Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: bob mould

The Best of the Rest 2012

(feat. track – The Forecast – “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts” [spotify] from Everybody Left)

Tomorrow, I’ll unveil my #1 album of the year.  In the meantime, here’s a whole lot of stuff that didn’t quite make my Top Ten Eleven, but still left a big impression in 2012.

I listened to less new music this past year than in any year I can remember, and yet at 34 albums, this year’s Best Of The Rest is the biggest I’ve done yet (arguably too big). I’m not sure how that works out; I suspect it’s because, in limiting my listening time, I mostly keyed in on the stuff I thought I would enjoy the most, for better or worse. Every album that made its way onto this list has merit and, on the right day, could have slipped into the final spot or two on what proved to be a unusually-hard-to-pin-down Top Ten.

Reviews I’ve written on any of these albums are noted. Spotify (or other streaming source) links have been included, where available.

All Time Low – Don’t Panic [spotify]

Are they ever going to live up to their potential? Probably not. But if the All Time Low we’ve got now isn’t the best one imaginable, well that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy the one we have for what it is. Lay aside the lofty expectations set by Put Up Or Shut Up and So Wrong It’s Right (which is more flawed than you remember); tracks like “If These Sheets Were The States”, “So Long Soldier” and “For Baltimore” are packed with exuberance that’s matched only by their soaring harmonies. Don’t Panic isn’t perfect  – it’s lacking a killer single, for one – but it’s the most consistently enjoyable collection All Time Low have pieced together in a long time.

Bob Mould – Silver Age [spotify]

Silver Age isn’t the “return to form” it’s been pegged as (that would be 2005’s exceptional Body Of Song), but it’s shot through with an electric energy that’s been missing on Mould’s last few albums – Bob sounds refreshed, revitalized, in the way that playing with new collaborators frequently seems to make him. It’s also not the near-flawless album some have been made it out to be (“Angels Rearrange” is prototypical Bob-by-numbers; lead track “Star Machine” is essentially a rewrite of the better “I Hate Alternative Rock”), but it’s the most substantive and adventurous one he’s crafted in quite some time. It doesn’t hurt that “Keep Believing” and (especially) “The Descent” rank among the best songs Mould has ever written – a bold statement considering his Bobness now has 20+ albums worth of material under his belt, but a true one nonetheless.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Kiss [spotify]

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was so massive in 2012 that it seemed to take on one-hit-wonder status before a second single had even been released, as though it was such a perfectly suited song for the category that Jepsen’s future (or lack of it) was preordained. I wasn’t as over-the-moon for Kiss as some other critics (for one, a number of its beats feel really dated to me, and not in a retro way), but it’s still a super solid (and super enjoyable) pop record, one that seems to have not received a fair chance.

Circa Survive – Violent Waves [spotify]

Violent Waves, bookended as it is by a pair of seven minute monsters, feels like a reaction to 2010’s more single-oriented Blue Sky Noise. Personally I preferred that album’s concise songwriting to Violent Waves’ spacier sonics, but the band is clearly adept at either style, and in the right mood, I connect to Violent Waves in a way that I wish I did with space metal and post-rock. Those genres, I appreciate; Violent Waves, I enjoy.

Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory [spotify]

Coming from an indie background rather than a “scene” one, Dylan Baldi’s grunge revivalisms have garnered him a heck of a lot more attention than that of bands like Basement and Balance & Composure. Which is not to say that attention is unmerited – tracks like the epic “Wasted Days” and scorching “Stay Useless” recapture the righteous spirit of the early 90s without feeling wholly derivative.

Dads – American Radass (This Is Important) [bandcamp]

Dads aren’t just a band, they’re a movement, or at least they seem to have become unwitting figureheads for one. Partly, credit their facility with in-jokes that seem to catch like wildfire (see: the week everyone on the Internet was suddenly talking about ‘Twinkle Daddies’) and a snarky, fuck-it sense of humor (see: song titles like “Grunt Work (The ’69 Sound)” and its follow-up, “Groin Twerk”) that belies their music’s ragged earnesty. But none of it would matter if American Radass’ combination of mathy leads, scruffy sonics and heart-on-sleeve lyrics weren’t so damned compelling.

Dave Melillo – Eskimo Kisses [free download]

Dave Melillo’s been dabbling in contemporary R&B for some time now, but Eskimo Kisses is the first time he’s fully committed himself to the sound, and while not every track here is a winner (what mixtape is?), the best here rank among the finest work he’s done. Melillo may not have roots in R&B, but he’s clearly no dilettante – there’s no irony in Eskimo Kisses, just a sincere love for the genre that shines through.

[review]

The Early November – In Currents [spotify]

Of the many bands to stage comebacks in 2012, The Early November managed it the best. The band may have spent the last six years on the shelf, but In Currents brings the sort of desperate intensity and world-weary passion you’d more likely expect from a band that had spent the decade actively slugging it out in the trenches. There’s no rest for the weary here, and no concession to age.

Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood Of Colour [spotify]

Enter Shikari’s chaotic mix of aggro agit-prop metalcore and spoonbending dubstep presaged both a generation of clue-deprived Risecore acts and the seemingly-overnight ascent of EDM to youth culture dominance; only three albums in and Enter Shikari already feel a bit like elder statesmen, though their politics remain strictly freshman year. A Flash Flood Of Color uses that flaw to its advantage – the reductionist sloganeering of frontman Rau Reynolds makes for a youthful burst of energy that fuels the band’s turbulent fire.

[review]

For The Foxes – The Revolution [spotify]

For The Foxes are, for my money, the band most likely to repeat fun.’s rise from out of the “scene” to the top of the pop charts. The Revolution trucks in the same sort of mainstream-indie that’s succeeded so well for acts like Neon Trees and Foster The People, with the radio-friendly hooks to match. This one was a near-miss for my Top 10; I suspect I’ll grow to regret that decision, partly because I really do love it, and partly because I’ll have missed an opportunity to look like a genius when they break big in a few years.

[review]

The Forecast – Everybody Left [spotify]

Sometimes a band is so consistently good at what they do that everyone stops paying attention. Which is a shame, because Everybody Left doesn’t just stack up with The Forecast’s back catalog; it’s a fair step better.  It’s easily the most consistent outing of their career, with not a single skipper in the bunch, and its highs (“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts”; “Take Me Down”) rank among the most compellingly passionate tracks the band have released. There are a bevy of acts nowadays trucking in a mix of punk and Americana – The Forecast did it first, and they’re still doing it best.

[review]

Further Seems Forever – Penny Black [spotify]

It’s been an awful long time since Chris Carrabba helmed Further Seems Forever, and at times their reunion album feels more like Carrabba’s recent Dashboard Confessional output than anything FSF did in the post-Carrabba years. But if this isn’t the Further Seems Forever that you’ve come to know, the reunion still seems to have reinvigorated all involved – Penny Black is the best album either half have released in years.

G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer [spotify]

Yes it’s uneven, yes some of these tracks are duds, yes some of the features and collabs should never have been released. Which is to say, this is a mixtape, just as it was advertised to be. A mixtape with a few absolutely essential Kanye tracks, including one that even managed to catch Big Sean at his best. Big Sean – who knew he even had a “best”? Really, if this album was just “Mercy” 16 times, it would have made this list; everything else is just gravy.

Happy Body Slow Brain – Sleepy EP [spotify]

Happy Body Slow Brain’s densely orchestrated, proggy debut LP, Dreams Of Water, didn’t really do it for me. Sleepy strips away much of the extraneous bullshit that bogged that album down; what remains is sweet and beautiful in its simplicity. And the positively sublime cover of Roland Orzabal’s “Maybe Our Days Are Numbered” that caps off the album (which, sadly, isn’t available on Spotify) might be my favorite track of 2012.

[review]

Japandroids – Celebration Rock [spotify]

To my mind, Japandroids split the difference between Husker Du and The Hold Steady; naturally, then, I half-love and half-hate them. Ultimately, though, Celebration Rock’s bristling mix of adrenaline and acceleration overcome the shortcomings in Japandroids’ rosy-tinted teen-steam confabulations.

Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired [spotify]

On Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, Joyce Manor took the leap from raggedy-but-straightforward punk band to something entirely unclassifiable. With a brevity befitting Guided By Voices, Joyce Manor leap from Los Campesinos-style rave-ups to glitchy Casio-core to vaguely Anglican jangle-pop. The centerpiece, a giddy, near-unrecognizable rewrite of “Video Killed The Radio Star” perfectly captures the band’s tunefully sloppy, infectiously reckless gusto, if not their unpinnable sound.

Justin Bieber – Believe [spotify]

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Believe isn’t a great album. It’s overlong, it turns shmaltzy in the middle, some of the beats feel rewarmed. But when it’s good, it’s great; “As Long As You Love Me” rates as my favorite pop radio hit of 2012, by a longshot. Bieber is a singles artist, and Believe is packed with them.

Kevin Devine – Matter Of Time: KD&DGB Live EP [spotify]

Matter Of Time isn’t really an EP; its nine tracks include a twelve minute-long number that incorporates three different songs, and the entire collection weighs in at a hefty 49 minutes. It’s not really live either; rather it was banged out in the studio with Devine’s touring band. The result is the perfect mix of sonic clarity and raw performance; it’s the best of both worlds, and the best Kevin Devine has ever sounded on record.

mewithoutYou – Ten Stories [spotify]

Ten Stories splits the difference between the folky mewithoutYou of It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright and the yelp-y post-hardcore of their earlier work, integrating them in a way that’s more seamless than would seem possible. The most fully-rounded mwY album to date is also one of their best.

[review]

Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream [spotify]

Miguel may have titled his album Kaleidoscope Dream, but while the record doesn’t shy away from the hazy experimentalist thread that seemed so integral to R&B in 2012, those modes never come at the expense of rock-solid songcraft. Kaleidoscope Dream is proof that you can make the game fun and exciting without throwing out the rulebook entirely.

Misser – Every Day I Tell Myself I’m Going To Be A Better Person [spotify]

This collaboration between This Time Next Year’s Brad Wiseman and Transit’s Tim Landers might have begun as a side project, but the resulting album is as compelling as anything its constituent parts have released on their own, blending their affinities for (in turn) pop-punk and late-90s emo into something that resembles a gruffer take on early Taking Back Sunday.

MOD SUN – Happy As Fuck EP [spotify]

The King of the New Hippys was a little quieter this year than usual, focusing on kingdom-building projects like the release of his first book and a collaborative record under the group name Gordon Bombay. But the titular song of the lone EP he released as Mod Sun is also his most contagious track to date, an irresistible burst of sunshine and spirit(s). (It also bears an uncanny similarity to Miguel’s “Do You…”; Mod got there first).

Moving Mountains – New Light EP [spotify]

New Light is comprised of acoustic rerecordings of previously released Moving Mountains songs, but it’s far from perfunctory. Each of the four tracks here is changed significantly from it’s original recording; a few feel wholly reinvented. Moving Mountains’ last full length, Waves, was the band’s most aggressive record; New Light flips that script, with lots of open air and warm strings. It’s not at all what I’d grown to expect from the band, and I think it’s my favorite recording of theirs to date.

[review]

Owl City – Shooting Star EP [spotify] / The Midsummer Station [spotify]

As much as I loved Owl City’s 2009 album Ocean Eyes, I was equally disappointed by its follow-up, the uninspired, same-y All Things Bright And Beautiful. Fortunately, it seems Adam Young was too; The Midsummer Station finds him taking more chances with his sound, alternately cranking up the dance beats and the guitars. The resulting album is fresh and loose.

[review] [review]

Pentimento – Pentimento [bandcamp]

Pentimento’s brand of pop-punk includes tinges of Brand New, Transit, Make Do And Mend, Hot Water Music, and surely plenty of others I’m forgetting. But if they’re not doing anything original on their first LP, Pentimento understand that what made their predecessors successful had as much to do with their songs as their sound. Pentimento is derivative; that it reflects the best parts of its influences makes it enjoyable nonetheless.

R. Kelly – Write Me Back [spotify]

R. Kelly’s retro-tinged Love Letter seemed to garner a lot more attention in 2011 than the sort-of sequel Write Me Back did last year, but for my money the latter is the better of the two.Looking more to the 80’s and 90’s for inspiration than its 60’s soul-oriented predecessor, Write Me Back shies away from R&B’s increasingly heavy indie/experimental influence, offering instead a master class on tuneful traditionalism. “Feelin’ Single” ranks among my favorite tracks of 2012.

The Rocket Summer – Life Will Write The Words [spotify]

Bryce Avary’s one-man band The Rocket Summer have been a personal favorite for a long time now, but while Life Will Write The Words fits comfortably into the band’s canon, the old dog has a few new tricks up its mixed-metaphoric sleeve. Avary’s vocals, in particular, have never sounded so mature and full as they do here; the resemblance to Andrew McMahon is uncanny at times. Meanwhile, the songwriting remains as strong as ever.

[review]

Set It Off – Cinematics [spotify]

At a time when straightforward, no-frills punk is in vogue, Cinematics calls back to the entertainingly over-the-top dramatics of early My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco. I caught Set It Off live a few times in 2012; one of their sets at SXSW ranks among the best I saw all year. Frontman Cody Carson’s got the theater-kid act down; fortunately, he’s also got the pipes to match.

[review]

Sharks – No Gods [spotify]

I’m not sure why No Gods seemed to get lost in the shuffle this year, but Sharks’ profile (in the US at least) seems near-invisible. That’s a shame – Sharks might not be reinventing the wheel, but their brand of no-frills heartland power-pop has tuneful appeal for miles. Perhaps it’s the lack of a killer single to hook people in; I’m happy to settle for a full album’s worth of great songs instead.

[review]

Sparks The Rescue – Sparks The Rescue EP [spotify]

Sparks The Rescue returned to independence in 2012, and the EP they released is a flashback to the last time they were label-free, with some of their heaviest, most emotionally charged tracks to date. As someone who loved the band’s poppy, melodic side, the weighty EP took a little time to cotton to, but beneath its amped-up sonics lie songs as hooky and compelling as anything Sparks The Rescue have done, and in time, the release won me over.

[review]

This Providence – Brier EP [spotify]

After three years caught in label limbo, This Providence made their escape in 2012 and released their comeback EP, Brier. No one noticed. That’s unfortunate – Brier ’s retro rock-and-roll vibes might have been a new look for the notoriously chameleonic act, but the songwriting and hooks that undergird it all were as strong as ever. Undeservedly ignored.

[review]

Thrice – Anthology [spotify]

This career-spanning live double-disc is more than a document of Thrice’s farewell tour, it’s a lasting testament to an act whose mastery of dynamics and irrepressible passion translated beyond the studio confines. Thrice were long one of my favorite acts to see in concert; Anthology makes it clear why.

Title Fight – Floral Green [spotify]

It’s been obvious for a while that there was more going on with Title Fight than with your run-of-the-mill pop-punk band, but I don’t think anyone was expecting this. Floral Green’s mixture of 90’s proto-emo, ripping post-hardcore and tuneful shoegaze-y noise refines the formula from the band’s debut LP Shed, stripping away anything that felt extraneous the first time through. Floral Green is the sound of a band coming into its own.

[review]

With The Punches – Seams & Stitches [spotify]

Seams & Stitches’ speedy, scrappy take on Rufio-esque melodic skatepunk isn’t anything novel, but in a year in which so much of the pop-punk scene seemed to be writing subtle variations (imitations if you’re feeling less generous) on the same song (I love The Wonder Years as much as the next guy, but that doesn’t mean I need ten more of them), With The Punches get points for bucking the trend, and bonus points for doing what they do so well.

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2012 Mixtape

Makeup for the Silence – Best of 2012 Mixtape

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2012 Mixtape

For each of the last two years, I’ve posted here a copy of the CD I had made for that year’s mix exchange on Skyway, the long-running Replacements email list. Unfortunately, through some sort of mix-up, I didn’t end up participating in the exchange this time around, but the year doesn’t feel complete anymore if I haven’t made my mix*!

This year’s was the hardest I can remember, in terms of making my final cutdown; when I took my first pass, I ended up with something like 150 tracks. As with previous years, I’ve left off any big radio hits. That proved much more painful this time out than it did last year – there were a bunch of chart toppers I absolutely loved in 2012 (fun., I’m looking your way; you too, Bieber). But I still had such a glut of tracks to choose from that I don’t feel like I’m losing much by leaving off songs that will still be ubiquitous a decade from now. (OK, maybe we won’t be listening to “Gangnam Style” much in 2022, but we certainly won’t have forgotten it!)

The end goal for me is always to wind up with a mix of tracks I love which both flow together well and paint a reasonably accurate picture of what I was listening to during the year, accounting for genre and style and taste, while also highlighting songs that might have not gotten the notice they deserved during the year. I feel like I managed it well this time out**. But in the end, you get to be the judge: download***, listen, enjoy!

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2012

  1. Everyone Knows – Vacationer
  2. The Descent – Bob Mould
  3. I Guess We’re Cool – Cassadee Pope
  4. Happy As Fuck (feat. Pat Brown) – MOD SUN
  5. Deadheads (Demo) – Cold Crows Dead
  6. Timelines – Motion City Soundtrack
  7. As Good As It Gets (Rollerskate Remix) – States
  8. Find Our Way – Our Lady Peace
  9. Nothing At All – Steven Padin
  10. Scarlett (Tokyo) – William Beckett
  11. Ima Read (feat. Njena Reddd Foxxx) – Zebra Katz
  12. Head In The Ceiling Fan – Title Fight
  13. Maybe Our Days Are Numbered – Happy Body Slow Brain
  14. Oh. Hi. – Now, Now
  15. 25 To Life – Masked Intruder
  16. Street Spirit (Fade Out) – The Darkness
  17. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – Citizen
  18. Good Love – The Maine
  19.  –

click image to download

Stay tuned; the yearly Top Ten will begin on Monday!

*you can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence right over here

**There’s one noticeable gap this time out; I spent a lot more time listening to pop-punk this year than shows up on this mix. Unfortunately, for as much as I heard, not much of it really stood out to me; I feel like this year the genre reached a plateau, with a large number of decent-to-good releases that sounded a little too much (or a lot too much) like each other to really stand out. Some of those will still get a nod on my Albums list, but it felt like there was a dearth of great singles among them.

***Just like last year, I’ve also gone ahead and made a Spotify version of the playlist; unfortunately, this time around a few of the tracks aren’t available, so you won’t get the full experience that way. But hey, if you really want to go that route regardless, who am I to stand in your way?

Welcome to Makeup For the Silence 2.0

Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising

Welcome to Makeup For The Silence 2.0!

When I started this blog in 2009, it was intended as my one outlet for writing about music, something I was lacking after shuttering the AlbumADay twitter feed earlier that year. And so it has been; over the last three years, Makeup For The Silence has grown into a place where longform music blogging and personal storytelling intersect. But in that time, a lot of other things have grown up along with it:

  • As Tumblr’s demographics shifted and the community in which I had carved a little home began to fade away, my personal tumblog slowly began to focus more and more on music.
  • So did my Twitter and Facebook feeds.
  • In what began part lark, part challenge and part favor to a friend, I began writing reviews and doing interviews for PropertyOfZack, and then elsewhere as well, and rediscovered my passion for music criticism.
  • I unearthed some of my oldest and most personal music writing, and made space for both online.

The new Makeup For The Silence collects all of these in one place. The original blog is, and will remain, the site’s centerpiece, but you’ll now find here easy access to everything else I write as well. If it’s a place at which I talk about music, you can get there from here. Consider it “the digital home of music writer Jesse Richman”.

Just as with Version 1.0, I suspect this version of the site will grow and change over time, and frankly that’s half the fun of having your own site. Just as before, I’m looking forward to watching it grow, and grow up.

So, if you’re reading this on the Tumblr dashboard or Facebook or via an RSS reader or something, head on over to the new Makeup For The Silence and poke around a bit; you might find something you hadn’t seen before!

-Jesse

Bob Mould – “The Descent”

I’ve listened to this new Bob Mould single something like ten times in a row now, and I just keep hitting play as soon as it finishes like a caged rat tapping its food pellet button. It’s gone beyond will, it’s instinct now, that insatiable gut-level craving for more!

It’s been a long time since Bob did anything that sounded like this, or with this solid a hook; it feels like it would slot pretty seamlessly into Warehouse, with little splashes of Last Dog And Pony Show (though the solo is straight out of Body Of Song’s “Paralyzed”). I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s the best track he’s done since Body Of Song, though with the vibe of a late-period Huskers number (check the Grant-like background vocals by Jason Narducy!)

I’ll do a big long post on Bob someday around here, but right now I just want to keep replaying this track.

CAN’T. STOP. LISTENING!

Grant Hart Interview: “I love you, but I want to be free to do what I want to do”

How do you think your fans that have followed you since your Hüsker Dü days would react to that?

Maybe it’s time to let them know that, “Hey, I love you, but I want to be free to do what I want to do.” Really, it’s been the last three years. But, I hope Bob knows what he’s getting into with this Sugar reunion. The amount of nostalgia, this midlife crisis. Our older brothers bought Corvettes when they reached 40. Now, people go see a reunited band and yell out the names of 25- to 30-year-old songs, whether that artist is performing them again or not.

Grant Hart has a lot to say about a lot of things, particularly his former bandmates in Husker Du. (via sotc-nyc)

Grant sums up a lot of what I have to say about reunion-mania.  Not that I’m not being kind of hypocritical about it; I’ll be seeing Refused, and I’ll see ATDI whenever they get around to scheduling a NYC date, and I’ll damn sure be there whenever Bob brings Copper Blue up here (I was bummed to miss it during SXSW, but that’s the nature of the beast down there). I went to Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity*10 tour and had a blast. I suppose to me those are about getting to experience songs I never get the chance to hear live anymore rather than actually reliving the original moment.  But I dunno.

I saw Grant down at SXSW, and as he’s wont to be, he was acerbic, irascible, playful and honest all at once.  I actually enjoyed the newer stuff he played better than the “hits”; the Hot Wax material, in particular, translates much better live than it does on record.  I’ll probably see him tomorrow night, if I don’t go to Enter Shikari / letlive, or Marianas Trench instead.

This is a great interview, btw.

(via jrichmanesq)

I’m never quite sure what I should reblog over here from my other blog.  When they started out they were two very different places; this was for sort of longer-form music-related writing, and the other blog was for all kinds of other stuff, the usual tumblr photo posts and reblog-convos and stuff, but over time it’s drifted to where I’m talking primarily about music there as well (albeit in shorter, more respond-y ways).

I think I’m going to try and find some way in my redesign over here to make the connection between the two clearer, if that makes sense?

Either way, this felt like it belonged over here as much as it did over there.

The internet is a weird place.

Sugar – “Judas Cradle”

now playing: Sugar – Beaster [spotify] – Judas Cradle [spotify]

[…]

Listening to Sugar’s Beaster EP. Wow! Always Wow!, every time I listen it manages to hit me clean. A 6 track alt-opera in which Bob Mould proclaims himself Jesus, tears former bandmate Grant Hart a new one, and rips of some of the most mind-shattering guitar riffs ever recorded. Plus, despite Bob’s generally clunky production style, his robo-mechanical technique sparkles all over this half hour masterpiece. A true testament to the ginourmously massive ego that is Bob Mould.

[…]

originally posted 12/11/02

Sugar – “Frustration” (Live)

Sugar – Frustration (Live)

After two decades as a PC devotee (going back to my first computer, a clunky ugly Tandy 1000EX with MS-DOS 2.11 that my family bought when I was five), I finally made the jump to Mac about four years ago, and haven’t looked back.  Or at least hadn’t until about a month ago, when I ran into some issues with the Mac App Store.  The details are unimportant; what’s relevant is that, after two weeks of back and forth troubleshooting, Apple has just completely stopped responding to my emails.  It’s absolutely exasperating; I just wanna install Lion like all the other cool kids!

———————–

Sugar are primarily known as Bob Mould’s post-Hüsker Dü alt-rock vehicle, but just like with the Hüskers, Bob wasn’t the only songwriter in this band.  Bassist David Barbe wrote and sang a number of Sugar songs; only one (“Company Book,” arguably the worst of the lot) made it to a proper album, but a number of others exist as b-sides.  (It’s a real shame, that; “In The Eyes Of My Friends” and “Anyone” and “Where Diamonds Are Halos” are some of my favorite Sugar tracks, and are easily just as good as much of what ended up making the official albums). Many of his songs, but not all, can be found on the posthumous Besides compilation (clever, eh? ok maybe not). When Besides was released, it was accompanied by a live album colloquially titled The Joke Is Always On Us, Sometimes after the phrase that appeared printed on the disc.  That’s where this version of “Frustration” comes from.

While Joke was intended to be a bonus disc, somewhere along the way there was a goof in the production line, and a number of Besides CDs intended for distribution via Columbia House’s CD club were produced with ONLY the live disc; moreover, the disc was screened with the artwork for the main Besides disc, so it was only when you put the CD into your player that the error would become apparent.  And so 14 year old me, having dug the couple Sugar tracks I knew from 120 Minutes and needing to order a couple CDs from Columbia House to pay off the 12-for-a-penny offer I’d taken advantage of the year before, was inadvertently introduced to most of Sugar’s catalog via this live album.  That’s ok – I was sold from the opening chords; it’s been a 15 year love affair ever since.

(An aside – weird to think that the kids now will never know Columbia House, in all its scammy glory!)

The studio version is a studied impersonation of My Bloody Valentine (I don’t know David’s thoughts on MBV, but Bob was very much in their thrall at the time he produced this; for more on the ties between Mould and MBV, look up the story behind the Sugar track “Gift”).  Live, with the amps cranked way way up (Sugar had a reputation for painfully loud performances) and Barbe’s voice unleashed, it becomes a blistering blast of proto-emo, late 90’s style emo, a good half-decade ahead of it’s time.  (Maybe it’s just my personal musical background and my taste biases, but I hear a lot more of this track in bands like Braid and Mineral and Static Prevails-era Jimmy Eat World than I hear Rites Of Spring and such).  It’s one of my favorite songs, and one of my all-time favorite live recordings.

(You can find the studio version on this mix CD I posted here a little while back…)

Barbe (who was in a handful of bands prior to Sugar) went on to record a couple solo albums, but has primarily made his bones as a producer/engineer, and is functionally a studio member of the Drive By Truckers.  But, at least to me, his work with Sugar remains his high water mark as a songwriter.

Hüsker Dü – “She Floated Away”

Hüsker Dü – She Floated Away

I found my way to Hüsker Dü in the mid-90s by way of vocalist/guitarist Bob Mould’s later alt-rock project Sugar, but it’s apparent that by the verge of their demise (the band disintegrated while in the beginning stages of preparing a follow-up to 1987’s Warehouse: Songs And Stories) co-leader/vocalist/drummer Grant Hart’s songwriting talents were beginning to outstrip Mould’s*.  The McCartney to Mould’s Lennon, Hart’s songs tempered Mould’s bristling rage with sweetness, pathos and a knack for killer melodic hooks.

She Floated Away isn’t Grant’s best track on the album – that would be either She’s A Woman (And Now He Is A Man), which features the finest lyric Hart composed, or You Can Live At Home Now, though perhaps credit on the latter goes to Greg Norton’s incredible funky bass hook. But it’s a damn fine song, with a lilting melody that begs to be sung in a brogue and a drum line that perfectly sums up Hart’s approach to his instrument, the punk speed crossed with a jazzy flair that drags just a hair behind the beat, always feeling on the verge of falling apart but somehow hanging together, much like the characters he so frequently wrote about.

Since the demise of the Hüskers, Grant has soldiered on both with a project called Nova Mob and as a solo performer.  His album Good News For Modern Man, in particular, is pretty great; as much as I love Bob, it’s a shame Grant’s latter efforts haven’t had the same sort of visibility.  His most recent, Hot Wax, features some of the best songs Grant’s written to date, and though I have some serious quibbles with the production, it’s worth checking out.  He still tours, often with little advance notice or advertising.  I finally caught him for the first time last year, and it was well worth the wait.  Somehow, he keeps hanging on.

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According to some wackjob with highly questionable math skills, today is supposed to be the day of the Rapture as foretold in the Christian bible.  There are a number of different takes on how the Rapture is actually supposed to play out; one commonly accepted interpretation is that Jesus will call the faithful to him, and they will quite literally float up through the sky to gather in the clouds.

*Mould, ultimately, would benefit greatly from the band’s dissolution; freed from Hüsker Dü’s punk framework, his writing talents exploded in a number of disparate directions which I will no doubt write more on at some other point.  I’ve long been a Bobophile; I’ve seen him upwards of 10 times in concert, I’ve been a (mostly lurking) member of the Sugar mailing list since the mid 90s, and his various guises have been a heavy influence on my musical taste for more than half my life at this point.

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2005

(feat. track – Cartel – “Save Us (Alternate Take)”)

So for the next 4 days I’m going to post my Top 10 lists from the past 4 years, along with one cut from my choice for top album of each year.  Remember, these were the lists as I made them at the time.  In retrospect, there are a lot of great albums from some of these years that I didn’t discover until later, and some of my choices haven’t held up, but that’s the danger anytime you try and make a list I suppose.  These things naturally change over time. So consider these lists a snapshot of my view on each year in music, right at the conclusion of that year.

So with that said, my Top 10 Albums Of 2005 (originally published Jan 2006)

Top 10 Albums of 2005:

10. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
9. Mae – The Everglow
8. Gratitude – Gratitude
7. Bright Eyes- I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
6. Bob Mould – Body Of Song
5. The Rocket Summer – Hello Good Friend
4. Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree
3. Adam Richman – Patience And Science
2. Gatsby’s American Dream – Volcano

and the number one album of 2005 is…
CARTEL – CHROMA

Honorable Mentions:
Alkaline Trio – Crimson
Coheed And Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness
Death Cab For Cutie – Plans
The Higher – Histrionics
Marathon – Marathon
Maria Taylor – 11:11
The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree
Pitty Sing – Pitty Sing

Song of the Year:
(tie)
Maria Taylor – One For The Shareholder
Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Follow You Into The Dark

(I should also note, I’m cheating just a tad here.  The version of Save Us I posted was originally recorded for Chroma, but it was later rerecorded in a different key.  My understanding is that vocalist Will Pugh couldn’t sing it in the original key night after night without shredding his voice – listening, it should be pretty clear why, and also clear why this version not only destroys the album cut but might also be my favorite thing Cartel has ever done).

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