Thursday, July 26, 2012

Backtrack to June

So the bad news is that I'm a bit late on posting this Monthly Favorites Mixtape especially considering that next week we're set to turn the calendar page to August. However, the good news is that the lateness is due to the fact that I've had a sudden surge of inspiration which, of course, came in the form of all things music, both old (1992 Mixtape) and very new (Tuesday Streams- Melody's Echo Chamber and Grassfight.) Well, let's get to it and backtrack our way through some of the songs that were on repeat through the month of June.



June 2012 Mixtape
1. Japandroids, "The Nights Of Wine And Roses": This Vancouver fuzz punk duo's second proper album, Celebration Rock lives up to its name. It's the kind of record that's overflowing with instant shout-alongs. This is the first track off the album and it begins with the sound of actual fireworks because what's more celebratory than fireworks?! Sure, like most Japandroids songs, it's packed with "whoa-whoas" but like the band's best songs, it also manages to capture that undying youthful energy in one simple line - "We yell like hell to the heavens!"

2. A Place To Bury Strangers, "Alone": This trio backs up their reputation as NY's Loudest Band, but in 2012, they might also be the most prolific. Earlier this year, they put out the excellent Onwards To The Wall EP then later followed it up with a split 7" with fellow shoegazers, Ceremony (not the LA hardcore band.) With the release of Worship they manage to fine-tune things as thundering basslines share equal space with the ear-splitting guitar squalls. The album's first track, "Alone," brings a little post-punk and goth into the mix.

3. Crocodiles, "Electric Death Song": This band has steadily gotten better with each album they've put out taking the best elements of noise-pop and psych rock. Their latest, Endless Flowers, continues Crocodiles' improvement. I want to hate this band solely because singer, Brandon Welchez is married to Dee Dee of  Dum Dum Girls. But with songs as infectious as "Electric Death Song" it makes my hatred almost impossible.

4. DIIV, "How Long Will Have You Known": Another band that I didn't want to like. Mainly because they were originally named Dive, which is also the name of (among others) a Belgian industrial band headed up by Dirk Ivens (The Klinik, Blok 57, Absolute Body Control.) I warmed up to them once they changed the spelling of their name, but honestly, it was because they acknowledged Ivens as to the reasoning for the switch. Still, I wasn't completely won over until I saw them live as their fluttering dream-pop blossomed into a cloudy haze of guitar fuzz."How Long..." is one of the sunnier moments on their great debut album, Oshin.

5. Young Galaxy, "Youth Is Wasted On The Young":  I sometimes easily fall in love for songs that I can identify with. Usually, that happens when a lyric just grabs me in a perfect, indescribable manner (see: most Japandroids songs, most NIN and The Cure.) This song is actually the b-side to these Canadian indie rockers' most recent 7", "Shoreless Kid" and while it's the very Johnny Marr-like guitar line that makes it instantaneous ear candy it's really that line "I wouldn't mind dying at all, if it weren't for the songs I'd miss" that aims right for the heart.

6. Alpines, "Empire": A mysterious UK duo I know very little of. Dark pop music that could have fit in during the 4AD label's heyday. It's singer, Catherine Pockson's towering voice reminiscent of both Kate Bush and more recently, Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes) that gives "Empire" some dramatic weight. Oh and good thing this wasn't a Queensryche cover, not that I dislike Queensryche but rather because "Empire" wasn't their best song. It should go without saying that Alpines' "Empire" > Queensryche's "Empire."

7. Charli XCX, "You're The One": A 19-year old UK pop singer who also happens to be taking her cues from Kate Bush. She released two prior singles last year, the awesome "Stay Away" and the even more awesome, "Nuclear Seasons." "You're The One" continues what should be a meteoric rise while also mining in the same goth-pop terrain as Zola Jesus but with more emphasis on the "pop" not just the "goth."

8. Icona Pop, "I Love It": It's no secret that I'm a sucker for a good dance pop song. Well, this Swedish duo may not have just succeeded in making an excellent dance pop single, but it's a surefire contender for the jam of the summer. I'd almost make the claim that this is the best pop song since Robyn's "Dancing On My Own." Time will tell. Also scoring awesome points is the fact that "I Love It" was penned by Charli XCX.

9. The Hives, "Wait A Minute": Since I'm making outrageous claims, here's another one: Lex Hives is better than the last 3 Strokes albums combined. And yes, that one I mean. These Swedish garage rockers are still partying like it's 2000 and instead of sounding dated, they sound like they haven't missed a beat - still bratty, still snotty, and still as overconfident and as rocking as they ever were.

So there it is. Turn up the volume and become immersed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Morning Album Stream: Grassfight "Icon, EP2"

The sweet feeling of being hungover at work the morning after a DJ gig. It's something I've gotten used to even though I usually DJ on Monday nights. It makes Tuesdays interesting but it also renders me borderline useless for that first hour in the office. So what better time than to search and share some new music. Today's pick comes from a New York band known as Grassfight. I first heard them on Flyweight which happens to be my favorite show on WZBC ( [Full disclosure: my radio show, The Industrial Factory is on right before Flyweight.]  Grassfight describes their sound as post punk and indie rock but let's face it: if I'm raving about them there's got to be a little gothiness thrown in there, right? Well, yes...of course there is. Shadowy post-punk in the best way possible. Have a listen to their brand new release, Icon, EP2 and become immersed.

It's long overdue, but tonight, I will finally catch up.Which is to say a June 2012 Mixtape will finally surface on here.

So much music and not enough time to take it all in.

Bonus Links:
Since I mentioned them above here are the Facebook links to The Industrial Factory (my radio show on WZBC) and Flyweight (my favorite show also on 'ZBC)

WZBC- The Industrial Factory

WZBC- Flyweight

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Clouds Of Sound

Don't tell anyone, but some days there are so many things I'd rather be doing than being at work. Today is one of those days. For instance, instead of doing work, I would have preferred to watch the ominous clouds that rolled in just before the rain started (however, those pictured above are not said ominous clouds.) So since motivation is low, I thought I'd share some new music in Soundcloud form - see what I did there? Here are 5 songs that somehow inspire procrastination.

First up, a new one from Brooklyn's Black Marble. Their EP, Weight Against The Door has been a favorite of mine since its February release. A cool mix of minimal coldwave synths and a touch of post punk. They've got a full-length debut entitled, A Different Arrangement due out on October 9th. "A Great Design" is the first taste of that album.

It makes me happy that there's a healthy electronic music scene happening in Boston at the moment. This one track brings together two of my favorite artists as Avoxblue's icy synthpop track, "Dreaming Thru Your Eyes" gets the remix treatment from André Obin who adds a warm-blooded pulse that would fit perfectly on any darkly lit dancefloor.

As much as I like to play up the fact that my music tastes lean towards the darker end of the musical spectrum, there are those occasions when even my cold heart can be warmed by some sappy indie pop. This is the reasoning I use when I listen to Stars. It also helps that they write some pretty great songs. "Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It" is off their forthcoming album, North due out on September 4th. This one would definitely make the cut for the next mixtape I make for a crush.

Sometimes I think of Band Of Horses as a guilty pleasure which is totally unfair to them. It's mostly because I always fool myself into thinking they're jammy which is not the case at all. The last time I saw them live, they rocked way more than I expected them to. And they held back enough just when it seemed like they would go on an endless jam. They've got a new album due out on September 18th entitled, Mirage Rock and going by this first single, "Knock Knock," they'll have an easy time living up to the second part of that title.

Full disclosure: I HATE Fleetwood Mac. I actually found my older brother's Rumours record recently and listened to it and couldn't even make it through one side. I don't get their sudden hipster appeal...but maybe that's just me. ON THE OTHER HAND, I love Lykke Li. Her voice alone is what makes me like this cover of "Silver Springs." (Also, The Kills do a pretty great cover of "Dreams." I chalk that up to the fact that Alison Mosshart can do no wrong.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fashionably Late

I'm on a neverending search for that perfect beat. I've found it many times over, but there's always that inevitability that I'll find a song more perfect than the last. And as much as I'd like to think that I'm pretty good at staying on top of new music, some things will always slip through the cracks. Lucky thing the good ones always find their way back.

So this mixtape consists of bands whose albums have been out for quite some time but for me, are recent discoveries. Songs like these have no expiration date especially when they find their way to your ears for the first time. As always, listen loud and become immersed.

Fashionably Late [Random Ramblings & Mixtapes]

Fashionably Late
1. Be Forest, "Wild Brain": This Italian trio was as random of a music find as it gets for me. Somehow I ended up on a blog that I now can't remember, but their main feature was about this band. The musical reference points included The Jesus And Mary Chain, Echo & The Bunnymen, and The Cure. Needless to say, the nods to post-punk and goth won me over. Their album, Cold. came out in 2011 and it has still been on a pretty constant rotation for me.

2. TOY, "Motoring": I'm not too late to the party when it comes to this UK band. Their debut single, "Left Myself Behind" came out at the beginning of the year and was a mind-melting 8-minute sonic journey. The band has a debut full-length due out in September on Heavenly. Their second single, "Motoring" which came out in April, is another hypnotic mix of psychedelic Kraut rock and post-punk. It makes me count the days until September when the album finally drops.

3. Poliça, "Violent Games": I'm not quite sure how to properly pronounce this band's name but I do know it consists of  two members of GAYNGS (Channy Leaneagh and Ryan Olson.) Their debut album, Give You The Ghost came out on Valentine's Day of this year; fitting since I've been known to describe Poliça as "dreampop masquerading as makeout music."

4. Siinai, "Marathon": I came across this Finnish post-rock band because they back up Spencer Krug on his latest Moonface album, the excellent, Heartbreaking Bravery. While backing Moonface, Siinai's swirling Kraut rock helps bring Krug's eccentricities back down to earth. On their own album, Olympic Games (which came out back in February) they manage to make anthemic instrumental rockers that would fit somewhere between Explosions In The Sky and Krug's former band, Wolf Parade.

5. The Big Sleep, "Meet Your Maker": Brooklyn indie rockers, The Big Sleep put out their latest album, Nature Experiments, back in January (or March, I'm not sure when exactly.) It's a tough album to describe because it doesn't fall into a tidy sub-category like shoegaze or psych-rock. Instead, it mixes a lot of those guitar-driven indie rock influences together so well that it hints at everything without subscribing to just one thing.

6. DZ Deathrays, "Dollar Chills": An Australian guitar-and-drums duo that makes sleazy yet danceable fuzz punk not too far removed from the sleazy yet danceable fuzz punk of Canadian bass-and-drums duo, Death From Above 1979. They may not be breaking new ground on their latest, Bloodstreams (released back in May) but they don't need to with songs this dirty and addictive.

7. Screen Vinyl Image, "Stay Asleep": This band's second album, Strange Behaviour, came out in December of 2011 - about a week too late to land it in my favorites of last year. That's unfortunate, since it quickly got some constant plays on BriPod, especially this song. Almost 8-minutes long with one of the coolest shifts ever as it goes from Jesus And Mary Chain-indebted minimal shoegaze before transforming mid-song into a sprawling, feedback soaked industrial dirge.

8. Agent Side Grinder, "Look Within": Here's where this mixtape takes a turn towards my industrial leanings (clearly triggered by the previous, SVI song.) Agent Side Grinder is a minimal electronic/post-punk band hailing from Sweden. This one is the lead track off their latest album, Hardware (released in February) and it should come as no surprise as to why I fell for it- coldwave electronics, a rolling bassline and deep vocals. Hell, in a perfect world this song would be huge in goth/industrial clubs!

9. Kontravoid, "Cut To Cleanse": Going along with the minimal electronic/coldwave vibe of Agent Side Grinder, is this song off of Kontravoid's self-titled album which also came out back in February. Kontravoid is headed by Cameron Findlay, former drummer for Crystal Castles and an original member of synthpop act, Parallels. As Kontravoid, Findlay picks up some of the blacklit stylings of Crystal Castles and adds in some goth and EBM. Again, this act is a no-brainer for me to like.

10. Soft Metals, "The Cold World Melts": Another obvious choice for a band I would like. Icy electropop that tips its hat to old-school EBM. Their debut album is about a year old but hearing their music, it sounds as if it had been transported from a frozen futuristic era.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Afternoon Streams: Melody's Echo Chamber 7" + a new Raveonettes song

There have been more than a few occasions when I've checked out a band based solely on their name. To be honest, it's a hit or miss affair. There are times when this has led me to some amazing discoveries as was the case with A Place To Bury Strangers or with I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness. But then there have been total letdowns such as The Phenomenal Handclap Band -- aside from not being phenomenal, they were sorely lacking in actual handclaps. Luckily, Melody's Echo Chamber falls under the "good discovery" category. Just as their name suggests, the mysterious French project produces hazy, dreamy, psych pop that's as hypnotic as it is catchy. Their debut 7" is due out on July 31st on Fat Possum and it includes a cover of lead track, "Endless Shore" as done by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Take a listen below.

And speaking of cool bands with cool names, Denmark's The Raveonettes have made a career out of exploring different shades of noise-pop going from the feedback-drenched shoegaze of "Aly, Walk With Me" to the glistening "Last Dance." Their sixth album, Observator is due out this fall and going by "She Owns The Streets," even at attempt at jangly indie pop ends up getting covered in equal amounts of fuzz and darkness.

Have a listen and become immersed. A new mixtape to come soon.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

1992 Mixtape

I always envy those who remember the beginning of punk rock and the original "Class of '77." I've wondered how exciting it must have been to be young around the time that all those bands were breaking: the Ramones, Blondie, the Talking Heads, The Clash, Wire, et al. For me, growing up in the 80's gave my earliest childhood memories a vivid soundtrack of New Wave, which explains my love of Gary Numan and The Human League. And I make no apologies for my affinity towards hair metal.

And as time continues to move forward, it's sometimes worth it to take a look back. It's easy to forget how music tastes shifted in 1992. Hell, it was 20 years ago. I was in high school and liking metal wasn't as cool as it used to be. Hair metal had just about run its course, and though I liked a lot of thrash, it really couldn't go any farther without losing my interest. I remember liking Fear Factory a lot but after getting handed a Napalm Death tape, I thought "there has to be something else." Well, it turns out that '92 was a pivotal year in shaping my personal tastes. At times, it was a bit awkward as there were still remnants of metal lingering about, but there were more than enough hints of where my tastes would eventually land.

Today's mixtape is rooted in a time gone by. It's essentially my own nostalgia trip to 1992. And I will admit, it was more or less triggered by a great Facebook page that I follow and highly recommend - Slicing Up Eyeballs. They've been posting 20 year anniversary announcements of album release dates and it turns out that a lot of said albums are still favorites today. So after a bit of research (thank you, Wikipedia) I discovered that '92 was a damn fine year in music. I'll openly admit that I fell in love with some of that year's albums after the fact as my tastes evolved  (i.e. Curve's Doppelganger, Skinny Puppy's Last Rights, Sonic Youth's Dirty, and Utah Saints' self-titled album) so this mixtape stays true to what I was listening to at that time...for better or worse. It's an interesting snapshot to an interesting time. Let's get to it...and as always, listen loud and become immersed!

1992 Mixtape [Random Ramblings & Mixtapes]

1992 Mixtape
1. The Ramones, "Poison Heart": Now 1992 was a far cry from The Ramones' heyday, but they were a band that seemed to bring different groups of people together. I remember seeing them live at the Academy in NY during their farewell tour and being pleasantly surprised by how diverse the audience was. It ranged from preppy fratboy types, to punk rockers, to metalheads, and maybe even some goths. The fact that The Ramones were perpetually cool made even their late-career output endearing. Plus the fact that they never ended up making a stupid Broadway musical out of one of their albums will forever cement them as true punk rock.

2. Paul Westerberg, "Waiting For Somebody": Speaking of perpetual coolness, Paul Westerberg. I actually owned a Replacements album when I was in 7th grade; granted it was Don't Tell A Soul. I still stand by the fact that "I'll Be You" is one of the most underrated 'Mats songs ever. Anyway, this is one of two Westerberg solo tracks that appeared in Singles, a movie that pretty much typified the '90s.

3. Soup Dragons, "Divine Thing": At the time this song came out, it was more or less a guilty pleasure. Two decades later, and it has somehow managed to hold up pretty well even if the Soup Dragons themselves didn't.

4. The Jesus And Mary Chain, "Reverence": I remember borrowing Honey's Dead from a friend and dubbing it onto side B of a cassette. Side A was Pretty Hate Machine. It didn't take long until I wore out that tape from listening to it nonstop. Not long after, I had to buy both on CD. To this day, both albums (and hell, both bands) are still two of my absolute favorites of all time.

As luck would have it, this would be the cassette I was referring to. 

5. Faith No More, "Midlife Crisis": I hate the fact that Faith No More often gets blamed for starting rap-metal. The follow-up to their breakout album, The Real Thing, surpassed its predecessor by being a bit of a mindfuck. Angel Dust was a very diverse album. It was one that me and my friends got obsessed with, dissecting every song trying to find meanings for each lyric even if we were making it up. Twenty years later, and the album still sits in my Top 5 of all time.

6. Alice In Chains, "Angry Chair": When the whole "grunge" thing broke, I didn't want any part of it. I have a very distinct memory of my friend, Eddie, bringing both Nevermind and Ten over to my house (on cassette, mind you) and gushing about how these were the next big things. I wasn't buying it. I was still holding onto my Megadeth tapes for dear life. Then Dave Mustaine and co. went out and did Countdown For Extinction and at that point, I had to accept that maybe it was time to move on. Alice In Chains made it easier. They were dark, heavy, and had a slight evilness that their other grunge kingpins lacked. Oh and "Angry Chair" was my pick here mainly because I was in a band that covered this song...I sang and played rhythm guitar. Needless to say, we weren't good. Still, this song kills!

7. Pantera, "This Love": While some insist that grunge killed off metal, there were still signs of life. It wasn't as instant as people want to believe. Sure, the poodle-haired pop metal was a dying breed especially when bands like Poison and Mötley Crüe starting donning flannel and attempted sincerity over decadence. Thankfully, there was Pantera. Vulgar Display Of Power will always be one of my favorite metal albums of all time. Me and my friends used to go to my house after school and just blast the hell out of this tape. Even a ballad like "This Love" was heavier than just about everything.

8. Helmet, "Unsung": This band bridged the gap between metal and alternative music pretty perfectly. Of course, this was back when alternative still had some meaning. Helmet stripped out the wanky solos and just stuck to the meaty riffs and somehow they managed to find hooks in there to boot. Hell, even Beavis & Butt-Head agree with that one!

9. Ministry, "N.W.O.": Ahh, back when Ministry was good. Psalm 69 was their last good album (it surprises me that people remember Filth Pig so fondly since I recall that album being blah, at best.) Admittedly, I wasn't instantaneously won over on this album. It took listening to their awesome live EP, In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up... where I finally had to re-listen to Psalm 69 to "get it."

10. Nine Inch Nails, "Happiness In Slavery": Broken was so completely different than Pretty Hate Machine that I was convinced that it wasn't the same artist. As a 16-year-old, I identified with Trent Reznor's lyrics. Before Broken I was faking it by trying to understand Dave Mustaine's politicking and conspiracy theories. Listening to everything on this EP was as life-changing as music got for me. It explains why NIN is still my favorite. Also, along with Ministry, this opened my ears to industrial music.

11. Beastie Boys, "So What'cha Want": Check Your Head for me is what Paul's Boutique was for everyone else. Sure, I can appreciate Paul's Boutique, but Check Your Head is where I realized that they were really more than what Licensed To Ill led me to believe.

12. Biohazard, "Punishment": Biohazard were Brooklyn heroes to me. Seeing their video to this song on Headbanger's Ball was a cool moment mainly because I knew someone in the video...or at least I knew people that knew people in the video. Liking Biohazard though was different than liking metal which is something I won't ever fully understand. Still, this song brings back some fond memories of Brooklyn in 1992. Even better is that I still remember most of the lyrics to this song.