Bradley's Almanac

[Nac Tracks] April 2015 New Music Playlist

Posted on May 4, 2015 at 9:55 am | No Comments

File under: Better eventually then not at all. With blogging time at a premium (i.e. non-existent), I’m always looking for song-sharing shortcuts, so throwing new Soundcloud tracks that grab me into a monthly playlist is a no-brainer. Here’s the first one: My 35-song April 2015 “Nac Tracks” Soundcloud playlist, embedded for your listening pleasure…

The May 2015 edition is already in progress.

[Words & MP3s] The Replacements live at the Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Posted on May 1, 2015 at 11:17 am | 6 Comments

Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson summed up Monday night pretty succinctly mid-set, after the band finished a run through their classic (among many classics) “I Will Dare” at the Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts…

“This is weird.”

Yeah, the whole thing was pretty weird. From the hard-to-swallow early rumor they’d be playing the relatively small 525-capacity rock club in Harvard Square with Dinosaur Jr. and locals The Young Leaves, to the official announcement that it would kick off a 5-night Converse Rubber Tracks Live series of free shows, to the 2-day open lottery method of ticket giveaways. Yay!sayers, naysayers, and everyone in between chimed in online, especially after the winners (will call only, for the lucky few and a friend) were chosen and many, many fans were shut out. My rejection email arrived later than most, so last Thursday was a particularly long day at work clicking refresh ad nauseam.

For most any other band, I would have moved to the acceptance-stage of grief pretty quickly, but this was the Replacements’ first proper headlining tour since reuniting in 2013. When their 2015 road schedule was announced and Boston was left out, many were surprised – surely they didn’t think a shortened outdoor festival set (at last September’s Boston Calling) was enough to satisfy, especially in the hometown of new guitarist and longtime local-boy Dave Minehan. There had to be a proper area headlining show in the cards. Turned out there was, but you probably couldn’t go. Pessimists (like, uh, me) worried this stop would cross Boston off their to-do-list, and that would be that. After all, given the band’s turbulent past and Paul Westerberg’s idiosyncratic ways, who can say the live reunion will last?

Speculation on the size of the VIP list, the number of tickets actually doled out to fans, and the amount of sneaker-fueled corporate cashola being thrown at the Replacements & Dinosaur Jr. to feed this marketing machine followed. There was bitchin’, there was beggin’, there was resignation and self-righteousness. The Craigslist “TICKETS WANTED!” posts piled up, along with Facebook event page pleading, with offers of favors, cash, and eternal gratitude. Even if I was the kind of guy who felt comfortable using so-called connections to wheedle my way in, that well was probably bone dry. Watching online acquaintances whine and pull strings made me cringe. The FOMO, it burned.

Small slivers of hope remained when a few local websites ran giveaways, and the ‘Mats themselves came to the rescue for a handful of fans with a last-minute mailing list contest. Barring those giveaways, the only way for a non-VIP to get in was to be invited by a winner as their +1. Which, miraculously, is how I made it in. Still don’t believe it, frankly. I even felt/feel guilty – because I know too many people who wanted to be there, who should have been there, right alongside me. And they will be when the Replacements book a proper Boston show later this year, right? Sponsored by no one, paid for when we buy our tickets. One can hope.

The recording, with a bunch of show notes and random thoughts below…

The Replacements
Live at the Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
on Monday, April 27th, 2015

[ Download the whole set as a 200MB .zip file ]

01. Seen Your Video
02. Takin’ A Ride
03. Treatment Bound
04. Kissin’ In Action
05. I’m In Trouble
06. Left of the Dial
07. Kiss Me On The Bus
08. Nobody
09. I Will Dare
10. Valentine
11. Waitress In The Sky
12. 20th Century Boy (T Rex cover)
13. All Shook Down
14. Anywhere’s Better Than Here
15. Whole Foods Blues
16. Skinny Black Jeans
17. Sixteen Blue
18. Another Girl, Another Planet
19. Can’t Hardly Wait
20. The Ledge
21. Within Your Reach
22. Bastards of Young
23. Nevermind
24. Unsatisfied
25. Alex Chilton

  • The lineup was ridiculous: The Young Leaves proved themselves a worthy warm-up, wearing their influences on their sleeves (despite frontman Chris Chaisson’s lack of them) while delivering solid songs like seasoned pros. Actual seasoned pros Dinosaur Jr. gave a no-frills set of their more well-known tracks. No smiling, no talking, and no sign of Lou Barlow’s face under that unruly mop. Few bands would throw a cover in as their second song, but Dino did it, and “Just Like Heaven” still rules.

  • The foursome took the stage to the sound of the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird“, each wearing a Lone Ranger mask, and Paul Westerberg was the first to slide his to his forehead as the band launched into “Seen Your Video” (referred to as “Seen Your Tent” on the setlist, referencing his recent on-stage campouts.

  • That’s the one n’ only Judy Landers alongside Love Boat bartender Isaac on the head of Josh Freese’s kick drum. Didn’t have the heart to correct the guy near me who yelled “Ha! It’s Charo!”. He was so excited.

  • As usual, we got a couple covers/mash-ups/song references during their set, including that take T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” and “Bang a Gong” with Minehan on lead vocals. They dropped a bit of Sabbath into “Kissin’ in Action” and tacked on a little “My Boy Lollipop” to close out “Bastards of Young“.

  • Anyone concerned that a corporate-sponsored free show would shut out quote-unquote ‘real’ fans, resulting in a room full of need-to-be-seensters, well, no worries. The crowd was enthusiastic, smiling, and singing along up where I was. That said, we lost points when, after “Left of the Dial”, someone yelled “Tommy!” at Paul. His response? “You don’t even know my fuckin’ name!” Ouch.

  • Westerberg acknowledged the business-borne freeness of the show a couple times, promising “You’ll be gettin’ your money’s worth tonight, I gare-own-fuckin-tee-it…” after “Kiss Me On The Bus“, and joking “We should let them make their picks, seein’ as they paid… oh, they didn’t…”. There was a point during a solo where he started moving mock-robotically, and I probably read too much subtext into it.

  • Recent shows have the band throwing in goofy new number “Whole Foods Blues“, which is at least more coherent than that 24-minute jazz thing they spit out at Christmas. On Monday, however, they followed it up with a sample of another bluesy toss-off, “Skinny Black Jeans (That Do What The Gym Could Not)“. At the very least, those guys are having fun fuckin’ around in the studio.

  • Loved that we got a solitary trombone during “Can’t Hardly Wait“. Anyone know who that guy was?

  • I have no idea why Paul absolutely obliterated his 12-string acoustic before he even used it for the encore – tuning problems, I assume. Poor acoustic guitar, now nothing but shards. Looking at the planned setlist below, we were going to get “Skyway“, but got “Unsatisfied” instead. Hey, I’ll take it.

  • If you’ve seen photos or video from this tour so far, you’ve likely noticed that Westerberg is wearing a different spray-painted white t-shirt each night, with a new letter on the front and back. I spent awhile going through the online evidence, and here’s what we’ve got so far…

    City / Front / Back
    Seattle: “I” / “N”
    Portland: “H” / “O”
    San Francisco: “A” / “W”
    LA night 1: “V” / “I”
    LA night 2: “E” / “M”
    Denver: “A” / “U”
    Cambridge: “L” / “S”
    Chicago night 1: “W” / “T”
    Chicago night 2: “A” / “W”

    We’re getting 1 sentence on the front, 1 on the back, so…

    front: “I HAVE ALWA..”
    back: “NOW I MUST W…”

    “I have always… now I must w…”.

    What exactly are you trying to tell us, Mr. Westerberg?

    UPDATE 5/11: Now that we’re done with the planned U.S. dates, it’s more obvious where we’re heading. The latest letters, including a couple he shared from his hotel while recovering from an illness that postponed the Pittsburgh & Columbus shows…

    Milwaukee: “Y” / “H”
    Detroit: “S” / “O”
    Pittsburgh (canceled): “L” / “R”
    Columbus (canceled): “O” / “E”
    DC: “V” / “M”
    Philly: “E” / “Y”

    back: “NOW I MUST WHORE MY…”

    “I will always love you, now I must whore myself”? Oh, Paul.

    (end of 5/11 update)m>

    The boys hit Milwaukee tomorrow night, so keep your eyes peeled. I’ll be in Philly next weekend to see the final letters for myself.

    And, of course, I was told there’s a “Paul’s Shirt” Facebook page tracking this (because of course there is!), which would have saved me a bunch of time. Still enjoyed the search, though.

  • Lots of great post-show words & pictures to go through if you’re so inclined: Maura for the Globe, Jed for the Herald, Tim for the Dig, Josh for Do617, Johnny for Daykamp Music, Ben for BDCwire, Michael & Matthew for Vanyaland, Deanna & Tom at Allston Pudding. My own set of shots can be found on Flickr or Facebook.

  • For more live recordings, be sure to hit the indispensable Replacements Live Archive Project.

    (not quite) The Replacements setlist – Cambridge, MA – 4/27/2015

    [Area Premiere] Elliott Smith documentary “Heaven Adores You” to screen at 2015 Independent Film Festival Boston (April 22nd-29th)

    Posted on March 31, 2015 at 4:49 pm | No Comments

    When this year’s lineup for the annual Independent Film Festival Boston is officially announced tomorrow, there will undoubtedly be a couple dozen movies I’ll add to my personal viewing list. Seeing as many as I can between opening night on April 22nd and the closing film on the 29th becomes a lesson in impossible time management and tough choices.

    One choice has been made easy, since nothing could possibly trump the screening that was confirmed today: The New England Premiere of “Heaven Adores You: A Documentary Film About The Life & Music Of Elliott Smith” on Friday, April 24th.

    The fan-funded film, which was successfully Kickstarted in late 2011, made its debut last May at the San Francisco International Film Festival before hitting more than two dozen fests worldwide… but never Boston. When the news that the film would be released globally to theaters this coming May 7th, I quickly checked the online list and… nope, no Massachusetts. While I still held out hope that the film would come around, I started to accept that I’d have to wait until a digital or DVD release to get a look. Fortunately, thanks to the all-volunteer crew at IFFBoston, the long wait has been made much shorter.

    Directed by Nickolas Dylan Rossi, the film includes appearances and interviews with some familiar names and faces, including Larry Crane (Tape Op, Vomit Launch, Jackpot! Recording), photographer Autumn de Wilde, Jon Brion, Heatmiser drummer Tony Lash, Sean Croghan (Crackerbash, Jr. High), Pete Krebs (Hazel), Joanna Bolme (the Jicks, Quasi, Jr. High, etc), and many more. Bandmates, friends, & collaborators all, the film is sure to be a moving and insightful look into Elliott’s life and musical career.

    Expressing my love and appreciation for the songwriting of Elliott Smith, and the pain of losing him in 2003, would take more time than I have to write it or you have to read it. And I still wouldn’t get it right. If you’re a fan, you get it, and you won’t need any convincing to join me at the “Heaven Adores You” screening in a less than a month…

    Keep an eye out tomorrow for the full IFFBoston lineup, which will include a few more music-related documentaries that I’ll be covering in my annual fest preview post in a couple weeks.

    In other ES-related news, Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield‘s full-length tribute to Elliott arrived last week, and while I’m generally skeptical of other artists interpreting his work, these two pretty much nail it. Their versions are gorgeous, understated, and sincere, and their admiration shines through clearly. Here’s a KEXP-recorded live version of one of the most beautiful songs ever written, the heartbreaking “Pitseleh“…

    [Nac Faves Followup & Giveaway] My Favorite EPs, 7-inches, Reissues, & Live Shows of 2014

    Posted on February 20, 2015 at 9:57 am | 2 Comments

    As a post-script to my list of favorite full-lengths of 2014, I thought I’d (yes, belatedly) share a catch-all collection of everything else: The short-players, 7-inches, reissues, and digital releases that spent the most time in my ears, along with a run-down of the stand-out live sets I caught during the calendar year. Narrowing down that last list was… not easy. That was a bountiful dozen months of shows.

    Seems a good time to dole out some free stuff, too: A couple of my favorite vinyl releases of ’14 along with a t-shirt from a (reunited) band who put on one of last year’s most welcome performances. Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway details.

    Rather than write a bit about each release (and delay this post another month), some quick commentary…

  • David Bazan (Pedro the Lion/Headphones) is putting out some of the best songs of his varied career, but since they’re released monthly and 2 tracks at a time, they may be getting unjustly overlooked. Do yourself a favor and check out the now-finished 10-song “Volume 1″ and the in-progress “Volume 2″. Hard not to imagine that if these were released in full-length form they’d get more attention, which is just silly. Same with Tanya Donelly’s wonderful “Swan Song” series, which finished up in March last year, and Kristin Hersh’s works-in-progress series with her band 50 Foot Wave.

  • Numero Group‘s stunning box sets continue to enrich my collection (and brutalize my bank account). The continued release of the comprehensive Unwound output was bolstered by their incredible Bedhead box set. Two of my all-time favorite bands, treated with absolute loving care.

  • Speaking of Unwound, Survival Knife‘s mere existence was enough to heal some old wounds. The fact that they’re so damn good is a major bonus. Getting to see them play live at Great Scott was a long-held wish fulfilled.

  • Another wish fulfilled: The Replacements in Boston. OK, not entirely fulfilled, as that wish included a venue with a roof over it, but the Mats overcame the festival venue handicap and rocked an appreciative audience of mostly-oldsters at Boston Calling. My memories of seeing them in their hayday (sorry) were dusty at best, so this refresher the perfect follow-up to catching them at last year’s Toronto Riot Fest. Hopefully this year brings them back to town for a headlining set at an indoor space, but I’m planning on heading to Philly either way.

  • There was sonic justice in the world thanks to a couple long-awaited Scruffy the Cat reissues. Thank you Eric, Pete, and everyone else involved in seeing that through. Setting those suckers on my shelf was satisfying indeed.

    Read on, and scroll way down if you want to try and snag some free vinyl from David Bazan, Survival Knife, or a Replacements t-shirt…

    (the star of The Daily Tater)

    My favorite EPs, 7-inches, & digital releases…

    David Bazan“Volume 1″ monthly 7-inch/digital series

    [ Stream at Soundcloud / Buy at Undertow ]

    Kim Deal – “Solo Series” self-released 7-inches

    [ Sample songs & buy singles at her site / “Biker Gone” video ]

    Tanya Donelly“Swan Song” Series Vol. 5 (digital EP release)

    [ Stream & buy songs at Bandcamp ]

    50 Foot Wave“Night Blooming” digital works-in-progress series

    [ Download the tracks / Become a supportive ‘Strange Angel’ ]

    Girlpoolself-titled EP

    [ Buy from Wichita / “Jane” video on YouTube ]

    Heathers“I Know” (Wedding Present covers – Cassette EP)

    [ Buy & stream at Bandcamp ]

    Krill“Steve Hears Pile In Malden and Bursts Into Tears” EP

    [ Buy & stream at Bandcamp ]

    Krill / Lvl Up / Ovlov / Radiator HospitalSplit 7-inch

    [ Stream & buy at Bandcamp ]

    “Or Thousands of Prizes” – Merge Records 25th anniversary 7-inch series

    Palehound“Kitchen” 7-inch

    [ Buy & stream at Exploding In Sound’s Bandcamp ]

    Pile“Special Snowflakes” 7-inch

    [ Stream & buy at their Bandcamp ]

    Polyvinyl“4-Track Single Series” Vol. 1

    Survival Knife“Survivalized” EP

    [ Stream & buy at Chunklet’s Bandcamp / or try and win it below ]

    My favorite reissues & live LPs…

    American Analog Set“Know By Heart” vinyl reissue

    [ Buy from Barsuk ]

    Bedhead“1992-1998” vinyl box set

    [ Buy from Numero Group ]

    Camper Van Beethoven“Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart” vinyl reissue

    [ Buy from Omnivore ]

    The House of Love“Live at the Lexington 13.11.13″

    [ Buy from Cherry Red Records / Limited Vinyl ]

    Scruffy the Cat
    “Time Never Forgets: The Anthology (’86-’88)”
    “The Good Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings 1984-1990″

    [ Buy the Anthology via Amazon / Buy the Unreleased Recordings from Omnivore ]

    Silkworm“Libertine” vinyl reissue

    [ Stream at Bandcamp / Buy from Comedy Minus One ]

    Slint“Spiderland” Remastered Box Set

    [ Buy from Touch & Go Records ]

    Songs: Ohia“Journey On: Collected Singles” 7-inch box set (RSD release)

    [ Buy digital version from Secretly Canadian ]

    Unwound“Rat Conspiracy” & “No Energy” vinyl box sets

    Yo La Tengo“Extra Painful” LP reissue

    [ Buy from Matador Records ]

    Reissue/box set I wish I’d been able to afford before it sold out…

    The Go-Betweens“G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume One” box set

    My favorite live shows of 2014…

    … along with links to photos from each.

    (my goal of trimming this down to 10 faves failed miserably)

    Throwing Muses and Tanya Donelly at The Sinclair in
    Cambridge, MA on Friday & Monday, March 7th & 10th, 2014
    [ Photos from March 7th / Photos from March 10th ]

    The first night of Chickfactor 22 at The Bell House in
    Brooklyn, NYC on Thursday, March 20th, 2014
    with Amor de Días, Lilys, King Creosote, Jim Ruiz Set, and Withered Hand

    The second night of Chickfactor 22 at The Bell House
    in Brooklyn, NYC on Friday, March 21st, 2014
    with Saturday People, Barbara Manning, Versus NYC, & The Clientele

    Rocket From The Crypt and openers Ex Hex at Brighton Music Hall
    in Allston, MA on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

    Barbara Manning, Dump, and The Bevis Frond
    at WMBR DJ Jon Bernhardt’s “Midlife Crisis of Champions”
    at TT the Bears on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

    Tim Rutili of Califone – live solo in an
    Allston living room on Monday, April 21st, 2014

    Hallelujah The Hills’ album release party with openers Tallahassee
    at Great Scott in Allston, MA on Friday, May 30th, 2014

    Gold-Bears, Soccer Mom, Bent Shapes, & Rye Pines at the
    Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, MA on Monday, June 2nd, 2014

    Dean Wareham & his band with openers Quilt
    at the ICA Boston on Friday, July 11th, 2014

    Guided By Voices at the Paradise in
    Boston, MA on Saturday, July 12th, 2014

    Merge 25th Anniversary Fest
    Wednesday, July 23rd through Saturday, July 27th, 2014 in North Carolina.
    [ Photos Set 1 / Photo set 2 / Photo set 3 / Photo set 4 ]

    The Lemonheads and Parks at RadioBDC’s “Island In The Sun” event
    on Thompson Island in Boston Harbor on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

    The Replacements live at the Boston Calling Music Fest
    in City Hall Plaza on September 7th, 2014

    The Afghan Whigs at the Royale in Boston, MA
    on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

    Green Magnet School, Orbit, The Red Telephone, & Hullabaloo
    on Friday, October 10th, 2014 at the Pipeline anniversary show
    at Cuisine en Locale in Somerville, MA

    Caspian’s 10th Anniversary show at the Larcom Theatre in Beverly, MA
    on Saturday, October 18th, 2014 with openers Derek & Jay of Defeater

    Wheat performs two sets at Atwood’s Tavern in
    Cambridge, MA on Saturday, October 11th, 2014

    Low live at the Columbus Theatre in Providence, RI
    on Friday, October 24th, 2014

    Slowdive with openers Asobi Seksu at the Royale
    in Boston, MA on Sunday, October 26th, 2014

    David Bazan & the Passenger String Quartet at the Regent Theatre
    in Arlington, MA on Thursday, October 30th, 2014 with opener David Dondero

    Robyn Hitchcock with special guest Tanya Donelly at Arts at the Armory
    in Somerville, MA on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

    Girlpool, Slutever, Saralee, & Ursula at the Blaq Lodge
    in Allston MA on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

    Survival Knife, Pink Avalanche, & Hungry Ghost at
    Great Scott in Allston MA on Thursday, November 20th, 2014

    Best shows that I should probably exclude because I played in one of the bands,
    but were great independent of our inclusion…

    Sleepyhead, Heathers, The Spook School, & Let’s Whisper
    at the Skinny Pancake in Burlington, VT on Saturday, June 7th, 2014

    Allo Darlin, Swale, & Let’s Whisper at the Monkey House
    in Winooski, VT on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

    Allo Darlin & Let’s Whisper at the Middle East Upstairs
    in Cambridge, MA on Thursday, November 6th, 2014

    I’ll finish up this long-overdue post with some free stuff: A vinyl copy of David Bazan’s gorgeous team-up with the Passenger String Quartet, Survival Knife’s killer “Survivalized” EP on wax, and an XL-sized Replacements t-shirt (the “Hate Us On Facebook” edition). Each will go to a different (North American) reader, so drop me a note at giveaways [at] bradleysalmanac [dot] com, and choose one of these three email subjects: “BAZAN”, “SURVIVAL KNIFE”, or “REPLACEMENTS”. Make sure it hits my inbox by next Friday, 2/27 at 10am, when I’ll pick one winner for each and get in touch for your mailing address.

    Up next, and hopefully soon (yeah, yeah), my big ol’ annual list of records I’m looking forward to hearing this year. Some of which are already out and are fast favorites. Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Krill.

    [Nac Faves] My Favorite LPs of 2014

    Posted on December 31, 2014 at 9:09 pm | 3 Comments

    Close the book on another year, an unsettling one that won’t be missed by too many people I know. Myself included. Burn the old calendar, hang up the new one, shoot for some fresh starts and better perspectives. Hope may have been in short supply in 2014, but new-music-as-antidote sure wasn’t, so here are the long-players that made me feel better over the past 12 months.

    As in previous years, it’s 20-ish favorite full-lengths in alphabetical order, along with some honorable mentions. I’ve never been a fan of relative ranking, nor whittling down to an arbitrary number, so don’t go arguing with me – I’m not saying these are the best, I’m saying they’re my favorites. Can’t argue with that. I’ll hopefully follow this up in a few days with a run down of some EPs, 7-inches, reissues, and live shows that stood out above the rest.

    (the star of The Daily Tater)

    Remarkably, I believe this was the first time in 14 years of keeping track that every single album I adored was available on vinyl. Makes me very happy, that does. What didn’t change was my predictable label-loyalty: Merge, Slumberland, Polyvinyl, Teen-Beat, Captured Tracks, all represented. As they probably will be next year. If we’re lucky.

    My Favorite Music of 2014

    Allo Darlin’“We Come From The Same Place”
    [ on Slumberland Records ]

    Another shining indie pop gem from these Londoners, and the soundtrack to a couple of very special nights this year, when the band I’m in got to open the final two dates of their month-long North American tour. To hear their new songs live in two very different venues was a real treat, and something I won’t soon forget.

    Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Slumberland

    Alvvaysself-titled debut LP
    [ on Polyvinyl Records ]

    Okay, I’m going to try real hard not to gush here, but hyperbole is hard to resist: Toronto quintet Alvvays has crafted an absolutely stunning debut, one that captures everything I love about indie pop-rock: Infectious, uplifting guitar lines intertwined with gorgeous, often melancholy vocals that hit me straight in the heart. Molly Rankin’s melodies get lodged in your brain and linger for days, and even as I write this the songs are bouncing ’round my head. Perfect production and song arrangement, a remarkable attention to sonic detail, and dynamics that never feel forced. I love everything about this record, I could go on and on and on, but I’ll pick out one moment: There’s a spot near the end of “Party Police“, the album’s 5th track, where the band drops out and Rankin slightly alters the delivery of a repeated vocal line, hitting a higher note on the word ‘could’ just before the band comes back in. With that one choice, my band-crush was sealed. I’m a fan, forever.

    Archie, Marry Me” = song-of-the-year candidate.

    Stream at Soundcloud / Buy at Polyvinyl

    David Bazan & Passenger String Quartet“Volume 1″
    [ on Undertow ]

    I’ve said it many times, might as well say it again here: I’m such a sucker for strings. So it’s no surprise that stripping down some of David Bazan’s best songs and rebuilding them with beautiful arrangements from the Passenger String Quartet resulted in a record I loved. Two opportunities to see them played live (first at Barsuk’s 2013 anniversary bash in Seattle, again a few months back in Arlington, MA) only deepened that love, so here’s hoping the “Volume 1″ designation means we’ll be seeing a 2nd one.

    (live version from July 27, 2012 at Cathedrals: Tacoma)

    Stream and purchase at Undertow

    Centro-matic“Take Pride In Your Long Odds”
    [ on Undertow ]

    A bittersweet release, marking the end of recorded output from one of my favorite bands. These Texas gents decided to pack it in this year, recently finishing up a cross-country farewell tour with some undoubtedly emotional hometown shows. Lucky for us, one of those goodbye stops was here at Great Scott in Allston, and it was glorious. They played a few songs from this record, and they stood solidly alongside their best. Leaving the stage on the highest of high notes, they’ll be much-missed, but hey, we’ll always have the records. For that, be grateful, and keep an eye on their individual musical endeavors.

    Stream at Soundcloud / Buy at Undertow

    Cheatahsself-titled debut LP
    [ on Wichita Recordings ]

    Calling them the ‘second coming of Swervedriver’ feels reductive, especially when Swervedriver themselves are readying a resurgence in 2015, but there’s no denying that they strike many of the same distorted chords. Cheatahs hit the harder side of the shoegaze wheelhouse, more rock than reverie, and I figure there’s not a lot of gazing at their shoes on stage. I missed my chance to see them live in 2014, not gonna let that happen again in the new year.

    Stream at Purevolume / Buy at Wichita Recordings

    Craft Spells“Nausea”
    [ on Captured Tracks ]

    A perfectly-placed next step for Justin Paul Vallesteros and his band, retaining the layered dreaminess that makes them so entrancing while widening their sonic palette just enough to surprise. Their songs transport, especially in a live setting, and I’m so glad it’s happening again very soon: In mid-March at Great Scott.

    Stream more at Soundcloud / Buy at Captured Tracks

    Ex Hex“Rips”
    [ on Merge Records ]

    Oh, Mary Timony, please never stop. From Autoclave, to Helium, through her solo work (just her on piano, guitar, then as a duo), she’s kept on keepin’ on for a couple decades now. Her full-band, rock-n-roll return with Wild Flag kicked off an exciting chapter in her career that ended (?) all too soon, and I was worried she’d retreat and regroup. She squashed those fears quickly with a couple of exciting Soundcloud shares as newly-christened trio Ex Hex – songs that got ’em signed to Merge and on the way to this energy-infused full-length. Retro and right-now all at once, their success bodes well for a nice long run. Fingers crossed this riff-filled record is just the first salvo.

    Stream another track at Soundcloud / Buy at Merge Records

    Exit/Verseself-titled debut
    [ on Ernest Jenning Record Co. ]

    The welcome return of former Karate/Secret Stars singer/songwriter Geoff Farina to a full-band scenario, bringing along a couple of ringers on rhythm (Pete Croke of Brokeback on bass, John Dugan of Chisel on drums) to make these new songs shine. There’s a raw, undeniable classic rock feel that just clicks, resulting in a timeless set that even your dad could love (yes, my actual Dad loves it). That ain’t an insult, my Dad’s got some damn good taste.

    Stream full LP at Soundcloud / Buy at Ernest Jenning Record Co.

    [ on Slumberland Records ]

    Yet another ace Slumberland release. Exuberant, energetic jangle-pop out of Atlanta – an American answer to the Wedding Present (the album is called “Dalliance” after all) that exceeds mere homage. Had the distinct pleasure of catching these guys at the Middlesex Lounge (RIP live shows at the Middlesex, btw) over the summer, hoping I get another shot soon.

    Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Slumberland

    Hallelujah the Hills“Have You Ever Done Something Evil?”
    [ on Discrete Pageantry Records ]

    Oh, Hallelujah the Hills, how shall I praise thee? Two years after releasing what I called “their best album to date”, these local gents went ahead and upped the ante, by a major margin. “HYEDSE?” is easily their strongest, most confident collection of songs, and given how much I’ve loved the rest, that’s saying something. Just over a year ago I drove solo down to Plymouth, MA to see ’em play an AGP charity show with Krill and Guillermo Sexo, hearing many of the songs that would end up on “HYEDSE” for the first time. It was “Pick Up An Old Phone” that stood out, making me hanker for a recorded version ASAP. In May, they damn well delivered.

    [MP3] Hallelujah the Hills – “Pick Up An Old Phone
    (live in Plymouth, MA 12/7/2013)

    Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Discrete Pageantry

    The Luxembourg Signalself-titled debut
    [ on Shelflife Records ]

    Sporting an impressive pedigree (with members of Aberdeen and Trembling Blue Stars), this LA-based sextet debuted with a stellar set of Sarah-Records-inspired dreampop, hitting a wealth of right notes in the shimmer-spectrum while weaving in a welcome variety of other influences. A record that took me by surprise in the best way. Another candidate for “song of the year”: “She Love To Feel The Sun“.

    Buy at Shelflife Records

    The New Pornographers“Brill Bruisers”
    [ on Matador Records ]

    Calling this a ‘return to form’ seems silly, given I’ve found something to love about every New Pornos record, but it sure feels like a distillation of everything that makes them great. But there is definitely an abundance of energy in “Brill Bruisers” that almost begs a reevaluation of the couple LPs prior. It sounds like they’re just having fun on this album, and it’s infectious.

    Buy at Matador Records

    +/- {Plus/Minus}“Jumping The Tracks”
    [ on Teenbeat Records ]

    Released in January, and criminally overlooked in the best-of-year posts I’ve seen so far, the long-in-the-making album hooked me straight away, immediately setting a high bar for 2014 out of the gate. It stayed in my headphones for weeks, revealing its depths while waiting for another LP to dislodge it. A melding of darkness and light, both beautiful and unsettling at once, buoyed by hook-laden guitar playing and absolutely meticulous production. And, oh, that drumming. I bow down to you, Chris Deaner. If there was one record that defined the year for me, this is it, and I hope the turn of the calendar sees them playing a few more live shows.

    Stream the LP (with bonus tracks) at Soundcloud / Purchase from Teenbeat Records

    Real Estate“Atlas”
    [ on the Domino Record Co. ]

    Real Estate’s third record took more time than expected to get under my skin, certainly longer than 2011’s “Days” did. While it wasn’t immediate as its predecessor, the extra listening effort paid off, and their show at the Sinclair in March had the new songs standing solidly among the rest.

    Stream songs at Soundcloud / Buy from Domino

    Shellac“Dude Incredible”
    [ on the Touch & Go Records ]

    Another abrasive, body-rattling smack upside the skull from the Chicago’s no-bullshit trio. There’s no band on Earth like the mighty Shellac, and there’s no point in anyone else even trying. They strip away the artifice of the record-producing machine – their albums appear as if by magic, with little fanfare and less promotion, kick everyone in the ass, and that’s just it. It’s all we need. Truths are revealed, conventions are challenged, heads are banged. Try driving under the speed limit while this album shakes your car windows. It ain’t easy.

    Buy from Touch & Go

    Survival Knife“Loose Power”
    [ on the Sub Pop Records ]

    Yes, I bow down at the altar of Unwound. Have for ages. I’ve long held that their swan-song, “Leaves Turn Inside You”, is one of the greatest collections of recorded music ever released. I still feel physical pain when I look at my unused ticket for my final chance to see them: September 11th, 2001 at the Middle East, a show that was called off just after they soundchecked, as I stood outside lost and looking for something to cling to.

    Survival Knife’s arrival, studio output, and recent first-ever cross-country tour has gone a long way towards healing that open wound. No, they’re not Unwound, but with two ex-members and a sonic recipe that includes tension, restraint, and glorious release, there is undeniably some common DNA. They scratch a lot of the same itches, telling their songs as sonic stories as they eschew traditional structures while throwing in some metal for good measure. You’re not going to hear a lot of verse-chorus-verse, and you’re not going to miss it. Last month I got to see them live here in Boston, and I felt whole.

    Stream another track at Soundcloud / Buy from Sub Pop

    Withered Hand“New Gods”
    [ on the Slumberland Records ]

    I’ll take Dan Willson, aka Mr. Withered Hand, however he wants to present himself: Solo or with his full band, backed by a crack collection of ace players or just him, his guitar, and his singularly unique voice. My first thought on hearing he’d teamed up with beloved Slumberland Records was “perfect”, and so it was. My long-standing wish to see him perform finally came true this year when he played with his band at Chickfactor 22 last March, though a Withered Hand solo gig remains high on my live show bucket list. 2015, perhaps?

    Stream more WH songs at Soundcloud / Buy from Slumberland

    [ on the Shake It Records ]

    Cincinnati’s Wussy, a band with a wealth of great records already under their belt, could easily rest on those laurels and put out just another solid collection of songs. Instead, they released an absolute stunner. “Attica” has some of the finest work they’ve ever done, including the album opener (“Teenage Wasteland“) and the closer (“Beautiful“), each of them candidates for personal song-of-the-year. How this band continues to plug along relatively unheralded is beyond me (though the efforts of CBS Saturday Morning to help remedy that was much appreciated).

    Stream/buy at Bandcamp / Buy from Shake It

    Wye Oak“Shriek”
    [ on the Merge Records ]

    I’ll admit it, I was scared. When I first heard that Wye Oak had ditched guitars in favor of bass and keyboards for their upcoming record, I had major doubts. As a longtime fanboy, I hadn’t met a Wye Oak release I hadn’t loved, and Jenn Wasner’s guitar played no small part in that. I’m generally averse to the bleep-bloop, so the prospect of its overuse had me prepared for disappointment.

    Well, whaddya know, it turns out my fears were unfounded, and I should have trusted Andy & Jenn all along. Yes, the guitar may be gone, but the songs are still there – evocative, interesting, and just plain catchy, with Jenn’s vocals sounding better than ever, and Andy astonishing with his ever-inventive drum parts and rhythmic multi-tasking. They were able to somehow embrace a whole new sonic palette, nearly reinvent themselves, and succeed in ways I didn’t expect. I don’t just love this record, I love that I love this record. Proved that even my guitar-centric mind can be rewired at my advancing age.

    Stream another song at Soundcloud / Buy from Merge Records

    The honorable mentions…
    (aka “albums I listened to a ton and could easily
    have made the above list depending on my mood”)

    The Afghan Whigs – “Do To The Beast”, Hiss Golden Messenger – “Lateness of Dancers, Mogwai – “Rave Tapes”, Anders Parker – “There’s A Blue Bird In My Heart”, Soccer Mom – self-titled debut, Sharon Van Etten – “Are We There”, Sleepyhead – “Wild Sometimes”, Pink Avalanche – “The Luminous Heart of Nowhere”

    Favorite records that I played on…

    Colin Clary – “Twee Blues Vol.1″, Let’s Whisper – “As Close As We Are” 10-inch

    If you’re bored and looking to surf some history, have a look at my previous year-end fave lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001.

    Stop back in a few days, when I’ll hopefully have a follow-up post with a few EPs, 7-inches, reissues, and live shows that I loved in 2014. If I’m not already too deep into 2015, that is.

    Best to you and yours in the new year. May it bring you all you desire, or at least none of the things you don’t.

    keep looking »
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  • The ‘Nac on Twitter

  • Boston Area Events

    Monday, May 25th
    Guerrilla Toss
    Giant Claw
    @ Great Scott

    Friday, May 29th
    Soccer Mom (last show!)
    Infinity Girl
    @ Great Scott

    Friday, May 29th
    Mount Peru
    The Phil Aiken Army
    The Rationales
    The Blue Ribbons
    @ the Midway Cafe, JP

    Saturday, May 30th
    Record Release Party!
    with special guests
    Tanya Donelly,
    The Needy Sons,
    and Jenny Dee &
    the Deelinquents
    @ the Lizard Lounge

    Saturday, May 30th
    Sorority Noise
    @ the Middle East Up

    Saturday, May 30th
    @ the Paradise

    Saturday, May 30th
    Weird Womb, Sidewalk Driver,
    Kudgel, Shatner, Petty Morals,
    Vic Firecracker (reunion),
    Guillermo Sexo, Crooked North,
    Eldridge Rodriguez, Party Bois,
    Codetta (reunion), Diablo Gato,
    Freezepop, Sarah Borges,
    Dan Nicklin, Greg Lyon, Gozu,
    Vic Firecracker (reunion),
    Cask Mouse, Ryan Lee Crosby,
    Gondoliers, Never Got Caught,
    Gozu, The Heave Ho, Hey Zeus,
    Michael Marotta, & more
    @ venues around Allston

    Saturday, May 30th
    Patrick Watson
    The Low Anthem
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, May 30th
    Hutch and Kathy
    (of The Thermals)
    @ Cuisine En Locale

    Sunday, May 31st
    The Early November
    @ the Sinclair

    Monday, June 1st
    @ the Sinclair

    Tuesday, June 2nd
    @ the Sinclair

    Thursday, June 4th
    @ The Sinclair

    Thursday, June 4th
    The Front Bottoms
    LVL UP
    @ Cuisine en Locale

    Thursday, June 4th
    Hot Chip
    @ House of Blues

    Friday, June 5th
    @ the Sinclair

    Friday, June 5th
    Boston Pride presents
    "A Conversation
    with Pussy Riot"
    7:30pm @ The Wilbur

    Friday, June 5th
    Conor Oberst
    Lady Lamb
    Larkin Poe
    @ House of Blues

    Saturday, June 6th
    Noel Gallagher’s
    High Flying Birds
    @ the Boston Opera House

    Tuesday, June 9th
    American Wrestlers
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Tuesday, June 9th
    Stephin Merritt &
    cellist Sam Davol
    (of the Magnetic Fields)
    @ the Sinclair

    Thursday, June 11th
    Jeff the Brotherhood
    @ the Sinclair

    Thursday, June 11th
    Shawn Colvin & Marc Cohn
    @ the Wilbur Theatre

    Friday, June 12th
    Best Coast
    @ the Paradise

    Saturday, June 13th
    Holly Hunt
    @ the Middle East Downstairs

    Saturday, June 13th
    Ex Hex
    Nap Eyes
    The Monsieurs
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, June 13th
    Boston Tribute to
    Alex Chilton
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Saturday, June 13th
    Paul Weller
    @ the Paradise

    Sunday, June 14th
    @ the Royale

    Tuesday, June 16th
    White Lung
    @ Great Scott

    Tuesday, June 16th
    Viet Cong
    @ the Sinclair

    Thursday, June 18th
    Joan of Arc
    (Tim Kinsella solo)
    @ Great Scott

    Thursday, June 18th
    Dillinger Escape Plan
    Mutoid Man
    Primitive Weapons
    @ the Royale

    Thursday, June 18th
    Colin Stetson &
    Sarah Neufeld
    @ the Somerville Armory

    Thursday, June 18th
    @ the House of Blues

    Friday, June 19th
    The Sheila Divine
    Hallelujah the Hills
    Ruby Rose Fox
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, June 20th
    Lower Dens
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, June 20th
    Richard Thompson Trio
    @ the Wilbur Theatre

    Saturday, June 20th
    The Helio Sequence
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Sunday, June 21st
    Blonde Redhead
    @ the Sinclair

    Tuesday, June 23th
    @ the TD Garden

    Wednesday, June 24th
    Real Estate
    @ the Paradise

    Wednesday, June 24th
    @ Hanover Theatre, Worcester

    Friday, June 26th
    No Joy
    @ the Middle East Upstairs

    Friday & Saturday
    June 26th & 27th
    Buffalo Tom
    Amanda X
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, June 27th
    @ the Paradise

    Saturday, June 27th
    The Damnwells
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Sunday, June 28th
    Sondre Lerche
    @ the Sinclair

    Sunday, June 28th
    Pity Sex
    Tony Molina
    @ Cuisine En Locale

    Tuesday, June 30th
    Ben Lee
    The Falls
    Ryan Dilmore
    @ the Sinclair

    Thursday, July 2nd
    Brian Wilson
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

    Friday, July 3rd
    @ Great Scott

    Thursday, July 9th
    Mates of State
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, July 11th
    White Dynomite
    DJ Carbo
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Saturday, July 11th
    Janeane Garofalo
    @ the Paradise

    Sunday, July 12th
    @ Great Scott

    Monday, July 14th
    Saturday, July 19th
    A Free 6-Day Arts Festival
    @ Boston Common

    Thursday, July 16th
    Elvis Depressedly
    @ Cuisine en Locale

    Friday, July 17th
    @ The Middle East Down

    Saturday, July 18th
    Mission of Burma
    Foo Fighters
    Mighty Mighty Bosstones
    @ Fenway Park

    Saturday, July 18th
    Field Mouse
    @ the Sinclair

    Sunday, July 19th
    Foo Fighters
    Royal Blood
    Dropkick Murphys
    @ Fenway Park

    Thursday, July 23rd
    Rocky Votolato
    Dave Hause
    Chris Farren
    @ Great Scott

    Thursday, July 23rd
    Modest Mouse
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

    Thursday & Friday
    July 23rd & 24th
    Hundred Waters
    @ House of Blues

    Saturday, July 25th
    Dinosaur Jr.
    The Ghost of a
    Saber Tooth Tiger
    @ the Blue Hills Pavilion

    Wednesday, July 29th
    Bryan Adams' "Reckless"
    30th Anniversary Tour
    @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

    Thursday, July 30th
    Veruca Salt
    Charly Bliss
    @ the Paradise

    Thursday, July 30th
    X (original lineup)
    @ the Sinclair

    Thursday & Friday
    July 30th & 31st
    Steely Dan
    with Elvis Costello
    & the Imposters
    @ the Blue Hills Pavilion

    Friday, July 31st
    Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
    10th Anniversary Tour
    (playing entire 1st album)
    Teen Men
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Saturday, August 1st
    Seven Factor
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, August 1st
    Cheap Trick
    Peter Frampton
    @ the Blue Hills Pavilion

    Friday, August 2nd
    (the) Thurson MoOre Baand
    Chain & the Gang
    @ the Sinclair

    Sunday, August 4th
    The So So Glos
    @ the Paradise

    Wednesday, August 5th
    Stan Ridgway
    (of Wall of Voodoo)
    @ Johnny D's

    Thursday, August 6th
    James Taylor
    Bonnie Raitt
    @ Fenway Park

    Friday, August 7th
    Phillip Selway (of Radiohead)
    @ the Sinclair

    Sunday, August 9th
    (Matt from Real Estate)
    @ Great Scott

    Sunday, August 9th
    Jamie xx
    @ the Royale

    Thursday, August 13th
    on a boat

    Friday, August 14th
    Delta Spirit
    @ the Sinclair

    Sunday, August 16th
    The Church
    The Psychedelic Furs
    @ Cape Code Melody
    Tent in Hyannis, MA

    Sunday, August 23rd
    Social Distortion
    Nikki Lane
    Drag The River
    @ House of Blues

    Friday, September 11th
    Mike Peters (The Alarm)
    30 Years since "Strength"
    @ Johnny D's

    Friday, September 11th
    Death Cab For Cutie
    Explosions In The Sky
    @ the Blue Hills Pavilion

    Saturday, September 12th
    John Hodgman
    @ the Wilbur Theatre

    Friday, September 18th
    Heartless Bastards
    Alberta Cross
    @ the Paradise

    Sunday, September 20th
    Albert Hammond Jr.
    (from the Strokes)
    @ the Sinclair

    Wednesday, Sept. 23rd
    Bob Mould (solo electric)
    Jason Narducy (aka Split Single)
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, October 3rd
    @ the Paradise

    Saturday, October 3rd
    @ the Citi/Wang Center

    Sunday, October 4th
    ChameleonsVox (w/Mark Burgess)
    performing "Script of the Bridge"
    @ Boston venue TBA

    Saturday, October 10th
    @ the Paradise