Category: Record Reviews

For those that were following my old blog Sell Out Records, you may remember that I said Lucy Gucy was my favorite new band. Well, with the release of their music video Dead End Doll, they confirm my statements. Check out the video and follow the links, you’re not going to be disappointed.
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Black Flag What The...
Black Flag What The…

Every comment I’ve seen about this release has been negative. I haven’t read one positive thing about the album, from the artwork to the songs, everyone has something bad to say about it. I’m usually on board with the hate of albums that are completely awful, but this time around I found myself in the minority. (I’m Mexican too, so perhaps I should be used to it, right…right) Black Flag released “What The…” to a waiting audience of idiots and stupid journalists. While that is not meant to insult anyone, it’s so true. More and more people have talked negatively about this Black Flag release than I’ve seen in a long time.

This record is the first album in a long time that has Ron Reyes, Greg Ginn and Gregory Moore have been in the lineup. It is crusty, it’s sour at times, it’s not polished and it’s downright well worth the listen. It is 43 some odd minutes of non stop noise and punk rock intensity. It features a band that is not concerned with commercialization, and is in no way trying to please their audience in a manner that some others are willing to go about it. This is not a cookie cutter record, it is not what you would expect and it completely punches you in the face with how brash it is.

Reyes on vocals are awesome, I like the way he draws out the vocals, and I like the noise and bass work as well as the start, stop, frenzied drum kit. A lot of the songs feel like Suicidal Tendency, or even Refused. “I’m Sick” for instance, is a distorted and chaotic track that is far more appealing as a part of the former bands than this one. On the track “You Gotta Be Joking” a bit of funk comes out and produces an interesting change of pace. This is a return to a different time where Black Flag got a lot more respect.

22 tracks of chaos is what you get with this record. It sounds like Frodus, for those that remember that band. It’s a sonic noise pollution that you are not going to get with a lot of other bands right now. Even though there are a lot of people that will not degree with my sentiments, I think that this is a good record. I will throw my support behind it, even if the entire punk rock community thinks it’s dumb.

Black Flag brings noise, chaos, punk, and hardcore into a sound that is welcomed by me and Sell Out Records as a whole. It’s not a corporate piece of BS, it’s a solid outing, and one that deserves far more praise and respect than it is getting right now. I recommend you do yourself a favor and make your own opinion. Tracks that standout include the aforementioned, but also “Wallow in Despair”, “The Chase”, “Lies” and a lot more in the 22 track opus. It’s classic Black Flag here, it’s just not produced in a polished manner that you may expect.

Black Flag “What The…” is available here, and I for one endorse it. If you like Frodus, The Blamed, Refused, At The Drive In, Suicidal Tendencies, and hardcore punk from the 1980s, you will love this release. Just don’t listen to the pundits, they have lost touch with what good music is. There’s nothing better than a band that will not only play whatever the hell they want, but will then spit on your review and continue to do whatever they want. This is very well the most PUNK record to come out in a long time.

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Haim Days Are Gone
Haim Days Are Gone

Call me slow, but I didn’t realize that the girls in Haim were from Los Angeles. All that time I spent playing my Nintendo emulator while waiting for Tantric massages at the Temple of Bliss didn’t really help me with the process. Not that it matters about hanging out in Silverlake at all. Haim has been around for some time, but not as the band. They were once a part of a pop act that probably was worse than Tegan and Sara, and why they didn’t make a splash. The girls are talented, and bounced back with a brilliant debut record, one which I was floored by upon hearing it whole. “Days are Gone” by Haim may very well be my #1 Alternative record of 2013. That’s right, it’s that damn good.

The last time I was hyped about this type of recording, I was in Idaho and received Spoon’s “Transference” for my birthday. It was an early birthday gift, one that turned out to be a bit morose, only to fully collapse a year later with a divorce. Now that’s the gift that keeps on giving, right folks? Haim does something special on this record, and it’s not at all what I expected. When I first heard about the band, I immediately wanted to lump them in with some Sleater Kinney or Rainer Maria, but truth be told, they are a bit more friendly to my ears than the previous. Ok, the other girl groups aren’t bad, but this band just seemed to trumpet a bit more eclectic for me. Maybe it’s the way I heard their singles that got me.

Performing a couple of their tracks on SNL, these girls made me a believer, even though at first I wanted to hate on their sound. I’m not always keen on lumping praise on records that are in the mainstream, and I don’t like admitting that I’m not all metal, punk, and hardcore, but this record definitely broke my senses to the point where I’m throwing my support behind them. Haim brings out incredible influences, and drives the point home that the modern alternative record can’t be defined as such. Influences from Joni Mitchell, Genesis, and even The Pretenders are felt here. On tracks like “Forever”, “The Wire”, “Don’t Save Me”, and my personal favorite “If I Could Change Your Mind”, Haim flows through lyrical stability, fresh sounds, and beautiful vocals. At times I’m in love with the melody, the drumming, and the bass lines that are simple to play, hard to master and flow through a canal that I’ve created in my brain for them to reverberate.

All in all, Haim’s “Days Are Gone” is a tightly wound, expertly produced, major label debut that surprised the hell out of me. I absolutely missed them while they were floating around the L.A. music scene, but that’s probably because I don’t have any friends that still listen to good music and tell me about it. Or perhaps I shouldn’t have been hanging around a studio loft waiting for another overpriced massage. Whatever the case is, Haim’s record is worth checking out, it’s eclectic, it’s simple, and it’s good music.

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Mad Season "Above"
Mad Season “Above”

From the opening notes of the only Mad Season release to the final instance, there is a well of joy, despair, and comfort in each individual track that the super group put out. From the simplicity of the chord progression, to the drumming, you get a layer of musical competency that is not always reflected with rock music today. It’s the balance that makes this so compelling, including the boosts of energy that come through with the choruses and fountains of musical integrity lapping back and forth into a train of sounds, clashing, chords strumming, and bass guitar melodies that epitomizes the Seattle-esque sound.

There are solos, these solos carry own tunes in such a unique manner, not unlike metal in the 1980s or punk rock standards from time to time, but they lead to something so impressive, and that’s Layne Staley’s vocals and harmonies that carry above the music better than some of the tracks Alice in Chains put out. That’s not to say that this band is better or anything, as they have their strengths and weaknesses, but the poetry and simplicity at times really shines through and carries me to another place.

I battle depression.

It’s that depression that has cornered me many times, and the only thing left to do is fight back, and that’s how Mad Season’s record feels like. It feels like there are moments when the lyrics and the music battle to get away from the demons that are chasing them, but alas, it seems to be faltering.

As we all do, we try to think about the music in such a more in depth way, and the reality of things is that they hang over our heads. Mad Season does this so well for me, it helps and it hurts all in the same. It’s as though the lyrics of their single “River of Deceit” comes alive often, as the pain that I feel in my life, particularly in my mind is self chosen, and that’s perhaps the foremost reason that I love this record to death. It’s sad that we lost Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley in my lifetime, it’s just sad. I don’t want to be a victim, which is why I seek therapy through writing and music, it helps. It helps more than anything else, which is definitely a positive thing.

For those that perhaps haven’t picked up the Mad Season record, go for it. If you purchase the deluxe edition, it comes with their live performance from the Moore Theater in Seattle. It’s a throwback to a time where music seemed to have a certain rainy day feeling. I love it, a great deal, and perhaps one day it will help me lift away from depression for good.

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Jean Grae
Jean Grae

Released in 2003, I didn’t know who Jean Grae was, and if someone mentioned her name I would only think about the mighty X-Men. As I hear the music of Glee being punched into my brain right now, I’m reminded of this record from my writing that I was doing yesterday. The stand out track right now is definitely the title track, with only 5 minutes in length it is a triumphant antithesis of Jean Grae’s career and hip hop music on the underground as well. “Hater’s Anthem” is probably the best track of lyrical assassination that you’re going to hear anywhere, and the rest of the EP flows through a lot of talent that you may have missed.

I know I did.

“The Bootleg of the Bootleg” seems short on paper, but it’s over an hour of one of the best hip hop that you’ll hear, and if you’re not a fan of females throwing down rhymes, than you will become a true believer with this one. It’s not a man’s game, although it is often times the men that get all the recognition. If you get some time, listen to this record, purchase it here, and marvel at the insane ability that comes through on this record. It’s inspirational to say the least, and Hater’s are on notice….a bit late, but come on, at least I spoke up.Here’s the track that made me pick this one up, listen close, it’s a great vantage point of talent that lives on today.

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Deftones White Pony Cover
Deftones White Pony Cover

When I was a teenager I played bass guitar on the youth group worship band of the church that I frequented. We had leased a building that would become a Walgreens someday, but at the time it was just gutted Great Western Bank. That bank building would be host for a lot of things, including my old band Reject 37, Reject 37 fest that featured Broken Cedars, Downcast, Engraved, Brothers of the Creed, Means to An End, and many others. It was a day long festival of skateboarding and more, and it launched my record label in many ways. Drawn Close was supposed to play, but I don’t think they made it. The reason I mention this is because it was where I first discovered “White Pony” from the Deftones.

The street team that was promoting Maverick records at the time hit our bank building, since there was a lot of teens there, and they slapped stickers all over the men’s room. That meant that there were Deftones stickers everywhere, including the urinals. So every day I would pee on the sticker and poster from the Deftones record that would change the way I thought about heavy music.

“White Pony” would spawn several singles for the band, and some of my personal favorites including, “Teenager”, “Knife Party”, “Back To School”, “Change (In The House of Flies)” and much more. I even purchased both editions of the special record and am now staring at the possibility of getting the vinyl as well. In my collection, this record holds a lot of special times for me, and it’s mainly because of the legacy that Reject 37 failed to spawn. It was in that bank building that I would launch my music career, meet bands, and even print t-shirts. It was also the place where I learned to drop into a skateboarding ramp, and even was the first place where I started to gain a little talent on a skateboard. I miss it. But everytime I listen to Deftones “White Pony”, I’m reminded of those seminal times, when I used to have friends. Now, I’m old, a writer, and have few people to talk to, I wonder if that is how everyone else feels too. Odd how things change.

If for some odd reason you still purchase music, or you want to hear, buy, or download this record, you can do so by clicking here, and helping this site continue to write stories and reviews on records you may love, hate, or just forgotten.

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Nirvana Unplugged In New York
Nirvana Unplugged In New York

One of the most compelling things about MTV from the 90s, before it switched to whatever nonsense you know it as today, was that they appreciated music and quality musicians. As such, they would have their famed showcase of unplugged music. One of the best releases to ever come out of that era came out in 1994, and it was none other than Nirvana MTV Unplugged in New York. The recording recently go the dvd and vinyl treatment and it still holds up as one of their finest hours. Even though it would be one of the last performances before Kurt died, the music that was played that night still holds up in a way that few live records hold up today.

Nirvana MTV Unplugged in New York has 14 tracks of songs that you most likely haven’t heard in while. They don’t get played on the radio much, but if I were a radio dj, I would definitely make sure that “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” would get regular airplay. Even though people don’t equate this release with the greatest from the band, I think it’s one of the lasting testaments of Nirvana’s appeal as musicians, rock icons, and alternative pioneers.

You can pick up Nirvana MTV Unplugged in New York on every format by clicking here, or find the download somewhere. If you’re going to download music, at least consider purchasing the real deal from a quality merchant, I know, it’s asking a lot. The album is still one of my favorites, and it will most likely be one of yours too, as Kurt’s voice is so haunting at some points. The only good thing MTV has done is probably release and re-release this record.

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A Tribe Called Quest Low End Theory
A Tribe Called Quest Low End Theory

If you are a hip hop music fan and you don’t have A Tribe Called Quest’s sophomore release, “The Low End Theory”, than you’re not a hip hop fan at all. I don’t meant to come across as an elitist, but seriously? Why don’t have this album? It’s one of the most compelling resources of jazz beats with layered vocals that are not only poignant today, but are also proven to stand the test of time.

The delicate balance of words, drums, bass, and soundscapes that you are not going to be getting from many records today, is one of the most impressive arrays of musical power found today. Whether you’re a fan of the abstract, the kinetic energy, sampling, or any rapper in history, you’ll appreciate the levity that is brought through the crew on this record. From the first bass lines of the opening track “Excursions” through the verses that come through “Verses From the Abstract”, and beyond, you will find that the “knowledge that is dropped over beats…” will get you hooked.

When you make through a variety of different tracks, you will definitely find that the rhymes keep moving your record needle through a variety of different tracks, but most importantly, you will have a balancing act between the guys in Tribe that work together to create a lavish array of smooth, easy listening. The lyricism found here is not just a matter of rhyming suffixes, it’s a mix of old school and new school textbook ideologies.

Shout Out From Pomona

I moved to Pomona, and I’m trying to do some work on today, Columbus day, and the internet signal has dropped out in the room that I have to work in. It’s part of the amenities of my apartment complex, a work station of sorts, but the internet is out, so I’m listening to this record and am jazzed (no pun intended) about having a few minutes to think about life, and listen to a little hip hop.

For those that don’t have this record, what are you waiting for? Listening to this again will bring back memories, and if you’re young, than go back to listen to this classic as it is an impressive example of talent.

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Denison Marrs Second Record
World Renown For Romance

One of the bands that I never thought I would discover was Dension Marrs. I was first in line at a Stavesacre merchandise table and was first to purchase their split ep with this band. I was completely entranced with their sound. I don’t recall the tracks that were on it, but when they released a full length album, I made sure to buy it. What came out from this band was the melting of several different styles including shoe gaze, indie, rock, and a bit of progressive rock. It’s not a record that many people remember, especially today, and it’s something that I wanted to talk about and give cred to.

They released some other records, but this one, “World Renown For Romance” is still one of the best independent records that you should listen to today. The band layered together several guitar rhythms and heavy sounding bass amidst emo-esque lyricism of pain, heart break, and love all rolled into one solid record. It is a bit droning at times, but wasn’t “The Juliana Theory” doing the same thing? It’s much calmer than a lot of the records that I love, and perhaps that is the reason why I still listen to it today.

Denison Marrs perhaps invokes a lot of other bands for me, some of which I can’t remember. I definitely hear shades of “American Football”, “The Promise Ring”, and of course “The Juliana Theory”. It’s not quite emo, it’s not quit straight rock, it’s all just good. I don’t like to listen to this record without the whole thing getting played. They have a few good songs on this one including, “The New Droan (Light Years Away”, “A Consequence Plan”, “People Mover (PT2)”, and others. If you like the styling’s of Starflyer 59, claim to like shoe gaze, and want something that will easily fit in next to The Smiths, The Cure, and even a little Matt Skiba and the Sekrets, you’ll want to definitely listen to Denison Marrs sophomore release “World Renown For Romance”.

Even today, I like their side of the split ep with Stavesacre more than the songs that Stavesacre put out. Even though I’m a fan of the latter, this band just made that release worth buying for $5 at the time. If you haven’t heard this band or haven’t really paid attention to a lot of underground releases, give this a chance, by clicking here. It’s one of the better things you’re going to hear today or tomorrow.

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Millencolin Record
Pennybridge Pioneers

Millencolin is one of those bands that a lot of people kind of remember and most don’t even remember at all. If you were around during the punk tv era of “Punkorama TV” on late night in Los Angeles’s only public access channel than you may remember this record come out. They did a video for “Penguins and Polarbears” that was kind of weird. It was about the elements and had a sort of “Captain Planet” sort of thing to it all. Anyways, the album is awesome, moving through angst ridden middle 20s and talking about things that I still find myself dealing with. From “No Cigar” and bullying to “Highway Donkey”, there are points on this record that talks about the world as an abstract condition that you can easily relate to.

This is not your average pop punk record, and it is obvious when you listen to the lyrics that come through on the record. Even when they are trying to be funny Millencolin strikes a nerve. Especially with me on “Material Boy” and of course “Penguins and Polarbears”. It’s satire, it’s comedy, it’s one of the best punk records that many people just completely don’t listen to. The 14 tracks that make this one shine is definitely going to change your perception of pop punk.

Brett Gurewitz produced this one and it really is a prime example of how ska-punkers can shift gears and make melodic music with the best of them. I for one can appreciate the work on this one, even though Millencolin would go on to put out some duds later on. It’s hard to compare the vocals on this one to a lot of other records because it’s really quite interesting, clear, and not overdone or overshadowed by the music. If you haven’t listened to “Pennybridge Pioneers” in a while, it’s time to pick it up again for the first time. Buy it here, stream it somewhere, enjoy.

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