Royal Trux at El Club


Let’s fake our way through Bad Blood for John.”

Neil Michael Hager­ty was try­ing des­per­ate­ly to get through a gor­geous, dis­as­trous set at El Club’s first birth­day par­ty with a Roy­al Trux clas­sic, ded­i­cat­ing it to Neg­a­tive Approach’s John Bran­non, the first son of Detroit hard­core. Hagerty’s band­mate Jen­nifer Her­re­ma had spent most of the show seat­ed or lay­ing down onstage, join­ing in on vocals spo­rad­i­cal­ly.

It was every­thing I’d imag­ine it would be and more. Thrilled to see them back togeth­er again and back out on the road.


Grails — Deep Snow II

I met Grails in Fish­town, before or after a show upstairs at the old Cir­cle of Hope on Frank­ford, I don’t quite remem­ber. The show itself was phe­nom­e­nal. They were out in sup­port of  2007’s Black Tar Prophe­cies Vol 1–3, a col­lec­tion I real­ly enjoyed and a sound NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich describes as “doomy Amer­i­cana.”

He’s not wrong. After I heard, Earth’s great 2005 album Hex: Or Print­ing in the Infer­nal Method, I was intox­i­cat­ed by this sound. For the unini­ti­at­ed, imag­ine an instru­men­tal sound­track to True Detec­tive Sea­son 1. For me, it was a coun­ter­point to what had start­ed to frus­trate me about freak folk pop­u­lar at the time.

The guys them­selves were real­ly great. I planned to inter­view them, but Fish­town Tav­ern was way too loud, so we end­ed up talk­ing about music and shout­ing at each oth­er like the reg­u­lars. I’d lat­er catch them when they came through on sub­se­quent tours and was sur­prised to see Emil Amos’ hold­ing down the drums for the mighty Om.

Chal­ice Hym­nal, their first record since 2011, is out in a few weeks. Check­ing out the new tunes on Tem­po­rary Residence’s Sound­cloud, it’s a depar­ture from that doomy Amer­i­cana sound. The title track has ele­ments of dub that were com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed.

Deep Snow II” is more of the fore­bod­ing pas­toral I fell in love with when I first heard the band. It’s less witchy and more space rock than the stuff they were doing 10 years ago, but it’s famil­iar in its tone and mood.

If there’s some­thing I espe­cial­ly love about 2017 musi­cal­ly, it’s that so many of the bands I loved as a music crit­ic are get­ting back togeth­er and mak­ing fan­tas­tic music. Grails are no excep­tion.


Brian Eno — Reflection

David Bowie was, to me, my Dylan. He was one of the few artists I always felt I could spend more time with and nev­er spent enough. When he died last year, I wres­tled with how to mourn him.

Short­ly there­after, I must’ve been watch­ing the doc­u­men­tary 5 Years that I learned how Bowie adored Eno’s Dis­creet Music, a record that I’d enjoyed but hadn’t devot­ed myself to in any mean­ing­ful way. I must’ve lis­tened to it night­ly for weeks, if not months, while putting the boys to bed, let­ting the open­ing track 1/1 envel­op me in the dark­ness.

Imag­ine my sur­prise when I opened my music app to dis­cov­er Bri­an Eno has released Reflec­tion, an hour of ambi­ent music, informed by his ear­li­er work and equal­ly sat­is­fy­ing.

More inter­est­ing is how Eno refers to it as gen­er­a­tive music. Bob Boilen men­tioned on All Songs Con­sid­ered that for $40, you can pur­chase an app that iter­ates the sounds from Reflec­tion in unique new ways and, thanks to an algo­rithm, with­out repeat­ing. I plan to spend as much time or more with this music in 2017 as I did mourn­ing Bowie last year.


Spoon — Hot Thoughts

I haven’t been this excit­ed for new music from Spoon in some time. Maybe since Gimme Fic­tion? I loved Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, liked a few tracks on Trans­fer­ence and then I’m embar­rassed to admit that I slept through They Want My Soul alto­geth­er.

The lead sin­gle, “Hot Thoughts,” strikes a famil­iar chord: it is unmis­tak­ably a Spoon record, find­ing a groove and lock­ing it in. I’m look­ing for­ward to hear­ing more in March.


LVL UP — Hidden Driver

Heard Sub Pop’s LVL UP on All Songs Con­sid­ered as I drove to Cincin­nati last night. Not only are the per­fect for the per­son who’s still obsessed with Neu­tral Milk Hotel, but this song, “Hid­den Dri­ver,” is about a web­site co-found­ed by one of my very tal­ent­ed grad school class­mates, Astra Tay­lor! I’m excit­ed to hear LVL UP’s Return to Love at the end of next month.


In Praise of Dinosaur Jr.

Have I real­ly not writ­ten any­thing about Dinosaur Jr. since this post? Seems so, apart from a pass­ing ref­er­ence in 2011 to J Mas­cis’ excel­lent Sev­er­al Shades of Why back in 2011. It’s crazy, because when I real­ly think about it, Dinosaur Jr. may be that band that some­how sur­vives every crit­i­cal hangup I ought to have about them.

I mean, I found things wrong with my favorites that makes it hard to under­stand how I ever loved them so much in the first place. R.E.M., neat­ly summed up in a 2-part pod­cast over at Shal­low Rewards, is one exam­ple. Pave­ment, Spoon and Son­ic Youth? Love them bare­ly ever lis­ten to them these days. Even bands I fell in love with as an adult, like Fiery Fur­naces, Liars and TV on the Radio feel dat­ed.

Some­how, I don’t feel the same way about Dinosaur Jr. Maybe it’s the unmis­tak­able crunchy riff­ing or the time­less­ness of J Mas­cis’ voice, but there’s some­thing deeply sat­is­fy­ing about them. I find myself return­ing to these records and Mas­cis’ recent solo work more often than I real­ize.

As sum­mer fades and fall draws near, I know I’ll be spend­ing more time with their lat­est record, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, like a favorite sweater.