! = recommended
* = all-ages
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Autumn is a favorite, TIG-cherished time of year, but that isn't necessarily good for new music for me: I am a sentimental bastard and tend to pull out worn-down LPs by my long-time sources of melancholic joy, rather than creeping the current release racks for song-buzz. Besides that, this year Sean Rowe's summer-released The Salesman and the Shark wouldn't stop pounding on my door and nibbling on my toes whenever I hit the 'wake up!' button on my iPod. (Don't want to short-cut it too much, but if you love the croaky love-monk rummy-rheumy ruminations of L. Cohen, V. Morrison, and T. Waits, get into his second Anti- album ASAP.) There was at least one full-length that should have been in that hot-months sweep though, which I end this seasonal assessment off with, in case anyone missed it.
Scottie Yodher is his own Vashon Island-raised maestro-dude, but in just a few short years he's cheerily channeled all those isolated and passionate feelings of being a musician in the Pacific NW into superb pop rock bursts of glistening garage roque. Brendhan Bowers comes along to help flesh out these awkward little creatures of longing, like the Badfingering "Baby Be," the misery strum-lunge of "Josephine," and the keys-twirling "Dig Your Grave." Somehow I couldn't totally warm up too much to the seven inch they released under that title earlier this year, but this is fully blossomed and rosy-cheeked, no matter how times Yodher was kept awake all night pouring it all out. Stoned & Alone sounds ready to surround the surreal humor of scenes in a Monkees-style Saturday morning TV show for moptops who ride second hand Vespas (or have lovers who do).
Possibly my favorite new album of the year, in a scrap with the Rowe, which is fascinating because both are on Anti- (kicking ass there, kids). Why do I love The Coup so much? Boots has a flow that is neither concerned with pleasing the suburban punters or the inner city poseurs; it's both snake oil revolutionary and working class caustic, somehow trustable by not sounding like anything you've hard on the radio in the past twenty years. (That is a good thing, trust me.) Like a lot of punk rock, Riley has lived and learned the system against the hot-heads in power or powerless, but has devoured enough empowerment not to be melodramatic about his own bruises or boring about what damage he can cause. He knows theory but sounds like he's read more at PM Press than a mere anarchist pamphlet, or chased an MFA doing weird things with her elbows and hands as she choppily unpacks abuse she's read about. Unlike a lot of new wave, it's weird and quirky and funky and a post-punk geezer like me knows most of the samples (Art of Noise! Alice Cooper! I could do this all night). This is about something, but isn't oblique in sharing it, unlike other adult rap that doesn't want its older brother scowling for mysterious freak outs like "We've Got A Lot To Teach You, Cassius Green" (what the fuck is that all about?). It's all technically called hip-hop, but it actually moves a story along more than that it IS hip-hop (who cares?), give me your money, blah blah. The Coup is party music for heads, both smart ones and freaks; a full album of the kind of synth-driven power pop Prince made ("I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man") that doesn't leave out the possibility of a guillotine for social change. The Coup is the MC5 of hip-hop, which scares the Man now as it did then.
I already thought the world of Dee Dee and her chilly, sonorous blasts of well-read black licorice-flavored punk-into-power pop bomp, Menthol-smoke blown Girl Group romantic desolation, and late night Dusty In Memphis appreciation soul-ache. But working with Sun Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes as well as longtime mentor Richard Gottehrer ("whose track record includes the Brill Building, CBGB, and Sire Records," and if those ring pop culture bells, we share the same church). These five pretty slices up the arm of the listener send shivers down the spine, casting failed love affairs into a Dante's Inferno of crushed empathy and bone-broken medicated bliss. "And I hate the trees, and I hate the flowers, and I hate the buildings and the way they tower over me," she sings, soaking in the sadness of the city and turning it into a celestial cathedral about as beautiful as Chrissie Hynde ever harmonized (no shit). The upcoming full-length is going to be ferocious/gorgeous, I have every expectation from this sumptuous five song communion.
Does it makes sense to throw a devastatingly harrowing, viciously guilt-ridden laugh-jacking alternative comedy album in with these other music releases in this list? Yes, as I have been repeat-playing it as much as any rockingpopfunkandsoulaction I've been listening to this fall, as veteran-but-now-totally-on-fire stand up comic/nihilist jester Stanhope follows up his daringly depressing performance on Louis with a miserablist, meaty CD/DVD set. Stanhope isn't a happy little feller crawing pix and telling cute puns to win over the doe-eyed lasses in the front row. In this live performance he rarely addresses the crowd, most of whom seem too scared to even interact with his barrage of anti-celebrity rehab, anti-politically correct, anti-family diatribes. But this stuff is so brilliant, so thought-provoking, so culturally significant whilst at times feral and gross, it seems more "punk rock" than anything that has been put out with that genre-moniker for the past 30 years. If you love Bill Hicks, you know Doug does too. But the comparison and the praise doesn't end there. Of special note are the astute observations of AA culture, and the tracking of the smells of his own urine and how artists regard themselves. This review is about as unfunny as Stanhope is absolutely engaging and terrifying at the same time. I wouldn't even try to repeat one of his jokes, which has to be experienced with his weary, withered, Middle American rant-whine to fully savor. Comedy album of the year for me.
King Tuff (Sub Pop), S/T - 8.0
Don't miss Kyle Thomas from Vermont's debut as King Tuff on Sub Pop, which sounds power pop Cheap Trick-clean and hits the center of the brain like sweetly pure THC-smoked out cheerleading. This is still on sale at the front of your local store for a reason. Whereas fellow guitar-muncher Kurt Vile unmasks a cynical crankiness he's still masking, Thomas finds bursts of enthusiasm in playing and rollicking innocence everywhere else, including lyrics. There are no 'tronic epics here, and any mention of "psych" is overstating an excess not really present. What's irresistible is the deliquent Over The Edge-parking lot of bashful, beautiful losers choosing bruising over the alpha dog psychopath pandering of bully society. A loner-stoner's album of anthems, my high point (ha) is "Baby Just Break" which could have been a London SS song if Mick Jones never met Joe Strummer. Anti-authoritarian, as the rest, but hardly arch and heart-on-sleeve near-rockabilly romance fever pitched. This album was released early on in the summer but sounds better as we sink near winter.