Dig Me Out (1997) by Sleater-Kinney

Categories: 1997 and Music.

The songwriting has improved here – the arrangements feel tighter and the hooks are  arguably stronger. This is only the second record of theirs I’ve heard, so I’m not sure I can argue that it is their best (I believe it has that reputation) but if you are looking for 90s punk that still feels like punk (as opposed to some bleached, broish imitation of punk), this is where you should go looking for it. Good stuff. 8/10 Read More

Brigthen the Corners (1997) by Pavement

Categories: 1997 and Music.

A kinder, gentler Pavement. With hindsight I think we can say this is the first record where it really sounds like Malkmus is writing songs for himself, rather than the band. I’m not sure that’s fair, but I sure feel like this has more in common with his solo career than with Slanted and Enchanted. It’s still recognizably Pavement, but a far mellower one. Read More

No Pocky for Kitty (1991) by Superchunk

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a set of solid songs that are uptempo and pleasantly loud. I get why this band was a big deal back then because, to my knowledge, this kind of straight-ahead abrasive power pop/pop punk was a relative rarity. But it’s not really my thing. It’s too one note for me, as much as I appreciate what they’re doing and I think they do it well, I just don’t love this particular style of music enough to get really excited about this record. 7/10 Read More

What Would The Community Think? (1996) by Cat Power

Categories: 1996 and Movies.

This is a solid collection of rootsy indie music. Her songs are strong and the arrangements are idiosyncratic, albeit not anywhere near as idiosyncratic as was becoming common in the indie world. I have always thought I should get into Cat Power but, though I like this record, I find it kind of innocuous. It’s fine, but I don’t know that my impression will last and, at least at this moment, I cannot see myself rushing back to it any time soon. 7/10 Read More

Trompe Le Monde (1991) by Pixies

Categories: 1991 and Music.

With hindsight this feels like a step between the earlier Pixies records and Frank Black’s solo career, which would make sense. To me, though, it suffers in that sense, lacking the strongest songs of either earlier Pixies records or Black’s early solo albums, but produced almost if it was one of his solo records. That’s not to say I dislike it – it’s still the Pixies doing what they do best pretty well. I just feel like it’s their weakest record and it very much feels like a transitional one for their main songwriter. 7/10 Read More

Sebadoh III (1991)

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Without having heard the two previous albums, and not being familiar enough with the evolution of home recordings in the ’80s, I still feel confident in saying that I think this album is a pretty big deal; it’s influence on 90s indie rock, indie folk and the lo-fi movement in general is rather immense. Along with early Pavement, this feels like the blueprint for so much American indie rock in the 90s well into this century. There are two problems for me that keep it from being an absolute classic: The first is the sheer length of this record. Like Read More

Schmilco (2016) by Wilco

Categories: 2016 and Music.

Star Wars made me so happy that I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that this record does not make me that happy. Whereas Star Wars felt tossed off in a good way, this record feels like the toss offs of the toss offs; I can’t help but have the word “slight” pop into my mind every time I listen to it. For a band as adventurous and as large as Wilco, not only is this record not particularly adventurous (there is one song, I think, that lives up to their usual standard of incorporating weird ideas into straight-ahead songs) but Read More

Reject All American (1996) by Bikini Kill

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This record starts off as serious Riot Girrrrl (angrier than any I’ve heard before) but then takes a weird detour into Tsunami-style slowcore (albeit played a lot faster…). It’s an odd combination that somehow works in spite of the rather radical changes in tone and energy. The songs aren’t as good as Sleater-Kinney’s, but there’s still a lot to like here. 7/10 Read More

Bob Mould aka Hubcap (1996)

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is a reasonably strong set of songs by Mould, occasionally supported by the kind of attitude towards noise that Husker Du used so well at their peak. But the the diversity that made Husker Du great isn’t really present, nor is the contrast between their two songwriters. It’s like listening to half the band, really. That’s not terrible, but it’s not amazing either. It’s a solid little record, but that’s all. 7/10 Read More

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016) by Radiohead

Categories: 2016 and Music.

This is the most orchestrated album Radiohead has made since Amnesiac – and it’s considerably more orchestrated than that. The near-omnipresent orchestrations – with strings often scored to sound like other instruments – makes this record sound new and different (more often than not) compared to their last effort. The songs are still very much recognizably Radiohead, but I feel like they’ve replaced the traditional density of their arrangements (regularly combining traditional rock band instrumentation with non-traditional, and programmed noises) with an even more traditionally dense sound, that of a (large) string section. And that’s refreshing because I thought the Read More

On Avery Island (1996) by Neutral Milk Hotel

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This feels like the inevitable result of trying to make folk music in the age of indie rock and, specifically, in the age of Pavement (and their related bands). So much of what they do here has become canonical or cliche (depending on your point of view) for the numerous indie folk bands that have followed in their footsteps. The songs are pretty conventional (with a few notable exceptions) but the arrangements are anything but – elaborate, dense arrangements featuring guitars, keyboards and percussion that would not normally have been applied to folk songs, or indie rock songs for that Read More

House of GVSB (1996) by Girls Against Boys

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is the second GVSB record I’ve heard. It strikes me as a little more melodic than their earlier work, though that’s not saying much, given this band. They’ve gone a long way to creating an aesthetic that prides noise and rhythm over melody. They are a weird band – they certainly have carved out their own niche in the post-hardcore landscape that not a lot of other bands (that I know) have occupied. I think that’s partly because this is territory that not everyone is into. Anyway, it’s appealing, like their other music. But it lacks really strong songs Read More

WhatFunLifeWas (1994) by Bedhead

Categories: 1994 and Music.

I wanted to write about how this band is the missing link between Slint and Luna, as much as such a thing seems kind of odd. But lo and behold, Luna beat these guys to the punch, so I was wrong about that. But I feel like that musical description is as good as I can get: this record sounds like what Luna would sound like if they liked Slint a lot more than, say, Loaded-era Velvet Underground. That’s not to say Bedhead sounds at all like Slint; it’s just there’s a tinge of that weird post-hardcore/math rock vibe overhanging Read More

Amore del tropico (2002) by The Black Heart Procession

Categories: 2002 and Music.

An Indie Rock band that flirts with chamber pop, roots rock and numerous other genres. I don’t quite know what to make of them. On the one hand, they certainly have a relatively lush sound, especially given the era. I can detect their influence on a lot of later indie rock bands that adopted strings in their songs. They also sound like the missing link between ’90s indie rock and Man Man. On the other hand, though they skirt lots of genres – everything from roots music to soul – the overall sound of the album makes everything kind of Read More

Rope-a-Dope (1994)

Categories: 1994 and Music.

This murky, kind of lo-fi record at times reminds me of a lo-fi Eleven. But I feel like such a comparison is a real disservice to Antietam who are, to my ears, a far more varied and capable band than Eleven, even if the husband-wife things it an easy comparison. This is a band that’s a little too lo-fi to be considered mainstream “alternative.” And the range they show here makes me really regret my initial comparison to Eleven and how that’s sort of dominated my thinking about them. This is one of those solid indie rock records that features Read More

Everclear (1991) by American Music Club

Categories: 1991 and Music.

These guys are the Kings of Slowcore, so I’ve been told. Not being the biggest devotee of the genre, I have no idea if that’s true. And if I get obsessed about influence and such, I’ll ignore the music here and focus on the fact that slowcore already existed when this came out. (Because, of course it did. These guys supposedly invented it six years earlier.) Ahem. Sorry about that. This set of songs takes a while to ingratiate, which is shocking for a slowcore record. (Kidding, obviously.) But once you listen to it a few times, you realize this Read More

Stay Positive (2008) by The Hold Steady

Categories: 2008 and Music.

The Springsteen influence is heavily tamped down on this record. It’s still there in in Finn’s songs – he has to be the most Springsteenian songwriter I’ve yet devoted time too – but the musical influences have expanded. The punk edge is definitely greater (though, do not mistake me, I am not calling this “punk”) and there are various other musical influences we would expect from American indie rock in the Aughts. And this is all well and good because they have stopped sounding like a louder, grittier E Street Band. So good for them. I still don’t like Finn’s Read More

Teeth Dreams (2014) by The Hold Steady

Categories: 2014 and Music.

Finn’s characters appear to be getting older. You have admire his ambition, to keep up these stories. But if his songs aren’t your thing, that means things haven’t improved. And, this record manages to sound less varied than the last two, which was kind of the problem with their earlier music. A good songwriter (who I don’t like) just pumping out more songs to middle of the road rock music. Nothing to see here. 6/10 Read More

Heaven is Whenever (2010) by The Hold Steady

Categories: 2010 and Music.

From the opening notes of “The Sweet Part of the City” it’s pretty clear that this band has finally overcome their Springsteen odour. Sure, Finn is still an extremely Sprinsteenian songwriter, but the rest of the band no longer sounds like a louder E-Street band minus the sax. (I’d blame that on the departed keyboard player but I know this had already happened on the previous album.) I can’t tell you how much of a difference that makes for me, as a listener. I almost want to go back to Boys and Girls in America and knock that review down Read More

Boys and Girls in America (2006) by The Hold Steady

Categories: 2006 and Music.

Springsteen’s influence hangs over much American 21st century indie rock. For many, this is good. For me, never a Springsteen fan, it is beyond annoying. This is among the most Springsteeny of Springsteen-American indie rock albums I have ever heard. Maybe it’s the most. It’s so unbelievably in his shadow that I feel like I am listening to a different album than everyone else. People think this albums is fantastic. (Do they also think it’s original? That’s another question for most of you, I guess.) Having just struggled through Born to Run, I find so many moments on this coming Read More

Left and Leaving (2000) by the Weakerthans

Categories: 2000 and Music.

Samson’s voice is way too pop punk. Way too pop punk. And this record is way too ‘pop punkers getting serious’ / ‘middle of the road indie rock.’ But it doesn’t matter, because the songs are so strong. I always feel like some people have “it” and some people don’t, and on the basis of this record, I feel like Samson might have “it.” (“It” being the ability to write songs that connect with the audience regardless of subject matter.) Not my thing, musically speaking, but I can’t help but admire the craft. 8/10 Read More

The 2015 Wolfe Island Music Festival August 7-8, 2015

Categories: 2015 and Music.

The annual pilgrimage to WIMF got off to a bit of an uneven start but ended up being one of the better festivals I have attended over the last half decade or so. On Friday night, we arrived to catch the end of Daniel Romano’s rather sedate country set. Romano had been to WIMF a few years earlier, but I missed him. This time he was on the Main Stage. It was pleasant music but nothing that made me want to go out and by a record. Romano was followed by Elliott Brood, a band I saw 3(?) years ago, Read More

Rabbit Rabbit Radio, Vol. 3 – Year of the Wooden Horse (2015) by Rabbit Rabbit

Categories: 2015 and Music.

The third edition of Rabbit Rabbit Radio is different in conception than the first two. This time out, Kihlstedt and Bossi asked twelve guitarists to submit riffs to them, and then they’d build the songs. The results are significantly different than the first two outings. If Volume 2 was “Rabbit Rabbit Goes Pop” then this is (mostly) “Rabbit Rabbit Rocks.” And though the basic guitar tracks aren’t necessarily obviously straightforward – though sometimes they are, sometimes they are all off the wall – the goal seems to have been to create something significantly more accessible than, say, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Read More

How We Held Our Post (2011) by Causing a Tiger

Categories: 2011 and Music.

Causing a Tiger is two fifths of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (or, if you prefer, 100% of Rabbit Rabbit) plus Secret Chiefs 3 bassists/Ceramic Dog guitarist Shahzad Ismaily (who, here, plays a guitar somewhere between a regular guitar and a bass). This is their second album, apparently. The tracks were “improvised” though to my ears it sounds more like un- or under-rehearsed rather than completely improvised. This reminds me a lot of other “jazz musicians playing rock music” stuff that has been coming out in the last decade (like Ceramic Dog) only a) two of these people aren’t really jazz musicians Read More

Star Wars (2015) by Wilco

Categories: 2015 and Music.

For just over a decade (between the mid ’90s and the mid ’00s) Wilco was one of the most interesting “indie” rock bands in the world – they changed their sound (nearly) every album, from roots rock to pop to post rock to classic rock revival. And then they got comfortable. For the last decade or so, they’ve been making very pleasant pop rock with only the odd hints of their more interesting past. (This is different live, where they remained edgy.) I have felt like the last few albums were the first time the band settled for something. But Read More

Wowee Zowee (1995) by Pavement

Categories: 1995 and Music.

Another of the numerous ’90s bands I ignored in the ’90s because I was stubborn and horribly uncool (or, really, the older sibling and therefore I had nobody to help me out). Far less immediate and way more difficult than their first two albums, this really seems to be the sound of a band telling casual fans to fuck off, or trying to recapture their earlier, weirder days before they were “corrupted” by releasing LPs/CDs for an actual label (not that Drag City wasn’t). I think the scope is what impresses most. It’s not quite the White Album of ’90s Read More

Sketches (2012) by the Zilis

Categories: 2012 and Music.

Yet another Hamilton band I imagined to be completely unaware of while living there. Why the Zilis haven’t made it yet has to be because they are just too diverse for their own good. The band runs the gamut from indie pop and indie rock, to faux old timey, to alt blues, to soul, to reggae. And I guess that’s confusing to people especially when the album’s so short. Because they pull off all the styles with aplomb. The songs could be stronger (maybe that’s the other thing holding them back) but every genre they hop into, you believe that’s Read More

Is This It (2001) by the Strokes

Categories: 2001 and Music.

So I avoided this like the plague when it came out: it was too trendy for me, but I also didn’t like Casablancas highly affected voice (it’s not that I dislike his voice, it’s more that I dislike the way he uses it most of the time), and, when picking between the “The” bands, I was firmly on the side of the blues rock influenced one over all the others.But over the years this has become a staple. I was shocked to know 4 of the songs pretty well, and I don’t even listen to the radio. They’ve just been Read More

All is Not Lost (2011) by Cody Allen

Categories: 2011 and Music.

On the first track, at least, Allen seems to be going for some kind of slightly more country, slightly more commercial version of Elliott Brood’s take on alt country (horribly named, by them, “death country”), with a little less energy. (Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?) And the album proceeds like that, where you can tick off various bands the tracks seem to aspire to. (Though some of the other tracks are less rootsy, and only sound rootsy because they are played by acoustic instruments.) Allen’s voice has been labelled “distinctive” by the Canadian music press, but it isn’t any more gravelly Read More