Sunday, October 26, 2008

No Justice - Still Fighting

In my 12-13 years of going to shows only a handful of bands have made me feel unsafe while playing. One of those bands was No Justice. In 2000, Anton/Underestimated Records set up a 3 day "Chicago Fest," at the University of Chicago. It was a real "who's who" in the fast hardcore/punk scene at the time. I had never heard No Justice, but as soon as they rang out, it was insane. I'd never seen the singer of any band have so little regard for his own safety. He spent more time diving than singing and everyone took a cue from him. It was total pandemonium. At one point I was standing on the side of the stage and he got on top of the speakers to dive. Right as they were about to fall on me and a few others, someone secured them so we didn't get crushed. Musically, they were just as intense. They were just a messy blur of fast hardcore with huge breaks perfect for diving and moshing. A few months later I saw them at The Fireside with Nerve Agents and it was equally intense. Timmy (the singer) immediately did a 10 foot dive onto a small bench with 5 or 6 people standing on it. I can't believe he didn't break his leg.

Sadly, this was the only material they released aside from their demo. As the years go on, this record seems to become more and more of a forgotten classic of the early 2000's.

No Justice - Still Fighting

I couldn't find the set from Chicago Fest on YouTube, but here is footage from their last show that accurately resembles the times I saw No Justice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (A Capella Version)

If you look at any major music magazine's "Greatest Albums of All Time" list, Pet Sounds is typically somewhere in the top 5, if not being heralded as the first or second greatest record ever. Upon its release, it was by no means considered a failure, but only moderately successful in contrast to their earlier singles. Poor promotion had much to do with the album's less than extraordinary performance, but I'm sure the shift in sound and lyrical content also played a bit of a role.

The Beach Boys were known for writing catchy pop songs about surfing, girls and cars and the themes of loss, depression, growing up and the search for personal identity explored on Pet Sounds dig much deeper. Frankly, much of it is incredibly depressing and introspective and I'm sure that caught the casual Beach Boys listener off guard. Interestingly, the album didn't even reach platinum status until the year 2000, which kind of blows my mind based on how incredibly important it is.

The A Capella version was actually released on The Pet Sounds Sessions, a 4 disc box set full of alternate takes, mixes and the original mono recording of the album. There is also a really great booklet with a lot of nerdy information and photos included, but the real gem is the A Capella disc. The Beach Boys were always a vocal group and on this, all you hear are their voices working together, each unique, but essential to the sound as a whole. Hearing this definitely changed the way I hear Pet Sounds and made my appreciation for The Beach Boys even greater. I highly recommend checking this out.

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (A Capella Version)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The American Analog Set - Know By Heart

Around the time of my 20th birthday I was repeatedly sick all winter. I had bronchitis then I had strep and I just couldn't seem to stay well. At that same time, I wasn't working and I was taking a semester off school so I was just sitting around my house constantly sick. It was awful. I didn't do anything and it became a real bummer. For my birthday, my good friend Robin mailed me a card and a CD of a band called The American Analog Set. I'd never heard them before, but we have comparable taste and I figured if she sent it to me, I would probably like it. We were both right in our assumptions and I listened to it all winter. It has since gone on to become one of my favorites and has a lot of personal significance outside of moping around my parents basement.

In my opinion, Know By Heart is one of, if not the greatest Indie-Pop records of the millennium. Vocalist and primary songwriter, Andrew Kenny has an incredible knack for composing interesting, gentle melodies within beautiful arrangements. He has a unique ability to carry a song with his restrained voice, singing just above a whisper. Though the songs are lo-fi and personal, they are still incredibly catchy and beautiful without dragging on the way some bands of the genre do. While all of their records are great, Know By Heart definitely is the most focused of their material up to that point. Unlike previous efforts, the songs follow more typical pop song structures and don't segue into lengthy repetition ala "The Magnificent Seventies" off From Our Living Room to Yours. I've always felt they epitomize the term "bedroom-pop," with memorable songs that feel like they are being played right before you in your own bedroom. The American Analog set is the perfect music for late nights through headphones or on a dreary Sunday afternoon in the middle of Fall when the leaves start to turn.

The American Analog Set - Know By Heart

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Bloody Valentine - You Made Me Realise EP

After seeing My Bloody Valentine this past Saturday, it only seems appropriate to upload this EP. You Made Me Realise was the first material the band released on the legendary Creation Records. Interestingly, they would nearly send the label into bankruptcy a few years later while meticulously working on their second LP masterpiece, Loveless. I've always felt this EP is a good middle ground between the bands early brand of jangle-pop and the massively reverb soaked songs they'd later create. It's catchy enough for pop music enthusiasts to get into, but still has plenty of texture and subtle melody to keep things interesting and varied.

My Bloody Valentine - You Made Me Realise