beautiful world. Odd that this happened but stranger things have happened since. They kind of remind me at times of Big Black, at other times their sound is more subdued, even as they maintain a strong emphasis on heavy drumming and thick guitar riffs which some metalheads would be proud of. The focus here is mainly on their 1989 album Tweez and 1991 album Spiderland. They disbanded soon after. Note that vocals are rare and, when there, don’t really make sense. Their dense cascading sound is served to best effect on “Nan Ding,” “Darlene” and “Rhoda” on the first album. There’s a more, dare one say “cerebral,” approach on the second album (Steve Albini produced) and “Breadcrumb Trail” and “Good Morning Captain” are both iPod worthy winners. Note that all the songs (six of them) on this album are longer than five minutes. Slint has appeal for the real heavy guitar indie rock fan.
Pajo - David Pajo was in Slint and then did some solo stuff after the band broke up. So, liking Slint, thought I’d check it out. The sound in general is much more accessible if still driven by the loud-quiet contrast rather than full-out drum and guitar surge. The 2005 album entitled Pajo shows a more mature sound too, the more you listen to the album the more you like it. Trades in the Big Black for mid-period Dinosaur Jr. guitar and vocal emphasis with a semi-acoustic twist for good measure. “War Is Dead” is an excellent tune. “High Lonesome Moan” is pretty great too. Very much worthing looking into, especially if you like the indie sound with a mix of acoustic and louder elements. Pajo has also played with Tortoise and Stereolab.
Arcade Fire - Checked out their 2004 album Funeral. Tortured, artsy souls these be. The music rocks at a medium beat, danceable in its own way via the backbeat. They seem to be jonesing hard to be “eclectic.” There’s admirable diversity among the songs. Dunno, it all seems like the kind of stuff Hanes should like but it is just not cohering for me. Maybe it’s too all over the place. Maybe it’s I can just think about all this other music I like better and don’t want to invest more time in listening to them.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! - This band is from Montreal so Ruth must know them! She’s from Montreal too! Anyway, hard to pigeonhole them. Very moody stuff, there’s all these building tempo changes and a kind of darkness always lurking in the background. Every song they do seems to be 15 to 20 minutes, if not longer. So, there’s some commitment involved with listening to them. But I think they are very good. Kind of like what aging punk rockers would listen to Sunday mornings while reading the newspaper. Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven seems to be their main album, put out in 2000. You’ll probably like them better if you are a cup half-empty kind of person like Hanes.
Bowery Electric - This is a band from the mid to late 90’s. Not sure they are still around or putting new stuff out. Don’t know how I missed them back in tha day. Has a kind of techno sound, borrowing from “wall of sound” bands (e.g., My Bloody Valentine) in terms of overall sonic texture rather than loudness or noise. Lots of subtly repetitive backbeats. Checked out 1996’s Beat and 2000’s Lushlife and both offer many solid tunes. And, even better, few if any out-and-out clunkers. This is the kind of music which floats Hanes’s boat. Lots of layered instrumentalism, eerie, floating lyrics and a certain sleepy redundancy. Now, who don’t like that?
Hot Chip - Hanes totally loved Hot Chip’s 2005 album Coming On Strong. Hence, he greedily awaited the release in 2006 of their new album The Warning. As is usually the case in such situations, there’s a lot of initial disappointment. You want more of the same, but even better this time. But when do you ever really get that? Not that often, if ever. As a result, I have tried to give this album even more listenings than usual before reaching any kind of semi-conclusion on it. The semi-conclusion is this. It’s a very good album and should have plenty of appeal to many folks. It lacks the wry iconoclasm of the previous album, for sure. And in some ways sounds like some of their music pre-Coming On Strong. So, maybe my favorite album is the aberration. There’s still plenty of techno/alt rock funk and quirky beats. And deadpan vocal harmonies. There’s three strong songs in a row with “And I Was a Boy From School,” “Colours” and “Over & Over.” The title track “The Warning” may be the best song on the album. Hot Chip remains a band every sane person should enjoy.
Dirty Three - Is this the indie rock take on the “prog rock” of the 1970s? If ELP was a band from Williamsburg today, would they sound similar to this? They are actually from Australia and at times come close in sound as well to bands like Giant Sand or Friends of Dean Martinez. Lots of violin and “mood music” and few vocals, if any (although super-hipster Chan Marshall sings on one song). 2005’s Cinder is their latest album, the band having formed in 1992. I just don’t get this album. And I like both ELP and Friends of Dean Martinez. And my love for instrumental rock is well-documented. It’s experimental to the verge of becoming self-indulgent. For all of its tortured vulnerability, the sound lacks hooks and the kind of unguarded feel needed to express said vulnerability. Out of 19 tracks there are some I like, notably “Doris,” “The Zither Player” and “This Night.” Dirty Three is just not the band for Hanes. Please forgive me.
Add N to (X) - This band has been around since the mid-90’s and it is just a gosh darn shame I never was hip to them before now. They have an electronic sound heavy on the synthesizers with that quirkiness Hanes just loves, lots of fun with multiple layers and plenty of hooks. Don’t know if they are even together anymore, the last album listed for them came out in 2002. If not, too bad because they sound like, even for electronica, they would put on a great live show, very danceable to boot. Anyway, checked out four of their albums and they are all solid, naturally any given individual will prefer some songs to others. Even if they as a result disagree with Hanes in some instances and thus are wrong. 1998’s On The Wires Of Our Nerves is their second album (couldn’t get the first from 1996). It is a little less polished than later stuff. “Sound Of Accelerating Concrete,” “King Wasp,” “Orgy Of Bubastus” and “Hit Me” are all winning tracks. 1999’s Avant Hard has not only a funny album title but good songs too. It starts with a bang with “Barry 7’s Contraption,” a real oddball and catchy number. The fun immediately continues with “Robot New York” and “Skills” all the way to “Metal Fingers In My Body” and “Oh, Yeah, Oh No.” Five songs from the album on the iPod means pretty good effort. 2000’s Add Insult To Injury sees the band move decidedly in a more rocking direction, something which works at times but not always. From what I can gather the songwriting is less collaborative and more split-up, perhaps a sign of why they only put out one album after this one. There are definitely some powerful tunes, check out “Brothel Charge” and especially “Plug Me In” which is one of their all-time best. 2002’s Loud Like Nature takes the block-rockin’ beats to a new level for them. While their earlier quirkiness is missing, the groove hits with authority here. “Total All Out Water,” “Electric Village” and “Large Number” are among the best. Highs not as high but basement on this album not so low either. I’d say start with Avant Hard and move from there.
Giant Drag - From what I can gather this isn’t a “band” per se but a woman out in Los Angeles who gets musicians to sit in with her and do the songs. Was recommended by my friend Christine in DC who is an alt-country queen. There’s a little of that here but it is much more guitar-driven with enough fuzz to recall 60’s rock or My Bloody Valentine without the wall of sound. It’s actually really good. 2005’s Hearts and Unicorns starts off with a great song with a dumb name, “Kevin Is Gay.” “This Isn’t It” and “Slayer” are also solid tunes. “High Friends in Places” is just a cool song title! In the grand pantheon of rock, this isn’t getting into any time capsule soon. But it’s much better than its immediate competition and that’s more than enough these days. Thumbs up.
Peaches - 2006 seems like the right time to release an album entitled Impeach My Bush. Sadly, it’s kind of a waste. It is amazing how stale Peaches’ act is now. The key to her success was that underneath all the raunchy lyrics and sexual posturing was some pretty damn good retro-80’s music. Here the music is a lot more redundant and devoid of the kind of hooks or grooves that can distract you from the mostly vacuous lyrics. Such a shame. One would suspect that this album will attract listeners new to Peaches and they will like it. But for anyone who knows the better stuff in the past it will prove a disappointment.
Primary 5 - This is a band put together by a former drummer of Teenage Fanclub to showcase his own material. It has an extremely similar sound to his former band, kind of Fanclub Lite. The only album is 2004’s North Pole and it is a relatively decent effort yet perhaps really for the hardcore Fanclub fan. Power pop with that 60s to 70s sound, lots of harmony too. Some of the better tracks are “Comin’ Home,” “Without You” and “Happy” however the album taken as a whole is a bit too homogeneous to really stand up to multiple listenings. It’s credible background filler. Which is still better than lots of other dreck out there.
Labradford - This is one of those “soundscape” bands similar to Godspeed above. No vocals, just layers of eerie sounds, noises and sinister pauses. Their heyday seems to have been the mid-90s through early 00’s. 1995’s A Stable Reference is the analyzed album here, has a rough, if hypnotic industrial quality, industrial as in machines not the musical genre. I believe the commonly accepted genre for this band is called “post-rock.” How precious. At times they come a little close to the Spiritualized sound too. It’s hard to imagine me grooving to it on my iPod but there is a subtly building power to the music that makes one want to find a place and time to listen to it somehow. Whether this involves being home sick in bed or chasing the dragon, who is to say. Since this is not “rock” but “post-rock” it is difficult to recommend it as rock. It is good “post-rock.” I guess.
!!! - I keep forgetting to mention it but this band (phonetically sounded out Chk! Chk! Chk!) puts on a great live show, very much worth checking (chking out?) if they are playing near you. No idea what their studio stuff sounds like but very much worth the price of an admission ticket. Rocking, danceworthy, everyone in the audience having fun! Yeehaw!
The Hanes Music Review 003
(Originally began to fester like a boil on the world’s rear July 2006)
Yet even more stuff Hanes has recently listened to (you should never end a sentence with a preposition). As always, not all are "new" per se but at least new to Hanes or something he may have listened to in a cursory manner years ago and thought it time to reconsider. The main decision is what (a) gets selected/deselected for play on iTunes on my Mac and (b) what gets past the velvet rope onto my precious (and full) iPod. Ohh, Hanes you elitist!
Jenny Lewis - Our West Coast correspondent Dan Scharf recommended this. So, checked out her 2006 solo debut Rabbit Fur Coat, noted as by Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins. Lewis is also with an indie band called Rilo Kiley But I’ve never heard of them. Fancy that. In any event, Ms. Lewis does have a stunning voice and the production quality on this album is superb, extremely clear sound, squeaky clean. It’s something which should appeal to those who like singer/songwriter, alt.country or roots rock categories, all of which are not really Hanes’s cup of tea. “The Big Guns and “The Charging Sky” are good tunes. And you have to respect anyone who is willing to risk the snickers of covering The Traveling Wilburys. I would not be surprised to see Ms. Lewis go onto to greater notoriety.
Safety Scissors - This dude does electronic/techno kind of stuff. I listened to what songs I could from 2001’s Parts Water and 2005’s Tainted Lunch. Regardless of whether or not anyone likes the music, great name for an album, bonus points there. While this is not the kind of music Hanes listens to every day, it is interesting and certainly there is a lot of variety from track to track (can’t quite call it “song to song”). It may come off as too much “doodling” for some listeners. This may in some relevant ways relegate it to “background music” status. One suspects it has been played in many a “lounge” bar. Fucking lounges, hate ‘em. Anyway, moderate “thumbs up” depending on your affinity for this type of stuff. “Dipsy Daisy” on Parts Water is cool and “Amnesia, I Need You to Remind Me” from Tainted Lunch has a nice Prince-like vibe to it.
30 Seconds to Mars - Others have previously noted that it is easy to diss bands fronted by movie stars. It is easy. And there is good reason. This band is fronted by actor Jared Leto. “Actor” used loosely. 2005’s A Beautiful Lie is like The Killers or NIN but without any of their moderate redeeming qualities. It’s amazingly formulaic and cookie-cutteresque like it was created in a laboratory or something. Needless to say, over-produced as well. In emotional vibe, the alternative rock version of big hair metal from the early 80s. The songs have that kind of sophomoric angst which only appeals to 14 year old girls with movie star posters on their bedroom walls. And the 45 year old men who love them. Easy pass, here.
Pretty Girls Make Graves - 2006’s Elan Vital is the album herein discussed. I believe this is a band which has its fans among my friends. Even after multiple listenings it is hard to know what to make of them. They do a decent job of maintaining diversity among the songs and aren’t too slick. I think I need stronger “hooks” in music like this, without them the songs come off as a semi-flat to me. It’s an OK effort but can’t imagine this being any sort of “break out” effort. But I’ve been wrong more times than right! Anyway, “The Nocturnal House” and “Pictures of a Night Scene” are good tunes.
It should be noted in general that it seems I am more persnickety about female vocalists than male. They really have to hit me hard from the get-go to be effective. There’s plenty of female vocalists and bands led by female vocalists that I like such as Stereolab, My Bloody Valentine, Syd Straw, Peaches, Beat Happening, The Raveonettes, Eurythmics, Blondie, or The Pretenders as well as jazz singers such as Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan. Less emoting, more rocking. Also why I tend to not like male singer/songwriters in addition to the whole “emo” category.
Gnarls Barkley - 2006’s St. Elsewhere is produced by the ever-popular Danger Mouse. It’s not really all that bad, seems to be harkening to the early 70s funk and soul sound when there was a lot of jamming and less overt structure in the songs. As a result, even for a studio sampling fest it sounds freshly live, like an outdoor summer concert. There’s some similarity to the Outkast sound. The major single off of the album, “Crazy,” is a very good song but not at all the best song on the album. That accolade probably goes to “Go-Go Gadget Gospel” or “The Boogie Monster.” And you have to be please to hear them covering the Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone” -- as I’ve said before, there’s so many great songs that languish because no one covers/reinterprets them (outside of snippets through sampling). This was one of the good things about the 60s to early 70s music scene, bands would cover contemporary songs by other bands they liked and no one got bent out of shape about it. It’s fun and it’s always intriguing to see just what songs a given band likes by other bands and want to play themselves. Anyway, thumbs up for this album.
Secret Machines - Listened to 2006’s Ten Silver Drops. Only question is this: is this an MTV band or an MTV2 band??? A true puzzle this question. In any event, this band rivals 30 Seconds to Mars for hackneyed, pre-packaged drivel. Somwhere a fat music mogul with a pinkie ring and gold chains laughs at Hanes as he counts his dough but this band sux, man. All polish and surface and no guts. I feel sorry for any band named by Secret machines as an influence. These machines should have stayed a secret.
I would like to add that I ever so enjoy switching the genre of music from “Indie” to something else when the music comes pre-categorized in iTunes as “Indie.” Yak, what a pretentious genre this has become. Makes you want to lay dynamite around the borders of Williamsburg and sink it in the East River. “Indie,” indeed.
Beans - 2004’s Shock City Maverick is a hip-hop album with a distinct electronica edge to it. And I certainly like the tracks that lean towards that edge. “Papercut” is a fun, up tempo number with a intriguing blend of eeriness and big booming bass. “You’re Dead, Let’s Disco” is also a superior track. The rapping is average but the mixing can be stellar. No surprise that I like the tracks with no or minimal vocals best. There’s a new album out called Only but I haven’t been able to check it out yet. An artist worth keeping your eyes on as there is reason to hope for artistic growth. But you gotta like rap.
Forward, Russia! - 2006’s Give Me a Wall is I believe their first full album release. This is a decent effort. Has a crackling post-punk, angsty vibe to it. The lead singer is certainly milking it for all its worth, all the standard breathless striving for high notes if not falsettos. You can imagine the late 1980s video that goes with most of the songs. Not a great deal of diversity among the songs. All the songs are named after numbers. How cute. “Nineteen” and “Seventeen” might be the best cuts. No real reason here not to simply stick with the bands who influenced this group. A few tunes selected for random iTunes play but nada gets on ye olde iPod.
Atomic Swing - The Broken Habanas is the 2006 album from a Swedish band that broke up in the 90s and just got back together. Yes, another Swedish band. Find three people in this country not in a band! Anyway, hard to peg this band entirely. At times it’s like Strokes-lite (even though they predate The Strokes). Some songs sound a lot like later Dire Straits. There’s definitely a glam thing going on. Touch loungey. It’s too inoffensive, in the sense that it’s lack of anything to react negatively against eliminates with it anything to really get excite about. Never heard their earlier stuff to determine if this is just a feeble attempt at recapturing prior glories.
Mono - A Japanese instrumental outfit, their 2006 album You Are There is produced by Steve Albini. Albini is a rock god, dammit! Where that gets Mono is up for debate. There’s a moody, dirge-like quality to the music (six tracks, four of which are over ten minutes). Orchestral, baroque, when there is white noise it more so flutters in waves than assaults. At times reminds me a wee bit of the band Town & Country. This is the kind of music you listen to as a whole album, you don’t clip a song off here or there to check out. It’s too powerful (not loud per se) at times to serve as background music but it is difficult to imagine sitting down and listening intently to it for 60 minutes too. One suspects this is why they are compared to classical music a lot. That is, you have to want to listen to it. Or be laying sick in bed and not be too sleepy.
The Black Heart Procession - The album is 3, the year is 2000. This may not be their best album (out of six or so), thus not the best place to start. But fuck that noise, this is what I got. More moody dirges, sweet. Seems like the kind of band my friends like, I don’t like, and they wonder how I have lived so long with such shitty taste. “Emo,” but in a way that suggests more masculinity, like the guys who go into the jungle together and beat drums and cry. Totally not doing it for me. But they put out those six albums so someone must be buying them. God bless these people! Two of ten songs get selected for iTunes play and further consideration.
Metric - Miron recommended this band. I think I recall a soft rebuke from Lisa. Be that as it may, checked out 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?. Definitely bespeaks both their worship for early to mid 80s new wave pop and their art school background. Bomb the art schools now! The chick lead singer is hot. Usually that’s enough for me! But it looks like she’s too tall for my 5’8” Armenian frame. So, she loses. More synth than you can shake a stick at here. Drums kick the beat enough to make it danceable. I can see this being fun for awhile but with a fairly short shelf life. Good summer music, like if you were having a deck party or something. If you pay too close attention you’ll find they appear to take themselves more seriously than they warrant. Did I already say bomb the art schools? “Hustle Rose,” “Combat Baby” and “Dead Disco” strike me as the best songs.
Test Icicles - Not sure how I heard about this band. Must have been bored at work and websurfing or something. Anyway, repeated listenings to 2005’s For Screening Purpose Only reveals a pop-punk sound and a desire to rock out that might have been better served with slightly less studio production. Has the obligatory ska inflections and repetitive guitar chords in lieu of true solos. Seems these guys put out this one album and then broke up. No singing, just shouting. Catchy at moments but nothing here that hasn’t been done (a) before and (b) concurrently by a zillion other skinny twentysomething boys. “Your Biggest Mistake,” “Circle Square Triangle” (one of their singles) and “What’s Your Damage?” among the most enduring tracks.
Gotan Project - 2006’s Lunático is the album under the microscope. OK, this is the kind of background music you hear at “chic” Tribeca or Soho “lounges.” It’s that moody techno stuff with accordions, all the lyrics in Spanish. The kind of music that makes 25 year olds feel sophisticated. There’s really no way to “listen” to it as there’s nothing to really hang your hat on. That said, it doesn’t out-and-out suck, nothing really rubs you horribly wrong. For the sake of iTunes bio-diversity, a few songs make it into rotation (nada on the iPod): “Lunático,” “Mi Confesión,” “La Vigüela,” and “Domingo.”
The Walkmen - Been checking out their new 2006 album A Hundred Miles Off. After the relative disappointment of Bows + Arrows (2004) after the stellar Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone (2002), one wonders if this band is capable of more than uneven moments of greatness. This newest effort has its highlights, for sure, but also too many moments when it feels like they are going through the motions, uninspired. This band has some hardcore fans so there’s little doubting the album’s commercial viability. Nevertheless, for Hanes, The Walkmen is a band capable of writing good songs and possibly not great albums. The good songs on this album are “Good For You’s Good For Me,” “Lost In Boston,” and “Emma, Get Me A Lemon.”
West Indian Girl - Their only album to date, their 2004 self-titled West Indian Girl is a pretty credible effort. After hearing it many months ago now, took forever for me to remember to borrow it from Ruth. Now, all is as it should be. It’s trippy and extremely accessible, summertime is the perfect time to listen to it. Not going to strain your brain but will get your fingers tapping. The preponderance of harmonies gives its Californian roots away. If you want something with more “chops” it could be easy to poke fun at it but, on the whole, it’s innocent fun. “Trip” and “Hollywood” make it onto the iPod! And 6 of 11 tracks remain checked for random iTunes play. Score! And for what it is worth, the cover is really cool.
Of Montreal - This is absolutely no surprise to anyone who knows Hanes’s taste in music. But this band fully and completely eludes Hanes. During a listening party it was presented to me by Dan and Ruth with knowing smirks. Ruth is from Montreal so she must have known. We heard 2001’s Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse. “Whimsical Verse” is right. This is beyond “bubble gum” music, it’s like that Sufjan Stevens guy on whippets and trying to sing with helium in his throat. Obviously someone likes this kind of stuff, namely Dan and Ruth, but Hanes has no use for it. All apologies in advance for quirky hipsters with clunky glasses who think Of Montreal is cool.
V-Twin - Never heard of this band or had forgotten if I had. Dandy Dan Miron provided a listen to 2000’s Free the Twin, a collection of singles. So, it seems not only do/did they have albums but they also have singles! The first cut “Delinquency” is a very fun tune, more or less straightforward “pop” alt-rock. There’s a couple of tracks that have a more singer/songwriter feel, if not also slightly “countrified,” that leave me less enthused. Up tempo appears to suit them better. Again, at least to me. Although “Lunan” is a nice moody slow song, appreciated for the paucity of lyrics to spoil the mood. “In the Land of the Pharaohs” (two versions provided) is another winner and there’s two alternate cuts of “Delinquency” which are fun to hear. Like hearing Beck remix some of his own songs or something. Don’t run out for it but don’t avoid this band either.
Belle & Sebastian - In the never ending quest to try and understand the appeal of this outfit Hanes sits and intently listens to their new 2006 album The Life Pursuit. I don’t recall too very much about hearing earlier stuff, just that it didn’t float my boat. That said, this album seems livelier, more upbeat than prior efforts. Maybe I am incorrect in this sentiment. It happens. Anyway, it’s more of the general singer/songwriter vibe with a slightly more loungey, art pop veneer. Indeed, this is probably “required listening” to be cool at any art school.
Arizona Amp and Alternator - 2005’s Arizona Amp and Alternator is another side project or whatever by the main dude of Giant Sand. I think I used to be a lot more into this kind of sound than I am now. Or, alternatively, that this whole “Southwestern U.S. moody music” thing appeals to me solely in instrumental form. This stuff here is fairly sparse and minimalistic, as is their wont, vocals muttered most of the time, not much energy here so you better bring your own. Or be chasing the dragon as you listen. Is cool to hear someone cover Traffic’s “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” in a highly interpretive fashion. Just hard for me to see how or why I would listen to this on a repeated basis. Four songs (including the cover) get checked for random iTunes play on the ‘puter.
Whale - We Care came out in 1995. It’s still has a very fresh sound, an excellent fusion of rock and electronica that can provide both serious hooks as well as a sense of both carefree fun and decadence. Say, that’s a lot! The lead track “Kickin’” still earns its killer tuneage status, just what you want, when you want it. Hell, they have a female vocalist and Hanes even likes it. Zoinks. The hit “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe” actually may be one of the tracks that has not held up the best. “Happy In You” rocks the rock as does “I Miss Me.” And you may say with some assurance that “Young, Dumb, N’ Full Of Cum” still makes the all-time top list of song titles. Check this album out and you may be pleased about filling in some more back catalog stuff in your music collection.
Ladytron - This assemblage of DJs and two female singers has been around since 1998. But because Hanes is so uncool and behind the times, he has only now given them a full listening. More pointedly, 2005’s Witching Hour which is their most recent effort excepting a collection of remixes and B-sides more recently released. heavy on the beats without becoming full-on, 100% dance music. Techno, electronica, all that good stuff. The female vocals fit the music extremely well although I have to say I really can’t make sense of the lyrics or their import. A couple of songs are like if you played a My Bloody Valentine record at the wrong speed or something. I can see this being played in hipster lounges, but only later at night when the place is super-crowded and the music is supposed to be loud enough that no one can talk to anyone, even if they are six inches away. The opening tack “High Rise” is cool, as is “Sugar” and “WhiteLightGenerator.” Within its genre, very competent and listenable.
Phoenix - It’s Never Been Like That, newly released here in the U.S. in 2006. This stuff is kind of disappointing. It’s good enough that you suspect it could be better. Never not listenable but never quite crosses the line into really holding your interest. Phoenix has a basic alt-rock, indie rock sound (what the flub is the difference anyway?) with easygoing lyrics, catchy enough guitar riffs and a fairly up-tempo pacing. But they come off a bit “lite.” For my taste, “Consolation Prizes, “Rally,” One Time Too Many,” and “North” are the most engaging tunes. In the end, five of ten songs left checked for random iTunes computer play which isn’t that bad.
Zero 7 - This is a band you might expect Hanes to pan. Hell, Miron did but what does he know. I have never heard their earlier stuff but checked out their latest, 2006’s The Garden. It’s really good in a simple pop fashion. And I mean simple. Nothing here is going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet, it’s catchy and eminently listenable with enough hooks and riffs to get your toes tapping if not brain working. It’s a little fuzzy, lots of synthesizer and loops and the like. And there is diversity among the songs which is a pleasing aspect too, makes it more of an “album” than one long song. While each song offers something different to each listener, I prefer “Throw It All Away,” “Seeing Things,” and “Today.” But, again, no real stinker songs here. Quite recommendable.
Beyond discovering new stuff or just discovering overlooked old stuff, there is another category worth mentioning. This being newly released remastered albums of note. Sometimes the improvement in sound quality can be amazing, making buying the new version of paramount importance to the safety of the galaxy. Plus, in most cases you get sweet bonus tracks and the like. So, in this spirit let us mention a few.
It’s been a few years (2003) since the remastered version came out by Reprise/Rhino kicked ass with their new version of Electric Warrior by T. Rex. Just never sounded better, blows you away. Dan presented the remastered Goo by Sonic Youth and there’s plenty of extra tracks for stalwart devotees of this band. Although with no extra tracks, the remastered The Whitey Album by SY under the moniker Ciccone Youth sounds great -- this being one of their best albums, period. One of the greatest pop albums of the 80’s got redone in 2004, namely 16 Lovers Lane by The Go-Betweens. Originally released in 1988, it’s as fresh and beautiful today as it was then. More via Dan The Man. I never quite “got” this album when it came out in 1982 but the sound quality of Avalon by Roxy Music is pretty damn impressive. If you were a fan then, worth re-investigating. A classic from 1978, Parallel Lines by Blondie has been overhauled. Can’t say I see a dramatic difference in this remaster but their sound may not be the type which highlights this sort of thing. Those of a certain age will also remember the Robert Fripp album Exposure from like 1977. Here Fripp is basically experimenting with different sounds, it’s not much of a cohesive album. Released in between the “old” King Crimson and the “new” King Crimson. The remastering pretty good and it’s a fun smorgasbord of varied tunes. For the collector or rock geek.
The Hanes Music Review 002
(Originally inflicted on the world May 2006)
More stuff Hanes has recently subjected his ears to. As before, not all are “new” per se but at least new to Hanes or something he may have listened to in a cursory manner years ago and thought it time to reconsider. The main decision is what (a) gets selected/deselected for play on iTunes on my Mac and (b) what gets past the velvet rope onto my precious (and full) iPod.
Mindflayer - Couldn’t find any samples online for free. Maybe a bad sign? Hmmm. Anyway, bought the 2001 album Take Your Skin Off. This is very aggressive music, hard to pin down. All-Music categorizes it as “Noise” and they are probably right. Whirlwind drums, guitars, bass, a real assault. Not sure how much of this I could listen to in a row, the song “Head Of State On A Plate LEVITATION” stands out the best to me. If I put any of this on my iPod I would need ear surgery.
Ambulance Ltd - Got the 2004 self-titled or LP off of Miron. In the interim Scharf said he digs the band. I do like them quite a bit too. This has got to be a first, at least three people agreeing on a band. I do, however, hate the song title “Yoga Means Union” although the song is cool. “Young Urban,” “Stay Where You Are” and “Sugar Pill” are also cool tunes. No real clunker here and the sound is similar enough song-to-song that favorites would probably diverge among listeners.
Sufjan Stevens - Also got the 2005 album Come On Feel The Illinoise! from Miron. Let me just say that I must be emotionally and musically crippled. He only on U.S. state number two of 50 and already I am tuning it out. The title track is a fun little ditty. “Jacksonville” isn’t bad but isn’t the city in Florida? “Decatur” another fun little ditty (that’s what these songs seem like, geez). Not much else to say, more “Singer/Songwriter” stuff that leaves Hanes wanting.
Japancakes - I keep touting this band, seemingly to no avail. Sigh. Recently acquired the Down the Elements CD. Four songs, all excellent instrumentals with the right balance between moodiness and rocking. I like the song “A.W. Sonic” best but they are all very different (some over ten minutes long). Feh, forget I ever mentioned them.
Electric Six - Snagged the album Señor Smoke from Miron. These guys are a lot of cheesy fun, thy really sound like they are having fun themselves and even if this type of music isn’t your core interest it’s hard not to get infected. Rocking, touches of ironic arena rock sounds. Ween covers Queens of the Stone Age? Nothing profound but easy to drive down the highway with the top down on a sunny afternoon. “Dance Epidemic” is cool and I somehow never thought I would ever again think of the 80s song “Radio Ga Ga,” covered herein.
The Advantage - OK, got the 2004 album aptly named The Advantage. The thing is, this band does instrumentals of themes from popular video games of the past. Now, you’d think who wouldn’t love that? Fuck yeah! But, whether it is Mega Man, Super Mario Bros 2, or Wizards and Warriors, it maybe doesn’t translate like you’d think. It’s fun the first couple of times but it doesn’t have legs, even as cheesy as it is. Unless you have some childhood issues to resolve it’s an easy pass.
Citizen Cope - First of a few bands recommended by The Freshest DJ of Scarsdale, our very own Pete G. (not to be confused with Pete Nice). Hard to really call it a band since it is basically this one dude. Downloaded a bunch of songs off of Citizen Cope from 2002 and The Clarence Greenwood Recordings from 2004. Hard to make full sense of the stuff. Like if you threw Beck, Dave Matthews and a few Motown albums in a blender or something. Hanes likes Beck. After repeated listenings I don’t trust the street cred of this guy’s emotions. It’s all quite well done, good arrangements, pacing is fine but he seems to be trying to express this kind of ‘common man pain” that doesn’t ring truly with moi. As they say, your mileage may vary. Hanes better stick with the anarchic “noise” bands.
BR5-49 - Pete also slid me the brand new album Dog Days. It seems that our beloved BR5-49 has lost some members including one of the lead singers and the short guy who was the multi-instrumentalist. So, they have a much more stripped down sound. It reminds me of when The Blasters stripped way down. The new sound is good but it’s so different the band should almost change the name. Same here. I like this but it’s apples and oranges. My favorite songs so far are “Bottom Of Priority” and “Lower Broad St. Blues.”
The Coral - Got The Invisible Invasion (2005) from Grandmaster Pete G. and downloaded their first effort The Coral (2002). There’s a fairly big gap in skill and polish between the two efforts. My biggest critique of the first album is that it’s repetitive and somewhat simple by comparison. Also, much more 60’s in sound, some songs could “pass” with ease, especially “Goodbye.” Now, it always interests me to see a band get better since I usually am of the opinion that most band’s first albums remain their best. But Invisible is a big step up. The first song “She Sings the Mourning” is really good. So is “A Warning to the Curious.” Only a couple of clunkers. Worth picking up.
The Magic Numbers - Pete mentioned this band, didn’t necessarily recommend it. They’re too hippy, skippy for Hanes. Not a bad band by any stretch. Still, I’d recommend trying to hear a few tracks before committing any coin towards a purchase. Wait, did Hanes just mention “purchase”? Yowza!
Heartless Bastards - Another Pete mention -- we were stoned, what do you want -- Stairs and Elevators (2005) is their only album. These Bastards rock out, man. Singer sounds kind of like Deborah Harry after three packs of cigs and half a bottle of Jack. No new territory broken yet the stripped down trio sound is appealing. So, if you like power alt punk they may tickle your fancy. Nothing makes my iPod but a few stay in iTunes rotation, highlights being “Gray” and “My Maker.”
Lewis Taylor - Last mention by Pete. Downloaded five songs from Stoned, Part I. Have to say, this is not my cup of tea at all. Real pop/R&B sound, blah. I mean, I could listen to this if I had to in order to get it on with a supa-hottie. But otherwise, no go.
Mando Diao - We now move to recommendations from New Wave Dave. First up is Sweden’s Mando Diao. Grabbed a bunch of songs from Bring ‘Em In (2003) and Hurricane Bar (2005). These guys are pretty good, they have that “louche” sound down pretty well. Retro late 60’s sound, especially in the laconic vocals. Can see Stones, Kinks, Yardbirds, etc. type influences. Again, not going to change the annals of rock and roll history but very easy to groove to. “The Band” and “Bring ‘Em In” from the first album and “You Can’t Steal My Love” and “This Dream Is Over” rock nicely. My sense is that their earlier stuff is more raw and 60’s bluesy.
The International Noise Conspiracy - Dave say listen. I hit the mother lode on this one, four albums: Survival Sickness (2000), A New Morning, Changing Weather (2001), The First Conspiracy (2001), Armed Love (2004). Not really sure what to make of this band. There is indeed noise to be had. Maybe it’s too minimalist, too freeform, too abstract but it’s not catching with me. The dude is like screaming on every song. I do, however, like the song title “Capitalism Stole My Virginity.” I leave this to others as this sort of sound has never floated my boat too much. Sucks to be me.
The Hellacopters - Dave said to check these dudes from Sweden out. I managed to score five full albums which is probably most of the output, ranging from 1998 to 2005. As Dave said, as any music review says and as Hanes says these guys are great no-frills stadium head bangers. Not quite full-blown heavy metal but plenty of machismo and heavy guitar riffs and drumming. If you miss the early 80’s style of rocking out, snag some of this. As Dave notes and I agree, their earlier stuff is very Stooges-like, later stuff more polished. First album titled Supershitty To The Max!. Gotta love that.
Sahara Hotnights - Another Swedish band recommended by Dave. What is up with that? At least it’s chicks! Mmmm, rocker chicks. Got C’mon Let’s Pretend (1999), Jennie Bomb (2002) and Kiss & Tell (2004). Even after repeated listening still not sure what I make of them. It’s good but not extremely anything specific, ends up more in the middle with a little of a lot of familiar things. Everything seems medium tempo, minimal soloing. Which usually leaves me feeling a touch tepid if the genre is straight-ahead rock. My sense is that this band got better and tighter over time, suggesting exploring the later stuff first.
Kasabian - Dave recommended this band too but I have vague drunken/stoned recollections of hearing it at Dan’s place too. Anything is possible in this crazy world of ours. Anyway, gathered together 2004’s self-titled Kasabian. Supposedly, this band got lots of press and created a big stir. Once more Hanes is clued out. In any event, it is a very good album and worth checking out. Kind of trippy rock and I see a bit of why people reference The Stone Roses. I kind of like the songs “Club Foot, “Processed Beats” and “Cutt Off” best. They do the fucking annoying thing of having an eleven minute final track which is really one song and then another “hidden” song after a lot of silence. Is there one person in the world who thinks this is cool anymore? Fuck that shit.
DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER! ATTACK OF THE BANDS “INFLUENCED” BY THE JAM!
My god, if I read one more profile of some young band that swears up and down how influential The Jam were to them while they sound nothing like The Jam and have none of their vulnerability and more poetic sense of cosmic injustice I will come over to your house and beat the shit out of you.
Or, to wit, can Hanes find a band who privileges musicianship over wanting to be a rock star?
Arctic Monkeys - The latest, greatest “it” band. Snagged 2006’s release Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. I agree with this album title. Reviewers say this band is great. They are not. They are certainly competent and nothing to be ashamed of, per se. There’s a nice insouciance in the singer’s voice. I am quite confident that others among you would like them much more than I, who is never pleased. I think “The View From The Afternoon,” “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured” and “When The Sun Goes Down” are the best tunes. Nothing here sounds like The Jam.
Baby Shambles - 2005’s Down in Albion is the album considered here. More punkish in sound. Vaguely sinister at times. Call me crazy but this sounds more like early Kinks at times to me than The Jam. In their vernacular there’s above average musicianship. Hard to really say anything against them. I am beginning to suspect that I don’t have enough “lad” in me. This makes me sad, I should subscribe to Gear Magazine or something. In any event, I think “What Katy Did Next” and “La Belle et la Bête” are the best tunes here.
The Rakes - A bit more mod than the last two bands, more polish. Listened to 2005’s album Capture/Release. Am I allowed to use the word “competent” once more? That’s what they are. Good energy, tight songs, lean focus. But just doesn’t have the hooks to catch and keep you. Again, have no idea where The Jam influence is. particularly lyrically speaking, where most of these bands don’t match up to this avowed “influence.” “22 Grand Job” and “Binary Love” are good tunes, as are “Violent” and “T Bone.” Could grow on you over time.
The Ordinary Boys - The less said about this band and their 2004 album Over the Counter Culture the better. Derivative, over-produced, flat, cookie cutter crap. Inspired by The Jam? Uhh, have they even ever listened to a Jam album? Cast into the eternal dustbin of history.
The Subways - OK, they say The Jam is just one of many influences so Hanes will cut them some slack. Listened intently to 2005’s Young for Eternity. They rock pretty well, straight forward, no messing around. “Holiday” is a solid tune as are “Rock & Roll Queen,” “Lines of Light” and “No Goodbyes.” “Mary” blows. Worth checking out, thumbs up.
END OF JAM INFLUENCED BANDS RANT, BACK TO REGULAR RANT MODE
Hard-Fi - Purportedly this band got some notoriety. They must have or I never would have heard of them. That’s how these things go. Spun the zeroes and ones which comprise the 2005 album Stars of CCTV. Fairly thick sound on some songs, no “wall of sound” but full enough with enough “lighter” songs for contrast (I actually like the lighter songs better). They really want to sound like they are having fun, assume they are. Makes you want to like them. But... The songs just lack the kind of infectious fire that gets a band into heavy rotation. But they are close enough that others may enjoy them more than moi. Title track probably best on the album.
The Ark - OK, this is getting crazy. Another Swedish band? Must be something in the water, ghost of Abba or something. These dudes are heavy into the glam rock vibe. The tight leather they wear looks like it must hurt. Found their first album, 2000’s We Are the Ark, and latest, 2005’s State of the Ark. There’s a bit diversity among their songs than one might at first suspect. This does mean the songs are great. Just diverse. Don’t really get the appeal of poorly written, derivative songs without the real extreme chops of the best bands they ape. Reminds me that I have to buy the remastered version of Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes.
The Bravery - Well, here is a retro band that at least gets it right and doesn’t forget to put the hooks in. 2005’s debut album The Bravery is worth exploring. Especially if you jones for early to mid 80s synth rock with a nod towards goth accents. You know, the angst driven song because you have a hangnail or something. Not all the songs sound the same, bonus. Some almost 60s psychedelic. Personally, my fave tunes are “Unconditional,” “Hot Pursuit,” and “Tyrant” but the majority of the songs are solid.
Kaiser Chiefs - Listening to these bands all in a row, it strikes me just how little new there is under the sun. But that’s not necessarily a critical reflection on the bands. More so, maybe a sign that the ability to be fresh in an entirely new way just isn’t possible anymore. But, then, when was it possible? And when did this stop? Deep thoughts, people, deep thoughts. Anyway, 2005’s Employment is the album being analyzed here. Punk to new wave, many attempts at “working class” earnestness. with some success. Hanes can give this outfit the thumbs up, worth checking out. Starts off with a bang with “Everyday I Love You Less And Less” and “I Predict A Riot” and “Modern Way.”
Tapes ‘n Tapes - Forgot how I heard about this band. Was only able to snag six tunes out of eleven from their only album, 2005’s The Loon. But they’ve got a cool sound, frenetic and jangly and yet lo-fi at the same time. Reminds me vaguely of The Feelies first album or very early pavement at times but moodier than either. “Crazy Eights” is a great tune. Hard to say much more without the whole album. But I will have to seek it out for purchase in order to hear the whole thing. They’re a little off-center and may not be for all.
Capillary Action - I talked this band up in my first music review (ohh, the memories) but since I only had a fraction of the tunes I, yes, bought their album Fragments from a store in Atlanta to get the whole thing. Again, this is frenetic experimental instrumentalism at close to its best in my book. The kind of shit you hear at Knitting Factory all the time. And they definitely have their mellow moments too. Very much worth checking out if avant gardish instrumentals gives you a chubby.
Dead Prez - Here’s some hardcore rap. Perused some songs from 2000’s Lets Get Free. Very much in the PE mold. But it’s like Chuck D said to Flavor Flav, hey Flav you do all the lyrics on this album. Good heavy beats but borderline racist lyrics. What can expect from Florida, where everyone is an equal opportunity racist? Maybe they will put out an instrumental album only album, that might be worth checking out...
Mystik Journeymen - Hanes explores more older rap in search of uncovering some overlooked gems. So, got a few songs off of 1999’s Worldwide Underground. They’re an Oakland underground outfit, with a slow vibe, mellow, plenty of old skool scratching. But, in the end, fairly four-square and uninteresting. I think you’d have to be a real serious lover of rap to spend time on these dudes. Competent, but like oh-so-many others.
Rob Swift - Mr. Swift is a “turntablist” in the finest fashion. Managed to get about half of both 1997’s Soulful Fruit and 1999’s The Ablist. He does a good job of mixing styles and sounds and eras while keeping it all lowkey and easygoing. This is the kind of stuff that makes great background music at a cool lounge -- as long as they are smart enough to keep the music’s volume low enough to match the music’s vibe. In its genre, this is very good. Just depends on if you like the genre or not. The Ablist is probably a more polished effort.
Yesterdays New Quintet - This is Madib’s jazz outfit alter-ego. He being also well-known in the rap world as Quasimoto. It’s basically like this, they play live jazz and cut it up and sample it and mix it all back together. So, it’s definitely not rap, even if by a nominal “rapper.” Yet, it’s not straightforward jazz either. Why, it’s a genius hybrid! OK, not that either. But it is interesting and probably worth a listen, particularly if you like contemporary fusion jazz, again the kind of stuff you’d hear at Tonic or Knitting Factory. “Life’s Angles” and “Uno Esta” are very strong tracks.
Brian Eno/David Byrne - The classic 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts has been remastered and rereleased and should be once more appreciated for its greatness. This is a highly inventive and quirky set of songs that sounds as fresh now as it did now. Bravo, chaps, bravo! Some extra bonus tracks included as well. Worth every penny Hanes spent.
The Hanes Music Review 001
(Originally flung at the world February 2006)
Stuff Hanes has recently gave a listen. Not all are “new” per se but at least new to Hanes or something he may have listened to in a cursory manner years ago and thought it time to reconsider. This review can be considered partially selfish as it forces me to give a thorough listening to all this new crap and decide what (a) gets deselected for play on iTunes on my Mac and (b) what gets past the velvet rope and burly bouncer onto my precious (and full) iPod.
I like electronic music in some forms. I like rap in some forms. I don’t like emo in almost any form. Dissonance is a good thing. Lo fi is a good thing.
My Morning Jacket - OK, I was able to find a torrent with like virtually everything these guys have done. EPs, demos, albums. The early stuff is just plaintive and moody for me, but moody in a wimpy way not moody like Hank Williams. I doubt the lead singer can through a decent punch. “Can You See the Hard Helmet On My Head” is a decent tune. So is “Heartbreakin’ Man.” There is no doubt that their latest album Z is a pretty radical departure from their earlier stuff and I like it better on the whole. In sum, one song from this band made it onto the iPod, “Wordless Chorus,” the first track from Z.
Decemberists - Downloaded the album Picaresque. This band commits the cardinal sin of being simply boring. Nothing here worth listening to. Singer’s voice mildly annoying too. Their attempts at sounding kitschy falls flat. No further bandwidth need to be wasted on these losers.
Kings of Leon - Snagged what I believe is their latest album, Aha Shake Heartbreak. My only experience with the band. I think Ruth was complimentary of them. Another band with a totally annoying lead singer. What is up with that? At moments he sounds like the guy from The Hold Steady, which is a better band. Tight enough as musicians, probably make for a good live show. Maybe this is not the best album to start with from this outfit but not inspiring enough given what I already own.
Antony and the Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now. OK, what is this shit. I somehow think Hanes is not the targeted demographic of this CD. Next.
Sun Kil Moon - Tiny Cities is the album I snagged. Very mellow stuff, very moody, singer sounds like he is slurring from lack of sleep. Very nice arrangements, nothing overwrought. Runs into the inevitable question of when or how I would listen to it. Not the gym, not bouncing down the street. Getting laid background music? Too much of a downer. Decent stuff, just no fit with my musical needs.
Constantines - Bands like this frustrate me because they come thisclose to warranting inclusion in the “rotation” but then fall short for some hard-to-express reason. Tournament of Hearts is a good album, they are probably good live but the hair on the back of your neck never rises nor do you find yourself tapping your finger or playing air guitar. Not sure they can “grow” on me either. Grrr.
Maximo Park - The music on A Certain Trigger is certainly slick and produced to replicate its punky new wave predecessors very well. Being of a certain age, I do want to dislike it as a fraudulent copycat thing. But it is innocuous and energetic enough to kind of win you over in a mindless manner. 5 of 13 songs survive for now in iTunes computer “random” rotation but none make it onto the iPod.
Bright Eyes - Whoa, Hanes is definitely not sensitive enough to listen to this music! Are these people like into cutting? All raw visceral navel-gazing emotion and no balls. Not my cup of tea. Hey, always a joy to be able to pass on music, so much already owned I like and never get to listen to.
Bloc Party - Now this is more like it. If I remember our brief discussion I think Dan is lukewarm on them. But I like the pacing and relative sparseness. Nice and jangly, Hanes likes high-pitched guitar music! Silent Alarm is the album, their first full-length. For now the whole album stays “checked” on the ‘puter and “Like Eating Glass,” “Positive Tension,” “She’s Hearing Voices,” and “Price of Gasoline” make it onto the iPod! Success! But, err, don’t they call it “petrol” across the pond and not gasoline? Weird. Anyway, there is a whole album called Silent Alarm Remixed which is comprised of remixes of each song by other bands or something. It seems the kids are into this these days.
Soulwax (plus 2 Many DJ’s) - Everyone else is probably hip to Soulwax already but Hanes is too drunk to keep up regularly with the “scene” so here we go. Any Minute Now is the album downloaded, released 2005. More techno drones and guitars with a mild funk going down in the background. Hanes is a sucker for stuff like this. “Cool” like they wear sunglasses indoors but does have balls. Good walking down crowded sidewalks music. “E-Talking,” “Slowdance,” “NY Excuse” and “Miserable Girl” make it onto the iPod. Earlier album, from 1999, entitled Much Against Everyone’s Advice is partially downloaded. Not as good as later album.
These dudes also put out like hour-long mixes of samples under the moniker 2 Many DJ’s. These are fun to listen to in moderation and worth checking out. Some interesting juxtapositions and the beat is always full speed ahead. Excellent then!
The Go! Team - It seems this band polarizes listeners. I can see why, they are cheesy but not altogether offputting. Snagged the album Thunder, Lightning, Strike and gave it a few listening. Some sampling going on, the “cheers” take some getting used to. So I put the songs “Ladyflash,” “Bottle Rocket” and “Huddle Formation” on the iPod to see how they hold up to traveling about the city. The musicianship here is fine but the songs sound a lot alike and an album’s worth does get pretty repetitive. Their allure might fade fast.
The Go Team - A most fortuitous find. While searching for The Go! Team music I found this band. They are from Seattle, proto-grunge stuff. Cobain played on a song. Fantastic lo-fi, grind it out slowly sound. Only found two tracks, “Brave Aphrodite” and “Bikini Twilight” but am eagerly searching for more. I think everything has been out of print for a long time and anything available is vinyl only (no record player but may buy and get someone to digitize it). Anyone hear of them? Or better have anything? From All-Music website:
“Between Beat Happening and Dub Narcotic Sound System, indie rock guru Calvin Johnson founded the Go Team, an ambitious group with a revolving membership and endless guest stars. Drummer Tobi Vai and guitarist Billy “Boredom” Karren, who went onto Bikini Kill fame, were the band’s most regular members. In 1989, the band released a 45 every month from January through September. That July, a young guitarist named Kurdt Kobain played guest guitar on a song called “Bikini Twilight.” After an East Coast tour that fall, the Go Team called it quits after five years.”
Four Tet - Interesting band. Not quite sure what I will “do” with them over the long haul. All instrumentals, fair bit of diversity in their sound. Fair amount of dissonance, noise, electronica stuff, sample, sample, sample. Downloaded the first two albums, Dialogue as well as Pause. Will keep it all in rotation on my computer for now. Threw a few tracks on the iPod -- “Alambradas,” “3.3 Degrees From The Pole, “Misnomer, and “The Butterfly Effect,” from Dialogue and “Untangle” and “Everything Is Alright” from Pause. It’s like soma for the brain, baybee!
Criteria - Recently released, the 2005 album When We Break is obviously aimed at teenagers and college kids who don’t know better and have no sense of history. Fully derivative, nothing new added, semi-punk pop tripe. Almost decided to delete all the files, instead just unchecked the whole album for now. Still have lots of hard drive space.
Tangiers - Downloaded the entire 2003 Hot New Spirits and about half of 2004 Never Bring You Pleasure. Now this is punk pop done right. Sparse arrangements, heavy on the frenetic guitar jangle. Lots of “fun” in the sound, not too slickly produced. Nothing “time capsule worthy” but solid enough, particularly if one enjoys this general genre of music. They are from Canada so support Ruth’s homeland. Three songs make it onto the iPod.
Capillary Action - 2004 debut album Fragments is a hot instrumental offering by some dude in Philadelphia. Very frenetic and jangly, their website calls it “math rock styling” which is new to me but whatever. Only managed to find a couple of songs but doing this email reminded me of them and I just ordered the whole album online. Sweet! Not for those who require a lot of melody in their music.
Rogue Wave - Got two albums, 2004 Out Of The Shadow and 2005 Descended Like Vultures. Me like this band. Solid pop rock stuff, not too wimpy, good level of “eclectic” styling and arrangements. Dumb band name, whatever. Hits the right level of moody “airiness,” some songs have that pop “soaring” quality. “Nourishment Nation” is one of the best songs I have heard in months, getting Heavy Hanes Rotation. I need to see if they have any other albums out.
Hot Chip - A great find here. Most excellent shit. Their debut full-length album Coming On Strong is a total winner, hell after downloading it I went out and bought the damn CD to ensure I had best sound quality. That’s commitment! Plus I ordered an EP from some place in England since it isn’t available in the U.S. Zoinks! The sound is mellow techno with a groove and some funk. The winning tune so far is “Down With Prince” which Dan has heard and it made him smirk and is one of the best “new to me” tunes I have heard in months.
Gorillaz - Had noticed this outfit for awhile in stores but, honestly, the cover art turned me off. Name is way dumb too. Anyway, the price was right in downloading so figured what the hell, computer is already on and using electricity. So got the first album Gorillaz from 2001 and Demon Days from 2005. Hard to say if the music is alternative rock, techno, electronica, what have you. Not good at figuring at the categories anymore. Five songs make it onto the iPod for now, three from the first album and two from Demon Days. Plus a Soulwax remix of Gorillaz’ song “Dare”!
Vitalic - Thought I needed to check our more “pure” techno music and saw this band while bored and web surfing at work. Downloaded the 2005 album OK Cowboy. Cowboy, it’s OK. But that’s it. I think there is a clear reason why Hanes does not, and has never, gone to dance clubs. If I want that much bass Chuck D. better damn well be rapping over it. Plus some of the songs sound like Jean-Michel Jarre which is something I grew out of in like high school. I’ll leave them to play on my computer randomly and hope that with over 7,000 songs to choose from hearing this stuff will be infrequently enough to enjoy it for what it is.
Crooked Fingers - Didn’t get any full albums, just a bunch of random songs, about 25 in all. This highly emotional “singer/songwriter” crap ain’t for Hanes. Not poorly done at all, just not my bag, baby. Plus the singer sounds too much like Neil Diamond on too many songs. That’s scary. Next!
The Mendoza Line - Ditto for The Mendoza Line. Definitely more rocking, witty and wry lyrics, excellent musicianship. Man, I wish I could like music like this more! Downloaded over a dozen random songs and find it too singer/songwriterish too. Too much harmony! Some songs even have a “countrified” feel which should appeal to Hanes since he owns like over 200 country CDs. No dice, maestro. I hope some people who like this kind of music support the band since they seem to deserve an audience.
Wilderness - A very recent download and I haven’t had the chance to fully check it out to my satisfaction. But very trebly guitar driven sound. Lead singer has this high pitched voice which reminds me of Lydon in his PIL days (something All Music also notes independently of Hanes’s brilliance). Their self-titled album Wilderness came out in 2005 and for those who like “minimalist rock” it is definitely worth a listen. The song “Post Plethoric Rhetoric” makes it onto the iPod.
The Angels of Light - Beautiful. Ethereal. Haunting. Lyrical. Boring as watching paint dry.
Akron/Family - Self-titled album from 2005. More of this vaguely countryish music from people who just need to get their meds adjusted and everything will be alright. Supposedly it got glowing reviews but Hanes finds it stultifying. Who could sit down and actually listen to a full album of this navel-gazing droning? I guess “sensitive guys” who get all the pussy.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Another self-titled album, also from 2005. This band too seems to have received a lot of press, somehow eluding Hanes until now. Let’s bring this farce to an end! Kind of reminds me a little of first Strokes album. Singer’s voice has this detached quality to it. Lots of guitars, mostly notes and not chords. Same clunker tunes but the ones which keep the beat are very listenable. There’s some talent here and other listeners may enjoy the band more than Hanes. That said, most of the album stays checked on the computer and two songs, “Over and Over Again (Lost And Found)” and “In This Home On Ice” make it onto the iPod. For now.
Archers of Loaf - A band I always ignored “back in the day.” Figured it was time to revisit so downloaded some songs from the 1994 Icky Mettle album. Power chords without a purpose. Hell, Hanes likes random noise as much as the next guy but I don’t get the point here. Shit, even Superchunk blows them away. Dan says this is the wrong album to use to warm to the band so they are not definitely consigned to the dustbin of eternity.
Clem Snide - Thought I would like this band but it just didn’t move me. The usual “could this get into the current rotation” question asked, answered with a nay. All track deleted from hard drive.
Deadly Snakes - Kind of southern rockish with a more punk feel. Real “close but not cigar” for me. Can’t imagine you guys would like them so, next...
Clearlake - Apparently this band is very popular. Who knew? Another “bored at work and searching for new music to listen to” find. “Find” is kind. Downloaded Cedars from 2003 and Amber from 2006. Kudos to the band for having a fair degree of musical variety, at least not “boring.” But this group is the wrong kind of earnest. No wonder the Brits can’t win any wars (sorry, Tony!). Nothing gets onto the iPod but five songs stay checked for random play on the computer. Amber seems like a better album on the whole.
The Time - Downloaded a whole bunch of miscellaneous songs from like four different albums. Hanes must be getting senile as his memories of Morris Day and The Time are much kinder than the current reality of listening to them. Sadly, even “Jungle Love” has weak legs. Well, all I can say is that even a nostalgic sap like myself has his limits.
(Only Dan, Pete or Dave may care and please note that Hanes likes old skool hip-hop and lo-fi beats best -- none of that R&B rap shit)
Edan - This may not be to everyone’s taste but I think that the 2002 album Primitive Plus is genius. I plan to buy it even to maximize potential listening enjoyment. The 2005 album Beauty and the Beat is stellar but not quite as good as Edan’s first full-length effort. What I like about Primitive Plus is that while there are a few notable highlights it is just a solid, whole album. Off of Beauty and the Beat Hanes likee “Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme,” “Torture Chamber” and “Promised Land.” Will be interesting to see which direction this dude takes.
Quasimoto - Very eclectic and offbeat sound. I got Pete already into Quas. It’s a strange sound without real “beats” and very much lo-fi in feel. 2000’s The Unseen was the first album and it’s pretty impressive if you dig the general sound. “Return of the Loop Digga” is a pretty excellent tune. The follow-up called The Further Adventures of Lord Quas came out in 2005. More diverse sound and samples but lacks the cohesion of the first album to me.
Little Brother - This group seemed to have good press. Downloaded 2005’s The Minstrel Show. Waaaaay too much R&B influence in this for me. No, no, no.
Kanye West - OK, this dude is supposed to be like one of the biggest acts in rap today. Once more, who knew? Dave Schwartz did since I seem to recall him playing some the day after New Year’s. Anyway, downloaded 2005’ Late Registration. On the whole this stuff is too slick and over-produced for Hanes. With that damn R&B influence and minimal “hard rock” influence. All songs deselected on the computer except for “Touch the Sky” and “Gone.” Nothing on iPod. Sorry, Dave.
Danger Doom - Released in 2005, The Mouse and the Mask represents the collaborative effort of two separate dudes under the Danger Doom moniker. There you go. I’d guess about 2/3 of the album is very listenable, the rest has that, you know, thing going on. Dave, don’t you also like these guys? With further listens a tune or two may may the grade for the iPod.
Atmosphere - White dude from I think Michigan, kinda like Eminem Part 2? Anyway, downloaded 2002’s God Loves Ugly and 2005’s You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having. It’s OK but nothing special. Like if you separated the vocals from the music, both couldn’t stand on their own as interesting or compelling. Together they just distract you from the other’s flaws.
Common - Listened to a few tracks from Common’s Be album and it was way too “soul” or “R&B” pour moi. Sure it makes millions but no thanks. Delete.
Big Pooh - See above but even more R&B influenced. Where is Flavor Flav when you need him? Delete.
Boom Bap Project - OK, Hanes can go to his grave knowing he has listened to rappers from Seattle. Alas, 2005’s Reprogram is average, err, just like Seattle. In no way bad music just nothing that really rises above competence. The song “The Backbone Of Hip Hop” may be one of their best. The world can be cruel to those with the best of intentions.
Perceptionists - Much harder than many of the other rap stuff I have downloaded of late. 2005’s Black Dialogue strives to be taken seriously. Feels like KRS-One in some regards. Some of the most political lyrics found in rap these days. A few songs stay in computer rotation but nothing for the iPod. Respect them but life is too short. Hmmm, Hanes is pretty short too.
Insight - Hanes could not find any downloadable samples of this dude. So, figuring he has already gotten enough free music, he ponied up and bought the well-reviewed 2002 album Updated Software V. 2.5. It’s OK for what it is, but you just gotta suspect that Hanes is not the target audience here. I could very well see many others digging Insight so explore yourself!
Zion I - OK, these guys are good! Some promise here. Hanes has been grabbing songs from 2000’s Mind Over Matter and 2005’s True and Livin’. There is some stuff in-between but this gives Hanes the chance to see a longer term evolutionary arc. Of course. “Revolution (B-Boy Anthem),” “Metropolis” and “Inner Light” from the first album make it onto the iPod. Quite the coup! Nothing from the later album, suggesting they got all weak and shit.
Mixmaster Mike - OK, this is isn’t “rap” or “hip-hop” it is turntabilism. Geez, Hanes, get it straight! Moron. Anyway, MM is supposed to be like #1 in this field. Has worked for the Beasties and all that. One can never own enough scratches. Pieced together Anti-Theft Device from 1998 and most of Spin Psycle from 2001. Lot of individual tunes worth mentioning but (a) you have to like turntabilism and (b) there is enough variety that anyone will gravitate towards personal faves. Will eventually seek out more albums.
Jurassic 5 - Acquired 1997’s Jurassic 5 EP, 2000’s Quality Control and 2002’s Power in Numbers. Definitely fits into the original beat of hip-hop, stuff like De La Soul or Tribe Called Quest, et. al. All albums are solid, few great highs but fewer great lows too. Very listenable with a steady groove. “Acetate Prophets” and “Swing Set” are two songs of note.
NOW THA OLD SKOOL!
Main Source - Funny, but I never remember hearing about these guys. Got 1991’s Breaking Atoms and it’s the genuine article. Music you play at a street cookout, nothing momentous but everyone is digging it. Intelligent Black Men. “Looking At The Front Door,” “He Got So Much Soul (He Don’t Need No Music)” and “Watch Roger Do His Thing” lead the pack. Shit, even the cover makes Hanes nostalgic for tha’ day.
Ultramagnetic MC’s - Talk about covers! Check out the outfits on 1988’s Critical Beatdown and feel the warmth of shopping at The Chess King wash over you! Ahh, this is the shit. One of the best arguments for why Hanes spends as much of his time filling in “back catalog” music as seeking out the new. The musical corpus is corpulent. Don’t make no sense to name this song or that but ”Travelling At The Speed Of Thought” is better than a double espresso! Gots to be getting more.
Das EFX - Ahhh! Yes, it was the mighty Schutzer who first presented Das EFX to Hanes. Schutzer! [Call Out, Yo] 1992’s Dead Serious is the kind of album that shows some of the lost promise of hip hop. Totally unique, nothing you could listen to all day but, damn, when you do listen to it it captures your whole attention. Some of the most idiosyncratic vocal stylings ever in rap. Don’t listen to Hanes, listen to the music. Straight up.
Black Sheep - 1991’s A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing was one of those albums that was popular but nowhere near how it should have been. In their idiom they exceeded expectations. Classics like “Strobelight Honey” just don’t grow on trees. Albeit their “hit” song “The Choice Is Yours” is no slouch either. They belong in the side wing of early hip hop Hall of Fame, they sound better and better the more you realize how many subsequent bands couldn’t even approach their sound.
Hey, thanks for reading this far! Now go to sleep!