I'm not sure if any of you were "wishing" I would share this, but whatever the case, here it is. I know zilch about these Hotlanta denizens, other than an ep preceded Maybe in '87. Wishing Wall practiced competent, if not always stimulating strummy guitar pop that skewed slightly due west of the dial. As a whole, Maybe sounds like it could have been a potential Dox Dixon production from back in the day. Technically a quartet, W/W often strike me as more of a solo vehicle for prime mover Kib. The most muscular and genuinely passionate thing on here, "My Favorite Song" more or less lives up to it's title. "Bsusa" consists of Kib uttering the line "He was a butthole surfer" ad nauseam. Weird. The concluding "Letter" is a self-pitying, naval gazing lament that goes on for six-and-a-half ennui-laden minutes. Make of Wishing Wall what you will. Props to Discogs for pics of the album jacket.
02. Wide Awake
04. My Girl
05. Drink Myself to Sleep
07. Don't Try to Change Me
08. My Favorite Song
09. Big White House
11. Nobody Cry
In terms of cutting edge cachet in North Carolina, Chapel Hill was where it was at during the '90s bar none. The renown college town was residence to forward thinking figureheads like Polvo and Archers of Loaf, exemplary singer/songwriters like Ben Folds, and of course the par excellence Superchunk. But down the road a spell in Raleigh there was Finger (not to be confused with the Ryan Adams offshoot, The Finger). I did a piece on a clutch of their singles about five years ago (new, improved and expanded as of today I might add). Theoretically, Finger could have drawn from both the indie punk
pool and the much bigger mainstream pond, bearing a no-frills panache
that should have crossed over to fans of the Georgia Satellites and Americana leaning acts of the day. To their detriment, Finger's music was the providence of small indie imprints, meaning that even well intentioned "alternative" types simply weren't wise to these boys.
No indie rock airs here. This endearingly humble foursome kicked out the proverbial jams with grit, earnestness, and more than a little punk seasoning at times. The everyman dilemmas presented in their songs were a little too by-the-book, but never precious. Finger was their first and only proper album, housing such staples and fan favorites as "Gravitating Home," "Daddy-Oh," and "Vessel." A Finger anthology, Still in Boxes was issued in 2010, and still very much available, so if you like what you hear please consider throwing a little coin there way. You can check out my self-curated comp of Finger singles here.
02. Talkin' About You
04. Shipwrecked Dress
05. Still in Boxes
06. Drive By
07. Gravitating Home
09. (So) Long
10. Another State
12. No Solution
13. untitled https://www1.zippyshare.com/v/kAMzCZOR/file.html
Stuyvesant in a nutshell: four dudes from the tri-state area (happy blizzard everyone) who are well past the threshold of adolescence, yet discernibly premature for a midlife crisis, weaned on a steady diet of All, Big Drill Car and Weston I might add. My kind of band, and their 2011 platter Fret Sounds was my kind of album, providing ample evidence that there was still some sincerity and creative moxie left in the often nebulous and watered down punk/pop realm. No, they don't play a million miles an hour, nor are they vying for a spot on the Warped Tour midway, rather this quartet play it considerably more suave, packing harmonies and deft playing into Shymvesant's most immediate and indelible melodic-core numbers, "Hellbent for Heather," "Baby Bear" and "Until You Come Around." Like most of their contemporaries (and for that matter their aforementioned inspirations) Stuyvesant can't keep things at a relentlessly rolling, three-chord boil. The strikingly spare keyboard-accompanied ballad "Grant's Tomb" is a veritable soliloquy, while the inclusion of saxophones of "Alright" and "3 AM" might have established Stuyvesant clientele doing a double take. Those anomalies aside Shymvesant proves that these guys didn't necessarily peak on Fret Sounds, and that their best work may lie ahead of them. Get Shymvesant straight from the source at Sugarblast Records, or on Bandcamp or iTunes.
My next critique is a title that's a little less recent. You see, it usually doesn't take much to sell me on a new Parasites album. Heck, I've been a committed acolyte to Dave Parasite and his revolving lineup since 1993 when I discovered the mind-warpingly great Punch Lines album. So about twenty years on when I learned that Non-Stop Power Pop was coming down the pike I decided to sit it out. Why? It was billed as a covers album, and quite frankly I wasn't in the right frame of mind for a nostalgia trip, especially back to the '60s for a bunch of tunes I wasn't the least bit acquainted with. As is often the case, a good sale price will eventually get me through door, and being the Parasites completist that I am I finally relented late last year.
Fact: Dave Parasite is a gonzo Beatles fanatic. So much so that after he finished filling out his Fab Four collection, he investigated a number of Beatles protege/copycat outfits from the same era, forking out untold gobs of money for obscuro import 45s and such issued by a myriad of bands the world over. Not counting the Zombies and Hollies, the remaining bands paid homage to on Non-Stop... were light years beyond the notoriety of the famed troupe from Liverpool they so desperately attempted to emulate. Do monikers like The Haigs, Firebeats and Just Four Men ring a bell? Didn't think so. The selections here may be deep cuts to the say the least, but the Parasites know how to take relatively innocuous tunes and turn them on their head, and finish 'em off with a swift kick in the keister. Dave's "spin cycle" is a dizzying one at that, pile-driving a bevy of Beatles-wannabe hooks home with concussive force, truly putting the power in Power Pop. This turned out to be a far more dazzling proposition that I ever expected. You can secure a copy for yourself over at Interpunk, Amazon, and iTunes.
The link that follows features one song apiece from Stuyvesant and the Parasites.
Stuyvesant - Silent Treatment Parasites - Things Will Never be the Same
Recently, one of our readers was kind enough to share a disk by a group I featured on here circa2010, Davis, CA's Playground. At the time, when I posted their Bent, Lost or Broken cd and a pair of stellar 45's I thought those recordings comprised the sum total of their output. I was pleasantly surprised not more than two weeks ago when said reader provided a download link to a 1995 ep (a 7" I believe) that I was none the wiser of theretofore - and I'm sharing it with you today.
Outside of their renown Cali college town, I think the only exposure the outside world had to Playground was via reviews and/or ads in Maximum Rock n Roll during the mid '90s. Their utter dearth of visibility was a travesty, because this trio's crunchy, gratifying stripe of riff-pop could have really filled the vacancy left by the likes of Husker Du and the Moving Targets. Not unlike San Fran contemporaries Overwhelming Colorfast, these guys really filled a certain sweet spot. Amazingly, the five-cut Last Stop even outdoes some of their aforementioned earlier efforts, if not in terms of aggressiveness surely the melodious smarts they excelled at from the get go. Really glorious stuff here. A big round of applause to whomever (I don't recall seeing your name in the comments) put this file together for us. Check out the links above for access to the remainder of the Playground songbook. I think a proper reissue is in order!
02. Miles Away
03. Can't Tell Me Anything
04. How Long
05. Ten Tons
Though Angst resided on the lower rungs of the SST food-chain, the two albums I posted last year, Mystery Spot and Mending Wall, proved to be remarkably popular with the Wilfully Obscure set. So when I spotted the predecessor to both of those at a recent record show I took the plunge. Lite Life was their first full-length (itself preceded by a 1983 ep). Angst's exceedingly loose and amateurish melange of the Minutemen and Feelies (likely not deliberate on either count) isn't particularly visceral, but the trio's goofball wit amusingly parlays itself into geopolitically themed missives like "This Gun's For You" and "Glad I'm Not in Russia." Better yet, when these folk-punks put their minds to it, they're genuinely rockin' on "The Poor (Shall Refuse)," and the more angular "It's All a Life." Below is Trouser Press's take on things.
The articulate lyrics on Lite Life again prove Angst's prowess
for turning politically informed ideas into mature and witty tunes.
Plain sound and no-frills arrangements underscore the preeminence of
function over form. "Glad I'm Not in Russia," delivered as dustbowl
country-rock, is a fairly incisive comment on the cultural divisions
between the superpowers; the skittish and busy dance-funk of "This Gun's
for You" mixes up several topics but stays sharp; personal emotional
issues ("Friends," "Turn Away," "Never Going to Apologize") receive the
same coldly objective analysis.
BTW, my copy of Life Lite was formally in the clutches of a radio station, so don't be the least bit surprised when you see call letters on the sleeve.
01. Love Dissolves
02. Turn Away
03. Just to Please You
04. Glad I'm Not in Russia
05. The Poor (Shall Refuse)
06. Lite Life
07. This Gun's For You
08. It's All a Life
09. Butler Grace
10. Never Going to Apologize
12. Ignorance in Bliss
Hearing an album as dazzling and ingenious as St. Lenox'sTen Songs About Memory and Hope, makes me wish I wasn't so damn genre-centric. Some twenty plus years ago, if a band wasn't donning flannel and/or playing through a Marshall stack with a clutch of effects pedals at their feet I likely wouldn't touch them. My tastes have broadbanded considerably since, but were you to explain St. Lenox's electronica meets R&B premise on paper, I'd still be nothing short of skeptic. And I was, until I relented and let the Andy Choi-helmed Brooklyn by way of Ohio outfit reveal an aural craving that I never caught wind of per my own volition.
Let it be known to the uninitiated Mr. Choi possess a powerful, and frankly enviable croon. I've already an encountered a comparison to Cee Lo Green, but to this pair of ears, I'd more accurately slot his soaring, penetratingly melodic timbre somewhere between Stevie Wonder and Adam Levine. But upon deeper investigation I've discovered that beyond those likenesses, Choi possesses something all the more indigenous and captivating, a la Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright. Yep folks, this gent is that utterly compelling.
Vocal intonations aside, Ten Songs... could survive on it's own in the hands of virtually any mouthpiece utilizing Choi's ornate, slice-of-life by way of stream-of-consciousness narratives. "To Be Young Again," and "I Still Dream of the '90s" tuck wry cultural references into deeper ruminations on the not too-distant past, and a future which may not bear quite as much promise. Segueing into an even more pensive context, "Map of the World" is a classicist piano ballad, that in a more perfect world would have the Grammy nominating committees beckoning. Despite it's rich, soulful moxie, there's not much on 10 Songs... that could pass for dance music. To the contrary, St. Lenox's fidgety array of electronic treatments reside amidst moderately paced beats, occasionally flirting within sublime classical arrangements to boot (check out "Pop Song 2012"). Too complex to be cast off as a mere pop album, I'm awfully hesitant (and sloth) to offer extrapolating song-by-song dissections. Instead I'll encourage you to acquaint yourself with this intoxicating creation via a four-song taster available on Bandcamp. The physical version of the record drops this week on Anyway Records, and it's available digitally from iTunes and Amazon.
This is a somewhat belated follow-up to a Baby Toothsingle I pitched your way in 2011. At the time I noted my intentions to obtain their ep (which actually runs closer to album length). At any rate, here it is. Six longish salvos from a noisy and much defunct New York trio. "Potentiometer" is a curiosity, alternating between dissonance and a faint pop hook with the former winning out in the end. Is that guy really tuning his guitar mid-song, or are my ears deceiving me? Rare Book Room gets all the more interesting when the boys shift into unabashed shoegazer mode, à la lo-fi contemporaries the Swirlies on "Comes and Goes," and "Slide," the latter fastening Michal Sapir's whispery vox to an oscillating wall of tremolo-laced feedback. Me like.
03. Small Dreamy
05. Wish Upon an Eyelash
06. Comes and Goes
Picking up roughly where his last project, Wire Sparrows left off, former Braves frontman Joe Reina has bestowed not only a new album, but a new endeavor Paper Waves, a quartet who also boast another Braves alum, drummer Jesse Carmona. That aforementioned Rockford, IL combo that I've doled out so much praise to over the years were responsible for three stellar albums throughout the '00s, including the particularly riveting 2004 sophomore stunner Love & Mercy. Since then Reina has donned the head honcho hat for three subsequent combos, The Bernadettes, Wire Sparrows and now Paper Waves.
Though less spontaneous and wrenching than "Los Bravos," this trifecta has evoked an emotional charge that's equally parallel, albeit in a lucid and more measured framework. Paper Waves debut, Give Me the Moonlight is a heartfelt surge of unpretentious indie rock, that at it's apex manages to balance the contemplative with the cathartic, ably evidenced on the strident "Some New Hand of God" and "The Careless Lifestyles," both equipped with hooks worthy of severing a limb for. The most discernible moment of tenderness here arrives in the guise of "Waking Up Birds" a wholly sincere tear-jerker, originally composed and performed by Reina's second-to-last project, The Bernadettes. I would be remiss if I failed to point out that the Paper Waves roster also features one Marcus Spitzmiller, a gentleman who featured prominently in the lineup of bygone local yokels God's Reflex. Spitzmiller has a knack for jazzy guitar progressions, quite tasty ones at that, spicing up many a nook and cranny on this disk. In fact, Give Me the Moonlight is pretty delicious in itself, whether consumed in one song snacks or as a full course, thirty-odd minute meal. You can hear and purchase it yourself over yonder at Bandcamp or iTunes.
That brings us to our next subject, Present Tense, who I'm informed contain alumni from an unheralded New York left-off-the-dial aggregation called Sunday Puncher. I really enjoyed that band's '90s full-length propositions, For Your Everchanging World and The Livid Eye, not to mention a 45 of theirs I put up several moons ago. To my recollection SP were going more for the noise/distortion thing, whereas Present Tense seem to skew more towards the avant, and dare I say disquieting. Nothing So Far their premiere effort, is an unpredictable melange of bendy riffs, undulating rhythms, asymmetrical keyboard maneuvers and often deadpan vocals. Dissonant post-punk riptides prevail amidst PT's dense, sonic currents with brief forays into coldwave ("Our Largesse") and occasionally into something resembling a pop tune ("It's Visual"). There's a lot to dissect on any given tune in Nothing's... complex, shape-shifting arsenal, but if the likes of Mission of Burma, Rollerskate Skinny, recent Wire, and solo Robert Pollard tend to persuade you look Present Tense up on Bandcamp, and perhaps a record rack near you down the road.
Well this is an interesting one. I received a bunch of cassette bootlegs a few years ago and among them was one that had a side clearly labeled as "D is for Dumptruck demos." D is for... was the first album for the Boston band in question, which made it's bow in 1983, first on Incas Records, and re-released on Big Time two years later. At any rate, that label was a bit of misnomer, as the majority of the dozen cuts were actually demos for Dumptruck's second LP, Positively Dumptruck.
While I own the first three DT albums (nicely expanded and reissued on Ryko in 2003), it's 1987's For the Country that compelled me the most. That being said, D is for... and Positively are pretty damn convincing in their own right, especially that warm and mildly rough-around-the-edges debut, which struck me as a scruffier, working-class interpretation of what Game Theory and the dB's had offered up to that point. Maybe toss in a pinch of the Velvets here and there. Take that with a grain of salt I suppose. In addition to the Positively-era tunes, there are two cuts here that actually appeared on D is for... as the tape label originally purported, namely "Repetition" and "The Haunt." On top of that there were three songs I couldn't identify at all. The key Dumptruck nuclei of Kirk Swan and Seth Tiven remained intact for the first two albums. The world renown Kevin Salem more or less filled in for the departed Swan by the time For the Country rolled around, and Tiven carried on under the DT moniker sporadically in the Clinton-era and in the early '00s.
02. Walk Into Mirrors
03. Will it Happen Again
05. Back Where I Belong
06. From Where I Stand
07. The Haunt
08. title unknown
10. title unknown
11. title unknown
The Marsupials were a psyche-garage quartet, presumably from the environs of Los Angeles, who didn't burrow too deep into either realm, and wouldn't you know it, they were are all the better for it. The Four of Us... was too rollicking and uptempo to qualify these gentlemen for the so called Paisley contingent, though drummer Chris Bruckner would later materialize in Michael Quercio's post-Three O'clock trio, Permanent Green Light. The Marsupials touch on everyone from the Screaming Trees to the Lime Spiders, yet manage to weave in calmer, jangly guitar salvos on one of the album's earlier selections, "Mumble." "The One's Who Survive" and "We Need Each Other" are smart, robust rave-ups, while "Glam Revival" fittingly (not to mention blatantly) xeroxes T. Rex's sleezy formula lock stock and barrel to terrific effect. I'll let you figure what the remainder of this platter is all about on your own, though in full disclosure, I should mention my record has a slight warp, that for the most part effects side a's "One Big Pill." Should a better copy find it's way into my hands, a re-rip will be in order.
01. One Big Pill
02. Green Tambourine
05. I Thought it Would Be Easy
06. Tobacco Road
07. She's a Liar
08. Glam Revival
09. We Need Each Other
10. I'm a Sissy
11. The Ones Who Survive
12. (I Don't Live) Inside Your World
13. Reprise (The Lights are Turning Green and Blue)
14. Pasadena Hilton
Following up my 2014 "Top-40" list (of sorts) from a couple nights ago, here's my annual highlights mix tape of music I've shared in the past year. It's my attempt to distill a years worth of features and posts into something a little more digestible and less exhaustive. As per this site itself, the emphasis in this compendium is on unheralded indie rock from the previous millennium (ok, the '80s). I'm not going to dedicate any space here to critiquing and such, as I
already abundantly have in the original postings, all of which are
linked via selecting the hyperlinked artist names below. This mix is designed to be both a recap for those of you who frequent
Wilfully Obscure, and a springboard for anyone who's just plain
overwhelmed by the quantity of material I share on a weekly, if not
daily basis. In a nutshell, if you count yourself among the uninitiated
and don't know where to start, start here (and of course, work your way
backwards). As for those of you who have been studiously checking things out on this page on a regular basis, I'm tacking on four extra songs that I haven't shared heretofore, and they've been denoted with an asterisk.
You would think that compiling an end of year best-of list would be simple enough. For most of us, that's the easy and logical way out. Truth be told, that model is becoming more and more flawed for me, as I invariably discover my favorite release of any given year the year after, and in some cases years later, thereby nullifying the supposedly "static" ranking I routinely prepare at the end of December. To give you a more honest representation of my annual soundtrack, my sequence for 2014 is based roughly on how often I listened to a piece of music. Albums from the year passed feature prominently (nineteen by my count), but older titles that I either recently learned of and/or didn't give a concerted listen to when I initially purchased them also made the cut, based largely on the frequency they occupied my stereo, earbuds, etc. Too idiosyncratic for my own good, I know. If I've already confused/alienated you I wouldn't be surprised. Maybe I'll just skip the list thing in the future altogether, but I digress.
2014 turned out to be the year of Philly for some reason. I would say that a recent trip there prompted me to dedicate four slots to bands from the city of brotherly love, but truthfully, my awareness of Marietta and The A's predated my journey, and the Wonder Years and Beach Slang didn't make it onto my radar until months after returning home. My number one pic is a prime example of me discovering my "album of the year" posthumously. Marietta's debut, Summer Death is everything a legitimate emo record should be - sincere, skittish, cathartic, and even a tad tone deaf albeit oddly melodic. A sophomore record is sure to follow, but I question their ability to top this one. The Wonder Years are a guilty pleasure fit for the Warped Tour circuit. Nonetheless their second album, The Upsides (which I found at a thrift shop for a mere $1) is one of the most invigorating examples of post-adolescent angst to ever grace my jaded, aging ears. As for Beach Slang, I think we'll be hearing plenty more from them in the coming months. Check out the link.
Were it not for having my mind blown via Passion Pit's Manners in 2009, electronic-based music would have been as irrelevant to me in 2014 as it was in say, 1994. Thankfully I wised up. Porter Robinson'sWorlds was pretty much at the pinnacle of the laptop-cum-snyth heap this year, wielding a dizzying array of glitched-out grooves and Auto-Tuned trix. The devastatingly infectious Great Good Fine Ok, had a more saccharine take on the whole techno-pop bag, while slightly bygone digital delights from Desire, Postiljonen, and Breathe Carolina also rolled into the same wheelhouse.
As for the new(ish) crop, Cheatahs, Lees of Memory (that's Johnathan Davis of Superdrag's newgazer outfit), Eagulls, and The Hobbes Fanclub all dazzled with winsome indie-guitar rock albums that delivered on the strength of 2013 singles and eps. Bravo to Literature for their unsuspecting sophomore disk Chorus, and to Dinosaur Pile-Up for one of the most visceral power-chord motorcades this side of the Foo Fighter's Wasting Light. Brooklyn's pedal-hopping Regal Degal dazzled me when they opened for DIVV this summer, and I quickly absorbed their back catalog. What Moon Things issued a devastating declaration of revivalist post-punk, and Imaginary Cities crafty pop persuasion could simply not go unmentioned.
Don't call them a comeback: The Manic'sFuturology went a long way in rectifying 2013's limp and underwhelming Rewind the Film. Elsewhere, Interpol's latest humdinger, Elpintor, was the most impressive thing they've put their stamp on since Antics, Floor's concussive, bludgeoning Oblation shoved me off the fence and into their demi-stoner camp, while Lagwagon ended a nine-year LP drought with the blistering, metallic k.o. of Hang.
It was also a year for some exceedingly belated discoveries, key among them New Model Army (in their early prime I might add). Speaking of Britain, I also uncovered a thoughtful reissue of an arcane but superlative female-fronted post punk set who went by the moniker of Indian Dream, and then there was Seattle's Queen Annes, whose Something Quick collection revealed a bevy of fantastic and multifaceted tunes far outdoing the single I shared by them years ago. The New Dylans' twenty year ol' Warren Piece was my retro pure-pop platter of choice for '14, and wouldn't you know it, they're just getting around to assembling their third LP due in the new year. Finally, Italy's Victrola, whose 1983 Maritime Tatami 12" single was revived thirty years after-the-fact, dominated my coldwave playlist for the past twelve months.
In the "I had it lying around for some time now, but just got around to it" file, I shed overdue light on scintillating records from Lowest of the Low, Heatmiser, Moss Icon, Death Cab, and Philadelphia's long defunct power pop-purveyors The A's.
After the list, you'll find a link to a mix of songs from exactly half of the roster outlined below. It skews more towards the newbies, but that's the only clue I'll concede. There's no track list, and the songs aren't presented in any particular order, so cherry pick to your heart's content. This was my 2014 soundtrack in a nutshell - a haphazard, top-40 countdown that only a wilfully obscure nutjob like myself could conceive. Enjoy (or not).
01. Marietta - Summer Death (2013)
02. The Wonder Years - The Upsides (2010)
03. Porter Robinson - Worlds (2014)
04. Postiljonen - Skyer (2013)
05. The New Dylans - Warren Piece (1994)
06. New Model Army - Vengeance -The Whole Story 1980-84
07. Merchandise - After the End (2014)
08. Trevor Keith - Melancholics Anonymous (2010)
09. Lees of Memory - Sisyphus Says (2014)
10. Great Good Fine Ok - Body Diamond ep (2014)
11. Beach Slang - Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street ep & Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken ep (2014)
12. Lowest of the Low - Hallucigenia (1994)
13. Imaginary Cities - Fall of Romance (2013)
14. Orange Roughies - Detroit (2012)
15. Floor - Oblation (2014)
16. Victrola - Maritime Tatami 12" (orig. 1983, reissued 2013)
17. San Angelus - Soon We’ll All Be Ghosts (2014)
18. Moss Icon - Complete Discography (2012)
19. Breathe Carolina - Hello Fascination (2009) 20. The Bon Mots - Best Revenge (2014)
21. The A's - The A's/A Woman's Got the Power CD (1979/1981)
22. Cheatahs - s/t (2014)
23. Eagulls - s/t (2014)
24. Desire - Desire II (2009)
25. The Square Root of Now - Bent Around Corners (1987)
26. The Queen Annes - Something Quick 1980-85 (2014)
27. The Wake - s/t ep (1985)
28. Death Cab For Cutie - The Photo Album (2001)
29. Manic Street Preachers - Futurology (2014)
30. Lagwagon - Hang (2014)
31. What Moon Things - s/t (2014)
32. Hobbes Fanclub - Up at Lagrange (2014)
33. Interpol - Elpintor (2014)
34. Dinosaur Pile-up - Nature Nurture (2014)
35. Heatmiser - Mic City Sons (1996)
36. Literature - Chorus (2014)
37. Indian Dream - Orca (1989)
38. Regal Degal - Pyramid Bricks ep (2013)/Veritable Who's Who (2012)
39. Graig Markel and the 88th St. Band - s/t (2014)
40. Popstrangers - Fortuna (2014)