The College of Ruptured Ear Drums

kentstate

This week I was blasted out my post turkey malaise while listening to Chromewaves Radio. Out of my cheap earbuds came some of the best possessed white noise I’ve heard in ages. Kent State, not the Ohio one but the Los Angeles one hit a sweet spot that is somewhere in the red and poking its bony elbows into Sonic Youth, Swervedriver, Boyracer and Times New Viking territory.

Earlier this year the band released The Wrong Side of History which collects all of their cassette only releases onto a single slab of vinyl. The album is also up on their bandcamp site as a free/pay what you like download. Yes, to some noise annoys, but Kent State can deftly bury a melody just beneath their squall or stash a bass line somewhere deep under their maelstrom and make you feel like you’re floating on a bed of spikes just above the fray. Bleeding ears never felt so good.

stream: Kent State – Spahn Ranch (from The Wrong Side of History)

Singles of the Year Countdown: 30-21

I bought way too many seven inch singles this year. I’m not trying to brag. It’s a problem really. The seven inch is like crack to the record geek, a fleeting moment of pop perfection and then it’s off to either flip the record or put on another one. This was a daunting task this year and I feel like I left out a lot of stuff, but a top 60 would have been too much and limiting it to 40 makes you have to really decide, what were your favorite singles of the year. Here are numbers 30-21.


21. Cave Weddings – Never Never Know (Bachelor)

Sadly this will be the last time the Cave Wedding appear in the countdown.  Prior to releasing this single they called it quits and wiped their MySpace page from existence.  Fortunately we have this single and last year’s Hozac one to remember them.  Powerpop is rarely done this well and Never Never Know ranks up there with Nerves and the Beat.

mp3: Never Never Know


22. Dum Dum Girls – Stiff Little Fingers (Hell Yes!)

I’m not sure why this Dum Dum Girls single won out over Bang Bang I’m a Burnout or Jail La La, because surely both of those singles are worthy.  Maybe I’m capricious.  Maybe I just like being a contrarian.  Maybe it was because the melody cut like ice.  Maybe it was the overt reference to the Stiff Little Fingers…

mp3: Stiff Little Fingers


23. Boomgates – Bright Idea (RIP Society)

Those Eddy Current guys are busy dudes and side projects seem to pop up from the Supression Ring like dandelions in green grass.  If not for the like-minded blog the Creative Intersection I would have most certainly missed this record.  Bright Idea doesn’t tread too far from ECSR, but on the B-Side the Boomgates get their Comet Gain on.  Jeez, they had me at the A-side.

mp3: Bright Idea


24. The Knocks – Make It Better (Neon Golden)

Everyone has their guilty pleasures and the Knocks’ Make It Better is mine.  Otherwise known as the rump shaker in this year’s list.  Yes, my ears have been ruined over the years with too much shoegaze and garage, but  they’re not totally gone and this song makes them prick up whenever it comes up on shuffle or on some playlist I’ve made. Bust out the disco ball.

mp3: Make It Better


25. Fresh & Onlys – Vanishing Cream (Plastic Spoons)

As I kid I always was sending off for stuff from the advertisements in the backs of comic books.  I got a pair of x-ray specs that didn’t work, and some invisible ointment that was a bust.  If the Fresh and Onlys would provide an address I would send off for this Vanishing Cream of which they speak, as it is I just send them money for records.

mp3: Vanishing Cream


26. Magic Bullets – Lying Around (Mon Amie)

San Francisco’s Magic Bullets know their 80’s as in General Public, Haircut 100 and Orange Juice.  I said it before and I’ll say it again Lying Around is like a button and I can’t stop pushing it.

mp3: Lying Around


27. Times New Viking – No Room to Live (Self-Released)

So it finally happened, Times New Viking turned down the distortion and let us hear the melody.  Did they get tired of their bleeding in the red sound?  Is this just a dalliance?  Will they be playing their drums with brushes and using a ukulele in the future?  Only time will tell, but for now there is this tender Beth sung A-side.

mp3: No Room To Live


28. Mind Spiders – Worlds Destroyed (Dirtnap)

I love how the cover of this single evokes some kind of nerdy rockabilly goth image in my head.  Worlds Destroyed with its watery Morricone intro quickly transitions to a punk rock ballad for punks that wear eyeliner and go to rodeos.  I’m not in that category, but could easily be swayed.

mp3: Worlds Destroyed


29. Electric Bunnies – Pretty Joanna (Sacred Bones)

No countdown is worth its salt without a Spacemen 3 inspired single on it.  Lucky for us the Electric Bunnies chose that style for their only outing this year.  Buzzing, hissing  guitars plunge the depths of the earth.  These guys may not be from Caerbannog, but they are killer bunnies nonetheless.

mp3: Pretty Joanna


30. Internet Forever – Break Bones (Art Fag)

So this is what it’s come to, eh?  Bands naming themselves after the internet.  I haven’t looked lately, is there a band named Hootie and the Wikis yet?  Internet Forever’s Break Bones is good enough to overcome their unfortunate band name.  This song has been floating around on the afore mentioned internet since sometime last year, and fortunately Art Fag saw fit to put it on a slab of wax.  I said back in August of 2009 that they evoke the beauty of the much underrated It’s Jo and Danny.  I hope they don’t wallow in obscurity like Jo and Danny.  A few more singles of this quality and maybe they won’t.

mp3: Break Bones

[40-31] [30-21] [20-11] [10-1]

Singles of the Year…Literally

This year seemed to be the year in which the 7″ single returned to prominence.    It’s not like it ever really went away, but this year bands and labels were putting them out left a right.  Vinyl in general, is making a resurgence with the prevalence of file downloading a cd is just a lousy digital copy that takes up too much space, whereas a slab of vinyl is more like a work of art with it being big enough to actually appreciate the cover art.  It also comes in many shades, with colored vinyl showing up almost as much as the standard black even though its sound quality is supposedly inferior to good old black.   Records these days have a one of kind feel to them or at least one of  limited run, making you feel like you really buying something besides just the music.  I probably haven’t bought this many records since the indie heyday of the early 90’s.  It was fun again to hang out by the record player and change the record every three minutes, and I did this quite a bit, nearly spending all my listening time at home doing just that.  In celebration of it’s return, I’m compiling my favorite 7″ singles of the year, my only requirements are that it had to be put out this year on a 7″ and I had to actually buy it.  So here is what got the most spins in my house, you will have to take my word for it since my turntable doesn’t keep track of  play counts.  Now go out and buy some records!

summercats

1. Summer Cats – Lonely Planet (Cloudberry)
This number one was a no-brainer for me.  With it’s pulsing keyboards and  killer guitar riff, this was on my turntable nearly every evening for a good month.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that Australia’s Summer Cats are working on a full length.  It will easily one of my most anticipated records of next year.  Or instead they could just put out singles like this all next year and I would completely happy.

catwalk

2. Catwalk – Past Afar (Yay!)
Apparently Oxnard, California has a killer scene at the moment and Yay! records has signed every single band in the scene.  Catwalk’s second single for the label is a sad, energetic beauty that has elements of the Close Lobsters as well as Blueboy.  How can you get any closer to heaven than that?

liechtenstein

3. Liechtenstein – Apathy/Security by Design
(Fraction)
Ennio Morricon moved to Sweden and got a sex change?  No Liechtentein, three women from Goteborg, Sweden put out an amazing record.  Their second single had everyone excited who heard it, and how could you not be excited? That’s the beauty of the single, you put your best foot forward.  It’s like Security by Design, two killer songs and a whole lotta mystery just like all those great girl groups from yesteryear, they need not release anything more to be cemented into music history.

nodzzz

4. Nodzzz – I Don’t Wanna (Make a Mess)
The Nodzzz couldn’t keep this record in print and it’s easy to see why, when you hear its raw bass line and punk rock chorus.  It’s only a minute and a half, so you’ll be picking up the needle and putting it back at the start to play it again quite frequently.

muslims

5. Muslims – Parasites (I Hate Rock n Roll)
San Diego’s Muslims are no more, they’ve gone and changed their name to the Soft Pack for reasons only they know.  Listening to this harks back to the day when the band were irreverent, in your face, snot nosed punks.  I’m not sure what they are now, but this single will have you on your knees praying that the name is the only thing they’re changing.  Killer cover of Spacemen 3’s Walking With Jesus gets best cover of the year without a doubt.

tartans

6. The Tartans – Cats of Camerford (Yay!)
Horns, horns, horns! It’s easy to forget how much a great horn line in a song can just put it over the top.  This ranks up there with Brideshead’s  Real Art as a killer pop song with a more killer horn hook.

jesuisanimal

7. Je Suis Animal – Painted In my Face
(Cloudberry)
French name, Norwegian band, singing in English, swirling Broadcast/Stereolab sound, and an a-side to die for.   The Scandinavians never cease to amaze me with their uncanny ability to arrive fully formed with style and songs that seems like they should take years to develop.

boat

8. Boat – Topps (Magic Marker)
Boat are one of my favorite bands in Seattle and they really outdid themselves with this record.  It was named after the baseball card company and came with a deck of hand drawn trading cards that included the band’s favorite baseball players as well themselves sporting baseball caps, cool badges with the band in their baesball getup and of course a stick of gum.  Topps is just that, with it’s shakey keyboards, economical guitar riff and hyper Boat-esque chorus, it’s got it all, a wife, a job, a record store that knows it’s name and friend in every town.

wakethepresident

9. Wake the President – You Can’t Change that Boy/Kingfishers – Make Me Sad (Electric Honey/Aufgeladen Und Bereit)
First of all the Kingfishers doing a cover of Vic Godard’s Make Me Sad would for some, be worth the price of admission, but Glassgow’s Wake the President are more than happy to steal the show with their original slice of Godard/Orange Juice pop.  It’s one of those songs that make you want to bounce around on the furniture.  I’ve been reprimanded a couple times for doing  just that while listening to this.

blackmountain

10. Black Mountain – Lucy Brown (Sub Pop)
For its 20th anniversary this past summer Sub Pop started its third incarnation of its singles club.  I joined figuring it would be kinda cool getting a surprise in the mailbox every month.  November’s edition was the best surprise yet.  I have kinda ignored Black Mountain up until this single, but Lucy Brown has bitten me with it’s scuzzy bass and bluesy vibe.   This rocks so hard it was more than worth the price of joining this club.

sexykids

11. Sexy Kids – Sisters are Forever (Slumberland)
Jeeze, with Slumberland putting out a slew of killer albums and singles this year, I was both surprised and amazed when a few weeks ago that the label announced it was putting out a couple more singles.  Sisters are Forever, one of those singles, is a perfect pop rush.  Tie a double knot and don’t forget to buy this.

jonathanrichman

12. Jonathan Richman – You Can Have a Cell Phone That’s Ok But Not Me (Vapor)
OK, everyone has a cell phone, right?  Well not Jonathan Richman, and he says he’s doing just fine, well at least he seems to be, even if he doesn’t get a sound check.

bears

13. Bears – Making Something(Impose)
A record player,  a sunny summer afternoon and a Bears record go along way to a blissful existence.  I don’t think I need to really say anything else about this sublime record, I really can’t think of a better way to spend  two minutes.

twig

14. Twig – Ciao Ciao Bomb (Cloudberry)
Earlier in the year I wrote about how there seemed to be this Orange Juice resurgence happening.  Twig singer Henrik Linden could be Edwynn Collins’ long lost cousin and Ciao Ciao Bomb could be an unearthed OJ song.  Twig are no cover band though, their originals are classics in their own rite and this single as well as their album Life After Ridge on Plastilina is proof positive.

viviangirls

15. Vivian Girls – Wild Eyes/My Baby Wants Me Dead(Plays With Dolls)
It wasn’t the a-side that did if for me it was the rocking jam of a b-side that got me.  Crashing guitars and then silence followed by the eerie singing of ‘My baby wants me dead, he wants to put a knife in my head’.  It’s downright spooky.

tpobpah

16. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Everything With You (Slumberland)
TPOBPAH seem to be poised to just become huge next year, and this single will certainly wet your appetite for next year’s album.  It’s a rush of saccharine pop that’s like a wedding, something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

moscowolympics

17. Moscow Olympics – Still (Fraction)
This was the first official release from the mysterious Phillipeans’ Moscow Olympics and what an introduction.  Dreampop at its most dreamy.

boxelders

18. Box Elders – Hole in my Head(Grotto)
Omaha, Nebraska’s Box Elders are like a diamond in the rough, there surely cannot be a kiwi scene in the nation’s midsection can there?  This record just does not get old with me, it even sounds like it was recorded 20 years ago with a decidedly lo-fi feel that you just can’t fake.

surefirebroadcast

19. Surefire Broadcast – When I Need Someone/Some Seek While Some Find (self-released)
This is kind of a cheat, since I don’t actually own this 7″, only a cd-r of it.  But it exists and it was recorded by Dustin Reske of Rocketship.  Surefire Broadcast are easily one of my favorite bands of the moment and this record is the perfect evidence, with it’s almost grungy guitar juxtaposed with boy-girl vocals that swirl around each other into undeniable pop sunshine.

timesnewviking

20. Times New Viking – Stay Awake (Matador)
If you’ve made it this far, you may need to be jarred out of your complicity and Times New Viking are the perfect thing for that.  Discordant noise has never sounded better, at least to these ears.

Nothing’s Shocking

Deerhunter and Times New Viking at Neumo’s, Seattle | 21 November 2008

deerhunter...rocking back into your heart

It’s good to see that some shoegaze is still popular. Neumo’s was sold out Friday night for Deerhunter, it just goes to show if you have a flamboyant front man, one that is in your face gay, accidentally leaks his own albums, and regularly post songs and other stuff on his own blog, everyone is more apt to sit up and pay attention.   And pay attention is what everyone did at Neumo’s this night.  The band came on stage to the sounds of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, no words uttered an no irony invoked even though one could have mistaken this for the Hold Steady gig down the road at the Showbox the same night.  With their third album Microcastle just released last month, but leaked all the way back in May of this year, the band seem to be gaining popularity with each release.  Microcastle is more straightforward and hook laden than it’s predecessors offering up pop jems like Never Stops, Agoraphobia, and Little Kids, while retaining it’s blissful haze of guitar effects and general feel of drone and haze that can easily hypnotize you into some kind of ethereal netherworld.

Cox and his band offered few words, actually none, but let their music do the talking.  Starting with their epic Cryptograms, the band sounded great, with three guitars going at once, it was pretty much a shoegazer dream show.  There were the lengthy epics like the afore mentioned Cryptograms the short sharp pop of Never Stops and lullabies like the Julie Cruise like Microcastle.  After every song I was expecting Cox to begin one of his funny stories or just shock us with something, but he uttered nothing.  He smiled graciously and the band continued to build their hazy, beautifully spell upon the crowd.  Bassist Josh Fauver, who plays with a permanent grin and looks like he’s having a better time than anyone else once uttered hello Seattle, but that was it.  The band continued their magic even including Vox Celest and Calvary Scars from the Microcastle bonus disc.

When I saw the Bradford Cox offshoot Atlas Sound back in March, he seemed to relish the between song banter, often to hilarious effect, but last night it was all business.  Or at least that’s what I thought.  As the band came back out for their encore Cox finally grabbed the mic to say a few words.  And like the first time I found out that Liz Frasier talks like sailor, Cox juxtaposed Deerhunter’s dreamlike music with his blunt funny words.  Someone yelled out a high school in Georgia, and Cox responded that he went to a rival school and that his school’s football team kicked their ass a few times.  Then he deadpans that he didn’t have much interest in football back then, he was more interested in sucking dicks and doing LSD.  No spells were broken though, how could they be when they played Agoraphobia, Heatherwood and Twilight at Carbon Lake for the encore?

mp3: Deerhunter – Never Stops (from Microcastle)

Columbus, Ohio noisnicks, Times New Viking who graced this same stage as headliners back in June, albeit to a much smaller crowd are opening for Deerhunter  on the current tour.  The beginning of their set was complicated by what seemed like their attempt to build a brick house on stage.  A number of bricks were ported up to the stage in unsuccessful attempts to secure Adam Elliot’s drums.  Once they got enough bricks up there, the band seemed to settle into their noisy whiteout rock.  Call and Respond, anew song off their latest single on Matador especially stood out with an almost Stereolab-like drone, but much noisier.

mp3: Times New Viking – Call and Respond (from the Stay Awake single)

More photos from the evening including Deerhunter’s setlist can be found over at my flickr.

Times New Viking at Neumos

Times New Viking with Psychedelic Horseshit & the Annuals at Neumos, Seattle | 10 June 2008


I think the number one reason I went to this show last night was to see if one of the band would catch fire from the sparks that surely must come off of their guitars and amps when they play. I had this crazy image of Times New Viking playing as sparks fly everywhere from the sheets of white noise that result from playing their instruments, like sharpening axes on a grindstone. On record, the songs seem to be recorded in an blatantly unproduced, treble heavy way. They probably have this super elaborate production thing going on to get that sound, or maybe not. It could be as simple as not having a bass player.

Live, they come across less white noise and more pop. The singing and the melodies normally buried under the noise show thier faces. The songs were only dressed down with a little noise instead of nearly being obliterated. With Beth’s keyboards more prominent, their sound was more nuanced, like an early Stereolab with choruses that have a Superchunk feel to them, instead of straight Boyracer, Flying Saucer Attack or Guided by Voices. I don’t think the band would argue with that assessment, drummer and songwriter Adam Elliot introducing all of the songs as ‘This is pop song #4’, ‘Here is pop song #27″. They still kept the songs short and they came one after the other in at a quick pace, only briefly conferring around the drums to hear what the next song would be. Since they didn’t play off a setlist, the band would kind of conference around the drums between songs to hear what the next song Adam wanted to play. Guitarist, Jared Phillips played most of the set with his back to the audience, more to keep in time with the drums than a shyness thing. It was his guitar playing that surprised me the most, because it wasn’t so covered up in effects or distortion, you could actually hear chords.

Times New Viking is probably not for everyone and the small turnout Tuesday night was evidence of that. Their songs don’t immediately reveal themselves, but the pop is under there, and live it’s a little more obvious…a little.

I got there for the end of Psychedlic Horseshit’s set. They are fellow Ohioians and friends with Times New Viking, and their sound is based in the same love of noise but Psychelic Horseshit like to go off on tangents in their songs making them into long jams. They like to kneel down and play with buttons and knobs, and nearly every song digressed into one or more of them on their knees. After Psychedlic Horseshit, came the Annuals. I’m not sure who’s bright idea it was to book the Annuals with TNV, but it made for a very strange bill. It seemed like both bands brought totally different audiences. It seemed like people there for the Annuals left after their set, and the TNV fans came in from drinking over at the Mo Bar after the Annuals set. I hung out for half of the Annuals, but their bombastic pop just didn’t really do much for me.

How pop are TNV? Well check out TNV’s reworking of the riff to Billy Bragg’s This Guitar Says Sorry.
mp3: Times New Viking – Come Together (from Rip it Off)

mp3: Billy Bragg – This Guitar Says Sorry (from Back to Basics)