comedown machine

Today I decided to drive to Best Buy to purchase a physical copy of an album on the day it came out. It’s not something I’ve done for years, but it is something I’ve done for every album by The Strokes except for their debut. Keep refreshing here for a mix of review, random thoughts, and photos.

4:00 PM
Left work, drove to Best Buy. Was able to find and buy the album in under two minutes because the music section is now minuscule and no one shops at Best Buy anymore.

6:05 PM
Currently annoyed that my Twitter statuses aren’t showing up all nice and pretty like this tutorial says they will.

6:10 PM
Pressed play to make a CD spin. WEIRD.

Oh hello, 80s.
One person dance party. I really like the shimmy and bitchin’ 80s guitar solo. I don’t have to pretend to like the song. When one of your favorite bands puts out new material it’s always a little scary. I didn’t get into Angles and I feel weirdly guilty about it.

RE: The chorus – Julian Casablancas is my favorite drunk, droning robot.

When The Strokes released this song before the album I hated the falsetto. Still not into it. Less worried now that I know it’s not how Casablancas insists on singing for the entire album.
I like the frenzied guitar around 1:40 but in general wish the song would pop a Quaalude or two.

So far the easiest time I’ve had understanding lyrics. The booklet is no help in that department.
“What kind of asshole drives a Lotus?”
Casablancas doing an excellent job of intoning a disco creep. Intentional joke or the product of living in LA too long? Does he live in LA? I’m just assuming. No time for fact-checking. I’ll let the sound of this song convince me I’m right.

Slow and perfect for a Sophia Coppola movie.
I’m into it but definitely drifted while listening/trying to take a photo of the booklet.

Distortion-filled nod to punk and surf rock. Reminds me of shows I used to go to in high school, but Casablancas’s high notes elevate it. Not my favorite.
“I will say ‘don’t judge me.'”

This is more my style.
I am digging this more and more as the song goes on. So far it’s the only track that I plan to listen to again as soon as the record ends.

A very Strokes-y guitar jangle but overall trying to be too gritty. God I love that first album. My older brother gave it to me for my 18th birthday. He also gave me a pair of gloves and tried to kill himself with sleeping pills. Thinking about it, I’m sort of surprised I don’t hate Is This It?, considering.

Instrumentally into it, but I wish Julian would ditch the falsetto. Most of the vocals are okay, but the high wailing is just not doing it for me. Repeated listens may get me over it.

Yep, I’ll take this one, too. I’d love to see them live again. Hey, The Strokes, how much money do I have to offer you to play Is This It? straight through for me? We’ve missed the ten year anniversary mark, can I pray for a 15th anniversary tour?

I’ve fallen into a Vaseline-lensed 50s dream.
I have no idea what this song has to do with The Strokes or the rest of the album, but I kind of like its completely weird kitsch.

6:50 PM
Comedown Machine has reached its end.
Listening to “Slow Animals” again.
Playing a CD on iTunes takes all the fun out of listening to a CD – you know if there’s going to be a hidden track or not. There is not. Is that a thing bands even do anymore? I really, really miss the excitement of exploring a new record. Most of my listening these days is on Spotify in the car or from a digital press copy. I’m grateful for both but am glad I grew up listening to music with some focus and effort.
Now giving opening track “Tap Out” another listen.
Okay, still good. It wasn’t just the excitement of getting to hear a new Strokes record.

6:58 PM
One more listen to “Slow Animals” for good measure. I think it’s a good natural progression of their sound. I wish the vocal mix was a little cleaner though.
Something about parts of it reminds me of the Neverending Story theme song. Anyone else?

7:04 PM
Comedown Machine is nowhere near my favorite Strokes record, but I do like it quite a bit more on first listen than Angles. I had more measured expectations for this release and was pleasantly surprised. Not every song lands for me, but I like more than I don’t. I should revisit Angles and give it a fair shake after putting too much pressure on it two years ago.

Thus concludes our live-blogging experiment of Comedown Machine by The Strokes. What’s the last album you went to the store to buy? Let us know in the comments!

strangers illuminated

Whitney Mann is an artist I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know not through recordings but in a live setting. Her voice is unique – cavernous but able to blow you down, vulnerable but still strong as an old oak tree. Mann scoops under the notes and overturns them, creating a series of surprise attacks.

On her latest EP, This Little Light of Mine, Mann lets her voice step just outside the spotlight and lets tradition take center stage. The familiar title track is impeccably arranged, turning a song that’s been heard a million times before into something new and exciting. Mann gets back to her own roots with the instrumental closer “Stroll Through the Park”, a track that reintroduces her childhood playing piano to her songwriting process.

The EP’s stunner is “The Cruelest Thing”. The song is all but guaranteed to be stuck in your head for days and pulls the punches that those who’ve seen Whitney Mann perform live have come to expect. While there are some gutsy hollers, it’s the first lines of the verses that pull themselves back, revealing the plumb line of defeat that anchors the louder frustration of a love gone cold.

This Little Light of Mine dropped 11.20.12.
Find out more about Whitney Mann at her official website.

every smile just like a wrecking ball

Appalachian-poppers Count This Penny has the honor of making the last album to be produced at Madison, Wisconsin’s Smart Studios. Following years of phenomenal albums from the likes of Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie, the studio went out on a high note with Pitchman.

I’m fortunate enough to live in the same city as Count This Penny (Amanda Rigell, Allen Rigell, and John Ray), and thus have gotten to see them perform on several occasions. It’s impossible to divorce the band’s live show from their recorded material, and that’s a gift. There’s a certain intimacy about CTP; they draw you in and make you feel like you’re part of the show, yet at the same time deliver something so special that you feel like you’ve stumbled onto a private moment not meant for everyone.

Pitchman‘s title track is one of Count This Penny’s most instantly memorable songs. Murder ballad “Big Tall Pines” is the kind of song that makes you want to give up everything and start over, riding the rails and busking in one small town after the next. I’m always taken by surprise with Amanda’s delivery on the word ‘matchbox’ near the end of the tune – both rhythmically and by the edge in her voice.

Amanda also shines on “I-26 Waltz”; her overdubbed vocals have a delicate interplay that sounds like a more lived-in take on the sylph-like vocals of First Aid Kit. Husband Allen’s voice lends itself well to the melancholy, pure and authentic and providing balance to the darkness on tracks like “Mountain”. John Ray lends a voice of a different sort, letting his banjo sing on “Medicine” and album opener “Roll Up Your Sleeves”. In combining their individual talents, Count This Penny has put out an album that truly hits home.

Pitchman drops 10.02.12.
Check out Count This Penny’s website here.
Click here to download “Medicine” and “I-26 Waltz” before the album comes out.

i like the feel of silver but now i want the gold

Finally, finally, finally a band has come along and put out a record that is gritty and minimalist but gratefully not under-produced. That band is Zulu Pearls. Songwriter Zach Van Hoozer and producer Nick Anderson may have saved indie from itself by moving out the back rooms and basements while artfully dodging pop music’s sheen.

It’s rare to get super-swooney for a record on first listen, but No Heroes No Honeymoons does it. There’s a thread of genuineness that runs throughout; a soundtrack to our lives that doesn’t feel market-researched and manipulated to swell at just the right moment.

The blissed-out thrum of “Honeyland” smacks of late-night pool parties and top-down drives, and Zulu Pearls keeps things sexy on “Two Thousand Whatever” – the slink of the Sharks do-si-dos with the twist of the Jets as Van Hoozer croons, “I waste my breath on rock and roll and ain’t nobody gonna save my soul.”

“Hard and Young” is a solid cut, and the title-track closer pulls out the feeling beat by deliberate beat. “No Heroes No Honeymoons” tugs at the heart without bumming out –  it gives the same feeling of sudden nostalgia a person experiences when doing something that makes them so happy that they begin to mourn its passing before it’s even done.

No Heroes No Honeymoons drops 09.18.12.
Click here to download the title track.
Visit the band’s official website here.

she’s a knife in the water

Divine Fits may be an indie supergroup, but they sound a lot less like their other bands than one would expect. Comprising Britt Daniel (Spoon), Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs), and Sam Brown (The New Bomb Turks), there is some unavoidable familiarity (both Daniel and Boeckner have fairly identifiable voices), but overall A Thing Called Divine Fits treads ground not explored by their individual projects.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is the album’s overarching synth-filled 80s vibe. Lead track/single “My Love Is Real” did an excellent job of raising the flag to this fact, but expectations got in the way of realizing this would be the band’s modus operandi. Album favorites “Baby Get Worse” and “For Your Heart” further typify the sound – “Baby Get Worse” is diggable with its thick shimmy and danceable yet sullen “For Your Heart” is perfectly capped with a lovely guitar line at its end.

Despite the overall likability of A Thing Called Divine Fits, it’s got its imperfections. “Shivers” quickly becomes boring as it becomes clear that the song never really goes anywhere. “Like Ice Cream” takes a small step up by using vocals as part of the rhythm section, but it too seems out of place after the largely electronic-influenced rest of the album.

The good does far outweigh the boring, though, and there’s no doubt that the live pedigree of Daniel’s and Boeckner’s bands will make for an electric live show. What makes you shoulder shimmy in your seat on record will surely make you get up and dance in person.

A Thing Called Divine Fits drops 08.28.12.
Find out more by visiting the official Divine Fits website.

i’ve got smoke in my lungs and a past life in my trunk

“Jesus Christ, girl.” At only three words into “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings“, the lead single off Fear Fun by Josh Tillman’s new project Father John Misty, it’s clear there’s something special happening. The reverb and strung-out-sunset hollowness crashing against Tillman’s vocal turns is like a car wreck – you can’t turn yourself away from what’s going on.

Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes, has a gorgeous voice. While he’s technically sound, it’s the charisma and humor creeping at the corners that pushes it to another level. The religious/cult leader implications of the Father John Misty moniker (“Joseph Campbell and The Rolling Stones / couldn’t give me a myth / so I had to write my own”) are apt; in person Tillman is handsome and witty but approachable, and both live and on record could sing the phone book and make it the most compelling thing happening in the room. You’ll happily follow him wherever he may go, and he goes everywhere.

“O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” is pretty and hymn-like; the man has an ear for the spirit. Lofty, too, is the apex of “Only Son of the Ladiesman”. “Teepees 1-12” is a country shaker, complete with fiddle dance hall swing. FJM brings to mind The Beatles a couple of times on the album, both with “This Is Sally Hatchet” and “I’m Writing a Novel” (which is a cross between “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by The Monkees and “The Ballad of John and Yoko” – a move that seems intentional based on the song’s lyrics). In general Tillman nods to the past but makes it sound new, a dusted-off find from deep in the vault and not some lame apery.

Every track on the record is solid, a rare find in a singles-driven industry. Unsurprising, though, considering “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is a contender for favorite song of 2012. Fear Fun is an instant classic, prime for those sunny summer mornings and lazy front porch afternoons.

Fear Fun dropped 05.01.12.
Click to download “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” and “Nancy From Now On“.

edge of low verses, they blew my mind

If you’re a frequent visitor to Mixtapes|Heartbreaks, you’ll know that we’ve got it bad for Reptar. I first saw them last October and it was love at first listen. Reptar is one of the most exciting and interest bands around, and their live show is a giant dance party where everyone in the room is your friend. As I said in our last review, I feel bad for you if you haven’t gone to see them on tour. Lucky for you with the release of their first full-length, Body Faucet, you can get a glimpse of some of the fun you could be having.

Before the first track is even done you’ll be singing along, and if you’re able to sit still through most of the album you should probably seek medical attention. Reptar’s music is incredibly dance-able and captures pure joy like lightning in a bottle.

Opening track “Sebastian” is pure sunshine, featuring relaxed vocals from Graham Ulicny that become floored at the end, becoming the vocal equivalent of John Cusack and a boombox as he proclaims “I want to sleep with you next to me / show you the things I want to be”. “Isoprene Bath” is a closed-in shimmy and “Houseboat Babies” just radiates. “Ghost Bike” and “Three Shining Suns” give a bit of calm and a chance to catch your breath, bookending the big synths, hazy guitars, and frantic repetition of the songs between. Body Faucet closes out with “Water Runs”, a track that moves between sober confessional and ecstatic celebration.

Click the video below for a full-album stream before its release tomorrow:

Body Faucet drops 05.01.12.
Click to download “Sebastian” and “Orifice Origami“.
Visit their official site here.