Friday, November 23, 2007

No. 9

9. Thurston Moore-Trees Outside The Academy

I'll admit that I was never a very big fan of Sonic Youth until this year. Even now, I still have my doubts about them. I tend to enjoy bands who were heavily influenced by Sonic Youth more than Sonic Youth themselves. Seeing them perform all of "Daydream Nation" at McCarren Park in Brooklyn changed a lot of that for me. It was a heavily captivating set throughout, and everyone there seemed to feel that they were a part of something truly special. I still felt that, because I was working my way back in time through the Sonic Youth catalogue, trying to grasp something that honestly didn't appeal to me on its own very much, that maybe they just weren't for me after all. But everyone talked up Sonic Youth so much that I felt as if there was something wrong with me for not getting it instantly. That was all until I heard Thurston Moore's recent solo album, "Trees Outside The Academy," for the first time this past September.

SY drummer Steve Shelley and renown violinist Samara Lubelski provide the essential backbone of this record, which also features several fuzzed out, rip roaring solos from J. Mascis. From there, the rest is all Thurston, displaying his uncanny songwriting ability throughout, an ability that doesn't always come through in the more experimental, feedback drenched noise of other Sonic Youth records. Not to put that side of Thurston down, I just like the side that comes out in this record a lot more. As writer Michael Azzerad said, if you can’t play it on an acoustic guitar, it’s not really a song. Lubelski’s violin plays a crucial role throughout the record, filling in all of the empty space and turning the songs into gorgeous, autumnal tunes, meant to tug on your hearstrings. The album serves as a poignant reflection, a sign of Thurston’s maturity, yet a clear indicator he does not plan on throwing in the towel anytime soon. The fact that that he’s able to reinvent himself as impressively as this, so far into his career as a musician, is proof that he may in fact deserve the iconic status commonly ascribed to him. Songs like “Fri/End”, “The Shape Is In a Trance,” and “Never Day” are probably the strongest tracks on the record, but don’t expect to be skipping around much on this one. This is certainly a record where you hit play and just let it go, feeling truly transformed by the end of your first listen, and keeping you coming back for more.

The production of the acoustic mix on this record makes it come off like a punk album, in a sense. You’re able to hear the pick hitting the strings as much as you are able to hear what chords he’s actually playing, making sure you know that just cause’s he’s gone acoustic doesn’t mean he’s lost his punk rock energy. You can hear the energy he’s putting into hitting that thing as hard as he can as much as you can hear the fine craftsmanship he’s put into writing these songs.
The songs on this record seem a logical progression from the melodic, refined, and highly listenable rock songs of the last Sonic Youth record, "Rather Ripped." Could it be his biggest influence here is Sonic Youth? It certainly sounds like the intention of this record was to explore a whole different side of Sonic Youth that wouldn’t work as the follow up to “Rather Ripped,” but works perfectly as a solo attempt. On a side note, the title track is apparently about Ian Curtis, and the third track, entitled “Honest James,” is about James Brown. I’ll have to give those both a closer listen now.

Listen: “The Shape Is In A Trance,” “Fri/End,” “Never Day,” “Off Work”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

9. Thurston Moore

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

here we go...

so i guess at this point there aren't really going to be any really good albums released for the rest of 2007, so i may as well begin my albums of the year countdown now. this is obviously based on what i've heard, which is only a snippit of all the incredible music that seems to have come out this year. i make no claim to have any authority or even a handle on all the records that have been released this year. basically, if it sounds like bruce springsteen i'll like it...anyway, and without further ado, I shall start at Number 10, and count down!

first things first....


Red Collar
The Hands Up! EP (Power Team)

To be honest, when local NC promotions company Cool Fishing sent us this EP at the beginning of the summer, it fell under my radar, and it got lost in the shuffle of the office, a sad fact of life for many potentially great albums coming into the hands of WQFS. When we received from WQFS favorite Team Clermont, it caught my attention a little more, itself a sad comment on the psychology of college radio and music directing. Or maybe there are just too many bands out there, and the high volume of shit we get in from artists such as Electric Chubbyland has made me awfully jaded when it comes to finding out about new bands, or even giving them the courtesy of a quick listen. However, this is one of the few records we got in the station from a band I had never heard of before that completely and utterly knocked me on my fucking ass.

The first single, “Hands Up,” was somewhat catchy upon first listen, but as I sat through the rest of the EP, I was blown away at the depth, passion, and honesty present in each and every song. It became evident that no college radio campaign could appropriately explore the complexities of this band, complexities which provide the platform on which Red Collar seem poised to take the torch as the next great American band…At least in the state of North Carolina. Red Collar are probably at their best when they’re tugging on your heartstrings, which the dancey post-punk of the “Hands Up” single doesn’t quite capture. That song sounds a little more like a market strategy than a good reflection of what this band is truly capable of.

Speaking of heartstrings, for example, using the metaphor of selling used guitars as a way of mourning the sad realization of the mortality of the American teenage punk rock dream. For someone such as myself who is terrified about growing up, or “giving up,” the tension of which they explore in “Used Guitars,” this release speaks volumes. With this release, Red Collar achieve that rare accomplishment for any group of punkers who are growing up; letting your inner punk grow up with you. Instead of getting jaded and selling their record collection for beer money, they are busy learning more, taking in and sharing wisdom and honesty through song and live performance, and never giving up. Growing up in the DC punk scene, I often felt like there was a very low ceiling on what was deemed as acceptable personal growth if you hoped to retain your punk credibility. Red Collar shatter that ceiling to pieces, and say fuck it, let’s start our own thing.

Songs such as “Witching Hour” make it clear they grew up listening to Fugazi and Rites Of Spring, while songs such as “Stay” feature an indescribable mixture of influences that I can’t quite my finger on, although old Small Brown Bike certainly comes to mind. Like Springsteen, they never judge, they just explore, they ask questions, and they tell stories. They somehow manage to combine the impossible-to-package-and-sell qualities of The Clash, the devotion to DIY culture and ethics of Fugazi, the young, anxious, and stuck in a town full of losers restlessness of the Boss, and the dancey catchiness of Q And Not U. yet they’re never above the audience. They struggle with life and its hard lessons just like everyone else in the room. As one review said, “they’re no bar band, they’ve learned too much.” Plus they’re some of the nicest people ever, and they fully deserve your attention. So put your hands up and give it to them!!

Listen: “Used Guitars” “Stay” “Witching Hour”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wow, I have not updated this thing in forever. And what better time to update it than when I am currently trying to work on a research paper? I have been listening to a lot of really good new stuff, but briefly I just want to make a list of some of my favorite albums of the year so far, or largely just stuff that i think is going to be on my year end list. isn't that the most exciting thing about new years anyway? making year end lists? this is not any particular order, but i will definitely come up with some big year end entry come december. i have no clue what order these will be in, but for now i am just pondering some things you will see on there...

some of my top jams of 2007, in no particular order:

Ghastly City Sleep-Ghastly City Sleep
The National-Boxer
Pygmy Lush-Bitter River
The Everybodyfields-Nothing Is Okay
Panda Bear-Person Pitch
Akron/Family-Love Is Simple
Red Collar-Hands Up!
Big Business-Here Come The Waterworks
Thurston Moore-Trees Outside The Academy
Health-Where You From?
Explosions In The Sky-All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
Pissed Jeans Hope For Men

stuff that was really awesome upon first listen, and is okay, but kind of faded away rather quickly:

Bruce Springsteen-Magic
Ryan Adams-Easy Tiger
Animal Collective-Strawberry Jam
Georgie James-Places
Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin DrewSpirit If...

straight up trash:
Smashing Pumpkins-Zeitgeist
Rilo Kiley-Under The Blacklight