Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Unblinking Ear's 2007 in review

Or 2007: The year indie rock officially became the music of choice for 21 year old girls who use the flowers tattooed on their hip or lower back as the default photo on their myspace profile.

(Picture taken from the comments section of Band of Horses' myspace page)

The 2007 playlist
Tvyek "Air Conditioner"
Love of Diagrams "Pace or the Patience"
The Laureates "Witching Boots"
Spoon "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb"
Bottomless Pit "Dead Man's Blues"
New Pornographers "Myriad Harbor"
The Ponys "1209 Seminary"
Mannequin Men "Pigpen"
Black Lips "O Katrina"
The Intelligence "The Outer Echelon"
Times New Viking "Devo and Wine"
Residual Echoes "Fresh Eyes"
Shellac "Be Prepared"
Blonde Redhead "Spring and By Summer Fall"
LCD Soundsystem "Someone Great"
M.I.A. "Paper Planes"
Wooden Shjips "We Ask You to Ride"
White Hills "Spirit of Exile"
The Magik Markers "Taste"
Lamps "Now that I'm Dead"
Jay Reatard "I Know a Place"
Pissed Jeans "I Still Got You (Ice Cream)"
Dinosaur Jr "Back to Your Heart"
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists "C.I.A."
The Marked Men "It's Not a Crime"

Play or Download The Unblinking Ear's Best of 2007 Playlist

Piece of vinyl that floored me the most this year upon needle hitting the wax: Tyvek Summer Burns EP

Album I listened to more than any other this year:
Love of Diagrams Mosaic. An excellent record that I'm also going to give the "Most lazy and misguided references to Gang of Four in its reviews by oblivious 'rock' 'critics'" award. Seriously guys, have you never heard another band with jagged guitar on top and a tight and heavy rhythm section? You're writing about music for a living and your palette is that limited?

Album I thought was just OK at first but a month later I couldn't stop listening to it: Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. I actually do the same thing for every Spoon album. You'd think I'd learn by now.

Album I'm going to strongly recommend even though none of you are going to listen to me: Bottomless Pit Hammer of the Gods. I've been plugging Silkworm for a decade and none of you have cared. Why would you start now?

Song I heard on Evan "Funk" Davies show on WFMU and immediately thought "I must have this": The Laureates "Witching Boots." MP3s of all the songs from the Laureates' 4 song 7" EP are available for free on their website but I was so floored by this track I needed it in a hard format as well. Anytime I've played it for anyone since they've immediately perked up with "Who is this?" Yes, it's that good. Go show them some love.

Song a friend told me about while standing in line for the Simpsons Movie which I had never heard at that point and teased her that I didn't believe it actually existed and thus culture forcefully proved me wrong over the next few months:
Rhianna "Umbrella" Ella, ella

Reunion album that I (and probably everyone else) was surprised was as good as it was: Dinosaur Jr Beyond

Only active punk rocker who could make me spend $9 on his mail order only 4 song 12 inch: Jay Reatard

I just don't get it at all award: Band of Horses. Was there some kind of clamoring for an emoesque retread of C-list 90s alt-rock? Could the Eels not be persuaded to reunite?

I get it but I just don't care at all award: Feist and Arcade Fire (tie)

Already exhausted topic most likely to be discussed and dissected ad infinitum in this year's Pazz and Jop poll: Radiohead's In Rainbows only available as "pay what you want" digital download. Runner up: The nationality, ethnicity and gender of M.I.A.

Record I liked just fine but made me wish the other guy was still in the band: The Ponys Turn the Lights Out

Band I really wanted to like but couldn't make it work: Prinzhorn Dance School, you're a swell gal and I'm sure you'll find the right guy for you. Runner Up: Panda Bear

Song I really liked from an album which otherwise did little for me award: The National "Mistaken for Strangers" from Boxer. Maybe because it's the only song on the record with a backbeat

The marginally talented masquerading as the marginally interesting in order to be beloved by the marginally intelligent award: Dan Deacon

The "maybe my math is wrong but wouldn't these fit on one CD?" award: Robert Pollard's Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions. Even if they couldn't, maybe Bob could actually edit out a song or two for once in his career to make them fit?

The "I like your old records and I'm glad you're still making music. I just have no desire to listen to your new album. It's not you. It's me" award: The White Stripes. Runner-up: Interpol

The most undeserved backlash award:
The Shins. People should really be focusing that negative energy on Zach Braff instead.

Disappointing reissue of the year: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (40th Anniversary 3-CD Deluxe Edition). Thanks for the mono version. That is very swell of you. And joining those early singles to the album (finally) was a great idea. But come on guys, no "Vegetable Man" and "Scream Thy Last Scream?" How about throwing "Jugband Blues" on there for good measure? None of those oft bootlegged early demos? For a $40 list price and plenty of leftover room on the 3 CDs (by my math, something like 118 minutes!), is it too much to ask for one stop shopping for all Barrett-era Floyd? If you're not going to clean out the vaults now, then when?

Best 18 minute plus song of the year: Fucked Up "Year of the Pig." Not to sound too hyperbolic but it could it be the best 18 minute plus rock song of all time? Seriously, name one that's better. And please don't say "Echoes."

Video of the year: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists "Coleen"

Comedy album of the year: Paul F. Tompkins Impersonal Runners Up: Patton Oswalt Werewolves and Lollipops, Scharpling and Wurster The Art of the Slap, Michael Ian Black I am a Wonderful Man

Best record made by a band with the initials MM: Marked Men Fix My Brain. Comes so close to the kind of cloying pop punk I usually detest but these guys manage to hit the mark perfectly. If I was 16 years old they would probably be my favorite band in the world. (Okay, I'd probably still like Jay Reatard more.) Runners Up: Magik Markers Boss, Mannequin Men Fresh Rot

Record that makes Times New Viking sound like Journey: Der TPK Harmful Emotions

Band I was actually disappointed was comprised of very attractive women:
The Long Blondes. I adored their early singles and thought last year's debut full length (released in the US this year) was quite good. With their lovelorn and seemingly gender conscious lyrics I pictured them as being slightly homely English women like, oh I don't know, the Raincoats. However, it seems as though all the woman in the band are quite high on the doability scale. Just take a look at singer Kate Jackson and bassist Reenie Hollis:

Not only that but it turns out the dude guitarist is responsible for most of the lyrics. Somehow I feel gypped.

Record that give me an overwhelming urge to stare at a lava lamp even while stone cold sober: Wooden Shjips s/t Runner up: White Hills Glitter Glamour Atrocity

Good band whose fairly terrible name made me hold off on listening to them for too long: The Intelligence

Band most likely to own an original pressing of the Huns' "Busy Kids" single: The Lamps. Runners Up: Pissed Jeans

Most Dependable Label Award: In the Red. There was a time when I only thought of these guys as the folks who put out the Jon Spencer jukebox singles (collected this year on Jukebox Explosion). Now they are they are pretty much synonymous with quality, no-bullshit rock n roll. The label not only released the aforementioned records from Jay Reatard, the Lamps and the Intelligence but also fine efforts from Miss Alex White and her Orchestra, Mark Sultan and others. Plus, when they screwed up my mail order they not only sent me the correct record with an apology and no hassle but told me to keep the record they accidentally sent me as well. What a bunch of swell guys!! Runners Up: S-S, What's Your Rupture?, Dusty Medical

Best record to hold you over until the Reigning Sound make a new album: Goodnight Loving Crooked Lake (though in all honesty last year's Greg Cartwright-produced Cemetery Trails was even better)

Record I'm looking forward to most in 2008:
Apparently the Oxford Collapse are working on some kind of 30 song double album. Hopefully available in time for the Big Dipper reunion. Runners Up: New efforts from Times New Viking and Sally Crewe and the Sudden Moves.

Record or band mentioned above about which I reserve the right to change my mind: All of them

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Do I really need a good reason to post a Hüsker Dü live clip?

Nah, I don't think so.

I don't know what's more remarkable: that Bob Mould got away with playing the Flying V or that Greg Norton got away with sporting that mustache.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dear viral marketing,

You are now even more annoying than regular marketing.

It wasn't the Aqua Teen Hunger Force scare that crippled the city of Boston for an afternoon that put you over the edge. Nor was it the little lad who loves berries and cream. That merely pulled you into a tie.

No, it was this abomination:

I'm sure many of you have seen the ads on TV. As bad as they are, it doesn't compare to the endurance-testing agony of seeing them stretched out to 7 and a half excruciating minutes. I had to take a look the website for something work-related. (No, I don't work at McDonald's and I wasn't checking out the competition.) I could only make it to the 2:30 mark at which point I decided I needed to pick up my flat screen monitor and use it to beat the person who forced me to watch this atrocity to death. (My trial is pending.)

Are we supposed to mock these people who are so upset that the Whopper is ostensibly gone? Or are we supposed to identify with them? Both, perhaps? Isn't Burger King assuming that viewers love the Whopper as much as the flabbergasted dolts in this ad and even though we're meant to laugh at them we should also feel their pain? Has there ever been a more clear cut case of a company having contempt for their customers? I feel like BK is assuming the role of Ricky Gervais's character on Extras, playing for an audience he clearly feels is beneath him. The King is pissing on his peasants.

Oh Burger King, it's bad enough you've been shoving that guy in the creepy mask down our throats for years. What have we done to deserve this?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sad All Over: Your 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees

Madonna, Leonard Cohen, the Dave Clark Five, the Ventures and John Mellencamp

I don't think I need to comment. When the hall doesn't even know it's supposed to be "Rock 'n' Roll" what can you expect?

You'd at least think the hall would take a cue from the Experience Music Project and inject itself with some localism. After all, the city of Cleveland has given us many musical national treasures. Like these guys:

Not exactly Ubu's shining moment but still much closer to their prime than their appearance of the David Sanborn show which I also found on YouTube. If only the Pagans' "Dead End America" video that was floating around a while ago was still available.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

This Moment in Slack History: Morsels from the Last Great Era of the 7 Inch Record

"This Moment in Slack History" collects songs from 90s indie 7 inches. For further explanation, please see my original post here.

Envelope "Trophy" and "Try Again"
Envelope was fronted by Matador Records co-president Gerard Cosloy. The band put out 4 7 inches (the fourth and final was a double so I guess it's 5 if you want to get technical) none of which were actually released by Matador though I suppose the band may have wanted to keep a relatively low profile. I actually got to see Envelope perform in 94 or so opening for Cobra Verde and Strapping Fieldhands at Sideshow's by the Seashore in Coney Island. Terrific venue. Anyone know if it's there anymore? In any case, it's definitely a point of interest to hear one of the most influential figures in independent music for the past 3 decades front his own band. (His stint as a GG Allin sideman didn't really count.) Cosloy is still making music with the Air Traffic Controllers and when not running his multi-media empire is writing a sports blog with the most extensive Lastings Milledge coverage on the web.

These two songs are both from Envelope's 3rd 45. Both are seethingly bitter break up songs. If neither rival "Soul and Fire" or "Couldn't You Wait?" as the definitive indie rock heartache song they're at least in the same league. Enjoy!

Play or Download Envelope "Trophy"

Play or Download Envelope "Try Again"

Monday, December 03, 2007

I saw two rock shows this weekend.

For a hermit like me that's a pretty big deal.

On Friday night I saw New Zealand indie rock legends The Clean at Cakeshop. The Clean are one of my favorite all time bands and they did not disappoint. If cleanliness is next to godliness then The Clean are indeed next to Gods. I thought maybe my enjoyment stemmed from the fact that I was finally getting to hear them play those cherished songs live but a companion of mine who had never heard the band before volunteered that she thought the band sounded awesome as well. Perhaps seeing them in Cakeshop, with its tiny basement of a performance area, best replicated the sort of environment The Clean would be playing during their early 80s heyday. It was a fairly shambolic affair with the occasional false starts, bum notes and abrupt endings but the music was so transcendent it hardly mattered. The band mainly played selections from Compilation which I suppose are their "hits" though there were other tunes like the mighty "Draw(in)g to a (W)hole" from 1990's Vehicle and Robert Scott's "E Motel" from 2001's Getaway. Perhaps most affecting of all was their version of "Hold onto the Rail" by Clean side project/offshoot The Great Unwashed. (Not these guys.) Opening line: "You say we're like the Rolling Stones/Or the Beatles or better." Yes... I do say.

I did happen to catch the openers, Brooklyn's Crystal Stilts. They played in a C86 style with a bit more of a downer vibe. Imagine the Pastels if they listened to nothing but the Xpressway discography for a year. Some folks were turned off by the singer's Ian Curtis-y vocals but I kind of dug 'em. If they had a 45 for sale I would've picked it up which I suppose qualifies as an endorsement.

One quick note about Cakeshop: in theory it's the coolest hangout in NYC; a café-cum-record shop-cum-live music venue. Unfortunately. it doesn't quite live up to it in practice. The café is fine and the record shop is small but has a nice (if slightly pricey) selection of used vinyl. However, their basement where they hold shows is set up in such a way that unless you're directly in front of the stage it's impossible to see the band. This is unfortunate because the sound is quite good and they consistently book worthwhile acts. Sadly, there's probably nothing that can be done about this without altering the architecture of the building itself. I'll just continue going and elbow my way to front when I can.

On Sunday night I saw Mudhoney with Pissed Jeans as support at Bowery Ballroon. It was my second time seeing the PJs and they were much more lively than the previous time which was in front of about 16 people in some kind of student rec center. Singer Matt Korvette is certainly trying his best to become his generation's David Yow. The band's incredibly loud Flipper/Drunks with Guns/My War-era Black Flag style noise punk seemed to divide the crowd but I'm sure the headliners approved. And how can you not like a band that makes this video?

Mudhoney was billed as playing Superfuzz Bigmuff and early singles which is pretty much exactly what they did opening the show with "Touch Me I'm Sick" and playing every single song from the collection that if not birthed grunge at least served as it's first identifiable archetype. This included both covers: a dirge-like, bad acid trip version of Sonic Youth's "Halloween" (betcha SY's not doing that one anymore) and the Dicks' mighty punk classic "Hate the Police" which closed their set and made me grin from ear to ear. An encore consisted entirely of covers (I think) with Mark Arm eschewing guitar and playing punk frontman for takes on Fang's "The Money Will Roll Right In" and Black Flag's "Fix Me" among others. If that makes it sound like the covers were the highlights of the performance that's probably at least half true as Mudhoney were a band whose excellent taste could sometimes exceed their songwriting chops. But watching 30-somethings slam dance and stage dive(!) to "You Got It (Keep It Out of My Face)" was not without its charm. A nostalgia revue for Gen Xers? Probably but I'll take it over any VH1 Classic-sponsored tour.