Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Picks for the Top Fifteen Albums of 2019.

This might be my shortest list yet, and I'd like to blame it on having a two-year-old, but I'm not sure it was entirely that. Am I losing touch? Do rappers release music too fast for anyone to keep up with? Do I clown streaming services yet subscribe to one? Whatever. I still found time for 15 albums this year that I enjoyed to certain and different extents.

15. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

Took me a while to warm up to this one, and I think I just wasn't in the mood for calculated mellow bullshit this year. I've since grown slightly fonder, but if nothing else, this album was just too long. I always liked that they got in, did their thing, and got out. Still, some solid songs on here.

"Sympathy"

14. DJ Shadow - Our Pathetic Age

Another one that some might find a little too long, but I actually dig the instrumental first half of this record. Probably gets a little more exciting once the sweet slew of guest rappers show up for part 2, but it ain't like Shadow isn't great at just making beats you can listen to all by their lonesome. Lots of shitting on current society, too, which I endorse.

"Rocket Fuel (feat. De La Soul)"

13. Ghostface Killah - Ghostface Killahs

Not Ghost's strongest effort - and definitely not his strongest album title - but there are still some hard-hitting songs on here. Nice amount of Cappadonna but I could always use a little more. Raekwon nowhere to be seen? Shawn Wigs still hanging around? I do love the cover art.

"Me Denny & Darryl"

12. Beck - Hyperspace

Beck's last album, Colors, was some disappointing pop nonsense to me, so I didn't hold hope too high when I saw this one coming down the future-road in that cherry Supra. It ended up being better than his previous record but still not something I became overly invested in. He dropped the best songs pre-release, and some of the other shit just fizzles. Him clearly trying for radio play makes it not work.

"Uneventful Days"

11. Conway the Machine - Look What I Became

Conway also put out Everybody is F.O.O.D. 3, which should probably get equal weight here, but I can barely keep up with the amount of music these Griselda dudes release. Each release feels like the next chapter of the bigger thing, and this is no exception. Hard ass raps and wrestling references. My shit.

"Tito's Back (feat. Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn)"

10. Cross Control - Outrage Culture 7"

6 songs in 13 minutes, hardcore 7" style. Not my typical fare, but I really like these songs and the fact that these dudes are all around my age and still making music that is aggressive and calling out shitheads. We need that.

"Imaginary Conflict"


09. Mudhoney - Morning in America

7-song EP that gathers up some b-sides and other songs that didn't end up on Digital Garbage, their very good LP from 2018. I really like Mudhoney's recent output. They're pissed, the songs are straight to the point - it's what I'm looking for from this band. It's what we're all looking for from this band.

"One Bad Actor"

08. Griselda - WWCD

Conway the Machine and the whole crew: Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher, and Daringer, the dude who makes all their sample-free beats from scratch. No hooks. Just guys rapping about cracking your skull open amidst wrestling samples and beats that are simple, dense, and thanks to the use of just one producer, consistent. These guys put out so much music. Benny the Butcher is an insane rapper.

"Cruiser Weight Coke"

07. Pixies - Beneath the Eyrie

Most of the previous post-reunion Pixies music made me uncomfortable and often sad, and it was such a relief to be able to say I'd give this one a solid 7/10. The lyrics are ambitious again, everything about the songs sounds more Pixie-ish without full-on copycatting themselves, and the overall vibe is just much more fluid and competent. A real pleasant surprise.

"On Graveyard Hill"

06. Czarface & Ghostface Killah - Czarface Meets Ghostface

Czarface makes some really great rap music. Esoteric and Inspectah Deck sound strangely similar and they're usually working with upbeat songs, moving quick. Ghostface knows exactly how to get down on tracks like that, and there end up being some really great songs on this thing. And come on: they've got one called "Czarrcade '87." I can't front on that.

"Powers and Stuff"

05. Stephen Malkmus - Groove Denied

Definitely one of Steve's more masturbatory projects, but that's what solo home-recorded projects are by definition, aren't they? Saw somebody compare this to McCartney II, and that makes a lot of sense to me. It's got the same feel: experimental, unpolished, and often doesn't work quite right. That's OK.


04. Dope KNife - Things Got Worse

Been really into this guy's music for the past few years and this one picks up where his last one left off but it's a little more antisocial, a little more paranoid, and just as stoned. Love the beats here and KNife's gravelly voice is pitch perfect for the dark feel of it all.

"So Upset"

03. Royal Trux - White Stuff

Of course the whole release was a mess, with the band breaking up again before this came out and fighting on the internet, and of course the tour got canceled. But man: this is still a really great record, no matter how it came to be. You can definitely feel the Black Bananas influence on the production, but I'd argue that just makes it sound more modern. Still sounds like Trux. Still sounds sleazy and satisfying.

"White Stuff"

02. Alex Cameron - Miami Memory

This one didn't quite take complete control of my life like Forced Witness did, but I still listened to this record a lot over the past year. Alex is in love, and it informed the trajectory of this batch o' songs, sometimes I think to its slight detriment. But overall this is a great album from an increasingly singular performer. Seen him live three times now and he's never disappointed.

"Divorce"

01. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana

Gat damn. Album of the year for me for sure. The beats on this thing are just nuts and Freddie Gibbs doesn't waste a word, delivering some of the most on-the-ball lyricism I've heard in a while. The music videos that have accompanied the whole release have been especially dope, and this thing is just a front-to-backer. Can't wait for their next one. Though I'm not sick of this one yet.

"Half Manne Half Cocaine"

Thursday, December 20, 2018

My Picks for the Top Twenty Albums of 2018.

Yet another year where I think I haven't listened to too much but I still manage to scrape together a lean twenty. Let's get into this thing!

20. They Might Be Giants - John Henry Demos

This music is from 1994, but they just put this out this year and I bought it and listened to it, so here it is. Still waiting for my sweet 12" + 7" set, but I got the digital files immediately and was excited to hear 'em, as John Henry is definitely one of my favorite albums of theirs. These demo versions aren't wildly different, but there are variations and just hearing the songs in their raw(er) form is super interesting.

"Sleeping In the Flowers"

19. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Always up for artists experimenting with their sound but this one just never really caught on with me. Though it seems to be one of those types of records. That's cool. Maybe I just don't "get it," man. Maybe I'm old and shitty. Or maybe I just thought the whole thing was a bit much. Though I did really like this song, which is vaguely about pro wrestling:

"Golden Trunks"

18. Westside Gunn - Supreme Blientele

Speaking of wrestling, this record starts with a track called "Big Homie Arn," which sample Arn Anderson talking about Chris Benoit, and the wrestling samples and references just spill out from there. That's why I checked it out in the first place (one of the working titles was Chris Benoit, which is, at the very least, a bold move), but man: the beats on here are gritty in just the right kind of way for an aging rap fan like myself, and dude can go.

"Elizabeth"

17. The Voidz - Virtue

This record starts with a really straightforward Strokes-esque synth number but then goes haywire, sprawling into weirdness after that. Most of it ends up being pretty cool, if not a little overworked, but ol' Julian can still write a catchy song. Plus I dig their whole VHS vibe. It's radical.

"QYURRYUS"

16. Cat Power - Wanderer

She can put out an album like this that is super solid and it really didn't make much of a ripple because it's expected. I get it. This probably isn't her strongest collection of songs, but it is a great mix of both sparse, old-style Cat Power strummers and modern sounds with more slick production. And of course her voice still sounds really cool.

"Woman"

15. Surfbort - Friendship Music

Stinky punk rock from three 40ish dudes (two guitars, no bass) and a lady in her late 20s on vocals and general weirdness. The lyrics are angry yet naively sweet at the same time; it's really something. I saw this band live last year with like 15 other people and now they're already out on tour with some hotshots. Just remember I was in on the ground floor. Not a huge deal, just wanted to point it out.

"Slushy"

14. Ice Cube - Everythang's Corrupt

Can't believe it's been 8 years since Cube dropped an album. This one is in line with his past two efforts, style-wise, but overall it's a little more focused and a lot more legit pissed, which is when Ice Cube is at his best. He's never been huge on features, and where there were maybe 3 or 4 tracks on his past two records with other dudes on 'em, this time there is only one, and it's a guest spot from Too $hort, who is still rapping about the same shit he's always been rapping about.

"Good Cop, Bad Cop"

13. Method Man - Meth Lab Season 2: The Lithium

Method Man, on the other hand, is no strangers to letting dudes jump all over his songs, and this record is no different. That being said, once you sift through the wholly unnecessary skits (another Mef staple) and get down to the rappin', the songs on this album are actually about as good as I could hope for. Always a pleasure to see Cappadonna and Masta Killa show up. Plus I'm starting to really like Hanz On. And Method Man is still one of the best rappers alive. Never gets enough credit.

"Grand Prix"

12. Robyn - Honey

My wife's album of the year, for sure. I don't think this record is quite as strong as her previous one, but it's real close and it's still got the whole incomparable weirdo dance vibe you're looking for. I thought "Between the Lines" was straight-up one of the best songs I heard all year. We ordered the UK import on white vinyl and the sleeve is glossy, gatefold, and really nice. Thick and substantial. How I like it.

"Honey"

11. MC Paul Barman - (​(​(​echo chamber​)​)​)

First MC Paul Barman record in almost ten years, and it's easily his most cohesive and unpretentiously meticulous, plus it features guest spots from Open Mike Eagle and a great beat from Prince Paul, so the whole thing feels like it's come full circle. Paul sounds focused and the beats are right up my alley. It ain't for everybody, but I've been listening to Paul Barman for a long time, so maybe I just understand it on a deeper level than you. Something to consider.

"Antennas (feat. Masta Ace)"

10. Messthetics - Messthetics

I mean, of course I hear the words "Fugazi's rhythm section" and I'm already on board with this thing, but Fugazi this ain't, and that's a good thing. The guitarist Brendan Canty and Joe Lally are hooked up with is a wild player, and it's real cool to hear these two dudes you're familiar with, locked in just right, while this other guy is in his own world, gushing all over it. Great instrumental jamz. Hope they come 'round here so I can see it live.

"Mythomania"

09. Dwarves - Take Back the Night

The Dwarves as old-man button pushers is something I really enjoy, and boy, do they take it all possibly too far on this one. It's the ridiculousness you sign up for, and you just hope it's all wrapped in some ripping two-minute songs. Thankfully, this LP is a return to form of sorts, or at the very least it's just flat-out better than their last one. Fun fact: the Dwarves are not big fans of "safe spaces."

"Devil's Level"

08. Sloppy Jane - Willow

What a strange, sleazy, surprisingly intricate modern rock-opera this record is. I still don't think I fully grasp the entire concept, but the videos are great and the songs are just so juiced with endless sounds, thanks to her huge band, which seems to always be fluctuating, usually growing. They're known for their confrontational live show, but this record is proof that the music is just as big of a deal.

"Kitchen Store"

07. Mudhoney - Digital Garbage

Additional shout-out to Mudhoney's LiE - Live in Europe LP that was also released in 2018 and is also really good. On Digital Garbage, Mark Arm is pissed, which isn't anything incredibly new, but now he's ultra-pissed and this set of songs is among the most flat-out angry they've ever done. It's great. I'm so glad these dudes are still making music.

"Kill Yourself Live"

06. Supersuckers - Suck It

This isn't the first time the Supersuckers have chosen an unfortunate album title, and it probably won't be the last. But what's important to take away from this record is that it's just as good as their last rock effort, if not a little better, and it's got a song on it called "(I’m Gonna Choke Myself and Masturbate) ‘Til I Die." I'm not sure I could ask for much more.

"The History of Rock 'n' Roll"

05. Boytoy - Night Leaf

I bought a Boytoy tape a year or two ago and it was pretty good so I decided to pick up their new one when I was ordering some other cassettes from the Burger Records store. Man: I ended up listening to this album a lot last year. Just a great batch of spacey guitar-and-sometimes-keyboards cuts that all work incredibly well together as a whole. Also hoping these gals journey to the NW because I'd love to see them live.

"Want"

04. Open Mike Eagle - What Happens When I Try to Relax

Mike Eagle said he would put these six songs up against any other six rap songs that came out this year – a rare display of bravado from the dude who's usually humble to a fault. I thought that was a cool-ass move, and when I listened to this EP I heard what he was talking about. He's deep in the zone right now and his next full-length record is going to be incredible.

"Microfiche"

03. Kurt Vile - Bottle It In

It took me a sec to warm up to this one, but after a solo drive to the beach on a dark, rainy night and letting this thing run for its full 79 minutes, I was mesmerized and blissed out, brother. I can see why my wife hates Kurt Vile's music - heck, even I wonder if "Bassackwards" really needs to be 10 minutes long, but he's just such a singular guy right now, and I'm digging all the grooves, whether they be stoney or not. Mostly they are.

"Loading Zones"

02. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel

Speaking of records that grew on me, I slept on this one way too long. This is a front-to-back great collection of songs that are laced with both depression and an ever-necessary hopefulness that permeates. She's got such an effortlessly great way of singing, and it matches her guitar playing perfectly. Loved her record with Kurt Vile; love this one. Can't wait for the next one.

"Need a Little Time"

01. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Sparkle Hard

Another winner in a long line of winners. Another album that shows that ol' Stevie's songwriting is getting better as he ages. Sure, it may not be as "vital" or whatever as it was when we were all tied to the waist in flannels, but it's still just as hard to decipher and just as easy to get into. Now we're all left wondering if the "solo" electronic/synth album he teases at the end of this thing will ever see the light of day. Could be good?

"Middle America"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

October Record Shopping in Arizona.

Mere months after being in Arizona and making some serious moves, I was back and doing some more major damage with my brother. We picked up where we left off, hitting Bookmans when I got there on Wednesday, which I failed to take a picture of. Enjoy that DVD up top there instead. I picked up these two cassettes:
That Madonna one is a bootleg that, as you can see, is "recorded from laser disc." One glance at the off-brand cassette you see when you open the case lets you know they're not sacrificing when it comes to quality. And wow: does the tracklist on that K-Tel comp look shitty. I may need to start being more discerning. I picked up a few records, too:

Robert Hazard and The Heroes - Robert Hazard and The Heroes (1982)

Private-press rock out of Philadelphia that is, packaging-wise, an odd one: the cover is just plain white with a sticker, but inside there's a foldout poster of Robert, his band, and lyrics, etc. Looks like this EP has been reissued a couple different times. "Escalator of Life" is a hot leadoff cut, no shit.


Mike Warnke - Hey Doc! (1978),

Mike Warnke is a Christian comedian who makes me super fucking uncomfortable. He's also a huge weirdo which you can learn more about if you google this goon.


I Energy - "Whole World In Trouble" 12" (1989)

Private-press reggae out of Tucson. Probably the first time that sentence has ever been typed. Can't seem to find any info on this record, and I'm actually kind of curious. Hot reggae scene in Arizona in '89?



V/A - Power Play (1980)

I love a good 80's comp, and even though this one's a little earlier than I usually go for, it looks like it's got a decent tracklist. Ideal for putting on while doing the dishes. Hot mix!


The next day we went back towards Phoenix and hit up the Zia on Mill Ave in Tempe. I found three cassettes, all of which are homemade jobs:
The Kendall Wall Blues Band tape is a live recording out of Toronto in 1989. The Broken Horse one is out of Tucson in 1992. And Terry Frank is red-hot and from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Don't see a year on it but by the computer printing on the cover I'm guessing early 90's. This is what we used to have to do before the internet. maaaaaaaaan!

Got some records, too:

The New Pornographers - Challengers (2007)

I call myself a big New Pornographers fan but I have never owned this record and I'm not sure I've ever even heard it. Still can't remember why I didn't just buy it when it came out. You know, a decade ago.


Street Pajama - Beast de Resistance (1985)

I splurged a bit on this one but for private-press synth-pop out of Tucson in the mid-80's, I think it was worth it. There's a track on here called "I'd Rather Smoke Butts Than Kiss Them."


Michael Peace - Rappin' Bold (1988)

I think this may be my first Christian rap LP. Michael is indeed rappin' bold, and he's doing it for Jesus.


Dolly Parton - Think About Love (1986)

Weird Dolly Parton comp where she is songwriter on only one track. One of those "after she left the label" jobs, apparently.


Dolly Parton - Heartbreak Express (1982)

Featuring – and I did not know this – "Single Women," a song written by Michael O'Donoghue of SNL and Scrooged fame, that was apparently originally used in an SNL sketch. Life is wild.



Next we hit the Zia on Camelback, which is in a mad sketchy area but it's a huge store. Large selection. No public restroom. Security guard by the entrance. You get the picture. Luckily I had my blade on me.

I picked up these tapes. That Vital Idol is the third version that I now have - this is the original UK 1985 copy. I spent just a little too much on both that Judgment Night tape and Gish, but whatever. I still don't have They Might Be Giants' first album on cassette, but I didn't have Lincoln, either, so now it's really going to be a glaring hole in my collection. It's tough being a fraud.

Grabbed some records, too:

The Liberated Wailing Wall - Hineni! (1973)

Just some crazy kids driving around, strumming their guitars in a van that says "Jews for Jesus."


Cheryl Heiple - Extraordinary Living For Ordinary Man (1971)

Private-press christian folk out of Philadelphia. I mean, what a cover.



The Cripples - What's In a Name (1985)

Dude on the front there is presumably the lead singer, and he has cerebral palsy, so that's why the band is named that. OK? Calm down.



Willie Phoenix And The Shadowlords - We Love Noise (1983)

Couldn't pass this one up for whatever reason. Title and cover seem intriguing. And I also love noise!



On Sunday we ended up back in the Mesa area, which is where Asylum Records is. Now, we had been to this place a few years back when it was at a different location, and I had some minor beef with it. Turns out I'd have more of the same beef, but it's petty and a long story so let's just say I got these tapes:
Those two Prince tapes were ones I needed and were actually priced in the realm of reality, which I couldn't say for a majority of the stock. That Dillenger tape is gold: self-released metal out of Tucson that I can't find a lick of info about on the internet. Includes a sticker and their business card.

Grabbed a few records, 12" style, just like I did last time:

Mr. Lee - "Get Busy" 12" (1989)

House-heavy hip-hop on Jive from a dude who is not good at rapping. Got the gals on his 5.0, though.


Eazy-E - "Radio" 12" (1988)

I paid a little too much for this but it's still in the shrink and the vinyl is clean as all get out, so I'm OK with it. Been looking for this one for a while. Contains the cut "Ruthless Villain" featuring MC Ren, which I never knew about as a kid because it was only on the CD and I just had the tape.


O.C. - "M.U.G." 12" (2005)

Bought this for the Freddie Foxxx feature and because it was cheap. I think these songs are older than 2005.


Too Nice - "I Get Minze" 12" (1989)

I, for some reason, have the Too Nice full-length, so I guess I better get on board with these 12" remixes. They're on the house tip and also from 1989. What a year. Hip-hop was in flux.


Roq-in' Zoo - "Frig-O-Rator" 12" (1985)

In 1985 we all had Fridge Fever.



MC Shy-D - Comin' Correct in '88 (1988)

Bass blastin' on Luke's Skyywalker label though dude's out of Atlanta. I think I just got a Shy-D 12" recently...


Our last stop was the Zia on Alma School Rd in Chandler. We stayed later than we had originally planned to, which was a shock to no one. I found some good tapes:
That Prince tape was a solid find after being juked on it earlier, when I found it at Asylum but it had a head cleaner tape inside. That place. I'm telling you. Had that Tougher Than Leather tape when it came out and for a long time after that, but lost it somewhere along the line. Good to have it back. I just need to find King of Rock now. Black 'N Blue are a hard-rock band out of Portland in the 80's, though both of these albums are on Geffen, major style. The one in the middle kicks off with a track called "The Strong Will Rock" and the opening lyrics are as follows: "Got a pounding fever, got a pounding beat/Gonna pound my heat into your meat." In case you were wondering who you were dealing with. Eminence is a private-press tape out of NJ in 1988, and ...but ugly is also out of NJ, actually, in 1991 and also a DIY-type tape situation. Maybe they're connected.

Picked up a last few LPs, too:

Jonathon Brandmeier - Just Havin' Fun (1982)

Private-press musical comedy out of Phoenix. Surprisingly fancy gatefold cover inside which are photos of Jonathon with famous comedians, solidifying his legitimacy.


V/A - The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas - Music From The Original Motion Picture SoundtrackM (1982)

Not all Dolly, but mostly Dolly.


Seems - Eat Pray Thug (2015)

Been waiting a few years to find this used and when I did, it was three bucks. That's ideal.









Another successful trip. Now I need to stop spending money or at least pretend like I'm going to.