Monday, March 16, 2015

It's a Roundup!

Yes indeed folks -- we call these the Barry R. Memorial posts, as they are bunch of a bunch of his favorite type of music reviews:  historical ones.  These are all grouped into one handy bundle, looking back across the last 50 years of music, minus the most recent two to three years.  This is what you get for free, Barry!

So, while listening to 2013, 2014, and 2015 music (for these end of year reviews), I still managed to find time to sneak in these albums (as well as the reviews that will be appearing in the coming days).

In alphabetical order:
  • Abraham, Inc. - Tweet Tweet (2009).  As mentioned here, I had a bunch of reviews lost in one terrible blogging accident.  This was one of the casualties -- I think this is the third time I've tried to review the album (sorry for the wait, Ryan).  Despite the blog PTSD, I will bravely forge ahead.  A "collective" album with eclectic mix of lead vocalists, this jazz-rock-electronic-hiphop amalgamation is (on paper) something that is destined for either absolute greatness or total failure.  In this case, it's brilliant.  They even throw in a little organ fill ala The Roots on "Trombonik."  (As an aside, fans of The Roots will LOVE this.) As such a fusion would suggest, it's not just a single note:  it's challenging yet still accessible, edgy while remaining poppy.  They do not spare their uncompromising lyrical attitude, and yet they still seem mostly based in pop.  CD Placement Rating:  Car iPod.
  • Aldo Nova - A Portrait of Aldo Nova (1991).  It was so cheap, I had to give this a shot, even though my snarky first thought on seeing this greatest hits compilation was that it should be a one-song single.  Sometimes I hate being right.  CD Placement Rating:  I already owned "Fantasy," so Pile of Death.
  • Arcwelder - Entropy (1996).  This Minneapolis grunge or post-grunge band is very decent but not spectacular.  It may be more your cup of tea as opposed to mine.  But the highlights ("Snake Oil," "I Promise Not to be an Asshole") are great, groove-filled jams.  CD Placement Rating:  CD Rack.
  • The Automatic - This is a Fix (2008).  This took me years to track down as an import.  It's more solid overall that their debut, but lacks the top-end punch (and the over-the top voice of Alex Pennie) from that album.  Nice across the board without any real standout songs.  CD Placement Rating:  CD Rack.
  • Bad Religion - Stranger than Fiction (1994).  Bubba convinced me to give this album a shot after previous failed attempts to get into this band.  Initially, I thought this album fell into the usual complaint I have with Bad Religion albums:  a few great song, but an uneven album.  A listen in the headphones revealed something different; this is finally a BR album I can get behind.  Very solid from front to back, with many individual song highlights to boot.  CD Placement Rating:  Portable CD Case.
  • Golden Earring - Bloody Buccaneers (1994).  Long-time readers will recall my fondness for this band, and for some odd reason I decided to take one more bite of the apple.  Bottom line, like all the other Golden Earring offerings, it's just not as good as The Hole.  I'm beginning to think that The Hole was a brilliant one-off, and while the other albums have bits and pieces of greatness, none are whole-cloth strong offerings.  This one is okay.  It's my last foray into this band, unless I find Cut (the one with "Twilight Zone"), which has remained surprisingly elusive. CD Placement Rating:  I'll keep "Temporary Madness," "Planet Blue," "Pourin' My Heart Out Again," and "In a Bad Mood." Sell-back Pile 1.
  • The Delusions - I Hope It Dies on a Sunny Day (1998).  My obsessive interest in this band remains a mystery even to me.  They were a solid opener for Built to Spill over a few years of live shows, with occasional moments of perfection; they were always on the verge of something sublime, but eventually fell just slightly short.  This is very decent, but has a low ceiling, which probably is "Disabled at the Beach."  Like, not love.  I think we can only be friends, but I think you'll make someone very happy.  Someone else, that is.  CD Placement Rating:  CD Rack.
  • Failure - Tree of Stars EP (2014).  While not the biggest or the most influential release of the year, this was (for me at least) the most important release of 2014.  Why?  Because after the four live tracks, one of my all-time favorite bands created its first new song together in 15+ years... which also means they will be recording a new album!  The live tracks are decent, the new song is okay, but that doesn't matter:  I'll always associate this EP with that joy of Failure's return, so it will always put me back to that moment of happiness.  I'll keep it forever.  CD Placement Rating:  CD Rack.
  • Ladyfinger (ne) - Dusk (2009).  This is actually one of the toughest albums I've ever had to review.  I've picked it up and put it down a number of times over the last six years.  I've found that when I listen to this album for the first time in a while, I really like it.  But after a second or third listen I get "listening fatigue" -- it's like the music wears off.  Very odd.  The elements were all there, but something was killing long-term enjoyment here for me.  A final review (loud, with some really good headphones) revealed the very good, possibly great album I'd heard hints of before.  No fatigue this time; they even remind me of a heavier Les Savy Fav (particularly vocally and lyrically) at points.  So I'll move it back up from Sell-back 1.  CD Placement Rating:  I guess it has to be Portable CD Case.  No matter what, "A.D.D." and "Little Things" hold up over time.
  • Social Distortion - Live at the Roxy (1998).  Captured in 1996 from the White Light, White Heat, White Trash tour, this is a great snapshot of a live band on top of their game.  Oddly, it holds together better as an album:  it's a total blur in its entirety, but the individual tracks don't really stand out on their own.  It's punk rockabilly at its best, an onslaught that just keeps coming.  Best listened to prior to fighting local toughs, or when caffeine is needed but not readily available.  The only downsides are the odd beginning and end, and the occasional misogynistic comments from frontman Mike Ness.  The liner notes are fantastic.  CD Placement Rating:  Car iPod.
  • Tears for Fears - Shout:  The Very Best of Tears for Fears (2001).  Reputed to be the "best" of the TFF compilations, Moira got this one for me and it has not let me down.  Even better in the headphones; all the hits are here.  Getting the US Remix of "Mother's Talk" is the key, although any excuse I have to listen to "Shout" is worth the time.  They were/are soooo good!  Only complaint with this is there is too much non-Curt Smith TFF, but even those songs are decent at worst.  CD Placement Rating:  Portable CD Case.
    • Tesla - Into the Now (2003).  That Metal Show strikes again.  TC got me into these guys back in the day (I still can't listen to Mechanical Resonance and not think of Die Hard, the No-girlfriendo, and Walpole, MA) and I've always found them to be a cut above most of the hair bands of the era.  I saw Frank Hannon on TMS -- and he gave an amazing performance.  They mentioned a comeback album, and I was suckered in.  From the first track ("Into the Now"), it's classic Tesla; if you told me "What a Shame" or "Recognize" was a b-side from 1988, I'd buy it.  It's bluesy classic rock meets indie garage rock.  (With some record scratching thrown in, which is odd but somehow not out of place.)  Sure, it tails off a bit after the first four songs, but, In general, this album is simply ridiculously infectious.  CD Placement Rating:  Car iPod.
      • Van Halen - The Best of Both Worlds (2004).  If you're going to own a Best of Van Halen album, I'd recommend this with one caveat to the producers of this album:  you cannot include "(Oh) Pretty Woman" without "Intruder."  No exceptions.  (Having a Sammy Hagar-fronted live versions of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," "Panama," and "Jump" are lesser offenses, but mistakes nonetheless.)  Otherwise, this is a fun 2-CD set, only needed for those who own Van Halen I and nothing else.  (Like yours truly.  Okay, maybe I own Diver Down as well.)  CD Placement Rating:  CD Rack.  But a great, entertaining couple of discs for a drive.
      - Snilch

      Tuesday, March 03, 2015

      An Interview with John Andrew Fredrick of The Black Watch

      The Black Watch began in 1987, the brainchild of primary songwriter and frontman John Andrew Fredrick.  The band history until 2011 is detailed here; their 2013 album was my favorite of that year.  This interview took place over email in January 2015 into February.

      The Snilch Report:  I just listened to the album [2014’s sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy].  It's very good, but I find it confusing -- it will take some more listens (perhaps many) to get to the heart of it.  My initial impression is that you were in a dark happy place when you made it, if that makes any sense. 

      John Andrew Fredrick:  Yes in a very very dark happy place.  It is meant to be very much a "fuck off" record -- made by a person who was, in effect, heartbroken...by music itself. If that doesn't sound too terribly grandstandingly hyperbolic...

      SR:  That's a very interesting idea... is it the process of creating music or the business of creating music that's leaving you feeling heartbroken?

      JAF:  The metaphor of heartbreak is even more applicable, in that The Black Watch are over it, their heartbreak -- as one gets over it in life -- and are recording a follow-up EP to sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy.  Probably not surprising to those who said:  "You're a lifer, you won't quit," but I was mostly talking about feeling how I had a very bad time in the studio, on account of I did all the instruments save the drums myself, all the singing, all of it.  And it was very not-enjoyable. 

      Tyson, Chris, and Rick and I are rehearsing four new songs for the forthcoming EP.  It's a nice space to be in.  I still think I may not make another LP, but obviously I kind of don't know what I will do, am confused and such, and should just shut up and sing.  Haha!  [Editor's note:  Since this interview, John has written other new songs, so now this release is going to be an LP.  Which is great news for Black Watch fans!]

      For so long The Black Watch has been, in the picayune-scene indie press, "The band that never got even marginally as big as they deserve to be."  That got to me too.  I shouldn't have let it do so, but I did, more's the pity.  Tough luck and sucky hurts and disappointments, bandly-wise, music biz-wise, can be, or feel, at least, cumulative.  If you let them get like that.  Which I did.  More's the pity.  Now I will stop going on about stopping.  And go on.

      SR:  You can't let the bastards drag you down!  Don't let them win!  For sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy, was the "solo recording for the band record" a plan you went in with?  Or was that forced on you?

      JAF: I started by doing four songs that seemed like they'd be best acoustic.  The engineer at the studio -- guy called Luke Adams -- had been Pete Yorn's drummer, a studio session man.  I showed him some other songs, and because he speaks Beatles and is a one-take kind of guy, a "one-take Tony," as we say, he did the drums, all of them, in four hours for seven other songs.  I told the band:  “Look, if we rehearse and do this as a band, it'll cost four times as much.  Let me do this, and then we'll go make something afterwards.”

      Having Luke play was like finding money on the ground.  How could I not use his tracks? (The drumming on sugarplum, I think, is stellar.)  Steven Schayer having left the band, after 6 years, you know, I sort of did it, the record, by myself as a way of going, "Hey, I don't need you like you always say I do."  He'd say it to me in jest, mind you, but not really.  I missed him being there, in the studio, being my foil and thorn in my side.  I was heartbroken over the person, Anne, many songs are about, and thinking I was going to stop doing the thing I love most:  recording music. 

      Anyway, the work Steve did on Led Zeppelin Five and the end of when -- spectacular.  A great, great musician.  And, inevitably, someone who became unhappy playing in The Black Watch.  Someone who should do his own album -- and I really hope he does.  But now we have someone on lead, Tyson Cornell, who is just as good but different.  Tyson actually runs the publishing company here in LA that is my publisher -- Rare Bird Lit.  He has a spin-off label that's putting out a picture disc 7" of two songs we did this summer in Santa Barbara.  Geeky!  Collector's bait.  I mean, I love records but a picture disc?!  Haha.  I woulda been happy with a cassingle!!  Remember those?  Of course you do.  And, with Tyson, we're back to being a happy band.  Chris our bassist and Rick our drummer -- they've become great good friends with Tyson as well.  So we're fine.  Happy.  Obscure as hell, still, but happy.


      The Black Watch - "Terrific," off the 1991 album Flowering

      SR:  Sadly, I think I still OWN a number of cassingles.  Is it safe to say that the solo approach to the album was something you wouldn't attempt again?  Then again, you had a perfect storm:  a personal heartbreak plus a creative partner parting, and then the process of creating your potential cathartic outlet (the album) was not very enjoyable.  I can only imagine that you felt completely isolated.

      JAF: Yes, I won't be recording on my own again.  I do several other things professionally that are lonelyish.  Writing novels –- you can't do that with anyone else around.  I've just finished a book on the early films of Wes Anderson that is coming out soon -- you can't do that by committee.  Haha.  I wrote a musical over Christmas.  It's about Dr. Johnson and his biographer James Boswell, with an indie rock/contemporary twist.  When I teach Freshman English, that's kinda solitary 'cause you can't go "Hey, great class today, you guys!  Let's all go down the pub and talk about how great it was!" 

      I like the perfect storm metaphor.  That's apt.  I think the record is at once very spare and very honest.  I could barely open my mouth to sing.  Hence the vocals are a bit "safe."  It was risky enough just attempting to sing the lyrics because I kept thinking I was going to burst into tears... instead of into song!  See what a jolly-melancholy person I am!  I never cry.  Never ever.  I didn't when my mum, whom I loved very much and was very close to, died six years ago.  I probably should cry.  It'd be cathartic.  I don't seem to be able to, however.  Oh, well.  That sounds rather monstrous, actually.  Makes me wanna cry. Hahaha.  

      SR:  It's not a stretch to say we all have different ways of coping and dealing with our grief, although I appreciate your stream-of-consciousness self-analysis -- it sounds like something I would do!  I can't recall off the top of my head whether this is the case, but have you written anything about your Mom since she passed?  I'm also wondering whether or not it's coincidence that you stopped releasing music for a few years (2009- 2011) right around that time.

      JAF:  We didn't have anything out from 2009-2011 just because we didn't have a label then, that's all.  We recorded Led Zeppelin Five in 2009 and it took a year for it to come out in New Zealand first and then here in 2012, I think.  It's very hard to keep track of the records, and I’m not good with numbers.  There's a bit about my mom in my first novella, The Knucklehead Chronicles, but that's it, really.

      SR: Fair enough.  I did want to touch on something you mentioned earlier -- how great the drums were on sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy.  I've always maintained that the drumming is a huge part of your sound and you are well served by having a strong drummer; to my mind, you leave a lot of space for percussion to really move the songs along.  Is that a factor in your composing?

      JAF:  Yes, it is a factor.  I am a huge fan of drums, and am moved by great drumming and drummers, having started off as one, at 10 or so?  Played for 3 years, drove my parents crazy.  They were so happy when I just played guitar when I turned 13.  Of course, as a serious fan of musical drummers -- Ringo comes to mind of course, and Mitch Mitchell of the Hendrix Exp., as well as, oh, David Narcizo, the great cymbal-less guy from Throwing Muses -- I think about how the drums will go. 

      But even though I played for a few years, I don't really "speak" drum.  I just know what I want... when I hear it.  I can only direct the drums sort of derivatively -- a la, "Do a Ringo fill here that goes into a sort of XTC kinda vibe."  I think it's driven Rick a little crazy over the years -- like, "Yeah, sure, John.  Whatever you say."  Does that make The Black Watch a bit of a pastiche?  Perhaps.  We try to hide our influences, that's for sure -- all the way down to the rhythm section.


      The Black Watch - "Uncheerupable," off the 1999 album The KIng of Good Intentions

      SR: I am a huge huge HUGE fan of musical drummers. I think that a great rhythm section can take good to great and great to unbelievable.  People underestimate their power and their impact.  But don't get me started.

      So since let's talk about the new stuff.  What can fans expect from this one?  Ans, of course, will you be doing a cassingle promo release?

      JAF:  Hahaha.  No cassingle.  One song is a nine-minute guitar freakout.  Another one is a drone like "The King of Good Intentions" off Amphetamines.  One is a very catchy song, very poppy -- called "There's No Fucking Way" (so that it won't ever get played on the radio).  Another is an old thing we've had from The Hypnotizing Sea days.  A song called "Beautiful Sleeper" that is both acoustic and full-band.  We're going to work with Rob Campanella who has been in and out of The Brian Jonestown Massacre.  A great guy with a super basement studio in Toluca Lake near Warner Brothers.  He has two mellotrons -- so look out.  I might compose a sort of psychedelic symphony on those things, just because.  Rob is big on The Byrds and on space rock, as are we.  So I am sure it will be way more trippy than sugarplum was.  He was telling me how dry the vocals are on this new record.  He'll maybe hose them down some.  And Tyson's definitely singing on the new LP. 

      So there will be some harmonies, whereas we eschewed them for sugarplum.  I have been listening to Hϋsker Dϋ around a thousand times in a row, so I am looking forward to loads of fuzz guitar, flanged fuzz, overdriven, screaming screams. I took a year off from listening to anything but classical.  Well, a bit of The Beatles and of course I had to get MBV [My Bloody Valentine].  I mean, they are my second favorite band -- next to TBW, of course. Hahaa.

      Friday, February 27, 2015

      The Top 15 Albums from 2013

      Yes, it's a year late.  But better late than never... plus, we'll start 2014 reviews immediately.  Well, almost immediately.  Shortly?

      In any case, without further ado... The Snilch Report's Top 15 albums from 2013:

      15. Anoraak - Chronotropic.  "
      Of all the electronica I heard this year, this album seemed to incorporate the best parts of all of them, adding in a confidence and a self-assuredness that comes off as 'relaxed expert,' and not 'annoyingly cocky.'"  Original review here.

      Anoraak - "Behind Your Shades"

      14. Speck Mountain - Badwater.  "It's a nice mellow listen, best enjoyed with a good book on a bright sunny day on your porch, or with your favorite medicinal drug of choice."  Original review here.

      Speck Mountain - "Badwater"

      13. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Unvarnished.  Anyone who wants to tell me that there's not great music out there any more can just look at this list.  The fact that Joan Jett is this low tells you there was a ton of good music in 2013.  Just watch the video.  "This is quite simply, a great, classic rock album.  It's not a throwback, it's timeless.  It's got an edge and an intensity that is surprising after all these years.  It's classic Joan Jett, and that is a damn good thing."  Original review here.

      Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "Any Weather"


      12. Brent Amaker and the Rodeo - Year of the Dragon.  "This sounds like Calvin Johnson from Beat Happening traded his lo-fi bandmates for Johnny Cash's backing band. It's uptempo country, fun storytelling extolled in a lighthearted tone (even when the lyrics are dark)."  Original review here.


      Brent Amaker and the Rodeo - "Tequila Cerveza"  Warning: the video is very sacreligious at points.

      11. Barrence Whitfield and the Savages - Dig Thy Savage Soul.  "Barrence... well, he's got the voice of an angel and a devil, all rolled into one.  Simply ridiculous. That is worth the price of admission alone."  Original review here.


      Barrence Whitfield and the Savages - "Corner "

      10. Cage the Elephant - Melophobia.  "It's a snapshot of a band still growing into their sound, which is scary as this is already really good....  It's a listen that will satisfy pretentious snobs (like me) and 'I like what sounds good' lunchpail joes (oddly enough, also like me)."  Original review here.


      Cage the Elephant - "Take It or Leave It"


      9. Bored Nothing - Bored Nothing.  "This is excellent, accessible, and well produced; it's everything you'd want in an album to listen to and enjoy.  Not a bad song in the bunch.  I'll take Big Star 2.0 any day."  Original review here.

      Bored Nothing - "Let Down"

      8. Grant Hart - The Argument.  "It's a breakthrough recording for someone you could have written off years ago.  Hart is clear and focused, wasting no space vocally in his quest to win the argument."  Original review here.


      Grant Hart - "Morningstar"

      7. Eric Salt and the Electric City - Please Say Yes.  "In the end, this feels like a mixtape of the best songs Salt has written in the past four years, but it works.... [A]ll in all, it's a great listen and an album I'll be revisiting again and again in the near future."  Original review here.


      Eric Salt and The Electric City - "Women I've Loved" 

      6. Luscious Jackson - Magic Hour.  "Hearing Glaser and Cunniff trading vocals, and Schellenbach's drumming style brought together again... well, it's just awesome."  Original review here.


      Luscious Jackson - "Show Us What You Got"

      5. Curt Smith - Deceptively Heavy.  "In the end what comes through is the combination of confident experience with the restless energy of an artist.  It's just another amazing offering from a great musician."  Original review here.

      Curt Smith - "Suffer the Silence"

      4. The Black Angels - Indigo Meadow.  "I could listen to this album again and again -- it's got just enough pop to be accessible, and just enough edge to keep it fresh and interesting.  It's an impressive offering, produced expertly."  Original review here.


      The Black Angels - "Don't Play With Guns"

      3. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP 2.  "Musically and lyrically, I can't imagine any album being more musically intricate and emotionally disturbing at the same time.... His lyrical ability to paint a sharply focused picture is unparalleled; his combination of ignorance, brilliance, mental instability, perfect clarity, brick-headed self-centered stupidity, and introspective objective empathy simply weaves too well together to be anything but intentional."  Original review here.

      Eminem - "Bezerk"
      Cameos by Rick Rubin, Kid Rock, and Kendrick Lamar
      Samples of The Beastie Boys and Billy Squier (including video from "The Stroke")

      2. Tom Keifer - The Way Life Goes.  "It's an easy listen, but holds enough edge and challenge to ensure you'll be back for more.  I'm not the first to say it, but that don't mean it ain't the truth:  this may be the best album of his career."  Original review here.

      Tom Keifer - "It's Not Enough"

      1. The Black Watch - The End of When.  "It's dreamy rock that's smooth and smart, emotional and poppy.... Simply great."  Original review here.

      The Black Watch - "Meg"

      And there you have it.  Next up:  an interview with John Andrew Fredrick of The Black Watch, a roundup of some other stuff I have been listening to... and then it's on to the 2014 reviews!

      - Snilch

      Monday, February 23, 2015

      Sleater-Kinney at The House of Blues Boston, 2/22/15

      One of my all-time favorite bands, Sleater-Kinney, got back together (okay, okay, "returned from hiatus") and hit Boston last night at The House of Blues Boston.  Bubba, The Deadly Bishop, Mrs. Snilch Report and I had been looking forward to this show for months.  

      So when I say we left early, you'd probably be surprised.  Especially when Mrs. Snilch and I shelled out $75 for our tickets.  And even more so when I tell you that Sleater-Kinney was putting on a great show, from what we could hear.

      The problem:  we couldn't actually SEE the show.

      Here's the issue:  The House of Blues Boston has three levels -- Floor, 2nd level, and 3rd level.  The Floor was packed, but there were still places you could stand in the back.  The 3rd level (which had seats) had plenty of room for people to stand behind chairs, but none were.  

      Unfortunately for us, we were on the 2nd level.  Dead center was four people deep across the entire back, as were each of the front corners.  The back corners were two deep, but given the angle, it was impossible for us to stand together and have more than one of us actually see the show.

      Further complicating the situation is that The House of Blues blocks off part of the 2nd level for VIPs/season ticket holders in the front right corner.  There were three to five  people standing in this area the whole night.  Finally, there are walls that come down to about 4 feet off the 2nd level, cutting off 20-30 feet of potential viewing area on each side.  (You can actually bend down under the wall to try and watch the show... but Security would not let people stoop down in this area to do so.  Thanks, HOB!)

      So we were stuck watching monitors on the wall near the back corner.  But THAT didn't work because Bubba (who is hard of hearing) couldn't hear the show from back there.  So we had to move up closer to the speakers.  And therefore, here was our view:



      This is what $75 got my wife and me.  And the video feed was awful:  the focus was soft (i.e., the images were not sharp) and the image was very dark (as the stage wasn't lit for video).  And there were at least (my best guess) 50-75 people in the same boat as us, with no view of the stage.

      Now I've been in situations where I've been uncomfortable and crowded, had my view partially blocked by a mass of humanity, or been at large outdoor festivals where I had to watch video monitors with the band a mile away -- I am well aware that not every concert experience is going to be ideal.  But this is definitely the first time I can say that it was physically impossible to watch the show.  As Mrs. Snilch Report said, "If I wanted to watch a video, I'd just wait for the DVD to come out."

      And that is why this situation was unacceptable.  Totally, thoroughly unacceptable.

      The ultimate fault lies with HOB Boston.  They oversold the 2nd level, and would not allow overflow into the 3rd level or the Floor.  I find this practice disgusting and, frankly, unconscionable.  The tickets do not say "obstructed view," which these clearly were in our case.  And even if we had gotten there early enough to get on the rail, the problem would just have been transferred to four other people, who would be feeling the same way that my friends and I did this morning.  In other words, like we collectively took $150 and flushed it down the toilet.

      I hope that when S-K comes back to town someday, they don't come back to the House of Blues.  In the 15+ years I've been a fan, it's the first time I've walked out on them -- one of my favorite bands and live acts of all time.  And it's not because of performance or material, but strictly because of the venue.  I'm positive that this situation will be news to them.

      As for the House of Blues... I enjoyed my experience there watching The Cult, but until you change your ticket policy for the 2nd level, you can count on me and my friends never coming back.  I can't believe someone could take Avalon and screw it up more than previous versions of the venue, but congrats -- you have climbed that mountain!  

      Your attitude toward your patrons is unacceptable and callous.  You got me this time, but the next potentially 5 or 10 shows I would have attended are definitely not going to happen.  I think that math is not in your favor.

      Readers:  I encourage you to warn your friends about this, so you don't suffer the same disappointment we did.  And please let the House of Blues in Boston know that this is not acceptable to you either.

      - Snilch

      Wednesday, January 07, 2015

      The Black Watch - The End of When (2013)

      We've finally reached the end of the 2013 reviews, and we've saved one of the best for last.

      I'm not sure how this happened, but this release was not on my radar in 2013 at all.  My everlasting love of The Black Watch is best articulated here, here, or, most descriptively, here.  (The latter post can give you the band's entire sordid history.)

      Before we get started, there are two things you need to do when you listen to this album:  1) listen to it with good headphones, and 2) (since you're likely a bit dim like myself) LISTEN TO IT WITH GOOD HEADPHONES.  Case in point:  I initially tried this album in the car and it didn't work.  (Please note:  when you convert this album to crappy, lowest common denominator mp3s, then listen to it with your iPod earbuds and complain "it doesn't sound great," I'm going to hit you over the head with a tire iron, as that is not even close to following instructions.  You've been warned.)

      The album opens with "I Don't Feel the Same," a fuzz rock anthem that's worth the price of admission alone.  The guitar tone alone makes me feel happy to be alive to appreciate it.  From the get-go, the band sounds super tight -- it's a lush, rich, fully cohesive sound.

      Then they go straight into "Meg" -- a dreampop contrast, a classic Black Watch offering with a freshness I can't quite define but definitely appreciate.  It's relaxed, confident, and unhurried; a conspicuously languid counterbalance undercuts the song's unrest, and the "Hey!" background vocal punctuation somehow propels the song to the next level.  By "Hardly Nothing Never Ending," it's clear that this album is a precisely produced, expertly arranged masterpiece.  And by "Oh Oh" I was texting and emailing music pals to pick up this album.  So damn good.

      The Black Watch - "Meg"

      It's dreamy rock that's smooth and smart, emotional and poppy.  It's a rare "album," complete from front to back.  It's a must pickup:  my immediate thought (based on pure speculation, not on any sort of a factual basis) is that this is the culmination of the long road back from the sudden departure of J'Anna Jacoby a decade ago.  It's not as if John Andrew Fredrick has failed to produce great albums in the intervening years; this is just the best, most fully realized expression of the group since that time.  Simply great.

      As a bonus for fans who don't know the band, there's a bonus disc that gives some highlights from their previous albums (although I do have an issue with some of the songs that were left off).  So quit procrastinating and go get the CD.

      CD Placement rating:  Car iPod.

      - Snilch

      Tuesday, January 06, 2015

      Curt Smith - Deceptively Heavy (2013)

      Following Curt Smith's excellent 2008 album Halfway Pleased, I anxiously awaited a next album... but given Tears for Fears recent uptick in activity, it looked like the band would release something first.

      To my surprise, I discovered last week that Curt had actually released an album... in 2013.  Always on top of it, clearly.

      In any case, it's new to me and likely to you.

      From the opening notes of "Beautiful Failure," this sounds like Halfway Pleased 2.0 -- the same beautiful and dreamy music, shimmering vocals, and twisted dark lyrics.  I settled in for more of the same of what the first album gave us.

      Then "Suffer the Silence" happens.  Then "Hold It Together" happens.  It's enough of a change in terms of musical texture that the charge here is clear:  capture the brilliance of the last album, but expand on it without losing the plot.

      The result?  I love it.  I love it, I love it, I love it.  Smith plays to his strengths without being held captive by them.  There still is plenty of mellow here, but there's also experimentation.  

      In the end what comes through is the combination of confident experience with the restless energy of an artist.  It's just another amazing offering from a great musician.

      CD Placement Rating: You want to guess? Car iPod.

      - Snilch

      Monday, December 29, 2014

      NYPC - The Numbers (2013)

      In 2007, New Young Pony Club released Fantastic Playroom, which was a great start for a young band, and included the epic song "The Bomb."  They were a young five-piece indie rock dance band from the UK on their way up, and with ridiculous upside.

      Flash forward to 2013.  They've changed their name to NYPC, are on the third album... but now they're a two-piece band, and sound kind of tired.

      What happened?  I wish they could go back to 2007... well, why describe it.  I know this is the wrong album, but check this jam out:

      Then:  New Young Pony Club, 2007 - "The Bomb."  NOT on this album.

      Here's NYPC, 2013:


      Now:  New Young Pony Club, 2013 - "Hard Knocks."  This IS on this album.

      Instant analysis:  just not good.  What happened?

      CD Placement rating:  Sell-back 1.  Only "Overtime" (which may or may not make it anyways) gives this one a reprieve from the Pile of Death.

      - Snilch