Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sticking Them With Some Other Chump

While listening to and reviewing all my CD's, I came across several regrettable choices, none more regrettable than the gut wrenching mediocrity of The Coral's Magic and Medicine. I haven honestly been trying to offload that disc since I first picked it up. No self-respecting record store would take it.

Anyway, I finally put my 17 worst CD's up for sale on ebay, and started the bidding at a mere 99 cents. What was surprising was that more people bid on my CD's, albeit in very small increments, than bid on my Punisher comic books which were up for auction at the same time. The winning bid was $3.25 for all 17 discs, and I was happy to be rid of them at any price. Just for fun, I'm going to go through each of the 17 discs and discuss just how much of the loot they were worth.

A - Monkey Kong - $.13 A fair price for some aggressively mediocre pop punk.

A - Hi-Fi Serious - $.21 A's second album is better than their first, but ultimately it still sucks.

The Apples in Stereo - Science Faire - $.20 This band is capable of so much more than they do here. This is a highly disappointing disc from a very good band.

Bouncing Souls - Tie One On - $.37 A live recording of one of the world's best punk bands is certainly one of the better discs in the lot. Of course this album sounds like it was recorded on wax cylinders by an untrained monkey, so the brilliance of the band does not shine through. Still better than most of the discs here, though.

Buck-o-Nine - Twenty-Eight-Teeth - $.14 This ska album does not move the dial at all for me. It's as if the Foo Fighters (a band whose music does not connect with me in any way, despite giving it many many chances) cut a ska record.

Chemical Brothers - Dig Your Own Hole - $.09 There was a time when I really loved this album. Of course there was also a time when I would poop my pants and just wait for someone else to take care of it. There are just certain things we grow out of.

The Coral - Magic and Medicine - $.01 I did consider making this album worth 0 cents, but I feel good about having been paid even the smallest pittance for it. Unloading this albatross will certainly be a blessing to the rest of my music collection.

The Dentists - Deep Six - $.22 This album is only a major disappointment because The Dentists cut a 7" single which by far the greatest 7" record I own. Every song on this disc is a pale shadow of the band's 45 rpm glory. If I had been introduced to them as a lukewarm britpop band, I wouldn't have been disappointed. I also probably wouldn't have bought this album.

Erasure - Other People's Song - $.15 It's hard to really really hate an album by a band you really love. Other People's Songs is just an awful collection of covers, and not worth listening to under any circumstances.

The Exies - Inertia - $.33 For 11.9 months out of the year I hate nu metal. For a small piece of every year, I feel the need to give my ears the musical equivalent of a meal at Taco Bell, and I suddenly become all about nu metal. For that reason and that reason alone, I award this disc a higher price than most others.

Greenwheel - Soma Holiday - $.19 An average price for some very bland alternative. I only bought this disc because a record store bargain bin had a "Buy 10 and they're $1 apiece" sale and I needed a 10th disc. I definitely overpaid.

Susanna Hoffs - When You're a Boy - $.17 Susanna Hoffs is one of my very favorite female artists from the 80's, but this album was a big mistake. It was a mistake for her to attempt to pull off some sort of weird female Hall and Oates sound, and it was a mistake for me to buy it.

Jet - Get Born - $.21 Jet was one of the umpteen bands in the early 00's to be branded "The New Rolling Stones." I don't like The Rolling Stones, so why did I collect all their acolytes? Get Born was fun at first, but it has no replay value.

Schatzi - Death of the Alphabet EP - $.25 I don't know what Schatzi is or what they are intended to be, but they almost achieve it. Unfortunately, there's too much good music to bother with relatively near misses.

Schatzi - Fifty Reasons to Explode - $.24 While their EP didn't answer the question "What is Schatzi all about?" this full length release does even less to answer the big question.

Various Artists - Plea For Peace/Take Action Volume 2 - $.08 There are actually a couple decent songs on this double disc compilation. Unfortunately, they are hidden in a mess of emo and screamo.

Various Artists - Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits - $.26 I actually really liked this album when I got it. The idea of having bands from the 90's cover classic cartoon themes sounds great, but it wears thin pretty quick.

Anyway, there you have it. 17 CD's worth a whopping $3.25. I'm just relieved to get rid of some of the worst entries in my music collection. I think the karmic benefits of offloading these discs will bring a bountiful year to the remainder of my music collection. Here's to hoping.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time

Travellers in Space and Time is a complete surprise for fans of The Apples in Stereo. Before this strange departure, The Apples in Stereo had released six albums worth of 60's-ish indie pop. Travellers in Space and Time is somewhere in the realm of indie electronic. It's as if The Apples in Stereo brought in the guys from Hot Chip for no particular reason.

While this is a radical departure for the band, it still manages to be an entertaining listen. As a fan of electronic music, I can appreciate this album for its own merits. I was surprised by this because I tend to not like it when bands that I like change what they do (I was absolutely horrified when Rivers Cuomo said he wanted Weezer to make rap metal. Luckily the idea was scrapped, but I was prepared to jump ship from my favorite band ever). There are a few dancefloor grooves on this album, and a couple tracks that sound closer to what you know and love The Apples in Stereo for. I'm still hoping the band will be back in regular form for their next release, but Travellers in Space and Time was better than I feared it would be, so there's that.

Baleeted? No, but it came closer than I'd like to admit.

The Apples in Stereo - Tone Soul Evolution

Tone Soul Evolution is the sophomore album from The Apples in Stereo, which proved that the band's debut Fun Trick Noisemaker was no fluke.

Tone Soul Evolution is a little more shimmery than its predecessor, and it adds a few more layers of sound to the mix. The strength of the songwriting on this album is what makes it one of the better Apples in Stereo releases. "Seems So," "Shine a Light" and "Tin Pan Alley" are my personal favorites, but there are a number of tracks on this album which make it a must-own for fans of pure pop (Did you just think of the fantastic Nick Lowe album Pure Pop for Now People? I know I did).

Baleeted? Not on your life.

The Apples in Stereo - Fun Trick Noisemaker

The Apples in Stereo hit the scene in a big way with their debut album Fun Trick Noisemaker. Listening to this album now, it's hard to believe how cohesive the band's vision was from the word "go."

The Apples in Stereo made their name by writing excellent songs and playing them like the 60's never stopped happening. This is pure pop goodness that very few bands would be capable of creating, and certainly not on their first try. Take a listen to "Glowworm" and if it doesn't move you, I can't help you.

Baleeted? Never. Pure pop must be protected like an endangered species.

The Apples in Stereo - Electronic Projects for Musicians

Electronic Projects for Musicians is the second of two rarities collections from The Apples in Stereo. Whereas the first rarities compilation, Science Faire,  was a major disappointment, Electronic Projects for Musicians is far more substantial.

Named after the seminal book which teaches musicians how to build their own distortion pedals, headphone amps, and other cool stuff (I own the version of the book with the pop out 7" record in the back. Who else remembers when books and magazines would come with ultra thin square records that you could punch out and slap on your turntable? Those were the days.) Electronic Projects for Musicians provides the thrills its predecessor simply lacked. There are several standout tracks on the album (first and foremost is the album opener is "Shine (On in Your Mind") and only a few real misses. This isn't quite as strong as The Apples' studio releases, but there are plenty of reasons why hardcore Apples fans should own this one.

Baleeted? No. I love The Apples in Stereo too much.

Anything Box - Worth

Most Anything Box fans will point to Worth as the absolute best the band is capable of. I tend to prefer the more danceable and upbeat tunes on Peace.

Worth was recorded in Germany with producer Gareth Jones, who worked with synthpop greats such as Erasure and Depeche Mode. The result is something more Germanic and Depeche Mode-esque than anything the band had produced up to that point. Worth is dark, flowing, and beautiful. I honestly didn't find any standout tracks on the album because it all melds together so nicely. I would compare it to a soundscape if only soundscapes weren't totally lame. I would recommend this album to anyone who enjoys Camouflage, Clan of Xymox, and pre-Violator Depeche Mode.

Baleeted? No way. I loves me the darkly beautiful synthpop.

Anything Box - Recovered

Recovered is one of a few Anything Box releases in the 00's to feature material recorded in the band's best years (the early 90's). The material on this album seems to come from the same time period as Hope, which was a decent album, but not the band's best.

The songs on Recovered aren't anything mind-blowing. They tend to be a little darker than much of the content on Hope, and there really aren't any standout tracks. Recovered is just mainly a better album than anything else (other than the Future Past EP) the band put out in the 00's. While Anything Box continues to put out albums, it remains clear that their best years are more than a decade behind them.

Baleeted? No. This album isn't great, but it's passable.

Anything Box - Future Past EP

This 11 track EP (you're right, that is an awful lot of tracks for an EP) was released in 2007 but it features tracks from Anything Box's gold years in the early 90's. Most notably, this EP features several mixes of the classic Anything Box track "Carmen." The most interesting of these is actually sung in Spanish, which is more awesome than you'd think.

The remaining tracks on the EP are either remixes of tracks from Peace and Worth or previously unreleased songs. The unreleased tracks are fairly unremarkable, but there are plenty of good remixes on this album. All in all, this is the best Anything Box release of the 00's.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Anniversary - Your Majesty

I don't know anything about The Anniversary. I don't know who they are. I don't know where they come from. I don't know who their influences are. I don't even know where I got this album. I only know that The Anniversary totally rocks. They bring fuzzed out guitars and old school synths to the mix and lay down some very solid tracks. They are somewhat indie, somewhat rock, and have a healthy dose of the Get Up Kids/Sunny Day Real Estate variety of emo.

The standout tracks from this album are "Crooked Crown" "Tu-Whitt Tu-Whoo" and "Devil on My Side" though every song is absolutely fantastic in its own way. I now feel compelled to track down The Anniversary's only other album, Designing a Nervous Breakdown.

Baleeted? Never. It's way too good.

Annie Lennox - Medusa

Medusa finds former Eurythmics vocalist Annie Lennox covering songs from a number of different genres in her own inimitable style. She covers everything from Procol Harem to Bob Marley and from Neil Young to The Clash. Annie Lennox clearly does not mess around. She does precisely what she wants precisely when she wants to do it.

The standout tracks on this album are clearly the fantastic cover of the obscure "No More I Love You's" (I honestly didn't know it was a cover until I looked it up today. Apparently the original is by a band called The Lover Speaks. I can't say for sure, but I think Annie's version wins) and her surprisingly faithful rendition of "A Whiter Shade of Pale." A few of the songs are a little baffling (I'm looking at you, "Take Me to the River") but the album is very strong and a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

Baleeted? No Way. Annie Lennox is awesome.

Anna Waronker - Anna

Anna Waronker was one of the major creative forces behind the excellent and underrated 90's fuzz rock group that dog. I picked up this album because I know Anna Waronker can lay down a great song and completely rock it out.

Anna is basically an American version of a Charlotte Hatherley album. Basically, it strikes the perfect balance between singer/songwriter and rock and roller. Some of the songs are fuzzed out rockers, and some of them are almost Lilith Fair-esque. If anything, this album shows that Anna Waronker has range. If you find yourself wishing you had more great female rock artists in your life, I highly recommend this album.

Baleeted? No way. I have a thing for women who rock.

Anita O'Day - Verve Jazz Masters 49

Here's the thing about Anita O'Day: I always forget about how great she is because I'm always listening to my other favorite ladies of jazz (Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Sara Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and billions of others).

Anita O'Day sings the kind of songs that, if you find yourself and your significant other the last two non-employees in a jazz club and you're still there although the barkeep has put most of the chairs up, you can hold each other tight and slowly shuffle like they do in the romantic scenes in so many movies. There are only a couple upbeat numbers on this disc, and more than a handful of slow shuffle with the lights down low songs. Take, for instance, "Fly Me to the Moon." This is usually an upbeat and bouncy little ditty, but Anita O'Day turns it into a sultry late night closing time slow shuffle song. Anita's voice is smooth and silky and perfectly suited to every song on this album. Listening to this excellent Verve compilation mainly reminded me that I need to listen to Anita O'Day more often.

Baleeted? Nope. But don't think the wife and I won't be giving this a spin soon.

The Animals - The Best of the Animals

Here's the problem with The Animals: Eric Burdon is a massive narcissist...and yet he's a brilliant singer in one of the greatest blue eyed soul bands ever. As I listened to this compilation of The Animals best songs (and yes, most of their best songs are here) my brain was wrestling with itself over whether to pay attention to the music or Eric Burdon's massive ego. What I decided was that the music was brilliant, and there's very little chance I'll ever meet Eric Burdon, so I guess I can let it slide.

I highly recommend the classic take on "House of the Rising Sun," but I also love "Boom Boom" and "It's My Life." The crazy meta-song "The Story of Bo Diddly" almost made my brain explode, but I'll be revisiting that one again for sure. All in all this is a great compilation, and highly recommended to fans of white guys who knowingly rip off black music, but include a song about the fact that they are white guys ripping off black music ("The Story of Bo Diddly") just to mess with everyone. But seriously, this is a great comp with a bunch of great tunes.

Baleeted? No. Not even Eric Burdon's massive ego could make me.

A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway

Before I started reading this book, I had never read anything by Hemingway. I was also unaware of how polarizing the man and his work remain to this very day. The very mention of the man's name caused a furious backlash among my facebook friends.

While I found A Moveable Feast highly superficial, self-conscious, and ultimately about nothing whatsoever, I enjoyed it. I've never been to Paris, but "A Moveable Feast" made me feel as if I had. I have also never been in the company of greats such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, or Ezra Pound, but this book provides insight into what it would be like to spend time with some of the great writers of that era. Of course I believe Hemingway's portrayals of the characters in the book (particularly that of Gertrude Stein) are probably a bit one-sided and unfair. Be that as it may, "A Moveable Feast" is a window into a world I will never see because it simply doesn't exist anymore. If you can manage to read around Hemingway's profound arrogance, there is plenty of good to be had in this book.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

? and the Mysterians - Cameo Parkway 1966-1967

? and the Mysterians were one of the premier garage rock acts from the 1960's. They are best known for their hit song "96 Tears." ? and the Mysterians kick out the james with jangly guitars which are backed by an old school organ (I'm guessing Werlitzer, but I could be wrong).

While "96 Tears" is by far the band's best song, there are many enjoyable tunes on this 25 track compilation. The trademark rhythmic organ beat from "96 Tears" makes its way onto a number of other ? and the Mysterians tracks. Most notably, "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" sounds almost exactly like "96 Tears" until the vocals kick in. Aside from that one instance when the band appears to be a one trick pony, this compilation is highly enjoyable and very much recommended to people who enjoy garage rock.

Baleeted? Nope. I love classic garage rock.

Anberlin - Lost Songs

The thing about Anberlin's b-sides and bonus tracks is that they pull out a lot of cool covers which show that their musical interests reach far beyond the scope of pop punk. While I already owned "The Promise" and "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," I hadn't yet heard Anberlin's fantastic cover of "Enjoy the Silence." As far as covers go, they also offer up a workmanlike cover of Radiohead's "Creep" as well as a highly unnecessary cover of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."

The originals on this album are pretty standard Anberlin fare. Some are alternate versions of album tracks while others are b-sides and unreleased tracks. They're all pretty good and could have easily been put on Anberlin's studio albums. Lost Songs is a nice album as far as odds and ends compilations go, but it's not quite as good as Anberlin's studio output.

Baleeted? Nope. I enjoyed the silence too much.

John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band - Eddie and the Cruisers Soundtrack

My history with Eddie and the Cruisers is an odd one. I saw Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! on cable before seeing the original. For some reason, because of the way it was listed on my tv, I thought I was watching the original Eddie and the Cruisers. I was up late and it was on cable, which should explain a lot. While I enjoyed Eddie II (how many people can say that? I think a lot of it has to do with the format in which I saw it. When you see a movie on late night cable and enjoy it, that doesn't mean you would have enjoyed it in a theater after paying 20 bucks for the privilege), it killed the mystery of the first movie, which is the whole point of watching it.

If you don't know, Eddie and the Cruisers is about a hard working band in the 60's and their enigmatic lead singer who was way ahead of his time. Oddly enough, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown band figured that bands from the 60's who were way ahead of their time would sound almost exactly like Bruce Springsteen. While it's easy to write off John Cafferty & co. as a cheap Springsteen knockoff, but they're not. They're a really really good Springsteen knockoff. Also, before you write them off, know that they weren't the only ones making this kind of music in the 80's (see also: Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, who is fantastic, and John Cougar Mellencamp, who is not). Anyway, if you enjoyed the movie and you like The Boss, there's really no reason to not own this soundtrack. It's definitely one of the better soundtracks of its decade.

Friday, February 8, 2013

J.J. Cale - Naturally

J.J. Cale is a sublimely talented musician who straddles lines between blues, country, folk, and rock. This, his debut solo album, is presented with  a laid-back delivery and incredible presence. This is basically a man's version of Jack Johnson. (Yeah, I just implied that Jack Johnson is aimed at girls. Take his guy-at-the-party-with-an-acoustic-guitar approach and prove me wrong.)

Anyway, this album is a fantastic display of guitar skill as well as songwriting. Its relaxed approach to the songs was much appreciated, because I listened to it on a day when I was really stressed out and needed something to release the pressure. Need another reason to dig this? Eric Clapton liked this album enough to cover one of its songs. And now you have to listen to it, right?

First 10 - Deadpool

Now here's something I didn't expect: a series that kicked off in the 90's that has a sense of fun like the Marvel comics from the 60's. Deadpool is Marvel's "Merc With a Mouth." His constant witty sarcasm offsets the constant danger he finds himself falling into. Also, it seems to be his way of dealing with a lifetime of pain and suffering.

One of the more interesting questions solved by this series is this: What would happen if you gave a Wolverine-esque healing factor to a guy with cancer? What you get is Deadpool, a living paradox.

I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into with the first 10 issues of this series (I did it right and went back to the beginning with Deadpool's first appearance in New Mutants). I didn't know anything about Deadpool, and was surprised by how quickly I took to the character and the series as a whole. This is definitely a series I will be reading in the future. Here's how it falls in relation to the other series I've checked out thus far.
  1. Batman
  2. Amazing Spider-Man
  3. Fantastic Four
  4. Deadpool
  5. Booster Gold
  6. Daredevil
  7. The Punisher
  8. Golden Age Green Lantern
  9. The Avengers
  10. Captain America
  11. Golden Age Captain America
  12. Golden Age Blue Beetle
  13. Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics)
  14. Aquaman

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Anberlin - New Surrender

I'm running out of things to say about Anberlin. They're great. Know it, believe it, deal with it. They write great songs, they rock hard, and you should seriously give them a chance.

New Surrender is another solid Anberlin effort. All of their albums are pretty close in quality, so I'll just round out this review with a ranking of the Anberlin studio albums I own. 1. Blueprints for the Black Market 2. Cities 3. New Surrender 4. Never Take Friendship personal. And there you have it.

Anberlin - Never Take Friendship Personal

I clearly don't know what I'm doing as far as Anberlin is concerned. I think their debut album came out during a time when I was rolling strong in the pop punk, and I probably went all indie and stopped listening to such nonsense when this sophomore effort came out. Then I came to my senses and stopped being the type of ridiculous snob who would knowingly cut himself off from things he likes just because of what he thought guys with pork pie hats and handlebar moustaches thought about them.

Anyway, because I'm a silly person, I missed this when it came out. It's not quite as great as Blueprints for the Black Market but it's still a very good outing from one of the few pop punk bands that is good enough to really care about. If you dig anthemic pop punk with actual lyrical depth and great hooks, look into some Anberlin. Never Take Friendship Personal does not disappoint. It's a nice addition to a growing Anberlin collection.

Baleeted? No. I think everything this band does makes the cut.

Anberlin - Cities

I believe I've driven my argument about the general staleness of pop punk into the ground and poked it out the other side. I like pop punk in theory, but there are so many bands out there treading on the same threadbare piece of carpet that it's hard to really feel like anyone in the genre is really going anywhere. Anberlin is great because they are not the same old four chord sound churned out in the same predictable ways. They have layers of complexity in their music, and their lead singer doesn't sound like the lead singer from New Found Glory (90% of pop punk bands have a singer who is completely indistinguishable from NFG's).

Cities, while not quite my favorite Anberlin album (that would be Blueprints for the Black Market) is quite impressive. I was especially impressed by the deluxe version of the album which includes a couple 80's covers (The Smiths "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" and When in Rome's "The Promise." The cover of "The Promise" is particularly excellent). The album boasts a number of tightly constructed songs, but my favorites are "Godspeed," "Adelaide," and "Inevitable."

Baleeted? Nope. Too many good things happening here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Anarbor - Free Your Mind

I picked up this album in an effort to own more music by bands from my home state of Arizona. I didn't expect too much, which is why I didn't pay too much for this 7 track EP. What I found, however, is that Anarbor cranks out super solid pop punk. In a genre that's long on participants and short on originality, Anarbor manages to sound fresh and interesting. Their melodies aren't the same tired old 4 chord wonders you've heard time and time again. This is a new take on an old them, and a very good one. If you're into pop punk and need a little something new, look up some Anarbor.

Baleeted? No. This was better that I expected.

America and Jimmy Webb - The Last Unicorn Soundtrack

If you are a product of the 80's and/or early 90's, you will probably remember the movie from which this soundtrack is taken. It's a classic in that weird 80's fantasy film genre (see also: Willow, Legend, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, etc.).

Here's the thing about the soundtrack: if you didn't grow up with the movie, you'll probably have less than no interest in the weepy folk rock that fills this soundtrack. If you, like me, grew up with the movie, you'll probably love this. I had to search far and wide for this soundtrack, and I finally obtained it through slightly less than legal means (though if you're RIAA, I totally bought this album). The songs on this album (particularly the instrumental ones) rely highly on your knowledge of the film itself, so you can't really hop on this one without prior experience. For the experienced, it's a gem.

Baleeted? Not For Someone Raised on It.

AM Radio - Reactive

This one came as a bit of a surprise. I had followed AM Radio's career very closely up to this point. I saw every show they ever played in Arizona, and I even got to know lead singer Kevin Ridel fairly well. I knew the band had gone through massive lineup changes, and had cut some demos. Then I found out that Kevin Ridel became a born again Christian and became much more interested in worship music. I kinda wrote the band off, thinking they would never produce anything ever again.

I believe the CD version of this album is only available as an import. The digital version is freely available on Amazon and iTunes, which is where I picked this up. While this is very much a new era for AM Radio, they still rock like they always have. The album features a new version of "I Just Wanna Be Loved" (the third version of the song to receive an official release, for those of you keeping score back home). The best song on the album is "Crazy in Love," which is a stone cold mix tape gem. That's pretty much what AM Radio excels at: making songs that my wife can't help but love when I put them on a mix tape.

Baleeted? Nope. 

The Allman Brothers Band - Brothers and Sisters

Brothers and Sisters is the last truly great Allman Brothers album. While this album features a massive lineup change in the band (not the last the band would go through), it still sounds like classic Allman Brothers. Brothers and Sisters features classic songs such as "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica." If you already own At Fillmore East and Eat a Peach and really want more Allman Brothers, this is one to pick up.

Baleeted? Not this classic.