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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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.

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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Bob Mould: Silver Age

Bob Mould didn’t invent anything, nor did he perfect it. That said, it must be strange to watch the a generation of people both master and deconstruct (some might say destroy) the music he sought to popularize. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t want to play the old stuff anymore. Maybe that’s why he put a foot in the electronic door. Maybe, maybe, maybe. At first glance, the only definitive idea we can nail down: Bob Mould decided Silver Age was going to rock.

It’s tough to know when a career renaissance is an insult to the creator or just a return to form fans always wanted. To say Silver Age is a renaissance admits that Mould was ever out of touch with his musicality. His career has been long and fraught with change. He has seen remissions and reissues, but Mould has been ever-present: stories of Husker Du still linger in books, Henry Rollins interviews and documentaries, Sugar’s albums pop up in lists and reviews, his solo albums come out every few years. He’s not milked reunion tours or craved attention in interviews about the old days being better than the new days. Continue reading

Short Cuts: Joe Norkus’ EP

There no shortage of ways to laud these five songs, but I’ll go with an old stand-by: I wish I had written them. Writing simple, melodic jams that sparkle over easygoing vocals and rambling lyrics, Norkus has been a stalwart of my music collections for a long time. For the first time, however, I feel like he’s writing his songs at his pace. This isn’t some coming out party for a superstar singer-songwriter. EP is a combination of style and substance rather than a fight for collaboration.

“Time” is a realization of failures without rationalizations, something that very rarely comes without over-reaching metaphors or metacritical wisdom. “Call You Up” is a failed-relationship opener that asks simple questions with simple answers. “Decide” might be the prettiest song, with an opening line that masterfully recreates the theme without beating us over the head: “It’s time to decide/ between quick guilty pleasures/ and happiness.” These aren’t songs about growing up, they are songs about being a grown-up. Decisions aren’t so important as they are prevalent. “It’s time to decide/ between self-preservation and selflessness.” Meanwhile, the song itself is marked by a shiny guitar lead that poses as a solo each time the lyrics drop out. It’s painfully short, too. “Long Night” is, strangely, even shorter: “I’m tired of writing/ songs no one will hear./ I’m tired of fighting,/ so let’s shut up my dear.” Conversational, clear and fantastic, this song envelops more obfuscated frustration than a thousand metaphor-laden, folk-indie songs combined.

By the time “We’re Free” begins, you’ve already decided to listen to EP again. Trust me, you’ll need to. The one-liners, the solos, the weight of decades of tempered musical knowledge, the entire bundle is a beautiful, brilliant simplicity you have to repeat. The characters in “We’re Free” would be blissfully aware of their unironic inclusion in this series of vignettes, but would likely misrepresent the source of their inclusion. Norkus masterfully describes them as if describing food or colors. They are waste lain against the side of his artistic endeavor. Sure, EP is more of a lean-to than a mansion, but who’s really all that upset so long as the rain doesn’t come? That’s precisely the convoluted metaphor that wouldn’t make it to Norkus’ songs and precisely the reason I’m gonna stop talking and listen again. And maybe again.

Lonely Weekday Singles Club: Converge’s “Aimless Arrow”

“To live the life you want/ abandon those you need…” begins the emotional wreckage strewn about the newest Converge single. This is the first song since Axe to Fall, a meaningful, but altogether distant record that could not rival the two before it. Scattered, non-triggered drums crush the song’s intentionally scattered purpose. The vocals are the clearest they’ve ever been, the guitar is the most distinguished too. We can only assume this is the most budgeted they’ve ever been. Still, the band is insular as their pulsating, quick-fire snare hits illuminate the grinding need for movement. Converge has never outwardly demanded attention– the singer does all the artwork, the guitarist the recording, the band’s own label will press the ultra-sweet vinyl version of All We Love We Leave Behind. Still, this recording demands multiple listens, if only to know when, exactly, we should nod in contemplative pattern. “Aimless Arrow,” the ending bellows, “Lost from the start.” This is 2-plus minutes of destructive brilliance that is exactly Converge– an inward journey exposed for all of us to scream just before we realize how insane we must look to everyone else.

Jens Lekman: I Know What Love Isn’t

jensiknowwhatloveisnt

Digital music has made it simple to restart an album as soon as it’s over, so it’s cool that more artists are exploiting that possibility.  The pop-music ouroboros is at least as old as Dark Side Of The Moon, with its heartbeat bookends supporting the theory of eternal recurrence, though of course you couldn’t really experience that back in the vinyl-only days- not seamlessly, anyway.   More recently, albums have looped themselves in the name of perpetual partying, like Fang Island’s Fang Island (which begins and ends with fireworks), or Japandroids’ Celebration Rock (which also begins and ends with fireworks, but that’s OK because it’s way better than Fang Island).

Somewhere between Pink Floyd’s heady philosophy and the rollicking post-millennial festivity, there’s Jens Lekman’s I Know What Love Isn’t.  The opening track is a short piano melody lifted from the closing track, both tracks titled “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name.” While the first one sounds like a simple, bittersweet intro on first listen, if you set the album on repeat and hear that first track again, right after all the beautiful, hilarious heartache on the rest of the album, it becomes a beautiful, hilarious prologue and epilogue, a cosmic joke on a poor soul stuck in a post-breakup Möbius strip.

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Lonely Weekend Singles Club: Method Man “Built For This”

Really, this song should be named “Freddie Gibbs Spits the Hook, Kills His Verse and Meth Gets All the Credit Since RZA Made the Beat.” In any event, the song knocks and I’ll be listening to it all day while resting all the torn muscles and cartilage in my knee. Banger alert.

NOTE: I can’t find an unedited version of this yet. Sorry. Also of note, this is from the soundtrack to RZA’s new movie Man With the Iron Fists.

Short Cuts: Ty Segall Band’s Slaughterhouse

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Slaughterhouse is indeed a raucous little hellspawn, but let’s get something outta the way real quick: a quarter of this record is worthless nothing.  After 30 explosive minutes of creamy hooks, cathartic anguish, mud-magma guitars, maelstrom drums, and belly-of-the-beast reverb, Slaughterhouse ends with “Fuzz War,” 10 minutes of wanked-out feedback accompanied by a drum-roll here and a cymbal splash there.  Other reviews of this album have used words like “colossal” and “uncompromising” to describe “Fuzz War,” but for some reason, neither of those words were followed by the phrase “waste of everyone’s time.”

So I’m cheating a bit with this review.  Normally I stick to 10Listens’ philosophy of 10 full listens, beginning to end, but I’ve only listened to “Fuzz War” 3 times, and will listen no more.  I couldn’t respect myself if I devoted 70 more minutes of my ever-shortening life to this big fat slab of diddly-squat.  All the other tracks on Slaughterhouse got more than 10 listens, though, ’cause they damn well  deserved it.  Tracks like “I Bought My Eyes,” the restless Ghost Of Nuggets Past.  Or “Wave Goodbye,” where the riffs seem like they’ve slithered away, only to creep back up and tentacle-slap you in the mouth.  And the money track, “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart,” which is not only one of the best pop-punk songs I’ve heard in years, it also channels young John Lennon so magically it’s practically a seance.