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.


A Place to Bury Strangers

A Place to Bury Strangers
Exploding Head
Mute, 2009

It's taken me a while to come to a verdict on this one. Had I been forced to give my opinion on this band after one listen, I would have said, "Thanks but no thanks, A Place to Bury Strangers. I'm not interested." Aside from their magnificent name, they didn't do much for me initially. And I think I know why.
This sounds like vampire music.
"Now wait just a minute," you say. "Vampires are so totally in right now. Shouldn't that work to their advantage?" To that I would say, "No. Remember when Jurassic Park came out and all of a sudden everyone was suddenly interested in paleontology? Same deal. Hollywood gets people into some really nerdy s**t."
This isn't vampire-ish in a tweeny-bopper, Twilight Saga kind of way. This sounds more like something straight off of The Lost Boys soundtrack, but better. This record has a distinct 80's throwback sound and reminds me of The Jesus and Mary Chain, but with random sonic blasts of god-knows-what that probably register at the same decibel level as a nitrous-fueled jet engine.
That in and of itself is not a bad thing. It's just the whole vampire sound that gets me. And maybe that's not even a fair description. They don't sing about vampires, or even look like them. It's just the first thing that popped into my head. I picture some jackass with a chin piercing, a ruffled shirt and fake fangs totally digging this.
But the more I listen, the more I'm able to set my vampire-prejudice aside. It's a decent album. A very loud album, but decent. It's growing on me like a flesh-eating bacteria and I'm strangely okay with that.
If you're into The Jesus and Mary Chain and white noise, this is something you can really sink your teeth into.
Yeah, I just said that. What.



Leaves in the Gutter EP
Merge, 2009

My first encounter with indie rock came when I was in the 8th grade. I was at the local used CD store and took a chance on an album by a band named Superchunk called "Incidental Music: 1991-1995". Sometimes taking chances is bad and it doesn't pay off. Like NBA players putting out hip hop records (Shaq, Ron Artest). Or choosing a career as a killer whale "trainer" at Sea World. They didn't earn that name by being friendly. However, on that day back in 1995, the chance that I took with my hardly-earned money paid off in spades, and I would love to thank the scrub who probably traded that CD for a Veruca Salt record.
To me, Superchunk along with Pavement are the quintessential indie rock bands. Superchunk is by far the best and most important band to ever come out of North Carolina and I don't foresee anyone taking that title from them anytime soon. If you disagree, feel free to email your argument and/or opinion to me at
blahblahblah@noisenoisenoise.com. I will only view submissions that follow official MLA guidelines. And please, include proper citation.

This EP features a few new songs as well as "Misfits & Mistakes". All the songs are fantastic, but I can take or leave the acoustic version of "Learned to Surf." I guess it's cool to hear what a song sounds like without everything that makes it great... Leaves in the Gutter also shows that this band has only become better with age. Therefore, I am now replacing the metaphorical "wine" with "Superchunk". For example: "Wine is like Superchunk. It only gets better with age." Or even: "Johnny Depp is very much unlike Superchunk. His choice in roles as of late has transformed him into an unlikeable, living cartoon. He's kind of like Judge Doom in the 1988 cinematic masterpiece Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and I can't believe this is the same guy who made What's Eating Gilbert Grape and The Libertine." Responses to that one can be forwarded to the same email address listed above.
But getting back on topic. Leaves in the Gutter reminds me of the Superchunk that I discovered and immediately loved when I was young, and they've managed to stay more than merely relevant. As far as EP's go, this is totally worth your money and proves again why Superchunk is such an important and influential band.

Pick up Superchunk's new album Majesty Shredding on 9/14.


The xx

The xx
XL, 2009
Man, this is a love-making record. That's the first thing I thought when I heard this album. I don't know if that's what they were aiming for, but that's what this is. It's not the kind of music that's overtly sexual or even intended to be so. Such as D'Angelo. Or Danzig. And it's not sexy in a creepy, slightly unsettling way like Portishead or Massive Attack either. It's just.. sexy.
I like xx because it's a "less is more" record. Many similiar bands that use programmed drums and sequencers make the mistake of going overboard with it. You give them Reason or Sound Forge and all of a sudden they think they're James Murphy. The xx seem to understand the simple effectiveness of a few well-placed kick drums or hand claps and the occasional breakbeat. On top of that, the vocals are great and Croft and Sims have the sullen, nonchalant, British croon down.
Unfortunately, I can see why network TV and corporations have picked up on The xx and used their songs. This album is loaded with accessible singles and it's got major mainstream appeal. But hey, good music is good music.
Between the reverb-soaked guitar, sparse drums, low bass hum and sultry vocals, this is a bedroom winner for sure. Seriously, if you can't make babies to this then you may quite possibly be dead. Or maybe the other person is.


Let's Hopscotch.

Wow. North Carolina has finally stumbled into the present by introducing The Hopscotch Festival in downtown Raleigh this September. The lineup includes some really good bands, some okay bands, some bands I've never heard of and some bands that I really don't want to pay to see but I have to because of the whole concept of festivals. But that's fine, because I remember three or four years ago when Soul Asylum was the big downtown summer attraction.
I don't like the word "festival" because it makes me think of white people with dreads and irony so I will now just refer to it as Hopscotch. Actually, that's kind of lame too, so how about "Raleigh is Going to Try and Hopefully Succeed at Rocking Your Face Off: The 2010 Music Experience Experiment". RIGTTAHSARYFO: T2010MEE for short. It rolls right off the tongue.
A few acts that I'm personally looking forward to are Kylesa, Skyzoo, Birds of Avalon, 9th Wonder, Harvey Milk, Harlem, Tortoise and, of course, Public Enemy. Although, regretfully I would probably pay the full price NOT to see Flav at this point in his "career". Noticeably missing are Superchunk.. But that's a band that I don't question.
This is probably going to sell out, so jump on this bandwagon while you can. For all the information you need, including the band lineup, visit the official site at: http://hopscotchmusicfest.com



Completely Removed
Dischord, 2010

These guys are all over the place. They go from quirky, sunny lead guitar lines and harmonies to jams that sound like they were left off of Dark Side of the Moon or even End Hits. This is definitely indie rock, but it's indie rock with balls. And it's no secret that indie rock usually lacks said balls. This is a topic I will elaborate on at a later date. Back to Medications. This music is complicated enough to be interesting and slightly difficult, but melodic enough not to be boring or inaccessible. I hope that helps. This is a record that I am enjoying more and more with every listen and it's quickly becoming a favorite. Once again, thank you Dischord.

Catch Medications at The Pinhook in Durham on 7/21.


Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies

Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies
Colorwheel, 2009

Remember years ago when the music critics were saying that Chapel Hill could be the next Seattle? Yeah, that was funny. I don't think that we could even touch Athens or Denver at this point and we're light years behind Austin, Portland and Brooklyn. Not to say that we don't have great bands or anything, we have a few. But I feel like we're kind of the underachievers. There's no lack of talent here in the Triangle, it just doesn't make it out. It's like another infamous geographical triangle. Music just can't escape it.
VV (as I will call them from now on because their name is way too long) was a good band. I usually loathe any kind of 60's throwback music, but this is more 60's pop-inspired, so it's okay.
It's sugary and sweet and some of the songs sound like they could play in Saturday morning cartoons. You know, the one's from the seventies, like Josie and the Pussycats or Jabberjaw (any band who's drummer is a Great White Shark is gonna shred). What I'm trying to say, in a positive way and failing at, is that this doesn't sound like a whole lot of other stuff coming from our area right now, which is a very good thing. I remember hearing "Grass Is Growing" on our local college radio station last year and thinking, "Hmm. That's pretty good." That doesn't happen very often.
They had their own sound and they stuck to it. There are too many indie bands these days that sound alike. Hell, there are too many indie bands in general. Anyone with a computer and a microphone can call themselves a band. But that's an article for a later time.
I wouldn't say that this is my type of music, but I think that VV were what Chapel Hill needed. Their sound immediately separated them from the legions of other bands out there sucking up and down Franklin Street. They came with originality that brought some cred back to Tobacco Road. I would have liked to have seen this band evolve more, because I heard their unreleased material was actually their best. But oh well.



Please Leave My Mind
Free Dirt Records, 2010

Now this is rock and roll. To me it sounds like a warped mix of The Blasters and 16 Horsepower. That means that it's fantastic. It's described as Post-Americana, but whatever. It's just good. Adrian Carroll kind of sounds like Chris Isaak, but way darker. Like the troubled guy you can't help but respect and envy but who then walks off with your girlfriend. These are the guys that showed up on M.I.A.'s corner and had way more swagger. I haven't stopped listening to this album since I got it. This will appeal to anyone who appreciates true American rock. Not that "Jersey Sound" s**t..

Catch Shorstack at Nightlight in Chapel Hill on 8/21.


Burning Airlines

Burning Airlines
Mission: Control!
DeSoto, 1999

If you were to ask me, kind reader, what my favorite kind of music is, I would probably wrinkle my nose in disgust because that's a ridiculous question and one that I cannot answer. However, were I forced to mull over this query for long enough, I would reply that it's probably something that rocks. Something that rocks hard. I can safely say that Burning Airlines met that criteria.
As a young lad in my musical infancy I was bombarded by alternative and grunge which is obviously going to influence my tastes. Not to say that Mission is either of those. On the contrary, this music is precise, mature, technical and f**king rad. It's everything I would ever want from a band, and it's no surprise that J. Robbins and Bill Barbot of Jawbox were the ones that delivered.
Jawbox were one of my all time favorites, and their sound is definitely present here. But unfortunately Burning Airlines only put out two albums in their all too brief career. If only bad bands would break up as fast as the good ones.
It's hard to describe this album, because the most obvious comparison would be with Jawbox. Maybe a little bit of Pixies, Fugazi and who knows what else. I don't know. No description of mine is going to do this album justice. Just listen to the CD.



The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem
American Slang
Side One Dummy, 2010

Full disclosure here. The first song, "American Slang", is tolerable. The rest is garbage. Think Springsteen, Petty, Mellencamp and Against Me!, but not as good as any of them or the sum of their parts. The lyrics are self-important and Brian Fallon says "baby" when referring to a woman in almost every song. I hate that. Only R&B singers can pull that off. These guys, if they stick around, will no doubt inherit Springsteen's arenas full of fifty-something-year-old corporate executives who let loose by droppng eight dollars on a small plastic cup of cheap beer and swaying awkwardly to the songs that remind them of their "glory days" as their children watch in horror. Does every rock band from New Jersey (it's called the BEACH) have to sound like Springsteen? This just sounds like a blatant rip off to me. Jesus, I'll take Mike "The Situation" over this..