Fantastic Planet
Slash / Warner Brothers, 1996

Ahhh. The 90's. Who would have thought I would look back on a decade, in which I labored through so many awkward adolescent years, with such fondness. I've said it before and will continue to do so. The best music, all genres included, was produced during the 90's. Failure's Fantastic Planet is no exception. This is an album that I recently rediscovered while sifting through my iTunes, and I have been listening to it quite a bit. Quite a bit meaning that it's pretty much melted itself into the CD player in my car (except for when I dislodge it to rock some Botch.) This was their third and final record and it is one of the most solid and consistent albums, beginning to end, that I have ever heard. I guess you could label these guys "alternative", but that's way too easy and a total cop out. Failure as a band was so superior to similar bands of that era that it's a crime they never made it big. It seemed like every band with a distortion pedal and greasy hair could get a record deal in the 90's, while truly talented bands like Failure, Hum and Walt Mink were lost in the shuffle and banished to obscurity, only to be revered by the odd hipster or music nerd.
Failure's heavy, laboring riffs and spacey lead lines are f**king heaven to these jaded ears. Failure and Andrews painstakingly produced this record themselves, fine tuning and tweaking every aspect and in doing so created a "space rock" masterpiece. This kind of music truly just doesn't exist anymore. The dark, ethereal feel of the album is most likely a result of Andrews' drug use at the time, with many songs serving as metaphors for heroin. God, that is so 90's.
It's a shame that most people today think that "Stuck on You" is a Paramore song. But don't judge these guys by the bands who covered them. With tracks like "Saturday Saviour", "Smoking Umbrellas", "Blank", "Stuck on You" and "The Nurse Who Loved Me" (which was covered by A Perfect Circle), this thing's a winner.
Maybe the 90's weren't as special as I like to think they were (although I highly doubt it). However, this record is special and anyone who appreciates music from that time should own it.


Whatever Brains

Whatever Brains
Rapper's Delight II 7"
Funny/Not Funny Records, 2010

So, admittedly, I'm fairly behind the curve on this one. As I searched for great music from all over the country, I slept on what was slowly festering in my own backyard. I'm ashamed to admit that for a long time I thought Whatever Brains was a f**king reggae band. I don't know why, it was just an assumption. Perhaps it had something to do with the peace frog logo. I don't know. I thought they were like a Toots and the Maytals cover band or something. Lame. Whoops. But what I do know now after doing myself the favor of actually giving these fellas a proper listen is that I haven't been as excited about a local band since Superchunk. I'll keep this short. Whatever Brains f**king slay. Their songs are more infectious than that guy with the cough at work in the cubicle next to yours. It's actually ridiculous. I know these guys are kind of billed as punk or whatever, but I honestly think they're more in the tradition of the indie guitar rock of the 90's but with the snotiness of 70's brit punk. Whether they like it or not, they write some extremely catchy s**t. Everyone in the Triangle area and beyond would be well advised to follow these guys. They're for real, and I have a new favorite local band. Cheers boys, we are here to do your bidding.

These Arms Are Snakes

These Arms Are Snakes
Tail Swallower and Dove
Suicide Squeeze, 2008

I'm going back a few years on this one. I always have a hard time deciding whether Tail Swallower or Oxeneers is my favorite TAAS record. I'm going to post Tail Swallower though because it's easily the most (gasp) accessible. This is way more straight forward than their other records as far as song structure and overall songwriting. For those who are not acquainted with TAAS, they were essentially a super group of Seattle post-hardcore juggernauts including former members of Botch, Kill Sadie and Minus the Bear. Since they disbanded in late 2009, members have continued to garner respect and remain more than merely relevant by going on to play in projects like Narrows and Russian Circles.
It's really hard to describe TAAS' spastic, aggressive, yet melodic sound to anyone who has never heard them. And they sound nothing like the respective bands from which they came from. Sometimes I think that TAAS sounds like what Nirvana would have sounded like if they had kept evolving towards the heavier more experimental songs off In Utero. TAAS is way more precise musically and utilize keyboards at just the right times to blow your f**king mind though. Tail Swallower is the place to start if you want to check these guys out. You will not be disappointed. Then check out Botch, Kill Sadie, Narrows, Nineironspitfire, Russian Circles...



Ecailles de Lune
Prophecy Productions, 2010

Shoegaze post-black metal. Yes, that is one of the many descriptions heaped on Alcest, the project of French musician Neige. Yeah, if pressed, I would definitely categorize his other work as black metal. But it's so much.. prettier. Just like Ecailles de Lune (Scales of the Moon). I would hesitate to call it shoegaze. To me, it's more Sunny Day Real Estate than Ride. But then the black metal kicks in and the machine gun snare and strained vocals take over, and yadda yadda yadda. Which is fine. Hey, I like black metal as much as the next guy. But Alcest is already stepping way outside the black metal box, so to speak, by making a record that sounds like Diary, so why try to throw in aspects of black metal that are so predictable? I like this record. It sounds like the soundtrack to a movie adaptation of a graphic novel, which might be slightly lame but the fact that it's all in French totally makes up for it. If you like catchy pop riffs, 10 minute songs and don't mind a little bit of evil, this is your s**t.