Sunday, April 13, 2014

Best of 2012 - Top 5

5. Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't

That shy, balding guy who seems a little off and looks the guy from High Fidelity's Championship Vinyl that's not John Cusack or Jack Black? That's Jens Lekman and he just happens to write some of the most wonderfully awkward conversational love songs this side of Stuart Murdoch. Listen here.

4. Dwight Yoakam - 3 Pears

Since I am writing this about 16 months late, it seems like 3 Pears came out a decade ago. Of all the resurgent alt country artists that blossomed in the 80's (Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, etc. etc.), Yoakam is the one that has maintained the highest level of consistency in his recordings. 3 Pears brims with timeless honky tonk that puts the current big hat poseurs to shame. His best since Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.

3. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

The purity of voice of Klara and Johanna Soderberg is the kill shot here. The foreigners' embrace of Laurel Canyon sweetness , Gram Parsons' Cosmic American Music and the immediacy and earnestness of Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley is addictive, and they wrap it up in a delicate, homesick bow and sell it back to us much like every British rock band from 1963 to 1975 used American rhythm and blues as the template for rock and roll world domination. What's so great about The Lion's Roar is the promise of greater things.

2. Allo Darlin' - Europe

I did flinch a little when I realized that 2 and 3 were adorable female fronted bands but so be it. Allo' Darlin's Elizabeth Morris will win your heart then break it with sophisticated pop songs that pack considerably more wallop than the ukulele sweet treatments that sometimes threaten to undermine the top flight songs. Absolutely gorgeous.

1. The Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Rock and roll ain't dead. Am I right, Jake Hartline?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Craig Finn on The Replacements

My interview with Craig Finn yielded more material than could fit in print, including this exchange about seeing the recently-reformed Replacements play last fall.

You've made no secret about how big an influence The Replacements were on you. I know that you saw one of last fall's reunion shows. What did you think?

I loved it. I thought it was great. I mean, I saw them with Bob Stinson [original guitarist who was dismissed from the band in 1986 and died in 1995], so it was obviously not going to be the same, but it was ultimately a celebration of these songs. And I loved the fact that [band leader Paul] Westerberg looked like he was having a blast at the show I saw, and was really excited about that.

I saw them in Colorado on the night they came out in orange skirts. It was, um, transcendent.

Yeah, I've seen video of that. That looked pretty amazing. There are these songs, and they haven't run themselves into the ground, they haven't made, you know, a techno album or anything, so for them to come out and play rock and roll, obviously, they're down a few members, but I don't begrudge them that. I just had a fantastic time and I thought they sounded great.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

My interview with Craig Finn from The Hold Steady.

It turns out that this blog is only mostly dead.

Last week I talked to Craig Finn from The Hold Steady for this week's issue of The Providence Phoenix. You can read the results here. If you go back through the archives, you'll know that The Hold Steady is the great whale of Teenage Kicks. It was good to be able to talk to the man who wrote the words to "Your Little Hoodrat Friend."

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Best of 2012 ... Seems Like a Long Time (# 10 to # 6)

Top 10 starts off with...

10. Cheap Girls - Giant Orange - Cut from the same melodic pop-punk cloth as Superchunk, Material Issue and mid-period Replacements, Cheap Girls offer nothing new and I love them for it. Stripped down rock and roll with big, fat hooks could feed my rock and roll jones for the next ten decades. And I can't get over how much lead Girl Ian Graham sounds like the Del Lords' Eric Ambel.

9. Rayland Baxter - Feathers & Fishhooks - Scion of go-to pedal steel master Bucky Baxter, Feather & Fishhooks fashions freewheeling feelings of fair-haired fun that owes great debts to the twin towers of Jackson Browne and Gram Parsons. Warm, inviting Laurel Canyon vibe makes this one go down easy.

8. The Men - Open Your Heart - While I couldn't find my way in to the howling, distorted density of their previous Leave Home, Open You Heart opens their sound and delivers something in short supply these days - a rock and roll album played by Men. Ya dig Skate?

7. Mark Cutler - Sweet Pain - I reviewed this album for the Providence Phoenix in June 2012 and found much to love, noting "Sweet Pain is an understated stunner. Combining the subtle urgency of Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever and the weathered grace of Alejandro Escovedo, the album's charms unfold slowly and reward repeated spins." We need new music from Mark Cutler in 2014.

6. Gaslight Anthem -Handwritten - Continuing their winning streak, the Gaslight Anthem's tattooed  punk is perfect for two dollar PBR's and bar band sing-alongs. One of the best American bands of the last ten years.

Best of 2012... Seems Like a Long Time (# 15 to # 11)

With apologies (and Happy New Year) to my friend Sarah, here are my favorite 15 records of 2012. She says I am 11 months late, I say I need time and distance to critically evaluate a year's worth of music. She says maybe I'm lazy, I say maybe she's right. It appears that 2013 outshone 2012 with more spectacular releases, but 2012 still had much to be proud about it. So here goes (with special shoutout to Handsome Bob Brandt for keeping the faith... gotta love the kids!)

15. The White Wires - WWIII - a straight up power pop record, recorded like it was 1980 and no one was listening. And apparently no one was, as I found this youtube clip from a year ago that indicates it was from the last White Wires show and has amassed 115 views in a year. But Ramones fans will love their dedication to the buzz and the hook, and so will J Johnny Mezz. R.I.P. White Wires.

14. The Vaccines - Coming Of Age - Smart-ass and cheeky, more classic rock than punk rock, Coming of Age feels like a collection of singles and that's OK with me. Buzzsaw guitars and gruff, deadpan delivery from lead singer Justin Young provide easy access but keep listeners at arm's length. Possible future greatness... Joey P approved.

13. Ian Hunter - When I'm President - Still full of spit and fire, Ian Hunter's When I'm President  makes a case for the greatest rock record made by anyone over 70. 100 years from now, if someone asks your great-grandchildren what rock and roll was like, let's hope they just show them a picture of Ian Hunter.

12. Jason Heath & The Greedy Souls - Packed for Exile - Lean, heartfelt alt country with a punky attitude, Jason Heath's sophomore album toils in Southern California obscurity waiting to be discovered all those Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty fans seeking a fresh take on their heroes' classic Americana back porch anthems. Come to Philly, Jason.

11. The Weeks - Gutter Gaunt Gangster - Thanks T-Dawg for these guys. Southern rock soul stew that percolates and bubbles up with the funkiest bass this side of Muscle Shoals and a lead singer whose bored NYC 1977 via Otis drawl makes you want to fall in love. Coming to Philadelphia next week at Underground Arts. Don't miss them!