Things I facebook liked, dead flowers I smelled, sick puppies I pet and pet and pet until everything is ok; these are a few songs and records that have highlighted the last few months of silence. Keep in mind, some of them aren’t released yet.
The Strokes – Comeback Machine
The falsetto chorus on “One Way Trigger” is killer. Julian Casablancas may be singing about beautiful women breaking his heart or bombing North Korea for all I care, I don’t know because it moves. The Strokes actually sound like they give a shit throughout the entire record. Something to dance and bob your head to.
BeeGees – 2 Years On
The brothers Gibbs’ pre-disco era and post-60s boy band masterpiece. Rooted in strange folk rock and classical pop. Anyone dares to tell you how fucking gay the Bee Gees are, punch them and put on “2 Years On.”
Phosphorescent & Bill Baird
Find and buy everything that Matthew Houck (Phospherescent) and Bill Baird (Sound Team, Sunset) has written, recorded, produced, and released in the last decade. I’m telling you, do it.
Caitlin Rose – The Stand-in
Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, soulful Caitlin Rose. Sugary and silky like a modern day Linda Ronstadt; a little bit of country, a little bit of rock n’ roll, a whole lotta heart you won’t hear on the radio. God damnit, I want to drink beer with her.
La Historia – Self-Titled E.P.
Kevin Schwitters (The Braves, Haunted Hayride, Sa Yes To The No-Nos, Table and Chairs) is the best songwriter from the midwest many haven’t latched onto for the better part of 12 years at this point. For a brief moment–and not many from Rockford, IL would know or give a shit because Rockford, IL is shit–Schwitters was a key member of The Braves with another under-appreciated, midwestern songwriter, Joe Reina (Wire Sparrows). They, with the the equally under-appreciated Shawn Ross and Jesse Carmona, released a few regionally-influential records as The Braves. The debut from Schwitters new project, La Historia, is rooted in a time and place that predates the internet and digital music. “Wrong Things Right” is one of the best rock songs you’ll hear blasting light years past anyone in America 2013. The ex-Braves and Tables and Chairs member teams up with familiar friends from each band to record five 90s influenced songs with Mike Hagler (Wilco, Neko Case, Liza Phair, etc.) and again, I sit, listen, and wonder as to when everyone else will catch up with the past.
My God, The Heat – Beautiful Men in an Ugly Town
Stuart Johnson is a fucking asshole and here’s why. He turns 40 in the last two years, temporarily breaks up The Pimps whenever he feels like it–a midwestern punk band that was one of the first, young, major label victims of hard cuts in the late 90s to turn the situation into their own DIY advantage–and to top it off he typically stores his best songs on the back end of every record. He’s calls them “turds”! Come on! My God, The Heat‘s debut is a raucous reminder of how fun, absurd, and necessary rock n’ roll should always be. “The Continuing Decline Of Customer Service In The Food And Beverage Industry” and “The Number Six Dance” prove once more that the best songs are buried in the back of the record, in true Stu Johnson fashion. However, it’s the shake and shimmy of songs like “I Actually Think This Mark Of The Beast On My Forehead Looks Pretty Cool” that sounds like long lost guitar lines that The Strokes and Ramones never wrote. Another win for the midwest.
Borgata Mob – Just Like Heaven from the Whiteboy Wasted EP
More wins for the midwest. The Whiteboy Wasted EP came out in 2012 and features midwestern hip-hop artists, Black Lung and Fresco Clean. I stumbled into it circa February 2013 because I live in a shitty fucking city where good, regional, music takes longer to circulate to ears that give a shit–especially hip-hop. Just Like Heaven, a track from the EP came on my iPod one day and was followed by “Whitechocolatespaceegg” by Liz Phair. Everything was right in the universe, try it.
Cameron McGill – Gallows Etiquette
The first few listens of the Chicago songwriter’s upcoming 2013 full length comes across as a warm, soulful record; but underneath the initial vibe are literate explorations of temptation, darkness, and common struggles of the human spirit. McGill’s characters are never pretty when you break them down and separate the image of them from the music. The band–like many of his past records–is in top form, offering up a soundtrack for McGill’s scenes, shadowing him and taking the lead as if this were a one many play. “Gallows Etiquette” is a drive through Chicago at night, 4 a.m., and out into the big bad world; a whole lot of silence veiled by the threat of mankind’s inner demons.
Camper Van Beethoven – La Costa Perdida
“La Costa Perdida” is no random rehash-the-past college rock affair, it’s a reminder that some of that era’s best bands are still going sans R.E.M.-esque drama, reunions, and reissue affairs. David Lowery continues to spike his catalog with cleverly written folk rock songs whether he’s performing with the 80s college rock icons, Camper Van Beethoven, or the 90s MTV era stars, Cracker. (Don’t forget his recent solo work either.) 2013’s CVB is not a college rock reminder of days gone by, instead it’s a solid bunch of songs made by old friends still making music on their own terms. Lowery’s lyrics and cracked delivery still remain the focal point by always being funny, witty, and romantic. Let it be formally said once and for all: David Lowery deserves to be included in the same class music lecture talk as Paul Westerberg and Alex Chilton. If I have any say so, repeat it to the kids.