Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toh Kay - Streetlight Lullabies

I fear that touring with Reel Big Fish all the time has had a negative effect on Tomas Kalnoky and it has given him the idea that re-recording old songs and putting them in a new package is an acceptable thing to do. I fear this because Streetlight Lullabies is an acoustic folk album full of previously released songs.

That said Tomas Kalnoky, unlike Reel Big Fish, has the decency to change how the songs sound for this record. RBF's re-recordings may have better production values but sound exactly the same otherwise. Tomas Kalnoky (or Toh Kay, as he goes by for his solo work) re-arranged his songs to sound (mostly) different. In that aspect, it is a new piece of work and it is possible to find enjoyable.

Streetlight Lullabies is exactly what it sounds like: Streetlight Manifesto songs re-worked to sound like lullabies. Not like those Rock-a-Bye Baby collections, mind you, but songs performed in a finger-picked acoustic fashion. It's heavily focused on songs from Somewhere in the Between but it has a couple of cuts from Everything Goes Numb and Keasbey Nights. There isn't a whole lot else to say about it: the songs are played much slower than the originals but they sound nice and it's easy to fall asleep to... if nothing else, Streetlight Lullabies (in theory) is a nice stopgap to release in between proper full lengths, much like Kris Roe's acoustic album. This is despite that no one even has a slight idea when the next Streetlight album is going to drop (I don't even think the band knows) but I'm sure once it does arrive we'll all go crazy for it. Even the people who criticize this album. That's more or less a guarantee.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Banner Pilot - Heart Beats Pacific

I have a confession to make: I never really gave Banner Pilot a fair listen before. I heard all the praise for Collapser, I just never listened to it because I didn't really think Resignation Day was all too special when I first heard it. Of all the post-Rivethead bands out there, Banner Pilot was probably the one I listened to least.

But we all make mistakes.

I was hooked the first time I heard "Alchemy." Catchy hooks? Check. Raspy vocals? Check. Thick bass? Check. I'm kind of upset with myself for not listening to these guys sooner. They take what I love about the genre and do it super well. They do it so well that I thought for a moment that "Eraser" was a Jawbreaker cover before the lyrics kicked in. If that's not Jawbreaker-worship, then I don't know what is.

There isn't a whole lot to say about this album, except that these guys know how to stick to a formula that works for them. If you've listened to Banner Pilot (or Rivethead) (or Dillinger Four) (or Dear Landlord) (or Off With Their Heads) then you know what to expect. Punk rock songs about drinking and girls, but not lame like All Time Low. Banner Pilot doesn't break into any new territory at all on Heart Beats Pacific- for the genre or for the band members themselves. In fact, this album may as well just have been titled "Collapser 2." But sometimes the wheel just doesn't need reinventing, ya know?

Kristopher Roe (The Ataris) - Hang Your Head in Hope

Hey, remember the Ataris? I sure do.

I don't often talk about the band but Blue Skies..., End Is Forever, So Long, Astoria and their half of the Let It Burn split are extremely solid releases. Nothing against Anywhere But Here or Welcome the Night, but those two albums just don't really do it for me.

Anyway, I bring them up because Kristopher Roe just released an acoustic album, Hang Your Head in Hope, today. And it's actually quite good. There are no bells and whistles anywhere on the album- it's just Roe and his guitar. Since that is all there is, I think that he really gave it his all in his vocal performance. His singing style has changed a lot over the years, but when you hear him singing you can hear all the feeling and emotion that he puts into it. Yes, it's a studio recording, but his singing gets so intense sometimes that it would be easy to mistake for a live recording, particularly in the songs "The Hero Dies in This One," "All Souls' Day" and (of course) "San Dimas High School Football Rules." (Edit: turns out each song was recorded live in a single take, which is why it sounded that way. His voice still sounds amazing though.)

In a day when punk frontmen are going solo to release albums full of brand new instrumentation (see: Chuck Ragan, Dave Hause, Dan Andriano, Tom Gabel, etc) it's really nice to also get an album by a guy who is playing songs that fans are already familiar with. All of those guys have released solid solo releases- I'm not bashing them- and I definitely cannot wait for the new Ataris LP to come out, but I think that the song selection on this album really shows that Roe put a lot of thought and care into this release and made sure that it would be something his fans would cherish and enjoy. The level of dedication he puts into his work is really admirable, and the fact that he does it just for the love of making music to share with people is even more admirable to me.

Kristopher Roe has made this album available to stream or as a Pay-What-You-Want download on the Ataris bandcamp site. You can check it out here: http://theataris.bandcamp.com/album/hang-your-head-in-hope Maybe throw down a couple of bucks if you like it (he's also got a live EP up there that you can check out).

And did I mention that he covers both the Replacements and the Misfits on this album? Because he does.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room - Hurricane Season

Ed. Note: This album has been out for nearly two months, so it's just going to be a brief write up. Chances are that if you're into this sort of thing, you already heard it.

I'm pretty sure I've gone on record that when it comes to Alkaline Trio I think that Matt Skiba writes the catchier songs, but Dan Andriano writes the more interesting, and to some extent, better, songs. So you can imagine my excitement when Dan Andriano announced that he was finally releasing a solo album (especially since he started playing solo as the Emergency Room about two or three years ago).

While the album has its fair share of dreary and sad sounding songs, as one might expect from the Alkaline Trio co-vocalist, but it also takes several twists turns that will catch a listener off guard if they're expecting reworked Alkaline Trio b-sides or acoustic folk songs. Unlike some of his peers who have gone the 100% folk route (coughChuckRagancough), Dan Andriano's solo debut is in the same vein as Dave Hause's Resolutions, released earlier this year. This means expanded instrumentation throughout most of the songs as well as the exploring of genres instead of being stuck to just one. Some songs do follow the typical "man-with-a-guitar" structure, other tracks are filled with a completely line up- drums, electric guitar, keys, organs and so on.

Whereas Andriano's previous work showed off his skills as a latter-day emo/punk rocker (except for maybe Slapstick), the songs on Hurricane Season show off his skill as a singer-songwriter in the vein of Bruce Springsteen (because not enough punks are doing that these days) and Ryan Adams. It's too early to tell if he'll also have a backing band* that will be credited on future albums like the aforementioned artists, but if you ask me Hurricane Season is a good a place as any to begin.

*perhaps said band will be known as The Emergency Room

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Samiam - Trips

I've always been kind of a casual Samiam fan. I guess a part of it stems from the fact that I've only really been listening to them for two years and they've been mostly inactive until late 2010. But even then it's not often that I've found myself listening to an entire album by them. I'll usually start one but then skip around to the songs I like. Or I'll have to go somewhere or I'll have a sudden urge to listen to something else.

My point is that I'm not a die hard fan of them the same way I am about Green Day or Isocracy.

There's something about this album that's changed things for me because I really like it a lot. The general composition of the songs are no different than the last few albums but the production is nice and crisp which can make the biggest difference sometimes. Whatever's Got You Down had some great songs but it sounded pretty muddy at times and I think that's one of the biggest improvements that Trips makes. Maybe I'm just paying more attention to this album than I have with previous ones, but the songs are also catchier with more obvious hooks and "woahs" right out in the open instead of being hidden underneath layers of musicianship (not that the band's musicianship has ever been poor, quite the opposite, but it seems as if this time around the band went in with a different approach and focusing more on melodic sing-along songs than intricate playing).To make an analogy that might help sum up what I mean, Trips is to Samiam as Caution is to Hot Water Music: All the staple elements are there, but the production is cleaner and the songs are definitely "poppier" in comparison. To see what I mean by "poppier" take a listen to Clean Up the Mess or Crew of One and you'll probably have a better understanding.

The album's highlight is definitely El Dorado (misspelled as "El Dofando" on YouTube thanks to an early [pirated] leak). The drums and bass lay down a smoother and nicer atmosphere although the vocal delivery combined with the lead guitar create an intensity not found on other tracks. It may not be another "Capsized" or "Dull" but I think that it still holds up on its own.

Gainesville-esque is a term I've seen thrown around to sometimes describe a band's sound. I don't know if it's appropriate to use for Samiam. Probably not since they're from California. But Samiam is definitely up there alongside bands such as Hot Water Music and Small Brown Bike for consistently churning out albums that tend to be overlooked by the mainstream but continue to have a huge underground following. I may be one of Samiam's newer fans, but I think that Trips is a welcome addition to their discography.

Lastly, sometimes I think that Jason Beebout sounds like Dave Grohl. Not a bad thing- just sayin'.

Andrew Jackson Jihad - Knife Man

There are a few things you need to know about Andrew Jackson Jihad if you don't know them already:

1. Although they're an acoustic duo at their core, their albums often feature other instruments such as drums, kazoos and accordions. This means even if you see them play a song live, that doesn't mean it will sound exactly like that whenever they get around to recording it.

2. They like to use a lot of morbid and hyper-sarcastic imagery. Like, almost excessively. To the point where people sometimes either miss the sarcasm and get offended, or just plain get offended. They don't do this with every song, but they do it more often than not.

3. Given their acoustic status and their association with Asian Man Records, they're often referred to as a folk punk band. I think they take it so much further than that though. If anything, Modern Americana would do it, but they experiment with traditional folk sounds, some jazzy stuff, some bluesy noises and even straight up rock songs. Especially with each new album as they add in new sounds.

Now that you are armed with this knowledge, you're ready to listen to Andrew Jackson Jihad. Knife Man continues the expansion of sounds from Can't Maintain, but I find that it in terms of lyrics the album finds a nice balance of the "finding the beauty in ugly things" from Can't Maintain and the "in-your-face anti-PCness" of Cap Guns & Candy Cigarettes and People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World.

In other words, this is essentially the ultimate Andrew Jackson Jihad album. I still recommend all of them, but this might be the best place for a beginner to start to get a full scope of what the band is all about.

Also, this is the best song ever:
American Tune 
Just listen to the lyrics and you'll understand the second
thing that I said that you should know about them.

So much music, so little time.

I can't believe it's already a week into November. There are still albums that came out in September that I've been meaning to write about!

I think this means it's time for some speedy "reviews" of mine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

F---ed Up's Frontman Considers Quitting Band: 'I'm the One Losing It' - Spinner Canada

F---ed Up's Frontman Considers Quitting Band: 'I'm the One Losing It' - Spinner Canada:

'via Blog this'

I'm kind of torn on this story. I think Damien's vocals kind of help make Fucked Up what they are. At the same time, however, I think that if any band can progress and evolve their sound to fit a new singer without compromising their integrity, it would be Fucked Up.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Screeching Weasel - Carnival of Schadenfreude

Who would've guessed?

Ben Weasel punches a heckler. Said heckler happens to be female. The Internet provides lots of negative feedback. He releases an apology statement. The Internet continues to shit on him.  His band bails on him. He then releases his strongest collection of songs in 18 years.

What a story.

(In case you're wondering what it sounds like, it's essentially Screeching Weasel circa 1996-onward, although it's lyrically directed at Danny Vapid and anyone else who abandoned their friendship with him after he apologized publicly for the SXSW incident.)

and if you don't get why that video is there, I really only chose it for the line "is it in fact, unfair, to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins?"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Punk Rock Confessions: Animal Boy

In high school, I firmly believed that if you were going to listen to the Ramones, that only the first four albums would suffice. Everything else was weird synth-heavy stuff or experimented with slower tempos or something. To this day I still know plenty of people who think this way.

But to completely ignore the post-Road to Ruin era would be a disservice to anyone who likes pop music. Sure, the Ramones are always going to be known for their buzzing guitars and fast drums but their later material showed a lot of progression that they made as songwriters. Generally speaking, Too Tough to Die is the latter-day Ramones album that is oft-praised as sticking out from the crowd, as it ranges in sound from the furious punk tunes like the Dee Dee-fronted "Wart Hog" or the super 80's sounding "Howlin' at the Moon" but I have a confession to make: Animal Boy is my favorite Ramones album from the aforementioned era.

Clocking in at just over a half hour, Animal Boy is a perfect showcase of what the band was capable of. It follows the same layout as Too Tough to Die, with songs that push their sound in a newer, more radio friendly direction while also containing songs that recall the days of being fast and furious. Unlike Too Tough to Die, however, Animal Boy was recorded by a band who already had experience working with such a collection of songs and, in my humble opinion, that ultimately helped result in a superior album.

Animal Boy spans across several genres. She Belongs to Me is a cheesy 80's love ballad, whereas Love Kills shows how other punk bands like the Pistols had influenced the Ramones themselves (also, it's about Sid and Nancy). Meanwhile, Apeman Hop goes back to the fun, lighthearted songs that the band was initially known for, and Somebody Put Something in My Drink saw the band trying a different approach to being aggressive while still retaining a catchy hook.

With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the two best songs on the album are the two longest (both roughly 4 minutes- uncharacteristically long for the Ramones). Midway through the album, listeners are treated to what is probably the best Ramones song ever recorded, My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg). Not only is it a catchy song, but the history behind the song also shows signs of all the disconnect between the bruddas that formed over the years. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read about it on the single's Wikipedia page.

Animal Boy's second best song, Something to Believe In, closes out the album on a solid note. It's not something that a 15 year old punk would enjoy, what with its bells and whistles and all (almost quite literally), but the lyrics paint a picture of someone who needs a light in their life and I believe it to be one of Joey's strongest vocal deliveries ever (although Somebody Put Something in My Drink is also up there in terms of Joey's performance). It's a beautiful song and I feel bad for people who refuse to listen to it just because it's not "like the old stuff."

In conclusion, it might not be the most cohesive of Ramones albums with the genre hopping, but Animal Boy really shows the diversity and expanded sounds from a band that is known for only four chords.