Beer and Pavement

Reviewing 2014: Tracks

Posted in Records, Review by SM on December 29, 2014

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I will skip the pleasantries and get to what is typically the easiest of easy blog posts: lists of videos. These videos are of the 20 best tracks of the year according to me. Most are found in my favorite albums, but a few outliers are there as well. Also, keep in-mind that I typically like to keep these lists to one-per-artist/band. So, here are 20 separate efforts by 20 separate entities.

Taylor Swift “Shake It Off”

Let’s just get this one out of the way right now. Look, that beat is killer and my daughter loves her some Taylor Swift. Plus, it’s a good message for my kid. So, I stand by it.

Viet Cong “Continental Shelf” (Warning: video NSFW)

Mark these dudes as my most anticipated full-length debut of 2015. It’s dark, dank, foreboding… Reminds me of a ridiculous black IPA. Man, I’m thirsty.

Ought “Today More Than Any Other Day”

I could have chosen so many songs from my band of the year, but I went with the one that has everything. There’s the stripped-down, slow build. Metacognition. Disillusionment with modern society and commercialism. A rousing chorus. Danceability. Da-da-da’s. Entropy. Everything.

Parquet Courts “Instant Disassembly”

A sloppy rocker – almost Pavement-esque – with a touch of faux Britishness, “Instant Disassembly” is the best kind of ear worm. Not only does the melody stick, but the singer’s problems aren’t too far from the listener’s own.

Your Friend “Tame One”

I almost went with “Bangs” for this one, but I don’t think I could go wrong with either. The voice, the drone, the build all make Your Friend a band/solo artist to watch this coming year.

Alvvays “Archie, Marry Me”

I like Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura, but while the former messes around with pop music and that latter has somehow fallen off my radar, Alvvays will have to do. “Archie Marry Me” is all kinds of John Hughes angst and is a standout for the year.

Angel Olsen “Forgive/Forgotten”

SO MANY SONGS. I could list all the songs off Angel Olsen’s excellent Burn Your Fire for no Witness, but I will stick with my arbitrary rule to only list one song per artist/band. For this list, you get a rocker.

The War on Drugs “Red Eyes”

I honestly did not like the direction The War on Drugs took this year. It’s way more Springsteen than Vile, but they’re still a pretty good band as evidenced by the moving “Red Eyes.” That Springsteen-esque “woo” is pretty nice, but I sorta wished there was more of this on the entire record.

Sharon Van Etten “Your Love Is Killing Me”

I sort of lost touch with Sharon Van Etten this year until the above video for “Your Love Is Killing Me” crossed my path last month. It’s sprawling and Van Etten’s voice holds up as a powerful accomplice.

Ex Hex “Don’t Wanna Lose”

When an album kicks you in the teeth, it should do it from the first moments of the first track. Congratulations, Ex Hex. This album rawked like we all rawked in 1984 at a drunken high school party in a corn field. Thank god for Mary Timony finding her muse.

Sun Kil Moon “War on Drugs Suck My Cock” (NSFW)

The most interesting thing Sun Kil Moon and The War on Drugs did this year was to have a pseudo-feud. I actually appreciate Mark Kozelek’s crankiness as we are misunderstood curmudgeons. The song is actually quite funny despite its dark tone.

Caribou “Can’t Do Without You”

I know all the words to this song and they just repeat over and over in my head. Hit play and you’ll understand. It will cause you to either love or hate me.

Future Islands “Seasons (Waiting on You)”

One of the moments of the year for indie music was when Future Islands debuted this song on Letterman. The official video is good as well, but you needed to see why Future Islands broke this year and “Seasons (Waiting on You)” will land on many, many year end lists, often at the top.

New Tongues “El Condor Pasa”

The best covers are usually covers of misappropriated songs. I have no other evidence of this fact outside of this track. New Tongues flat-0ut destroy Art Garfunkel’s afro and strip the blood diamonds from the soles of Paul Simon’s tiny shoes.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks “Lariat”

“We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever. Talkin’ ’bout the 80’s!” All kinds of nostalgia in this one and it perfectly summarizes Mirror Traffic.

Swearing at Motorists “Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role”

Love, regret, drugs, faking it are all common themes Swearing at Motorists squeeze into every 2-minute anthem.

Tweedy “Please Don’t Let Me Be So Misunderstood”

I could have pulled several tracks from the Tweedy record, but I liked how this one encapsulated the project’s effect on the elder Tweedy. It’s not quite a punk rock banger, but it’s certainly a step back toward the cow punk of his past. Spencer’s work on the skins is pretty impressive as well.

Peter Matthew Bauer “Latin American Ficciones”

I like a good stripped-down rocker now and again. I had no idea that the dude playing keys and bass for the Walkmen had this sort of frontman, guitar-licking persona inside him. This track alone made the record a must-buy for me.

The Afghan Whigs “Algiers”

A nice take on the “Be My Baby” drum beat opens The Afghan Whigs return. I don’t even mind the auto-tune.

Hospitality “Inauguration” (Merge 25 version)

Trust me. The version they released via the Merge 25 Or Thousands of Prizes is superior IMHO to the LP version. I couldn’t find it online, so I give you the version above.

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Caribou’s ‘Swim’ vs. Russian River’s Supplication

Posted in Rock vs. Beer by SM on May 1, 2010

The advancement of the internet and shipping options has made it possible for me to survive a somewhat ho hum lifestyle in Middle Missouri. If I want a particular record, I usually have to mail order it from Insound. Certain beers are only available through similar means. Unlike ordering records online, beer costs the consumer quite a bit of money on top of the price of the beer for shipping. So, I don’t order too many bottles online unless someone puts together a group order.

Such an order landed me a Supplication from Russian River. The beer takes all of eighteen months to create as it is dumped into Pinot Noir barrels full of cherries1. Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus and Pedicoccus bacteria give the beer its flavor and overall character. This is one of those white whale or bucket list kinds of beers. I was lucky enough to get in on an order that provided me one bottle.

As I said before, records are easier to come by. Distribution of music isn’t policed by the government the way alcohol is. The problem is when you live in a town that only has two “record stores” that often run out of copies or never order certain records in the first place. I have no patience for this and so I order my records online.

Caribou’s latest Merge release, Swim, was dropped off late last week. The MP3 was downloaded immediately, but I’d have to wait for an opportunity to drop the needle on the record2. Earlier this week, my wait for both indulgences ended as I sat down with Swim as it should be heard and poured my beer in a proper glass.

The Stats:

Band: Caribou
Album: Swim
Label: Merge
Medium: Vinyl (although had been previewed using the digital version.)
Packaging: Gorgeous bi-fold with bright colorful artwork inside and out. Merge always comes through with some pretty slick packaging3.
Best Song: “Odessa”
Record Porn:

Let me get right to the crux of the situation. “Odessa”, the first track, is as good a song as I’ve heard in a long, long time. It’s complex and shows off Caribou’s ability to make even dance music seem interesting4. It’s just really cool. Check out the video…

CARIBOU – Odessa from Caribou on Vimeo.

Then there’s the rest of the record. To be honest, I don’t really want to write about it at all. It doesn’t excite me. It doesn’t anger me. I feel pretty meh about the whole thing. So, in order to protect a band I like a whole lot5, I’ll just leave it at that. By the way, have heard Andorra6?

Beer: Supplication
Brewery: Russian River
Style: Sour Brown Ale
Beer Geek Stats: 7% ABV,
Packaging: A cool Belgian-style bottle with a cork that reminds you to use the proper glass7. The artwork is an woodblock print of an aeration device (I think), but for some unknown reason, RR persists to use COMIC-FUCKING-SANS8 all over their labels!!! I’ll revisit that later.
Glass: Tulip
Beer Porn:

Pop! Actually, the cork made more of a drippy faucet sort of sound as I slid it from its place at the bottle’s mouth. The pour left me a beautifully foamy, tan head that didn’t want to leave. Clinging to the sides of the glass, this beer produced legs…er I mean lacing that slowly slid down the sides of my glass. The color was a rich, mahogany. My nose sensed Brett, caramel, cherries, funk, Pinot, fig, oak…I could go on and on. In fact, I may have smelt this beer too long.

The flavors were even more varied as the sour quickly gave way to the tartness of the cherries. The malt backbone was pronounced and worked with the cherries as opposed to one overpowering the other. The mouthfeel is nice as it coats your mouth. It’s not syrupy, rather, this beer is thick and it blankets your mouth instead of sticking to it.

I don’t often address packaging for a beer, but I have to continue a meme I started a while back concerning Russian River. STOP USING COMIC SANS!!! They craft some of the most tasty and beautiful beers in the world, take great care in branding their products through classy illustrations, and market themselves as the must-have brewer in an otherwise overcrowded market9. So, why does Russian River undercut their efforts by using comic sans on their labels?

Well, the beer is good. So, maybe it really doesn’t matter.

Winner: Supplication
This really wasn’t even close. When I first thought to pit a beer versus a record/show, I thought this would be a good pairing. However, it was a blowout. In the future, I will try to do better. I have plans in the works to do a series of these posts with my homebrew Wowee Zowee against its namesake, Dark Lord versus the Liars’ record, and possibly a Mikkeller 1000 IBU versus another Pavement record or one of the three or so records I like from this year. Stay tuned and congratulations to Russian River. You have won the first ever Rock vs. Beer contest in BICTB&P history!

Notes:
1There’s a video here in case you’re interested.
2Sometimes a record doesn’t make sense to me until I listen to it on vinyl, at home. It’s too easy to not pay attention in the car.
3I think this is one thing that separates them from many indies. The label’s packaging is not overtly extravagant. They just do what they can to match the artists’ vision, price be damned. Funny thing is that it usually pays off.
4Despite being named “best dancer” in my high school senior class, I can’t stand dance music, primarily anything electronic. I find its appeal fleeting. I welcome any examples that might prove me wrong. Animal Collective doesn’t count.
5I once saw these guys play in St Louis with backup drummer Ahmed Gallab and was simply blown away.
6Unbelievably great album. It was number 25 in my best of the oughts list.
7I don’t know if I took a picture or not, but the sides of the cork feature an illustration of a tulip glass and a pint glass crossed out.
8Easily the worst font of all fonts. That’s a fact.
9So, maybe Russian River doesn’t market themselves this way and the craft beer market is certainly not overcrowded. Allow me some license for a little hyperbole.

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