Monday, February 20, 2012

DIY utilitarian (and fun) home art project #1

I've been wanting a pinboard for my room, kinda like they have in detective movies to connect clues, or in my case, to post memos and recent postcards, found objects, and other things that make my life less monotonous.

This is my non-digital answer to Pinterest, smartphone memos and other things that make life more technology dependent. None of those things are evil, but this is a little more fun and hands on, which is more engaging to my small brain.

It took a little prep time, but the payoff was immediate and I had my pinboard filled in no time. Here is my process in 5 easy steps.

1. Figure out where you want your pinboard. I decided it would work well on the dry erase board I had on my wall already.

2. Get a 4-pack of cork board measuring 1 square foot each. They come with adhesive pads to stick onto whatever smooth surface you choose. For me, it made sense to align them vertically.

3. Put the adhesive pads in the proper places.

4. Arrange the cork board in the fashion you want, and you are ready to put your memos/art/business cards/what-have-you in place!

5. Voila! You can fill and refill your pinboard to your heart's content.

I have more fun art projects I've been working on, and hopefully will be doing little blogs about them from time to time. Do you have an art project you've been wanting to do? I encourage you to make time and an effort to do it.

You won't regret it!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of Eleven.

I'm trying to not let this blog die. I promise (fingers crossed) to be actually blogging more next year.

The ladies seem to be ruling everything this year, from music to the movies, nabbing top spots here and also not mentioned (Adele, Gillian Welch, Civil Wars). Here are my faves of the year, represented by haikus.

1. Lykke Li "Wounded Rhymes"

twisted love songs
haunt my senses

2. The Secret Sisters "The Secret Sisters"

The two originals
Are reason enough
For a top spot

3. The Black Keys "El Camino"

Well guys
I don't know how
But they did it again

4. Tom Waits "Bad As Me"

Nails on the chalkboard
Sugar in the coffee
Tom at his best

5. Wilco "The Whole Love"

Almost getting back
To their top form
Wilco always delivers

6. Nick 13 "Nick 13"

Trading psycho for hill
Songs stand tall
This billy does good

7. Those Darlins "Screws Get Loose"

the name says it all
babes rule
punk - country - rock n roll

8. Fucked Up "David Comes To Life"

Multi-layered, melodic, methodical
Is it still punk?
I say yes

9. Black Lips "Arabia Mountain"

same drugs
same noise
same awesome

10. Bazan "Strange Negotiations"

Bare and thin
Bone and skin
Dave dives in

There weren't many movies I even saw, less that I really dug, but here are a few good ones.

"The Adventures of Tintin"

Swordfights and mysteries
Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones
Would be jealous

"The Tree of Life"

the joys of childhood
cling to the pain
saving it


lots of it
doesn't distract from the moral

"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

Revenge is a dish
Served with burning rubber
And a messy needle


Born killer
Leaves viewer
Begging for sequel

Respond with haikus of your own!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Year End Awards


The beginning of a new decade, and the beginning of a new life for me (sort of). Although I don't think this year's been the most eventful for me, I did have some great times and have met amazing people. I moved to Minnesota to pursue more touring with The Scurvies, but although we haven't toured as much as I'd hoped, we've come a good ways and gotten closer as friends, and have emerged with some fresh ideas.

We got to meet some awesome people on our mini Midwest tour and at Cornerstone (like always), and met lots of new people on the West Coast on the Warped Tour and beyond. At the close of the year, I've resolved to start a record label, which is a dream I've had for a long time, but didn't think would happen until my mid-thirties or so, so I have no idea what I'm getting myself into but I'm excited.

Here are my year-end lists. The winners and honorable mentions, and some extras. Enjoy. Happy 2011.

Best movies:

I don't feel like there have been that many good ones this year, but here's my stab at it.

1. True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen)
2. The Social Network (David Fincher)
3. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Edgar Wright)
4. Inception (Christopher Nolan)
5. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
6. Harry Brown (Daniel Barber)
7. The Crazies (Breck Eisner)
8. Kick Ass (Matthew Vaughn)
9. Shutter Island (Martin Scorcese)
10. The Wolfman (Joe Johnston)

Toy Story 3 is the closest I've ever come to crying in a movie.
Shutter Island might have gone up higher on this list, but I was really sleepy and don't remember it well.
Black Swan will probably make the top 5 on this list once I see it. I reserve the right to change this list.

Honorable mentions: Tron Legacy, Splice, Harry Potter 7 pt. 1


This one's extremely hard, because unlike the movie landscape, there was an epic flood of good albums this year. I decided to do the top ten, and then assign special awards for certain albums.

1. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo” (Abstract Dragon/Vagrant)
2. The Gaslight Anthem “American Slang” (SideOne Dummy)
3. The Black Keys “Brothers” (Nonesuch)
4. Johnny Cash “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” (American)
5. AM Taxi “We Don’t Stand A Chance” (Virgin)
6. Titus Andronicus “The Moniter” (XL)
7. The Arcade Fire “The Suburbs” (Merge)
8. The Dead Weather “Sea of Cowards” (Third Man/Warner Bros.)
9. Brandon Flowers “Flamingo” (Island)
10. Against Me! "White Crosses" (Sire)

Now the specialized awards:

1. Most Valient Effort
My Chemical Romance “Danger Days: True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” (Reprise)

After going into the studio to record the follow up to 2006’s goth opera masterpiece “The Black Parade”, MCR was ready to remove the eyeliner for once and make the no-frills rock record they’d been pining for since the end of the Black Parade tour. However, they weren’t happy with the result, so they started from scratch and ended up recording a post-apocalyptic 80’s soaked tour–de-force of punk, balladry, and familiar Freddie Mercury-esque arena epics. Although it’s a pretty fun ride, it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor.

2. Best Unlikely Duo
Mavis Staples “You Are Not Alone” (Anti)

Gospel and soul legend and rock 'n' roll hall-of-famer Mavis Staples, of the generation-spanning gospel group Staples Singers, teams up with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy for a new classic album in Staples’ quiver. Though most Tweedy efforts are sonic, modern outputs, this album trades Tweedy's new school for Staples' old school, and plays to Staples’ strengths, which are her musical heritage, faith, and of course, her booming, soulful voice. Tweedy pens two of the songs, and there are also covers of Randy Newman, John Forgerty, Pops Staples, and a few traditionals. This is one unprecedented collaboration that hits the spot just right.

3. The One That Got Away
Sufjan Stevens “The Age of Adz” (Asthmatic Kitty)

When Everyone and their boyfriend was going bizonkers over the sprawling “Illinois” back in 2005, something rubbed me the wrong way, and I just couldn’t get into it. Fast-forward 5 years, and my friend had tickets to see him on this most recent tour. A laser light show accompanied his 11 piece band, which manned a diverse assortment of instruments, from synthesizers to trombones, all brought together by his two drummers. I was sold. With this album, Sufjan drops the geographic theme shtick and weaves a more electronic web of Daft Punk-ish synth and effects (even auto tuned vocals – gasp!) to blanket his otherwise organic, simple melodies. It comes across as Sufjan exploring his darker side, talking about sex, death, outsider art, and having as much fun as he can in the process.

4. Best Latebloomer
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals “Cardinals III/IV” (Pax AM)

Like the previously mentioned Johnny Cash album (in part one), this album was released several years after it was recorded, but sounds like a fresh outing from the Cardinals, who take a sharp turn from their previous slow, haunting, crooned alt-country in a rollicking, near-punk rock direction that would make "Is This It"-era Strokes fans jealous. As puzzling as it is, this was recorded during the same sessions as 2006’s Easy Tiger, but stylistically stands out as though Adams and Co. recorded it during a week-long sugar high and forgot to release it. Knowing that Adams writes songs as often as most people breath air, it’s still unnerving that his previous label hindered him from putting out “too much” music at any time. However, this double album was released on his own label, so maybe it was tied up in contracts and was finally able to be released. In any case, hungry Ryan Adams fans ought to be grateful.

5. Best Underground Jam
Flatfoot 56 “Black Thorn” (Old Shoe)

These southside Chicago road warriors’ 4th album shows a lot of maturity from previous records, featuring full on hardcore songs, folk ballads, and plenty of catchy sing-alongs. One thing that seems to stand out with the Flatfoot crew is that compared to other well-known celtic punk bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, these guys take a more natural approach to their influences, which range from straight-edge hardcore and oi to American folk traditionals and rock ‘n’ roll. You’ll notice a nice plethora of mandolin here, bagpipes there, but no oversaturation of either, and it blends well with the melodic guitar work of frontman Tobin Bawinkel and gang vocals by his brothers.

Other honorable mentions: Interpol “Interpol” (Matador), She and Him “Volume Two” (Merge), The New Pornographers “Together” (Matador), Kings of Leon “Come Around Sundown” (RCA)

Best Live Shows I saw in 2010:

1. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Consequently, the band that drops the best album of the year also puts on an amazing show. At the middle of their set when I saw them in March, bassist Robert Been dropped down to sit cross-legged about a foot and a half in front of me and sang Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna”. The 40-somethings to my right enjoyed it just as much as the 16-year old to my left. We all left the show satisfied, sweaty, and with sore feet from all the stomping.

2. Andrew WK

This dude took a break from his “motivational speech” career to play a 2-month stint on the Vans Warped Tour, and I couldn’t have been happier. He announced from the stage with a huge smile on his face “There will never be another August 13, 2010, so you better live it up and not waste any time with negativity! Let’s have some fun!” He then prompted everyone who wasn’t already crowdsurfing to get on someone’s shoulders, and everyone played along. The security guards were having a hell of a time trying to control the two-tiered crowd, but everyone else was pleased as punch to get kicked in the head. You only live once!

3. The Gaslight Anthem

These Jersey Boys do their homeboy Bruce Springsteen proud on their new album, “American Slang”, but they can also put on a mean live show. Seamlessly weaving through their 3 albums, they pleased the fans both new and old, and treated us to a flawless recreation of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” by request, and a hearty duet with tour opener Tim Barry.

4. The Dead Weather

Though I’m a fan of each of the members of TDW's other respective bands (The Kills, The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and Queens of the Stone Age), I hadn’t really “gotten” this band until seeing them live. I figured out that the songs they write are meant to be heard live, and the band blasted through each song with reckless abandon like they'd just written it and wanted to play it loud as can be, like their life depended on it. Detroit native Dean Fertita (who moonlights as QOTSA's keyboardist) was my favorite part of the show, as his proves to be just as effective of a lead guitarist as Jack White is in his two other bands. Allison Mosshart ruled the stage like a prowling lioness, scary but sexy. I know now why this band works, and doesn't shy away from the raw, explosive side of their musical talent.

5. AM Taxi

This band was my favorite find of 2010. I stumbled upon them at Warped Tour, and I’m so glad I did. The story goes like this: Lucky Boys Confusion was a Chicago pop-punk band that was well-known for their tight performances and catchy songs. After the band’s demise, guitarist Adam Krier and bassist Jason Schultejann formed a new band called AM Taxi that combined LBC’s pop-punk sound with Americana, 60’s and 70’s rock ‘n’ roll influences to round out the sound. The result is a beautiful blend of well-crafted pop, rock, and punk that has just enough of a rugged edge that makes for an exciting live show. The band is unbelievably tight on stage and keeps things fresh with a fender Rhodes and organ in the mix with the usual crisp guitars and melodic vocals. Check them out if you get the chance!

Honorable mentions: AC/DC (Yes. I did drive 200 miles to see them, sat 200 feet away from the stage, endured the worst opening band in history, and no, I did not regret a bit of it), Larry and His Flask, Riverboat Gamblers, Social Distortion, Titus Andronicus, The New Pornographers

Top 5 albums that came out in 2009, that I discovered too late to include in my last year’s list:

1. Band of Skulls “Baby Darling Doll Face Honey” (Shangri-La)

These guys were the supporting act for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when I saw them recently, and didn't quite know what to expect. Live, they effortlessly switched between swampier garage-stomp blues, and beautiful, harmony driven haunts. Same goes with their debut album, and each song is a pleasant surprise that will invade your ears and won't come quietly. Lead vocals are shared by Russell Marsden, guitar, and Emma Richardson, bass, but they also share songwriting duties with drummer Matt Hayward, and they compliment each other well, like a set of siblings each taking turns to showcase their talents. I expect them to be on the up and up in the British rock 'n' roll scene in no time.

2. Cobra Skulls “American Rubicon” (Red Scare)

Rock-solid politically charged punk rock from Reno, Nevada. It's hard to classify Cobra Skulls' style, as it's as much influenced by 90's punk as it is by rockabilly and honky-tonk, but you won't get any tear-in-my-beer moments from these dudes. The album starts with a twangy intro, but quickly kicks things in to high gear and they waste no time making their point. The wit in their songwriting and lyrics are matched by their chops and the songs get stuck in your head like southern cooking in your gut. The content of the lyrics covers a lot of ground, but focuses on important issues like overpopulation, war, and the importance of keeping it DIY.

American Rubicon plays like thinking man's "American Idiot", with its message and catchiness, but the songs stand tall and go down smooth. If you like the idea of Against Me! covering Hank Williams, this is the album for you. Fat Mike's signed the band recently and will be producing their next EP, which you should also keep your eye out for. Standout tracks include "Rebel Fate", "Thicker Than Water" and "Back To The Youth".

3. Riverboat Gamblers “Underneath The Owl” (Volcom)

Denton, Texas natives whip up another bunch of rowdy, fist-in-your-face songs that would have even the casual fan wanting to get in on the moshpit. In a strange turn of events, RG recruited veteran nu-metal producer Mudrock (Godsmack, Powerman 5000, Avenged Sevenfold) to helm their newest offering, which some would think is a strange choice. Fortunately for us punk rockers, the album is slick, glossy and melodic, without losing much of the punch of earlier classics like “Something To Crow About”.

4. Julian Casablancas “Phrazes For the Young” (RCA)

In a streak of Strokesless years (minus a Lollapolooza appearance), Casablancas does us proud on this set of quirky, catchy, buzzsaw pop songs. Here’s to hoping that he, Albert Hammond Jr. and the boys will get their act together and bring us a new album soon.

5. Lucero "1372 Overton Park" (Universal Republic)

Though they're known for their raw recordings that embody the lifestyle of boozing, all-night drives, and hard luck, "1372 Overton Park" is a sizable step up in production and arrangement. Producer Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem, Bouncing Souls, Flogging Molly) brings a gleaming presence that gives each track a gritty-yet-warm shine that pulls you in and makes you forget what year it is, as all good music should.

The album, whose title is a reference to the famous Memphis park where Elvis Presley played his first paid gig, rightfully brings to mind a sense of American tradition that Lucero not only pays tribute to, but owns. The full horn section, organ, piano and pedal steel arrangements echo the maturity of Lucero's near 10-year existence and puts "1372 Overton Park" in the upper echelon of modern rock and roll classics, alongside The Gaslight Anthem's "The '59 Sound" and River City Rebels' "Keepsake Of Luck."

Well, that about wraps things up. I won't say I'm sorry I didn't include Mumford and Sons, Kanye, The National, Justin Beiber, or whatever else is ruling the charts these days. I yam what I yam and like what I like. Feel free to comment share your thoughts and hate/love mail.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 12th, 2010. Journal Entry.

Twenty-six years ago, my best friend, Jeremy Austin Earnshaw was born.
I only considered him my best friend after years of closeness, when he confessed in drunken honesty that he smoked cigarettes. I think he was concerned that I would judge him for some reason. I did not. For whatever strange reason, as little and insignificant a fact as it was, this was the deciding factor in ending my quest for a best friend. It meant I could confide in him all my secrets, no matter how big or small they may be.

He died in a freak drowning accident two and a half years ago. That year, 2008, was by far the worst year of my life, for this and other reasons. It was the year my life, as I knew it, self-destructed, imploded, discontinued to exist. I felt like the life I knew was a sinking ship, and I'd luckily been thrown into a lifeboat by some unknown providence. Right now, I'm in the middle of reading "The Life of Pi", by Yann Martel. In the book, a young boy names Piscine (Pi for short), the son of a zookeeper in India is traveling by sea to his new home of Winnipeg, Canada. During the journey, the ship's engines have some kind of malfunction, and the ship succumbs to the brutality of a violent storm. Pi is thrown overboard onto a lifeboat, in the company of two extremely dangerous creatures, a hyena and a Bengal Tiger, both prior inhabitants of his father's zoo.

I felt a lot like Pi that year. The foundation on which I stood shattered, and what was left, I had to cling to with all my might, even though in the midst of dangerous, savage creatures. I can't reveal the ending of "The Life of Pi", as I haven't even finished it, but I'm assured by the writer that it's a happy ending. I'm sure that Jeremy's ending was a happy one. He's in a better place, while I'm in lifeboat, still surrounded by danger. However, I have hope, even though I feel like I've been tossed from the frying pan into the fire. And I've gotten used to it. But there's still a void in my heart, and my best friend may never be replaced.

I hope my ending will be happy too, but right now I really, really miss my old friend.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Victory Lap

Hey everybody. I apologize for my absence from the blogosphere and twitterverse. I've been busy traveling since my last entry, and have been relying on facebook and the phone to keep in touch with friends, so I haven't made time to blog. But here's what I've been up to!


Went camping, saw some great bands (New Pornographers, Damian Jurado) and had to cancel the Scurvies East Coast tour, due to lack of responses from promoters (bummer), and got ready for our summer Midwest mini-tour. Here's how that went down:


The tour began with our 4th annual appearance at Cornerstone Festival in southern Illinois. We played two shows, including a surprise slot right after our friends, Pittsburgh's The Last Hope.

The next day, I got profusely sick (thanks, heatstroke, malnutrition, and lack of sleep!), but was feeling better after sleeping in a real bed and getting all the junk out of my system. I also was completely unharmed in a car crash (as was everyone else, while the car I was in was totalled, and the other guys' car was pretty banged up). Can you say lucky?

Afterwards, we went to Cleveland, where I got to visit the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame Museum for the second time. They had some new cool stuff they didn't have last time I went (2 years ago), like the awning from CBGB's, some of Jerry Garcia's guitars, and a whole exhibit on the Boss.

We played a basement show in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then a cafe in Indianapolis, where we got to hang out with our friend Josh, the former bagpiper and mandolinist for Flatfoot 56, and met some new awesome friends. We went from there to Chicago, and then 90 miles from home, our fuel pump went out and we had to get towed all the way back at 3 in the morning. Triple A payed for it, and the tow truck driver was not happy. After a few near misses, we were finally home!

Former Scurvies guitarist Brandon Reid, who'd been traveling in Australia for the last 6 months, was on tour and played a show in Minneapolis, and I got to play (as This Heart) with him and Australia's Evan Buckpitt. I got to hang out with them again, plus a bunch more of my good friends from all over the country in Asheville, North Carolina at my friends Aaron and Grace's wedding. It was a great blessing to see all of these people in one place, catch up and do my fair share of square dancing. We got to visit our good friends in Indiana on the way to and from the wedding, which was a real treat.

I also got a chance to see two of my favorite bands, The Dead Weather and The Gaslight Anthem, in the same week. It pays to live in an area where good touring bands are always passing through!


We began our Scurvies Out West Tour with some long drives, as we had to get all the way to southern California in a matter of 4 days. We had two shows, one in Sioux Falls, SD, and another with our friends Munster Boogie, in Denver, CO. We had little time to kill, but we squeezed in some good fun with the Denver kids and family that Nathan had in the city.

Shortly thereafter, we were in Pomona, California to start our 5-day stint on the Vans Warped Tour. Within that short span of time, we did a whirlwind tour of California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, which felt much longer than it was, and we met a ton of good folks. You can check out a review of our show at Washington's Gorge Ampitheatre here. Check out these great bands that we got to interact and share the stage with, if you haven't already:

Riverboat Gamblers My favorite live show of the tour, with Andrew WK (with whom I had a few near run-ins) being a close second. Part of the draw was the rock 'n' roll energy, but another big part was how tight the band was. They're albums, especially "Something To Crow About" and their newest, "Underneath The Owl" have been in steady rotation the last month.

Cobra Skulls We got to know those guys a little bit, as we were playing the same stage and had a merch booth next to them a few times. They have it all: catchy songs, clever and sophisticated lyrics, and genuine DIY spirit. Awesome!

Jukebox Romantics
Same story with Cobra Skulls, these New York City kids were on the same stage as us, and we played back to back a few times. Their songs give a healthy nod to Bouncing Souls and Operation Ivy, and have all the contagious spirit a feel-good band should have. Keep a lookout for them!

Larry And His Flask
We played with LAHF a few years ago when they were a 4-piece punk band, but now have morphed into a six-piece hillbilly acoustic punk jam with enough power to give you a heart attack. They've also picked up Dropkick Murphy's merch guy as a manager, who's getting them huge shows left and right. I predict by this time next year, they'll be a household name in the punk community.

We also got to hang out a bit with a few bands we've played with previously, like California's Longway, Boston's Far From Finished, and The Casualties, who we got to play with in Alaska back in October, and it was great to hang out with all of them again. There are way too many stories to tell about Warped Tour, but suffice it to say that by the time it was over, I was sad and wished I could have gotten to spend more time with the people I met.

The next phase of our tour was with Portland's husband-and-wife folk punk duo Destroy Nate Allen.

We did about 12 dates with them, with some wild adventures intertwined into the tour, including getting one show shut down by the LAPD, swimming at the beach, camping in the redwoods, and finding a place in Oregon that had about 5 treehouses on the premises, and this sweet Lord of the Rings-inspired door.


After splitting up with Nate and Tessa, we played a handful of shows in Oregon before heading back east. We'd almost been on the road a month, and were ready to be home. We had a few canceled shows between Montana and South Dakota, so we ended up camping in our van a few nights in a row, which was augmented by several stops to Starbucks, for coffee, wifi and free hot water for our Cups o' Noodles.

In South Dakota, we set about re-enacting National Treasure 2, and snuck into Mt. Rushmore from the backside. Punx!

After being off for a few days, we had 2 final shows. One in South Dakota that our friend Jake set up for us, and then a homecoming show at Minneapolis' Triple Rock Social Club, home to punk rockers from near and far. Our buddies Dead Bundy and the Neat Neat Neats opened the show with a brilliant display of psychobilly, then Crankshaft, the amazing one-man-blues-garage-punk-band and our new friends Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band closed out the night. It was a wonderful way to end the tour.

Now that I'm home for a bit, I hope to be blogging and tweeting a little more often than I've been doing. A little bit.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

stolen from Facebook.

These are some music reviews of albums I've gotten this year so far, that I've been posting on my facebook. I stole it to put here for people I'm not friends with on facebook. voilĂ .

The Dead Weather "Sea Of Cowards" Third Man/Warner, 2010.

Much like they did on their 2009 debut "Horehound", The Dead Weather dive right into a miry, mucky, fuzzy avant-blues-punk set, leaving you once again in a dizzy trance, wondering when one song ended and the other began, and just who it was singing that last part, Allison Mosshart or Jack White.

Deviating little from their first album, "Sea of Cowards" is full of White's, well, dark side, a breath of fresh air for anyone who thought The White Stripes were getting too polished on the last few albums. While White is obviously stepping out from behind the drums on a few songs to play some signature howls and screeches on the guitar, the album also features fellow guitarist and Detroit native Dean Fertita playing more organ and keyboard (his main duties in his other band, Queens of the Stone Age) to flesh out the sound.

While "Horehound" gave us our first impression of TDW, "Sea of Cowards" is a denser, more complicated look at what these four musicians are capable. Here's hoping they dish out more.

4 out of 5 stars.

The Gaslight Anthem "American Slang" Side One Dummy Records, 2010

For the last few years, New Jersey's The Gaslight Anthem has been both praised and criticized for their emulation and mimicry of greats like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, but their reputation as one of the best rock bands was set in stone with the release of 2008's of "The '59 Sound", which boasted a pitch-perfect blend of punk and arena rock that took America by storm.

That being said, their new album, "American Slang" is one of the most anticipated records of the year, but don't hold your breath if you're expecting the same record all over again. This time around, Brian Fallon and Co. delve into new territories of soul, blues, and gospel, especially on back to back stand-out tracks "The Diamond Church Street Choir" and "The Queen of Lower Chelsea".

Although it might not be the feel-good album of the year that "The '59 Sound" was, the maturity on this record proves that they are worthy successors, not copycats, of their heroes.

4 and a half out of 5 stars.

Uncle Tupelo "March 16-20, 1992" Rockville Records, 1992

As the title suggests, this acoustic-only album was recorded in just a few days, under the supervision of R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, who decided to produce their album after seeing them play the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia. Although tension between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar had begun, their chemistry works so well on this album, it's hard to tell why more people don't herald this as their best.

Standout tracks are the traditional song "Coalminers" and a reimagined roots version of The Stooges classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog".

4 out of 5 stars.

Band Of Skulls "baby darling doll face honey" Shangri-La Music, 2009

These guys were the supporting act for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when I saw them recently, and didn't quite know what to expect. Live, they effortlessly switched between swampier garage-stomp blues, and beautiful, harmony driven haunts.

Lead vocals are shared by Russell Marsden, guitar, and Emma Richardson, bass, but they also share songwriting duties with drummer Matt Hayward, and they compliment each other well, like a set of siblings each taking turns to showcase their talents.

4 out of 5 stars.

River City Rebels "Keepsake Of Luck" Silver Sprocket, 2007

I can't find anything negative to say about this album. Catchy punk inspired rock and roll with soul for miles. I caught a set from these guys a year ago, and they put on a fantastic show. I picked up their newest album, "In Love/Loveless", which is also great, but this one is the cream of the crop.

For some ungodly reason, the Rebels didn't get the label support they should have had for what I would consider the peak of their creativity and perfection. This belongs in every punk and rock and roll fan's collection.

Absolutely 5 out of 5 stars.

Titus Andronicus "The Moniter" XL Recordings, 2010

A brilliant second effort by Glen Rock, New Jersey's most engaging pessimists. Style-wise, you'll have a hard time pigeonholing them, but if I had to take a stab at it, I'd call it "post-shoegaze indie fuzz folk punk".

Somewhere in between The Arcade Fire, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, and The Replacements, this band's sound is drowned in punk rock noise, fury and abandon, and resurrected in catchy melodies and passion. A concept album based on the Civil War, "The Moniter" curses the futility and hopelessness of the youth of America, and the prospect of growing up, but offers solace in musical freedom, which they don't take lightly. The fuzzy guitar solos, violins, keys, and shout-along choruses make these guys one of the funnest and most heartfelt punk bands these days.

It's not hard to find yourself chanting along with haunting refrains like "You will always be a loser", "The enemy is everywhere" and of course, "Tramps like us, Baby, we were born to die".

Angst never sounded so good.
4 out of 5 stars.

Johnny Cash "American VI: Ain't No Grave" American Recordings, 2010

Johnny's last set of recordings with Rick Rubin begins with the death rattle of a chain dropping the ground, bells tolling, and a frail Cash singing "There ain't no grave can hold my body down". His version of the spiritual takes a personal tone as the song was recorded the week he died. The title track sets the mood for the whole album, which features themes of death, redemption, and his heavenly soon-to-be home. Though you can hear the mortality in Cash's voice, Rubin has a way of casting his songs in immortal gold.

4 and a half out of 5 stars.

Vivian Girls "Everything Goes Wrong" In The Red Records, 2009

For their second album, Brooklyn's Vivian Girls dish out more girl-group-meets-lofi-punk and prove that they're not going away. Brash, catchy, sad, spacey and sassy. Somewhere in between the Shangri Las and The Coathangers.

3 and a half out of 5 stars.

Randy "Randy The Band" Burning Heart/Fat Wreck, 2006

Catchy-as-hell Ramones style punk rock from Sweden. I first came across this album as a college radio DJ a few years ago and have been wanting to get my hands on it ever since. It seems to me like most rock and roll bands from Sweden have their act down (The Hives, Turbonegro, Sahara Hotnights, The Sounds, The Hellacopters) and put out nothing but perfect records and Randy is no exception.

3 and a half out of 5 stars.

Against Me! "White Crosses" Sire, 2010

Working again with famed producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Green Day, Garbage), Against Me! cranks out another slick sonic assault in the vein of their 2007 major-label debut "New Wave", and boasts the same flailing dissonant guitars, rapid-fire vocals and catchy sing-alongs.

Along with the jump from an indie label to a major came accusations of selling out, a loss of innocence, and a deep look inside that seemingly prompted a lyrical and musical change. Thus was born "New Wave" which focused on highly emotional themes of integrity, lust, and apathy. Though these themes are still prevalent on "White Crosses", the album takes us on a more intimate, personal journey that shows us that Tom Gabel is still true to himself.

Be it for better or worse, we can't be who we once were, and although Gabel may have veered off the political course he set out on when he first started his band, his passion and songwriting still stand head and shoulders above any political statement he ever made. From "Baby, I'm An Anarchist" to "I Was A Teenage Anarchist", Against Me! is still a band that makes you think twice before you think you know it all.

Gabel sums it up on the Sex Pistols-esque "Rapid Decompression", one of the standout tracks on the album:

"Before you point your finger,
Before you cast your stones,
Take a look at yourself.
How can you expect from someone what you won't do yourself?"

4 out of 5 stars.

Flatfoot 56 "Black Thorn" Old Shoe Records, 2010

Chicago's celtic punk rock road warriors return with their much anticipated Black Thorn, produced by Street Dogs bassist Johnny Rioux.

As I expected, the themes of the working class struggle, bagpipes, and gang vocals are as abundant as their previous records, but there is a sense of maturity and growth in the lyrics as well as the diversity of sound. There are full-on hardcore songs and more folk sounding songs that you won't hear coming from just any punk band.

To top it off, the songs are more personal, and give you the idea of what it takes to be on the road for 9 months of the year, and how it feels to be in the same band for 10 years and still be going strong.

4 and a half out of 5 stars.

Recommended songs: Black Thorn, Courage, Smoke Blower, Shiny Eyes, We Grow Stronger

She And Him "Vol. 2" Merge Records, 2010

I have to admit, I anticipated this record a lot, and at first, it kind of disappointed me. It's not that it's a bad record at all, but I had high expectations based on "Vol. 1" being one of my favorite albums of the last few years that led to my disappointment.

That being said, there are some high points. One, M. Ward adds more of his lush, atmospheric vocals to the mix, which weighs the delicate balance in his more folk-driven direction to compliment Zooey Deschanel's swoony 60's girl-group style vocals.

Two, most of the songs are longer, which is nice, because as wonderful as "Vol. 1" is, it feels like a quick kiss that you wanted to last longer. This seems to be a sign of maturity for Zooey's songwriting, as most of the songs from the first album were written over several years, whereas she threw herself into writing the songs from this album, despite her busy acting schedule for "Yes Man" and "(500) Days of Summer".

Highlights include the first two tracks, "Thieves" and "In The Sun", the NRBQ cover "Ridin' In My Car", and the emotional closer "If You Can't Sleep".

3 and a half out of 5 stars.

Fucked Up "Couple Tracks" Matador, 2010

A nice collection of F'd Up's singles and B-sides. This is one of my favorite punk bands of recent times, and steeped in the tradition of lo-fi punk rock, they've put out over 35 7"s in the last 5 years. Highlights include "Dangerous Fumes", "Ban Violins", "I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You" and "Teenage Problems".
4 out of 5 stars.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "Beat The Devil's Tattoo" Abstract Dragon/Vagrant, 2010

After BRMC had already perfected a blend of garage, shoegaze, and psychedelic rock with their first two albums, the band blew everyone's minds with the beatnik inspired folk rock album, "Howl".

With "Beat The Devil's Tattoo", the boys (and girl) return to that form, with another perfect album. This one mixes the sonic garage boom of "Baby 81" and the hypnotic pysch-folk of "Howl" for another classic in the BRMC canon.

5 out of 5 stars.

The White Stripes "Under Great White Northern Lights" Third Man/Warner, 2010

I bought the vinyl companion to the "Under Great White Northern Lights" DVD, which followed the Stripes on their Canadian tour supporting "Icky Thump" back in 2007.

The songs on the audio version are compiled from several shows on the tour, and the live album offers several classics like "Seven Nation Army" and "We're Going To Be Friends" and also has the crowd favorite "Jolene" (Dolly Parton), and songs dating back to their early Detroit days, such as "When I Hear My Name" and "Let's Shake Hands".

Though the album is by no means a glossy, produced account, it proves that they are still spontaneous, explosive and raw as hell.

3 out of 5 stars.

Jay Reatard "Blood Visions" In The Red Records, 2006

From the infamous cover that puts even Andrew WK to shame, to his early death, this is a punk document at it's best. A modern classic.

3 and a half out of 5 stars.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

April showers bring May flowers.

Spring has officially sprung in Minneapolis, despite the rain and snow that we've seen recently, and I've been pretty busy with stuff involving The Scurvies.
Besides tour booking, songwriting and merch design, we've spent a lot of time getting ready for the magnum opus event-of-the-year contender Punk Rock Prom, which is an 80's themed dance party our guitarist and bassist have been putting on for the last 4 years. Every year, analog synth legend Joy Electric has headlined, accompanied by host of local bands doing originals in addition to favorite 80's jams. This year, The Scurvies will be playing along with local pop-rock band Hyland.

However, I have been on a few notable excursions into the city and beyond, represented here by a photo recap.

Flyer for the esteemed Punk Rock Prom

AC/DC and fans in Milwaukee

Titus Andronicus at the 7th Street Entry

Selected works from the Foot In The Door 4 exhibit in Minneapolis.

And last but not least, the Scurvies' newest toy, a Hammond M3, which we will be putting to use at Punk Rock Prom.

I've also been maintaining a photo album on my facebook of new music I've gotten this year, which I'm going to be posting here shortly.