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Music We Love: Sleater-Kinney's "All Hands On The Bad One"

I have so many feelings about riot grrrl, the third wave feminist music movement of the '90s that taught me about rad women in punk and the DIY power of young ladies at large BUT I can not, and won't, get into all those feelings here because I have a character limit. At least, I think I have a character limit. For now, let's talk about Sleater-Kinney, the riot grrrl staple and bad-ass rock band.

Sleater-Kinney was formed in Olympia, Washington by musicians Corin Tucker (of the other Washington-based punk band Heavens To Betsy) and Carrie Brownstein (of Excuse 17). For those unfamiliar with SK, you might know Brownstein from the TV show Portlandia or her other insanely good band Wild Flag. She is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. God DAMN IT is there anything Carrie can't do?

Sleater-Kinney's music was loud and unabashedly political, calling out the misogyny of the music industry to the confines of gender roles. Their angry lyricism is a feminist manifesto in itself, making this music for ladies to rage to. Tucker has a particularly distinctive style of singing; it is literally a warrior-call. Her shrieking, punk snarl is one of the reasons Sleater-Kinney's music is so satisfying. Because Sleater-Kinney is one of my favorite bands, picking just one album to write about is hard. Though their fifth album, All Hands On The Bad One is super good. Girl power 4-ever! [Insert Corin Tucker shriek here.]

This is one of my favorite Sleater-Kinney songs, though it's not their typical, mega-screamy sound. It's a fun song but also pretty snarky. If there's one thing you can count on with Sleater-Kinney it's brutal honesty. If you're a totally predictable buzzkill boy band who disses lady rockstars, they're going to call you out on it with insults veiled as catchy hooks in a glossed up song. And how good is "fill our Christmas socks / with whiskey drinks and chocolate bars?" Dudes, this is what your girlfriend wants for Christmas. She also wants you to shut up forever and help dismantle the patriarchy, but start off with the booze and treats. 

Sleater-Kinney's "#1 Must Have" is a takedown of the hype riot grrrl was receiving from the media at the time. People were hating on SK for "selling out" and feminism had become a total commodity. "But they took our ideas to their marketing stars / and now I'm spending all my days at / trying to buy back a little piece of me," Tucker sings. Then the band went on this totally mainstream Oxygen talk show to perform this song and Tucker's attitude is sooo over it all. You can see it in her performance, it's great. Of course they would pick this song to play! Such a brilliant move. Ugh, I LOVE YOU SLEATER-KINNEY. 

The fast-paced, mosh-worthy "Youth Decay" is about the widespread misunderstanding of young women and disorders. It's easier to silence a chick than help her. "I'm so good at playing dead / words just don't seem to come out," Tucker snarls. Playing dead and being silenced is a common theme in Sleater-Kinney's outspoken music. The music gets REAL.

Sleater-Kinney penned this tune which, in Tucker's words, mocks how people perceive women in rock. To some, a band with all women can't be just a rock band. It has to be a lady rock band with their own special brand of female music. It doesn't really matter though, what people think of SK, 'cause all of the members have not stopped kicking ass musically over the years and All Hands On The Bad One is a testimony to their lasting rock n' roll, feminist power. Buy this record and all of their records and just get your girlfriends together and dance wildly. Hazel

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Music We Love: Palma Violets '180'

Although it only came out in January, the debut album, 180, from Palma Violets instantly resonated as an essential classic album for me. After hearing the first track off the album, "Best of Friends," late last year, I knew I wanted more from this band. Palma Violets are four young boys from the London neighborhood of Lambeth, whose main aim is to make people feel good when listening to music. 180 contains eleven of the most entertaining and powerful tracks I've ever heard, and its an album I seriously never get tired of.

Palma Violets have really made themselves known by having extremely exciting live shows, with members of the band, mainly singer and bassist, Chilli Jesson, flinging himself all over the stage and crowd surfing between yelling his own inspirational lines to the crowd to get them going. You can hear that same energy on the album, because each song sounds like it was recorded on a live take, which I love. It's always nice when a band sounds the same at live shows and on recording. The album starts off with "Best of Friends," sung by Chilli, that has an opening riff you'll never get of your head. (But seriously, you'll never want it to leave.) "Step Up for the Cool Cats" is next, which has a synth groove by keyboardist Pete Mayhew that may remind you of a '60s group like the Monkees.

Tempo often changes throughout the album, but the slow songs are just as alive as the fast ones. "Last of the Summer Wine" is kind of the halfway point of the album, and is best accompanied by a beautiful sunset and some pals. The opening riff by guitarist Sam Fryer builds oh-so-beautifully, and erupts into a sort of anthem we can all relate to ("Love isn't easy/That's just the way it goes"), which most of their songs do. After that point in the album, things get turned up with "Tom the Drum" and "Johnny Bagga' Donuts," and "We Found Love," which is totally my favorite track on the album. It makes my heart sing! Cheesy but true.

Palma Violets bring it home with the longest track on the album, "14," that turns into a sort of secret track, "Brand New Song," that the band always plays quite lively at the end of their shows. It's a great closer to the album, and a great live closer, with all of its brash cymbals and whistling. It's another sort of anthem that makes you feel like you're just messing around with your friends. That's what 180 sounds like, you just hanging out with your best pals and having an excellent time, which I believe was the band's aim. The cover of the album shows the band in front of their studio, 180, that the record was named after, and on the door it says, "In times of turmoil, find a home to attack from." Looking at it, I realize that I take this phrase to heart when I listen to the album, because it really lifts you up and gives you super positive vibes. 180 makes you feel like you can do anything. I suggest you go get this record ASAP and turn those negative vibes into good ones! Maddie

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Album Review: J Dilla

I may not be the most educated person when it comes to hip-hop, but the album I reviewed this week gave me a little taste of a genre I should probably get to know better. Late rapper J Dilla's Rebirth of Detroit Instrumentals is the record I'm referring to, and it takes the original record and brings you twelve incredible instrumental tracks. These twelve tracks are sure to get you grooving, even if you're just delving into the giant genre that is hip-hop (like me)! Maddie

This one is a double LP, coming to you in two classy white record sleeves. Also inside the sleeve is a credits sheet, with a photograph of J Dilla when he was little, along with words from Yancey Media Group about the artist. The LP's cover features a photograph of the city that the album is named after.

Best song:
My favorite song on the record is "My Victory," on Side C. The beat reminds me of the '70s, which is my second favorite era in music! I felt that I vibed the most with this track. Also really enjoyed "Big Thangs," from Side A, because of how different it is from say, "My Victory." Lots of variety on this record, which is totally cool.

What it's good for:
If you're going to a party or throwing one, make sure you have this album in hand. With a huge variety of beats on it, it won't disappoint! These instrumentals, like I said above, are perfect if you're interested in learning more about hip hop, but aren't sure who to start with. Also, who better to learn about it from than the legendary J Dilla?

Shop J Dilla's Rebirth of Detroit Instrumentals.

Album Review: Nuggets

Unlike all of the other albums I've reviewed recently, this week I have reviewed something called Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era (1965-1968). Originally released in 1972 by Elektra Records and now reissued by Rhino Records, this Nuggets compilation is an 180 gram double LP featuring twenty-seven excellent tracks that will definitely make you want to have a '60s themed party and wish you were at Woodstock. You'll hear awesome tracks on this compilation ranging from The Standells to The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Maddie

The cover of this album features a totally fitting psychedelic drawing that doesn't need much explaining. Endless rainbow colors, swirls, cool people in big sunglassesit feels like it came right out of the late '60s. Nuggets also has a double gatefold sleeve, plus cool collaged photographs and lyrics printed on the inside of the sleeve. There's also a pullout sheet with the history of how the compilation record came to be, and a full tracklisting.

Best song:
It was seriously hard for me to choose a favorite from this compilation, especially since this period of the '60s is my favorite period in music in general. From the first half of the record, my favorites are "Dirty Water" by The Standells, "Oh Yeah" by The Shadows of Knight, and "Moulty" by The Barbarians. "Moulty" is a kind of crazy song that mixes spoken word plus a doo-wop inspired chorus; whatever it is, I dig it. From the second half, my favorites are "Psychotic Reaction" by Count Five, "Baby Please Don't Go" by The Amboy Dukes (really great electric guitars on this one!), and "Run Run Run" by The Third Rail. (Also I seem to have a thing for songs named "Run Run Run," i.e. by The Who and The Velvet Underground.)

What it's good for:
If you're looking to learn a bit more about this musical period in the '60s but aren't sure who to start listening to, this Nuggets compilation is the perfect tool for you! It really gives you a taste of so many artists, that you'll be able to learn more about smaller bands of the psychedelic era and how they changed music forever.

Shop Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era (1965-1968)

Album Review: Junip

Junip's self-titled second record is the album I reviewed this week, which brings you smooth, modern, and solid sound with notable folk influences. This band's genre is definitely folk, but their tunes are just amped up enough with cool synths and beats that will not leave you disappointed! Maddie


Upon opening the record, you'll find a lavish double gatefold sleeve, with a nice artistic drawing of a whale on the inside. The actual single record sleeve itself has another nice photo of a deer, plus album credits and all of those important things. Junip's front album cover is a straight to the point black cover with interesting font stating the band's name and album title, of course! My iPhone didn't do this one justice.

Best Song:
Personal highlight of Junip is "Your Life Your Call." This particular tune is one of my favorites because of the groove, it rings a bell to a song Hot Chip might make, which is totally a good thing! Other highlights are "Head First" and "So Clear." I particularly like the mix of acoustic sounds and synths in the latter.

What it's good for:
I think Junip's album will be best accompanied with a cup of coffee or tea, and a good book. This album is definitely not made for partying, its made for maxin' and relaxin', guys. 

Shop Junip's Junip.

Album Review: Bombino

This week, I reviewed Nomad, a stunning album by singer-songwriter, Bombino. Produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, the third record from Bombino is personally undiscovered territory in music that I'm very glad I did discover! Hailing from the Tuareg culture of Northern Africa, Bombino is one of the most impressive guitarists I've ever heard. The songs are all sung in his native language, and all have a serious groove that will definitely get you dancing. Maddie

This LP has an awesome black and white photograph on the front, with your standard black LP sleeve on the inside, plus a lyric insert that also contains some great photography. The back has photographs of the band and a nice one of Bombino himself, plus a photo of my favorite dude ever, and producer of the album, Dan Auerbach.

Best song:

In its entirety, Nomad has a seriously calming flow. I sat down to listen to this album and was instantly happier and chilled out all at the same time. My personal favorites on the album are the opening track, "Amidinine," which has really good blues guitar influences, and I also really enjoyed "Niamey Jam," a mostly instrumental track that's a lot of fun and is basically like one awesome guitar solo in a way.

What it's good for:
Warning, Bombino's sweet riffs will cause some hipshaking! I'm thinking this record is ideal for an outdoor party. You'll find yourself popping it into your turntable and instantly feeling the great vibes. Between the ridiculously great guitar playing and other instruments played on the record, there are no complaints here!

Shop Bombino's Nomad.

Album Review: Alt-J

Alt-J's debut album was released just shy of a year ago, but that doesn't mean it's old news. The record, An Awesome Wave, is quite true to its name with its calming, glimmering sounds that flood your ears upon first listen. Plus, it's got some pretty shiny album artwork that will surely draw you right in! Maddie

The album's cover art is my favorite part of the whole thing! Totally into the oil spill swirl situation. An Awesome Wave also has a nice double gate-fold packaging, with all of the song lyrics printed on the inside. The LP sleeve also has a pretty cool layered photo of the band, plus tracklisting on the opposite side.

Best song:
From end to end, this album is pretty good in my opinion, and Alt-J has a sound I don't think I've ever heard before. Throughout the record, An Awesome Wave carries a smooth and mellow tone. My favorite track that I thought best captured this feel is actually the last song on the album, "Taro." I really liked the interesting percussion on this song, and how the song gains layers as you listen.

What it's good for:
This album is a good one for poppin' into the turntable with your windows wide open while you daydream. An Awesome Wave has some super calming tendencies, so get ready to feel as zen as possible when you listen!

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Album Review: The Men

The Men are a five piece from Brooklyn, New York that successfully combined various styles of music to create their latest release, New Moon. This album's got deep rock and roll roots, with some lo-fi beachy vibes and a bit of punk thrown in. I guarantee you'll dig it. Maddie

New Moon's main album sleeve has a trippy orange and blue floral design on it, while inside you'll find the black record inside an LP sleeve with a cyanotype-like image of the band, plus a tracklisting and a kind message from the band you'll have to read yourself! Also inside is a fold out lyric booklet that reminds me of a news digest that has lots of cool little drawings on it. This was my favorite part.

Best song:
Personally, I liked the faster, more punk-influenced cuts on the record, namely "The Brass," and "I See No One." "The Brass" is one of those songs that just instantly hits you in the face and wakes you up.  On "I See No One," I can clearly hear the surf rock influences, which is a main part of why I like this album so much. No doubt though, New Moon is a beauty from beginning to end that has top notch variety.

What it's good for:
New Moon is great for anything. Usually I'd tell you a specific place I'd listen to this album, but I'm going to be pretty general on this one! There's so many great sounds on this album, ranging from smoother classic rock melodies to the higher speed songs I mentioned previously, you will definitely find yourself listening to this album anytime, anywhere.

Shop The Men's New Moon.

Album Review: Ex Cops

Ex Cops are Brooklyn based outfit led by Brian Harding and Amalie Bruun, who produce some of the dreamiest tunes I've heard as of late. True Hallucinations is their debut album, and my, it is a gem. You'll definitely need to keep this record in your summer essentials library. Maddie


Ex Cops went for very simple artwork for the front and back of the LP sleeve, featuring the band's logo and album title, plus a kind of ambiguous window or possible keyhole, while the back has a lovely black and white image of some form of cement structure. True Hallucinations' inner sleeve is where you'll find trippy color graphics laid over photos of Brian and Amalie.

Best song:

"Ken" and "Broken Chinese Chairz" are my two immediate favorites off the album. "Ken" is an instant jam that has a super catchy beat that will probably make any bad vibes you're feelin' go away. "Broken Chinese Chairz" is the last song on the album, which includes more of Amalie's vocals throughout the whole track. I'm a huge fan of her soft, calming voice. You'll definitely need to put that last one on your summertime partay playlists.

What it's good for:
Basically, this album is just delivering the vibes, if you know what I mean. I just love everything about it, and I'll definitely be listening to this while driving up and down the California coast this summer. I'm pretty sure most of the melodies on this album were created while thinking about sunshine and happy times.

Shop Ex Cops' True Hallucinations.

Album Review: Youth Lagoon

The Year of Hibernation is Youth Lagoon's first album, and it's fantastic. Trevor Powers, the man behind Youth Lagoon, is onto his second album now, Wondrous Bughouse, but this special UO exclusive blue vinyl edition of 2011's The Year of Hibernation makes sure that the first album is definitely not forgotten. —Katie

The packaging on this is awesome, especially the electric blue vinyl that it comes on. Clear, colored vinyl is just SO MUCH FUN! It looks cool spinnin' on a turntable, and is like art.

Best song:
Okay, I'm super into albums that have great opening tracks, and this album is one of those. "Posters," the first track on the album, really gets me in the mood to chiiiiiiill ouuuut. The fuzzed out vocals and boppy background instrumentals just put me in the best mood. Also super into "Daydream," but if I'm being honest, I don't think there's a track I don't like on this album.

What it's good for:
Chillin' out! Maybe even CHYLLIN' out. It is that chill. Any album that can walk the fine line between Cool Indie and Super Fun Pop is my absolute favorite, and this album does just that. You won't be embarrassed to tell people you're listening to Youth Lagoon, but you'll still be able to groove just as hard as you would to Britney Spears.

Album Review: Iceage

This week, I reviewed Danish punk band Iceage's sophomore album, You're Nothing, available now on Matador Records. You're Nothing is a dark, industrial punk album with some post-punk influences that I quite surprisingly enjoyed listening to on a bright, almost-summer day. Maddie

The cover of this LP has a majestic looking hawk on the front, with a matte finish, while the band's logo also appears with a glossy sheen. Inside, you'll find the regular black record, in an appropriately black sleeve. My favorite part about sliding out the record was finding the really cool lyric booklet slash zine sort of thing that also includes photos of the band. I dig that DIY sorta feel.

Best song:
Most of the songs on You're Nothing rile up some angst in me, as this album totally should do for you. I personally liked "Wounded Hearts" and "Interlude." The guitars in "Wounded Hearts" are perfect and make me want to dance, or possibly participate in a circle pit. "Interlude" shows a slower, calmer side of Iceage, which you might need before you discover the rest of the album!

What it's good for:
You're Nothing should be your go-to album for when you're feeling really angry. I guarantee if you pop this record into your turntable you'll dance and jump out the angst I'm not joking! Although this album is truly hardcore, I think you can still enjoy it while sitting in the sun with your friends, but make sure you have some room where you are, because like I said, You're Nothing is 100% mosh pit inducing.

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Album Review: Ducktails

Ducktails is Matt Mondanile's rather groovy side project (you might know him from Real Estate)—it's grown from a one man job to a full fledged band for this most recent release, The Flower Lane, on Domino Records. The Flower Lane mixes tons of different sounds that I guarantee you'll want to hear this summer when you're cruisin' to the beach in your convertibleor sitting at home with the air conditioning on. Maddie

The Flower Lane comes in your standard LP sleeve, with some pretty cool checkerboard album artwork. Getting some real optical illusion-y vibes from it. Aside from the cover, there's an awesome inner sleeve that holds the actual record, and lists all of the people Matt collaborated with on the album in a faux-newspaper sorta way. On the back of the inner sleeve are all of the lyrics, because you're probably not going to be able to refrain singing along to the entire album.

Best song:
The song that most stands out to me on this album is "Assistant Director," (track 6) because it's just a nonstop jam. It really makes me want to have a disco dance partyI'm not joking. Another good one is "Planet Phrom" (track 5). This song is a little slower, and less dance-y (all while Matt sings hilarious lyrics about another planet), but you'll have to listen to find out!

What it's good for:
Basically this album is great for all those times you're just chillin' by the pool with your pals, but you still want the option to have a dance party somewhere in there. It's also good for when it's summer and 500 degrees outside and you need an album to cool you off. Matt Mondanile's sweet riffs will no doubt do that to you.

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Album Review: Foxygen

Foxygen is your typical talented "damn-it-they're-so-cool" band from California, and their newest (awesome) LP, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, was released earlier this year. As it turns out, the January release is perfect summer music. —Katie

There's no double-gatefold action going on with this album, but the cover art is pretty awesome. Plus, the lyrics for all the songs are included on the inner sleeve, just in case you hear something that really speaks to you and you're too lazy to hop on the ol' Google.

Best song:
Really into "No Destruction" (track 2) because it's kind of got some Dylan-esque vocal shenanigans going on, and I'm always down for anything that's Dylan-esque. The band has an overall "classic rock" vibe, especially on their first single from the album, "Shuggie." (Like, '60s-psych-band classic rock, not Rush-in-1984 classic rock [even though Rush is delightful in their own special way].)

What it's good for:
You know when there's a movie montage about everyone having a good time in the sunshine, and maybe there are some slow-mo shots of people laughing in the grass and like, a dripping ice cream cone? That's what this album reminds me of. It's great summertime hangouts music. And it also makes cleaning your room feel a lot less terrible. (Because as I found out when trying to take these pictures inside, my room is a dark hell-hole covered in dust, but now it's clean. Thanks, Foxygen!)

Shop Foxygen's We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic