Friday, December 7, 2007

2007 WMUA Album of the Year Competition ROUND 1

Midwest Region

Low vs. Clipd Beaks
I'll just mention Clipd Beaks, since they're losing this round. This is unfortunate, since under most of the other competitors it would have moved on. A delicious pizza slice of distortion rock. Additionally, I’d like to extend some mad props to the Lovepump people for locking up some great acts. -EM
Winner: Low

Standing Nudes vs. Demon's Claws
Demon's Claws are from Montreal but were totally ignored in the recent flurry of Quebecois indie rock hype, presumably because they don't have any connections to Broken Social Scene, which I cite as a compliment. Standing Nudes are a Brooklyn band that doesn't really fit in with your average Vice Magazine reader's connotation of a Brooklyn band, meaning that they're probably never going to be accused of ripping off the Boredoms. This is a tough call, but since In the Red Records is going to be heavily represented in the rounds to come, I'm going try to diversify things a little & give Standing Nudes a pass to move on. -EP
Winner: Standing Nudes

LCD Soundsystem vs. Caribou
I'm hoping both acts learned valuable lessons from their previous releases. In LCD Soundsystem's case, it's that Mr. Murphy needs a minimum of 5 minutes per track length to let those sounds get fleshed out. For Caribou's case, Mr. Snaith needs to keep with the 60s psychedlia and less of the kraut. -EM
Winner: LCD Soundsystem

Deerhoof vs. My Sister Klaus
It amuses me to know end when people find this to be a Deerhoof sell-out record for being too poppy. Rhianna is poppy. Deerhoof is and always will be for the ADD crowd. Props to My Sister Klaus for putting out a great electro-rock album with probably the closest to an Alan Vega/Lou Reed vocal mashup I've heard. A promising debut, but Deerhoof hold one of the best album track records these days. -EM
Winner: Deerhoof

Black Lips vs. Black Lips
In what many feel is the highlight of the first round album battles, Atlanta's Black Lips face-off against themselves. In one corner are the up-and-coming Black Lips. These fellows have pooled their 3 dirty-as-shit garage stomping albums and countless 7" into a spit- and beer-soaked live album with Los Valientos Del Mundo Nuevo in an attempt to capture just the audio portion of their manic. In the other corner are the newly professional Black Lips, the ones who spent their Vice money on a more polished sound, backward guitar effects, their own moonshine brand and restrained tracks to be unleashed onstage for Good Bad Not Evil. What ensues is all out mayhem- the polished Black Lips, filming an interview for Vice in some Berlin dumpster backstage, are caught off-guard by the post-concert Black Lips who storm into the ring. These Black Lips are at maximum drunkenness and bar-brawl-ready enough to make even their own selves an easy foe to vanquish. The polished Black Lips beg the referee for a timeout so they can get properly soused, however it's not awarded by the ref, who cites them being "huge pussies for asking for a timeout" which "is so not what rock and roll is all about." -EM
Winner: Los Valientos del Mundo Nuevo Black Lips

Mark Sultan vs. The Coathangers
Mark Sultan, the one-man-music-factory-band seems outnumbered by the Atlanta four piece. But then Mr. Sultan notices that the Coathangers are women and quickly disposes of them*. After his post-victory interview with Bob Costas, Mr. Sultan steps out the ring and makes out with King Khan. -EM
Winner: Mark Sultan
*take that feminist humor, ladies.

HEALTH vs. Stars of the Lid
It took Shellac 7 years to put out a mediocre album and Stars of the Lid only 6 years to put out a drone masterpiece. This is a case of two completely different acts putting out two great albums, yet in HEALTH's case there are umpteen-million acts around and maybe umpteen-hundred acts in Stars of the Lid's case. -EM
Winner: Stars of the Lid

A Place to Bury Strangers vs. Clockcleaner
Here's a good question- what type of album is more uncomfortable to listen to: a loud as shit album or one with uncomfortable lyrics? Thankfully, A Place to Bury Strangers and Clockcleaner has each provided their case to that question. APtBS hopefully got everyone in the mood for that upcoming My Bloody Valentine album. And Clockcleaner has the scatological lyrics and asshole guitars to make a good case for 2008 to be the year indie-rag-mags love Butthole Surfers revitalization bands (Hairway to Steven era type stuff). But that APtBS album is tizight. -EM
Winner: A Place to Bury Strangers

West Region

Battles vs. Shellac
This one is really difficult. I'm not as crazy about Battles as a lot of other people seem to be, but that Shellac album was also such a tremendous let-down for me. If any other band had put it out, I probably wouldn't be judging it so harshly, but when it comes to Shellac, the bar is set ridiculously high in my mind (At Action Park kick started my descent into full-on Touch & Go Records fanaticism when I was a teenager) & they just didn't deliver. I mean, this record came out seven years after their last one & it still sounds rushed. All of the noodling sound experiments just dragged down the moments of classic Shellac balls-to-the-wall rock in between them. Battles, on the other hand, put out probably the best Don Caballero album that Don Caballero never made, as long as we're on the topic of Touch & Go fanaticism. I'm going to say Battles here, just because Steve Albini & co. broke my heart. You don't mess with a girl like that, guys. -EP
Winner: Battles

Fatal Flying Guilloteens vs. Electrelane
This one could get ugly, as I once witnessed the Fatal Flying Guilloteens dressing up like "ass pirates" when they were on the bill with a touring band with openly gay members, causing a mini-brawl & a ton of drama. You wouldn't really expect a bunch of English ladies who recall the Farfisa-smothered sounds of Stereolab (minus the Marxist sloganeering) to be able to compete with those sorts of dirty tricks. But you would also be wrong. You see, their attempts at being controversial (or assholes, take your pick) aside, the Guilloteens' jump to French Kiss Records from Estrus also signaled a move past their more primal, garage rock leanings in favor of a more angular post-punk thing that just isn't as exciting, but could probably get them on a tour with the Rapture at some point. They get a little bit cocky about going head to head with a bunch of girls (and possibly come up with a costume mocking them to that effect), only to be subsequently buried under Electrelane's organ drone, allowing Electrelane to move on to the next round. -EP
Winner: Electrelane

Ponys vs. Jana Hunter
Yeah, the Ponys are basically the band equivalent of an all-80's-college-rock mixtape (Jesus & Mary Chain? Check. Pixies? Check). But it's a pretty fucking good mixtape. I have a lot of love for Jana Hunter as a fellow Houston lady, but her weirdo psych-folk is just no match for the Ponys' shoegaze-meets-garage guitar workouts. -EP
Winner: Ponys

Thurston Moore vs. Intelligence
The devil on my shoulder says that I should let Thurston move on to the next round because, y'know, he was in a little band called Sonic Youth that saved me from winding up as a Jnco-wearing, Nine Inch Nails-obsessed teenager during my musical formative years. But I just can't bring myself to care too much about Thurston Moore's solo output & that Intelligence album is really, really good. Plus, I've been extremely partial to In The Red Records this year as a whole. So the question becomes: spastic, lo-fi post-punk or indie rock demi-god being paid tribute to now by Starbucks? Intelligence for the win. -EP
Winner: Intelligence

Von Südenfed vs. Antelope
That Fall album that came out this year was really underwhelming (the number of young people in the band photo on the cover should have tipped me off), so I was expecting to be totally unimpressed with Von Südenfed, which is Mark E. Smith's collaboration with Mouse On Mars. I gotta hand it to him, though. The dude might be batshit insane & teaming up with an electronic duo might have sounded absurd on paper, but the results were really, really good. I've had a basic appreciation for Antelope ever since the time I played them on my show & somebody called in to ask if it was a new Gang of Four recording, but being Son of Gang of Four will only take you so far. Good album, but I feel like these kids will be doing better things as time goes on. -EP
Winner: Von Südenfed.

M.I.A. vs. Numbers
Numbers caught some grief when they first came out for following the train of the recent dance punk craze Rapture and Radio 4, among others were dishing. Over their most recent album and their previous, they shied away from those Gang of Four/Devo cornerstones and produced from very satisfying experimental music somewhere between Stereolab and the Cocteau twins. And while it's certainly a step in the right direction for them and I hope they continue exploring further, they just can't topple M.I.A.'s mammoth 2nd LP. And if releasing a mammoth album requires it to be bloated with some weaker cuts (looking at you Timbo collab and "20 Dollar") you can pretty much overcome that by quoting Modern Lovers lyrics on the bouncing "Bamboo Banga." -EM
Winner: M.I.A.

Clorox Girls vs. The One AM Radio
No one is ever going to accuse the Clorox Girls of being original, unless you're living in some fantasy world where the years 1977-1979 just never happened. But, to their credit, if you're going to mimic bands that came before you, you could do a lot worse than choosing the Buzzcocks & the Adverts. On the other end of the spectrum from the Clorox Girls' nervous pop-punk, we have the One AM Radio, who in a more just universe would have beat the shit out of the Postal Service & stolen all of their laptop-indie glory. I'm actually going to let the Clorox Girls advance, if only because I'm holding out hope that the One AM Radio should save their energy for when someone actually invents a time machine & they can go back to show Ben Gibbard who's boss. -EP
Winner: Clorox Girls

Liars vs. Les Savy Fav
The match seems like one of the fairest fights around- both bands have 3 full lengths under their belts, they're both survivors of the dance-punk era, and their most recent albums are their most direct attempts at appealing to a mainstream audience. Eventually each band brings out their secret weapon. Liars produce their army of kittens they recruited post "Houseclouds" music video. Les Savy Fav brings forth Eleanor Freidberger of the Fiery Furnaces who guest sang on one of their album tracks. Like her music in the Fiery Furnaces, she frustrates Les Savy Fav to no end and they concede. -EM
Winner: Liars

East Region

Parts & Labor vs. Menomena
That Menomena album was definitely a grower for me. It's also one of the few times you'll ever see the words "Barsuk Records" on one of my playlists. But unfortunately, through no fault of their own, they just don't stand a chance against Parts & Labor. If you sound like the bastard love child of Hüsker Dü & Lightning Bolt, THEN pull off the rare feat of managing to do justice to a Minutemen cover, you're pretty much beyond criticism in my book. Parts & Labor will conquer Tokyo. -EP
Winner: Parts and Labor

Dinosaur Jr. vs. Kinski
Despite Kinski's best efforts at evoking Sonic Youth, WMUA is an Amherst organization & as such, is going to have to side with the album actually made by people from Western Mass, so this round goes to Dinosaur Jr. Kinski, call us back when you've taken up residence at Thurston & Kim's house. -EP
Winner: Dinosaur Jr.

Future of the Left vs. Gui Boratto
You sir, Future of the Left, are no McLusky. You're like a really great Paul McCartney album, say Ram. Try as the listener might, they'll eventually start missing all the other oddities and characteristics from the previous band, be it John Lennon sneering "Yer Blues" or the druggy Harrison numbers. You've got a lot of great qualities that call back to your firestomping McLusky heyday, but there's something missing. You, Gui Boratto, are a totally different beast. People might be going a little bit more apeshit over that Field album, but this one felt more special to my ears. -EM
Winner: Gui Boratto

Pissed Jeans vs. Silver Daggers
It's unfortunate that one of these albums will have to be eliminated, because the contenders in this round are extremely well-matched & this one is basically anyone's game. The bottom line is whether to give the nod to Jesus Lizard revivalism, or James Chances & the Contortions reincarnated as a Load Records noise band. Tough call, but I'm going to declare Pissed Jeans the winner, simply because they did David Yow-ism better than David Yow himself this year (Qui? Yeah, right). -EP
Winner: Pissed Jeans

These Are Powers vs. Aa
Gosh, do I side with the artsy, noise rock band from Brooklyn or... the other artsy, noise rock band from Brooklyn? If we're talking Brooklyn clichés, These Are Powers are probably always going to be footnoted as "featuring the original bass player of Liars", while Aa have definitely memorized the Black Dice & Oneida pages in their local phonebooks. These Are Powers have the slight edge, though, if only because I think their album holds up better as a whole, rather than as a collection of crazy fucked-up sound experiments (as good as those crazy, fucked-up sound experiments are). They're still probably going to have to answer to Liars in some way or another later on in the tournament, which could turn out to be a bitter family reunion. -EP
Winner: These Are Powers

Grinderman vs. Black Dice
Black Dice enter this bout with a tremendous assortment of synthesizers, field recordings, and other sonic weaponry to take down just about any opponent that faces them. Unfortunately for them, their opponent is Nick Cave's you-just-can't-fuck-with-this mustache and the rest of Grinderman. The 'stache handles Black Dice in one round while the band members sit back, sip tea and think of new pickup attempts to include in "No Pussy Blues" when playing it live. -EM
Winner: Grinderman

Do Make Say Think vs. Explosions In The Sky
While I was living in Texas, I saw Explosions In The Sky live, by a conservative estimate, approximately eight million times. The first time, it blew my mind & each subsequent time, watching the exact same bombastic instrumental drama got less & less impressive. Ever since then, I haven't been able to get too excited about any of their records because I'd rather just listen to Slint or something because fortunately, I never had the chance to get bored with them live. Now, I've seen Do Make Say Think twice & call me a hypocrite, but I feel like their music just holds up better because it's not as strictly dependent on cliché quiet/gradual build up/LOUD!/quiet dynamics. Their new one is probably my favorite of theirs since "Goodbye Enemy Airship, The Landlord Is Dead" & they even managed to work vocals into it without totally fucking it up. So I'm going to be a traitor to my Texas roots & give the Canadians the edge. -EP
Winner: Do Make Say Think

No Age vs. Saturday Looks Good to Me
Oh twee SLGtM, did you really think you had a shot at this? It's like asking would Led Zeppelin or the Smiths win in a rock battle. –EM
Winner: No Age

South Region

Deerhunter vs. The Faintest Ideas
Seriously? Not even close. See the No Age/Saturday Looks Good to Me. -EM
Winner: Deerhunter

Epsilons vs. Pterodactyl
I'll take a band that apes Oneida over a band that apes the Germs any day of the week. However, if I was to base this round on the great videos they each put out (here and here), Epsilons would hold a very slight edge. -EM
Winner: Pterodactyl

Old Time Relijun vs. Adult.
Adult. comes into this bout with an album of gloomy electroclash to listen to in your room when you've run out of Joy Division records & you want to slit your wrists, you melodramatic goth, you. Old Time Relijun is a bunch of dudes with beards who sound like the Bad Seeds & the Cramps making hot passionate love with Captain Beefheart watching. One of these things is clearly more fun than the other & using the word "electroclash" in 2007 makes me feel kind of dirty. Old Time Relijun wins & Adult. can turn their loss into inspiration for their next soul-crushing album. -EP
Winner: Old Time Relijun

Marnie Stern vs. Eluvium
Matthew Cooper (aka Eluvium) enters the tournament with a simple gameplan- take whatever his opponent deals, then treat, loop and texturize the shit out of it until the opponent weeps to death or fall asleep. Marnie Stern, the axe-welding prodigy, simply sends one monster riff or killer shred ad finitum until Eluvium becomes overwhelmed and his head explodes. -EM
Winner: Marnie Stern

Lamps vs. !!!
Hey !!!, I'm still bummed that Out Hud broke up. Lamps can claim a guy named Monty Buckles amongst their ranks. MONTY BUCKLES. Sorry folks, this one's over quick, Lamps win. -EP
Winner: Lamps

Love of Diagrams vs. Shooting Spires
Shooting Spires is the solo project of BJ Warshaw of Parts & Labor, a band of which we are quite fond. The Brian Eno-meets-Boredoms thing he came up with on the Shooting Spires album was good, but Parts & Labor's album this year was GREAT. We also have much love for Love of Diagrams, the fearless co-ed post-punk band from the Land Down Under. As Aussies, they bust out some Crocodile Hunter-style moves on Shooting Spires, taking the round. They are now ready to challenge their next competitor to a game of "Knifey Spooney". -EP
Winner: Love of Diagrams

XBXRX vs. Jenny Hoyston
Jenny Hoyston, of the very excellent Erase Errata, gave us a solo album this year that was half country-styled (in the manner of her collaboration with all-around awesome dude William Elliott Whitmore), half closer to Erase Errata's spiky post-punk, making for a good but somewhat uneven record. XBXRX showed up wearing matching outfits & tore through an album's worth of songs in less than half an hour like a Devo-on-amphetamines whirlwind. It's looking like 2007 is the year of demented noise-rock & XBXRX are clearly at an advantage here. -EP
Winner: XBXRX

Prinzhorn Dance School vs. Turzi
The first time I heard Prinzhorn Dance School, I totally freaked out because I thought it was something from a new album by the Ex that I just hadn't heard about. That right there is probably enough to propel them into Album of the Year contention for me. While I like the Turzi album, my inner punk is going to side with an album that tips its hat to Dutch anarchists as opposed to French dudes doing their best Brian Eno. -EP
Winner: Prinzhorn Dance School

So for those keeping track, the bracket right now looks like:

No comments: