April 24th, 2020

The Homeless Gospel Choir – This Land Is Your Landfill (A-F Records)

This album is a change in direction for Derek Zanetti, whose act used to consist of “his voice, his emotions, and his acoustic guitar.” The Pittsburgh native has an actual band now, playing louder and faster than his previous work, moving from indie-folk-punk to pretty straightforward punk rock. What has not changed is the content. This Land Is Your Landfill is protest music and social commentary focusing primarily on politics and mental health issues, but occasionally branching out into people just being generally shitty to each other. 

Truthfully, I tend to shy away from anything that labels itself as ‘protest music’. The lyrics of such artists are usually angry and so on-the-nose that the lack of creativity is cringeworthy. Derek and his new crew don’t suffer from that problem, most of the time. I mean, the album opener, “Global Warming” is exactly what you would expect it to be: a condemnation of politicians using the destruction of the planet as a rally flag for personal freedoms. But throughout the rest of the album, things get more nuanced. “Lest We Forget” is a plea for people to just stop being dicks to each other. “You Never Know” is a ballad about taking personal everything that you read or see or hear, and is probably my favorite track on the record. 

Derek’s acoustic guitar makes enough of an appearance to feel like he is sticking to his roots, but the band really fleshes out the quality of the production, adding a depth of emotional field that is new for The Homeless Gospel Choir. Unlike other acts in this particular milieu, no two songs sound alike and every song feels like it was given the appropriate amount of attention to give it life. 

This is what punk is supposed to be. 

FFO: Desaparecidos, These United States

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What Are Our Favorite Albums?

In episode 2 of the audio version of the blog, the guys argue over their top five favorite albums. Poor selections will be made, feelings will be hurt, tastes will be insulted. Check out the podcast below.

Listen to “Fairly Kickass: The Second” on Spreaker.

Fairly Kickass: The Podcast comes out bi-monthly and is currently available on Spotify, Spreaker, Podcast Addict and Podcaster with more outlets coming. Get all the links over on the podcast page.

April 17th, 2020

Nils – Caught In The Groove (Baja/TSR)

Let’s face it: these are trying times.  We’re all stuck inside, oftentimes without much to do.  Some of us are locked down with significant others, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wifes, etc.  After that 5th or 6th ep of your rewatch binge of The Office, you glance at one another, and it’s time.  Clothes go off, deodorant goes on – don’t pretend that you smell good right now – and from there it’s into or onto the bed, the couch, or even the washing machine.

You know what’s missing in this scene?  The music, of course.  But not just any music; it has to be right.  The two of you (or more, I don’t judge) deserve it to be right.  And that’s where Caught In The Groove comes in.

I can’t claim to know much about German jazz musician Nils Jiptner, or what exactly he was thinking as he conceptualized this album.  Maybe it was an audio illustration of the rolling German countryside, or an ode to the neo-gothic architecture still on prominent display in Munich.  Perhaps it was more of a call-to-action, to encourage all who listen to unite and make the world a better place.  But regardless of any of that, this is very clearly a sex album for doing sex with other sex-doers.

From the uptempo “Good Times are Better” and “I Like The Way You Do It”, to the slower “My Mornings With You” and “All Roads Lead To You”… oh.  I guess Nils knew that he was making a sex album all along then.  As smooth as a fine whiskey, and as layered as a fine dip, Caught In The Groove delivers as a complete listening experience.  Good luck getting through the whole 12 track ride with your pants on.

FFO: Sex

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April 10th, 2020

Sparta – Trust The River (Jim Ward)

For their 4th release, the first in 14 years, Sparta has decided to make themselves almost unrecognizable, moving even farther from the volume and intricacy of their origin in At The Drive-In. Maybe it’s time we stop expecting Ward and company to sound like replicants of themselves from a quarter-century ago. Thoughts?

Trust The River is a new chapter, a dynamic renaissance for a pioneer of modern emo-punk and post-hardcore. Strip away the technicality, scale back the power, remove nearly all preconceived notions of yourself, and what’s left? A pretty straightforward garage-style trock album that highlights songwriting, as opposed to songcraft. 

While I don’t believe they will ever top 2002’s Wiretap Scars, this effort solidly tops their other 2 records, in this listener’s not-so-humble opinion, brushing them aside like so much unwanted detritus. Unfortunately for Sparta, I don’t think it’s strong or important enough to revive the genre and make them relevant again.  

FFO: Engine Down, Hot Water Music

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April 3, 2020

Purity Ring – WOMB (4AD)

Listening to WOMB is an exercise in stark dichotomy. The Canadian duo produces a brand of magically magnetic trip-hop that is as powerful as it is understated. Honey-sweet vocals issue complex poetry about curses, devils and terror angels that live in the mirror, longing and heaving bodies, scars and entropy. 

There is a sci-fi soundtrack, music box quality to the tracks that sucks you in like a good mystery story. The tempo of everything stays slow, but somehow conveys a potent energy that pulls like a riptide. WOMB is heart-rending, life-affirming, and otherworldly. An absolute gem.

FFO: Ruelle, Grimes, Sneaker Pimps

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