Thursday, August 22, 2019

McQ's Best Of 1998 Vol 3 - Everybody Must Get Stoned!

The 90s were without question rock's noisiest, loudest decade with so many of its popular genres - grunge, alt-rock, stoner-rock, nu-metal, punk, emo, glam, industrial - all on the verge of transforming into straight-up metal, and 1998 was no different.

From Monster Magnet to Pearl Jam, Local H to Turbonegro, Queens Of The Stone Age to The Afhgan Whigs to Marilyn Manson to Hole, this mix here celebrates 1998 at its hard rocking best.


Here's the Spotify link!

About The Albums/Songs/Artists Represented On This Mix:

1. Pure Morning - Placebo: We open with one of the most hypnotic rhythm guitar lines of 1998 from the MTV hit that introduced London's androgyny-fueled Placebo to the U.S., taken from their highly regarded major label debut Without You I'm Nothing.

2. All-Right (Oh, Yeah) - Local H: If it wasn't clear in our 1998 Best Of The Best write-up, I love Local H's so humorous rags-to-riches-to-rags hard rock journey Pack Up The Cats, and whittling things down to another two songs from the record after All The Kids Are Right was a major chore.  In the end I opted for the album's super-charged opener here and crushing rocker What Can I Tell You over equally worthy numbers like Cool Magnet, She Hates My Job, Lucky Time and the very brief, All Apologies-styled reworking of All The Kids Are Right, Lead Pipe Cinch.

3. 19 Witches - Monster Magnet: One of the best things about Monster Magnet's Powertrip is how the album consistently delivers "the rawk" but also manages to be absolutely weirded out at the same time, as on this mid-album number, which combines a rollicking, Tex-Mex riff with a theramin solo to unusual and glorious effect.

4. The Age Of Pamparius - Turbonegro: Equal parts Black Sabbath, The Descendants, Kiss, The Ramones, Alice Cooper, The Circle Jerks, and Spinal Tap, Turbonegro's fifth album Apocalypse, Dudes (the opening chapter in their so-called "apocalypse" trilogy) would end up being the Norwegian deathpunk outfit's best and most amusing outing.  With song titles like Rock Against Ass, Zillion Dollar Sadist, Don't Say Motherfucker Motherfucker, Get It OnGood Head, Self-Destructo Bust, and Rendezvous With Anus, there's no question the band was working in a less than serious-minded lyrical tone, and never more so than on Dudes' opener The Age Of Pamparius, which somehow manages to be utterly inane and yet possibly the greatest song about pizza ever at the same time.

5. Celebrity Skin - Hole: Trading intensity, confrontation and introspection for massive hooks, Hole's third outing Celebrity Skin is not the Courtney Love-led act's best album, but it's definitely their catchiest, and boasts many of the band's biggest hits, starting with the Captain Marvel featured title track her.

6. Liberation Frequency - Refused: Here's one more anarchy-championing, stick-it-to-the-mainstream number from Refused's statement of purpose The Shape Of Punk To Come, which again highlights the band's quicksilver shifts between funk and hardcore punk tropes. Love that vocal drop down at the 1:46 mark, a tiny little flourish that adds so much flavor to the song.

7. Blue Green Olga - The John Spencer Blues Explosion: One of the least lyrically focused acts to ever work in the broad blues-rock arena, The Blues Explosion's seventh US release ACME pushed their disregard for all aspects of musical construction other than groove about as far as one can. Much less a collection of songs than a mere parade of riffs, ACME is nonetheless a highly entertaining listen, but I felt it wise to go with its most cohesively constructed tune as representative here.

8. War? - System Of A Down: Coming on like alt-metal's spastic, punky, at times straight-up bizarre counterpoint to Tool and Helmet's slowly evolving prog-isms, almost everything the So-Cal Armenian/American System Of A Down would become was present on its lively, kick-ass self-titled debut.

9. Given To Fly - Pearl Jam: To be frank, Pearl Jam's fifth release, 1998's Yield, is far from their best. After two wild, boundary-stretching efforts in Vitalogy and No Code, Pearl Jam went back to the grunge basics for Yield, but those grunge basics didn't deliver like they had on the band's first two albums, Ten and Vs.. Still, Yield did add a couple of excellent tunes to the band's catalog, starting with the anthemic ballad Given To Fly here.

10. 3rd Eye Landslide - Monster Magnet: Another bizarre but unstoppable rocker from Powertrip

11. The Dope Show - Marilyn Manson: Fame and success can make creative rivals out of the most successful of collaborators, and that was certainly the case following the smash success of Marilyn Manson's iconic industrial-metal '96 release Antichrist Superstar. Peeved that most of the bountiful critical praise for that album was  heaped upon producer/mentor Trent Reznor instead of the band, Manson made a complete break from Reznor for his '98 followup Mechanical Animals, turning for spiritual guidance this time around from the Smashing Pumpkin's Billy Corgan and Soundgarden producer Michael Beinhorn, and ditching the Reznor-inspired industrialisms of his previous efforts for pure Bowiesque glam metal, even going so far as to adopt a new Ziggy Stardust-like persona on Animal's cover. The resulting record lacked the band's previous sense of dark menace, but it's the best, most melodic straight-ahead rocker in Manson's discography, and generated some big "Headbanger's Ball"-styled hits in I Don't Like Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me) and the album's most popular cut The Dope Show featured here.

12. Mexicola - Queens Of The Stone Age: Here's another awesome, knotty, wonky rocker from Queens Of The Stone Age's self-titled '98 debut, which sure sounds like it's about scoring coke (and all the nasty ramifications that come with such risks) south of the border.

13. What Can I Tell You? - Local H: Pure volume overload here on the biggest, loudest song from Pack Up The Cats.

14. Every Shining Time You Arrive - Sunny Day Real Estate: Emo was originally an offshoot of the hardcore scene of the mid-to-late 80s, but Sunny Day Real Estate was one of the first more alt-rock leaning 90s acts to repurpose the genre to its own somewhat mellower designs and shape it into the rock niche we identify it as today. By the time of their 1998 release How It Feels To Be On Something, the band was beginning to chart, and though they would hit it even bigger a few years later with their next album The Rising Tide, Something's Every Shining Time You Arrive remains one of their most popular songs.

15. Prince Of The Rodeo - Turbonegro: As many have said before, how was this exuberantly crude cowboy punk number from Apocalypse, Dudes not part of the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack? Must've been a matter of tone.

16. Malibu - Hole: Pure power pop perfection, Malibu is probably Hole's all time hookiest song, though Boys On The Radio, also from Celebrity Skin the album, runs a very close second.

17. See You In Hell - Monster Magnet: Despite the irrepressible 96 Tears-styled roller rink organ that anchors one of Magnet's most popular tracks, See You In Hell is actually the darkest, most grounded song on Powertrip, a disturbing tale of psychological repercussions following a long past infanticide that was effectively hidden from the law but has destroyed the child's parents nonetheless.

18. John The Baptist - The Afghan Whigs: While I personally love other, earlier Afghan Whigs releases Congregation and Gentlemen even more, you'll be hard pressed to find a more cohesive merger of hard rock and soul from any era than you will on the Ohio band's 1998 release, 1965, which the album's best track John The Baptist makes abundantly clear.

19. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next - Manic Street Preachers: We close on a more political note with the best song from Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers' solid '98 offering This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, which sadly - even though it was originally written with an eye towards the past on how England's tepid, failed involvement in the Spanish Civil war contributed to the spread of fascism in pre-World War II Europe - feels even more urgent today. 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

McQ's Best Of 2018 Vol. 3 - Indie Gals Git 'Er Done!

Female artists have been quietly dominating indie music for the last half decade, and 2018 was no exception.  This wide ranging mix celebrates several of the best releases in the field.

Here's the Spotify Link! Enjoy!

About The Artists / Albums / Songs On This Mix:

1. Velvet 4 Sale - U.S. Girls: We start with another slightly Bowie-esque track from my favorite pure-indie album of 2018, U.S. Girls In A Poem Unlimited.

2. Charity - Courtney Barnett: Though it scored well in the year-end polls, finishing in most aggregates as one of 2018's top-twenty albums, I found Barnett's more jagged and aggressively 90s Tell Me How You Really Feel to be a minor let down after the ecstatic heights of her 2015 outing Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit.  Despite that, there are still several songs on Feel that continue to validate Barnett as one of the most exciting talents and lyricists working today, starting with my favorite track from the record here.

3. Your Dog - Soccer Mommy: One of the 2018's top feminist anthems comes to us courtesy of young Nashville based singer-songwriter Sophie Allison's fine third release as Soccer Mommy Clean. Several other strong tracks worth checking out as well, especially Cool, Still Clean, and Last Girl, all of which I enjoy every bit as much as this track here.

4. Future Me Hates Me - The Beths: One of my favorite 2018 albums not featured on this year's Best Of The Best, New Zealanders The Beth's full-length debut serves up power-pop hooks galore, perfectly encapsulated by the the album's title track here.

5. Me & My Dog - Boygenius: Turning the tables on Patty Griffin's beloved canine appreciation fest Heavenly DayPitchfork's #12 song of 2018 treats that time spent with man's (and woman's) best friend as a reward for escaping a harmful romantic relationship rather than a raison d'ĂȘtre in itself, and comes to us courtesy of an indie gal supergroup comprised of up-and-comers Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers and their eponymous 2018 debut EP. We'll hear more from this promising trio later on Nancy's Favorites!

6. Somewhere A Judge - Hop Along: The first of two songs featured on this mix from veteran Philly indie act Hop Along's fourth full-length release Bark Your Head Off, Dog, Somewhere A Judge is a perfect representation of the album's quirks as a whole, eschewing the harder-rocking thrust of 2015's Painted Shut for a free-wheeling, almost Counting Crows-ish folk-rock vibe, and always starting each song with a messy, almost disjointed opening passage before snapping things crisply into focus for an irresistible chorus.

7. Pillar Of Truth - Lucy Dacus: 2018 was a very good year for Virginia singer-songwriter and Senator Tim Kaine's family friend, Lucy Dacus.  In addition to the success of her new side project boygenius, Dacus's sophomore release Historian was a high-ranking mainstay on most year-end lists. Full of slow-burning, brooding, alt-country ballads that gradually build to stirring crescendos, the album is a whip smart mediation on the roles time and physical space play in deepening or destroying relationships.  Could have gone with several numbers from this one here - Yours And Mine, Addictions, critical darling Night Shift - but in the end settled on the album's most potent anthem, Pillar Of Truth.

8. Bad Luck - Neko Case: Idiosyncratic indie/alt-country chanteuse Neko Case's 2018 release Hell-On was just the latest entry in what is becoming a near legendary discography.  Of the many fine tracks to choose from, I went the album's goofiest and catchiest number Bad Luck here.

9. Pristine - Snail Mail: A new generation of teenage listeners got their very own unrequited love anthem in Snail Mail's Pristine, one of the most critically celebrated songs of 2018. Our second selection from the Lindsay Jordan-led outfits' full-length debut Lush, this song isn't quite the guitar showcase that Heatwave profiled on Best Of The Best is, but boasts one of the best concluding verses of the year when bottom drops on the song at around the 3:38 mark.

10. Fireworks - First Aid Kit: Lately the gold standard of quality consistency in indie folk, First Aid Kit impressed again in 2018 with their latest release Ruins, one of the strongest front-to-back listens of the year. I've chosen the gorgeous, ruminating ballad Fireworks to represent Sweden's best harmonizing sister act here, but Nancy will highlight a couple more tracks from the so charming Soderberg's on her upcoming mix.

11. Little Death - The Beths: Not nearly as morose as this song's title might suggest, the soaring Little Death from Future Me Hates Me is actually an exploration of the physical sensations one experiences in those first budding moments of a romantic crush. 

12. Curse Of The Contemporary - Lump: I just love chill, wonky, psychedelic folk-rock groove of this lead single from the 2018 self-titled debut EP from Lump, a side-project pairing of the talents of Mike Lindsay  of Tunng and British indie-folker Laura Marling. 

13. Nobody - Mitski: Themes of aching loneliness and the gradual self reliance that emerges from living with it anchor this critically adored, jaunty, old-fashioned crooner from Mitski's Be The Cowboy

14. I've Got You - Camp Cope: Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Camp Cope traffics in a much more earnest, soul-baring indie than more witty compatriots like Courtney Barnett. This track, taken from their 2018 sophomore LP How To Socialize & Make Friends, is one of their best, a heartbreaking journey through lead-singer Georgia MacDonald's final months with her beloved, ailing mother.

15. Dive - Beach House: Beach House aptly titled seventh album 7 was a bit of a surprise, as far-reaching stylistically as the band has ever been.  So much so that I would rate it the band's second best effort to date after their 2010 indie breakthrough Teen Dream. Dive, one of many wonderful tracks, sees the Baltimore dream pop duo taking on shoe gaze uplift with commanding success.

16. Prior Things - Hop Along: Here's one more from Hop Along's unusual but so hooky quirk fest, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, which finds the instrumentally restless band working in a full string section as accompaniment this time out. 

16. Time - U.S. Girls: Former Chicagoan Meghan Remy leads her crack supporting Canadian band into a seven-minute plus freakout on the most rocking track from In A Poem Unlimited.

17. Me Voy - Cat Power: For her tenth album and first in six years, Wanderer, Cat Power's Chan Marshall strips things back down to the bare minimum. In its intense spareness, the album recalls her celebrated '98 release Moon Pix, but if I'm honest, I like Wanderer even better, and this Spanish-tinged song of goodbye felt like the perfect track with which to close out this mix. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

McQ's Best Of 2018 Vol. 2 - Punk Leads The Way!

It shouldn't be that surprising that punk had such a super-charged year in 2018 - the genre has always had its roots in politics and rebellion and these are without question politically charged times - and yet, the degree to which (and intelligence with) punk led the charge last year in confronting the biggest issues of the day surprised nonetheless.

So for this hard-rocking mix here we're going to drill down deeper on the five punk albums that best set the tone, profiling four more songs each from Parquet Courts' Wide Awake, IDLES Joy As An Act Of Resistance, and Shame's Songs Of Praise, and two more each from Fucked Up's Dose Your Dreams and Iceage's Beyondless.

Additionally, we'll hear selects from three other notable 2018 punk releases, Rhode Island-based noise-punk legends Daughter's horrorfest You Won't Get What You Want, Drive Like Jehu side project Hot Snake's hardcore garage effort Jericho Sirens, and witty New York lo-fi punker Jeff Rosenstock's latest, Post-.

It all adds up to what gets my vote for the strongest themed mix in this 2018 collection.

So without any further delay, here's the Spotify link. Enjoy.

About The Albums/Artists/Songs Represented On This Mix:

1. Colossus - IDLES: Invoking the name of notorious gangster Reggie Kray to suggest how far the band is willing to go to defend the rights and dignity of their gay brothers-in-arms, this monster opening track from Joy As An Act Of Resistance might be the single best live song I've seen performed over the last three to four years.

2. Friction - Shame: As I said in our write-up for 2018's Best Of The Best, Shame's debut Songs Of Praise was most notable for how well it channels the sounds of classic post-punk rather than its lyrical punch, but that doesn't mean the band didn't have a point or two to make, as on this call for people everywhere to shake off their fears of confronting others and speak out publicly on what's going wrong in the world today.

3. Total Football - Parquet Courts: The Colin Kaepernick protests serve as a segue into a broader, clever examination of America's unending preference to celebrate rugged individualism over collective, team-oriented effort in this spirited opener from Wide Awake. Oh, and unless you're a New England Patriots fan, this song probably has the best closing line of 2018!

4. Hurrah - Iceage: Mankind's never-ending bloodlust gets a savage, ironic beat down in this satirical opener from Iceage's Beyondless.

5. Samaritans - IDLES: With its potent litany of cliche "man up" catch phrases, the fostering to toxic masculinity generation to generation is the focus here.

6. Six Wave Hold-Down - Hot Snakes: The first of two acts featured on this mix to return after a lengthy hiatus, Hot Snakes' Jericho Sirens is the band's first studio release in fourteen years. A heavily surf-themed album, the album boasts a number of strong tracks (I also loved I Need A Doctor), but Six Wave Hold-Down is without question the standout.

7. Violence - Parquet Courts: Another song to zero-in on issues of socially tolerated violence, I initially included this track to further illustrate Wide Awake's wild musical eclecticism, but wrapping this write up just two days after the El Paso/Dayton shootings makes Violence now feel like the most urgent and on point song included on this mix.

8. Powerlessness - Jeff Rosenstock: One of the top voices in today's D.I.Y. punk scene, the solid Post- is just Rosenstock's third solo release, but the man has been at it for years as a major contributor to past acts The Arrogant Son's Of Bitches, Kudrow, and the music collective Bomb The Music Industry, as well as running his own label Quote Unquote Records - renowned in indie circles for releasing everything it produces for free.

9. One Rizla - Shame: This anthem of self-empowerment no matter one's flaws, the most pop-oriented track and biggest hit from Songs Of Praise, is also the first song the band ever wrote.

10. Normal People - Fucked Up: Another adventurous inclusion from Fucked Up's Dose Your Dreams to again illustrate how outside the standard instrumental punk aesthetic this band works, this time steering their hardcore attack into old-fashioned glam rock Nirvana.

11. Television - IDLES: As on Shame's One Rizla, self love is the primary theme on Television, though here it comes with coupled with a call to reject all the ways televised and social media would have us feel worse about ourselves.

12. Less Sex - Daughters: Returning after a long break-up, Rhode-Island noise-provocateurs Daughter's You Won't Get What You Want was their first album in eight years, and also, quite possibly, the creepiest album of 2018. Loaded with disturbing, off-kilter, hardcore noise explorations, the album is an unrelenting, almost Lynchian nightmare, and even when the aggression does tamp down a bit, as on the more industrial-flavored Less Sex here, the sense of menace is still palpable.

13. Lampoon - Shame: Solitude and its impact on our psyche is the focus of this high energy barn burner from Songs Of Praise.

14. Mechanical Bull - Fucked Up: One more way outside the classic punk box number from Dose Your Dreams, Mechanical Bull finds the band venturing into unabashed industrial territory.

15. Normalisation - Parquet Courts: One of the best things about Parquet Courts' Wide Awake is how many surprising, Paul's Boutique-styled musical twists and turns it throws into its brief thirty-eight minute run time, and of those, none may be more thrilling than the bass breakdown that hits in the middle of this rant against all of the orange pumpkin's decorum-trashing behaviors here.

16. Catch It - Iceage: On this sleazy, drawling pick-up number slightly reminiscent to the Stones' Stray Cat Blues, Iceage delivers the one naughty, old-school sex-and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll counter balance to the urgent protests present on the majority of this mix.

17. Danny Nedelko - IDLES: One of the biggest songs of the year in Europe, there's no mistaking where IDLES stands on the issue of immigration here.

18. Angie - Shame: Songs Of Praise's tragic, suicide-themed closer is also oddly the album's most cathartic, anthemic and musically enthralling number.

19. Tenderness - Parquet Courts: After all the anger and bile and funk that precedes it, Wide Awake's closer comes as a welcome, impressively poetic chill down; a gentle, saloon-styled call for us all, in this age of constant rush and distraction, to just to a breath and slow things down for a second or two.