Minor Victories – s/t

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Minor Victories carries that heavy term “super group” that can be the kiss of death in the music world. Comprised of Rachel Goswell (Slowdive, Mojave 3), Justin Lockey (Editors), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), and James Lockey (film-maker, also Justin’s brother) – it truly is an alternative music world super group. Fortunately in this case the group exceeds all expectations. Braithwaite had claimed in an early interview (before the album was released) that the group sounded like the best bits of the members main bands. And, well – he wasn’t wrong. The album also features contributions from Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon) and James Graham (The Twilight Sad). Each contribution adds something to the overall atmosphere of the record. In fact, I expected this to be a nice stop-gap to hold me over until the forthcoming Slowdive album. Instead what I got was an album that I’ve had on repeat since the day of release.

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Low – Especially Me

Especially Me

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

You don’t often expect to find your favorite song by a band 9 albums into their career, but that’s just what happened with me and the band Low. Low had made quite a name for themselves playing a type of music dubbed slowcore – music marked by slow tempos and minimalist arrangements. By 2011 the band had broadened their horizons a bit, incorporating electronics and a harder edge to some of their songs. That year’s C’mon was favorably reviewed by just about every publication and all was well. Especially Me was the 2nd single lifted from the album and has been on repeat for me over the last 5 years. Impassioned vocals by Mimi Park punctuate the song as orchestration swells behind her. What really gets to me though is all of those elements in tandem with the lyrical content. Doubt, hope, and hopelessness coexist here. The feeling of thinking someone feels the same as you, but leaving that sliver of doubt in your mind. It never fails to give me chills. “Cause if we knew where we belong / There’d be no doubt where we’re from / But as it stands, we don’t have a clue / Especially me and probably you”.

Counting Crows – Round Here

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

It is somewhat rare for a song that resonated with me in high school to resonate more deeply on a visceral level many years later. To expound on that – most songs that I loved back then I still love. But the context is mostly the same – the same reasons I loved it then are the same reasons I love it now. Not so with Round Here by Counting Crows – the 2nd single lifted from their debut album August and Everything After. As a teenager finding his way in life, I related to the existential angst emanating forth from the lyrics spewed by singer Adam Duritz. 90’s alternative rock imbued with a sense of isolation and longing – what’s not to love, right? In some circles, Counting Crows were derided as the radio friendly version of alternative rock in the aftermath of Nirvana. I always thought that was a bit harsh, and I admittedly loved everything the early and mid 90’s offered up. The teenager version of me couldn’t escape the imagery of the opening lines “Step out the front door like a ghost / into the fog where no one notices / the contrast of white on white”. The approaching middle age hipster version of me can’t escape the imagery of this verse “she parks her car outside of my house / and takes her clothes off / says she’s close to understanding Jesus / and she knows / she’s more than just a little misunderstood / she has trouble acting normal when she’s nervous”. It helps that the lyrics are wrapped in a pop folk package with emotive vocals from Adam Duritz. The questioning of where life is going is more than a little open-ended in your teens – in your 30’s it is more like WHERE IS LIFE GOING? And I think most people have those feelings from time to time. Let this song be your soundtrack.

Paul Draper – EP One

EP One

When I think of the mid to late 90’s era of Britpop, I gravitate towards a select few bands. Sure, I love Oasis, Blur, and Pulp. But my absolute favorite bands from the scene were the ones that were just a bit more slightly off kilter. Suede, Strangelove, My Life Story, and of course…Mansun. A bit glam, a bit prog, a bit Britpop – Mansun took those disparate elements and made them all their own. I remember driving to the Princeton Record Exchange in Princeton, NJ (of course) to buy any release I could get my hands on. Each EP had quality b-sides that were the equal of their album counterparts. In fact, I think there are more non album singles & b-sides than total album tracks. After 3 studio albums & multiple singles / EP’s, the band called it a day. A posthumous box set was issued in 2004 comprising the 4th album sessions along with assorted b-sides & rarities. Singer Paul Draper participated in one-off collaborations with artists from a variety of genres in the intervening years, but really announced his return to music with his work with The Anchoress in 2014. Now we have the 1st Paul Draper solo EP, fittingly titled EP One.

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The Monkees – Good Times

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It goes without saying that I am one of those people that considers himself a Monkees fanatic. I have every album in various deluxe editions that have been released over the years. On lesser albums I’ve sifted through the filler to find the gems (there are not too many lesser albums though.) John Lennon may be one of my musical idols, but sometimes I just prefer to listen to The Monkees over The Beatles. Those late 60’s albums by the “Prefab Four” stand up to anything their peers were putting out at the time. Live, I’ve never seen all 4 at the same time. In 1997 I saw Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork in Valley Forge, PA for the Justus tour. In 2012 I saw Micky Dolenz solo at a small casino just weeks after Davy Jones passed away. And in 2013 I saw Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork in downtown Seattle. All shows were memorable and expertly performed – the band members have come a long way from their origins as a make-believe band put together for a television show. A few months ago it was announced that The Monkees would be releasing a new album for their 50th anniversary. I wondered – would this be like The Beach Boys album from a few years ago (I can’t remember anything from that one) or would it be something special? The fact that the project was being produced by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger gave me hope – I love Fountains of Wayne’s unique power pop perspective.

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Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Follow You into the Dark

IntoTheDark

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Up through 2003’s Transatlanticism, Bellingham, WA’s Death Cab For Cutie held near universal hipster acclaim. A perfect merging of Pac NW aggression and emo inspired angst, the band slotted nicely into the early 00’s indie elitist aesthetic. That seemed to change with the major label release of their 2005 album Plans. The band didn’t alter their sound too much, yet seemed to lose some of the underground fans who had helped them breakthrough to the mainstream. No matter, the band gained even more fans. For me personally, Plans was almost a perfect album all the way through. The single I Will Follow You into the Dark touches upon the afterlife, connecting with loved ones, and the feeling of trying to find some sort of spiritual peace. It isn’t necessarily a romantic love – it could be the deep bond of friendship or that special connection you have with someone. An acoustic lament, it is my favorite song from the album. Curiously, the song was one of Death Cab For Cutie’s lowest charting singles, but their highest selling. Strange fact – the 2012 indie film Into The Dark starring Mischa Barton (The OC) was named after this song. Lyrically, the song is one of the strongest the band has ever offered, in particular the opening verse. “Love of mine, some day you will die / But I’ll be close behind / I’ll follow you into the dark / No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white / Just our hands clasped so tight / Waiting for the hint of a spark”. I finally had a chance to see this song performed live some years ago in Everett, WA (opening for Neil Young), and it was as glorious as the video embedded below.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead

The latest album by Radiohead arrived after a series of mysterious events relating to the band. The band’s website faded away, social media accounts went dark, and mysterious cards went out to fans. All culminating in the release of A Moon Shaped Pool. The two songs and videos that had been released – Burn the Witch and Daydreaming – only hinted at the brilliance contained within. Gone are the grunge indebted guitars as well as most of the inscrutable electronic exercises. In their stead are songs seeped in English folk, motorik krautrock, and a deep sense of middle-aged sadness. For me personally, it is an album that I can relate to on a deeper level. After a dozen spins or so, I have no problem stating that this is my favorite Radiohead album since 2001’s AmnesiacWith a band like Radiohead it can be a slippery slope to navigate. They’ve steadfastly presented themselves as outsiders, even whilst having their every move analyzed by tens of millions of fans. It’s an interesting position to be in – perhaps the most unusual in Rock n Roll history. When you are in that situation it is easy for reviewers to have long-winded philosophical discussions about what the band is trying to convey. And sometimes, an analysis of the music falls by the wayside. Make no mistake, A Moon Shaped Pool would stand on its own with or without Radiohead’s complicated history.

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Sonny Lanegan – Coma

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I’ve long been a fan of the work of Sonny Lanegan, based out of Los Angeles, CA. From solo instrumental soundscapes to industrial noise with his various groups, there has always been a melodic hook to pull me in. Sonny’s new solo EP Coma arrives almost 3 years after his collaborative effort with Isabella Knight in The Dead Good. That EP was a high point in Lanegan’s career – one that continues with Coma. Excess in rock n roll is nothing new – finding new ways of expressing decadence is a true talent these days. Songs about mind altering substances, carnal delights, and embracing seediness hasn’t sounded this good since Soft Cell’s Non Stop Erotic Cabaret. Decadence, for those of you who need clarification, is “moral or cultural decline as characterized by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury.” While also the title of one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs, it also perfectly describes Sonny’s new EP.

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