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Heavy Rotation #34

School has started back up and my glorious endless summer days are now ended and gone until next June. Fortunately, this shift in free time hasn't affected my ability to listen to music too much, because I can still listen any time my kids aren't in my room and I'm not in a meeting or making copies or collaborating or what have you. This edition of Heavy Rotation features the albums I listened to over and over again in August and the early part of this month.

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires/Youth Detention - I should have listened to Patrick Foster (one of the co-hosts of the podcast, Rockin' the Suburbs). He touted this album as one of the best of 2017, but it wasn't until the podcast ran an interview with Lee Bains that I gave it a try. Yup, I should have listened. It's a rock album that has 17 songs and 6 of those have exclamation points in the title...and the music matches that enthusiastic punctuation. I love "Whitewash," which starts out acoustic and ends up rocking, all the while giving great harmonies in the chorus. That's followed by "Underneath the Sheets of White Noise," which gallops along furiously. The longest song is also the one that got its hooks into me the most, "Crooked Letters." It starts with a bunch of kids chanting "Ba, ba, crooked letter, ba" and just keeps building from there. And if that's not enough rock for you, how about "The City Walls" or "Nail My Feet Down to the Southside of Town" or really any song on the album? The 58 minute run-time goes by quickly and I'm always tempted to hit play again. Even though I should have listened, I'm happy I finally gave it a chance.

The Beths/Future Me Hates Me - Here's how much I love this album: it's been soundtracking my runs of late. I don't know if this is being marketed or categorized under power pop or not, but this is a fantastic example of that genre - melodies and hooks and sharp lyrics that get stuck in your head - and every time it finishes, you're tempted to just play it all over again. "Whatever" is a song that will immediately grab you, with a sticky hook, prominent bass, wonderful oohs and aahs, and a fantastic chorus. It's also the one song that repeated from their really good EP, Warm Blood. Speaking of repetition, I feel like writing about these songs would just be repetitive, because they are so uniformly great with all of the attributes I said "Whatever" had. The title track, "Happy Unhappy," and album closer, "Less Than Thou" are all very strong. That said, my current favorites might be "River Run: Lvl 2," which starts out a bit more placid before eventually ramping up to a swinging, driving beat, and "Not Running," which is fast-paced and ramps up into a great guitar swirl. Seriously, I'm not doing justice to the music. This album will absolutely be in my Top 5 this year and I urge anyone reading to give it a try - there's no way you will be disappointed.

The Cure/The Head on the Door - Confession time: I had never listened to this album before August. Sure, I knew "In Between Days," which might be their best pop song (if it's not "Just Like Heaven" or "Friday I'm In Love," but I never ventured beyond that. The Cure was a whole aesthetic in high school, and one I didn't think I wanted any part of. Of course, it turns out I probably would have been fine if I had bought and listened to this album alongside say, Songs From the Big Chair, in 1985. Turns out I am also familiar with "Six Different Ways," but I'm not sure why. I do dig the piano and Robert Smith's falsetto and the synth and those "do do do"s. I was also familiar with "Close To Me," probably from hearing it on WXRT. How could you resist the bass and the beat and the handclaps and the piano and that little synth riff? I sure can't. This album has plenty of hooks beyond those three songs; I also like the driving "Push" and the great saxophone in "A Night Like This," but there isn't a bad song in the bunch. I think I'm becoming an actual Cure fan. Huh.

Guided By Voices/Mag Earwhig! - I've long said that my favorite year in music is 1997 and what's great about that is I keep discovering new albums I love from that year, such as this one. I didn't check out GBV until 2001's Isolation Drills and their catalog is so vast that it's only recently that I gave this one a whirl. I have been missing out. The riff that starts off the album on "Can't Hear The Revolution" is a hell of an earworm and the song is over in 1:36. "I Am A Tree" has got to be one of the longest songs in the GBV catalog and it's also one of the highlights. "Bulldog Skin" is a full-on rock stomp with a great guitar solo and some woo-hoos in the background. I know there are people who talk about filler on GBV albums, but I come to love all the songs...I mean, how can you not get into "I Am Produced" or the title track? All of that said, my favorite song is probably "Jane of the Waking Universe." It has a crunchy riff, modulated vocals with harmonies, and a muted guitar solo that fits right in with the song's aesthetic.

Tony Molina/Kill the Lights - This album is easy to listen to often, because it only takes 14 1/2 minutes to get through. And yes, that does sounds more like a length for an EP than an album, but there are 10 distinct songs here. Whatever the classification, this is a great piece of work. The main sound here is jangle pop. full of chiming guitars and layered harmonies. Even though the songs are short and the overall mood is the same, every song is distinct. My favorites include "Jasper's Theme," which adds some organ into the mix of a very romantic song about finding the one for you, "Wrong Town," which starts "I think I live in a wrong town/All my friends have let me down/Oh, I don't think I'll hang around here/There's no hope to be found" (ouch) , and "Before You Go," which reminds me so much of Elliott Smith by way of Big Star.

Wild Pink/Yolk in the Fur - I really liked "Lake Erie," which was released ahead of this album, so I knew I would check out the album. What I didn't know is how much more I would love "Lake Erie" once I heard it in the context of the album; opener "Burger Hill" is a good song in its own right, but the way it swells and ascends into "Lake Erie" is just magic. In fact, the album weaves a magic spell on my, with its shimmery guitars and plaintive vocals. At the start of "Jewels Drossed in the Runoff," we get lyrics about singing "Edelweiss" and get references to Kim Carnes in "Love Is Better." There's a subtle menace to the guitars in "The Seance on St. Augustine St." right before he sings "They can't help me now" the first time. Overall, this is an album of beauty and subtlety that beguiles you and makes you want to listen again to find all the little details that make it great.


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