Into The Great Outdoors With Great Lake Swimmers

Great Lake Swimmers

Great Lake Swimmers are a band at home in the wild. Listening to them, you get the feeling that you’re in the wilderness yourself—maybe in an old, creaky boat surrounded by gray water. You’re in no particular hurry. You just let the waves push you where they want you to go, comfortable just letting them lap against you until you realize that you’ve been taken to a completely new place.

This is not a far stretch, really. Great Lake Swimmers have been known to make a studio in the wildest of places; places you have to hike to; places you have to ferry gear across in little boats. Their latest album, New Wild Everywhere, is no exception. The song “The Great Exhale,” for example (quite possibly the record’s high point), was recorded in an abandoned subway station in Toronto.

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Album Review: Direct Hit!’s “Domesplitter”

Direct Hit Domesplitter

There are few bands who manage to do something new in the current age of punk rock. Most groups that actually try to do anything especially interesting end up crossing the line from punk to some other form of music, never to look back at their gritty past ever again. And then there’s Direct Hit!. This quartet of Milwaukee’s finest pop-punks is fittingly punctuated. Both style and substance en masse from a punk band is something to covet, praise, and nurture like the mother tree in Avatar. The band writes songs about burning down places of employment, werewolves, getting high, zombies and a plethora of other topics found in comic books and horror movies.

After a series of EPs and splits, Direct Hit! is on the verge of releasing their first full length album, Domesplitter.  The record is really a compilation of what some would consider the best of their previous EPs, rerecorded and released on beautiful 12” vinyl. If the Bible is a collection of stories passed down through history to instill common morality in the followers of its religion, then Direct Hit! may have just written the punk rock new testament.

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Album Review: The Antlers’ “Burst Apart”

The Antlers Burst Apart

It’s been two years since the Antlers released their phenomenal third album, Hospice, and a year-and-a-half since I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry for the next week after listening through it. Ever since the needle lifted off my record player, I wondered what the Brooklyn trio would do next–how they would follow such a haunting album that had already defined their career.

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Album Review: “Personal Life” by The Thermals

The Thermals Personal Life

In 2006, The Thermals became everyone’s favorite powerpunk band with their blistering masterpiece The Body, The Blood, The Machine.  It only seemed like the next logical step after the exciting lo-fi of  More Parts Per Million, and the revved-up angst of  Fuckin’ A.

However, it’s the aftermath of The Body, The Blood, The Machine that’s a little more interesting. What do you do after you release a universally acclaimed masterpiece that catapults you from cult status to indie darling? Do you fold under pressure, try to expand upon your success with a recreation, or roll the dice and try to subtly evolve from that point? The Thermals chose the latter of the three, following that up with 2009’s powerpop gem Now We Can See which saw the band toning down their anger, expanding their songs (in both structure and length) and getting really poppy—which brings us to Personal Life, released last month.

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Album Review: “Mines” by Menomena

Menomena Mines

As a musician, I’m constantly on the lookout for new albums to connect with. This year Joanna Newsom and Murder By Death surprised and stunned me, The National and Arcade Fire both kept me at rapt attention, and Los Campesinos! and Titus Andronicus annihilated me. Yet somehow, nothing could prepare me for what instantly became my favorite album this year: Mines. Menomena don’t just have a great record on their hands—they have a masterpiece.

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Album Review: “High Violet” by The National

The National High Violet

By Steven Spoerl

After hearing leaked tracks and seeing a few of the new ones performed live last year at Milwaukee’s gorgeous Pabst Theater, I had very high expectations for The National’s High Violet.  After finally getting my hands on a copy and giving it an inaugural listen, I was completely satisfied with the fluidity and strength of the record, but wondered about its staying power as it hadn’t gripped me as intensely as Alligator or Boxer did.

Then I thought back to Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers and was a little uplifted as I had the exact same trepidations after listening to that record for the first time.  It was one that I ultimately revisited almost as much as Alligator and Boxer. With that in mind, I found myself being pulled back in for another round, to give High Violet another try.

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CD Review: Manic Street Preachers, “Journal For Plague Lovers”

Journal For Plague Lovers

In November of 2008, Richey James Edwards (lyricist and guitarist for The Manic Street Preachers) was declared “presumed dead,” following his mysterious disappearance in 1995 at that cursed age of 27.  Just months earlier, the band had released The Holy Bible, what many critics consider to be the most depressing album of all time.

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