Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve Mix:Twisting the night away...

Lookit those goofy honkies dancing...almost makes ya wanna cry.

Anyway, here's a party soundtrack for ya to have fun to...or whatever else it is you might be doing tonight.

Check it out here.

1. Don Thomas-Come on train
2. Marvelettes-I'll Keep Holding On
3. James Carr-Coming back to me Baby
4. Bobby Bland-Shoes
5. Art Wheeler-That's How Much I love you
6. The Organics-Footstompin'
7. Alemayehu Eshete  Hirut Beqele-Temeles
8. Mahmoud Ahmed-Gizie Degu Neger
9. Gnonnas PEdtro et sus Commandos-Dadje von on Von
10. Seyfu Yohannes-Mela Mela
11. William Onyeabor-Try and Try
12. Darrell Banks-Forgive Me
13. The Drifters-There Goes my Baby
14. Gngsgns-Wlkthnght

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012: EPs, etc.

1. Kitchen's Floor-Bitter Defeat
No one else came close this year. Two songs of heartfelt, savagely emotional white blues from Brisbane (the digital version includes two alternate takes and a track from Matt Kennedy’s pre-KF project). Kennedy has been bashing out noisy, tuneful downer pop for years now, but this is easily his best work. I won’t bother going into detail on this one-I wrote a longreview of it earlier this month-and most of you have probably heard this one already. If you bought one record in 2012, I hope it was this one; if you buy one in 2013, make it this. 

2. Meat Thump-Box of Wine
These two songs do battle with The Men’s “Turn it Around” as the best piece of rock ‘n’ roll released in 2012. They’re a testament to Brenden Annesley’s song-writing talents, his sense of humor, and the strength of the Aussie rock scene right now. Both songs clang,bang, and drag themselves through an alcoholic muck of Cleveland-indebted riffs and rhythmic patterns, while Annesley deadpans tales of alcoholic impotence, indifference to things that ain’t fun, and boxes of wine. Annesley will be much missed for a number of reasons; one of them is that we can’t look forward to more Meat Thump songs. If you buy two records in 2013, this should be the other one.

 3. Muuy Bien-s/t 
--> I didn’t listen to a lot hardcore this year, but this was the best HC record I did hear-probably in part because it’s art punk, not hardcore per se. Muuy Bien managed the unlikely feat of convincingly recreating the vibe of The Middle Class’ “Out of Vogue” EP on this one. The speed, the snide vocals, the arty pretensions: it’s all there. Four truncated hardcore punk tracks, none of them longer than a minute, followed by a weirdo guitar instrumental closer to John Fahey than the Germs. This one is a real keeper. Buy it from Mellow Riot records.

4. Piresian Beach-Alle Falle
 Zsofia saved the best for last. The final PB record really pulled together the garage punk ramshackleness and psychedelic tinge of her previous records, and stitched them together into 6 songs to get zonked on acid to. The ramshackle punk vibe, in fact, cedes center stage to a big guitar sound, especially on “Play Today,” and Zsofia’s hazy, wasted singing voice is perfect for it. This EP is like a warm bath to sit in while grooving on hallucinogens. Pop a beer, settle in, and enjoy the freakout.

 5. Sonic Death-Gothic Sessions
  Sonic Death could very well be The Sonics caught in a time portal and somehow spirited away to Petrograd. If you want to hear the best that the international garage scene has to offer in 2012, this is where to start. All of the songs on this EP are real songs: they have discernible, distinct beginnings, middles, and endings, instead of just being whambam pieces of noise. Sonic Death knows their rock ‘n’ roll history but unlike a lot of bands working in this genre, they’ve managed to create a sound all their own.  I hadn’t heard this EP since reviewing it back in May, and I had forgotten that every song here stands on its own. SD has released a slew of excellent records this year; start with this one, then wind your way through their twisted maze of garage wizardry.
 6. Wild Moth-s/t
San Francisco’s Willd Moth is a band to watch in 2013. I’m just gonna quote my buddy Max’s writeup of these guys: “Wild Moth wastes no time in making with a cacophony of hooks and croons whose assault on your eardrums leaves a sticky residue in your brain. Pretty, almost bubblegum components are thrown together in a manic frenzy.” Seriously, this EP is a fantastic piece of bittersweet guitar-driven pop, bitter enough to nurse your depression with but catchy enough that you can hum along to most of these songs. Get into it. 

 7. Buso-3E
Everyone and their fucking brother is making synth-based new/post/dark/cold/whateverwave these days. Most of this stuff is a stinking pile of shit. It helps, if you’re going to make a stinking pile of shit and call it music, if you can hide your lack of passion or skills behind a synthesizer, since played the right (wrong) way, it hides this lack of the essentials behind mechanical efficiency.

Buso’s “3E” was one of the few convincing pieces of bedroom synth music I heard this year. “Summer Skins” in particular is a majestic synth-guitar combination with a killer series of guitar notes stretched out over a numbing synth beat. It’s a simple song but for whatever reason, this guy does it like he means it. “Mutual Valley” could be everyone’s favorite dance song in hell, while “leaving” is a blissed out crescendof of swirling effects and a clanging beat. Check this out to remember why you got into “coldwave” in the first place.
 8. Nite Fields-Vacation
This was the other good darkwave (or whatever the hell you wanna call synth-driven post punk) EP I heard this year. The beat and guitar riff of “Vacation” are absolutely infectious, and if anything could get me out of my chair and onto the dance floor, it would be this. The track gradually builds and builds, flattens out into a fuzzy bridge, then closes on a clattering cluster of organ notes. “Hell/Happy” is more introspective, for the morning after an excessive bender. Treat these two songs as a bracket for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

 9. Batu Kan Pesti Rokona-Mezofoldi Kozmosz
Strictly for the adventurous and the truly weird among my readers. I think that this one will be forgotten about and then, maybe twenty years down the line, some overeducated music nerd will rediscover dude and laud him to the skies. Long after it’s too late to do Batu or anyone else any good, of course.

Anyway, on this EP we’re treated to a truly confusing and challenging hodgepodge of punk, space rock, improvised guitar experimentation, and just plain eccentricity. There are traces of Opus Null’s sound-dude plays guitar in that band-but this goes way off the deep end. “Araben’ is a mid-tempo krautpunk (think Teenage Panzerkorps on even more drugs) banger that slips off into fuzzed out, drum-less humming. Things get really interesting on “Panelhazi Ugros,” though, and showcases what makes this record so memorable. Batu develops a series of guitar soundscapes that are inimitable; psychedelic rock is a genre of music, but his guitarscapes are psychedelic in that you imagine whole landscapes when listneing to them.

 10. A Black People-Red Eyes
Big ups to Robert at Terminal Escape for turning me on to this band. A Black People does a great job of reviving the sound of early ‘80s SoCal deathrock bands (45 Grave, Christian Death) etc. while keeping up a snide, snotty punk vibe under the macabre façade. This EP is ragged and crude, and attractive for just those reasons. The singer sounds like the snotty, holier-than-thou pretentious asshole who works at your local record store, who goes home every night and gets bombed out listening to Sisters of Mercy. Unlike most bands in this genre, ABP strings together two 7 minute+ songs that are worth listening to in their entirety. Play on, kiddies, play on.

Other Hot EPs:
Summer Schatzies-Take me to Bohemia
Preludes-New York
Solar Snakes-s/t
Useless Eaters-Addicted to the Blade
Walrus-Odobenus Rosmarus
Teen Suicide-Goblin Problems

Top Five Cassette Releases:
Faggettes-Vols. 1 & 2
Trauma Harness-The Way you Press Harder
Kent State/Doleful Lions split
Psychic Blood-Autumn Curses
The Feeling of Love-So Chocolate

 Best Demos:
Violent End
Michael Wohl

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of 2012: LPs

Yup, it's that time of year. Trolling through dozens of records and mp3 files, drinking myself stupid as I do so, all in a heroic effort to guide you, dear reader, through the best noise that 2012 had to offer. There's no real order to these lists-for example, I loved Bloom for very different reasons than Songs of Love and Despair, so they're not being assigned a qualitative hierarchy.
   First up are the LPs. EPs, tapes and demos will follow in separate posts. It's 11 insteada 10 'cause I got drunk and fucked up the numbers. Whatever, the Broken Water releases this year were ragers, all of 'em!


1. Wonderfuls-Salty Town (self-released)

If you only buy a handful of records in 2013, this should be one of them. This is the only record I’ve heard this year that gives Kitchen's Floor's Bitter Defeat EP a run for its money. It shares the same gripping melancholy of that release, but lacks the dynamism that Bitter Defeat has, by virtue of the organ and drums. On Salty Town, The Wonderfuls are obsessed with capturing the sound of desolation; listening to this album is like staring at an ice pond on an overcast day for an hour, completely alone, only to see the sun suddenly peek out from the clouds. Perhaps this isn’t entirely coincidental-Bobby Bot, aka Robert Vagg, drums in Kitchen's Floor, and he sings in the Wonderfuls.   
            The Wonderfuls debuted in 2011 with a savage piece of noize schlock on Negative Guest List, and this is a complete 180: instead of Raw Power on steroids, Salty Town is six tracks of hushed guitar and vocals, awash in layer upon layer of echoing effects. The music, care of Bobby’s cousin, Danny McGirr, envelops the vocals like a warm echo chamber: it sounds like Bobby’s singing in a Gothic cathedral. There’s nothing else: no further instrumentation, no attempt at mediating between the listener and Bobby’s tales of childhood nostalgia, adult problems, and efforts to come to terms with them.
            Bobby’s singing voice is a hollow, flat distillation of raw emotion that may have some echo in early Death in June, but in a completely different context. He stretches out each word, almost each syllable, until the vocals match the phrasing and glacial pace of the music. “Relapse,” as far as I can hear, is a tale of battling one’s demons and grappling with one’s inability to connect with other people: as the song closes, he repeats “I…think…they’re…out…there….” insistently, as if he can call some sort of companionship into being. It’s one of the best songs I’ve heard all year.

This is extremely bleak, melancholic music-in an intriguing interview, Bobby said that “I think Salty Town is about accepting that you may not be happy, and that this may be as good as it gets.” Yet, like the Bitter Defeat EP, my other favorite record of the year, by creating such a bleak and introspective album, the Wonderfuls are transcending isolation and anomie. Music doesn’t have to be therapeutic to be good, but most of the best records are, and Salty Town is absolutely that. Listen here.

2. Beach House, Bloom (Sub Pop):
"What comes after this/momentary bliss/[is a] consequence/of what you do to me..."-"Myth" 
I usually steer clear of what passes for indie rock these days, but Beach House is an exception. Sneer and mock all you like, but Beach House is probably the best, and certainly the most consistent, indie/rock band of the last ten years. What I respect most about Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally is their ability to maintain the same ambiance across four LPs, while changing and developing within that basic framework. This is not the same thing as making the same album over and over again (like the Ramones, for example). Rather, Beach House is still working with the same dynamic that produced 2006’s self-titled debut, while incorporating new dimensions and, fundamentally, working a lot more space into each new album, even into each song. It’s like living in a house that you gradually refurbish and personalize over the years: it’s the same structure, completely transformed.
Scally and LeGrand hinted at this in their May interview with Pitchfork: Scally noted that a lot of people probably just listen to their sound, instead of their songs. I’m certainly guilty of this: I heard Devotion first, loved the self-titled LP but thought I was bored by it, and then, when Bloom dropped, thought it was just a slicker version of Teen Dream. This is a result of the sort of superficial listening that has overtaken most of us with the advent of the internet and all the changes it’s brought to music and its reception; Legrand cuts to the heart of the matter ten minutes into this interview-cum-live-show.
Bloom works with the same palette, maybe, as Teen Dream, but the canvas is much bigger; or maybe it’s the same canvas with an expanded palette. Whatever, Teen Dream-from Scally’s vibrant guitar notes at the beginning of “Zebra” to the surprisingly cheery organ of “Take Care”-was speaking the same language of Devotion and the self-titled LP, but in another register, another voice. The sadness and graying beauty of the first two LPs was still there, but a lot of the bitterness of Devotion was gone, replaced with a knowing refusal to wallow in self-indulgence: when LeGrand sang, in the chorus of “Zebra,” “Don’t I know you/better than the rest….”, she could be talking to her past self as well as an ex-lover. 

            Bloom is delivered in the same voice as Teen Dream, but the breathlessness of the 2010 LP is mostly gone, in favor of slow-moving songs that unfold at their own pace. Listening to “Myth,” the opening track and debut single, is like watching a flower, well, bloom: the more you listen to it, the more details you spot; as the song progresses, the more texture develops until it sounds like a full-on orchestral piece at the end. Again, patience and repetition is the key to appreciating Beach House: I hated this thing when it came out, thinking “Eh, Beach House has even slicker production so they did a fancier job of making their first LP again.” This is just the sort of lazy listening that Scally and LeGrand rightfully denounced in the above-mentioned interview. All music worth listening to demands something from the listener, and Bloom is no different. Released in May, it’s still surprising me in December, and I can see myself listening to it for years. How many other bands or albums can you say that of in this age of instant obsolescence?
         I demand that you sit down with this and listen to it repeatedly. It’s well worth it.
One last note, though: Scally and LeGrand seem like fundamentally decent people who have kept clear heads despite the whirlwind of publicity (at least on the indie level) they’ve lived in since “Apple Orchard” hit on Pitchfork. In interviews they sound intelligent, and I’m guessing they’re nice to their fans. I’m pretty sure most pop stars aren’t like that. Check it out here.

3. Merchandise-Children of Desire (Katorga Works):

“we’re still young, baby, but we’re getting old..."-“Time”

In 2012, the rest of the world (by which I mean the sort of people who attend that Pitchfork festival in Chicago, as opposed to those of us who got into Merchandise ‘cause they come from the hardcore scene ) acknowledged Merchandise’s existence. Honestly, I hope these guys become huge. God knows that growing up in Tampa counts as serving time off in Purgatory, and their songs are good enough that they deserve a wider audience than can fit in your local basement punk venue. It won’t be the same, but whatever: I'd be happy to see Merchandise in Chicago's Metro.

(Strange Songs) In the Dark grew on me after awhile, but Children of Desire had me hooked right from the beginning. Chris Cox’s voice is so impossibly, melodramatically sodden with emotion that I challenge anyone who’s not dead and who loves rock ‘n’ roll to hate this LP: even if the band sucked, and they don’t, the singing would be enough to make the LP noteworthy. “Thin Air,” a synthesizer-and-vox intro, merely warms you up for “Time,” which might be my favorite song of 2012. The keyboard notes are downright dreamlike as the song starts, and this slightly surreal feel only grows as the song ends its beginning and kicks into full gear. A burbling bass line underlies the swirling synthesizer box and massive guitar leads.
 I don’t wanna turn this writeup into a mush of references to ‘80s bands, but I will say that Merchandise, based on the core of this album-“Time,” “Become What you Are,” and “In Nightmare Room”-write some of the best, most heartfelt music I’ve heard in years. The music soars above the maudlin singing, with Vassoliti’s riffs creating a cocoon for Cox to gush in; heartbreak hasn’t sounded this wonderful in quite awhile. Don’t take my word for it; check out the video for “Time” on Youtube, and fall in love with the song. On “Become What you are," soft synthesizer fuzz and a drum machine set up another majestic riff. Cox’s first verse contains one of the best, and most dismissive, lines I’ve heard in a long time: “The music started/I realized it was all a lie/the guitars were ringing out/last year’s punk.” Check it out yourself, dear readers.

“Satellite” and “Roser Park” throw casual listeners for a loop and, even though “Roser Park” is the weakest track here, the last two songs show how ambitious Merchandise is. I dunno, I’m sick of talking about these guys, so just fucking get into ‘em already. Then go hassle Katorga Works to re-press this LP!  Listen to "Time" here.

4. The Men-Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones):
 I guess a lot of people hated this one because it wears its influences on its sleeves, and is a much more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll record than Immaculada. If you’re expecting innovation and new sounds from a rock ‘n’ roll band in 2012, you’re a moron: any musical genre going on 60 years simply cannot break new ground, in my opinion. If your band consists of a drummer, guitarist, bassist, and singer, there’s only so many sounds you can create, and most of them have been done. Quality rock ‘n’ roll in this day and age consists, as so much of it always has, in playing it like you mean it, not blazing new trails (listen to  Chord if you want that!).
            Another thing I hate about how The Men have been treated in the press/blogosphere/whatever is that, like Fucked Up, they’ve been hailed by lame cunts such as Pitchfork as the “saviors of punk” among other horseshit. Any asshole who would write something like that was never part of the punk scene, and I resent the idea that punk somehow needs to be “saved.” Us losers are doing just fine, thankyaverymuch.

So. Rant aside, this is simply the funnest rock record I heard all year. “Turn it Around” is an absolute wrecking ball, an anthem up there with The Clash’s best work. From “Turn it Around” to the closer, the blatant Sonic Youth-esque tune “Ex-Dreams,” it sounds like The Men are having a great time and inviting you to do the same. They haven’t ditched all their droney elements-“Oscillation” and “Ex-Dreams” in particular retain some kraut rock elements-but consciously or not, The Men have opened up to the masses on this one. Throw it on, crack a beer, and hang out. You can chill with The Men here.

5.  Bitch Prefect-Big Time (Bedroom Suck):

A lot of my favorite music in 2012 came from Hungary or Australia, for whatever reason. Most of this music, from both countries, was rambunctious, fundamentally obnoxious and/or simply nasty noise. Bitch Prefect, on the other hand, offers twelve songs that remind me of nothing more than Beat Happening if Calvin Johnson was an Austrlian instead of a hippy.
Bitch Prefect’s songs are so disarmingly direct, it’s downright offensive. Witness “Bad Decisions”: barely rhythmic drums, a basic chord change I could probably learn in an hour, and lyrics on the order of “then I got in a car and went into the city. And I was making bad decisions every opportunity. Bad decisions, bad life decisions.” Seriously, what’s with these guys? I dunno, but if you can move past the cotton candy quality of BP, they really grow on you. This LP works in a very perverse way. You keep waiting for the hidden brilliance to reveal itself, for some sort of subtlety to emerge after the Nth listen…but it never does. BP simply makes dirt-simple, clean pop songs that stick in your head. I keep wanting to hate this band and this LP, but I instead I just keep listening to it. Over and over again. Hell, if I was religious and/or dated a religious girl, I’d probably be able to keep listening to BP. I can’t say that of anything else in my collection except maybe the Byzantine liturgical chants I spin when I’m really blasted on Xanax. Buy it over here.
  6. Grass Widow-Internal Logic (HLR):

All of Grass Widow’s previous releases are solid, but Internal Logic is their most consistent release so far. Their sound has evolved considerably since their self-titled debut EP of 2009. What has changed is their mastery of the complex, interlocking harmonies.  The obvious comparison for this band has always been post-punk pioneers like the Raincoats and Slits, but it doesn’t do credit to GW to dismiss ‘em as revivalists. This comparison is usually followed by the obligatory “all-girl group” or “feminist band” blahblahblah, which really irks me. Why can’t people discuss Grass Widow or other post-punk bands whose membership happens to be all women without gendering the discussion? It’s reductive and stupid to assume that GW’s music is somehow determined by their gender. I’ll conclude by saying that “Internal Logic” is a fun piece of rock ‘n’ roll: come for the surf guitar, stay for the harmonic duets.

7. The Abigails-Songs of Love and Despair (Burger):
    I certainly wasn’t expecting a country rock album to rear its mullet-besotted head on this year-end list. The Abigails’ stunning debut wasn’t something you’d expect from Los Angeles: the cheerfully dark atmosphere of these songs places it deep in the desert or high up in the Rocky Mountains. The key to the album is Warren Thomas’ deep-throated croak and the twangy guitars. “Black Hell” gets a lot of mileage out of a basic riff and Thomas’ noirish tale of being stuck in some nameless hellhole of a Texas town….”there’s no comfort in black hell.” Put this on for your next gunfight or lover’s spat. Buy it over here.
 8. White Lung-Sorry (Deranged):

White Lung was the only new (i.e., a major album released in 2012) punk band I got excited about this year. In fact, Sorry was the only urgent album of the year: White Lung plays every song like there’s something their lives depend on it, as if they’re playing because they have to. I’ve been listening to punk long enough that I hope I know when a band’s faking it, and I think White Lung is f’real.
Militancy, in the best sense of the term, spews from every chord. The opener, “Take the Mirror,” was one of the best rock songs of the year, and White Lung keeps up the same frantic pace through all ten tracks. “Bag” is a frantic dance number, snazzy enough to get you moving but it’s over so fast you can barely get on the floor. I don’t know what White Lung is so freaked out about, but their passion and energy is infectious. Try listening to “Thick Lips” and not wanna punch someone in the face. It helps that that “someone” would probably be some chauvinist frat boy. Call it riot grrrl, call it punk, I don’t give a fuck: White Lung is angry, tuneful, and passionate, and this fucking shreds. Buy it here. 
9. Cavedweller-2016 Pts. II & III (Business Deal):

-->I don’t know why this guy isn’t huge, or at least a cult sensation. Dirk Michener, the brains behind Cavedweller, has been making cool, down-tuned acoustic blues that stick with you in a mellow sorta way since 1994. 2016 II & III was my introduction to this guy’s work, and I’m a believer. There’s very few frills, and absolutely no flash, to Michener’s work. He settles into a groove, and mines it for all it’s worth.
            Michener specializes in lightly distorted, heavily reverb’d lo-fi blues that I hesitate to to call country only because that word conjures up images of Garth Brooks in a lot of peoples’ minds. Yet this is country, in a good sense: music for driving down a desolate, lonely highway somewhere deep in the American heartland, with nothing but your memories, heartbreak, and Dead Moon tapes to keep you company. “Kevin grows Gills,” despite being about that wretched Kevin Costner flick Water World, hasa  ghost town vibe all its own; “Stacy” is a jangly, bittersweet ode to.
            You get the idea. This is a record for the long morning after New Year’s, when you’re sitting around your apartment, gutpit depressed, facing another new year with not a whole lot of options and even less faith in the world around you. Slip it on and focus on the groove. Michener's such a nice guy, you can download it for free, but really you should buy it!

10. Crooked Bangs-s/t (Western Medical):

I was having an exceptionally shitty day when this thing landed in my inbox. If memory serves, I had almost gotten hit by a bus on my way to work, had a panic attack at the archive, lost my cigarettes in the rain, then some asshole tried to sell me brown “coke” when I was drinkin’ a beer at the end of the day and wouldn’t leave me alone. This tight, clever, and fucking bouncy record changed everything. Within five minutes of putting it on, I was awkwardly dancing around my one-room apartment, guzzling beer cause I wanted to (instead of from frustration), and was screaming mangled endearments out my window at passers-by.
The Misfits references are everywhere on this LP, but the song writing, thick bass, and crisp singing really set Crooked Bangs apart. CB’s sense of balance is fantastic: the mix mediates the surf guitar, melodically snarling vocals, tight drums, and infectious bass in a way most punk bands could only hope to do. “Blood Castle” is a good example: Guitar vamps duel with a sinuous bass line until the singer almost whispers around the one-minute mark. The song is a slow burning post-punk dance number firmly anchored on the “punk” end of that hypen. It’s an important distinction.

This LP is for all you punks who, like me, spend most of your time bummed out and cranky but still have enough youthful(?) enthusiasm to get happy just by listening to music. Listen to, then buy LP here.

 11. Broken Water-Seaside and Sedmikrasky (Hardly Art):

 I’m treating this as an LP, even though it's only two songs: they're both epic, clocking in at plus 10 minutes, and require sustained listening to really get into. Broken Water is better known for its colossal riffs, snide Sonic Youth-isms, and its genius for channeling 90s heavyweights like Dinosaur, Jr. and Nirvana without sounding like a copycat band.
     On this, we get a very different side of them, something approaching post rock. “Seaside” is a slow burning drums-cello-guitar piece that drifts along for 9 minutes like a leviathan at the bottom of the sea. Finally background vocals kick in, but they’re completely indecipherable; a ghost has joined the leviathan. Things falter and almost collapse around 11 minutes; then the cello kicks up a droning, whiney dirge that you expect to explode. It never does, but “Seaside” is a challenging mood piece that works (barely). “Daisy Version 2” is slightly shorter. The opening evokes the Nio-John Cale tune “It was a pleasure then,” but then it breaks down into stumbling piano and guitar hiss, punctuated by the band members’ laughter. The piece doesn’t really go anywhere and is a freeform exploration of structureless composition, in my opinion. Whatever, this EP hints at how ambitious Broken Water were getting just before they broke up. Bummer. You can buy the LP here.

These should be in the mix somewhere, too....:
Peaking Lights-Lucifer (you should still be able to get this, here.)
Broken Cups-Slaves of the Grave (buy it here.)
 The Chaw-self-titled (grab it here.)
Sharpeye-Beyond the Realm of Reason (here).
Opus Null-Alkotmanyos Anarchia-They live over here.
The Dictaphone-Let's Not (livehere ).
Crazy Spirit-s/t (buy it here.)       

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012 Mix it Up: Another Year-End Mix

Yup, it is whatcha think it is. My end of the year favorite tunes (although it doesn't include "Myth" by Beach House-Bruce Pavitt would prolly sue me). All of the bands and artists featured on this mixtape are well worth supporting. I've reviewed most of the albums these tunes were released on; check 'em out, and throw some money their way. Rock 'n' roll, lettin' it blurt, like Lester said.

Listen to it, kiddies 'n' ponx.

1. The Men-Turn it Around
2. Wild Moth-Morning Sickness
3. Broken Water-Yanka Dyagileva
4. Crazy Spirit-Crying Mother
5. Grass Widow-Spock on Muni
6. Useless Eaters-Addicted to the Blade
7. Piresian Beach-People Know Nothing
8. Teenagers-I want to Know
9. Crooked Bangs-Le Beau Tetard sur son Cigare
10. Merchandise-Time
11. Sonic Death-Pop
12. Kitchen's Floor-Down (alt. version)
13. Cavedweller-Poison II
14. Bitch Prefect-Guess the Person
15. Michael Wohl-Variations: Melatonin Blues/ Fever Dreams
16. Batu Kan Pesti Rakosa-Zenit

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Interview: Kitchen's Floor

"I was happy/I was happy/I was happy..." an Interview with Matt Kennedy of Kitchen's Floor

Brisbane, Australia's Kitchen's Floor has been dishing out melancholic downer pop for several years now. Matt Kennedy is the founder and core of the band. He was gracious enough to respond to some interview questions via email last week, and here are the answers.

 The phrasing and arrangement of the questions ain't what I'd like it to be; I had a vicious headcold when putting them together. Cheers to Matt for the interview, and supplying the photos.

DrugPunk [DP]: Previous interviewers have ascribed the Kitchen’s Floor aesthetic of domestic decay, in part, to the city of Brisbane. Do you agree with that? What’s Brisbane like, and how long have you lived there?

Matt Kennedy [MK]: Sure I agree with that.  I’ve lived in Brisbane my whole life apart from my high school years which I spent on the Gold Coast, a horrible tourist beach town an hour’s drive south.  I didn’t live near the beach though, I lived next to the highway.  Right now it’s summer and Brisbane is very hot and humid, things are very sweaty.  My house is old, made of wood and open to the elements so every year around this time there is an insect invasion.  Spiders, flies, cockroaches, and a lot of weird bugs that I don’t know what they are.  During winter we get mice, but I prefer the insects to the mice.  Brisbane has some great bands happening right now.  Bands like Blank Realm, The Wonderfuls, Scraps, Cured Pink, Sewers, Girls Girls Girls, Sky Needle, Fig. are ruling it.  Brisbane is also the HQ of Breakdance The Dawn, possibly the greatest CDR/Tape label in the world.   

DP: Did you have a clear sense of what you wanted Kitchen’s Floor to sound like heading into the project?

MK: I Just wanted to write catchy pop songs with junkyard instruments.

DP: How did your recent Australian tour go? Any highlights?

MK: It was heaps of fun.  We played Maggotfest in Melbourne[,] which was crazy, usually Melbourne audiences are restrained but that whole show was wild.  The next day we drove an hour north and played a small festival called ‘Paddock Bash’.  It was on a farm in the middle of nowhere and was amazing.  One of my favourite memories of this year would be during that afternoon while taking a piss in the porta-loo, Mad Nanna had just started their set in the paddock and I felt very content.  For the Newcastle and Sydney shows we went down with Sewers, one of the best new bands in Brisbane, and that was pretty darn good too.  I needed a week alone in the dark to recover after that trip.      

DP: As an outsider who’s never been to Australia, it seems/sounds like a lot of the cities-Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne-have been experiencing a music boom in the last few years. Royal Heache, KF, Naked on the Vague, etc. –Why?

MK: I don’t really know why, it’s cool though.

DP: Joe Strummer once said in an interview that “I find creativity hinges on being well pissed.” How does a KF song get written, typically?

MK: With an acoustic guitar in my room, with or without alcohol but mostly with.  Usually late at night.

DP: KF toured the States last year-how did that go, and what did you think of the US?

MK: I was expecting things to be similar since we’re seen as a very Americanized country but the US is very different to Australia.  Much more heavy.  We did a big circle of your amazing country in a van over a month, something like 25 shows.  Met a lot of great people but it’s a bit hard to sum up the whole experience briefly.  Columbus was a highlight for me, we played with Psychedelic Horseshit and it was damn awesome.   

DP: One of the things that strikes me about your music is how many versions you’ll do of the same song, for example, how different the songs on “Too Dead to Notice” sound compared to the studio versions. Why this constant re-tooling of previously recorded songs?

MK: I like experimenting with the arrangements of the songs and since the lineup is always changing then different people being involved can make the songs sound different.  No particular recording sounds ‘definitive’ to me.

DP: What can we we expect from KF in the future? The circumstances surrounding the “Bitter Defeat” material were pretty unique, but do you think you’ll continue with the sound you and Andrew McLellan and Bobby Bot developed for this EP?   

MK: Probably not, I’ll keep playing with them both in the future but I don’t really know what things will sound like.  Maybe more instrumental stuff? Maybe the next record will be ridiculous synth punk? Adult contemporary? I have no idea.

DP: What’s the deal with “Pasta”? It sounds like a Jim Shepherd outtake, and it’s a real departure from you previous KF songs….

MK: That’s a track I recorded in 2006, it pre-dates Kitchen’s Floor by a year.  It’s myself playing around with a 4 track tape recorder, guitar and amp feedback.  I don’t mind it, it makes an interesting ‘bonus download’ for the Bitter Defeat single. 

DP: Both LPs close out with numerical songs, “Twenty-two” and “Twenty-four.” Are they summaries of your situation at the time?  

MK: Those were my ages at the time when I wrote them.  I still haven’t written ‘Twenty-Six’ yet but hopefully it will come about before I’m obligated to write ‘Twenty-Seven’.

DP: In one interview I’ve read, you mentioned having a good sense that there’s a whole lot you want to do artistically before turning 30. Are you planning on musical retirement once your twenties are out? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

MK: Age doesn’t matter with music, I’ll just keep going until I run out of ideas or motivation.

DP: What are you up to when not recording or playing out? Do you work a shitty day job or make a farce of Uni, like the rest of us?

MK: I haven’t worked much at all this year.  I have an empty wallet to prove it.  I do some volunteer stuff at Brisbane community radio station 4ZZZ, and I host my own weekly radio show ‘Eternal Soundcheck’ which focuses solely on Australian music.  Currently I’m doing a course in small business, so hopefully that leads to some interesting things in the future.  I’m planning to start my own record label/distro in 2013.
DP: You seem like a guy who enjoys a drink. What’s your favorite kind of drunk? Beer, wine, other….?

MK: Nothing beats beer but I do drink a fair share of cheap red wine.  It really depends on my money situation.  If I have money to waste then gin is my drink.  Lately I’ve been limiting myself, I haven’t had a drink in a week and I feel pretty good about that.   I’m not the best drunk in the world so some clarity every now and then is delightful.      

 DP: Your songs remind me of some of Lou Reed’s work, especially his “Berlin” era material: you share with him the ability to paint scenes of bleakness and squalor, without necessarily celebrating self-destruction.  Are there any influences on your lyrical style? You’ve said previously that what you’re expressing is the weird sadness of life….

MK: Lyrics are intentionally brief and repetitive.  I try to use strong yet vague words, but everything still has to have a personal meaning for me because I won’t accept shallow songs.

DP: Any closing words or further musical recommendations from Australia for us Yankees?

MK: My favourite Australian bands this year have been The Wonderfuls, Lower Plenty, Satanic Rockers, Nun, Fig., Housewives, Rites Wild, Bitch Prefect, Holy Balm, Ghastly Spats, Raw Prawn, The Native Cats, Ruined Fortune Band, The Lost Domain, Sky Needle, Straightjacket Nation, Primitive Motion, Muura, Superstar, Legendary Hearts, Total Control, Angel Eyes, Extrafoxx, Mad Nanna and a few more I’m forgetting.  All I would consider worthy of the time of your readers.

You can listen to KF albums, and buy the ones still in print, on their bandcamp page.