Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: suede

My Top 10 Albums of 2016

(feat. track – Dinosaur Pile-Up – “Bad Penny” [spotify] from Eleven Eleven)

[Posted 1/3/18] So… I was going through the blog to make some updates and found my 2016 “Best Of The Rest” lost in a draft. Of course, I never did get around to doing write-ups of my top albums for 2016 – or even posting them on the main blog! – much less posting what didn’t quite make it. (The list is, and will remain, over at the Top Tens page.)

Still, this blog feels incomplete without the list living here, even sans commentary, so I’m popping in to retroactively post it, along with the Best Of The Rest list I had written up at the time.

So without further ado…

MY TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016

10. Myrone – Drift Stage Vol. 1 [spotify]

9. Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini [spotify]

8. 18th and Addison – Makeshift Monster [spotify]

7. Boys Night Out – Black Dogs EP [spotify]

6. Cash Cash – Blood, Sweat & Three Years [spotify]

5. Garbage – Strange Little Birds [spotify]

4. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It [spotify]

3. Kitten – Heaven Or Somewhere In Between EP [spotify]

2. David Bowie – Blackstar [spotify]

1. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo [spotify]

 

THE BEST OF THE REST

American Football – American Football [spotify]

Bon Iver – 22, A Million [spotify]

Brand New – 3 Demos, Reworked [spotify]

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book [spotify]

Dinosaur Pile-Up – Eleven Eleven [spotify]

The Downtown Fiction – Alligator Tears [spotify]

Frank Ocean – Blond(e) [spotify]

From Indian Lakes – Everything Feels Better Now [spotify]

The Hotelier – Goodness [spotify]

Jeff Rosenstock – Worry [spotify]

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat [spotify]

k.flay – Crush Me [spotify]

King Neptune – A Place To Rest My Head [spotify]

Lights – Midnight Machines [spotify]

Look Park – Look Park [spotify]

The Monkees – Good Times! [spotify]

Moose Blood – Blush [spotify]

Pity Sex – White Hot Moon [spotify]

Suede – Night Thoughts [spotify]

Tancred – Out Of The Garden [spotify]

Discovering Our Lady Peace


In 1994, I was a member of an internet mailing list for the band Live (who I will someday write about at proper length), and one of the hot topics of discussion between a couple of the list regulars that spring was a young band from Canada who were making some waves up there. Our Lady Peace didn’t have any kind of footprint in the US yet, but the chatter was such that I was convinced to go to my local record shop (RIP Toones, home of weekly super-discount sales and a dollar bin i would spent hours trawling through, incredibly rude employees who never remembered me despite my buying multiple CDs virtually every weekend for years, and also apparently home of some tax cheat scheme that eventually got the place shut down) and shell out $30 for an import copy of their debut album Naveed, which wouldn’t be released stateside for another year.

It was easily the best $30 bucks I’ve ever spent on a piece of music.  From the first electric notes of “The Birdman,” with that incredible Mike Turner tone full of weird overtones and harmonics, I was head over heels for the band, and of everything I was listening to at the time (the aforementioned Live, The Shamen, Nirvana, Primus, Suede, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.) they’re the band I still go back to the most. I can listen to Naveed now, and enjoy it not just as nostalgia but as a record that still sounds fantastic, full of incredible songs.  It might be my all time favorite debut album.

Maybe the biggest upshot of finding Our Lady Peace was that it send me on a tear through the early internet to find what else was going on in Canada that I was missing out on, and there were a ton of great Canadian Bands in the 90s who never made their way down here. The two biggest for me were The Tea Party (whose The Edges Of Twilight ranks right up there with Naveed as far as great albums from that time goes) and Moxy Fruvous, but there was a solid chunk of the mid-90s where I was listening to a whole lot of Sloan (who I’d already been a fan of), I Mother Earth, Moist, The Odds, Great Big Sea, the Tragically Hip, 54-40, Treble Charger, Rainbow Butt Monkeys (who later morphed into these actual butt monkeys)  and lots lots more that I’m sure I’m forgetting now.

I’m not going to give a whole OLP history lesson here (that’s why Wikipedia exists), but the band have been through a lot of twists and turns and incredible albums (and a couple duds) over the last 18 years, and I’ve been a fan through it all.

Curve is, to my mind, the best thing OLP have done maybe since Spiritual Machines*. It finds them ranging into all sorts of new territory, from the thick, square synths that open the album at the beginning of “Allowance” (as big as the electro revival has been, I don’t think I’ve heard a synth sound quite like that since early OMD, which is reason enough for me to love it) to the heavy bass groove of “Fire In the Henhouse” (which sounds like it could be a cut originally intended for one of Raine’s solo albums) to “Find Our Way” which shares the spare atmosphere of late-period Thrice and blooms into a fat, fuzzed-out guitar solo straight out of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”. “Heavyweight” takes the classic OLP single formula and adds a new rigidity to it, a stiffened backbone that grooves differently than anything they’ve really done before. (It reminds me a lot of what Jimmy Eat World did with “My Best Theory”). The fact that I keep referencing my favorite bands/songs probably has more than a little to do with how much I love this album. Curve might be OLP’s most bass-forward album since Naveed; the bright, major-key bridge of “Allowance” and the sunny “ooh-ooh” background vocals of “As Fast As You Can” are like nothing else in their catalog.It drags a little bit on the tail end, but it’s ultimately a thrilling ride, the thrill of great songs amplified by the joy in witnessing an old, beloved dog mastering new tricks.

I had the pleasure of seeing the band once more two Thursdays past, and they were as great as they’ve ever been. They played half of the new album and it all translated really well in the live setting; the rest of the set was pretty well divided between the hits (new and old) and some old favorites from their early albums. I’m at a point where most of the bands I grew up with are either no longer together or coasting on the nostalgia circuit; I’m thankful that at least one of them is still pushing themselves creatively, and thrilled at the results that are coming from it.

*though, as much as it hurts to admit it, Gravity has grown on me a lot over the last few years. It was easy to get caught up in my bad feelings surrounding the ickily-calculated move to OLP 2.0 (+ Bob Rock, – Mike Turner), so much so that I think I kind of missed how solid the songs therein were; “Innocent” has long been one of my favorite songs (period), but in addition to that and big hit single “Somewhere Out There”, tracks like “All For You” and “Not Enough” and the b-sides “Whatever” and “Our Time Is Fading” are pretty fantastic.

Preludes for Quaaludes Mix cover art

Preludes For Quaaludes Mix

Preludes for Quaaludes Mix cover art

Part I

It is an absolutely miserable day outside.  It’s just above freezing, but the fine mist that’s falling has turned it into the kind of cold that cuts right through a couple of hoodies and absolutely chills you to the bone.

I generally love winter, but there’s no denying that February can be a hard month.  It’s still dark for most of the day, the snow has gotten wearying, the city is covered in grime, from street to buildings to sky, a pallid gray on gray on gray.

There’s two ways to attack the winter blues.  Sometimes you turn on all the lights, crank up some happy tunes, and pretend that summer is on it’s way.

But sometimes, you just want to wallow in the misery, find its comfortable cracks, like folds in the bedsheets, and slip on inside.  I made a pair of mixes a few years back to fit those moods.

I know I can’t be the only one feeling like this right now. So if you need it, I hope this helps. And if you don’t, grab them anyway, because we’ve all been there and we’ll all be there again.

Here’s to brighter days ahead.

Preludes For Quaaludes

  1. Suzanne Vega – 99.9F°
  2. Sneaker Pimps – Post-Modern Sleaze
  3. The Early November – The Power Of Love
  4. Nick Drake – Things Behind The Sun
  5. Old 97s – Valium Waltz
  6. Shelby Lynne – Black Light Blue
  7. Suede – She’s Not Dead
  8. Slobberbone – Live On In The Dark
  9. Pinback – AFK
  10. Wang Chung – Dance Hall Days
  11. The Dandy Warhols – Good Morning

(click album cover to download)

The Crush – “Jon Is Gone”

The Crush – Jon Is Gone

Saturday night I went and saw Boston’s The Daily Pravda at Trash Bar here in Brooklyn. They’re the newest in a series of bands fronted by Dave Jackel, a college classmate of mine, and it was good to see him for the first time in nearly ten years.  I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia trip since.

Dave and I weren’t exactly friends at Brandeis  (we ran in different circles and didn’t really hang out away from performances), but we were friendly, and I’ve always had a ton of respect for his artistry.   In a way our relationship was symbiotic – I was a writer for our school newspaper, The Justice, and pretty much exclusively handling anything to do with music, so I ended up giving him quite a bit of publicity while he gave me something to write about.

For students at a small liberal arts school just outside one of the biggest college towns (Boston) in the country, Brandeisians at the time were shockingly middlebrow in their tastes. Where you might have expected a breeding ground for, say, indie rock or post-hardcore or math rock or avant jazz, most folks on campus were listening to Dave Matthews Band and Billy Joel and Barenaked Ladies and Phish and Ani DiFranco.  Those tastes were largely reflected in the bands that formed on campus: the jammy Bluehouse Effect, acoustic rockers Huzyerdady, and a number of folky solo performers/duos, not to mention more a capella groups than I could count on two hands (literally!).

Jackel’s The Crush were different.  They went through two incarnations; the first a lively Beatles, Bowie and brit-pop inspired combo of friends from his New Jersey hometown, the second a darker and moodier ensemble from the Boston music scene that drew heavily from Suede and The Bends-era Radiohead.  Both were far artier, stranger, and way more rock-and-roll than anything else we had on campus.  I remember one concert in particular where Dave took the stage doused in glitter, a nod to the glammy genderfuck of Ziggy Stardust and Brett Anderson (the latter of whom he gave a masterful tribute to that night with a sublime cover of “Pantomime Horse”).  He was a performer’s performer, bringing charisma and verve, showmanship and theatricality to the stage in a way that just wasn’t done in Brandeis’ music scene.  (For that matter, it wasn’t really seen much in our theater scene either, which I generally though to be self-important, academic where it should have been artistic, and utterly shameless in its Mamet-worship).

I found The Crush a welcome break from the “aw shucks” hippies and too-serious protest singers that were de rigeur on campus, but while being out of step looks great in hindsight and on paper, in reality I think it really kept them from getting their due.  While they were certainly known – it was a small campus, and there weren’t many bands of any sort – they weren’t exactly popular, and while they had a devoted following, that following didn’t really overlap with the rest of Brandeis’ performing arts scene.

The Crush were flat-out BETTER than anything else Brandeis had going in my four years – they were better musicians, better songwriters, better performers.  In a school ostensibly full of outsider geniuses, they were the weird, misunderstood, arty kid that actually delivered on his promise.  While a number of my classmates have continued on in the performing arts, and a few have found great success in their respective fields (comedian Myq Kaplan and Broadway actress Mary Faber are two examples that come to mind), I don’t know of anyone in a campus band aside from Dave who still makes music.  There’s a compulsion to create that hallmarks true artists, and it’s telling that he’s the last man standing.

I’m looking out my window right now, it’s 6:00 in the morning and I’m watching the snow fall in darkness, fat wet flakes skittering by the streetlight, dropping across and through the tree branches like leaves in autumn.  It’s beautiful and desolate and warmly icy. It looks like The Crush sounded.

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