Record #343: And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea (2001)

After a fabled career of “spazzcore” as they called it, Frodus decided to hang up their hats. But not before recording what would become their best album by about three miles. 
While their other works remain (in my opinion) unlistenable, And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea is an absolute masterpiece. While there’s plenty of the raw, visceral energy that made them mainstays in the 90s DC Hardcore scene, this disc finds Frodus adding heaping helping of cerebral math rock to the quieter sections. As a result, AWWOWITS creates a disc as informed by Slint’s Spiderland as it is by Fugazi, laying the foundation for the next generation of post hardcore bands.

Record #342: Hammock – Everything and Nothing (2016)

Despite having two of their albums in my collection, I’m not a close follower of Hammock. And having not explored much of their discography, Everything and Nothing is a stark contrast from Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow
While MTWSFUT was a strictly ambient affair, Everything and Nothing’s palette is much broader. There are rhythms here—not only the previously absent lead lines, but also drums, both acoustic and electronic. Not only that, but there are vocals. With words! Actual coherent words!

Stunning atmospherics aside (and let’s be clear, their trademark ambient swells are the base for every track), this is practically a pop album. At times it bears stark resemblance to European EDM like Röyksopp or Télepopmusik (especially on the title track), all the while managing to sound like Hammock.

​As a whole, Everything and Nothing bears a strong resemblance to M83′s masterpiece Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, not as much in that they sound similar (EAN is far more subdued), but that they share a mastery of blending pop sensibilities with atmospheric soundscapes. And the results here as just as spellbinding as they are there, creating a work that retains Hammock’s unmistakable voice while redefining it.

Record #341: Hammock – Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow (2008)

While there’s no shortage of ambience and prettiness in post rock, Hammock outdoes all of their contemporaries on Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow, an hour long album free of any sort of rhythm. 
None. No percussion, no lead lines. One hour of nothing but spaced out chord swells. It’s a huge gamble, and it’s one that pays off.

​Instead of boring, the album plays as sixty minutes of absolute serenity.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t any tension–the album starts to pick up steam as it goes on, the reverberated guitars pushing the amps to their breaking point, achieving the same affect as other instrumental outfits with half the sonic palette. 

Record #340: Graham Nash/David Crosby – Graham Nash/David Crosby (1972)

In 1969, Hollies/Buffalo Springfield/Byrds supergroup Crosby Stills and Nash released their debut album, which remains an undisputed hit to this day. Just eight months later, after adding Neil Young, they released Deja Vu, a sprawling, inconsistent disc showcasing a band that already sounded like it was fracturing.

​It was true. That summer, CSNY dissolved, and all four members would release solo albums before 1970 was over. 

In the following years, Neil Young returned to Crazy Horse. Stephen Stills formed Manassas. Crosby and Nash, however, were still pretty chill with eachother (note: this has changed). In 1972, they released Graham Nash/David Crosby, the first of many albums released by different combinations of the four artists (there was also the Stills-Young Band and various appearances across eachother’s solo records).

​It’s not hard to anticipate what the album sounds like: free of their harder rocking bandmates, Nash and Crosby lean more toward the folk side of folk rock, Nash using the full extent of his pop sensibilities (“Southbound Train,” “Immigrant Man”), Crosby creating darker mood pieces (“Whole Cloth,” “Where Will I Be?”). What’s surprising, however, is how much fresher it is than Deja Vu.

​Where Deja Vu often diverged into a pissing contest between the four partners, this disk is almost entirely free of ego, both members singularly focused on the project above themselves. This freshness rockets this understated disk into the upper strata of the CSNandsometimesY comprehensive catalogue. ​

Record #339: gates – Parellel Lives (2016)

To be completely honest, I probably never would have had any interest in gates if it weren’t for their current tour with Thrice and La Dispute (which, sadly, I have to miss).

​But after listening to this, their second full length, it’s a really good thing they are, because I almost certainly would have missed out on this record (instead of ordering it as soon as I realized I wasn’t going to be able to make the show), and that would have been sad. 

Most of the information on gates online describes them as a post rock band. And while they certainly make good use of post rock instrumentation such as huge blasts of tremolo guitar crescendoes, glitching synths, angular drum beats, lush atmospheres, and the like, it fails to communicate how brilliant their popcraft is.

Because there’s definitely vocals here. Choruses, even, with great big meaty hooks. And that popcraft takes a great number of cues from some of my mid-00s emo/indie rock favorites, like Copeland or Waking Ashland, which is no detriment.

​And given both genres’ tendencies towards prettiness and larger-than-life statements, it should come as no surprise. After all, post rock and emo are no strangers–the 90s saw bands like American Football, Slint, Sunny Day Real Estate, and the Appleseed Cast straddling blurring the line between the two. It makes sense that the two divergent paths should converge with beautiful results.

Record #338: Fleetwood Mac – Mirage (1982)

A lot can happen in ten years. For Fleetwood Mac, between 1972 and 1982, they saw at least four lineup changes, which led to the iconic pairing of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, which became the most celebrated incarnation of the band (and rightfully so). Halfway through the decade, they released Rumours, their undisputed opus, onset by the romantic tension between its bandleaders. In 1981, Stevie Nicks released her first solo record, Bella Donna. So what was next for Fleetwood Mac, five years, one album, and a solo career separated from their most iconic work?
Honestly, Mirage could be a lot worse–they avoid the ill fated synth pop of many of their contemporaries, and nothing on here is terrible (“Diane,” with its doo wop meets island pastiche is the worst it gets), but for the most part, the record is largely uninspired. The sole exception is “Gypsy,” which would fit right on Rumours (it also features one of my favorite guitar solos in all of rock history). Other than that one brilliant track, Fleetwood Mac sounds like they’re in a holding pattern. Nothing outright terrible, but a solid B- from a band who had delivered a perfect album just five years earlier.

Record #337: Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me (1973)

Record #337: Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me (1973)
The strangest thing about Fleetwood Mac is how many incarnations of the band there has been (the Wikipedia page “List of Fleetwood Mac members” features a detailed graph).

Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie (the eponymous Fleetwood and Mac) played behind five different lead singers before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks took the helm. This album (with its strange, strange cover—don’t ask me why the ape is crying) features bandleaders Bob Welch and Christine McVie, who would remain a staple in the later, more famous version. 

This disc is only separated from the other pre-BuckNicks album I own (Bare Trees) by a year and another album (Penguin), but this doesn’t sound like the same band at all.

​While Bare Trees was a mostly forgettable blues rock record, Mystery To Me has got some hooks to it. “Hypnotize” rides along a brooding dance rhythm. “Keep on Going” mixes blues with heavy disco strings. The cover of the Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” plays with unexpected song structures, weaving in and out of tempos in a way the group’s early blues rock would never hint at.

​And while Bob Welch would only helm one more album for Fleetwood Mac before Lindsey and Stevie would rocket them to superstardom, Mystery To Me finds Welch and McVie pointing the ship in the right direction for them.

Record #336: Elton John – Greatest Hits (1974)

Here’s a safe bet after a string of Swedish bargain bin picks.

I don’t need to tell you how great Elton John is.
You know how great Elton John is.

 And while I don’t usually care for greatest hits compilations (my wife picked this one out, I’m pretty sure), Elton’s singles are among the brightest gems in the classic rock canon. “Your Song’s” delicate country balladeering, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’s” heartwrenching vocal leaps, “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’s” raucous glam pounding, and “Rocketman’s” spacepop perfection. There’s also “Benny and the Jets,” which is practically the platonic ideal of glam rock. With only the exception of “Daniel,” every single track on here is solid gold. And what else would we expect from Sir Elton

Record #335: Luiz Bonfa & Maria Toledo – Braziliana (1965)

Alright, now here’s a Stockholm secondhand record that’s actually pretty great. What I didn’t know when I picked this up is that Luiz Banfa is one of the most acclaimed samba guitarists in Brazil, and this record shows why…
Every track is fresh and light and masterfully performed. Maria Toledo shows up on a few tracks to lend her vocals, but only light Las and Dos—I don’t remember there being any real lyrics on here. But there doesn’t need to be. Luiz’s compositions speak for themselves. This is the music for your next ’60s themed party.

Record #334: Bernt Staf – När Dimman Lättar (1970)

Here’s another secondhand Stockholm record. I bought this one (translated as “When the Fog Lifts”) because I thought the photo was cool, and because some old dude saw me pick it up and said, “oooo…Bernt Staf…” I put it on once, and couldn’t get through the poorly song, classical guitar-led first track. I didn’t think I could make it through an entire album of that…
 Luckily though, I don’t have to, because the very next track introduces a funky drum beat, popping bass, and screaming organ, which lends some credence to his reputation (according to the Swedish language Wikipedia) as one of the country’s foremost prog rock musicians. If there was more of that on here, that’d be great. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the case, because the next two tracks are folk ballads (one with classical guitar, one with a piano and a Dylan impression). Then a weird honky tonk thing? I can’t finish this song.

(flips record)

Another bad folk track. Wait…second track starts with distorted organ, is it gonna be…nope. It’s another folk ballad. Wait, hold up…there’s the drums. Is it gonna get…well…the second side plays a lot more with dynamics than the first.

Where the songs on the first side were either ballad or rock song, almost every song on the second side starts with just classical guitar with the band coming in on the choruses, with shades of Beatles here and there. It’s an improvement, but it’s nothing I’m going to listen to again.

Ah well. Another souvenir for the shelf. I’m gonna listen to pg.lost for a palate cleanse. Now THAT is some good Swedish music.