Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne
I Am Not a Human Being
Cash Money, 2010

I've never been a huge fan of Lil Wayne and even less a fan of Cash Money. I always felt like Lil Wayne was kind of a douche and Cash Money is known for not paying royalties to producers. Double douchey. I like the fact that he attempts to come across as being absolutely out of his mind and will readily admit that he has some great tracks. I still bump "A Milli" because it's a fantastic track, but that's mostly because of Bangladesh's otherworldly production skills (most recently the work he put in on Nicki Minaj's "Did It on 'Em"). But on the whole, I've never been that impressed. I also find it laughable that some critics are quick to call him "the greatest rapper alive." But most people know that's total garbage. I think. Anyway, Lil Wayne's rhymes are clever, but that's about it. Album sales don't dictate lyrical ability.
I Am Not a Human Being has some decent tracks. The opener "Gonorrhea" had me thinking "okay, maybe this will be at least as good as Tha Carter III. " Unfortunately, it all quickly began to sound the same. It's not terrible, but not memorable either. It's good music to listen to when I don't want to think about anything. Kind of like Gucci. For mainstream hip hop it's alright, but I'll take Wiz Khalifa over Wayne any day. Turns out this is nowhere near as good as III but INFINITELY better than Rebirth, which I'm not even going to touch here. So in the end, I wasn't that surprised. It's pretty much what I would expect from Tunechi. Mediocrity.



The Big Bang
Spectrophonic, 2010

This is essentially a remix of 2009's Spirit of Apollo. I didn't really like that record, so I don't like this one. The only exceptions would be the Boombotz remix of "Whachadoin?" and the Treasure Fingers Epicwave remix of "Gifted". So basically, I listen to track five and six and then turn this s**t off. It's more of that hipster club stuff which, I'll admit, can be done well in the right hands (Spank Rock, Justice, LCD Soundsystem) and is atrocious when done poorly (N.A.S.A., Sleigh Bells, Diplo). It just feels.. dated. I mean, didn't Santigold's record drop in early '08? I would skip this one if I were you.



Merge, 2010

I really don't like this. To me, this is almost unlistenable. However, the opening track "Odessa" is amazing. Really, really amazing. It almost makes up for the remainder of the record. Almost. It's like an early 80's dance track and Daniel Snaith's voice is tolerable, which is not the case for the rest of the tracks here with vocals. "Odessa" shows how great this album could have been if Snaith would just reign himself in a bit and not confuse creativity with grandiosity. It's probably one of my favorite songs this year even. Too bad the rest of the album is s**t. Yuck.


All the Saints

All the Saints
Fire on Corridor X
Touch & Go, 2009

Seriously. I have found my new favorite band. For the moment. I first heard this band on a split with These Arms are Snakes and thought, "Hmmm...maybeee..". Then I bought Corridor X. Well played, sir. It's dark and slightly scary, but not in a nerdy way. It's more like if Washington Irving or Flannery O'Connor had played in a f***ing rad rock band. Okay so maybe that's not the best argument against being nerdy. But it's true, and holy s**t, it works. It's got a touch of American Gothic to it (or maybe that's just because I was driving through bumf**k Virginia when I first listened to it). They bill themselves as psychedelic rock, but don't let that fool you. This reminds me slightly of TAAS, but a bit more laid back and just straight forward rock. It's really impossible to explain so I'm just going to stop now. This is killer.


The Thermals

The Thermals
Personal Life
Kill Rock Stars, 2010

My brother actually introduced me to these guys a few years ago. He gave me The Body The Blood The Machine, and for the most part I really liked it. I felt like it started off really strong, but kind of lost my attention towards the end. I enjoyed the whole anti-religion thing and what not, heavy-handed as it was. Then I obtained a copy of Now We Can See, and, well.. eh. So my expectations weren't exactly high when I decided to pick up Personal Life. Holy s**t. I was blown away. This record is everything that I always felt like this band could be but were either holding back on or felt like they were too cool to make. It's not blasphemous and aggressive like Machine. It's about love. All about love. And it f***ing rocks. It's definitely poppy, but it works for these guys. Seriously, there's a song on here that reminds me of Television's "Marquee Moon". Yeah. This is definitely going on my favorites of 2010 list.



Matador, 2010

The first time I heard Interpol, back in 2002, I absolutely loathed them. I think it was around the time The Killers came out and I just hated what I thought was an 80's new wave resurrection. To be fair, I only heard one song (I don't even remember which one), but I thought they were a total Joy Division rip off. It wasn't until I heard Antics that I realized these guys were for real. I then went back and listened to Turn on the Bright Lights in full which absolutely floored me, and have been a big fan ever since. I still don't think I would like these guys if I met them, but I do recognize that they really are an amazing band.
So I was disappointed when I bought Our Love to Admire back in 2007. With the exception of the f***ing stellar opener (Interpol's opening tracks are always the sickest), "Pioneer to the Falls", I felt it was a big let down.
That's how I felt about this record at first. I thought it was old hat and actually pretty boring. But I was wrong. This is a very subtle record. The melodies are there but they don't backhand you to get your attention. Not that Interpol has ever written like that. I feel their albums always take time to grow into. But this one in particular requires repeated listens. It's also very dark and somber. Even by Interpol's standards. But that's one of the reasons I like these guys.
This is definitely not their best, but not their worst either. That would go to OLTA. If you're an Interpol fan, chances are you won't be disappointed. If not, then go buy Turn on the Bright Lights to decide how you really feel about this band. We'll see how they're gonna deal without Carlos D. though..


The Black Angels

The Black Angels
Phosphene Dream
Blue Horizon, 2010

The thing about a lot of these neo-psychedelic bands is that they're f***ing boring. There's a reason that this genre of music died out. Every once in a while you'll get a decent one, like Dead Meadow or BJTM, but even they begin to sound the same.
Enter The Black Angels. This is a breath of fresh air when compared with the stale, second hand THC haze of The Warlocks and the like. There's enough rock to keep me happy and just enough trippiness to make me think that hippies may be on to something. For like a nanosecond. Don't get me wrong, The Black Angels are not a jam band. Phosphene Dream is a rock album. Mostly, this record is just good riffs, good rock, good lyrics. Good times.


First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit
The Big Black & The Blue
Wichita, 2010

Finally, after being thoroughly disappointed by The Tallest Man on Earth, my mother country of Sweden has redeemed herself and produced genuinely great folk music. First Aid Kit, aka teenage sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, bring harmonies upon harmonies and, well, really good songs. After gaining attention on You Tube for their cover of Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song", they released an outstanding EP on The Knife's Rabid Records and now The Big Black & The Blue. I promise I don't like them just because they're Swedish, tempting as that may be. This is what folk music should sound like. Just give "I Met Up With The King" a listen and you'll see what I mean. Thank you Scandinavia.


Raised By Swans

Raised By Swans
No Ghostless Place
1101, 2010

Man, I'm torn on this one. I'm on the verge of really liking these guys, but this music really does only fit certain situations or moods. Most of this record is really pretty and quiet and haunting. It's good for.. uh, walking in the woods at dusk? Or if you want to get laid. Or background music for when you're drinking tea by yourself in the early morning light and doing something really creative. It's good stuff, and with a lot of help from Atom Egoyan these guys are getting the exposure they deserve. It's just not a record that I can listen to all the time. It's too mellow. But that's just me. I still like it though.


Ra Ra Riot

Ra Ra Riot
The Orchard
Barsuk, 2010

I could have taken the seven dollars I spent on this MP3 album and spent it on a bottle of Tylenol PM and cheeseburger Hot Pockets instead. I would have felt the same afterwards: half-asleep, nauseous, disgusted, yet unfulfilled. Download "Boy" and skip the rest of this. Buh Buh Boring.


Big Boi

Big Boi
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Def Jam, 2010

I ran into the same problem listening to this record as I did with Speakerboxxx. Inevitably, I end up comparing anything Big Boi does with Outkast. It's the same as Wyclef and The Fugees. Although Wyclef is a complete hack and The Fugees were by far the best thing that ever happened to him. Big Boi certainly is no hack, but like Wyclef, I have the sneaking suspicion that nothing he does on his own will ever be as good as what he did with Outkast.
But this isn't ATLiens or Aquemini or even Stankonia. This is Big Boi solo, and this is good. The beats are original for the most part, and as always, Big Boi is a more than competent MC. And with appearances by Yelawolf, Too Short, Janelle Monáe and George Clinton, it's funky as s**t. Even Jamie Foxx can't sink this record. The song he's on is even one of the better tracks.
All in all, as far as mainstream hip hop goes, this is about as good as it gets.


LCD Soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem
This is Happening

DFA, 2010

There's really no point in even posting this. But I will anyway. This record is on pretty much everyone's "Best of 2010" list already, and for good reason. It's really, really good. I'm a big fan of James Murphy. I personally think he is my generation's David Byrne. Yep. This record, even more than his previous ones, shifts effortlessly between post-punk (for lack of a better description) and electro (again, for lack of a better description) and my ears love it. So yes, I agree that so far this is one of the best records of the year. Mr. Murphy has single-handedly redeemed Williamsburg, Brooklyn for heaving up Sleigh Bells on the masses.
Oh, and the video for "Drunk Girls" is f**king fantastic. James Murphy and Spike Jonze were destined to go together. Like Miller High Life and Vodka. Great record.


Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monàe
The ArchAndroid
Atlantic, 2010

I resisted buying this for a while. First of all, I didn't like the cover art. Second, Pitchfork liked it which totally puts me off to a record now. However, I finally broke down and I must admit, it was worth it. It's funky, it's sexy and it is literally all over the place as far as genres go. From the James Brown-ish "Tight Rope" to "Neon Valley Street" which could have easily have found it's way onto an Erykah Badu record, this record really defies categorization. Out of the 18 tracks I would say that there are about nine totally solid songs and the rest I could take or leave. But her originality can't be denied. Ms. Janelle is here to stay, and that's totally cool with me.


Kid Sister

Kid Sister
Downtown, 2009

This is what Amanda Blank's I Love You should have sounded like. This record falls into the category of music that is self-indulgent, fun and should never be taken seriously. Kind of like Annie was back in 2005 and Gucci Mane now.
Every conceivable studio trick known was tossed onto this album and it totally works. I even like the Kanye song "Pro Nails". The record is a mix of club beats and old school hip hop and KS pulls off the MC work pretty well. Nothing fancy, but totally addictive.



Artificial Horizons
Dischord, 1998

I honestly just picked this record because it's the Lungfish record that I'm currently listening to. Everything these guys touch is f***ing golden. Listening to Lungfish is listening to art being created. As cliche as that sounds, it's the honest to god truth. A lot of their detractors tend to focus on the repetition of their music. Yes, it can be repetitive. If repetitive means trance-inducing, mind-altering awesomeness. Not like psychedelic, PCP mind-altering, but rock that will take your ass to the next level mind-altering. That's right. Next level. Oh, and Daniel Higgs has the dopest beard ever. Buy every album you can. You can thank me now.



Delorean - "Stay Close"
Subiza, 2010

I have a soft spot for house music. Actually, let me rephrase that. At times, I go against all of my better judgment and my guilty pleasures take over. Some house-esque music being among them. It's totally the musical equivalent of Skittles. It's sweet and delicious in small doses, but too much can be nausea inducing and lead to self-loathing.
I've been known to enjoy The Field and even some Felix da Housecat from time to time. Delorean is the same deal. I really don't care for the rest of this record, but this song is just too good to say no to. It's everything a good hipster dance track should be. Clicks, beeps, kicks, echoing female vocals and all. I just can't stop listening to it. I'll get over it soon. I mean, even the name Delorean brings to mind temporary material indulgence and excess. But for now, I'll be subtly nodding my head along to this. When no one else is watching, of course.


Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr.
Jagjaguwar, 2009

I never really listened to Dinosaur Jr. growing up. I was too young to to be turned on to them when they were at their peak, and when I did really get into music I never really payed them much attention. I understood how influential they were on other very influential bands, but that was about it. At one point when I was in middle school I bought Without a Sound because I liked the Spike Jonze video for "Feel the Pain." Yes, that was back when music videos were an art form. I wasn't impressed with the rest of the record and figured this Dinosaur Jr. band wasn't for me.
It wasn't until I was older that I began to fully appreciate the band, their members, and the music. If I had heard Farm when I was younger, I would have hated it. Probably because it doesn't sound like Fugazi. But now that I'm older and questionably wiser, I take great satisfaction in listening to this. This is truly "alternative" rock in all the best ways possible.
Mascis' guitar work is as on point as ever and the record seems to be kind of a throwback to their heavier sound (which I love). Pretty much all of the songs are winners to me, but "Said the People" stands out. It's got a Built to Spill feel but has a chorus that would make even Doug Martsch envious.
All in all, I like this record a lot. If only I could go back in time and buy You're Living All Over Me instead..


Ring My Belle

The following was sent in by an "anonymous" reader regarding my dismissal of Belle and Sebastian as "twee". I'll warn you, this gets ugly:

Your entire argument against Belle and Sebastian so far is that you don't like twee pop. I reject that statement based on the following statements:

1. "I like this music... This is legitimately good." - From your review of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

2. "This is a good album and I think as far as indie pop goes, it's better than most." - Your review of Camera Obscura.

Neither of those reviews were gushing with praise, but neither were they dismissed for being unabashedly twee. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart come replete with jangly guitars and tales of young, brooding lovers. Tracyanne would be just at home singing "A Teenager in Love" as she would "French Navy". Maybe it's the hazy, lo-fi aesthetics of Pains that lets you think it isn't twee?

I am confused by what you mean when you say "twee" and "indie pop" (which is the genre you chose to place Camera Obscura in). What makes Belle and Sebastian twee while Camera Obscura is indie pop? Is there a distinction in your mind? Camera Obscura sounds much more like twee progenitors Heavenly in instrumentation and lyrics than B&S do.

I won't deny Belle and Sebastian have twee elements and don't mind them being placed in that category. I believe however that your dismissal of B&S simply for being twee is a cop out at best and disingenuous at worst. So I have to believe you either (a) have a more substantial and serious argument against B&S that you have chosen not to go into (b) really have not listened to very much Belle and Sebastian to have a more informed opinion or (c) have a visceral dislike of the band that can't be put into words.


Murder City Devils

Murder City Devils
Empty Bottles Broken Hearts
Sub Pop, 1998

This was one of the greatest bands. Ever. They sang about everything I would ever want to hear in a song: press gangs, Johnny Thunders, Iggy Pop, women, wine, sailors, Santa Claus and of course the Mutter Museum. Just straight up rock and roll with the perfect mix of punk ethic. The stale beer and sweat are almost palpable when listening to their records.
During their career they never got the recognition they deserved and various members have gone on to play or have played with other bands such as Dead Low Tide, Modest Mouse, Pretty Girls Make Graves and Big Business. Their shows were always a lesson in how to rock a f**king club to the ground.
I highly recommend every one of their releases; you really can't go wrong.
This is one of my favorites just because of "I Want a Lot Now", "Hey Sailor", and "Johnny Thunders".
I would also highly recommend the DVD "The End: The Final Show Halloween 2001". It's a band giving it everything they got and more and any aspiring punk/rock band should take notes and study hard.
Unfortunately MCD called it quits just as they were really gaining momentum, but what they left us with is some of the best punk and rock music to date.


Belle and Sebastian

Belle and Sebastian - "Lazy Line Painter Jane"
Lazy Line Painter Jane, 1997

This is my first track review and it's all because of my brother David. In my review of Camera Obscura's My Maudlin Career, I mentioned that I had never been blown away by a Glasgow band. There have been a number of great bands from Glasgow including The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Twilight Sad, Primal Scream, Sons and Daughters, Arab Strap and of course Average White Band. However, Edinburgh is way more awesome just because that's where Beta Band and Boards of Canada are from. And it's f***ing medieval.
Anyway, my brother responded, and I quote, "I'm not sure we can be friends knowing you've never been blown away by Belle and Sebastian." Ouch.
No, I've never been blown away by Belle and Sebastian because I don't like twee pop. That's right. Twee pop. I will say that I love this song though. And yes, David, it has a lot to do with the fact that Monica Queen provided vocals on the track. In fact, I think she makes the track. This song is timeless. Literally, it sounds like it could have been recorded at any point within the last 40 years or so. The song takes it's time to get going and slowly builds into a final audio.. um, orgasm. Yep, it's that good. The organs, the reverb-soaked guitar and, of course, Monica Queen are what make this track so great and stand apart from the rest of Belle and Sebastian's work.
Great chorus, great vocals and a great song. From a not so great band. Ha.


Ace & Edo

Ace & Edo
Arts & Entertainment
Traffic (The Orchard), 2009

Look, I'm a huge Masta Ace fan. SlaughtaHouse and Disposable Arts are absolutely classic hip hop records. He's worked with the best of the best in hip hop, was a member of Juice Crew and has influenced countless MC's including none other than Eminem. I would even argue that he's one of the greatest MC's of all time. Edo G is a legend in his own right as well. So, that being said, why is this record absolute s**t?
Where do I begin. How about the skits. Yes, the pitfall of all hip hop records is in full effect here with countless, unnecessary, unfunny skits. Making it worse are the nature of the skits. The premise is that a black couple are watching TV and comment in between the songs on the songs. Not such a bad idea in and of itself, except for the fact that the "characters" are so self-stereotyping that they make "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" seem like Amistad.
Then there's the songs. They're far below average for these guys. With the exception of "Little Young" these songs are all throwaways. And that brings us to "Dancing Like a W.G." aka "Dancing Like a White Girl." Set to a house beat, the song describes the inability of intoxicated white girls to dance. For like four minutes. I get it. It's a joke. I understand what's being described and I can relate. But no need for an entire full-length track.
It's always depressing when an artist you respect puts out total garbage, but this is mortifying. It's definitely disposable but hardly art.



Pink Flag
Harvest/EMI, 1977

I'm going to keep this short and to the point, just like the songs on this record. Wire were one of the first Art Punk bands, and one of the greatest punk bands of all time. I prefer this record to Chairs Missing and 154 because I think this is the most "punk" of all three. The songs are short, energetic and charged with the energy of that time. Some highlights include.. well, the whole album. But my personal favorites have always been "Reuters", "Ex Lion Tamer" and "Brazil". But every track is a winner. God help you if you don't own this.



Never Better
Rhymesayers, 2009

This record sort of took me by surprise. At first I didn't really like it. I thought that unfortunately some of the songs sounded more like P.O.D. But after a few listens, I was a fan. P.O.S aka Stefan Alexander, started his musical career in a punk band before switching to hip hop. I guess that kind of explains the distorted guitars and feedback present in a lot of the songs here. The beats are hit or miss, sometimes just drum rolls and other times they're more traditional. However, it's the more experimental ones that work the best here.
P.O.S is a decent MC and this is worth picking up if you're looking for something a little different.


Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers
Burn, Piano Island, Burn
V2, 2003

I'm still a big Blood Brothers fan. I own pretty much everything they've ever recorded, and I think this is by far their best record. I didn't know what to think the first time I heard these guys. It was a welcome assault on all of my senses. The odd time signatures, the absolutely schizophrenic nature of the music and the duel shrieks of Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie horrified me. But I loved it. I couldn't quite grasp what I liked about them so much at first, but I knew they were special. It's kind of like watching a Werner Herzog film. You may be saying "what the f**k" through the whole movie, but you know that it's genius. This band is definitely not for everyone. I'm usually not huge on music similiar to this. Actually, maybe that's why I like them. There was no one else like them then or now. Every song on this record is a kick in the face that you will actually be thankful for. Oh, and "The Shame" is the perfect closer for this record and one of my all time favorite songs.
These guys were truly original, and in these times where music and movies are recycled ad nauseum, their level of creativity and originality is sorely missed.


Nausea Obscura

It's no secret that music elitists, critics and hipsters love obscure music. It seems like the more obscure the better. Now, some obscure music is good. Maybe it's not well known because the artist is just starting up, can't get publicity or just doesn't want a lot of attention. That's fine.
But then there are the people who intentionally search for the most obscure music possible, even if it's completely wretched, and claim to like it. To me, the only reason for this is to be cool. Or appear cool.
Jandek is a perfect example. His music is absolutely terrible. It's unlistenable on every level. But because he's very mysterious and.. obscure, critics and indie nerds alike fawn over this guy. Why the need to say you like something that you probably don't? Well, first of all, it's a character flaw on your part. The other reason is because people might think that it reflects on them in some positive way to say they "understand" something that other people don't get. Well I don't want to get it. Actually, there's nothing to get.
I like to think that I know a thing or two about music, and I'm definitely picky, but I won't hesitate to tell you that there is more than one Paramore song on my iPod or that I find Lady Gaga entertaining. If that makes me less cool, oh well. Have fun wincing your way through the rest of that Daniel Johnston CD.
If music is good than it's good. That's it. There's too much posturing and snobbiness when it comes to music these days, especially in indie rock. The bands people "like" are treated as accessories to an image that they try to portray to others. Even if they don't actually like those bands.
The bottom line is that just because people don't know about a band doesn't mean that band is good and that you are an extraordinary person for knowing about them. Most of the time there's a reason that said band or music is obscure. It's not good and people don't like it.
Now if Jandek had bled out of his eyes at the MTV Music Awards...



Echo UK Through Ada, 2005

How can I describe Engineers? Maybe later Duran Duran mixed with.. uh, I have no idea. It's just dreamy pop music from the UK. The land where most dreamy pop music resides, actually. This is good background music. Usually that means something is not interesting, but that's not the case here. It's interesting, just in a slow, symphonic, atmospheric way. It's not rockin' by any means, but who can rock all the time?


Bad Religion

Bad Religion
Epitaph, 1988

If you like punk rock at all and you don't like Bad Religion, then f**k you. Seriously. No other punk band, other than The Ramones, has influenced as many other bands and artists and spawned as many imitators as these guys. This album never gets old and is by far my favorite. The production is phenomenal, especially for a punk rock record from the 80's. You would never be able to date it if you didn't already know when it was recorded.
But for me, what has always made Bad Religion the band that they are is Greg Graffin. I would put his vocals up against pretty much anyone from any genre you choose. His lyrics have always been intelligent and thought-provoking as well, even before he earned his f**king master's degree in geology from UCLA and his Ph.D. from Cornell. They made being smart acceptable in the punk rock scene. Yeah, it's fun to listen to mindless, melodic punk rock but I need a shot of reality every once in a while. Yeah, Sheena is a Punk Rocker and that's awesome, but how does Sheena feel about globalization? That's where Bad Religion comes in. They have the ability to be profound without being preachy or pretentious.
Bad Religion will always be one of my favorite bands and this will always be my favorite BR record. Absolutely classic.
Visit www.badreligion.com to download a free live album now.


Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura
My Maudlin Career
4AD, 2009

I've never heard a Glasgow band that I really liked a lot. A lot of good music comes from Glasgow, but I'm never really blown away. Camera Obscura is no different. This is a good album and I think as far as indie pop goes, it's better than most. I've always thought that Tracyanne Campbell sounds like Neko Case (or maybe it's the other way around). Either way, I like Neko Case way better. I've also always felt that this band has received more praise than they deserve. But that's beside the point. So, is this a good record? It's okay. Well I listen to it a lot? Probably not.


Moka Only

Moka Only
Lowdown Suite 2: The Box
Feelin' Music, 2009

Daniel Denton, aka Moka Only, probably best known for his on again/off again relationship with Swollen Members, sounds like MF Doom to me. Not in the voice or anything, but his rhyme style. But that doesn't bother me. In fact, I like his laid-back, nonchalant style. It sounds like he could be making a sandwich or reading a magazine while he flows. Not a bad thing, it's just his style. This style carries over into his beats. They are at the same time minimal and atmospheric. At times there's even a hint of J Dilla in there, who Moka collabed with in the past. He's a prolific and well-respected artist for good reason. This is an addictive album and one of his best. It's a perfect summertime record too. Oh, and the ladies love it.


Project Polaroid

Project Polaroid
Project Polaroid
Threshold, 2006

So this is a weird one. Project Polaroid was a collaboration between Kool Keith and producer TomC3. Believe me, I don't advocate drug use but if you do use drugs, then this is the record that you should listen to as you partake in those drugs. The beats remind me of 90's trip hop and the rhymes are all stream of consciousness (or at least sound that way). Keith is amazingly disturbing as always and is joined by Prince Po, Motion Man and Roughneck Jihad to round out the weirdness. I guess that you could call this hip hop, but it's too artsy. The rhymes make no sense most of the time but still somehow sound profound, like these guys entered a poetry slam on DMT. Throw in Voltron and middle eastern-inspired samples and you have an absolute mindf**k. But sometimes that's a good thing.


Jets to Brazil

Jets to Brazil
Orange Rhyming Dictionary
Jade Tree, 1998

Back when my friends and I listened exclusively to bands such as The Mr. T Experience, Screeching Weasel and The Vandals, this band was anathema. I remember somehow ending up at a Promise Ring show with a friend and being mortified at the collection of self-important whiners present. This music was garbage. As was anything else that might be labeled "emo" or related to Jade Tree Records in general. However, one of my friends (I believe through his girlfriend) ended up with this CD and shared it with me. I tried my damnedest and literally willed myself not to like it. But songs like "Sweet Avenue", "Sea Anemone" and "Chinatown" had me hooked to this band like a trucker to crank. I still listen to this CD often, and I really don't think it's emo. I don't even know what that is anymore. Fourteen-year-old boys with eyeliner maybe? Who knows. Labels just aren't important these days. This is a great CD no matter what genre you're into. Thanks Josh's girlfriend.



The Dwarves are Young and Good Looking
Theologian, 1997

I wouldn't say that I'm a Dwarves fan. That rap CD they put out was f**king appalling. And their early stuff doesn't really do it for me either. But Young and Good Lucking is just straight up goodness from start to finish. It's a lot of sacrilege and misogyny, but all in the name of good fun. Every time I listen to this, I feel like I'm 16 again. God, that's actually kind of depressing now that I think about it.
For a band that was infamous for getting dropped from Sub Pop because their guitarist faked his own death, it's unfortunate that now Blag is most well known for getting his jaw rocked by Josh Homme. I don't doubt in the least that he deserved it though. Either way, this is fast, disgusting, immature punk rock. Just the way it should be.


The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Slumberland, 2009

I like this music. But then again, I liked it when The Cure and Joy Division did it. Then I liked it when The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine did it. But I'm not going to complain that this band is totally unoriginal and sound like countless 80's and early 90's college radio bands. This is legitimately good. It's one of those records where you anticipate every chord change ahead of time, because they go with the obvious catchy progressions. But I'm a sucker for a catchy song. And this is nothing if not catchy. I give it a "C" for catchy, in fact. Nice album art too. Way better than Wild Nothing..



All In
BYO, 2007

I have a habit of obtaining more music than I can ever possibly listen to. I'm constantly discovering music that I may have bought or downloaded years ago and totally forgotten about. It can be slightly embarassing when other people are listening to my iPod and say something such as, "Wow, this music is fantastic! Please, we implore you. Who is this band and what's the name of this song?" Who knows. But otherwise it adds a little mystery and surprise to my my listening experience. There's worse hang-ups.
That's what happened with Nothington. About two years ago, I had my iPod on shuffle when a song came on that I had never heard. I thought it was maybe The Draft, but couldn't be sure. But I liked it. I checked the title. "Who the f**k is Nothingon?", I thought. Good question. I only had one song and had no idea how it got on there, but I immediately bought the CD which was a good idea.
The easiest comparisons would be with Social Distortion, Leatherface and all the bands spawned by Leatherface, i.e. anything involving Hot Water Music or it's members. Fun fact: two of these guys were in Tsunami Bomb, but this sounds absolutely nothing like them. Which is positive.
Once again, job well done Self and thank you for exposing me to great music.


Wild Nothing

Wild Nothing
Captured Tracks, 2010

This album cover is weirding me out. No, actually this is just horrid. At first, you see what appears to be an attractive woman. But wait, is that a hand over her mouth? Like someone is gagging her or something? This is alarming. I'm not into snuff artwork. No, wait, the hand is in her mouth.. but now I'm not even sure it's a hand. And it's not just over her mouth, it's cutting into her head and causing it to be grotesquely misshapen. It's getting worse though. My eyes drift up and to the left and I am sickened to see another face superimposed on the original face. I don't know where one face starts and the other ends. My god. This is absolutely nightmarish in an M.C. Escher kind of way. Just looking at this cover is bringing back "negative" psychedelic experiences from my teenager years. Like when you start thinking that everyone is talking about you in metaphors. I can't look at this anymore. I've never had to "come down" from an album cover before. I'm done.
Oh, and the music sounds like The Smiths.


Dum Dum Girls

Dum Dum Girls
I Will Be
Sub Pop, 2010

This is what I wish the whole Riot Grrrl thing had sounded like. I feel like that movement gave girl bands a bad name. Like all girl bands were feminist and scary and unwashed. Which isn't true at all. Girl bands are awesome and plentiful. Like Sleater-Kinney and.. uh, the Bangles. Speaking of the Bangles, did you know they're still together? Yeah, I'm relieved too.
Anyway, thank god we made it through the Doc Marten and ripped baby doll dress scene.There really are some great girl bands out there, they just don't get the same recognition. It's usually the rancid ones that do, like the Donnas.
Lucky for me, Dum Dum Girls have more in common with The Groovie Ghoulies than L7. I have to admit, I already like this album a lot. This album is 28 minutes of catchy, relatively lo-fi, 60's pop-inspired punk. It's like mainlining Kool-Aid. My wife hates it, but I think it's great. Go figure. Women.



Boy Meets World
One Records, 2009

Here at mxmcty, we love hip hop. When people say "Real hip hop is dead", it makes us sad. If hip hop is dead, then I guarantee you Gucci Mane killed it and its decomposing carcass is buried in his basement. But of course, hip hop isn't dead. You just have to know where to find it. It's obviously not on BET or your local "Hip Hop and R&B" station. Sure, maybe a legit artist like Talib Kweli or Atmosphere will bubble up in the mainstream for a minute, but most of the time we have to deal with garbage. But if you like real hip hop, do you listen to the radio anyway? If you like real rock or any other genre for that matter, do you turn to MTV or the radio? Of course not.

You can say that Fashawn is "saving" hip hop or "bringing it back", but it never went anywhere. If anything, he'll bring it to the general masses and then possibly sell out like countless other talented MC's (come on EM, Recovery?). But who knows. What is glaringly apparent at the moment though is that this kid is crazy talented. He raps with the same hunger that Nas did on Illmatic and he slays every single track. Right from the intro you know this is going to be good.

Combine that with some of the best production I've heard in years, compliments of Exile, and you have a really good record. Exile is one of those producers who doesn't make beats, he makes songs. Anyone with a computer or MPC can make beats these days. There's way too many cooks in the kitchen. Not everyone can make a real song. Each track stands on it's own. I could listen to the rhymes accapella, but I could also just listen to the instrumentals and not get bored. This was a perfect collaboration. This is honestly the best hip hop record I've heard in years, and definitely the best of 2009.

Fashawn is only 21, and with this kind of talent he's going to be f***ing huge. Whether he will remain to be a credible artist or become just another product being relentlessly pushed by the commercial media is anyone's guess. But for right now, I recommend you do what he says on his intro. "Watch me."



Sony, 1997

This is a story about neighbors.
It was the summer of 2002 and I was living in the small mountain college town of Boone, North Carolina. During the summer, most of the students would journey home, and the only people left were locals and the the drove of Georgians/Floridians who descended upon the area like ravenous locusts to vacation in their multi-million dollar summer homes.
I, however, was living in a cheap apartment not far from "downtown." It was your average low-rent student apartment. But this apartment came with something I'd never had before. A cool neighbor.
I lucked out and ended up with the best neighbor I've ever had. His name was Seth and he worked at the local snowboard shop, which means he did absolutely nothing. He was like the older brother I never had. He never complained when I would ask him to buy beer for my friends and I, and he unsuccessfully attempted to sleep with every single girl that came over to my apartment.
He would inevitably wander across our shared deck when I had a party, get miserably drunk, and strike out with every unassuming co-ed there. Multiple times. Apparently the line, "I can get you free clothes whenever you want if you come by the shop," doesn't work so well when you have vomit on your shoes and urine dribble on your jeans. Not to be deterred, he would systematically move on to the next girl, no matter how disinterested, sober, or far out of his league she was. It was all part of his "shoot high/aim low" philosophy.
Seth was a good guy though and all we did that summer was drink beer, cook out and listen to music. He was sort of like the Socrates of snow bums and was always kicking me knowledge that was questionable at best. He was the first person to introduce me to Modest Mouse ("Dude, they're not just for indie rock p***ies"), and also dropped this album, Handsome, on me.
We were drinking MGD ("Seriously dude, it's the best domestic beer available, hands down") and eating cheap ribs when Helmet's Meantime queued up in my CD changer. Being a few years older than I was, Seth was even more sentimental about the 90's than I am and was overjoyed. He immediately ran across the deck to his apartment and brought back an album by a band named Handsome. He then demanded that I listen to it because it had changed his life or something. After that, he proceeded to get catastrophically drunk and completely forgot he loaned it to me.
I loved it. Beyond the horrible name and equally awful album artwork was a good band. Handsome was formed from members of Quicksand, Helmet and Jets to Brazil back in the late 90's. Basically they were a supergroup of modestly successful 90's rock bands. The music is similiar to Helmet, but not as "riffy". Jeremy Chaterlain's vocals also make them more dynamic than Helmet or Quicksand. They were only around for a year or two and released this one album, but this is good stuff. It's a 90's time capsule of hard rock (it's not metal, I swear) that still holds up today.
Wherever you are Seth, I want to thank you and Miller Genuine Draft for turning me on to this record and then forgetting that you let me borrow it.


Tanya Morgan

Tanya Morgan
Interdependent Media, 2009

If you had asked me if I knew who Tanya Morgan was before I had listened to this record, I would have said, "Yeah totally. I sat next to her in Psychology during my freshman year. I heard she's waiting tables at the Applebee's in North Raleigh now." You would be forgiven for having a similiar reaction if you had never heard of these guys either. I have no idea where their name came from, but I do know that this Tanya Morgan is a hip hop group that's bringing back the 90's hip hop sound. All the comparisons that are heaped upon Little Brother (De La Soul, Tribe) which I honestly don't understand, are actually applicable here.
The first thing that struck me about this record is that it reminds me of The Black Eyed Peas' Behind the Front. You know, when they still had their souls and their integrity. And before Fergie and her self-inflicted, onstage golden showers.
Brooklynati definitely takes me back to 1996. It's packed with funk and jazz samples and the breakbeats that made 90's hip hop great. Plus, these guys don't hesitate to toss around Onyx and ODB references like an Aerobie.
However, one hip hop trap that they fall into is the whole skit thing. Yep. Skits that are given an entire track all to themselves. Or sometimes tracks that begin or end with skits. Like almost every other hip hop artist, they will find a way to pack in as many skits as possible. I've always hated that. It pisses me off to this day that I have to fast forward through over a minute of nonsense just to listen to Biggie's "Kick in the Door." And don't even get me started on Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.
All of that aside, this is a good record. There's definitely some misses here, but I just appreciate the fact that this is a refreshing break from the stagnant state of mainstream hip hop.
Still, I swear I know a Tanya Morgan.. Did she figure skate?



Hydrahead, 2005

Have you ever wondered what the soundtrack to a mountain range crumbling would sound like? Or a city collapsing? Or a meteor striking the Earth? (No, it wouldn't be Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing.") Or even witnessing the extinction of all life on our planet? These are the kinds of things I think about. At least when I'm listening to Jesu. And this album would be that soundtrack.
This music is heavy. I'm talking concrete-crushing heavy. But that's to be expected from Justin Broadrick, the man who brought us Godflesh.
The wonderful thing about Jesu is that once you get past the devastating nature of this music, you will realize that at the core, these are extremely well-crafted and beautiful pop songs.
The other great thing about Jesu is that Broadrick understands that you don't have to scream the vocals just because you play extremely heavy music. Throughout this record (and the other Jesu releases) his voice barely rises above the maelstrom of distortion, bass and crashing drums. Now, sometimes screaming is appropriate. Like if you're Botch or Curl Up and Die. Or if your dog eats your laptop (true story). The best way to describe Broadrick's vocals, and I hesitate to use this term.. would be "shoegaze." But it works perfectly here.
Huh. I guess the whole "more than meets the eye (or ear)" and "judge a book by it's cover" thing is true. This record is sort of like the aggro, heavily-pierced girl (no, not the neo-nazi slag that was smashing Sandra Bullock's husband), who you may run into at the gas station from time to time. From her appearance, you immediately assume that she only listens to Norwegian Black Metal and has the entire Faces of Death collection on DVD . But if you get to know her, you find out that she loves baking, Nicholas Sparks novels, Ani DiFranco and finds Jimmy Kimmel "too racy" at times. Yeah. It's like that.
I know there's a lesson to be learned here somewhere..


Son Volt

Son Volt
American Central Dust
Rounder/Umgd, 2009

I hate the term "alt-country". It's just a catch-all genre for anything that's not quite traditional rock, but not quite squeeky-clean enough to be peddled as "new country" to the majority of Americans . To me, bands that are considered "alt-country", such as Rodney Crowell, Son Volt, Dwight Yoakam, Jason Isbell, Tift Merritt, Steve Earle, Scott Miller, Old 97's, Hayes Carll and, of course, Lucinda Williams, are the rightful inheritants of the true country music of Cash, Jones, Cline, Haggard, Jennings, Lynn and Coe.
The bile that's spewed from Nashville these days is hardly "country". It's more like brain-dead-pop music for people who don't like music to begin with. I myself would have to be about a case-deep in Milwaukee's Best Ice with an ice pick firmly inserted in my frontal lobe in order to even attempt to make it through a Rascal Flatts or Trace Adkins record. Even then, I would probably question it's authenticity.
Son Volt is one of those bands that I love, then I forget about, then rediscover all over again. Their 1995 album Trace was truly a classic "alt-country" (vomit) record, and these guys have rarely let me down since.
My only hangup (there's always one) is that Jay Farrar's voice is a bit monotone, and sometimes I think it holds the band back a bit. I always liked Volt's music more than Wilco, but I like Jeff Tweedy's vocals more than Farrar's. If only they could join up to form another band sans the Uncle Tupelo sound. I despised that band. But the chance of that happening is about the same as me ever putting money on the Celtics to win another championship game.
A highlight here is "Cocaine & Ashes". Farrar is able to sing a song about Keith Richards' infamous drug-fueled salute to his dad, true or not, in which he snorted a line of coke cut with his father's ashes. The thing is, Farrar is able to make it sound endearing. In fact, it's down right touching.

Now if that's not country, I don't know what is. Great album.


The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack
The Soft Pack
Kemado, 2010

Man, I love San Diego. The weather. The women. It's laid-back beach vibe. And of course its geographical proximity to Tijuana and non-prescription pharmaceuticals. Of course, I've never been there. But it sounds fantastic. San Diego is also known for producing a lot of great bands. Pitchfork, Rocket from the Crypt, Pinback, Drive Like Jehu and of course Ratt just to name a few. Now welcome The Soft Pack.
I would now like to take the time to thank these guys for making the kind of music I want to hear. It's upbeat and melodic but with a definite punk undertone that can be found in a lot of the music from that area. Matt Lamkin even kind of sounds like Rick Froberg sometimes.
It seems almost too easy to like these guys. Seriously, after the first track I knew this was for me. I had heard about them when they were at SXSW, but didn't pay a whole lot of attention to them. What a mistake on my part. Not quite the same level of mistake as getting into a habanero sauce drinking contest with my brother, but more like when I went to see Kool Keith at the Cat's Cradle and thought it would be awesome. Just a misinformed mistake. But no more sleeping on this band. If SoCal keeps putting out records like this, I'm packing my bags for San Diego.

You know, I hear "San Diego" is German for..


MURS & 9th Wonder

MURS & 9th Wonder
Smc, 2010

MURS has never been one of my favorite MC's. It's nothing personal or anything. I'm just not that into him. I love Living Legends and Felt, but not so much his solo efforts. So what really attracted me to this record was Durham's own hometown hero, 9th Wonder.
Basically, this is a record about women and relationships. Or maybe that's just a metaphor for hip hop (it's always hard to tell with these "conscious" MC's).
It starts off decently, and then you're hit with a track all about Asian women and how hot they are. MURS is a little behind the curve here. Techie nerds and Anime fans have been celebrating/worshipping the submissive and borderline pedophilic sex appeal of Asian girls for years now. It's honestly pretty lame and almost unlistenable.
Then I get beat over the head with a track about cigarettes and liquor, which seems a little out of place. And as a pack-a-day smoker, I apparently haven't been shamed enough by those truth.com a**holes, so now I'm being judged by MURS. Outstanding.
There's also a track about the problems that arise from dating a porn star, which could have been really good. Alas, in a shocking twist that I never saw coming, he realizes that maybe porn stars aren't quite relationship material. The track ends with the heartfelt advice to "never let your d**k dictate who you love." Thanks MURS. It's like a hip hop fortune cookie that I didn't even want.
Basically this is a forgettable album, which is a shame considering the talent involved. Even Wonder's not at the top of his game. Granted, his beats are better than 80% of what's out there at the moment, but these sound like the leftovers from his other projects. I really wanted to like this, but honestly, it doesn't stand up to repeated listens. Pick up a Felt record instead or check out Skyzoo's collab with Wonder.