Saturday, April 23, 2016

Top 5 Songs by Prince

Thursday the world lost one of its most unique, talented, and iconic voices with the unexpected passing of Prince.  This was such a shocking loss that MTV actually broke character and played a marathon of Prince music videos.

I first discovered Prince in the 4th grade.  I remember coming back from summer vacation and still being full-tilt into Michael Jackson and break dancing (this was 1984 after all and I was all of 9 years old) only to learn that both were passe and the big thing was now Prince.  Shortly thereafter I got a copy of Purple Rain on tape and though a large portion of it was way over my head, I still loved it.  Over the years I followed Prince's career off and on, periodically picking up albums like 1999 and Sign o' the Times but mostly I knew his work through his singles and videos on MTV.  Prince was one of those artists that I always admired and appreciated even if I wasn't really a fan per se.  His untimely death came as a shock.  He wasn't old and always appeared to be young and in good health (he had that Dick Clark, never aging vibe going for him) so to hear that he was gone was a bit mind blowing (and not in a good way).  Lots of things have been said about Prince, his music, and his legacy since the news broke but I found Bob Mould's words especially thoughtful and poignant.
Prince was an artist through and through – always pushing himself to new levels, often creating controversy through his actions and words, and ultimately creating a lifetime of wonderful memories for the world with his incredible volumes of published (and unheard) works.
[...]
Make no mistake: Prince was the brightest star in these Northern skies. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and fellow musicians. Prince’s music will give consolation and comfort to the collective grief. Godspeed.    
Since Thursday I've listened to a lot of Prince's music.  I'd forgotten how incredibly good these songs are and it makes me sad that it took his death to remind me of that fact.  Below are my five favorite sings by Prince (in no particular order) also with five honorable mentions.  Rest well Prince.  You will be missed.

1.  "Let's Go Crazy" (from Purple Rain)
2.  "Delirious" (from 1999)
3.  "U Got the Look" (from Sign o' the Times)
4.  "1999" (from 1999)
5.  "I Would Die 4 U" (from Purple Rain)

Honorable Mentions -- 
"Cream" (from Diamonds and Pearls)
"Purple Rain" (from Purple Rain)
"Raspberry Beret" (from Around the World in a Day)
"Kiss" (from Parade)
"Batdance" (from Batman)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Essential Albums List

Minnesota Public Radio's The Current is putting together a list of 893 Essential Albums and they are asking for help in doing so.  Below is the list that I submitted (the original can be seen here).  While this list shares some titles from My Top 10 All-Time Favorite Records list, I decided to stick with proper full-length records this time around, thus things like Primer, Liveage, and Complete Discography were excluded.   I've also included a playlist below with a song from each record (except the 7 Seconds record because it's not on Spotify).

1.  ALL - Breaking Things
2.  John Moreland - In the Throes
3.  Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones
4.  Roustabouts - The Only One
5.  7 Seconds - Walk Together, Rock Together
6.  Beach Slang - The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
7.  Dave Hause - Resolutions
8.  U2 - Rattle & Hum
9.  R.E.M. - Out of Time
10.  The Replacements - Tim

Monday, April 11, 2016

Album Review: 'Mint' by Worship This!

Title:  Mint (BandCamp, A-F Records, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Worship This! (Tumblr, FacebookTwitter, BandCamp, ReverbNation, Last.fm)

Worship This! is one of those bands that just perfectly encapsulates everything that is good about punk rock.  They play songs that are passionate and raucous driven by big hooks, tight melodies, and expertly measured aggression.  In other words they have taken all of the best parts of pop punk, melodic hardcore, Midwest punk, and post hardcore and fused them into a coherent and joyous sound that brings to mind acts like Iron Chic, Red City Radio, Timeshares, and Latterman.

The band's sophomore full-length Mint is nothing short of fantastic.  From top to bottom this album kills and it amazes me that this band isn't one of the biggest acts in the genre.  Right from the opening blast of "Decisions, Decisions," Mint grabs you and refuses to let go.  The record's 10 songs cover the gambit from mid-tempo rockers to righteous anthems seamlessly and expertly.  Mint has depth and passion, anger and hope, hooks and sing-a-long choruses; honestly, who could ask for anything more?

Here's the bottom line, Mint is an excellent record by a woefully underrated and under-appreciated band.  Fans of great melodic punk rock (in it many various forms) should do themselves a favor and get this record right now.  In fact get this and the band's other releases because Worship This! really is that good.    



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Currently Listening

1.  "Title Track" by Restorations (from Strange Behavior)
2.  "New/Old" by Restorations (from New Old b/w 0.014 MPH)
3.  "Dim Lights" by Cheap Girls (from Giant Orange)
4.  "Pure Hate" by Cheap Girls (from Cheap Girls / Lemuria Split)
5.  "83% Off Your Self Esteem" by Latterman (from Turn Up The Punk, We'll Be Singing)
6.  "We Work The Night Shift" Latterman (from We Are Still Alive)
7.  "Tired Hearts" by Nothington (from More Than Obvious)
8.  "Don't Have To Wait" by Nothington (from Borrowed Time)
9.  "Ran That Scam" by Dead To Me (from Little Brother)
10.  "Never Relief" by Dead To Me (from Moscow Penny Ante)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Album Review: 'From Caplan to Belsize' by Muncie Girls

Title:  From Caplan to Belsize (BandCamp, Big Cartel, Animal Style Records, Specialist Subject Records, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Muncie Girls (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BandCamp, Big Cartel)

Muncie Girls' full-length debut From Caplan to Belisize is a fierce, poignant, and bitingly social conscious indie punk record.  Since forming in Exeter, UK in 2012, the trio has released a number of EPs and splits (including an excellent split with Great Cynics in 2014).  Right out of the gate, Muncie Girls has played a ridiculously catchy, '90s inspired mix of indie and punk rock similar to acts like Lemuria, Chumped, Candy Hearts, Shit Present, and the aforementioned Great Cynics.      

In a lot of ways From Caplan to Belisize is kind of a hard record to review.  There's a part of me that simply wants to say "this record is fucking great, one of the best of 2016, go buy it" and leave it at that because it really is that freaking good but I know that it deserves more praise and explanation than that.  I've been listening to the record pretty constantly for the last month and each time I do, I sit back, bop along, and think damn, these kids really get it.  Not only does this band shred musically, their lyrics are incredibly spot on.  It's that perfect mix of excellent hooks and intelligent lyrics.  And man are the lyrics good.  Bassist/vocalist Lande Hekt's take on the world is devastatingly passionate, hauntingly purposeful, and extremely profound.  Driven by anxiety, discontent, and a genuine and purposeful rebellious nature, Herkt tackles everything from social norms to objectification to loneliness to stereotypes of Millennials to the government and does so beautifully.

From start to finish, From Caplan to Belsize is an outstanding record.  Muncie Girls have built upon their already impressive catalog with a full-length debut that is staggeringly superb.  Like I said before, this is easily one of the best records of 2016.



Monday, March 21, 2016

9 Questions with Worship This!

Akron, OH's Worship This! will be releasing their sophomore full-length album Mint (which is really freaking good, just so you know) on April 1, 2016 via A-F Records.  The band mixes elements of a variety of punk's sub-genres resulting in a sound that is catchy, heartfelt, melodic, passionate, and powerful.    

This interview was conducted via email with guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Provchy and bassist/vocalist Josh Taylor February 28 - March 9, 2016.

For more information on Worship This! check out the band's Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, BandCamp, ReverbNation, and Last.fm pages.  

Dave:  How did the band get together?

Jeremy Provchy :  We started back in 2010. Josh and I had a project called Novels that was just getting started. It fell apart pretty quickly. At the same time, Aaron and I started writing some songs together as well. I think we decided to combine the projects the day the 3 of us went to this festival near Cleveland called, Berea Fest. We searched around for a drummer for a while. I remember the first time Jeff playing with us, we were all super stoked. It felt really natural playing with him and we all previously knew him from around town from the other bands he played in. We were super stoked when he came back. We played our first show in November of 2010 in my basement, which was a space called The Gurley House.


Dave:  What’s the story behind the name Worship This!?

Josh Taylor:  As anyone who's ever played in a band knows, coming up with a band name is a daunting task. You want everyone in the band to like it, you want it to be something that's at least somewhat catchy, and you don't want it to be so confusing that you have to tell everyone 3 times because they can't understand what the hell you're saying. Well, we failed at all three of those. It all happened like this: In the early days of our band I was at work eating lunch in a church parking lot, and I was trying to think of any decent name we could use that everyone would agree on. I was looking around for ideas, and as I saw the church in front of me, I immediately thought "Worship This!" I definitely said it to myself it with a negative connotation, but the whole 'religion thing' doesn't define who we are as a band -- it actually has nothing to do with it. A lot of people who don't know us or haven't heard our band misinterpret the fact that our principals in expressing ourselves through our music do not include blacklisting any group of people from listening to it. Of course, when you have a name like, 'Worship This!' I guess it comes with the territory, so it is what it is. Jeremy and I were texting back and forth all week about a name, and I texted him “Worship This!”. He texted me back instantly saying, "I love it!" I was like, "Really?" When we went to practice that night we told Aaron and Jeff about it and they sort of shrugged their shoulders. The name just sort of stuck, and since we already had a show booked under it we sort of came to the consensus that we were going to be 'Worship This!'


Dave:  For those who have never heard the band, how do you describe your music?

Jeremy:  At this point, I’m pretty confident that we have our own sound. We’re all in our 30’s and have been listening to punk rock since we were in our early teens. I think what we all have in common is a love for melodic punk rock and i think that comes across in our delivery. We get tossed into the whole “orgcore” genre quite a bit, which is fine. I think a nice dynamic that we have is that there are 3 song writers in the band, so you get some variety when you listen to our records.


Dave:  In April you're releasing your second full-length album Mint on A-F Records. What's the story behind the record? How did you get hooked up with A-F Records?

Jeremy:  The new record, Mint, took a while to record. We did it in Chicago with Matt Jordan. We really wanted to work with him from his work with You Blew It! and our friends, Annabel. We ended up making several trips out there over the course of a few months. We are more than happy with the outcome. We recorded our last record live, and this one we tracked. I think it gave us a lot more control with how we wanted to come across sonically.

We met Chris Stowe, who is now the label manager for A-F Records a few years back at a show in Cleveland. He was roommates with a couple of our friends in All Dinosaurs and our bud, Jordan. We chatted that night and kept in contact. When we had finished our first full-length, we sent it over to Chris. He had just started his duties for A-F at the time and was stoked on the record. We decided to roll with it and they’ve been nothing short of awesome to us.


Dave:  Do you have plans to tour in support of the new record? What are some of your favorite places to play?

Josh:  We are doing 9 shows through the Midwest starting April 1st. As far as favorite places go, we've always loved playing Pittsburgh because we've made so many friends out there, and it seems to be sort of a home away from home for us. Kalamazoo comes to mind when I think of favorite places to play as well, for a lot of the same reasons. We've been playing Kalamazoo since the early days of our band, I actually think one of our first out of town shows was in Kalamazoo.


Dave:  Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?

Josh:  Without really knowing, we've taken a slightly different approach at songwriting throughout course of the two full-length albums that we've done. Speaking specifically about the songs that I sing on TIMY, there were only two of them that I actually wrote the music for (Jenn and Indifferent), and the others were musical pieces that Jeremy and Aaron threw together, with me putting words over them. Jeremy primarily wrote the music for all of his songs, and we collaborated on some of the arrangements, while Aaron wrote 'Springs and Levers' in it's entirety. That's primarily how most of the first record went. The new record was more of a free-for-all where we all brought our songs to practice and sort of individually wrote the songs that we sing, for the most part. There was a joint effort for some of the tracks, but a lot of the songs backbone was written by whoever you hear singing the song. It's kind of funny too, because the new record is actually a lot more cohesive than the last one.


Dave:  This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?

Josh:  Bands:
--RANCID--
1. Jawbreaker
2. Tegan and Sara
3. Rilo Kiley
4. No Use for a Name
5. Propagandhi
 
TV:
1. The Wire
2. Breaking Bad
3. Portlandia
4. True Detective
5. The Returned

Movies: I did 10, because I watch TV way too much. Also -- this order is fucked. Can they all just be number 1?!

1. Short Term 12
2. Amores Perros
3. Oldboy (original)
3. In Bruges
4. Fish Tank
5. The Departed
6. Big Fish
7. Boyhood
8. In America
9. Dear Zachary (Doc)
10.Safety Not Guaranteed

Maybe too new for this list, but Room is probably my favorite movie I've seen in the last 5 years.

Albums:
1. Rancid - Let's Go
2. Jawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
3. Jimmy - Bleed american
4.. Saves The Day - Through Being Cool
5.. NOFX - The Decline


Dave:  What’s next for the band?

Jeremy:  We have several tours in the works throughout the year. We have plans to release a couple split 7" as well with some friends, which will hopefully happen this year.

We're heading to Europe early next year, which we are completely stoked for.

I guess the plan is to do this for as long as possible, while it's still fun and makes sense.


Dave:  Any final thoughts?

Jeremy:  I've got nothing.

Aree and the Pure Heart Hit the Studio, Offer Debut EP for Free

Atlanta, GA's Aree and the Pure Heart recently announced that they are working with Terminus City for the release of their full-length debut, due out later this year.  The band is currently in the studio working on the new record while playing shows in the area, including one recently opening for Larry and His Flask.

In celebration of the new record, the bands if offering their brilliant debut EP Heartsongs as a "name your price" download on BandCamp.  The band recently sold out of the CDs for the EP but soon will be offering a limited run of 100 hand printed and packaged CDs. 

Heartsongs was my favorite record of 2015, one that completely caught me by surprise and totally blew me away.  For those who have never heard Aree and the Pure Heart, just imagine some of the most passionate and soulful punk rock 'n' roll anthems, the kind with big hooks and bigger choruses that make you want to pump your first and dance, and you'd essentially have Heartsongs.  Here's a bit from my original review of the record --
The band's debut EP Heartsongs is nothing short of rock 'n' roll perfection. There is passion, energy, hooks, choruses that make you sing along, and an earnest honesty that drives it all home. This record is so undeniably infectious with its power chords and, pun intended, pure heart that it is an instant classic. There is such power and purpose in these songs that it reminds you how cathartic and transcendent rock 'n' roll can truly be. Heartsongs is a hidden gem in the rough of a tragic and wondrous world. It's records like this that give me hope and solace that someday everything will be okay. 
To say that I'm excited about Aree and the Pure Heart's upcoming album is a bit of an understatement.   I am super excited and it is one of my most anticipated records of 2016.  If you've never heard the band, do yourself a favor and pick up the EP, for free, while you still can.

For more information of Aree and the Pure Heart check out the band's BandCamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and CD Baby pages.