LVL UP at The Panty House. New Haven CT. 11/6/12
LVL UP at Taco Hut. New Haven CT. 1/5/13
Video: Kendrick Lamar - “Backseat Freestyle”
The video that Kendrick just dropped for this Good Kid m.A.A.d. city highlight rules. Nothing else needs to be said.
Download my new EP december forest fire for free at my bandcamp page!! it has three songs, one of which is 3 minutes, one of which is 5 minutes, and one of which is about 7 and a half minutes. The title track is sort of winter/christmas themed. it’s all really miserable bullshit. tracklist and stuff below. Enjoy!
1. “Evergreen (December Forest Fire)”
2. “Your Eyes Still Illuminate The Night”
3. “Song For The Girl Who Didn’t Die”
everybody take a moment and listen to this
Sorry for reposting this again but I just listened to this in full for the first time since I put it out the other day and it made me tear up a little, not because I’m proud of it or anything, but just because it’s really sad. Maybe that means I should be proud of it, because ‘sad’ was definitely what I was going for.
Anyway, please listen to this if you’re interested in the music I make. Otherwise, carry on.
Lewis and his Blog 2012 List Schedule
The end of the year is upon us once again. For some of us, it’s a time to celebrate our accomplishments over the past twelve months and cherish what we have — friends, family, jobs, huge record collections, et cetera. For others, especially those of us who are narcissistic enough to think that anyone cares about what they post on their music blogs, it’s a time to revel in the annual circle jerk of year end list-making. You can bemoan this cliched ritual of music criticism all you want, but I know that probably everyone reading this has made at least a Top 10 Albums list for this year.
Over the next week, I will be rolling out a series of year end lists, much like my 2011 year end list series. Some of my picks in each category will be ‘predictable.’ Others will be ‘controversial.’ All of them will be mine, and all of them will have been chosen after a lot of intensive listening and much deliberation. With that having been said, I hope you enjoy viewing my choices, reading my writing, and listening to some of the music that I loved in 2012. Keep this post bookmarked throughout the week, as I will update each entry in the schedule below with a link to the post. You can also check my “2012 Lists” tag to view all the coverage in one place. The first list will be up tomorrow, featuring my Top Albums picks, #50-21.
- December 22nd - Top Albums of the Year, pt. 1 (#50-21)
- December 23rd - Top Albums of the Year, pt. 2 (#20-1)
- December 24th - Top Songs of the Year (#25-1) + 8tracks playlist
- December 25th - (Christmas — no lists today)
- December 26th - Best Shows of the Year
- December 27th - Best Connecticut Albums of the Year
- December 28th - Favorite Vinyl Purchases of the Year
Putting together all these lists has been an ambitious undertaking and I hope that they satisfy your undoubtedly high expectations. Check back here tomorrow for the first half of my Albums of the Year list!
Stream/Download: Teen Suicide - Hymns (2012)
Lo-fi Maryland heartbreakers Teen Suicide may have announced that they are disbanding at the beginning of next year, but that hasn’t stopped them from releasing new music, at least for the time being. The band just released a new set of songs called Hymns, which is being released as a limited edition lathe cut 7” in December. Pre-orders are up now, and you can pick one up HERE.
Get them quickly, because the run is limited to 30 copies.
Edit: Preorders are now sold out.
Hymns is a much quieter and more reserved followup to I Will Be My Own Hell Because There Is A Devil Inside My Body, the album they released earlier this year to overwhelming internet acclaim. Given the imminent breakup, these songs are appropriately elegiac in tone. “xxxxxxx” is particularly heartbreaking, with Dirty Beaches-reminiscent piano keys and clever production elements that work to obscure the name of whomever the song is meant to address. “Untitled-Oct7” is equally crushing, taking the form of an acoustic ballad that acknowledges failure and expresses regret while offering hope for resolution in only the most minute qualities. And yet, that hope is definitely present, fragile though it may be. “I will shed this stupid body / I will grow tall and be someone new,” frontman Sam Ray sings. Here’s hoping that in his next musical venture, that prophecy becomes fulfilled.
Stream Hymns at the embedded link above, and download or purchase the new 7” via Bandcamp.
Who’s excited for list season? What year-end lists would you like to see me make this month?
Lewis and his Blog November 2012 Mix
It’s December 1st, which means that we’ve come to the end of my Monthly Mix series for this year! Below you can stream the final installment in the series, featuring 10 of my favorite new tracks that I heard and covered this month. At the end of December, instead of dropping another mix, I’ll be posting my series of year-end lists. Isn’t list season great? Anyway, enjoy these tracks. If you want, you can stream all of the previous monthly mixes from this year HERE. This month’s mix is embedded below via 8tracks. Read on below that for descriptions of and information about each of the 10 tracks.
1. Pissed Jeans - “Bathroom Laughter”
Every time Pissed Jeans puts out something new, it seems like the internet collectively goes crazy, as if it had never heard a punk rock song before. It’s a strange phenomenon, but I can understand it — There is something extremely refreshing about the band’s new single “Bathroom Laughter” that makes me really excited for Honeys, their forthcoming 2013 LP. That record comes out February 13th on Sup Pop, but this extremely replayable first single should hold us over until then.
2. Parquet Courts - “Borrowed Time”
The recently-christened Parquet Courts is the new pet project of Andy Savage — the former frontman of Teenage Cool Kids and Fergus & Geronimo. It sounds like nearly all of Savage’s past work, and it succeeds for exactly that reason. Tracks like “Borrowed Time” exude that classic New York post-punk swagger with just the right touch of carefree lackadaisy. It’s also one of the catchiest things I’ve heard all year. Parquet Courts’ debut LP Light Up Gold is out now on Dull Tools.
3. The Babies - “Mess Me Around”
The Babies started as a side project of Woods’ Kevin Morby and Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone. On their first record, they played a style of scrappy, lo-fi pop more in the style of Vivian Girls’ music than the psychedelic folk ramblings of Morby’s other band. Their new LP Our House On The Hill, however, finds them meeting more in the middle. “Mess Me Around” is just the right mix of catchy, brash, and grounded. It’s steeped in Serious Country influence, but loose enough to soundtrack a house party or something. Our House On The Hill is out now on Woodsist.
4. Jeff Rosenstock - “Snow Charges”
Jeff Rosentstock’s band Bomb The Music Industry! had a great year in 2011, but this year was more bittersweet. They played some great shows, but capped the year with an unfortunate announcement that they would be disbanding after their current tour. To soften the bad news, Rosenstock released a solo album called I Look Like Shit, featuring demos of songs that were originally meant for a BTMI! EP that never happened. The mid-tempo, melancholic “Snow Charges” seems to pick up where Vacation left off, making its bittersweet message all the moreso. Pick up I Look Like Shit for free via Quote Unquote.
5. Great Caesar - “Rearview”
Great Caesar is a Connecticut band with way too much ambition for this little state to contain them. They’re currently based in Brooklyn, tearing up the indie rock club circuit on the strength of their new EP Scattered Air. Lead single “Rearview” scans like a sexy, minor key nightcrawl in the verses, before bursting into major key effervescence in the anthemic chorus. In other words, it’s a perfectly eclectic power pop song. Pick up Scattered Air on bandcamp.
6. Sufjan Stevens - “Christmas In The Room”
Each time I think Sufjan Stevens has maxed out his ambition, he one ups himself again in an entirely unexpected manner. 2010 was huge for Stevens, with the conjoined release of the 60-minute All Delighted People EP and the even better full length The Age of Adz. And yet, the 2012 release of Sufjan’s new Christmas music anthology Silver & Gold might be even more ambitious. For one thing, it’s 58 songs long. Secondly, it varies wildly in style and aesthetic, from whirlwind electronics to soothing folk. Furthermore, it features a sizable number of completely original pieces and songs, including gorgeous tracks like “Christmas In The Room,” which stands on its own as a terrific and moving song regardless of what time of year it is. Silver & Gold is out now on Asthmatic Kitty.
7. Earl Sweatshirt - “Chum”
2012 has been something of a redemptive year for Odd Future, featuring a terrific, high profile release from Frank Ocean and some promising stirrings from formerly-estranged member Earl Sweatshirt. He dropped “Chum” at the beginning of this month on his tumblr, and the track gives a lot of indication as to where his headspace is right now. It’s a moving, lyrically complicated piece of bittersweet nostalgia, and it’s the best thing he’s ever done on his own. 2013 could be his year.
8. Hot Sugar - “56k” (feat. Heems)
Brooklyn producer Hot Sugar’s new EP Midi Murder is his first to feature guest rappers and extensive features, and his friends in New York’s indie hip-hop elite turned out to lend their support. The opening track “56k” features Das Racist’s Heems, along with sampled sounds of a dial-up modem and some disorienting, expansive beats. It’s easy to dismiss this guy’s found-sound “associative music” style as gimmicky, but when the tracks are as good as this one, the gimmick starts to make a lot of sense. Midi Murder is out now, sponsored by Scion AV.
9. Mac Demarco - “Ode To Viceroy”
Not bad at all. Actually quite good, in its particular way. Effortlessly cool is the name of Mac Demarco’s musical formula, and even though his new record 2 isn’t great, it exudes a relaxed energy that makes it seem like this stuff just flows from the guy. “Ode To Viceroy” appears to be the favorite — go stand on a street corner, smoke a cigarette, and let the soothing guitars and vocals bleed out into your ear. 2 is out now on Captured Tracks.
10. Crystal Castles - “Child I Will Hurt You”
Crystal Castles’ third self-titled record is a transitional one — certainly not as powerful as their 2010 LP, but definitely indicative of some potentially great things to come. I particularly love the final track, “Child I Will Hurt” you, a surprisingly soothing piece of dream pop melancholy, with twinkling synths and ambient atmospheres billowing under Alice Glass’ reverberating vocals. Contrary to what the title suggests, this is the calmest that Crystal Castles have ever sounded, and that change is absolutely welcome. (III) is out now Fiction Records.
Stream/Download: Low - Plays Nice Places EP (2012)
Slow-burning indie rockers Low just announced that they will follow up their excellent 2011 LP C’mon with a new full length record in 2013 entitled The Invisible Way, which is being produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. That announcement was made all the more sweet by the additional immediate release of a new live EP called Low Plays Nice Places, which was recorded on their recent tour with Death Cab For Cutie.
The EP includes live versions of some of the best songs in Low’s extensive catalog, including the delicate, beautiful “Sunflower” from Things We Lost In The Fire and the heavy, dirge-like “Witches.” The real reason to grab this EP is for the rare performance of “Words,” a track from Low’s first full length, which features Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard on backing vocals. It’s a pretty spectacular performance, especially considering that they almost never play material from their first two albums.
- 1. “Words” [ft. Benjamin Gibbard]
- 2. “Waiting”
- 3. “Sunflower”
- 4. “Witches”
- 5. “Pissing”
- 6. “Murderer”
Stream the live EP above and download it for free at the embedded link. The Invisible Way is out March 19th on Sub Pop.
Video: White Lung - “Glue”
Canadian punks White Lung just dropped a new video for “Glue,” a charging slice of pop-punk vitriol from their terrifically urgent 2012 album Sorry. I wasn’t too keen on “Bag,” the subject of the band’s previous video, but “Glue” is easily one of my favorite cuts from the album.
Although it lacks the neat concept of the “Bag” video, the grainy, VHS-style footage and DIY aesthetic of this clip aligns nicely with the grittiness of the track. However, while the lyrical subject matter of “Glue” is pretty harrowing and violent, the content of the video seems a lot more fun and lighthearted. They play into some tried-and-true punk video tropes here and there, but overall, the band seems to be enjoying themselves quite a bit. Both in tone and style, it’s actually not too disimilar to Title Fight’s recent video for “Secret Society,” which I loved.
Watch the “Glue” clip above and pick up Sorry from Deranged Records.
The Ambulars - “We’re Golden”
In hindsight, 2012 has borne witness to an impressive number of terrific, irony-free garage rock records that bear a shared debt to the crisp power pop aesthetic of the ’90s and early 2000s. At the beginning of the year, Cloud Nothings changed their pace and dropped the eminently engaging Attack On Memory, spear-headed by the singalong single “Stay Useless,” and Japandroids one-upped them this summer with the still-great Celebration Rock. Along with the new records from Swearin’, Screaming Females, and other notable 2012 bands, I would lump The Ambulars’ new LP Dreamers Asleep At The Wheel in with that group.
As its name and song titles suggest, Dreamers is ripe with idealism and capable of backing it up with the necessary musicianship and songwriting chops. Opening track “We’re Golden” is the most immediate of the bunch, but all are solid. Overtop the eternally resonant power chord chug of countless pop-punk bands before, frontman Michael Cantor’s vocals evoke The Get-Up Kids, while his lyrics hint at a deeper poeticism that blends starry-eyed imagery with grounded sentiment. The winsome chorus is so begetting of emotional singalongs that you might overlook the dour implications of its lyrical content: “There’s a fatalistic hum / at the end of all our days.”
The apocalypse has never sounded so catchy!
Stream “We’re Golden” above and pick up The Ambular’s new LP for whatever you want to pay over at their bandcamp page.
Stream: The Guru - Go Easy (2012)
There is a moment on Go Easy, the new LP from The Guru, in which the precocious Connecticut four-piece seems to transcend their particularly infectious brand of Modest Mouse-indebted psych-pop, simply by lampooning it. It arrives within the first minute of the title track, as an agonizingly smooth saxophone line introduces itself and proceeds to bleed out all over the sunny array of guitars and Eddie Golden III’s surprisingly detached vocals. As the sax plays on throughout the track, the mood changes from comedic to self-fulfilled. It adopts a kind of self-aware attitude not unlike Destroyer’s last LP, through which disco tropes and smooth jazz aesthetics aren’t inherently detrimental to the ‘seriousness’ or quality of a band’s music.
Unfortunately, that moment fades, and the rest of the album fails to pick up the slack as it continues on. True to its name, Go Easy is a gentle, relaxed album, free from the manic energy and forceful, consummate positivity of Native Sun, the band’s excellent LP from last year. Although the record benefits from the change in style, its apparent motivational deficiency is often stifling. If Native Sun could be described as positively forceful, like a good friend who drags you to a show on a night when you’re feeling down, Go Easy feels forcefully positive. After the stellar opening track, the band plods along without much urgency or direction, twinkling through the country-ish twang of the previously released single “Indian Day” and the stuttering noodles of “Tony Waves.” In between, “Foreign Moon” drags on slowly and without purpose, as does the lo-fi, experimental dirge “Pyramids.” Many of the faster cuts feel like lesser-quality holdovers from Native Sun, while the slow jams strain to hold the listener’s attention.
It’s not all bad of course — “Guacamole” features some really interesting distorted guitar, for instance, and “Cow” has one of those earworm choruses that so many of the songs on Native Sun could also lay claim to. The title track, too, is among the better songs I’ve heard this year. And yet, Go Easy is a frustratingly limited album that suffers most from feeling under-developed. Native Sun was the result of years of songwriting, touring, and recording. Those songs were birthed, developed, and honed over a lengthy period of time and finally released in their best possible form. By contrast, Go Easy feels rushed and lacking focus. It’s clear that there are some truly great new ideas in the mix, but that’s all they are — ideas in dire need of full realization and development. If you listen closely, you can hear that development happening, but it’s incomplete. In other words, this is the sound of a young band growing up, shaking its wings, and losing some of its charm in the process. Thankfully, though, they’ve always had plenty to spare.
Stream Go Easy above and buy it now on bandcamp for $3 or more. If you’re in the Connecticut area, you can catch The Guru live tonight at their record release show at The Space, with Tigers Jaw, Brian Stankus, and Disco Teen ‘66. More information about that show can be found HERE.
Sidewalk Dave - Hard On Romance (2012)
Stream: “Wait Forever”
David Van Witt — aka Sidewalk Dave — is at the very least enigmatic, if not a downright paradox. The ponderous, lanky 20-something has spent an number of years living the unpredictable troubadour’s life, travelling the country and cranking out volumes of thoughtful, solid folk rock and alt-country under his humble pseudonym. Then something changed. He sojourned to Brooklyn, and somewhere along the way, created a record that is qualitatively leaps and bounds ahead of any of his other work. It’s a record that bears conceptual unity the likes of which I have not witnessed in any other record this year — an album displaying the songwriting chops of a grizzled veteran much Van Witt’s senior, but with the attitude and grit of a rambunctious, sexually frustrated teen. It’s an album so fully realized in its production and execution, and yet so utterly (and purposefully) immature in every other facet of its existence, that it can’t help but come across as paradoxical. It’s also one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2012, and it’s called Hard On Romance.
As its title suggests, Hard On Romance is profoundly and explicitly sexual. Dave wastes no time with subtlety and tact regarding this subject; rather, he embraces it like a voracious, perpetually unsatisfied lover. And yet, despite more sexual references-per-minute than even the most explicit Lil Wayne single, Hard On Romance never uses sex for purposes of braggadocio or self-aggrandizement. On the dirgey psych-gaze opener “2k Girls,” Dave moans about sleeping with the titular number of women as if it were a form of punishment. “I am my father’s mistakes,” he sings. To Sidewalk Dave, the concept of “hard on romance” — that is, romance fulfilled only by physical stimulation — is an elusive and dangerous beast that yields short term satisfaction and long-term trauma. In a way, it’s rather like an addiction.
But that’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy it. Dave may recognize the inherent problems with a relationship built only on copious amounts of copulation, but he also recognizes the benefit. In the guitar-crunching chorus of the Pixies-like highlight “Wait Forever,” Dave sounds like a tortured beast demanding sustenance, alternately howling “I want you here now” and “I want you out of here.” The contrast between pleasure and pain is dizzying, and often it is the musical tone that determines the side on which each song comes down. For instance, despite the insecurity that its lyrics reveal, the stuttering second track “Something About Me” is probably the most outwardly happy track on the record. Likewise, the chugging, penultimate track “Soft Portal” exudes swagger despite opening with the revealing line “Baby, please understand that this ain’t love” and ultimately unraveling into a Titus Andronicus-level chorus of yonic philosophizing. Meanwhile, the atmospheric buzz of “Honey Bee” and the moody synth swells of the closing track “Wake Up Baby” take on a more dour tone. Given the sexual energy that courses through Hard On Romance, perhaps it’s fitting that the album ends on a rather limp note.
It’s fitting and understandable that the most successful songs on the album are those in which Dave’s ratio of enjoyment to suffering is most even. “Cayenne” — the song that owes the most to Sidewalk Dave’s country roots — lilts slowly underneath lyrics that describe the complicated longing that remains for a former lover. Later on, the Classic Rock indebted “Climbing Out The Window” finds Dave caught “in between staying young and growing old” — a crucial moment in a man’s life that much of Hard On Romance attempts to reconcile. Far and away, the best track on Hard On Romance is the supremely bittersweet “Happiness Is An Art: We Must Learn While We’re Apart,” which is not only most morally complicated, poetically developed lyrical work on the record; it’s also probably the catchiest and most singular song. Although these tracks may be more pensive than the rollicking, cock-out garage rock numbers, they pack enough musical grit and shoegaze-influenced guitar textures into their slower tempos to maintain a formidable bite.
On “Honey Bee,” which serves as a reflective intermission in the middle of the record, Dave describes the surreal combination of agony and ecstasy with which a male worker bee copulates with his queen, letting her use him for her pleasure only to rip out his innards and let him fall to his death. It’s a powerful metaphor for a concept that Hard On Romance as a coherent unit explores so well. And yet, even without that context, this work still stands up on its own. In all, Hard On Romance is an inimitable collection of some of the best garage rock songs 2012 has had to offer. From any perspective — lyrical, musical, or conceptual — Hard On Romance is unapologetically and unassumingly fantastic.
Hard On Romance is out now via The Telegraph Recording Company. You can stream it via Bandcamp and purchase it on CD for $8. The CD comes with liner notes, including a brief essay regarding the album’s concept called I Am A Virgin - Please Give Me The Sex Talk, and a set of (censored) nude photos of Dave himself because what else would you include in the packaging of an album like this?
Stream: Great Caesar - Scattered Air EP (2012)
Great Caesar is an anthemic indie rock band based in Brooklyn by way of Connecticut. They’ve spent much of the past year kicking around the New York circuit, playing high profile shows including a number at this year’s CMJ Festival. They blew me away when I saw them open for Titus Andronicus at Quinnipiac University in April, and I’ve been anticipating their release of new material ever since.
Thankfully, my anticipation has been validated. The band just dropped a new EP called Scattered Air, stocked with four tracks full of harmonic vocals, power pop chord progressions, and more sultry saxophone leads than you can shake a stick at. Highlights include the overused-but-impossible-not-to-love wordless chorus of “Tuned To Break” and the gritty, minor-key riffing of the lead single “Rearview.” If you make it through the first three tracks, look out for the eerie, jazz-inflected closer “Son,” on which frontman John-Michael Parker evokes a space-age Frank Sinatra. These four tracks are all impeccable, and hint at bright things for this budding and ambitious group in the future.
Stream Scattered Air above and purchase it via Bandcamp for $5.