Favorite Albums ‘13

10. Death Grips-Government Plates

FREELANCE MOTHERFUCKER! Death Grips effectively get off scot-free from their botched Epic deal and throw a club bangerz night in hell to celebrate.  Me thinks Flatlander has a lot to do with the minimal lyrics and heavier house influence.  The lyrics that do remain show MC Ride still spouting violent bouts of stream of consciousness frenzy that’s equal parts paranoia and delusions of grandeur.  Dylan references and no show controversy aside, Death Grips continue to fire on all cylinders creating unapologetic work, leaving listeners in the dust to piece together exasperated theories like Paul McCartney death theorists and Zeppelin Occult adherents.  Mysticism is alive and well in Rock n Roll.

https://soundcloud.com/deathgrips/sets/government-plates

9. Shotgun Jimmie-Everything, Everything

Everything is song worthy for Shotgun Jimmie. Everything.  This includes sleeping on couches, Skype dates, and snorkeling.  All these scenes are recounted more or less straight-faced in an unassuming soft-spoken voice.  But immediately I find myself drawn in by the basement production and the subtle but consistent hooks.  Rather than use this charming and non-flashy production to spotlight lyrical depth (Weakerthans perhaps?) Shotgun Jimmie integrates his wonder for the mundane into the listener.  You’ve heard hooks like these before, but everything’s different TODAY.  Simple joys are precious, impeccable pop rock songs included. Also, GBV shout outs are always much appreciated.

http://youvechangedrecords.bandcamp.com/album/everything-everything

8. Bad Sports-Bras

Kiss meets The Dictators.  Imagine what the Mystery boys’ band would sound like a couple years after the conclusion of Detroit Rock City, when Kiss actually did make a disco album and the boys took refuge in Road to Ruin.  In 2013, Bad Sports finds a way to make dusty 8-track music that’s both crunchy AND punchy.   But for all the retro sentiment, this is far from a nostalgic affair, more a rebirth of an attitude.  So throw this CD in (or login to Spotify if that’s your bag), text all your friends you’re picking them up to cruise around a dead end town, and play this LOUD.

http://dirtnaprecords.bandcamp.com/album/bad-sports-bras

7. Run The Jewels

Killer Mike and El-P simply topped both their individual albums from last year with this collaboration.  Like transferring classic 808 beats into HD, Run The Jewels makes a time tested aesthetic feel fresh again.  Suddenly, both rappers can lean and hunch in B-Boy staggers without an ounce of it being cliché, though both are probably wearing very self-aware grins.  No lavish lifestyle and no feature heavy hype, just a hungry duo trying to write the most ruthless verse with the confidence of a bitch slap.  Both were told to watch the throne and responded, “Fuck yo fort”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGmhAUKDNjI

6.  Weekend-Jinx

Sonically, Jinx feels like the unofficial intro music to 120 Minutes.  It is part Post-Punk part Shoe Gaze and moody as hell.  The highs swirl and sound like refracted light as the low end relentlessly pulsates.  Abstractions of loss and regret are drowned in reverb, all with a melodic sense that would make Morrissey proud.  Combined it’s all enough to pummel the listener if they weren’t so busy bobbing to it.  This is catharsis you can two-step to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfhdGIOZRvo&list=PLZqsyBiYZFQ0Yf7_9roZcRmDnaxRkskUk

5.  Diarrhea Planet-I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

The guitar party album of the year.  Think “Eruption” played by four buddies simultaneously.  It’s not much of a stretch to think of Diarrhea Planet as a traveling scene from Animal House, and matched with that name the whole affair risks playing out like a cartoon; a sweaty cartoon.  What anchors the music and balances the goofiness is the unabashed heart they put into tackling their anxieties on paper.  True, they are far from eloquent and the subject matter won’t change anybody’s life, but that may be evidence of Diarrhea’s charm.  Think of a freshly graduated Rivers Cuomo who is more of a townie fuck up than a nerd, and that’s how these lyrics play out.  If you are a young adult in America and are not concerned about wasting too much time while simultaneously having no real direction in life, struggling with your own insignificance and still anxious about responsibilities you may be neglecting, then maybe this isn’t the band for you.   For the rest of us, it makes perfect sense to end the album “So what the hell am I doing with my life/And how should I know if it’s right?”  Exactly.  Long live Diarrhea Planet. \m/  \m/

https://soundcloud.com/infinity-cat/sets/diarrhea-planet-im-rich-beyond

4. Grey Kingdom-Light, I’ll Call Your Name Out “Darkness”

The album opens with “End of God” and ends with a still light arriving in the singer’s absence.  Listening to “Darkness” the question isn’t if salvation was attainable, it wasn’t, but whether or not the singer ever even had a chance. I like to think of it as gospel music for the atheist.  Spencer Burton seems to take full accountability in his love eroding its recipients, his own devolving as a human, and in taking away light from those he cares for.  What’s interesting is that in doing this he seems to set up his own moral micro spectrum, where he alone occupies the role of evil.  And when others can up the hyperbole of their pain with all the melodrama of a child flailing on the ground, Spencer has all the emotional punch of a person looking stone cold into your eyes and calmly stating, “I am not happy and you cannot fix this”.  The sound is one that’s airy and roomy, utilizing the buzz of acoustic guitar strings with sparse use of percussion, lap steel, or fiddle.  It is simply one of the more beautifully sad albums I’ve heard in a long while. 

http://greykingdom.bandcamp.com/releases

3. White Denim-Corsicana Lemonade

White Denim have merged the two realms of “musician” on their new album.  The virtuosity and the groove meld, like Booker T and the MGs making a prog album.  The lyrics become secondary to the music admittedly, but the loftier, dreamy, almost summer of love styled messages of freeing oneself from constricting love and surrendering to ones intuitive paths towards joy and strength accompany the transcendent quality of the music.  This is dynamic rock to move mountains by.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSwPPC-119k

2. Chance The Rapper-Acid Rap

Where other pop rappers such as Kanye West and ASAP Rocky were concerned with decidedly monochromatic work, in crashes Chance The Rapper in fucking Technicolor.  When was the last time a rap album sounded so enthusiastic and so directly pop oriented? In the first three tracks alone the music takes us through a parade complete with full marching band, strolling down the street like a badass through your favorite blaxploitation film, through a shady alley, and finally cruising down a freeway on a bright summer day, this is all before the first quarter of the album is even through.  Chance’s verses follow the same joyously ADD muse, jumping from scene to scene, many times taking detours to explore possible puns or altogether abandoning rational thoughts to conduct syllable experiments all while teeter tottering on the cadence, inserting just the right pauses or tripping over himself with a barrage of internal rhymes. Lyrically, Chance seems to be more interested in taking drugs than selling them, with progression in understanding himself over accruement of stacks (people are still getting bodied for phones anyways), and the graceful recollections of how he became who he is in spite of his surroundings rather than being caged in by them.  The 53 minutes is rounded out with well-placed features (Ab Soul’s Gwen Stefani couplet gets me every time) and ends with a 3 song suite that pushes towards some of the more introspective realms of hip hop put to tape.  Chance still has time to grow up, his objectification of women for one could be worked on (though it is tame compared to the rest of the state hip hop is in), but this second, and free, mixtape is proof that he is already on another plane all his own with room to stretch out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRv2_zAPrhc

1. So So Glos-Blowout

“Blowout: A victory for the underdog, of explosive proportion, a tire flattened, a haircut, a clammer, a clatter, batter up, A-hole, A-defeat, A-sale, sale behold…Blowout.”  As you know Kurt Cobain…pow.  The first blowout of the album signifies the boiling over of pop aspirations matched with perceived bouts with artistic integrity. This dichotomy is what essentially lies at the heart of Blowout though this is not the 90s and more than anything the So So Glos have to deal with disorientation more than shame or guilt.  Oversaturation of technology, “indie” elitism, postmodern pastiche, overwhelming cynicism, all these can cut any counterculture at the knees presently.  Cue Blowout, a direct bullshit call on ironic detachment, an exercise in sincerity, a celebration with a keen sense of accountability, a release.  And that’s what the title track is, a release and a challenge to expose yourself honestly in the face of the kids that are too cool for school, the internet police, and the ever intimidating “mainstream”; everything.  Lay it out and navigate on your own terms, start a community, start a record label, start a band, gain autonomy.  “Don’t have to kill yourself to put it around”.  Right.  First Letterman, then MTV, then the world. Smash it up. Blow it out.       

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZTlHOgi1pY

http://sosoglos.bandcamp.com/album/blowout

Bonus:
Favorite EP: Paint It Black-Invisible

Favorite Show: So So Glos/Diarrhea Planet @ Brick and Mortar House or Shabazz Palaces @ The New Parish

 


3. Your Little Hoodrat Friend

“‘Your little hoodrat friend makes me sick but after I get sick I just get sad.
Because it burns being broke. It hurts to be heartbroken. And always being both must be a drag. she’s been calling me again. she’s been calling me again.’

‘Your little hoodrat friend’s been calling me again.
And I can’t stand all the things that she sticks into her skin.
Like sharpened ballpoint pens and steel guitar strings.
She says it hurts, but it’s worth it.
Tiny little text etched into her neck it said “Jesus lived and died for all your sins.”
She’s got blue black ink and it’s scratched into her lower back.
It says: “Damn right He’ll rise again.” Yeah, damn right you’ll rise again.’

‘I’ve been dusted in the dark up in penetration park and I’ve been plastered.
I’ve been shaking hard and searching in a dirty storefront church and
I’ve been plowed. But I ain’t ever been with your little hoodrat friend.
What makes you think I’m getting with your little hoodrat friend?’

‘Your little hoodrat friend got me high though.
We were seventeen and stuck up in Osseo.
She said it’s funny how true love gets troubled by still water and washed up in the Mississippi river.
Her claddagh ring was pointed at the people.
She said “St. Theresa comes to me in dreams.”
She said “I ain’t gonna do anything sexual with you.
I’m kinda saving myself for the scene.”’

‘I’ve been dusted in the dark up in penetration park and I’ve been plastered.
I’ve been shaking hard and searching in a dirty storefront church and I’ve been plowed. But I ain’t ever been with your little hoodrat friend.
What makes you think I’m getting with your little hoodrat friend?’

‘She said: “City Center used to be the center of the scene. now City Center’s over.
No one really goes there. Then we used to drink beneath this railroad bridge.
Some nights the bus wouldn’t even stop, there were just too many kids.”’

‘I was waiting for my ride and I got jumped from behind. I got punctured.
I got stopped by the cops and they found it in my socks and I got probed.
But I ain’t ever been with your little hoodrat friend.
What makes you think I’m getting with your little hoodrat friend?’”

The song is a conversation between the narrator and Charlemagne. The narrator is asking Charlemagne about Holly after the events of the album presumably. So before even getting into the story of the album, we jump ahead to the aftermath of Charlemagne and Holly.

The song starts as a clear slight against Holly. Charlemagne feigns pity for her, since she’s a wreck basically, and that it’s sad how she won’t stop calling him. He then proceeds to further break down her terrible state and mock her terrible Jesus tattoos.

The chorus gives insight into Charlemagne’s harshness. He vividly explains how he was dragged through the mud on account of Holly, totally drunk, strung out, subjected to cheap attempts at spirituality, but never “got” with her. Obviously this is a bitter former acquaintance’s attempt at gaining the upperhand in the eyes of his peers. And soon, Charlemagne’s account starts to get shaky and reveals him to be more vulnerable than he says.

The second verse flows into a warmer recollection of Holly the more Charlemagne thinks and speaks about her. They would get high when they were younger, and Holly had a knack for spellbinding those around her. Holly could border being poetic, spiritually affirming, or sexually engaging at any given moment, as her three quotes serve to show.

The bridge of the song is a quote from Holly showing she would open up to Charlemagne about her youth and her hometown and points out that maybe she really did have feelings for him and it wasn’t all a show she put on for him. Maybe he wasn’t like the others she manipulated and had fall for her.

Right as this notion is introduced though, we are given a huge break in the album’s story. The last chorus reveals Charlemagne is betrayed at some point and jumped. Specifically, he gets stabbed. Not only does he get stabbed, but in getting stabbed, he also gets busted by the cops. And anally probed. So by the end of the song we know Charlemagne gets stabbed, Holly is a touchy subject for him, and that Charlemagne may be the worst source to ask for a straight account of anything. (More examples of great Charlemagne interrogations: “Hot Soft Light”, “Sequestered in Memphis”.)

2. Cattle and the Creeping Things

"they got to the part with the cattle and the creeping things. they said i’m pretty sure we’ve heard this one before. don’t it all end up in some revelation? with 4 guys on horses, and violent red visions famine and death and pestilence and war. i’m pretty sure i heard this one before. you in the corner with a good looking drifter. two cups of coffee and ten packs of sugar. i heard gideon saw you in denver. he said you’re contagious. silly rabbit. tripping is for teenagers. murder is for murderers. and hard drugs are for bartenders. i think i might have mentioned that before.


he’s got the pages in his pockets that he ripped out of the bible from his bedstand in the motel. he likes the part where the traders get chased out from the temple. i guess i heard about original sin. i heard the dude blamed the chick. i heard the chick blamed the snake. i heard they were naked when they got busted. i heard things ain’t been the same since. you on the streets with a tendency to preach to the choir. wired for sound and down with whatever. i heard gideon did you in denver.

she’s got a cross around her neck that she ripped off from a schoolgirl in the subway on a visit to the city. she likes how it looks on her chest with three open buttons. she likes the part where one brother kills the other. she has to wonder if the the world ever will recover. because cain and abel seem to still be causing trouble.

she said: i was seeing double for 3 straight days after i got born again it felt strange but it was nice and peaceful. it really pleased me to be around so many people. of course half were just visions but half of them were friend from going thru the program with me. later on we did some sexy things. took a couple photographs and carved them into wood reliefs. but that’s enough about me. tell me how you got down here into ybor city.
he said: i got thru the part about the exodus. up to then i only knew it was a movement of the people. but if small town cops are like swarms of flies and if blackened foil is like boils and hail. then i’m pretty sure we’ve been thru this before. and it seemed like a simple place to score. then some old lady came to the door and said mckenzie phillips doesn’t live here anymore.”

“Hornets! Hornets!” segues from an upbeat guitar figure into a darker one, mimicking the subject matter shift in “Cattle and the Creeping Things”.  This song seems to find Holly at a later point strung out from too much partying and enrolled in a religious rehabilitation program.  The “they” and “we” the song addresses this time is Gideon and Holly. From the lyrics, I want to say Gideon enrolled in the rehabilitation program to find vulnerable girls to take advantage of, none of them being as vulnerable and as reckless as Holly.   They become acquainted and the song is Gideon’s attempt to coerce Holly into getting into drugs again under false pretenses of finding themselves spiritually, and to drop out of the program. They are both familiar with the biblical stories being discussed in the rehab program, but take to heart only the negative underbellies of each story that mirror their own insular world of drugs and violence in their conversations. 

Each verse seems to follow the structure of the first half being direct conversations between Gideon and Holly about biblical stories through their dark, skewed perspective, and the second half of each verse being the narrator telling Holly at a later point what he had heard about her and Gideon’s relationship.  From what the narrator says, it foreshadows a less than flattering relationship with Gideon successfully taking advantage of Holly wherein he “sees” and “does” her enough to the point where she’s contagious.  This is the outline of these verses:

Verse 1:

Conversation:
don’t it all end up in some revelation? with 4 guys on horses, and violent red visions famine and death and pestilence and war. i’m pretty sure i heard this one before.

Gideon (internal thought about Holly being vulnerable):

you in the corner with a good looking drifter. two cups of coffee and ten packs of sugar.


Narrator (to Holly at a later point when asked about her and Gideon):
i heard gideon saw you in denver. he said you’re contagious. silly rabbit. tripping is for teenagers. murder is for murderers. and hard drugs are for bartenders. i think i might have mentioned that before. (Funny thing, he did mention this before on their first album Almost Killed Me.)

Anyways, the song has no chorus but the closest thing it has to one are the scenes described after each verse, the first of which is a scene of Gideon’s background with the Bible.  Basically his gang sells drugs in the malls and then reconvene in motels to count the money.  In one of these motels, he finds a Bible and steals some pages out of it, which is probably the genesis of his plan to use addicts in religious rehabilitation programs to his advantage.

Verse 2:

Conversation
i guess i heard about original sin. i heard the dude blamed the chick. i heard the chick blamed the snake. i heard they were naked when they got busted. i heard things ain’t been the same since.

 

Holly (internal thought about how much she likes Gideon’s drugged out view of Catholicism better): you on the streets with a tendency to preach to the choir. wired for sound and down with whatever.

 

Narrator (to Holly at a later point when asked about her and Gideon):
i heard gideon did you in denver.

The second “chorus” is a scene of Holly stealing a cross and wearing it as a way to amplify her sexual image.  And then it explains how she enjoys the story of cain and abel because she still sees the ugliness of that story in her everyday life.  

The bridge of the song is another conversation between Gideon and Holly.  She admits she has still been using drugs since joining the program and that she already fucked some other people enrolled in the program.  Gideon responds by saying he read Exodus and saw a lot of his own experience in the story.  First he only knew Exodus as a Bob Marley song, but then he said his experience with drug dealing (blackened foil) and dodging cops made him see a direct connection with his life and the Bible.  He then adds that it also “seemed like a simple place to score” which has more implications than Holly realizes.  The song ends with an old lady answering a door and telling Gideon that “Mackenzie Phillips” isn’t there meaning Holly, the drug addicted young troublemaker, has left the program and become open game for Gideon just as he wanted.

1. Hornets! Hornets!

"She said always remember 
Never to trust me
She said that the first night that she met me
She said there’s gonna be a time 
When i’m gonna have to go
With whoever’s gonna get me the highest

She said i won’t be much for conversation
If we go and do the rest of this
She said i’ve never been much for conservation
I kinda dig these awkward silences
She’s got those bones brigade videos
She knew them back and forth
She’s slept with so many skaters
She had the place to herself
She had a couple hundred bux
And he had nothing but the number

She said i like the guy who always answers the door
He never asks you what you came to his house for
She said i won’t be much for all this humbert humbert stuff
I’ve never done so much of this
I have to try so hard not to fall in love
I have to concentrate when we kiss
She mouthed the words along to “running up that hill”
That song got scratched into her soul
He’s never heard the song before
But still he gets the metaphor
He knows some people that switched places before
She said i really like the crowds at the really big shows.
People touching people that they don’t even know, yo.

I guess the heavy stuff ain’t quite at its heaviest
By the time it gets out to suburban minneapolis
We were living up at nicollet and 66th.
With 3 skaters and some hoodrat chick
Drove the wrong way 
169
Almost died up by edina high”

The song starts with Holly acknowledging she cannot be trusted and that her addictions outweigh any loyalty to any one person.  From the context of the song, it seems this quote was said to the narrator since the rest of the conversation that takes place in the song refers to music, shows, Minneapolis, etc.

The song jumps into a scene with the narrator and Holly preparing to do drugs and talk about essentially nothing.  Holly says she won’t talk much if she does these drugs, but that’s probably just an excuse to not have to talk to the narrator.  She goes for skater types at the moment and she’s buying drugs from the narrator’s dealer (possibly Charlemagne), so chances are this is before any Gideon business has started.

Holly goes on to lead the narrator on to get more drugs, stating he’s older than her, and even if she likes him she won’t allow herself to fall in love.  She then quickly changes the subject to music.

The narrator then addresses the listeners on how at this point there was nothing really wrong with the whole situation compared to how it got.  When it was just the narrator and Holly in their younger days, with a fair amount of drugs and a little bit of mischief here and there things were good.  This is also the first instance where he refers to Holly as a hoodrat. It starts the album with a light conversation and provides a starting point for Holly before the heavy drugs, religion, and violence, which all pretty much get addressed in the next song.

Separation Sunday Characters:

Narrator- There is an unnamed narrator in the story who shares multiple characteristics with Craig Finn.  He seems to have grown up in suburban Minneapolis, name checks previous Hold Steady songs, and is prone to talking about playing and listening to music.  He has a crush on Hallelujah, or Holly for short, but is incredibly intimidated by her antics and destructive nature.  He sees she is way too much of a mess to handle and keeps his distance.

 

Hallelujah (Holly for short) – She is the center of the whole story.  She is a self-destructive beauty with a tendency to ruin everything she gets addicted to whether it be drugs, faith, or lovers.

 

Charlemagne- He is another one of Holly’s admirers.  He is a small-scale drug dealer.  He lives deal to deal and takes what’s easy to him. 

 

Gideon- He is also a drug dealer, but more violent and on a larger scale than Charlemagne.  He is part of a gang, which is not named within the album but elsewhere is referred to as the Cityscape Skins in another song.  He manipulates everything to his advantage and has a knack for exploiting people’s weaknesses.

         

Let us start with something entirely too nerdy and too lengthy.  I want to start a song by song interpretation of the greatest concept album of the 21st century.  Separation Sunday by The Hold Steady could very well be the most cinematic lyrics of any rock album I’ve ever heard.  And I have spent much too much time listening to this album and forming this narrative that I can’t simply explain it to a casual bystander anymore without looking like a COMPLETE FUCKING FANBOY.  Which I am, but I need some record to make sense of this all and also a justification as to why the Hold Steady gets as much praise from me as they do to my non-believer friends.  Also, I could direct my friends to this so as not to waste an afternoon giving them a play by play of some indie rock album while they try to play video games.
The album does not stick to a chronological time frame or a set narrator, and all characters on this album seemed to have a vague, scenario based introduction on the band’s first album Almost Killed Me.  This makes me wonder if Craig Finn had the whole narrative in place from the get go and shook up the order of what he revealed to listeners, or if he just made it up as he went. Either way, Separation Sunday works as a stand alone introduction to these characters and the album can work as just a sonic piece of ROCK.  So if you haven’t heard the album and care at all to keep track of the nonsense I’m about to write about these songs, give the album a quick listen. Hopefully I can stay focused enough to make it to the last song.

Let us start with something entirely too nerdy and too lengthy.  I want to start a song by song interpretation of the greatest concept album of the 21st century.  Separation Sunday by The Hold Steady could very well be the most cinematic lyrics of any rock album I’ve ever heard.  And I have spent much too much time listening to this album and forming this narrative that I can’t simply explain it to a casual bystander anymore without looking like a COMPLETE FUCKING FANBOY.  Which I am, but I need some record to make sense of this all and also a justification as to why the Hold Steady gets as much praise from me as they do to my non-believer friends.  Also, I could direct my friends to this so as not to waste an afternoon giving them a play by play of some indie rock album while they try to play video games.

The album does not stick to a chronological time frame or a set narrator, and all characters on this album seemed to have a vague, scenario based introduction on the band’s first album Almost Killed Me.  This makes me wonder if Craig Finn had the whole narrative in place from the get go and shook up the order of what he revealed to listeners, or if he just made it up as he went. Either way, Separation Sunday works as a stand alone introduction to these characters and the album can work as just a sonic piece of ROCK.  So if you haven’t heard the album and care at all to keep track of the nonsense I’m about to write about these songs, give the album a quick listen. Hopefully I can stay focused enough to make it to the last song.

Ok.  I think I’ll try this one more time.  Zac’s little tumblr blog 2.0, a.k.a. I’m too lazy to make any other account to ramble about music, life, etc. Sorry in advance if I don’t post anything worth your time.