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Summer music

Now that summer is here, I find myself returning to certain music that I tend to ignore during the rest of the year. Bands like Wilco, Pearl Jam, Placebo (also a Fall band,) Smashing Pumpkins (ditto,) all begin to pop up more regularly on my ipod.

And then there’s The Cure.

For some inexplicable reason, I find myself listening to The Cure in the summer. The Cure aren’t band that scream warm weather and good times, but there is a breeziness to their poppier side that I love during this time of year. And in honor of that, and to good summer music in general, here is a live clip from 1990 of The Cure performing one of my favorites, “Close to Me,” from their classic 1985 album, The Head on the Door.



When I was 12, I began listening to rap music.  It was the preferred choice of my peers, with, of course, whatever pop music happened to racing up the Billboard charts.  I explored all the usual suspects of modern rap: Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, etc.  This exploration rap didn’t last long – I was soon introduced to Marilyn Manson, and all interest in the genre vanished.  It would therefore be disingenuous of me to say that the Beastie Boys had much of anything to do with my childhood.  Their music didn’t get me through any hardships, and I have no fond memories of good times being sound tracked by their beats.

It wasn’t until I was getting ready to leave high school that I came to the Beastie Boys.  Not as a fan of rap — I was spurred by an appreciation for sampling and electronic artists – and was looking for something both unique and catchy.  Catchy as hell.  Years later I can say with all certainty that their 1994 effort, Ill Communication, is not only one of the best albums of the genre, but it may be the single greatest celebration of music that I have ever heard.  My future seemingly changed forever; my time as a rap fan is long gone.  My deep appreciation and love for the Beasties, however, has changed the way that I listen to music.

“Yeah, MCA, your shit be cooking.”


review: Craig Finn’s Clear Heart Full Eyes

Artist: Craig Finn

Album: Clear Heart Full Eyes

Craig finn, lead singer and song writer of The Hold Steady, has a very specific style of song writing.  Finn writes stories, and his characters and locales frequently end up making appearances in other songs.  This literary tendency is one that seemingly lends itself well to a stripped-down solo album, but on Finn’s first outing without The Hold Steady, Clear Heart Full Eyes, things don’t exactly gel like they should.  It’s difficult to not imagine the kind of kick in the pants that The Hold Steady would have been able to give to “When No One’s Watching” and “Balcony.”  Some songs stand tall on their own, such as the fantastic, slithering opener “Apollo Baby” and the single, “Honolulu Blues.”  Elsewhere, Finn continues his fascination with Christ on “New Friend Jesus,” but that’s a tune we’ve heard many times before, especially on The Hold Steady’s Separation Sunday.  Here, it sounds stale and tired.

Perhaps it is unfair of me to make so many comparisons to the work of Finn’s day job, but even “New Friend Jesus” could have benefited from some punk guitars.  Craig Finn is one of the most talented songwriters on the scene today, but this stripped down version just doesn’t hit the mark.



you should hear this!: Arcade Fire do Talking Heads

Today, my friends, i have an utterly bizarre cover of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” recorded in Paris in 2005.  My feelings are mixed on its quality, but, if nothing else, it sure is interesting.  Prepare yourselves for robotic dances and zombie accompaniment.



Review: Sleigh Bells’ Reign of terror

Artist: Sleigh Bells

Album: Reign of Terror

Those who found Sleigh Bells’ 2010 Treats a little too abrasive are sure to feel more comfortable with Reign of Terror.  On their newest album, Sleigh Bells have lowered the volume several notches and have imbued their songs with a certain pop sensibility that was largely absent from their debut.  The stadium-sized chaos of intro “True Shred Guitar,” gives way to “Born to Lose,” a tight single which features 80’s-style electronic drums in its opening minute.  All of the elements that made their debut album great are present here, but it’s since been deliciously refined; “Crush” and “Demons” are the hardcore pop songs that Sleigh Bells­ failed to produce.

Like it’s predecessor, Reign of Terror is a huge sounding album; crashing guitars and over-sized drums lead the way.  Sleigh Bells was an album so loud that it naturally distorted – it was one of my favorite aspects of it – but things are more controlled here.  Sleigh Bells have not dumbed-down their sound; they’ve gained more control over it.  While I miss the overall chaos of their debut, Reign of Terror finds the band writing tighter, more concise songs that simply work.



Retro review: Boa’s Twilight

Artist: Bôa

Album: Twilight (2001)

Bôa are a band that that got a raw deal; their North American debut, Twilight, came in a little too late to capitalize on its strong alternative/post grunge sound.  Led by Jasmine and Steve Rodgers – the children of singer Paul Rodgers – Bôa excel in subdued alternative music with a slight eastern flair.  Though Twilight was released in 2001, it’s mostly made up of previously released material from the 90’s that were unavailable in North America.  For all intents and purposes, Twilight is a pre-packaged introduction to the band.  In other territories, Bôa had a hit with “Duvet,” their finest moment, and received a little extra exposure from it being used as the intro to the anime Serial Experiments Lain.  In fact, “Duvet” appears twice on the album: once as an opener, and again in acoustic form.  Tactics like this always come off as a tad desperate, but the acoustic version is a nice foil.

Twilight’s best moments come when signer Jasmine Rodgers allows her voice to float with the music, instead of commanding and overpowering it; “Welcome” and “Drinking” being two prime examples of the formula working.  Elsewhere, the Eastern European flair of “Anna Maria” falls flat and “Rain” is a fine example of a song brought down by overwrought and silly lyrics: “Suicide is rain in pain.”  Indeed.  Fortunately the stronger moments outweigh the weaker, but for the most part it’s difficult to hear anything except un-realized potential.



Check out the video for “Duvet” directly under this sentence.


you should hear this!: Deerhoof and the Milkman

Two days late, I know.  Someone should keep an eye on me.

Here, for your listening pleasure, is Deerhoof performing “Milk man” on Live from Juan’s Basement.  Deerhoof have always been in a class of their own; progressive, indie, and jazz all play a part in their sound.  Check out one of their finest moments below.



May 2018
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