Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jonathan Boulet's - Gubba (2014)

Thanks to William Ruben Helms for this one, who you all should be following on twitter -- @yankee32879. (I assume, of course, you are already are following me @snilch. Of course!) The headline for this album is:  "Imagine The Cramps Went Mainstream." Vocally, musically, and stylistically, Boulet is a smoother, pop-friendlier version of the underground legends. He's got that same twisted '60s music meets surf-type guitar vibe... just a lot more polished. The other touchstone here is The Nomads -- on songs like "Creeper," even the harmonies are dead ringers for them.

So if you like The Nomads (like Bubba) or 60s revival-ish acts (like Andrew), you'll definitely love this one.

Jonathan Boulet - "Creeper"

"Hold It Down" is the definite standout here, but "You're a Man" and "Set it Off" (which verges into Stone Roses territory) are also very strong. (Pretty much any three-word title on this album gets a thumbs up from me, apparently.) "Strut King" is also interesting. Overall: a very nice album.

CD Placement Rating: Portable CD Case.

- Snilch

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dum Dum Girls - Too True (2014)

You need about five seconds of listening to the first track off of the Dum Dum Girls album Too True ("Cult of Love") to recognize that this is going to be a damn fine listening experience.

It's easy, breezy, smart, and complicated alt pop with dance elements and a bit of 80s nostalgia. Think great pop elements without being cliché or trite. Sounds a little like Northern State mashed up with Kill Hannah. Or maybe Eve's Plumb. Throwing Muses? Whatever. They sound good.

The band is really a two person project:  Dee Dee writes all the songs, and is credited with vocals, guitars and bass; Sune Rose Wagner handles the drums, synth programming, and additional guitar and bass. It's pretty amazing that such a disparate layered sound could come from two individuals.

But back to the songs. The second track, "Evil Blooms," is great. The third track, "Rimbaud Eyes," is great. The fourth track, "Are You Okay?" is... well, it's only okay. But the fifth track, "Too True to Be Good," is great. The sixth track, "In the Wake of You," is great.  And so is "Little Minx" and "Trouble is My Name." I'm not as huge a fan of "Lost Boys and Girls Club," but they did choose it as a single, which means (based on past experience) others will think it's the best song on the album, and I will think it's just okay.

Dum Dum Girls - "Rimbaud Eyes"

Overall, this is simply a fantastic, fun album. What a pleasant, enjoyable listen.

CD Placement Rating: Car iPod.

- Snilch

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Thalia Zedek Band - SIX (2014)

After spending five years on the sidelines, Thalia Zedek made up for lost time in the last three years: releasing the full-length Via in 2013, reuniting her former band Come (with Chris Brokaw) for a series of live shows, and the 2014 EP SIX

This is a pretty tuned down affair -- but give Zedek a break, she probably needed time for quiet reflection based on the flurry of recent activity.

So this is a little more sparse and melancholy than previous offerings. You need to be in the right mood for this one; on one of my first listens I almost fell asleep. Not because it was so bucolic, more that I was not ready for the quiet, almost gentle nature of this album.

The highlight for me was "Dreamalie." I actually wish this was a full-length album, as I think it would be far more interesting to hear a full 45-60 minutes of this more contemplative material. As it is, it's damn fine stuff. As long as I'm not sleepy, of course.

CD Placement Rating: Portable CD Case.

- Snilch

Friday, May 15, 2015

Boris - Noise (2014)

First impression:  Boris is a heavier Sun Dial. This one is heavy and it's good. (Bubba's headphones will be blasting this shortly, I'm sure.) 

I've heard Boris before -- I bought 2006's Pink (in 2006 no less, Barry) but really didn't like it.  They have progressed significantly since then; this is smoother, while still embracing their penchant for experimentation.

It's abrasive and slightly amped up metal, while retaining the melody. "Vanilla" is a highlight. On songs like "Heavy Rain," they sound a lot like Jesu's trademark "dirge metal," which is always a good thing in my book (and I'd guess Martin's as well). In general, it's a little all over the place; I had to check to make sure this wasn't a compilation. (It's not.) And yes, there is an 18 minute long track on this album -- "Angel," which is awesome.

Boris - "Vanilla" (no, not the 18 minute long track)

There's more to like here than not, but it's a touch inconsistent.  Not for those afraid of the rawk.

CD Placement Rating:  High-end Portable CD Case, low-end Car iPod.

- Snilch

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sun Kil Moon - Benji (2014)

Even by Mark Kozelek's standards, the confessional nature of the latest Sun Kil Moon album is like listening to an open wound. It's a typical music offering from Sun Kil Moon, but the personal aspect of this album is quite deep and, frankly, shocking.

"Carissa" deals with a second cousin who died in a fire, and Kozelek's attempts to reconcile his death and his grief. That's the first track on the album. The second song is called "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love." Here's a lyrical sampling:

"My mother is 75
She's the closest friend I have in my life
Take her from me, I'll break down and ball

And wither away like old leaves in the fall." 

And another:

"My mother is 75
One day she won't be here to hear me cry
When the day comes for her to let go
I'll die off like a lemon tree in the snow
When the day comes for her to leave
I won't have the courage to sort through her things
With my sisters and all our memories
I cannot bear all the pain or the weight."

That's all from the second song on the album. At this point, I'm thinking we'll get a slight reprieve from this bleak landscape. The third song, "Truck Driver" begins, "My uncle died in a fire on his birthday." And we haven't even gotten to the song about the tragedy in Newtown.

Sun Kil Moon - "Pray for Newtown"

I could go on -- this is seriously the tip of the iceberg. It's gut-wrenching; when it's not tragic, it's a detailed description of his sex life (chronological by partner) in "Dogs," and when it's not personal, it's something like "Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes." (I am not making that song title up for effect either.) The stream of consciousness delivery is a constant, eerie, matter-of-fact solidity that makes the experience even more jarring. But in the most genuine and touching way.

As haunting and down as it is, it's constructed with care and beauty. It's a reality show, if you took "reality" to its literal definition, as opposed the manufactured, packaged, and scripted reality you see on TV. It's dark, but it shines.

CD Placement Rating: Car iPod. 

- Snilch

Monday, May 11, 2015

Strand of Oaks - Heal (2014)

I knew nothing about this band going in; thus, the album was a very pleasant surprise, like finding you have a lot in common with someone you just met.  

Strand of Oaks turns out to be primarily Steve Clements playing drums and Timothy Showalter writing the songs, singing, and playing the bass and guitar. (And the piano and synths when required too.) A few songs have guest appearances (most notably J Mascis for guitar duties on one song), but generally it's the Showalter show.

It's a confessional album, as the liner notes attest: it "forced [him] to deal with the last ten years of [his] life." It's very good rock: melodic with elements of pop, but with an edge and a reality that hits home. Excellent, solid overall. But then the song "JM" happens...

Strand of Oaks - "JM"

The song is about the late Jason Molina, the frontman for Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co, who died at 39 in 2013 due to complications resulting from his battle with alcoholism. It's a heartbreaking tribute to someone who clearly touched Showalter. The song is, simply, a tour de force. Head and shoulders above the rest, it's clearly the best song on an already excellent album. An inspired and moving tribute both musically and lyrically.

Take seven minutes out of your life and listen to the song. You will not regret it.

What shines throughout the album is a wistfulness and nostalgia, fueled by self-examination and remorse; Showalter re-lives times that meant so much to him today but will never come again. It's a very well-crafted confession, and we are all better for being able to listen in.

CD Placement Rating: Car iPod.

- Snilch

Friday, May 08, 2015

Jack White - Lazaretto (2014)

Let's get the unpleasantries out of the way.  I've never really liked Jack White. His music, what he stands for, what he says. Just not a fan.  

I heard, however, that this album was great. And as much as I was loath to pick up this album, I at least knew that 1) it was going to be a tough sell going in, and 2) nothing would make me happier when, inevitably, I was able to tell everyone that they were wrong and that this album sucked.

Thus, I am not a very happy camper at the moment.

Because... despite my preconceived opinions and my wishes for my own happiness, this album unfortunately rules. It's just great. I am so sorry to have to say that, but it's true. It's a great album. There, I just threw up in my mouth.

Sonically, it's got a spectacular range. The piano and organ? The jazz drumming? Yes, these are both awesome. But outshining them all is fuzz-tone guitar, which is just ridiculous -- it's a great sound and one White clearly was able to amazingly lock into. It's big, fat, and thick, and expertly played throughout, particularly on "High Ball Stepper." 

This album ranges from rock to country, with all expertly handled and finessed. It's got it's own pace, and you feel like it's the right one no matter what it is. The first song, "Three Women," is even a little reminiscent of Frank Zappa. There, I just threw up in my mouth again.

Jack White - "Lazaretto"

Even the lyrics aren't high-handed here.  "Just One Drink" and "Alone in My Home" remind me of The Beatles' White Album. This whole situation is officially pissing me off.

Bottom line: even a hater like myself can't deny how excellent this album is, no matter how hard I try.  It's just fantastic.

CD Placement Rating: Car CD Changer.

Merch Rating: I will buy this on vinyl. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. I hate myself and what I have become.

- Snilch