Laura Jane Grace - “Black Me Out”
I saw Against Me! back in 2007 at the first (and last) Tallyrand Music Festival in Jacksonville, but that was only because Spoon were going on right after them and I wanted a good spot.
I’d never heard any of their music, but I was aware of them. “New Wave” had just come out and with major label money behind it the record got prime end cap display space at every Target.
Since the band was based only a couple hours away in Gainesville, they had a lot of fans at the festival. Without having heard a note of music, I tried to deduce what they sounded like just from looking around at their fans, and at the band, and what I thought I knew about them: I thought they were going to sound like a hardcore punk band, which is to say, not my jam.
So I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked them. They had a lot of punk energy, lots of thrashing around the stage and spitting, but the tunes were catchy and even though the vocals were shouty, sure, it was still in a tuneful pop-punk way that I enjoy. After their set I made a mental note to pick up “New Wave” the next time I went record shopping. It never happened. I never did buy that album, or any other Against Me! album.
This is all a long way of saying that I’m glad I finally picked up “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” because even though it’s only the fifth of February this is going to probably be my favorite record this year.
"Black Me Out" might be the last track on the album but it’s already a favorite and should be the next single, but every song on the album is a punch in the gut. The acoustic version loses none of the spite of the original; in fact, without all the extra accompaniment it probably cuts even harder.
I haven’t really done a formal favorites list in a couple of years, but after moving last year and with my entire music collection still in boxes in the garage, I set out this year with a goal to buy one new release every week. I pretty much shopped Amazon exclusively, because I also don’t live 12 minutes from the Rhino in Claremont anymore, so with no record stores nearby, all the money I would have spent buying used CDs and shoring up my collection all went toward new releases. All told I wound up buying 55 new records, and there are a bunch more I wished I’d gotten around to, but isn’t that always the case? Below are my 20 favorite, in alphabetical order. I also took this crappy picture of each CD layed out on the floor of our guest room because why not.
I will say that because I didn’t have access to my music collection (and yes, I use Spotify, but it’s just not the same y’know?) it forced me to spend a lot more time with each of the records I bought, so I feel like I really got to absorb all the stuff I listened to this year.
Okay, if you held a gun to my head and asked me which was my absolute favorite album of the year I’d say either Paramore or Arctic Monkeys. Oh now I’m dead because I still didn’t choose, but I loved both of them a lot a lot.
I’ll probably keep up the whole buy-a-new-record-a-week thing, but maybe aim for 75. STILL BUYING CDS IN 2014 WHERE’S MY MEDAL??
Arctic Monkeys - AM
Charli XCX - True Romance
Chvrches - Bones of What You Believe
Deerhunter - Monomania
Disclosure - Settle
Foals - Holy Fire
Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady
Joy Formidable - Wolf’s Law
Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park
Kanye West - Yeezus
Local Natives - Hummingbird
Mount Moriah - Miracle Temple
Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
Paramore - s/t
Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
Pet Shop Boys - Electric
Quadron - Avalanche
Sean Nelson - Make Good Choices
SISU - Blood Tears
Superchunk - I Hate Music
Recently got around to picking up the Coming Up & Head Music deluxe reissues and I haven’t listened to anything else for a couple of weeks now. Obviously I’ve owned the original albums for over a decade but I wanted to hear a remastered Coming Up since the original started sounding dated almost immediately. Verdict: a slight improvement, but there’s still hardly any low end. Head Music has aged extremely well and still sounds great and modern so the impetus for getting that one was for the b-sides.
In the liner notes Brett writes a few reflective paragraphs about what was going on with the band during recording and gives a little insight on how it all came together but it’s not super revelatory. The best part is when he provides a “if I could do it all over again” re-envisioned track listing. For Head Music, and I’m paraphrasing here, he says “Fuckin’ A I was off the rails while we were making this thing. Holy shit what’s going on with “Head Music” and “Elephant Man”, right guys? How much crack was I smoking? Oh yeah, a fuck ton! No but seriously I was doing a lot of crack. Anyway, I’d definitely axe those two because listening to them now I feel a deep sense of shame.”
Almost all the b-sides to Coming Up were on Sci Fi Lullabies, but I’d never heard the Head Music-era b-sides so that was a treat. Even though they were a lesser band at that point (too much of the wrong kind of drugs!) and Brett had, lyrically at least, practically become a parody of himself, the b-sides were actually surprisingly decent.
But I can’t overstate how bad some of Brett’s lyrics are; just totally bereft of ideas. Besides every other song starting with “She…..” and the comically simple rhyming schemes, he actually sings “We’re the litter on the breeze” AGAIN on “Jubilee”. I mean, they wrote tracks called “Crackhead” and “Heroin” and “Music Like Sex” (!!!) because of course they did!
It’s also weird to think about how Brett was a year younger than I am now when that record came out.
I will say that “Leaving” and “Let Go” are really really great (and if I’m being honest “Music Like Sex” is an earworm even though it’s a dumb song) and the thing I realized after listening to so much Suede is that even a terrible Suede song is still pretty great, so I’m hopeful their new album is going to be good. I mean, I even really liked A New Morning so I think I’ll like it just fine.
1 - Beach House - Bloom
2 - Lana Del Rey - Born To Die
3 - Saint Etienne - Words and Music
4 - Hospitality - s/t
5 - Shins - Port of Morrow
6 - Hot Chip - In Our Heads
7 - Divine Fits - A Things Called Divine Fits
8 - Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
9 - Grizzly Bear - Shields
10 - Jens Lekman - I know What Love Isn’t