The highlight of January's releases is a fantastic compilation of fucking serious deathrock, and the lowlight is <i>Harlequin Dream</i> by Boy & Bear, an album that's as disgustingly twee as it sounds.
I was 12 years old when I saw the Black Knights open for Wu-Tang at the Agora Ballroom, one of Cleveland’s many famous shitholes. I don’t remember much about their set, except that they went on at about the same time I started to get a contact high and that at some point my crotch grazed against the big butt of a Wu groupie. Ever since that formative experience, I’ve been the kind of Wu-Stan who’ll cherish bloody used condoms, Japanese toxic waste, and Rob Ford’s skid-marked drawers as long as somebody slaps a W on ’em. This album is way better than any of those things, not to mention it has beats by junkie guitar god John Frusciante. Wu-Tang-affiliated projects are forever, motherfuckers.
I used to know a couple who were really into roofie-ing each other. We’d all be at some dive bar and the chick would dust her dude’s Peroni with Rohypnol while he was in the bathroom. Then, five minutes later, she’d have a grin on her face and the guy would be all, “Wait—did you just roofie me? You did, didn’t you?” Then they’d go home, and she’d rape him, and the next day he’d be grumpy at brunch because he’d lost a round of their “game.” They were a really happy couple, but I’ve always wondered: What if the assaultee wasn’t in the right headspace to be date-raped that night? Would he or she just go along with it, for love? I don’t think I’ll ever really know, but after being forced to listen to this record, I did learn one thing: even if you’re kinda in love with somebody, sometimes you’re just not in the fucking mood.
BENJAMIN M. SHAPIRO
TY DOLLA $IGN
I’m pretty sure Ty Dolla $ign is an actual angel. I can’t remember if it’s seraphim or archangels who have their names tattooed on their necks, but he’s one of those, because LA rap is good again, and Ty’s a big part of why that is. His beats are so rolled-out, you start reflexively chewing the inside of your mouth when he comes on, and his sing-raps are so saccharine, you almost forget he’s talking about making girls eat his poop. Ten gold rap stars.
Mind Dynamics is butt deep in a hot tub of digital detritus situated up on the patio of glitchy zen heaven, where mechanical squeals and dead-end dance beats morph into pseudo-ambient stretches with garbled pop snippets just long enough to trick you into chilling out. But as soon as you’re not paying attention, they steal your data and throw your wallet into the back of their spaceship with a bunch of cracked iPhone cases and fake cashmere sweaters. Get into it.
THE BLACK AND WHITE YEARS
I’ve got a doinker swinging between my thighs, but in my life I’ve had a handful of conditions that typically affect women, including toxic shock syndrome and a yeast infection in my belly button. TSS was a major pain in the ass because I had to get a spinal tap, but the icky purulence of a yeasty innie stands unrivaled as the gnarliest thing that’s ever happened to my disgusting body. Pretty sure my finger still smells from the one time I stuck it in there to see what was going on. I don’t know how my girlfriend deals with these things all the time, but I’ll tell you one thing: she does not listen to sappy greaseball trash like this.
No Bra is the music/performance project of Susanne Oberbeck, a “not gay” gay icon from rural Germany. On her second full-length, she continues her signature deadpan delivery over a disjointed mush of brown horse rock ’n’ roll. The result is totally mixed-up gender fucks mumbled by a topless woman with a blond mustache. If you aren’t gay already, it’ll do the hard work of coming out for you.
DUKUS P. TEKUM
Sanctuary: The Complete Discography
It’s getting really boring mechanistically assigning classic status to every fucking thing Sacred Bones puts out. I hate grave-wave co-option as much as the next ex-goth, but the last time I tried to call bullshit on these guys I felt like the principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You’d think that once in a while they’d slip up and dook out a clunker, but then they go and drop a dark and feverish anarcho-punk reissue I’ve never heard of, and I limp home like a stupid weenie.
Austin Psych Fest
Hey, man, listen: if you’re gonna enter the “good vibes zone” (a.k.a. my man cave), you need to check your bullshit at the door. That means no talking about cats, no snacks that aren’t brown or yellow, and no critiquing the tunes. Yes, we all have day jobs and wives, and yes, this whole psychedelic revival is as tired and desperate as an Instagram of you at Dave & Buster’s, but come on. This new Holy Wave album isn’t the worst background music for smoking doobs and trying to forget about that time I accidently pulled my queer son’s arm out of its socket.
If you’re like me, the mention of post-anything makes you wish your mom had balls so you could kick her in them for subjecting you to this terrible world. Post-rock is the worst. It’s just a bunch of older drunks with floppy hair hunched over their instruments making loud, dramatic songs full of feedback and pedal effects. Mogwai, however, have always been a bunch of drunks with floppy hair hunched over their instruments, but they’re still making interesting music and not singing all that often. This album is more of that, which makes it better than 95 percent of whatever else you listen to.
YOUNG THE GIANT
Mind Over Matter
Fueled by Ramen
For the last two months I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with this Russian-Turkish bathhouse. Here’s my routine: six days out of each week, I brutalize my body. Then, on Sundays, I get up at 8 AM and drag myself down some stairs into a moist, dingy basement that smells like Joe Spinell’s deepest scrote wrinkle. I sweat it out in silence with a bunch of nude Hasids for six hours and stroll out into the brisk afternoon air looking like a baby seal, free of toxins, impurities, and hatred. However, ever since I heard this haughty West Coast shopping music disguised as alt-rock, I’ve been unable to feel truly clean, and no amount of sweating will get their potted dissidence out of my system. Thanks for wrecking my shvitz, asshats.
BORIS AND DAVID
THE LAWRENCE ARMS
Shitting on Lawrence Arms is like shitting on the staff at the deli closest to your apartment. You’re really going to waste precious hate points on these mopes? For pop-punk tuna and Bugles, you could do much worse. Sometimes fries with mustard, when I specifically asked for onion rings with ketchup are all I can hope to deserve. When I was 19, I went seven months without calling my mom even once.
An American Tail would have been a shit-ton better if the main character weren’t a whiny bitch of a mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz. Maybe they should have focused on French multi-instrumentalist Neige. You could follow him from his teenage days as a session drummer for satanic, blackened tape-rapists Peste Noire to the time he led the post-industrial, postpunk, atmospheric black-metal gloom providers Amesoeurs. Then he starts this post-rock, post-metal, post-shoegaze, neo-AOR skyscraping solo project, which is pretty much exactly the sonic equivalent of his testicles’ dark journey of recession into his body cavity, set to a breathtaking soundtrack of crying violins, delicate finger plucks, and primal moans born of a breaking, aching self. It’s like a film within a film within a can of rotting garbage outside Katz’s Deli, and it’s a shoo-in for this year’s Palme D’Turd.
SEAN & BEN
MTV Unplugged—Live in Athens
No, this isn’t a review beamed in from 1988, and no, you’re not high (unless you are, stoner). The wizened, leather-rock lifers in Scorpions have emerged, wraith-like, to release their most dizzyingly anticipated record since Love at First Sting. Just kidding. This is a bunch of fuzzy, decrepit foreigners pooping out subpar acoustic renditions of 30-year-old sleeper hits for a bewildered crowd in Athens. They also play really slowly because their fingers would probably fall off if they tried to double-tap.
BEST COVER OF THE MONTH
Finally, a garage band with some fucking balls. Let ’em fly, motherfuckers.
I was told recently that Hospitality had to “accept silence” in order to make this record, which isn’t exactly the hard sell on why I should drop ten bucks on it. “Hey, so when we were making this thing, we spent a bunch of time not listening to our music, or any other music for that matter. We just sat in a corner eating string cheese very quietly. After six months of doing that every day, we blatted out an album. I hope you like it! It’s called This Is What It Sounds Like to Eat String Cheese in Silence.” Here’s what they should have said: “This album is really good. It’s poppy in places, but eerily self-reflective and melancholy in others. It’s not what you expect from Hospitality, but rather something far more meaningful. You will probably listen to this album a lot after breakups and around tax season.”
Transgender Dysphoria Blues
The sad truth is that this record would only get positive reviews no matter what, because music writers don’t want to be caught trashing a lady who used to be a dude. Luckily, I’m spared lying to you because the album utterly slays. After a few major-label snoozers, Against Me! sound like a punk band again, and one that I actually want to listen to. So let’s all thank transphobia for making Against Me! rad again. Bravo, transphobia. You can stop existing now.
CITY BABY ATTACKED BY ZACKS
This album is so spooky that it makes me think that the cast of American Horror Story: Coven got together to form a band. There’s a song on here called “Biggy” that literally sounds like someone trying to raise the dead. If this were Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600s, they’d be burned at the stake for writing songs that conjure up visions of a cocktail party in Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s dorm room. Good thing it’s 2014, and burning people for being weird isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be. In summation, these gals can ride my broomstick any time they want.
WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
BOY & BEAR
Do you know what a “pup in a tub” is? It’s a mage-level sex act wherein a man inserts both of his testicles into his partner’s vagina or butthole, so-named because it’s harder to do than keeping a dog in the bathtub. After slogging through 11 cuts of wimpy Australian folk rock, I can safely say that finishing this album was harder than the GREs, the SATs, and the cram-your-nuts-inside-a-vagina test combined.
Somehow these dingbats managed to convince their publicist they made a “soul” record, but really Tranquilizers is what happens when chillwave burnouts play too fast and loose with the Oxycontin and decide they’re the second coming of Kevin Shields. I guess you could put this on for your next overdose, but with so many Q Lazzarus songs in the world there’s just no point.
DUM DUM GIRLS
My girl isn’t so keen on putting her tongue on another vagina, but I definitely think she’d dump my ass to get a piece of Dee Dee Penny. We’ve seen Dum Dum Girls twice together and the eyes she gives Dee Dee are just offensive. And what’s fucked up about it is that Dee Dee isn’t some megastar who’s guarded by security 24-7 and only eats prechewed turquoise M&Ms like a baby bird. She’s a cool chick who plays in a band. You could walk right up to her after a show and be like, “Hey, I like your tunes,” or, “Damn, you guys rocked.” Except my chick would just be like, “I date a needle dick. Wanna murder this turd with me? Then we can take a bath in his blood while we listen to ‘Cult of Love’ on repeat.” The worst part about this whole scenario is that I wouldn’t even get to watch.
WILBERT L. COOPER
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
You know that anything-is-possible last bit of Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising that makes you feel like the recession won’t last forever, and that you are America, and that you’re about to get a little weepy during the closing credits of Barry Levinson’s new movie about your life? Imagine if that was an entire album. This isn’t stem-cell research, guys, it’s a simple formula: write a good song and move on. Otherwise all your songs sound the same, and you’re absolutely no one’s favorite band. (In the industry, this is referred to as the “Cake effect.”) Anyway, these Augustines chodes are trying so hard to nail blind feelings of Bush-era indie uplift that it starts to get straight-up anachronistic, and reminds me why I started listening to a bunch of Pissed Jeans after the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act was vetoed.
STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS
Wig Out at Jagbags
Let’s all sack up and collectively acknowledge that “indie” “rock” in 2014 is about as fresh as putting “everything” “in” “scare” “quotes” (this is an inside joke to our copy editor, who “really” “loves” “scare” “quotes”). And sure, one might postulate that Stephen Malkmus is at least partially responsible for this sort of stink, and that he’s the reason we have to listen to bros in flannel croon about their daddy issues. But also, fuck you, because Stephen Malkmus didn’t bastardize indie rock—you did. Next time you get angry about some new buzz band, ask yourself one question: What do you hate? The world as it is, or yourself? Can you even tell the fucking difference anymore, you self-centered piece of shit? Why don’t you go cry on Twitter about it?
Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed
True story: this record shares a nom de suck with the 151st episode of Desperate Housewives, which begins with Beth on life support after trying to kill herself. Her last wish is to donate a kidney to Susan, but they’re barely friends, and Paul isn’t just going to sit by while his wife is butchered. Mike, however, knows the law is on his side, and he’s not going to back down to Paul. Then, Armon Jay has a creative breakthrough: he comes to terms with his adult ADD diagnosis, marries Sally, and hops on the Oregon Trail with a wink to the sky, finally comfortable living in his own skin... on his own terms.
According to his Facebook profile, Mr. Shook used to work for Apple and is now a cook at some upscale Austin sushi restaurant. After stalking him online, I listened to his album and tried to reconcile this image of a tech-savvy Texas chef with this collection of synthy, Napoleon Dynamite–esque surf rock. Honestly, this album is pleasant as fuck—a serious, continuous summer wet dream with songs that all sound somewhat similar and have names like “Hangover,” “Coastal,” and “Lifeguard.” Hopefully I can make it out to Austin in time to get some tempura udon from this dude, though this album makes me wonder if he’s spiking the California rolls with synthetic mescaline. If so, I’ll take two please.
A great man once cleared his throat and said, “After the party is the after-party. And after the party... [pause for emphasis] is the hotel lobby.” This begs the question: What is “after the disco”? If my experience in and around Denver’s swinging nightspots is any indication, the answer is a little scenario I like to call “Swedish siblings passed out in my bed and a bunch of whipped cream drying on my nipples.” Nothing that awesome is on this album.
BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Killed by Deathrock Vol. 1
If—all these years later—there’s simply too much drama in your Christian Death, too much makeup in your Xmal Deutschland, too much cheese in your 45 Grave, too much glam in your Alien Sex Fiend, and generally just too little left to fan the sad, pissed-off flame burning in your black little heart, then there may simply not be enough raw, unknown gems on this fantastic comp to keep you from chugging a bottle of Mr. Clean while watching Nekromantik. Thanks anyway, Caleb.
LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO
In the year 2000, Nellie Shabalala, the wife of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s founder and conductor, Joseph Shabalala, recorded a few tracks with her South African gospel group. She died two years later, and those sessions were never released. Then, in 2011, Joseph and the rest of his nine-member vocal group went into the studio and enveloped her vocals in teak-warm, mbube-style harmonies as a tribute to her life, their collective love, Jesus, and everything good. The result is probably the best record ever made to give your in-laws for Hanukkah, especially if they boycotted South African wines to protest apartheid. It’ll have them in dashikis in no time, sashaying around their Mamaroneck living room. They may be in such bliss that they’ll never even realize they’re listening to the South African equivalent of Creed.
My boss uses Siri, so I feel weird sharting on it publicly, but I’m just sick of hearing him shouting things like “Siri! Remind me to come out to my parents!” or “Siri! Remind me to return those heirloom carrots to the farmer’s market, they were all nubby!” Hey Fatty McFat-Fat, are your fat fingers too fat for the touchscreen? Stop eating marshmallows and keep the banalities of your life to yourself. Lately, when this has happened, I’ve just thrown this album on and let the SF duo’s molten good vibes—like the Beach Boys screwing with some synths under a Christmas tree—make the rest of the world disappear. Last week I did it on a plane and it was like my own private TWA Flight 553… through the airspace of my mind.
THE AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS
Look at that album cover. These guys are on some Huey Lewis “Hip to Be Square” trip, trying to co-opt the mechanisms of state control in a vain stab at self-empowerment. Thing is, their songs sound like late-period Piebald, which doesn’t exactly set them up to critique much of anything outside of good taste.