My experiment with Apple Music continues, but more and more I think I will cancel the $10/month service. Considering one of these albums is free, and considering that all this music will disappear when I inevitably quit the Apple “ecosystem” (I hate tech jargon), I’ll probably be happier buying primarily from Bandcamp again.
Here are some interesting records that I missed when they came out, or were deserving of a second listen.
Grizzly Bear — Shields (2012)
This was a recommendation from Sam, the man behind Minor Moon (whose A Whisper, A Shout was a real joy to play and record and mix on) and a charming gent to boot. It’s easy to be turned off a band when a whole bunch of bands have similar sounding names, so I had passed over Grizzly Bear entirely circa 2012. There’s a surprising musicianship to this record, which sort of works against those moments when they’re decidedly making “cool” music. For what it’s worth, I love their uncool time signatures, lengthy ornate outros, and rolled chords. The occasionally aloof vocals I enjoy less so, although they are admittedly well performed. This is my only experience with the band, but the seemingly collaborative sound (multiple singers, different song types) and sense of melancholy that pervades the album are enough that I want to hear more from them. It’s not a perfect match for my tastes, but there’s a lot to love on this record.
Constantines — Self-Titled (2001)
I first saw the Cons in my early twenties, when they played with Moneen and Billy Talent (sic) at the Horseshoe in Toronto. They were brash and urgent; they straddled a heretofore unknown line between anger and romance. It was the beginning of redefining my taste in music, and forming my thoughts about the city and its scene. I bought the CD, a paper case with a match threaded through the front (so that you could burn it, although I wonder who actually did that), and later picked it up on vinyl. For whatever reason, this record never made it into my digital collection, so it had been off rotation for some time. Listening to it with fresh ears, it’s remarkable how fully-formed their sound was even from their very first full-length. Most of their best qualities are captured on this record, the riotous vocals and driving snare drum and sevenths galore. If it weren’t for the perfect (in my eyes) follow-up, Shine A Light, this would be their quintessential album. I have never had a more rock ‘n’ roll moment than seeing the Cons play “Young Offenders”. Absolutely worth your time if you like guitar music.
Nice Hooves — Self-titled (2013)
Holy hell, this band slays. Like Cameron Crowe with Pearl Jam, my illustrious colleague has been publicly giving The Armed a loving handjob at every chance he can get. And while the band is admittedly competent, often inspired, and has a great sense of humour, the music itself leans pretty heavily on hardcore and thus is not quite melodic enough to carry me through listening to a whole album. According to Mark “head of The Armed fanclub” Meeks, Nice Hooves is the very same band but with a different singer. And even though both of these singers are mostly screamers, the difference between the bands is really pronounced: Nice Hooves cribs from rock ‘n’ roll instead of hardcore, emphasizing interesting, drawn-out chord progressions and bass-dominated arrangements. The songs are heavy without that sneer that often comes with aggressive music, never overstay their welcome, and each have something unique to offer. They manage to use both eastern European scales and alternate times signatures without sounding like total tools. The occasional dual vocals keep the listener from getting exhausted, and even the screaming is often matched to the key. There are few big loud records that nail exactly what I’m looking for, but this is one of them. And the record is free. Go get it from Bandcamp now. The best part for me: they have a whole other album I haven’t heard yet. Thanks for the hot tip, Armed sycophant / colleague of mine!