Friday, June 16, 2017

GT 2 Steps in full

Game Theory
2 Steps From The Middle Ages
Omnivore Recordings

This album is the final one in Omnivore’s reissue series. Originally released in 1988, it was an album that the late Scott Miller said he wanted to tear up the Billboard charts, and if not, to be let out of his contract. It didn't, and the band broke up after this album was released.

If this album had come out in, say, 1993, it might have hit. Alt was sort of the mainstream then, and to give two good examples of the kinds of songs that hit, think Bob Mould’s "If I Can’t Change Your Mind," or "Cannonball" by The Breeders. But there weren’t so many charts and formats as there are now, so here are some hypotheticals if it were a brand new album being released today.

While this album is too indie to fit into the “mainstream alternative” radio format, I can see this hitting on non com AAA radio, like NPR and its offshoots, listener supported stations, and so on. It’s streamlined enough, catchy, accessible, with all the right quirks. There are straightforward lyrics about good times, romance on the rocks, and being nonconformist. It rocks when it wants to, but can be quiet enough to pack a stealth punch, like on “Initiations Week.” One of Donnette Thayer’s best songs is her duet with Scott on the gentle “Wyoming,” another great song on a great album.

This reissue is also chock full of bonus material, demos, live tracks, and rough mixes. My favorites are the demo for a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s "America," which is as lovely as the original, and the live version of "Waist And The Knees," especially since it features backing vocals by the late, great Gil Ray.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, June 4, 2017

GT Preview - 2 Steps

Game Theory
Room For One More, Honey
Omnivore  Recordings

As there is a pre-sale for the reissue of 2 Steps From The Middle Ages, I took it as a cue to review the single/ emphasis track, Room For One More, Honey.  The album will be released Friday June 9th. And if this any indication of how great it is, with remastering like this, what a way to send the reissue series of the late Scott Miller’s band off in sttyle.

While Mitch Easter’s production made everything sound very crisp and clear, the remaster is more so. It’s pitch perfect now, a good balance of bright, shiny, rich and solid. I remeber a few reviews back in the day saying this song was about an airline distaster, and in one interview Scott somewhat confirmed it. But decide for yourselves, my memory might be hazy. But what isn’t is that I still love this track, the way Scott and Donnette Thayer sing on it, and haven’t forgotten hearing it on the radio, how good it sounded there. You may feel the same when you hear it on your media player device of choice. 
(I find the pre-sale on Amazon easier than iTunes.)
Andrea Weiss

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chris Cornell

And Now He's Gone
A Tribute to Chris Cornell

I never thought I’d be writing a tribute to Chris Cornell, not just for the usual reasons, but because of how I became a fan of Soundgarden in the first place. As for the usual reasons why one writes a tribute, it makes me shudder, not just that this wonderful musician is gone, but that so many are: Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, Stefanie Sargent, Scott Weiland, Mike Starr, John Baker Saunders. Let the next one added be when everyone is, say, 90. Only Eddie Vedder, Mark Arm, and Mark Lanegan are now alive of the more famous grunge band leaders. What must they be thinking? The Space Needle went dark for an hour Thursday night, so everyone is grieving. Chris’ family and the rest of Soundgarden are also in my thoughts.

I will be honest; at the time, I hated grunge, and a lot of early 90s alternative music, and, again, it wasn’t for the usual reasons. I despise the term “sell out.” There's nothing wrong with making money from your art, and as my career involves various types of creative writing, I admit that sometimes my attitude is “screw art, give me the money.” Not that making art for art's sake is bad, but doing it for pay is the greatest job in the world. But I don't like it when people make a certain kind of art just for the money. The music magazines I was reading at the time said grunge bands were sell-outs, doing just that, so that put me off.

Also, I have a learning disability severe enough that I'm unable to work a straight job, or drive, hence my writing career, as writing is what I do best. I have struggled all my life to make a good life for myself. Only those who have everything mentally together would act like it’s cool to be disabled or mentally ill, and that is the way I perceived grunge and most alt-rock at the time. I didn't think their expressions of pain and dysfunction were honest or real, and I didn't want all that negativity, particularly if it wasn't sincere.

I was still very much following punk’s credo of thinking for yourself. The elementary school in Hightstown, NJ put on folk concerts during the school year, and there was a local folk song society who brought in musicians. It was very popular, and Dar Williams sold the place out more than once. I began going to those shows and joined that local scene. In addition to Dar, I got into the Nields, Richard Shindell, the late Dave Carter and his partner Tracy Grammer. Jill Sobule of I Kissed A Girl fame was also a part of the scene, and so was Ani DiFranco. And there was plenty of alt rock outside the lines to get into: Fugazi, Pavement, The Breeders, the Loud Family, Sugar, Mudhoney, the Posies, Liz Phair, Sleater-Kinny. Those were my favorites. I didn’t think of Mudhoney as grunge, but rather punk.

When I met Jen Grover in the very early 00’s, I told her all of this. Around that time she was a moderator for SOMMS, the original Soundgarden online fan list, and had the now defunct Unofficial Ben Shepherd Website. She urged me to give Soundgarden another chance, and after thinking about it a bit, I did. And I liked what I heard. They were more punky than I realized, and after hearing Seasons, I realized Chris could be folk. Euphoria Morning proved that even more, and that sealed the deal. Eventually I got into more grunge, and as for alt, a new way of looking at it.

My favorite Soundgarden song is the one I first heard, and at the time of its release somewhat tolerated, as I liked the ruefulness of it--Outshined. By default, Badmotorfinger was my favorite Soundgarden album. The others are great too, but BMF was my first.

I hope everyone takes this tribute the right way, and not as a snide slam. My journey to the band was roundabout, but eventually I made it home. I came to realize how much of that music really was honest and why it meant so much to so many people. Long live Chris,long live Soundgarden, and, yes, alt.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hearing And Seeing Is Believing: An Interview With Amanda Thompson

Amanda Thompson leads the UK band The Big Believe, a band I got into through the song Let’s Pretend We’re Spies. I was a huge fan of Let’s Active, and when the late Faye Hunter worked with The Big Believe, I was hooked. Illuminate, their latest album, is very good. If you are a fan of college rock and bands that have their roots in that genre, like the New Pornographers, you’ll love The Big Believe.

Andrea Weiss: Let’s Active is such a cool and unjustly forgotten band. How did you find out about them?

Amanda Thompson: I agree. My boyfriend Keith used to own a second hand record shop and would often bring albums 'round that he thought I'd like. It must have been about 1988 when he stuck Big Plans For Everybody on my turntable and it changed my life. I was instantly a fan, and found LP's of everything else they'd released, and never stopped listening to them.

AW: And combining that style with that of the New Pornographers is great. How did you get into them?

AT: Thank you, although I don't do that intentionally, but I guess snippets of those bands' influence are bound to seep through. Keith was to thank for this discovery too. He would play anything that MOJO magazine had given four or five stars to-- stream it, I mean. Shortly after Twin Cinema was released, he stuck it on. The title track blew me away. The rest of the album was less instant, but I fell in complete love with it gradually, often the best way. As with Let's Active, I then got my hands on everything else they'd released and went to every UK show they played. Funnily enough, I remember thinking, "I have never liked a band this much since Let's Active".

AW: I like your lyrics. Where do you get your ideas for them?

AT: Thanks again. I have one rule: never write about yourself! I hate "I feel this, I feel that", "this happened to me, he hurt me", etc. As I'm sure all songwriters do, I make notes in my phone whenever anything inspires me. That could be a scene in a film, a vibe from a book, something someone said, or simply stuff that happens out there! I remember my guitarist friend Simon Ruckes saying to me, "Paint a picture in people's heads". That was partly why I used lines like "all the little bugs 'round the street light" and "our hands behind our heads as we watch the stars", because everyone can picture those images. I like the science of things. There's a new track in early stages called The Motorway Effect, which is how if one person brakes on the motorway it has a knock on effect for miles and hours on everybody else on the same road. I like relating that to how our actions as humans affect things and we have to take responsibility for that. It's OK to sneak personal stuff into the lyrics, as long as it's disguised.

AW: Besides Let’s Active and TNP, who are your influences?

AT: I could write a very long list answer to that, but will condense it down to Led Zeppelin (there is no other rock band to touch them, they are so interesting, and anyway, so much more than rock), Arthur Lee and Love, early R.E.M., John Cale.

AW: How did your band form?

AT: I was always in other people's bands, co-writing, up until about 2006, when I started writing songs I actually liked! So I recorded them, stuck them on the internet as a kind of "fake band". People seemed to like it, so I gathered musicians together to play that music live, and that became the band Ozone Baby, which later became The Big Believe.

AW: Would you want to tour the US?

AT: Yes, that is something that would seem appropriate, as we have more fans there than here! There have been a couple of times where that has been on the horizon and then fallen through for logistical reasons. Never say never, though.

AW: You worked with the late Faye Hunter of Let’s Active fame on Let’s Pretend We’re Spies. What was that like, working with her?

AT: It was delightful and so easy. I should mention that we sadly never met in person. She wanted me to go over to Mitch Easter's studio when she was recording the vocals for Spies, and I did too, but Mitch's free studio time came suddenly and I couldn't get a visa in time. Faye learned the song in an instant and nailed it without many takes in the studio. She was full of enthusiasm and praise, and humble throughout. I was incredibly excited about the whole thing, and so grateful for her interest and the time she gave it. Still am.

AW: You also worked with Todd Fancey of the New Pornographers. How did that come about?

AT: I believe it came about because of cigarettes and the smoking ban, i.e. one time I was in Bristol to see The New Pornographers play an unlikely venue that was pretty much a huge church hall. Afterwards I went out the back for a cigarette, and so did one of the band members. We ended up having a smoke and a chat together, later joined by other members of the band. Eventually I let it pop out that I was in a band and they asked for a link to the music. I was excited again when they liked the material and passed the link around. Guitarist Todd got in touch, saying he was into the material, and an online friendship followed where we discussed my stuff and his solo stuff a lot. In the end I popped the question, "Would you like to do a solo on one of our tracks?" and he said, "Sure".

AW: Is there anyone else you’d want to work with?

AT: Well, yes and no. After Todd had collaborated and Faye had agreed to, the idea was to make a whole album of collaborations, yet I couldn't help feeling that after working with members of my two favourite bands, that anything else was a step downwards. Also, Todd and Faye were such sweet people, we never had talk of contracts or money, and they were so easy to work with, I had a feeling the other people I had in mind would maybe be less accommodating. Having said that, I wouldn't have turned down working with Arthur Lee in an ideal world!

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Big Believe

The Big Believe

Amanda Thompson leads this wonderful UK band, who sound like equal parts Let's Active and The New Pornographers, but with enough of themselves thrown in to make the music, and the lyrics, their own. Their influences are just a starting point.

They write quirky lyrics about relationships, much like Mitch Easter, leader of the now defunct Let's Active, would write, not to mention the late, great Faye Hunter, who collaborated with the Big Believe on the wonderful song Let’s Pretend We’re Spies. Faye was the bass player in the first lineup of Let's Active, and was a mainstay of the Hoboken, NJ music scene, as well. The Big Believe's skewed take on relationships makes them sound refreshing, and there is no irony in the quirkiness.

In general, it is downright refreshing to hear a band update 80s college rock, rather than ape the 70s or 90s. For that alone, I strongly recommend Illuminate, and check out Let's Active, as well. Both bands will delight you to no end.
Andrea Weiss

Monday, May 1, 2017


Waxahatchee/The New Pornographers
Union Transfer
Philadelphia, PA, 4-27-17

I’d never been to Union Transfer, but I’d heard nothing but good things about it. Since I love The New Pornographers' new record so much, the time was ripe to go.

It’s a great place: clean, comfortable, neat. I need handicapped seating, as i can’t stand for long periods of time anymore, and the staff provided me with a chair, with excellent sight lines. I had a nice conversation with a woman with a similar condition sitting next to me.

Waxahatchee is Katie Crutchfield, joined by a bass player. I have her last two albums and really like them. Katie didn’t disappoint with her noisy, electric folk/rock and good lyrics, and sang very winningly. A perfect opening act.

TNP also didn’t disappoint. I’d wondered how they’d sound live, and how slick. As great as Whiteout Conditions is, it’s also the closest to the mainstream, at least the AAA radio mainstream, which has embraced the single High Ticket Attractions.

With the addition of new member Simi, who plays the violin very well, the band is now a seven piece, with Carl Newman and Todd Fancey on guitars, Blaine Thurier and Kathryn Calder on  keyboards, John Collins on bass, Joe Seiders on drums, and Neko Case on percussion. Carl, Neko, Kathryn, and Simi sing four-part harmony. And wow, what harmonies! Just terrific. Blaine Thurier played harmonica on one song, and Kathryn played accordion. I loved everything they played. The energy didn’t let up for a moment. High spirited fun all around.

They played songs from every album, even one of Dan Bejar’s, Testament To Youth In Verse, though he is on hiatus from TNP. Neko, who was really someone to behold, put the crowd under her spell, with her sparkly blouse causing Carl to remark at one point that it was reflecting off the walls of the bar. During the encore they were funny as anything. Somehow Neko’s and Carl’s banter evolved from Neko saying they reminded her of Donnie and Marie Osmond on their TV show, to Neko joking that she lost her virginity to Carl after 46 years.

It was a good night all around, a band I’m so glad I finally got to see, and a club that I’ll be going  back to.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, April 30, 2017

R. Ring Live

R. Ring
Everybody Hits
Philadelphia, PA, 4-24-17

Everybody Hits is a small batting cage facility that also puts on concerts. Nice staff, and a good turnout for such a small, out-of-the-way place. There were four bands on the bill. R. Ring headlined. I hadn't seen them for 2 1/2 years, so I was really looking forward to this.

Swanning, three women with a male drummer, were up first, playing good, modern indie rock.

Joe Jack Talcum, from one of Philly’s best known punk bands, the Dead Milkman, played a solo set of good, quirky folk/punk. If you ever wondered what Jonathan Richman would sound like if he grew up, it’s Joe Jack.

The Chicago three-piece band Split Single was next, led by Jason Narducy. I’d heard of him, as one of the bands he’s in is Bob Mould’s touring band. I liked his music very much--rip roaring indie rock, very melodic. His CD Metal Frames, is a great way to introduce yourself to his music.

R. Ring’s van had broken down, and it was a wonder they even got to Philly. But they made it, a little after eleven, set up as quick as they could, and played a wonderful set, featuring most of their upcoming album, Ignite The Rest. The versions here were looser and sparer than on the album. R. Ring, the duo of Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery, play electric experimental folk and stripped-down indie rock. Their drummer on this tour, Laura King from Chapel Hill, is excellent. She played just a snare, not a full kit.

The crowd seemed into all the bands. For me, it was a very good night out, and a show that was worth the wait. And if you like what you read here, they’re doing some dates in Ohio, Kentucky, and live on the station WYSO on May 17. 

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, April 20, 2017

R. Ring

Ignite The Rest

It’s funny how things work out. I get to see two favorite bands in one week. It will be my first time ever seeing The New Pornographers. R.Ring is the other band I’m seeing, on Monday. TNP is that Thursday.

Since I already waxed thrilled on TNP in my review of their album, I wanted to do the same for R.Ring, since their album is just as great, in its own way. Two very different types of music, so there’s no comparison. To do further justice, it’s track by track for R. Ring. Full disclosure: I own all their singles, their Daytrotter session, and the Rise EP. Most of what’s on this album is more or less untouched from the original versions, not that I would’ve indulged in which is the better version. It’s all good.

Kelley Deal sings the songs, unless otherwise noted.

Cutter: It’s the single, and sounds like one, with extra guitars from the original. First up like this, it's a good lead in, and I'm really happy that it's getting some airplay.

Loud Underneath: When I first heard this in 2015, one thing I liked about it was that it was sly fun about finding a good guy to get loud underneath with. But the serious meaning is the moment of truth--finding love, sex, or not--and here it’s a good one. I also like the buzzsaw guitars.

Singing Tower: This is one of Mike Montgomery’s songs. It’s about an uncle of his. Sad, quiet, understated and wonderful. Mike’s songs on this album tend to be surreal and dreamy; Kelley’s are more straightforward.

$100 Heat: Kelley writes some very good songs about heartbreak and loneliness, and this is one of them. I’d like to think the Bandit did go away. Spare guitars for the right touch.

Unwinds: As angry as Cutter, and rougher. Thankfully the album includes lyrics, as I never was able to make out many of the words. And I like these words, and the booming drums.

Files: One of a few songs about darkness, losing everything, and so on. One line says it all, well sung, too. "All I set aside. All I lost. Files."

Salt: I like the grinding guitars, and that it’s not a sad breakup song. She’s free, and it suits her.

Fallout And Fire: Three lines that say more about loneliness, heartbreak, and wanting something, anything to happen, than some whole albums I’ve heard. The music is bittersweet folk rock.

Elder Orphans In Heavy Chop (AKA Rumine from the Rise EP). Very interesting lyrics, with echoing guitars. "I am cruel, I don't care. You could be my harbor wife If I could cut your hair. "

This was always my fave song from the EP, retitled here.

You Will Be Buried Here: The most folklike of these songs, and a good way to honor the dead.

Steam: Mike sings this one, sad and warm. Kelley’s backing vocals, with echo, sound like a voice rising from steam. It’s cool. A friend consoles a friend about his wife leaving him and going home to Germany. My take, anyway. Kelley and Mike have some good podcasts out, where they explain things, like this song.

SEE: The most surreal song on the album, and the closer. Mike again, singing on a rave-up.

For me, an early contender for album of the year, just as much as TNP. And I’d like to think that R.Ring could suddenly get as popular as TNP did. So give this album a try. I think you'll love it.

Andrea Weiss

Monday, April 17, 2017


The New Pornographers
Whiteout Conditions
Collected Works

Everything's different now. The Pornographers have their own label, Collected Works, Dan Bejar is off doing his own thing, and their new sound, starting with 2014’s Brill Bruisers and now going off in many other directions, is unlike anything they’ve ever done. It’s also the best album they’ve made yet, better even than Mass Romantic.

Carl Newman has been saying “Krautrock bubblegum” in interviews to describe this new sound, and while I’ll take his word for it, I also hear the best updating of the late Scott Miller ever, as all of these songs could have come from Scott’s band Game Theory, especially 1984’s Real Nighttime. TNP had already paid tribute to Scott with You Take Me Where on Brill Bruisers. Here they double down on that.

The melodies are to die for. I love the synths, aided and abetted by Todd Fancy’s understated guitar, and not as understated new drummer Joe Seiders. Neko Case has never sounded better. Ditto for Kathryn Calder, touring member Simi Sernaker, and Seiders. Carl sounds great too. All join together for great harmonies, and check out Neko’s and Carl’s duet on the shimmering We’ve been Here Before.

Carl’s lyrics are so open-ended that beyond High Ticket Attractions being about Trump-induced panic, written before the election, and the title song being about depression, they’re anything you want them to be about. My take on them: music therapy for terrific and strange situations, wild and wonderful relationships. Between the great lyrics, fantastic new sound, and yes, maybe Dan will be back someday, as I say, this is their best yet. May it continue.
Andrea Weiss

Friday, April 7, 2017


R. Ring
Steam video

As much as I love Cutter and $100 Heat, Steam is where Mike Montgomery, the other half of R. Ring, shines. Between Lori Goldston’s understated, wonderful cello playing and Kelley Deal’s background vocals, it’s sad, beautiful, hushed, and great. In the April 4, 2017 interview for Glide magazine, Mike had this to say about the song: Steam is one of the first songs Kelley and I started playing together. She used to accompany my guitar and singing on keys. One night on a tour, her keyboard broke as we went to start the song and she ended up just singing her melody through some guitar pedals to get us through it. We’ve done it that way ever since. With the addition of Lori Goldston’s cello on this album version it’s really a nice setting for the narrative: subjects trapped in time ignoring the looming futility of stubborn adherence to an ideal. Chris Glass’ captivating slow motion video captures the mood perfectly.”

The song also could be about a friend consoling another friend about his/her wife leaving and going home to Germany. The video captures the loneliness of being in a crowd, at a very impersonal train station, and fits the song perfectly. Watch it here:

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, April 6, 2017


The New Pornographers
Whiteout Conditions
Collected Works

The long awaited new album from The New Pornographers will be released Friday, April 7, but if you haven’t heard the three singles that have already been released, here’s my take on them. While the whole album sounds like early Game Theory, the late Scott Miller’s band, these three songs also sound like a souped up/synthed up take on TNP's first two albums, while continuing the sound of their last album, Brill Brusiers. And they’re all terrific.

The first single, High Ticket Attractions, is the most rock. It's fast, with more guitars, and a lyric about Trump, the unease before he got elected. But it could also be about someone throwing you completely off balance for a really long time, and falling into a relationship where you know there’s always more to it than meets the eye, no matter how wonderful it is. Carl sings this one.

Neko sings This Is The World Of The Theater, and shows again how amazing her voice can be. The lyric could be a plea to someone not to go, or about knowing, or not knowing, where you stand with someone. This is more of a pop song, but the guitars at the start add a lot of grit.

Neko duets with Carl on the title track, Whiteout Conditions, which is the most subdued and synthed up musically, with a lyric straightforwardly about depression. The feel is somewhat dreamy.

Dan is not on the album, TNP’s first without him. While there are songs of Dan’s I like, in the end, I always prefer Carl’s.

TNP is on their own label now, Collected Works, and it’s freed them up to make some of their best music yet. I'll post the full album review later in the month, after a fun time listening to it.  (I don’t do well with streams, it’s the learning disability, so that’s why I’m not reviewing the stream on NPR or the CBC.)

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

$100 Heat

R. Ring
Hundred Dollar Heat

 The video for this song was animated by Protomartyr's Alex Leonard, with drawings of animals, objects, people, some famous, some not, and two things that reappear from the Cutter clip -- bombs and gasoline. Kelley Deal sings this. She says on the Pure Volume site that this clip and song is about wrestling with her spirit animal over who will go to the store for some Mountain Dew. It’s a cool premise, one that makes the images come alive even more, not that they weren't very much alive already.  But what I also hear is heartbreaking sadness, like someone not believing that someone is going to do something, like drive into town. It’s a quiet sounding song, almost electric folk. All in all, an interesting, wonderful clip, and a great song. Pure Volume has commentary. 

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, March 9, 2017

R Ring 17

R. Ring
Sofa Burn Records

This single, from their upcoming album Ignite The Rest (release date 4-28-17), finds the duo of Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery in fine form. Lots of guitars playing all over and around each other, expert drumming and percussion, as well as excellent singing. It's a relationship song, in which the main character tells the Cutter that she's sorry, and be harsh, but don’t try her either, and underscores it by getting angry.

Clyde Petersen and Chris Looney's animated video for the song is well-made, provocative, and takes cutting to a logical conclusion. There are also Molotov cocktails involved, Satanic symbols,  pills, and the police. Worth watching.

If you want more background on Cutter, and the upcoming album, there is a very cool series of podcasts by Mike and Kelley on iTunes that are worth hearing. All in all, a good run up to the album.


Cutter video


Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Waveless EP
Joyful Noise

The latest entry in Joyful Noise’s White Label Subscription series is from Lou Barlow, who chose this Minneapolis trio’s EP after being alerted to them by his wife. And both have great taste. If you love Husker Du, Waveless is the band for you. I hear mostly Zen Arcade in their sound, maybe even the instrumentals Dreams Reoccurring and Reoccurring Dreams. A lot of echo and reverb, but no nostalgia whatsoever. All of the tracks are excellent. So have at it.  

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I Am Atomic Man

Gil Ray
I Am Atomic Man
125 Records

Gil Ray, best known for his superb drumming for Game Theory, The Loud Family, and Rain Parade, made this album, his only solo album, in 2006. The music is solid, unpretentious, lo-fi indie rock. Ray has a lot of fun here with the guitars, but doesn't use drums, only drum machines that sound organic and are still played great.

Lyrically it’s the retro sci-fi of your dreams, the kind that appeared in the 50s and 60s with its visions of what the future might be like. The lyrics are fun, but serious fun, the kind where everyone is in on the joke, but the jokes never turn sour, so a good time is had by all. And that is, in the end, what the album is about: a good time, a futuristic time, one that rocks.

Gil lost his battle with cancer on January 24th of this year. This review is my tribute to him, a really nice guy and wonderful musician.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, February 12, 2017


The Ophelias
Creature Native
Joyful Noise

Joyful Noise has a subscription series.  I subscribed just out of curiosity.  I like them and I don’t think music should be obscure either.  This series, “White Noise”, runs for a year, with a different known musician curating each of the twelve releases.  Up first:  Yoni Wolf’s selection, The Ophelias, an all woman, all teen band from Cincinnati.

This blend of chamber pop/folk rock is wonderful.  Quiet, understated, sad, yet with a dry wit, the band shows much promise.  I hope they stay together.  Such a good start shouldn’t be wasted.  I especially like their take on "These Days", closer to the Velvet Underground’s version than the original.  Jackson Browne wrote this when he was 19, so who better than a band of teens to cover it, make his cynicism their own, and turn the lyrics into wry humor?

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, February 9, 2017

M&T Roche

Maggie And Terrie Roche
Seductive Reasoning
Legacy Recordings/Columbia Records

I had the tape of the original Columbia album, with a different cover. They wore long, colorful skirts and seemed to be floating in the air. I like the cover of this reissue too, just the two of them in tank tops, sitting on a couch.

The album is still as wonderful as when I heard it last, decades ago. I wore out the tape with repeated playings. The songs are terrific. The sisters already had their harmonies down. The lyrics are, by turns, heartbreaking and funny, with wry and dry humor. While the music is very much of its time, it has timeless qualities, so it's still accessible today. You could even say its a prototype for indie folk, or indie, period.

But it’s the lyrics, their sexual politics, counterculture consciousness, and flashes of 70s non-ideological feminism that make it a lost classic at the very least, and one of the greatest albums of all time at the most, because the subjects are handled in a way that still rings true, giving them a universal appeal.

I love the Roches as a trio. Suzzy is way cool, but Maggie, with her great alto, and Terrie's soprano--there just isn’t anything like it. If you know their song “We” from their first trio album, with its line “guess which two of us made a record,” this is the record that song is referring to. If you love that album, I think you'll love this one, too. And long live Maggie, who lost her battle with breast cancer on January 21st 2017. This review is my tribute to her.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, February 4, 2017


Love Mirage
Stoner Disco Records

Todd Fancey’s first album since 2007’s Shmancey finds the guitarist for The New Pornographers in fine form. This album is excellent from start to finish.

I’m old enough to remember listening to 70s soft rock on AM radio. "Love Mirage" is neo-70s soft rock at its best: no irony here, just a great tribute to the past that makes me remember why I have a soft spot for this type of music.

This album also is a tribute to the softer end of disco, so in spots it sounds like the Bee Gees and their ilk. He gets this type of music right, using vintage instrumentation, and no loops or overdubs.

Great melodies, and some wonderful backing vocals form Angela Kelman and Olivia Maye, who sounds way older than 13, make this album a lot of fun to listen to, whether you find this type of music a guilty pleasure, a tribute to the past, or just good, period.
Andrea Weiss

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Final Top Ten

This poll, Critics Poll 27 on the Tris McCall site, has been around
for 27 years, and while I haven’t done all 27, I have been 
taking part in it for several years. A lot of fun, with the difference 
between my earlier top ten post and this, 
is that I had to rank albums and singles. Enjoyed them all, and  
the catagories. They were also a lot of fun to do.

Album of the Year Nice As Fuck S/T
#2 Tegan and Sara Love You To Death
#3 Mitski Puberty 2

#4 Darlingside Birds Say*
#5 Game Theory -  Big Shot Chronicles 
#6 Angel Olsen My Women
#7 Margret Glaspy Emotions And Math
#8 Esme Patterson We Were Wild
#9 Game Theory  Lolita Nation

#10 Whitney Light Upon The Lake
Album honorable mention(s) Case/Lang/Vires, Warpaint Heads Up, Joesph I’m Alone, No You’re Not, Sad13 Slugger, Mavis Staples Livin On A High Note, Speedy Ortiz Death Note, Moth Chairlift, Tacocat Lost Times, Shaky Graves, And The War Came*, Colleen Green, I Want To Grow Up.

Song of the Year - Special Teams SunFire
         #2 Nice As Fuck  Door
    #3  Game Theory - Erica’s Word    
         #4  Tegan & Sara U Turn

         #5 No Matter Where We Go  Whitney

  #6   Tacocat The Internet
         #7 Darlingside Go Back*

 #8 Game Theory Slip
         #9 You and I Margret Glaspy
         #10 Angel Olsen Shut Up Kiss Me

Single honorable mention(s) Sad 13 Get A Yes, Joesph White Flag, and SOS (Overboard), Angel Olsen Give It Up, NAF Cookie Lips, Warpaint New Song, Mitsuki, A Loving Feeling & Your Best American Girl,  Daws When the Tequila Runs Out, Roll With The Punches, Miniature Tigers Crying In The Sunshine, Tacocat I Hate The Weekend, Case/Lang/Viers Atomic Number, The Shins Dead/Alive, Courtney Barnett Three Packs A Day, Mavis Staples High Note, Bonnie Raitt, Gypsy In Me, No Such Thing As Illusion Chairlift, Margret Glaspy Emotions And Math, Colleen Green Pay Attention, Tegan and Sara Boyfriend, Shaky Graves Dearly Departed*, Quilt Roller, Tancred Bed Case.
Bed Case

Best singing Darlingside - the whole band harmonizing.*
Best rapping The cast of Hamilton.* 
Best songwriting Jenny Lewis (Nice As Fuck)
Best lyrics Tegan and Sara.
Best album cover Darlingside Birds Say
Best album title Angel Olsen My Woman
Most welcome surprise Whitney Light Upon The Lake
Biggest disappointment Mavis Staples Living On A High Note 

Best production: Special Teams SunFire
Best live show(s) you saw in 2016 Rikki Lee Jones solo at World 
Cafe Live.  

2016 album that wore out most quickly Case/Lang/Veirs
Most overrated artist/album Frank Ocean Blonde.
Crummy album you listened to a bunch anyway The Lumineers Cleopatra
Album that turned out to be a hell of a lot better than you first thought: Mitski Puberty 2. Taylor Swift
Album that felt most like an obligation to get through and enjoy Daws We’re All Gonna Die
Thing you feel cheapest about liking: songs about horrible relationships, a dime-a-dozen, but when done right,  irresistible. 
Most sympathetic or likeable perspective Lake Street Dive, Call Off Your Dogs. 
Most alienating perspective: Trump anything

Artist you respect, but don't like Taylor Swift
Worst song of the year Foals Mountain At My Gates
Song that would drive you craziest on infinite repeat The Record Company Off The Ground. 
Hoary old bastard who should spare us all and retire Bob Weir
Young upstart who should be sent down to the minors for more seasoning Car Seat Headrest
Good artist most in need of some fresh ideas Bonnie Raitt 
Will still be making good records in 2026 The Pretenders 
Prevailing theme or trend of 2016: Everyone waking up politically, even as the great protest songs will be in 2017.  
Coming musical trend of 2017 Everyone continues to get political and write lots of protest songs, most of them wonderful. 
Additional comments? Your own wiseguy questions? 

Special Teams: Kelley Deal and friends, experimental rock, and it works like anything. It’s also why this song 
is the Best Production. It sounds great, especially the vocals.

The Game Theory songs and albums are in the main lists as they stack up favorably now, just they did when they were originally out in the 80s. 

Whitney, not associated with Houston. Two guys, one from Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the other from the Smith Westerns. And sound a little like the Mac, maybe a good song Lindsey or Christine would have written.   

*Albums released in 2015, but didn’t hear until 2016. Of the three, Darlingside, a great neo-90s folk group. That is updated just the way musicians like Dar Williams did in the 90s. Heard on the radio. 

Shaky Graves, not goth, an Austin singer/songwriter, but Dearly Departed is a ghost story. Is one of the lovers in the song dead, but haunting his/her house anyway, and still finding love. Or are both dead, still in love, and haunt their own house? Indie folk music.  Esme Patterson is the other voice, wonderful on her own album, too. If you like the folky side of power pop, you’ll like her. These two I also heard on the radio.  

Hamilton you know. A great history/civics lessson, and what rap should be 24/7. It was seeing excerpts of the musical on the Tony Awards that sold me on this one. 

Lastly, the honorable mentions are unranked. They’re all good, just some more than others. 


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