The most wholeheartedly bumming music news for me so far this year was the recent announcement that Daniel Blumberg has quit Yuck. Their 2011 self-titled debut album is one that I would easily put into my Top 20 post-2000 records list. It reminded me of Pavement, it gave me confidence in the slacker-rock resurgence, and I played the living shit out of it for a solid year and a half. In fact, I played it so much that when I listen to it now it makes me fondly reminisce about a time in my life which was only a year ago, and to fondly reminisce about such recent times is an odd sensation to have. Here’s the thing though: as much as Yuck is cohesively a fuckin’ amazing band, they’re very much led by the English drawl of Blumberg. Sure, he collaborated with fellow guitarist Max Bloom on several of the tracks, and Bloom even sang lead on one cut, but Blumberg, the reclusive fellow clad in denim was quite blatantly the focal point of the band. The band has just announced that it has started recording its sophomore album sans Daniel, and the question arises within me of whether I really will care what it sounds like. The nature of a frontman leaving is such an odd thing to deal with when it comes to a young band.
When Zach De La Roca was done with Rage Against the Machine, I was thoroughly intrigued (but disappointed) with Audioslave because I had crafted such a deep subjective relationship with the members of that band. It’s the same reason I waited and waited to hear Zach’s solo work, One Day as a Lion, which I was much more pleased with. And then there comes the situation of Stone Temple Pilots, who recently announced they have officially fired Scott Weiland. Sure STP was always fun – but do I really care about hearing that band with a new frontman? To be honest, when I just looked up the names of the other band members I realized that I had never heard them ever before in the past 20 years. Likewise, would I have any desire to hear whatever project Weiland forms next? Not really… more so than whatever his ex-bandmates put out, but I don’t really care what that junkie tries to create with somebody else. They were collectively that band, and I don’t think they can have any success without each other. So in other words, despite how cordial or crappy the split may be, it’s really fucking tough to continue without your main guy. Sure AC/DC were able to pull it off, and Van Halen kind of pulled it off, but what about these young cats in Yuck?
I think the main essence of the situation is that it’s hard for any band to really break onto the scene these days. So I’m sure that while the remaining members of Yuck would probably like to continue with a different band name, they can’t attempt to start from scratch after all the recognition they’ve gained with their name. On the other hand, Blumberg has had his individual name put out there enough that he can potentially survive with a new endeavor, which this morning we learned he is about to try. His new solo project is going to be released in July, and he’s calling the new group Hebronix. The album is called Unreal. You can stream the title track below and it’s fuckin’ fantastic. In fact, it’s so great, and such a positive extension of the Yuck sound, that it’s making me wonder what Yuck is going to be able to manifest without him. I’ll give their new record a chance when it comes out, but if nothing grabs me right off the bat then I’m definitely sticking with team-Hebronix. Sure I hope that both albums will be great, but I’m having doubts by hearing how much I love this new track from Blumberg. It’s interesting to hear how he talks about the future of Yuck in the interview I did with him last year… Read the full thing HERE and give the new track a listen below…
It’s hard to write completely non-subjective album reviews of records by close friends, and for that reason I never reviewed Benny Yurco‘s solo debut from last year. But with a year to form an objective stand point and the news that a new record is on the way, I thought it was time to finally give it a crack…
If you know Benny from any of his other bands – Blues and Lasers, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, or Turkey Bouillon Mafia (be still my heart) – then the most surprising thing about his solo debut will be the substantial lack of incendiary axe shreddage. Chalk it up to the strength of Yurco’s songwriting though, for the majority of these tunes are in no need of grandstanding filler. There are a number of sonic cues here taken from the pallet of co-collaborator Seth Kaufman’s doo-wop/dub band Floating Action, but there’s a refreshing audaciousness here that’s never been present on Kaufman’s solo works.
Opening cut “Seasons Failed to Bloom,” gives a good sense of the gameplan – imagine the album Wayne Cohen would make if he were locked in a Kingston Studio, running low on canned goods, nearing the brink of complete delusion and existentially saturated by his present state-of-mind. The title track sounds like a Bunny Wailer cut, and the rustic warmth it bleeds of is a clear reason why analog tape was used for the recording. For the most part, this is music that sounds best in its rawest form, although some tunes do scream to be released from their laissez faire approach. “Contempt of Court” thrives in this setting though; emitting a crackly 70’s vibe that sounds like something Randall “Pink” Floyd would play when the sun starts to rise on the moon tower. It also contains the greatest Grateful Dead/indie-rock crossover reference of all time – “We’re built to last not built to spill.”
The up and down side of recording to tape is that all these tracks are 1st takes – it’s ideal for capturing the lax nature of the music, but problematic when it comes to capturing the majestic nature of a track so huge as “Times They Were OK.” For a song that sounds like the idealized vision of what Dinosaur Jr. would sound like if George Harrison were in the band, I would have loved to hear another crack taken at it. These gripes about perfection are somewhat irrelevant though, as the charm of This is a Future lies in the embrace of its natural blemishes. Everybody knows you’re not supposed to polish off a beautiful layer of patina, and most of these cuts would sound forced if there was a misdirected attempt to make them radio friendly. “Meet Again” for instance, feels like a stoned Rubber Soul track salvaged from the cutting room floor, and any desire to stray from that sound would be senseless. Hopefully on future records Yurco won’t be so modest when it comes to showcasing his technical ability on the guitar, but for now this is an incredibly impressive debut for someone who’s had fans waiting for one for nearly a decade.
You can buy the record at www.bennyyurco.com
I’ve always been a casual fan of Yo La Tengo. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the hell out of them, but I haven’t yet fully absorbed their 30-year catalog. I did play the hell out of I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass when it came out in 2006, but I’ve been slow at diving into their other 12 albums past that. And admittedly, while I love the vast diversity of tunes they put out on each album, I always find myself skipping to the softer, more delicate tunes. That’s why I’ve been loving the fuck out of their newest, Fade. Their new record does something none of their others ever have – it nestles into a specific pocket and stays there. There’s no flip of the game from stretched out punk rockers to ethereal drifters. Rather, the whole record stays in that whispering stillness that is known to frequently permeate their sound. This is the kind of mellow music that Grizzly Bear tries with all their might to create, but has never really pulled off. While the kids in Grizzly make incredibly boring albums with no direction, and then bitch about not getting nominated for a Grammy, the brilliant hearts of Yo La Tengo make amazingly melodic songs that draw you in, wrap their arms around you, and squeeze out your darkest fears and comforts – and I can guarantee they couldn’t give two shits about winning any awards. And mind you, this is a simple indie-rock band fronted by Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley – two brilliant and gentle folks who have been married for 3 solid decades and who seem to have no other desire than to make music and be joyous with one another. And with the recent bummering divorce of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Ira and Georgia have become the go-to couple for the definition of true indie love. But what’s really amazing is how they write songs, especially on Fade, that touch so perfectly on the emotions of fear and uncertainty when it comes to love and life itself. In other words, these people keep it more real than the cracks in your driveway. As its title suggests, this is a record that could seemingly fade out at any point, but instead it lingers, and it multiplies, and it echoes back into itself thematically and emotionally. It’s one of those albums that when you listen to in solitude late at night, you let out those big sighs where you admit to yourself how great it is to be human – one of those albums where you reminisce on lost love and feel blessed for the lessons you have learned. And in many ways, Fade is the definitive realization of what 2013 sounds like… the world didn’t blow up, we’re still here, shit’s pretty fucked up all over, there’s a lot of shit we need to fix, but we can all accept ourselves for ourselves. There’s no need anymore to hide or even to put on a show – this is the time to be. Just to be. So despite how epic people may tell you 1993′s Painful is, or how brilliant 1997′s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is, Fade is the first truly essential Yo La Tengo album of their career. You don’t’ want to not have this record in your heart. Don’t let it pass you by.
Here’s the video for “I’ll Be Around” from Fade - one of the most beautiful music videos I’ve ever seen.
The sudden arrival this weekend of the first My Bloody Valentine album in 22 years caused music-heads the world over to unexpectedly shoot their loads all over the goddamn place. Most indie-kids had gotten so used to living with the half-chubbed boner that Loveless left them with in 1991, that they had become completely oblivious to the fact that they had spent the past two decades in constant half-aroused anticipation. When Kevin Shields decided that the unannounced arrival of his band’s new record would be the ideal drop, tens of thousands of folks worldwide had an inner sonic explosion akin only to the greatest prepubescent ejaculation of their childhood years.
But seriously, the release of m b v is a huge fucking deal. Imagine if after The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965, they waited til 1987 to release Revolver. That’s the equivalent gap between moments of magic we’re currently experiencing here. And yes, believe it or not, this new record totally lives up to it’s long-lost father. If this record had come out in 1993, it would have been met with just as much equal praise as it is today – a worthy successor to a breakthrough moment in rock’s history. Sure, there’s a touch more sense of melodic flow to the new album, but it still quintessential My Bloody Valentine – quivering echoes of electric squeeze, and the definitive calling cards of everything we like to call shoegaze. What’s most impressive though, is that despite the hundreds if not thousands of indie-rock bands that have tried to sound like MBV over the years, this is the only time there has ever been new music that is unmistakeably this same band. Despite every hip girl on the planet wanting to, nobody has ever sounded like Bilinda Butcher, and amazingly her voice sounds just as ethereal, and spookily heartwarming here as it did half a lifetime ago. Most importantly though, this band has possible one of the greatest legacies in rock history. And to have the confidence and skill to not fuck that up is one of the greatest accomplishments any band has ever pulled off. Think about how much you hung your head in shame when Jane’s Addiction started recording horrid new music. And think about how stoked you were when Pavement returned and played nothing but their old shit. So hats go way the fuck off to Shields and company here – good to have you all back.
In honor of my giddy exuberance for seeing one of my all time favorite bands to ever exist in the universe play at the tiny Doug Fir Lounge tonight in Portland, I thought I’d do an “official” ranking of their albums. Folks are always asking me where to start with Built to Spill, and I usually get flustered in the moment as my love for the entire catalog rushes through my head. And truly, there isn’t really a “bad” Built to Spill record out there, let alone really a bad song. So while I could escalate this list to include anything that Doug Martsch has ever done, and every EP they’ve ever released, I’m gonna keep it strictly to the main albums – which conveniently equal 10 as of now. Once you’ve brought all these into your life, then you can get the solo album, and the Halo Benders albums, and the Treepeople records, and for the love of God the vinyl EP of “They Got Away,” but for now let’s start here. Here are the greatest Built to Spill albums. From worst to best…
This mid-2000′s record was the only time where things just didn’t seem to really click. It could have been the exclusion of Phil Ek as producer, or just the drain of the Bush-era, but it’s definitely my least listened-to record of theirs. Although, closing track “The Wait” is one of my all-time favorites.
Sure, technically this one probably shouldn’t be on the list since it’s actually more of a collaborative record with fellow Boise band Caustic Resin. However, both bands have shared members at various points and we can’t neglect to have this album which opens with the classic “When Not Being Stupid is Not Enough.”
The first record has its moments where Martsch is obviously way in love with Dinosaur Jr., but that is in no way a bad thing. It doesn’t really have a specific stand-alone tracks, but it’s still a classic Portland late-afternoon, happy-hour bar album. Maybe the best background record the band created.
Basically a compilation record of singles and outtakes from the first few years of the band, this album contains my go-to version of their classic track, “Car.” It’s a lot rawer than the other studio version, but has a lot more spunk to it. Also has the great “So & So, So & So From Wherever Wherever.”
The really cool kids will try to tell you that this second full-length album is their finest work – before the band got all “polished up.” It definitely is the first time we realize that Martsch is gonna put his entire bleeding heart and soul into his music, and that he has the potential for being the soundtrack to your life.
A solid record from front to back, and a worthy successor to the brilliant Keep it Like a Secret in 1999. Opening track “Strange” is probably my go-to song in life to get my head back to normal after moments of deep sadness, frustration, or anger. Maybe the most forgotten and hidden gems of any album.
A perfect glimpse of the true power. A few tracks from both Perfect From Now On and Keep it Like a Secret, a brilliant version of the original Halo Benders’ track and my favortie song of all time, “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain,” awesome take on Love as Laughter’s “Singing Sores Make Perfect Swords,” and a 20 minute “Cortez the Killer.” Essential stuff.
Nearly 20 years deep, and the guy makes one of his greatest albums ever. The brilliant “Hindsight,” the incredibly brutal “Things Fall Apart,” and the overwhelming faith that bands can still be amazing and prolific as they get older. A great starting point for new listeners.
There’s always debate between this and my number one for which is more amazing, but there’s no doubt this albums is a key part of my DNA. It always felt to me like a record of J. Mascis fronting the Grateful Dead. There’s a reason they did a 2008 tour playing this record in its entirety – “Made Up Dreams” is as close as you can come to a perfect song.
Surely the easiest way to convert any newbies to the band. Despite some folks thinking this was the over-polished, quasi-sell-out moment for the band, this is actually when the true power of Built to Spill came into fruition. Every song is a stand-alone classic – “Sidewalk,” “Timetrap,” the genius “You Were Right” – this is the record that made me fall in love with this band for the rest of my life.
Here’s “Strange” -
Low-fi as all fuck. That’s what sums up the latest official video release from the wonder-boys in Dr. Dog. Essentially their buddy took the first video he ever made as an awesomely young child and set it to the music of “Do the Trick” off this year’s Be The Void. You know those awesome Star Wars toys that you lost down a sewer drain when you were 5 and that are now worth several hundred dollars? Well this young entrepreneur had the motivation to make an entire stop-motion reproduction of Empire Strikes Back with them. Flash forward 30 years to where he adds a couple digital light-sabers, and suddenly the innocent imagination of that creation meshes perfectly with the honest reality and low-fi dream-scape that is Dr. Dog’s music. The embrace of the innocence is essentially the tying factor with both pieces of art here. This video isn’t intended to win any awards, or even to go viral – its only intent is to make you sit back and enjoy the wonders of youth and life and this goddamn friggin’ amazing band. Enjoy.
I’ve been a fan of The Philistines Jr. for about 17 years or so – ever since my older brother came back from his house in Port Chester, NY with their CD The Sinking of the S.S. Danehower and said “Listen to this album my roommate made – I think you’ll like it.” Now this was a time in my life when I essentially listened to The Grateful Dead, Phish, and Medeski, Martin & Wood. So a wickedly low-fi indie album predominately featuring shitty drum beats from a Lowrey Organ was pretty far away from my comfort zone. But the brilliant simplicity of the lyrics, the fact that I knew someone in the band, and the embrace of its own definition of pop music basically triggered a twitch in my head that would forever affect how I came to know and love all music.
I never realized that singing about bringing enough cords to a gig because there’s no Sam Ash near the venue, or about buying your friend’s parents a new vase from Caldor’s were lyrical references that could actually sound beautiful, but now those lines give me goosebumps just thinking about them. So while I highly recommend the Danehower album, which you can still order HERE from their website, most folks will probably resonate more with the much more well produced 2010 release,If a Band Plays in the Woods… Sure it took Peter Katis 10 years to finish it, but it’s worth it. Him and his brother Tarquin have an undeniably true passion and grasp on the essential things in life and music. As Peter says, “Write about what you know, so I write about my brothers and writing songs and home life and recording our band and other people’s bands.” When I first heard the opening cut, “Bus-Stop Song,” I literally listened to it 7 times in a row.
Now the Philistines are suddenly getting paid attention to as Peter has been gaining quite the reputation as a producer. Making albums in the comfort of his Connecticut home studio, he has been the go-to guy in the past few years for bands like Jonsi (of Sigur Ros) and The National. But his latest star attraction has been for Trey Anastasio of Phish – producing Trey’s newest solo release Traveler. And since Trey and Phish are the most over-analyzed band on the face of the planet, and since Trey mentioned that The Philistines Jr. played with Phish at some point in the 80′s, suddenly a bunch of websites want to know who these guys are and pretend like they’ve known the band all along. Most notably is the hippy mag Relix, who probably had never heard of this band, but since Trey said something they thought they’d be cool and do a feature on them. And I’m sure that the Katis brothers thought that the Relix office would be the last place they’d ever be asked to come and perform, but that they did, and below is the absolutely, utterly beautiful, quasi-acoustic performance they recorded just recently. And might as well include the entire soundclouod link of their latest album. Do yourself a favor and bring these guys into your life.
It sucks to dis-hype any music by saying it sounds so particularly like anything else, but there’s no doubt that this 21 year old kid from England is the greatest champion of mid-90′s indie rock and shoegaze since My Bloody Valentine started a reunion tour. As I say in the interview – When I first heard Yuck’s debut LP last year, it wasn’t so much that is sounded like I was listening to Pavement as much as it felt like I was. Here’s a snippet but read the whole interview HERE at State of Mind.
Well, we wrote and recorded the music in… a timeframe. And I listen to music, well, I feel young with music. I think I was 17 when I started to really listen to records and discover labels. For me and Max, we still need to listen to, like, the most important bands — ones we’ve never heard before. So we go through massive phases with bands where we get really, really into something. And there are bands or artists that we always go back to, but sometimes when people ask that it’s quite confusing. Some bands Max likes a lot more than me, but I completely understand when people compare us to the 90s because I find that a lot of my favorite music comes from that time.