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Heavy Rotation #30

The last Heavy Rotation was way back in September, which is too long. I've definitely had albums that would qualify in the interim, but I'll just focus on the last month or so here.

Charly Bliss/Guppy - This album was getting really good reviews, so I decided to check it out. I liked the music on the first listen, but wasn't sure if I could handle the lead singer's very high, sharp voice. On the second listen, I didn't notice the voice so much. On the third listen, I fell in love with it. Power pop always gets me in the end. "Percolator" starts everything off with its nervy guitar and solid bass line. "Westermarck" is more of a shuffle and has a great guitar solo. If you need an entry point, however, "Glitter" is a perfect choice, with a chorus that will sink its hooks deep into your brain. And if that isn't enough, "Ruby" sounds like a lost track from Weezer's Blue Album and it is glorious. Actually, if you like that era of Weezer (and who doesn't?), you will like this album. I can't imagine it not making my top ten for the year.

The Long Winters/Putting the Days to Bed - The band recently played on air at KEXP, which had me turning to their last album. How has it been 11 years since they've put out an album? I wrote about this album before...all the way back in August 2006 at an old incarnation of this blog. I don't know that I need to add much to those words, because I'm still in love with John Roderick's lyrics and the music is perfect indie rock. Maybe I love "Hindsight" more than I did back then, and not just because its lyrics give the album its title. Maybe I love "Clouds" more too. Or maybe this is just one of my favorite albums of the aughts.

Lydia Loveless/"Desire" - Loveless is back with this single, which follows her great 2016 album, Real. I don't often include single songs in Heavy Rotations (in fact, this could be a first), but I can't stop playing this and since it doesn't appear to be from a new album, here we are. It's a slow burn powered by a solid Tom Petty-esque riff that adds guitar lines as the song progresses; I am addicted to one in particular that weaves in and out - just a little figure, but man, is it great. Meanwhile, she puts her great voice to perfect use, singing the hell out of lines like "I'm going to burn this building down." So good. The b-side is a cover of  "Sorry," a Justin Bieber song. I've never heard the original, but I like what she does. Still, the a-side is where it's at - a killer 5:38.

Aimee Mann/Mental Illness - It's no secret that I've loved Aimee Mann ever since I picked up Whatever back in 1993. The only problem I have with her is that she can take a while between albums - Charmer came out in 2012 and the one before that came out in 2008. Luckily, we got that great album from The Both back in 2014 to bridge the gap (The Both is she and Ted Leo). All that said, I was a bit apprehensive about this album because early press focused on how she steered into the perception that she only writes slow dirges. I don't think that's the case with her music at all and I was worried that I wouldn't like this record as much as the others. Thankfully, I was wrong. This album is great. Sure, the music is mostly slower songs and waltzes with acoustic guitars and a lot of strings, but her sense of melody is as strong as ever and there are lovely harmonies throughout. Her sharp lyrics are also intact, like the opening lines to "You Never Loved Me" - "Boy, when you go, you go/Three thousand miles just to so I'll know/You never loved me/You never loved me." Not much after that she talks about knowing the "tumbleweed lexicon," which is amazing. "Patient Zero" tells the story of someone coming to Hollywood and has great bits like "Hip hip hooray/Hocus pocus/With some magic you can fly through the air/But when you're the guy pulling focus/There are people who wish you weren't there." I could keep going and ramble about the piano-based "Good For Me" or "Stuck in the Past," but this entry is long enough. Long story short: Aimee Mann is one of our greatest songwriters and this album is yet more proof of that fact.

The National/Boxer - I've spent time searching around on my old blogs, but amazingly, I've never really written about this album. I did name it my #4 album of 2007, behind Wilco, Spoon, and The New Pornographers (even ten years later I still stand by it, though I would probably move it to third). Speaking of ten years, this album just celebrated its 10th anniversary, which got me back into listening to it. At this point, if you know the band, you know Boxer. While Alligator got them notice, Boxer is the one where they truly became The National. "Slow Show" is still one of my favorite songs ever, nervy and yearning for the first 2:30 before opening up into the gorgeous swoon (complete with driving drums) with Matt Berninger singing about how he dreamed about you for 29 years before he saw you. Sigh. I also love album closer "Gospel," which is an indie rock hymn, all stately piano chords and shimmery guitar accents and lyrics about a romantic evening in - "hang your holiday rainbow lights in the garden." You'll notice I didn't mention "Fake Empire" or "Mistaken For Strangers" or "Start A War" or the rest, but I love them too. It's a perfect album and perfect for listening on summer nights as the sun is going down and a slight breeze is blowing.

Matthew Sweet/"Trick" - I still can't believe Sweet played my town last September and I also can't believe how great he and his band sounded. The show exceeded expectations. You know what else exceeds expectations? This first single from his upcoming album, Tomorrow Forever. It's a big old slab of power pop - driving beat, slabs of guitar, harmonies. It lodges in your brain after just a couple listens and you don't want to get it out. There have been two more songs released since this came out and I think this is a going to be a really good album. Guess I'll find out in 10 days.

That Dog/Retreat From the Sun - Here's an album from 1997 that I'd never heard until April. Someone online had posted the video for "Never Say Never" and I clicked on it. Game over! Why hadn't I heard this song, this band before? Why had I slept on this for 20 years? As I was just talking about with my brother this week, everyone has gaps. The good news is I have now found this band. Turns out this was their swan song, but what a way to go out. "Never Say Never" is pure power pop -fuzzy guitars, a touch of synth, some Petra Hayden violin, a solid bass line, and lyrics about how "I never took it out on you" with a reminder that you should "never say never." It's great. Remember what I said about not having heard this band before? Well, it turned out I was wrong. I had heard "Minneapolis" before on my friend's rock show/podcast/Spotify playlist (shout out to J. Neas!) and I'd always dug it. It's a great power pop tune, but I would love it just for "Minneap...olis." While those two are the highlights, the rest of the songs are all good to really good (like the title track and "Every Time I Try"). I've also thought 1997 was a fantastic year for music and I'm happy to keep discovering even more great albums from that year.

White Reaper/The World's Best American Band - It starts with the roar of a crowd and a drumbeat. Then the guitars kick in and you know this band is going to try to live up to the name of the song, which is also the name of the album. It's a good opener, with chugging guitars and "oh oh oh"s and lyrics about rallying up and crushing bills and the band kissing cheeks and shaking hands. For me, though, the album really kicks into gear at the end of the song, when a school bell rings and "Judy French" comes crashing in. The opening reminds me of Van Halen and that vibe kinda holds up throughout. It's a great rock song, with pounding drums and a great guitar solo and lyrics about wanting to get with Judy - that's what rock is all about, right? This record is such a good time and it's one that you should have cranked on the car stereo driving down the highway on a summer day. There's the restlessness and "romance" of "Little Silver Cross" and the guitar/piano interplay of "The Stack," which reminds us that "if you makes the girls dance/the boys will dance with them." I have a feeling these guys put on a great show too. Before this album came out, I had gone back to their previous album, White Reaper Does It Again, which is also worth checking out. Press play and turn it up!

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