Eels – The Deconstruction

Eels have always presented a conundrum for me – for every heartbreaking song that touches my soul they’ve had a bland middle of the road mid-tempo rocker that did nothing for me. 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues was the rare album that hit me fully on just about every song. Nuanced, emotional, depressing – it hit everything that I love. Other albums have come close, while others have been forgettable. It’s been 4 years since Mark Oliver Everett’s Eels have released an album. That album – 2014’s The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett represented a solid record with a few mix tape worthy songs of note. 2018’s The Deconstruction betters this in just about every way. In fact, it might be my favorite Eels album in almost 20 years.

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Dinosaur Jr. – Hold Unknown

It’s been 2 years since we last heard from Dinosaur Jr. in their highly successful and drama free reunion period. 2016’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not was the perfect blend of noise, melody, and melancholy (and my favorite song was a Lou Barlow tune). In fact, it ranks very highly in my “Favorite Dinosaur Jr. albums” imaginary list. Also the supporting show at The Showbox in Seattle was insanely amazing (and loud). Hold Unknown is (apparently) a one-off single as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series. A slab of pop punk that will bring a smile to your face. A J. Mascis fronted tune that is joyous and infectious. A recommended tune that will be worth the $1 spent.

Atlas Park – Preview of Coming Distractions

Atlas Park hail from Northern California and offer up an intoxicating brew of modern rock inspired gems. Formed by Daniel Gatling in 2014, the band has quickly developed a following. Emotive vocals and hummable melodies, what I love about the band is how they tap into that rare part of the brain that makes something feel familiar yet new all at once. Gatling handles vocals & guitar and is joined by John Kahling on drums, John Spomer on bass & synths, and Kat Cahill on lead guitar. Preview of Coming Distractions is the band’s debut EP, and though it has been out for a while, it is new to me. It serves as a taster for upcoming new material.

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Curry Quiche – Behind the Machine

The return of England’s Curry Quiche comes in the wake of Brexit and the aftermath of the US presidential election. The world has seemingly shifted to the political right and the band takes its cue from the shifting nature of the world. 2013’s full length 1 Seed, No Leeches focused on technology and how human connections were being lost. An intriguing concept that has only deepened with the passage of time. A record that was a joy to listen to, it took its darker subject matter and spun it into a carefree party vibe for the end of the world. Steve Fidler and company gave us a winning formula that seemed designed for the masses. Reggae, punk, britpop, indie – it all made for an intoxicating brew. What will the band offer up on their latest?

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Nutopians – Claustrophobia

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Nutopians duo return with a stunning EP as a teaser for the upcoming full length. Led by Father / Son duo Ian and Phil Jackson, the band have forged their own path of stunning post punk tunes. A short 3 track primer, the Claustrophobia EP is a masterful release that betters what we’ve previously heard in every way. Lead off track is the title track. Claustrophobia is melodic, anthemic, and a masterpiece. It reminds me of early 80’s U2 with the way it builds to a cathartic chorus. “Feeling trapped, alone in despair / Like I was in the womb”. Haunting stuff. A Life Worth Living is one of those new wave inspired songs that makes you want to hop in the car and sing at the top of your lungs while driving the top down on a sunny day. Really feeling the early U2 vibe with this track as well. Sing a long chorus, what’s not to love? The Final Walk is a doom laden instrumental that was quite unexpected the 1st time I gave this EP a spin. Think Faith by The Cure. This is funeral music, and I mean that in the best possible way. It invokes a sense of loss & longing in the listener. An absolutely stunning way to close this short release, it has spine tingling riffs that’ll stick with you long after you are alone with your thoughts.

You can pick up the EP here. I cant wait to see what comes next from Ian and Phil Jackson

Verdict: post punk masterpiece

For Fans of: The Cure, Joy Division, U2, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Sound

Evan Dando – All My Life

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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.

By the late 90’s The Lemonheads had mostly disappeared from the music world. 1996’s Car Button Cloth hinted at Evan Dando’s despair and drug fueled adventures, serving as a (temporary) epitaph and harbinger of things yet to pass. In 2002 a live album and EP was released under Evan Dando’s own name followed by 2003’s full studio album Baby I’m Bored. Years lost to partying parlayed into an engaging album full of self-reflection. Curiously, the song that I love the most was written by Ben Lee – though written from Dando’s perspective. All My Life deserves a place in the Great American Songbook. The weight of living a wild life is clear in every word sung by Dando – reminding more than a bit of the sole album by Dennis Wilson. Folk pop with a strong chorus, lyrically it is heartbreaking – though like the best songs it lets some sunshine in. You get the sense of sadness as he thinks about his days of drinking, drugging, and womanizing but also know that it is a thing of the past. “And I’m so impatient / For a new sensation / All my life / I thought I needed all the things I didn’t need at all”.

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.