The past couple of months has seen me revisiting a number of bands from my collection, some of these re-visitations inspired by a desire to introduce my step-daughter to music she may not have come across. I spent some time listening to bands both familiar and unfamiliar that I’d be highly unlikely to ever listen to again. Maybe it was boredom, or trying to understand why these bands made it into the cultures musical consciousness? Whatever it was, I suppose it made the past two months a bit more interesting, as new music discoveries and new music by beloved groups has been mostly in short supply.
Below you’ll find some selections of what I’ve been listening to going back to June.
Louise Post & Veruca Salt
A perfect example of listening to a group’s discography even though I’ll likely never listen to it again. Masochistic urge to punish myself with hours of music I could live without? To be honest, it felt like a bit of music history homework, an attempt to understand why this band had “made” it. Maybe I was missing out on something special? I somewhat knew a couple of this bands songs. I could confidently say, “Yeah I heard that one, and that one, though I don’t know the song name “. Tunes that played on constant repeat wherever you went back in the 90s and early 2000s, injecting themselves into your consciousness whether you wanted them in there or not.
It started when I came across Louise Post’s release of some demo music that was being promoted on Bandcamp, “But I Love You Without Mascara (Demos ’97-’98)“. The first track being promoted was “Used to Know Her”. I thought it was decent, and had a 90s quality to it that seemed familiar. I’ve also been looking for music that might intrigue my step-daughter, particularly harder, grungier music by women artists, and this led to the thought that maybe Veruca Salt was something she might like. Seeing that I wasn’t familiar with the band outside of those mind nuggets I mentioned earlier, I took it upon myself to listen to their discography.
The old me would have listened to a grand total of three minutes of this bands hard work over the course of a couple of songs, said, “Fuck this shit”, and never listened to them again. The older me, the now me, is a bit more measured in my criticism, more willing to listen and give the benefit of the doubt. My take: the music isn’t horrible, but it’s not for me. It’s catchy, or maybe hooky is a better word, it has a very polished 90s feel to it, that kind of generic second or third wave grunge, the stuff that came after the corporations and the producers tasted those sweet sweet greenbacks the 90s bands were minting, then spat out carbon copy bands that checked all the requisite boxes until the music was just a vacuous shell of what it was trying to imitate.
Maybe it was something different than that? I don’t know. The sound makes that kind of impression on me. The musicians in these bands are obviously talented, and were brave enough to put their work out there for people like me to come along and casually criticize. Overall, outside of a catchy tune here and there, tunes not good enough to sell me on the band, I don’t like the music. And I gave it a good listen. Listened to it all. I won’t be making any recommendations to my step-daughter regarding Veruca Salt. She can discover them on her own and taste for her own-self without me possibly influencing her one way or the other.
That Louise Post track, and a couple of those 90s brain nuggets below.
One group that has a summer release I’ve been listening to off and on is the Traams, with their latest “Personal Best“. Outside of a few singles here and there it’s been 7 years since Traams released a full-length album. It was worth the wait. This album stands out from their earlier releases with a notably softer sound. The liner notes acknowledge this as a constraint brought on by restrictions due to Covid. It’s interesting how restraints can bring about the birth of something new and special. It certainly brought a new direction to this bands music. This album is not brash and noisy like the earlier albums, though it is laced with moments of measured, sonic wandering. And unlike the earlier albums “Personal Best” includes guest vocal appearances. The first single promoted off the album was “The Light At Night” and features, much to my surprise and joy on first listen, the declarative shouts and repetitive verse of Protomartyr’s Joe Casey.
A few of the gems below.
I’ve been a fan of this band since witnessing the season closer of “Halt and Catch Fire” where Joe burned a truck load of personal computers to the bass thump and note strangling of The Suuns’s “2020”. They’re a strangely unique band. If you start at the beginning of their discography you’ll be greeted with an kind of dark, art-rock group, who can seriously jam. As you continue, the digital effects and filters that made smaller appearances early on begin to grow and subsume the music. The vocals become filtered and mechanical like, bordering on the robotic at times. Some could read that description and take it as a negative, all the descriptive condemnation they need to dismiss the band, but they shouldn’t. They’re a great fucking band. It’s weird, it’s dark, and it’s twisted. And at times it’s a somber, moody dirge that puts you in an existential mood, while others it’s a thumper that makes you want to rage a bit.
It’s hard to describe, so you should check them out and see for yourself. It’s also hard to pick just a few songs from their discography. Some choice bits below.
The Black Angels
What’s not to love about a psyche-rock band who’ve taken their name, and some pretty heavy influences, from the Velvet Underground? While the influences are there they’re anything but a copy-cat band. No, this band is all their own. Major jams, driving beats, fuzzy guitars, lots of energy, sonically trippy at times. All the goods wrapped up in one package. I’ve been listening to The Black Angels for a number of years now, and I had them in heavy rotation leading up to their June 11th concert here in Boise. A great show, the only disappointment was it had to end.
Never heard of Bartees Strange before seeing him promoted on Bandcamp. That he did an album of The National covers piqued my curiosity so I checked out this album, “Say Goodbye To Pretty Boy“. It was strange to hear these songs reinterpreted. Seemingly so familiar, yet entirely different, as if you woke in an alternate reality. If you’re a fan of The National then this is something you should listen to. It’s so unique and strange to me. No, I wouldn’t buy the album as I prefer the original tracks so much more, but I do think it’s really cool that Bartees Strange created this. A few of my favorite The National songs as re-imagined by Bartees Strange below.
After listening to Bartees Strange re-imagine so many of my favorite tracks from The National I had to go out and give them a listen. It had been awhile. A long while. In fact, so long they had released at least two albums I hadn’t been aware of. I used to listen to Alligator, The Boxer, and Cherry Tree all the time, so much so I became a bit burnt out on it. The deep, baritone crooning started to seem like a shtick and I digitally shelved them for a time.
It was a nice reunion with them. I love so many of those songs. The albums I hadn’t heard were not bad (outside of a live one. That one was so bad I couldn’t get through it). They didn’t hold the magic as much as those original three, but isn’t that how it always is? You discover a band and you love them, and it’s always those first albums that have the biggest space in your soul. The original tracks that I added above that Bartees Strange covered, below.
I used to love Beck back in the early 90s, listening to Mellow Gold, One Foot in the Grave, and Stereopathetic Soul Manure all the time. I kept up with him for Odelay, though the feeling was beginning to wane. Mutations brought some change, but it wasn’t enough to keep me around. Some years later, after it had been around for awhile, I listened to Sea Change and was hooked. But that didn’t last long either. Soon a river of shit with Becks name stamped on it came out.
Anyway, working on a series of long-form posts had me revisiting that time in my life, when Mellow Gold’s “Loser” was a constant refrain on MTV and the radio. It seemed to always be playing. It was weird, and kind of funny, and cool, and I totally dug it. It’s been a few years since I gave him a listen. I started at the beginning and worked my way through a good portion of his releases.
I still love that early stuff. And Sea Change still remains a favorite. Some picks below.