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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Nostalgia

Posted in Life, Meta by SM on October 1, 2014

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I have a certain sentimentality for this blogging thing. People don’t blog like they used to. I certainly don’t, but for some reason I’ve kept this URL alive.

And there’s finally time for it again. Well, sort of…

I dropped my PhD program because there wasn’t enough time in the day and I’m honestly not sure I need it. As far as the time goes, it’s mainly due to the birth of my son in March. Two kids is a lot more work than we anticipated. Plus, work is going well as I fill a position I assumed a PhD would help me secure. What this basically means is that I think I have time to write now and again on this site once again.

About what should I write?

If you have ever read this blog or another, you know I write a lot about beer and music, but normally from a mid-nineties, Gen X, nostalgic perspective. The blog to me is a record of what’s happened more than anything else. “I drank this beer at this bar.” ” I saw this band perform these songs.” Blogs are my record of what I did, thought, or predict. And the reason I keep it around is nostalgia. Nostalgia for the ideals I developed 15-20 years ago that stick with me today. Nostalgia for the experiences that helped shape me. Nostalgia for the first time I heard Pavement or sipped a sour beer.

Nostalgia.

Hopefully, some of you are nostalgic for my writing, because it’s back. Maybe I won’t post as often or write as many opuses as before, but I think I have enough to write fairly regularly – like once or twice a week, maybe three times if I do short posts.

So, let’s get nostalgic for a bit.

It has come to my attention that I either listen to the same music I listened to in the 90’s, those same bands sounding basically the same today (especially in reunion form), or modern music that sounds like it was made 15-20 years ago. And as time has passed, I become more and more okay with this limited musical perspective. I now look for terms like “indie” or “lo-fi” or whatever when searching out tunes to buy or stream. Hell, as the picture above attests, I saw The Afghan Whigs a few weeks ago and loved it.

Is this really nostalgia or just force of habit? I’m going with the former as nostalgia suggests my choices are purposeful, thoughtful and not some mindless going through the motions. This music (and beer in general) was there when I went through my formative years just before, during, and just after college. I am a 90’s indie rock kid. That probably won’t change.

So, get ready for a whole lot of nostalgia at this URL. I’m not saying that this will be yet another theme I drive into the ground, but it will be ever prevalent in my posts about music, beer, and life. It’s good to be back.

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