The great Smashing Pumpkins fantasy draft: An introduction

 

Look who’s back in the news! All over it, in fact.

billy corgan holding cats

In the last couple of weeks, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has announced that he’s working on not one but two albums of new material, including one with Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee laying down the drum tracks.

He’s supervising the remastering and re-releases of deluxe versions of the Pumpkins’ Adore and MACHINA/The Machines of God, the latter in its original intended form – remixed and resequenced along with the internet-only release MACHINA II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music to finally realize its destiny as a conceptual double album.

He’s had his AMC reality show about professional wrestling greenlit. Hopefully it will be as entertaining as his wrestling-themed furniture store commercial:

And then, in case you’ve already forgotten, there was this:

billy corgan holding cats

Any self-respecting MoSS? reader knows that the Smashing Pumpkins breathe rarified air around these parts. In their respective lists of the undisputed greatest albums of all time, the Pumpkins were everywhere, so there’s no reason for Todd or Chris to explain that again when they already did it here. And here and here. And here. Oh yeah, and here.

For the record, since my only role back then was as a loyal reader, my top 5 undisputed albums of all time include the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Slayer’s Reign in Blood and I’d probably round out the top 5 with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. OK, that’s four.

See, I can do that because my No. 1 album of all time is Gish AND Siamese Dream. I can’t separate them. One day it’s Gish, the next day it’s Dream. But they are interchangeable to the point I stopped interchanging them years ago and count them as a single entity. But if Chris and Todd would have forced me to choose at gunpoint, I would have put them at 1 and 2 and bumped Zeppelin. That’s right … I’d bump Zeppelin. That’s how much I love those Pumpkins records.

Now, in all honesty, all three of us, at one point or another, have fallen in and out of love with this band. I remember the day I bought Adore and loaned it to Chris before I even had a chance to hear it myself. An hour later, I asked him what he thought and he looked at me like I’d just cupped a fart in my hand and stuck it in his face. And I’m sure I probably made that face myself after I first heard MACHINA.

Years later, the strength of the post-breakup lineup (and their fine 2012 album Oceania) has me excited for what’s on the horizon. But no matter what the future brings us, the strength of the Smashing Pumpkins’ early catalog – starting with 1991’s Gish through their 1995 magnum-opus double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – can always suck us back in.

Look at the finite catalog of, say, Zeppelin. Those first five records – I, II, III, IV and Houses of the Holy – are followed by a double album, Physical Graffiti. After Graffiti, the remaining catalog is really hit or miss. Some great tracks sprinkled around but the complete albums were not as strong. But those first albums and the double album? Near perfection (even with the liberal “borrowing” from the blues legends of the past).

Now … take Gish and Siamese Dream, the excellent rarities compilation Pisces Iscariot, the myriad remaining non-album tracks and B-sides from that era, and follow it with Mellon Collie … in the humble opinion of this Gen-X writer, you have a fair comparison. The later records have some excellent songs, for sure, but the complete albums don’t hold up like the first ones do.

Pumpkins 1993Let’s pretend the Pumpkins had died in a plane crash in mid-1995 (with Mellon Collie in the can but before it was released … hopefully, they’d have an Eddie Kramer-style overseer saying, “Hey, you know what? Let’s just release this as a kickass single disc instead,” which would have meant a second disc of material was still out there along with what would later become The Aeroplane Flies High box set of outtakes, ensuring years of Hendrix/Tupac-type posthumous releases). Leaving behind that above-mentioned songbook and recordings as their legacy, they might have been the greatest band of all time. At least in my book.

#####

So, with the Pumpkins on the brain, the three of us decided to have a little fantasy draft, with each guy trying to compile the ultimate playlist.

Fifteen songs each. But certain criteria had to be met. Each guy had to pick nine songs fulfilling these requirements:

  • A “Track 1” song
  • An album-closing song
  • A song that is at least 8 minutes long
  • A cover song
  • A James Iha song
  • A song featuring a girls’ name in the title
  • A Pisces Iscariot song
  • At least one Adore or MACHINA song
  • At least one song released after the original lineup’s breakup in 2000

Then, after those requirements were met, there were six wild-card slots. Fill them however you like.

We all missed out on songs we coveted. Then again, there were a few songs that weren’t even on the other guys’ radars when they were picked. But even so, if I had gotten the five or so songs I missed out on, I don’t know what I would have bumped to fit them in.

In the end, it was astonishing that all three of us walked away thinking we’d won the draft. And when we looked at what was left on the board, we agreed that had there been a fourth person, it would have gotten a little dicier since, guaranteed, there was no way we would’ve have ended up with the picks that we did.

So once we were done, we did an impromptu pick’em with the remaining songs for a hypothetical fourth man at the table. Here’s how that ended up:

  1. “1979”
  2. “Today”
  3. “Slunk”
  4. “Disarm”
  5. “Galapagos”
  6. “Blue”
  7. “Muzzle”
  8. “Geek U.S.A.”
  9. “Zero”
  10. “Thirty-Three”
  11. “Bodies”
  12. “For Martha”
  13. “Plume”
  14. “Tristessa”
  15. “By Starlight”

Notice something? Almost every single big radio and MTV staple the band put out was NOT chosen in the draft. And a few – such as “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Perfect” – didn’t even make this “best of the rest” top 15 list. A stronger, deeper catalog than one might remember, eh?

All three of our drafts are tip-top. You can’t lose.

But still, I don’t think there’s any question that when you get a chance to analyze the results, you’ll agree that I won. Handily. And I’ll take the fuckin’ Pepsi Challenge with either of these clowns to prove it. Bring it on.

Come back to Music or Space Shuttle? on Monday, June 2, for the playlists and self-analysis of the draft. What song would you have taken #1? What song(s) in the “best of the rest” list above should have made one of our playlists? Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.

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Best albums of 2013: No. 2-4

The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2013 this week! Today we unveil our individual picks for #2-4. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 20. Don’t miss our picks for #11-20, #8-10, and #5-7.

Todd

#4: Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt

waxahatcheeWaxahatchee is the solo project of songwriter Katie Crutchfield and is for the most part very simple. One vocal, one guitar and occasionally some drums. The songs ebb and flow from soft acoustic to droning distortion filled guitars and her vocals float effortlessly overtop all of them.

I started listening to Cerulean Salt a few weeks after the new My Bloody Valentine record was released. Like anything else that was released post m b v,  I assumed I would be over it quickly and back listening to the masters of shoegaze. I was wrong. I was stuck on this album almost as long as I was on m b v.

Waxahatchee toured this year with Katie’s sister’s band, Swearin’, which you may remember had my #15 album of the year. Of course, they came nowhere close to were I live. I would urge the great folks at the Mission Creek Music Festival to book these two bands. Do whatever it takes to get them on a stage near me. Thanks in advance.

#3: Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

vampire weekendVampire Weekend’s 3rd album Modern Vampires of the City picks up right were they left off with 2010’s Contra which you may recall holds the #36 spot on my Undisputed Best albums of all time list. Both albums are full of songs that are incredibly intelligent lyrically, frequently comical and always catchy as hell. And just like previous Vampire Weekend releases, this one took me a few listens to get into it. Other than the instantly likable “Step”, every song took me awhile to truly enjoy. That was especially true with the rocker “Diane Young.” The machine gun drums and use of auto-tune kind of threw me at first. By the 3rd or 4th listen I was pitching up my sing along vocals to match the records.

One of my biggest regrets this year is not working out a way to catch Vampire Weekend in concert. They have been one of my favorite bands since their self titled debut album in 2008.  I had a few chances. Kansas City, Chicago, the Twin Cities and St. Louis all hosted them this year. All within reasonable driving distance. The St. Louis show was even at my favorite venue, The Pageant. Unfortunately, work schedules and other commitments got in the way. Luckily, I got to live vicariously through Chris and his son who caught them in Kansas City. I am definitely going to catch them next time around.

After 3 excellent albums under their belts, I’m curious to know if Vampire Weekend can keep it up over a long career. If I had to lay money down I would bet on yes.

#2: Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe

chvrchesThe Glaswegian group with the weird spelling. Their name is pronounced “churches” (Cha-verches in my house) but spelled Chvrches to help with Google searches I would presume. Before the release of The Bones of What You Believe, Chvrches put out several excellent singles. “The Mother We Share” for instance, caught my attention right off. Lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry’s voice can both cut you to the bone and make you fall in love at the same time.

All of the songs I heard prior to the albums release featured Lauren on vocals, so when I eventually listened to the whole album I was surprised to find songs featuring male member (well, male band member, not an actual phallus), Martin Doherty on lead vocals. His songs “Under the Tide” and  “You Caught the Light” are two of my favorites on the album.

This album had a real good chance at being my #1 album of the year but it lost points in my book for its length. There are 16 songs on it and I generally punch-out by song 12. Get rid of a few clunkers and remix/alternate versions of songs and they are looking at an album of the year win.

Chris

#4: My Bloody Valentine, m b v

m b v coverIt’s not unusual for a parent to have a panic attack at Chuck E. Cheese. The place is a fucking nuthouse. You cringe as you watch the juvenile behavior play out, with yelling and pushing and cursing and general disregard for decency everywhere around you. And that’s just the adults.

Although I try to avoid the Cheese house whenever possible, I felt obligated to honor my son’s birthday wishes to take two of his friends there for pizza and video games before a sleepover. I endured as much of the atmosphere and the pizza as I could before I finally fled for the sanctuary of my phone.

And there I found the announcement years (decades!) overdue: Hello, this is Kevin Shields, and even though I’ve hinted at a new album since 1997 with a straight face only to disappear again, I really put out a new record and you have to download it from our website, which currently uses something resembling a Commodore 64 as its server. Good luck with that!

It was time to go. Five hours of computer frustration later, I finally had permission to pay the Sam Goody-priced ($16!) new album and download the nine songs to my PC. Certainly worth the money, and so good that I pretty much forgive the 22-year gap in output.

The first three songs sound like a natural continuation of LovelessThe middle third reminds me of stuff the band released on the various EPs from 1988 to 1991. And the final third showed where the band could go if it damn well wanted: jungle beats, devilish swirls of guitar, soaring synths. A longer examination of an instant classic can be found in a post from February.

Just don’t take 22 more years to make and release the next album…

#3: Savages, Silence Yourself

silence yourselfIt took about one minute for Silence Yourself to get its hooks into me. The first song begins with a sampling of dialogue from a John Cassavetes movie (paired with eerie squalls of guitar) before a rumbling bass line throws things into high gear. A stuttering guitar joins the proceedings, and at the 1:02 mark, the bass and guitar interlock perfectly and for about 39 minutes you race through a world of shadows and fear and anger and passion, all punctuated by sharp drum shots, gut-punching bass notes, fierce guitar, and the push-you-to-the-edge voice of Jehnny Beth.

While the music is tight and forceful, the lyrics give Savages that extra edge. A reader asked me in July why I thought Savages was getting so much good press, and more specifically, what about their lyrics set them apart. My response:

The lyrics are just an emotional purge, an astute observation without a turning point, but that’s OK—I think many people can identify. I know I admire emotional content regardless of whether a solution comes with it.

And it’s all done through the carefully crafted black-and-white lens that Savages uses as its identity. It’s a very consistent identity, from the shadowy album cover to the rather monochromatic tone of the music. The low rumble of the rhythm section provides the “black” image; the piercing guitar squalls and sneered vocals serve as the “white” part.

Perhaps it could be summed up as this: Savages are documentarians of the bleak, and they don’t pretend to have any answers.

In a year when I’ve seen some great live shows, one of my greatest regrets is not driving up to Madison to see these guys this fall. After this sort of debut, I’m guessing I’ll have plenty of chances to see them again.

#2: The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars

civil wars coverThe day before the Civil Wars’ eponymous album came out, I remarked to friend and fellow CW fan Sondra that “I look forward to being emotionally destroyed tomorrow.” We had heard a couple of tracks in advance, giving us a taste of what we had in store. And the next day came, and the album came, and I was emotionally destroyed as predicted, and it was most excellent.

The music could have been buried by the soap opera of Joy Williams and John Paul White. And in much of the press around the album’s release, it kinda did. That’s truly sad. “The One That Got Away” has one of their best choruses to date, Joy’s voice taking the lead, her voice descending slowly before jumping to new heights, with John Paul punctuating certain words before harmonizing the second verse. “Same Old Same Old” has ever so slight instrumentation backing some of the most tender vocals (and lyrics) in their discography.

Not every moment is quiet and fragile. “I Had Me a Girl” is a rollicking tune that is tailor-made for singing along, especially the “ooooooooh-ooooooooh-oooooooooh” chorus. Not only is a it a great song, it provides one of those moments that the fans can grab hold of and say “See, you two can have fun making music together! Now get back together and play some live shows! And make some more albums! Please?!” And “Eavesdrop” might start off quietly, but it picks up steam by the first chorus and simply explodes by the second one. It’s nice to hear John Paul singing on this one too, as Joy does a lot of the vocal work on the album as a whole.

My favorite song? The one sung in French, “Sacred Heart.” I can’t decide if it is my top song of 2013 or not; “Step” by Vampire Weekend is the only competitor. The song is absolutely gorgeous on its face. On top of that, I found the lyrics online and plugged them into Google Translate, and for one reason or another, they melted my heart. Yes, it’s hard to sing along since I don’t speak the language, but that never stopped me with Sigur Ros, so, you know, why not?

(Lone criticism: their version of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm” doesn’t work.)

Best albums of 2013: No. 8-10

The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2013 this week! Today we unveil our individual picks for #8-10. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 20. Don’t miss our picks for #11-20.

Todd

#10: Palma Violets, 180

180It probably took me 10 listens to the first song on Palma Violets 180 , “Best of Friends” , before I realized I was singing along to the songs raucous chorus incorrectly. I was singing…

“I don’t wanna be your best friend…I want you to be my girl.”

Assuming this song was like nearly every other rock song about a guy/girl relationships were the guy really wants to be with a girl. Well, at least spend some quality time with the girl’s lady bits. Of course I was wrong. It was actually the opposite…

“I wanna be your best friend…I don’t want you to be my girl.”

A switch-up that I found to be a much more interesting a thought. Unless the girl looks like and has the personality of Nancy Grace, what guy wants that situation? Just friends with an attractive cool chick? Not even friends with benefits? Mind blown.

It was that song that got me to check out the whole 180 album and I wasn’t disappointed. Track after track of post-punk gems. Many of the songs remind me of The Clash during the London Calling era. Although, Palma Violets frontman Chilli Jesson’s lead vocals are a bit more varied than on some of the old Clash songs. Throughout, 180  he will seamlessly switch from crooning verses to screaming choruses. I also think they end the album perfectly with the anthemic song “14.” Seems like the ideal song to hold up a lighter and sway back and forth with a concert crowd. I hope they come around here soon to see.

#9: Golden Youth, Quiet Frame: Wild Light

golden youth

This is an album that may not have been on too many people’s radar. I ran across a free download of one of their songs, “Brother in the Morning Light”, and really liked it. Enough in fact to throw it on one of our 2013 monthly mix tapes. Musically it reminded me quite a bit of some of Sigur Ros’ more uplifting  “movie moment” type songs. The only difference being the vocals of female lead singer Stephanie Lauren.

I eventually downloaded the whole album during a 3 hour car trip to the Chicago area.  I must have played it 15 times during that trip and countless others after. It’s a quick listen. Unfortunately, of the 10 songs on the album, only 7 are unique. They tacked on alternate/live versions of 3 songs at the end of the album. If they had 3 new songs on there instead, the record probably would have scored a much higher ranking.

#8: My Bloody Valentine, m b v

m b vYes, 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. You can’t imagine the joy I felt as I listened to the lead track “she found now” and realized A, that it wasn’t a fake and B, it was really good.

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.

Chris

#10: Bleached, Ride Your Heart

bleached ride your heart album coverWhat do I like so much about the Bleached record, a collection of songs that earned my consideration for top-5 positioning at various points of the year? I love the way the vocals have that sun-drenched quality without sounding cheesy-cheery. I love the rapid-fire drum fills on songs like “Next Stop,” which also has fun lyrics that will force even the grumpiest guy to sing along a bit. I love the high-hat/bass line vibe in the verses of “Dead in Your Head” that relent to a bursting chorus.

Songs like “Searching Through the Past” and “Dead Boy” are nothing complicated, but they’re really great tunes that don’t get old on subsequent listens. I’m attracted to the lo-fi sound throughout. If you like Best Coast (and if you’ve seen my lists from previous years, you know I am in that camp), you can’t go wrong with Bleached. It’s the sort of album that will never sound dated, and it’s a statement brief enough that you don’t tire of it halfway through.

#9: Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe

julianna barwick nepenthe album coverThe first wave of Mission Creek 2014 bands was announced the other day, and my reaction mirrored how I felt when the 2013 lineup was announced: meh. But this year, I’m learning it might be worth looking into the artists I’m not familiar with. Because I missed a chance to see one of my favorite artists of 2013 do her thing for an intimate audience in Iowa City.

Yep, Julianna Barwick was one of the 2013 Mission Creek performers, and I can only imagine how glorious the songs from Nepenthe would have sounded live. The vocals more often than not serve as yet another instrument, creating a dreamy end result that can calm the feistiest of souls. There is intensity within this music, taking it beyond simple background music to something special.

I think the best way to describe this album is to consider it a younger sibling of sorts to Sigur Ros’ ( ). And if you know what high regard I have for that album, you’ll realize what a compliment I’m paying Nepenthe. (If you’re wondering what Nepenthe means, it is a medicine for sorrow mentioned in ancient Greek literature. The definition applies here, too.)

#8: Chelsea Wolfe, Pain Is Beauty

pain is beauty coverThere are some differences between Chelsea Wolfe and Ian Curtis. Wolfe isn’t a dude, doesn’t appear to suffer from epilepsy, and, well, she’s alive.

But there are certainly some similarities in their musical stylings. The title of her latest album, Pain Is Beauty, is very Joy Division sounding. Her voice conveys the same sort of emotionalism that Curtis used to deliver on a regular basis (in a much lower register, of course).

I love the minimalist beat of “Feral Love” and “The Warden.” I love the combination of Wolfe’s aching vocals and the plodding drums and the low, ringing guitar blasts found on “We Hit a Wall.” The album’s intensity is felt throughout its 12 tracks, and the album’s tone is far from monotonous. Fans of the post-punk era should enjoy this disc quite a bit.

From the MoSS? Pit: My Bloody Valentine

mbv backdrop

If My Bloody Valentine’s visual and sonic bonanza at the Aragon Ballroom is the last concert I attend this calendar year, it is the perfect cap to 2013. This trip around the sun gave me my third Cure show (at my first Lollapalooza in 19 years), a bucket-list cross-off (Sigur Ros), a “hi-how-ya-doin-great-show” moment with Bethany Cosentino at the Deadwood after a Best Coast show, a proper rock show by the Thermals at the Mill, a festive Wild Belle show at Gabe’s, and my son’s first concert, Vampire Weekend in Kansas City.

What a year. And what a show MBV put on for the Aragon faithful. And thank God, because since the day I bought these tickets, I had this small but nagging doubt that this band would be able to live up to the unbelievable standard set on the albums and EPs. Anyone’s who checked out live clips on YouTube might have the same anxieties. (As you might detect from my iPhone videos below, the camera phone probably isn’t sophisticated enough to accurately capture the pleasant onslaught on the senses.) I also had been experiencing so much joy from the anticipation of the event, I feared that perhaps I was setting myself up for a letdown.

IMG_2312

Bottom line: can the MBV experience really pay off in a live setting?

The answer is yes. No, it isn’t as precise and multi-textured as what you find on the studio output, but the spirit is still there. Gorgeous and lush, dreamy and dense, and, of course, loud as fuck. They still pass out earplugs at the door, with signs strongly encouraging everyone to use them “given the extreme volume of this particular artist” (I’m paraphrasing, but I think that was pretty close to the actual language). I kept them out until the last three songs; I think my friend Kory was the only person in the building who didn’t use them during the finale. (More on that later.)

So our gang of six (me, Kory, Nancy, Denise, Sam, and Travis) had a drink or two at a nearby bar, where I had blue balls.

(Wait, that sounds bad…)

Where I ate blue balls.

(Wait, that doesn’t sound better at all…)

Where I ordered a concoction that involved shredded chicken, peppers, and spices, all shaped into four spheres that were hand-breaded and fried, and then served over a bed of Maytag blue cheese dressing. This menu item was called “[something] [something] blue balls.” I ate those things. They were delicious.

IMG_8750

We entered the Aragon and snaked our way toward the stage as best we could. After a relatively short wait, the “mbv” logo from the new album appeared on the backdrop, and soon enough the house lights went down and out came the shoegaze legends. Well, most of them, anyway. So Kevin Shields starts strumming the opening part of “Sometimes” (a song I always thought was just an OK My Bloody Valentine song until Sofia Coppola used it to perfection in Lost in Translation). Debbie Googe was going to work on the bass and…well…um, someone else was playing a guitar.

Someone who didn’t look much like Bilinda Butcher.

And as someone with a minor crush on Bilinda Butcher, I really wondered what the hell happened to Bilinda over the past few years to end up looking like the drummer, Colm O’Ciosoig.

Until I realized it was O’Ciosoig, strumming away on a song that didn’t require his drum work. Whew.

Bilinda soon surfaced and we were off, bouncing around the catalog a good amount before the night was over. Naturally they played a good deal of Loveless (seven of the 11 songs), and five off the new album. We got three from Isn’t Anything (including one of my favorite songs from that album, “Nothing Much to Lose,” with its frenetic drum fills and guitar squelches bookending the nice verses and bridges) and a couple of songs from the EPs (“Honey Power” from Tremolo and “Cigarette in Your Bed” from You Made Me Realise).

Highlights? “Soon” was definitely cool, and was one of the renditions that probably came close to replicating studio sound. “Only Shallow” delivered, as Debbie just pummeled her bass throughout that one. I thought all the m b v songs sounded great; I was very happy to hear my favorite song from the album, “wonder 2,” and came away loving “only tomorrow” even more after hearing it live. That’s something that deserves mention: the new songs all sounded GREAT live. Really, there wasn’t a bum song in the whole bunch, and as you might note from the pictures, the visuals projected on and all around them were a nice complement to the performance. I especially loved the look during “To Here Knows When,” which you can watch below.

About the only thing that was a bit unpleasant was the way the crowd would become restless between songs. To be fair, there were noticeable gaps between songs as they prepared for each tune, but not everyone was equipped to handle the “uncomfortable silences.” In the video below you can see what I mean in terms of gaps; I hit record about the time I figured the song was about to start, yet I end up with 30-some seconds of nothing as my intro.

But let’s get to the finale, “You Made Me Realise,” infamous for “the Holocaust section” at song’s middle. When you hear the studio version of this song, there is a nice guitar riff intro and a harmonizing verse, a return to the riff, a second verse, the riff, a brief solo of sorts, and then about 45 seconds of repetitive guitar distortion and static and whatever else that builds and builds and then releases back into the standard riff, a final verse, the riff, and a crashing halt.

So live it’s pretty much the same thing, except that intense noise section builds and builds and builds for 10 minutes or so. For economic/fiscal nerds out there, think of the guitar/feedback/white noise in terms of compounding interest: each minute, it earns interest, with the interest earning interest and that interest earning interest, and so on. And while there’s nothing musically impressive about it, from a sonic standpoint it’s quite the experience. It becomes completely physical. (As Denise put it afterward, “I’m pretty sure that last song rearranged my internal organs. All of them.”) I wasn’t dancing by any means but I was grooving to it. The visceral response I had was impressive…almost as impressive as Kory eschewing the earplugs for the experience.

Eventually they crashed back into the main hook of the song, finished it out, and that was that. A band I feared would eternally remain on my bucket list, alongside the likes of Nirvana (argh) and the Beatles (born too late, of course), could now be written in “strikethrough” typeface. And it wasn’t a giant fail. At all.

2013 in live music is rivaling 2013 in record releases. Check back with Todd and me in December, when we tackle the impossible: cutting our favorite album list down to 20, and then ranking those 20 stellar albums. That’s a good problem to have.

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: October 2013

105

Side A : Chris’ Picks

Side B : Todd’s‘ Picks

MoSS? Presents: The Best 13 Albums of 2013…So Far

2013

At the beginning of June, many music sites started posting their “Best Albums of the Year So Far” lists. They considered June 1st the perfect time do so. It being the halfway point of the year and all. Well, we here at Music or Space Shuttle? actually own and know how to operate a calendar. Bear with me here, I’m going to do some math. You see, there are actually twelve months in a year. The halfway point would be after six months. That would make the the end of June or early July the perfect time for a “Best Albums of the Year So Far” list. Enough snark. Let’s get to the list!

deap-vally-get-deap-epDeap Vally, Get Deap! EPGet Deap! is probably my biggest guilty pleasure record this year. The rock duo’s EP is four songs of dirtyDeap+Vally+DeapVally guitars,  screaming vocals and questionable feminine hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crushing hard on the both of them. They’re like a cross between PJ Harvey, The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin. Hoping they come to the area for a live show soon. I may just run away with them. –T

Key Track(s) – “Lies”, “Gonna Make My Own Money”


dtDucktails, The Flower Lane – This one surprised me. I was never a big fan of Ducktails in the past. The last LP was fine but never really kept my interest. Pitchfork streamed this record for free last prior to the release and I couldn’t stop playing it. The mastermind behind Ducktails is the guitarist for Real Estate so there are some similarities between the two but this record stands up well on its own. Chris’ former pretend girlfriend Madeline Follin from Cults even makes a cameo on my favorite song from the record “Sedan Magic.” They were in Iowa City in April and put on a great show. Chris wrote about it here. -T

Key Track(s) – “Sedan Magic”


m b v album cover

My Bloody Valentine, m b v – What was almost as unbelievable as the release of a new My Bloody Valentine album is the fact that somehow it was not an absolute letdown. In fact, it was brilliant. The first three songs sound like a natural continuation of LovelessThe middle third reminds me of stuff the band released on the various EPs from 1988 to 1991. And the final third showed where the band could go if it damn well wanted: jungle beats, devilish swirls of guitar, soaring synths. A longer examination of an instant classic can be found in a post from February. –C

Key track(s) – “in another way,” “wonder 2”


2012PalmaViolets180Press171212

Palma Violets, 180 – When I hear hype surrounding bands like Arctic Monkeys or the Vaccines or the like, I give their records a spin and often come away disappointed. This isn’t at all what I thought I would hear! Yet when I listened to a band that lacked the “next big thing” tag, one called Palma Violets, lo and behold, there it was! 180 is the album I’d always thought I’d hear from the buzz bands. “No-frills” rock, but punctuated with a charismatic singer and nice use of keyboard among the garage rock sounds. I’m starting to rethink my declaration of seeing Wild Belle instead of these guys at Lolla. –C

Key track: “Best of Friends”


rhye

Rhye, Woman – Reminiscent of The Weeknd in a couple of ways: one, is the singer a guy or a girl (answer: guy); two, regardless, this is really freakin’ great. Slinky, sexy, smooth as silk. “The Fall” is a vocal treasure, while “Last Dance” parts the smoky haze of the record for a few minutes to allow for moments of upbeat groove. While the vocals are natural to pair with slow and low tempo, it’s the juxtaposition of the emotion against the more up-tempo instrumentation that keep this collection from coming off as one-note. The comparisons to Sade and the xx are fair both in terms of similar sound and similar quality. –C

Key track: “The Fall”


Savages-Silence-Yourself

Savages, Silence Yourself – The savage (ahem) rumble of the drums and bass is what does it for me when it comes to Savages’ music. Of course, that alone isn’t going to get the job done, and thankfully the vocals and guitar work provide sharp contrast. That’s not to say the drumming is some sort of sloppy, tribal, Meg White-kind of stuff (which I like as well, in that context); Fay Milton snaps off precise snare hits and provides a tight, fast backbone. Anyway, this is what you get when you get four people dedicated to art but aren’t afraid to also make tight, listenable songs in the process. –C

Key track(s): “Shut Up”


srSigur Ros, Kveikur – I love that one of the coolest, heaviest records of the year was created by three dudes from Iceland, including the pixie-like Jonsi. It’s not like the band had to reinvent itself to sound this way; songs from the early albums have been intense, bordering on metallic at times. Even on the relatively chill album ( ), they showed they could deconstruct into harsh madness (“Untitled 8,” anyone?). As one reviewer put it, perhaps Georg (bass) and Orri (drums) were sick of never getting any credit, and just went buck wild on all our asses. It worked. –C

Key track: “Brennisteinn”


umojacketv1Small Black, Limits of Desire – I had big hopes for this album after loving their first full length album New Chain and subsequent Moon Killer MixTape. After the first listen, I was less than impressed. Maybe it was their bizarre album cover. Maybe it was because the chillwave vibes of the first album were mostly gone and what was left was mainly a synth pop record. It took a few additional listens for me to remember, “I f’ing love synth pop records!” -T

Key Track(s) – “No Stranger”


tsTegan and Sara, Heartthrob – This one is a shoo-in for a #2 spot on my overall Best of 2013 list since their previous two records had that title in 2007 and 2009. This time the ladies changed up their style a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to the new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it. -T

Key Track(s) – “How Come You Don’t Want Me”, “Closer”


Thee-Oh-Sees-Floating-Coffin

Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin – Let’s say Tame Impala had a love-child band with one of those garage rock groups you might find on an old Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation. Sounds as dreamy as chocolate and peanut butter coming together, no? Thee Oh Sees pretty much sounds like the spawn of the aforementioned scenario, doing its thing at an incredibly prolific rate, to boot. Floating Coffin seems like their fourth album in three years–probably because it is!–and each output continues to satisfy. Not only is there energy galore in the tunes, you won’t find a much better use of the vocal weapons “Whoooo!” and “Owwwwww!” anywhere. –C

Key track: “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”


torres

Torres, Torres – I know I’m supposed to use these single paragraphs to sing the praises of our favorite albums thus far in 2013, but with Torres, I’m having trouble pinpointing. Perhaps it’s the way her voice melts throughout the opening song, “Mother Earth, Father God.” Or the lyric “Honey, while you were ashing in your coffee, I was thinking about telling you what you’ve done to me” on “Honey.” Or how there is a sinister element to her songs. Or how the chorus just falls out of her mouth so wonderfully on “Jealousy and I.” Or that someone named Mackenzie Scott decided, “You know what? I’m going to go by the moniker ‘Torres’!” (shrug) Oh, look what I just did. I guess it’s all pretty great. –C

Key track: “Jealousy and I”


vw

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City – This might be the year that Vampire Weekend finally drops its bridesmaid status on my end-of-year lists and moves up one slot to the top. (Finished second to Portishead in 2008; Crystal Castles in 2010.) The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. The esoteric lyrics are still here, but the most moving words come on “Step,” where Ezra declares “I feel it in my bones” and “I can’t do it alone.” –C

Key track(s): Pretty much all of them


waxahatchee-cerulean-saltWaxahatchee, Cerulean Salt – Waxahatchee is the solo project of songwriter Katie Crutchfield and is for the most part very simple. One vocal, one guitar and occasionally some drums. The songs ebb and flow from soft acoustic to droning distortion filled guitars and her vocals float effortlessly overtop all of them. I started listening to Cerulean Salt a few weeks after the new My Bloody Valentine record was released. Like anything else that was released post   m b v,  I assumed I would be over it quickly and back listening to the masters of shoegaze. I was wrong. I was stuck on this album almost as long as I was on m b v. It was tough picking a “key track” for this one because this is one of those rare records that I find all the songs to be equally as good. Take a listen to “Peace and Quiet” below and judge for yourself. -T

Key Track(s) – “Peace and Quiet”

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.

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: February 2013

102

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”

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.

MoSS? Presents… Albums to Watch for in 2013

Albums 2013

Seems like every website is putting together a guide for upcoming album releases in 2013. Why should MoSS? be any different? We aren’t going to bore you with an endless list of shitty albums coming out this year. Instead, we are just going to share a few of our most anticipated albums.

Todd’s Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

January is a big month for me because four albums I’ve been not so patiently waiting for are being released.

Free Energy, Lovesign [Free People]. This one’s a real guilty pleasure for me. The songs can be sort of cheesy but they are catchy as hell and these guys don’t try to be anything but straight up rock and roll.

Bleeding Rainbow, Yeah Right [Kanine]. The band formerly known as Reading Rainbow.  I guess if you name your band after a beloved PBS children’s show, you can expect lawyers to come knocking at some point. Anyway, they are back with their 2nd LP. It was supposed to be released in October 2012 but was pushed back. I am hoping the delay wasn’t because the record sucks.

Local Natives, Hummingbird [Frenchkiss/Infectious]. Another group hoping to avoid a sophomore slump. I’ve heard two songs from it and both are pretty good. If the rest of the album is as good, then they should have a record of the year contender on their hands.

Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob [Warner]. I really loved the last two Tegan and Sara albums. The ladies released a single “Closer” from Heartthrob last fall and they revealed a much more dance/pop oriented sound. At first I hated it. Eventually, as my family (and its placement in my Top 10 Songs of 2012) can tell you , I wore that MP3 out.

There are a few albums I’m excited about being released this spring. The album I am most anxious for is…

Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse [Fat Possum]. I missed the boat way back in 2011. Youth Lagoon’s first LP, The Year of Hibernation, came across my desk at MoSS? HQ but I ignored it. Since then, I have listened to that record more often than several of my Top 10 of 2011 selections. Maybe this one will make the 2013 Top 10.

Other releases I’m hoping for…

Phoenix, TBA [Glassnote] 

Neon Indian, TBA [Mexican Summer]

I Break Horses, TBA [Bella Union]

Small Black, TBA [Jagjaguwar]

Release I am always hoping for but will probably never happen…

Pixies, TBA [4AD]

Chris’ Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

I don’t know why I am buying into Kevin Shields’ promises anymore, but supposedly we are getting a new My Bloody Valentine album sometime soon. Of course, Shields said it would be out before calendar year 2012 concluded. And he’s said numerous times before that something would soon follow up the 1991 masterpiece Loveless. Yep, the 1991 album. But there seems to be some concrete talk this time. Bassist Debbie Googe spoke about the album, even though she made it sound as though Kevin is channeling his inner Billy Corgan and handling a lot of the instrumentation himself. And one of these times it has to be the real thing, right? So I’ve got this to look forward to…possibly all year long (and beyond).

Also:

Toro y Moi, Anything in Return (January 22). I really liked Causers of This but was slightly disappointed by the 2011 release Underneath the Pine. I’m hoping for a return to greatness with Anything in Return.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II (February 5). I loved UMO’s first album in 2011; here’s hoping album No. 2 is even better. Led Zeppelin and Crystal Castles set the bar pretty high for albums titled II, though (as did Chicago, for that matter).

Iceage, You’re Nothing (February 19). Another band that released a wonderful, economic debut in 2011. Frankly, if Iceage simply releases another 12-song, 24-minute blast of dark punk, I’ll be satisfied.

Junip, TBA (April 23). Jose Gonzalez never fails to deliver.

The Weeknd, TBA (?????). If you believe his Twitter feed, Abel is dropping a new album in 2013. I’m still a huge fan of House of Balloons and found the other two parts of Trilogy to be interesting at worst and quite excellent at times, so I’m in on more Weeknd.

Also, without comment:

The Joy Formidable, Wolf’s Law (January 22)

Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob (January 29)

Sally Shapiro, Somewhere Else (February 26)

Rhye, Woman (March 5)

Marnie Stern, The Chronicles of Marnia (March 19)