Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#18 (TM) The Postelles - The Postelles

For anyone who thinks Joe Jackson's Look Sharp was the perfect synthesis of punk rock's slutty edge and the magnificently manicured songwriting smarts of Squeeze's Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook, then the Postelles debut is the album for you. After being dropped by Astralwerks before releasing a single note, 2011 saw The Postelles long-gestating record finally glimpse the light of day.

Opening with the staccato guitar romp, call-and-response sizzler "White Night", The Postelles updates the 70's power pop template with the nervous energy that all those THE bands (The Vines, The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Hives) thrilled us with a decade ago. They look unapologetically backward, and singer Daniel Balk's cheerful croon makes these mostly up-tempo gumdrops go down easy.

The Postelles - "White Night" (from The Postelles)
The Postelles - "California Sun" (from Summer Undercovers)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

#18 (MA) Have Gun Will Travel - Mergers & Acquisitions

I was going to put Wild Flag's excellent album here, but Trip already got that one, so I'll offer up a left-field choice. I don't know much about Have Gun Will Travel, but Mergers & Acquisitions is a near-perfect mix of rustic and tuneful that will transport you to the halcyon days of early alt.country. This is the album Uncle Tupelo didn't make between March 16-20, 1992 and Anodyne.

Have Gun Will Travel - Time Machine
Have Gun Will Travel - Disappearing Kind

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#19 (MA) Butch Walker & The Black Widows - The Spade

Butch Walker makes musical confections, sweet rock candy that cuts through the sour indie rock landscape. Once upon a time this stuff made you a star, but now it just makes you a cult hero to folks who want to enjoy new music but who don't subscribe to the new musical paradigm. Big hooks, big drums, sly words, plentiful beer, willing girls and cunning song craft all wrapped up in a shiny box and bow. It hits your body first and then works its way to your brain. A sugar rush in all the right ways.

# 20 (TM) - Foster & Lloyd - It's Already Tomorrow

Just as Foster & Lloyd's recording hiatus was able to buy a drink, it up and went on a harmony-filled alt country bender. Twenty-one years is a l-o-o-o-n-g break, but the rust is barely noticeable on It's Already Tomorrow, possibly the least touted reunion album of the year. And quite possibly the best.

What makes this partnership go is the marriage of Bill Lloyd's jangle pop guitar sensibility to Radney Foster's clear, warm vocals, but what makes it soar are the old school harmonies, two voices meshing as one on immediately memorable choruses. Sure their cover of "Picasso's Mandolin" is a misstep better left to the craggy story telling of the great Guy Clark, but the daylight fading, gracefully aging title cut reminds us of the Foster and Lloyd's Top 40 hitmaking heyday. And album closer "When I Finally Let You Go" is a heart tugging, father to daughter love letter that will inspire more "Ahh Seanie" comparisons than this author would care to admit.

By the way, go buy the fantastic This One's For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, which features our boy Radney absolutely killing "L.A. Freeway".

Foster & Lloyd - "It's Already Tomorrow" (from It's Already Tomorrow)
Radney Foster - "L.A. Freeway" (from This One's For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark)

Monday, January 23, 2012

#20 (MA) Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures

If you didn’t know this album was cobbled together from odds and ends after Ms. Winehouse’s death, could you discern it by listening? Maybe, especially once you noticed “Tears Dry,” an alternate version of “Tears Dry On Their Own” from the brilliant Back to Black album. But would it make the experience any less enjoyable? I can’t image that it would. Winehouse was one of the last contemporary singers who could fully inhabit a song, tugging at melody and tempo to make other writers’ tunes her own, and never resorting to studio tricks. Her buoyant takes on chestnuts ranging from “Our Day Will Come” to “A Song For You” never fail to charm, and they serve as a reminder of what a rare talent she was. You won’t find her death in this collection. Only her life.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

# 21 (TM) - Fucked Up - David Comes to Life

Holy crap this album has a lot going against it - the NSFW for band name, the unrelenting hardcore growl of a mostly shirtless lead singer named Pink Eyes, the hard to penetrate (and understand) lyrics to a godforsaken prog-punk opera, a 78 minute running time - but every time I put this disc on my heart rate accelerates and I feel like a better man. This thing explodes in scream-along mayhem with force, anger, bile and a bulldozer's soft touch that takes its only breaths with the occasional sweet touch of girl group coos that leavens a song like "Queen of Hearts".

Rock and roll is dead? Nah... it's just Fucked Up.

Fucked Up - "Queen of Hearts"  (from David Comes to Life)
Fucked Up - "Turn The Season" (from David Comes to Life)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Johnny Otis, dead at 90

The obituary of a fascinating man is here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bruce Springsteen - "We Take Care of Our Own" (Listen)

We interrupt our 2011 countdown to acknowledge 2012.

# 22 (TM) - The Red Button - As Far As Yesterday Goes

Now Pop for Pure People

As Far As Yesterday Goes plays like an unwritten John Hughes movie, with looming heartbreak leavened by day-glo horns and impossibly sunny arrangements. Each chorus, each handclap and each strum screams pure pop. There are 60's nods everywhere - the "I Should Have Known Better" harmonica riff that powers opener "Caught in The Middle" to euphoric heights, the heavenly, Turtle-y "ba-ba-bas" of "You Do Something to Me" and album thesis "On A Summer Day" that plays like a full on celebration of Small Faces ultra-modness crossed with the elegance of Bachrach/David classic.

Teenage Kicks review of As Far As Yesterday Goes

The Red Button - "Caught in The Middle" (from As Far As Yesterday Goes)
The Red Button - "On A Summer Day" (from As Far As Yesterday Goes)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

# 23 (TM) - Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

This album can inspire love and hate - I've both loved and hated it. Sometimes the ordinary lyrics ("Honey Bunny", "Magic", "Saying I Love You) seem like empty platitudes and songs veer off into Pink Floyd wankery territory ("Vomit", "Forgiveness), but then I find myself going back to this album again and again because it truly sounds wonderful and different - except "Vomit", which is an exercise in noisy tedium.

The lyrics are mostly uplifting (and ordinary, but they work) and who doesn't love an album that calls to mind the fractured, desperate beauty of Sister Lovers and the deeply touching melancholia of Sunflower / Surf's Up era Beach Boys.

Love... for today.

Girls - "Honey Bunny" (from Father, Son & Holy Ghost)
Girls - "Love Like A River" (from Father, Son & Holy Ghost)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

# 24 (TM) - Wild Flag - Wild Flag

With a scorched earth policy that leaves no riff unturned, Wild Flag's joyous rocket launch sounds like 1977 in 2011. I hear the new wave mannerisms of Lene Lovich and the exaggerated strangulated yelp of Richard Hell, but Wild Flag carries not a whiff of punk revisionism or slavish tribute. This is breathtaking rock and roll in the moment, loaded with hooks and F-U-N.

Inspirational verse from the slam bang opener, the absolutely irresistible "Romance":

"You watch us sing, we sing till we're crying
We sing to free ourselves from the room
We love the sound, the sound is what found us
Sound is the love between me and you"

If you are not moving to this one, have someone check your pulse.

Wild Flag - "Romance" (from Wild Flag)
Wild Flag - "Boom" (from Wild Flag)

Friday, January 13, 2012

# 25 (TM) - Ron Sexsmith - Long Player, Late Bloomer

Eleven albums into a career that has flown mostly under the radar, Ron Sexsmith has had his praises sung by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Elvis Costello. Sexsmith writes rueful, self-deprecating songs about the painful joy of being in love. Long Player, Late Bloomer is more of the same, but only better with a strict no filler mandate among the album's 13 tracks.. The title song "Long PLayer" is a nod to his own survivor's instincts and his slow, gradual climb to the middle.

"I'm a late bloomer, I'm a slow learner
And I've turned the record over, I'm a long player
My song is my saviour, Got to raise it up"

His vocals cling to melodies like thick maple syrup on the edge of an amber jug, causing the world to spin a little slower while Sexsmith spoon feeds melancholy one bite a time.

Ron Sexsmith - "Believe It When I See It" (from Long Player, Late Bloomer)
Ron Sexsmith - "Give Me Love" (George Harrison cover)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

# 26 (TM) - The Black Keys - El Camino

I am jumping on this train as it hits top speed. Forget all the comparisons to The White Stripes, and forget all the critical hosannas and flowery expositions of The Black Keys as rock and roll saviors, even though they might be. Let's celebrate the big fat choruses, the head-bobbing, hair-flyin' groove, the underpinning of greasy soul that lifts them above the fray. This is big, dumb rock in all it's bare chested glory. The Black Keys are 2012's Foghat and "Lonely Boy" is their "Slow Ride", as camaro rock as it gets.  

The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Foghat - "Slow Ride"

Fashionably Late

Trip could come up with a list of one hundred albums about which he was genuinely enthusiastic in the past year if he set his mind to it. Me, not so much. It's not that there weren't that many (and more) worthy of enthusiasm, it's just that I didn't work hard enough to find them. I'll join the fray at album number 20.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

# 27 (TM) - Tommy Keene - Behind The Parade

It would be easy to dismiss Tommy Keene for rehashing the same formula with each album. But with a Ramones-like devotion to the mid 60's pop anthems championed by The Who as well as early 70's power pop, Keene's stunning lack of commercial success has freed him to crank out yet another batch of soaring tracks that make Keene sound as vital today as he did on his classic Songs from the Film album.

This is album is loaded with ringing electric guitars, Keene's dry vocals and wry wordplay and thankfully not much else. Sure there are nice touches like the Belle & Sebastian horns that adorn opener "Deep Six Saturday", but mostly Behind The Parade sounds like another record full of stirring, sharply played songs in a career full of them.

Tommy Keene - "Deep Six Saturday"
Tommy Keene - "Already Made Up My Mind"

(both songs on Behind The Parade on Second Motions Records)

Friday, January 06, 2012

# 28 (TM) Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass Kickin Team - More Smooth Jazz & Sweet Sweet Jams

Terry Anderson's sweetness is most definitely my weakness. Working with the modestly named Olympic Ass Kickin Team, Anderson delivers a record that is quite simply without frills. Bashing out ragged bar band nuggets for urban hicks that suggests Rockpile playing a set of NRBQ covers, Anderson delivers a back-to-the basics clinic that leaves no wiggle room - rock and roll can save your life. For 38 minutes, it sure felt like More Smooth Jazz & Sweet Sweet Jams saved mine.

Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass Kickin Team - "Gambled And Lost"
Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass Kickin Team - "Spend The Night"

(both songs available on More Smooth Jazz & Sweet Sweet Jams)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

# 29 (TM) - The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

One of the benefits of year-end reviews is that you have had time to let an album sink in and make your own decision on its relative merits or shortcomings. A major drawback is having already other reviews. So this album is either a "well rounded pop-jugular album" (The A.V. Club) or a disc that "fails to muster much sense of enthusiasm for itself beyond those first and last tracks" (Drowned in Sound).

Me - all I hear is effervescent gloom that seems to be a lab experiment grafting Jesus and Mary Chain's acidic wall of buzz onto the sing-along friendliness of Irish goobers The Saw Doctors. In a year mostly devoid of guitar albums, this one couples stompy riffs with singer Justin Young's anthemic melodic swells in 3 minute amphetamine rushes. I love it, but skip the 8 and 1/2 bummer of a closer, "Family Friend", and make this a 10 song album that wraps up in a tidy 27 minutes. That gets the Teenage Kicks seal of approval.

The Vaccines - "Post Break Up Sex" (from What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?)
The Vaccines - "Norgaard" (from What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?)

Monday, January 02, 2012

# 30 (TM) - Caitlin Rose - Own Side Now

With Jenny Lewis abandoning the americana soul of her solo lps for the fizzier, buzzier pop of Jenny and Johnny and Zooey Deschanel using up every ounce of her vast accumulation of good will on the unwatchable New Girl (Ben Gibbard must be delighted he doesn't have to watch that dreck anymore), America needs a new winsome sweetheart to embrace. Looking like Heart Like A Wheel Ronstadt, but with a Laurel Canyon via Nashville sound, Caitlin Rose's Own Side Now was one of the more impressive 2011 debuts. Standout tracks include the leave-me-alone kiss-off "Spare Me" and the buoyant kiss-off "Shanghai Cigarettes", that sounds like the kind of hit Mary Chapin Carpenter would have had 20 years ago. One to watch.

Caitlin Rose - "Faithless Love" (from Columbia Hotel EP)

The sign says OPEN

After a spotty, fallow 2011, Teenage Kicks returns in 2012 with one our favorite things - a list. We are quite happy making lists - to do lists, grocery lists, concert lists, revenge lists, what-i'd-do-if-i-won the lottery lists. One of my New Year's resolutions was to start a list of all the lists I wanted to make. I still have time for that.

But for now we'll each be putting up our favorite albums from 2011, which was a very good year for music, but had no slam dunk rock and roll classic, like Titus Andronicus' The Monitor from last year The Hold Steady's Boy and Girls in America in 2006. In 2011, music was everywhere - on your phone, in the car, on TV, and instantly accessible on your computer and ipod. Now with Spotify, you can stream millions of songs for free. It's mind-blowing, fantastic and incredibly daunting. Because with millions of options, how do you choose? How do you ferret out the diamonds in the rough, separate the wheat from the chaff, make sure you get to hear Ezra Furman and skip James Blake? We hope to help here at Teenage Kicks, and we'll start with our 2011 faves. And maybe this time next year we'll salute 2012.