Frightened Rabbit!

Listening to the new Frightened Rabbit single “Nothing Like You” takes me back to my high school days when, thanks to some friends with broader musical palettes than my own, bands like The Smiths, The Cure, and Echo and the Bunnymen broke the ranks of the metal militia I’d been marching with since middle school. That said, Frightened Rabbit inspire more than simple nostalgia because, unlike when I listen to the many lesser bands that reference the past, when I listen to Frightened Rabbit I’m not immediately compelled to turn it off and replace it with an album by one of the bands being referenced. Instead, I want to turn it up, listen through to the end, flip the record, and then do it again. Their new album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, is out February 23 on FatCat Records. Listen to “Nothing Like You” (and b-side “Learned Your Name”) here.

Retribution Gospel Choir!

Remember Low? The band that defined the meaning of playing with hushed, somber introspection, and gained popularity in the mid to late 90’s? Well, the dude from Low, Alan Sparhawk, has a new project, Retribution Gospel Choir, and loud is his new quiet. The band’s second album, appropriately titled “2”, suggests that Sparhawk has followed a similar trajectory in his playing that I have in my listening, which is to say that he’s gone from a mid-90’s mope to a late-aughts loudness colored with nostalgia. My nostalgic leanings have taken me backwards through my early twenties grunge era, past the metal-mania years of my teens, and all the way to the 70’s classic rock that my brother raised me on, meaning that lately my turntable has been spinning things like Blue Oyster Cult, Boston and REO Speedwagon. That’s right, REO Speedwagon. “You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish,” motherfucker!

Anyway, along comes Retribution Gospel Choir, sounding like REO raised in the 80’s underground, or an indie-rock Blue Oyster Cult–I’m talking “more cowbell” B.O.C. here, which to some folks is a brooding, balladeering crime against the motor-boogie mayhem of earlier B.O.C., but fuck it, I like it. And my guess is, so does Alan Sparhawk and choir, as they pay some serious retribution to it with “2”–the Low hush is gone, but the somber introspection remains. Check it out:

It’s out now from Sub Pop. Get a digital version at LaLa (above) or any number of other sites. 

Or you can always pick up a copy at your local record store.

Surfer Blood!

Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood is sure to be one of the next big indie things in 2010 with the album “Astro Coast”, from Kanine Records, kicking some hook-laden, indie rock ass and taking names.

Surfer Blood "Astro Coast"

Single “Swim (To Reach the End)” gets noted for its “Weezer-esque power pop chorus,” and though this comparison has merit, the song reminds me as much of Cheap Trick as it does anything, which is maybe a way of recognizing that Rivers Cuomo has likely heard a Cheap Trick album or two. At any rate, these guys more than capably aid and abet the usual suspects from the 90’s alt-rock scene, like the aforementioned Weezer, the Pixies, and Built to Spill, as well as some lesser-knowns like Polvo and Versus, which are the bands that first come to mind when I listen to the song “Floating Vibes”. 

Listen to the album below. Read a review of “Astro Coast” written for Dusted (online magazine) here.

This week “Swim” is available to download for free from the excellent Other Music here.

High School Musical

The movie “Adventureland” is a story of post-graduate hope and fear, blues and romance, as seen through the eyes of a recent college graduate, but I relate to the story more if I think of its hero as a recent high school graduate. This is partly because the character’s sexual innocence and social ineptitude remind me more of a high school graduate than of a college graduate, but mostly because the film, set in 1987, has a soundtrack loaded with songs that take me right back to my own high school experience, which began in 1987, and so manages to be a great soundtrack for my own high school musical.

The songs in the film cover an impressive amount of 80’s musical ground, from Rush to The Replacements, Judas Priest to The Jesus and Mary Chain, and overall the music goes a long way toward helping the film achieve its sweetly nostalgic tone. Each song hits me emotionally in its own way, but it is the INXS song, “Don’t Change”, that rolls with the closing credits, that lands the most powerful blow. It is so simple, so hopeful, and so goddamn romantic that it manages to perfectly capture the youthful sense of promise in leaving one thing behind and embracing another, while at the same time embodying the youthful belief that something lost can be found again.

I like a song that can take me to such a place in my mind, if only because now, though I still recognize the promise in life, such recognition is heavy with the weight of countless promises broken, mostly by me, and as much to myself as to others. “Don’t Change” manages to remind me that the world hasn’t stopped being a magical place just because I’ve grown cynical enough to not believe in magic so much as I did when I was younger. It reminds me to not steep so long in the mistakes of my past that I become bitter with regret, but to instead remember what it was like to be a starry-eyed, hopeless fucking romantic and put a little of that into each new day.


The new Spoon album, “Transference”, is steaming on npr. It’s a little different, it’s a lot good, it’s out on January 19 from Merge. Check it out here.

Waterloo Records will host an appearance by Spoon on January 25, to be held in the parking lot to accomodate the local heroes’ hard-won and well-deserved popularity. And I bet there will be some cds and and lps for sale, too. If you’re in Austin, go buy some. Check here for details.