Thursday, January 31, 2013

Noisepaper EXCLUSIVE Track: Formal Infection - Silverfish

All rights reserved by FORMAL INFECTION  -  Absalom Munoz, Anthony Dombrowski, and Matt Dippong
Recorded at MADISON MEDIA INSTITUTE  - Madison, Wisconsin

Formal Infection is the latest incarnation of a band formed near Madison, Wisconsin in the mid-2000s.  Originally beginning as an angsty punk band, their sound evolved over time; mixing influences from various genres and eventually reaching the peak of creativity and energy that they display on this track.  

More than anything, Silverfish is the sound of a band just doing their thing, having let go and at some point ceased to give a shit.  The DIY recording is satisfyingly raw, yet impressively clear.  The band breaks into catharsis at the final verse, which it carries to a memorable guitar solo, improvised vocals and crashing drums, and rides the momentum throughout the remainder of the track.  This vibe is supported by the minimalist lyrics, which do their part to convey the nature of the band with a stream-of-consciousness narrative focusing on good times and good vibes.  

**Keep an eye out for the Noisepaper exclusive release of Formal Infection's upcoming The Swan EP**

Classic Album: Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight

Cheap Trick is most definitely one of the bands the forged an entirely new approach to no holds barred, take it for what it is rock and roll.  They came about in the transitional period of the late-70s, which in hindsight manages to work in their advantage.  As a band they never fit into the "rock god"/"guitar hero" type of thing, but they were too clean to really be punk and too edgy to really be pop.  Even though they were misfits in the music world, through their passion and authenticity towards what they did they turned that into their very identity.  Combining elements of each aforementioned genre with a classic British style and a knack for absurd, tongue-in-cheek humor, Cheap Trick epitomized, if not invented, the sub-grenre of power-pop.  1978's Heaven Tonight is where it all came together for this Rockford, Illinois group.  

Surrender hits with a definitive moment right away in the band's signature song, marrying pop songcraft with the attitude and sonic assault of punk rock to create a fist-in-the-air anthem that holds up just as well today.  From there the album takes you on a roller coaster tour of rock and roll.  There are party-ready rockers (On Top of the World, California Man), retro British Invasion style hooks (On the Radio, How Are You), proto pop-punk (Stiff Competition, Auf Wiedersehen) and the near R&B of High Roller and Takin' Me Back.  The effectiveness of the album as a whole is that each song stealthily incorporates elements of the others into a collection of genre-bending, powerful, timeless rock.  

Around the midway point of the album are two absolute high points, Auf Wiedersehen and Heaven Tonight.  The title track is a slice of dreamy psychedelia that lyrically (and musically) sees the band explore the dark side of drug use.  The taunting almost-whispered vocals weave a tale of pushing the limits for the sake of a high.  It is a brooding, ominous, and at times downright scary track that is undeniably hypnotic.  On the opposite side of their spectrum, Auf Wiedersehen is the closest they've ever come to a punk song; and for a pop band in 1978 it was pretty damn close.  The laughable, darkly clever lyrics are sung sneeringly with a growling cockney accent, and gain threatening momentum as the guitars grind and stutter their way through each verse.  The crooning, preachy chorus fits right in with a wink and a nod.

On the whole, this album is just a ridiculously enjoyable demonstration of the amalgomic nature of Cheap Trick.  The media friendly pop stars (Robin Zander and Tom Petersson)  combine with the geeked out music nerds (Rick Nielson and Bun E. Carlos) to create a brilliant encapsulation of rock music in general, and its turbulent nature at the time, ingeniously wrapped up into a nice tidy package.

True to the timeless nature of their music, Cheap Trick continues to go strong as somewhat of a cult favorite, backed by a fiercely loyal legion of fans.  They've continued to release studio albums throughout the 2000s and can always be counted on to support their local Rockford community and the Chicago area music scene.


Track of the Day: Dumbo Gets Mad - Bam Bam

As you may have gathered from my previous post on Dumbo Gets Mad, their new record is one that I am highly anticipating.  I cannot tell a lie; it is the "weirdness" of Dumbo Gets Mad above all that drives my interest in this band.  Of course, weirdness alone does not a great record/band/song make…something that DGM seems to realize, at least at some level of consciousness.  Thus, they have continued to find ways to integrate their sound of modern experimentation and psychedelia into accessible pop/indie mentalities.  Personally, I don't know if this approach can be more effective than what they do on their new track "Bam Bam".

The song opens with a basis of thumping psychedelic abidance and dreamy vocals.  As the song goes on however, it builds in noisy melodicism until it finally reaches its point of no return;  where the noisy synths and surreal song structure converge into a haze of unpredictable freak-folk melodies and trippy discoesque beats.  This represents a surreal moment in time where a psych band reaches its pinnacle of melodicism, or perhaps where a melodic band reaches its peak of psychedelia.  Whatever the case, it is a great display of merging hybrid genres into universally enjoyable music.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EVIL DEAD release pushed forward a week!

Bruce Campbell broke the news earlier today via twitter that by popular demand, the highly anticipated Evil Dead remake will be hitting theaters one week early than scheduled.

The new release date is April 5, 2013.  All glory be to GroovyBruce!!

Artist Profile: Elin Ruth

Elin Ruth (AKA Elin Sigvardsson) is a Swedish singer-songwriter.  She grew up surrounded by American folk music, and the influences of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, etc are all apparent in her own material.  Over the mid-2000s Elin become a household name in Sweden through constant touring of Europe and a series of highly praised albums.  Her debut release Saturday Light Naive earned her a Swedish Grammy nomination in 2003 for Best New Artist.  She relocated to Queens, New York in 2010, and is currently introducing herself to the US by releasing her first ever LP in America, self-titled Elin Ruth.  

She recently made a ten song "sampler" of her material available for free download via NoiseTrade.  The sampler consists of all four songs from her Bang EP, as well as about half of the new songs from her upcoming album and two highlights from her previous discography.

Most of Ruth's material is rooted in radiant, soulful gospel that could have come right out of Otis Redding's playbook, with celebratory background vocals complimenting Elin's smoky voice.  The beauty of her music though is her incorporation of all kinds of inspirations.  Whether it is country, pop, or soul, she is definitely in love with American music.  Love, with it's warm, thumping chorus and flowing vocals is incredibly reminiscent of Sheryl Crow.  Other songs have a bluegrass thump that would not be out of place on Led Zeppelin III.  A few songs from her new album have the bounce and quirky sparkle of Regina Spektor, and others have a Jason Mraz-esque reggae groove.  What is impressive is the way all of these elements are integrated together to create a new spin on the singer-songwriter sound that is all her own. 

The major influence on Elin Ruth though as far as her overall approach and delivery goes, is alt-country legend Neko Case.  The reason it works so well for her is because she definitely has the voice to pull it off.  She displays her poetic, narrative lyrics with a calm, soothing, and overall beautiful voice, yet has the ability to get down and edgy when the songs call for it.  The musical accompaniment is minimal and purely complimentary, mixed in a light and spacious manner to showcase the vocal tracks layered over the top.  Of course just when you feel this method growing tired she throws a curve ball, as songs like Hymn About a Tree and the dreamy, sprawling Little Man transition into noisy atmospheric bridge sections that are almost reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine with swirling synths and piano as her breathy vocals fade into the background.

Overall this is just very passionate, positive music that is purely heartfelt and authentic.  It radiates light and love and a message of longing, forgiveness, and hope.  

Throwback Track of the Day: Patti Smith - Rock 'N' Roll Nigger

"It is time for somebody to lead all of America's niggers - all the people who feel left out of the political process"
-Ron Dellums

Rock 'N' Roll Nigger came out 35 years ago, and to this day it directly confronts the massive can of worms attached to the boogeyman of words and doesn't just open it, but blasts the whole thing straight to hell by using it as an empowering idea for people in general.  Often affectionately referred to as "the Godmother of Punk", Patti Smith uses this song as a defiant punch to the face of authoritarian society, while everyone in on the joke revels in the offense taken.  

At it's core it is a classic rallying cry of rebellion, but to the uninitiated it uses controversy and shock to achieve point-blank confrontation of modern society.  This isn't shock for the sake of being shocking though; Patti Smith goes to the roots of the word "nigger", placing it in an unfamiliar (yet still genuine) context that unites all victims of society, from any background.   This is a song about what it means to proudly exist outside of mainstream society, and make absolutely no apologies for it.  It is about breaking down the divisions and barriers between all the sub-groups of societal rejects, uniting all of them and rising up as the ones rejecting society, rather than the ones being rejected.  Thus, Patti Smith proudly declares herself a nigger, along with Jimi Hendrix, Jesus Christ, Jackson Pollock, "and grandma too".  At one point, in possibly the most satisfying moment in all of punk music, she unleashes a line consisting of "NIGGER" shouted seven consecutive times.  Rock 'N' Roll Nigger is one of the strongest statements ever made in rock music, and continues to piss off and offend the exact people that it was intended to.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Album Review: Bass Drum of Death - GB City

As described by its label, Fat Possom, GB City sounds like "the soundtrack playing in your head when you're fucked up and walking home in the middle of the night".  Reminiscent of the under appreciated early 60s "frat rock" scene of the Pacific Northwest,  this is an absolutely vintage, blown-out garage rock record dripping with surfy delivery and subconscious hints of twisted psychedelia.  The album was written and recorded entirely by singer/guitarist John Barrett in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, using minimal equipment and even less bullshit.  

The album is especially strong during its first half.  Nerve Jamming opens with pounding, lightening-fast drums and jagged angular power chords, wasting little time before cracking open into a headbanging scream-along chorus about wasting time (ironically) and blowing minds.  The pace doesn't let up at all as BDoD thrashes their way through the title track and into highlight third track Get Found.  The tune is driven by a grinding, muscular, guitar riff as the only constant as rest of the band jolts to brief stops for the sake of jumping back in and exploding into cathartic ferocity during the final minute.  Velvet Itch rounds things off with a comparatively slower pace as the guitar and drums bang along in unison to create a groovy, earth-shaking rumble while John screeches about talking to Elvis in his sleep.

Over the course of the second side of the album things slow down somewhat, literally in the case of standout track Spare Room.  It starts with the familiar Phil Spector drumbeat, slowed to the point of desperation by a sea of guitar grime and ominously trippy five-note bassline.  The energy returns with Young Pros, a bouncy, upbeat song that in some screwy alternate universe could have been huge in the 60s. Sunny guitar hooks and serenading verses are bracketed by a sky-opening chorus featuring doo-wop backing vocals and gleeful drum fills behind John's warped croon.

While the greatest appeal of this album undoubtedly lies in its raw, primitive musicianship and garagey recklessness, the vocals do more than their part to complete the package.  John bashes his way through the songs with a droning howl, dripping with reverb and overdriven from sheer volume.  He goes on about religious girls, demonic possession, drugs, depression, paranoia, and destruction while punctuating his phrasing with absolutely brilliant moments where he erupts into screeching cracks and yelps of excitement that sound like Little Richard on acid.

I had the opportunity to see Bass Drum of Death at the 7th St Entry shortly after this album dropped, and they did not disappoint.  John lead the charge behind an untamed mop of hair obscuring his entire face, which he couldn't be arsed to brush aside at any point.  It was oddly fitting though as the faceless ball of hair spat songs in much to passionate of a way to be entirely human.  They closed the show with a manic rendition of Nirvana's Territorial Pissings, and just about left the building and everyone inside in ashes.  While nothing could convey the chaos of this band in a live setting, the album does an admirable job of replicating the vibe.

Track of the Day: Wavves - Demon to Lean On

San Diego's Nathan Williams, AKA Wavves, has been an interesting artist to follow over the years.  The project was conceived in 2008, when Williams self-recorded his first album using Garage Band and a 1980's cassette recorder, and began sharing the songs online.  Chock full of irreverent lyrics and buzzing (literally) with the unintentional distortion if clipped inputs, his debut and its followup were carried to prominence by widespread praise within the blogosphere.  In a strange way, the proudly amateur quality of the recordings complimented his summery melodies and snotty, self-deprecating sense of humor very well, and thus his signature aesthetic was born.  In 2010 Wavves brought this aesthetic into an actual recording studio for the first time,  and came out with his best album yet- the Fat Possum release and instant summer classic collection of slacker anthems known as King of the Beach.

Almost exactly two years later, Wavves is poised to strike once again with another step forward.  Earlier this week Williams released details on his upcoming album Afraid of Heights, due out March 26 on Mom + Pop Music.  He suggests that the album will move away from the sunburnt psychedelia of his previous work, instead turning his irreverence inward with darker and much more "real" musical and lyrical themes.  The noise and snotty delivery is still there, but the past couple years has clearly brought his cockiness down to earth somewhat, despite his obvious growth as a songwriter.  This is on high display on the brand new track Demon to Lean On, which embraces a a more straight-forward grungey sound and great pop sensibility.  

"The general theme of the record is depression and anxiety, being death-obsessed and paranoid of impending doom.  I feel like the narration is almost schizophrenic if you listen front to back; every word is important, even the constant contradictions and lack of self-worth.  That's all a part of this record- questioning everything not because I'm curious, but because I'm paranoid."  (Nathan Williams)

Mom + Pop Music

Afraid of Heights preorder 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Track of the Day: Twice My Size - Last Chance Little Miss Nobody

In a day and age where pop-punk is firmly planted in the self-loathing shitter, bands like the UK's Twice My Size are like a breath of fresh air.  This track rejects the common self-indulgent, pseudo-romantic approach to the genre in favor of a classic throwback sound reminiscent of early New Found Glory, Sum 41, etc.  Infectious, energetic hooks are infused with sunny guitar work and fist-in-the-air breakdowns.  

Twice My Size is currently unsigned, but in the process of completing an EP, which is on pace to be independently released this year.



Album Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill (2012)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse is a rock and roll institution.  Together they have a way of transcending praise and criticism, and in a sense it even seems futile to analyze their work.  Neil Young's legendary anti-commercialist nature combines with the ramshackle nature of Crazy Horse to give their music a certain invulnerability; this is about them, nothing more and nothing less.  Conventional analysis is rendered weightless by the fact that they have no statement to make other than to simply assert their presence.  Never has that felt more true than when Neil decided to saddle up the Horse last year for the first time since 2003 with Americana, the ragged sing-along collection of folk classics, and its follow-up:  the sprawling double album release of Psychedelic Pill.  

The album starts off with Neil on his own, sounding like an unplugged take on his latest solo work, 2010's Le Noise.  Somber acoustic strumming accompanies the withdrawn serenade of the opening chorus, and it is almost tangible when Crazy Horse fades in (with an interesting production trick) to join the ride.  There is no turning back from there, as the crew navigate their way through the remainder of the almost half-hour sonic landscape that is Driftin' Back.  On Ramada Inn, the second of three 16+ minute epics, Mr. Young uses a long love affair as a metaphor for the band itself, as the ups and downs level off over the decades to eventually become simply a fact of their existence.

As the album rides along from there, it slips the listener into long stretches of surreal trance, locked into the slow-motion gallop of deceptively simple chord progressions.  These extended periods are punctuated by slashing guitar stabs and Neil's sneering yelps of dissatisfaction of today's culture of music consumerism.  All the while though the record is blanketed in sustained, fuzz-saturated guitars that rise up at the perfect moments to engulf the songs with warm, reassuring bliss.  

During the pensive journey you've found yourself on are a handful of shorter, more upbeat songs that serve as departures from the introspection like welcoming townships along the trail.  The title track Psychedelic Pill picks up the pace with flanged-out guitars that phase back and forth like massive jet engines swirling overhead, and lyrics about party girls in shiny dresses looking for good times.  Later on Neil takes a moment to pay respect to his personal roots with the nostalgically celebratory Born in Ontario, and acknowledge the life-altering moment of his first exposure to Bob Dylan in Twisted Road.  During these moments of lighthearted relief Neil confides that he writes music to "try to make sense of [his] inner rage", to cleanse his soul of life's tribulations and allow himself to find solace.

The album, and the band itself, rises to absolutely monolithic stature on the closing epic  Walk Like a Giant.  Young ruminates aggressively about his band's youth, how he came so close to changing the world with social revolution, but decades of weathering the storm has left him feeling like "a leaf floating in a stream".  However he refuses to give up the hope of once again walking like a giant.  During the instrumental breaks between verses the band, backed by fleeting horse whistles and tribal grunts, weaves it's way through catharsis beneath the growing ominousness of rumbling black clouds of feedback.  The skies finally open up in the final minutes as the album devolves into an absolute maelstrom.  Sheets of white noise crash down behind thunderous drumming as Neil rips one of the free-est of his trademark freeform guitar solos.  amongst the storm the band eventually starts banging in unison with a lurching pulse like massive footsteps that slowly fade into the distance.  Finally, a single quarter-note beat of the snare drum surfaces from the murk, reemerging like a lone candle amidst the chaos.  The light summons the band back for one final, wordless chorus with which Neil, as he has always been able to, finds hope within the wreckage.

Thus, the album ends with Neil Young and Crazy Horse walking like the giants that they are, with the assurance that the world can still be saved.  For as long as old Neil has The Horse at his side, the dreaming will never be over.  Long may they run.



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Track of the Day: Metz - Wet Blanket

Home recording is a beautiful thing.  Even if it the mix isn't just right, or if the processing is bad, here is a certain urgency and authenticity about a record made entirely out of one's own pocket.  Toronto trio Metz is a band that embraces that quality, but teamed up with a record label that knows a thing or two about optimizing it in Sub Pop Records.  The result is 29 minutes of artfully organized chaos known as their self-titled 2012 LP, spearheaded by standout track Wet BlanketMetz channels the spirit of Sub Pop's early grunge acts, particularly Mudhoney, and ups the ferocity with buzzsaw guitars that power along with overdriven feedback noise and frantic vocals delivered with manic recklessness.  

Sub Pop - Buy the Album

Like 'em

What do you think, is grunge back?

My Bloody Valentine - Debut new song, suggest new album THIS WEEK

Consequence of Sound reports that My Bloody Valentine surprised an audience in London with the premier of a new song (referred to on the setlist as "Rough Song").  The surprises didn't end there however, as frontman Kevin Shields went on to respond to a fan's question by announcing that the new album, the near mythical hypothetical followup to 1991's legendary Loveless, will be released in "maybe two or three days".  Granted this must be taken with a sizable grain of salt given the out-of-nowhere (and noncommittal) nature of the announcement and prior comments about the new album coming out last year, but with a group like MBV it is definitely worth talking about.

As far as the new song goes, it is hard to base any early judgement on the low-quality fan video, but it sounds very much Loveless-esque, which is certainly a good thing.  The video of the performance, as well as Shield's claim can be seen below.

Too good to be true?  Sound off in the comments.

At any rate, this seems like a good time to give an old classic a nostalgically anticipatory spin:

Local SPOTLIGHT: Gay Witch Abortion

It seems almost counter intuitive in a day and age where only a few clicks of a mouse can land you headfirst into a virtually endless sea of music, but it is getting harder and harder to find stuff that you can truly describe as unlike anything you've heard before.  Gay Witch Abortion, a noise/sludge/garage/metal/punk duo from right here in Minneapolis, is one band that, against all odds, manages to stand out.

Gay Witch Abortion released their debut album, Maverick, on Learning Curve Records back in 2007.  The 36 minute LP is packed from cover to cover with grinding, squealing guitars, walls of pile-driving noise, and just general unrestrained fury.  It is the soundtrack to destruction.  It is for those of us who like it dirty, heavy, and raw.  It is the gleeful embracement of primal aggression- pain, fire, blood, dirt, broken glass, broken bones, maybe sniffing some deer repelant, etc.   

(not recommended)

The Witch released their equally brilliant sophomore album Opportunistic Smokescreen Behavior in November of last year, and continues to regularly play shows around the Twin Cities - Scheduled next for February 20th at The Turf Club.


WARNING:  Go easy on that volume knob until you know you're equipment can handle it, this album is more than capable of blowing your speakers to smithereens.

Learning Curve Records

Throwback Track of the Day: The Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly

Compared to most of The Lips' other material, it is easy to write off the closest thing they've had to a mainstream hit as a throwaway novelty song.  In my opinion though, it is a great reflection of their approach to the surreal and their ability to inject a healthy dose of weirdness and obscurity into the most conventional of song structures.  Crashing drums and distorted pedal steel noise lace what would otherwise be a straight forward singalong chord progression, and Wayne Coyne ratchets it up further with bizarre lyrics about the strange idiosyncrasies of particular people.  It's the type of lyrical riddle that begs for an allegorical meaning, but you know that there is none; it is simply an acknowledgement of absurdity, and the perfect soundtrack for a generation of kids that can't bring themselves to take the world seriously.

Thank you for reading!

Track of the Day: Milk Music - I've Got a Wild Feeling

Milk Music is definitely one of my favorite up-and-coming bands.  Out of Olympia, Washington, the group is a great throwback to the glory days of 1980s indie rock, when "hardcore" was transitioning into "alternative".  On this track especially, with the driving, melodic guitars and strained croon of the vocals, they sound like they could be the reincarnation of Minnesota legends Husker Du.  This is not a band that is gonna get cute with the hipster stuff, this is just classic no-bullshit American songcraft, delivered with authentic rawness and energy.  They are the type of band that you listen to and feel like you've stumbled upon the best rock band in the world when they're just jamming out in someone's basement without giving a damn.

After a handful of self-released EPs, Milk Music signed to Fat Possum just this week and delivered this gem of a single.  Their Fat Possum debut Cruise Your Illusion is set to be released on April 2nd.

Fat Possum Records

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Track of the Day: Dumbo Gets Mad - Eclectic Prawn

Imported from Italy, the duo Dumbo Gets Mad brings a fresh approach to the well-trodden territory of psychedelic rock.  It opens with three key loops that will continue throughout much of the song; a breezy, reverb-drenched electric guitar shuffle, sudsy, bubbling background synths, and the lazy bounce of the bassline.  The loops are soon joined by breathy, shoegaze-esque vocals.  The song builds gradually before opening up into a larger-than-life chorus section, and then continuing to explode into an amazing, fuzzed-out solo section at the bridge.  What I like so much about this song is that there is so much ambiance to it yet it is still engaging, without being at all provocative.  It's like when you dive under water at a public pool or beach- you can still sense everything going on above the surface, but as far as you're concerned, as you float within the water's embrace, everything else might as well be a million miles away.

Eclectic Prawn mp3 free download
Download the Elephants at the Door LP for free HERE

Bad Panda Records

Tim Timebomb's RockNRoll Theater

To continue with the tentative theme of media-spanning collaboration, I would like to introduce you to Tim Armstrong's musical series.  Go back and re-read that last part if you need to.  It is just as ridiculous as it sounds, and in lesser hands probably would have been an embarrassment.  As executed however, Tim Timebomb's RockNRoll Theater plays as s cross between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Twilight Zone, filtered through tim armstrong's street-punk sensibility.  

The first episode, Dante, is a delightfully campy horror/punk retelling of Dante's Inferno.  Tim channels Rod Serling as the narrator, and is joined by Davey Havok, Lars Frederiksen, and Fishbone in key roles.  Also along for the ride is a gaggle of scantly clad dancers and background singers- naturally.  The super indulgent musical performances are intercut with expressionistic animated sequences with brief narrative moments between songs.  

That brings me to the biggest draw, the music itself.  Although heavily rooted in Rancid's streetwise ska/punk sound, this project sees Tim expertly incorporating cheese-stuffed cinematic grandiosity and retro rockabilly charm to fit with and enhance the B-movie musical style.  It's all here, driving power chords are paired with walking baselines with blaring horns and Davey Havok-turned-crooner over the top.  All the while it is punctuated by call-and-response background singing and handclaps.  Somehow it all still feels like a great collection of Rancid music…although listened to during a twisted fever dream.  

Production of episode two, Suzy Reanimated, has stalled after a teaser trailer, having been pushed to the back burner with Armstrong taking on new projects with Rancid and The Transplants, as well as producing Jimmy Cliff's album last year.  It is much anticipated though, and I trust that it hasn't been forgotten.  Make it happen Tim!

The first episode package, which includes the full 30 minute episode in both standard and high definition, as well as the 14 song soundtrack, can be downloaded at the link below for $5; with all proceeds used directly to support this fully DIY project.  Clips and trailers are also available on the website for free.

Thank you for reading!

Local SPOTLIGHT: Mitch Clem

For the uninitiated, Mitch Clem is Minnesotan cartoonist and punk rock fan of awesome proportions.  Perhaps his best known work is the webcomic Nothing Nice to Say, which chronicles the escapades of a pair of lovable Minneapolis scenesters.  Also notable are his autobiographical comics San Antonio Rock City and My Stupid Life

I have mentioned in early articles the respect that I have for crossover within media, and Mitch is a great example of that.  Everything that he does is oozing with punk spirit in subject matter as well as fiercely DIY values.  Nowhere has this been as effective as his latest endeavor, Turnstile ComixTurnstile is a series of direct-to-print comics that pairs a collection of true stories (in comic form of course) about a showcased individual band with a 7" record of previously unreleased songs by them.  The first of the series was in 2010, showcasing local legends The Slow Death with a scathing EP and 40+ pages of punk comic mayhem.  Turnstile made it's second release late last year with Brooklyn weirdpunk group The World/Inferno Friendship Society.

Thank you for reading!

Movie HYPE: Evil Dead

Release April 12, 2013

I would be lying if I said the news of the Evil Dead remake didn't have me skeptical by default, but as we get closer and closer to the release I am finding myself excited and optimistic; and frankly I cannot seem to be able to stop watching this damn trailer.  

The first thing that is made obvious is that this movie is not going to have any of the slapstick humor that made Evil Dead II such a classic.  Realizing that there will be no laughing taxidermy in sight is a tough pill to swallow at first, but it is necessary to remember that the original 1981 Evil Dead was a pretty straight shooting horror film.  It didn't have the physical comedy or the one liners of its sequel, it was gunning for balls to the wall, no holds barred, complete over-the-top terror.  Sure there are some laughable moments now, but they are the result of the nonexistent budget and dated material; hardly intentional.

That is why this remake is starting to seem very much worth looking forward to.  If it picks up that same go-for-broke pursuit of being legitimately terrifying, but update it with modern effects and money to spend…this could be the movie that makes movies scary again.  

Thank you for reading!

2013 Coachella Lineup Announced

After much speculation, Coachella has announced the official lineup for this year's edition of the legendary Southern California music festival.  As has come to be expected, the valley will be host to a veritable who's who of modern indie and alternative music during the two weekends in mid-April.  Some names to note at first look are the recently reunited britpop giants The Stone Roses and Blur, and perennial heavyweights Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, etc, not to mention the ageless Chili Peppers.  There also looks to be some nice draws for us Orgcore types, with Social Distortion, Dropick Murphys, Gaslight Anthem, Japandroids, Dinosaur Jr, and Descendents all on the bill.  Oh and of course, Milwaukee representatives The Violent Femmes.  Tickets go on sale HERE next Tuesday (1/29), grab one for me while you're at it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

My Top Ten Albums for the Dead of Winter

Given the last entry that I put up before my inexplicable hiatus, I thought it was only fitting to return on the opposite side of the musical spectrum.  Winter in the Twin Cities is LONG.  It is COLD.  The incessantness of it has a way of mentally herding you into strange corners of your psyche as the months drag on.  In other words, it provides a great atmosphere in which to hole up and immerse yourself in music that sympathizes one way or another.  

Here then are the ten albums that, for me, do the best job of filling that arctic void.  In piecing together this list I noticed an emergence (if not a saturation) of two or three particular "genres".  Being one for variety I was initially discouraged by this, but as with the season itself I came to embrace it.  On that note of ambiguity, I will let the list speak for itself.

10. Muse - Black Holes and Revelations  (2006)

This album sounds like those really long winter nights, where the sky is crystal clear and the frigid air somehow makes the stars look much brighter than usual.  The spacious mix and glossy production allow plenty of room for the synths and guitars to swirl and shine their way through the soundscape, and for Matt Bellamy to fill in the gaps with his airy falsetto vocals.  Black Holes manages to sound simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic, a vibe which of course culminates in the spaghetti western set in space that is Knights of Cydonia.  

Winteriest Moment:  

The final wails of the glossy Starlight fading into the dirty shuffle of Supermassive Black Hole

9. Slowdive - Souvlaki  (1993)

At its core Souvlaki is a subdued, dreamy pop album.  What makes it great, specifically during the winter, is that it exists far beneath the surface of a sea of fuzz.  The songs unfold like dreams, flourishing with surreal ambiance that rises and falls as the deeply delayed guitars bounce through the haze and Rachel Goswell's trance-like vocals coo and purr along with the beautifully overbearing noise.  

Winteriest Moment:

When the guitar cuts through the weight of the water for the solo in Machine Gun.

8. Electric Wizard - Dopethrone  (2000)

Check your suspension before picking up Dopethrone, because this thing is HEAVY.  The songs lurch forward at an impossibly slow pace, and the guitars and bass are fuzzed out and downtuned to the point that they engulf the entire mix in a wall of rumbling distortion so thick that it can very well pummel you (and your sound system) into submission.  What makes it a great winter album though is the desperation of Justin Oborn's vocals as he attempts to fight his way through the devastating white noise.  You can understand barely a handful of words on the whole record, but it has a way of articulating the cabin fever that tends to set in around this time.

Winteriest Moment:  

When the beast finally touches down at the beginning of Funeralopolis, enveloping the universe in unfathomable doom

7. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska  (1982)

Recorded by himself in his basement on a four-track, Springsteen's bare-bones Nebraska has a haunting beauty to it similar to the skeleton of a leafless tree.  Unlike many albums on this list, there is nothing but dark, empty void to serve as the backdrop as Bruce laments and howls brutally depressing tales of desperation and alienation.  Originally intended as a rough demo, the atmosphere is incredibly eerie, with an unrelenting sense of oppression.  

Winteriest Moment:  

Joe Roberts' heartbreaking story of blood on blood.

6. Brand New - Deja Entendu  (2003)

This album is best listened to while sitting in a silent, dimly lit room late at night, long after the rest of the world has turned in, and withdrawing dangerously deep into your thoughts.   The album has a strong manic-depressive feel, as its mood is of increasingly aggressive angst and urgency, until it all becomes too much and collapses into a moment of tense catharsis, only to start all over again.  

Winteriest Moment:  

When Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't devolves to a single guitar, for the sake of erupting back into the delirious final chorus.

5. Galaxie 500 - On Fire  (1989)

The lyrical imagery of Snowstorm makes this an easy pick, but the album as a whole is the point where dreamy pop meets the surreal haze of shoegaze, and then makes a crash landing into the crescendo-laden orchestration of post-rock.

Winteriest Moment:  

When Dead Wareham bittersweetly exclaims that his boss has no more work for him and is letting him go home - to ride out the blizzard alone.

4. Sigur Rós - Ágætis Byrjun  (1999)

Hailing from Iceland, it is no surprise that Sigur Rós knows as well as anyone how to tap into the spirit of the fourth season.  Ágætis Byrjun creates a "wall of sound" type of delivery with flowing background ambiance, yet the whole album still feels incredibly ethereal and floaty.  There is a particular alien serenity to it, as if the ebbs and flows are capable of carrying you straight up to the clouds, high above a foreign Alpine landscape.  The vocals, all sung in Icelandic, contribute a great deal to this vibe, and they serve as another instrument and another texture to the sonic landscape.

Winteriest Moment:  

The second half of Starálfur when a moment of tape hiss sends off the lone acoustic guitar and blows in the shimmering synths and backwards loops, before it all dissolves into white noise and gives way to the slowly pulsating organ of Flugufelsarinn.

3. Agalloch - The Mantle  (2002)

This album is Frankenstein's Monster of music.  Never before and never since has fireside acoustic strumming meshed so well with smoldering electric guitars, thunderous percussion, and despair-filled black metal vocals.  Not unlike the beast it is reminiscent of, the whole thing is shrouded in a deep coat of mystery, invoking images of hooded figures wandering the tundra and ascending snow covered mountain faces in search of something beyond comprehension.  Isolation is a common theme among many of the albums on this list, but during the journey The Mantle takes you on you begin to embrace that isolation.  The atmosphere and delivery seem to put you into the shoes (er…hooves?) of the elk displayed on the cover; somehow existing as one with the unrelenting wilderness.   

Winteriest Moment: 

The ethereal, crackling echo of the deer skull drum behind the campfire guitar in The Lodge

2. Radiohead - Kid A  (2000)

From the warm yet ominous opening chords of the rhodes keyboard to the final minutes of deafening silence, no album better conveys the digital emptiness of the looming electronic age.  Released at the turn of the millennium, Kid A uses eerie, disembodied vocals and layered textures of stuttering trip-hop beats to illustrate a vast, lonely, cold, alien future.  The album is at its best during the dissociative ambiance of the middle section, which puts you into a warped sense of security before dropping you headfirst into the overwhelming hopelessness of Idiotique.  

Winteriest Moment:  

Just looking at the cold, computerized mountainscape on the cover, and knowing exactly what you're in for.

1. Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place  (2003)

This is a great record during any time of the year, but it seems to take on a whole new dynamic among the snow and ice and subzero temperatures.  The crystal clear guitars shimmer like ice above the sparse compositions, with individual notes ringing out like flakes of snow.  On a list filled with depression, desperation, and alienation it seems only right for #1 to be the one that is capable of putting it all back into perspective.  It is an experience akin to watching sun rays reflect off of a desolate snow covered field, illuminating the beauty of what at first may seem like a cold, dead place.  

Winteriest Moment:  

All of it.

[Honorable Mentions:  Electric President - Electric President, Portishead - Dummy]

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