Friday, April 29, 2011

Science Club = PR MASTERS

Science Club's alma mater, La Salle University, is in the news again, for failure. But what else is new? Side note: Did you know that La Salle University's rape scandals have their own Wikipedia page? It ain't pretty, so Science Club is here to clean up. Come check us out with a host of other La Salle grads (including Sam Fran Scavuzzo, ex-Cats Playing Jazz/Initech) at the Grape Room in Manayunk! We'll be raising money for La Salle's service trips.

Click here to check out the many projects La Salle supports to help people around the world. Then come get shitty with us at the Grape Room.

TONIGHT!

Location: The Grape Room, 105 Grape Street, Manayunk

Time: 8:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m.

Come join us to explore the musical talent of your fellow La Salle grads! Proceeds from the night will benefit the La Sallian Service Trips.

Emcees:
Matt Lally and Dave Terruso of Animosity Pierre

Solo/Duo Acts:
Bill Drust
Jim Feighan
Sam Fran Scavuzzo and Vince Sceno

Bands:
Science Club
The Matt Gauss Band
Jason Ager and the COPO
Bathtub Doggies

Thursday, April 28, 2011

myPod: Co-Cr


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

Collective Soul

After Nirvana blew up, a whole mess of so-called “alternative” bands flooded the market. One of them was Collective Soul, a group that has more in common with ’70s stadium rock than grunge. Still, Collective Soul’s output was superior to anything Aerosmith every wrote. 7even Year Itch: Greatest Hits 1994-2001 has a crappy title (And is inaccurate. One of the band’s biggest hits, “Shine,” is actually from 1993), but the tracklisting is a perfect collection of a road-ready anthems like “Next Homecoming” and “Energy.” My favorite song has always been the somber, string-laden “The World I Know,” even though I’m not entirely sure what the lyrics mean.

Verdict: Keep.

Common

We can’t always pick the soundtracks to our most intimate moments. I entered into the Common portion of my collection with the impression that this would be my last time listening to the MC. I got into Common during my first brief flirtation with rap in 2005. Basically, I bought Common’s Be and Outkast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below and thought that made me a hip-hop head. I haven’t listened to Be much since then, but today it soundtracked my engagement to my girlfriend. So now Common’s songs about fidelity mean something more to me. Well, and the overbearing courtroom drama of “Testify” and the infectious pop ghetto of “The Food,” featuring a stupid-awesome hook from Kanye West: “So I had to did / What I had to did / ’Cause I had the kid.”

Verdict: Keep.

Common Rider

I never saw Common Rider in concert, which I regret quite a bit. Part of that’s because they always came through on great bills, but also because, well, I used to really, really like Common Rider in high school. The belated sequel to Jesse Michaels’ beloved ska/punk act Operation Ivy, Common Rider seemed to dominate every punk compilation I bought between 2000 and 2003. I miss their Jamaican-tinged punk, although I hear Michaels’ new band, Classic of Love, is good too.

Verdict: Keep.




Concrete Blonde


Bloodletting is one of the best goth records by a non-goth band of all time.

Verdict: Keep.

Elvis Costello


I doubled up on My Aim is True because I need to have “Welcome to the Working Week” available at all times.

Verdict: Keep.

Counting Crows


Counting Crows have been with me, one way or another, since I was very young (August and Everything After came out when I was 7 years old). August has been in my dad’s collection since 1993, and it’s the Crows album I refer back to most frequently. The songs are timeless (“Mr. Jones,” “Omaha,” “Rain King,” “Round Here,” and so on), so much so that I own several live albums of the material. I’m not too big on concert albums, but the Crows adapt their material so freely that August opens itself up to different interpretations. The most essential Crows live record is Across a Wire, a two-disc set, one acoustic and one electric, of the band reimagining its first two albums. The deluxe edition of August comes with a live show from Paris, and it’s just so raw that it gives me goosebumps. Frontman Adam Duritz can sometimes be a little too mopey and nonsensical, but he’s one of my favorite lyricists/singers. He conveys so much mood, and his freestyling during live sets is amazing.

The Paris show is interesting partially because Duritz plays with lyrics that later ended up Recovering the Satellites. That album best captures the Crows’ two sides – the rocking and the reflective – best, even though I still kind of prefer August. Still, Satellites has some of my favorite Crows tunes, like “Angles of the Silences,” “Long December,” and “Walkaways.” This Desert Life is mellower by comparison. The songs are more midtempo and less anguished, but it’s still a solid mainstream folk/pop/rock record, even though some of the songs don’t make any sense.

Hard Candy is my least favorite album. It’s overproduced, lacks punch, and features a heinous cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” [which wasn’t even part of the original tracklisting]. Still, there are some interesting deviations from the Crows formula, like the pop rock leanings of “Hard Candy” and “American Girls” or the surprisingly synth-heavy “New Frontier.” The belated Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings is a welcome return to form. An attempt at recreating Satellites, it’s the best Crows release in a long time. Duritz takes a long time to write lyrics, which sucks, but since every Crows album is a good time, I guess I can’t complain. The songs are sensitive yet catchy, rocking yet delicate. I get just as much out of this band as I do from The Weakerthans or The Mountain Goats.

Verdict: Keep.



The Cranberries


The ’90s were a good decade for music, man [NOTE: I am not being ironic here]. The Cranberries somehow managed to drop heavy barnburners like “Zombie” and delicate ballads like “Linger” and the public embraced both sides. I’m not a superfan, limiting my collection Stars: The Best of 1992-2002, but it’s a solid collection of ambient alt-rock gold. Sometimes the lyrics get a little too trite (Dolores O’Riordan relies on this obnoxious AABB rhyme scheme on tracks like “Analyse”), which is to say nothing of O’Riordan’s Bono-lite politics, but overall it’s a nifty set.

Verdict: Keep.

Creedence Clearwater Revival


Were you ever the last person to get into a band? Did you try expressing your passion to other people only to have them go, “Wait, you just got into ____?” That was me with Creedence Clearwater Revival in college. I bought both Chronicle collections (40 of their best songs) and fell in love. Then I started buying CCR on vinyl… I still go back to the Chronicle discs, though. One of the things I like about digging through old music is discovering all the connections between what happened then and now. I think I’d be OK with growing up in the ’70s. I mean, I’d still have David Bowie, Black Sabbath, and CCR. As my uncle’s own childhood attests, I wouldn’t need the Internet to discover punk thanks to The Clash. And I’d have a bitchin’ mustache.

That was a tangent. Sorry. CCR may be the cornerstone of “dad rock,” but they were arguably the best American rock band during a time when the best music was coming out of the U.K. They rocked hard but could still jam out into all sorts of ethereal realms. And they had bitchin’ mustaches.

Verdict: Keep.


Crime in Stereo


Around 2006, it seemed like a whole new crop of punk bands popped up in the tristate era that defined my life. They’re mostly gone now (The Ergs!, The Measure [SA], Nakatomi Plaza). They all hurt, but Crime in Stereo’s break-up was the most shocking, if only because it came shortly after they dropped the post-hardcore masterpiece I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone just prior. Watching the band’s transition from NYC hardcore (The Troubled Stateside) into something more dynamic and ethereal was amazing, but I can still listen to Stateside, Is Dead, and Describe back-to-back-to-back easily, as this exercise demonstrates. I’m sad CiS fell apart, but they left behind such a solid discography that I hope will one day afford them in the same legendary status as Minor Threat or Jawbreaker. I saw these guys in countless cramped venues and they always put on a great show with passion and humility. DRUGWOLF FOREVER.

Verdict: Keep.



The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


J. O’Barr’s The Crow has a troubled history. The original comics were inspired by his fiance’s death; Brandon Lee died while filming the adaptation. But the soundtrack, inspired by the comic’s homages to The Cure and Joy Division, picks up those goth foundations and updates them for the go-go grunge ’90s. The Crow is a perfect meeting point between the best underground acts of the ’80s (Violent Femmes, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cure) and ’90s acts on the brink of breaking out (Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, and a pre-Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails). It’s a little spotty in places – Jane Siberry is too maudlin, Helmet is too indistinct – but overall it’s essential listening for anyone with even remotely goth tendencies.


Verdict: Keep. Go listen to “Burn.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vinyl Vednesday 4/27/2011


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]

Records: Alice Cooper’s School’s Out (1972) black, John Denver’s Greatest Hits (1973) on black, and The Ramones Ramones (1976) on clear red.

Place of Purchase: Cooper was inherited from the Ferris family collection when my Aunt Jenn sold Mom-Mom’s house. John Denver was purchased at Disc World in Conshohocken *le sigh*. Ramones was part of a set of reissues that I purchased via eBay.

Thoughts: Before David Bowie brought glam rock to the New World with Diamond Dogs, Alice Cooper was the artist of choice for the weird. The band/frontman weren’t like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple. Their tunes were dark (for the time anyway). The riffs were big slabs of rock. What’s funny about listening to Cooper now isn’t the stabs at horror (“School’s Out,” “Public Animal #9”), but the weirder songs like “Gutter Cat Vs. the Jets.” That tune is set up like a showtune about cats beating the crap out of each other a la West Side Story. It’s filled with a surprising level of detail about the characters, and given the length of the song, it’s clear that Cooper and co. thought highly of it. “School’s Out” is still catchier though.

John Denver is punk as fuck, so shut your face. Dude stuck it to the PMRC and stood up for freedom of speech for all artists. He also worked tirelessly to combat world hunger and promote sustainability. He worked as a skiing commentator for the 1984 Winter Olympics simply because he could. He loved the shit out of NASA because outer space is cool. On top of that, he wrote “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Rocky Mountain High,” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” These tunes are super chill country/folk, which is why I can only listen to a little bit of Denver at a time, but they’re still solid. [SIDE NOTE: Did you know John Denver was rejected from participating in “We Are the World?” Ain’t that some bullshit?]

“Second verse / Same as the first.” The Ramones wrote one song so well that they continued to write over and over again for 20 years. Now that’s dedication. Ramones isn’t the best of the band’s releases, but it’s a great starting point and the first in a line of classic records recorded during the late ’70s. It’s hard to believe how many solid gold shoulda-been-hits they wrote on their first studio outing: “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” “Beat on the Brat,” “Judy is a Punk,” “Havana Affair,” “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” The tunes are sugary bursts of punk bliss. That The Ramones never took off is a testament to the stupidity of commercial radio. You what song was #1 when Ramones came out? “Disco Lady” by Johnnie Taylor. No thank you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nada Surf - 'The Moon is Calling'

Record Store Day 2011 may have pushed the holiday to the point of oversaturation, but at least indie rock act Nada Surf has stayed true to the day’s tenants – for two years in a row, the group has offered a limited edition, unique release of quality tunes. Last year saw the release of a covers album, If I Had a Hi-Fi; this year brings The Moon is Calling, a two-track seven-inch previewing the group’s eventual seventh album.

Nada Surf’s discography can be summed up with two songs: “Popular,” the group’s grunge guide to dating, and “Happy Kid,” one of the band’s first tracks released after their indie rock makeover. Nada Surf has slowly built up a reputation thanks to beautifully melancholy songs like “Happy Kid” that eclipses the one-hit wonder status of “Popular,” but it also means the group has rarely deviated from this formula on Let Go, The Weight is a Gift, Lucky or Hi-Fi. The Moon is Calling continues that soft rock trend.

But hey, the guys have a winning formula, and both songs sound pleasant. “The Moon is Calling” packs an agreeable chorus and moves along nicely. “You’re Going to Miss the Wood” is slightly surprising, if only for the propulsive 16th note beat provided by drummer Ira Elliot. This song actually has some bite to it, thanks mostly to the urget way Elliot beats his kit.

Whether or not “Wood” reflects the upcoming full-length is unforeseeable. Not to bury the lead, but Moon can be summed up thusly: Nada Surf still sounds Nada Surfy.

Cain Marko - 'At Sea'

If nothing else, give Michigan’s Cain Marko credit for being self-aware on the new EP At Sea. The group writes gravelly, Hot Water Music-y punk tunes, and as the band admits on opening track “At Sea in St. Paul,” their strengths lie in writing “another song about drinking.” That’s a little too self-deprecating, though, as Cain Marko does play the occasional post-hardcore structure. The guitars noodle a bit a la Grown Ups or CSTVT. But mostly, At Sea offers four solid punk tracks about failure.

“At Sea in St. Paul” gradually introduces the players, opening at first with just rim clicks and guitar strumming before building into something fiercer. The band starts hammering out in half-time before finally throwing down a tasty 4/4 straight ahead rocker. “Ralph, I Can’t See!” gets to the point a little sooner, but the sad sackery remains, culminating in a beautifully sung bridge about remembering the past. It never gets too sappy, though. That wouldn’t be tru punx.

“I Read This in a Book” is the shortest song at 2:43, and arguably the least distinct. It’s somewhat disappointing coming after a winner like “Ralph,” but at least the topic changes from drinking to race relations. Still, it lacks a certain amount of umph – no big hook, no major instrumental flourishes. “Let’s Go Kill That Bastard” closes out the EP, and it certainly feels like a finale. The drums sound desperate and the gang vox are strong. The guitars even shift into pop-punk faux-shredding a la Rufio on that intro. While At Sea sounds like half of No Idea’s discography, it still follows a reliable formula of passion, power and pilsners.

Campaign - 'Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!'

At just nine minutes in length, Campaign’s Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! is a brief burst of furious punk in the beardy vein of Hot Water Music, Latterman and the Blackout Pact. The tunes are short and fat-free, dropping four tunes about drankin’ and getting’ yr shit together. The title is a joke; the music is not.

“Old Haunts” opens the disc with pounding drums and throaty vox. The guitars could stand to be a little crunchier, but Campaign slightly favors a little bit of ambience in their guitar noise. They’re not exactly Fucked Up, but the band does occasionally drop an effect in the mix, like on the intro to “Old Thrills.”

Oh yeah, all four song titles start with the word “old.” These guys keep it simple while ever so slightly slipping in some experimental touches. Not that “Old Thrills” is all that subversive; it’s still an Avail-esque stomper. That shit’s eternal. “Old Blues” and “Old Mess” are mighty fine too.

At this point, a full-length from Campaign would be appreciated. Beetlejuice’s lone flaw is that it’s really, really short, and I would be interested in hearing how the group sustains this level of passion over the course of an entire album. Granted, said album would still only be like 20 minutes long, but if this EP is any indication, the guys in Campaign should have this whole rocking out thing down.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mike Birbiglia - 'Sleepwalk With Me Live'

Mike Birbiglia is a funny guy. He is currently my favorite comedian. Sleepwalk With Me Live, a spoken word tale about Birbiglia’s REM disorder, is his least funny album. I don’t actually mean that as a dig, though, as Sleepwalk is a live performance of Birgbiglia’s spoken word one-man play of the same name. It’s not funny, but artfully so.

Actually that’s a little harsh. Birbiglia’s self-deprecating style is hilarious as ever. His humor comes from failure on a level that most people can relate to – failed relationships, stupid decisions, bad luck. The dude makes things like bear attacks and cancer somehow palatable. But he tempers the jokes with dark revelations, especially so when he talks about his college girlfriend. Shit gets real.

But the show never dips too far into sad sack territory. Birgbiglia’s stand-up style is anecdotal humor. He tells embarrassing stories about himself and jokes manifest. As of such, his albums feel like a good conversation, and Sleepwalk is no different.

My lone grip with Sleepwalk is that Birgbiglia already released these stories in book form. While the book and album complement each other – the book has more stories, the sad parts hit even harder when Birbiglia talks – ultimately the two come off as a little redundant. The whole time I read Sleepwalk With Me, I imagined Birbiglia’s voice and wished that he had just put out another album. Now I own the stories twice over, so I guess maybe he’s the big winner after all.



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wild Flag - 'Glass Tambourine'

In 1978, the four stadium rockers in Kiss saw fit to release four solo albums, reasoning that since people loved Kiss so dang much, surely four new Kiss records would sell better than one. They were wrong, but at least Ace Frehley gave the world his version of “New York Groove,” a perfect blend of glam, soul and sheer force of will.

Now it is the year 2011 A.D., and the members of Sleater-Kinney are, I am convinced, pulling a classic Kiss move. Last year, past and future SK singer/guitar slinger Corin Tucker dropped 1,000 Years, a stunning blend of classic rock and folkie conviction. This year, the rest of Sleater-Kinney, guitarist/vocalist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, have finally issued their recorded debut as Wild Flag for Record Store Day. Also featuring Mary Timony (ex-Helium) on guitar and Rebecca Cole (ex-The Minders) on keyboard, Wild Flag’s first single is both a successful artistic endeavor and a cruel war on my wallet.

“Glass Tambourine” is the first of two songs, and it’s just different enough from Sleater-Kinney to disappoint on the first listen. Weiss is still a basher, but the tune overall is more psychedelic than anything SK ever pursued. Flecks of Jimi Hendrix Experience soloing and Summer of Love melodies drive this number, and in time its more psych-laden ways bury deep. Subvert and dominate.

“Future Crimes” has a little bit of that same psych touch, but it’s less trippy. Brownstein lays out a set of lyrics burning with longing while Cole tries to keep up on the keys. A nervous energy pervades. The guitars needle while the drums hold it down.

At only two songs, it’s hard to predict where Wild Flag will go beyond this single. But hot dang if things don’t look even more promising than they did before. Wild Flag: More business savvy than Kiss.

Man the Change - 'Weather the Storm'

Listening to Weather the Storm by Man the Change is like playing a game of “Spot the Influence.” The Brooklyn, N.Y. band plays Fat Wreck-style punk, and that’s all nifty, but listening to the tracks just makes me want to put on something like Lifetime or NOFX. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and Weather the Storm is a solid debut, but right now the band is stuck in the realm of the adequate.

Consider opener “The Horseshit Zone.” The song starts off like an Explosion track – super fast and aggressive. It’s a set-up for a massively catchy outro in which the band chants “This is our time” over a cut time beat. It works, but the whole time I kept thinking, “This is exactly like something Dr. Dan Yemin would do. I’m gonna go spin Paradise.” Follow-up “Bowser’s Breakdown” is more in the NOFX vein – snotty, snarled yells and crunchy guitar ride galloping drums. “Useless” and “Get Me the Clippers” is more in the Flatiners style – a little more intricate in the guitar work, with a more propulsive beat.

Still, there’s something to be said for the band’s formula. Man the Change has a firm grip on breakdowns, gang vox and whoas. In fact, the group even utilizes an impressive dual-vocal attack on tracks like “Put Stevie at Second” and “Bowser’s Breakdown.” Man the Change has clearly demonstrated a mastery of the classics, and perhaps in time they’ll write a record that equals or rivals their influences. But as of right now, the parts do not equal the whole, and Weather the Storm is superfluous.

Shuteye Unison - 'Our Future Selves'

Recalling Silversun Pickups, the Jealous Sound and maybe even a dash of Sonic Youth circa Daydream Nation, San Francisco, Calif.’s Shuteye Unison has crafted a record at once expansive and catchy. Our Future Selves deals in ambience and mood, and while the lengthy song structures might be a turnoff for some, generally the record succeeds in crafting a dreamy soundscape. This is quality 3 a.m. music.

Initially, opener “Be Kimball” comes off as misleading. The track begins with a muscular guitar line, driving bass and thundering drums. It certainly makes sense as an opening number – those handclaps and snarling guitary bits are infectious – but the tune starts to shift around the two-and-a-half-minute mark. Shimmering piano transforms the song into something more ethereal, which better represents that album as a whole.

Shuteye Unison certainly has grander aspirations, as evidenced by all the auxiliary percussion and children’s choirs, but the group tempers those ideas with white noise, resulting in a “something for everyone” approach.” Still, it’s hard to call a song like “Our Future Selves” uncommercial. That track fits nicely into the SSPU mold a la “Little Lover’s So Polite” with mid-tempo rhythms and soft melodies.

The rest of the album gently follows a quiet/loud dynamic that’s much more subtle compared to, say, Mogwai. The shifts almost sneak up on the listener. One moment you’re rocking out to “Better Hallway Vision,” the next you’re tripping balls on “Swear Words.” Our Future Selves could at times use more bite and focus, but at only 46 minutes it couldn’t be called self-indulgent. Plus, the record strikes a nice compromise between melody and noise, structure and mood.

Vinyl Vednesday 4/20/2011


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. Here’s a recap from Record Store Day 2011, and be sure to e-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]

Records: Wild Flag’s “Glass Tambourine” b/w “Future Crimes” single (2011) on black, Death Cab for Cutie’s preview seven-inch for their upcoming album Codes and Keys (2011) on black, and The Bouncing Souls’ Complete Control Recording Sessions 10-inch (2011) on black.

Place of Purchase: My favorite record store, Repo Records in Philadelphia.

Thoughts: Record Store Day, the annual national event designed to get music fans away from their computers and actually into stores, was met with a metric shit-ton of rain here in Philadelphia. My fiancée and I packed two umbrellas and went out anyway, because we wanted vinyl exclusives, clam flammit. I reserved a lot of stuff through Repo, and I went in with the understanding that I probably wouldn’t be able to get everything due to limited pressings. But one release I absolutely hoped would be available was Wild Flag’s debut. I’m a huge Sleater-Kinney fan and this is the first recorded output from the new band featuring SK’s Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. I’m going to write ‘n’ post a review later today, but the short answer is: Good, yay, surprising, and good.

Another seven-inch I desired was by Death Cab for Cutie. I played through their complete discography a few weeks ago and was amazed at how consistently they delivered great indie rock songs while gradually tweaking their sound. I couldn’t find a tracklisting for the seven-inch, but I figured it would be either a preview for Codes and Keys or a couple of B-sides. I was right, but not in a way that I wanted. The seven-inch contains a two-and-a-half-minute commercial for the new record on both sides. It’s very retro, right down to the label, and cute the first time through. Then I remembered that I paid $3.99 plus tax to get this release and got angry. SELL.

I was unable to get The Bouncing Souls’ Live at Generation Records RSD exclusive, but as far as I can tell, the limited release didn’t make it to Repo or a.k.a.. Kind of a bummer, but I still picked up the Souls’ other live release from that week, a joint release between SideOneDummy and Chunksaah called Complete Control. It’s a six-song live EP featuring that cover of The Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments” that the band started playing during their 20th anniversary tour. And it’s got Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba on vox! Being yet another live release from the Souls, it’s kind of a diehard-fans-only sort of thing, but it’s still pretty cool.

RSD 2011 was a little disappointing for me. I couldn’t get Live at Generation Records, some of the stuff I did get sucked (I also picked up a Jimi Hendrix single of unreleased jams that adds nothing to his discography), and it rained all day. I’m afraid that the holiday is nearing a breaking point in terms of quality control, but it’s hard to tell without plunking down cash first. On the plus side, my friends and I got crepes afterwards. GIVE IT UP FOR CREPES.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Maritime - 'Human Hearts'

Usually when a band drops a new album, it’s judged within the context of that group’s discography. Not so for Maritime; vocalist/guitarist Davey von Bohlen has a lifelong legacy of music with the Promise Ring, Cap’n Jazz and Vermont (Remember Vermont?). The dude was, for a while, an emo icon whose net worth was estimated based on a single album, Nothing Feels Good, released when he was 23. But the truth is the guy has been cranking out stunning indie rock tunes for a long time now.

von Bohlen’s song have always been, scientifically speaking, the catchiest. Even when he slowed things down for TPR’s swan song Wood/Water, the melodies and hooks were supreme. Maritime started off in a similar place with Glass Floor in 2004, at least in terms of energy. But gradually, von Bohlen has gotten back to his indie rock high point without recycling, culminating in 2007’s Heresy and the Hotel Choir. That record found a balance between indie rock and new wave; new album Human Hearts goes a step further and betters Hersey as a result.

The group delivers 10 infectious indie hits with a dance floor vendetta. There’s definitely an ’80s influence that draws from Modern English and the Cure circa The Head on the Door. I have to say Depeche Mode is in there too; “Faint of Hearts” knicks/edits the chorus from “Enjoy the Silence,” which the band covered for A.V. Undercover. This puts the band in line with fellow pop peddlers like Phoenix and Tokyo Police Club.

Speaking of A.V. Undercover, did you know that Maritime’s “It’s Casual” is the theme song for the second season? Did you know that song is awesome? It’s so awesome that Maritime chose to open Human Hearts with it. A shoegaze-y guitar strum gives way to a dance drum beat before von Bohlen comes in with his trademark warble. It’s a fun tune. “Paraphernalia” and “Black Bones” repeat the trick before “Peopling of London” mellows out the pace a bit.

“Faint of Hearts” is another mellow number, a subtle and gracious love song. I like it, but I also forget it once “Annihilation Eyes” comes on. That song is the strongest of the set, and perhaps the most Promise Ring-esque. It stomps and strums and the hook is huge. The record gradually winds down after this party starter.

Maritime has consistently improved itself with each record. Human Hearts makes that growth an impressive four-album streak. I miss the Promise Ring, but with releases like this one, it’s hard not to live in the now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

regarding Rx Bandits.


After 16 years together, California ska/prog act Rx Bandits have decided to break up. I know that called them ska/prog might seem contradictory, but bear with me.

Rx Bandits were one of the first ska bands I ever got into (along with Less Than Jake), as well as one my entry points into punk rock. When I was 14, pop-punk took over my mind. And for a while, I got all of my pop-punk from one label, Drive-Thru Records: New Found Glory, Allister, Fenix TX, and more filled my earholes. I heard Rx Bandits through the label's You'll Never Eat Fast Food Again compilation and then picked up their record Halfway Between Here and There. It was a pretty catchy '90s album, although somewhat atypical.

Then Progress came out in 2001 and changed everything. The band took on a heavier guitar sound while preserving their Jamaican influence. The lyrics became much more socio-political. While I had been a Rage Against the Machine fan in middle school, Rx Bandits caught me just as I was beginning to develop my own opinions on the world.

The Resignation followed in 2003, continuing the Bandits' shift into prog-ska, but the songs maintained a nice balance between horns and guitars. '03 is when I started to think maybe frontman Matt Embree wasn't the best lyricist out there; his tunes started to sound clumsy to me (Check out opener "Sell You Beautiful" and tell me what you think). By the time ...And the Battle Begun dropped in 2006, the Bandits had shifted into aimless jamming and wankery. I forgot Mandala came out in 2009 until I looked at the group's Wikipedia page a couple of minutes ago.



But for a while there, they put on electric live shows and dropped amazing ska records. They came into my life at an important, formative time, and I'll always treasure those years spent obsessing over how good Christopher Tsagakis was at drums or how Embree had this knack for playing along with the snare rolls for added percussive effect.

That said, I put Halfway Between Here and There on in the car with some friends on Saturday, and we all collectively cringed when we heard the line "What if I told you / That you're a stupid whore" from "What If." I think you needed to be young to get into Rx Bandits, and I'm not sure if the next generation of youths will appreciate them.

But I liked them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thursday - 'No Devolución'

When it was released in 2009, Common Existence felt like a tentative step towards a new style for post-hardcore mavericks/screamo survivors Thursday. That record had plenty of throwback moments like “Resuscitation of a Dead Man,” but it also hinted at a more post-rock/shoegaze direction for the band. No Devolución confirms Common Existence as a transitional record, as there is very little to connect this new album to Full Collapse. This new album pulls in bits and pieces of Envy, The Cure, and Ride. Aided greatly by David Fridmann’s production, it’s a new, ethereal beginning.

Fittingly, the album title translates from Spanish to “no returns.” Common Existence was a tentative step forward; No Devolución is the clear break from tradition. “Fast to the End” seems like the propulsive opener Thursday fans would expect, but something seems off. Frontman Geoff Rickley’s voice sound different – there’s more singing than screaming. The guitars have a more ethereal quality, and even when they go into metal dynamics, there’s still a muted quality to them. Everything blurs together into a swirling haze. There are even moments where the vocals fade into the guitars, making shoegaze comparisons even more relevant.

The one guy who comes out of this looking good is bassist Tim Payne. The low end on No Devolución is stellar, and for all its’ ambience, the songs still have a groove to them. Whether or not that’s all thanks to Payne or the way Fridmann blends together all the instruments can’t be certified, the low end here sure is enticing.

At 53 minutes, though, No Devolución might be a chore for some. It’s Thursday’s least accessible album, a haunting mess about identity crises and relationship issues that encapsulate the entirety of (common) existence. The songs blur together after a while, and while there are some deviations (Oh, this one has more piano!), generally the tunes are of the spooky lovelorn variety. And sometimes it would be nice to hear Rickley let loose a scream; "Open Quotes" sounds limp without one.
No Devolución is a fine record, but it marks a big departure for Thursday. It is not anthemic. It is not emo. It is not rocking. But is a great little something to slip on late at night, and yet another quality effort that will probably alienate half the band’s fan base while attracting new fans and maybe even winning back old ones.

Vinyl Vednesday 4/13/2011

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]

Records:
Cheap Girls/Lemuria split seven-inch (2011) on gray marble, Decemberists’ “The Rake’s Song” Record Store Day seven-inch (2009) on black, and Paul McCartney & Wings’ Band on the Run (1973) on black.


Place of Purchase: Decemberists and Wings came from Siren Records in Doylestown. Cheap Girls/Lemuria was purchased via the Internets on Interpunk.com.

Thoughts: I’ve had an on again/off again affair with Lemuria. They dropped a couple of catchy indie pop/rock singles and an amazing split with Kind of Like Spitting, rendering me smitten. I saw them play in a church basement in Doylestown and fell in rock love. Then they dropped a full-length that was pretty solidly OK I guess. But it lacked bite. Then, and then, and THEN, they put out Pebble this year, and it was just about the cutest thing I ever did see. Sure, the songs were about breaking up and hating everyone, but adorably so. Lemuria’s split with Cheap Girls lets up on the bile a little bit, and it makes me just as warm and fuzzy. I am all about this band again. Cheap Girls deal in Lemonheads-esque indie rock as well, and their tune “Pure Hate” is mighty fine as well. I need to check out more of their stuff.

I’m not a big Decemberists fan. [SPOILER ALERT: I actually decided to sell off my collection for an upcoming installment of myPod.] But I am a big Nicholas Charles Elmer fan. Some would say too big. When Nicky Cha-Cha Elmwood told me he wanted to cover “The Rake’s Song” by The Decemberists for our power slop group Science Club, I said, “What? Oh, OK.” Later, when I was trading in a chunk of albums at Siren for credit, I stumbled upon a single for “Rake’s Song,” in a moment of profound serendipity. “This is the thing with the thing,” I screamed in the clerk’s face, who then gave me the album for free. The song is a pretty catchy folk-rock ditty that I think we could really drrrty up. My favorite line is “I was wedded and it whetted my thirst / Until her womb start spilling out babies.” This one’s for you, Swelmer. We are going to throw so many babies at our shows.

Encouraged by my purchased of Ram, I decided to check out arguably Paul McCartney’s biggest post-Beatles album, Band on the Run, with his group Wings. Reviews I’ve read called it the album were McCartney proved he could still write hits. While this seems true at times (How do you not see “Bluebird” on the tracklist and not think of “Blackbird?”), overall I’d say the record feels more like a continuation of what McCartney was doing on Ram, which is turning out agreeable acoustic pop songs that occasionally recalled elements of folk, yacht rock, and ’70s rock in general. While it’s got a little more cajones on tracks like “Jet” and “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” the record most strikes me as another example of how McCartney is better than 99 percent of all twee bands. I still like John Lennon and George Harrison better though.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Foo Fighters - 'Wasting Light'

In theory, Foo Fighters’ new album Wasting Light should be thoroughly awesome. It follows the group’s disappointing Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, so it’s got that “comeback album” angle. Wasting Light also guns for “back to basics” status – hard. Frontman Dave Grohl reconvened with Butch Vig, who, in case you forgot, helmed Nevermind by Grohl’s other big band, Nirvana, and recorded the album in analog instead of digital. Oh, and they recorded the whole thing in Grohl’s garage. Founding Foo member Pat Smear is back. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic shows up on accordion and bass for a track. Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould pops up too, because why not. On top of that, initial pressings of Wasting Light come with a piece of the record’s original master tape.

All of these factors should contribute to a really cool record. Instead they just magnify how utterly unremarkable these songs sound. Wasting Light’s title fits, but not the way the band meant. On the surface, the record boasts 11 riffy tracks that recall In Your Honor’s heaviness while occasionally slipping in actual hooks. It seems like with every promotional cycle, Foo Fighters promise that their next album will be their heaviest yet, but tracks like “White Limo” and “Bridge Burning” actually live up to that hype.

But dig a little deeper, and Wasting Light falls apart. Guitar dexterity aside, there’s just not a lot going on. Grohl recycles clichés like “These are my famous last words” and “I’m praying for a sign,” but not even his mighty yell can give them gravity. The biggest clunker in a lyrical sense is “Arlandria,” in which Grohl takes about growing up in Virginia. He keeps returning to the line “Fame, fame go away / Come again some other day,” occasionally rotating in “shame” instead, and the whole thing comes off as lazy and embarrassing. This guy wrote “Everlong” and “Best of You.” He and I both know he can do better.

The record offers glimmers of goodness, though. Mould’s tune with the band, “Dear Rosemary,” strikes a nice balance between the Foos’ radio rock sensibility and Hüsker Dü’s own Candy Apple Grey. “White Limo” rocks hard, and the video is funny. The production is still pretty glossy, but compared to where the group was at on their last single, “Wheels” from Greatest Hits, this is pretty stripped down stuff. Still, I wonder what Steve Albini would have done with these songs. Wasting Light had tons of potential, but it’s not the comeback the Foos needed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

myPod: Ci-Co


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

Circle Jerks

As a liberal leftist P.C. jag-off, I shouldn’t be into Circle Jerks, who wrote deliberately offensive songs. Lyrically, they’re weightless. But the songs just kick so much ass in such little time. It’s a primal thing.

Verdict: Keep.

CIV


Got-dammit CIV. I first became award of this punk-ish act through my college partner Eric, but didn’t bother picking anything up until their complete discography was reissued as Solid Bond. The first disc, featuring their album and some stray tracks, is amazing. CIV of course features Civ from Gorilla Biscuits, and Set Your Goals is a perfect continuation of that style of positive, propulsive songwriting (AND it features a reunion with GB guitarist Walter Schreifels, who went on to do Quicksand and Rival Schools). Set Your Goals is a classic. Follow-up Thirteen Day Getaway skewed towards radio-friendly pop rock, and it might as well be from another band. Goals felt like a letter to the scene; Getaway is impersonal and meaningless. Goals made me so happy today at work that I actually got pissed off about listening to Getaway afterwards for the sake of this project.

Verdict: Edit.

Louis C.K.


It’s a cliché, but Louis C.K. says what I’m thinking. His latest album, Hilarious, takes aim at the stupid, ungrateful shit Americans do, including our abuse of the English language. His set also packs in plenty of self-loathing and draws humor from his family life, which is something most comics can’t do well while remaining “edgy.” My girlfriend hates it when I say this, but I think C.K. sums up everything I’m going to feel about my children.

Verdict: Keep.





The Clash


Most of my Clash collection is on vinyl, but, much like David Bowie, there are certain albums that I’ve had to double up on. London Calling is their best album overall – it’s the best compromise between punk, reggae, ska and rockabilly. I have the 25th anniversary deluxe edition, which comes with a documentary and a bonus disc dubbed “the Vanilla Tapes.” It’s a collection of demos from the London Calling period. I haven’t listened to it since I picked up the album, and I realized today how much I was missing out. Sure, some of the demos are merely lesser quality versions of songs (“Lost in a Supermarket,” “London Calling” with alternate lyrics), but hearing the group jam out ideas that would eventually became, say, “Guns of Brixton” is stunning/grooving. I picked up Combat Rock specifically so I could listen to “Straight to Hell” whenever I wanted, although “Overpowered by Funk” has strangely worked its way into my heart.

My CD collection is rounded out by Super Black Market Clash, a rarities comp that’s a must-have, and The Singles, which I picked up mere weeks after Joe Strummer died. It’s probably the least essential item in my possession, since I’ve since acquired most of the band’s output on vinyl, but it’s nice having “Tommy Gun” and “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” on tap. I’ve always preferred Strummer’s socio-political anthems and internal rhymes to Mick Jones’ pop tendencies, but listening to this much Clash all at once reminds me how well they worked as a pair. Yeah, “White Man” is one of the best anti-rock rock anthems of all time, but Jones’ backing vocals and lead guitar work sell the song just as much as Strummer’s lyrics about black music co-opted by white imposters.

Verdict: OVERPOWERED BY FUNK!!!

Cloak/Dagger


I’ve been on a big Cloak/Dagger kick lately, having recently picked up a couple of seven-inches. Listening to both of the band’s full-lengths today reminded me how much I love their raw brand of Stooges/Black Flag-ish punk. They’re not the most sophisticated songwriters ever, but their songs just rock so thoroughly.

Verdict: Keep.

The Cloud Room


The Cloud Room had a semi-hit long ago with “Hey Now Now,” whose video got some rotation on MTV2. The band plays a mainstream-sounding brand of indie rock, or perhaps an indie version of pop rock. Either way, “Hey Now Now” was the standout on their self-titled debut. Unfortunately, the rest of the album just doesn’t live up to that opening salvo, and while The Cloud Room is competent overall, it’s a record I ultimately think I can live without.

Maybe my girlfriend will like it.

Verdict: Give away?



Coalesce


Every so often, a technical hardcore act will grab me. My buddy Scott introduced me to Coalesce via their last album, Ox, and it remains my favorite of their releases. While their older work is brutal and shredding, Ox feels like a culmination of the band’s history, blending in elements of blues and metal for a broader palette. I blasted this stuff at work today and I think I freaked my boss out a little bit.

Verdict: Keep.

The Coasters


My fiancé’s family is from Canada. One time, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in upstate New York for brunch. Her dad drove and, ever the practical man, he chose CB because it was exactly the midpoint between Blue Bell, Pa. and Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. There, I spied the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Music CatalogueTM. I can be somewhat of an impulsive shopper, so I decided not to pick up a greatest hits package from doo-wop/rockabilly group The Coasters, even though I decided in that moment that I needed to have “Charlie Brown” and “Yakety Yak” at my disposal at all times forever. On the drive back from Canada, we of course stopped at good ol’ CB again, and I plunked down $8 American.

The Coasters’ best song is secretly “Hongry.” It’s about being really, really hungry.

Verdict: Keep.

Coldplay


Remember when Coldplay was underrated? It happened, in America at least, around the time of their first album, Parachute. It was a decent enough soft rock record, but nothing to freak out over. Then A Rush of Blood to the Head came out and suddenly everyone had an opinion about Coldplay. They still wrote midtempo love songs that were thoroughly alright, but now everyone either A) loved them entirely or B) hated the everliving shite out of them. I enjoyed Coldplay’s music in high school, but I checked out after X&Y. I remember the exact moment I stopped caring too. Newsweek declared the new material to rock hard, and I though, “There’s no way that’s true.” Still, I clung to the early material, and it’s true, the band’s debut EP and first two albums have a couple of strong singles each. For a time, when I was cycling through punk and hardcore, Coldplay was my go-to band when I needed something quiet. Then I discovered Nick Drake, Jesu, My Bloody Valentine, and a slew of other bands that sound really good with the audio dial turned down to a whisper.

My cousin Mike said it best when he said, “Coldplay sucks… but ‘The Scientist’ is a great song.’

Verdict: Sell.





NEXT TIME: C is for... contemporary, adult and Chicago rappers.

The Kills - 'Blood Pressures'

After a pair of successful albums with Jack White and the Death Weather, singer Allison Mosshart has returned to the band that got her there, the Kills, with the new record Blood Pressures. Not to downplay the importance of guitarist/vocalist Jamie Hince or anything, but Mosshart has been in the press for the last few years because of her art; Hince meanwhile has been hanging out with his special lady friend Kate Moss. Getting the band together at least gets him out of the house.

With the Dead Weather’s success, Blood Pressures is as much a response to Sea of Cowards as it is to the Kills’ sexcellent 2008 trashy dance/blues record Midnight Boom. Where DW can be counted on for outrageous statements (“Shake your hips like battleships!”) and big arena rock, the Kills have opted to go insular. Or, at least as insular as a pair of boozy rockers can go.

The Kills started off as a PJ Harvey-aping blues rock couple. Midnight Boom injected a lot of dance-pop elements into that formula, and it remains the group’s most accessible album. Blood Pressures downplays the pop aspect a bit; two tunes even go for full-on balladry. Of course, if you listen to just the first half of the album, you’ll think I’m a liar. Blood Pressures is frontloaded with big hits. “Future Starts Slow” opens with a midtempo drum beat before Hince starts weaving a catchy guitar line over the beat. He and Mosshart slowly build a tale of jealous lovers while the guitars get harder and harder. Single “Satellite” is slower, almost dub-esque. “Heart is a Beating Drum” and “Nail in My Coffin” offer a dual set of angular beats and party jams.

The record takes a turn on Hince’s dreamy “Wild Charms,” which sounds like a John Lennon piano demo. It’s only 75-seconds long, but it’s a neat palate-cleanser. Mosshart’s turn at balladry, “The Last Goodbye,” is a little more wearisome. It just plods on and on; it’s a hair away from becoming a kitschy bar bawler. It’s a speed bump that damages the album’s flow, and the three songs that come after it don’t quite recapture the energy of “Nail” or “Future.” Still, Blood Pressures is a welcome return from a group I assumed was finished. It complements both the Dead Weather and the Kills’ combined discographies nicely.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Daft Punk - 'TRON: Legacy R3C0NF1GUR3D' soundtrack

Released last year, Daft Punk’s soundtrack for TRON: Legacy was a much better composition than such an iffy sci-fi film deserved. It blended orchestral and electronic music together while honoring and expanding the ideas of the score for the original film by Wendy Carlos (and Journey, sort of). With TRON: Legacy dropping on DVD (and Blu-ray, if you’re into that sort of thing), it makes sense that Walt Disney Records would cash in on the soundtrack one more time with TRON: Legacy R3C0NF1GUR3D [NOTE: Much like with Nine Inch Nails’ Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D, I’m just gonna go ahead and spell this phonetically as “Reconfigured.,” because fuck L337 speak.]

At 78 minutes, “Reconfigured” is a beast, stretching out a lot of Legacy’s best moments and adding dancier beats. Sometimes it works – both The Glitch Mob and Avicii do great jobs with “Derezzed” – and sometimes it doesn’t. The record is a big grab bag of techno from a surprising mix of names. I’m excited to see my beloved M83 show up on “Fall;” perplexed by the presence of The Crystal Method and Moby. Paul Oakenfold shows up on “C.L.U.” and turns it into an obnoxiously fun dance track with some weird metal moments. Boys Noize has arguably the best remix, for "End of Line," enhancing that song's club-like qualities while adding more bloops 'n' bleeps.

“Reconfigured” is a niche within a niche. In order to like the original score, you needed to like Daft Punk and TRON in equal measures, which some people struggled with. In order to like “Reconfigured,” you need to do all of that plus care about remixes. Quoth Diesel Sweeties: “Remixing a song is like admitting you were wrong.” This do-over is nifty in spots and spotty in others. The original pieces were pretty short, and these stretched out versions don’t quite compare. Still, if you fit into that niche within a niche, “Reconfigured” is a pleasant, though uneven, purchase.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vinyl Vednesday 4/6/2011


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]

Records:
Pretty Girls Make Graves’ All Medicated Geniuses seven-inch (2003) on black, Wilco’s Being There (1996) on black, and Stevie Wonder’s Music of My Mind (1972) on, again, black.

Place of Purchase:
PGMG and Wilco came from Repo Records in Philadelphia. Music came from Smash Records in Washington, D.C.


Thoughts: I’ve been thinking about Pretty Girls Make Graves off and on lately. For a while, they were my favorite emo-turned-art-punk act. It didn’t matter if I was spinning their late period Discount rip Good Health or their dark, more post-punk-oriented follow-up New Romance. Either way, I was obsessed. All Medicated Geniuses was one of the first vinyls I picked up when I first got a record player. It’s probably most noticeable for a solid cover of Bow Wow Wow’s “C-30 C-60 C-90 Go!” but the originals are top-notch too. It’s a shame the Girls broke up, but I suppose it was inevitable after they started bleeding members and dropped the ho-hum swam song Elan Vital.

I bought Wilco’s Being There on a whim while I was waiting for my girlfriend to finish class. I’d been out of college for almost a year at that point and was doing nothing with degree. I had busted my ass to make honors and slogged through two journalism internships and came out with little in ways of fortunes. I felt like I had little value at the time; I think of 23 as my “lost year.” I tell you this because I heard “Misunderstood,” the opening track on Being There, while driving around Bucks County in this dejected mindset. The song is about being stuck in the same boring town with nothing better to do than grab a drink and forget. I put so much emotional investment into that one alt-country confessional that the lyrics became so much more. I get why people prefer Wilco’s later work, but Being There will always be my favorite album because of that one song. Heck, I don’t even think it needed to be a double album – that first record, with “Far, Far Away,” “Monday,” and “Forget the Flowers,” is all I need, although “The Lonely 1” comes close.

I feel like I’m being a bummer in this installment, so let’s talk about Stevie Wonder. I LOVE STEVIE WONDER. Prince led me to Wonder, and his ’70s run of records rivals Prince’s output in the ’80s. Shit, sometimes when I put on a Wonder record, I hear ideas that are still being ripped off to this day. The guy just oozed hits that perfectly mixed funk, blues, and soul. While some of his later work took on political intonations (Hotter Than July) and weighty concepts (Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants), Music of My Mind is a straight up party record through and through. Granted, there’s still some socio-political commentary at work, but I still can’t believe how effortlessly cool and alive these songs sound.

YEAH EVERYTHING IS GONNA BE OK.

The Raveonettes - 'Raven in the Grave'

Those who have really been paying attention will say that the Raveonettes have never truly made the same album twice. Sure, the Danish duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo have always dealt in quasi-gothic Jesus and Mary Chain-style noise-pop. But each album has been an experiment. Chain Gang of Love was written in the same key. Pretty in Black toyed with ’50s garage rock and ’60s girl groups. Lust Lust Lust was really, really loud. In and Out of Control was the group’s most overtly pop record.

Wagner and Foo have consistently dropped a new record every two years since 2003, and each time out they tweak their sound. Their latest, Raven in the Grave, is their most ethereal album yet. The band has always dabbled in shoegaze, but Raven really earns the tag, recalling My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and the Cure’s Disintegration at their most swirling and delicate.

Coming off of Lust and Control, then, Raven is another random switch-up, as it is neither as heavy nor as catchy as previous outings. Yet it’s still just as beguiling. At nine songs in 35 minutes, the record is a brief, hypnotic burst of ambient noise pop. It’s both exactly what Raveonettes fans want while still subverting expectations.

“Recharge & Revolt,” the longest song at five-and-a-half minutes, is both the opening track and the lead single. The Raveonettes strength lies in turning uncommercial ideas – in this case lengthy, droning songwriting – into gold. “Recharge” isn’t an obvious choice for a single (The vox don’t kick in until nearly the two-minute mark, a big radio no-no), yet it’s perfect. The drums plod on while Wagner strums and sings in his nasal, alien voice. A second guitar line and synths lay down a shoegaze dirge. It envelops the listener, segueing into “War in Heaven” effortlessly.

The songs cover the usual Raveonettes topics – death, sex, breaking up – but that’s not the point. Raven creates a headspace of dark ambience, but it’s also tightly constructed. Lust Lust Lust got a little overbearing; Raven’s songs aren’t too repetitious at all. It’s harder to single out songs here than on Control, but that’s because the record creates an overall mood of dreaminess. The Raveonettes have stayed faithful to a certain template for a decade now, but it’s one that’s flexible enough to encompass all the detours the group has gone on along the way.