Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Sculpt #1

I mentioned about a month ago that I was unsure whether I wanted to go forward with the Sunday Shuffle on a regular basis or not. I've had the idea of the Sunday Sculpt in my head for many months, but I wasn't sure if it was something I really wanted to commit to. Well, I can at least try it out and see if I like it. So, here we are.

What is the Sunday Sculpt? It's a way for me to include music by artists that I mostly have on CD. Obviously, I can't shuffle massive amounts of albums, as would be the case for, say, Springsteen or Tom Petty. I still don't want to ignore all this music I love. I also like creating playlists, but I haven't really put one together in a while. The Sunday Sculpt is a way to combine those two desires. I'll come up with a spontaneous playlist for one artist (or maybe based around a theme at some point) and instead of putting play counts and last played information, I'll write a few words about why I chose the song or what have you. I'm not necessarily going to abandon the Sunday Shuffle either; perhaps some months will be equally split between the two, or maybe I'll get into a groove with one or the other. Please let me know what you think of the idea and if you have any suggestions.

For the inaugural edition, I'm going to focus on the Drive-By Truckers. They're putting out a new album, American Band, on Friday and I'm really excited to hear it. Three tracks have been released ahead of the album and I've liked them all. I became a fan of the band when I first heard them on KEXP when The Dirty South was coming out in 2004. I went to visit my brother that fall and heard Decoration Day for the first time; I was all in. I have every one of their albums, including the B-sides collection, the three live records, and a couple DVDs. Ten songs can't begin to cover everything I love about this band, but it's a start. For today, I'll just focus on songs by Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, who are currently the only members of the band writing for their records. I hope you check out the songs on Spotify.

1. Lookout Mountain (from The Dirty South) - This was my first favorite song of theirs. The riff is so strong and crushing that you can just get lost in it. Once you listen to the lyrics, you're crushed even further by this tale of despair. Who's going to lay there passing blame, indeed, Patterson.

2. Marry Me (from Decoration Day) - "Well, my daddy didn't pull out/But he never apologized/Rock and roll means well/But it can't help telling young boys lies" is how this Cooley track starts and it's a perfect example of his way with words. His way with music is pretty good too, as this song is a prime slab of Stones-like rock.

3. Sinkhole (from Decoration Day) - Here's another angry Hood song about bankers set to a galloping beat and another great riff. This one is dark - the narrator goes so far to suggest murdering the banker man and still being able to go to church and look the preacher in the eye. I love it.

4. Carl Perkins' Cadillac (from The Dirty South) - "Life ain't nothing but a blending up of all the ups and downs" is how Cooley starts this tale of Sam Phillips, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash back in the Sun Records days. It's a great story set to a lighter beat with some twang in the guitar. I could keep going with songs off of these two albums, but let's move on to something else next...

5.  That Man I Shot (from Brighter Than Creation's Dark) - I love this album and I wanted to make sure it was represented. This song is about a soldier wrestling with killing a man, even though that killing may have been justified. The lyrics are raw and the music matches it, wailing guitars and all.

6. A Ghost To Most (from Brighter Than Creation's Dark) - "I guess I'll never grow sideburns/It's a shame with all I got to go between" is yet another killer opening line from Cooley. Frankly, this song is full of fantastic lines. It's also a more-acoustic based song with some great slide guitar acting as the main riff.

7. Let There Be Rock (from Southern Rock Opera) - This is Hood's story of growing up, getting drunk, and going to rock shows. It is so full of life that I can't help but smile when I listen. It rocks well enough to live up to its title too - check those twin guitar leads at the end!

8. Birthday Boy (from The Big To-Do) - Cooley with another great story song about a stripper who has no illusions about the men who come to ogle her (and more). It's sad and smart and full of wry humor - "Pretty girls from the smallest towns/Get remembered like storms and drought/That old men talk about for years to come/I guess that's why they give us names/So a few old men can say they saw us rain when we were young." Great, right?

9. Zip City (from Southern Rock Opera) - My favorite Cooley song, though, is this one right here. It tells the story of a kid who's looking to get laid, but his girlfriend isn't putting out. He's also looking for something more in life and knows that this girl isn't his only chance. For now, he's marking time and waiting to make his move. The riff is perfect and Cooley sings the hell out of it.

10. Grand Canyon (from English Oceans) - Hood has a knack for writing sprawling, ruminative songs that close many of their albums (see also "Angels and Fuselage," "A World of Hurt," and "Monument Valley"). This one was written for their merch guy, Craig Lieske, who passed away much too young. It's a beautiful song and a great way to close out this first Sunday Sculpt.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday Shuffle #427

I've still been on a high from last weekend's Matthew Sweet show and have shuffled his music a handful of times since then. Heck, I'm even wearing my brand-new Matthew Sweet shirt that my wife bought me. Rather than subject you to yet another Sunday Sweet, I decided to just make this a regular episode. Usually, I let the shuffle run all day, but I started the great Drive-By Truckers live album, It's Great To Be Alive!, last night and I want to get back to that. The new DBTs album is less than 2 weeks away! Okay, enough geeking out about music; it's time for today's ten...

1. Reptile Style/Reigning Sound (6) - last played on 4/5/15
2. Care of Cell 44/The Zombies (14) - last played on 3/6/16
3. NW Apt./Band of Horses (30) - last played on 6/8/16
4. Uglier/Redd Kross (5) - last played on 3/14/15
5. Heartbreaker/The Walkmen (24) - last played on 11/7/15
6. The Rake's Song/The Decemberists (7) - last played on 12/13/15
7. Charmer/Aimee Mann (19) - last played on 7/16/16
8. I, The Kite/Centro-Matic (11) - last played on 12/20/15
9. What Jail Is Like/The Afghan Whigs (21) - last played on 11/29/15
10. Never Coming Home/Reigning Sound (6) - last played on 6/29/16

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Heavy Rotation #29

One problem I've had with listening to a majority of music via Spotify is that I don't have a record of what I've been listening to...which sometimes means I forget about music that I really like. I decided to start writing down what I listen to back on July 10, so I have a pretty good idea of the albums I've listened to quite a bit since then. So, here's what I've been into...

Big Thief/Masterpiece - I first heard the title track on All Songs Considered and was immediately taken with its rock crunch, jagged guitar solo, and the sweeping voice of lead singer Adrianne Lenkar. I was happy that the rest of the album lived up to the promise of that first song. The opener, "Little Arrow," is bare bones, just an acoustic guitar and Lenkar's voice; it feels like a field recording, with some slight distortion or maybe a blown speaker effect. It's an affecting little tune and makes the guitar and drums opening of "Masterpiece" that much more effective. As much as I love "Masterpiece," my favorite song might be "Real Love," which takes everything great about "Masterpiece" and doubles down - the drums crash, the guitar is all over the place, and "real love is a heart attack." Other songs of note include "Interstate," with its guitar line right in sync with the vocals and the coda of a little girl singing about liking cars and trucks; "Paul," a dissection of a relationship that quietly pulses yet has emotive guitar that comes out of nowhere; and "Parallels," which closes out the album in a stirring, chiming fashion. This is Big Thief's debut album and I'm already looking forward the hearing their next one.

Car Seat Headrest/Teens of Denial - I hadn't heard of Car Seat Headrest before last year's sort-of compilation Teens of Style, but I really liked it. This new album? Even better. Teens of Denial comes barreling out of the gate with "Fill in the Blank," all guitars and drums and "I'm so sick of/Fill in the blank." The second track, "Vincent," takes its time with a long guitar intro before delving into horns, a groovy bassline, feedback-laden guitar, and more over the course of almost 8 minutes. "Destroyed By Hippie Powers" announces its presence with authoritative guitar and drums before backing off a bit...and then building back up again; I love to air guitar and/or drum along. That's the first 3 songs and 17 minutes of this 12 song, 70 minute album. Some songs have ridiculously long titles and the whole album feels overstuffed, but in the best way possible. Does that make any sense? TL; DR, it's great and you should listen.

case/lang/veirs//case/lang/veirs - That's Neko Case, k..d lang, and Laura Veirs, if you don't know. I've loved Case for years, both as a solo artist and as a member of New Pornographers; only knew lang from "Constant Craving"; and have heard a couple Veirs albums (and own one!). I was interested to hear what this collaboration would sound like. They smartly open the album with "Atomic Number," where they trade lines and sing together beautifully on the chorus. From there, they take turns signing lead and back-up. lang's "Honey and Smoke" is all swoon and Veirs' "Song for Judee" is elegant, melancholy folk pop. Case's first lead comes on the fifth track, "Delirium," and opens with "I kissed you in the morning/But only in my mind's eye," which is followed by a little twang in the guitar. Love those little moments. This is classic Case and I love it. I also love the bounce, background "ba da ba da"s, and strings of Veirs' "Best Kept Secret." Then there's Case's "Supermoon," which has some driving acoustic guitar that's accented by ominous guitar plucks and strings

Dinosaur Jr./Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not - This is already Dino Jr.'s 4th album since they reformed a decade ago and released Beyond in 2007. That album and the two subsequent albums, Farm and I Bet On Sky, are all really good. If you're not familiar with the band, pressing play on this new one and listening to "Goin Down" will give you a really good idea of their sound - buzzing guitars, the narcotic vocals of J Mascis, and the decidedly non-narcotic guitar soloing. Seriously, the solo on "Goin Down" is fantastic. And really, the solo on "Tiny," the second song, is pretty darn great too. I don't want to forget about Lou Barlow, bassist and the other songwriter. I really enjoy his surging and tuneful "Love Is...," which also benefits from Mascis' guitar. Murph's drums sounds really good this time around as well. I'd also like to note the sludgy "I Walk For Miles," which could have been on You're Living All Over Me" (this is a compliment) and "Lost All Day," which is a seemingly effortless rocker that is of a piece with the early 90s output of the band. If you like rock music, this is one to check out.

Lydia Loveless/Real - I didn't know Loveless before her last album, Somewhere Else, came out in 2014, but that album was one of my favorite that year. Real has a slightly different sound, a little more pop and a little less twang, but it still features her powerhouse of a voice and her direct lyrics. "Same To You" opens the album with a cool bassline, some wailing guitars, and great chorus. "Longer" adds a nifty synth part to the proceedings. "Heaven" is the poppiest song on the album, but the bass is the through line and holds everything together. My favorite just might be the smoldering "Out On Love," where Loveless' voice is the star of the show, raw and full of longing. I'll admit I wasn't feeling this album so much the first couple listens, but it really opened up the more I listened. So, if it doesn't grab you right away, keep giving it a chance. After all, an album with a song that references Pyromania ("Midwestern Guys") has got to be good, yeah?

Martha - Blisters in the Pit of My Heart - One of the reason why I keep up with new music is that I love discovering a new or new-to-me band that I instantly fall in love with. My first exposure to Martha came via a friend's Spotify playlist of his radio show (hi, Josh!) and their song "Goldman's Detective Agency." It's a bouncy power pop song with the bass and drums as the engine in the verses and the guitars as the jet fuel thrust on the chorus and bridge. Speaking of the chorus, "Come on, gumshoe/Be the one to/Help me out" is pretty darn great. I've seen reviews calling this pop punk and I said power pop earlier, but those two styles are all of a piece. Like the best power pop, it takes a few listens for the songs to reveal themselves as the gems they are. Also like the best power pop, the lyrics are playful, such as "You're good for my mind/But not my productivity" (from "11:45, Legless in Brandon") and the many nods to Westerberg songs in "St. Paul's (Westerberg Comprehensive)." In addition, this album employs some of my favorite things - songs bleeding into the next one, multiple lead singers (plus harmonies and great background vocals), and an embedded album title ("Ice Cream and Sunscreen" provides it). All of that said, my favorite song is probably the 7 minute penultimate track, "Do Nothing." It comes on like Weezer's "Only In Dreams," with everything resting on the bass at first, adrenalized guitars coming in, and an epic build...but then it shifts to a new section buoyed by acoustic guitars and yet another bouncy beat before giving way to a great guitar solo all while repeating "Everything is infinite/But nothing is eternal." So good! I know I've written a ton about this, but I've had such fun listening to this album and I want to encourage everyone to check it out.

Modern Baseball/Holy Ghost - Speaking of bands who work in the pop-punk vein that I didn't know anything about, Modern Baseball has been around for a few albums. I remember seeing the name but never bothered investigating further. Steven Hyden, one of my favorite music writers, was very high on this album, which pushed me to check it out. Hyden was not wrong. There are two songwriters in the band, Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens, and Holy Ghost splits their songs down the middle with Ewald's half first. After my first few listens, I decalred the Ewald's side was my favorite but Lukens had my favorite song - "Apple Cider, I Don't Mind." Since then, however, I've come to appreciate the balance between the two. The album opens with the 1-minute title track, with its acoustic guitar and "my third wish has always been three more" as feedback starts layering in and then it slams into "Wedding Singer," which is a straight-up rocker. The lyrics are raw, honest, and sharp throughout. The music is anthemic in places, more restrained in others while still offering forward propulsion. "Apple Cider, I Don't Mind" is churning and yearning; album closer, "Just Another Face" is atmospheric and bleak and beautiful while still bringing the rock. The album is over in 27 minutes, but it doesn't feel short; in fact, it just makes you want to press play again.

The Sun Days/Album - We close out this edition of Heavy Rotation with another band I didn't know. I'm pretty sure I heard "Don't Need To Be Them" on a Music That Matters podcast from KEXP, always a reliable source of good music. I was instantly captivated by its jangly guitars and the vocals, which reminded me of Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura. In fact, if you imagine Camera Obscura as a more upbeat, jangle pop band, you'd have the right sound for this album. I really like it. This is another 8 song album released this year (Pinegrove, for example) and it's over after 30 minutes, but I think the brevity works. We get just enough of this sound without feeling burned out. I'm not saying every song sounds the same but they are certainly of a piece. They are also all high quality and "Fear" sends the album out on the perfect (ringing) notes.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday Sweet #2 (Sunday Shuffle #426)

I posted the first Sunday Sweet back in April, right after it was announced that Matthew Sweet would be playing this year's Popcorn Fest. I ripped my CDs to iTunes and talked about how the play counts would be much higher the next time I devoted a Sunday Shuffle to his music. Well. the Popcorn Fest is this coming Saturday and while I'm still very excited to see him perform...I haven't gorged on his music this summer. I started going through his albums last weekend and haven't gotten all the way through one time yet. So, the play counts are still low, but like I said last time, I've listened to most of these on CD a hundred times or more. I wonder what his setlist will be...and I hope to see some of you there!

1. The Ugly Truth (3) - from Altered Beast
2. Sunrise Eyes (4) - from Sunshine Lies
3. Pleasure Is Mine (7) - from Sunshine Lies
4. If Time Permits (2) - from In Reverse
5. Do It Again (3) - from Altered Beast
6. We're The Same (3) - from 100% Fun
7. Girlfriend (8) - from Girlfriend
8. Spiral (3) - from Kimi Ga Suki
9. Evergreen (3) - from Altered Beast
10. I've Been Waiting (7) - from Girlfriend

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Shuffle #425

I can't believe I've done this 425 times. I've been wondering lately if it my be time to retire this feature, in large part because I don't add very many albums to my iTunes anymore. Plus, I have tons of albums I haven't ripped, so artists like Tom Petty and Drive-By Truckers and R.E.M. have little to no representation and I have all their albums. Still, I don't know that I'm ready to give this up because it's been part of my Sunday for so many years. In fact, I'm already planning for next week to be a single artist focus again. Anyway, while I'm not sure what the future holds for the Shuffle, I do know I'm ready to get to today's ten...

1. Between The Bars/Elliott Smith (10) - last played on 2/1/15
2. M.O.R. (Live In Utrecht)/Blur (4) - last played on 5/22/16
3. No Way/Sonic Youth (5) - last played on 2/14/16
4. Where Did I Leave That Fire/Neko Case (23) - last played on 8/10/16
5. The Past Is A Grotesque Animal/Of Montreal (5) - last played on 10/12/14
6. He Doesn't Know Why/Fleet Foxes (7) - last played on 7/10/16
7. Won't Wait For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)/The Decemberists (7) - last played on 1/3/16
8. Don't Think About Me/Earlimart (9) - last played on 2/28/16
9. Big Girl/Dr. Dog (11) - last played on 5/22/16
10. Air Bud/Kurt Vile (5) - last played on 7/23/15

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Shuffle #424

Got up to run this morning, but my back had other ideas. Hope I can get it back in shape soon (see what I did there) - the Popcorn Panic is in less than 3 weeks!

In the meantime, let's get to today's ten...

1. Pretty Mary K (Other Version)/Elliott Smith (7) - last played on 5/15/16
2. Do It Anyway/Ben Folds Five (12) - last played on 2/1/15
3. Kiss/Prince (3) - last played on 3/6/16
4. And I Was a Boy From School/Portastatic (5) - last played on 11/22/15
5. No Key, No Plan/Okkervil River (7) - last played on 7/14/13
6. Past Time/The Baseball Project (6) - last played on 2/21/16
7. Cigarettes, Wedding Bands/Band of Horses (4) - last played on 6/19/16
8. I'll Take It/Tom Adamson (10) - last played on 7/31/16
9. Black Mirror/Arcade Fire (9) - last played on 7/17/16
10. Rider/Okkervil River (15) - last played on 5/8/16

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Shuffle #423

I finished in the pool on Friday, started my classwork yesterday, and start school on Wednesday. The calendar says summer lasts for another month plus, but it is quickly coming to an end mentally. I'm gearing up to make this a great school year - my 9th at Central. I'll be student teaching starting in March, which will be here before I know it, I'm sure. I'm going to do my best to balance between school and school and swimming lessons and life, to try to not get bogged down in the work and stress about it. I know I won't be able to engage in pop culture as much as I'd like, but that's okay. I'll appreciate every book I do get to read or TV show I'm able to keep up with. The one good thing is that music is always able to be a constant. Don't know what I'd do without it. Anyway, I got a little rambly this morning and I apologize if I bored you. Just a little State of the Justin for the 2016-2017 school year. Let's get on with today's ten...

1. This Room/The Love Language (19) - last played on 1/4/15
2. Different Drum/Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs (1) - ripped in April
3. War Buddies/Harvey Danger (10) - last played on 6/4/15
4. No Cars Go/Arcade Fire (10) - last played on 4/20/15
5. The Bad Actress/Josh Ritter (15) - last played on 10/14/15
6. The Queen of Lower Chelsea/The Gaslight Anthem (15) - last played on 6/12/16
7. Elizabeth and Mary Meet The Pelican/British Sea Power (6) - last played on 3/20/15
8. Flying High Again/Sloan (28) - last played on 4/3/16
9. I Fought Piranhas/The White Stripes (14) - last played on 8/8/15
10. I Feel Like Going Home/Yo La Tengo (7) - last played on 10/20/13