Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: veruca salt

My Top Twelve Albums of 2015

(feat. track – Twenty One Pilots – “heavydirtysoul” [spotify] from Blurryface)

[posted 1/03/18] I never got around to posting my Top Ten for 2015 here on the main blog, so I’m traveling back from the future to edit it in. I also never posted a Best Of The Rest from 2015, but I did find my list I had prepared at the time in an old iPhone note. I have neither the time nor the desire to do any retroactive write-ups, but for the sake of historical accuracy, here we go!

MY TOP TEN TWELVE ALBUMS OF 2015

12. The Maine – American Candy [spotify] / Covers (Side A) [spotify] / Covers (Side B) [spotify]

11. Pet Symmetry – Pets Hounds [spotify]

10. Foxing – Dealer [spotify]

9. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Surf [spotify]

8. Better Off – Milk [spotify]

7. Metric – Pagans In Vegas [spotify]

6. Chris Stamey – Euphoria [spotify]

5. Mayday Parade – Black Lines [spotify]

4. Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes [spotify]

3. Florence & the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful [spotify]

2. Turnover – Peripheral Vision [spotify]

1. Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface [spotify]

 

THE BEST OF THE REST

Baggage – Cheaper Than Therapy [spotify]

Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us [spotify]

Brandon Flowers – The Desired Effect [spotify]

Brian Marquis – I Miss The 90s [spotify]

Coliseum – Anxiety’s Kiss [spotify]

Dariia – Petals [spotify]

Diamond Youth – Nothing Matters [spotify]

The Early November – Imbue [spotify]

Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap [spotify]

Grimes – Art Angels [spotify]

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly [spotify]

Modern Baseball – The Perfect Cast [spotify]

Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass [spotify]

No Devotion – Permanence [spotify]

Pentimento – I, No Longer [spotify]

Petal – Shame [spotify]

SayWeCanFly – Between The Roses [spotify]

The Sidekicks – Runners In The Nerved World [spotify]

Sundressed – The Same Condition [spotify]

Twin Shadow – Eclipse [spotify]

Makeup for the Silence – Best of 2015 Mix

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2015 Mix

A third of this year’s Makeup For The Silence – Best Of mix (the sixth* edition running!) is made up of no-brainer inclusions – singles that blew my socks off from the first listen and held up across the year. The second third was simply a matter of figuring out which of a number of great tracks from the same artists would slot in best. That third third, though… It was an ugly process this year, attempting to sort through the remaining 170-or-so songs in my Top Tracks Of 2015 longlist** – most of which were of roughly equivalent awesomeness – and arrive at something that both encapsulates what 2015 sounded like to me*** and finds some sort of flow.

As a result, this year’s mix would have been very different had I gone down any number of different paths. The mix that I settled on is one that’s a little harder to pin down than in years past. It’s more of a bummer than last year; while that mix had a lot of righteous anger, this one spends more time toying with melancholia. It leans  groove-heavy, like 2013′s mix; but that album was more sunny than this year’s downer disco. It’s sillier than one of these has been in a while, but more ruminative too.

Ultimately, it feels very true to a year where the big highs were nearly matched by big lows, with the two connected by a lot of unsettling space between – both personally, and on a societal level. Plus, not only does it make for a great front-to-back listen, it answers important questions, like: What if the ‘00s premier big dumb hair-metal revivalists set their sites on the sounds brainier heshers like The Cult? What if David Gilmour had been backed by Crazy Horse instead of Pink Floyd? What happens when a largely forgotten college rock fave gets a hold of Ryan Adams’ cast-offs? And, if you grind a man’s rib in a centrifuge, mix it with cardamom and cloves and then microwave it on the “popcorn” setting, what do you get?

Ok, enough blah, blah, blah.. Less talk, more rock I say! The Best Of 2015 is here. Download, listen, enjoy!

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2015

1. Heavydirtysoul – Twenty One Pilots
2. Give Thanks (Get Lost) – Pet Symmetry
3. Laughing In The Sugar Bowl – Veruca Salt
4. Beck And Call – Sundressed
5. The Shade – Metric
6. Black Heart – Carly Rae Jepsen
7. Valkyrie – Battle Tapes
8. Collect My Love (feat. Alex Newell) – The Knocks
9. Thank God For Girls – Weezer
10. Song Of The Sparrow – SayWeCanFly
11. Open Fire – The Darkness
12. Universe-sized Arms – Chris Stamey
13. Revelator Eyes – The Paper Kites
14. In The Clouds – Diamond Youth
15. Shock The Money – Local H
16. Hollow – Mayday Parade
17. Drag Scene – See Through Dresses
18. Dresser Drawer – Better Off
19. The Biggest Bar Night Of The Year – Baggage
20. English Girls – The Maine
21. Baby Love – Petite Meller
22. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) – Elder Brother

click image to download****

Stay tuned, The yearly Top Ten will begin tomorrow soon*****.

*You can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence, as well as all the playlists I’ve contributed to elsewhere, right over here.

 

**I’ve archived my 2015 list and rolled my 2016 one right on top, so if you were subscribed, you should be following 2016 now. If not, follow along right here.

***As always, my “no big pop hits” rule applies – and this time out, be thankful, or else you’d basically have a whole disc of nothing but Drake, Fetty Wap, The Weeknd and Kanye.

****Or stream (most) of it on Spotify here

*****Between caring for an infant, studying for the FL bar exam and some job-related things that are in the works, the timing of this year’s Top Ten may be a little erratic. That said, if all goes as planned, we start counting down… tomorrow!

Simple Math 2015: Simple Math Is Dead; Long Live The Gospel According To Saint Me

Simple Math 2015: Simple Math Is Dead; Long Live The Gospel According To Saint Me

Veruca Salt – The Gospel According To Saint Me

In October, a catastrophic hard drive failure cost me my entire iTunes library – more than 85,000 songs collected over just shy of two decades. (Really! I started building my digital library way back in 1996, with live Husker Du bootlegs acquired from online trading communities and handfuls of punk and ska rarities downloaded off of sketchy FTP servers.) It doesn’t seem recoverable, not without a small fortune, and very possibly not with one either. I haven’t quite decided if I intend to try and rebuild or not. The real value of the collection was the stuff that can’t be found online anymore (or ever); the parts I could replace are the parts that it might not be worth replacing rather than just resigning myself to streaming from now on instead of ownership. Fortunately, my life has been far too busy to spend time worrying about, or even contemplating, what to do.

Not that iTunes would have been much use for my tallying this year’s Simple Math anyway – over the last few years, it’s largely become an archive of non-digitally-accessible tracks and a repository of star ratings, something to track what I’ve listened to and whether I’ve liked it, but not how much I’ve listened to it. And the one thing it was most useful for – keeping track of which albums I listened to over the course of the year – fell by the wayside when I ceased to add albums to my library post-crash. Meanwhile, my Spotify “Year In Music” feature didn’t, so far as I can tell, include anything I played offline, and certainly doesn’t include anything I loaded onto my account locally. And my Last.fm, by dint of not scrobbling Spotify plays on mobile, is essentially useless in providing any kind of accurate stats about my listening this year.

Even if I were able to get accurate stats, I’m not entirely sure what I’d find – this year has been one of change and upheaval, and my listening habits have been as chaotic as the rest of my life. The latter half of 2015 saw the bittersweet end of PropertyOfZack; a relocation from the urban hum of New York City to suburban south Florida; a farewell to six years of steady employment and a hello to a whole lot of question marks; and, six weeks ago, the birth of the most beautiful baby boy in the whole world*. Heck, truth be told, I’ve probably listened to more lullabies – played via Lionel’s sleep machine, by way of a decade-old iPod – in the last month than music the rest of the year combined.

The bottom line is that, after a four year run, the yearly tabulation post I’ve been dubbing Simple Math is, for all practical purposes, dead.

That said, Makeup For The Silence has, from the start, been about music and storytelling and the places where those intersect. And if 2015 is the year I stop quantifying the music side of the equation, it is also the perfect year to shine a light on the storytelling I’ve done. While 2015 marked the end of PropertyOfZack, it also saw me making my presence felt more than ever at Alternative Press, as well as opening up new doors at Myspace and the Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. And though things are currently a little to busy to focus on pitching elsewhere, I’m hoping that 2016 sees my writing finding its way into even more new spaces.

But it wasn’t just my reach that grew this year – I think I’m more proud of the writing I did in 2015 than any year prior. So, instead of recapping my musical stats, I thought I’d instead share some of the highlights of my year behind the keyboard. Welcome to The Gospel According To Saint Me. It’s gonna get loud; it’s gonna get heavy.

It Just Isn’t Like The Old Days Anymore – Mayday Parade [Alternative Press Magazine 328 / November 2015]

My first cover story for a national publication would have been the highlight of my year in any year. Mayday Parade, pop-punk’s ultimate play-it-safe band, bucked all expectations by growing darker and more daring at the exact time when most career-minded bands would have dialed back on the Risk-O-Meter. I suppose the jury is still out commercially – though it’s hard to imagine the band’s camp wasn’t disappointed by the precipitous fall-off in album-over-album sales, the band’s first in three outings – but Black Lines is an artistic triumph, and I think I did justice to the story of the album’s genesis.

Sting, Bon Jovi And More Help Celebrate 80 Years Of Overtown Legend Sam Moore [Miami New Times]

Writing for the New Times might not come with the paycheck or the prestige of other publications, but the access it’s granted me to big-name artists from across the pop spectrum is priceless. This year I had the good fortune to chat with everyone from piano-pop legend Ben Folds, to Emily Haines of Canadian indie heavyweights Metric, to up-and-coming tropical house DJ Bakermat. But none topped interviewing Sam Moore, one half of Sam & Dave, the voices behind “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and a dozen more hits that defined the sound of Memphis Soul at the turn of the ‘70s. I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, chatting with a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame would have been near the top.

Crawling Towards the Sun: The Hush Sound’s Bob Morris Starts Again, Again [PropertyofZack]

It’s easy to forget that 90% of the hot new buzz bands you’ll have served to you on a platter this year will be the ones flipping the metaphorical, and often literal, burgers a decade from now – talent (and, often, fanbase) be damned. Morris is back with a new project, Le Swish, but he’s also got a new outlook on life and some new ideas on where and how music should fit into it. His story isn’t unique, but you might think it was for how rarely it gets told.

SXSW Wrap-Up: These Things Happened. These Things Mattered. [PropertyOfZack]

South By South West is a strange chimaera, a beast of many looks that serves many masters, but it often only gets photographed from its “good” side. Truth is, there’s a lot more than happens at the industry’s yearly bacchanal than the anointment of next big things and the grousing of never-will-bes. There are other stories to be told and, while they’re not sexy, they’re frighteningly easy to find. But when the hype-makers are the ones charged with creating the official record, they develop a nasty habit of only recording what’s hyped. SXSW is so much more than anyone seems to talk about, and it deserves better treatment. With what will be a 3-month-old son, I’ll be missing out on SXSW 2016, but you can be sure my heart will be there, in all the corners the cool kids aren’t.

Andrew W.K. Isn’t Partying Hard Anymore, He’s Got Too Much Else Going On [Myspace]

Conversing with Andrew W.K. was everything I could have imagined it would be; the man is a whip-smart deep thinker and a master of introspection, and better yet, he uses his powers for good. It felt almost criminal to have to edit down Wilkes-Krier’s soliloquies on art, feeling and life into interview-sized snippets.

Start Today: Bad Religion [PropertyofZack]

Bad Religion aren’t only foundational figures in SoCal punk and stalwarts of the current scene, they’re a remarkably consistent machine that’s churned out excellent album after excellent album for more than 30 years. That voluminous output makes their catalog as intimidating as it is deep, and made them the perfect candidates with which to launch our Start Today feature.

Matisyahu Spent The Past Five Years Discovering His True Self [Broward-Palm Beach & Miami New Times]

When your bizarre musical schtick is just a reflection of your unusual real life, what becomes of your career when that life drastically changes? It’s a question to which Matisyahu’s fanbase is still working out the answer, even if the man himself seems more certain than ever of who he’s supposed to be.

10 Things You Should Know About Phoebe Ryan [Myspace]

Pop singer/songwriter Ryan’s star is on the rise, but with only an EP to her name to date, it doesn’t seem that anyone has really plumbed her backstory yet. There’s nothing groundbreaking in our conversation, just some fun and revealing anecdotes that I haven’t seen told elsewhere – and really, isn’t that what this is supposed to be about? Sometimes the workaday pieces are the ones you’re happiest with.

Matter Of Time: A Chroma Q&A With Cartel’s Will Pugh [PropertyOfZack]

I first saw Cartel live in 2004, opening for Brandtson and the Rocket Summer in support of their debut EP. The full length they were writing at the time, Chroma, would top my very first Yearly Top Ten list in 2005. I’ve interviewed Will before, but sitting down with him before the band played that album in full, on occasion of its 10 year anniversary, felt especially significant. What followed was a marvelously candid discussion of not just the album’s stratospheric rise, but the band’s slow and steady descent over the decade that followed – one that’s landed them at a true career crossroads today.

Links to everything else I wrote this year after the cut.

Features:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Live Performance Previews:

Other Music Writing:

If you enjoy these, as always, you can find a complete archive of everything I’ve written on the Clips page.

*every new parent says this about their child. All of them are correct.

Best of the Rest 2014

THE BEST OF THE REST

(feat. track – Paolo Nutini – “One Day” [spotifyfrom Caustic Love)

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 Twelve but still left a big impression in 2014.

For the first time ever I believe, my Best Of The Rest list comes in with fewer entries than the year prior, 25. I’ve mentioned it before, but for some reason 2014 was more of a “singles” year than an “albums” year to me. Still, the collections below could have all, in a slightly different year, made their way into the numbered list, and all are worth your time.

Any writing I’ve done on any of these artists in 2014 is noted. Spotify (or other streaming source) links have been included, where available.

Alburn – Mouthful Of Glass [spotify]

Mouthful of Glass is Alburn’s first EP in two years; it sounds like it’s spent those entire two years in a shaken bottle, fizzing and roiling and waiting to explode. Daisy-era Brand New is the obvious touchpoint here, but Alburn bring something of their own to the mix. And acoustic closer “Sweetheart” aches like the most wounded of Kevin Devine or Andy Hull tracks.

Angels & Airwaves – The Dream Walker

I’m as shocked as you that, in 2014, a new Angels & Airwaves album is ranking on my year-end list. In opening his singular vision up by inviting in collaborator Ilan Rubin, Tom DeLonge has finally achieved what seemed impossible – creating a new album that isn’t merely a semi-blurred refraction of the album prior. DeLonge still knows his way around a pop hook, and the production, full of digitally frippery, has bite. (In particular, his bass sounds are gnarly in all the best ways on this one.) The Dream Walker is still recognizably AvA, but it’s AvA at it’s best-dressed.

Basement – Further Sky [spotify]

The defunct leaders of the scene’s grunge revival made their unexpected return this year with a series of triumphant tour dates (including a raucous, sold out  ‘big room” at Webster Hall here in NYC) and with this 3 song EP pointing toward the future. “Summer’s Colour” races forward on alt-rock nostalgia; “Jet” returns to grimier, more haunted fair. (Big love to the band for covering one of my all-time faves, Suede’s “Animal Nitrate,” for the EP’s final track, though I wish I enjoyed their rendition more.)

Being As An Ocean – How We Both Wondrously Perish [spotify]

How We Both Wondrously Perish finds [Being As An Ocean] pushing the boundaries of their sound. [Frontman Joel] Quartuccio’s shout on “Even The Dead Have Their Tasks” sounds coarser than ever, while on “Mothers,” he slips into a Morrissey-esque croon. On the instrumental title track, the band diverge into Thrice-like ambient soundscapes; on the closing “Nature,” they lay heavily processed vocals over washes of burbling low-end.

The addition of [guitarist/vocalist Michael] McGough, in particular, has added a sizeable new weapon to the band’s arsenal. His clean vocals (“Death’s Great Black Wing Scrapes The Air,” “The Poets Cry For More”) inject a newfound melodic sensibility into the band’s compositions. When paired with Quartuccio’s impassioned snarl, they open up dynamics – loud and soft, gnarled and smooth, soaring and rumbling – that the band’s prior work lacked.

– Me, “Faith Based Initiatives,” Alternative Press 311 [June 2014]

Betty Who – Slow Dancing / Take Me When You Go [spotify]

Betty Who made this list last year with her debut EP, The Movement. She followed it this year with a second EP, and then a full length that compiles all the best moments of both, along with a grip of additional new songs. As such, it’s hard to narrow down the goodness to a specific release; The Movement contains most of the essentials, but also most of the filler. Still, whatever its shortcomings, they pale compared to the album’s numerous triumphs.  Betty abandons her vague Whitney worship, embracing her Swedish ancestry through a series of wistful, wish-full disco numbers.

The Cab – Lock Me Up [spotify]

When I spoke to Alex DeLeon of The Cab in April, it had been nearly two years since the band had signed their major label deal – two years of silence. Lock Me Up was a fan-targeted surprise release packed full of Maroon 5-esque jams intended to hold over the faithful, but when asked about plans for a new full-length, DeLeon promised “definitely this year. I would say in the next few months.” DeLeon noted he had more than 100 songs written, and  while many of them were intended for other artists, it sure seemed as if he felt that writing for the upcoming Cab record was essentially complete. Since then, it’s just been more silence. Such is the life of a major label band.

Charli XCX – Sucker [spotify]

I was incredibly excited by Charli XCX when she first hit the scene a few years back; since then, I’ve seen my interest wane with each subsequent release, her talents wasted on more-annoying-than-catchy hooks and lame-premised songs. And on that trajectory, “Break The Rules” and “Boom Clap” (the chorus of which I cannot stop from hearing as “*BOOM*, *crap*: the sound of my shart”) are the absolute nadir. There’s something exceptionally millennial (post-millennial?) about much of her songwriting that I just have a hard time relating to. Fortunately, Sucker redeems itself amply, especially in its latter half, where songs like the downtempo “Doing It” and the swinging “Need Ur Luv” mine real emotional depth that matches the sharpness of the hooks.

Dum Dum Girls – Too True [spotify]

I’ve never been a fan of Dum Dum Girls’ lo-fi garage pop; fortunately, on Too True they ditch that sound entirely for a gorgeously-produced album of synth-haunted darkwave, glimmering torch pop, and everything that generally made groups like the Bangles and Bananarama great in their time. 10 propulsive, catchy, thoughtful tunes you’ll find yourself humming for days after.

The Hotelier – Home, Like NoPlace Is There [spotify]

I wasn’t quite as taken by Home, Like NoPlace Is There as some folks were this year. Still I see why it was a Top 5 album on a lot of lists, even if not on mine  If nothing else, “Your Deep Rest” rides this perfect line between being the hoariest of cliches and the most cathartic anthem of the decade. Nothing could be more appropriate than closing the album with a track named “Dendron;” Home Like NoPlace Is There is like spending 36 minutes with the pulsating of a raw, exposed nerve.

Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell [spotify]

I discovered Hundred Waters this year entirely on accident – they were the act playing before Bob Nanna at a SXSW showcase this past March. I was taken with them almost immediately – taken as in intrigued. Indeed, it took me quite a while to figure out whether or not I actually liked the act – their unpredictable rhythms, broken soundscapes and breathy vocals ride the line between chaotic and tightly composed; The Moon Rang Like A Bell pogos across the map in tempo and density, yet somehow makes for a work of remarkable consistency. Live, the material becomes much more aggressive – there’s almost a dance-punk, Fuck Buttons-y enervation to the syncopated bottom-end, which really pulled me into their performance. Yet what they lack in coiled energy on record, they make up for in dynamics.

Mystery Skulls – Forever [spotify]

Ultimately, I think I would have been much more taken with Forever, the debut LP from electro-soul producer Mystery Skulls (a/k/a Luis Dubuc, who made my Best Of The Rest 2010 list under his previous guise, The Secret Handshake,) had I not spent the last three years listening to demos from the project, many of them better than the material that made record. Even with that, the funky charm of tracks like “Paralyzed” and “Ghost” (which received a marvelous video treatment) are undeniable. What I’m saying is, don’t give it short shrift just because I did; if you haven’t heard it before, there’s some great stuff here.

No Somos Marineros – Lomas Verdes

I’ve been raving about this Mexican emo act since I first came across them at SXSW in 2013. I caught them again this year (and even had the opportunity to interview them) – they only keep getting better. Lomas Verdes is the band’s first full-length release, and it delivers on all that promise with 9 tracks of wide-ranging emo, screamo and (post)-hardcore. NSM are capable of working up throat-shredding intensity, of generating hypnotic tribal rhythms, and of constructing beautifully fragile soundscapes – occasionally, all on the same song (“Guesjusbac”). The results can be a bit unfocused at times; considering that they’re nearly bursting at the seams with good ideas, it’s hard to fault them.

Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love [spotify]

Caustic Love is actually the first Paolo Nutini LP not to make my yearly Top Ten (These Streets was #9 in 2007Sunny Side Up made it to #2 in 2009). In part, it’s because Caustic Love’s missteps are more apparent – there are some wince-inducingly corny moments here (including the blustery, entirely un-self-aware single “Iron Sky”). In larger part though, it’s because Caustic Love finds Nutini really stretching out his sound: unfortunately, his takes on more modern pop and blues just aren’t as effective as when he sticks to blue-eyed soul. But oh, when he does, like on the soaring “One Day,” he’s as earth-rattlingly good as ever.

PUP – PUP [spotify]

The debut album by Canadian punks PUP (which is, debatably, a 2013 release) didn’t quite grab me the way it did some other folks, but at its best moments, like the frenetic, frazzled “Reservoir”, it’s as compelling as anything I’ve heard this year. I could do without some of the bloozier numbers, but when their pop side shows, they remind me of a nerve-frayed Desaparecidos, or Rivers Cuomo on the urge of a freakout. Still, the real reason PUP make this list is because their live set is astonishingly great, and after hearing these pummelers in that setting, I get it.

Pvris – White Noise [spotify]

Combining the stridency of Paramore at their most alt-rock (think “Let The Flames Begin”) with the production bent of acts like CHVRCHES, Pvris’ sink or swim on the back of vocalist Lynn Gunn; here, on their debut full-length, they could span the English Channel. Gunn turns in a powerhouse performance, carried by songs that are universally solid (if a bit same-y). If White Noise is any example, Pvris are primed for big things to come.

Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams [spotify]

I’ve been a fan of Ryan Adams since his Whiskeytown days; indeed, there was a time where I might have called him my favorite artist. He’s also remarkably prolific, and while there was a time where I would track down Suicide Handbook and his scads of unreleased material, I sort of lost interest somewhere in the Cardinals era. That said, this year’s self-titled album has reeled me back in. There’s nothing on here that doesn’t at least resemble some song Adams has release before, but what it lacks in novelty it more than makes up for in consistent greatness. Indeed, I’m not sure it’s a stretch that this is Adams’ most consistent work to date. A pleasure to listen to from beginning to end.

Set It Off – Duality [spotify]

Duality is a lesson in dichotomies. Musically, the album reuintes the chipper pop-punk of the band’s formative years with the darker orchestral pop of their newer material, and then slathers both with a heavy helping of au courant radio-pop and R&B. The results make for a diverse, stimulating listen: Tracks like “The Haunting,” with its music box twinkles, carry the torch for dark punk, but the uber-catchy “Forever Stuck In Our Youth” could pass for a lost track from Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock & Roll sessions with its loping bassline, octave vocal punches and soulful chorus. The verses of “Ancient History” immediately call to mind U2’s “Beautiful Day,” before bursting into a power-pop chorus reminiscent of SIO’s one-time tourmates Every Avenue.

But beyond the sonic reconciliation, Duality represents a unification of [frontman Cody] Carson’s divergent personae. The angry, put-upon kid and the upbeat pop-punker. The fanboy and the frontman. The affable friend and the outcast. On Duality, they merge into what might be for the first time on record, Cody Carson: Complete Human Being.

– Me, “Brand New Skin,” Alternative Press 317 [December 2014]

Taylor Swift – 1989

I did 90% of my music listening this year on Spotify. That largely kept me from listening to 1989; indeed, I think that might be the sole reason the album didn’t kick its way into my Top 10. (Which isn’t to say her withholding the album was imprudent – I think Taylor is going to be just fine without my promotional efforts). I also think that, especially on the tail end, there’s a little too much filler to ignore. That said, 1989 is so full of bangers, earworms, and perfect pop that it can’t be ignored. I was about to list off the album’s best songs here, but honestly, fully 2/3 of this album is absolutely transcendent. For her first “official” pop statement, 1989 makes a strong case that this is where Taylor Swift has truly belonged all this time.

Tiny Moving Parts – Pleasant Living [spotify]

Tiny Moving Parts deal in the sort of chaotic twinkly emo that I can only listen to in short doses, but when I’m craving it, they’re some of the best at what they do. Pleasant Livingbuilds on the foundation laid by last year’s This Couch Is Long And Full Of Friendship, but the band has grown more confident and self-assured, even if you wouldn’t know it by listening to the lyrics.

Transit – Joyride [spotify]

It’s a shame that Transit’s last album, Young New England, was so divisive, because I think it’s kept a lot of people from giving their excellent new album a fair shot. If anything, Joyride finds the band exploring similar territory as their earlier releases, with a sharper melodic tack and a sense of sanguine, wistful resignation, Joe Boynton’s lyrics as strong as ever. I’m not sure what a Tim Landers-free Transit will hold for the future, but tarnished as their reputation may be, Joyride deserved more attention.

VA – Whirr / Nothing split [spotify]

The best Smashing Pumpkins album released this year was actually this split by Whirr and Nothing, and it isn’t close. Whir’s two propulsive slow-burners suspend ethereal vocals right in the middle of fuzzy, flangey guitar. Meanwhile, Nothing’s touchstone here is more Smashing Pumpkins-circa-“Mayonaise”, with big melodic hooks that swirl and twirl up against their limits like snow in a snow globe.

Veruca Salt – MMXIV [spotify / spotify]

One of the least expected and most satisfying comebacks of 2014, Veruca Salt’s return came backed with this three-track 7″, including two excellent new songs. “It’s Holy” picks up where “Seether” left off, an upbeat ripper with vocals so perfectly intertwined you’ll swear no time has past, even as the girls address their triumph-to-be in the lyrics. And “The Museum Of Broken Relationships” prove that the band is just as keen to revisit the more weighty material that kept the band’s first two albums from being mere radio single fodder.

White Lung – Deep Fantasy [spotify]

I was a White Lung fan prior to Deep Fantasy; I’d even had the pleasure of catching Vancouver’s hardest-charging punk quartet live at SXSW in 2013. Yet somehow, I put off listening to the album for most of 2014. That’s a shame; had I heard it earlier in the year it would have been in serious consideration for my Top Ten. Nothing they had done before could have prepared me for the dynamo the unleashed in 2014. Like a piston crashing ceaselessly into the head of injustice, personal and political, at thousands of RPMs, Deep Fantasy converts vocalist Mish Way’s explosiveness into a focused point of propulsion. A Dremel designed to carve the rot out of the West’s teeth.

Xerxes – Collision Blonde [spotify]

I couldn’t tell you much about the old Xerxes; I never paid them much attention. But by all accounts Collision Blonde is a new leaf for the band. Whatever the old Xerxes might have been, the new Xerxes incorporates more than a little bit of Touche Amore (especially in the vocal department), song structures that nod to La Dispute, crisp, propulsive basslines that call back to late 70’s / early 80’s post-punk and a sense of doomy melody that shines through the all-screamed vocals. Collision Blonde is, as Calvin Philley shouts in “Criminal, Animal,” an album written from, and for, those moments “with my head in my hands // and my heart in my throat.”

You+Me – Rose Ave. [spotify]

I honestly find it shocking that this Dallas Green + P!nk collaborative project didn’t get more press than it did. I know major labels are funny, and You+Me doesn’t exactly fit into the “how to sell more product” equation for either artist, but the songs here are generally great (with different vocals you’d have no problem passing this off as another lost Ryan Adams gem), and it’s often breathtaking how naturally the two fit together vocally – one play of album-opener “Capsized” should make it abundantly clear that this project works. Best of all is the stunning album-closing cover of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love,” P!nk’s delicate power lending just the right amount of oomph to Green’s soaring falsetto.

OK Go Live Review

now playing: Iron And Wine – The Creek Drank The Cradle [spotify] – An Angry Blade [spotify]

OK Go were fucking fantastic last nite. If you haven’t caught their live show, you MUST, even if you’re not a huge fan of the music, they are just insane on stage. They’re very talented multi-instrumentalists so there’s a lot of instrument switching, including a 2nd drum kit. Damian prances around onstage like Dennis Lyxzen on a sugar high. The whole thing is just so giddily energetic that you can’t help but get caught up in it. I love bands that actually look like they’re having fun onstage 🙂

The big surprise for me were openers The Plus Ones, who I’d never heard before. Everything I’ve seen about them refers to them as pop-punk, but they’re about as straight-up a power-pop band as I’ve ever heard. Somewhere between Big Star and Weezer, they fit in really well on the bill and played a set of just insanely hooky tunes. I picked up one of their CDs, haven’t given it a spin yet.

[…]

So I’m looking at OK Go stuff online, and I just discovered they’re from Chicago, but I swear I already knew. It’s weird how sometimes you can just hear a band and peg the scene they’re from. Last night, about two songs into OK Go, I had this revelation that they would fit perfectly into the mid-90s Chicago Fig Dish / Veruca Salt / 3riplefastaction / Local H scene, cuz their sound is a total hybrid of that. I really had know idea at the time that they actually WERE from Chicago.

[…]

Rhett tonite!

Is this more than some old summer fling?
This thing we have, will it mean anything?
When October rolls around
will you
sober up
and let me down…
–Rhett

originally posted 1/25/03

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