Phosphorescent: Muchacho

Phosphorescent don’t write pop songs. Phosphorescent don’t write country songs or folk songs (anymore). Muchacho‘s songs resemble alt-whatever, but don’t fall into any category neatly. The riffs are long-running solos more than they are riffs. The keys and strings trickle in and out, barely noticeable at times. Some basslines hang around but usually not for long. Seemingly, the weakest part of Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck’s faltering voice, is the real hook.

The beginning and end of Muchacho, a strange prayer-song/chorus with no beginning or end other than playing until the idea gets old, serve as bookended a and b-sides to the haunting melodies that ensconce the record. By title, the record exists between the pre-dawn and the actual peak of dawn – a time to wait and reflect, it seems. In that distended dark, Phosphorescent rock us in and out of intentional rambles and lucid dreams described by a wandering soul.

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The Lonely Weekday Singles Club: Baptist Generals’ “Dog That Bit You”

You may remember the time I didn’t research a band that hadn’t released anything in a decade? Well, they are releasing an album and “Dog That Bit You” is the first single.

Is anything worth waiting a decade for? Yes. This. This song is worth the wait of a decade. I don’t mean that the song is especially astounding or that it will lift you to heights unimaginable. I’m just saying that after ten years of loving this band, now there’s more and that rules. The album drops in May and I’m gonna review the dickhole off of it.

As for “The Dog…,” the guitar riff says it all. TBG has always been catchy without reveling in  their cleverness; folk-rock without being too masochistically sad or annoyingly happy. This is sipping whiskey. This is a rocking chair. This is nodding at your buddy who enjoys the jam. “This one’s written like a comedy/ Heart enters into a room/ Inside the inside that you nearly see/  Decide the insides are not true.” Yeah, exactly.

Alls I’m saying is I’m excited, here. And yeah, I ain’t been around the site, but I’m listening. And when TBG decide to grace us with an album for the first time since 2003? I’m listening a lot.

My Dick: My Dick’s Double Full-Length Release

My Dick’s Double Full-Length Release is no novelty. This thing is monumental.

It’s like Ween and Alexander The Great spawned The Conquering King Of All Karaoke Jams. It doesn’t just skewer your favorite hits from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. It’s a scorched-earth deconstruction of the phallic monsters lurking in every shadowy alley of popular music. It’s a ruthless satire of our basest impulses and our loftiest pretensions. It’s the only dead horse in the history of the world that grows more exquisitely beautiful the more it’s flogged. It obliterates the boundaries between “irony” and “sincerity” until you can’t even remember what those words mean anymore.

My Dick’s not simply thrusting “My Dick” into song after song. There’s a science to it all. You have to listen to where they put those “My Dick”s. Are they just having some raunchy fun with Hall And Oates? Or are they cramming “My Dick” everywhere it can possibly fit, transforming vitriolic contempt for The Spin Doctors into pure, invincible joy? Each song has its own story to tell.

My Dick’s Double Full-Length Release is the reason I’ve hardly listened to new music since Jeff linked to it on Facebook like 6 weeks ago. It may be the reason I never review another album as long as I live. Because what else can you possibly say once you’ve been exposed to My Dick? My Dick, My Dick My Dick My Dick. (My Dick, My Dick). My Dick? My Dick! My Dick, My Dick…

Indians: Somewhere Else

By the time I realized I was really into this album, I had lost reason. I’ve been laid up after knee surgery and this album was my first foray into 2013 that didn’t involve physical therapy or standing on my porch letting the blood flow through my wounds. It was Joe and I online and I was all skeptical and weary but altogether impressed, when I heard “Bird.” I was sunk. Also, I was scared that the melodies had captured an atrophied imagination. I mean, I’m a sucker for the simplistic.

Simplicity is what Somewhere Else does well. The first duo-percussive finger snaps and reverberated drum hits of “New” prepare the listener for a record that never really moves forward or backward. Instead, Somewhere Else settles into a steady groove. Some readers will not like that groove. Some will. “Bird” flies in on a disgustingly simple yet ungodly beautiful key-loop that burns and swells in my mind despite staying the same volume throughout. A long outro leads the rest of the album’s metastasized warmth in gently, like a plane slowly pulling into its gate.

The warmth, though, is all production. Hidden in the bowels of each song are swirls of produced sounds and manically placed effects. The vocals are cold and removed, effectively warbled and distant. “I Am Haunted” would normally seem like a throwaway track– a kid’s song transposed to fit an adult landscape. But Indians is a solo project of Søren Løkke Juul, not a full interpolative project. So, the melodies and soundscapes are of one mind. Each time wind-noise blows over an acoustic guitar, a watery key-blend drops in, or standard elctronic noises accompany a song, it’s one man hiding his faults and strengths.

Of course, there are songs I do not like. There are songs that do not fit. That said, the ones I like are so strong and so fantastical that the album works just as well as background music as it does foreground concentration. You can measure the mistakes quickly while the nods and hums of the listener get lost in the weight of re-listening. “Lips Lips Lips” cruises in on jet wash and leaves as the most complete song in the bunch until the overwhelming and album-completing “Somewhere Else.” “Melt” bereaves and enlightens. The second half of the album seems so forgettable, but you can’t stop wanting to hear it.

If you should find yourself singing along as the album ends, you’ll refrain like I did: “Somewhere else, you are somewhere else.” And you are. This is escape music; a vacation from the normally frayed connections that force their way into music. There’s little to analyze and so much to hear– every long fadeout, every short interlude is placed as decisively as it needs be. “Cakelakers” is just an acoustic guitar and faraway swells of vocal effects and strings, but it works. The whole record works. Specifically, listening to Indians doesn’t feel like work. Somewhere Else describes itself and ends as wistfully as it began. No need to linger, you’ll likely remember it.

The 10Listens 500: Erik Satie’s “Gnossienne No. 1 – Lent” (Pascal Rogé Version)

The theme song for Keeping Calm And Carrying On. Like many Satie compositions, it soothes even as it portends doom. You’re sitting in your fancy leather chair, reading that classic French novel you’ve been meaning to get into all these years, sipping your most expensive Scotch, and then trouble rumbles in the distance. There’s little you can do about it now, except maybe flee in terror, but you can’t always flee in terror. You have to pick and choose your terror-flees, and there’ll always come a more appropriate time for that.

The way Pascal Rogé plays the melody only adds to the dread. It moves like a hungry jellyfish, flowing gently and gracefully, then stalking and striking with jarring rhythms. I’ve only really listened to Rogé’s version as long as I’ve known this song, because I’ve never really felt the need to hear any others.

Green Day: Greatest Hits (2012-2012)

Green Day made a peculiar pivot in 2012. With one foot they swung further away from their post-American Idiot need to win a Grammy, Tony, and Pulitzer with every zeitgeist-hungry slab of social commentary, and they swung closer toward good old teenage-kicks simplicity. Meanwhile, their other foot remained cemented in the belief that they have so very much to say to us- so much that they couldn’t keep it all confined to one or even two albums. They went, as all long-haul rock bands eventually go, back to basics- only this time, they went back to basics BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVER BEFORE!!!

Not shockingly, the three albums Green Day released since late September (¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!) collectively contain almost two album’s worth of filler. And not, as I once hoped, the cool, experimental kind of filler farted out by their heroes The Clash (Sandinista!) and The Beatles (The Beatles). There’s no “Revolution 9″ sound collages or “Mensforth Hill” backwards-dub. (Granted, I don’t really care for “Revolution 9″ and “Mensforth Hill,” but I’m still glad they exist.) No, Green Day’s filler here is plain old filler, plump with too-predictable melodies and half-hearted performances, all forged in their usual brand of Power Trio Pop-Rock. The boldest choice the band made on these records was to waste a decent noir-and-neon track by ceding the verses to the painfully unsexy rhymes of Lady Cobra.

Still, Green Day’s usual brand of Power Trio Pop-Rock is more than capable of churning out those International Superhits. And if they had any desire to sift the dank from the schwag this year, they could’ve ended up with one great album that might go something like this:

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The 10Listens 500: Ramones’ Rock ‘N’ Roll High School Medley

Forgive me if I violate the “one track per band” spirit of the 10Listens 500, but I have at least one loophole: This 5-song medley appears as a single bonus track on the 2001 Expanded Edition of Road To Ruin. My second, far less legitimate loophole is that I love The Ramones too much (and I promise not to use any more such loopholes for the remainder of the 500).

This medley may not include a number of my most beloved Ramones tunes (“Rockaway Beach,” “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “The KKK Took My Baby Away”) but the ones that are here would crack my Ramones Top 40 (“Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Teenage Lobotomy,” “California Sun,” “Pinhead,” “She’s The One”). And most importantly, the medley showcases pretty much all the essential facets of rock n’ roll’s most essential band: It’s got Let’s Go Crazy Ramones, Tough Guy Ramones, Psycho Ramones, Mutant Ramones, Beach Party Ramones, and Sweetheart Ramones.

Of course, any one song in this medley would illustrate how perfectly The Ramones distilled pop and rock music into sweet, unadulterated, electric soul-freedom. But let’s get real: Two minutes of Ramones is never enough Ramones.

The Lonely Wednesday Singles Club: The-Dream’s “Tender Tendencies”

Do you remember when RnB started this shift from sex jams to confessional jams? Me either. But I love it. As my compatriot Joe O’Brien said, “Damn, this jam is raw.” From the creaking door sample to the list of awful human tendencies in this song, he’s right. My buddy Darryl (@11olsens) said this jam was on some “next-level Lionel Ritchie shit.” Also correct. I’m not going to get into the psychology of “Tender Tendencies,” though, because talking about it will only diminish how good this song is. It’s good. That’s it. I battle my proclivity to overanalyze daily, Terius Nash, so I understand.

The 10Listens 500: Bill Withers’ “Let Me In Your Life”

“A lotta cats get up at an age around in their early thirties and they start to think about lifetime companionship and that’s when they start to meet ladies who are not too prone to trust anybody and they got plenty of history to show you why they shouldn’t trust nobody.”

–Bill Withers, Live At Carnegie Hall

We can all go home, Bill Withers just summed it all up. That’s why he’s my spirit guide and you aren’t. Also, this song is amazing. Obviously.

The 10Listens 500: Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”

It’s more story than song, though the music is key to the message. It’s waggish and meta, yet tender and moving. Rambling folksy warmth cloaking prickly acid satire. Baby Kafka swaddled and lullabied by Grandpa Twain. Loopy hippie liberalism hiply dismissive of Big Bureaucracy and The System, and wise enough not to be strident about it. And instead of romanticizing war, it chuckles in war’s face. Far as I’m concerned, “Alice’s Restuarant” is America’s National Anthem.