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Showing posts from December, 2012

Record Collecting Miscellanies: Eight Track Strangeness

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The first 8-track I ever purchased was The Clash's underrated Give 'Em Enough Rope from a dusty shelf at my hometown thrift store in the mid 1990s. It was quite a musical find, and has, perhaps, led to a lifetime of scanning such shelves for musical esoterica.

The Give 'Em Enough Rope 8-track is an unassuming wonder; it does not even have the iconic font of other early issues. The band's name is in the block capital print of the early U.S. pressings; I'm not sure how many of these were even manufactured. The later U.S. pressings had a fake oriental font that was later replaced by the UK design. The iconic cover adds another level to the Clash's cowboy/rebel mythology. Indeed, the final mastering was done in the United States under the eye of Sandy Pearlman, best known for his work with Blue Oyster Cult. A great account of these sessions and others is found in Pat Gilbert's superlative biography, Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash.

The 8-trac…

Rough Years on Second Street: A Satire

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 Years Leave Us
 Another rough year has come and reluctantly bitten the dust. We sit complacent, or, perhaps, angered. There is too much tension in our bones -- we sit sprung, ready to snap, compromised. We can barely meet eyes, mostly because I am insufferable. I pay for my mistakes often before I make them. The anger that wells inside needs an outlet. Where will it go? I hope it dissipates soon.

Gremlins
I lack patience with electronics. I will toss, throw, or break into shards any that come near me. I blame it on the Gremlins, but it is my own uneasy, impatient nature that fills the junkyards with instant rubble. My heart tells me no, but I break things anyway.

They say patience is a virtue, but that doesn't help us. We want it now, an instantaneous MTV generation gobbling up internet bandwidth. We can't stop; we eat cellphones for breakfast, overload mp3 players, trip every electronic switch into the red. Why you ask? Because we can.

Roughhousing the Environment

So we sit e…

Top 5 EPs of 2012 (sorta)

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1. Sebadoh - Secret Sebadoh never rests on their laurels. The kings of indie rock have created another album of astonishing depth in just the span of five songs. "Keep the Boy Alive" is a Lou Barlow paen to growing old and retaining one's love. "My Drugs" is a Loewenstein rocker about needing drugs: the line "can't hang with sober people they scare the shit right out of me" says it all. "Arbitrary High" recalls "Skull," sounding like a Bakesale outtake. "I Don't Mind" is a country weeper that might have found a nice place on the new Dinosaur Jr. record, yet easily trumps anything on that underwhelming platter. Loewenstein remains the hidden secret in Sebadoh, writing understated songs that often overshadow Barlow's more obvious offerings. Barlow's "All Kinds" is a short, sweet coda to a great, but all to short EP. I'm looking forward to a new full-length.

 http://sebadoh.bandcamp.com/album/sec…

Top Records of 2012 Part Three: 10-1

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10. Two Gallants - The Bloom and the Blight (ATO)

Aptly titled, The Bloom and the Blight restores Two Gallants to the levels they had reached with their 2007 self-titled release. Faster than that album, and certainly less ponderous than the somber What the Toll Tells, the album rages. More rockers and less slow songs, it recalls their excellent first platter, The Throes, in mood, temperament, and tempo. Two Gallants bring a lot of sound for a two piece, much like the better known Black Keys, but they are more rooted in traditional folk. Here they strip it back. Adam Stephens' vocals are more cracked, but more capable. The guitar and drums appear little more than a call-to-arms. There is little room for tenderness, Two Gallants are here to rock. Their new take on folk traditions spells it out. Dylan isn't doing anything like this in 2012. If you don't like it, go somewhere else.

9. Off! - S/T (Vice)

Punk rock super groups don't often work. Yet Off! has foun…

Top Records of 2012 Part Two: 20-11

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20. Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth (Merge)

John Darnielle needs little introduction. He consistently writes and releases literary, life-affirming records that show up on yearly best-of lists. Since he started recording with a full band, Darnielle has crafted works of quiet beauty with an attention to more intricate instrumentation. Yet something has been missing since 2006's Get Lonely, and I found myself listening less. Darnielle's story-telling seemed to be stuck in a rut; his songs became samey and trite. Maybe I had listened for too many years and I needed a break. Transcendental Youth changes that; Darnielle seems to be back on the right path. He is less concerned with song cycles and instruments, and more focused on crafting lovely, literate songs.


19. Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (Bloodshot)

While not as strong as the last two, Earle's new record is still excellent. There is never a truly bum track on …

Top Records of 2012 Part One: 29-21

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29. Ryan Bingham - Tomorrowland

Bingham is a survivor. He has released several great records of rootsy rock 'n' roll, while walking a tightrope between immense popularity and guarded obscurity. His worn vocals have been compared to everyone from Tom Waits to Steve Earle; they are referred to far too often as whiskey-soaked. Yet they are an acquired taste. He garnered tons of acclaim for "The Weary Kind," from The Crazy Heart soundtrack, yet retreated to his own label for Tomorrowland. In many cases, Bingham would be seen as a country outsider, more akin to the outlaw songwriting camp of Billie Joe Shaver than that of Waylon Jennings. Tomorrowland maps this divide. Ever the iconoclast, Bingham does what he wants, whether he falls into a comfortable groove or rocks harder than Nashville has seen in years. The record isn't as big on production, nor is it as rock 'n' roll as his earlier ones, but Bingham has created an honest, heartfelt and vari…

Hot Water Music: Exister

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Hot Water Music's Exister has been a long time coming. Their last proper record, The New What Next was released in 2004 to mixed reactions. Longtime fans were unimpressed with the polished productions and songs that verged on indie rock. They missed the charging stop-start anthems that peppered earlier records, most significantly all-time fan favorite, Fuel for the Hate Game. On Exister the band attempts what some might term a return to form, while incorporating the lessons they have learned since 2004. While not necessarily a comeback record, Exister should please longtime fans, while bringing a few new ones into the fold, especially if they catch the band's incendiary live show in 2012.
Eight years is an eternity in our direct to internet world. Many bands that took inspiration from the band, formed, released several records, and quietly disbanded. During that time, the principle members of HWM tried their hand at other ventures, while playing occasional shows. Whiskey-vo…