Yes, it’s that time. Time to indulge your sweet tooth. Time for chocolate and caramel and ice cream and cake and berries and all the stuff in the image on the left. You know, because you haven’t had any desserts yet this holiday season.
Let’s just get right to it shall we?
1. Cloud Nothings – Psychic Trauma
What starts off as a pleasant sounding alt-rock song, something familiar, strong in it’s own way, at about 45 seconds in, suddenly speeds up, the drums flailing madly, the guitars fuzzing out and about a minute in, vocalist Dylan Baldi’s goes from a controlled angstyness to a full out wailing. The song is titled “Psychic Trauma” after all.
And then it goes from 10 to 11 in the last 30 seconds, with the drums filling every possible space and the guitars holding it together, rhythmically. And then before the 3 minute mark, it’s over. The perfect pop-punk song.
2. Ex Hex – How You Got That Girl
When I heard that one of my favorite all-girl punk bands from 2011, Wild Flag, disbanded, I was bummed. But from the ashes of Wild Flag comes a new Sleater Kinney album in January, and, in 2014, we got Ex Hex, Mary Timmony’s latest project. Naming her new band after the title of her 3rd solo album, Ex Hex is nostalgia punk of the first order. Take 1 part Ramones, 1 part Go-Go’s and 1 part Joan Jett and you get Ex Hex. It’s comfort rock. It’s loud and it’s brash, but it’s catchy as all hell and is meant for all audiences. The song I’ve chosen “How You Got That Girl” is bubble-gum rock of the highest order. It’s like a bizarre marriage between T Rex and Scandal’s “Goodbye to You.” No, seriously, play the Ex Hex song above and then play the Scandal song below, and tell me that I’m crazy. OK, I’m crazy.
OK, this is a first. It’s a tie for the 3rd song. It came down to the wire but the cameras could not make out a clear winner. Actually, I have lumped these two songs together because they are cut from the same cloth. And if you combine them, they still don’t equal three minutes. I was sure The Number Ones were some obscure band that had a reissue in 2014, but originally existed in the late 70s. But they are actually a band that formed in 2011 and just released their first album in 2014. Though my instinct was right; here’s how allmusic.com describes the band: Irish foursome who love both punk and pop, just as long as it sounds like it was recorded in the ’70s. And that pretty much gets it on the nose. The song I chose, “Boy” is 1:22 of pop-genius; no wasted notes, no unnecessary extra verses. The self-titled album is like jumping into a time machine back to 1978, and seeing a double bill of Buzzcocks and Bay City Rollers. Highly recommended. BTW, this song is not on YouTube, so click the link (above) to hear the song.
If you thought that The #1s put out concise power-pop tunes, they got nothing on Tony Molina. His 12 track release, Dissed and Dismissed, is less than 12 minutes in total. That’s less than 1 minute per song on average. Yet it all works perfectly. “Change My Ways” which I chose for our dessert course, is the 2nd longest track at 1:12. What I like about this song is that it’s loud and fast and has a catchy chorus and then is done. Sure, one might wonder how these songs would sound at a “normal” length, with a sense of repetition and reminder, but why do songs, especially punk songs, have to fit within an expected time constraint? Are classical symphonies judged against the pop song format? Are they considered too long? I’m just saying what The Minutemen said 30 years ago in their song “Shit From An Old Notebook”: Let the products sell themselves/fuck advertising, commercial psychology, psychological methods to sell should be destroyed. I’m not saying this precisely, it’s a little off the point, but any chance to quote The Minutemen I will take. In their footsteps Tony Molina has followed.
4. The Muffs – Weird Boy Next Door
Keeping with the high spirited sound of Tony Molina, but giving it a little bit of girl-power, I am going with The Muffs for song 4 of course 4. Kim Shattuck, The Muffs lead singer has a snarly, sneery quality to her voice which perfectly suits the aggressive sound of “Weird Boy Next Door.” Shattuck’s 2014 should be remembered for the quality of The Muffs first album in more than 10 years, Whoop Dee Doo, but more than likely she is most recognized as being the first replacement for Kim Deal in the touring version of The Pixies. She only lasted 3 months, mostly likely because she was not able to express her individuality and wasn’t a good fit to “shut up and play the hits.” Which ended up being a good thing for us, as we got to have more Muffs in 2014.
5. Parquet Courts – Dear Ramona
Court is back in session! Parquet Courts, who put out perhaps my favorite album of 2013, Light Up Gold, has come back in 2014 with another great collection of songs with their follow up, Sunbathing Animal. While as an album, it doesn’t hold up as well as Light Up Gold, there are several stand-out cuts here that have proven their staying power. “Dear Ramona” certainly fits their patented Pavement meets Jonathan Richman sound, but when something’s not broke, why fix it? I love how lazy the rhythms are, the stoned energy, yet it all holds together remarkably well. Pulling off the sloppy-tight thing is a lot harder than it looks, and Parquet Courts make it sound extremely easy.
You’ve just finished the last bite of pie, you’ve just used your finger to clean off the last drippings of raspberry sauce, but don’t you go anywhere yet. There’s still one more course. No don’t worry, no more food. Just a bit of an aperitif, a time to unwind and let the digestive organs do their thing. Let me brew up some some decaf, boil some water for the mint tea and I’ll be right back.