Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Dead-on Arrival 

Well, it's here. If you've read the posts below, you know that I've been impatiently waiting for the copy of The Thermals' More Parts Per Million that I ordered on ebay to arrive. I got it yesterday afternoon, and I've listened to it many times since. It is so indie rock, in the sense that I knew and loved it when I was in college back in the early to mid 90's. It's so ridiculously lo-fi it seems that they must have gone out of their way to keep it from sounding "too polished" -- simply using a 4-track couldn't have produced such buzzing, fuzzy noise, could it? It has a same-sounding quality that doesn't go away with repeated listens, even after you've started to learn which song is which and even memorized some of the lyrics. Yep, all these things take me back to such a specific place and time, and it's a really pleasant trip.

Most of the reviews that I've read compare the album to early Guided by Voices, and I guess there's certainly some similarity there, but this lacks the Invasion-era feel and stadium rock aspirations of most GBV songs. This reminds me much more of bands like Kicking Giant, Beatnik Filmstars, early Idlewild, and even "Westing"-era Pavement. If even one of these bands ever meant anything to you, you should pick this up pronto (i.e. not via ebay).

Monday, March 08, 2004

Cures for Hunger 

Still obsessively waiting for my ebay delivery, I went into Academy Records on Friday, looking for a quick fix. In addition to my difficulties with mail order, this is another sad pattern of my music listening compulsion -- desperate for new records but worried about spending too much money, I grab a few "could-be-good" discs from the bargain bin and, for about the price of one used CD that I really want, I treat myself to 3 or 4 fair to middling discs.

This weekend's trip was more productive than normal, luckily, though the most expensive of the lot (The Natural History's Beat Beat Heartbeat) is also, to my mind, the least satisfying listen. There's nothing wrong with it, really. The band has a good sound, drawing from Wire and XTC in a very Spoon-like way, but the soundalike songs sort of run together, and none of them really distinguished itself on first or second listen. Again, not so bad, but the jury's still out.

I think in part Beat Beat suffered by comparison to the Robbers on High Street EP I bought, which sounds pretty similar, but with more memorable results. Again, this one sounds quite a bit like Spoon, but with strong, catchy tunes worthy of that band, rather than just a handfull of the same ingredients.

The other EP I picked up, The Future's Always Perfect by The Minders is the strongest of the bunch. While overall not as great as the early singles collection Cul-de-Sacs and Dead Ends, the EP features some of the best songs The Minders have put out in a while, and more than makes up for the disappointing Down in Fall. "It's So Hard," "Hahaha," and "Go Wave Your Wand" alone justify the $1.99 I spent on this. All in all, I'm momentarily satisfied. Unless, of course, my package isn't delivered today.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Losing the Waiting Game 

As I mentioned in my first post, I bought The Thermals' More Parts Per Million on ebay a week and a half ago, and I still haven't got it. This absolutely kills me. I've made the decision to buy it, I've paid the money, but I'm not holding the product. Maybe this makes me a baby, but when I want something, I want it when I want it and I don't want to wait. I'm often lured by the siren song of ecommerce, a one-note ditty on the subject of low prices, but two days down the road, I'm always cursing the postal system and stalking our office mail guy every time he shows up on my floor. Ugh.

On a lighter note, I saw School of Rock last night on dvd. Good flick, good music, and somehow it manages to sidestep the cutsiness inherent in the premise without ever visibly doing so. In other words, I'm not at all surprised it was a huge hit, but I'm also not at all surprised that it was written by Mike White and directed by Richard Linklater. If I weren't pretty sure I was the last person in the world to see it, I'd recommend it.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

That Was the Year That Was 

So, this is a new blog and I'm trying to pad it a bit, which is why I'm bothering with this in the first week of March. In response to a friend's email, I picked my top albums and songs of 2003. I wrote this list in late December, and there were a couple of 2003 releases I hadn't heard by then, but I still stand by these choices. If you look closely enough you can see me there:

I'm not going to order these, because I've done enough whittling down already:

Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic
Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak
The New Pornographers - Electric Version
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow

I'm leaving all of the above out of the songs category, though of course they wouldn't be there without them. As for the rest:

Fountains of Wayne - they released their most uneven album yet this year, but "Bright Future in Sales," "Hey Julie," and "Fire Island" are all pretty classic in my book
The High Strung - "Wretched Boy"
Ted Leo - "Loyal to My Sorrowful Country"
Pernice Brothers - "The Deepest Shade of Blue"
TV on the Radio - "Staring at the Sun"

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

This is the first post of my first blog. One small step for a man, one universally ignored non-event for mankind. Since I promised in my description that this would be chiefly about music, I'll start off with an annotated list of the last 5 records I bought (in no particular order):

The Thermals - More Parts Per Million
I actually just bought this via ebay about a week ago. It hasn't come yet, which is annoying me to no end. I don't have the patience for mail order, but I don't have the budget for retail. A tale as old as time. Anyways, I haven't even heard this one yet, but I've read some promising reviews, most of which name-check Guided by Voices.

Mr. T Experience - Yesterday Rules
I'm a big fan of these guys, with Revenge is Sweet and So Are You being one of those albums I can just listen to again and again and it always plasters a huge grin on my face. Not necessarily one of my all-time faves, but definitely the musical equivalent of comfort food; reliably good, legally mood-enhancing. Anyway, this new one took a while to grow on me, but it's getting there in a big way. Very diverse, in the vein of Dr. Frank's solo record, Show Business is My Life, with lots of strong, memorable tunes and lyrics.

The Rosebuds - Make Out
I'm actually listening to this one right now. It's one of those albums that is consistently enjoyable, though a bit low key, with a few real standout rockers (as opposed to a really uneven album with the standout rockers filled out by barely tolerable toss-offs). Anyway, they remind me of a slightly poppier Spoon, and how can that be a bad thing?

The Minds - Plastic Girls
I've been on a real Dirtnap records kick lately, and my faves are The Exploding Hearts and The Epoxies. These guys land somewhere in between those two bands and offer up a similar exploration of the shadowy borderland between New Wave and Punk. Really high-energy, good, subtle synths, great music to pogo to, this would be really good at a party. The songs all sound the same at first (and second, and third), but it's a fun record. Not quite as great as either of the bands cited above (in my opinion), but still worth having.

Apollo Sunshine - Katonah
I'm usually a firm believer in the punk rock, no-songs-over-3-minutes school, but these guys manage to hold my interest well past the 7 minute mark, which is really saying something. In some ways, this reminds me of The Olivia Tremor Control, but instead of their found sound tapes, the digressions here are more of the extended band jam variety. I don't really even know how to describe this because the reviews for this one put me off initially by focusing on the "sonic exploration" and (gulp) "prog influences," but these guys write good enough songs that that stuff doesn't really matter. It's a fine mess, and you should give it a shot.

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