comics this week – Chris Ware’s Building Stories

Just got notice that Building Stories comes out tomorrow & my copy is in the mail. I’ve been saying that Chris Ware’s last book “Jordan Lint” (Acme Novelty Library #20) is light years ahead of what anybody else is doing with comics… This one looks more ambitious than anything Ware’s done before, which is saying something – apparently it is 260 pages spread over 14 different pieces of printed matter, in a box

Eagerly anticipating, and discarding all other plans for the end of the week…

Publisher’s Weekly review “…one of the year’s best arguments for the survival of print”
publisher’s page
Amazon link

heavy rotation: Westkust ‘Junk EP’

I end up listening to an awful lot of new music. I mean a LOT, and by new I don’t mean “just released”, I mean I’m always seeking out music that I haven’t heard before. This ends up panning out something like: about 80% makes we want to smash my head against a wall and stab out my own eardrums; about 16% I think is not so terribly bad but doesn’t really move me in any kind of positive sense; about 3.9% makes me very happy up to and including releasing massive amounts of endorphins, instantly frying my synapses, and/or melting my face off; and about 0.1% (1 in 1000? eh, it’s a guess) has me scrambling to figure out how to buy it within seconds of me hearing it.

2011 turned into a banner year for scrabbling up tons of new music ie actually adding it to my collection, which is partly due to me finding out about stuff I’d missed from 2010 (and maybe a little 2009) as well. Such that, for the first time since about ’93 I’d felt like making a year end top 10 list – and it was flippin’ hard, because so much great stuff had come out. It’s looking like 2012’s top 10 list will be hard as well, but not for the same reason – I’m worried that I won’t be able to find 10 things to list!

Sorry, what was the point… AHA! the point is just this: this freakin’ record was the first 0.1% BUY THIS F&^%^$er RIGHT F@&$#ing NOW record in quite a while… Look – just go listen to it

OK, it is very easy for me to summarize what I’ve found I like in music – beautiful melodies spot welded onto tons of guitar distortion & feedback. (I have a slightly expanded summary, but I’ll save it for a diff review.) (…and I don’t make excuses, I just accept it.) And, see, Westkust has what I need IN SPADES. Sonically, we’re relatively in the neighborhood of early Slumberland, I’m thinking Black Tambourine, some Scar-era Lush, maybe a bit of just-pre-Creation MBV (paint a rainbow)… They’re from Sweden, singer sounds like Claudine, the drums motor on with plenty machine gun fills, and there is just an isolation chamber wash of wonderful, jangly, f’ed beautiful guitar.

This is special and awesome.

Here is their video for Alan Life:

Handy links for Westkust:
Bandcamp Facebook Myspace Discogs Luxxury

93MillionMilesFromTheSun videos

there’s supposed to be a new 93MillionMilesFromTheSun video (off their upcoming album) releasing tomorrow, so here’s a rundown of their official videos (some of the more appealing shoegaze from recent years):

Darkestar (which appropriates the riff of MBV’s I Only Said, apparently):

Take Me Away:

Before You Leave:

Waiting There:

When You Come:

Sorrow Song (Instrumental):

heavy rotation: Hidden Spots ‘Hundred Million Voices’

About a year ago this time, I got really frustrated – both about things in general, and specifically about not having heard any new great music in quite a while.

{The latter is down to a lot of things – and I may as well just get this out of the way & hopefully not have to repeat this every time I try to write about music — internet killed print zines, and it took 15 years to create the replacement; eBay made finding rare records super-easy, so there was no reason to go to stinky record stores anymore; and music just generally went all sorts of places that did not interest me (grunge blah blah blah chillwave blah blah blah and so on.) I’d spent the better chunk of a decade (oh, 1986-1995ish) digging thru music, then I was out of hobby, and at a loose end.}

Anyway – frustration, of course, means punk is called for. I was on a mission to find me some aggresive-like guitar-based music… I was to find out, unfortunately, and after way too many attempts, (not having dipped my toes into the punk pool since about ’95), that practically everything called “punk” was either actually unlistenable noise (something called “mysterious guy hardcore”?), some god-awful whiny irritation called “emo”, or stuff that basically sounds like prog rock with a lot of angsty screaming :( I always took it for granted that one does not put their own limits on what other’s considered “punk”… so I won’t say “that’s not punk”; but it surely had very little in common with what I was looking for when I went looking for some new “punk” — some ass-shaking, jump-up-and-down, distorted power chords, crazy tight rhythm section, singin’-along chorus blah blah whatevs… I was actually about to give up and find some alternate (and possibly not as healthy) outlet for that frustration, when I finally stumbled across a record that made me change my mind about giving up & probably kept me digging through recent releases…

Record in question would be “Hundred Million Voices” by Hidden Spots – ye Spots are from Chatanooga TN, where the local punk scene (they still do that, that’s good) is referred to as “Region Rock” (I think that actually applies to parts of FL & GA?) In best punk tradition, everybody (Mike Pack on bass, Ryan Maddox on drums, Buddha & Eric Nelson (ld vox also) on guitars & everybody singing along) seems to be veterans of untold #s of other bands and still currently be in a bunch of bands — I can’t really keep track of who did what & when from this kind of distance.

Regardless of that, this basically hit all the right notes – freakin’ anthemic but totally straightfoward and without pretense – it just makes me want to sing and dance along (problem when I’m listening while driving.) Sonically, this sits pretty much smack dab in the middle of a Descendents/Husker Du jam session – say, like the Huskers with a little bit more melody, or like the Descendents w/ a little bit more balls in the gtr and a huskier vox. But, comparisons are for chumps, Spots actually sound pretty timeless, not derivative. If you grew up w/ punk in the 80s you prob have a good idea what to expect, but really, they’re kickin’ in every way. Lyrically, tending towards what some quick research reminds me was called “positive hardcore”, s’ok – gratuitous lyrics quote from the last song on the album Dance Dance Dance :

We’ll sing about politics and
fucked up shit that makes us sick,
and of friends and the times we’ve had
and share ideas both happy and sad

and we’ll hang around all night long! (repeat repeat)

==> good antidote for frustration. Hundred Million Voices also includes a cover of Push by The Cure and Postcards for Paradise by Fesh for Lulu — which is actually totally awesome.

(okay, so anti-nostalgia time… back in the day… before 120 Minutes’ overexposure of “Never Gonna Give Up” (wtf?), “Postcards from Paradise” was the bizarrely overplayed video on 120 Minutes, this was the part of the show where everybody would throw tomatoes – so, it is totally impressive that Hidden Spots took a song that represented a lot of what I disliked about the 80s and made it pretty awesome.)

As far as I have been able to make out, Hidden Spots discography looks something like this:
2007 – 4-way split 7″ w/ Dan Padilla, Tim Version, & Tiltwheel (song is on HMV)
2007 – Important Transmissions 7″
2008 – Secret Noise 7″ — unfortunately apparently out of print :(
2009 – split 7″ w/ Black Rainbow (2 tracks)
2009 – Hundred Million Voices LP
2010 – 2 tracks on “By All Means” compilation LP

AND – They posted on their facebook page back in JULY 2011 that their new album was finished and should be out soon … ((hurry up b4 i get frustrated again!))

Helpful links to Hidden Spots:
Facebook Myspace Discogs Mauled by Tigers