Another month has come and gone as we hurtle, cannonball-like, through the summer. That means it is time to catch up once again with your Popdose Pals to find out what we were all listening to in July.
Robert Ross – Some of this week’s Popdose review fodder has been really spectacular. Especially Lines West. That’s one of those albums – like Little Chief or Salisbury – that just grabs you. And makes the idea of reviewing a total pleasure and even easier. There’s a lot of good looking things on my desk – the new Karen Haglof comes to mind. And of course, my usual fodder. Since we’re off on vacation next week, it’s been “Reckoning” since our trip’s theme song is on there.
I’m also reading Steve Boone’s autobiography – I have always loved The Lovin’ Spoonful – this book is hilarious and entertaining. And so it’s renewed my youthful joy at hearing those songs again. Four pretty solid albums. John Sebastian knows how to write a song that stays with you forever. With my recent concert exploits, been revisiting Matthew Sweet’s triad of powerhouse albums – and Tommy Keene’s first known masterpiece, Songs From The Film (I think an ex may have taken my old Dolphin vinyl of Places That Are Gone). And yeah, Big Star, Wings and Zeppelin, now that we’ll see remasters in September.
Keith Creighton – On the pop front. The Wakey Wakey album you, Rob Ross, reviewed is among my favorite long players of the year. At first listen I thought it was a Christian or possibly Children’s album (or both) because it was so clean and upbeat. While it is definitely “family friendly” for long rides in the car, the songs have enough muscle and darkness to keep it compelling. It’s just impossible to be in a bad mood when its on.
I’ve been listening to the David Paige EP that Giles premiered a while ago with that Ferris Bueller-inspired video. The dude looks like Michael Buble on the cover but the sound overall is more along the shores of Bon Jovi’s New Jersey.
I think Weird Al’s Foo Fighters inspired song is better than any other Foo Fighters record in the past decade — and for the record, I love the Foo Fighters.
If anyone missed it, check out Local H’s cover of Lorde’s “Team” — it’s in my Filter contest post where we’re giving away tickets to every stop on their tour. The latest Filter record is pretty damn good.
Jeff Giles – It’s a Spotify playlist rather than a new release, but at the moment, I’m listening to Paul’s Boutique minus Paul’s Boutique Explanation here: http://kottke.org/14/07/pauls-boutique-minus-pauls-boutique
Dw. Dunphy – Paul’s Boutique represents the high point and low point of rap for me. The high point is because it is, above all, a remarkable sound collage. I think even folks who detest rap can appreciate the work here. The downside is that this was such a watershed release (there are a few others that come to mind in the same company) that it was bound to cause trouble.
We wound up with two types afterward. The first is that new acts wouldn’t be able to sample so boldly because it would become so expensive (and illegal). The second is that, for those who could afford it, the laziness would become embarrassing. “I’m so rich, I can sample the entire song and just rap over the instrumental. I don’t need to work it creatively.” Cough – rattle – Diddy – cough.
Jack Feerick – As usual, I’m finding it more interesting to check out the stuff I missed in the past than to look at the future as it happens. Right now I’m mildly obsessed with The Street Giveth… and the Street Taketh Away, the 1969 debut album from Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys. The record’s renown — if it has any — rests mostly on the fact that it was produced by Jimi Hendrix, but it just so happens to be really, really good. You can see where it was hard to market, because the band was all over the map stylistically; they just missed the Top 40 with the Sha Na Na-style fifties pastiche “Good Old Rock and Roll,” and there’s a definite blues-jam feel to the whole — but on a couple of cuts they go full-on folk-rock, becoming the American Fairport Convention that I always yearned for, and never knew existed.
Ross – Mr. Creighton, I have yet to understand why people have problems with either Foo or The Dave-ah Grohl. I dig them – love the records – great live band. What’s the problem? Or is it the Nirvana thing? To which, that’s a band that has never registered on my radar. Foo rock. And I’m glad you dug the Wakey Wakey record. I can’t shut up enough about Lines West. Great sound. That’s what got me first.
DwD – Allow me to interject on this one. There is this thing that happens when you look at some of these worshiped underground bands, or these institutions of bands, and unfortunately (I suppose) Nirvana is both. There is a whole segment of the audience that saw and see them as the possibly the first authentic rock band in their age, and probably the last as well. So there is a sense of ownership they have of the band that is very strong and focused. I think there is a subconscious feeling that Grohl’s post-Nirvana work breaks that focus.
If Nirvana was the embodiment of 70s punk ideals in the 90s, the Foo Fighters is the embodiment of 70s rock afterward. Some would argue that Nirvana stood in diametric opposition to the kind of popular rock that informs the Foos, and so they are galled that Grohl would swing in that direction.
I like both bands. They light up different portions of the ol’ reptile brain, but I can understand why one might have antipathy with the other.
Creighton – I think Grohl is universally loved, as he should be. I feel their albums have become increasingly bland over the years. I always buy them the day they come out, but stop listening a few weeks later. That said, I can’t wait for this Sonic Highways to hit HBO and record shelves this fall.
Ross – Interesting – I thought Wasting Light was one of their broader albums. In fact I actually think it’s the best thing they’ve done since The Colour And The Shape (since that’s the last one I could listen to from start to finish). I hear what you’re saying, though – that’s how I felt with R.E.M. Hit the wall – bought the albums – gave a listen and then a shrug.
Rob Smith – I think Wasting Light is their best record. There are probably three or four of their records that I play in the car at least once a year, but Wasting Light is one I tend to leave in there for a while; if I play it once, I play it five times. The songs are great, the sound of the album is great, and there’s Bob Mould on “Dear Rosemary.” The middle eight on that song (the “This was no ordinary life” part) is just crushing.
Ross – Rob (Smith), (Bob) Mould on “Dear Rosemary” is pure gold. Love that track – completely. Especially the lyrics. You are so on-the-one with this.
David Medsker – I have never felt the need to own a Foo Fighters record, and I say that as a fan of Dave’s. I hear them so much on the radio that I have no desire to listen to them any more than that.
Creighton – Considering the marquee collaborators, I thought Sound City was a huge letdown (but a great documentary).
As for Grohl’s latest project, Kristeen Young, at first listen I thought it was the worst thing I have ever heard. But it kinda grows on you like a loose tooth you can’t stop messing with:
Ross – I’ll have to give this proper attention with audio later on. At first glance, she looks like she’s trying way too hard. Funny but at this stage, my hearing can’t take too many of the uber-loud RATATATATATATATA kinds of bands I loved. Even though I love Foo, volume can be a problem.
Another great one – who I’ve loved since I got their last album – is the new single from A Fragile Tomorrow. Those guys are masters of power pop. They’re the next generation’s guiding light. No shit about this. They’ve got it – they know. Not just the Big Star thing – Cheap Trick, etc. Hooks, structure and so on. The single, “Waning” is just a morsel of what’s to come. Love these guys.
Creighton – Have we featured A Fragile Tomorrow yet? Would love some more power pop, though the band’s name sounds like one of those Blink 182 side projects.
Ross – Right here. Their last album was reviewed in Popdose by me and I also did a little spiel about their new record deal with MPress. Look at their pedigree – produced by Mitch Easter and Ted Comerford at Easter’s Fidelatorium; friends with Peter Holsapple and the rest of that gang; Vicki and Debbie Peterson sang on their last album… Don Dixon’s been involved – it just doesn’t get any better. Check out the video for “Kernersville”. GREAT song. Catchy as fuck.
Creighton – Speaking of catchy, for pure pop fans in the house. Haley Reinhart, dropped by Interscope, roars back big time. This is my new Song of the Summer:
Smith – I got turned on to Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Parker Millsap’s new record in the last month or month and a half. Both are really good; Simpson’s, in particular, hearkens back to some of the Seventies “outlaw” country records I like, so I’ve also been listening to Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser and Kris Kristofferson’s first couple albums. Twang, with attitude. Found a nice vinyl copy of Waylon Live last week, in fact. I imagine if Waylon were alive, he’d make a meal out of the “bro country”acts that seem to be all the rage at the moment.
Oh, and I’ve listened to a shit-ton of Allman Brothers Band music in the last two weeks, as is probably evident by my most recent column.
Ross – I may make a stop in Macon in honor of the Allmans and Capricorn Records…
Smith – Get a bottle of whiskey, go up to Rose Hill Cemetery, find Duane’s grave, and pour a little out for Skydog. :^)
Ross – Hell yeah! I may take Brothers & Sisters with me for the drive – it’s 3 hours from Atlanta to Savannah, so…
DwD – Gosh, what have I been listening to? Well I listened to the Weird Al album, but I’ve hit maximum Al for a while now, so I don’t feel compelled to say much more.
I’m working on an article about the lack of instrumental music, not hits just instrumental music in general. You’d think with EDM being so big now that vocals would take a backseat, but it seems the opposite is true. That led me back to my Joe Satriani files only to find a bunch of them were gone. My brother from another suburb Matt Wardlaw hooked me up with a couple.
The new New Pornographers and Opeth albums come out in August, so in looking forward to those I’ve been going back into their older records.
Dan Wiencek – Just today was a new music two-fer for me: Tom Petty’s Hypnotic Eye and Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager. Liked ’em both, but found the Lewis a little more satisfying & surprising. My snapshot picture of her sound is still stuck on the rough, twangy thing she had going on on Rabbit Fur Coat, so this more polished affair was a nice change of pace and suited her well. And this week Rdio burped up for me a new (or “new”) Richard Thompson release called Acoustic Classics. Some of these things that show up on Rdio, their provenance is a little shady, especially when they show up the kind of lame, clip-art like cover art that Acoustic Classics is sporting. Turns out that this is a bona fide thing. It’s all fresh, new re-records, some of which are barely distinguishable from the original versions, but still — sublime. Jesus, that guy can handle a guitar.
And in the “If I haven’t heard it, it’s new to me” file, I discovered Imelda May, and played Mayhem several times in happy succession.
Michael Fortes – Likewise I gave Tom Petty’s Hypnotic Eye a listen this week. Not bad, though not screamingly amazing either. It could be a grower, who knows. Also gave a listen to the new one by Swans, To Be Kind, and the new album by The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream. The former probably would have settled better with me if I heard it in a large hall or at an art show. I don’t think listening on a computer is quite the ideal setting for Swans. The latter was pretty strong regardless, definitely gonna give it another spin. I’ve been hearing good things about The War on Drugs for a while, so it was good to hear the music validates the praise.
Beyond that, I’ve been reaching back to King Crimson’s Starless and Bible Black, Red and Discipline. Nothing new I’ve listened to this week beats those three oldies but goodies.
DwD – I’ll be listening to Hypnotic Eye when I can get it in a form other than streaming. When I saw the video preview and heard the spiel about this being a return to “rock” I was more hopeful. However, I simply didn’t like “American Dream Plan B” and that has colored my expectations. Also, those who have heard the full album have disputed the return to rock sales pitch, saying that Petty is trying harder, but really this is a slightly more generous Mojo Two.
Fortes – The songs on Hypnotic Eye are definitely brasher and more concise than what’s on Mojo so I wouldn’t call it Mojo Two. For what it’s worth, I actually liked Mojo better than this one, but I guess I’m just weird like that.
Beau Dure – Besides Weird Al, the other new-ish music I’m listening to is a killer single by Nicole Atkins, “Girl You Look Amazing.” Good sense of humor, playful voice, great bass line. It’s almost as if Joan Osborne went slightly disco.
My tentative mix for the upcoming beach trip includes the Samples’ “Did Ya Ever Look So Nice,” the Jezabels’ “Endless Summer,” Pharrell’s “Happy,” and a couple of Muse tracks. And Al.
Also, I decided I finally needed to see the original video for “Blurred Lines.” I can’t shake the feeling that if Robin Thicke were to walk into a club without an entourage, he’d just get the living crap kicked out of him.
Dan Walsh – Thanks to Annie Z, I’ve been listening to the new Self (Matt Mahaffey) Super Fake Nice EP. The first track “Runaway” is free on iTunes this weeks. It’s some funky power pop https://soundcloud.com/el-camino-media/runaway/s-whR6I as is the rest of EP. He also apparently writes all the music for Disney’s Henry Hugglemonster.
Los Stellarians released a song called “Didn’t I” from their upcoming album Cholo Soul that’s been getting constant play since I first heard it last week. It’s over at Bandcamp.com
From what I’ve heard so far, the new Gaslight Anthem has been pretty underwhelming. The new Jenny Lewis record, The Voyager, has been better than expected.
Michael Parr – I keep coming back to Careers by Beverly, which is definitely not my usual bag. They sound a bit like what I’d imagine Beach House covering a Pixies record might sound like. Oh, with way more vocal harmonies. It’s on the verge of sounding utterly twee if it weren’t for the grungy production.
Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour continues to haunt me to the very core.
Alex Dezen also released 3/4, his third EP, which features some of his more inspired songwriting.
Giles – Seconded regarding 3/4 — that whole string of EPs is packed with terrific songs. And of course, you guys know how I feel about Invisible Hour…
Ross – I gave that new Swans record a chance – I’d gotten it for review, but I just can’t listen to open wound music anymore. It’s just not for me. The new Karen Haglof sounds pretty tasty – and she’s got a stellar cast with her – Eric Ambel, etc. Some phenomenal players.
With Elvis Week coming up, I think I know what direction I’ll head into…
Thierry Côté – I listened a lot The Paul & John’s Inner Sunset this month—if you are looking for a warm, emotional summer power pop record with fantastic harmonies & plenty of great hooks, it really doesn’t get much better than this in 2014. The Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album I like well enough, the songs aren’t radically better than on Mojo, but they are markedly better, and the Heartbreakers sound as good as they ever have—good enough to turn 5/10 songs into a 7/10 LP. That being said, the whole back-to-their-roots narrative was a bit of a red herring, as this sounds very much like a 21st-century Tom Petty LP.
The Jenny Lewis LP has hit me a lot harder than I expected. I was never a Rilo Kiley fan but liked her solo stuff on a superficial level (Acid Tongue in particular sounded very good), but The Voyager resonates emotionally and cuts much deeper—and “She’s Not Me” could make a fantastic Petty/Nicks duet circa 1981.
As for pleasant surprises, the new Lenny Kravitz sounds like a very solid solo Don Henley song—and I feel strangely happy about that. Henley may be a prick, but those LPs were great state-of-the-art 1980s FM pop.