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september 2016

The Pixies have shared another song from their upcoming new album Head Carrier, this one called "Tenemant Song":

Like everything they've released since reforming and recording new music over the past few years, I don't know quite what to make of this one except that I don't like it as much as the other song I've heard from this album, "Um Chagga Lagga". None of it really stands up to the Pixies proper catalog——at best, it enters the same vague orbit as some of the more middling tracks on their most middling album, Bossanova (which still had a lot more to recommend it than Indie Cindy).

I gave Indie Cindy a chance, but I rarely find myself wanting to listen to it after that initial exposure——if I need a Pixies nostalgia hit, I just go back to their greatest songs from their original incarnation. I can't believe this is going to be anything more than a retreading of the same ground that Indie Cindy covered, and I don't know if I'll be able to convince myself to buy it unless I hear at least a couple of songs that sound vital and necessary.

I always wondered why Apple made it the default that, even if you were already logged into the iTunes store with your account, you still had to enter your account password in order to confirm a purchase. I changed that shortly after it was implemented so that the Buy buttons in iTunes immediatley bought whatever it was I was trying to buy.

Well, now I know, and I'm sure it's pretty obvious to the rest of you. I accidentally clicked on a Buy button for something that I didn't actually want to buy, and there was no way to cancel the transaction or "return" the tracks and get a refund. Luckily it was just a four song EP (from a band I like, but it was just remixes, which I typically don't like from anyone), so it didn't cost me that much to learn this lesson, but now my iTunes is set back to the default and I have to enter my password every time now.

I was a pretty big fan of the Bolshoi when I was in high school——I loved their initial EP Giants and their debut full length Friends, and I liked the sophomore disc Lindy's Party far more than it probably deserved (mostly due to the title track/album closer, which I have had a strong emotional reaction to since the first time I heard it). The earlier works were influenced by a goth sound and sensibility, but it was goth mixed with more traditional rock sounds and even some pop, especially on Lindy's Party.

After the 1987 release of Lindy's Party, the just disappeared, and I heard anything about them again. But something sparked me to look them up on Wikipedia and Allmusic to see if there was anything I had missed——with the rash of 80s alternative/college bands who have reunited and produced new material in the last few years, I thought it might be possible that they had something new to share as well that wouldn't have made it to the front pages of Pitchfork's or Stereogum's news sections.

They don't seem to have done that, but I did discover that they had a completed third full length called Country Life that was never released contemporarily but which saw the very faint light of day a couple of years ago, but only as part of a very limited edition box set that was/is not available digitally on official music sites. Of course, that doesn't mean that it's not really available, and I was able to track down digital copy, complete with artwork.

With the ears I have today, I don't like it very much, but I'm trying to put myself in my 1988 shoes and guess what my response might have been at the time. I think I still wouldn't have liked it that much——it suffers from many of Lindy's Party's faults, like trying to hard to remain on the hip side of the college music equation while bringing in production elements——bigger drums, sleeker guitars——that were clearly oriented towards contemporary pop radio——but without a song like "Lindy's Party" to grab me and make me invest in more than a couple of listens.

There are a couple of decent tracks——"Under the Shed", "Castaway", and "Delores Jones" come to mind, and they are definitely more in the pop vein that I have an increasing weakness for in my old age. Album closer "Everything Is Done for You Today" is one of those weird distincly 80s but not really representative of the 80s songs that I find myself attracted to for reasons that I can't enunciate or justify, but there you have it.

Country Life is strictly a for-diehard-fans-only release, which I'm guessing is anyone who still remembers them and owns at least one of their records (digital or otherwise). I still think Giants and Friends are worthy of inclusion on the margins of 80s alterative/college history, but I wouldn't seek this one out even if you like those.

With all the stuff going on at work and at home, I couldn't get my shit together to make it to the Car Seat Headrest show at Terminal West last night. I'm really bummed about this——they might be my current favorite band, I love that venue, and, as it turns out, they also did a cover of Frank Ocean's "Ivy" from his new album Blonde, one of my favorite songs from that record that would have been amazing to see in the context of Car Seat Headrest's sound.

I've got a bunch of other concerts coming up this fall, and hopefully I'll pull it together and make it to all of those. But I'm always going to regret missing this one even though there was no way mentally or physically I could have made it work last night.

Grandaddy called it quits ten years ago, with frontman Jason Lyttle releasing two solo albums in the interim, but they recently announced plans to release a new album and shared two new songs, "Way We Won't" and "Clear Your History":

"Way We Won't" is destined to be a single if it's on the new album, but both tracks are very distinctively Grandaddy tracks, just with a sound that'a a litle fuller and more confident than some of their ealier work (but in a way that fits with the changes in production styles over the past decade or so).

My favoriate tracks from this band have always been the quirky, off-kilter stuff like "Stray Dog and the Chocolate Shake" and "Broken Household Appliance Forest", so hopefully there will be room for at least a couple of songs in that vein on the new album. But I'm sure I'm going to end up owning this one based on what I've heard in these two tracks.

One of the concerts I have tickets for this fall is Okkervil River, who are playing Atlanta next week, and I'm only now digesting their just-released album Away. It's a slow, gentle, quiet dose of contemplative folk rock, as you might have guessed from the title of the lead single and opening track, "Okkervil River R.I.P.". It's certainly the the same vein of much of their earlier work, but after their last release, 2013's The Silver Gymnasium, which was practically giddy by Okkervil River standards and which might be my favorite record from the band, I'm left a little disappointed.

I'm still excited to see them live, but given that the setlist is likely to be heavily slanted towards the new material, I'm bracing for a more subdued experience. I'm sure they're going to be great players, I just don't know if the song selection is going to be very satisfying given that I'm not really into the new album yet.

The Pretenders have announced a new album, Alone, which was produced by the Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, and have shared a song from the record called "Holy Communion":

I've gotten a little bit into the Pretenders over the past few years as I re-explored some of the pop music from the 80s that I stridently ignored when I was actually living through it, and even on their best albums, Chrissie Hynde is either brilliant or very, very average——there are very few songs in between those extremes, and typically more than half their songs on a given album are in the latter category.

So I'm not someone who's on edge of my seat waiting for new material from the band, but I must admit this odd veering away from their traditional sound (it's very keyboard/synthesizer heavy) mixed with an almost 50s approach to both the basic beat and the vocals has me a little intrigued. This song alone isn't enough to sell me on buying the record, but it does make me want to hear more, just to see if this collaboration reinvigorated Hynde and helped her tap into something new and great over three decades after their last strong outing and exactly three decades since their last decent one.

Wilco released a new record last week called Schmilco, which is just as goofy a name as Wilco (The Album) or Star Wars (or Down With Wilco, which isn't technically a Wilco album but instead is a collaboration between the band and the Minus 5's Scott McCaughey). But after an initial few listens, this one's not nearly as loose and freewheeling as those records——on Star Wars especially, it sounded like the band was having some real fun in the studio for the first time in years.

This is a quieter, more acoustic, more contemplative record that fits somewhere between Sky Blue Sky and Jeff Tweedy's record with his son, Sukierae (released under the band name Tweedy). It's probably a pretty good record, but Star Wars was the first album from the band that I loved through and through in a long time, so I was hoping for more of the same and haven't really given these songs a fair shot.

I'm hoping they come around to Atlanta again on this tour——we just saw them in the spring, but that was the first time I'd seen them in years after pretty consistently catching their appearances in the DC/Baltimore area when I lived up there. They live show is always amazing——I don't think there's such a thing as an off night for this band——and usually seeing new studio material live gives me a greater appreciation for the recorded version.

Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha might finally be releasing a solo album, and to tease us with that possibility he shared a new track called "Digging for Windows" that was produced by El-P (with whom de la Rocha collaborated with for a track on last year's Run the Jewels 2):

The Run the Jewels track, which was called "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" was more intense with a higher BPM, but this steady, sinister beat allows the menace in de la Rocha's voice to bloom fully in a way that you rarely hear in his hyperkinetic raps with Rage.

If a full record actually comes to fruition, there's almost no way it won't be great, especially if El-P is involved. However, I would love it if El-P would finish up Run the Jewels 3 before focusing on de la Rocha——as much as I'd like to have a whole album's worth of this stuff, the first two Run the Jewels records have been some of my favorite rap albums of this century, and I can't wait for Killer Mike and El-P to give us the next installment.

A band I only discovered after they released their last album, Allo Darlin', have just announced that they are breaking up. They remind me of what Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch's side project God Help the Girl might sound like if it had been an actual band and not just a female-fronted extension for Stuart Murdoch's songwriting, and since I loved the God Help the Girl album (which was also tied in to a film of the same name written and directed by Murdoch), that's a pretty appealing description for me.

I only have the one album, We Come from the Same Place, but their discography isn't deep——they have only two other albums and have only been in existence since 2010. So in that way it's pretty disappointing that they are formally calling off any hope for future music——I get how hard it is to be in a band when the band can't be the center of your life, but I look at a group like Los Campesinos, who manage to stay in touch and put out a record every few years even though they are no longer living, working, and touring with one another and cranking out an album every six months. But if the other two records are as strong as We Come from the Same Place, I suppose I should be greatly to have that many albums from them.

It took me a while to listen to Vince Staples' incredible debut album, the double-length Summertime '06, but I've been pretty obsessed with it for most of this year (it was released in 2015). He recently released the first official follow up to that record, a seven song EP titled Prima Donna that finds him exploring a few new stylistic directions. It doesn't hold together as well as Summertime '06, and it sounds like he using these songs the way a lot of artists use EPs——a chance to play around a little bit more and try some new things without the weight of a new official album potentially constraining his creativity.

The tone in general is a lot more playful than Summertime '06, which had its share of funny lines/moments, but which was generally a pretty menacing, bleak album. If Summertime '06 was Chuck D and Terminator X at their most intense and incendiary on tracks like "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" or "Fight the Power", Prima Donna is a Flavor Flav palette cleanser like "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man"——even the album title is purposefully self-deprecating.

The standout track is "Loco", a counterpart of Summertime '06's "Loca" that again pairs Staples with his "Loca" vocal partner Kilo Kish. It's also the song that sounds the most like it belongs on Summertime '06, which is probably a big reason that it has become my favorite.

The EP has a hard time building momentum because of the half-slurred, half-mumbled song fragments that end each of the proper songs, interrupting the flow and collective crescendo that the tracks might have otherwise achieved. But this also feels pretty intenationally subversive, like he wants a harder break between the songs so they stand apart from each other a bit more.

There is a mariachi band that does nothing but cover Morrissey songs called Mexrissey. This is a totally real thing——they even have an album——and it shockingly seems to work. I haven't convinced myself quite yet to purchase it, but I'm definitely enjoying streaming it.

More proof of how awesome my city is: Atlanta held a contest to name a new tunnel-boring machine, and the people here chose to call it Driller Mike after Run the Jewels rapper and Atlanta resident Killer Mike.

A couple of nights ago I went to see Okkervil River at Terminal West, the fist time I had ever seen the band live. Here is the setlist:

    1. Okkervil River R.I.P.
    2. Call Yourself Renee
    3. Plus Ones
    4. The Industry
    5. Mary on a Wave
    6. A Girl in Port
    7. Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas
    8. The War Criminal Rises and Speaks
    9. Judey on a Street
    10. She Would Look for Me
    11. Unless It's Kicks
    12. Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe
    13. Down Down the Deep River
    14. For Real

    15. So Come Back, I Am Waiting
    16. It Is So Nice to Get Stoned

It was a surprisingly low-key show that was heavy on material from their new album, which hasn't really clicked with me. The opening band Landlady was pretty compelling in terms of their stage presence and the eclectic nature of their music, and in some ways they were the more interesting part of the evening.

Okkervil River did have some good moments, like a dance-y interpretation of "Unless It's Kicks", a risky choice given that the song is a fan favorite, but they stumbled badly with the encore, ending the show with a weird hippie jam cover called "It Is So Nice to Get Stoned" that was 1) a pretty terrible song to begin with and 2) was played for far too long by Okkervil River.

This is the first show I've been to in a while where I wouldn't necessarily want to go see this band again, not because they were bad musicians, but because of the setlist choices. So if they come around again, my desire to see them live will probably depend on how much I like their most recent album.

Kristen Hersh has a new solo album coming out called Wyatt at the Coyote Palace, and she recently shared a track from the record called "Soma Gone Slapstick":

As opposed to her rock-oriented work with her bands Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave, her solo stuff usually doesn't appeal to me because it's typically just her with an acoustic guitar. But while the instrumenation here is spare and minimal, there are actual drums and a bass to go along with the guitar, and in some ways this is the most interesting song I've heard from her in the past decade.

I'm a huge fan of Hersh as a person, and the early Throwing Muses records were a big part of the soundtrack of my formative high school years, so I always try to buy her records, even the ones that I know I probably won't listen to much, but this might be the rare solo disc from her that makes it into my heavy rotation if this song is any indcation of the style of the rest of the songs.

Founding member of the Cure Lol Tolhurst has announced a memoir detailing his years with the band (which ended after the recording of 1989's Disintegration, which remains their masterwork) that I'm kind of curious to read.

It's unusual to have a rock memoir penned by someone who was in the band but not the center of the band (despite the fact that he's a founding member, his musical contributions were never significant——Robert Smith has always been the heart of the band)——usually these kinds of books are written directly by the main members or by a rock journalist who has spent a lot of time with the main band members——but it will be interesting to see if Lol can write enough about himself for the book to really be about him while also keeping Cure fans interested with stories about the band and its evolution.

I've grown more and more fond of Martha's debut album, Courting Strong, over the past few months, so I finally decided to give their most recent outing, Blisters in the Pit of My Heart, a try.

It's in very much the same style as Courting Strong, but it's a little more restrained and polished, which means that it's not as immediately charming as Courting Strong. But it is growing on me, and there are definitely some great songs among the consistently very good and very catchy songs, with "Chekhov's Hangnail" and "The Awkward Ones" being my current favorites.

If you like slightly off-kilter but incredibly catchy punk pop, you should give these guys a listen——that's a pretty strong sweet spot for me (Bent Shapes' Wolves of Want is probably my favorite record so far this year besides Frank Ocean's Blonde), and this is one of newer bands in that category that I keep going back to when I need a hit.

Hamilton Leithauser released his new album with Vampire Weekend's Rostam , I Had a Dream that You Were Mine, last week, and after settling in with for about a week, I'm having a pretty typical reaction to his past catalog, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Walkmen: there are a couple of truly spectacular songs (notably the opening track and the one that contains the line that the album is named for, "A 1000 Times"), a few pretty good tracks ("Rough Going (I Don't Let Up)", "The Bride's Dad", and album closer "1959"), and then some interesting experiments that haven't fully clicked with me yet.

The thing that's different about this album, however, is Leithauser's willingness to take his unique voice and perspective and travel through some classic musical styles that he hasn't really explored before, like 50s doo wop ("Rough Going"), hippie-tinged folk rock (the opening section of "You Aint' That Young Kid"), old school country, complete with a train-like shuffling beat and a slide guitar ("The Morning Stars"), and a mishmash of other influences and instrumetation that we haven't seen in his music before.

I'm not sure that all of these choices were wise or helped the underlying songs come to their fullest fruition, but it is encouraging to see himself trying to figure out how to move beyond a fairly narrow signature style and start to think about himself (and present himself to his audience) as an artist who is still growing and is capable of evolving. It will be interesting to see if he continues to work with Rostam in the future, and if not, whether that collaboration led to this different approach.

Dirty Projectors haven't released new music since 2012, and in the meantime they've lost two key bandmembers. But last week they shared a video for a new song called "Keep Your Name":

This is glitchy, weird R&B, which is what R&B would naturally become when run through the Dirty Projectors filter, and the somber tone seems to reflect that trauma in frontman David Longstreth's personal life that has also had a big impact on the band (he and lead guitarist Amber Coffman were a longtime romantic pair who broke up sometime in the last couple of years).

It will be interesting to see how the band sounds without Coffman's guitar, but from this track, that indelible Dirty Projectors style is still present. Hopefully the whole thing won't be a breakup album——those can be pretty hard to listen to unless you've been though one recently, and I'm celebrating my 20th wedding anniverary this year.