Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Like so many others, Failure is a band that despite their major label backing, didn't get their due until years after their break-up. Perhaps the label was waiting for them to be the next Smashing Pumpkins or even the next Hum, but it never really happened. While I'm sure they had their modest fan base, the true accolades didn't seem to flood in until Cave In covered "Magnified" on their Creative Eclipses EP in 1999 and wear their Failure influence more prominently on their crossover LP, Jupiter.
Instead of uploading an entire Failure album (which I might do if people want to hear more), I've chosen to post this cover of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence." This cover circulated for a year or so after their break-up in 1997 until it finally ended up on the Depeche Mode tribute album For The Masses: An Album of Depeche Mode Songs. "Enjoy the Silence" has been one of my favorite songs since I was a kid and I think this is a very well-done cover done in the Failure tradition. Before my family had cable, I would go to my friend Pat's house in the Summer and the "Enjoy the Silence" video would be on MTV constantly. Even at the age of 9 I thought it was the most depressing song because throughout the video, singer Dave Gahan, is dressed in a kings robe and crown roaming the European countryside alone. I still think it's just as depressing 17 years later.
Failure - Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode Cover)
Though they formed prior to his joining, for all intensive purposes Sunday's Best really took shape once Tom Ackerman of major label cut-out-bin band Skiploader became their new drummer. They recorded their debut 7" Sons of the Second String and caught the attention of Crank!, known for their track record of releasing quality albums by Boys Life, Mineral, Vitreous Humor and a slew of other emotional brooders. Their next EP, Where You Are Now like the 7", falls right in with that. Despite their home base of California, I can't help but envision desolate, snowy Midwestern prairie every time I listen to this record. It has this dark, cool production that makes the quiet, sad parts that much more heart wrenching and the brighter moments feel hazy like the sun in the dead of winter. You know it's there, but it's just too far from the Earth to really heat the surface. As it happens, their next two LP's for Midwest institution, Polyvinyl Records, took a more upward, sunny turn toward catchy pop melodies and smoother production. Those records are great too, but Where You Are Now will always be the definitive Sunday's Best material in my eyes.
Sunday's Best - Where You Are Now
Friday, January 25, 2008
I'm by no means an expert on hip-hop and even though I've been into it since I was a kid, it's never been the prevailing genre of my interest. I'm trying to stick to more under the radar albums and rarities on this blog, but listening to this record on the way to work the other day inspired me to post it. I hold The Cold Vein up in the same regard I hold Enter the 36 Chambers, '93 'til Infinity, The Low End Theory and other cornerstone hip-hop records in my life. I felt it was an instant classic when it dropped in 2001 and while many other records from that period have aged VERY poorly, this one is as relevant as ever.
Taking a cue from experimental rap pioneers Company Flow, Cannibal Ox crafted (with the help of Flow's El-P) one of the true gems from the late 90's/early '00's much-hyped "indie hip-hop" movement fueled by labels like Def Jux, Anticon and Stones Throw. The Cold Vein starts out with a muffled sample from the film "The Big Chill" and busts straight into "Iron Galaxy," a 5 minute track with NO choruses, just verse after verse of MC's Vast Aire and Vordual Mega hurriedly declaring their domination of modern hip-hop. The pace is set from there - 15 tracks of insane metaphors and fantastic verbiage about the earth, love, space, anxiety, New York City and of course, the rap game. I've always appreciated the honesty of the lyrical content on this record and while many dudes brag and boast about getting girls, Can Ox penned what is probably the greatest song about getting stuck in the 'friend zone,' aptly titled "The F-Word." Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but I haven't since related to a hip-hop record the way I do The Cold Vein and though it's a bummer the possibility of another Can Ox record is slim, sometimes things are just not in the cards. Regardless, you need this record.
Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Even though Statistics mastermind Denver Dalley was the primary songwriter for the much loved Conor Oberst side project Desaparecidos, Statistics still remain what I consider a "cut out bin band." By that I mean, despite writing very interesting and wonderful songs, no one ever really seemed to care about Statistics and thus all their records ended up in the discount section of record stores. Thankfully for nerdy bottom feeders like myself, I was able to obtain their entire discography for pennies on the dollar. However, it's a shame because I literally never hear anyone talk about Statistics and everything they released is quite good and deserves to be heard at the very least, by the people who liked his work in Desaparecidos. So, for those living in the dark, I have uploaded their first LP Leave Your Name. It definitely builds on the initial taste test of their self-titled EP - sparse and atmospheric electronics behind these incredibly catchy straight-forward melodies. Dalley has a natural ability to write a very focused pop song when needed (see "Hours Seemed Like Days" for a reference point), but I find his most endearing trait lies in his quest to work in beautiful sonic textures in with what might be an otherwise "typical" rock song.
Statistics - Leave Your Name
Statistics on Myspace
Saturday, January 12, 2008
For a band that has been around for the better part of 10 years and releasing records for the past five, Airiel still remain one of Chicago's best kept secrets. I feel ridiculous having never heard of them prior to a year and a half ago because they were right under my nose the whole time, playing the kind of shoegaze/dream-pop I can't get enough of. They released several EP's, that were later collected as the Winks and Kisses box set. Each EP is excellent in its own right, but I chose to post the self-titled EP to start, if only for the songs "500 Deep" and "Cinnamon" which rank among my favorites. I will post the box set in the near future.
Also, the band released their excellent debut LP in 2007 entitled The Battle of Sealand. It's a bit more psych meets the more rocking Swervedriver end of the shoegaze spectrum and less ethereal dream-pop, but a fanastic record nonetheless. It definitely made my top 25 for the year, so check that out as well should you stumble upon it. The song produced by Ulrich Schnauss is an intriguing direction for them and one I wish they'd explore more.
Airiel - EP
Airiel on Myspace
Buy the EP
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
In the Spring of 2006 I was reading message boards and I stumbled across a band from Michigan called Fireworks. Always a skeptic, I figured they'd just be another mediocre attempt at mimicking what Saves the Day, Lifetime and a slew of others already perfected. I soon ate my words because their songs were incredible and they made me laugh. All of the songs titles were key lines from the 90's romantic comedy Can't Hardly Wait and their influences included American Nightmare, Killing Time, Infest and a slew of other bands they didn't resemble whatsoever. I thought they were great. I kept going back to their Myspace page over and over again, listening to the songs until I finally realized I could download them and listen on repeat everywhere I went. And I did - in the car, on the way to school, on the way to work, at work, on the way home from work. The songs were so catchy and brilliant, I had to show them to my friend Dave. His band was looking for someone to tour with for a week in early June and I felt this was the band to ask. He and the rest of the band agreed and figured why not? They were from the Midwest, seemed to have similar backgrounds, similar senses of humor and were the kind of band all of us would want to see every night. The tour worked out as well as a Midwest tour of two bands no one really knows could work out, but it was an incredibly fun time. We made eight good friends, shared some awesome memories and got to watch a good band become a great one.
I have included an extra song that wasn't on the actual demo. It was only streamed on Purevolume and though the quality isn't as good as the rest of the songs, the song itself is quite good.
Last year they released an EP titled We Are Everywhere on Run for Cover Records and it was one of my favorite releases of 2006. If you like this demo, definitely check out the EP.
Fireworks - Can't Hardly Wait Demo
Fireworks on Myspace
Buy the EP
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Since my involvement in hardcore, no time period has had a more profound affect on me than the years 2000-2003 and in those years no band resonated with me more than American Nightmare. They raised the bar in terms of music, lyrics and pushed the boundaries of what was deemed "acceptable" for a traditional hardcore band. I was lucky enough to see them many times and have fond memories of each set. While other bands haven't stood the test of time, American Nightmare has held up quite well.
This is a live set from their first time playing Chicago at the now defunct, but legendary, Fireside Bowl. I was bummed I missed this show (and their second trip to Chicago) because I was out of town or had finals and subsequently didn't get to see them until they toured with Converge, Hope Conspiracy and Thrice. If memory serves this was the show they played with Nerve Agents, Ruination and The Enemy so it was a pretty solid line up. Background Music hadn't been officially released but they had some copies for tour and played a few songs from it. My friend Joe called me a few days after the show and couldn't stop raving about how good the LP was. He was right and if missing the show wasn't enough of a bummer, I now had to wait even longer to hear the record.
American Nightmare - Live at the Fireside Bowl