Various Artists: Kill Rock Stars 20 Year Anniversary Sampler

Free sampler, so right into it….

  • Very good, especially for a label’s sampler, except for an awful stretch from tracks six through nine.
  • Kind of surprised just how many good artists Kill Rock Stars has had

Song Notes:

  1. Elliot Smith: “Doubt” – I am pretty sure I’ve covered this elsewhere.  It was on Either/Or and I kept it but I think that was pre-like, which is fine.  So it’s an open heart.
  2. The Thermals: “Now We Can See” – Would have been keep.  The oh way oh oh oh part is annoying, but the rest of the song is easily full material.
  3. Gossip: “Standing In The Way Of Control” – Where do I know this from?  Best song on here.
  4. Thao & Mirah: “Eleven” – Would have been keep.
  5. Milagres: “Glowing Mouth (Radio Edit)” – Would have been keep.  “She said: Son you better get used to believing/In things that you can’t see”
  6. Xiu Xiu: “I Luv The Valley OH!” – Pretty annoying vocals.  It has its moments, but on the whole this is really annoying.
  7. Grass Widow: “Fried Egg” – Pretty bad and I think awfully forgettable, too.  In some ways (the frenetic pacing and atonal shouted vocals) the verses are like a less noisy, way less interesting Melt Banana song.  But then the chorus is really boring.  And the production seems to highlight the fact that they can’t play their instruments.
  8. Gospel Music: “Automobile [ft. Tracyanne Campbell]” – Terrible.  Terribly annoying.  Ouch, we’re in a real bad stretch of at least three songs here.  Three minutes of torture.  The vocalist in the spelling part sounds a bit like Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.
  9. Bratmobile: “Die” – Snotty punk just like the name suggests.  It’s listenable but you have to be in just the right mood.  And I think more often than not I hate this.
  10. Sleater-Kinney: “Dig Me Out” – So awesome.  Second-best song here.
  11. Bikini Kill: “New Radio” – The first band you think of when you think of Kill Rock Stars.  Such a distinct voice and vocal delivery.  “Let’s wipe our come on my parent’s bed.”
  12. Marnie Stern: “Transparency Is The New Mystery” – Kind of an annoyingly blah and off-key intro.
  13. Deerhoof: “Believe E.S.P.” – I do like this one quite a bit.  Some cool rhythms.
  14. The Corin Tucker Band: “Doubt” – Very good.  Would have been keep.  Sounds an awful lot like her former band, Sleater-Kinney.
  15. Unwound: “Corpse Pose” – Pretty good, but pretty forgettable, too.
  16. Quasi: “Repulsion” – Sounds very familiar, but I don’t have the album this is on, nor is it on the mix from J-mez.
  17. The Boats: “T.V. Scientist” – Pretty cool, but the chipmunky voice is a bit unsettling.  Probably would have been like.
  18. The Decemberists: “16 Military Wives” – I think I might actually like this.  I know I like this, but what’s going on with me not hating on the last few Colin Meloy songs I’ve heard?  Love the horns.  What is that low one?  Trombone?  Would have been keep.
  19. Thao: “Bag Of Hammers” – Didn’t I cover this on that iTunesU playlist?  Yes, during my brief time on Blogger.  Somehow it got mix there.  I believe in my review of this the first time I said it was mix not because it was that good but because it evoked a very particular, fairly unique mood.  But it is driving me nuts now.  I mean, I’d drop this down to like in the old system, so I’ll keep it as open now, given that it is enjoyable in the right moods.
  20. Horse Feathers: “Curs In The Weeds” – Why do so many vocalists on this album sound so familiar?  I don’t hate this, but it doesn’t do anything for me, and it sounds really derivative.

Rating:
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Full: “Standing In The Way Of Control” (Gossip), “Dig Me Out” (Sleater-Kinney), “New Radio” (Bikini Kill), “Repulsion” (Quasi)
Open: “Between The Bars” (Elliott Smith), “Now We Can See” (The Thermals), “Eleven” (Thao & Mirah), “Glowing Mouth (Radio Edit)” (Milagres), “Transparency Is The New Mystery” (Marnie Stern), “Believe E.S.P.” (Deerhoof), “Doubt” (The Corin Tucker Band), “Corpse Pose” (Unwound), “T.V. Scientist” (The Boats), “16 Military Wives” (The Decemberists), “Bag Of Hammers” (Thao)
Broken:
“I Love The Valley OH!” (Xiu Xiu), “Fried Egg” (Grass Widow), “Automobile [ft. Tracyanne Campbell]” (Gospel Music), “Die” (Bratmobile), “Curs In The Weeds” (Horse Feathers)

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Hugh Laurie: “Police Dog Blues”

Coming into this I just wanted to know why House was doing music, too.  I never answered that.  This sucks.  Total broken heart.  Makes me dislike House even more.  Stupid lyrics, dumb song.  I hate this.  Don’t even listen to it out of curiosity.  You’ve been warned.

Six Tracks From Amazon MP3

I don’t even know why I have these, but I can tell they’re from Amazon MP3..  I guess they were giving away free tracks in September?  Probably, since most of these lie somewhere between suck and has-some-decent-attributes.

  1. Wye Oak: “Holy Holy” – Is it supposed to sound like that?  I can’t handle it.  Ditch, because of the sound.  It’s a good song, otherwise.
  2. Eleanor Friedberger: “Last Summer” – Pretty good groove.  But standard Sheryl Crow-y jangle vibe.  After the first minute or so it’s not all that compelling.  I’ll give this the benefit of the doubt with a like.
  3. Nikki Jean: “Steel And Feathers (Don’t Ever)” – A slow n’ easy vibe.  She’s from St. Paul, so there’s Fat Clown cred right there.  Breathy vocals, slide guitar, could work on AAA or Country radio.  Because she’s doing instrument-heavy pop and she’s light-skinned black (I think) I want to make an Alicia Keys comparison, but it’s not really there.  Like.
  4. Katy B: “Broken Record (Jacques Greene Remix)” – Like.  Dancey trancey kinda thing that’s quite sparse and cold instrumentally contrasting with her warm but kinda weak voice.  Some good parts, but it’s not really close to being kept.
  5. Nick 13: “Carry My Body Down” – Country-ish.  Slide and steel guits.  Inoffensive.  Enjoyable enough, but pretty boilerplate.  Like.
  6. Ziggy Marley: “Africa Land” – I shouldn’t be allowed to grade world music.  The song is fine, synth-heavy moombahton, or what I think moombahton sounds like based on what I’ve heard of it.  But the lyrics…it’s just really hard for me to be optimistic about “united Africa” songs given the continent’s history. And to just name regions seems very pedestrian: “North Africa/West Africa/Central Afica/East Africa/South Africa/Oh beautiful Africa Land.”  I hate being cynical, but this really sets of my naivete alarms.  Like.

SPIN’s September (2011) Playlist

Not sure how I ended up with this SPIN playlist but no other SPIN playlists.  I mean, I’m assuming it’s a monthly thing.  It was probably a Largehearted Boy link or something.  However it was, I have to say this doesn’t make me want to listen to any more of these SPIN playlists no matter how free they are.  There’s two absolutely shite songs and a decent amount of mediocrity after that, too.  But, in fairness to the other artists, I may have rushed past them more quickly in my effort to never ever listen to the Prurient or Sun Araw tracks again.

  1. Twin Shadow: “Castles In The Snow” – Cool sounds.  Pretty sweet.  Rich, fat synth track, laid back, with a slow but kicking beat.  Maybe a touch too repetitive, but it’s not even three minutes, so how bad could it be.  Might have been just like in the context of the whole album, but this gets promoted to keep to keep an artist I might potentially be really interested in top of mind.
  2. EMA: “Milkman” – Another one that seems to intentionally sound really bad.  I guess I’m just old.  Talk about all subtlety being lost.  This is the loudness wars brought to a ridiculous conclusion…or just a continuation.  Holy ass this sounds bad.  Breathy, “tortured” vocals over a pretty dull beat in the A sections.  Mixes up to some cool rhythms in the B sections, but those sound the worst.  I guess I can let this get away with being like, but I’m assuming the sound quality is intentional to give it that rating.
  3. Male Bonding: “Bones” – Way too compressed, but not a bad song.  Fast-ish guitar rock, which really stands out on this playlist.  But that compression makes it sound more synth-y.  Which is weird…I mean, either be a guitar band or a synth band, but why try to be both by sounding bad?  Nice how the A and B sections contrast so much despite the basic guitar and drums tracks being the same.  Would have been keep, but the sound takes it down to like.  Plus it’s too long.
  4. Thundercat: “Daylight” – Sounds pretty sweet.  Very fun.  Short and sweet…they make their cool sounds and get out of the way before you realize the songwriting’s limited.  Not a ton of energy, they do a loungy jazz thing complete with that style of vocal harmonies.  It works.  Synth sound is a very quickly decaying, round 80’s sound.  Gets mixed for being so playful.
  5. Pictureplane: “Post Physical” – One of the better ones here.  Which isn’t saying much, but this is pretty good.  So flipping cheese with that worst-of-the-80’s synths sound, but still kinda good.  A really unique sound, but it gets a little old after a while.  Like.
  6. Prurient: “Let’s Make A Slave” – These lyrics are so stupid.  “Give birth to something dead/Give birth to something cold/Give life to those who hate you.”  And they’re just whisper-chanted.  I hope this guy is 16, because that’s the only explanation for such trite faux-darkness.  So obviously influenced by Nine Inch Nails.  Ditch.
  7. Sun Araw: “Crete” – 9.5 minutes and it never goes anywhere.  This is the worst song I have ever heard.  I never want to hear it again.  Ditch.
  8. Jacuzzi Boys: “Cool Vapors” – Standard indie pop-punk with an emphasis on pop (like Ramones crossed with Teenage Fanclub) fare.  Good enough, but it’s not blowing me away or breaking any new ground.  Choruses push it toward keep, but the verses are too whiny.  Like.
  9. Milagres: “Here To Stay” – Some cool sounds, not a great song.  Starts off with a nice propulsive rhythm in keys but before too long ends up languishing with a too-slow vocal track.  Does he say the birds are singing in the key of H?  And, if so, does he know German composers in the 18th century sometimes referred to B natural as H?  Like.
  10. The War On Drugs: “Come To The City” – Bob Dylan vocal quality and lyrics but with more held notes (and even a Springsteen “whoo hoo” right off of Nebraska with that reverb and everything) over a very lush synth track.  Compressed way too much, sounds like ass, but it’s a darned good song.  Keep.

Three Starbucks Tracks

Here are three more songs I picked up on those cards in Starbucks.

  1. Liam Finn + Eliza Jane: “Honest Face” – Kinda sounds like ass, but it’s kind of an okay song.  It’s in the vein of that standard adult alternative inoffensive but somewhat fresh sounding rock that so many of these Starbucks songs are.  The same line in the chorus gets repeated way too much.  Do you think Liam Finn is a partnership between Liam Neeson and Neil Finn?  Because that’s the only thing I can think of.  There’s a lot of silence at the end followed by sounds of traffic, which doesn’t seem to make any sense here.  It has some good parts that make it a like, but combined with the shoddy sound it gets ditched.
  2. Daniel Isaiah: “High Twilight” – Slow.  It sounds just like Wye Oak’s “Civilian” at the beginning.  And then it’s not as good as that.  Very standard moody singer-songwriter stuff with like three guitars, including a spooky slide thing.  Has an okay feel, but pretty weak on the songwriting front.  Nice harmonic movement in parts, but that’s about it.  Also yawn.  Ditch.
  3. Little Dragon: “Ritual Union” – Loves the fat, clean bass line.  Super catchy pop, but the songwriting needs a boost: it never seems to get out of the gear it starts in.  Fantastic sounds, cool rhythm.  I was actually surprised to see this on so few year-end lists given how ubiquitous it was for a few weeks in the fall.  Somehow I ended up with like three or four copies.  Mix.

Two Starbucks Tracks

Here are a couple more free downloads I’ve picked up via those cards in Starbucks.

City And Colour: “Fragile Bird” – Not bad.  A bit of a slow groove thing.  Pretty sparse instrumentation, but a fat enough keys sound gives it its mood.  The bridge and choruses, with a slow burn while maintaining an uplifting feel, are the highlights.  Might only be like if I had more of the band, but this is good enough to want to keep front of mind, so keep.

Madeline Peyroux: “The Kind You Can’t Afford” – About how she’s poor and there’s a rich “you” in the song.  But she’s got real good lovin’, the kind “you” can’t afford.  It’s got a bit of that cheesy blues feel like Clapton or Bonnie Raitt.  I don’t know why her vocals are recorded so hot, either.  As much as I love 99% solidarity and taxing the ultra-rich, this kind of “your life is empty” attack on them itself seems empty, foolish, and meaningless.  Not crazy about the song, either.  Ditch.

Starbucks Playlist: 10 Songs For Summer

Here’s an entire playlist from Starbucks.  You actually had to buy one of those sugary frozen drinks or something to get it.  It came out in May and we didn’t get summer until roughly August 15th, making the playlist yet another source of bitterness.  God I hate it here.

Unlike most Starbucks selections, with their slant toward singers with novel voices, this seems to be mostly straightforward, pretty good rock bands without too much exciting about them.  If I hadn’t known The Airborne Toxic Event, I would have been thrilled to discover them.  As it is, Matt Nathanson’s and Parts & Labor’s songs were great discoveries and most of the rest were new songs from bands I am vaguely familiar with.

  1. Telekinesis: “Country Lane” – I want to hate this more given my review of their previous album, but I happen to think this one’s pretty good.  Straight out of the Telekinesis playbook.  Like.
  2. Cold War Kids: “Skip The Charades” – Great beginning.  Shouldn’t this be “Skip The Charade” singular?  Otherwise it’s kind of like skipping the game.  Straightforward rock about troubled relationship.  Almost good enough to keep, especially since I have nothing else from this band, but I’ll keep it at like.
  3. Fleet Foxes: “Battery Kinzie” – Jesus I hate Fleet Foxes so bad.  As soon as Robin Pecknold starts singing I fly into a rage.  It’s so wrong.  They are, not my reaction.  But after several listens this may finally be growing on me.  If I’m in a good enough mood, this is like, so we’ll be generous and leave it at that.
  4. Matt Nathanson: “Faster” – Great energy.  Almost has a “Life Is A Highway” vibe, which is another song I initially disliked only to later love.  Lyrics about the object of his desire making his heart beat faster.  Is it a song about his love for a city?   “You’re all night noise/Your sirens howl.”  “You bite my lip.”  I guess the metaphor doesn’t quite hold up.  Keep.
  5. Parts & Labor: “Rest” – Sounds crazy familiar.  Definitely leans on early Pink Floyd, but it’s also just good rock and roll.  Love the chorus.  Where do I know this from?  Mix.
  6. The Airborne Toxic Event: “Half Of Something Else” – It’s encouraging that they selected the best song from their album for the playlist.  I’ll mark it as mix, which it was then, but it’s obviously really a ditch since I don’t need to keep this lossy version around.
  7. Death Cab For Cutie: “Underneath The Sycamore” – It’s fashionable to bash Death Cab For Cutie now.  I don’t really know them, and I’m sure their earlier work was better.  But this song is not bad.  Great chimes sounds in the second verse.  Like.
  8. Peter Bjorn And John: “Eyes” – These guys have never really re-captured the magic of their whistling “Young Folks,” or whatever it was called.  This is fine, but fairly nondescript.  Like “Young Folks” it relies on one little hook repeated, this time a quick seven-note guitar riff.  Like.
  9. Booker T. Jones: “Just A Friend (feat. Biz Markie, Matt Berninger, and Sharon Jones) (Bonus Track)”- Basically a cover of the original.  Hardly any change in the lyrics and, with its gruffer voice, sucked any charm there was out of the original, leaving only the neanderthal misogyny and ridiculously awful lyrics.  Why is he shown where door three is “for the moment”?  Does door three move around?  And why does he add that he met the woman “from the U.S. nation.”  Wouldn’t that information be assumed?  And that’s just scratching the surface.  Ditch.
  10. We Are Augustines: “Chapel Song” – I think I ditched a song from these guys in the iTunes mix.  No, that was Augustana.  Indistinguishable band alert.  Actually this song is better than that one.  “Tear off the forklift/Cuz it’s a bright blue sky”?  There’s no way that word is “photograph.”  Not sure from this song why WNYC’s John Schaefer is all goopy for them, but like.