Saturday, February 13, 2016

Great Blog Alert: Pretty as a Peanut

Written by East Bay resident Sarah Miller, Pretty as a Peanut is a fun, clever blog covering everything from local restaurants, bars, and other establishments to baking with booze to relationships to music and going forward, I suspect a little bit of everything in-between.

What immediately caught my eye was Miller's joyous love for Oklahoma's favorite son John Moreland.  Here's a snippet --
I’m not a music critic. If I were, I’d argue things like Miley Cyrus’ rendition of Jolene is better than the original and nobody would believe me. If you’re looking for a review the New York Times has a good one. I like lyrics and I think John Moreland’s lyric, “Well I’m the kind of love it hurts to look at” from the song You Don’t Care Enough For Me to Cry is a great lyric. John Moreland’s music is the Rachel Weisz (thinking man’s hottie) of country.
Pretty as a Peanut has wit and humor mixed with intelligence and sass.  The result is an entertainingly deadly combination.

Blogging doesn't have the hip factor that it did ten years ago, thanks in large part to social media.  There are still great sites out there and bloggers plugging away but it's not a medium that you see people moving towards that awful much anymore.  That's one thing I love about Pretty as a Peanut, it is unabashedly a blog.  The topics are random, the writing is personal, and the posts are topical, which has always been central and essential to making a great blog.  And so far, Pretty as a Peanut is most certainly a great blog.

Currently Listening

1.  "Born into This" by Ship Thieves (from No Anchor)
2.  "Everyday Is Like Sunday" by Morrissey (from Viva Hate)
3.  "From The Creators of Love Actually" by Great Cynics (from I Feel Weird)
4.  "A Murder Of One" by Counting Crows (from August And Everything After)
5.  "Balloon" by Muncie Girls (from Balloon)
6.  "Sometimes Always" by The Jesus & Mary Chain (from Stoned and Dethroned)
7.  "Hands Together" by The I Don't Cares (from Wild Stab)
8.  "Positive Bleeding" by Urge Overkill (from Saturation)
9.  "Smoke" by Brian Fallon (from Smoke)
10.  "Constructive Summer" by The Hold Steady (from Stay Positive)

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Top 10 Records of 1996

Well it's that time of year again...time to look back at 20 years ago and revisit the music of my early 20's.  1996 was a bit of a transition year for music.  The alternative rock thing was continuing to slow down while punk was starting to lose steam and ska was beginning to gain mainstream exposure.  Many of the year's biggest singles were actually from albums released in 1995 (see "Wonderwall" and "1979") and the best selling album of the year was Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, which was also released in 1995.  So in a lot of ways, 1996 was a year that lacked its own identity.  

Personally 1996 was a year that found me graduating from community college (with a highly useful AA in broadcast journalism), going to a state college and living in the dorms for all of two months, and moving back home to get another wonderfully crappy job in retail.  It was also in 1996 that I began to formulate the ideas for what would become my zine Caught Off Guard.  1996 was also the year that I fully discovered and embraced oi and street punk.  The album that drew me in was the Swingin' Utters' A Juvenile Product of the Working Class.  From there I dove completely into the upcoming street punk "explosion" of the late '90s, a place my heart and musical tastes stayed for quite a long time.

Check out my other posts looking back at the music of the past 20 years: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995.

10.  Eventually by Paul Westerberg
9.  Everything Sucks by Descendents
8.  Pinkerton by Weezer
7.  Core Sample by Sinkhole
6.  Unchained by Johnny Cash
5.  The Green Album by Skankin' Pickle
4.  Maniacal Laughter by The Bouncing Souls
3.  White Light, White Heat, White Trash by Social Distortion
2.  All Scratched Up by Down By Law
1.  A Juvenile Product of the Working Class by Swingin' Utters

Honorable Mentions --
New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M.
No Future No Hope by Defiance
Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks by Various Artists
Down on the Upside by Soundgarden
Destruction by Definition by The Suicide Machines
Congratulations I'm Sorry by Gin Blossoms
Harmacy by Sebadoh
Bark Like a Dog by Screeching Weasel

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Album Review: 'No Anchor' by Ship Thieves

Title:  No Anchor (No Idea Records, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Ship Thieves (Facebook, MySpace, BandCamp,

No Anchor, the third album from Chris Wollard's band Ship Thieves, is a ferocious blast of southern punk intensity.  Drawing heavily from the likes of Leatherface, Ship Thieves have solidly cemented themselves into that space normally reserved for Wollard's other band Hot Water Music.  Ship Thieves started as a solo project for Wollard; a place for those songs that just didn't fit into Hot Water Music.  The band's 2009 self-titled debut (then as Chis Wollard & the Ship Thieves) was more folk influenced and 2012's brilliant Canyons was a perfect mix of Americana, southern rock, and punk attitude.  No Anchor is full tilt, driving, classic Wollard punk.  Now that's not to say that this sounds or feels like a band trying to be Hot Water Music or The Draft, because it doesn't.  The current Ship Thieves lineup solidified itself in 2010 and since then the project morphed from a solo outlet for Wollard into a full-fledged band.  And holy crap is this band tight.  What makes this band great and this record its own thing are the nuances that they bring to the music.  Obviously this sounds like a Chris Wollard written record but the feel and identity is very organic and very much a reflection of these four musicians.  In other words, had these same songs been recorded by The Draft, No Anchor would have sounded completely different and that is a good thing; Ship Thieves deserve their own identity as a band.  The only downside to No Anchor, and this is just a personal preference thing and not a reflection of the album itself, is the lack of the folk and Americana influence.  This is a punk record, plain and simple and admittedly I miss those other sides to Wollard's writing and music.  For those fans of Hot Water Music and The Draft that didn't like the less-punk direction of Ship Thieves first two records, No Anchor will feel like a return to form and should please.  For those that liked the earlier direction of this band (or the old Wollard/Chuck Ragan side project Rumbleseat), No Anchor is a definite change but it is well worth the listen because whether he is writing roaring punk anthems or solemn folk tunes, Chris Wollard is an exceptional songwriter and anything he touches is just about guaranteed to be great.

Video of the Day: "Do You Wanna Go To Tijuana?" by Ray Rocket

Song:  "Do You Wanna Go To Tijuana?"
Album:  Do You Wanna Go To Tijuana? (MerchNow, iTunes, Amazon)
Artist:  Ray Rocket (MerchNow)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Video of the Day: "Born on a Highway" by Bryan McPherson

Song:  "Born on a Highway"
Album:  Wedgewood (BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Bryan McPherson (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BandCamp)

Currently Listening

1.  "Nobody Wins" by Brian Fallon (from Nobody Wins)
2.  "Back" by The I Don't Cares (from Wild Stab)
3.  "Dulcet Tone" by Hard Girls (from Dulcet Tones)
4.  "Wilder Side" by Carter Sampson (from Wilder Side)
5.  "Hang the Moon" by Cables & Arms (from Hang the Moon)
6.  "Russian Roulette" by Sons Of London (from Russian Roulette)
7.  "Balloon" by Muncie Girls (from Balloon)
8.  "Voices in My Head" by Bob Mould (from Voices in My Head)
9.  "Freedom1313" by Cayetana (from Tired Eyes)
10.  "Fading into Summer" by Aspiga (from Split)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ranking the Albums: The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon will release his solo debut Painkillers in March 2016.  In honor of and preparation for the release, I've been listening to The Gaslight Anthem's catalog and thought it would be a good time to revisit the Ranking the Albums feature.

I first discovered The Gaslight Anthem in 2010 when they were featured on NPR in support of their album American Slang.  After hearing the story, I picked up the record and was blown away.  The band created a sound that was equal parts Otis Redding, Hot Water Music, and Bruce Springsteen and was one of my favorite records of the year.  I went back and picked up the band's 2008 album The '59 Sound and after that I was hooked; a fan for life.  2012 saw the release of the excellent Handwritten another one of my favorite albums of the year.  In 2014 the band released their most ambitious record, the dark and haunting Get Hurt.  This record drew from '70s stoner rock and '90s alt rock and in a lot of ways had more in common with Elsie, the 2011 debut of Fallon's other project The Horrible Crowes.

In 2015 the band announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus.  Since forming in 2006, they released five full-length albums, two proper EPs (counting Hold You Up and Here Comes My Man as one release since they basically were two different versions of the same EP), numerous singles, and two collections.  For this list I have included the albums and EPs and are listed in order of preference.  That having been said, this band's entire catalog is excellent and worth checking out.

For more information on The Gaslight Anthem check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, AllMusic, and Wikipedia pages.  For more information on The Horrible Crowes check out their Facebook, BandCamp, and Wikipedia pages.  For more information on Brian Fallon check out his official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Wikipedia pages.

1.  The '59 Sound
2.  Handwritten
3.  American Slang
4.  Sink or Swim
5.  Get Hurt
6.  Hold You Up / Here Comes My Man
7.  Señor and the Queen

Single Review: "My Name Is Henry" by Micah Schnabel

Title:  My Name Is Henry (BandCamp)
Artist:  Micah Schnabel (Facebook, Twitter, BandCamp, Big Cartel)

Micah Schnabel's described his latest single "My Name Is Henry" stating --
This song didn't fit anywhere. But I really like it and wanted to share. To maybe find a home somewhere.  Not everyone grows up to be someone. Or something. Some of us don't count. We have no voice and are left alone to work until we die.
That sentiment perfectly sums up this beautiful, heartfelt, and desperate song.  Schnabel has such a way with words, crafting songs that speak so clearing and straight to the heart of the matter and "My Name Is Henry" is no different.
Hello, my name is Henry. I am 28 years old. I work at a convenience store in a small town getting smaller everyday. I am the one that you ignore as you pass me mopping the floor. I sell you cigarettes and energy drinks. You never look me in the eye. 
This opening verse paints the picture of a young man, overlooked and under-appreciated by those around him.  A man who feels forgotten and alone as he passes through life ignored or looked down upon.
Hello, my name is Henry says this name tag that they make me wear. Named after a grandfather that beat the shot out of my mother. I am living proof that not everybody counts. Not everybody matters. 
Most nights I want to toss these racks of candy bars and Advil out into the parking lot and set this place on fire. Take the mo eye from the register as the pop 40 music is still playing on the speakers from the ceiling and just go anywhere but here. 
Schnabel uses the setting of the convenience store to showcase how we all often feel the loneliness of modern life.  The scars of dysfunctional families and the fact that not everyone is destined to succeed is what makes these lyrics so poignant and powerful.
Do you ever feel like your life is just happening to you? Like no matter what you say or do never really matters. I've never really mattered. 
This is the knife to the heart.  At some point we have all probably felt this way (lord knows I have).  But the beauty of this lyric is that it expresses depression and hope, loneliness and humility all at the same time.
Hello, my name is Henry. I am 28 years old and I am a spectator in my own life.
"My Name Is Henry" is a song that is born out of depression.  Anyone who has felt the knots and chains of depression, knows the desperation and loneliness in this song.  What makes this song work though is that it doesn't glorify depression but instead stands as a testament of surviving it.  Only a voice like Schnabel's could make a song like this work.  The simple delivery on the acoustic with the beautiful backing vocals of Julien Baker, drive the point home spectacularly.

Micah Schnabel is a phenomenal talent and this song is a staggering example of why he is one of the best songwriters alive today.  Your music reminds me that I'm not alone and that everything will be okay.  There is power in your words and songs and you have made the world a better place with them.  Thank you sir for all that you do.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

EP Review: 'For Life' by The Lucky Eejits

Title:  For Life (BandCamp)
Artist:  The Lucky Eejits (Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, BandCamp)

For Life is The Lucky Eejits fourth release and the first since the death of bassist Emilio Nevarez in April 2015.  Dedicated to Nevarez, For Life is a high energy blast of passionate and powerful '77 style punk rock.  Hailing from Oakland, CA The Lucky Eejits have perfected their sound playing all across the bay area and pulling heavy influence from the local punk scene (a scene once known for its '77 style / street punk sound and record labels like TKO Records).  Driven by big hooks and bigger choruses, For Life is a six-song punch in the gut born out of the pain of a great loss.  What makes this EP work so well is that there is no wallowing in the pain.  The pain is used as a force for good, an inspiration to move forward as a celebration of what was lost and the possibilities of what is to come.  Nothing sums up this sentiment better than the inspiring closing number "April 5th," the only song to directly deal with the memory of Nevarez.  The Lucky Eejits have taken a horrible tragedy and used it as fuel to move forward, living the fullest lives possible in honor of their fallen friend and it is that hope born out of a great loss that shines through on For Life making it more than just another punk rock homage.  This is cathartic, this is powerful, and this is great.