February 23, 2013

Luxury

Everything you could ever want to know about the band Luxury can be found here. If you've never listened, now's the time.

The recent news is they are back in the studio recording a new album.


And the backstory...

1995
My #3 album of the year:


1997
My #7 album of the year:


1999
My #4 album of the year:


2001
I was at this show (and I saw them play at least a dozen times from 1995-2002):



2002
Paying tribute to another one of my favorite bands:



2005
My #4 album of the year:


2012:
From LeeBozeman.com:

Monday, October 22... I am writing songs again. working with the fellas on seeing if a new Luxury record is possible. sorting through a lot of ideas and desires but not very good words yet. for me, it is all about the language. I hope it comes together. I hope it means something. you just never know how these things will go. or at least, I never do. see you soon...

2013:
From LeeBozeman.com:

Tuesday, February 12... spent the last week in Atlanta with a dual purpose: playing some new Luxury songs and attending a clergy conference. hard to push those worlds together at times but we managed. three days, more of less, of loud music and then the quiet and simplicity of liturgical services. I have written and worked out five songs for what might be a new Luxury record, if it gets funded. "Parallel Love", "The War on Women", "Courage, Courage", "Don't Feel Bad If You Don't Feel Better Right Away", and "You Must Change Your Life". came together remarkably quickly. wrote these in more or less a month and hope to push on toward five or six more soon. writing mostly about memory and understanding of the past, the problems of repeating the past, etc. surprisingly, very little about faith so far or at least explicit faith and belief...

The present:

Luxury's Facebook
Luxury's Bandcamp
Insanely detailed Luxury fansite

February 18, 2013

Bronzspondi, Twin Sister, Portland's 90's underground, & Bandcamp

I published my Top 50 albums of the 1990's last week, and it's been a popular post. One of the comments I got today mentioned the Bronzspondi compilation, and how it was relevant to my list.

I had to Google "Bronzspondi", as it seemed familiar, but I couldn't place it. The search quickly led me to this page, which has the entire Bronzspondi compilation streaming or you can download all 14 songs for 99 cents. I think maybe I owned this comp at some point, but it has been 15 years since I have seen or heard it.



Not only is the Bronzspondi compilation online, that Bandcamp page has dozens of obscure releases from the 1990's Portland underground scene. The tracks most intriguing to me are from Twin Sister, and the entire Twin Sister album (which I couldn't even find myself in the 90's) is also streaming or downloadable for 99 cents (and I am about to buy it):


As you can see, Twin Sister is a Star Wars band. Not only are all the lyrics inspired by Star Wars, the band members (many of whom were also in Sometime Sunday) dressed as Star Wars characters for every show.

I was fortunate enough to see Twin Sister in concert twice in 1996, once at the Crush Warehouse in Birmingham, and once at the Ace of Clubs in Nashville. The Ace of Clubs show is notable because that same night at the same location I saw Poor Old Lu, Mortal, Seven Day Jesus, Dimestore Prophets, PlankEye and Black Eyed Sceva. I took pictures of this show but the quality is pretty poor (someday I'll scan them anyway).

On this same Bandcamp page you can listen to or download a ton of music that only previously was available on cassette. Bands include Sometime Sunday, the Clergy, Pep Squad, The Five O'Clock People, and another compilation called Songs from the Rain Factory that has songs from Poor Old Lu, Don't Know, and others. The Sometime Sunday demo cassette is essential if you are familiar with that band.

Lastly, let me just say that Bandcamp is tremendous. I am having trouble keeping track of all the great old stuff I am finding on there. Just this week I found that Michael Knott and his band L.S.Underground has much of their back catalog up. Then of course there was that amazing Kerith Ravine find a couple weeks ago.

New single from Phoenix: Entertainment



Phoenix's new album, Bankrupt!, releases April 23.

February 14, 2013

Top 50 albums of the 1990's

After finally publishing my Best of 1999 list a couple weeks ago, this list was fairly easy to put together (well, except the order, which is impossible and changes by the minute).

As originally mentioned in my best of the 2000's post, here are the rules:
"When I decided to make a list of my 50 favorite albums of this decade, I needed some way to narrow the field. So I made a rule than an artist can only have one album in the top 50. This way more great albums are mentioned, and my favorite artists don’t dominate the list." 

50. Raspberry Jam- Oceanic (1995) Best song: Easter

49. Rage Against the Machine- The Battle of Los Angeles* (1999) Best song: Guerrilla Radio

48. The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin* (1999) Best song: Race for the Prize

47. Brandtson- Fallen Star Collection (1999) Best song: Summer in St. Claire

46. No Knife- Fire in the City of Automatons* (1999) Best song: Minus 1

45. P.O.D.- The Fundamental Elements of Southtown (1999) Best song: Freestyle

44. Elliott- U.S. Songs** (1999) Best song: Dionysus Burning

43. The Juliana Theory- Understand This is a Dream* (1999) Best song: For Evangeline

42. Model Engine- The Lean Year’s Tradition (1997) Best song: Scarred but Smarter

41. Common Children- Delicate Fade (1997) Best song: Strange Rain

40. The Blamed- Frail (1995) Best song: No Difference

39. Velour 100- Of Color Bright** (1997) Best song: Dolphin Grey

38. Blenderhead- Muchacho Vivo (1995)

37. My Little Dog China- The Velvis Carnival (1994) Best song: Listen

36. Lost Dogs- Little Red Riding Hood (1993) Best song: Imagine That

35. The Connells- One Simple Word** (1990) Best song: Speak to Me

34. Toad the Wet Sprocket- Fear* (1991) Best song: All I Want

33. Fiona Apple- When the Pawn...* (1999) Best song: Fast as You Can

32. Dakoda Motor Co.- Into the Son (1993) Best song: Sondancer

31. Built to Spill- Keep it Like a Secret** (1999) Best song: The Plan

30. Vigilantes of Love- Audible Sigh (1999) Best song: Starry Eyed

29. Hoi Polloi- Happy Ever After (1995) Best song: Tiptoe

28. Morella’s Forest- SuperDeluxe (1995) The best song is Fizzle Kiss, but the only one I can find streaming on line is Wonderboy

27. Rose Blossom Punch- Ephemere (1997) Best song: Hot Rod Horse

26. U2- Achtung Baby* (1991) Best song: Mysterious Ways

25. R.E.M.- Up** (1998) Best song: Walk Unafraid

24. Pearl Jam- Ten** (1991) Best song: Jeremy (also one of the greatest music videos of all time)


23. Weezer- Weezer* (The Blue Album) (1994) Best song: The World Has Turned and left me Here

22. Starflyer 59- Silver** (1994) Best song: 2nd Space Song

21. Pedro the Lion- It’s Hard to Find a Friend** (1998) Best song: Of Minor Prophets and Their Prostitute Wives

20. L.S.U.- Graceshaker (1994) Best song: Blame

19. The 77’s- Drowning With Land in Sight (1994) Best song: Alone Together

18. Fleming and John- Delusions of Grandeur (1995) Best song: I’m Not Afraid

17. Argyle Park- Misguided (1995) Best song: Doomsayer

16. The Innocence Mission- Glow (1995) Best song: That Was Another Country

15. Adam Again- Dig** (1992) Best song: River on Fire

14. Over the Rhine- Good Dog Bad Dog (1996) Best song: Latter Days

13. My Bloody Valentine- Loveless* (1991) Best song: Only Shallow

12. The Violet Burning- The Violet Burning (1996) Best song: Low

11. Luxury- Amazing and Thank You (1995) Best song: Solid Gold

10. Mortal- Fathom (1993) Best song: Bright Wings

9. Radiohead- OK Computer** (1997) Best song: Paranoid Android

8. Stavesacre- Absolutes (1997) Best song: Wither/Ascend

7. Mineral- The Power of Failing** (1997) Best song: If I Could

6. Smashing Pumpkins- Siamese Dream** (1993) Best song: Mayonaise

5. Jimmy Eat World- Clarity** (1999) Best song: For Me This is Heaven

4. Sunny Day Real Estate- Diary** (1994) Best song: Song About an Angel

3. The Prayer Chain- Mercury** (1995) Best song: Sky High

2. Poor Old Lu- Sin (1994) Best song: My World Falls Down

1. Sixpence None the Richer- This Beautiful Mess (1995) Best song: Love, Salvation, Fear of Death
Best video: Angeltread



Update on 2/18/13: This post is getting so many hits I've decided to revisit it myself. I curious which albums I "left out". There are lots of different places I looked, but I decided to settle on Rolling Stone's top 100 albums of the 1990's.

Rolling Stone probably should have used my rule about an artist only being allowed one album, because there are only 86 artists for 100 albums. You can't tell me Jay Z's 2nd-best album of the 90's is better than so many other artists' best. If you are curious, my list and Rolling Stone's only share 10 albums.

Anyway, I narrowed Rolling Stone's list down, and came up with the top 10 albums of theirs that didn't make my list. So I guess these are my honorable mentions:
1. Nirvana- Nevermind
2. Metallica- Metallica (The Black Album)
3. Counting Crows- August and Everything After
4. Oasis- (What's the Story) Morning Glory?
5. Beastie Boys- Ill Communication
6. Pavement- Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
7. Soundgarden- Superunknown
8. Beck- Odelay
9. Belle and Sebastian- If You're Feeling Sinister
10. The Magnetic Fields- 69 Love Songs

Lastly, their is one more album I feel I must mention that did not make my list nor Rolling Stone's, and is definitely one of the best albums of the 1990's:
Foo Fighters- The Colour and the Shape

To give you a little insight on this album and how it connects to the number 4 album on my list, I'll share an excerpt from Wikipedia's page on the Foo Fighters:


Grohl formed a band to support the [first Foo Fighters] album. Initially, he talked to former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic about joining the group, but both decided against it. "For Krist and I, it would have felt really natural and really great", Grohl explained. "But for everyone else, it would have been weird, and it would have left me in a really bad position. Then I really would have been under the microscope." Having heard about the disbanding of Seattle-based rock band Sunny Day Real Estate, Grohl drafted the group's bass player, Nate Mendel, and drummer, William Goldsmith...

Foo Fighters made its live public debut on February 23, 1995 at the Jambalaya Club in Arcata, California and then March 3 at The Satyricon in Portland...

After touring through the spring of 1996, Foo Fighters entered Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, Washington with producer Gil Norton to record its second album. While Grohl once again wrote all the songs, the rest of the band collaborated on the arrangements. With the sessions nearly complete, Grohl took the rough mixes with him to Los Angeles, intending to finish up his vocal and guitar parts. While there, Grohl realized that he was not happy with how the mixes were turning out, and the band "basically re-recorded almost everything".

During the L.A. sessions, Grohl had played drums on the songs. Unhappy with Goldsmith's drumming, Grohl removed it from the recordings and re-recorded the drum tracks. As Goldsmith was about to come down to L.A to find out why he wasn't being called upon to re-record his parts, he called Mendel from Seattle inquiring if he should make the trip. Grohl then called Goldsmith saying, "Dude, don't come down here, I'm recording some of the drum tracks." Shocked by this, Goldsmith met up with Mendel in Seattle and repeated Grohl's claim to be re-recording "some" of the tracks. Mendel asked, "Is that what he told you?" Goldsmith affirmed it, and Mendel stated, "No, man -- he did them all."

Grohl explained that he'd wanted the drums to sound a certain way on the album. He wanted Goldsmith to play for the tour even though it would not be his drumming but Grohl's on the album. Feeling betrayed, Goldsmith left the band. To this day Grohl still feels guilty for his decision, saying "I was an immature kid at the time."

February 13, 2013

Velour 100 and the Shoegaze Movement

While working on yet-to-be-published blog post, I uploaded the Velour 100 song "Dolphin Grey" to YouTube. There is very little about this terrific band online, and they didn't last very long. Even in their short existence of two LPs and two EPs multi-instrumentalist Trey Many used  six different lead vocalists: Amon Krist (daughter of Jan), Tess Wiley (significant solo career and former guitarist for Sixpence None the Richer), Sydney Rentz (Morella's Forest), Karen Oliver (His Name is Alive), Alicia Luma, and finally Rosie Thomas.



Uploading this track to YouTube led me to discover a great article about the shoegaze movement, which couldn't have been published at a more opportune (and probably intentional) time with My Bloody Valentine releasing their first album since 1991. You can read the article by Chuck Hicks here, but here is the part about Velour 100:


While Slowdive was relinquishing the gazing muse, another obscure stateside band was taking it up.  Trey Many (pr. “may’-nee”), the drummer for Warren Defever’s His Name is Alive, was developing a side project at Eastern Michigan University.   Together with art student Amon Krist (daughter of folk singer Jan Krist) he formed Velour 100 and signed with Seattle’s alternative label, Tooth & Nail.

Velour 100′s first full-length recording was Fall Sounds (1996) with Many on all instruments and Krist on lead vocals (and occasional acoustic guitar).  Right away the listener finds the music here focused and thematically linked — a concept album based on the pair’s experiences of loss and renewal informed by their Christian faith.  The same dense, hypnotic atmospherics present with Slowdive are found here; but Many keeps the listening interesting with changes and unusual time signatures.  ”Dub Space” is a sparkling eight and half minute tone poem that could have emerged from the waterfall at the end of “Close to the Edge.”  The strongest track on the album — and, in my view, among the best three and a half minutes of the ’90s — is “Flourish”:

Velour 100 never received a bad critical review.  As Krist departed to complete her studies and launch a teaching career, the duo’s first demo recording was re-recorded and released as Songs From the Rainwater EP to high praise.  Many produced one more LP, Of Color Bright (1997) that featured three female lead vocalists, including ex-Sixpence None the Richer guitarist Tess Wiley.  Wiley co-wrote “Dolphin Grey,” which showcases her distinctive alto against a splash of jangling guitars:

Many recorded a final four-song EP, For An Open Sky (1999), with soon-to-breakout vocalist Rosie Thomas.  He now lends his formidable production skills to projects for other bands.

Finally, I'll add that Velour 100 resurfaced in another form  as Half-Life Souvenir, which toured briefly but never released any music.

February 11, 2013

February 7, 2013

Jimmy Eat World's "Best Song Never Released"

From the blog of Jimmy Eat World drummer Zach Lind:

"In my mind, even though we never released this tune ("Jen"), I think it’s one of my favorite Jimmy Eat World songs of all time. We recorded this song during the Futures session but took it off the album because it just didn’t really fit the vibe with the other tunes and after that, the timing never really felt that good to release it. Maybe because the song had already leaked and we never felt that motivated to officially release the tune.



But looking back on this song, we busted our ass getting it to the point of where it ended up. It sounds like a simple song but we recorded it many different times with several different arrangements, tempos, keys, etc… It was nuts. Gil Norton was the producer and we were having the album mixed by Rich Costey at Cello Studios in Hollywood. While Rich was mixing, we were tracking Jen in studio 3 at Cello which was famous for recording Pet Sounds and some Mammas and Pappas albums. We didn’t have any of our gear in town so I rented a kit and ended up using a ludwig acrolite that Chris Testa (grammy winning engineer who ended up engineering Chase This Light) had in studio A when he was tracking the band Gratitude (who coincidentally were friends of ours and ended up opening up for us on tour). While we were tracking Jen, Brian Wilson was in studio 2 working on a project and at one point, poked his head into the door of the control room of studio 3. “Holy shit!! Brian Wilson just walked into our control room!” That was incredible."

Anyway, that’s the basic story of Jen. We nearly killed ourselves recording a song we never released.


I couldn't agree with him more. I was able to find and download Futures a few months before it was  released in 2004 (and yes I later bought it on CD and vinyl), and the original track-listing had 12 songs (official release has 11), with "Jen" being number 6.

The song and album were released the year I got married. My then fiance and I listened to this album A TON on our many road trips, and this was our favorite song from it. "Jen" also ended up being on our wedding mix CD.

Jimmy Eat World's new album has been completed, and now we are just waiting on a title and release date. I am guessing Summer.

February 5, 2013

Cush debut another new song today: Hands of Fire

Track 2 of 7 from their upcoming SP3 EP. Track 1 was released  very intentionally on Christmas Day 2012.

New My Bloody Valentine: mbv album stream

I am not going to rehash the craziness of a few nights ago, but by now everyone knows My Bloody Valentine released their first album in 22 years, titled simply "mbv", exclusively through their website. In case you are not yet ready to pay $16 for a digital download or $41 for the vinyl (includes shipping cost), an official stream of the album is now online, provided by the band and Consequence of Sound. This is going to be the only way I listen to the album probably until it's on Amazon for a more reasonable price.

February 3, 2013

Best of 1999

My favorite albums of 1999 as written in early 2000:
1. The Juliana Theory- Understand This is a Dream
2. Vigilantes of Love- Audible Sigh
3. Fleming & John- The Way We Are
4. Jimmy Eat World- Clarity**
5. P.O.D.- The Fundamental Elements of Southtown
6. Stavesacre- Speakeasy
7. Luxury- Luxury
8. The Innocence Mission- Birds of my Neighborhood
9. Lost Dogs- Gift Horse
10. Starflyer 59- Everybody Makes Mistakes*

While 1998 might have been a down year for music, 1999 was AMAZING. It is almost impossible for me to arrange my top 20. Only one of my original top 10 has dropped off the list entirely (Lost Dogs), and my original #1 has not stood the test of time too well. The rest is fairly accurate. After going 2+ years between 1990's best-of lists, I am publishing 1999 only two days after 1998. Be impressed! Next up will be my top-50 albums of the decade (1990's).

Top 20 of 1999:

1. Jimmy Eat World- Clarity** Less than a week ago someone I follow on Twitter said, “This is your regular reminder that the album Clarity by Jimmy Eat World exists, and you should be listening to it.” I remember the first time I heard the album, I went to my friend JMK’s dorm room and he put it on. We both freaked out over the guitar riff at the 45 second mark in “Your New Aesthetic.” That song is significant because that is how I named my blog. Despite really enjoying the listening experience in his dorm room, it took me a few months before I actually got the album. How I acquired it is unbelievably ridiculous. I had recently purchased The Waterdeep album Everyone’s Beautiful. I was incredibly disappointed by it. Well, my friend MS wanted it, so he traded me Clarity for it. Crazy. Clarity has grown to be one of my top 10 favorite albums of all time, and I never heard that Waterdeep album ever again.

Another funny memory about this album: In 2001 myself and a roommate of a girl I was dating drove from Birmingham to Atlanta to see Death Cab for Cutie (yes, the Photo Album tour!). On the way back from the show, very late at night on I-20, I put Clarity in the CD player. I thought the girl in my passenger seat was asleep, but when the first line of “Table for Glasses” began, she started singing along. Needless to say over the next hour I developed a huge crush on this girl and forgot about her roommate who I was dating.

Here is a terrific live video of my favorite song from the album:


2. Stavesacre- Speakeasy The last great full-length from this band, although they would remain mostly active for the following decade. Jeff Bellew co-wrote almost the entire album, but after leaving the band following its recording, was inexplicably only credited with “additional guitars” in the liner notes. While Stavesacre is one of my favorite bands, I have very mixed feelings of their works in the 5 years following this album, and was incredibly critical of them from 2000-2003. The peak of my criticism came when I saw them in concert at OneFest in Memphis in 2001. For one, they released their first post-Speakeasy songs on a split EP with Denison Marrs. The songs were very weak compared to their three LPs. Secondly, the concert featured only one original member of the band (Mark). It bothered me a lot at the time, and it begs the question how much does a band’s line-up really matter.

Two of my favorite bands of all-time, Poor Old Lu and the Prayer Chain, only existed as four-pieces in which all four members remained constant and all four contributed to the writing of all of their songs. Countless other bands obviously have been able to remain successful and creative while frequently replacing drummers, bass players, guitarists, etc. Well, for some reason with Stavesacre it bothered me more than other cases. Not that it was their fault, as band members come and go and have more important things in their lives than recording music. But the quality suffered greatly. The three songs from the split EP reappeared on their self-titled album in 2002, and the LP was absolutely horrible. I couldn’t even believe it was the same band. Thankfully Stavesacre did recover and release the solid Bull Takes Fighter EP in 2004 and How to Live With a Curse LP in 2006. And then Jeff rejoined the band for a final amazing, aggressive EP in 2010, Against the Silence. When is someone going to start putting these Stavesacre masterpieces out on vinyl?


3. Vigilantes of Love- Audible Sigh Speaking of line-ups... Well, VOL was never really a band per se, it was just Bill Mallonee and his players. This is the best Vigilantes of Love album, and as I mentioned in my 1998 post, you can give a lot of credit to Bill’s help: fantastic multi-instrumentalist Kenny Hutson, producer Buddy Miller, and vocalists Julie Miller and Emmylou Harris. It is also some of the best songs Bill has ever written. This was the album that should have put this band on the map, but record label issues unfortunately prevented that from happening. There are actually three different CD versions of this album, and I bought all three just to get all the songs. I didn't want anyone else to have to do that though, so anyone I knew who bought any single version I gave my "Definitive Audible Sigh", which was my own personal sequence of all of the songs from all three versions, with unique artwork. And what I didn't remember until grabbing a JPEG to post the album cover is that the 2nd and 3rd album cover versions added "Bill Mallonee and" to the beginning. How tacky. Although at least 2 of the 3 album covers feature this terrific train photo; the third is just a black & white photo of Bill himself. Sometimes marketing people really confuse me.

4. Luxury- Luxury Every time I write or talk of Luxury, I have to mention how amazing they were in concert. If you have read my blog since the beginning you are probably tired of me calling them “the greatest live rock band of all time”, which myself and my fellow deejays of the B.A.Zone (WVSU 91.1) dubbed them in the late 90’s. Luxury’s first album, Amazing and Thank You, is one of my top 20 albums of all time. Their second album never quite impacted me the same way. This third album absolutely blew my mind the first time I heard it (and on many repeated listens). I saw them play the album release show at the EARL (East Atlanta Restaurant and Lounge in Atlanta) and a band called Annie opened who was also very good.

5. Fleming and John- The Way We Are Thirteen years later I am still waiting for the follow-up to this album. John Mark Painter has remained heavily involved in the music scene as an instrumentalist and producer, but unfortunately has not recorded another album with his wife Fleming. I saw them perform half a dozen terrific shows between 1995 and 1999, and their concert in the basement of a Vanderbilt frat house in February of 1995 (with Hoi Polloi) was my first “real” rock show.

6. Built to Spill- Keep it Like a Secret** I was aware of Built to Spill in 1999, but barely. I had a few compilation albums and mix tapes with their songs, but it really wasn’t until 2004 that I grew to love them. I have slowly purchased almost everything in their discography, but this is the one that always stands out to me as the most interesting. They are probably the only band in the world from Idaho.

7. The Juliana Theory- Understand This is a Dream* I don’t know when the first mp3 was created and uploaded to the web, but I still remember the first one I downloaded. It was “August in Bethany” from this album. I liked that song enough that I purchased the CD the first time I saw it in May of 1999. The timing was significant, because May and June of that year were some of the best and most emotionally traumatic times of my life. This album was the perfect soundtrack. The week following the acquisition of this album I was driving all over the Southeast between Atlanta, Birmingham, and Nashville. This CD never left the player. I remember one day I listened to it 4 or 5 times in a row. I don’t do that. But it just hit me. If you have never heard this album, you are probably assuming it is spiritually profound or something. It is not. It is pretty shallow and silly actually with the exception of one song (“For Evangeline”). But I was obsessed with it for years.

8. The Innocence Mission- Birds of My Neighborhood I have my vinyl records organized on shelves alphabetically, but also in two groups. The first group is 1989 and earlier, the second group is 1990 and later. I mention this because The Innocence Mission and R.E.M. are the only bands that would be in both groups (although I keep all the R.E.M. in the first one and all the Innocence Mission in the second one). I unfortunately don’t have this album on vinyl, and I don’t think it exists. One of the quietest, most peaceful albums I own. And behind Glow, the band's next-best work.

9. Fiona Apple- When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right I was a casual listener of Fiona Apple before I met my wife. Which essentially meant I had only heard one or two songs. Well, right after we got married the original version of Extraordinary Machine leaked online. My wife and I listened to it non-stop, and it also led to me really listening to for the first time Fiona’s first two albums. This is probably her best album, but because of the intense, dark, and offensive lyrics, I probably listen to it the least. Based on my one Fiona Apple concert experience, I think this album sounds the most like her live show.

10. Aaron Sprinkle- Moontraveler Really the only thing that made Poor Old Lu’s break-up tolerable was that Aaron Sprinkle remained prolific for the next five years. His band Rose Blossom Punch released an album the year following Poor Old Lu’s last, and then after RBP dissolved he started putting out solo albums. This is the first of his three solo albums he put out in three straight years, and the one I come back to the most. Unfortunately the prolific-ness ended after his final solo album in 2001 and then the reunited Poor Old Lu’s The Waiting Room in 2002. The only things we have heard from him since are the two outstanding Fair albums in 2006 and 2010. I expect his next release to be another solo album, but unfortunately he has spent way too much time producing and not enough time working on his own songs. I guess you have to do what pays the bills.

11. P.O.D.- The Fundamental Elements of Southtown Most people became aware of P.O.D. in 1999 with the release of this album and the rise to MTV fame. They had been around for more than 5 years before though, constantly touring the underground. Their first two albums suffered from some pretty terrible production, so it was hard to appreciate the songs. They finally got some money behind them though and that resulted in this, their first properly recorded music.

12. Brandtson- Fallen Star Collection The difference between this album and the band’s first couldn't have been more drastic; hard to tell it is the same band (all in positive ways). While Letterbox is drenched in muddy reverb, with this album it is like the guitars got a bath and everything sounds nice and clean. Brandtson was still somewhat developing their sound at this point, and as good as this album it is, it pales in comparison to what they would accomplish in the years to come.

13. No Knife- Fire in the City of Automatons* Still can’t believe I knew nothing of No Knife until 2009. They could have easily been one of my favorite bands in the 90’s, but someone forgot to tell me they existed. This is arguably their best album.

14. The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin* As much as I like the Flaming Lips, I honestly still don’t think I really appreciate them like their biggest fans do. Their catalog is so immense, and I only have a fraction of it. Not sure I necessarily like this album the best, but it is probably the most focused album they have ever released.

15. Rage Against the Machine- The Battle of Los Angeles In the late 90’s, there was Rage Against the Machine, and then a dozen other bands trying to copy their sound. Listening to them makes me want to become a political activist.

16. Chevelle- Point #1 This, Chevelle’s debut, probably sounds a little too much like Tool. In fact, I think I read years later that the band was upset with the production and the possible similarities. However, if it weren’t for sounding like Tool, I probably would have never discovered them. I remember listening to some late night radio show in Birmingham and hearing Chevelle for the first time. The following week, without being able to remember the name of the band or the song, I called up the same radio show and asked, “Could you play that new song that sounds like Tool?” Thankfully with their next and best album, 2002's Wonder What's Next, they developed their own style. I just visited their website for the first time in ages, and the band doesn't even acknowledge the fact that Point #1 exists. Silly.

17. Lassie Foundation- Pacifico* It took me years to really get into the Lassie Foundation, as a big part of me kept hoping Wayne (lead vocals) and Eric (guitars) would go back to playing their old instruments in their old band (drums and bass, respectively, in the Prayer Chain). The Lassie Foundation would remain an active band much longer with a much larger catalog though than their first band. While all their albums are outstanding, this is probably their best work. In later years, with the exception of their final EP, their sound got a little too polished. Random fact: The other guitarist in the Lassie Foundation is Jeff Schroeder. Jeff has been the lead guitarist in the Smashing Pumpkins since 2007. Jeff also played guitar on the Violet Burning’s self-titled album, one of my top-20 all-time favorites.

18. Starflyer 59- Everybody Makes Mistakes* As I work on these lists through the years, there is one band that seems like they are on every single one. Can you believe Starflyer 59 has 13 studio albums in 20 years?! That is crazy! Not to mention 8 EPs, a few live albums, and two box sets. With that many releases, you would think they would all start to blend together. I guess maybe if you discovered them somewhere along the way, that might be true. But since I have been fortunate enough to be aware of them since “Starflier 59” (misprint on the first pressing of the Silver CD), all the different albums and eras are distinct.

19. Fountains of Wayne- Utopia Parkway It’s funny how long sometimes it takes you to appreciate an artist. With Fountains of Wayne, I was aware of them from the beginning (1996). I loved “Radiation Vibe” when it was on the radio, but for some reason it took me 7 years to actually buy an album of theirs. I don’t actually know what led me to order 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers while living in Zambia, but I am glad I did, because it became my 2003 album of the year. These guys are some of the most clever songwriters in the industry, and can write songs that make you laugh (most of the time) and sometimes even cry (“Troubled Times” on this album).

20. Plumb- Candycoatedwaterdrops Plumb has been pretty hit-and-miss over her career (yes it is a she, Tiffany Arbuckle, not a band), but she hit it right down the middle on this one. Strange fact is that many of these songs have been used in movies over the years, most notably “God-shaped Hole.”

Top 5 EP’s of 1999:

I didn’t even rank EPs in 1998, but there are too many good ones in 1999 not to comment.

1. Kerith Ravine- The Drafting Sessions Chances are that you have heard of Lovedrug, who released their fourth album, Wild Blood, last year. Also a pretty good chance that you didn’t know Lovedrug started out as Kerith Ravine. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael Shepard fronts both bands. While the current Lovedrug sounds absolutely nothing like Kerith Ravine, Lovedrug’s first and best album, 2004’s Pretend You’re Alive, sounded extremely similar to the end of Kerith Ravine (aided by the work of awesome bassist Adam Ladd in both bands). Well, this EP was Kerith Ravine’s debut: equal parts Sunny Day Real Estate, My Bloody Valentine, and the Smashing Pumpkins, but while staying original. Just like Jimmy Eat World, this band was introduced to me by my friend JMK. The production of this EP is sadly terrible, but the songs are great. With a quick Google search, I actually just discovered a Kerith Ravine interview I have never read before. And crazily, in that interview they hint that they were planning to tour with No Knife. Oh man, where is my time machine?
UPDATE: Holy crap, what Google uncovers. Turns out Kerith Ravine recorded another song I have never heard! That is going to result in a new blog post of it’s own, RIGHT NOW.

2. Tess Wiley- The Energy You Keep** Tess released a bunch of EPs, and this was the best one. It was a LONG wait for her to release her first LP, but thankfully she put out an EP often enough to keep me paying attention. The highlight of this 4-song release is “My Favorite One.” The song would reappear years later, but this version and it’s explosion of guitars is so much better. This EP is also a 10” vinyl record, which is only only one of a few of 10”s I own. Apparently this EP is so rare that the only image of it on the web is only 120 x 120 pixels, which looks pretty terrible. I'll have to scan my own!

3. Pedro the Lion- The Only Reason I Feel Secure* David Bazan had stayed pretty conservative until this release, but after you listened to “Criticism as Inspiration” the first time you knew his music would never be the same. A shocking as the lyrics to that song were, it now seems very mild compared to the lyrics he would write in the years to come.

4. Rainer Maria- Atlantic Not much to say about this one, except the title track is my favorite song from the band. I didn't discover Rainer Maria until pretty late, and I have never listened to them enough.

5. Rose Blossom Punch- So Sorry to Disappoint You This EP sort of got lost in oblivion for awhile. Strangely enough it was released by MP3.com. The cover is unique artwork, but the rest of the jewel case is a generic print-out that must have been the same for everything the website did. Unfortunately the end of this Aaron Sprinkle band, alhtough he could have easily chose to use the same moniker for Fair years later.

Other 1999 albums I own and enjoy:

Aleixa- Disfigured
Caedmon’s Call- 40 Acres
Collective Soul- Dosage
The Cranberries- Bury The Hatchet
Elliott- If They Do EP
Embodyment- The Narrow Scope of Things
Evanescence- Sound Asleep EP
Julie Miller- Broken Things
Miss Angie- Triumphantine
Stretch Arm Strong- Rituals of Life
Sufjan Steves- A Sun Came
Velour 100- For An Open Sky EP (Rosie Thomas on lead vocals!)
Waterdeep and 100 Portraits- Enter the Worship Circle

Notable 1999 albums I don’t own but would like to:

Alison Krauss- Forget About It   
Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire- Oh! The Grandeur
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals- Burn to Shine
Counting Crows- This Desert Life
Feist- Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down)   
Foo Fighters- There Is Nothing Left To Lose 
The Get Up Kids- Something To Write Home About  
Godspeed You! Black Emperor- Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada EP
Gomez - Liquid Skin
The Magnetic Fields- 69 Love Songs
Mogwai- Come on Die Young
Nine Inch Nails- The Fragile
Pavement- Terror Twilight
Sigur Rós- Ágætis byrjun
Sleater-Kinney- The Hot Rock 
Underøath- Act of Depression
The White Stripes- The White Stripes 
Wilco- Summerteeth      
Zao- Liberate Te Ex Inferis 


February 2, 2013

NEW Kerith Ravine song (oh my)

I am currently writing and researching my "best of 1999" blog post. Every once in awhile I discover one of the bands I am writing about released an album I didn't know about, maybe because they reunited. Never has it been an obscure, underground, indie band. Especially not one I consider myself to be an expert on. Until today. Seconds ago.

Kerith Ravine (who broke up in 2001) has a new song. Except it's not new. I'll let the the webpage I discovered explain itself (thanks Google):

"release date unknown the members of kerith ravine reunited for two days in the summer of 2007 - almost a decade after the band's inception - to write and record together one last time. "from the horse's eye" was produced during this brief session."

Um.

Wow.


The song is UNBELIEVABLE. So much better than anything Lovedrug has done in 7 years, or maybe ever.
 

Along with this song Kerith Ravine's entire obscure discography is also on their Bandcamp page. I have no idea when it went online, but it had to be recently.

UPDATE: Just discovered an entire Kerith Ravine concert on YouTube (and I never had a chance to see them):

February 1, 2013

Best of 1998

Here are my top 10 albums of 1998 as I published them at the time (as what was probably one my first “mass emails” ever:
1. Sunny Day Real Estate- How It Feels to Be Something On*
2. Jennifer Knapp- Kansas
3. Pedro the Lion- It’s Hard to Find a Friend**
4. REM- Up*
5. The Smashing Pumpkins- Adore*
6. Mineral- EndSerenading*
7. Circle of Dust- Disengage
8. Aunt Bettys- Ford Supersonic
9. Starflyer 59- The Fashion Focus*
10. Common Children- Delicate Fade (later discovered was actually released in 1997, and ended up #8 on that list)

While I still like all ten of those albums, I have discovered a lot since. This is honestly a pretty weak year compared to the previous few. The top few are great, but my top 15 albums of 1995 are better than the fifth one below.

And as I write them today, here are my top 15 of 1998:


1. Sunny Day Real Estate- How it Feels to Be Something On* What can I say? This band is as impressive and groundbreaking today as they were at the time. I started listening to them after their initial breakup in 1994, so I was highly anticipating this one. I actually pre-ordered this album, and that might have been the first time I did that for any album. I remember it came late and Sub-Pop apologized and sent me all kinds of extra stuff (like a split-7”). Once a month I do “Sunny Day Real Estate” and “Jeremy Enigk” Google searches hoping for something new. Also waiting for the reissue of this album on vinyl, because I can’t afford the original for $50-100 on eBay. My final thought about this album is how much better it is at night. I feel that way about a number of albums, but for this one it is drastic. It is 10x better after the sun goes down. Next time you are on a road trip and it is past 11 pm, listen to How it Feels to Be Something On and be prepared to be blown away.


2. Pedro the Lion- It’s Hard to Find a Friend** Reissued on vinyl in 2012, and the remaster sounds incredible. In a way, this is probably the most complete album David Bazan has ever done. I like his recent solo work, and I loved how Pedro the Lion got more aggressive with the albums following this one. But I always come back to It’s Hard to Find a Friend and probably listen to it more than any other Bazan releases.

3. R.E.M.- Up* I am in the minority, but this is my favorite R.E.M. album. I recently made the comment to someone that they are America’s greatest rock band- original, creative, and relevant for three decades (80’s, 90’s, 00’s). In 1998 both the Smashing Pumpkins and R.E.M. lost their drummers. The Pumpkins couldn’t make it work, but R.E.M. ended up writing their most creative album, a huge departure from the previous albums. (Addition based on a comment I just got when I published this post...) If you are an R.E.M. fan (or not) who has never truly appreciated this album, try using this guide to re-sequence and shorten the album. I am currently listening to it with this new order for the first time.

4. Mineral- EndSerenading* So sad that this was the last we ever heard from Mineral (as this album was released after they had split). The Gloria Record was in some ways superior, but the energy of this band was never equaled. Lyrically this was probably Chris Simpson at his peak, at least as far as the way I could relate to what he wrote (although the stuff he writes today is still great). I spent time today tracking an eBay auction for a vinyl copy of this album, but just couldn’t drop $81 on it. In great vinyl news though, I was able to get a copy of The Power of Failing for $18 + shipping this week, which is incredible considering I have also seen it go for $50+ on eBay.

5. Elliott- U.S. Songs** Discovered this album and this band because of the unique CD packaging. This is one of my top five albums of all time as far as packaging is concerned. First of all, in a time period that was dominated by jewel cases, the album was a “digipack” (cardboard and paper). But what makes it so unique is that the cover opens down the middle and there are two half-sized booklets. So instead of one large square booklet, there are two narrow vertical rectangular booklets, dominated with great photography. I couldn't find any good photos of the packaging, so I decided to take some myself and make a gallery (below). I did just discover that Elliott’s albums have all recently been reissued on vinyl and CD, and here is a great blog post showing photos of the reissue and comparing to the original version that I own. I guess I should mention the music- it is intense and fairly similar to early Sunny Day Real Estate. Elliott only got better from here.



6. Starflyer 59- The Fashion Focus* At the time this album was actually a disappointment for most, including myself, because the wall of guitars we were accustomed to had largely been replaced by acoustic instrumentation. However, now we all know it was groundbreaking. Probably the most diverse album Jason Martin has ever released as it contains just about every style he has ever experimented with in his 20-year recording history. I bought the shirt for this album at a show and probably got more comments on it than any t-shirt I have ever worn; just like the album cover, the shirt has a large UPC on the front of it.

7. Hole- Celebrity Skin I am not a Hole fan, and honestly have never listened to much of anything else Courtney Love has ever recorded outside of this LP (and yeah I think she is gross). But this album is SO GOOD. I probably would have not have heard it if not for my deejaying job, but the radio station had it and I wore it out.

8. Smashing Pumpkins- Adore* Unlike other Pumpkins fans I knew in the 1990's, I actually enjoyed this album at the time, despite what a huge departure it was from what the Pumpkins had been. In 2013 though it is definitely the Pumpkins album I will listen to the least (well, except Zeitgeist, but that one is so bad I don’t even consider it a Pumpkins album). I still find Adore unique and interesting, but I listen to the Smashing Pumpkins for the walls of guitars, which this album has none of.

9. Vigilantes of Love- To the Roof of the Sky My biggest memories of this album are actually from before it was released. At Cornerstone in 1997 Vigilantes of Love played a set so long I fell asleep during it. The last thing I remember before I fell asleep was the line “Here comes the avalanche...” Vigilantes of Love hit their creative peak with this album and its follow-up, the amazing Audible Sigh (by far Bill Mallonee’s best work). You can credit a lot the fleshing out of these songs to multi-instrumentalist Kenny Hutson, who was also the highlight of that 1997 Cornerstone show.

10. Burlap to Cashmere- Anybody Out There? Really all I can say about Burlap to Cashmere is that if you haven’t seen them in concert, you have never really heard them. I have vivid memories of them playing on the Riverfront in Nashville in 1999 or so, and it brought all these songs to life. It was exciting to see the band make a comeback a couple years ago; and while they have mellowed out a bit, they are still writing excellent songs.


11. Jump, Little Children- Magazine This is the third straight artist in this list that is all about their live show. I have no idea how I first heard of this band, but I do remember the night I began to like them. I drove up from Birmingham to Nashville and saw them play at 12th and Porter with some friends. It was on the Vertigo tour (2001), so three years after this one came out. Jump, Little Children is probably best known for their song “Cathedrals” that appears on this album and has been covered dozens of times.


12. K’s Choice- Cocoon Crash K’s Choice is best-known for their 90’s alt-radio hit “Not an Addict”. They played an alternative rock festival in Birmingham at some point off the popularity of that song when I was in college in the late 90’s. Attending that festival is how I discovered this Belgian rock band was far more than that song. Interestingly, Fleming and John also played the same festival. Until a few minutes ago I had thought K’s Choice final album was 2000’s Almost Happy, but just discovered they released a new album in 2010 and an acoustic live album in 2011, both of which became available in the US in Sept. 2012. I am somewhat stunned and might buy them immediately.


13. Inside- My Funeral Once there was a thing called AOL. No Facebook, no Twitter, no MySpace, just AOL. In the late 90’s, it was really the only way to interact with people online. As I explored the internet and AOL during this time, I remember spending countless hours searching people’s anonymous, text-only profiles (that’s right, no pictures). I was looking for band names. I made a few new friends this way, and in the case of this story, I ended up meeting up with this person at Cornerstone Festival a couple times. One of our discussions on AOL that I still remember was “what are your top 5 albums”. Well, 4 of the 5 this person mentioned I was already in love with (one of them was The Violet Burning’s s/t album, can’t remember the others). You guessed it, Inside’s My Funeral was the 5th. I ordered the album per their recommendation, and to this day we are the only two people in the world I know of that have heard it. I know pretty much nothing about this band, although I did a quick Google search and did discover that they played a reunion show in 2010. Update: I continued my Google search, and found this album on colored vinyl for FIVE DOLLARS. Bought.

14. Pinback- Pinback It is crazy for me to think that this Pinback album came out in 1998, because I didn’t discover the band until 2004, and probably didn’t hear this one until 2006 or so. Was fortunate enough to finally seem them live in 2012.

15. Nada Surf- The Proximity Effect I wish someone had told me in 1998 that Nada Surf was actually good. Just like everyone else, I knew them for the song “Popular”, which I found irritating and terrible. It wasn’t until 2003’s Let Go that I became aware of Nada Surf as a terrific band. Another album from 1998 that I didn’t hear until at least 6 years later.

Honorable mention:

The Appleseed Cast- The End of the Ring Wars -and-
Brandtson- Letterbox
Despite a couple of songs, these albums are very average. But they are the debuts from what would become two of my favorite bands of all time. I saw both for the first time on the same night at a skate store called Slacker 66 in Birmingham the year these albums were released. The Appleseed Cast was not very good, all I remember is the terrible saxaphone solo in one song. Brandtson was very impressive however and far better than this album would have let on. I also ranked both band’s 2006 albums together, as you can see on this list. Unfortunately 2006 was the end of Brandtson, but the Appleseed Cast is arguably better than ever in 2013 (new album Illumination Ritual in early 2013!). It is kind of strange how many things in these bands careers parallel. They both started out on Deep Elm in 1998, both moved on to the Militia Group in the mid-2000's. They couldn't sound more different though.

Other 1998 albums I own and enjoy:

Aunt Bettys- Ford Supersonic
Circle of Dust- Disengage
Dear Ephesus- The Absent Sounds of Me
The Gloria Record- EP (If this had been an LP, it would have made the top-10.)
GRITS- Factors of the Seven
JeJune- This Afternoon’s Malady
Jennifer Knapp- Kansas
Jewel- Spirit (the wife’s)
The Lassie Foundation- Dive Bomber EP
P.O.D.- The Warriors EP
Poor Old Lu- Chrono (Greatest Hits)
Poor Old Lu- In Their Final Performance (Live. Thankfully it wasn’t their final performance after all!)
The Prayer Chain- So Close... Yet So Far (2-disc compilation)
Project 86- s/t
Rufus Wainwright- s/t (the wife’s)
Elliott Smith- XO
Soulfood 76- 8 Track
Starflyer 59- Fell in Love at 22 EP
Stretch Arm Strong- Compassion Fills the Void
Tess Wiley- Sings with Teenagers (demo tape)
The Violet Burning- Demonstrates Plastic & Elastic
The World Inside- Roobrik

Other notable 1998 albums I don’t own but wish I did:

Andrew Bird- Thrills
Beastie Boys- Hello Nasty
Beck- Mutations
Blonde Redhead- In an Expression of the Inexpressible
Bright Eyes- Letting Off the Happiness
Gomez- Bring it on
Cake- Prolonging the Magic
Cat Power- Moon Pix (I need to buy this immediately.)
Coldplay- Safety EP (Honestly had no idea this existed until today.)
Death Cab for Cutie- Something About Airplanes (Used to own it, but sold it in 2002. Wouldn’t mind having it back.)
Evanescence- EP
Garbage- Version 2.0
MxPx- Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo
Pearl Jam- Yield BOUGHT 2013
Refused- The Shape of Punk to Come BOUGHT 2015
Snow Patrol- Songs for Polarbears
Spoon- A Series of Sneaks
Superdrag- Head Trip in Every Key
Zao- Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest (I actually saw them live on this tour, but I bought the t-shirt instead of the album.)

Thank You Sixpence

Last April I posted what has become the most popular post in the history of my blog, "An Open Letter to Sixpence None the Richer." I wrote about a lot of things including my dissatisfaction with their setlists. For awhile Sixpence did not play any of the songs from their older, great albums. The only real response I desired from the band was for them to start playing songs from their back catalog.


Well, Sixpence is on tour now, and while I have not been able to see them, I am paying attention. And the setlists have dramatically improved. Check out the one from Milwaukee a couple nights ago:

What I would have given to see those last four songs in a row!

Unfortunately most of the people going to these shows are leaving the video cameras at home, but here is a terrific video of "A Million Parachutes" being performed on January 30. It is over 8 minutes long! Sixpence remembered how to jam, and the world is a better place. Matt's guitar solo is absolutely incredible (thanks Matt!).