Previously: The Black Keys – Brothers

The Black Keys were ubiquitous in 2010. Liven up your next TV party with the Black Keys drinking game: every time you hear a Black Keys song on TV, take a number of drinks equal to how many albums ago it’s from. Bonus drink if the song is heard in a context other than a commercial. When Captain Beefheart died they even got mention in a couple news articles about it for having covered a few of his songs. It’s possibly a bit much.

In their early days, if you were paying attention, you might have noticed that they tended to have better songs than the average among their peers, but generally you could be forgiven for having overlooked The Black Keys among the glut of two-piece gritty-blues-rock outfits that seemed to appear in the wake of the sudden success of The White Stripes (about whom I’m obligated to mention their breakup, but presumably you already heard about it). Then you might have started to notice that they seemed to put out an awful lot of albums. Turns out they were getting better with each one. They began to really set themselves apart from the crowd in 2008 on Attack & Release by trading in blues orthodoxy for 1960s R&B/soul elements that give Dan Auerbach more room to use his smooth, agile vocals and stretch his lyric writing, and those new degrees of freedom allowed them to put tremendous emotional depth into the songs. Adding in a bit of extra instrumentation on record didn’t hurt either. Having established this formula, they pretty much stuck with it in 2010 for Brothers, and delivered one of the best albums of the year yet again.

(As for 2009, Dan Auerbach released the excellent, somewhat overlooked solo album Keep It Hid — it pretty much sounds like a Black Keys record with some folk leanings, definitely worth checking out.)

Harvey Milk: “A Small Turn of Human Kindness”: These Seans over at Crustcake called this “possibly the most miserable record ever recorded” and meant it as a compliment. The whole album plays out as a concept/story piece, with each song titled after a first-person line of dialogue (“I Just Want To Go Home”, “I Know This Is No Place For You”). After an instrumental intro track that features strange, nauseous dissonances between the guitar and bass, a brief, bleak story line plays out over the course of 6 dismally slow songs with a descending melodic motif recurring frequently throughout. Bonus track “In The Ground” makes a fitting coda. A gorgeously bleak album.

The Howling Wind: “Into The Cryosphere”:

This band is a duo of Ryan Lipynsky from Unearthly Trance and some drummer I don’t know much about. I never heard of either band before this past year anyway. Unearthly Trance also put out an album last year, but I didn’t get much chance to hear that, so I’d feel odd about trying to go too in-depth with this one if I have nothing to say on that one. Stylistically this has more of a black-metal sound where Unearthly Trance are more doom-oriented. You can take that to mean generally faster tempos, guitar sounds that are more trebly instead of bassy, and more intricately-textured guitar chords with close and extended harmonies in them. The vocals are of the raspy, reverbed-out, low in the mix variety, which usually causes me to appreciate something more as instrumental music; I’ve always had a little trouble understanding lyrics in music anyway. This has great atmosphere, seemingly built around a concept having to do with the arctic. Sometimes they convey the stillness of the desolate tundra, but more often it’s about the violence of arctic storms and freezing wind blasting in your face. There is plenty going on in the songs to hold my interest, but not so much that it’s disorienting or doesn’t hold together. The drumming is solid and not excessive. It’s kind of short, but its economy feels welcome. This album is pretty rad all throughout.

Announced yesterday on the Afternoon Records website and all the requisite social-web outlets, Iowa’s #1 rock band The Poison Control Center have deleted their MySpace page and set up shop on bandcamp. Besides their recent 7″ and Sad Sour Future album, you can pick up digital reissues of some of their older stuff (The Go-Go Music Show mercifully excluded).

Coolzey has started a Kickstarter project to get a CD/DVD combo pressed of his 2010 online video-album, and one of my own favorite albums of the year, Coolzey and the Search for Hip Hop Hearts: He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. If you missed out on it at the time, basically Zach released 12 songs, one a week, over the summer, each with beats made by a different producer/DJ, and each with a video produced by his Public School Records partner-in-crime Jason Hennesey. You can watch all the videos in The Search For Hip Hop Hearts and download the album from Free Music Archive — check the Coolzey page at the Public School Records website.

Here’s the official lowdown on the Kickstarter project from Coolzey’s email list:

I made this Kickstarter fund-raising page with the intentions of raising the money to create a DVD / CD combo of the remixed and remastered album Coolzey and the Search for the Hip Hop Hearts. We released the rough videos and songs on-line last summer, and I think most of you are familiar with the project. Please follow this link:

I have been urged to officially release this and make some copies, so that’s what this is about! There are also a bunch of other prizes for pledging certain amounts that I’m excited about, including show tickets, physical Coolzey albums and discographies, postcards, charcoal portraits, and more!

The standard thing that most of you who end up pledging will probably want to do is $25, which will basically be buying a copy of the DVD / CD combo plus postage and an extra little something personal. Please check out the other options though! You can pledge more or less if you’d like.

I have 1 month to raise $3000 for this, and if we don’t meet the goal, nobody will have their card charged, but we aniticipate that this shouldn’t be a problem. One month from today. Please do your best to pledge early on if you can, it really helps the momentum. Above all, I’m keeping this email brief, so please go check out the comprehensive link!

I’m rooting for this to happen… there’s only a little under a month left to go so I urge you all to head on over there and get in on it. If you put in $25 like I just did, you get a copy of the CD/DVD when it comes out; if you pledge more, Zach promises some pretty nifty extra rewards, and if you can’t quite manage $25, anything helps.

Update: here’s an embeddy widgety thing:

Bandcamp is on fire, and so is Des Moines’s scene of youthful indie rockers, several of whom — Pocket Aristotle, The Seed Of Something, and The Chatty Cathys, you can catch tonight at Vaudeville Mews’s early show along with The Longshadowmen and Why Make Clocks.. Come out at 5pm and give the [nice]( fellow at the door $5. And to get back on the subject of bandcamp, here’s Pocket Aristotle’s page.

Here’s a band that’s on bandcamp that’s not from Iowa, they’re called Iowa. They’re from Australia and I like the sound of them, sort of a shoegazey mix of Dinosaur Jr.’s Bug and Eric’s Trip. You can download their still-scant catalog (they seem to have just started releasing stuff last year) and/or buy their two 7″s on bandcamp, check it out.

Yeah, have I ever mentioned that Ottumwa’s irreverent death-grindcore maestros Captain 3 Leg are also on bandcamp? And that they have a new album on the way that you can already stream from there?

Yet another friend of mine has hit the bandcamp scene. Gabe Wilkinson of Waterloo/Cedar Falls and his electronic/industrial-rock project Microwaved have made available an album called Desperation Upon the Wings of Angels. ’80s retrofuturist-dystopian vibes, harsh factory-like rhythms and dissonant effects make it a real treat. The download comes with bonus remixes and videos. Go check it out.

I could write about Askalndaganza, but I wasn’t there long. I wasn’t able to make it for the early-show portion, and then when I finally did get there was apparently the worst possible time. I arrived as Wolves In The Attic were striking their final chord. Minutes later it was 9:00, which at the Mews is normally the gap between the early all-ages show and the later 21+ show… last night they didn’t hustle the crowd out the door, but they did inexplicably retain the practice of the bar not serving from 9:00 to 9:30, despite the sizable crowd still in the place. So basically as soon as I got in the place, I had to stand around and wait before I could get a beer. Dan had left about that time to get Jasper and some of The Seed Of Something’s gear home and didn’t make it back for an hour or so, and Derek Lambert & The Prairie Fires didn’t get started until about 10:20. So all in all I pretty much stood around for an hour and a half with no one to talk to and nothing to do while Bob Nastanovich played records. There were acquaintances about, but I find conversation awkward at best with the vast majority of people, even ones I like. Bob played some good records of course. Whenever he does one of these DJ things there are certain songs he seems to strongly favor that happen to be some of my personal favorites, such as “Our Swimmer,” one of my favorite Wire songs, and a lot of stuff from New Order’s Power, Corruption, and Lies. All the same, I was bored out of my skull and the place kept getting more crowded and the crowd more annoying.

Derek Lambert & The Prairie Fires were great, though. This was their debut gig, but I recognized some songs from Derek’s recent acoustic lo-fi cassette/download album The Forest Floor. I like those songs, and the revved-up cowpunk arrangements the band gives them worked really well. Derek and the other guitar player even did a sweet harmonized lead or two. The drummer is Chris “Conquered” Ford, of whom the only complaint could be that his fills tend to rush a bit, and the bass player is that guy from the Atudes, who I know to be a genuinely good guy, pleasantly gregarious even, and really knows his way around a bass guitar, but is also the irritatingly overexuberant guy at a party who has to yell “WHOOOOO” every couple minutes, and that one guy in a band who mugs it up way too hard. But still, they rocked and I want to see them again. I finally found Dan after their set, we hung out and talked for a while, but the crowd was so wall-to-wall packed that I couldn’t stand being there and we both ended up going home. Apparently I’m getting old, or maybe it’s that I’ve always been a little less than easily sociable. So if you want an account from someone less jaded, socially awkward, or old and grumpy, you should head on over to Des Noise. It was a pretty sweet party, if you like that kind of thing.