Mika Miko – We Be XuXa

25 07 2009

Mika MikoWe Be XuXa
2009 – Post Present Media

I guess Mika Miko are old news around here (here being coastal California), but to this recent Canadian transplant, and hopefully to some of you, they’re brand spanking new. This all-girl band from LA formed in 2003 and have put out a string of albums on labels like Kill Rock Stars and Sub Pop, while also releasing a few of their own albums.

The band sounds like a bunch of different things, but the first thing I noticed when I put on this, their most recent release, was that they totally have their shit together. I love female musicians (full disclosure: I am a female musician), but I really hate when girl musicians use the fact that they’re girls as some kind of marketing strategy. The way I see it, if a band’s biggest selling point is that they all have vaginas, the band can’t be very good, and I’m not very interested. I think that kind of thing ghettoizes all of the ladies who practise and sweat and work to be good on their own merits and don’t have to rely on cute outfits or girl-centric marketing. Anyway, Mika Miko can clearly play on the level playing field. They can all play their instruments, and they sing like they mean it. They don’t sound cute or girly; they sound awesome.

The music itself is a mix of punk rock with elements of funk and dance (but just a bit) thrown in. Parts of this album remind me of the Slits, though Mika Miko have a lot more cohesive, catchy-ass songs. Parts of it also remind me a bit of the Gossip, though none of the ladies in Mika Miko have Beth Ditto’s pipes, I think they all have Beth Ditto’s balls, which, combined with the totally good instrumental work, really works and makes for a high-intensity album that makes you wish it went on for longer than the 22 odd minutes (for 12 songs!) that it does.

Even though I didn’t know about these guys until just now (thanks be to the Maximum RockNRoll Top Tens), which means I’ve evidently been missing the boat, I hope that the fact that these guys exist means that we’re going to start seeing more girls in punk and rock ‘n roll and hardcore bands. I know I’ve been sick of Brody Dalle being the face of women in punk for quite a while. I hear these guys are great live, so if you see that they’re coming to your town, be sure to go and check them out, and buy some of their stuff! Hell, order their stuff now, get inspired, and start your own band. Long live Mika Miko!

Also Listened:
Japandroids – Post Nothing
Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual
T Rex – Electric Warrior
Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets
Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances
Jonathan Richman – Jonathan Sings


J Church – One Mississippi

12 06 2008

J ChurchOne Mississippi
2000 – Honest Don’s Records

This is my second run at this.  I don’t know why J Church has given to me such a serious writer’s block (insomuch as I can call myself a writer). The first time I tried to write about One Mississippi, I ended up in tears on the couch. I’m going to blame that on the PMS and the shitty weather, since listening to it now, at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the sun coming through the window, this is a happy album, for the most part. Oh, except the Lance Hahn died of complications from kidney dialysis part. That’s still a downer.

I had heard of J Church before, of course. I had probably even heard a couple songs on other people’s stereos, but I had never sat down and listened to them. Now that I have, I regret that I hadn’t really heard them until now, after the possibility for ever seeing them live or buying a new album has passed.

This album sounds kind of like Propagandhi. The first chords on the first song sound so much like Prop that I had a mid-nineties flashback (in the best possible way) and then immediately went to the J Church website to see if they had ever worked or played together, which, it turns out, they have. Now, I don’t know a lot about punk music. Okay, let me qualify that. I know something about punk music. More than the average person, I suppose. To someone who only listens to top 40 radio, listening to me talk about punk music probably sounds pretty impressive, like a person with a jr. high school education listening to someone with a biology undergrad degree talk about echinoderms. However, to people who are really into music, I don’t know much about punk music. I’m just starting to put it together and develop my own  (douchey as it sounds) philosophy on punk music, so here’s what I’ve got so far and how it relates to One Mississippi:

I don’t know what the core of punk music is, but, like a big fat classist or racist or something, I think there is some kind of purer punk centre or ideal and that bands can be placed along some kind of continuum between that centre and something else that isn’t punk at all, like, well, Nickleback or Laurence Welk. Anyway, on that continuum, I feel like J Church is closer to the centre than many other bands. It’s not that they’re intensely political or blindingly good musicians or dress really cool (though they may be all of those things), but J Church just seems like a real band. I know, that’s lame to say. Classifying things as “real” or “not real/fake/poseurs” is stupid, but I’ve been racking my brain for a couple days now, and that’s the closest thing I can find to what I think about J Church. They sound like a bunch of cool guys who sing about interesting things that happen to them in their real lives. I don’t know – I’m distracted and have had too much coffee, so I apologize, but I really liked this album. It was unpretentious (both in its content and its production) and honest, and like I said, it tugged at my heartstrings when I thought about Lance Hahn.

I guess it made me want to get out of the house, go drink a little too much, hang out with my friends, play music, and quit being so much in my head all the time. See you late

Also Listened:
Dan Sartain – Join Dan Sartain
The Daktaris – Soul Explosion
Lucero – Nobody’s Darlings
Steeldrivers – S/T
Old 97s – Blame it on Gravity
The Swiftys – Ridin’ High
NQ Arbuckle – xox
Ladytron – Velocifero
James Hunter – The Hard Way
Sloan – Parallel Play
Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond
The Roots – Rising Down

Joe Lally – There To Here

5 06 2008

Joe LallyThere To Here
2006 – Dischord

There To Here is Joe Lally’s (Fugazi, motherfuckers!) first solo album ever. It sounds very much like what it is: 1/4 of Fugazi. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, though I suppose saying something like that I can’t help but sound at least a little dismissive. Anyway, what I mean is that I can hear some Fugazi in the album, but not all the time. Hearing Joe Lally alone, I could suddenly tell what was him in all the Fugazi albums I’ve been listening to for the past long while, and I thought this was really interesting.

My favorite tracks on this album were the ones that were a bit more fleshed-out, meaning the ones that had drums and/or more traditional song structures. Since this is a solo album, and since Joe Lally is a bass player, there are a couple tracks that are a bit too… static for me. Static, or abstract, or both, I guess. It’s not a big problem on the album by any means (I likely wouldn’t have made it through the whole thing if I felt like the whole album was some kind of ethereal (insomuch as bass played non-harmonically can be ethereal) bassline with quiet singing. What do I mean? I like the songs that rock a bit more or have a bit of the repetitive rock structure that hooks me in. I guess I liked the tracks that sounded like (and were) more than Joe by himself. I like his writing and his singing and his playing, but I like them better when there’s another person (like Amy Farina of The Warmers AND MOTHER OF IAN MACKAYE’S CHILD OMG) there with him. It’s not that Joe Lally can’t hack it by himself. He obviously can. He’s a great melodic bass player, and I like his aesthetic, but I think his ideas deserve a bit of back up so they can really appeal.

All that said, this album sounds very much like a Dischord/D.C. album. I don’t know how political Lally was before he joined Fugazi, but he’s pretty political now, and that comes across in his lyrics, which aren’t too clever or too ham-handed, though there are a few moments when the earnestness of them borders on uncomfortable. Not that I mind this uncomfortableness, of course. I’m a girl who believes in baring her soul and who believes in the importance of being earnest (…), so I’m not going to be put off by someone who puts his beliefs right out there in plain words.

All in all, listening to this album made me want to listen to more Dischord stuff. I haven’t listened to idealistic music for a while, and as I’m writing, I’m listening to The Evens, and it feels like it’s good for my soul, as awful as that is to say. On a day where I’ve been mostly too sick to do much except eat soup and mindlessly surf the internet, There To Here made me feel like tomorrow I would wake up well and ready to get to work.

Since its release in 2006, he has released a second solo effort (Nothing is Underrated, late 2007) and has worked on his other projects, which include Ataxia, a band he’s in with John Frusciante and Josh Klinghoffer, Capillary Action, and Zu.

Also Listened:
Elliot Smith – xo
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Greatest Hits
From Fiction – From Fiction (EP)
The Ponys – Laced With Romance

Shotwell – Patriot

2 06 2008

Shotwell – Patriot
2008 – ???

I love this album. I’m sick and don’t feel like writing a lot today, but I chose this album because of a comment I got today (you can check it out in the “About the ‘Author'” section) that said it was nice to see a musician writing about music. I tend to forget that not everyone who listens to music also plays music. It’s like when I forget that not everyone in the world is vegan.

The guys in Shotwell are not amazing technical musicians. They don’t shred their guitars or (most likely) spend hours a day practising their instruments. They clearly have other things to do and don’t have the luxury of being able to be musicians “full time,” and I think that works in their favour. Listening to really technically-challenging crazy music is cool sometimes, but if all that flash isn’t backed up by something more, some kind of ethos or heart or soul or something, then it’s just really gawking at some kind of freakish physical talent, like being able to bend their elbows backward or something.

What I mean to say is that it doesn’t take fancy guitars or hours and hours working on your riffs to write good songs with some kind of weight to them. There’s nothing revolutionary (musically-speaking) about this album, but what is in there puts a smile on my face and gives me hope in a world of Fallout Boys and City and Colours and more false punk and metal than I care to imagine.

Oh, and for anyone who likes Shotwell but hates Propagandhi, listen to track 7 at around 1:00. Total Prop riff – like it MUST be a nod to Less Talk More Rock.

Also Listened
The Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic
Al Green – Lay It Down
Steeldrivers – S/T
Corb Lund – Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!
The Ramblin’ Ambassadors – Vista Cruiser Country Squire
The Old 97s – Blame it on Gravity

Blood For Blood

31 05 2008

Blood For Blood Livin’ in Exile
1999 – Victory Records

I didn’t hear about Blood For Blood until I was relatively old and definitely way out of their target audience. I don’t know if they were popular in Edmonton earlier on or if the friend who accidentally called me out on not knowing them was being an ass by assuming (ha ha) that I knew who they were, but I was 25 before I first heard their name (or remembered their name anyway). When I came up for the idea for this blog yesterday, they were one of the first bands I thought of when I tried to think of what I should listen to, so I picked up Livin’ in Exile and listened to it on my way to work this morning.

Blood For Blood got together in 1995 and put out their first album in 1997. Livin’ In Exile was put out in 1999 and was the band’s second release on Victory and, if the album titles and commentary on their webpage are any indication, a pretty good thematic represenation of what BFB is all about. The album starts off with kind of a tougher-sounding Sweater Song (Weezer, dummies) bar-sounds montage. The Blood For Blood version includes lots of Boston accents and clinkin glasses, and it kind of keeps up for the whole album. Every single song has at least some bar-room chatter, including what sounds like the singer ordering draft beers.

Like I said, I’m way outside the demographic this album was made for. Sure, I feel marginalized and beaten down sometimes, but BFB are doing it for the working class. They’re doing it for the “white trash” and the people in prison, and the street people, and the good guys who lost their jobs, which, I think, is nice. The thing that confuses me about this album (well, the band, really, more than the album) is that they’re nihilists. Blood For Blood don’t write working-class music like Billy Bragg (“there is power in the uuuuuuunion”) or even the working-class Oi bands like Cock Sparrer or Sham 69. Blood For Blood write music whose central message is not “rise up” or “rebel” but “fuck you,” and I suppose I get but don’t get it.

Blood For Blood do are mad at society (I know because they say so a bunch of times on the album), but hey don’t seem to know what to do about it or care. If this sounds like a criticism, I don’t mean it to be. I dont dislike it or think it’s stupid; I just don’t understand it. That could very well be because really I’m a rich (well, my family has a bunch of money, though I am unabashedly broke all the time) white girl with a bunch of education, which I don’t say to sound like a rich white girl looking down her nose at the working class. I guess if I’d spent my entire life feeling like there was nothing I could do about anything, I might understand nihilism better, but I don’t, and I can’t, and now I’m writing all about me. Sorry.

The album itself is made up of pretty straightforward “hardcore” punk, which sounds very much like it’s from the time it’s from, which is the late 90s. There are a few more than three chords here, but this is music that needs to be playable drunk (I suspect), which is to say it’s not terribly technical. Again, this maybe sounds like a criticism, but it’s not. The simple structure of the songs suits the content and the aesthetic of the band, and there are some pretty awesome catchy riffs in there too. Oh, and the last track is a live cover of Ace of Spades by Motorhead, so that was pretty rad.

The overall impression this album left me with was that it was a pretty good punk album but that I was probably missing a big part of the reason that Blood For Blood are such an important band to a bunch of people. Also, I was surprised by how “soft” it was. Okay, it wasn’t “soft” per se, like enya or something, but after reading the Victory Records description of the band as one of the “hardest” bands out there (and I’d normally just dismiss this as record company bluster, but BFB have a reputation for being a super hard band), I was expecting something shocking like the first time I ever heard a Ripchordz song. Maybe music in general is harder than it was 10 years ago, or maybe there are more bands making harder music now, or maybe there are more people listening to harder music now, but Blood For Blood sounded like a pretty average punk band to me (albeit one with some pretty bleak and violent ideas about society). Really, I was a lot more surprised by their politics (“fuck you”) than I was by their music.

Well, there you have it. I said I’d write something about some album, and I did. See you all tomorrow!

Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Galactic – From the Corner to the Block
Blood for Blood – Living in Exile
Vancougar – Canadian Tuxedo
T-Bone Burnett – Tooth of Crime
Al Green – Lay It Down
Night Marchers – See You In Magic
Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves – Roll With You
Ramones – Pleasant Dreams
Mudhoney – The Lucky Ones
Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta

Decisions Decisions

30 05 2008

I’ve just gotten to work (I work at a record store, by the way, which is kind of what made me decide to give this a try – the virtually unlimited access to music and ample down time 40 hours a week), and I’m trying to decide on an appropriate album to kick things off. I listened to Blood for Blood’s Living In Exile during my commute, and I may write on that, but I’m not sure booze-soaked Bostoners is the first chord I want to strike. Check back in 6 hours.