Music You Should Be Listening To: February 2013

Before I get started on the February music post I wanted to share something with you loyal readers. I realized something about myself today… I have a super power. Can I shoot laser beams out of my eyes? No. Do I have retractable Wolverine-like titanium claws? No. My power is the ability to predict when a shitty song or group will be playing on your radio. You need proof?  Here it is…

Exhibit A

When I was 16 some friends and I sneaked onto the local golf course after dark with a golf cart key and case of beer. (You can imagine the hijinks that followed) After a few cold ones, I remembered that I brought a little portable radio. A debate immediately started amongst us underage drinkers about which station to choose. One guy wanted the local pop station. My response was something like this. “Fuck that station. All they ever play is that “I Want Money” song.” The song I was referring to was this piece of shit by Calloway.

To prove my point, I grabbed the radio and tuned it to the station. Everyone was amazed when “I Wanna Be Rich” was actually playing. To celebrate my newly unleashed powers we danced around high fiving and chugging beer.

Exhibit B

When I was in my early 20s, my girlfriend and I were driving around in her car. She wanted me to change the channel from the alt-rock station I loved to a classic rock station. I said, “No way. I don’t want to hear some shitty Journey song.” (I used to dislike Journey more than The Eagles if you can believe it. Don’t get excited Don Henley. I’ll always hate you. Since then I have realized the awesomeness of Steve Perry. I’m working on Chris. He still hates Journey.) Then I started singing the lyrics to the song, “Feeling that Way/Anytime.”

As I spun the dial over to the classic rock channel, the exact lyrics I was singing started playing over the speakers. My girlfriend was astonished and a little freaked out. Clearly, I had honed my skills and was now THE song predicting force in the universe.

Exhibit C

For some reason today, I started thinking about how the regular radio sucks and how I haven’t had to use my powers since I got satellite radio in the mid 2000s. I decided to test myself on the way home from work to see if “I still had it.” My plan was to turn on the local rock station as I was driving by Iowa City. What band’s song would be playing? I used all my song predicting muscles and came up with Incubus/Linkin Park. I didn’t pick just one because I can’t tell them apart and they are both equally shitty. As I rolled past Iowa City’s ever mysterious B’jaysville Lane, I turned off my satellite radio and tuned over to 94.1 KRNA. This is the awfulness that was playing.

Linkin Park. I still got it.

Anyways, I started thinking about how I could finally use this super useful skill. This is how. Take my advice, turn off your radios and listen to these MoSS? approved February releases.

m b v album coverMy Bloody Valentine, m b v

Yes, the unthinkable happened and MBV announced via their Facespace page that they had a new record and website. The website immediately crashed and I wore out my computer’s refresh button until I was able to download the album. Chris already shared some thoughts on the record so I won’t go on too long about it. I will share this…The night of the release as I was constantly refreshing and battling the dreaded “403 Server Error”, I read a lot of comments on the MBV Facebook page. The best comments were by younger fans. They didn’t really get the excitement of us older dudes. One kid posted something like, “the only people that care about this album are middle-aged white dudes in the suburbs.” He nailed my demographic for sure. I don’t think he was 100% correct but m b v was certainly the biggest thing to happen in my world of music in a long time.

Key Track(s) – All songs are A+. Chris has described this album as the second coming of Christ. Yeah, it’s that good.

cocaine 80sCocaine 80s, The Flower of Life

The Frank Ocean collaborator came out with this EP a few weeks back and I’ve had it on steady rotation ever since. It sounds like what I wanted the last Frank Ocean record to sound like. The Flower of Life is full of life while Ocean’s Channel Orange seems sluggish.

That’s a short list but February is the shortest of months now isn’t it? Fine. If you need more, check out these albums I haven’t had a chance to listen to enough to comment on. At least it’s not Linkin Park.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II

Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold

Iceage, You’re Nothing

Beach Fossils, Clash the Truth

Chris’ last-minute post-script suggestions

I’m on board with many of Todd’s suggestions, and I’ll add two more albums I’ve been spinning (digitally speaking) lately:

Grouper, The Man Who Died in His Boat

OK, so you can’t really understand a lot of what ambient/noise musician is singing but when she uses her voice as another instrument, what does it really matter? Gorgeous, haunting vocals float over simple strumming and echoing tunes to create quite the mood. Good nighttime music.

Sample a song from the new album, used in this YouTube video to soundtrack some random VHS footage:

Veronica Falls, Waiting for Something to Happen

If you like Slumberland bands (the record label, not the furniture store), you can’t go wrong with this quartet of Brits. I heard the band’s debut from 2011 and thought it was pretty cool, but the second album has really hooked me. Jangle pop and boy-girl vocals galore. If you’re going to listen to Grouper as you lay yourself down to sleep, Veronica Falls makes for great tunes first thing in the morning. VF is playing in Chicago in about two weeks; I’d love to sneak away for a MoSS? Pit report. (Alas, parenthood and what not…)

Check out “Teenage” below:

I might be in the minority here, but based on the two or three songs I’ve listened to so far, the Shout Out Louds album Optica sounds pretty cool to me.

Today’s Random Song in My Head, “99.9F”…Suzanne Vega’s Revenge

The other day I was at the Music or Space Shuttle? headquarters or “Launch Pad” as our MoSS? staffers often call it. I had a bit of blog writer’s block so I responded to the hundreds of comments we get on our posts. A few hours and several witty comebacks later, I noticed a package sitting on my desk under a pile of discarded MoSS? mix tapes. It was addressed to:

MoSS? Todd
Peggy Whitson Business Park
Suite 321
Lisbon, Iowa 52253

I was intrigued. Rarely do we have actual mail arrive at our HQ and very few people know the address of said secret lair. (Not so secret anymore I guess) Inside was a dusty old VHS tape simply labeled “99.9F°”. This not being the year 1989, MoSS? HQ didn’t have a VCR to play the tape. So I shrugged my shoulders, tossed it into the trash and continued on with my mindless internet surfing.

As I carried on with my “work”, my mind kept coming back to the tape. I started thinking about the cryptic title, 99.9F°, and what it could mean. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I dug the tape out of the trash. Where could I get a VCR in this day and age? Then I remembered that one of our neighbors at the business park was Ted’s Technology Barn. I always felt bad for old Ted. He doesn’t get a lot of customers anymore. People walk by his store all day long but rarely go in. With each potential customer he looks up with eyes full of hope. His excitement turns to disappointment time and time again as customers pass him by.

VCRIn the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, his store was at its most successful. This was the heyday of the video cassette tape. He thought the good times would never end and spent his entire life savings on an enormous shipment of VCRs. Business Park Legend has it that the day after he bought the shipment, the DVD player was unveiled. Within months his sales started declining. Having spent all his money on VCRs he couldn’t stock his shelves with the DVD players that the public demanded. He gambled on analog technology and lost. At least he took a shot. Since then, he has struggled as an electronics dealer, always seeming to have the wrong products.

I went next door and asked if he still had a VCR. He giggled hysterically and pointed towards the back of the store. Most of Ted’s store is like a museum for outdated gadgets. The shelves are lined with Apple Newtons, Microsoft Zunes, Rio MP3 players, Nokia cell phones, and Sega Dreamcasts all in their boxes waiting to be sold. He steered me towards the back room where he still had dozens of VCRs stacked on pallets. I asked Ted if I could borrow one of his VCRs but he wouldn’t let me. I had to purchase one. The price was one for $1000 or (as luck would have it) there was a sale on VCRs that day, ten for $1. I guess Ted was trying to clear out some inventory. I didn’t want one VCR, let alone ten VCRs, but had to know what was on that tape. So, I gave Ted four quarters and went back to the office with ten VCRs in tow. I blew the dust off of one and hooked it up to the break room TV. This is what I saw.

At first I thought,” She’s back! That evil pixie Suzanne Vega is trying to make another attempt on my life.” In earlier posts, we learned that Suzanne Vega was using her awful music as mind control to take over the world. She struck first with the song “Tom’s Diner”. I was able to stop her on my own that time but needed the help of shit rockers Third Eye Blind when she struck again with her song “Luka. After all that, I thought we had seen the last of Suzanne Vega. I was wrong. She must have mailed me this tape before our last showdown as a last ditch attempt to take me down.

Suzanne Vega 99.9FI went to turn the tape off before the song could get stuck in my head. That’s when I noticed something different about this video, Suzanne Vega looked kinda sexy. I couldn’t turn it off. The song had a really nice groove to it and everyone knows that I have very little will power when it comes to alluring brunette women. Pretty soon I was actually enjoying the song. “How could this be happening? Is Suzanne Vega’s music good? What if other artists that I had labeled as awful are actually good? Everything I’ve ever listened to is now suspect. Dear God…is Don Henley good too? No… It can’t be. What have I become?!!”

Soon, I collapsed to the floor as the 99.9F° lyrics were swimming through my head.

Pale as a candle
And your face is hot
And if I touch you
I might get what you’ve got
You seem like a man
On the verge of burnin’
99.9 Fahrenheit degrees 

My head felt like it was on fire and I was certain I was dying. She hooked me in again knowing I couldn’t resist her sexy song stylings. I had to stop the tape or the fever would kill me. As I reached for the player, the 20 year old stop button broke of in my hand. Damn you Ted! The song continued…

You seem like a man
On the verge of burnin’
99.9 Fahrenheit degrees

With no way to stop the video, I gave into the song and thought,” You’ve finally defeated me Suzanne Vega. Well played you dirty bitch.” I lay down on the floor as the life drained from my body. By the song’s last chorus, I was ready to accept cool cool death.

You seem like a man
On the verge of burnin’
99.9 Fahrenheit degrees

As my last few breaths were about to leave my body, I heard music far off in the distance. It was the song “Terminally Chill” by one of my favorite chillwave bands, Neon Indian.

I thought that I was hallucinating but felt thankful. If I had to die, at least the last thing I heard wouldn’t be a Suzanne Vega song. Neon Indian’s chillwaves continued to fill the room and I began to feel better. Soon my fever broke and I became aware of my surroundings. The music was actually my cell’s ringtone. I picked up the phone. It was Ted from next door.

Ted: “Hey, thanks taking those VCRs off my hands. “I have like thirty copies of Big Trouble in Little China on tape back in the storeroom. How aboutbig trouble in little china I bring one over after I close up shop?”

Normally, I wouldn’t want to hang with Ted (he’s kind of a downer) but I felt like I owed him one. If he hadn’t called me when he did, I wouldn’t be alive to tell this tale.

Me: “Bring beer too”

So what’s the moral to this story?

To (sort of) quote the character Jack Burton from the aforementioned awesome ‘80s movie:

“When some wild-eyed, five foot tall musician chick grabs your ear, sticks a song in your favorite head until you want to die, and she looks you crooked in the eye and she asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that bitch right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ MoSS? Todd always says at a time like that:

“Have ya paid your dues, Todd?”

“Yes ma’am, the check is in the mail.”

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: February 2013


Side A : Chris’ Picks

1. Kisses, “Funny Heartbeat”

2. Laura Stevenson, “Runner”

3. Ulfur, “So Very Strange”

4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)”

5. My Bloody Valentine, “wonder 2”

Side B : Todd’s Picks

1. Cocaine 80s, “The Sun and the Moon”

2. Cayucas, “Cayucos”

3. The Ocean Blue, “Sad Night, Where is the Morning?”

4. Field Mouse, “Tomorrow is Yesterday”

5. My Bloody Valentine, “in another way”

Road Trip Revelations

My job sometimes requires me to spend a lot of my day in the car. I don’t mind too much. It gives me time to think, reflect on my life and most importantly listen to great music. On these trips I sit back, relax and turn up the tunes. After many hours alone in the car though, I tend to have quite a few random and moronic thoughts. These are just a few of the revelations I came away with on the road.

No Sir, I Will Not Honor Your Thumbs Out Gesture

The-HitcherI drove past a freezing cold hitchhiker today. He seemed harmless enough. Clean-ish clothes, presentable face and a not too worn backpack. I thought, “Man what a shitty day to be stuck out in the cold. The guy probably had car trouble and just needs a ride to the nearest town.” A co-worker of mine tells me stories all the time about picking up hitchhikers. He thinks it’s fun and good for a story or a laugh. So I think, “It would probably be fine to pick him up.” Then I remember that I have an irrational fear of hitchhikers, road weathered tramps and Rutger Hauer. That’s right. The Evil Rutger Hauer. This all stems from when I was 11 and watched the movie, The Hitcher, starring a post-pubescent C. Thomas Howell and, of course, The Evil Rutger Hauer. That dude is just plain scary. Check out this scene if you dare.

He’s like a more determined version of The Terminator, an unstoppable killing machine. There’s a scene where he draws and quarters C. Thomas’ stglove interest with semi-trucks. Terribly disturbing for a young lad like myself. The Evil Rutger Hauer was in another movie called, Surviving the Game, where he was equally as sinister. In this one, he plays a rich dude that holds an annual hunting excursion where they hunt homeless people…you know hitchhikers and such. One might think that after The Evil Rutger Hauer created my fear of hitchhikers in The Hitcher, I would root for him as a hitcher-killer in Surviving the Game. No way. I’ll not get fooled by your crafty evil beguiling ways. Plus, I’m not looking to get stabbed to death by some psycho mobile hobo whose only fear of death is that he won’t be the cause of mine.

My Satellite Radio Kicks Can Kick Your Satellite Radio’s Ass

fooI have written many times on these road trip posts that I love my satellite radio. Great content, no commercials and minimal DJ babble. My radio is portable so I hook it up to the car stereo using an FM modulator. I pick a nice unused radio frequency and I’m like a mobile broadcasting force. Sometimes I drive by other commuters that are doing the same thing. They come up from behind me and I hear a little static then maybe a hint of another song or talk radio station. Occasionally, these cars completely wipe out my station altogether. More times than not, when I hear that static noise, my radio overpowers the HowardJonesother cars radio and wins the battle for the airwaves. I love looking over to the car next to me and seeing the confused and irritated driver. The irritation continues until they get outside my 100 sq ft broadcasting range. This morning I heard that familiar static sound as an SUV pulled up beside me. I had my radio tuned to Sirius Alt-Nation and was enjoying the Foo Fighters song “No Way Back.” That song started to fade out as the car came up beside me. The ‘80s gem “No One is to Blame” by Howard Jones fought its way from the SUV radio into my car radio. The lights in my car dimmed and the engine revved harder as the stereo pulled extra power from the battery and fought back. Soon Howard Jones could be heard no more and the other driver reached for the tuner on his radio. This is the standard sign of defeat. Better luck next time Howard Jones Guy.

Sammy Hagar Knows How Many Ways There Are

And of course, by the end of my day I was feeling tired and in need of a serious hair metal fix. I thought, “What if I rock incorrectly? I know I need to rock, but is there more than one way? If there are multiple ways to rock, how do I know which is best suited for this particular occasion? I could look quite the fool.” I quickly flipped stations over to Hair Nation in search of answers. Luckily, Sammy Hagar’s “There’s Only One Way to Rock” was playing and curbed my anxieties. His message is so simple…

Crank up the drums, crank out the bass
Crank up my Les Paul in your face

There’s only one way
There’s only one way to rock!!!

Just rock baby! You can’t screw it up!

All in all it was a pretty good trip.  Plenty of tunes.  Plenty of dangerous hitchhikers. If you see me cruising down the interstate sometime, don’t bother sticking your thumb out for a ride. I’ll just scream and drive right past you.


Some random statements in the hazy wake of “m b v”

m b v album cover

It’s been nearly 10 days since My Bloody Valentine did the unthinkable and actually released the “follow-up” to Loveless. I put follow-up in quotes because it seems like the statute of limitations should run out if your next album doesn’t come out within, oh, say, 20 years of the precedent. But all the same, the next album in the My Bloody Valentine discography has been downloaded by thousands (millions?) and we’re left with nine good-to-incredible songs and a need for a new longing, perhaps for a new Pixies album or that Goonies sequel.

I could attempt to straight-up review m b v, but I don’t think I want to do that. I’d rather just state some facts…a word that probably deserves the same quotation marks as “follow-up,” but whatever.

First off, before we go anywhere near the new material, I must state that this band’s street cred-to-horrible band name ratio is off the charts.

Seriously, how the band isn’t laughed out of the room for its name alone is a small miracle. Not only does it sound like something the nerds in Fall Out Boy or My Chemical Romance might have gone with had it been available, this three-word sequence also served as the name for a terribly cheesy 1981 horror flick that decided to put a deranged miner armed with a pick axe in the role of the killer. (I watched this movie repeatedly as a preteen thanks to USA Network, I should add.) Then again, Hollywood remade said movie as recently as 2009…

(My Bloody Valentine leads my list of high street cred/horrible band name, followed closely by Vampire Weekend, Japandroids, Hooray for Earth, and Black Moth Super Rainbow. Meanwhile, I’ve always found Sonic Youth, Public Enemy, Interpol, Stereolab, and A Tribe Called Quest to be among the coolest band names ever.)

But more specifically related to the new album…

The best song on the album is clearly either “In Another Way” or “Wonder 2.”

Note that both “Best Song” candidates fall within the last third of the album, the third that seems to either wow or worry fans of the band. I’m clearly in the former camp. “In Another Way” soars in a way that reminds me of “Soon” from Loveless. Instead of the dance-y beats and long guitar plunges of that tune, “In Another Way” uses an overarching synth line and a propulsive stutter of guitar to take the listener to near-all-time heights.

This vibe comes in between cooing verses provided by Bilinda Butcher (and you can’t describe Butcher’s vocals without using the word “coo”), where the guitar has similar tones but a different feel. And all the while, the drums (yes, the drums!) shove you forward like they haven’t since pre-Loveless days. Colm O’Ciosoig hadn’t seen this much volume above the surface since Isn’t Anything tracks like “Nothing Much to Lose” or “(When You Wake) You’re Still in a Dream” (“Only Shallow” from Loveless is a notable exception, I’ll admit). It might be my favorite My Bloody Valentine song ever; it might be my second-favorite on the new album.

That’s because of the album closer, “Wonder 2,” which to me sounds like the heir to the “You Made Me Realise” throne in terms of songs that could become the freakout centerpiece of live shows. The swirling sounds and Kevin’s vocals ascend for nearly six minutes, punctuated with powerful bursts of guitar hysterics and 300-beats-per-minute drums (an educated guess on the tempo) that add a sense of power and dread.

Unlike some people I know (*cough cough Sam cough cough*) I won’t disqualify a song from being top-shelf material if Bilinda isn’t singing. I think Kevin’s voice works well within the confines of MBV music, especially from Loveless and going forward. That’s not to say that I would rather hear Kevin sing on “Lose My Breath” or “To Here Knows When” or “Loomer” but I think he’s equally up to the task on “Soon” or “Sometimes” or “Who Sees You.” And honestly, it’s hard to say who’s singing on songs like Loveless’ “Come In Alone” or m b v’s “Only Tomorrow.”

“If I Am” and “New You” fit nicely alongside other present-day indie-rock pop songs.

These songs sound like something you’d find in heavy rotation on Sirius XMU. While Loveless didn’t include songs that were this straightforward in terms of pop friendliness, the band was making these kinds of songs around that time. Look at the invaluable B-sides on the Glider and Tremolo EPs and you’ll find songs in a similar vein: “Honey Power,” “Swallow,” “Don’t Ask Why.” The same can be said about songs on the 1988 You Made Me Realise EP: “Cigarette in Your Bed” and “Drive It All Over Me” quickly come to mind. Not to mention gems such as “Bilinda Song” that were found on the Unreleased and Rarities compilation that circulated online during the lengthy hiatus period.

That these new songs are found not on EPs but on the LP itself speaks to my next point…

m b v succeeds despite not being a singular statement.

Yes, my two favorite albums of all time, The Cure’s Disintegration and MBV’s Loveless are certainly monolithic, but for an album to be great it need not sound alike all the way through. Consider that Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and The Beatles are two albums that hold lofty status in my rankings…two albums that certainly meander around in terms of style but not in substance.

And that’s what you get here. On Loveless, you know you’re listening to Loveless; on m b v, you know you’re listening to My Bloody Valentine. The band felt comfortable releasing these nine songs as the next definitive collection, because they felt strongly about the content being solid, not fretting about the need for them to sound “same-y.”

One last point: My Bloody Valentine can still make a mean instrumental track.

Sandwiched between my two favorite tracks on m b v is “Nothing Is,” an intense repetition of instrumental bliss. While it is not necessarily stylistic twins with anything MBV had done previously, it’s a standout track, just as “Instrumental B” was in the late 1980s. For the uninitiated, “Instrumental B” (along with another good track, titled–surprise–“Instrumental A”) lived on a bonus 7″ single packaged inside the first 5,000 copies pressed of Isn’t Anything. “Instrumental B” was as wonderful as it was simple: the drum beat from Public Enemy’s “Security of the First World” was sampled, and squalls of guitar played over the top. That’s it. But it’s a wonderful idea, and even more so when you contrast it against the other way this particular drum beat was used: sampled by Madonna for her also excellent single “Justify My Love” (two years after MBV did “Instrumental B,” it should be noted).

(“Instrumental A” and, for certain tastes, the title track to the Glider EP, are guitar collages that are musts for MBV fans, but “Instrumental B” has greater potential for crossover appreciation.)

“Nothing Is” cranks up the drums (somewhat of a theme for m b vone might say) and spends nearly four minutes punching you in the gut and kicking you in the head and makes you want to drive really fast or double your pace on the elliptical trainer or type like a madman while working/checking Facebook/whatever you do on a computer. Or maybe even fuck like mad. I don’t know; haven’t tried m b v for mood music yet.

It is not your typical My Bloody Valentine song, to be sure, but that’s the whole point of releasing a follow-up to Loveless, isn’t it? The band will always be best known and most revered for what it did on Loveless but this band’s talent and vision was far greater than its previous output. They needed to do m b v far more than we needed to hear it.

And because of that, they made a record that everyone needs to hear.

Even if the band name still kinda sucks.