Tuesday, November 2, 2010

mypod: A-Am

[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]

A Camp

My roommate Eric and I have been pretty big Cardigans fans for reasons I’ve never fully grasped. We both come from punk backgrounds yet love their alternately twee, disco, and electronic sounds. Considering that The Cardigans are considered one hit wonders to the rest of the world, listening to their discography has been a rewarding experience a hundred times over. Just as good is A Camp, a side project Cardigans frontwoman Nina Parsson has used during her main band’s hiatuses. The first album is an excellent bridge between Gran Turismo and Long Gone Before Daylight, blending folk and pseudo-gothic electronics into a pleasing blend. Improbably, Eric and I found two used copies of the album at FYE after months of searching. Belated follow-up Colonia wasn’t nearly as good or adventurous.

Verdict: Keep the first album.

Ryan Adams

It’s kind of a cliché for critics to call Ryan Adams derivative, but that notion struck me pretty hard today while listening to Gold. That album has a heavy singer/songwriter viba a la Jackson Browne, and while the somewhat pandering “New York, New York” is still awfully catchy, the rest of the record gets repetitive fast. It suffers from a glut of slow, piano-based numbers with lyrics about fuck-all. I just don’t have time for that anymore.

Verdict: Upload “New York, New York” and a handful of other songs. Sell the hard copies.

Adrenalin O.D.

Every so often, I pump about $30-$50 into Chunksaah Records’ mail order. I’ll pick up some more Bouncing Souls vinyl, maybe a seven-inch or two, and I always try to take a chance on something else. One such venture introduced me to Adrenalin O.D., a prankster ’80s hardcore band that cranked cartoonish punk songs at a breakneck pace. Chunksaah re-released The Wacky Hi-Jinks of Adrenalin O.D. with a bonus disc of rarities that’s about three times as long as the actual album. If you dig Descendents and NOFX, Adrenalin O.D. should fit right in. The only problem is I kind of prefer those other bands. Ultimately, I’ve decided I could live without Wacky Hi-Jinks, and so the album is falling by the wayside. I am so not punk rock anymore.

Verdict: …sell.


AFI’s discography is almost maddeningly diverse, and I can say I actively enjoy about half of it. Answer That and Stay Fashionable is a hilarious blast of skate punk that references Reservoir Dogs and Calvin and Hobbes. Black Sails in the Sunset is one of the best (gothic) hardcore albums of the ’90s. Sing the Sorrow goes after quasi-goth/emo/mall punk crowd, but its hooks ensure that I only feel kind of silly singing lines like “I held a falling star and it wept for me / dying.” Decemberunderground ups the ante with more everything – more hardcore on “Caustic Kill” but more electronic touches on “Love Like Winter.” These albums are all amazing. But the records charting AFI’s growth from skate punk to hardcore (Very Proud of Ya, Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes) are too awkward for my taste. The Art of Drowning was always my least favorite AFI album – not as heavy as Black Sails but not as catchy as Sorrow. – and last year’s Crash Love’s stabs at straight radio rock failed to leave much of an impression. That doesn’t mean I think AFI sucks now, though. I’m sure the next album will be another left turn. Maybe it’ll pay off and maybe it won’t. Either way, I listened to A Fire Inside EP like four times in a row today and it was awesome. They cover The Cure’s “The Hanging Garden” on it, and it’s actually better than the original. Yeah, I said it.

Verdict: Keep the faves, sell off the less-than-faves. Shut Your Mouth is never my first pick for early AFI anyway, so I don’t see much point in keeping a complete discography.

Against Me!

Yeah, 2010 has been a crappy year for us AM! fans, but I’m not gonna do anything brash. I’m keeping my AM! collection, even my CD and vinyl copies of White Crosses. I’m taking a break, that’s for sure, but songs like “We Did It All For Don” and “Problems” won’t be leaving me for a long time. I still hum them to myself. But man, listening to Crime is really bumming me out right now…

Verdict: Keep. Don’t judge me.

Akira Original Soundtrack

In another life, I was a dork for anime. I attended Baltimore’s Otakon annually. I watched a lot of shows about dudes with funny hair and girls with ridiculously heaving bosoms. It was a good life. While I don’t watch that style of storytelling much anymore – still got the complete Trigun and Cowboy Bebop collections though – I’ve held on to soundtracks from some of my favorite works. Akira is probably one of the oldest animes you can reasonably expect every otaku to love – yeah, there’s Dragon Ball and Gundam – but Akira is more critically acclaimed and better animated. I pretty much bought the soundtrack because I enjoy the film, even though the music had never stood out for me.

I was struck by how percussive and experimental Geinoh Yamashirogumi’s compositions sounded – this music was much more intense than I had realized. The next time I watched the movie, it was like a whole new experience. There is nothing else in my music collection quite like this album. It’s not quite orchestral, not quite traditional, not quite rock. But man is it awesome.

Verdict: Keep. Also, consider buying Akira again…

Alkaline Trio

I’d say I own all of the essential Alk3 albums and none of the clunkers. The Asian Man material – Goddamnit, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, Alkaline Trio – are all perfect collections of quasi-gothic Chicago pop-punk songs about failure. Failure with significant others. Failure in the work force. Failure at sobriety. I associate Fire with Philadelphia – walking back from parties at the Drewber St. house, sitting through construction on Broad – but all three sum up where I’m at right now. The hits start to dilute circa From Here to Infirmary, but that album packs enough good songs to justify owning it, even though it is a bit of a comedown after the Asian Man years. Remains, the group’s second rarities compilation after Alkaline Trio, collects some of the best Alk3 songs of all time (“Jaked on Green Beers,” “Queen of Pain,” “Warbrain,” and their cover of Berlin’s “Metro”). I don’t need the later years.

Verdict: Keep.


Oof, I still love Allister after all these years, but there’s a slight drop off in quality going from a Chicago punk band like Alkaline Trio to their neighbors in Allister. I still get stoked on their first two albums, though. Dead Ends and Girlfriends is an exuberant burst of sugary pop punk in the vein of Ramones and Mr. T Experience. It’s a little immature in spots – is “Jacob Thinks I’m Gay” homophobic? – but it’s a record I’ve played so many times that I can’t stop now. Plus, that cover of the Fraggle Rock theme is bitchin’. After a line-up change, the band got a lot sleaker for LP #2, Last Stop Suburbia. It’s a little uneven – frontman Tim Rogner’s songs get kinda repetitive after a while – but it also boasts amazing anthems like “Stuck” and “Somewhere on Fullerton” I was fully ready to sell Before the Blackout – released after another personnel change – but it’s a solid pop rock collection. Not nearly as good as the other records, but it’s become a major guilty pleasure for me.

Verdict: Keep.

Tori Amos

I thought A Piano would be all the Tori Amos I needed. I was wrong. Within a year, Amos dropped one of the best albums of her career, the sprawling American Doll Posse. That record saw Tori sprinkle in a few political bon mots in between sexy techno jams and hard rockers. She even tried her hand a country crossover hit with “Big Wheel.” Her 2009 follow-up, Abnormally Attracted to Sin, was a less successful double album. This could have been a really good 10-song cycle, but every ominous number like “Give” or Zeppelin-esque rocker like “Strong Black Vine,” there are nonsensical, wishwashy songs like “Flavor” or “Lady in Blue” to dilute the mix. More successful is Strange Little Girls, a rather ambient collection of covers from 2000. “Bonnie and Clyde ’ 97” is the creepiest, but “Strange Little Girls” and “Real Mean” are both pretty catchy. And that slowed down cover of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” is pretty great. My girlfriend has made it her mission to buy me every Tori album, and while that’s worked out pretty well with, say, From the Choirgirl Hotel, I’m not that keen on Little Earthquakes. I love the songs, but I prefer the sequencing and mixes selected for the first disc of A Piano. It sounds better/cleaner, and it comes with B-side “Take to the Sky (Russia).” Plus, I’m just kind of used to the album opening with “Leather.” Now there’s a sexy party jam.

Verdict: Keep, but I’m gonna edit down Abnormally Attracted to Sin. And there’s really no point in uploading Little Earthquakes.

NEXT TIME: A is for... punk rock side projects, ska superheroes, and the second best hardcore band to come out of Virginia.

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