Even if you live in the Pacific Northwest, Boise is still in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere. But the second annual Treefort Music Festival, held a few weeks back, is essentially the greatest reason for a non-fly-fishing-aficionado to ever come to Idaho. Any festival at which Built to Spill plays every night of is worth trekking too though, and I’m slightly ashamed of myself for not heading out there for this one.
On the closing night of the fest, Built to Spill played a set composed entirely of cover songs. It touched on a little bit of everything that Doug Martsch is into: Dinosaur Jr., Metallica, Blue Oyster Cult, Neil Young, Dylan… but most importantly Pavement. Hearing one of your favorite bands play one of your favorite songs by one of your other favorite bands is not something that happens often, and I presume there are a large group of 90′s indie-rock nerds like myself who realize this is one of the greatest things to ever occur in the history of mankind. Pavement has a fairly massive catalog, and while I saw them on both sides of the country during their reunion tour a few years back, “Here” was an illusive cut to catch. So yada, yada, backstory… here’s all I’m saying…
I fuckin’ love Pavement. And I fuckin’ love “Here” – it’s one of my Top 10 songs of all time. And goddamn, do I fuckin’ love Built to Spill. So yeah, this video brought a weird spiraling tear of existential reality to my eye. Too bad it cuts out before the end.
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…
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.
Two years ago, I fell in love with Youth Lagoon‘s debut album. It’s been in fairly regular rotation since then, but I think it’ll be a long time before I listen to it again – that’s how great this new record is. The kid laid down all his chips on this one, and such ambitious feats don’t usually result in such triumphant brilliance as this record. There’s a couple of songs on here that I plan on listening to for a long fucking time. Read the full review HERE at State of Mind. Here’s a snippet of the review and a clip of my favorite cut.
…The biggest improvement upon the last record though, is that you can actually understand the words Powers sings on Bughouse. No longer shyly hiding behind an ocean of reverb, he proudly sings his dogmatic epiphanies — at times sounding like a young kid explaining his first acid trip to his older brother, and at other times making some relatively poignant statements about temporal existence. “Dropla” may be the first time I’ve ever been genuinely moved by the existential statements of someone a decade my junior. The true moment of consummation appears in “Raspberry Cane.” The first two minutes are like being absorbed Tron-style into an Atari 2600, then it suddenly opens into a circular McCartney descension that you wish would never end. If this was the new David Bowie album, people would have called it one of the greatest records of all time, but Mr. Stardust hasn’t been this blown away by the universe in 40 years. These are the lofty dreams of a young kid from Boise, and that makes them far more relevant than the croons of a Brixton chap in his sixties…
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” -