Archive for December, 2010

A Vagina Is Not A Panacea

A lot of people have been asking me lately how I feel. And as I’ve rather honestly said to everyone, I’ve been far too busy to be nervous that I have surgery scheduled. Now that I’m less busy, I am starting to get a bit nervous. And anxious. And excited. Well, it’s lots of things. When I euphemistically say surgery, I mean, for all you readers at home, gender reassignment surgery or a vaginoplasty or, as Healthpartners most humorously put it, a sex transformation (it sounds so mystical. Why not call it sex alchemy at that point?). You can go Google that if you really don’t understand what’s going on with it, but I think you get the point. Anyway, something that people closer to me follow up a “nervous/excited” question most times is some sort of statement about how it’s going to make things easier. Which is always a bit confusing to me. Personally, I fail to see how genitalia makes dating easier, for example. Certainly, it opens up some different options for me personally. I wouldn’t be going through all of this if there weren’t a part of me that didn’t say that’s what I want. I define the end point when it comes to my transition. No one is making me have any kind of surgery. It’s not right or wrong. It merely feels right to me. I can never explain that to you properly. Ever. While that used to frustrate me, I get that now. We all have something about ourselves that we just can’t explain to other people. I think that’s part of what makes us us. So I want this, yes. I made that decision a long time ago. I’ve had ample opportunities to feel it out. It’s right. That I know. But it’s still something that’s going to come up. I may be done with the seemingly endless paperwork and name changes and all of that (only a couple more now…). I may be done with the transition phase in a really neat encapsulation of my life where everything has names and distinct phases. But in the actual process of living, things don’t have nice clean phases. I’m still going to get called sir the next time I go into Chipotle, and the first verification of employment I do after I get back to work, I will still probably be called James on the phone. I may have genitalia in line with what I want, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something I’m going to have to explain in a relationship. It still has an effect. Maybe it changes how comfortable I feel about when I disclose the fact that I’m trans. Probably it doesn’t change that at all. A vagina is not a panacea. It’s not going to make everything better. That’s something I’m always working on. Surgery’s something I feel like doing. It matters to me. But the day-to-day process of making life better for myself, that’s been going on for a long time now, and this, this is just another step. It’s a great signifier. It’s a tangible thing that a lot of other people can latch onto, certainly. It’s something that I never thought I would be able to do, and to look back at the past three or so years and realize that I set a goal that matters to me and did it, that’s empowering. But this, this is just one more thing. Surgery’s a big thing, sure. But so was the first time I even said that I was going through this process and said to someone that I’m transgendered. Or the first day I finally started living full-time. Or when I finally legally changed my name. There are steps that come after this, that even right now still don’t seem possible. What I know now, though, is that I can do it. So sure, I’m excited. And nervous. And I want this. I really, really, really do, even if you don’t get that perception when you talk with me. How can I explain that to you, though? I can’t fully, but that’s okay.

The Year In 7″

One of the more interesting things about the resurgence of vinyl is the resurgence of singles in it of themselves. While the digital music revolution has obviously led us back to a more singles-based culture (and I don’t see how you could argue otherwise), it hasn’t overall changed the nature of the 7″. It is still the means for a small band to get something physical out for to fans, and certainly it’s what many up and coming bands are using. If we can all get their music for free, many times legally because the artists are giving it away to get listeners, it needs to be backed with something that at least the avid fans out there will be. Being an avid fan (or a fool depending on your line of thinking), I love 7″ releases. It’s fun. It’s a tangible way to give some money back to artists that I care about and get something cool back in return. And I’m certainly giving away money. I’m paying just as much for some 7″ releases as I do on albums sometimes. Nonetheless, I’m still a sucker when it comes to them, b-sides, splits, and all that shenanigans. Bigger bands are getting back into the act through Record Store Day and suddenly there’s kind of a market there for them. Of course, no one’s gonna pay too much for some crappy 7″ when you can get the song for free and determine that, so the products still gotta be solid if I’m going to spend $5-7 for two to four songs. While I didn’t get as many as I intended (mostly because runs of 200-300 sell out pretty quickly), I did end up with a few, and I’d like to highlight some of my favorite releases from this year in the really short form, the one item that reliably leads to people switching their record players into 45 rpm.

Japandroids – Younger Us

They put out one of my favorite records of 2009. They put on a hell of a live show when they are sober enough to. And they put on a memorable one when they aren’t sober enough to. There is nothing subtle about their music, just lots and lots and lots of sound. Two guys screaming and banging and strumming with everything pretty much set to 11. As a follow-up to Post-Nothing, they are releasing a series of 7″ that contain one song from the Post-Nothing sessions along with one cover. It’s a clever little way for them to keep putting out stuff and stay on our minds while still touring and making money the old-fashioned way. Plus, they probably don’t have a ton of new material given all this touring. Sometimes, the stuff that was left off the album was a good decision on the parts of all involved, but in the case of Japandroids, the three songs on the singles so far have been just as strong as anything on the record, which is a good sign. This is my favorite of the three, but I highly recommend Art Czars or Heavenward Gran Prix as well. The covers aren’t particularly necessary, but they are fun to hear.

The Beatles – Paperback Writer b/ Rain

I don’t really need to tell you about this. I only bring it up because it’s the first Beatles remastered piece of vinyl, at least as it stands in the States. I look forward to the rest.

Cults – Go Outside

Gorilla Vs Bear started a label this year, and so far I have 3 of the 5 things released. This is a good sign. This was their first release. A highly infectious tune that opens with a Jim Jones quotation, I can’t help but wonder what 2011 has in store for these guys. It’s a good, backward-looking pop gem with more of a late 60s feel, and while I’m not sure how well that would hold up over a whole record, that might not be a problem to worry about yet. I’ll deal with that when the full length is actually coming. In the meantime, dance, dance my minions.

Greatest Hits – Danse Pop

4 songs in 8 minutes of 7″ awesomeness. More bands need to emulate this. Everything’s pretty much more of the same, with the pumping, coming off your boombox from the late 80s sound quality. I already wrote about the title track before, and the rest of the 7″ is just more of the same. If I could have a house party, I would totally book these guys to play.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Heart In Your Heartbreak

Their self-titled debut was a bit more fuzzed out than their past couple singles have been. This is from a highly anticipated 2011 release, Belong, and if it’s any indication, they have ditched the fuzz more reminiscent of Black Tambourine’s reissue. Still those same influences as before shining strong, with C86/Sarah Records prime amongst them, but they traded the fuzz for the sheen of the late 80s. And you know what, it still works. It’s glossier and bigger, and if anything, could put them more on the map for people other than me who have already been listening for a long time. If you are looking for an influence that you might be able to latch onto, I think more production value in line with something like Disintegration, that late 80s gloss that has been missing from music for a while and is welcome back. Still nice catchy lyrics too, don’t worry.

Sleep ∞ Over – Outer Limits

From what I’ve heard of their other stuff, this is a little more on the dream pop side of things than they usually end up. I remember the original initial description as being “if Beach House recorded in a graveyard” or something to that effect. So yeah, it’s got that Beach House quality, a little darker around the edges, but still eerily similar to tunes on Beach House’s self-titled debut. Frankly, if more bands want to sound like that, I’m okay with it. I guess it’s a fine line between too many bands sounding the same and not enough, but that’s a pretty great sound. But me, I like simple beats and pretty vocals and swirling musical lines. I can get behind that.

There are a few more that deserve to be on this list that I either haven’t tracked down or have passed up because I’ve been focusing my money on some other concerns right now, like the new Memoryhouse single on Suicide Squeeze, but all in all, a pretty good year. Next up, the 10″/12″ side of things.

Slightly More Than 50 Thoughts About Slightly More Than 50 Shows

When I think back on this year, I will think of it as the year I said fuck it, I’m going to do what I want. Not entirely a consequences be damned year, but my credit card would certainly be happier if I hadn’t discovered that attitude. On the other hand, when I think back on all the bands I’ve seen and all the experiences I’ve had at those shows, I just go, wow, this was a great year. Certainly there are things that would have been nicer. I still never quite get over that weird feeling of seeing people that I know but don’t know any more and just having nothing to say. It’s always a little weird. And it’d still be nice to go to these shows with other people, which I rarely do these days. It’s still a communal experience. But I’ve learned that whether or not I know them all well, a lot of those people are my community. We may not be best friends; hell, we probably don’t have anything else in common. We do love our music, and we talk about our music, and in some other corner of the interwebs, they may be writing about it themselves. Even if it’s just in passing, or just for one night, the people I meet, and the experiences I have at some shows are just truly wonderful experiences. I wish more people that I actually knew joined me in that, but if they don’t want to and won’t appreciate it, I’m not going to force them to. After some amount of counting, I finally pegged the number of shows I went to at 54. I may still be missing one or two, but this seems right. I may squeeze in one or two more between now and the end of the year (Terminal Twilight, I’m coming for you at Spaceland). As a means of recapping, I’m going to write a little bit about each one. This entry will probably take me two days to write. There’s a lot of ground to cover. But ultimately, it’s worth capturing. I spent an average of slightly more than 1 night a week at a bar or club with ear plugs in and a sometimes classy, sometimes cheap beer in hand (depends on the venue). And while I may be ridiculed for my love of PBR, I will never accept ridicule for my love of live music. I don’t care who you are, you should be doing what you’re passionate about. This, this is something that means a lot to me. To others, it’s a waste of time. For me, it’s a rather memorable year. And it goes something like this…

01/15/2010 – Rural Alberta Advantage – Cedar Cultural Center

Dark, Dark, Dark opened, but mostly what was notable was the fact that I didn’t know how they were going to play their closer. The past two times I saw them at The Entry, their closer featured them going out into the middle of the crowd and playing a very stripped down song that is piercing and beautiful, unrecorded, and probably meant to be that way. Being in the middle of 100 or 200 people and seeing it was magical, but I couldn’t figure out how that would work in a venue that A) had seats and B) had 500 people. Not only did they play new material, but at the end of the show, while acknowledging the size and passion of the crowd as being large for them, they still came out in the middle and gave that most intimate of performances. It’s still my favorite song by them. I can’t wait to see them do that at First Ave and I’ll be on the floor just for it.

02/17/2010 – Wild Beasts – 7th Street Entry

This was one of those shows I didn’t expect to sell out. I can never peg them properly at the Entry. I’m convinced the room will be packed, and it’s empty. I think no one’s gonna show, and I’m fighting for a view. It was a sweaty, sweaty February night full of wonderful English falsetto. What more can a girl ask for?

03/03/2010 – Foreign Born w/ Free Energy – 7th Street Entry

Foreign Born was really kinda boring. Professional and musically tight, but just not that exciting. Free Energy, anything but. My second time seeing them (last year in DC with about 30 other people who’d also only ever heard “Dream City”). This was the only time out of four I ever recall seeing them noticeably and visibly moved out of “we are rockers” mode and in more of a “holy shit, this is really awesome that all these people came to see us” mode. They played to a sold-out hometown crowd the same way they played to those 30 people otherwise, though, that is to say a high-energy, finger tapping, tambourine shaking jamboree. This bodes well. More from those boys from Philadelphia later.

03/15/10 – The Clientele w/ Field Music – Cedar Cultural Center

I’ll never figure out why these guys aren’t bigger. They are awesome, in a 60s British soft-rocking kind of way, with one left field spoken word track per album. They play great soft rock. They have an attractive female member and a self-deprecating lead singer. They’re on Merge. I thought these were all signs of success. I’ve been listening since “Since K Got Over Me”. I should have been listening since The Violet Hour. But what do I really remember about this show. It sparked a love affair with Florafauna that shall not die. If you ever come over to my apartment, you’ll notice that.

03/18/10 – The Big Pink w/ A Place To Bury Strangers – First Avenue

One of the few shows I enjoyed with the company of friends, not just strangers that I started talking with. Ran into a couple I know and got to watch their reaction as A Place To Bury Strangers tried to melt their faces. Worth the price of admission alone, but The Big Pink weren’t too shabby either. It made up for the show I missed over Thanksgiving while in Virginia.

03/30/10 – Serena Maneesh w/ The Depreciation Guild – 7th Street Entry

You’d think I’d like Serena Maneesh more. They’re shoegaze. But I went to see The Depreciation Guild. Who are also kinda shoegaze. And they were okay. Left this show mostly feeling like it was a worthwhile experience, but not feeling overly awed by any aspect of it. The first, though not the last, of mediocre shows that I would see this year. The lows make the highs higher though, right?

04/02/10 – Spoon w/ Deerhunter and Micachu & The Shapes – First Avenue

They are tight. They are professional. And they played a sweet cover of Wolf Parade’s “Modern World”. Not quite on par with the first time I saw them at First Ave (21+ setlist featured heavy amounts of material from A Series Of Sneaks, Girls Can Tell, and Kill the Moonlight), but still, of almost all the bands I’ve seen this year, a band that I not only say everyone should see, but everyone should definitely see. This is also the start of a crazy week, if you start paying attention to the date of the shows.

04/03/10 – Cymbals Eat Guitars w/ Bear In Heaven and Freelance Whales – The Turf Club

A good bill if ever there were one. Though Bear In Heaven would headline an even stronger one 3 months later at the same institution, this show is notable for 2 things. One, Bear In Heaven kills it live. Just go see them if you get the chance. Two, the lead singer/guitarist for Cymbals Eat Guitar has the most contorted, funny-looking facial expressions I’ve ever seen someone make while playing guitar. It’s like each tic or random movement is in time with some crazy solo that only he hears. Always worth it. I’d see him two more times this year, and learned it’s not a one-off thing.

04/04/10 – Beach House – Cedar Cultural Center

Not that it wasn’t a great show (Teen Dream is one of the few records I purchased this year that I think a majority of people I know could like, if they listened to music in album form and/or listened to music), but I should have seen Beach House 4 years ago. I own their self-titled record. I purchased it when it came out. It’s excellent and if you really, really asked my opinion, I still think it’s better than Teen Dream. And they didn’t play anything off of it. Which isn’t surprising. They had a new album to support, and an album before that also has a number of excellent songs. And it was great to see everything off of those two records. But what I would have done to hear “Saltwater”. It was one of those shows that was good and made me feel even more purpose to go see and do those things that I want to do, possibly something that spurred me to remember that the next time a band comes around, I may not hear anything off of a record that means a lot to me. So now’s the time. And maybe next time, they’ll get back there and dig out “Tokyo Witch” or the even more killer “untitled”.

04/05/10 – Titus Andronicus – 7th Street Entry

Notable not only because the amazingly cathartic power of this show and because one of the windows on my car got broken (by a pebble or something), but also because it made me sick. And because I probably had a couple more than I should of on a Monday night because the band I was so unceremoniously was booted from a couple years ago got to open. And because I wore my black boots, which seemed like a good idea at the time until Titus Andronicus played almost two hours. And because it was then (and probably still is) the most meaningful record I picked up this year, personally. Just a great show. One of my favorite sets from the year.

04/06/10 – Miike Snow w/ Delorean – Varsity Theater

I have a confession to make. I did not stay for Miike Snow. I was sick, and in no mood for a cotton candy band. Delorean, on the other hand, is 4 cute Spanish boys playing blissed out Baleric jams. I’m always in the mood for that. They started with their best known song arguably (“Seasun”), which I though was pretty ballsy for a band from Spain that half the crowd hadn’t heard of. It was awesome. It just got better. And then I slept. And called in sick the next day.

04/08/10 – Surfer Blood w/ Turbo Fruits – 7th Street Entry

I don’t remember a whole lot about this show. Certainly, “Swim” and “Floating Vibes” were oodles of fun. Turbo Fruits were crazy. And I just realized Velvet Davenport opened, and I’m kicking myself now. Silly me. Fun guitar pop show at the Entry, which is something that makes any Thursday night just a little bit brighter. I was still getting over being sick, with a lot of show still ahead of me.

04/09/10 – the xx w/ jj and Nosaj Thing – Varsity Theater

Let me say that of all the up and coming bands that I saw this year, I really think the xx has the biggest potential. I point to the fact that their music already seems to be covered by everyone and anyone (Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark, Matthew Dear, Gorillaz, The Antlers). I point to the fact that as their show demonstrated, they have stage presence. They know how to entertain a big crowd. Their songs are arena ready. Basically, just slot these guys to open for some British legends on a tour in the next couple years that bumps their profile and that’s all the help they need. Depeche Mode, I’m looking at you. They killed it. But what was really notable about this show? jj. Not because it was good. It was weird, and kind of horrid and strange. It was like watching karaoke on a stage. Everything was backed and there was almost zero live instrumentation. There were weird films playing in the background. I really didn’t know what to make of it. I still don’t, 8 months later. Notable. Sure. Good? Not so much.

04/10/10 – Japandroids w/ Avi Buffalo

The first time I saw them at the Triple Rock, they had one of those shows that can only be described as a clusterfuck. Breaking amps, lots of liquor, a really late Sunday night set, and a lot of discussion about the North Stars, which always subconsciously depresses the locals. This show was cleaner, they ripped through some of the songs on their 7 inches that are coming out this year, and it was an all-around better show, technically. But a better experience? No. Avi Buffalo, if I may, not entirely sure what the hype’s about.

04/17/10 – The Wedding Present – 400 Bar

David Gedge is an interesting fellow. You should listen to a few albums by The Wedding Present sometimes. Had I heard anything off Bizarro the entire affair might have made a bit more sense. That is what they played straight through, after all. Still, a fun experience. It was kind of odd to see a band playing to half-empty 400 Bar that should have been at least playing to a full house. But I guess that’s the ups and downs of a not quite seminal band 20 some years later.

04/20/10 -The Antlers – Varsity Theater

I built this show up too much. It certainly was a show that I was looking very much forward to. Had I made a top list for 2009 and not gotten lazy, Hospice would have been on top. It still is. It is one of my favorite albums. There was really a lot of separation that year between first and second even in my book. That record just really hit me at a time that it meant a lot, and I was finally starting to work out a lot of things in my life, and it did it for me. So a lot built up to this show. And it was decent, but you could tell they were losing steam just by looking at the crowd as it petered out of the venue throughout the set. Everything was rearranged. Still recognizable, but not like it was on the record. Sometimes, that works for a band. On this night in this place, it did not work for The Antlers.

04/27/10 – The Besnard Lakes – 7th Street Entry

It is unclear how, with both my love of psychedelic rock and Canada, I ever missed out on The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse. Just an oversight on my part (oversight’s a funny word…another time). But Lala helped rectify that situation (rest in peace), and by the end of 2009, I feel like I’d started to wear down my copy of that record. Luckily, they were back with a new record and a tour. Worth it, just to see some husband-wife, twelve-string, drug-addled rocking. Probably would have been a better show under the influence.

05/01/10 – Los Campesinos! w/ Cymbals Eat Guitar – First Avenue

Two things from this one stood out. One, Cymbals Eat Guitar took full advantage of First Ave’s sound system. In a way that only Emeralds rivaled this year. But mostly, I remember Gareth’s well-timed joke in regards to both a song and another band playing in Minneapolis that night, and it went something like this…we kinda ripped off Ben Gibbard in this next song. I guess that’s the theme for bands in town tonight. Owl City jokes never get old.

05/01/10 – The Apples In Stereo – The Turf Club

That’s right! Two shows, two cities, one night. Jetted over to a 2/3rd full Turf to find out the following: I gave them the wrong ticket at First Ave and they believed me. Which was true. I don’t know how I didn’t notice that at the time, though. Elephant 6 bands do some pretty good costume work. Nothing lightens one’s mood like being recognized by the bartenders. “Sun Is Out” still kills, even if it was in a car commercial. A cool car commercial, but a car commercial nonetheless.

05/14/10 – Gayngs – First Avenue

What can I say? This was a singular experience. Everyone was dressed up to get into the prom theme, including the musicians. Ryan Olson had a number of the crew working the white tuxes and prom dresses, but Steph, he cut the best figure in the tux with the shaved head. Really gave him that Luther Vandross feel. Prince was in the house. They dropped balloons during “The Last Prom On Earth”. They played Howard Jones’ “No One Is To Blame” as the encore and sounded mostly to totally unironic about it. This was the best concert-going experience I had this year that I’ll never be able to replicate. Sonically, there were things that could have used work, but considering this involved getting 20+ musicians together across numerous bands (Bon Iver, Megafaun, The Rosebuds, all being out of town connections to mesh with a mess of locals), it’s pretty incredible that this thing happened at all. That I moved the next day and it went off relatively well is possibly just as amazing.

05/17/10 – Local Natives – 400 Bar

While we’re handing out accolades, let’s hear it for the second hottest show of the year. I thought it would be the winner at the time, but that had to wait until August. The 400, when it’s full, is a great, exceptional place to see a show. Bright Eyes, 2004, that’s all I’ve got to say. This is just another reminder of that kind of energy. But it’s nice when the A/C works, especially considering the weirdly hot May we had here. Gods was this show full. I usually enjoy the sound at the 400 too, but they had a lot of problems this night. Despite all of those snafus, Local Natives brought their A-game and thoroughly impressed me. Not that I expected any less. They made a record that I always wonder why I don’t listen to because it’s so good. Just like this is a show that was so good, and yet I rarely think about it. Maybe it’s hard to separate all the sweat from the sound.

05/19/10 – Mono – Triple Rock Social Club

Anyone who’s been to enough music review sites, talked with enough truly passionate music goers, or listened to and attended enough concerts knows that there are just some concerts that are better than others. On account of the experiential nature, or whatever else one wants to chalk it up to, let’s say, personal proclivities, some shows are better than others. But there are shows that people form a consensus on, bands that you must experience. Mono is one of those bands. I’d read that, I’ve seen it stated over and over that it is one of the best concert going experiences you can ever have. And now I can confirm it is. Hands down the loudest show I’ve ever been to, even with ear plugs. It was like a pool of sound on the floor of the Triple Rock. One of the most awesome experiences (I mean that in its more intended way) that I’ve ever had. Mono took me to church.

05/21/10 – Peter Wolf Crier – Turf Club

This was a tough week. I moved on the 15th, after being out way too late. I was finally getting acclimated to being a St. Paul girl. And I learned one of the benefits. The Turf is a short hop now. Everything else is a little further, but that’s okay. I still love the Turf Club. To further add to it, a lot of people that I don’t talk with anymore were at this show, which I suppose is to be expected from a local boy does good sort of show like this. Musically, I don’t remember a lot of the details. It just wasn’t the most memorable. Good at the time, sure, and I purchased the record and listened to it a few times, but then, it hasn’t come out of its sleeve since. It’s the opposite end of the Mono phenomenon. This is a show and a band that got talked up and talked up, and then talked up a little bit more. And I found it lacking. I love and trust Jagjaguar, and it’s nice to see a local band do well outside of the Twin Cities, but it just didn’t click with me. C’est la vie. That’s why I go to the shows.

06/11/10 – The New Pornographers – First Avenue

For reasons that aren’t worth getting into, I’d never manged to catch these guys before. Which is weird considering how much I love them. I’m not the biggest New Pornographers fan you know. But I’m up there. Finally, though, this managed to fit the schedule, nothing went wrong, and I was on my way. Except I was coming from Saint Paul. Little known fact. 94 during the summer evening hours is a parking lot. So I missed “Sing Me Spanish Techno”. But only because they started early. Leave it to Canadians to start early. Who would have thought? I’ve seen a lot of strange things a shows, but rarely have I ever seen a band come out before the posted time. I think A.C. Newman was just fucking with us.

06/24/10 – Mates Of State w/ Free Energy – 400 Bar

This is actually the first show I attended with another person this year. Go me. Good planning. Musically, an odd couple, but the overall energy of the show was what made it really fun. Just a lot of fun music. Even with a totally predictable closer like Goods (In Your Head). Because where else are you playing that song? Even bands that play numerous songs from deep catalogs know that certain songs have to go certain places, and that’s that. And an experience that’s worth having. And I did what any good music fan should do. I got the person who came with me to buy Free Energy’s record (which I haven’t done, but I’ve already seen them about 4 times and know all the songs it seems). The old-fashioned kind of viral.

07/02/10 – Taste Of Minnesota – Harriett Island

I wasn’t disappointed to hear they won’t be doing this back at Harriett next year. It was cool to be able to walk to something like this, and deep fried cookie dough is awesome, but the only part of the experience that seemed worth it was the music. And it’s called the Taste of Minnesota, as in the food. On that front, I don’t think it was much of a success. On the musical front? I thought it was a hit. Several stages varying throughout the day with a nice mix of local and national profile acts; a tent that had mostly local stuff like Communist Daughter, another are where there were slightly higher profile artists (not just local) like Dawes and Retribution Gospel Choir, the main stage with Minus The Bear, The Walkmen, P.O.S., and Atmosphere, a small bluesy stage off on the river. I think there was even a kids stage. So musically, for $20, I’d do that every time. For all the other junk? Not so much. I don’t go to many things like this any more. It’s just hard on the body to stand around all day, everything costs too much, and chances are, I’ve seen a lot of the bands that are going to be at any festival I want to go to that’s in the Twin Cities. Get me to Europe, or hell, even Chicago, and I’m sure it’d be a different story, but here in the Twin Cities, I’ve either seen ’em on a small stage or don’t want most times at this rate. And I have seen most of those bands at other times. But seeing Atmosphere in front of a large crowd, outside, doing “Shhh”? I think that should be required to be a Minnesota citizen.

07/14/10 – Modest Mouse w/ The Radar Bros. – The Orpheum Theatre

Almost three shows in a row that I would have seen with a friend, but the works got gummed up. The getting was just too good. I’d like to say she missed the most amazing thing ever. But that was when I saw Modest Mouse in the Main Room the night before the smoking ban went into effect. That was a crazy show. This was good. Professional. Tight, with random tracks off of older records (“Wild Pack of Family Dogs”? Sure) and a nice mix of stronger new material. Even an awesome Flora Fauna poster. But when the price tag’s $50, I expect all that stuff. And I got exactly what I expected. Which I suppose has to happen every so often.

07/18/10 – Wolf Parade – First Avenue

I’m sure the opener was good. I wouldn’t know. I stood outside and caught up with a friend on my cellphone. This is actually about when I reached that point. I did the same thing three months later for most of The Sea & Cake’s set, and I don’t really regret it. I did, however, make a point to hang up the phone, grab an adult beverage, and take in some fine Canadian rock. Little did I know at the time that this was potentially my last chance to see them in a while. Considering how many other bands these guys are in, and the fact that this one (at least as stated) was more or less thrown together, and 2 of the 3 records they made are pretty awesome, I’ll take it. Quite different from seeing them on the same stage 5 years ago, as the new kids opening for The Arcade Fire. A confident show. A swagger. Nice to see, and I hope you got the chance too. Bands like this don’t just fall off trees.

07/19/10 – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti w/ Puro Instinct (formerly Pearl Harbor) & Magic Kids – 7th Street Entry

Don’t get me wrong, I’d read it before going to the show, but nothing prepares you for seeing a 14 year-old shredding on the lead guitar. She might be 15 now. What’s even weirder is that all the music that influences the way she plays was written well before she was born. A lot of it was written before I was born, or at least when I was too young to be listening. A band that gets thrown around a lot is Galaxie 500, but here’s a couple girls that listened to a lot of Galaxie 500. If you don’t believe me, you can come over and listen, but only on vinyl, because they just didn’t want to give away the mp3s. And Puro Instinct has that in common with them too. I haven’t even talked about some of the other crazy shit at this show. It was not exactly how I plan to spend most Monday nights, as it was insane, and super fun, and really, really late (Ariel Pink believes in rockstar time, let’s just say that). A great show, and not even the best show I saw in this stretch of three shows in a row. That would come the next day.

07/20/10 – Bear In Heaven w/ Twin Sister & Mountain Men – The Turf Club

This show earns the title of the most expensive show I went to if you add together tickets, drinks and merch. I spent a lot of money on records at the end of this one. That’s always a good sign for the quality of a show overall. Mountain Men, in attempt to have the least accurate name ever, are three women who sing mostly vocal tunes; Twin Sister, I’m pretty sure after hearing their most recent single, are the second coming of Fleetwood Mac (that’s a good thing). And Bear In Heaven? I still can’t tell you what they sound like. They sound like Bear In Heaven. You go listen and try and describe them. I’ve seen so many terms thrown around for their music by numerous people. Don’t get me wrong, writing about music most of the time is just scattering shots around the dart board, because finding the perfect term depends on numerous things. The writer having heard of the right bands, the reader also knowing who they are, and everyone recalling all of that at the right time. Bear In Heaven is one of those bands that exists to make it even harder. And they throw down a sweet cover of “Lovesick” by Lindstrom & Christabelle. You’re on your own on that one (or just ask for my year-end mix).

07/26/10 – The Gaslight Anthem – First Avenue

What is punk these days? Not what it was in the mid-seventies, that’s for sure. That’s okay. It’s been and gone a lot of different places. And here’s certainly a punk band in aesthetic. But in songwriting? This is just classic rock, folks. Boss-approved, even. Hailing from the musically resurgent New Jersey (seriously, these guys, Real Estate, Titus Andronicus, Big Troubles…I could go on and on), they play a high-energy show where there’s definitely lots of tattoos, piercing, and sweating. Which makes this an abnormal crowd for me. But a fun show nonetheless. It was nice to see a band play “Baba O’Reily” in that same fucked up way that any band that tries to cover it does (the song’s slightly out of tune…there’s no helping that). And they sold a blacklight friendly poster. What more do you want out of rock and roll folks?

08/05/10 – The National w/ The Antlers – First Avenue

Matt Berninger is a sexy man. Really not much more to say in that regard. Musically? Oh, musically. Yeah, it was a good show too. I never really got much into The National until High Violet, which is a little weird. It’s a wheelhouse kind of band. I don’t think I ever read anything that piqued my ears enough, though, and even just a few years ago, listening wasn’t nearly as easy as it is now. Even if it would have been a crazier, more meaningful show for some super fan if they’d seen them 5 years ago next door, for me, it was the right time to see them. I don’t think they’ll ever be a top 5 band for me, but seeing them really helped me gain some appreciation for more of their music, and it’s just so damn good. And who knows, these things move in weird phases. As I’m typing this portion, I’m certainly listening to something that was barely only registering with me 5 years ago (Drive-By Truckers), so sometimes it just takes a while. And this show, it’s one of the better takeovers of the Main Room I saw this year. The Antlers acquitted themselves better as openers than headliners. But that’s about all I’ve got to say on that. Not their fault they made a fantastic record and can’t quite translate it live. It just happens sometimes.

08/08/10 – The Black Keys w/ The Morning Benders – Val-Air Ballroom

I almost needlessly expended the superlative of “hottest show I attended” on The Local Natives until I remembered the sauna-tastic Val-Air experience in Des Moines. I went down there for a few days on my way out to Colorado for a wedding, and it just happened there were a couple of excellent shows at the same time, and me being me, I took advantage of that. I had previously not seen The Black Keys, which always seemed a little odd considering that I do enjoy them very much, but it just never worked out, and now they are very popular in the Twin Cities, with shows selling out near instantaneously at First Ave (they played two sold out shows in June, whereas tickets were still available for this leading up to it). And while they musically were troopers and played through broken AC and what had to be an internal temperature of about 110 in there, it wasn’t the conditions for the greatest show. The fact that they still played so well and had a good show, well, I think that’s just a testament to them.

08/10/10 – Phoenix w/ Toro y Moi – People’s Court

This show was busted down to a smaller venue than originally planned. This is Phoenix folks! C’mon…it’s another band that killed it the Twin Cities a few times and coincidentally went from playing places like First Ave and The Varsity to the theaters. Frankly, they aren’t a theater band. Maybe their audience should be that big, but their show, there show as made for a stage where everyone is at most level with it. I remember a epileptic quality light show, I remember lots of heavily accented English, and I remember a really fun show. These guys could have said, damn, we didn’t sell as many tickets in Des Moines as we did in city X, but instead, they really killed it, like it was fun to have a show that was a little bit more intimate than a theater. Also, both Des Moines shows were shows I saw with friends, always making for a more positive experience when it’s good. Toro y Moi kinda confused most of the people there, but next year, I think next year will be their year, even though they already made an excellent record this year. You just don’t know that yet.

09/12/10 – Pavement w/ No Age – Roy Wilkins Auditorium

Yes, I actually took off a whole month between shows. Between a wedding and a lot of other odds and ends that just hadn’t gotten enough attention, I still had plenty to keep me busy. Plus, I was just getting ready for the next couple months.

There are a lot of things about this show that were novel. That Pavement was even playing for example. Or that I could walk. Or that No Age was bound to confound about 3/4 of the audience (I knew what I was in for, and they still just weren’t that good, probably better in front of an audience who actually cares). But mostly, what more do I have to say? It’s Pavement. Fuck, if you haven’t heard of them, I can’t help you.

09/16/10 – Best Coast/Male Bonding – Triple Rock Social Club

A large function of how good a band is simply relies on when you are fortunate enough to see them. Casting back to 2008, for example, I can say, yeah, I was there when Justin Vernon and the guys from Megafaun joined The Rosebuds for a sing-along of “Nice Fox” that is my favorite memory of the Turf ever. Lucky timing? Sure. As it pertains to this show, I think it works two ways. One, I’d go see Male Bonding again. I think they have it, whatever it is, and that they will continue to play great shows. Two, I’ll probably see Best Coast again as well, but I think this is just the apex for her. She makes divisive music in the sense that it seems the listener either loves or hates it because it’s all pretty much the same. But how is that going to hold up after another record. It’s either going to be a new sound (which can always alienate more existing fans than it brings in) or it’s more of the same (which can alienate some existing fans without bringing in any new ones). I feel for her, not just because “When I’m With You” was a song that I could not stop playing in 2009 and 2010. But I think this is a high water mark for her. I am sure she’s still going to keep making records I enjoy, but the tangible buzz won’t be there, the entire nature of things will end up being more perfunctory. Or it could just be that I’m really cynical. Also, I felt really old at this show.

09/17/10 – Titus Andronicus/Free Energy – Triple Rock Social Club

You know how some bands are just thrown together because they are buzzed about and people will want to see them (see above)? Well, here’s two very buzzed bands that have a ton of chemistry together. They played songs with each other. I’m pretty sure the lead guitarist from Free Energy was (maybe still is, who knows?) sleeping with Amy Klein just by the way they were looking at each other all show. And everyone else got along great too. Throw in a Bruce cover, a Misfits cover, some finger tapping, a lot of singing/yelling along, and a couple of my favorites from The Monitor that they didn’t play in April, and you have the makings of a great show. The Triple Rock was very good to me this year, and is the scene of some of my all-time favorite Minneapolis music moments (the two Good Life shows prime amongst them). It’s almost enough to forgive them for getting rid of their Galaga machine.

09/19/10 – School Of Seven Bells w/ Active Child – 7th Street Entry

I took a break to dress like a 60s housewife on Saturday, but then it was right back to the rocking. I was way more excited for Active Child than School of Seven Bells, excitement that I still think is more founded. Active Child is mostly a one-man show by Pat Grossi, the guitarist/keyboardist/harpist extraordinaire. His best song features a section that is strikingly similar in vocal melody to Gin Blossom’s “Follow You Down”. And I couldn’t care less. People need to steal from good bands again, consciously or otherwise. I’m sick of people like Coldplay getting sued for stealing form Joey Satriani. What kind of shit is that? Be more like this! 2011 looks likely to be a good year for Pat Grossi; keep your ear to the ground.

09/21/10 – Grass Widow – Turf Club

I go see bands that you haven’t heard of. That’s a given. That I go see bands that I’ve barely heard of is the other side of the live music equation. I knew very little about these ladies before going to the show. It’s three women who make very busy music. Makes me feel like I’m listening to what happens when women make a band like Cream. Some of those same obvious influences are thrown around for a band like this, The Shop Assistants, Talulah Gosh, the same thing that gets thrown out there for all the other newer all girl groups like Liechtenstein and Vivian Girls, but their busy nature made me think of bands like The Police and Cream where everyone was fighting to be heard and doing about 10 different things. Either way, I walked out with 2 LPs and an EP, so they must have done something right.

09/22/10 – Matt & Kim – First Avenue

This was a tough night. I really, really wanted to see Arcade Fire at Roy Wilkins, but I already had tickets to this one so I decided to stick to my guns. While at the end of the night it was an ultimately rewarding experience, Matt & Kim were only decent. They did everything you expected them to, there was lots of high energy beats and jumping around, and random comments that help you establish that there’s no way their Twitter/Facebook feeds are written by anyone other than them. It was fun. But ultimately, it was not necessary. It was like cotton candy in the form of a rock show. Which probably explains my next action.

09/22/10 – Land of Talk w/ Suuns – 7th Street Entry

As per usually, we were let out of First Ave rather unceremoniously so they could get a dance night in there. Money, right? I support it if it helps them stay there and get shows, but getting out of a show at 9:30 pm, and a show that mostly felt like eating junk food, left me wanting more. I mean, I passed up Arcade Fire for this? So I went next door to see Land Of Talk. A Canadian band, mostly the work of one Elizabeth Powell, and well worth your time if you like your women to rock. I didn’t pick up Cloak & Cipher, but I really enjoyed her previous effort, Some Are Lakes. What was most memorable about this show was how genuinely appreciative she seemed at the end of it. It’s never a given in music, but it’s always nice when a band really feeds off of the crowd’s energy. And this was a Wednesday going up against some heavyweights at other venues, and she really seemed to appreciate it. It showed in her music, too. Just a great show. And from the brief amount of what I heard of Suuns, they basically are what happens if you lock a bunch of kids in a room with only Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154 by Wire and then tell them to make music. Maybe that only happens in Canada.

09/23/10 – Of Montreal/Janelle Monae – First Avenue

A lot of people are going to tell you this was one of the best shows they saw this year. I thought it was more perfunctory than anything else, too forced, and really not focused enough on the one thing that any good show should be focused on, the music. Don’t get me wrong, I probably saw more shows than the average concert-goer this year, so my pool of memories to pick from is much greater, but this just wasn’t that good. Of Montreal really needs to change directions again, much like Kevin Barnes did w/ Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?. And I should have seen him on that tour anyway. As much as the simulated porcine sex and the giant dragon and the dancers and the other shit all makes for a memorable show, it was only that. As for Janelle, I would have liked a little more emphasis on her best attribute, her voice. It was way down in the mix, even with ear plugs. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got some nice footwork, but she’s got pipes for days. I don’t need all those other distractions.

09/27/10 – Caribou w/ Emeralds – First Avenue

The benefits of procrastination? Sometimes you get to see Caribou for $1. First Ave gives away the $1 tickets to try and boost attendance at otherwise sparsely attended shows. I was planning to go anyway, but hadn’t gotten tickets. So thanks, First Ave, and thanks to The Depot. As for Caribou, I don’t think I was nearly high enough to appreciate this show, but nonetheless, Canada once again bringing the thunder. Per capita, they have to have a better musician class than the US. Indie dance music forever. As for Emeralds, post-rock is confusing live.

09/30/10 – The Thermals w/ Cymbals Eat Guitar – Triple Rock Social Club

Sadly, the Triple Rock doesn’t quite boast the sound system that First Ave does. On the plus side, I still got to see the awesome playing guitar face of the lead singer of Cymbals Eat Guitar. It’s a must see. The Thermals are one of those bands that it took me a while to get into, but I really enjoyed Now We Can See, and I liked what I heard off of Personal Life (though apparently not enough to buy it yet). Their high-water mark is The Body, The Blood, The Machine, and all three of those albums figured prominently into the show. Portland, keep making music, and keep making beer, and I’ll keep consuming both.

10/04/10 – Broken Social Scene w/ The Sea & Cake – First Avenue

Some day, I’ll ask Kevin Drew how you play for 135 minutes and don’t play “Almost Crimes”. The show didn’t need it, but it’s still probably my favorite BSS song, and would have been nice to see live, and if I didn’t mention, they played for 135 minutes. It was a long, meandering show, with a fake NYE countdown to boot. Rather fun, and at least for the last record, they actually had the woman who did the vocals there for most of the songs. But it didn’t stop them from pulling out songs all over the catalog like “Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl” or “Superconnected” alongside the expected tunes from the new album. And there were some nice surprises like “KC Accidental”, “Pacific Theme”, and “Looks Just Like The Sun”. Then again, like I said, it was 135 minutes, you’ve got to fill that time somehow. I know their songs are long, but still, that’s a lot of music.

10/12/10 – Guided By Voices w/ Times New Viking – First Avenue

Times New Viking sure gets a lot of love from bands. They opened for GBV and Superchunk this year at First Ave. And I don’t think the majority of the crowds there to see either of those bands would particularly care for Times New Viking. I thought they were good, if a little nervous because they were opening for GBV. As for GBV, what can I say? I was the youngest person there, it seemed, and as it was aptly put in the Strib review, if anything had happened to First Ave that night, 3/4 of the record store employees in the Twin Cities would have been injured or dead. Classic line-up, classic songs, and frankly, a show that I should appreciate more. But I don’t. What can I say? I can know something is important and really enjoy it and still just not get it as much as I probably should. It happens all the times.

10/23/10 – Deerhunter w/ Real Estate, Casino Vs Japan – Fine Line Music Cafe

This show was good. I don’t get why Deerhunter isn’t more popular. But there are a lot of things I don’t get. Real Estate was decent, if kind of all the same live. Then again, they get that way on record to. I want to like them more, but they’re just not the part of New Jersey that’s doing it for me. Still, a good show that I would have rather seen anywhere else because there’s only one positive thing I can say about the Fine Line. They have Busch Light on tap.

11/05/10 – Candy Claws – 400 Bar

I feel like the 400 Bar lets some bands down. If this had been at the Entry, there’s no way there would have only been 30 people there. It was Friday night. But I don’t think that the 400 does a good job of letting actual potential customers know that bands are coming. And I don’t get why not. It’s their bottom line, right? They want business? I was sick, but I was not going to let that keep me from at least enjoying Candy Claws and then going home and sleeping prodigiously; which is exactly what I did. Candy Claws had a projector/light show going on that they stuck to with the same aplomb they would have had it been a packed house. They are post-Animal Collective for sure, from sound to aesthetic, and that’s okay with me. The world needs more crazy Beach Boys with random electronics sorts of music. Keep it coming.

11/13/10 – Matthew Dear w/ Elite Gymnastics – 7th Street Entry

Elite Gymnastics has an excellent song called “Is This On Me?” from an excellent EP. And their live show is shit. Just awful. It will probably never be good, but it at least could have been professional. They look like they’ve never played outside of somebody’s basement at a college party. They started off by opening a Four Loko, and that probably says everything that needs to be said. The fact that they didn’t totally maul “Is This On Me” is a plus, but they need a little more time in front of people. It was very reminiscent of the rather awful Tapes ‘N Tapes show I saw at the Dinkytowner (RIP) a couple years before they blew up with The Loon. And as for the main attraction that night, Matthew Dear, you are also a sexy man. What a show. He’s an electronic artist who performs and releases music under numerous monikers, but actual live band and singing is not the most common thing in his catalog. There’s a slinky, sexy quality to it all that runs through a lot of my favorite music (think Depeche Mode) and this show really hit those pleasure centers in ways I didn’t imagine it would. It was really wonderful and it got me to dance, and that’s never, never common. Sadly, they were sold out of Black City on vinyl or I would have purchased it. I was previously undecided on the record. I am not now.

11/14/10 – Robyn – Fine Line Music Cafe

It may be exaggeration, but I still felt like almost every gay man in Minneapolis was at this show. That and people who appreciate pure pop awesomeness. Robyn should be bigger, and shouldn’t be playing some godawful venue like The Fine Line. She won’t be for long; she comes back in February w/ Diamond Rings at First Ave. But she should be playing at the X to thousands of people who are singing along and anthemically pumping their fists. You have heard “Dancing On My Own”, right? Make this happen, people. This is what pop excellence sounds like. I have no problem with Lady Gaga selling out two shows in Minnesota. But this is pop that’s just as awesome.

11/16/10 – Delorean w/ Light Pollution – 7th Street Entry

In the end, cute Spanish boys who make Baleric jams win out over sleep every time. It’s a law of nature. That and making show friends. I already knew that Delorean puts on a good show, and I was curious about Light Pollution as I have particularly enjoyed “Good Feelings” this year, but overall, the most notable thing about this show was meeting show friends who I could actually talk about the shows I went to this year with and occasionally get a response of “oh yeah, I was at that too” or “no, but I did see…”. Always nice when it happens.

11/27/10 – Tame Impala w/ Stardeath & The White Dwarfs – 7th Street Entry

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Stardeath’s never met a smoke machine they didn’t like. Why I’m surprised by this, I don’t know. The lead singer is related to Wayne Coyne. You might know him from a little band called The Flaming Lips. So, yeah, presentation definitely mattered. I think they only played 7 or 8 songs, short even for an opener, but it was a nice little warm-up. Tame Impala, on the other hand, sound like they are from a time capsule that popped them into 2010 from somewhere around say 1973. A very classic rock sounding band, complete with a barefoot lead singer, and Australian accents. Basically, coupled with good songs (which they have), they’ve got everything it takes to succeed in this crazy musical world. I don’t think they’ll be playing at the Entry next time they come back. It’s just a guess.

12/01/10 – Superchunk – First Avenue

Sometimes I go see bands that I should appreciate more, but for some reason do not. Superchunk, in addition to making great music, are responsible for helping to bring some very awesome music into my life because Mac and Laura run Merge Records, a stalwart of Chapel Hill that has bands like Spoon, Arcade Fire, Wye Oak, The Rosebuds, and a few others you may recognize. I should be more into them. I should have their entire catalog. Were I 15 years older, I probably would, because I think the inevitable path of music discover back then was through listening to bands like Superchunk and GBV and all those bands that I appreciate, but I don’t think I’m in the right age bracket to rightly call bands that are important to me. They are important. Just not to me. Still, unfailingly professional and fun to see, these aren’t bad things in a band. Throw in a Husker Du cover, and we’re about set.

Well, I’m sure I missed a few, but that wraps up what I’ve seen this year, with only one more potential show on the calendar (Terminal Twilight at Spaceland) on the calendar until February, when things pick up again. I wouldn’t be able to see anything in January anyway, so I’m glad it’s a pretty light month on the calendar. But February is already filling up, with shows by bands like Gang Of Four, Wild Nothing, Tapes ‘N Tapes, Baths, Robyn, The Radio Dept all on the docket. And some other bands have dates later in March and April like Wye Oak, Rural Alberta Advantage, and Wire. Some I’ve seen before and definitely deserve some love again, others, I’ll be happy to see for the first time. And that’s just what’s being promoted by First Ave. So I might be saying that I have to be a bit more selective next year, but I don’t think I truly will be. This is what I do, it’s what I care about, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. If you made it this far, I hope you can see that I’m passionate about live music. I think it’s evident.

Not Your Amigo

I get Chipotle with relative frequency (usually Sundays after going to Target). Most times I go in and I see the same employees, and we have those little conversations you have with people that you see periodically, so it’s not like I’m a stranger by any means. Most everyone there is great, really nice and doing all those things that make me appreciate the customer service, but there’s always one Latino guy that rubs me wrong because he always calls me amigo. While I understand there’s a certain amount of rote nature to those sorts of salutations, I think that’s what makes things even more insulting. I’ve been there enough to know that when another woman walks in, she’s going to be called amiga. Now I never took Spanish, but I know enough about inflected endings. It’s the casual slights that sometimes hurt the most. Some days, I just don’t want to deal with that. And I shouldn’t have to. I never should. I do, and I accept that, and most days I deal with it. In a variety of ways. Even if I’m not saying something to the offender, I always notice. Even if it’s in another language, at least in a language that I hear with enough frequency to know the difference. So no, I’m not your amigo. That same way it’s not sir. It’s not the language, it’s the intent. How do I change that? I don’t know. I’m still working on something that will help it click for some people. It’s my hope that some day it becomes more normative for other people to just get it right. Because I’m through giving them clues. I can’t do much more from the standpoint of providing subliminal cues. What I need is some other people to pick them up.

Play It Again

I spend a lot of time consuming new music. I sit in front of a computer for several hours a day at work and read a lot of sites; I went to 54 shows this year (that’s the updated count); I am constantly buying albums that I have only heard one song off of, 7″ from labels that I didn’t even know existed until I heard a song, or walking out of a show with a record by an opener that particularly impressed me. A lot of my time and income goes into new music. But it doesn’t all go into it. Not even all of my musical expenditures are about some new band that you’ve never heard of. Sometimes there about some old band you’ve never heard of; sometimes they’re about some old band I’ve never heard of. The bands I listen to are all shaped by something out there, and frequently those somethings are old, out of print records, albums that found and audience but were summarily forgotten by most listeners. I’m talking artists like The Shop Assistants, the kinds of bands your favorite bands listen to. One of the cool things about the past couple years is that both physically and digitally, a lot of old music is being re-released. Sometimes remastered, sometimes just available again for the first time since it originally came out. Instead of looking just at the new music, I’d like to take an entry to talk about some of the older releases I picked up this year. I know I’ve talked about some of these before, but when it’s great, you just can’t talk about it enough. These aren’t in any particular order, so don’t read into it. Also, these are on vinyl. Because I buy vinyl. We’ve had that discussion before, right?

The Depreciation Guild – In Her Gentle Jaws

One of the difficulties of the internet age is that it’s so easy to miss things. This record was released for free in 2007, and subsequently saw a physical release some time later. I heard about this band because of Lala (rest in peace). They put out a new record this year, Spirit Youth. It’s alright, but it just doesn’t hit the same way their first release does. The lead guitarist and vocalist plays in another band that I may have mentioned before (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, though he handles the drums for them), and while this is certainly another band that’s looking back in terms of its influences, it’s a decidedly more poppy, and known, portion of the 80s that their influences come from. There are a lot of fun little things to say about this record. For example, the drum machine used on the first record, it’s a Nintendo. There is no mistaking that. It adds to the overall 80s-ness of it. While it’s certainly guitar-driven music, there’s a quality about it that’s reminiscent of 80s synth-pop, but in reality, I think a lot of the influences are coming out of the same place that something like M83 works out of. Whatever it puts you in a mind of, it’s worth checking out.

Recommended track(s):

Sky Ghosts, Darklooming, Heavy Eyes

Black Tambourine – s/t

Pitchfork, in the past few years, has added the wonderful review classification of “Best New Reissue”. While they’ve always reviewed reissues, it’s a nice category. Just because something was reissued doesn’t mean it’s worth a listener’s time, after all. This reissue isn’t anything special in a lot of regards. It was remastered for sure, and it collects the body of Black Tambourine’s work, a band that only existed from 1989 to 1991 if memory serves. Still, it’s again one of those records that you’d see mentioned in an interview with a band. While reissues get held up for a number of reasons (ownership being prime amongst them), sometimes it feels like something just needs to get talked about enough and someone will finally be convinced that there’s money in it. Whatever the reason, some smart people got together and made this record happen. Jangle, female vocals, lo-fi recording and a short history? Sounds like half the bands that are currently popping up only to break up just as quickly. While there are a lot of bands reviving that sound (and potentially reliving that short but important history) like Liechtenstein, Grass Widow, and Vivian Girls, I can’t help but think this is also a touchstone for them. The bands always mentioned (Talulah Gosh, the aforementioned Shop Assistants) certainly deserve to be, but so does Black Tambourine.

Recommended track(s):

For Ex-Lovers Only, Throw Aggi Off The Bridge

Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica

There are many attempts to get us to buy things over and over. I am certainly helping that trend when I look at what I own. Video games, comics, music, these all seem to be items that particularly exhibit this trend of adding things, revamping, or otherwise spicing up a product to get the consumer to buy it. Since those are the bulk of the media I own, I tend to fall into that trap a lot. This is a record I’ve purchased more than once. It’s been reissued twice, once on cd just 4 short years after its initial release (presciently, to take advantage of the popularity of Good News For People Who Love Bad News) and finally here in 2010. I overpaid for this on Record Store Day, uncertain if it would be released wider (it was…I could have saved a few bucks). Still, much cheaper than the secondary market rate on eBay at the time (about $100 if I am remembering correctly), and while that initial release will certainly retain value, strangely, this is probably the remastered version that sounds better. Value isn’t just about sound, though, or more impeccably recorded, but vapid, releases would sell for more on the secondary market. So congratulations Sony. You got more money from me on this one. But maybe, maybe there’s someone out there who doesn’t own this record yet, in any form, in which case, get yourself to your nearest record store and rectify it. Not only is it a great record, but we are heading into winter, and if there ever where a winter record, this is it. At some point, I’m sure I’ve shared my thoughts on this record before. It’s important. You should own it. If you don’t know how it sounds, then this paragraph was pretty worthless. Still, just go buy it and find out for yourself. It’s the best way.

Recommended track(s) (really, any of them, but for the sake of this):

3rd Planet, Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes, Paper Thin Walls

Slowdive – Souvlaki

I just wrote 1000 words about shoegaze a couple weeks ago, so I don’t think I need to repeat myself. My biggest surprise was that it was available at all. I really thought this would be one of those depressing eBay searches, like this one. Go get yourself some shoegaze. One way or the other. Meanwhile, I’ll just be waiting for Nowhere by Ride.

Recommended track(s):

40 Days, Here She Comes, Dagger

Gang Of Four – Entertainment!

I know The Clash are an important band. I love The Clash. Yet, it seems like they are the only example of punk/post-punk music that anyone can come up with on a regular basis. Everyone knows The Clash. Yet there were a lot of other influential post-punk bands churning out music at the same time that largely do not have the same level of regard. Granted, none of them pulled off the pop crossover success of something like Combat Rock. But if we’re talking records on par with The Clash’s actual best record (London Calling), this is right up there. The funny thing about this record is that it was reissued in 2005 and sounded no different than a slew of records coming out then. You can’t listen to Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, The Futureheads, Maximo Park, or a slew of other post-punk revivalists (particularly in Britain) and not hear the influence. And yet because of when it was put back out there, it just sounds like another record that came out then. But this came out in 1979. It’s like listening to Death’s …For The Whole World To See and realizing it came out in 1975. It’s almost anachronistic, like a record that was made in the future and sent back, until you realize all these bands are making similar records now because of something like Entertainment!. It’s an obvious, but forgotten, connection that should be a part of your musical collection.

Recommended track(s):

Damaged Goods, I Found That Essence Rare, At Home He’s A Tourist

Spiritualized – Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

You have heard “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” somewhere before. Or it just feels like that. J. Spaceman, after churning out music in Spaceman 3, embarked on a solo career that has been good, but definitely peaked with this 1997 release. I probably don’t use enough drugs to appreciate it properly. But that’s okay. It’s a hodge-podge of sounds, almost emblematic of Britain searching around for sounds as Brit pop was ending. For examples of Brit Pop you’ve heard of, go listen to Blur’s Parklife or The Verve’s Urban Hymns. It’s a record that does what it needs to do to hit your pleasure spots. Humility, not its strong suit, at least in terms of the lush and full orchestrations. This is a record made by a man who knows he’s making a record that’s great. Or at least it just sounds that confident. So irrelevant of whether you have heard this record before, that’s how it sounds. A career peaking to this? That’s all anyone could ask for. If this is how a sound and an era ended, well, that’s not such a bad thing, is it?

Recommended tracks(s):

Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, Come Together, Electricity

The Cure – Disintegration

This one’s self-explanatory. Really, you don’t need my help to get into The Cure. There are a lot of other more qualified people to tell you about that. What I can tell you about is the excellent reissue series that Rhino has done with their catalog. While some artists take exception to the work they’ve done with their catalogs (see: Morrissey), I tend to think that it’s a greater good than anything else. They are a label that exists to make reissues, and usually they create worthwhile artifacts in addition to the original record. I have almost all the cd reissues they did of The Cure catalog, and they all include a bevy of rarities, live tracks, and interesting demos that give a good look at the creative process of a band. It’s especially interesting considering this is one those bands that’s gone through several distinct phases in their catalog. Many of their records of great. In particular, the outtakes on The Head On The Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me provide a fascinating look at how some of the music was rearranged or otherwise pilfered for future songs. This album is just a continuation of that trend, and the fact that it’s The Cure’s most singular listening experience, well, that can’t hurt. Beyond that, the reissued record contains one important instruction: “This music has been mixed to be played loud so turn it up”. Truer words never written.

Recommended tracks(s):

Pictures Of You, Love Song, Fascination Street, Disintegration

Okay, that’s enough out of me. I picked up a few other older releases this year that probably also deserve some mention, but just aren’t going to get it right now. Another time. Anyway, hopefully this week will be much less stressful than last week and I can get in here and provide a few different musical wrap-ups from 2010, including my favorite shows, favorite 7″, favorite EPs, favorite records, and favorite songs. So look for that. And maybe a little bit about how the Washington Capitals may give me a heart attack before June.

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