Anyway, here is a playlist of new music I’m trying to catch up on. Updates sometimes. Sorted new to old. No genre restrictions.
I know I killed this blog back in September. I decided to bring it back. Because things are always better when they come back, right? There is a bit of housekeeping to take care of.
- I’ve spent the last eight months removing myself from all the PR lists I was on. I never intended to start this back up. That said, I don’t have access to advance stuff. It is what it is.
- The Tumblr I used to have as a mirror for this blog is gone. I deleted it a number of months ago and someone else scooped up the name almost immediately. I didn’t intend on bringing this shit back, so chalk that up to my own shortsightedness. There is a Team Reasonable on Tumblr, but it is not me anymore. I messaged them to get it back, but it probably won’t happen.
- I’m probably not going to be exclusively covering stuff on the greater punk spectrum. It will still make up the majority of posts, but me feeling limited and stuck was why I stopped to begin with. Don’t be surprised if you see a post outside those bounds.
- I’m sticking to just reviews again. Song of the week is on hold for now. I might bring it back once I get in the swing of things.
Other than that, updates occur when they occur. You know how I do.
Deep Elm records is celebrating their 20th anniversary. I wanted to take some time to talk about it. I’m 30 years old, so Deep Elm was already making moves when I was a kid. To put this all into context, I was 10 years old when they started, and 12 years old when the first Emo Diaries came out. Deep Elm has been a label for as long as I can remember. It is also a label that has been hugely important to me.
Brandtson’s Trying To Figure Each Other Out was probably the first Deep Elm record I ever heard. Admittedly, it was already a few years old by the time I heard it. My first exposure to the label was via one of those free samplers you got at shows. I got my hands on a copy of Sound Spirit Fury Fire (Deep Elm Sampler Vol. 3) at a show, and was introduced to a whole bunch of bands that I still listen to now. Camber, Pop Unknown. Brandtson, Benton Falls, and Planes Mistaken For Stars were all represented. They are also bands that get regular spins over a decade later. It was, and this is going to sound cheesy, a life changing compilation. It was my first major step into independent music. It was a lifeline to a vital scene that has been hugely important to me.
I use this phrase a lot, but authenticity matters. It does now, and it did back in 2001/2002. I was, by all accounts, a giant poseur back then. I listened to punk rock, but I didn’t really understand it. I may or may not have owned a Good Charlotte cd. I wanted desperately to fit in with the cool kids in bands that went to my high school. I never did, I was a fat kid with a mohawk and a Rancid t-shirt. I went to local emo and punk shows, but didn’t get it. I hadn’t really figured out how to use my bullshit detector. Deep Elm provided a path for me to walk down.
The records they put out were, and are, the definition of authentic. Genre didn’t matter, it was all about heart. It still is. I remember listening to Desert City Soundtrack for the first time. I remember the feeling I got when I first listened to Latterman on the way home from Tower Records. I remember the first time I heard Camber’s “Improbable Upside.”
I remember the first time I got an email from them. Not a form email or whatever, but an actual email. It was maybe a year or two into me doing this blog. I was just some dude who was running a blog on, at the time, Blogger. To get any level of acknowledgment from Deep Elm was huge. It motivated me to give a shit. I’m definitely still just a low level blogger at best. I’m not breaking bands, I’m not a taste maker. I talk about bands I like. I review records that I think are good. Even then, I was still important enough to get in contact with. That means a lot.
I hope Deep Elm is around for another 20 years. There is a shitty kid like me just discovering independent music, and this label has a hell of a lot to show them.
PS: Deep Elm has their entire discography as Name Your Price. Go get a bunch of stuff.
PPS: That stream of Sound Spirit Fury Fire is missing some songs that appeared on the CD. Bummer.
I went a little over two years without seeing any live music. It certainly wasn’t something I was trying to do, but it happened. This was pretty unforgivable for someone who blogs about music. This is even more unforgivable given my immediate proximity to Chicago. There were literally bands here always.
But, somehow, I went from July 2011 until November 2013 without seeing any live music. It was a pretty big drought. As is forever the story of my life, it was almost always due to money problems, health problems, or scheduling problems. I work 3rd shift on Wednesday through Saturday nights. This means I end up missing damn near every show. That two year span was a lot of disappointment. I’d see a band was coming, only to see the show was on a Friday or Saturday night. Meaning I had to work.
Luckily that streak was broken. I got back into the swing of things this last year. I got to see a pretty fair amount of bands. Here is my 2014 in live music:
NONA / Pet Symmetry / Meah! / The Valenteens
Dowsing / Donovan Wolfington / Bluebirds / Per Aspera
Dowsing / Little Big League / Winter Classic / L. Mounts
Lemuria / Cayetana / PUP / The Menzingers
(@ BOTTOM LOUNGE)
Braid / Jason Douglass Swearingen
Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) / Joie De Vivre / Free Throw
Lemuria / Lifted Bells / Prince
(@ BEAT KITCHEN)
American Football / Braid
(@ BOTTOM LOUNGE)
Ten of those bands ended up on my year end lists.
Hopefully 2015 is as eventful. Though, with the apparent loss of Township, I feel like Sunday night shows are going to fall by the wayside. That is definitely a bummer.
So, bands I like, you are on notice. Please play Sunday shows when you come to Chicago. You will be my best friends, and you may end up on a year end list on a blog that not very many people read. Deal?
American Football is a band that, with only one EP and one full length, were here and gone within three years. Despite that, of the multitude of bands and projects that came out of Cap’n Jazz, American Football seems to be the one with the most staying power. Not in longevity, but in influence. Millions of small bands are still listing them as an influence. They regularly pop up on every RIYL feature for any band who has any desire to exist in the classic “Midwestern emo” tradition. If there is a guitar that is more twinkly than crunchy, or a more atmospheric kind of sound, out come the American Football comparisons. They’ve become an archetype more than a band.
Being from Illinois, I’d like to sit and say that I loved this band for forever. That would be a lie. It wasn’t until somewhere in my early 20s that they finally clicked with me. I had been aware of, and even a fan of, the band and the record well before that. But it wasn’t until then that I felt I really “got it.” Everyone has records like that. You’ll be listening to something, and you get the classic “a-ha” moment. After that moment the record is almost more about the contextual memory than it is the music. It’s remarkable how much of my adult life has been spent with this record directly, never mind all the bands that American Football influenced.
Without getting caught up in the lionization of the band, we’re here to talk about their sole full length. It’s been 15 years since it was first released, and it’s gotten an anniversary reissue. It’s a record that has become the foundation that other bands have built their own full lengths around. It is a record that is more than the sum of it’s parts. On paper it’s just a post-emo indie rock record. There were no shortage of them in the late 90s. Braid, Mineral, and Christie Front Drive had just released their own genre defining albums a year or two prior. Another project featuring Mike Kinsella was releasing an album that year (Joan Of Arc’s third full length, Live In Chicago, 1999). So what made American Football’s self titled full length stand out?
The main thing that made the record stand out to me was the instrumentation. It was very calm, but still mathy. This stands out in an era where other genre bands were either still using punk tropes, or experimenting with a more straight forward pop sound. It stood out because it didn’t sound like other records out that year. Mike Kinsella, Steve Holmes, and Steve Lamos were able to create a wide array of textures and moods that most other three pieces can only dream of. It’s a sweeping mixture of melodic guitars and gentle drums. It’s complex, but not overpowering. The melodies rise and fall beautifully. It is almost a cinematic record. It is the prefect soundtrack to late summer / early fall.
But, at this point, we all know what American Football sounds like. The main part of the album is, obviously, unchanged. The real meat of the reissue is the new, unreleased material. It’s made up of practice sessions, demos, and live recordings. Hearing the band, and some of the songs, in their very nascent stages is definitely worth a listen. The live recording are from 1997, at the Blind Pig in Champaign, IL. There is a brief intro, then Five Silent Miles, and an unreleased song called “The 7’s.” Given that they are soundboard recording from 1997 (stored on cassette), they sound remarkably good. The “7’s” is the obvious standout though. Being an unreleased, unrecorded song makes it a little special. While it is really just a live jam, it hits most of the hallmark points the band is known for.
Those tracks, coupled with the recordings from practice sessions and demos, are remarkable if only for the quality. It’s not surprising that the band was so good, even on 4-track demos. It’s great that they sound so good. This was a band who was working as a unit from the start. The 4-track album prep version of “I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional” is damn near on par with the version that made the album. The live version of Five Silent miles sounds fantastic. This was a band that took the utmost pride in what they did.
I’m glad the reissue happened. American Football is a band that’s influence is still felt to this day. Maybe the reissue brings some new ears to the record (and the band). If not, then it’s a great piece for the fans who already love the band. You can’t make the record any better, but the additional songs are nice pieces of history. As a fan of the genre, and an Illinois native, it’s nice to see a piece of history come from here.