April 13 Weekly 40-Watt #14: PUP's 'Morbid Stuff'

April 13 Weekly 40-Watt #14: PUP's 'Morbid Stuff'

It seems like there’s going to be a new album from The Menzingers released this year, so instead of saying that PUP released my most anticipated punk record of 2019, I have to say that PUP released my second most anticipated punk record of 2019 instead. Morbid Stuff is PUP’s third album, preceded by 2013’s Pup and 2016’s The Dream Is Over. Both of those albums are very good and so is this one.

Lyrically, some PUP songs have this special type of way of transmitting genuine depression, anxiety, anger, fear or some mixture of the above with a tongue-in-cheek manner or dry, dark humor. This is a real gift, because a lot of PUP songs are loud and fast and catchy, and it’s genuinely easier to yell along if the lyrics are sometimes fun in nature themselves. This is how PUP’s singer, Stefan Babcock, finds himself going from “I hope you're doing fine on your own” to “I hope somehow I never see you again / And if I do it's at your funeral or better yet / I hope the world explodes / I hope that we all die” in the track “See You At Your Funeral.”

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Weekly 40-Watt #13: The Maine's 'You Are OK'

Weekly 40-Watt #13: The Maine's 'You Are OK'

One of the great music surprises of 2017 for me was The Maine’s Lovely Little Lonely, an album that ranked fifth on my 2017 EOTY list, and an album that has persisted in my regular listening queue as much or more than the albums I ranked above it. As I’ve fallen out of listening to massive amounts of music, I’ve found that the most enjoyment I can get out of an album is when it surprises me, coming from an unexpected place.

When I was writing 100 album reviews a year, so much of the music I listened to was from bands that I had never sat with before, either because they were brand-new or because I hadn’t listened to their past work; the experience was so common as to be neutral. But today, listening to a band for the first time — while not completely novel or foreign — holds more meaning to me. In a way not meant to be pretentious at all, there’s just a higher bar set for the entry into what I’ll listen to when there’s less listening going on. It will usually take a personal recommendation from a friend, a non-personal recommendation from one of the few music critics I really like, or a critical mass of chatter amongst my Twitter timeline for me to pop something new into my Apple Music feed.

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Weekly 40-Watt #12: Gary Clark, Jr.'s 'This Land'

Weekly 40-Watt #12: Gary Clark, Jr.'s 'This Land'

In the past two years, I’ve visited two cities for the first time during separate bachelor parties. One was Austin in early fall 2017. The other was Nashville in late summer 2018.

Different vibes in both cities, but each has their own type of energy when it comes to music. To my own surprise, I found that I preferred Nashville’s vibe — a place where any given bar could feature a country-blues-rockabilly trio or quartet playing covers song from any given genre. It’s a higher power that blesses you with an alt-country adaptation of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down” when you’re six or eight or twelve beers deep.

But it was in Austin where I was encouraged to check out Gary Clark Jr.’s live albums by a friend. The blues-rock genre-bender lives outside of Austin — it’s the location of his new album’s opening track, which finds Clark combatting open racism loudly and righteously — and he’s well known for a fiery stage presence.

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Weekly 40-Watt #11: Angel Du$t's 'Pretty Buff'

Weekly 40-Watt #11: Angel Du$t's 'Pretty Buff'

Before this last week, I’d listened to one Angel Du$t album once. It was last year and the album was (and I guess still is) called A.D., which is an album that contains 12 songs and is 15 minutes in length. It’s not quite a hardcore album, although I guess it’s a hardcore album maybe since this band is comprised of members of Trapped Under Ice and Turnstile, but either way it’s this pretty big-sounding, roaming punk album that was a lot of fun to listen to then I never returned to it because I probably forgot to click a button that would have added it to the thing. That album sounds like one of the giants in Game of Thrones decided to front a punk band and just stomped around the whole time.

For no good reason at all aside from that’s just the way life goes, I didn’t ever think about this band again until I started reading about how their new album Pretty Buff is a departure from their past sound. Stuff like this is interesting to me because why not check out a bunch of hardcore guys playing something that’s apparently more poppy? Artists expressing a different side of their interests can serve to hone their primary craft even more, so this type of artistic progression is often worthwhile and interesting and the album is called Pretty Buff which I found pretty intriguing too.

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Weekly 40-Watt #10: Devinyl Splits Vol. 2

Weekly 40-Watt #10: Devinyl Splits Vol. 2

Using this feature for a different purpose this week — I want to take a look back at the past year of releasing Devinyl Splits Vol. 2 via Bad Timing Records with my partner, Zack. The Devinyl Splits series is a collection of split 7” installments in which Kevin Devine partners with a different companion for each release.

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Weekly 40-Watt #9: Duane Betts' 'Sketches of American Music'

Weekly 40-Watt #9: Duane Betts' 'Sketches of American Music'

Following up on Weekly 40-Watt #7, where I wrote about The Allman Brothers Band’s At Fillmore East, and by the recommendation of my dear friend Owen, I am listening this week to Duane Betts’ 2018 EP, Sketches of American Music.

Duane Betts is the son of original Allman Brothers Band member Dickey Betts, named after the band’s legendary guitarist Duane Allman. Being named after one of the greatest guitar players of all time and being the son of the guy who wrote “Jessica” and “Ramblin’ Man” makes for some lofty expectations for your own music, whether that’s fair or not.

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Weekly 40-Watt #8: Hatchie's 'Sugar & Spice'

Weekly 40-Watt #8: Hatchie's 'Sugar & Spice'

A bit of a shorter Weekly 40-Watt this week. Last year I got into Hatchie’s five-song EP, Sugar & Spice, the first release from the Australian bassist and singer/songwriter. Since Hatchie just announced her debut LP with a new track, I wanted to jot down some notes about why her first five songs have impressed me so much.

There is a quality to some really great songs that makes them feel as though they’ve always existed. They sound like they have always been there, they were there when you were born and they’re there now and they’re always going to be there. You’ve always known the melody, it’s always gotten stuck in your head, you knew it with the first breath you took.

I got this impression from “Sure” the first time I heard it, feeling like it was a song that clearly could have been a smash in the ‘90s but with a truly timeless appeal. The opening track from Sugar & Spice really hits its stride when Harriette Pilbeam starts singing, wrapping you up in its hazy, cloudy arms. It’s an enveloping song with a simple pop melody and a viciously catchy hook. (And I later realized that its timeless nature could be accredited to the intro melody’s similarity to an actual hit from the ‘90s — “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer.)

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Weekly 40-Watt #7: The Allman Brothers' 'At Fillmore East'

Weekly 40-Watt #7: The Allman Brothers' 'At Fillmore East'

When you’re in school, they don’t teach you that The Allman Brothers rocked. There’s a bunch of rock’n’roll music that you hear on the radio or whatever, and you do inevitably hear “Jessica” and “Ramblin’ Man” and “Midnight Rider” at times. These songs do rock, but you don’t hear the extensive jamming that appears on the album that actually delivered the group into the mainstream.

While listening to the deluxe edition of At Fillmore East extensively over the past few months, I also began reading up on the tragic history of the band. The group released two records to minimal acclaim, but found through an insane touring schedule that they were much better on stage than in the studio at the time — this is what led to the group recording At Fillmore East live over the course of two nights on March 12 and 13, 1971. The original seven-song, 80-minute version of the album charted highly and brought the group the type of artistic and commercial breakthrough they needed to keep the project going.

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Weekly 40-Watt #6: Ramones

Weekly 40-Watt #6: Ramones

There are several songs that I primarily associate with the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series back from the N64 days:

  • “Police Truck” by Dead Kennedys

  • “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” by Primus

  • “Cyco Vision” by Suicidal Tendencies

  • “New Girl” by Suicide Machines

  • “Superman” by Goldfinger

  • “Blitzkrieg Bop” by Ramones

Now … this type of primary association is a factor of multiple events that need to happen concurrently. First off, this association wouldn’t have existed if I’d heard these songs before to any significant extent. If I already had some type of relationship with that Primus song, for example, its primary association in my head would be attributed elsewhere.

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Weekly 40-Watt #5: Coining the "replayability quotient"

Weekly 40-Watt #5: Coining the "replayability quotient"

I’m not writing about a band or artist for the first time this week, but instead dedicating this installment of my weekly music blog to a term that I used last week in my post about AM Taxi’s Shiver By Me. The term is replayability quotient, and after a quick Google search I’ve decided that I invented it.

Going back to when I wrote reviews on AbsolutePunk.net, at some point I started attempting to factor in a record’s long-term value into my “critiques.” I remember prioritizing this at the time as a way of policing myself into giving fewer albums really high scores. AP.net was known for reviewer ratings that tended to skew high, and I was especially guilty of that, especially early on in my album-reviewing time. When you write those reviews, especially if you’re writing about a release that is not highly anticipated, it’s tempting to give something you like a pretty high score so that people who are skimming through will notice it and potentially become intrigued. I was really fallible in that regard when I was younger.

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Weekly 40-Watt #4: AM Taxi's 'Shiver By Me'

Weekly 40-Watt #4: AM Taxi's 'Shiver By Me'

This week’s album is AM Taxi’s Shiver By Me. It’s the first new full-length since 2010 for this Chicago rock’n’roll band, and only their second overall, but the band members here have more musical experience than that output lets on. They know how to play their instruments pretty well.

I fell in love with AM Taxi’s first LP, We Don’t Stand A Chance, back in 2010 when (I think) then-AbsolutePunk.net contributor Chris Fallon reviewed it. I was drawn by the comparison this band received to The Gaslight Anthem back then … The ‘59 Sound was a couple years old and American Slang was still incredibly fresh, I think just released when We Don’t Stand A Chance came along. The comparison is apt; Adam Krier’s vocals do indeed sound like Brian Fallon’s, with that type of rasp that stays omnipresent in this type of poppy punk rock and roll. The guitar work and overall song structures remind of Gaslight easily, and the step-further comparison to Springsteen is there for the taking, too.

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Weekly 40-Watt #3: William Tyler

Weekly 40-Watt #3: William Tyler

Today’s focus is William Tyler, a guitarist who played in the band Lambchop for a long time and who has put out eight of his own releases, most often associated with Merge Records throughout his solo career. The band Lambchop is worth looking into on its own — here is an Essentials playlist from Apple Music for them — and I would especially recommend them for fans of alt-country acts like Limbeck. Easy to see here where a band like Limbeck could have taken plenty of influences from this band.

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Weekly 40-Watt #2: The Front Bottoms

Weekly 40-Watt #2: The Front Bottoms

This week’s 40-Watt blog is not strictly about a band that I’m listening to for the first time, like last week’s was, but it’s a band that I’m visiting for the first time in a long while.

I originally heard The Front Bottoms back in summer 2010, when I reviewed their debut EP, Slow Dance to Soft Rock, for AbsolutePunk.net. They were an unsigned band and I wrote about them like they were an unsigned band. Back then, I called the EP an “eager and honest brand of indie rock/punk” and praised “The Beers” as a highlight. In retrospect, that song is certainly still my favorite song that uses the word “steroids” in a chorus — no doubt.

The way I closed that review? “Hopefully this band can muster up enough attention one day to embark on a proper tour, and maybe even work their way into a long-lasting career; it would be a shame to see this type of clever songwriting go unnoticed by the masses.”

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Weekly 40-Watt #1: The Black Crowes

Weekly 40-Watt #1: The Black Crowes

This is a new blog feature called Weekly 40-Watt. My goal with it is to encourage myself to listen to something new in my ears each week and start writing about music a bit more again. I’ll listen to one band or album, new or old, that I’ve never listened to before and write some stuff about it. Let’s see if we can somehow get 50 of these in 2019.

Today’s blog is about The Black Crowes. My friend Pat pointed me in their direction when, after playing a zillion hours of Red Dead Redemption 2 and watching A Star Is Born, I found myself searching for something rock-ish / country-ish / blues-ish with guitars. Probably I can blame the Jackson Maine tracks on the ASIB soundtrack for this itch.

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Dan Campbell & Ace Enders - "Thunder Road"

Dan Campbell & Ace Enders - "Thunder Road"

I basically use this blog for almost anything except personal content / life updates, but this post will firmly straddle the line of something personal while also being music-related, which is something I write about plenty enough.

Katie and I got married in March. We had an awesome wedding and reception in Gowanus, and I'll always think it's cool that while living in Brooklyn we were able to host 120 family and friends for our wedding at a place that was just a 20-minute walk away from our apartment.

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A good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks

A good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks

The following is an objectively good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks. The criteria for the soundtracks considered in this list is very simple: I focused on the best soundtracks from what is considered objectively the best run of theatrical animated features from Walt Disney Studios.

The run I'm referring to begins in the fall of 1989 and ends in the fall of 1999. Throughout this one single decade, Disney produced the following animated classics (this is not a comprehensive list of all films released in this decade, mind you): The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, and Tarzan. You'll notice that this list excludes some crucial titles -- namely, Toy StoryA Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2 -- which are purposefully left behind as I've always viewed the Pixar x Disney partnership to be separate and have produced a superior product when compared to Disney's in-house animated films.

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Spanish Love Songs - 'Schmaltz'

Spanish Love Songs - 'Schmaltz'

I dove into my first listen of Spanish Love Songs' Schmaltz with a suspicion that I was predisposed to enjoy it. The going comparisons for the album were to The Menzingers, Hot Water Music, and other bands of that gruff pop-punk ilk. Right up my alley, in terms of music I've enjoyed for the last decade-ish.

But many bands putting out music that has been up my historical alley have failed with more regularity lately, in terms of my own enjoyment. Rarely does a pop-punk record come around that really impresses me, or has significant lasting value, let alone a debut. To boot, what was I going to gain from a band trying to reboot Chamberlain Waits when I've been latched onto The Menzingers' After the Party for the past year? It's not that I've moved on from double-time punk songs, but that as I'm getting older, I'm keeping up with the bands who grow with me.

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Year-end 2017 stuff: The Menzingers and other bands I listened to in 2017

Year-end 2017 stuff: The Menzingers and other bands I listened to in 2017

It is now February 15, and despite that being the date, I still have not put a 2017 year-end list on my blog. I will note that no one asked me for this list, so it must not be all that important, and my lateness to the party must not have been noticed. Primarily, I am putting this online so I can refer to it in the future. I've enjoyed having lists from past years to look back on, so that's why I'm bothering with it at all.

This year I mainly listened to The Menzingers, but managed to squeeze in time to listen to other bands as well. 

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My favorite albums of 2017, so far

My favorite albums of 2017, so far

Each of the previous three years has come with a certain disclaimer -- that I'm listening to less music than I pretty much ever have in the past. Not the case this year! My music listening has picked up quite a bit this year, though it stills tends to come in waves. I'm spending more time listening to music on the train than I used to, and while my commute time is still mostly devoted to a book, a comic book or a podcast, this alone has increased the amount of new albums gracing my ears. Additionally, I'm spending more time in the gym this year than in years past, which is proving to be the main source of my music listening so far in 2017.

Here's the dang list.

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