April 24, 2015

Aaron Sprinkle + Jesse Sprinkle = Blank Books

Watch below Jesse Sprinkle create the drum part for his brother's Aaron's song. This is pretty exciting, as it is the first time they have worked on a full length album together in 13 years (?). The band name Blank Books is a little too similar to the existing band Black Books in my opinion, but I do like the concept behind it (and it is much better than "The Sprinkle Brothers"!).

Jesse Sprinkle is potentially my favorite drummer of all time; his parts are just so unique (and can best be heard on any Poor Old Lu album, particularly "Sin"). And the song (which begins around the 2:00 mark) is terrific, and is a great return to rock'n'roll after Aaron's good yet bizarre electronic album a couple years ago.

April 21, 2015

New Dustin Kensrue album with commentary on YouTube


This is an interesting new concept. Thrice has always been known for, and I have loved, their detailed liner notes and commentary on their songs in the artwork for their albums. But here, instead of the comments being written, Dustin speaks them at the beginning of each song. And the comments here are strictly about the lyrics, whereas in the Thrice liner notes there was always also a lot about the instrumentation and song development.

About the album, it is terrific. Definitely the best thing Dustin has done outside of Thrice. And an encouraging return to form after the weak Water and the Blood (I expressed my feelings about it here).

April 3, 2015

1995 bands killing it on Kickstarter

So last night this Kickstarter was launched, and was fully funded in only a couple hours:



Then last week this Kickstarter launched, and it only took a couple days:


What's next? I sure have some ideas. In the meantime, how about you get on board with this?

March 26, 2015

New Fleming & John album!

I have been waiting a long time for this day I really thought would come, a new Fleming & John album! Support on Kickstarter to insure it does really happen:

March 25, 2015

Luxury's "Amazing and Thank You" turns 20

My second story was published today on Medium for the Chrindie '95 publication. And please people, support the Kickstarter for the Luxury documentary film!

Luxury’s Amazing and Thank You

March 23, 2015

First new Built to Spill songs in 6 years

Idaho's finest will be releasing their 8th studio album, and first since 2009, on April 21st. I wasn't even aware of it until this morning, but two tracks are already streaming online. The album also has a hilarious, somewhat freaky cover.


March 21, 2015

Best of 2000

As I write "historical" best-of lists my main goal is to discuss how and when I heard albums for the first time, or memories I have associated with listening when I first bought them. Writing for 2000 is a challenge right now, because I am in the middle of a huge project writing about 1995 albums for another publication (Chrindie '95 on Medium) that are celebrating their 20th anniversaries. I am also in the process of interviewing every member of the band that wrote and recorded my favorite album of 1995 (which is also my favorite album of all time). That said, as far as music is concerned, I have been mentally living in and thinking about 1995 for all of 2015.

Y2K was an eventful year for me as I completed college in May of that year (graduated in Dec. of '99, but then my final track season was after graduation), was in my first dating relationship (very traumatic), attempted to find a job and moved a few times, and was at the peak of my running career--breaking records and winning races. And through it all I listened to a ton of great music and went to tons of awesome shows. My original top 10 list from 2000 can be seen here. Number one is still the same, but there are lots of other changes. I visited at least 25 States that year, and spent a ton of time driving an riding in my car listening to CDs.

I originally published that top-10 list in January 2001, in the one and only Turn Off the Radio print zine. It was 64 pages (5.5" x 8.5"), I printed maybe100 black and white copies, and had delusions of grandeur about the future of my awesome magazine. I worked hard on that one issue, but then it died (thankfully). I need to scan the full thing, because there is a lot of interesting content, from album reviews, concert reviews, and photography. For now I'll quote myself below on those original top-10 albums (which is pretty embarrassing considering my lack of writing skills at the time).

Here you go, 25 great albums and 5 great EPs celebrating their 15th anniversaries...

 Top 25 Albums of 2000:

1. Sunny Day Real Estate- The Rising Tide
In June of 2000, immediately following the break-up with my first girlfriend, myself and a good friend took a crazy road-trip out West. We left Memphis on a Saturday and in one week went to Glacier National Park in Montana, and then back to Nashville. We camped every night at various KAO Kampgrounds, 2 nights in Yellowstone NP, and 1 night in Glacier NP. In the middle that week The Rising Tide was released. I had pre-ordered it to ship to my parents' home in TN, but of course that meant I would get it 5 days late. While on this trip I tried to locate the album in a store, but the only place I found that sold music was at a Wal-Mart in Montana. They did not carry it.

So I had to wait a grueling 5 days to listen to it. I put the CD in my Walkman upon return "home" and fell asleep listening to it for the first time. It was a pretty radical shift for the band, but I welcomed it, and for awhile I probably would have said it was my favorite SDRE album.

Fourteen years later I prefer Diary and LP2, but I still love The Rising Tide as much as I ever did. What I would have never imagined at the time was that this would be the last SDRE album. They toured that year, and I saw them play at 328 Performance Hall in Nashville. But they broke up again, and didn't perform again until 2009 (where I saw them at Center Stage in Atlanta). They entered the studio that year, and began to record and write, but it all fizzled out. No LP resulted, just a single track that took 5 years to see the light of day (my #1 EP of 2014 as published a couple months ago).

Jeremy Enigk is about to embark on another solo tour, and looking forward to another solo album from him. Also, Nate Mendel released his first solo album, Lieutenant, this week.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #1) "More modern rock than previous albums, with new instrumentation, but a natural progression and definitely still SDRE. Lyrically much more comprehensible than in the past, with amazing vocals. Has been criticized for the inclusion of keyboards and electronics among other things. No problems here--album of the year."

2. Elliott- False Cathedrals
As I have mentioned on this blog before, I discovered Elliott on a whim, as I found US Songs at a used CD store and purchased it only because of its unconventional packaging. The music ended up being excellent of course, and I began following the band.

In March of 2000 I went to an Elliott show in Gainesville, FL with two of my track teammates. We borrowed the rental van from our coach to drive over from our hotel. My two teammates had never heard of Elliott, but were open-minded and willing to experience something new. And did they ever. The two opening local bands were awful yet entertaining. The first was rock-a-billy and the second was brutally heavy metal. We mostly laughed through the metal band (not opposed to that style of music, but the band was so bad). Amazingly, I just found a newspaper article previewing this show. Hot Water Music played last, and we only stayed for the first 1-2 songs because we had a track meet the next day.

Back to False Cathedrals, strangely I cannot remember the circumstances surrounding the purchase or first listen. But the album is stunning--it was then and still is today.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #4) "First five tracks on the album are unbelievable. While the rest of the album isn't as good, it is still way above average. Raging guitars, furious drumming, and soaring emotional vocals, but most importantly great piano parts. Energy of Elliott's live show is mind-boggling, and has almost been captured on this album."

3. The Anniversary- Designing a Nervous Breakdown
I discovered this album through Napster in 2001. Someone told me to check out the Anniversary, I downloaded the first 3-4 songs from this "illegal" program, and was blown away. I then ordered the CD online somewhere. Of course, no one at the time knew it was illegal, it was just convenient and amazing, and actually led me to support a lot more artists by buying their albums.

I loved the catchy songs, the male-female vocal harmonies, and to this day it is the best combination of synthesizer and guitar I have ever heard. It took me forever to track down this album on vinyl, but finally got it a couple years ago and it is one of prized possessions in my collection. Josh Berwanger is back releasing good music and playing shows, but I miss his vocal harmonies with Adrianne Verhoeven.

4. Cush- CUSH
Despite not being at the concert, my strongest memory associated with the release of this album was the band's epic show at Cornerstone 2000:



(Impressively, that full Cornerstone performance is on YouTube in an HD VHS rip, with very impressive audio.) 

I can't remember exactly when and where I bought the album, but I do remember my brother returning home from Cornerstone with a Cush beach ball and raving about the performance. My brother may have even bought me the CD at Cornerstone and mailed it to me in Orlando (I lived there for one month in 2000). Cush is was a project of 3/4 of the members of the Prayer Chain. The missing 1/4 of the Prayer Chain was replaced by many, many singers, but first and most notably Mike Knott. It is all foggy to me now, but I am not sure anyone really knew who Cush was leading into that Cornerstone show. And I am almost positive it was a huge surprise that Knott was on vocals.

Cush was and is radically different than the Prayer Chain though. At the time, it was a much cleaner more melodic sound. This album and performance obviously brought together the Knott and TPC fan-bases, but they gained what would have been a much larger following had their been any consistency to their work.

I didn't see Cush perform until 2001 and/or 2002, when I saw them at OneFest in Memphis and at Cornerstone with Scott Malone on vocals. Knott had left the band as quickly as he joined, and since then Cush has released half a dozen EP's with various singers and no LP's unfortunately. Cush hints of an upcoming full-length called Black Heart, White Soul, with, for the first time, female vocals. I am intrigued.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #3) "Mike Knott, Andy Prickett, Eric Campuzano, Wayne Everett. Those four musicians and song-writers team with numerous guests to present an amazing rock album. Clean production, excellent vocals, and suberb musicanship. You will rarely hear anything this good."

5. The Appleseed Cast- Mare Vitalis
Unlike albums 2, 3, and 4 from this year, I remember EXACTLY when and where I heard this album for the first time. My friend and track teammate John owned it, and he loaned it to me as we settled in on a long bus trip to a track meet. I was absolutely blown away by the guitar riff in "Fishing the Sky." The rest of the album was almost as impressive, and far different than the Appleseed Cast music I had heard previously.

I saw Appleseed Cast and Brandtson play at Slacker 66 skate shop in Birmingham, AL in 1998. I had only heard one Appleseed song from a Deep Elm sampler, and I dug it. All I remember from that show though was saxophone solos (!) and how that ruined everything about Appleseed's music for me. I left the show far more impressed with Brandtson. But then two years later they released this album and they have been one of my favorite bands ever since.


6. Blindside- A Thought Crushed My Mind
I was a pretty big fan of Blindside's first self-titled album, even though in reality it is pretty terrible and does not hold up at all almost 20 years after the fact. A Thought Crushed My Mind on the other hand is still stunning. It finds itself caught in the middle of a weak debut (a demo-quality rap-core record) and Blindside's slick mainstream hard rock career that followed.

Just about every Blindside record after this one is more popular than it, and understandably so. They are flawlessly produced, and have much more melodic songs. A Thought Crushed My Mind is just brutal! In a good way: it is heavier and riskier than everything else they have ever released. It contains very little singing (mostly yelling), it is highly dissonant at times, and contains unconventional tempos and rhythms. And I love everything about it.

I saw Blindside in a small, sweaty club in Orlando in 2001, and the building was shaking as they launched into "King of the Closet". I am glad Blindside evolved after this album because I enjoy their current sound, but I also think this album holds up even better when considering Blindside's discography because of how different it is.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #10) "Possibly the most original hardcore album ever. While losing its 311-type elements, the band has replaced them with ingenuity. Most of the time screaming and distorted guitars, but rock songs intertwined, and orchestral interludes. Various time signatures abound. For anyone who likes good music, not just hardcore fans."

7. Ashen- No Other Comfort
Ashen was a "local" Atlanta band that is probably one of the more obscure artists I ever listened to. I was fairly sure I wouldn't be able to find much online about them, but amazingly their record label profile is still up and very detailed. Here is an exerpt:

"Ashen began as an instrumental trio in 1996, as long-time friends Benjamin Cenis, Kelly Guinn, and B.J. Hale came together to put their own spin on the "shoegazing" genre with their blend of textured, melodic pieces. A couple of years later, the trio felt the need to add a vocalist, and Erin Akemi was brought into the mix. The band has now been transformed into a powerhouse which bridges the gap between trailblazers like Swervedriver and the Cure, and more modern indie bands like Jejune and Sarge.

In 1999, the band released its first single, a split 12" which featured two Ashen songs. The band followed that up with a quick tour of the mid-Atlantic and mid-West area, then returned to the studio to finish its brilliant full-length release, No Other Comfort."

That split 12" is with a band called Flux Capacitor and is one of my favorite pieces in my vinyl collection because if it's beautiful wax and unique packaging. Amazingly, it still available to purchase online, and only for $5!

8. Kerith Ravine- The Streams of Jettison
Kerith Ravine, chronologically, is pre-Lovedrug. Kerith Ravine, musically and critically, is so far post-Lovedrug it is hard to put into words. Take this lone 2007 Kerith Ravine song which came 6 six years after the band broke up, when they, according to Bandcamp, reunited for 2 days:


Don't get me wrong, I like Lovedrug, and I adore Pretend You're Alive. Sonically and cohesively, it is stronger than any Kerith Ravine, and with much more focused songwriting. However, creatively, Kerith Ravine was incredible. While obviously influenced by My Bloody Valentine and The Smashing Pumpkins, The Streams of Jettison is still highly original and epic. The band averaged 6+ minute songs through this full length and two EP's, and the band sonically traveled so many great places during all those long tracks.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #8) "Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine, Sunny Day Real Estate. ON first listen the influences are obvious, but with time their originality sets them apart. Long, mid-tempoed, heavy songs, with high, soft vocals. Much different than most music this year."


9. The Be Good Tanyas- Blue Horse
Upon getting married in the fall of 2002, my wife and I did not own a car and could not afford to buy one. One of many blessings during that time period were friends that loaned us a red Mazda Miata indefinitely (we ended up keeping it almost 9 months). Not only did they loan us a car they also loaned us some CD's, and this was one of them.

I had not heard of the Be Good Tanyas previously, so I was hearing this album over 2 years late. This was radically different than most of the rock music I was listening to at the time, but folk-bluegrass with female vocal harmonies got my wife excited and I was also on board. The band would go on to release two more albums, but this one is by far the strongest. Part of that is because Jolie Holland was a founding member of the band, but left after this album.

Jolie has gone on to have an illustrious solo career with multiple LPs, and constant touring. Random fact I discovered during a 2009 interview: Tess Wiley and Jolie Holland went to middle school together in Texas, and they were song-writing buddies! How fun would it be for them to collaborate in 2015, 25 years after that time?

10. Death Cab for Cutie- We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes
As I write this Death Cab is on the verge of releasing their 8th album, Kintsugi. They have been debuting songs from it every few weeks, I have been posting them to my blog, and as I have mentioned, it appears that it could be one of their best works. Also, crazily, Kintsugi might be more similar in sound to We Have the Facts than any of the albums Death Cab released in the 14 years between.

My Death Cab introduction was when someone put "Scientist Studies" on a mix tape for me in 2000. I was hooked and have been ever since. Thankfully, this album was finally re-released on vinyl last year. It has been on the top of my "want list" for a decade, but was never willing to pay $100 for it on eBay. I am hoping the artwork contains the original cut-out holes, but I don't know because my copy of the LP is in the US and I am in Germany.

11. Aaron Sprinkle- The Kindest Days
In 2015, Aaron Sprinkle is mostly known as a producer, which is logical, because he has produced hundreds of albums from a bunch of great bands (and quite a few crappy ones). He discussed his production work on a recent episode of the Bad Christian podcast.

While being great at production, Aaron is at his best when he is writing, recording, and releasing his OWN music. Chronologically: Poor Old Lu, Rose Blossom Punch, solo stuff like this, and Fair. While the bulk of Aaron's bands and production are for rock albums, for three consecutive years (1999, 2000, 2001) he released solo mostly-acoustic albums.

The Kindest Days is the weakest of those three, but still great. It is a great mesh of Aaron's voice, piano, acoustic guitar, and at times, really crazy other instrumentation. Aaron's most recent solo album, 2013's Water and Guns, was a radical departure into electronic music. While very well done, it had me pining for his solo acoustic past. (While honestly I would much rather him contribute to some new Poor Old Lu tunes!).

The most recent work I have heard from Aaron is a collaboration with his brother, Jesse Sprinkle, on an amazing cover of Adam Again's Hideaway, released on last month's Sprinkle Family album:



What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #6) "Poor Old Lu guitarist continues to write great songs and release albums very much unlike his previous band. Layered guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, pretty vocals; mostly all done by Aaron himself. Much more upbeat than 'Moontraveler', but a far cry from the rock of Rose Blossom Punch."

12. Pedro the Lion- Winners Never Quit
Just this week I wrote a lengthy, popular (at least as far as site visits) post on David Bazan. As I discuss in the post, he has been on my mind lately, and this week I listened to all 150 songs of his I have in my iTunes database.

What is interesting looking back on this album is that is is the first time Bazan rocked. It is weird to think about, because most of his work in the last 15 years has been pretty rocking. But the first three Pedro the Lion releases (1 LP and 2 EPs) were mostly acoustic, and even when electric, very subdued.

Winners Never Quit began the same way, with "Slow and Steady Wins the Race" a slow track featuring only Bazan's voice and acoustic guitar. It also featured Bazan's first "controversial" lyrics, which he became known for. Track two adds bass and drums, and is upbeat, but is still fairly reserved. Track three uses the same instrumentation, but slows the tempo WAY down.

Then on track four, "A Mind of her Own", Bazan explodes. Instrumentally, I was greeted with a guitar featuring distortion, which was a Pedro the Lion first. Lyrically, had the lyrics been autobiographical, Bazan would have been headed to jail for or murder: "You put down that telephone! You're not calling anyone!" (The central character of this story/concept album did end up imprisoned.)

The sound introduced by the middle 2 songs on this 8 track album album would become perfected on my favorite Bazan album, 2002's Control. And this was the first time I was shocked by Bazan's storytelling, but definitely not the last.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #5): "Simple, thought-provoking music. Minimalistic, yet complexity eventually reveals itself. Story-telling lyrics. While mellow, has much more angst than previous Pedro albums."

13. Mates of State- My Solo Project
Of the hundreds of albums I have written about for the last 13 years on this blog, chronologically I am almost certain this is the first one that features no guitar. I never really imagined I could enjoy an album so much that is only "keyboards" and guitar. (In reality, it is not a keyboard, it is an organ, and you must watch this video about the Yamaha Electone organ, the instrument that inspired Mates of State's career).

In the video, wife Kori and husband Jason talk about their first show as Mates of State (only vocals, drums, and the Yamaha): "When we were carrying the Electone down the alleyway to our first show, which was an open mic, we got in a huge fight because we were like, 'This isn't even going to be music, there's no guitars! This isn't even a band!' We were really fighting, saying we shouldn't even be doing this."

My Solo Project was the debut Mates of State album, and the band will soon release their 7th LP. I didn't actually discover Mates of State until 2002's Our Constant Concern. But I soon went back and purchased this album, and still can vividly remember them performing "Proofs"in a small club in Paris in August 2003.

14. Evanescence- Origin
Despite what Wikipedia says, this is not a demo. It is a terrific album, and preceded Evanescence's worldwide explosion by 3 years. Two vivid memories from 2003 about the release of the 2nd Evanescence album, Fallen, that led to their popularity:

1. Origin was going for $300+ on eBay. Unfortunately I was in Zambia and my Origin CD was in a box in the States. I would have sold it in a second, despite really liking it. I had actually purchased multiple copies of it for friends back in Spring of 2000, and I emailed people telling them to sell their copies.

2. I traveled to Europe in August 2003 and there were Evanescence posters EVERYWHERE. It was so crazy.

Anyway, I loved how this album combined industrial/hard rock elements with otherwise beautiful piano ballads and female vocals. It is unfortunate that Amy Lee and Ben Moody, who created this work, had such a falling out, because this and Fallen were the only two good albums the band would release.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #9): "Self-proclaimed Goth-pop; piano-based industrial music led by female vocals. An incredible debut album unlike most everything released today. Song styles change drastically from track to track while retaining great cohesion."

 15. K's Choice- Almost Happy
Pretty sure this is the only Belgian band I have ever listened to. One of the reasons their location is relevant is because it makes their release dates almost impossible to figure out. I didn't hear this album until 2001, but as far as I can tell, was originally released in 2000. It, like many of their albums, also has multiple versions with modified track-listings and different artwork.

Usually, I prefer the original artwork at album covers, but for this release I definitely prefer the 2002 US release. The watercolor painting is a lot more fun (and drawn by a band member), and it is a 2 CD set (second CD is a full live concert, Wiki page explains the difference and shows both covers).

K's Choice is actually about to release another album, and once again their location came into play. Even though I am in Germany, only a country away, I cannot listen to or buy it yet (well, at least using legitimate methods).

Final comment about K's Choice: someone needs to give them a lesson in typography! Without fail, the typography on all of their albums is hideous.

16. Coldplay- Parachutes
In 2000, I hated Coldplay. I had only heard "Yellow", and thought it was incredibly bland and boring. As many albums on this list, I didn't really appreciate them or hear them in full until 2002. For Coldplay, that was because in 2002 they released A Rush of Blood to the Head. I found that album stunning, and led me to becoming a long-term Coldplay fan. Over time I also grew to really like Parachutes. Recently "Shiver" came up on shuffle in the car and my wife said it was her favorite Coldplay song (and I tend to agree!)
17. The Juliana Theory- Emotion is Dead
This was almost my album of the year in 2000 (crazy!. I can remember debating it with myself as I worked to publish my first and only print zine. I am listening to it right now, and it is still good, and has catchy songs (especially "Into the Dark").

My friends loved it at the time, and whenever I hung out with the track team it was everyone's favorite. For some reason people gravitated towards it way more than anything else I was listening to at the time. With the success of Jimmy Eat World the following year, it is actually surprising this album never made more waves. The Juliana Theory signed a major record label deal with Epic, but then Love, their next album, was just too bombastic and I (and most of their fanbase) lost the personal connection to their music.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #2): Catchy, melodic, rock songs, with vocal harmonies and luscious guitars. Much more diverse than last year's 'Understand This is a Dream' (my #1 album of the year). The originality of this band is what separate them from everyone else. Exceptional."

18. Smashing Pumpkins- Machina II: Friends and Enemies of Modern Music AND Machina: The Machines of God
As I write this, I am thinking to myself. Should this album(s) really be this low? Both the official Machina release, and the unofficial bootleg of the follow-up, are excellent, I just never listen to them. With the exception of the poor Zeitgeist, I listen to these less than anything in Corgan's discography (I don't own the solo album).

Machina II I only have thanks to Napster. Machina itself I bought at midnight at a record store in Birmingham the day it was released. 2000 was the year of the Smashing Pumpkins for me really, because I saw them play twice, once in a small club in Birmingham (was awesome) and once in a huge arena (was terrible). As I look through the Machina tracklisting, I think I do need to spend some time with it, lots of great songs.

What I wrote 15 years ago: (Ranked #7): Machina: "The band's final year filled with tons of shows and a great record. 'Mellon Collie' type rock returns after the experimental 'Adore', and with the most positive and optimistic lyrics of any Pumpkins release ever." Machina II: "The Smashing Pumpkins final release, a 5 vinyl set. 3 10" records, 2 12" records. 25 songs total, mostly of demo quality. Only 25 copies were made."

19. The New Pornographers- Mass Romantic
If I had heard of the New Pornographers in 2000, I guarantee I would not have even considered buying their album or listening to them due to their name and the album art here. The cover unfortunately reinforced the idea that this band had something to do with pornography, which it does not. When I heard the explanation for the band name, I loved it: "music is the new pornography". The idea that music could somehow replace pornography in culture is awesome, but in reality, not possible.

Back to the album, I probably heard it for the first time in 2005 or 2006. I had fallen in love with 2005's Twin Cinema, and really enjoyed 2003's Electric Version. "Letter From an Occupant," with Neko Case on lead vocals, is an all-time top-10 song from the band.


20. Elliott Smith- Figure 8
I, like most people, first heard Elliott Smith in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting. When I bought my first Smith album is a mystery, but was probably at least 10 years later. I finally bought Figure 8 in 2014! I find it the happiest album of his by far.


21. Nickel Creek- Nickel Creek
Man, that album cover is terrible. Not sure when I first hear this band or album, but in the late 90's they played a show at my college, Samford University. I missed it due to a track meet, but upon my return, many of my friends were raving about Nickel Creek. I didn't really become a big Nickel Creek fan until I met my wife, but they are a mutual favorite of ours (and their 2004 "reunion album" is great).



22. Pearl Jam- Binaural
I didn't own or hear this album until 2013. From 2013-2014 I finally went back and bought all of Pearl Jam's albums, which was fairly easy and cheap to do (most you can find used for $2-4 each). I really missed out at the time, because this (and most everything the band has ever recorded) is excellent. Track 7, "Insignificance", has become one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs. If you are a fan of music (and maybe not even of Pearl Jam), I highly recommend Cameron Crow's 2011 documentary Pearl Jam Twenty. It gave me such a great appreciation for this band's body of work.

23. Radiohead- Kid A
Probably the critics' #1 album of the year, took me awhile to "get" it. I love it now, but nowhere near my favorite Radiohead (I prefer 3 or 4 of their other albums).

24. Sleeping at Last- Capture
I saw Sleeping at Last at Cornerstone in 2001 and thought they were great. I bought this CD and a shirt on the spot (I wore that shirt a lot for years, and if you know me personally, it was the one with the arrows on it). As Sleeping at Last in 2015 is the quiet, orchestral solo project of Ryan O'Neal, 15 years ago they were a loud, atmospheric 3-piece rock band. Sleeping at Last music of today bears little to no resemblance of their origin in 2000.

25. Blenderhead- Figureheads on the Forefront of Popular Culture
Lead singer/songwriter/bass player Bill(y) Power has a great podcast that I have been listening to weekly all of 2015. Urban Achiever has had tons of fascinating guests, from Buka of Argyle Park to Mark Salomon of Stavesacre.

Power is a great host, but an even better musician, and hopefully we'll hear some new tunes from him soon. This third and final Blenderhead record never got the attention it deserved (even from me). A lot glossier than previous Blenderhead, but also a lot more complex.

What I wrote 15 years ago: "A more melodic, gentler Blenderhead. But the angst and dissonance are still there. Lyrics are subpar compared to the band's first two releases, but musically not far away. Main problem is that there are no great songs, which the band had many of in the past."

Top 5 EPs of 2000:

1. Brandtson- Trying to Figure Each Other Out
In the year 2000, when all these CD's were released, this one got spinned more than any of them BY FAR. Despite enjoying Brandtson's first two LP's, this EP was when the band really hit their stride and discovered the type of music they wanted to play.

What I wrote 15 years ago: "While only an EP, the best CD released this year. Melodic rock songs with great driving guitars and vocal harmonies. Songs about relationships you can't help sing along to. 'Boys Lie' is the song of the year."

2. The Gloria Record- A Lull in Traffic
With the Mineral reunion tours of the last year, Chris Simpson & co. have been on everyone's mind a lot. Is a Gloria Record reunion next? There is an unfinished Gloria Record album out there from 10 years ago, that Chris just needs to go back and add the vocals to. Come on guys, please?

What I wrote 15 years ago: "Possibly Chris Simpson's best release since Mineral's debut. Great lyrics continue to flow from this incredible poet, and this time backed by a beautiful wall of sound: electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, drums, and bass. Hopefully we will see this band reach its full potential with a full-length album."

3. Jimmy Eat World and Jebediah- Split EP
This EP contains 2 of my favorite Jimmy Eat World songs ever, with "The Most Beautiful Things" and "No Sensitivity". What is strange is that Jimmy Eat World decided to re-record the third track from the EP, "Cautioners" (and not those first two) for Bleed American the following year.

What I wrote 15 years ago: "The Jimmy Eat World songs are awesome, and come at a great time as we impatiently await their next album. The band's music continues to become prettier, as they perfect melodic rock, and stray further from their angst punk roots. Jebediah isn't bad, but when alongside Jimmy Eat World it is hard to impress."

4. Pinback- Some Voices
I didn't hear Pinback until much later, probably around 2004. But this EP contains 4 of the band's best songs. Rob Crow recently announced he was done with music to focus on his family. Good intentions obviously, but hopefully we'll hear new Pinback at some point in the future.
5. The Jealous Sound- The Jealous Sound
Also didn't hear this until much later, maybe 2002 or 2003. I can remember being instantly impressed though, as all 5 tracks are super-catchy with great hooks.


Other notable 2000 releases I wrote about 15 years ago:
AP2- Suspension of Disbelief
Kevin Clay- Na$hvega$: The Land of Milk and Money 2CD
Embodyment- The Narrow Scope of Things
Five Iron Frenzy- All the Hype that Money Can Buy
Jennifer Knapp- Lay It Down
Project 86- Drawing Black Lines
Rivulets & Violets- Promise
The World Inside- 2
City on a Hill (Compilation)
Roaring Lambs (Complation)
Pedro the Lion- Progress 7"
Rose Blossom Punch- So Sorry to Disappoint You EP
Vigilantes of Love- Room Despair EP
Vigilantes of Love- Electromeo EP
Viva Voce- Weightless EP
The Innocence Mission- Christ is My Hope
Jimmy Eat World- Singles
Michael Knott- Things I've Done, Things to Come
Starflyer 59- Easy Come, Easy Go (2CD Greatest Hits)
The Violet Burning- I am a Stranger in this Place
The Violet Burning- Faith and Devotions of a Satellite Heart

"Notable Albums not Reviewed" (from 2000 as mentioned in my 2001 zine):
The Blamed- Germany EP
The Choir- Flap Your Wings
Collective Soul- Blender
Dashboard Confessional- The Swiss Army Romance
Daniel Fairbanks- Western Starlite EP
Imbroco- Are You My Lionkiller? EP
Life In General- So Long, True Love
MxPx- The Ever Passing Moment
JJ Plasencio- JJ Plasencio
Summer Hymns- Voice Brother and Sister
U2- All That You Can't Leave Behind

More 2000 releases I own and enjoy that haven't been mentioned yet:
The Autumns- In The Russet Gold of This Vain Hour
Braid- Movie Music, Vol. 1
Bright Eyes- Fevers and Mirrors
Caedmon's Call- Long Line of Leavers
Cursive- Domestica
Damien Jurado- Ghost of David
Death Cab for Cutie- Forbidden Love EP
Moss Eisley- EP
Elliott- Will You? 7"/EP
Explosions in the Sky- How Strange, Innocence
Kevin Clay- Jesusville
The Lassie Foundation- I Duex Sioux and the Ale of Saturn
Lost Dogs- Gift Horse
Low- Christmas
Mogwai- EP + 6
Neko Case- Furnace Room Lullaby
No Doubt- Return of Saturn
Patty Griffin- Silver Bell
Tegan & Sara- This Business of Art
This Beautiful Mess- Falling on Deaf Ears

(Pretty good chance some of these are not officially 2000 releases, but I have 65 albums in my database marked as 2000).


March 18, 2015

David Bazan

David Bazan has been on my mind a lot lately. My fandom of his has been cyclical since 1997, for both musical and spiritual reasons (the musical reasons hold up; the spiritual reasons, in hindsight, were flawed).

I finally bought his most recent two releases last night, which are monthly subscriptions. For the last 8 months he has released 2 tracks at a time, which can also be purchased as 7" records. All 16 new songs are really interesting, and this track may be my favorite Bazan tune in years:
 

I became aware of David Bazan in 1997 when I bought Pedro the Lion's Whole EP in a Christian bookstore (I didn't know it at the time, but I had heard his drumming on numerous punk and hardcore songs in the years prior). I bought it for two reasons: one, the packaging was awesome, and two, as an EP, it was cheap (probably $6.99). That led to me seeing him in concert for the first time in 1998, around the time It's Hard to Find a Friend was released, in a small skate shop (Slacker 66 in Birmingham, AL).

I was a HUGE Pedro the Lion fan from 1998-2002, and bought every release (CDs, EPs, 7"s) and saw them (him) in concert probably a dozen times in that 5 year span. While loving his music, I also identified with him personally as a Jesus-follower who did not fit within America's Christian culture.

My fandom started to wane with the release of Achilles Heel in 2004. While containing 2 or 3 great songs, that album did not impact me the way his previous releases had. 2005 brought Headphones, Bazan's electronic project. Not only did I think it was poor musically, lyrically I also found it weak. I was also annoyed by his overuse of profanity, and his apparent goal of offending as much of his fan base as he could. (But honestly I think Headphones is really terrible musically, almost unlistenable. Thankfully Bazan incorporates electronic elements into his music well now, a decade later.)

2007's Fewer Moving Parts EP was his first release under his own name, dropping Pedro the Lion permanently (and Headphones; and Paperback, a moniker he toured under but never released music with). While a step-up musically from his "failed" electronic project, I still did not connect to the songs. Around this time was when Bazan became more open about his loss of faith (essentially stating he no longer believed Jesus is God.) This was staggering to me, and didn't know how to deal with it.

Then in 2009 Bazan released his first true "solo" album, Curse Your Branches. As far as I know, this is his first autobiographical album (most of his previous songs are fictional stories), and it chronicled and outlined his beliefs. Musically it was stunning, easily Bazan's best work since 2002's Control. Lyrically, it was shocking, as he essentially expressed all his anger and resentment towards God, and his disbelief of the Bible. (Ironically, it was also his "cleanest" album in over a decade, containing no profanity, no sex, etc.) Listening to this album was a challenge for me, because it revealed that Bazan no longer shared the faith I center my life on.

Despite no longer identifying with Bazan from a spiritual standpoint, Curse Your Branches restored my love for him as a musician. And it helped me understand that he didn't need to be a follower of Jesus for me to love him as an artist and person (took me way too long to figure that out!).

Christ and Pop Culture published an excellent article about Bazan last week. Then a couple of days later David Dark tweeted a link to a video conversation between he and Bazan (below). That article and the video led to much thought, which led to my purchase of his most recent work, and in turn led me to writing this post.



Probably what stands out the most to me from both the article and video is how Bazan is still so close to so many people who are followers of Jesus. That should be obvious, but it took Bazan saying it for me to consider the depths of those relationships. The CAPC article brought these Bazan lyrics to my attention, from the song "People":
"i wanna know who are these people
blaming their sins on the fall
who are these people
if i’m honest with myself at all
these are my people
man what else can i say
you are my people
and we’re the same in so many ways"

Bazan has now been married for 15 years. When he got married, he and his wife probably shared most of their beliefs. Now their beliefs are drastically different, but they stay committed to one another and their vows (all the more impressive considering the number marriages that end in divorce when both partners theoretically share the same beliefs).

In the video you've got David Dark, an outspoken Christian writer, who is close friends with Bazan, and they reference frequent spiritual/theological discussions they have. My favorite line from the conversation is when Bazan says this: "If you believe in what Jesus said--which I almost do--you can't be trying to collect power over other people. It's not what He was trying to have you do."

Outstanding live video performance of "People" (begins at 3:35):




Bazan studio albums and EPs, ranked:
1. Pedro the Lion- Control (2002)
2. Pedro the Lion- It's Hard to Find a Friend (1998)
3. David Bazan- Curse Your Branches (2009)
4. Pedro the Lion- Winners Never Quit (2000)
5. Pedro the Lion- The Only Reason I Feel Secure EP (1999)
6. Pedro the Lion- Whole EP (1997)
7. David Bazan- Monthly Volume 1 (2014)
8. David Bazan- Monthly Volume 2 (2015)
9. David Bazan- Strange Negotiations (2011)
10. Pedro the Lion- Achilles Heel (2004)
11. David Bazan- Fewer Moving Parts EP (2007)
12. Headphones- Headphones (2005)

March 16, 2015

Three more new songs you need to hear: Sufjan, Of Monsters and Men, and Death Cab

The goodies just keep on coming from upcoming 2015 albums. First of all, a spectacular Sufjan Stevens song, an quite honestly, my favorite song he has released since Illinoise:



Then Of Monsters and Men released the first song from their upcoming sophomore LP a couple hours ago. The lyric video is hysterical and distracting, and the song is MUCH better without watching it:



Finally, another outstanding Death Cab song, who may be on the verge of releasing their best album (and I don't say that lightly!):


Finally, if you are like me and live in a country where lots of YouTube videos are blocked, be sure to install ProxFlow, a Google Chrome extension that "unblocks" and allows you to watch any YouTube video you like.