From the MoSS? Pit: Vampire Weekend

So my son is in second grade. In many ways, he’s ahead of the curve: he’s a great reader, he makes friends easily, he has a scary good memory for detail, and he’s handsome like his dad.

boy with vampire weekend posterTo prove he’s human, he waited until just the other day to figure out how to ride a bicycle on his own. It was a lot like his learning to walk a few years ago: didn’t seem interested or able, and then suddenly there he goes.

Had he waited just a little bit longer to get the hang of the non-motorized, two-wheeled mode of transportation, he could have achieved immortal hipsterdom by going to his first concert before learning to ride a bike.

As odd as it seems, he’s been waiting nearly half his life to see these guys. Back in 2010, I was going to a conference in Toronto. I brought one of the work iPads home to take with me for the trip. I decided to get the hang of it by watching YouTube videos. My son, ever fascinated with electronics (like his devastating good looks, he gets that from his dad), wanted to see what I was doing. So I showed him some dumb viral videos. “Epic Sax Guy.” “Russian Newt Gingrich sings ‘Let It Be.'” “Kung Fu Hillbilly (Judy Chop!)” And, of course, “TROLOLOLOLO.”

Realizing the harm I was doing, I decided to show him some music videos. Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk” came to mind.

“Whoa…cool! What else do they sing?”

So I ran through much of the videography: “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (they become werewolves or somethin’!), “Cousins” (they’re all going crazy!), “Giving Up the Gun” (which might have sparked his interest in tennis), and “Holiday” (they wanted a piece of those surfers!).

A fan was created. We watched the videos time and again over the ensuing months. Last year when the band played Pitchfork, the boy and I watched the live stream on the web. When they released the lyric video for “Step” earlier this year, we watched it over and over and over again (that might explain how he can recite much of the first verse, despite challenging lyrics such as “Angkor Wat” and “Dar Es Salaam” and “Communist reader”).

So when I saw VW was coming to Kansas City, I made the executive decision: the boy is ready for his first show.

We had to wait a few months for the show, primarily because it got delayed from May to October (possibly a Saturday Night Live conflict or something). But spending an autumn day in the BBQ capital was a nice reward for the delay.

We ate Jack Stack brisket and ribs and chicken. We hit up the toy store Zoom on the Plaza. We chilled out by a large fountain that was spraying pink water in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We ate the most decadent slice of Cheesecake Factory yumminess, the “Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake.”

I started to worry the concert was going to play second fiddle to Kansas City.

Anyway, we headed north to Midland, found our seats, listened to some hipster douchebag (my son’s words, not mine…kidding) say utterly insipid things while also commenting on my son’s attendance at the concert (“What is this, fuckin’ Kidz Bop?”), listened to opening band the Olms (who provided the boy with his introduction to live music volume), and then settled in for the headliner.

The band recreates their sound well. They came out of the gate with “Cousins,” “White Sky,” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” before running out the big songs from the latest album. People were having fun. The boy sang along to a good number of the songs, bouncing around on his seat and my lap, depending on the song (even with theater seating, he sometimes needed the booster seat of Dad’s lap to see it all). Atop this post was a video of “Unbelievers”; below you’ll see/hear a good portion of “Diane Young”:

So before I started typing this, I had a short bedtime conversation with The Next Generation to get his take on it all. (This is verbatim.)

First things first: did you enjoy your first concert?

Yes! I really liked “Giving Up the Gun.”

What others did you like the best?

I liked “Step,” “Unbelievers,” and “Diane Young” for new ones. Oh yeah! “Kwassa Kwassa.”

Do you know any words to that song?

Is your bed made? Is you sweater on? Do you want to? Like you know I do?

Did you like singing along with the songs?

Yes! It was awesome.

What surprised you most about the concert?

On “Giving Up the Gun,” all the red, flashing lights and stuff.

What about the volume?

It was really loud.

Too loud?

Mmmm, no. (Atta boy.)

What did you think of the opening act, the Olms?

They were OK.

What did you think of the nerds sitting behind us?

Blaaaaaaaaaaah. They just kept talking.

Do you want to go to another concert soon? Who do you want to see?

Yes! The Cure or Crystal Castles or Sleigh Bells.

Blech.

Why “blech” for Sleigh Bells?

Because the new album is @#^@%^@%##

What does that mean?

Never mind. What bands would you like to see that you can’t see these days?

The Beatles!

You said you liked the Midland Theatre. What did you like about it?

The chandelier. And there were pictures on the ceiling.

Do you have a favorite member of Vampire Weekend?

The singer (Ezra Koenig).

I think this interview is over.

Waaah. (rolls around on the bed) “Is your bed made…”

So yeah, this was a lot of fun for both of us. Hopefully it will be some time before the boy thinks Music or Space Shuttle? and the guys who maintain it are totally lame.

Advertisements

MoSS? Presents…The Top Albums of 2012, #5-1

MoSS Albums 2012

Todd’s 5-1

(click play button below to sample these 5 albums)

#5. Frankie Rose, Interstellar

#4. Seapony, Falling

#3. Japandroids, Celebration Rock

#2. Wild Nothing, Nocturne

#1. Eternal Summers, Correct Behavior

Chris’ 5-1

(click play button below to sample these 5 albums)

#5. The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter

#4. A Place to Bury Strangers, Worship

#3. Best Coast, The Only Place

#2. Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror

#1. The xx, Coexist

Previous installments:

Best Songs of 2012

#20-11

#10-6

MoSS? Presents…The Top Albums of 2012, #20-11

MoSS Albums 2012

Todd’s 20-11

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

#20. Heems, Nehru Jackets/ Wild Water Kingdom

#19. Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror

#18. The Men, Open Your Heart

#17. La Sera, Sees The Light

#16. Nude Beach, II

#15. Echo Lake, Wild Peace

#14. Hospitality, Hospitality

#13. Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again

#12. Beach House, Bloom

#11. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

Chris’ 20-11

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

#20. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy

#19. Lone, Galaxy Garden

#18. School of Seven Bells, Ghostory

#17. The Men, Open Your Heart

#16. Colleen Green, Milo Goes to Compton

#15. Japandroids, Celebration Rock

#14. Wild Nothing, Nocturne

#13. El Perro del Mar, Pale Fire

#12. Frankie Rose, Interstellar

#11. Burial, Kindred

Previous installments:

Best Songs of 2012

MoSS? Best of 2012 Mixtape

MoSS Songs 2012

Side A: Todd’s Favorite Songs of 2012

1. Tanlines, “Brothers”

2. Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”

3. Grimes, “Oblivion”

4. Best Coast, “My Life”

5. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, “Baby”

6. Field Mouse, “Glass”

7. Frank Ocean, “Pyramids”

8. Wild Nothing, “Shadow”

9. Memoryhouse, “The Kids Were Wrong”

10. Tegan and Sara, “Closer”

Side B : Chris’ Favorite Songs of 2012

Burial, “Kindred”

Crystal Castles, “Plague”

Earl Sweatshirt, “Chum”

First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”

Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”

Ke$ha, “Don’t Think Twice (It’s All Right)”

Rhye, “The Fall”

Sleigh Bells, “Comeback Kid”

Tennis, “Origins”

The xx, “Swept Away”

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #50-41

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’ #50-41

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

50. Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction

49. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon

48. Sigur Ros, Takk…

47. The Radio Dept., Clinging to a Scheme

46. Sleigh Bells, Treats

45. Led Zeppelin, II

44. The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good

43. Beck, Odelay!

42. Arcade Fire, Funeral

41. Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#45: Led Zeppelin, II

cover for Led Zeppelin IIWhen I was in eighth grade, I ended up buying one of those “special issues” of Rolling Stone; this particular one listed something like the 100 greatest albums of all time (sound familiar?). I was thumbing through it while riding in my dad’s truck; he kept glancing over and saying, “I have that one. I have that one. I have that one too.”

So as soon as we got home, I went downstairs and started looking through my dad’s vinyl collection. Indeed, my dad had some cool stuff: Beatles, Hendrix, Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, Wings Over America, and one album by Led Zeppelin. Where to start?

I’d heard plenty of Beatles at this point, so I set them aside for the time being. I finally picked a criterion for what I would listen to: which band adorned the most T-shirts in my junior high school? Zeppelin was the clear winner: the studs, the stoners, and the geeks all represented Led Zep across their chests.

So when I went to bed that night, I put the LP on the turntable (yes, I had a record player in my room in 1987), plugged in my over-the-ear headphones, and lay down to take it all in.

Whoa, dude.

The stuttering riff of “Whole Lotta Love” filled my ears. Plant shrieked something about how I need coolin’ (he wasn’t foolin’). The song thundered forward, and then hit the part where the music spiraled around my head (the headphones made the music exponentially cooler) and Plant let loose with his howls. As soon as the song ended (or, more accurately, faded out), I jumped out of bed, moved the needle back to the beginning, and found myself air guitaring and lip-syncing the shit out of my new favorite song. I also hoped I would find time at school the next day to chat up any of the 73 guys who would undoubtedly have on their Swan Song or “Lantern Man” or Hindenburg shirts, to let them know that “I get it, man!”

The album is more than “Whole Lotta Love,” of course. “What Is and What Should Never Be” finds a nice groove; “The Lemon Song” gets all sorts of bluesy; “Ramble On” has that acoustic guitar/quirky percussion/whimsical Plant vocal that eventually roars into the chorus before settling back down into chill and so on (the quiet-LOUD-quiet dynamic we like in so many bands from the ’80s and ’90s). And don’t forget the drum solo song (“Moby Dick”) or the “guitar hero” song (“Heartbreaker”).

It’s the only Zeppelin album in my dad’s LP collection; my turntable needle deepened the groove in my dad’s record after repeated plays. I guess if you’re only going to own one Led Zep album, you can’t go wrong with II.

#41: Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

cover image for The Grey AlbumFirst off: you’ll be seeing “The White Album” on this list in due time.

Second: Jay-Z’s The Black Album is really pretty terrible. Not the raps, necessarily, but the backing beats and music are cheesy as shit. So melodramatic, so shiny, so…I don’t know…I’m going to go back to terrible. Which is too bad, because there’s some quotable lines throughout this album.

That’s why Danger Mouse has done Hova a big favor by blending White and Black and making Grey. (I think Jay-Z knew his words needed some inspired music behind them, as he released an a cappella version of the album in hopes that artists would remix it.) Danger Mouse, who at this point wasn’t producing Gorillaz or Beck or doing his Gnarls Barkley thing, spent weeks (months?) stitching together samples from the Beatles’ eponymous double album (including meticulous sampling of Ringo Starr’s drums, which he sequenced into something much heavier/hipper than Mr. Starkey ever banged out) to go along with Jay-Z’s vocals.

And it worked. Boy, does it work.

Keep in mind: mashups were, for the most part, little more than humorous juxtapositions at this point. Even the good ones were curious pairings: Nirvana and Destiny’s Child (“Smells Like Bootylicious”) or the Strokes and Christina Aguilera (“A Stroke of Genie-us”). This was also before Girl Talk dropped Night Ripper and Feed the Animals and took the mashup to the extreme. But Danger Mouse’s work, despite using two well-known quantities, felt natural. Yeah, I’d heard “99 Problems” before, and of course I’d heard the guitar and backing vocals from “Helter Skelter” a zillion times, but hearing these familiar elements together didn’t feel ridiculous. In fact, it sort of made the statement that the Beatles were kinda badass and would fit well underneath the self-appointed best rapper alive.

The frenzied samples from “Glass Onion” and “Savoy Truffle” are an infinitely better accompaniment to “Encore” than the shit Jay-Z used on his album (or anything Linkin Park had to do with that song, for that matter). And instead of some stupid Russell Crowe sample on “What More Can I Say,” Danger Mouse throws mad breakbeat and a slowed down version of the guitar from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” underneath Jay’s lament.

And then there’s “December 4th,” an oral history of Jay’s life complemented with a few thoughts from Jay’s mom. On The Black Album, this song is shackled with some of the worst backing tracks I’ve ever heard. Like something straight out of a 1977 discotheque (and not in a good way like some of the stuff used in Boogie Nights) or AM radio. Danger Mouse could have improved this song in his sleep, but he went beyond and delivered goods on the other end of the spectrum. Spotting the emotional potential of the lyrics, he pairs the verses with the  touching guitar flourishes from “Mother Nature’s Son,” and concocts a drum beat to propel the song without overwhelming. Whenever I would play the Danger Mouse version in the car, Tracy would comment, “This song is so sad.” Imagine saying that about Jay’s original version, outside of saying “What a sad excuse for a song this is!”

The Grey Album elevates Jay-Z’s verses to new heights, and it does nothing to harm the integrity of the original Beatles material. Even Jay-Z and Paul McCartney think it’s pretty cool. They’re right.

Todd’s #50-41

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

50. Interpol, Turn On the Bright Lights

49. The Sundays, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

48. Paul Simon, Graceland

47. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik

46. Cypress Hill, Cypress Hill

45. Catherine, Hot Saki and Bedtime Stories

44. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

43. Beck, Midnight Vultures

42. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

41. Massive Attack, Mezzanine

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#44. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

 Admittedly, I was late to the party with Modest Mouse. Hipsters that loved Modest Mouse from the beginning would tell you that Good News was the start of their musical downfall, but that’s just the standard hipster backlash towards a band that shows a bit of success. This is how a typical conversation would go with a true hipster.

Me: Hey, there Mr. Hipster. Nice skinny jeans. What are your thoughts on the group [insert indie band name here]?

Mr. Hipster: (disinterested, barely audible voice) Uhhh…just a sec…(finishing text to hipster friend)…I really liked their early stuff. I don’t like anything they did on [insert major record label name here].

Me: Thanks. Love the fedora. Douche.

That being said, I guess I started liking Modest Mouse after their musical downfall. I didn’t really listen to them until the summer of ’04 when Good News came out. “Float On” was my song of the summer that year. My wife and I were expecting our first child and also preparing to move to a new city for work.

A piece of advice for all you future fathers out there: Don’t knock up your old lady and then take a new job that requires you to move while she is 7-9 months pregnant. I’ve done that twice. Take it from me, it does not make your already stressed wife happy.

On Labor Day weekend that year, we were to close on our house in the new town.  Now my wife was due any second at this point, a sane person would not have driven her 2 hours away from her doctor. Unfortunately, we were on a time table which required her to travel.

We closed on the new house on Saturday and decided to stay there for a couple of days. The plan was to go back to our other house after the weekend, she would have the baby and then we would permanently move a few weeks later. Man we were good. We had it all figured out. My daughter must have been listening from the womb laughing.

I was sound asleep that night when my wife woke me up complaining of stabbing pains in the “baby maker.” (My words not hers) It was go time! The countdown to baby had begun. I grabbed our bags and we hightailed it out of there. After I made her swear she would not give birth in my new truck, I drove like crazy back home.

The trip went by fast as my mind raced and fears of being a father swirled around in my head. Good News played over the car stereo the whole time and helped to soothe my nerves a bit. It took me an hour and a half to get us back home. Almost exactly the same amount of time it takes to listen to Good News in its entirety twice. My unborn daughter was really having fun with us because after that panicked drive home, she decided to wait two days to make her entrance into the world. Perhaps she was just preparing us for the many sleepless nights to come.

#42. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

I truly didn’t expect to be writing about Simon and Garfunkel in this set of 10 albums. After my plea for a reunion of The Sundays back at #70, I figured I would be regaling you all with stories of adoration for my #49 selection, The Sundays Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. I was also hoping to announce that the first release from our new label, Music or Space Shuttle? Productions, would be the long awaited fourth album by The Sundays. Sadly, there has been no response on their end.

So, I’m writing instead about another rock duo that is no longer making music together. I will not be making any pleas for this pair to reunite. Not with their shaky past. Hell, Paul Simon is over 70 years old now. If he doesn’t want to hang with “The Funkel” anymore, fine. I won’t push it. I first came across Bridge Over Troubled Water around the age of 12 while going through my parent’s record collection. Back then, I really only liked a few songs like “The Boxer”, “Bye Bye Love” and “Cecilia.”

Side note on “Cecilia”: It seems as though “Cecilia” has turned into a drunken party anthem over the years. Walking home from the bar in college I would heard entire fraternity and sorority houses singing along while the house shook from that distinctive drum beat.

Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart
You’re shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Cecilia, I’m down on my knees
I’m begging you please to come home

Many was the time I queued up that little romp as a party was getting into full swing at my apartment. People love it. Next to Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl”, there wasn’t a better song to get people in the mood for a drunken sing-along.

It wasn’t until years later during a road trip with my mother that I took notice of the rest of the album. She had just bought Bridge Over Troubled Water on cassette tape. I guess I know where I got my love of music because like her, I have purchased certain albums on every available format from vinyl to tape to CD to MP3. The song, “The Only Living Boy in New York”, in particular was one that stood out for me. I probably rewound that song 10 times during the car trip. My mother must a have taken note, because I came home from school a few days later and found a copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water sitting on my bed. Pretty cool surprise for a music geek.

I’m sure she just got a kick out of me getting into her music. As a parent myself now, I can’t wait until my kids start to show an interest in music from my generation. I’m going to make sure and do the same thing as my Mom. Hell, I’ll put the entire discography of The Cure on their beds at the slightest hint of interest. I’m going to be the annoying music pusher Dad. Can’t push too hard though. It may have the opposite effect and they’ll wind up listening to…shudder…country music.


Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

From the MoSS? Pit: Sleigh Bells

sleigh bells posterIn our first “From the MoSS? Pit” dispatch, we teased that we would be attending the War on Drugs/Dirty Beaches show at Mission Creek. Yet no post materialized on Music or Space Shuttle? Trust me, it was for your own good. Dirty Beaches was a total letdown (rambled through two songs from the album, then droned on for 30 minutes). War on Drugs singer spent half the night yelling “Whoo!” That gave the crowd something to do, mimicking each one for the majority of the set. The sound sucked—but it was Gabe’s, so what else is new?!

But Sleigh Bells…well, yeah. Absolute fucking dominance.

Sixteen songs from their two albums. Relatively good sound at another venue notorious for bad sound (IMU Main Lounge). Energy aplenty. Sweet light show. And a great crowd (although smaller than I ever would have imagined—come on, Iowa City!).

I was far from convinced that the show would be a winner, as I endured two travesties earlier in the evening: Donnelly’s Pub was out of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, and Elite Gymnastics tried to scare everyone out of the IMU with its opening act. As scary as the absence of ale might sound, trust me, the Elite Gymnastics fiasco was much worse.

Constant shrieking guitar; off-kilter live drumming performed by someone wearing a “Fuck Real Life” shirt; a lame karaoke-style video display, which didn’t seem to help the vocalist, as he stopped “singing” (read: mumbling) at one point and then pointed at the video projection and said “these are the lyrics I should be singing, so, um…Iowa City!” It was bad, bad, bad. Which surprised me, as the recorded material on Ruin is pretty good. Alexis mentioned during the SB set that this was Elite Gymnastics first tour—a surprise to absolutely no one in attendance.

I did not take video of EG. I wouldn’t do that to my phone.

But I did grab some footage from the SB set. First up, the pre-concert intro music and set opener “Demons” (the lights come up around the 1:40 mark):

And I was able to get Alexis talking about this being their first trip to Iowa, before they lit into “Born to Lose”:

We got seven songs from Reign of Terror and a whopping nine from Treats (but not “Run the Heart,” sadly). They skipped my least favorite song on each album, and played a song that I love but didn’t think was a guaranteed inclusion in the set list (“Leader of the Pack” from Reign). Alexis sounded good, even while crowd-surfing, and they all seemed to be having a good time.

Just like the people in the crowd. (Including the pregnant lady who hung with the MoSS crew for the evening!)

Click here to see our friend Bill Adams’ photos from the show.

Next week: M83

Still More Road Trip Revelations

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

Even My Beloved Sirius XMU is Guilty of Massive Repetition

One of the reasons I bought satellite radio, besides the variety, was because I was sick of the repetitive crap on regular radio. I’ve noticed that over the last few road trips my favorite station, Sirius XMU, is terribly repetitive at times. There must be a quota on certain songs because they get played a lot. Ever since Wild Belle took SXSW by storm, their track “Keep You” has been played almost hourly. It’s a great song but come on, let’s not ruin it.

Another song on ridiculous rotation is Tanlines “All of Me”. Over a 10 hour period, I ran a test to see how long it took to them to play “All of Me” after I tuned into the station. Here are the results in the S.H.I.T. scale “Songs Heard In-lieu of Tanlines”.

At no time did they NOT play “All of Me” before I turned the station. So I make a plea to the Sirius XMU DJ’s, “Please, take it easy on the repetition. You’re killing songs for me before they’ve had a chance to live their natural life span…….Fuckers”.

Nothing Oozes Class Like a Set of Fake Testicles on the Back of Your Truck

We’ve all had this experience. You know you’re super cool. Your friends know you’re extra classy. How can you let strangers know this same information while driving your truck around town? Why, trailer hitch testicles, that’s how!

It seems like I’ve seen a million pairs of these truck nut sacks hanging low lately. Here is one I saw on my trip today.

Is this meant to be cool? Is this meant to be funny? Does this guy know he just upped the Hillbilly Coefficient on his truck by an exponential rate? Was the Calvin & Hobbs sticker with Calvin peeing on a Ford logo too highbrow? It just seems spectacularly dumb to me. Maybe I am missing something…nope it’s dumb.

2012 Has Been the “Year of the Women” in Indie Rock

Last year, almost all of my favorite albums were made by male artists. Class Actress’ Rapprocher was the only album by a female artist to make my Top 10 and Cults barely squeaked into the Top 20. This year is totally different. The women are stepping up their game. Frankie Rose, Tennis, Grimes, Mr. Little Jeans (odd name for a solo female), Sleigh Bells, Memoryhouse, Blouse, Field Mouse, 2:54 and Wild Belle have completely taken over my playlists. Granted, some of these are male/female duos, but the dudes are hiding in the background while the chicks are up front kicking ass.

There have been a few dude rockers that have fought there way into my iPod. Bear in Heaven, Tanlines and the aptly named The Men have had short stints in my ever-changing “Love That New Song Smell” playlist. Very few have stuck as long as the women. Congrats ladies. Keep it coming. Hey guys! Wake up! You’re looking bad in 2012.

Van Halen’s “Eruption” is Still Bad-Ass

I flipped to the classic rock channel today and was greeted with the opening guitar lick of Van Halen’s “Eruption”. I turned my car stereo up as loud and these 37 year old ears could take and air guitared along with Eddie just like the old days. It was exhausting, but Eddie and I can still pull off one of the best guitar solos in rock history. Revisit all the Van Haleny goodness below.

All in all it was a pretty good day.  Plenty of tunes. Plenty of low hanging trailer hitch testes. If you see me cruising down the interstate sometime, go ahead and wave. I might just stop my Eddie Van Halen air guitar and wave back.

Best. February. Ever.

Frankie RoseThe shortest month of the year is often one of the quietest in terms of musical awesomeness. There’s usually little love for the ear canals within two weeks on either side of Valentine’s Day.

2012, though…I don’t know if it’s the Mayans’ prognostication or just some happy accidents, but music blew up in February.

Van Halen returns with Diamond Dave. This is how things should be. (Not that the album is anything to write home about, but DLR belongs in Van Halen.)

Burial puts out a half-hour EP of beats that retain classic Burial traits AND manage to sound as fresh as ever.

Frankie Rose (seen at right in that sexy shot) puts out Interstellar, an album that would have dominated its release date if not for…

Reign of TerrorSLEIGH BELLS! REIGN OF TERROR! THE ALBUM CONTAINING “COMEBACK KID” AND “BORN TO LOSE” AND “CRUSH” AND “DEMONS” AND “D.O.A.” AND EVERY OTHER INCREDIBLE TUNE WITHIN THIS COLLECTION OF DOMINANCE (except “Road to Hell,” which is the closest thing to a clunker they’ve ever made).

Sleigh Bells also hit SNL on Feb. 18 and, most importantly to yours truly, announced on Feb. 28 that they’ll play a show in Iowa City this spring. #FUCKYEAH

The Sleigh Bells/Iowa City news hit the same day School of Seven Bells completed its trifecta of incredible albums by releasing Ghostory, while Memoryhouse put out a full-length album just two days before a scheduled show at The Mill (a.k.a. a night out for the Music or Space Shuttle? lads).

If this month is indeed a 10 (or, in Spinal Tap terms, 11), how do previous Februarys stack up in terms of music?

Naturally, I’ve made a chart.

a line chart that maps out how awesome the past 31 Februarys have been in music

How did this line take its shape? The primary data is listed below.

1982

  • Ozzy Osbourne is arrested after urinating on The Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas

1983

  • “Menudomania” comes to New York as 3,500 screaming girls crowd Kennedy Airport to catch a glimpse of Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, who are playing six sold-out shows at the Felt Forum
  • Michael Jackson’s Thriller album hits #1 on the US charts, the first of 37 (non-consecutive) weeks it would spend there on its way to becoming the greatest-selling album of all time
  • Sonic Youth releases Confusion Is Sex; U2 wages War (but Styx did release Kilroy Was Here and Kenny G deployed G Force)

1984

  • Elton John marries studio engineer Renate Blauel (lulz)
  • Recovering from the scalp burns sustained a month earlier, Michael Jackson wins eight Grammy Awards out of twelve nominations, breaking the record for the most Grammys won in a single year
  • The Smiths release The Smiths; I receive my first cassette (the Footloose soundtrack) for winning the St. Pat’s Grade School spelling bee

1985

  • Well, we got the following albums: The Smiths, Meat Is Murder; Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair; Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston (I just poured some out)

1986

  • Absolutely nothing of worth happened, although March 1986 saw Master of Puppets, Black Celebration, 5150, Please, and the single “Live to Tell”

1987

  • The first five Beatles albums are released on CD
  • Again, no good new albums, although March shone once more with The Joshua Tree, Among the Living, and Sign o’ the Times

1988

  • Jacko buys Neverland
  • Leonard Cohen releases I’m Your Man

1989

  • Um…well…David Coverdale weds Tawny Kitaen

1990

  • Billy Idol badly hurt in motorcycle accident, sees role in The Doors minimized
  • Shake Your Money Maker (sweet); Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (ayyyiiiii)

1991

  • James Brown released from jail after high-speed, two-state car chase
  • Dinosaur Jr. releases Green Mind

Courtney, Dave, and Kurt1992

  • Vince Neil becomes a race car driver
  • Kurt Cobain marries what’sherface
  • Tori Amos releases Little Earthquakes; Pantera unleashes Vulgar Display of Power; “Bohemian Rhapsody” gets new life via Wayne’s World soundtrack

1993

  • Oprah interviews Jacko, we learn about his whitening disorder
  • 2Pac dares white people to buy his second album (Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.)
  • Radiohead puts out the album they’d probably rather forget
  • 311 releases Music
  • Duran Duran comes back with the VH1 crowd via “The Wedding Album”
  • Joey Lawrence puts out an album (whoa!)

1994

  • Shannon Hoon gets thrown out of the American Music Awards
  • Green Day drops Dookie; Pavement puts out Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

1995

  • Tommy Lee marries Pamela Anderson
  • Jewel launches her pre-poetry career by releasing an album

1996 (possibly the most eclectic data in this collection)

  • Former Milli Vanilli band member Rob Pilatus is hospitalized when a man hits him over the head with a baseball bat in Hollywood, while Pilatus is attempting to steal the man’s car
  • Take That split up!
  • Prince marries Mayte Garcia
  • Snoop beats a murder rap
  • 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me receives a middling review from some nerd in the Iowa State Daily

1997

  • Phish Food is born; Jacko’s first son is born;  the Spice Girls’ chart-topping career is born
  • Blur releases the album with the “Whoo-hoo!” song
  • Anal Cunt releases I Like It When You Die (sounds charming)

1998

  • Elton John knighted
  • Neutral Milk Hotel puts out that seriously overrated In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (it’s good, but c’mon…)

1999

  • Gov. Jesse Ventura declares “Rolling Stones Day” in Minnesota
  • Eminem drops Slim Shady LP; Roots go with Things Fall Apart

2000

  • Santana wins 8 Grammys
  • The Cure releases their last good album to date (Bloodflowers)
  • Smashing Pumpkins release that MACHINA piece of crap

2001

  • Manic Street Preachers play Cuba
  • Jack Johnson releases Brushfire Fairytales
  • Los Embarasados allegedly release Tem Graca por Nome on Feb. 30 (according to Wikipedia)

2002

  • U2 performs at the Super Bowl
  • Britney Spears puts out the Crossroads soundtrack; Norah Jones releases the inexplicably popular Come Away with Me

2003

  • Lana Clarkson found dead at Phil Spector’s pad; he’s eventually found guilty of second-degree murder. His wall of sound will have bars on the windows for 19 years
  • A fire at a Great White show kills 100, including one of the guitarists
  • 50 Cent talks about gettin’ rich or dyin’ tryin’

Janet's wardrobe malfunction2004

  • The wardrobe malfunction seen by millions
  • Billy Corgan blogs his feelings about D’Arcy (“mean-spirited drug addict”) and James Iha (Pumpkins’ breakup was his fault)
  • Kanye is a college dropout, according to his debut album’s title

2005

  • Blink-182 goes on hiatus; Korn guitarist quits after finding God
  • Bloc Party releases the excellent Silent Alarm

2006

  • One for the history books: White Lion bassist James Lorenzo joins Megadeth
  • Belle and Sebastian release another lame album (The Life Pursuit)

2007

  • Chris Cornell tells Audioslave he needs to be emancipated because of musical differences
  • Bloc Party spends A Weekend in the City; Explosions in the Sky release All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

2008

  • Beach House releases Devotion

2009

  • Bone Thugs n Harmony crashes MySpace by posting a new song
  • Pains of Being Pure at Heart release stellar debut; the brothers from the National curate Dark Was the Night; the Black Keys singer had enough time to put out a solo album

2010

  • “We Are the World” is remade for Haiti benefit
  • Joanna Newsom spends three discs enjoying the hell out of people (Have One on Me)

2011

  • Yuck drops Yuck; lots of disappointments (Bright Eyes, Radiohead, PJ Harvey)

As you can see, February 2012 is clearly the best February ever. It’s science. AND SLEIGH BELLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nada Surf: Hey Everyone! We Put Out A Record Too!

With all the buzz of new releases by indie rock heavy weights like Sleigh Bells, Lana Del Rey and Frankie Rose, one release was a bit overlooked. Nada Surf quietly put out a new album in late January called The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy.  If you paid attention to alternative music in the mid 90’s then you are probably familiar with their most famous song “Popular”. Refresh your memory below.

After “Popular” the band struggled for a few years and were on the verge of becoming another one hit wonder. They had a resurgence in the early 2000’s after the release of Let Go and built themselves a loyal fan base myself included. Since then they have released several very solid albums. In fact, one of my favorite records of the last 10 years is Nada Surf’s The Weight is a Gift. The song “The Blankest Year” from that record was my anthem of ’05. Give it a listen. It’s only 2 minutes long. You can squeeze it in.

Yesterday I realized the new album was out(I can’t believe it’s been out 4 weeks already. I’m slipping) and quickly downloaded it. The first listen was pretty much what I expected. They have had one of the most consistent sounds over the years. After subsequent listens I found myself really enjoying it.  It’s not going to knock Sleigh Bells or Frankie Rose from my “Top 10 Albums of 2012 So Far” list, but it is pretty damn good. The band made a conscious effort to have more guitars and drums for a louder in-your-face feel. I think it works.  Their last record Lucky suffered from too many slower songs in my opinion. I was disappointed to see that Pitchfork gave them a pretty bad review. They basically called the new record “Dad Rock”. Here’s the quote I disliked the most.

“At a moment when indie rock could probably use a little kick in the ass, Nada Surf seem to have the right instincts, just maybe not the spleen to pull them off. Harder and faster isn’t necessarily a young man’s game, but it isn’t really Nada Surf’s either.”

I think that maybe they are catching shit for being too consistent. So if you are bored during this cold February weekend, give Nada Surf’s The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy a spin. Let me know if Pitchfork is right and I am turning into a Dad Rocker. Or if your are too busy to listen to the whole thing, you can check out their new single “Waiting for Something” below.


I’ve Finally Found the Love of a Lifetime…Until the Next Time

Seems like love is in the air around Music or Space Shuttle? these days.  Quite a few of our posts lately have been about love, crushes and the art of “hunkering down”.  Perhaps it is just anticipation leading up to the most important of all holidays, Valentine’s Day. Or maybe we are just a couple of pervs.  Regardless, I couldn’t help but be inspired by Chris’ recent declaration of love for one Alexis Kraus, the super hot and bad ass singer of Sleigh Bells. Congrats Chris and Alexis. I wish you two the very best. May your love affair last months. I was so inspired in fact that I am now ready to make an announcement of my own. While Chris was falling head over heels for Alexis in the “Comeback Kid” video, I was slowly becoming enchanted with impossibly cute brunette singer Rachel Browne from Field Mouse.(Yes I am already married. It’s ok, my wife has similar feelings for all 4 members of Kings of Leon)

A few weeks back Field Mouse released a video for their song “Glass”. The song itself is an epically dreamy shoegazing classic…well, it’s good. I’m just talking it up a bit for my girl Rachel.  The video is where she won me over though. It has a very simple concept.

Slo-mo camera on her very attractive face… Cue the wind machine…and cue the streamers…bubbles! we need more bubbles!…

Nothing too amazing there right? Well skip to the 3 minute mark. Her long stare into the camera breaks into an irresistible smile / laugh. Careful guys. If you can’t handle the temptation stop watching at 2:59. Checkout the video below.