Friday, August 1, 2014

Anticipated: August 2014

Every month brings new pop culture goodies to enjoy. Here is what I'm most looking forward to this month...

The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (8/5) - This is the final book in Grossman's Magicians trilogy. I liked The Magicians and loved The Magician King the first time around...that's right, I've decided to reread this series in anticipation of the new volume. I don't reread very often; in fact, the last time I reread a series like this was right before the final Harry Potter book was published 7 years ago. I'm finding my reading of the first book has changed my perception of it but that's probably a different post.

Spoon/They Want My Soul (8/5) - Spoon is one of my favorite bands, so it's not a surprise I'm excited to listen to this album (you can stream it on iTunes right now but that's not my favorite option). I've liked the 3 songs that have surfaced so far - the classic stomp of "Rent I Pay," the sunny pop of "Do You," and the cool drone of "Inside Out" - and have high hopes for the rest.

Garfunkel & Oates (8/7) - I feel like Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci have taken the idea of a singing comedy duo ala Tenacious D and Flight of the Conchords and made it completely into their own thing. Now, like those other groups, they will have their own TV show (on IFC). The few clips I've seen have made me laugh and I'm hoping that will continue.

Let's Be Cops (8/15) - Yes, I realize this movie could be terrible. Really really terrible. And yet. I like Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson (who are both on New Girl). The premise of the movie is so simple it could work with the right approach (and jokes). Maybe we'll get lucky and it will turn out to be as entertaining as Hot Tub Time Machine and The Other Guys, for which I once had the same hopes. We shall see.

The Multiversity (8/20) - Grant Morrison has been working on this comic, which will present many alternate realities of the DC Universe. It predates the "new 52" continuity that DC has been under the last three years and goes completely outside of it. I have always been a fan of alternate realities and of Morrison, so this is a must-buy even before I factor in such artists as Cameron Stewart, Frank Quitely, and Chris Sprouse.

Doctor Who (8/23) - The new iteration of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi, makes his debut in a few weeks. I think we're going to see a completely different tone to the show with this change and embracing these changes are what the series has been about since it came back (he's already our 4th Doctor after Eccleston, Tenant, and Smith). Jenna Coleman stays on as Clara, the Doctor's companion, and I imagine will be tracking the changes in the Doctor's personality through her eyes.

New Pornographers/Brill Bruisers (8/26) - Hard to believe it's been 4 years since we've had a new album from this band (same as Spoon, come to think of it). They are a band you can enjoy on first listen but I think true appreciation comes after several spins. Case in point is "War on the East Coast," the second song released ahead of the time (after the title track). It's a Dan Bejar tune and upon first listen I thought it was decent. Now I've listened to it five or six times and it has its hooks into me. The video is pretty cool too.

Lock In by John Scalzi (8/26) - I read and enjoyed the heck out of Scalzi's Redshirts when it came out two summers ago and since that time, I've read every book in his Old Man's War series (including last year's The Human Division). He writes SF that makes you page-turn but doesn't sacrifice character and ideas. This novel is a stand-alone about a virus that "locks" people into their bodies. Sounds interesting.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Shuffle #341

Just feel like doing a shuffle this morning...

1. Hysterical Strength/St. Vincent (12) - last played on 1/13/13
2. A Cunning Latch/Portastatic (4) - last played on 8/26/12
3. Comfortable/Frankel (4) - last played on 6/9/13
4. Tell Me What You Want Me To Do/Mary Weiss (5) - last played on 2/17/13
5. Colony Collapse/Telekinesis (7) - last played on 9/1/13
6. Lights/Josh Ritter (14) - last played on 12/10/13
7. Not Turning Off/Spoon (5) - last played on 9/23/12
8. Snowsuit Sound/Sloan (14) - last played on 9/28/13
9. Melody/Elk City (3) - last played on 5/26/13
10. Come Home Loaded Roadie/Amy Millan (6) - last played on 3/17/13

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Mix #5: You Gotta Get Back Out There

This mix mostly traffics in songs from the first three months of the year, though there are a few holdovers from last year (plus, a track from 1996). I think 2014 has been strong so far and am looking forward to a handful of April albums in the immediate (Split Single, The Both, Afghan Whigs, and Old 97s for starters).

1. It's Your Choice/Brendan Benson - Benson's latest album came out in early December and it's full of his brand of power pop, of which I'm a big fan. This is the lead track from his album and seemed perfect to open this mix as well.

2. Shit Shots Count/Drive-By Truckers - It's been a few years since the DBTs put out a new album and this is the first of a new era - they are back to just two songwriters, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. I'm really liking this album, which is balanced between the two songwriters. This many Cooley songs is unprecedented and this blast of Rolling Stones rock with a horn section and his typical wit is just great.

3. Badillac/Together Pangea - I heard this on J's Indie Rock Mayhem and immediately fell in love. I like shaggy rockers and the harmonica/guitar duet where the guitar solo usually is just puts it over the top.

4. Maxon/Minor Alps - I had another Minor Alps (Matthew Caws from Nada Surf and Juliana Hatfield) song on the last mix. Back in January, I watched their live session on KEXP and this song jumped out at me all over again. That keyboard riff just logs right in brain. So pretty.

5. Avant Gardener/Courtney Barnett - Smart funny lyrics, a loping bassline, and some squalling guitar. Honestly, what could be better? This is another holdover from last year, discovered just after I made the last mix. The whole album (which is actually two EPs stitched together) is worth repeated listens.

6. Greens and Blues/Pixies - How weird is it that the Pixies are back making music? Sure, Kim Deal isn't around anymore but plenty of bands don't stay completely intact as they go along (just look at Drive-By Truckers). Anyway, I really dig the riff on this song. Sometimes, liking music is as simple as that.

7. Red Eyes/The War On Drugs - This is a band I've been vaguely familiar with but never really listened to much. Their new album has been getting great reviews and I've given it a spin a few times at this point. I like it. This song is maybe the sharpest, as they do tend to meander a bit, but if you like this, I would suggest checking them out further.

8. Byegone/Volcano Choir - This one is another from last year. Volcano Choir is a side project for Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). I like the soaring nature of this one and the lyric "sexing all your parliaments" just makes me laugh,

9. Talking Backwards/Real Estate - How did I sleep on Real Estate before this? I love the chiming guitars this band brings and the new album really feels like spring. I could have picked another three to four songs that I really like too.

10. Spinners/The Hold Steady - Here's another one of my favorite bands back after a few years away. Craig Finn is singing a bit more and they've brought in a second guitarist but you still get your literate lyrics and your mix of rockers and ballads. This band just works for me. Oh, and this song gives us the title of the mix.

11. Lights Out/Angel Olsen - Olsen is another artist I was vaguely aware of before this year. Her new album is full of moody rock and this song is one of the standouts. Haven't listened to the whole thing very much but that will change.

12. Hot and Cold/Ex Hex - Ex Hex is the new band from Mary Timony, who was in Helium and, more recently, Wild Flag (which I where I first discovered her). This song flat out rocks and I hope the upcoming album is more of this.

13. Going Out/Hospitality - This moody track is from their second album, which is really really good. Again, I could have gone with several other songs but this one just strikes a chord with me. Sometimes it's hard to say why, it just works, you know?

14. Bel Air/Old 97s - Aaaaand here's the one from 1996. I consider Old 97s one of my favorite bands. I started with Fight Songs and quickly went back to Too Far Too Care (which is one of my all-time favorite albums) but somehow never dipped back to their first two albums. With a new record coming out at the end of April, I decided it was high time I went back. No surprise, I really like Wreck Your Life. God bless Murry Hammond on bass.

15. Ben's My Friend/Sun Kil Moon - Stream of consciousness lyrics, 80s-style sax, and pleasant skeletal guitar work. Also, the Ben is the title is Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie. I dig it.

16. Houston Hades/Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Guitar noise that eventually resolves into a steady piano-driven beat and builds back out from there with some great "doo-doo"s along the way. Seriously, this new album is really really good. Also, Malkmus has now released more solo albums than he did with Pavement. All of them are worth a listen, of course.

17. Maybe We'll Fall In Love/Colleens - Here's another song I first heard on J's Indie Rock Mayhem and dug immediately. Don't know much about the band but I have listened to the rest of the album (EP?) this comes from and I like what I heard. Catchy indie rock will always work for me.

18. I Prefer Your Love/St. Vincent - This song has echoes of Sinead O'Connor and Madonna but it's all Annie Clark. Her new album is fantastic and has many songs I could have put on this mix. This one stands out among the standouts.

19. Head/Lydia Loveless - Yet another artist I've known about but never really checked out. Her new album is so so good, full of great rock music with just enough twang. Think early Kathleen Edwards. And then turn it up.

20. Waking Light/Beck - This is the closing track to his new album, which is a sort-of sequel to Sea Change, which is my favorite Beck album. Gorgeous.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Shuffle #340

I hadn't used the shuffle function on my iTunes in a long time but last Sunday I felt like doing it again. It was fun. So, this week I thought I'd do it again and actually turn it into a blog post. Here are today's ten...

1. April the 14th Part 1/Gillian Welch (4) - last played on 3/10/13
2. What Jail Is Like/The Afghan Whigs (18) - last played on 2/23/13
3. Billie Jean/Michael Jackson (1) - debut *
4. Butterfingers/Gentleman Jesse (7) - last played on 2/16/14
5. Failsafe/The New Pornographers (10) - last played on 2/18/14
6. Supercar/Centro-Matic (5) - last played on 6/10/12
7. 1234/Feist (59) - last played on 3/20/12 **
8. Dignity And Shame/Crooked Fingers (8) - last played on 3/3/13
9. The Everthere/Elbow (5) - last played on 9/23/12
10. Two Hearts Beat As One/U2 (2) - last played on 1/2/12

* I normally don't play the songs my wife loaded on but this really hit the spot today

** My wife had this on one of her playlists, which is why the total play number is so much higher than usual

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Shuffle #339

I haven't done one of these in a while for a couple reasons:

1. I haven't synced my phone up with my iTunes to get an accurate reading on how many plays each song might have. I've had a issue with podcast episodes disappearing when I sync ever since iOS 7 came on the scene and it's annoying (I synced up a little bit ago and had the same problem).

2. It's been nice to not feel the need to do one of these every single Sunday morning. I was able to let go of it more easily than I had suspected.

Why do one today? Last Sunday of the year, synced-up songs, a feeling of why not. So, here are today's ten...

1. Joy To You Baby/Josh Ritter (14) - last played on 12/10/13
2. Jesse's Not a Sleeper/J Tillman (7) - last played on 5/17/12
3. All Things Must Pass/Yim Yames (4) - last played on 9/18/11
4. Downtown/Destroyer (7) - last played on 7/18/13
5. The Longing/Eels (3) - last played on 11/1/12
6. Happy Alone/Earlimart (8) - last played on 4/15/13
7. The Fall of the World's Own Optimist/Aimee Mann (3) - last played on 11/20/13
8. Give It Back/Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (13) - last played on 8/26/12
9. New Alphabet/Eels (13) - last played on 12/2/13
10. A Good Idea (Live)/Sugar (2) - last played on 6/23/13

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Mix #4: I Don't Want To Wait Forever

My title this time out is ironic, because I published the last mix over 4 months long ago, in fact, that I'm no longer going to call this series The Monthly Mix. From here on out, it will simply be known as The Mix and then I can put or new one up in a week or three months or whatever. Since it's been a while, I've upped this one to 20 songs instead of the usual 15. As always, just find me on Spotify to play along (or follow my Facebook or Twitter links)...

1. You Can Stay But You Gotta Go/Quasi - I've know of Quasi for a long time but I've never listened to a whole album. This duo is Sam Coomes (who was in Heatmiser with Elliott Smith back in the 90s) and Janet Weiss (who was in Sleater-Kinney and Malkmus and the Jicks and is currently a member of Wild Flag). This track comes from their recent album, Mole City, and is full of fuzzy guitar and the stellar drum work of Weiss.

2. Me & You & Jackie Mittoo/Superchunk - Superchunk came roaring back this August with I Hate Music, which is easily one of my top albums of the year. This two minute slice of power pop showcases the melodic and lyric gifts of lead singer Mac McCaughan while giving you a taste of the wonder of this band. I can't wait to see them again in January.

3. Nothing You Could Say/Big Eyes - Speaking of power pop, I heard this one via KEXP, either while streaming the station or on a podcast. Its charms are obvious.

4. You've Got Me Wonderin' Now/Parquet Courts - These guys are from the Pavement school of rock, with a punk edge that allows for musical experimentation and a sense of lyrical absurdism. Listen to the guitars in combination with the flute and smile at lines like "Toothache's better than heartache" and try to resist.

5. Holding On for Life/Broken Bells - This is the first track from their upcoming album, After the Disco, which will be out in January. James Mercer's falsetto reaches some Bee Gees-like heights here and I love it.

6. Rest My Head Against The Wall/Heatmiser - Speaking of Heatmiser...well, here's a song by them. I was not in the know when this band was active and even though I've known they were in Elliott Smith's past, I'd never dug back. When it was the 10th anniversary of Smith's passing a month or so ago, there were a lot of articles about him and one included a song of his off of Mic City Sons. This song comes from that album but isn't a Smith song.

7. On A Balcony/Okkervil River - This comes from their new album, The Silver Gymnasium, which is a concept album of sorts about Will Sheff's experiences growing up in Meridian, New Hampshire. Digs those horns and that guitar solo.

8. We Exist/Arcade Fire - I have mixed feelings about Reflektor. Some of the songs I really really like but there are a couple that I just don't. I've never felt this way about one of their albums before. It's not that I mind their shift in sound either. Anyway, this song borrows a bass line from "Billie Jean" and it works for me completely.

9. Middle Sea/Yuck - Yuck's debut album a couple years ago was one of my favorites of the year. One of the main singers and songwriters has left the band, so there is a bit of a different sound on Glow and Behold. I still like the band and I think some of the negative reviews are punishing them for not being exactly the same. Whatever. This is still tuneful 90s-leaning indie rock and that pushes my buttons. This song also give the mix its title.

10. Officer/Saint Rich - This is another of the year's offerings from Merge Records, who you can always count on for quality. Guitar rock, baby.

11. Tiger Tank/Speedy Ortiz - The 90s keep popping up in this mix, don't they? Speedy Ortiz makes me think of Liz Phair fronting a grunge band and that is a mixture that has really grown on me this fall.

12. Dust in the Gold Sack/Swearin' - I don't remember how this band popped up on my radar but suddenly I kept seeing reviews or mention of Surfin' Strange everywhere. This song has that buzz and melody that works in perfect fashion on me. I love finding new music.

13. Night Still Comes/Neko Case - Do I need to say anything other than new Neko Case? Okay, how about the fact that Kelly Hogan is once again on background vocals? I could listen to those two sing together forever. My other choice for the mix title was "You Never Held It At The Right Angle" from this song.

14. Let In The Sun/Bill Fox - Fox's name is one of those I've seen pop up now and again about underrated songwriters. Actually, Nada Surf covered on of his songs on their covers album a few years back and it was a highlight of that collection. This song comes from Shelter From The Smoke and is incredibly lovely.

15. Another Is Waiting/The Avett Brothers - I let the last Avett Brothers record get by me but I could listen to this song on repeat for quite a while. That combo of the melody, banjo, and drums hits me right in the sweet spot.

16. I Don't Know What To Do With My Hands/Minor Alps - Minor Alps is Matthew Caws from Nada Surf (hey, them again) and Julianna Hatfield. The album is chock full of great pop songs and their voices sound really good together. I haven't dug into the whole of it too much yet but this track is a perfect encapsulation of what they're doing.

17. Some Kinda Love/Nude Beach - I first heard this song while watching the video in the beginning of the year. The video is a clever send-up of the old VH1 pop-up videos and well worth watching. As for the song, it's right up my power pop-loving heart. I remember liking the album too but it's been a long time. I should go back to it.

18. It's Only Time/The Magnetic Fields - This song was featured in an episode of How I Met Your Mother a few weeks back and served to remind me just how great it is. It seems like it should be on 69 Love Songs but it's actually from i. Some music supervisors know what they're doing.

19. Impregnable Question/Dirty Projectors - I think I heard this via the Noise Pop Podcast but it could have been another podcast. I think it pairs very nicely with the previous track.

20. Au Revoir/The Front Bottoms - I close out with another band that comes from the Pavement branch of the music tree. It's funny and it rocks. What else do you need?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Heavy Rotation #23

While my music listening continues to be more scattered than focused, I have digitally or physically spun two albums on a regular basis over the last few weeks. Read (and maybe listen too?) on...

Death Cab For Cutie/Transatlanticism - This album came out 10 years ago and was recently reissued. Naturally, there was coverage about the reissue and that led to me picking it up once again. It was the first Death Cab album I bought and it remains my favorite (though I like all their albums...also,  Narrow Stairs is a strong second). Lines like "I wish the world was flat like the old days/Then I could travel just by folding the map/No more airplanes, or speed trains, or freeways/There'd be no distance that could hold us back" and "There's a tear in the fabric of your favorite dress/And I'm sneaking glances" are catnip to me and those are from the first two songs. I love the juxtaposition of the music and lyrics in "The Sound of Settling," where the steady beat and chiming guitars and melodic "ba-ba"s belie a narrator who's giving up, who "can't wait to go gray." That's all in a 2 minute and 13 second package. The title track does the slow build to a soaring crescendo and has a refrain of "I need you so much closer" and it is tremendously affecting even after hearing  its almost 8 minutes countless times. Here's some fact, not fiction - this is a great album.

Pearl Jam/Binaural - Pearl Jam just put out a new album (Lightning Bolt) and in the run-up to its release I decided to go on a back catalog binge. I haven't given the band's 2000s output much of a listen after initial spins (at least from what I can remember), so a lot of the latter albums were a bit of a revelation. I fell for Binaural in a big way. I love the nod to the Who that opens the album and the short, spiky trio of songs that follows. After that come some of my favorites - the mid-tempo, minor key crunch of "Light Years"; the ominous "Nothing As It Seems" with its short, siren-like guitar solos;  and the acoustic stomp of "Thin Air." The second half of the album is rock solid as well and closes out with the solo Eddie Vedder ukulele moral fable, "Soon Forget," and the Eastern-influenced "Parting Ways," which also makes a nice noise. Is this album underrated by PJ fans? I don't know really know but I do know that I've underrated it. Always good to revisit an album and see how it sits with you at a different point in life, you know?