Dear Aunt Jean,
I feel badly about not doing a better job of staying in touch this year. It’s been hectic, for sure, and I hope this letter finds you well and I do know how much you like a sip of sherry now and again, so have one for me if you’re pouring. I never touch the stuff, but a Tito’s and tonic sounds good about now. The thing is, Aunt Jean, I know you are probably getting ready to buy me my Christmas records and I wanted to say, if you haven't gone shopping yet, please get me a few of these releases from 2015.
It's been a pretty good year for music. I know I usually go for the older stuff and like you, I’m stuck in my ways but you’ve been my musical Santa for so long. It might be hard for you to believe, but I’m learning to live more in the now, even if most of these have been out for awhile now. I'll do my best to get you caught up on what's been happening.
January was a good month for music, Aunt Jean. On the 13th, Seismic Wave Entertainment put out Conan Neutron and The Secret Friends’ excellent record, The Enemy of Everyone. Neutron’s a longtime Bay Area noise maker from bands like Replicator, Mount Vicious, and Victory and Associates. I think you might have even taken me to see Replicator once at Modified back in the day, but I can’t remember. Anyway, Neutron, who plays guitar and sings got together with Tony Ash on bass (Coliseum, Trophy Wives) and Dale Crover (Melvins) on drums to make this killer record, full of huge riffs, clever lyrics, and the drumming you’ve come to expect from a pounder like Crover. I know I could go online and order one, sure, from their bandcamp page, but it would be cooler if you’d send me this rocker. It even has Eugene Robinson from Oxbow singing on a song. Do you remember that time we were at Hollywood Alley and he Robinson kept punching himself in the dick?
A week later, during which I was working a lot, Sleater-Kinney put out No Cities to Love on Sub Pop. Some people weren’t too keen on this record, but what I’ve heard is pretty cool. “No Anthems” has some of the coolest guitar work of the year, and I wish I could jam with Carrie Brownstein so bad. Corin Tucker is cool and all, sure, but maybe you could write Carrie a few letters? See if Fred Armisen would play drums, too. Sleater-Kinney have never strayed from their angular roots, with just enough pretty and just enough gritty, you know, to always keep it interesting and keep it rockin'. I wish you would have been here in March when they played at the Marquee. Such a good show, and the guy who reviewed it did a wonderful job.
For the past few years, friends of mine (you don’t know them) have been talking about a band called Metz. At first, I thought maybe it was some dudes who were really into Mets baseball, but I think they might be the real thing when it comes to noisy punk rock. In May, they put out II (Sub Pop) and it’s another one I’d really like to own, not just listen to on Spotify. They have this cool fuzzy bass, which you know I love, and they even do a great cover of “Neat Neat Neat” by the Damned, but it’s not on this record. I keep missing them when they come to town to play, but next time, I plan on being in the front of the stage doing a little worshippy thing with my beer like the cool kids — you know, cheers-ing the band when they play a song I know. Help me get to know them better, Auntie Jean, please?
Like you, I love a good supergroup/group effort kind of record and Teenage Time Killers fit the bill this year with their awesome Greatest Hits Vol. 1. Reed Mullin from Corrosion of Conformity and Mick Murphy from My Ruin kickstarted the whole thing and brought in a veritable who's who of folks, a couple of which I think you even claimed to have slept with in your old groupie days. Didn't you say you fucked Jello Biafra once or twice on a dare? Either way, I need this record. Lee Ving of Fear is on this, as is Jello, some long hair named Dave Grohl (have you heard of him?) and locally, they brought in Phil Rind of Sacred Reich to sing and play on a song as well. I know you have a weak spot for good thrash punk and this is it. Maybe you'll have to pick up a copy for yourself too. I think they have them at Zia even though it came out back in July.
Summers are hot here but cool, trippy, noisy music makes them better. Too bad I was too busy paying my electric bill and couldn't pick up a copy of the latest Deaf Wish record, Pain, when it came out in August. These weirdos kind of have a similar vibe as Sonic Youth, but I think they are way angrier than Thurston (Moore) and Kim (Gordon) ever got, maybe even during their divorce. The band is made up of Aussies, so maybe this is why they are so great. As you once said to me, over a quick bite of marmite and toast, "Australians totally kick ass" and these ones definitely do. Why you were eating marmite, you never fully explained, so who knows. Will you tell me now?
When September started, there were a few things, musically, I was very interested in, Aunt Jean. You are well aware of my fixation on all things John Lydon and I was thrilled to hear there was a new Public Image Limited record out on September 4th called What the World Needs Now (Universal). Kinda like Sleater-Kinney, I think a lot of people have written these guys off, but now that Lydon is joined by some righteous musicians in Lu Edmonds (guitar) who played in the Damned and the Mekons, Bruce Smith (drums) from the Pop Group, and Scott Firth (bass) who has backed up everyone from the Spice Girls (puke) to Elvis Costello, PIL is back to great form indeed. "Big Blue Sky" takes me back to the metal box record. If you're feeling a bit sporty, you could get me one of those, too. Look it up on Discogs.
Aunt Jean, this one will throw you a bit. You don't care for the misunderstood bands as much as I do, but the Low record, Ones and Sixes, that came out on SubPop on September 11 (can you imagine the audacity?) is one I've been wanting to be confused by for the past few months. They plays slow. Really slow, sometimes, and people use words like "minimalistic" to describe them. Who does that? I thought minimalistic was like having only one bowl and one spoon, or something like that. Either way, Low is way cool and kind of remind me of what Beat Happening might have become if they had grown up and moved to Minnesota.
You remember Rubberneck, don't you, by the Toadies? If I remember correctly, you were dressing up like a vampire in the ’90s and listening to the song, "Possum Kingdom" quite a bit and I just thought you were crazy. Well, Toadies have a relatively new record out, as of September 18 on Kirtland Records called Heretics. It's a mix of songs off of previous records done mostly acoustically with a few new ones and a great cover of "Heart of Glass" by Blondie. I also really like the new one, "In the Belly of the Whale," which is another Toadies song with a strong connection to water. They sure like to write songs about the water. Why do you think that is? I’ve heard they live close to a lake.
Protomartyr is probably a band you aren’t familiar with yet, Aunt Jean. Until recently, I wasn’t familiar with them either. I saw them on one of those Tiny Desk Concert things that NPR does, and I liked what they do a lot. Very much in the Gang of Four school of abrasive music and vocals sound like the singer just got diagnosed with terminal ennui, but it totally works. Think the Fall meet Tucson's Lenguas Largas and there you have Protomartyr, a Detroit band with a sweet post-punk sound. Please get me a copy of The Agent Intellect (SubPop) and I will keep saying nice things about you at family gatherings.
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Here's the curveball of my list. Even more so than the Low record. This isn't the first record Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have put out together, but So Familiar came out about two months ago on Universal and I'd like to have it. I need a little bluegrass from time to time, don't you? I can pretty much watch (and listen) to Steve Martin do just about anything. Honestly, Edie Brickell has a lovely voice, but it's all about Steve. It's unfair, isn't it, for someone to have so much talent? Do you remember, Aunt Jean, when we saw The Man With Two Brains at Town and Country? That must have been 1983. We laughed about the "cranial screw top method" for months. I'm wondering if Martin will ever do something with Tom Araya of Slayer? That would be badass.
Well, I think I've given you a few ideas, Auntie, on how to make me happy this year. I'm looking forward to our next chat, for sure. 2015 was a fun year for music fans like us. I wonder what next year will be like? I'm sure we'll talk more throughout the year. See you at Grandmas!