Monday, December 30, 2013

My Picks for the Top Thirty Albums of 2013.

Hey, I managed to pull together a full list of 30 again. Might have even been 31 had that Dismemberment Plan record not been so awkward. Another fine year for modern music, and another year-end list that nobody needs or asked for. Let's get to it!

30. Raekwon - Lost Jewlry

Rae was really on a roll before this album (mixtape, really) dropped, and though this might not have slowed him down, I never really understood why he dropped this in January and then never followed it up with a proper record. Still, even if this is a stop-gap, it's a damn decent one.

"Prince of Thieves"

29. Open Mike Eagle - Sir Rockabye

A handful of songs from a thinking-man's rapper who wins extra points from me for naming this EP after a terrific Frank Black song. Download it here and then go listen to all his other records because they're great, too.

"Degrassi Picture Day (Hellfyre Jackets)"

28. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe

When it comes to albums my wife and I can agree on, this one is near the top of the list. Not coincidentally, we also listen to Prince a lot together. Can't wait to hear what this dude's next record sounds like.

"Clipped On (feat. Despot)"

27. M.I.A. - Matangi

This record hasn't grabbed onto me as firmly as her previous stuff, and I'm holding out hope that it's just a matter of time. It's relentless and weird as fuck, so it's got that going for it. She's a button-pusher, this one.

"Bring the Noize"

26. milo - Cacalcade

milo's part of Hellfyre Club, along with Open Mike Eagle, Nocando, Busdriver, and some other affiliates, and these dudes are go-getters. milo might be a bit of an acquired taste for some, but the dude's a straight-shooter and I'm into it.

"Red Oleanders (feat. Busdriver)"

25. Body/Head - Coming Apart

Hey, wanna know what my wife hates? This album. So I listen to it when she's not around. It's what I would call "challenging" in parts, but rarely boring. I could listen to Kim Gordon's sweet pipes all day.


24. Las Supper - Back to the Future

Anything that gets Big Daddy Kane rapping again and Scoob Lover dancing again is great news for me. I fanboyed out and pre-ordered this album in a web-contest thing and got to talk to Big Daddy Kane on the phone for five minutes for doing it. One of the greatest moments of my life.

"I Believe in Love Again (feat. Big Daddy Kane)"

23. Alexander Spit - A Breathtaking Trip to that Otherside

Alexander Spit is the hardest-working dude that maybe you haven't heard of, and it's time to recognize the realness. This thing roped me in with the title track and it just went from there. There will be another Alexander Spit release on this list and I think I'm leaving off at least one instrumental mixtape.

"A Breathtaking Trip"

22. Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire - Kismet

Speaking of hard-working rappers. eXquire went from buzz-dude to hot-shit in the last few years and this album's more of a victory lap than anything else, but that doesn't mean he phones it in. I mean, look at the cover for chrissake. The man's a beautiful lunatic.

"Cherry Raindrops"

21. Lee Ranaldo and The Dust - Last Night on Earth

Lee Ranaldo never gets enough credit for being an artsy weirdo, and if you've ever listened to one of his solo records, just picture the stuff he sings on Sonic Youth records and then imagine the stuff that the rest of the band wouldn't let him put on an SY LP. It's a wild ride.


20. Kool A.D. - Not O.K.

I guess I'll just pick one of the three free albums he released in 2013. I definitely listened to this one the most because it was the least daunting. If you hate Kool A.D., I understand. But I don't.


19. Loden - The Star-Eyed Condition

This dude did all the beats for Busdriver's fantastic 2012 LP Beaus$Eros, so when I found out he was dropping a solo joint I pre-ordered the shit out of it. It features guest-spots from some alt-rap elites, as well as instrumental tracks that are just as good. I sort of didn't understand why this record wasn't a bigger deal. You can download his Beaus$Eros instrumentals here for free.

"Seneca Guns"

18. Chelsea Light Moving - Chelsea Light Moving

If this is Thurston Moore's version of attempting to recapture his youth, it's somehow way less annoying than that concept sounds. A few of these songs are too on-the-nose snotty, but the tracks where they stretch shit out and get sloppy sound like long-lost Experimental Jet Set demos. And I'm wit dat.


17. Nocando - Tits 'N Explosions

So much good free rap music this year. And if you needed further proof that I'm a Hellfyre Club fanboy till the day I die, here you go. Nocan's style can be a little hard to process at first, but once you connect, you'll realize he's half-freestyling most of the time and it's even more impressive than you thought.

"Where's the Money"

16. Deathfix - Deathfix

As weird as it is to see Brendan Canty (Fugazi's drummer) with a guitar, it's even weirder to hear him playing music that's probably more proggy than anything else in my collection. That's not saying a goddamned thing, but I probably would have never listened to this if it weren't for the Canty/Dischord connection, and I'm glad I was able to expand my musical horizons a tiny bit with this one. And I still can't tell if they're just fucking with us on this song or not:

"Dali's House"

15. Spark Master Tape - The #SWOUP Serengeti

I don't know if we'll ever actually find out who Spark Master Tape is, but I don't think it really matters. In fact, I hope we never find out who he (they?) is (are?) because listening to this weird-ass music and not being saddled with a face to put to it somehow makes this even better. Another great free album.

"Half of Nepal"

14. Mudhoney - Vanishing Point

Probably my favorite Mudhoney record of the past 10 years. I didn't immediately love it, but once it sunk in I listened to it for a week straight. Mark Arm's lyrics are as pissy as ever, and the band sounds significantly amped up. I hope we get to treasure them for years to come. Bring on the old-dude rock.

"I Like it Small"

13. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City

I'm sure it's easy to hate Vampire Weekend, but fuck that: this record is straight-up stacked with earworms and "Unbelievers" was the soundtrack to my life for a solid and strange two weeks straight a few months back. I don't listen to a ton of wuss-rock these days, but when I do, I turn to these lads and will continue to do so.

"Hannah Hunt"

12. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Calling your newest record a sequel to your most popular record is a move usually reserved for rappers whose careers are circling the shitter, so I don't know why Em felt the need to do this when he's going to print money with whatever he puts out and this album is only related to the first one through skits that are awkwardly wedged in between tracks unnecessarily, but this dude is still rapping better than most people on the planet.

"Rap God"

11. Eddie Spaghetti - The Value of Nothing

Eddie Spaghetti's solo albums have always been good/great but a little too covers-heavy for me, so when he dropped this 10-tracker and it was all originals, I was excited by the prospect and pleased with the results. Possibly his best solo effort to date.


10. Death Grips - Government Plates

If you don't hear Death Grips evolving, you're not paying attention. This record will punch you in the crotch until you gag a little.

"You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it's your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat"

09. Alexander Spit - Dillinger

I have been Stanning out for this dude way too hard over the past year and it's because he's a great rapper to be into: he produces all his own shit, puts out music all the time, and does it all without being a dick about anything. Plus his beats are boss.


08. Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile is slack-rock but more dusty; it's almost like he's telling you a story that kind of goes somewhere but not really while he's riding in the passenger seat of your Buick Le Sable as you drive through the desert after eating too much weed. I love it.

"Was All Talk"

07. Action Bronson and Party Supplies - Blue Chips 2

Supplies relies a little too heavy on the 80's mega-mix approach here, but it doesn't end up mattering because Bronson is such a beast. I listen to this album while I lift weights - seriously - and it's somehow just perfect for that. One of those records.

"Pepe Lopez"

06. Arctic Monkeys - AM

For some reason I feel like people don't make a big enough deal about Arctic Monkeys, but they do; I just don't see the madness up close. Keep waiting for these guys to put out a record that even resembles something unimpressive, and they just won't do it. And they're still in their 20's.

"No. 1 Party Anthem"

05. Czarface - Czarface

This record is every bit as good as it sounded like it would be. If you think Inspectah Deck has slowed down a bit, listen to him just bury dudes on this one. Plus there's a lot of wrestling samples and references, and I'm a sucker for that.

"Air 'em Out"

04. Stephen Malkmus and Friends - Ege Bamyasi

Record Store Day exclusive that I thought might be some loose interpretation but nah - Malk and some real-deal players tackle this nutso record and slay the shit out of it. I was obsessed with this thing for a while. And it's live, even!

"One More Night"

03. Hellfyre Club - Dorner vs. Tookie

Mixtape of the year for me, hands down. I had heard some of these songs before, but when they were mixed in with posse cuts and plenty of other stuff I wasn't familiar with, they took on whole new lives. There's arguably a few clunkers on here, but in the whole train of thought of the album, they fit without dividing. Smart rap rulez.


02. Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork

Still the best straight-up rock band in the world. It's still a bummer that Joey Castillo isn't around, but this hasn't been a full-on "band" thing in quite some time. This record is as good as anything they've done, and I have a feeling this is just the warm-up for one that's going to fully conquer.

"I Sat By the Ocean"

01. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels

In a year filled with great free rap records, this was the greatest, and better than anything I paid for, which was everything on this list that had a price tag on it. We all knew this would be good, but I didn't know it would be this good. 40 minutes of El-P and Killer Mike explaining whey they're better than you, and making a convincing case no matter how they approach it. Fear these dudes or catch cleats to the neck.

"Get It"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September Record Shopping in Tucson and Albuquerque.

Last week I took a trip to the Southwest with a handful of missions in mind: I'd never seen my brother's band, The Monitors, before (because I live in Portland and they are based in Tucson), so when I found out they were playing a Thursday night show, I decided it was as good a reason as any to get the hell out of town, see them play, then stick around and make a long weekend of it.

I don't remember exactly how I got the idea to go to Albuquerque and check out Breaking Bad landmarks while I was out there, but once I looked into it, I realized it was actually a realistic plan and something I would never have the opportunity to do again (while the show was still airing), and something I wouldn't forgive myself for if I didn't do. So, we did it, and we not only checked out Breaking Bad stuff, but also Albuquerque's record and comic-book stores. And we tooled around Tucson's stores for a day before we even did that. We were all over the place.

Here's how it went:

First off, here's The Monitors playing at Plush in Tucson:
Hot gig! That's my brother and frequent guest-contributor Pocaroba on drums.

The next afternoon (Friday), we hit the streets of Tucson. First stop: that place you see in the first picture, MetroGnome Music. MetroGnome is doing a lot of stuff, all at once. They sell musical instruments, but they also have DVDs, CDs, vinyl (kind of), and a bunch of sweet Nintendo stuff:
I could have gone nuts in there, but it was our first stop of many and I didn't want to get ahead of myself. I settled for an NES Tag Team Wrestling cartridge and a copy of Chill Factor on DVD.
Next we hit Toxic Ranch, Tucson's stalwart punk-rock shop, which is, sadly, closing (or maybe moving) soon. I loosened up the grip on my wallet a little bit at Toxic Shock, mostly because I found some cool, cheap stuff:

Hullabaloo - Dead Serious (1990)

One of many bands I would never have heard of it weren't for the Teriyaki Asthma comps that C/Z put out in the early 90's. Also, this is a great album cover.

Pork - Grand Slam Baby 7" (1993)

I picked up a different Pork 7" when I went record shopping in Atlanta last year and liked it, so when I found this one on white vinyl for a buck, I figured I'd roll the dice. Mid-90's lady rock.

Toxic Ranch used to have a label, and they still have a bunch of their releases left over. 50 cents each on cassette:

Shell Shock - More Gore (1988)

Think this might be thrash.

Hullabaloo - Dead Serious (1990)

My goal is to own this one on ALL formats! I'm listening to this right now and they're covering Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" and it's either the best or worst thing I've ever heard.

Jack Endino - Angle of Attack (1990)

Endino! This dude has recorded many bands that you love, and he also makes his own music. This is one his projects. Haven't listened to it yet.

Hullabaloo - Beat Until Stiff (1989)

Hey, that title's dirty! This one has a song on it called "Retardo Porn," which promises to be a classic.

Jesus Chrysler - This Year's Saviour (1988)

No idea.

Skin Yard - Hallowed Ground (1988)

One of Endino's more prolific bands. This one could be pretty sweet. That bonus track definitely has me feeling spoiled.

Next we hit Bookman's, which is a must-stop for me every time I'm in Tucson. Books, movies, music, video games - they've got tons of all that shit. I bought a Jackass box set (don't you dare judge me), a Jim Morrison magazine, a comedy record by a Hawaiian comedian, a Prince 7", a random Disco single, and this LP:

Gucci Crew II - So Def, So Fresh, So Stupid (1987)

I had hoped this one might be salvageable, but the vinyl is pretty wrecked. This one won't make the official collection cut. Instead, I'll listen to it in my garage. Good enough.

Next we went to Zia Record Exchange, which I failed to take a picture of. But I did pick up these two items:

Let's Wrestle/The Love Language - Split 7" (2010)

I bought a Let's Wrestle single last year in Philadelphia, and though I initially picked it up based solely on their name, I ended up really liking it. So, I thought I'd give this one a go. Never heard of the other band, but I can safely say I like their name a lot less.

Radiohead - Hail to the Thief (2003)

I've been waiting to find this one used for a long time, and my patience paid off. This is a 2008 reissue, but the important thing is I didn't pay 28 bucks for it.

That evening, we hit the hallowed grounds of the Tucson Swap Meet. I picked up a few Nintendo games, but I never dreamed I would find so many cassettes. Apologies for the writing on the cases.

Above the Law - Livin' Like Hustlers (1990)

I used to have an ATL tape, but it wasn't this one. Don't think I've ever heard this one.

Big Daddy Kane - It's a Big Daddy Thing (1989)

So glad I found this. This was one of the first rap tapes I ever bought and I have no idea what I did with my original. One of the greatest rap records of the 80's, easy.

Daddy D - Check Ya Self (1993)

I have a few other Daddy D records, but dude seems more like a Fresh Prince knockoff on those. I'm pretty sure this is the same dude, but on the inside of this album he is brandishing a gun. Also, I can find literally nothing about this release on the internet. Very excited.

Digital Underground - Sons of the P (1991)

Pretty sure I don't already have this on cassette.

Just-Ice - Kool & Deadly (Justicizms) (1987)

This one is possibly a bootleg. Shoddy craftsmanship all around.

Metal MC - Born to Party (1988)

They sure are. Warren from the Vandals' band before he joined the Vandals. Rap rock in its most nascent form.

Tony M.F. Rock - Let Me Take You to the Rockhouse (1989)

Skywalker Records. This one could be trouble. Or just a bunch of booty bass in my face.

X-Clan - Xodus (1992)

Feeling like I might get some knowledge dropped to my domepiece with this one. I'm ready.

Frank Zappa - The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (1991)

Not my favorite Zappa era, but hey: double cassette in one of those fancy double-cassette cases!

So that was Tucson, and that was Friday. Saturday, we made it to Albuquerque. Right when we got there, we spotted this place. Turns out the sign was mostly a lie: they had like 12 records. Instead, it seemed to be a graffiti supply store. Because apparently those exist.
After touring some Breaking Bad sites and taking in the dirty city, we ended up at We Buy Music, a place that time and society forgot a long time ago. Here are some more pictures:
I mean, get a load of those CD shells. The place was fairly spotty, but after overhearing the owner talking to another customer about "The Boneyard," which we figured out was a "secret" area in the store, I had to ask about it. Turns out the guy who runs the place was cool with us checking it out, and he led us to a back room:
This is what record nerds (literally, sometimes) dream of. It wasn't exactly Valhalla, but I did find a bunch of weird private-press stuff that I'm not going to share here because I'd have to photograph the covers and I don't feel like dealing with it.

When all was said and done, I did find a few things I'll be adding to my record shelves, as well as some more cassettes:

Roxy Music - Flesh & Blood (1980)

Cheap and still in some of its shrink. And a Roxy Music record I'm not altogether familiar with.

Railroad Jerk - The Third Rail (1996)

Bohemia Afterdark-era band that I have a feeling I don't actually like that much, but this was five bucks so I was willing to risk it.

2 Young Brothers - "Check Out the Hook" 12" (1991)

Dynamite MC and DJ Devastation! I have little faith in this one.

John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band - Roadhouse (1988)

My brother and I were talking Eddie & The Cruisers and I got caught up.

V/A - Dudes: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album (1987)

They just won't release this on DVD, will they? This may be the only soundtrack that contains both W.A.S.P. and The Vandals.

Material - Seven Souls (1989)

Bill Laswell, going nuts I'm sure.

David Byrne - Sounds from True Stories (1986)

This is the score, not the actual soundtrack. Man, they really let David Byrne go nuts with this thing.

Users of the Wicked Gravity - Breaking Through the Fifth Wall (1991)

This is a homemade tape from a local Tucson band and I cannot wait to hear it.

That night we ended up at Charley's, a strange-ish store where they had a ton of overpriced cassettes and vinyl stock that was sealed, regardless of whether it was new or not. Everything was sealed. By them. It was bizarre. Here are some more pictures:
I was really excited when I walked into this place, but it ended up being sort of a bust. I got an old gangsta rap VHS tape and these few things:

Mike Watt - "E-Ticket Ride" 7" (1995)

Watt! Contains two bonus tracks on the b-side, one of which is a Blue Oyster Cult cover with Frank Black on vocals.

Big Scoob - "U Got It" 12" (2001)

I can't believe I found this, though I was probably the only one looking for it. You know how I feel about Scoob.

The next day we went to this place:
They were selling Men at Work records for six bucks and I will not stand for that. But I did pick up a few dollar records, so that was something.

And that's that. I didn't spend a bunch of money, but I spent a bunch of time. And that's just as good, if not better.