Sunday, August 05, 2018

Currently Listening

1.  "Believe Me Never" by Fastbacks (from Zucker)
2.  "Locked Up" by Muncie Girls (from Locked Up)
3.  "Start Me Over" by Gameface (from Three To Get Ready)
4.  "Syndicate" by Squarecrow (from Before the Sun Catches Us All)
5.  "Song of the Year" by The Nixons (from Song of the Year)
6.  "Rebrand It" by Down By Law (from All In)
7.  "Chemical Imbalance" by The Kimberly Steaks (from Chemical Imbalance)
8.  "Year of the Dog" by Barely Civil (from Barely Civil / Barely March)
9.  "Around You" by Free Cake For Every Creature (from The Bluest Star)
10.  "Down Love" by Paul Westerberg (from 14 Songs)
11.  "Lighthouse" by Katie Ellen (from Still Life)
12.  "Goin' Through Your Purse" by Material Issue (from Freak City Soundtrack)
13.  "Girl" by Brand New Friend (from Seatbelts For Aeroplanes)
14.  "The Will The Message" by Bombshell Rocks (from Street Art Gallery)
15.  "Death Defier" by American Television (from Death Defier)
16.  "I'll Be Right Here" by The Slow Death (from I'll Be Right Here / Factory)
17.  "Slumbers" by The Stayawakes (from Dogs and Cats / Living Together)
18.  "American Love" by Aree & the Pure Heart (from Heartsongs)
19.  "Wages" by Re-Volts (from Wages)
20.  "Good Things" by Sebadoh (from Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock)
21.  "Unfair Weather" by Dot Dash (from Proto Retro)
22.  "The Brothels" by Rancid (from Give 'Em The Boot)
23.  "Sleep" by Mixtapes Saints (from Everything We Used To Be)
24.  "Silence" by ALL (from Mass Nerder)
25.  "Something Awful" by Bam!Bam! (from Golden Haze 2 EP)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Album Review: 'Makes Good Choices' by The 1984 Draft

Title:  Makes Good Choices (Poptek Records)
Artist:  The 1984 Draft (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Bandsintown, BandCamp, Spotify)

There are some records that just hit you.  They have a sound that immediately grabs you on the first listen and from that moment on you know you've found something that you are going to love.  That's what happened to me the first time I listened to The 1984 Draft's new album Makes Good Choices.  The band's sound is this perfect blending of '80s college rock, '90s punk and indie rock, and modern bands that mix elements of the above with classic rock and Americana sensibilities, with a dash of post punk atmosphere for good measure.  The result is a sound that is compelling and catchy, melodic and hooky, while feeling familiar, nostalgic, modern, and new all at the same time.  The band is the brainchild of primary singer/songwriter Joe Anderl, a 20+ year veteran of the Dayton, OH music scene and it's that experience that shines through on Makes Good Choices.  In fact, this record is dripping with the essence of Generation X (the actual generation, not the band but I'd love to hear these guys take a crack at "Kiss Me Deadly") least those of us who spent the '80s listening to The Replacements and (early) R.E.M., the '90s listening to Sugar and Buffalo Tom, the '00s listening to The Gaslight Anthem and The Hold Steady, and the 2010s listening to Beach Slang and Japandroids.  At 10 songs and clocking in at about 30 minutes, Makes Good Choices is a nearly perfect indie punk rock record that draws you in with its familiarity and hooks and keeps you in with its intimacy and depth.  There's so much going on here that it is nearly impossible to sum up in a review.  The bottom line: this is an outstanding record that deserves, if not demands, multiple listens to fully absorb and enjoy.  And this is a very, very good thing. 

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Currently Listening

1.  "When I'm with You" by Tiny Stills (from Laughing into the Void)
2.  "Ugly Veg" by Peaness (from Ugly Veg)
3.  "Friend of Mine" by Big Drill Car (from No Worse for the Wear)
4.  "Falling Down" by Muncie Girls (from Falling Down)
5.  "Rebrand It" by Down By Law (from Rebrand It)
6.  "Slumbers" by The Stayawakes (from Dog and Cats / Living Together)
7.  "Little Changes (Acoustic)" by Frank Turner (from Little Changes [Acoustic])
8.  "Break Down Your Walls" by Nelson Can (from EP3)
9.  "Double Denim" by Helen Love (from Double Denim)
10.  "I'm Over It" by Blushh (from Thx 4 Asking)
11.  "Bay Dream" by Culture Abuse (from Bay Dream)
12.  "Cross Your Heart" by Lauren Strange (from Shake)
13.  "The Red Door" by Restorations (from The Red Door)
14.  "Loud Noises for Terrible Times" by Resistors (from Loud Noises for Terrible Times)
15.  "(You're Better) Than Ever" by illuminati hotties (from Kiss Yr Frenemies)
16.  "Sometimes Dead Is Better" by Harker (from No Discordance)
17.  "I Love Rock N Roll" by The Jesus & Mary Chain (from Munki)
18.  "Fade Away" by Mobina Galore (from Fade Away)
19.  "Maria" by Blondie (from Greatest Hits)
20.  "Take a Piece of All That's Good" by Ogikubo Station (Take a Piece of All That's Good)
21.  "Golden Haze 2" by Bam!Bam! (from Golden Haze 2 EP)
22.  "Pull Shapes" by The Pipettes (from We Are The Pipettes)
23.  "What a Time to Be Alive" by Superchunk (from What a Time to Be Alive)
24.  "Least That We Can Do" by Buffalo Tom (from Quiet and Peace)
25.  "I Can't Lie" by Supercrush (from I Can't Lie / Walking Backwards)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Album Review: 'Be More Kind' by Frank Turner

Title:  Be More Kind (Official, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Frank Turner (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, Wikipedia)

I've had a really hard time trying to figure out how to put into words my feelings about Frank Turner's seventh studio album Be More Kind.  Words like excellent and mesmerizing and important just don't do it justice (though all are true).  I have been devouring Be More Kind since its release over a month ago and right from the first listen I knew that I was listening to something that not only spoke to me, but could truly make a difference in people's lives.

The album opens with the gentle "Don't Worry" a song that perfectly sets the thematic tone for the record, conveying a sense of togetherness, community, and hope:
Don't worry if you don't know what to do
I don't know what I'm doing
No-one has a clue
But you'll figure it out
And I might too
Throughout the record there are songs that touch on the insanity of the current political environment ("1933"), relationships and devotion ("Going Nowhere"), love ("There She Is"), and perseverance ("Brave Face").  On top of those is an overarching theme that is found throughout the entire record, and that theme is kindness.  The title track "Be More Kind" is the centerpiece of the album and was inspired by a Clive James poem that included the line "I should have been more kind. It is my fate. To find this out, but find it out too late."  The song is poignant and powerful ballad that should become a mantra to all who hear it --
In a world that has decided
That it's going to lose its mind
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind
"Little Changes" began as a love song but grew into an anthem for the best way to truly change the world --
Giving up too easy when we could've tried a little bit harder
Standing to the side as the neighbourhood went to the dogs
We spend our energy getting angry instead of being kinder
Singing hymns of praise in a city given up on by the gods
'Cause I've been messing things up
And I've been letting you down
I've been getting it wrong for far too long
I've been lost more than found
And I don't know where to stop
But something's gotta break
Don't pull out the part, keep it close to your heart
I'll do whatever it takes
So far from okay, tongue-tied and afraid
The big things stay the same, let us make
Little changes
Little changes
Come on let's make some little changes
It's time to make some little changes
Let's not just pray
Let's make a change
Let's not just pray
Let's make a change
Come on let's make some little changes
It's time to make some little changes
This song is one that really hit me because it is so unbelievably true.  In order to make the world a better place, we have to make a change.  Us.  Individuals.  We have to make conscious decisions to treat each other better, to be better people, to take better care of ourselves, our friends, our families, and our planet.  Two comparisons instantly came to mind when I heard "Little Changes."  First was Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror."  Now I know that Michael Jackson and Frank Turner are about as far removed from one another as possible in music but the sentiment of this song, and especially its video, go hand in hand with that of "Little Changes" as exemplified in the closing of the chorus "If you want to make the world a better place, Take a look at yourself, and then make a change."  The other comparison that came to mind was Ben Lee, specifically the song "We're All In This Together."  Lee is an indie pop artist that started playing music as a teenager in the '90s in the grunge/punk band Noise Addict.  In the mid to late '00s he released a string of brilliant records the perfectly mixed elements of folk, pop, and indie rock.  "Little Changes" is the first taste of a poppier new direction taken by Turner (a direction even more fleshed out in "Blackout").  Turner has always had a flair for pop hooks and melodies but they were grounded in his punk and troubadour roots.  On Be More Kind, he's taken a risk and broadened his musical horizons and has done so successfully.  "Little Changes" aside from its lyrical content is a fabulous pop song that shows tremendous growth in songwriting and expression.

The album's closing stretch of "Common Ground," "The Lifeboat," and "Get It Right" is one of the greatest closing stretches I have ever heard.  First Turner put together the greatest album opening on England Keep My Bones with "Eulogy," "Peggy Sang the Blues," and "I Still Believe" and now he's perfected the closing of a record.  Each song feeds into the next, providing a road map to a better world.  "Common Ground" is a call to all of us, that we have must focus on what we share and not our differences --
If all we are is dust to dust
Then in the end what’s left of us
Are the traces of the way we treat the ones we meet
And the ones who trouble us
The greatest test of us
Seems to me to be the way we disagree
If we are to find a way to live
Then we need to build ourselves a bridge
And if we were to build ourselves that bridge
We could meet in the middle and forgive
Let’s meet on the bridge and forgive
"The Lifeboat" is the warning, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that we must find and hold on to hope and kindness and decency --
There are stories now worth being told
There are victories to grasp more valuable than gold
And we will speak of to our children when we're old
There are battles now, words being formed
There are lessons to be learned and later to be taught
There are soldiers on the field who can't be bought
There's a clarity now in our view
From the prow we see far, all that's is old now is new
Free at last, we know what we must do
There is hope now in the wind
And the millions who are marching demanding we be kind
From the new lands the lifeboats might find
Save what you can
Behind us the old world in flames
Lower the lifeboats, take the tiller
Steer the way
Save what you can
Lower the lifeboats, steer the way
Find shore aground, oh the horizon through the waves
Steer a clear course to a new world, to a new day
Save what you can
Lower the lifeboats, steer the way 
Finally the record comes to a close with the heartbreakingly hopeful "Get It Right."  A stark, simple, and beautiful ballad that looks to the potential future humanity is capable of, if we today learned the simple lessons of "I don't know" and "I change my mind" --
Last night I had a vision
Of people asking questions
Instead of talking without listening
And admitting that the news was new
Sweet Lord I’ve had some visions
Of people having conversations
Instead of staring at their tiny screens
And pretending that they knew what to do

Take a breath
Try these for size
I don’t know
I change my mind
Between life and death
We’ll find the time
To get it right

Last night I had a vision
Of people being congratulated
Instead of ridiculed and hated
For admitting that they made mistakes
I’m sick and tired
Of having visions
That keep coming to me nightly
That shouldn’t be so very unlikely
If everybody’s ready for some changes to make

Take a breath
Try these for size
I don’t know
I change my mind
Between life and death
We’ll find the time
To get it right
When I saw Frank Turner in Dallas earlier this month, he talked a lot about the idea of kindness and friendship and taking care of each other.  At the beginning of the show he stated that there were two rules for the evening: 1) don't be a dickhead and 2) if you know the words, you have to sing along.  Expanding on the first rule, he said that we needed to lookout for each other and make sure that our fun wasn't getting in the way or hampering anyone else's fun.  Towards the end of the night he came back to this theme, once when talking about "Get It Right" and how much the world would be better if instead of firing off angry comments or posts online, we took a step back and used the phrases "I don't know" and "I changed my mind."  We don't always have to have all of the answers and we can change our opinions as we get new information and these are both good and healthy things.  As the show came to a close, he asked that we put our arms around the people next to us and then to try and take this feeling of friendship out into the world.  It was truly an inspiring night and Be More Kind is and incredibly inspiring record.  And I didn't even touch on all of it.      

Music is a transcendent medium, possibly the most transcendent medium, giving it a power to touch a person's heart and move his or her soul.  Songs have the ability to give meaning, provide hope, give voice to anger, and provide solace.  Music has the power to be an inspiration, to fuel a passion, or to save a soul.  Be More Kind does all of these things and much, much more.  In a world that is fractured and hurting, Be More Kind is the uplifting hope and inspiration that the world needs.  Thank you Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls for giving us that beacon that will guide us to safer and better shores.  We...hell I truly needed this record, this music, and this message.  Maybe there is hope for us after all.

EP Review: 'The White Album EP' by The All Brights

Title:  The White Album EP (BandCampiTunesSpotify)
Artist:  The All Brights (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp, Spotify)

The All Brights sophomore record The White Album EP, is exactly the balm of joyous fun this world needs.  Picking up where 2015's hysterically fun ...Are Wild For The Night left off, The All Brights deliver six songs that are not only brilliantly tongue in cheek but perfectly capture the essence of beach culture all at the same time.  This record is so much fun that one can't help but smile from the opening chords of the So-Cal punk anthem "Maximum Hangtime" to the closing harmonies of the ukulele driven beach ballad "I'm Buying A Boat."  What truly makes this record (and band) work, besides the fact that they are ridiculously tight, are the lyrics.  Now one wouldn't expect the lyrical content of a parody band to stand out but in this case they do because the humor is so smart.  Sometimes parody not only pokes fun at, but also perfectly captures the essence of whatever the appointed target may be.  In musical term think of bands like Masked Intruder with pop punk and Hard Skin with Oi.  Both bands completely poke fun at the tropes of their respective genres while at the same time absolutely master them.  The All Brights do this exact same thing in how they masterfully take a piss out of everything that is So-Cal punk rock while at the same time perfecting the sub-genre.  Plus lines like "Cracker Barrel Got me shaped like Chris Farley" are freaking brilliant.  Look, the world is really fucked up right now (seriously, 2018 has been nuts) and The All Brights have delivered just the record that will help take your mind off the insanity and bring a smile to your face.  And if not, then I don't know what to tell you...

Video of the Day: "Daytime" by Fresh

Song:  "Daytime"
Artist:  Fresh (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp, Spotify)
EP:  Daytime / Nighttime (Specialist Subject Records, BandCamp [Specialist Subject], BandCamp [Fresh], iTunes)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Concert Review: Frank Turner, Lucero, The Menzingers, The Homeless Gospel Choir at House of Blues, Dallas

Artists:  Frank Turner (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, Wikipedia), Lucero (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, Wikipedia), The Menzingers (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BandCamp, Spotify, Wikipedia), The Homeless Gospel Choir (Official, Facebook, Twitter, InstagramBandCamp, Spotify, Wikipedia)
Venue:  House of Blues, Dallas (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
Date:  June 12, 2018

When it was announced that Frank Turner would be hitting the road with Lucero, The Menzingers, and The Homeless Gospel Choir I was super excited.  What a lineup!  Of course this tour wasn't coming through Oklahoma, but it was going to hit Dallas, TX and thanks to the generosity of my good friend Steve, we packed into my car and made the three hour drive to the Lone Star State.  After making our obligatory stop at Spaghetti Warehouse for lunch we went of the hunt for Good Records (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) the site of a Frank Turner solo show and signing before the main event later that night.  My son and I picked up a couple of records (England Keep My Bones and Love Ire & Song) and got our wristbands for the show before heading out to wander Dallas, taking in Dealey Plaza and talking some JFK assassination theories. 

We headed back to Good Records and were treated with a heartfelt, five-song solo set which consisted of three songs from his latest album Be More Kind (including the first solo performance of "Brave Face"), a deep cut from the Mittens EP, and the Turner classic "Long Live the Queen" which was dedicated to his uncle who recently passed away.  The five songs were all performed perfectly with hilarious banter in an intimate environment that created an intense connection to the music and performance.  Following the set we got to have our records signed and spend a few moments talking with Frank.  If people ever wonder why Frank Turner has such a connection with his fans, all one has to do is come to one of these signings.  He took the time, while being incredibly efficient in the process, to speak with pretty much everyone in attendance (that I saw at least), was kind and genuine and generous with the hugs, smiles, and handshakes.  This was more than worth the price of admission and is something I would do again in a heartbeat. 

This was my first time to attend an event at a House of Blues and I must say, I was impressed.  The venue was nice and clean, the stage was easy to see from almost any vantage point, the sound was excellent.  By the time we arrived we missed The Homeless Gospel Choir's set, which was a major bummer.  The Menzingers took the stage and blasted out a killer, high energy set of songs from last year's tremendous After the Party plus rousing renditions of "The Obituaries" from 2012's On the Impossible Past (the sing-along for this was incredible, well over 500 people screaming "I will fuck this up, I fucking know it" was extremely cool), "I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore" from 2014's Rented World, and the new track "Toy Soldiers."  Lucero was up next with what was easily the ballsiest set of the night, playing their new album, which comes out August 3rd (two months after this show), in its entirety.  The band closed out with their classic "I Can Get Us Out Of Here Tonight" from 2006's Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers to much adulation from the crowd.  This was my first time to see both Lucero and The Menzingers and both put on tight performances. 

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls took the stage, launched in to the first single from Be More Kind, "1933," and the place erupted.  From that moment on, the entire room was on fire.  With a set that included many songs from the new record, plus tons of classics and fan favorites, Turner and company completely owned the room.  I've been to a fair number of concerts over the years, many of which have been excellent, but none of them have been the absolute cathartic release and absolute pure joy as this one.  Standing next to my son only a few "rows" (for lack of a better term) from the stage, from beginning to end the gigantic smiles never left our faces.  I sang along to every song (yes I knew them all) and screamed at the top of my lungs to many of them.  The total and complete joy that ran through me was incredible and it was all thanks to Frank Turner and his incredible music.  A theme of his new record (review forthcoming) is being kind and taking care of each other.  That was a message taken completely to heart in the House of Blues Tuesday night.  Not only was this a phenomenal rock 'n' roll show, it was also a powerful philosophical lesson.  And before anyone gets all huffy puffy about music teaching a lesson, I challenge you to go and listen to songs like "Be More Kind" and "Get It Right," read their lyrics, and tell me that you disagree.  Because if you find some kind of flaw in --
So before you go out searching
Don't decide what you will find
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind
Sweet Lord I’ve had some visions
Of people having conversations
Instead of staring at their tiny screens
And pretending that they knew what to do 
then I don't know what to tell you.  This shit is genius and exactly what the world, what I, need right now. 

Frank Turner was already one of my favorite artists going into this show and now he's top 5, easy.  This was a breathtaking show by one of the great musical performers of our time.  I truly can't say enough good things about this night so I'll end with this.  Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls put on an all-time great performance in Dallas and it was an honor and a privilege to be a part of the experience.   

Monday, June 04, 2018

Currently Listening

1.  "Money" by Embrace (from Embrace)
2.  "Second Guessing" by R.E.M. (from Reckoning)
3.  "Queen of New York" by Tancred (from Nightstand)
4.  "Sweet Dreams Baby" by INHEAVEN (from Sweet Dreams Baby)
5.  "Walk in Cold" by Naked Raygun (from Jettison)
6.  "Heart of Soul" by The Cult (from Ceremony)
7.  "Toy Soldier" by The Menzingers (from Toy Soldier)
8.  "Edge of Everything" by Colour Me Wednesday (from Counting Pennies in the Afterlife)
9.  "Love Vigilantes" by New Order (from Low-life)
10.  "Happy When It Rains" by The Jesus & Mary Chain (from Darklands)
11.  "Crowded Conscience" by Elway (from For the Sake of the Bit)
12.  "Stardust" by Petal (from Stardust)
13.  "Ideology" by Billy Bragg (from Talking With the Taxman About Poetry)
14.  "The Caterpillar" by The Cure (from The Top)
15.  "Be More Kind" by Frank Turner (from Be More Kind)
16.  "Cold to Be Alone" by Hit Like a Girl (from Cold to Be Alone)
17.  "Is It Really So Strange?" by The Smiths (from Louder Than Bombs)
18.  "Still Be Around" by Uncle Tupelo (from Still Feel Gone)
19.  "Son't Push Me" by Peach Kelli Pop (from Gentle Leader)
20.  "Let's Find an Out" by Snail Mail (from Let's Find an Out)