Thursday, 22 December 2011

Stuff that was really good this year:


Wild Flag “Wild Flag
Carrie Brownstein is the baseball card to have this year for many irrefutable reasons:
  • Carrie Brownstein runs a rock n roll camp for girls (not a pop slut camp, a rock n roll camp)
  • photo - Mina K
  • Carrie Brownstein is in a funny TV show.
  • Carrie Brownstein does the best non-Pollard leg kicks going 
  • Carrie Brownstein is in a fucking cool band called Wild Flag who put out a terrifically great loud, catchy rock n’ roll album this year also called Wild Flag. They rock it like we talk it.The mix of Carrie’s endearing yelp and power noodle guitar lines with Mary Timony’s overall spacey-Tracyness is a great front end for a batch of insistent, hooky songs. Keyboard ace Rebecca Cole whistles expertly along & the back end is anchored by the indie rock all-star drummer Janet Weiss. Here as throughout her career, Weiss propels a song in such a way that is somehow never in the background and yet never over bearing. She is the best drummer going today in music that I give a shit about. There is a whole lotta stuff going on in these songs, and a less experienced band would be hard pressed to find or allow room for everyone. Wild Flag plays nice with each other if not always the songs and that’s what makes it such a success. The push-pull dynamic is in full effect between CB and MT - guitars and voices -throughout a superb and dynamic album with many highlights including the propulsive “Future Crimes”, the poppier “Romance” & “Electric Band” and ragers “Boom” and the Daltrey-to-Townsend vocal hand off “Black Tiles”. Awesome stuff.
Barreracudas “Nocturnal Missions
These bratty romantics from Atlanta are my most treasured find of 2011. Caught them in Toronto in spring and they had me at one, two, three, four. I collected the singles and eagerly awaited this full length debut and it kills. Nocturnal Missions is spot on, straws-on-your-spokes cheap trickery from opening track “Numbers” with its groovy Johnny Thunders guitar chug and “oh ohs”, through the album closing cover of Cheap Trick’s “Come On, Come On”. Most promising about this band for me is that they chose not to re-record earlier singles and tack them on here. “Diet Coke” and “Promises” are great songs that would have seamlessly fit, but they were smart to keep their debut short and sickly sweet. This is a fat free 30 minute album. Best songs here are hard to choose but mid-tempo love loser “Girl” and “I Won’t Wait” with its “n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-no I won’t” chorus are great places to start.

Mother’s Children “Are You Tough Enough?” EP
I must say I have no love for our nation’s capital. It is way too fucking cold, way too fucking far from any other decent cities, a shitty drive from Toronto & just offers nothing I need. Peterborough high school gods Candywheel sang “get me out of Ottawa” years ago and it immediately comes to mind when someone mentions the city. All that aside, I love this Mother’s Children EP. Much like the aforementioned Barreracudas, this band sees the value in delivering the short sharp blast. Are You Tough Enough hits the roller rink flying and never lets up. The recording is fantastic – bright & ballsy – perfectly capturing a young band’s boundless energy and joy. Guitars crunch, bass pumps and drums pop huge in the mix, somehow not burying the abundant vocal harmonies.  Highlights in this economical set include punk rock Byrds jangler “Messin Around”, which features my favourite non-Weiss drum fills of the year, and the relentlessly hooky, Devo-nodding “Sue Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks “Mirror Traffic
      SM’s most interesting and rewarding record (i.e. songs>jamming) since at least his solid solo debut in 2001 and maybe even since Pavement’s last good one “Brighten the Corners”. The brains meet the brawn on Mirror Traffic with a true band pushing and/or pulling a strong batch of songs in the same direction. There are some truly exciting tunes here, especially “Senator” (my favourite song of the year, even though I have to sing SNOW JOB loudly over “blow job” with the kids around) gleeful stop starts and power chords abound. “Stick Figures in Love” has an instantly hummable, lazy SM signature guitar lick and “Forever 28” builds from a toe-tapper to an invigorating march. And oh, yes there is Janet Weiss kicking some ass all the while on drums.


Incredible Kidda Band
Discovery of 2011! Wow this band is/was great. Because 70s era power pop never really produced commercially successful bands, beyond The Knack and The Romantics and a single here and there from The Plimsouls and Nick Lowe, the rock n' roll ghostscape is littered with faux leather ties and sad but lovable underdogs. I have explored the genre’s terrain quite extensively over the last few years - and even joined this delete fraternity myself - and have found some great songs and bands on compilations like Numero Group's “Titan: It’s All Pop” and Bomp’s “Roots of Power Pop” . I must admit to thinking I had found all the most relevant stuff. But how mistaken I was. In stuff of underground legends, this fabulous British band formed in 1977 and released two singles before splintering into other bands. In 2000, “Too Much Too Little Too Late” was released, a compilation of all of the Kidda Band singles, B-sides and unheard studio recordings and demos. It’s stellar and you should order it directly. The band’s sound contains all of the best things of the era – the raw garage energy (especially in the demos) of the Real Kids and early Clash, especially the Mick Jones pop songs like “The Prisoner” and “Stay Free”, the pulsating beat and intensity of The Attractions and the perfect pop sensibility of  Nick Lowe or even The Rubinoos. For a more modern reference, the grittier songs have a real Exploding Hearts feel, the purity of catchy songs & amplification. Love it to death. Highlight tracks are the terrific “Get off the Telephone” and the oh so sweet tragedy “I’m Gonna Join the Army Now”.

Screaming Females “Castle Talk”
This album came out in 2010, but I didn’t discover this band’s considerable gifts until last winter, so it’s 2011 to me. Screaming Females are a three piece monster (aka “two straight guys and a lesbian”) from NJ who, if pressed, I would describe as sounding like Sleater Kinney with J Mascis on guitar. But do not fucking press me son, just listen. If its shred the kids are still saying, this chick Marissa Paternoster can shred. Castle Talk is a tight and confident record for a young band. Marissa may hide behind her hair, but she doesn’t hide behind her 6-string virtuosity here. The best songs feature her voice and fretboard singing together - neatly twinned over a growling and at times thunderous rhythm section. All of these elements come together on tracks like “Sheep” and single “I Don’t Mind It”, but shine brightest on centerpiece track “Wild” with features some very pretty, tasteful flourishes driven home with a controlled collision that shows the experience of a tour tested act. Marissa sings “I need you to know / It’s wild and pure”. Here’s hoping they remain both. 


Deer Tick “Divine Providence
ALERT: Drinking songs & Replacements reference contained herein. Deer Tick’s latest features silly Hootenany-style sloshers like “Let’s All Go to the Bar” and the outlaw rallying cry “The Bump” with the shout along refrain “We're full-grown men! / But we act like kids!" and ragged hero singer John McCauley has a well-honed bone to pick for a man barely in his mid-20s - but he stays in character throughout some fine songs, including the sublime underground garage winner “Walkin Out the Door”. 

Girls “Vomit was my favourite video of the year, nailed the drift of the song in a way not felt since Henley’s masterstroke Boys of Summer.

J Mascis “Several Shades of Why” is a tinnitus-fighting full length acoustic album from Dino Jr’s face peeling guitar hero. As a lifelong Dinosaur Jr fan, I knew well that J could pull the plug on the stacks and pluck some very pretty songs and that inside many of his monolithic riffs was detailed, delicate flourishes. Plus J's b-side cover of Edie Brickell's "Circle of Friends" was a top ten song for me this year. Especially live, it was shivers, cuz, shivers.

I'll be back and try to keep this at least a twice a week thing,

1 comment:

  1. Woah, first entry: ME LIKEY. Informative, entertaining. You've got something here, brother. You had me at DLR scissor kicking. Will be putting this intel to use, thanks!