[Sister-In-Law] Christmas CD Mix 2012

Reviewing a mix my sister-in-law made for me is kind of like reviewing a friend’s CD; not gonna do it. So here are some notes on the songs for my reference.

  1. The Once And Future Carpenter – The Avett Brothers – Love the line, “If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.” This is very good, but it doesn’t quite stand up to repeated listens.
  2. Still Fighting It – Ben Folds – Amazing lyrics. “Everybody knows it hurts to grow up/And everybody does/It’s so weird to be back here/…/And we’re still fighting it/You’re so much like me/I’m sorry.” Totally sums up how I feel about my dad to me to my elder son. Powerful. Man, Ben Folds is mostly trite, but this and “Smoke” are just killer. Killer!
  3. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot – Brand New – I don’t hate it but it doesn’t do anything for me. And I dislike aspects of it.
  4. I Will Survive – Cake – Sounds much better in headphones. And even beyond that it sounds better with earbuds instead of overear phones. It’s the rhythmic interplay between the guit in the left channel and the vox in (mostly) the right channel. I appreciate them trying to unfunk this one, and they do a good job of it, but the ennui affect wears on me after a while. Except if I get that earbuds effect, that’s pretty sweet.
  5. Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth – The Dandy Warhols – Now this one I hate. Downright annoying.
  6. Can’t Help Falling In Love – Ingrid Michaelson – What a great song. This and #4 are bold, bold covers.
  7. Honey And The Moon – Joseph Arthur – pretty lame but not bad. Wish it had more dynamics…too static.
  8. Go Your Own Way – Lissie – Another bold cover. Much better than the original, but I really don’t like the original, so (i) that sets a low bar and (ii) there’s only so much you can do with what’s bad source material.
  9. Leave The Lights On – Meiko – sexy voice. Pretty good. I want to hear more of her. But this is a bit too fey and predictable to be full. Wish she’d stay in the sultry zone more. Nice drum (machine) beats. We’ll make it a full heart in the hopes that that will help me remember to listen to more of her.
  10. Banditos – The Refreshments – How do I know this song so well and yet I had never known the band or song name? The only thing I can think is that in 1996 I must have just heard it in the air. Best song ever.
  11. California (Tchad Blake Mix) – Phantom Planet – Nice enough. But the strained vox are a bit played.
  12. Reasons Why – Nickel Creek – Wow this is boring. I can only imagine that the appeal is in the lyrics, but I’m too bored by the song to listen. Can’t stand their voices, either. Is this Christian rock?
  13. Catapult – Operator Please – Only an open heart on prior year’s mix. But I was being picker about full hearts then. This is def a full heart.

– “Still Fighting It” (Ben Folds), “Leave The Lights On” (Meiko), “Banditos” (The Refreshments), “Catapult” (Operator Please)
– “The Once And Future Carpenter” (The Avett Brothers), “I Will Survive” (Cake), “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (Ingrid Michaelson), “Honey And The Moon” (Joseph Arthur), “Go Your Own Way” (Lissie), “California (Tchad Blake Mix)” (Phantom Planet)
– “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot” (Brand New), “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth” (The Dandy Warhols), “Reasons Why” (Nickel Creek)
Filed Between: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (Now I Got Worry) and Janis Joplin (Pearl)


Torche: Harmonicraft

I’m gonna write the word “epic” in this review more times than I’ve ever done in a review. Because that’s how epic this album is: so epic. How epic? So epic that it has not one, not two, but three epic closers to epic off all of the epic. By the time “Solitary Traveler” hits, you’ve already listened to ten epic tracks and the slower, deliberate pace and the ringing chords makes you think, “Aw yeah, here we go, grand finale.” But then as soon as it finishes they launch into the faster, instrumental title track and you’re all, “Aw yeah, send us out on a faster pace. Attaboy.” And then they do it again. “Looking On” out-epics “Solitary Traveler” with its massive sound, slow pace, and its deliberately delayed backbeat. And you’re all, “Yeah, m-er f-ers, this is how you play it.” And the chords end, ringing out into silence, and you’re satisfied. And then, after a few seconds of glorious silence capping off an epicest end to an epic album, they do it. yet. again, picking up the pace and screaming out to a close with a kind of hidden track that isn’t so long after the main song ends that it’s annoying but instead is like the most epic, extravagant, and yet not bloated awesomeness to end all awesomeness.

So yeah, this is basically the love child of Queens Of The Stone Age and Electric Wizard. I haven’t heard a stoner metal album this good since Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone. And seriously, why aren’t there more stoner metal bands? It’s objectively the best album and apex of human sonic achievement.

I really wanted this to be a five-clowner, but I think it falls just a little short of being everything it’s massiveness suggests it should be. The sound is massive, but it is lacking a little…something. Not sure what it is. We may be reaching the limits of my audio equipment on that front, but still, I want bigger. Then there’s basically just the two tempi, fast and slow. The songs are a little bit samey in terms of, say, their timbre and key, and I feel like the guitar and vocals carry everything, with the bass and drums serving as adequate support but not quite bringing the same level of weight to things.

– “Letting Go,” “Kicking,” “Walk It Off,” “Reverse Inverted,” “In Pieces,” “Snakes Are Charmed,” “Sky Trials,” “Skin Moth,” “Solitary Traveler,” “Harmonicraft,” “Looking On,”
– “Kiss Me Dudely,” “Roaming”
Filed Between: Tora Tora (Selections from Wild America promotional single) and Tourniquet (Microscopic View Of A Telescopic Realm)
Song Notes: After the jump
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2012 Clownies

Album Of The Year – Give by The Bad Plus
Pretty easy. It was the only five clown CD I reviewed last year. And when I saw that that was the case, I kind of thought, yeah, that album was amazing.

Artist Of The Year – Brad
This could have been a number of artists I went after a lot this year: BR5-49, The Beatles, Tori Amos, The Bad Plus. But I reviewed all five of Brad’s albums, including one that came out last year, and they had two 4.5-clown records and two four-clown ratings as well.

Song Of The Year – “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles
Contenders were Seaweed’s “Chalk The Cracks” and “The Day Brings” by Brad, but good god, “Helter Skelter.”

The Fat Clown Mixes Of 2012

Hey, and now we’re on to this year. Or last year. You know what I mean. The big story with these mixes is that 2012 was the first year that a really significant portion of my listening was done on streaming apps like Rhapsody or Xbox Music. So I was actually significantly hampered when it came to putting my favorite songs on the mixes. I think these are still really good, but there were some really good songs I wanted to include that I couldn’t. At least not without shelling out more money.

Volume C:

  1. Especially Me – Low
  2. Buttercup – Brad
  3. Lost In My Mind – The Head And The Heart
  4. The Day Brings – Brad
  5. Rest – Parts & Labor
  6. And Here We Test Our Powers Of Observation – The Bad Plus
  7. Twist And Shout – The Beatles
  8. Ritual Union – Little Dragon
  9. Those Three Words – Brad
  10. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
  11. Angels Of The Silences – Counting Crows
  12. Any Time At All – The Beatles
  13. Seven Nights To Rock – BR5-49
  14. Money (That’s What I Want) – The Beatles
  15. Repulsion – Quasi
  16. Standing In The Way Of Control – Gossip
  17. Dig Me Out – Sleater-Kinney
  18. New Tools – Seaweed
  19. New Radio – Bikini Kill
  20. Yes, You Are – Brad

Volume K:

  1. Buttercup – Brad
  2. Lost In My Mind – The Head And The Heart
  3. The Day Brings – Brad
  4. Rest – Parts & Labor
  5. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
  6. Lift – Brad
  7. Dirty Blonde – The Bad Plus
  8. And Your Bird Can Sing – The Beatles
  9. Not Dying Today – Tori Amos
  10. Please Mister Postman – The Beatles
  11. Go – Indigo Girls
  12. Little Ramona – BR5-49
  13. Money (That’s What I Want) – The Beatles
  14. Repulsion – Quasi
  15. Angels Of The Silences – Counting Crows
  16. Dig Me Out – Sleater-Kinney
  17. Standing In The Way Of Control – Gossip
  18. New Tools – Seaweed
  19. New Radio – Bikini Kill
  20. La, La, La – Brad

Volume S:

  1. Especially Me – Low
  2. Buttercup – Brad
  3. Lost In My Mind – The Head And The Heart
  4. The Day Brings – Brad
  5. Ritual Union – Little Dragon
  6. Those Three Words – Brad
  7. Rest – Parts & Labor
  8. Seven Nights To Rock – BR5-49
  9. Twist And Should – The Beatles
  10. And Here We Test Our Powers Of Observation – The Bad Plus
  11. 18 Wheels And A Crowbar – BR5-49
  12. Money (That’s What I Want) – The Beatles
  13. Repulsion – Quasi
  14. Angels Of The Silences – Counting Crows
  15. Dig Me Out – Sleater-Kinney
  16. Standing In The Way Of Control – Gossip
  17. New Tools – Seaweed
  18. New Radio – Bikini Kill
  19. Not Enough – J Mascis
  20. Yes, You Are – Brad

Fat Clown’s Best Albums Of 2012

I reviewed three, count ’em three!, albums last year that were released last year. And here I came into this post thinking I’d reviewed none. Bully for me. Take that, baby-stained year.

You ready for the countdown?

3. Melvins – The Bulls And The BeesUncharacteristic letdown for my fave band as they kind of do a Melvins-by-numbers thing, but it was free so yay.

2. Woodpecker! – Thanks Anyway
Buddy Josh’s band follows up F-Hole! with a naked look at thirtysomething life in Brooklyn in 2012.

And finally, Fat Clown’s best album of 2012…

1. Brad – United We Stand
Not among their best stuff, but a nice return to form.

Brad: United We Stand

I approached this album very apprehensively, what with the big let down that repeated listens to Best Friends? got me. And when I was greeted with an annoying, taunting “na na na na” on the opener “Miles Of Rope” I really put  up my guard.  However, this ended up being a really nice recovery for the band.  We’re not back to Welcome To Discovery Park or Interiors territory yet, but it’s right up there with Shame.  This album’s high points (probably “The Only Way,” which barely misses full heart status due to a chintzy beginning, “A Reason To Be In My Skin,” and “Through The Day”) aren’t as high as those of their debut, but it’s a more solid, even disc.  A mix of slow tempi and hard, swaggering rock, I end up feeling about this the way I do about a lot of the more recent albums by guitarist Stone Gossard’s other band, Pearl Jam: very satisfied if not shouting-from-the-rooftops inspired.

– “Miles Of Rope,” “Bound In Time,” “A Reason To Be In My Skin,” “Diamond Blues,” “The Only Way,” “Last Bastion,” “Make The Pain Go Away,” “Needle And Thread,” “Tea Bag,” “Through The Day”
Song notes: Below the fold
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Woodpecker!: Thanks Anyway

I think I’ve managed to drive away enough of my readership so that the three or four people who are reading this, with the possible exception of one, all know the background of Woodpecker! and me.  Woodpecker!’s lead singer, Josh Steinbauer, and I were in the same graduating class at our arts high school.  He’s a good friend and I have been a big fan of his bands since I first saw him perform with Loin Groove.

Fast forward 14 years to Fourth of July 2007 and Josh e-mails me Woodpecker!’s F-hole.  I go so apes**t over the thing that I break my longstanding rule to not review the work of friends, leaving it just shy of five [clowns] due to imperfect sound.  Over the past five years I’ve repeatedly come back to that album and been re-wowed by it, at least once even being so moved to write to Josh again to profess my love for it.

Which brings us to Memorial Day 2012 when Josh sends me Woodpecker!’s latest, Thanks Anyway, a very different album.  I’ve been processing it for the last six weeks, and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it was appropriate to break my rule for F-hole but not for Thanks Anyway.  So I won’t be reviewing this album, though I will be describing it.

The title, a sarcastic remark dripping with bitterness borne from impotence, and the cover art of middle-aged hands reaching up for rescue, which is nowhere to be seen, from drowning in the ocean set the tone of this album immediately.  Thanks Anyway is a 33-minute long sigh.  There are moments of acceptance (“If You See Something,” “GH1 With A 20mm Pancake Lens And Whatever Else We Lost That Day”) and even a positive-light song (“Matt & Ben”), but through it all is a theme of exhaustion, both satisfied and dis-, wrought from diligently working through our inexorable journey through time.

It’s an honest, unflinching, though not altogether negative, look into the thirty-something experience.  There’s identification and appreciation of what’s good, but also a yearning for what was, both in the recent and distant pasts.  And it feels like not even a yearning for the good times as described, but almost for the inability to know and understand what was good then or what is good now.  In “Old Photos Of Coney Island In The Queens Museum V. Coney Island This Afternoon,” Josh, amid being perplexed about those who came before him, asks for understanding and forgiveness from future Joshes:

Did the modern age get fixed in post
Is the way we proceed dignified if it’s so cheap
So is the heart of a scene in the past
That has lasted (that’s still stands
In front of your eyes)
If everything dies?

“Married To The Movies” captures another dichotomy and stubbornly holds it up for you to wrestle with, refusing to tip its hand.  The lyrics are a celebration, albeit a subdued one, about a relationship that fits, even if in a way not celebrated by our cultural media.  (“You sit next to me every night of the week/And we chew our way through another movie/…/It just hasn’t come up where I could pull you from a pool of piranhas/But I would.”)  However, the music, even the melodic line, belies the levity and acceptance of the lyrics, as if to taunt a self-delusion.

In addition to the larger discussions of God, faith, death (both of loved ones and strangers), Woodpecker! still gives us several songs in the vein of F-hole.  At least four seem to be explicitly about the dissolution of particular relationships, and this album replaces “Mankato” with “Matt & Ben” as the song inspired by Josh’s childhood.

And it’s that latter song that brings me back ’round to why I’m not reviewing this album.  A song for the unsung, “Matt & Ben” is a sentiment I could have written for a few of my friends, including Josh himself.  It’s always been a powerful, mysterious experience to me that these friends have made some of the best art I’ve experienced in my life.  I’m not talking like top half or awesome-considering-the-circumstances, I mean legitimately holding sway as my ultimate favorites for years–decades–at a time.  Matt Marka and Ben were that to Josh, so here’s their shout out.  The theme of the album pervades with the palpable, dull disappointment of half-fulfilled dreams, but Josh pulls up out of it at the end, his head coming up above the surface to shout to us, “Let the CD-R releases stacked on our shelves/Remind ourselves that we make music for our friends.”  And so, to me, this CD isn’t so much a CD, it’s a reminder.

Filed Between: F-hole and Wu-Tang Clan (Wu-Tang Forever)