Feb 23 2014

Five Albums That Changed My Life – Pork Soda

primus pork soda

And so continues a series of posts I started back in May, and while the first entry is probably more culturally significant, this addition still has a special place in my heart, if only for its musical impact. Most people know me as an avid appreciator of music of all kinds, but particularly indie and alternative styles. I keep that as general and vague as I can, because honestly that has been the only constant description dealing with my evolution into studying, criticizing, and even enjoying (!) pop culture and its music counterpart. There are bands and artists I’ve remained loyal to, regardless of output, kind of like a sports team fandom, really. Most of these come from my adolescence, and of course Les Claypool and Primus fit that bill. These are bands that are admittedly, just a bit before my time, but I nevertheless identify with what someone my age would deem “older brother” music. I was into the sounds of grunge, 90’s punk, stuff that was wearing off on the masses by the time I became cognizant of what year it was and what was popular. And this is primarily because of my cousin Joe.

Joe is now married and has a kid, which in my mind makes him much older than I am because I don’t have those things, even though he’s my senior by merely six years. So yeah, he essentially served as the older brother I didn’t have. But he was only around at Christmas, so that was when I got a taste of what it was like to be a teenager and like teenager stuff and watch PG-13 movies and hear his stories about going to concerts and kissing girls and seeing Tool like 7 times in Mesa and all that jazz. It was an exciting growth period for me. It probably had already begun to formulate, as I had discovered Z93, the local Top 40 station, the summer before, much to the chagrin of my mother, who always wanted me to like only country music (sorry, Mom). But it reached its apex during December 1996, and eventually progressed into listening to FM90, the college station, and sneaking views of MTV and South Park, and going to loud rock concerts on my own, and becoming the unjustified music snob I am today. It’s all Joe’s, and Les Claypool’s, fault.

Joe would sleep in my room on the top of my blue (or was it red?) bunk bed over the holidays, and one day while playing Super Nintendo I began listening to whatever Joe was blaring from the top bunk through his headphones utilizing a Sony Walkmen that was way more hi-tech than mine. It sounded….well, strange. Joe eagerly let me put the headphones on, started the track over, and this is what I heard.

And this was my first taste of alternative rock. Ever. Before that, I was all about Dwight Yoakam and Coolio. This opened a whole new dimension of music I only vaguely knew about, and I wanted more. Now, admittedly, Primus is a weird, weird band, so my first exposure to modern rock was probably outside the box (I remember watching an awards show a few months later and witnessing Live and Collective Soul win awards and wondering why they sounded so….safe). So Joe let me listen to Rage Against the Machine, and Weezer, and Tool, and the Deftones, and Toadies, and all these bands I still love today because they have a special place in my heart and were honestly bands that changed my life. And they’re all pretty different in their own way, but they all had something I had never experienced before. We spent hours in my bedroom that Christmas playing video games and listening to rock music, and it was glorious. And then I went out and bought Pork Soda, and Evil Empire, and Adrenaline, and Undertow, and Rubberneck, and the Blue Album, with my Christmas money. Within two years, I had every album from all those bands, and a whole lot more. By next Christmas, I was talking Primus trivia with Joe like I was a veteran who had seen them at Lollapalooza in ’94.

The albums I’ve named are mainly time capsules now, including Pork Soda; some have claimed their place in Important 90’s Albums lists, some are merely footnotes in a memorable rock band’s catalogue. But these albums, and this time period, are timeless to me. Nowadays, we see a sweeping abundance of love for the 90’s, everything adoring the decade I already knew was cool. Culture has a tendency to love things that turn twenty years old, but by the time they’re thirty, they might as well be forgotten. And some of these acts are going strong after hiatuses, some are doing one-off reunions, some are long gone, never to return. But I still love them all, whether inactive or a different incarnation or producing comparable mediocrity. Because of Christmas 1996 and my cousin Joe. Because that time was a huge musical transformation for me, which in my world means a huge transformation in general. And it all began sitting on a bunk bed in my childhood bedroom, wearing oversized headphones and hearing a bass guitar make sounds I’d never heard before from any contraption, musical or otherwise. And even today, when my taste has progressed, along with most people’s, into heavy electronics and hip-hop, this music from a decade I’m blissfully stuck in still sounds new. ┬áMusic I still adore, and blare just as loudly.


Mar 5 2012

Free Press Summer Fest 2012 Has Outdone Itself

This year’s Free Press Summer Fest has been announced, and, wow, I must say I am impressed. Snoop Dogg, The Avett Brothers, Primus, Big Freedia, Danny Brown, Jeff the Brotherhood, Willie Nelson, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Flaming Lips (performing Dark Side of the Moon), Wavves, Diplo, Best Coast, Major Lazer, Turquoise Jeep! I’m gonna have a hard time avoiding the miserable Houston heat this summer!


Dec 30 2011

The Top 50 Albums of 2011 – The Top Ten

10. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

Merrill Garbus has always been known for oddball melodies and quirky arrangements, but the growth shown on this spectacular album is spellbinding. Memorable, inviting, disarming, and purely inventive, this standout is unlike anything anyone in music is doing right now, and is an un-arguable example of the unique power of the musicality of tUnE-yArDs.

9. The Weeknd – House of Balloons

The addiction to partying, to tripping, to rolling, to getting wasted and blackout obliterated has never been so perfectly soundtracked than in this promising debut. The hollow feelings, the numbed experiences, and the utter craving to do it all again to forget about the last time is captured here. Dark, demented, honest, and with the worst intentions.

8. Araabmuzik – Electronic Dream

The title of this introductory mixtape is certainly appropriate – like the blurred drive home after a night of partying, the triple-time drum machines, 90’s era female vocals, and repeated reminders that “you are now listening to Araabmuzik” blend together like the final dance at the club, or the final steps to the bed.

7. Terius Nash – 1977

He’s proclaimed himself the Love King, but for his free mixtape, The-Dream chose not only to name it after the year of his birth, but opted to use his real name as the moniker of choice. Why? Because the Love King isn’t bragging much this time around. Lamenting on heartbreak, personal turmoil, and soulful anguish, this is the most introspective effort from Nash to date.

6. Jay Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne

A collaboration of this magnitude certainly wasn’t going to meet the overhyped expectations it was given. With that out of the way, while nothing revolutionary, Watch the Throne is certainly memorable. It’s not even a collaboration, but a competition. Who can out-rap the other? It’s a battle of braggadocio rhymes and quick wit, and it’s entertaining all the way through.

5. Born Gold – Bodysongs

Freak pop might fit, but that’s more akin to the psychedelic work of Flaming Lips. No, Born Gold (formerly Gobble Gobble) is more futuristic ADHD pop. Chaotic electronic noise and stuttered, effected vocals surround the magnificent melodies of this group’s surprisingly strong debut. A joyous proclamation of computer-glitching defiance throughout, it might give you a fabulous headache.

4. Drake – Take Care

What a short, strange trip it’s been for Drake, who has evolved from a hashtag-rapping former actor to the most interesting, downbeat, and flat-out real rapper in the game right now. Take Care is the best rap album of the year because its mixed-emotion honesty is overwhelming, its beats are curiously addicting, and its mood is so powerfully smooth. Pristine production amongst contradictory, conflicting verses, this album is simply sublime.

3. Hooray For Earth – True Loves

Quite possibly the most overlooked album of 2011, Hooray For Earth are delivering subtle, yet undeniable unforgettable electronic jams for the undeserving masses. Everything here, from the hooks of the title track, to the gradual grandiosity of “Sails,” to the fist-pumping madness of “No Love,” is a winner.

2. Primus – Green Naugahyde

Since frontman Les Claypool has remained active, it’s hard to believe it’s been twelve years since Antipop, but our favorite alt-funk oddballs pick up right where they left off, bringing instant career highlights reminiscent of all the brightest spots of their catalog. It’s not exactly forward-thinking, but when the funk is this solid, who cares?

1. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

While not as completely cohesive as the shorter Saturdays=Youth, Anthony Gonzalez managed to out-epic that album, a feat many surmised would be impossible. Then again, what’s more epic than a dream-pop double album exploring the concept of childhood slumber? And with that concept comes feelings of excitement, innocence, comfort, and imagination. There’s a lot to take in, but repeated listens will deliver the ultimate reveal: Gonzalez is brilliant, and this album is remarkable. Near flawless, completely enjoyable.


Dec 23 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – The Top Twenty

20. Wiz Khalifa – Roll Up

Delivering sing-song verses, that trademark stoner laugh, and a chorus you’ve memorized by the second time you’ve heard it, Wiz Khalifa might be one of the laziest rappers on Top 40 radio. But that’s exactly the point. He’s not some uptight, eccentric, crazy ambitious, domineering figure. He’s that pot-smoking friend who’s down for whatever, and if your down, he’s down. The most casual summer jam of the year.

Continue reading


Dec 21 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 100-51

100. The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness

When the band sticks to what they know, they sound great. Angles is a hot-and-cold album, but this is the first of two tracks that showcases the former.

99. Born Gold – Wrinklecarver

Originally released as former project Gobble Gobble, nothing has been done to this track in terms or re-mixing or mastering, but it just sounds better in context within the new album Bodysongs.

98. St. Vincent – Cheerleader

Another highlight from Strange Mercy – here Annie Clark shows off her knack for start-stop surprises around what sounds conventional at first, then grows to be beautifully unusual.

97. Drake – Lord Knows (featuring Rick Ross)

The snare hits, the booming bass, the background vocals, that “Just Blaze!” intro, the use of the phrase “Murdercedez Benz.” What’s not to love here?

96. Wiz Khalifa – The Race

One of the more down-tempo tracks on the fun Rolling Papers, Wiz drops a chill-out anthem for the end of the night when you just wanna light one up and take it easy.

Continue reading


Dec 20 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 150-101

150. Drake feat. The Weeknd – Crew Love

This is the first of many times for both these artists on the list. Here the Weeknd provides his eerie tortured-party R&B before the beat drops and Drake laments.

149. Cass McCombs – County Line

McCombs brings another signature somber note in his trademark melancholy falsetto. One of my favorites from Wit’s End.

148. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

The first verse of this track more or less describes my life right now – realizing we are not unique snowflakes but small cogs in a machine we don’t know about yet. Simple, yet poignant.

147. The Joy Formidable – Magnifying Glass

From the maniacal laughter to the thumping stomp of that chorus to those wailing guitars, Joy Formidable claim the throne as the loudest new band of 2011.

146. YACHT – Dystopia

A play on an old R-rated cheerleader chant becomes a boogie-worthy ode to the end of the world. In typical Yacht fashion, it makes you wanna dance around the flames.

Continue reading


Dec 19 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 200-151

There are quiet moments, but overall this year’s song countdown is crazy upbeat; you’ve gotta be an uptight jerk not to enjoy at least some of what’s here. For the most part, this collection of songs from 2011, while decidedly less diverse than in past years, still perfectly captures my mood and preference. I’ll be counting down until Friday – feel free to browse, listen, discover, disagree, etc. I’ll publish a Spotify playlist at the end with most of the tracks on there; the rest can be found via YouTube below and on subsequent posts.

Continue reading


Oct 3 2011

Quarterly Review – July-September 2011

Once every three months I list the best of what I heard in albums/songs/remixes for the quarter. I do this to personally keep up with all the awesome music I hear, as it ultimately helps me at the end of the year when I do my overall listing for the previous twelve months. I also do it to introduce you cool cats to tunes you may have missed independently.

Continue reading


Sep 20 2011

Currently Digging: Primus – Green Naugahyde

Twelve years is a long time to wait for a new proper Primus album. Trust me, I know. It was 1999, and I was in middle school, when the boys dropped their last full-length Antipop and went on a creative hiatus. They reunited many times, once even putting out a new EP, the highly underrated Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People. And Les Claypool kept busy with his many solo projects. But now that they’re finally back with fresh material, let me tell you…it’s so great to have Primus back.

Green Naugahyde picks up right where the boys left off, if you pretend the Brown Album, and replacement drummer Brian “Brain” Mantia, never happened. The album successfully accomplishes what Anitpop tried with mixed results – a back-to-basics glory days record. So no, there’s nothing progressive here. “Eternal Consumption Engine” is reminiscent of Tales From the Punchbowl, specifically “Space Farm.” “Jilly’s On Smack” features the gloom and doom of Pork Soda. “Lee Van Cleef” is “Ballad of Bodacious” Part 2. “Last Salmon Man” could’ve been a Frizzle Fry or Sailing the Seas of Cheese highlight.

But it doesn’t really matter once you get back in the groove; the return of original drummer Jay Lane (who left before Primus even recorded their first album) has reignited a creative spark in the trio. Ler’s wail complements Les’ signature popping and slapping, and Jay’s presence makes it abundantly clear the guys are having fun again. And the best part? After all these years, Primus still sucks.

Listen to Green Naugahyde on Spotify.


Aug 17 2011

New Primus: “Tragedy’s a Comin'”

“Like a good compost, we needed to ferment and turn the manure and garbage into fine, nitrogen rich dirt.” That’s how Les Claypool describes the hiatus since the late 90’s for Primus, who are back and apparently funkier than ever. At least that’s the vibe I get from the first leaked track from Green Naugahyde, their first new LP in twelve years, out September 13.

The song itself is reminiscent of Seas of Cheese-era Primus, with a more jammy, liquid-bass feel akin to recent solo Claypool outings. It also immediately reminds me of later Primus work, like Antipop‘s underrated “Ballad of Bodacious.” Original drummer Jay Lane keeps the groove throughout, Ler’s guitar playing is a signature, eery backdrop, and Les still packs a mean punch on his bass, not that anybody’s surprised.

In typical Claypool lyrical fashion, the track is an odd commentary on what a lot of people, or at least many loony fundamentalists, have been warning the rest of us about: the end of the world. As Les puts it to the fear-mongers, “who says lemmings can’t dance as they go over the cliff?” Listen to “Tragedy’s a Comin'” over at SPIN.COM.