Todd’s Lazy 2015 Year In Review

Chris was correct in his “Year in Review” post. We have been very lazy bloggers as of late. We cruised right along from 2011-2014 with great content and ideas. 2015? Not so much. New work responsibilities, family commitments and a growing addiction to endless AppleTV content caused my lapse in quality posts. I’ll do better in 2016.  Well, I’ll do better in 2016 IF … HBO quits making excellent TV programming. Seriously, have you seen The Leftovers? Best show of 2015. Hands down. Indisputable. Conversation over. There’s no need to bother arguing with me in the comments section. I won’t entertain any opposing viewpoints.

Let’s get back on track. Since you all read Chris’s post you already know about all the great music that came out last year. Well, at least the music that we consider great. I’d just like to add a few of my 2015 highlights.

Favorite Concert Experience of 2015

Best Concert Venue On Earth

Best Concert Venue On Earth

Best Coast with Bully at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

This marked the second year in a row that the wife and I made the pilgrimage to First Avenue for a show.

Todd being his "Best Self"

Todd being his “Best Self”

We caught a top notch Tegan and Sara set there in 2014. I feel like making the trek to First Ave should be a required annual event for us because, as my wife says, “Todd’s his Best Self at First Avenue.”  She’s right. You basically can’t wipe the smile off my face or stop my singing along during a concert at First Avenue. Let’s delve into reasons why I’m “My Best Self” at First Avenue shall we?

 

Reason 1: The shows that we’ve seen at First Ave have been by bands that rank highly in my personal favorite list.

Reason 2: There’s a lot of nostalgia that comes along standing where Prince once stood in the movie Purple Rain, especially for a Prince uber-fan like me.

Reason 3: The crowds at both shows were predominantly female, making viewing the stage an effortless task for a ridiculously average heighted male like me.

Reason 4: Booze.

My girl Beth ruling the stage.

My girl Beth ruling the stage.

So at this particular concert, a tipsy Todd towered over a sea of singing ladies while witnessing a face melting set by Bully (A band whose Bully EP you may remember was #18 in my Best of 2014 list) and a stellar set by Best Coast (A band whose lead singer, Bethany Cosentino, is my rock and roll girlfriend/crush.) It was an experience that will be hard to top. You have a lot to live up to Future 2016 Concerts.

Favorite/Most Embarrassing Fanboy Moment of 2015

I love going to the small venue shows in Iowa City. It can be a strange experience though. At these concerts, you’ll often see people you may consider rock stars walking around like regular citizens or even worse, selling their own merch!

Take Small Black for instance, I listen to all their albums and watch every one of their music videos or live clips on YouTube. To me, these guys are as famous as Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith. You can’t blame a guy for being a little star-struck when he saunters up to the bar for a beer and rubs elbows with the lead singer of the band he’s about to see right?

This is what I would have liked to have happened after I realized I was belly up to the bar with Small Black frontman Josh Kolenik:

  1. I say something not moronic or cringe-worthy so he would know that I recognized him.
  2. Complement him on his new album and previous works especially the Moon Killer Mixtape.
  3. Buy him a cocktail and have an in-depth discussion about what it’s like to be in an indie rock band in this strange era of the music industry.
  4. Ask him what it was like working with Heems from Das Racist. That guy seems crazy.

What did I do? I pulled off the awkward head knod. Shame…Shame…Shame.Shame-Bell-Lady-From-Game-Thrones

Favorite Fanboy Redemption Moment of 2015

My Small Black Poster- Such a Fanboy

My Small Black Poster- Such a Fanboy

After the Small Black show was over, I grabbed one of the show posters that were tacked up around the Mill and got Josh to sign one while they were packing up their gear. That’s right! They pack up their own shit! If I was a more thoughtful fan I would have offered to carry a few keyboards or a drum set out to the truck for them as a show of gratitude.

And Finally, My Favorite Albums of 2015

  1. Kurt Vile, b’lieve I’m goin down
  2. Small Black, Best Blues
  3. Neon Indian, Vega Intl. Night School
  4. Jamie XX, In Colour
  5. Bully, Feels Like
  6. Nic Hessler, Soft Connections
  7. Tame Impala, Currents
  8. CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
  9. Best Coast, California Nights
  10. Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
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My 2015 Yearbook (will you sign it?)

chris and travis after seeing death grips

JUNE: Chris and Travis survived Death Grips. No small feat.

2015 was my quietest year in terms of blogging since Todd and I started Music or Space Shuttle? in late 2011, but it’s not for lack of outstanding experiences around music. The blogging part of my brain just got really lazy.

But after the holidays ran their course, I looked back at the great music that came out in ’15, and the various photos and videos I shot at concerts big and small, and decided I should package it all together. Even if no one else looks at this, it will serve to remind myself just how much fun it is to stay up late for a weeknight show in Iowa City or drive a few hours to St. Louis for a wonderful night at the Pageant or join up with my Riot crew to make Chicago our home for a few days to do a proper festival.

January 20
Bjork, the band formerly known as Viet Cong, and Sleater-Kinney all decide to drop new music on us. The Bjork album is beautiful; the Viet Cong release is brutal (in a great way); the Sleater-Kinney album didn’t suck as I feared it might and landed on my top 10 of 2015 at #7.

February 10
I did not like Fleet Foxes. At all. But I kinda like what this Father John Misty guy is doing on his own. Yeah. His latest LP, I Love You, Honeybear, held much more than the SiriusXMU staple “Bored in the USA.” “Chateau Lobby #4” and “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” and “The Ideal Husband” are personal favorites, but really it’s an album you can enjoy front to back (even the electronic song grew on me). By year’s end, I rated it #3 among 2015 releases.

 

sleater kinney in concert

Once they went on hiatus, Sleater-Kinney was one of those “never saw ’em live” bands. Until 2015. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

February 13
You know those lists you make if you’re a nerd? One of those lists is “Bands I Never Got to See, Goddammit” and mine is painful to read. (The Nirvana entry is the worst.) But here’s the thing: in 2015, I got to cross off a couple of names. The first one: Sleater-Kinney, who played a pretty-close-to-dream setlist at the Slowdown (a pretty cool club in Omaha). Janet pounded her kit, Carrie punctuated her riffs with amazing high leg kicks, and Corin’s voice was in good form. To my surprise they played one of my favorite S-K songs (“Oh!”), and the songs that sounded so good on the new album also sounded great live. And “Dig Me Out” was so great.

March 16
Kendrick Lamar drops To Pimp a Butterfly. I immediately liked “Alright,” and also found plenty to like throughout the lenghty LP. Is it OK that I prefer good kid m.A.A.d city, though? Not trying to take a hipster stance here; I just find myself listening to more songs from the previous album when I want to queue up some Kendrick. (Tobias Jesso Jr. put out Goon a day later. Not as good as TPAB, but good all the same.)

March 19(ish)
Jenny Death, the second part of Death Grips’ double album The Powers That B, leaks online. I’m sure I waited until the album was officially released at month’s end to obtain these songs. Anyway, I put Jenny Death at #10 on my top albums of 2015 list.

March 24
Courtney Barnett will be a 2016 entry in the “From the MoSS? Pit” series; Sam, Travis, and our friend Ian from the Riot Fest crew are joining me at First Avenue in April 2016 to see her do her thing. (I swear I’m going to get better about timely posts about concerts.) We will all be enjoying songs from the album she put out on this day, which ended up at #4 on my top albums of 2015 list.

April 2
Mission Creek show #1: Real Estate. I’d seen them the year before at Pitchfork, and the venue (outdoors, summer) and the time of day (late afternoon, sun lazily going down) were perfect for the band’s aesthetic. But they put on a nice nighttime show in the Englert Theatre, as it turns out. Their sound is so clean, so pure. Nice way to open my trifecta of 2015 Mission Creek shows, and it was the lone show of the festival that brought together me, my MoSS? boys Todd and Sam, and our honorary MoSS? brother Travis.

April 3
Mission Creek show #2: Shovels & Rope. This was year 2 of what might be an annual tradition, if Mission Creek keeps up its booking pattern: me and my bestie Sondra taking in the Friday night Englert show. (She went to Sleigh Bells while 8.5 months pregnant…that’s concert cred I don’t think I could attain even if I had the proper lady parts.) The first year it was The Head and the Heart, which we both looked forward to with crazy anticipation. This time around, though, neither of us were all that familiar with S&R (read: I glanced at their bio, listened to a couple of tracks online, figured Sondra would like them, bought the tickets). I think I can speak for the both of us in saying that S&R cleared the high bar set by Head/Heart. Those two are pure joy on stage (and, as we plunged into their discography, on record, too) and clearly enjoy making music together (and human beings, as it was announced that Cary Ann Hearst was pregnant). It might take a reunited Civil Wars to raise the stakes in 2016…

April 5
Mission Creek show #3: Father John Misty with opener King Tuff. OK, so the opening act set off the fire alarm when the singer’s leather jacket met up with the stage pyrotechnics, and yet King Tuff was easily the SECOND-hottest act to grace the Englert stage that night. Josh Tillman has it goin’ on, folks. He pretty much owned the room with his soulful vocals, slinky moves, and damn great songs. Even the cheesy neon backdrop worked. I was comfortably seated about halfway back, which was probably good because his magnetic charm had quite the effect on fans closer to the stage. My ancedotal evidence: one of my former work colleagues ended up burying her face into his shirt. It’s funny, partly because this is totally a Brittany B move, but also because it conjured up imagery of Veronica wiping Jesus’ face, and is it any surprise that a Father John Misty moment would relate to religion somehow? Anyway, a great way to close 2015 Mission Creek; I think I would rate this show as my favorite MC show so far, ever.

May 29
Jamie xx releases In Colour, which, after much internal debate, emerged as my favorite album of 2015. For most of the final third of the year, I had Beach House’s Depression Cherry in the top spot, but in the end, I found myself more satisfied with the front-to-back listening experience In Colour provides. “Girl” and “Seesaw” are my two clear favorites, but there’s not a song on here that I feel like skipping when I put on the album. (Sure, I wouldn’t include the instrumental interludes if I were curating a mixtape, but within the context of the album, they too are fantastic.) I am aware that Jamie xx has been involved in my album of the year three times in the past seven (2009 and 2012 with the xx), and what can I say? They are absolutely genius, and Jamie perhaps stepped up as the mastermind behind the magic with this solo-branded effort.

 

tame impala in concert

Tame Impala was fuckin groovy live. Another killer show at the Pageant in STL. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

June 1
Tame Impala turns the Pageant in St. Louis into the coolest kaleidoscope ever. We (Travis and I) had nice seats in the center balcony, and we enjoyed some good pizza and beer across the street before the show. Every time I go to the Pageant, I leave wishing such a venue existed in Iowa City (its capacity of 2300 surpasses the Englert’s 725, and the Pageant sound is immaculate in my experiences) and, more importantly, that such a venue could receive proper support in Iowa City. Would 2,000 people show up for Tame Impala in Iowa City, especially if the show weren’t scheduled during the week of Mission Creek?

But this isn’t about the fact that I often have to drive more than 100 miles, sometimes 250, to see the bands I like. It’s about Tame Impala previewing tunes from its forthcoming third album and playing just about every one of my favorite songs from the first two LPs. Travis and I did have to snicker a bit about how seemingly all of Kevin’s lyrics reflect his inability to talk to/score with chicks, which we find highly suspect.

June 23
Kacey Musgraves releases Pageant Material, which lands at #5 on my best of 2015 list, and I nearly flipped a coin between this and Courtney Barnett for #4. The title track lyrics are arguably the most entertaining I heard all year. “Somebody to Love” is a very moving tune that sheds any cowgirl texture and replaces the vibe with a cool drone. And she puts on a hell of a show, which I got to experience later in 2015.

 

June 28
TRIPLE SIX FIVE FORKED TONGUE GET GET GET GET GOT GOT GOT GOT BORN WITH A SKI MASK ON MY FACE I’VE SEEN FOOTAGE I STAY NOIDED HUSTLE BONES COMING OUT MY MOUTH GRAB YOUR FUCKIN CHAIN AND DRAG YOU THROUGH THE PARKING LANE WHILE EVERYONE’S LIKE NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO VISITED TESLA’S GRAVE FOR THE NINTH TIME TODAY SPREAD EAGLE CROSS THE BLAWWWWWWCK UP MY SLEEVES UP MY SLEEVES I BREAK MIRRORS WITH MY FACE IN THE UNITED STATES HALF COCKED FULL TILT RABID DOG FILTH ARRRRGH KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING (FUCK IT) ANKLES TIED TO CINDER BLOCKS AYE AYE I’M BOUNCING IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES GUILLOTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE YUH! YOU’RE FIT TO LEARN ABOUT THE MEANING OF A BEATDOWN MADNESS CHAOS IN THE BRAIN I WANT IT I NEED IT NEED IT TO MAKE ME FEEL HEATED

Yep. Death Grips showed up for a concert and atoned for any previous misses we’d experienced over the past three years. I’m usually too old to get in the mix these days, but yours truly turned back the years (and wore flip-flops like a dumbass…thankfully all my toes survived). Travis also attempted to bring beers into the chaos and I ended up wearing about 89% of my beverage…but it’s all good. Need to do it again soon.

July 16
Wilco puts out a free album that I download and never listen to, not once.

August 28
Beach House releases Depression Cherry, which nearly crossed the finish line in the lead but ended up settling for my #2 album of 2015. All the same, this album and the band’s impeccable back catalog did entice me into an all-nighter trip to STL to see the band live…more on that later.

 

big guitarist

I thought Prop Joe was back from the grave when I attended the Iowa Soul Festival. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

That night, I attend the Iowa Soul Festival in Iowa City to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It’s raining pretty hard. I saw one act with a very large and very talented guitarist, and I heard the Dap-Kings do about five minutes before lightning decided to take over the Iowa skies. No Sharon Jones show for me. Drove home in torrential downpour. Can’t win ’em all.

 

kacey musgraves in concert

Usually I can’t take my real camera to concerts. River Roots Live…not a problem. I love this shot, almost as much as I like Kacey’s music. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

August 29
Family concert night! My better half and our son pile into our friends’ truck and hit River Roots Live over in the Quad Cities. It was $10 to get in (and I think the kids were free?), and Kacey Musgraves was headlining. BBQ stands lined the walkway, and our friends’ two children joined our boy in bouncy house tomfoolery before we all snagged good seats to see Kacey. She was on point, running through the lion’s share of the songs on her two albums. The beer prices actually weren’t bad compared with Riot Fest or Lolla, and the QC has a decent local craft beer selection that was available here. I probably exploited the relatively cheap beer prices to the point of being a bit off-kilter. The evidence of such inebriation existed in a video file (since erased, too bad) where you could clearly hear me “singing” along. Oh god, it was bad. And if you’ve ever seen me participate in karaoke night at the Red Lion in Cedar Rapids, you would know I have no shame.

But I did feel like my photo game was still on point. A photo similar to the one you see above currently sits framed in my basement, awaiting my eventual arrangement of a pop culture-themed room. Seeing as I’m putting out a 2015-in-review piece nearly a month into 2016, you can imagine how soon that room will come together.

 

four dorks at riot fest

My Riot Fest crew. We’re doing it again in 2016. Counting the days. (Photo by Ian Hall)

September 11-13
RIOT FEST. I loved the 2014 version, primarily because I was so excited to see one of the big bands each of the three nights (Slayer, Descendents, The Cure). But this year I found myself looking at three days packed with intriguing artists, rather than playing the waiting game until the headliners finally took the stage. The new location was a vast improvement on the 2014 park. Plus, our crew ended up renting a place that had a rooftop patio, a grill, and a hot tub. Much better than your typical hotel room, especially with six humans sharing the quarters.

DAY ONE: We start with Death, the stars of recent documentary A Band Called Death. These guys still got it, as do the next group we caught, Fishbone. I had seen them twenty-some years before, but I think the intensity level is the same. Angelo Moore was in fine form. Caught Living Colour from a distance, made sure to catch the obligatory “Cult of Personality” before moving along. I split off from the group at some point to catch Anthrax rather than seeing Faith No More. Mistake? If you ask Ian and Travis, yeah, as FNM topped their festival highlights. Instead, I got “Caught in a Mosh”…

IMG_0548While the rest of the crew caught Motorhead (R.I.P. Lemmy), I went over to see Ice Cube, who was reuniting with Ren and Yella to do some classic Straight Outta Compton tunes as part of his set. It was OK, I guess. They cut the songs short to eliminate Eazy’s verses rather than have someone else stand in. I think my favorite part of the set was getting this watercolor-looking photo of a dude’s mohawk standing tall among the smoke wafting through the crowd.

We tried in vain to get a cab. At one point we were outside a prison, so we asked one of the guards entering the facility if she knew if cabs trafficked this area. Her response: “You don’t want to get a cab around here.” Um, Uber? Can you come get us? (And within a minute, our Uber arrived. Nice.) The hot tub felt awesome.

DAY TWO: Was pleased to discover FIDLAR at this fest. They were a lot of fun, especially the part where one of the band members crowd-surfed and then upon returning to the stage was pretty much tackled by security, much to the puzzlement/anger of his bandmates. To be fair he did look like your average Riot Fest whippersnapper.

Travis and I checked out Swervedriver, although it was a tad depressing when we got there, like two minutes before the band was scheduled to go on, and yet we were able to get within a row of the front rail. I did think they were an odd booking compared with the rest of the bill, and it was an early set, but come on. Thankfully the place filled up to a respectable level once they started playing. I was happy with the music, anyway.

the damned

Captain Sensible (left) looking good as one would expect. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

Ran over to the other side of the park to catch Captain Sensible and the Damned. I kinda get Swervedriver being forced to play an early slot, but I really thought the Damned at Riot Fest would land a later, more high-profile spot. But oh well, I found myself a good spot on Sensible’s side of the stage and pogo’d around for an hour. Neat neat neat!

Then it was back to the other side again to meet up with the crew at Thurston Moore Band. It was cool to see Deb Googe play live again (not nearly as magical as the My Bloody Valentine show, but still…) as well as Thurston’s apparent hetero life partner Steve Shelley. Thurston got himself off for 45 minutes to mixed reviews (in other words, Rog hated it, Ian loved it, Trav liked/loved it, I was good with it).

fans young and old at Echo and the Bunnymen

Fans young and old dig Echo and the Bunnymen. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

After getting a bite to eat, we all watched Echo and the Bunnymen, which was fun for the whole family. Then Roger and I camped out on the Rancid side of the park, and got up in the mix when it was time for …And Out Come the Wolves, played in its entirety. It was a lot of fun to shout along with “Olympia, WA” and “Timebomb” and “Alleyways and Avenues” and “Ruby Soho” and “Roots Radical” and all the rest. And wouldn’t you know it, I once again ended up running into the Brothers Warden at a concert/festival. They also enjoyed the glory that is a Rancid pit.

I watched Iggy Pop and his hot dog skin from a distance to close out the night.

DAY THREE: After all the joking we’d done about bees at Riot Fest this year and the year previous, it finally came back to bite me…well, sting me, I guess. I caught a jab in the back during the De La Soul set. Pos, Dove, and Mace had us moving like crazy, which stirred up the bees, and one flew up the back of my shirt and couldn’t get out, so STING. I put on a brave face and didn’t complain about it (much).

Roger and I endured a horrible set by Kongos in order to sprint to the gate when the Kongos crowd dispersed. We had different motives, to a degree: I desperately wanted to be up close and personal for Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Rog was dead-set on front-and-center action for THE D (which I was excited about as well). We got up to the second row of people, and then a guy asked who was here to see Rod y Gab, and when I shouted “ME” he traded me his spot on the rail. And after some Kongos fans got picks and setlists or whatever, they vacated the rail and Rog was in. We were dead-fucking-center, and both Rod y Gab and THE D delivered. So worth sitting through that Kongos crap. We did pass the time high-fiving the crowd surfers who had been pulled over the rail one stage over during the Andrew WK set. I found a new way to amuse myself: every time I extended my hand for the five, I also yelled out, “YOU DID IT!” About half the time the person on the other end of the handslap was like “FUCK YEAH I DID DO IT!”; about 30 percent of the time, the person was all like “Um, thanks, wait, what?”; the other 20 percent were pretty much all “FUCK YOU, DICK.” It was fun.

rodrigo y gabriela

Two thrashers on acoustic guitars easily won over the Riot Fest crowd. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

If you’re not familiar with this duo, but you watched Breaking Bad, then you sorta know their music. Go listen to “Diablo Rojo” or “Vikingman” or their cover of Metallica’s “Orion”…or better yet, just go to YouTube and search for some of their live work. They like to cover thrash metal in their flamenco-inspired way, and they did just that at Riot Fest, with a medley of Metallica and Megadeth tunes. At one point, as Rodrigo took up a stance to give his strings a good workout, I yelled from the front row, “YEAH RODRRRRRRRRIGO!” and he looked down at me, gave me a slight nod, turned back to his fretboard, and went to town. I AM A FUCKING NERD BUT SO WHAT RODRIGO GAVE ME THE NOD!!!!!

tenacious d

KG and Jack in all their glory. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

So yeah, we had prime spots for Tenacious D, right next to a guy who pulled a Chris move (me in the third person, yep) and had been on the rail for eight hours waiting for The D. (I did that for the Cure in 2014.) It was a lot of fun, kicking off with “Tribute” and getting most every song you’d expect to hear, I suppose, although I really could have used a rendition of “Lee” somewhere in the set. And I had another interactive moment a la Rodrigo, this time with Jables. Song gets over, we’re all clapping, Jack looks down at the crowd, locks eyes with me. Now with Rodrigo, it all went smoothly, but I initiated that one. This time, I was put on the spot. And like a deer in headlights, I got run over.

I gave him a dorky smile and a big ol’ thumbs-up.

And he furrowed his brow, shrugged, made a face that you can only interpret as “um, okaaaayyyy,” and our moment ended. #isuck

tenacious d guitar pick

The pick of destiny, right?

But after The D played their final note and left the stage, one of the security staff, with whom we made conversation throughout the afternoon/evening between sets, scooped up a guitar pick KG had attempted to throw the crowd. The fans were losing their shit trying to get it, but he told the adoring masses, “Nope, I gotta hook up my guy right here,” and handed me the pick. He must have recognized me from Lolla 2013 and Riot 2014; I honestly did recognize him. The guy who had waited eight hours on the rail was choking back tears of agony when he saw the pick enter my grasp; it must have KILLED him to see me then give it to Rog, the true D disciple.

Then the Prodigy played to close out the night and we all went back to the pad and the next day we returned to our miserable lives. Although my co-workers couldn’t help but notice the post-Riot Fest mood enhancement, at least for a few days. I could tell they liked my stories a lot; I should be sure to nag them to read Music or Space Shuttle?!

September 25
Chvrches releases Every Open Eye, a solid follow-up to the beloved The Bones of What You Believe. Didn’t instantly grab me the way the debut did, but it was a “grower” that settled in at #8 on my best of 2015 list. I would go on to see them twice in the span of 15 days…with mixed results.

But the bigger news from this day…

ride performing live

Another “I’ll never see this band” band crossed off the list. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

RIDE. Todd and I trekked over to Chicago to see the shoegazers do their thing at the Riviera. To actually hear songs from Nowhere was a dream come true. “Seagull” might be the best live song I’ve ever experienced. So intense. Mixed in some great tracks from Going Blank Again and Chelsea Girl, along with the one really cool song from Tarantula. Blissfully shoegazed, Todd and I retreated to the ‘burbs and found a bar with like a zillion beers from which to choose, along with the 10+% Not Your Father’s Root Beer (aka Headache in a Goblet). Kinda wish I’d stayed in Chicago another night, as Alcest played on the 26th, but alas, it was not to be. But I did have another concert to attend this weekend…

 

beach house in concert

Beach House. The visuals are as dreamy as the music. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

September 27
I shared a FB photo of Beach House that had been posted by the Pageant, one of those deals where “share this and you’ll be entered into a drawing for 2 free tix!!!!1” which, of course, I didn’t win. But Sam saw my share and was like, “Hey, I know the show’s on a Sunday night and it’s all the way down in STL and you have to work at 8 am on Monday morning but if you really want to go I’d probably be down with that.”

Red Bull was purchased. I drove to Sam’s place. Sam drove us to STL. We hit the pizza/beer place across the street. Jessica Pratt provided some decent opener tunes. And then Beach House rewarded our all-nighter trip with that special band of intense chill that I love so much. Kinda cool that they opened with a couple of tunes from their first album, including “Master of None,” which the Weeknd used masterfully on his first mixtape. And of course we got “Sparks” and “Levitation” and “Space Song” from Depression Cherry and “Wild” and “Wishes” from Bloom and it was all pretty much beautiful. Then Sam drove us home, with me catching ZZZZZs from probably about Canton until Iowa City. Then I drove home, got another three hours of sleep, and went to work. (And probably got home from work that evening and went straight to bed.)

October 2
Deafheaven releases New Bermuda. When they released Sunbather, I thought it was pretty cool from a musical standpoint but wasn’t big on the vocals. But then I saw them at Pitchfork in 2014, and was converted. I looked forward to the new album, and was not disappointed. I put it at #9 on my best of 2015 list.

 

October 9
Usually the University of Iowa Homecoming concert elicits yawns. Not this year. Chvrches played a free show on the Pentacrest. Thankfully the Soul Festival weather didn’t ruin this Pentacrest show. Will and I had tickets to see the band two weeks later in Kansas City, but we decided to hit this show as well, seeing as it was free and all. (Glad we did, as you’ll read in the October 23 entry.) The new songs sounded great, and they played a good deal of the first album, saving “The Mother We Share” for the end. Will was fading fast toward the end of the show, but that song perked him up. I hope to see them at an indoor venue not named the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

bully in concert

Bully pretty much owned the Mill. (Photo by Todd Larsen)

October 10
Bully at the Mill. I know it was Homecoming weekend at the UI and there were a lot of stupid things happening in town that night, but there should have been WAAAAAAY more people at the Bully concert. Thankfully me, Todd, and Jess weren’t among the poor saps who missed out on a great rock show. I must admit I don’t listen to the Bully album all that often but man did those songs work in a live setting.

One of the opening bands was called Heat. Not The Heat. Not El Heat, like what the Miami Heat put on their jerseys to celebrate Latino culture. Just…Heat. Like the De Niro/Pacino(/Kilmer?) movie. And that’s all I have to say about that.

October 16
Neon Indian releases VEGA INTL. Night School. Worth the four-year wait? Well, it was really good. “The Glitzy Hive” should have been the biggest song in the world, and tunes such as “Smut!” and “Slumlord” were top-notch. I’ve got this at #6 on the best of 2015 list.

 

chvrches in kansas city

Chvrches in Kansas City’s Uptown Theatre: It looks way better than it sounded. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

October 23
Will and I go see Chvrches for the second time in two weeks. It might seem funny that a band like Chvrches could possibly be too loud, but it was unbearable. And of course I forgot to bring earplugs for Will, so imagine the agony he was enduring if I thought it was too loud. We stuck it out for maybe five or six songs before we left. Even out in the parking lot across the street, we were physically assaulted by the sound. You could feel the vibrations. This theatre was maybe a little bigger than the Englert; no need to have the shit that loud. If nothing else, Will did get a sweet poster from the merch table. I told him to consider it a souvenir from the Iowa City show, and that we’d never speak of the Uptown Theatre ever again. On the plus side, the family enjoyed the rest of the weekend in KC, hitting the Plaza, eating Jack Stack BBQ, and taking in Science City at Union Station.

small black in concert

Small Black returns to Iowa City as headliners. Deserved headliners, I should say. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

November 3
Small Black returns to Iowa City, playing a show at the Mill. Last time they were in town, they opened for Washed Out; this time, they topped the bill. They did quite well as the headliner. The most recent album, Best Blues, is pretty great, right up there with Limits of Desire, in my book. We even had a chance to chat briefly with Josh Kolenik. Cool guy. Hope he experiences bigger and better things in the future.

 

the bright light social hour in concert

The Bright Light Social Hour provided yet another reason to hang out at the Mill during the autumn of 2015. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

November 15
The Bright Light Social Hour met arguably their biggest fan (Ian, from my Riot Fest crew) in Iowa City on this night. I’m sure they made a few more diehard fans with their scorching performance.

 

st louis symphony

St. Louis Symphony prepares to perform works by John Williams. It was really cool.

December 12
Six days before Episode VII: The Force Awakens opened, I had the pleasure of watching/hearing the St. Louis Symphony perform selected works by John Williams. So we got to hear some tunes from Jurassic Park, Home Alone, the Harry Potter films, Catch Me If You Can, The Cowboys, Superman, and, of course, the Star Wars saga. Probably the coolest moment for me, aside from the main Star Wars theme, was a song from Episode I: The Phantom Menace, believe it or not. It was from the Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber duel scene; the symphony was joined by a choir that provided the vocal portion of the score. It was incredible, that song, the whole concert. The conductor was an absolute showman; his between-song banter was outstanding. An interesting way to close out my 2015 live music calendar.

And The Force Awakens lived up to, nay, surpassed my expectations. Can’t wait to see Episode VIII, but that’s something like 18 months away! Guess I’ll have to go see some more concerts in the meantime. Already got tickets for Courtney Barnett, The Cure, and Riot Fest 2016…

To recap, my top 10 albums of 2015:

Jamie xx, In Colour

Beach House, Depression Cherry

Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear

Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think…

Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material

Neon Indian, VEGA INTL. Night School

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

Chvrches, Every Open Eye

Deafheaven, New Bermuda

Death Grips, Jenny Death

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: November 2013

104

Side A : Todd’s‘ Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks

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? 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)

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #90-81

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ 90-81

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

90. Slayer, Reign in Blood

89. The Steve Miller Band, Fly Like an Eagle

88. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out

87. Ramones, Ramones

86. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

85. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

84. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

83. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema

82. Little Big Town, The Reason Why

81. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#90: Slayer, Reign in Blood

reign in blood coverHow did a seventh grader expand his vocabulary to include “postmortem” and “necrophobic” and learn about Josef Mengele to a blistering backbeat? His cousin slapped all 28 minutes of Slayer’s Reign in Blood on one side of a 90-minute Memorex cassette, that’s how.

(I honestly looked up postmortem and necrophobic in my parents’ dictionary. I wanted to know what those song titles meant! I was the nerdiest faux-Satanist ever.)

I was always very impressed by a number of things in the album opener, “Angel of Death”: the banshee scream unleashed by Tom Araya after the first few riffs, the guitar line that ran throughout the song (and would later be sampled by Public Enemy on “She Watch Channel Zero?!”), and the just-fucking-stupid-awesome bass drum assault toward song’s end. (Click on the sampler above the list, and skip to the 4:15 mark and let it play for about 15 seconds. Yowza.)

As someone who grew up listening to Duran Duran and Culture Club, I have to admit I was a little scared of this album…or at least felt like I was really doing something wrong by listening to it. (Look at that cover image! Funny now, scary then!) As I got older, I realized the lyrical content was pretty much a joke, but found the riffs an absolute go-to when I want to get my thrash on. Plus, nothing beats watching my friend Sam air guitar the shit out of Slayer songs. Kerry King would be impressed!

#82 Little Big Town, The Reason Why

the reason why coverVocal harmonies are great. I love hearing the Mamas and the Papas sing songs like “Creeque Alley.” The Beatles sang well together (and double tracked themselves aplenty). Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl had a nice thing going, and Layne’s and Jerry’s intertwined voices were as great a weapon in the Alice in Chains arsenal as Cantrell’s guitar work or Sean Kinney’s drumming.

Even the country genre can’t turn me off from good two-, three-, and four-part harmonies. And Little Big Town does it so well.

I read an interview with the band at the release of The Reason Why, and the members said they weren’t interested in putting out a two-single, 10-filler album. They set the standard high for inclusion, and it shows. The four voices soar together on “Why Oh Why” and the title track. “Shut Up Train” is a torch song of sorts for the smokin’ Karen Fairchild, and “All the Way Down” is essentially a great pop song with slight twang. And I have to admit that “Little White Church” is one of those songs that makes me smile.

I’ve seen these guys twice, and they were top-notch both times, so I’m sure that influences my thoughts on where this album ranks on my list. Also, a country album that sounds good to my ears is much rarer than being wowed by your typical dream pop or indie-rock or shoegaze or “boy-cry” (as my friend Brittany Jade described the Cure during one of our radio shows) album, so that also certainly provides a bump. But as I said at the beginning, great harmonies, great harmonies, great harmonies.

(And to answer your question: yes, I’m serious about this one.)

Todd’s 90-81

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

90. Dinosaur Jr, Green Mind

89. Camper Van Beethoven, Key Lime Pie

88. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine

87. Tricky, Maxinquaye

86. Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet

85. Neon Indian, Era Extraña

84. Jeff Buckley, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk

83. Frank Black, Teenager of the Year

82. George Michael, Faith

81. Dave Matthews Band, Crash

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#85 Neon Indian, Era Extraña

Many of our more dedicated MoSS? readers may remember that this was my #2 favorite album of 2011. My #1 choice was M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. What a year in music when these two great records are at the top. So I imagine all you superfans out there must be wondering, “Where is Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming going to show up on this list?”

Get ready for a spoiler: It’s not on the list!

That’s right, I may have jumped the gun a bit on crowning M83 #1. Honestly, these year end lists should probably be done three years after the fact so the new album honeymoon period has worn off. Don’t get me wrong. Hurry Up is a great freaking record, but I rarely listen to it in its entirety anymore. I still listen to Era Extraña every couple weeks. If I was judging solely on the artists live shows from last year, then M83 would win hands down. Although, I would have liked to have seen Neon Indian in a proper venue like M83 at The Pageant. What a show! So based on that information (and several very complex algorithms only understood by Matt Damon Good Will Hunting-type mathletes) Era Extraña in… Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming out.

Don’t let these recent findings shake your confidence in this particular list. As Chris stated before, the list is definitive and NOT open to interpretation.

#83 Frank Black, Teenager of the Year

Today, I’m not going to bore you readers with any stories about how much I love The Pixies and Frank Black/ Black Francis. Those stories are coming later. Lucky you. The fact is, Teenager of the Year is widely regarded as his strongest post-Pixies solo effort and would have been way higher on my list had it been half as long. There’s 22 songs on it and about half are great. The other half? Well…they’re songs.

I would like to share this small “fun fact” about Mr. Black’s lyrics. He often uses acrostics to hide messages in his songs. If you are unfamiliar with the term, this is the definition: Acrostic – a number of lines of writing, such as a poem, certain letters of which form a word, proverb, etc.

Here is a sampling of lyrics from the song “Speedy Marie”, it’s also my sample song from the record. Check it out.

Juxtaposed in each moment’s sight
Everything that I ever saw
And my one delight
Nothing can strike me in such awe
Mouth intricate shapes the voice that speaks
Always it will soothe
Rarer none are the precious cheeks
Is the size of each sculpted tooth
Each lip and each eye

Wise is the tongue, wet of perfect thought
And softest neck where always do i
Lay my clumsy thoughts
She is that most lovely art
Happy are my mind and my soul and my heart

Each line describes a trait about a woman he clearly likes. The first letter of each line spells out the girl’s name, Jean Marie Walsh. If that didn’t get him laid, I don’t know what could.

Previous installments:

#100-91

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From the MoSS? Pit: Memoryhouse/Tiny Fireflies

an empty glass that once contained Bell's stout aleTodd and I spent the first night of March knocking back “14s” (you know, 7&7s) and the finest beverages offered by Bell’s (the stout and Two-Hearted Ale, to be specific) in the heart of The Mill in downtown Iowa City. While one could go to The Mill simply for the drinks and/or the ambience, we were also there to hear Memoryhouse, a nifty shoegazey/dreampoppy outfit from Toronto.

What we didn’t expect was a killer set by the opener, Tiny Fireflies—described on one blog as a “Chicago pop supergroup.” I don’t know about the “supergroup” classification, but the group was solid, possibly even on par with the headliners.

Tiny Fireflies proved a much more enjoyable experience compared with the last opening act we caught in Iowa City. Of course, that was Kreayshawn, one half of the odd pairing with Neon Indian. We spent a good deal of the Kreayshawn show hanging out on the ped mall or drowning our sorrows at the bar inside the lame venue, the Union Bar. (Or having senior pictures thrust toward us—OK, toward Todd—by under-21 coeds in an attempt to get drinks purchased for them.) So no, the bar wasn’t set very high, but within a few notes of the soundcheck, we knew we were in for something good.

Ethereal, jangly, low-end-driven…well, I could continue to list adjectives, but listen for yourself. The song below is called “Picture Perfect”; it’s the forthcoming single.

You’ll notice at the 30-second mark that two dudes decide to get a closer look at the performance, standing directly in front of the stage, flanking Kristine the singer. As you can see in the video, it was equal parts amusing, annoying, and unsettling?

Anyway, Tiny Fireflies played a handful of tunes; many of them had qualities that brought to mind The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, which is an OK thing to these ears. And they were excited about staying in a hotel with a pool, which was just kinda cute.

Memoryhouse didn’t disappoint when they took the stage. One of the highlights was “The Kids Were Wrong,” the second song on the recently released debut album, The Slideshow Effect. The live drums were augmented by some pounding programmed beats, giving the song some serious backbone. (I moved to get a better angle; please excuse the first 20 seconds or whatever.)

Another highlight came toward the end of the set. The guitar line winds through the Mill, and I think to myself, “How blatant of a My Bloody Valentine ripoff can you get?” until I realized they were covering My Bloody Valentine. I flipped the phone camera on about halfway through the song. (And yes, that is me yelling “Loveless FTW!” at the end of the song.)

All in all, good night out.

Memoryhouse

Tiny Fireflies

Future material for dispatches from the MoSS? Pit:

  • March 30: The War on Drugs/Dirty Beaches/Wet Hair (Gabe’s)
  • April 24: Sleigh Bells (IMU Main Lounge)
  • May 2: M83 (The Pageant, St. Louis)
  • June 11: Destroyer (Blue Moose Tap House)

Crystal Castles’ upcoming album: Eponymous? (Probably.) Awesome? (Probably.)

The other day, the heir to the throne (who turns 6 very soon, gotsta get some Phineas & Ferb swag for the DS, yo!) asked me about my favorite songs of all time. Yep, Junior threw down the impossible question for music nerds. I can handle favorite groups/artists (Cure, Beatles, Nirvana, Portishead, and Duran Duran, for starters). I might be able to rattle off my favorite albums, at least #1-4 with confidence (Disintegration, Loveless, Revolver, and The Velvet Underground & Nico).

But songs? To quote Clay Davis from The Wire, “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.”

Can’t do it, G. “A Day in the Life” is probably #1, if you stick a gun in my face. “Plainsong” by the Cure is my favorite song of theirs, so I’m sure that’s up there. “The Rain Song” by Zeppelin is one of those songs I love. “Time Has Told Me” and “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake. “Three Days” by Jane’s Addiction. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. “Scentless Apprentice” by Nirvana. “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. “Welcome to the Terrordome” by Public Enemy. “Natural’s Not in It” by Gang of Four. And about 3,534 more contenders I might list. And then you want me to prioritize them?

So I went with the redirection strategy. “I dunno. What are your favorite songs?”

Ethan Kath and Alice Glass of Crystal Castles stand in an alleyWithout blinking an eye, Will came up with his top three.

“‘Beep Beep’ is #1.” (Read: “Celestica” by Crystal Castles. He’s referencing the occasional electronic “beep-beep” noise throughout the song.)

“‘Bathtism’ is #2.” (Read: “Baptism” by Crystal Castles. And no, it’s not a speech impediment. He thought it was some sort of washing affliction, I guess.)

“And then #3 would be that Radio Dept. song.” (Read: some song by The Radio Dept. [shrug])

I admire my son’s definitive opinion, and it’s obvious my influence has rubbed off on the boy. Crystal Castles’ 2010 eponymous collection was my favorite album that year; and my son’s “favorite song of all time” is arguably my favorite song from that year. (I would argue that “Bathtism/Baptism” is the third best song on that album, behind the Robert Smith-vocalized “Not in Love.”)

So you can imagine our collective excitement when I read today that the Canadian duo will land in Croatia to record album #3 in short order, with an eye for a summer release. In the wake of such euphoria, I was left to ask myself some questions…

Chris: What should they name this album?

Chris: Duh. The only acceptable title other than Crystal Castles is Self-titled.

Chris: Why do I think Alice Glass is hot?

Chris: The same reason people think Alison Mosshart or Karen O is hot: the music blinds their vision while amplifying their sense of hearing. And all you hear is passionate vocals, either delivered in reserved/heartbreaking tones (“Celestica,” “Suffocation,” “Tell Me What to Swallow”) or piercing screams (“Baptism,” “Alice Practice,” “xxzxcuzx me”) or, um, I dunno (“Crimewave,” “Untrust Us”) and you just find yourself having these primal reactions to the words, to the voice. And Alice is petite, brunette, dresses in black…that kind of works for me.

(As shallow as this sounds, I feel obligated to point out that Romy from the xx still doesn’t do it for me, even with that voice.)

Chris: Why does Music or Space Shuttle? scribe Todd not like Crystal Castles?

Chris: I don’t know! I always assumed this would be right up his alley, what with his love for Neon Indian and M83. No, they’re not the same, but similar enough in certain elements (the first album plays more like Neon Indian; some of the grandeur of the second album seems a bit M83ish). You can ask Todd yourself by sending him an email at toddisdumb@chrisrules.com (please use the Subject Line “Chris is so cool; what’s your deal?” to ensure a prompt response).

Chris: Why do I like them so much?

Chris: Listen to the lush opening chords of “Celestica.” Listen to the aggression in “Baptism.” Listen to the swell of the music as Robert Smith approaches the chorus of “Not in Love.” Listen to the abrupt synth mashup following each verse of “Pap Smear.” Listen to the sampling of Sigur Ros on “Year of Silence.” Listen to the disturbing, quiet cry for help in “Tell Me What to Swallow.” Listen to the confident groove throughout “Vanished” and “Crimewave.” Listen to the quirky Donkey Kong sample in “Air War.” Listen to the soaring synth against the restrained vocals in “Suffocation.” All of these moments are like fucking dopamine for my ears. That last sentence is the most efficient way for me to state my feelings toward this music.

Chris: Any chance this album won’t disappoint, given my love for the first two albums?

Chris: Sure, there are some reasons to be worried. After two albums, I thought Bloc Party was one of the greatest bands of the 21st century (although unlike Crystal Castles, I thought BP’s second album was a lateral move rather than a step forward). Then they put out Intimacy. [shudder] And you’ll never hear me defend the Crystal Castles live sound, at least based on the recordings I’ve heard (never seen ’em live).

But this is a band that recognized that the 8-bit sound that infiltrated much of its debut couldn’t dominate album #2, so they evolved. Ethan Kath seems to have the perfect muse in Alice Glass. The lone bum song on the second album (a cover song, so it was the lone song Kath didn’t write) was later elevated to untouchable status by collaborating with Robert Smith on a new version, which shows they are shrewd and credible. And they’re traveling to Croatia to record this new album, so I’m guessing they’ll be focused. (Not sure what I mean by that…)

And don’t forget: this band wrote and recorded the world’s greatest song ever (according to my son). They’ve probably got another good song or two…or 12…or 16…

I can’t wait to find out. Until then, we’ll always have “Beep Beep.”

Best Music of 2011: #8

RapprocherTodd: Class Actress, Rapprocher

My most anticipated release this year. Tracks began filtering out in June. “Keep You” was my “Song of the Summer” and kept me appeased until the October release.

 

Era ExtranaChris: Neon Indian, Era Extraña

If only the experience of this sophisticated album would have translated during his recent Iowa City show (it was at the Union Bar, and Kreayshawn [!] opened).

Best Music of 2011: #2

Era ExtranaTodd: Neon Indian, Era Extraña

Sounds like it was recorded with a Commodore 64 and filtered through a Nintendo 64. His live show in Iowa City taught me 2 things: 1.You should never underpay for a good sound engineer 2. Under age coeds will try to give you their senior pictures in exchange for beer. Check out the electronic bleep bloops of “Halogen (I Could Be Your Shadow).”

 

Nostalgia, UltraChris: Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra

This guy should be getting the attention that Tyler, the Creator, gets. If he hadn’t done that lame “Hotel California” thing toward the end of this stellar mixtape, this might have surpassed my top pick. (Well, probably not.) Oh well, enjoy “Songs for Women” and feel the Frank Ocean love.