Monthly Archives: December 2008

// Merry Christmas // Thanks // Submissions //


3 quick things;

1 // This’ll be the last post of the year, things will be back to normal in early January. Merry Christmas!

2 // Thanks so much to everyone who has visited the blog over the last 4 months, to all the internet folks who gave us props and led people our way, to all the bloggers who added us to their blogroll, to all the bands that sent us music, to all the people who sent nice emails and left nice comments, to Bill from The Mae Shi and Al from The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock for answering our dumb questions, but mostly to YOU, reading this right now, you’re awesome.

3 // We want / need submissions! For a large part of January Nick will be unable to sit here and review all the rubbish I throw at him so I thought seeing as it’s Christmas, and hopefully you’ll be seeing your family, you could (if you want) take an hour to sit down with your Dad / Mum / Brother / Sister / Aunt / Uncle / Granny / Grandad / Son / Daughter / Arch Nemesis / Whatever and play them an album you love and write down their feelings on it. Yeah? No? It’s up to you. Send anything to:

Again, thanks so much and have a rake of deadly dinners this holiday season.

xxx R&N


Sufjan Stevens – Astral Inter Planet Space Captain Christmas Infinity Voyage, Volume VIII (Self Released 2008)


Nick: it’s very nice but……’s the usual problem for me; the electronics just seem like an overlay to give the music some kind of currentness, doesn’t add anything to the music, it’s too easy, I could’ve done this.

the traditional Christmas songs….these versions are nothing but ‘modern’ they’re not better, they’re not definitive.

(track 6 -Joy To The World)

this one is quite nice.

generally it’s all nice but as I say, the electronics are too easy, maybe not to him, maybe it took him a long time to come up with them but to me it sounds far too tacked on and simple.

I always wonder to what extent musicians are driven by their own inner ear to create, or is it what they know to be fashionable, driven by their market as it were.

I reckon most of it is the latter, what they think they should be doing.

and do you thinks that’s the case here? is this fashionable rather than heartfelt?

in this case yes, I have nothing against electronics but I think this time they’re just being used to make the Christmas songs sound ‘cool’ and ‘modern’.

now, I’m probably wrong but that is what it sounds like to me.

This is our old pal Sufjan slightly returning to his ‘Enjoy Your Rabbit’ sound, with gurgling blippy bloppy square waves rolling up and down and all around the Christmas tree. This is not available in shops, unless you like to visit the free internet magic shop that is. What IS available to buy is the Songs for Christmas I-V Boxset, need time to think about purchasing? Why not head over to Mr. Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty Christmas Website and play a fun Christmas Computer Game or design your own S.S Christmas E-Card or watch Christmas music videos and download free Christmas songs? It’s better than working.

V/A – An Indiecater Christmas (Indiecater 2008)


Seeing as last time we did a compilation, you were taken on an emotional rollercoaster ride of I-like-this-I-hate-this, I thought we’d do this one track by track?

Nick: that makes sense I guess.

:: The Cloud Room – Melody Like Snow ::

has that got anything to do with christmas? maybe the lyrics did but I couldn’t hear them. I don’t think I’d like to hear that on christmas morning.

:: Nina Hynes – Twinkle ::

sorta prettyish, bit over-sentimental, with the little girl voice.

:: Kill Kringle Club – Songs of Noel ::

quite nice, certainly not a classic, it’ll last the season and then disappear into average christmas song heaven, also I didn’t like the way the levels were mixed, there was one sound that was far too strident, they should’ve turned it down, it’s too hard, bit unpleasant.

:: Bill Baird – Christmas in Jail ::

it’s hard to cope with those sentimental messages, it’s a nice song and closer to the classic christmas feel, but the lyrics worry me a bit.

:: Idaho – Santa Claus is Weird ::

santa claus is weird? ahahahaha, that’s correct I guess. well it’s a weird christmas song too.

:: Venice is Sinking – The Grey Line ::

I love all these funny names. this doesn’t have anything to make it stand out.

:: Normandy – Merry Christmas Blogosphere! ::

Nah, nah, not really, she sings out of tune, though I’m overly susceptible to that kind of thing.

:: The Very Most – This Year, Christmas Came November 4th ::

that’s the first one that actually has a hook, a memorable melody, hear it twice and you’d virtually be able to sing along, still nothing outstanding, judging it purely as a christmas song it’s the best so far.

:: Remington Super 60 – Here Comes Christmas ::

very beatle-y, yeah it’s nice, lyrics a bit too easy, they’re not great but it’s quite a memorable melody.

:: Jape & David Kitt – I Will Cry This Christmas ::

that one could’ve been about easter or summer or anything other than christmas, they just dragged the word into the song, but apart from that it’s a nice little ditty, nothing……. (just drifts off)

:: The Specimen – Wish It Would Snow ::

mmmm, pfhh, what can I say? not an awful lot.

:: Nonstop Everything – There is No Santa, Little Boy ::

it’s a piece of music, so it’s got that going for it. if you heard it outside of this record you wouldn’t recognize it as having anything to do with christmas, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. or good for that matter.

:: My Teenage Stride – Is It Christmastime Already? ::

is he singing ‘it’s christmas baby’?


well then it’s out, I think all songs that use ‘baby’ to refer to anything other than a very small child should be outlawed.

I’ve heard you say baby when you’re driving, ‘c’mon! hurry up baby!’ etc, you shout it at other drivers.

REALLY!!?!!  well next time I do it, hit me, it’s detestable, this isn’t the 20’s.

:: Dora Flood – Coastal Winter ::

these are the guys, the dreary ones, they don’t want to be here, singing bored. is it a hangover from punk? there were some carol singers in the shopping centre that sounded like that yesterday.

:: Loxsly – Santa Got the Spins ::

got the spins? is that a DJ expression?

no, its when you get too drunk and the room starts spinning, I assume.

ok well this is definitely my favorite, simple, not trying too hard, has a point to it. and it had an idea, whereas most of the other ones seem to be written without an idea.

:: Track a Tiger – Once in the Wine ::

yeah, nice pleasant, again nothing special.

:: The Winks – Action Figures ::

that was….trying too hard to be interesting & original and it failed in every category. strange noises will never replace peoples need for hooks and melody.

An Indiecater Christmas is a compilation put out by the good people over at MP3 Hugger /
Indiecater Records, it’s filled to the brim with festive cheer and a small bit of turkey filled, beer soaked despair and is available for the price of a selection box over here. GO!

Hey, what about……?

So yeah, maybe it seems a bit unfair that The Mae Shi won the highly coveted nick thinks… album of the year when Nick called it ‘overwrought’ and ‘juvenile’ and that they ‘should have worked on it a little longer’. Surely there should be some recognition for Nick’s favorite record of the year, yeah?

So from the man himself: ‘I haven’t heard anything better than that Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock album, it’s the best thing on the list by a long shot’

So now all that’s left to do is break the news to the band and lazily put the same set of questions Bill from the Mae Shi was asked to head Spook Allen Blighe:

spookpic1Hey Al, how does it feel to be nicks favorite album of the year?

We feel honoured, particularly looking a the other records reviewed over the course of the year. We’ve been fans of the blog for some time. A great idea for a blog and well executed.

Can you please sum up 2008 for The Spook in 5 words?

Practice, practice, practice, practice, rockin’!

What are your top five musical moments from the past year?

1/ My Bloody Valentine reformed, saw them in Manchester and it was amazing.
2/ Portishead – Third
3/ Zu live at ATP
4/ A great year for Irish albums – Givemanakick, Jape, The Jimmy Cake, Adebsisi Shank to name a few
5/ Playing a gig with Italian post rockers Dianne and the Shell, unhyped total deadliness!

And your favorite non musical moment from the last year?

Well, speaking personally, getting engaged in New York!

Congratulations! so what are the spooks plans for 2009?

We’ve been lucky enough to get offered a 5 date tour of Japan, so we’re off in February. Also we are working on new stuff at the moment so fingers crossed we’ll be doing some recording

Adrian Crowley – Long Distance Swimmer (Tin Angel 2007)


Nick: well, it’s pretty, sounds like it’s from another era.

the lyrics are a bit overly sentimental at times.

and in parts it becomes very sleepy, but still, it’s pretty.

ok the albums finished and our word count so far is 31, surely we can do better?

ok, I found it a bit too sweet and sugary, it’s nice but it’s nothing that makes you really sit up and listen to it, I can imagine him with a cardigan, smoking a pipe, thinking to himself ‘I really am a great poet’, but maybe that’s just me.

it’s ultimately pretty & pretty boring, it all comes from the same part of the forest.

as you can guess this isn’t my kind of music.

Oh well. In a lot of the feedback we get from fans of the site, people will normally let it be known that they agree with Nick on most points, so maybe now you’re thinking ‘Hmmm sounds like a pretty crappy album, I’ll give it a miss’. Well here’s some good news: Nick is massively wrong about this one! And what’s better is that if you head on over to Mr Jim Carroll’s On The Record blog, you can download the album for free till thursday!

nick thinks… Top 25 of 2008: 01!!! // The Mae Shi – Hlllyh (Team Shi / Moshi Moshi 2008)


Nick: I don’t like it ‘a lot’.

too much concept and not enough music, if that makes sense, it’s overwrought, taking itself too seriously, overly intense.

Helen: I liked the first track, it was very exciting, and one sounded like arcade fire, but there was also one where they sounded like demented fools.

Nick: musically, the melodies are very derivative, heard it all before in some form or another.

(track 8 – Kingdom Come – a remix/mashup of the entire record jammed right in the centre of the album)

this bit is quite nice, but in general I would be inclined to go up to them and say ‘c’mon guys, relax, just for a bit’

another thing is I can’t hear the lyrics, you said this was a concept album yeah?

kind of, loosely about the book of revelations I think.

well, that’s the one book in the bible that I actually know very well, I’ve illustrated it, but I don’t hear any of it in this, certainly not in the music.

how old are these guys?

around my age

funnily enough I would’ve thought of them as younger, it’s quite juvenile music.

also they can’t make up their mind what they’re up to, is this ‘revelations: the musical’ or a symphony based on revelations?

what do you mean by that? I’m not sure I understand.

there are two different attitudes straining to be heard here, some of it sounds like ‘Hair’ or another modern musical, a stage show or whatever, and other parts not at all, the unpleasant, well not unpleasant but aggressive, rocky stuff that doesn’t fit with the rest.

see something can’t be ‘a bit’ of a concept, like a girl can’t be ‘slightly pregnant’.

I think they should have worked on it a little longer as there are some great bits.

From October 07 till April 08 I was traveling around Asia and South & Central America with my girlfriend, a bag of clothes & books and a 15gig i-pod. by the 3rd month my thirst for new music was getting worse and worse, so the Paper Thin (RIP) Listening Party became my first stop shop for hearing something outside my music player and the popular music the various countries offered (Asia – bob marley, jack johnson, The Americas – reggaeton).

In Chile, some time in February ‘Hlllyh’ was the featured album, I was already excited to hear it as two new tracks been on the bands myspace page since mid 2007, and as the album played through crappy internet cafe headphones and I read the track by track notes by the band I came to realise that this was something beyond special. Positivity, wild, vibrant colours, group singing/screaming, breakneck speeds, mentalist drumming, sugar sweet pop, this was ticking all the boxes and then some.

For the rest of the week, I kept making lame excuses to get back on the internet, ‘we really should send some pic’s to our parents’ ‘it’s so-and-so’s birthday next week, I wanna mail them now before I forget’ yadda yadda yadda, just so I could hear it all over again.

The final 6 days of our trip was spent in The Mae Shi’s home state of California and luckily for us they were beginning a west coast tour with English scuzz-fukkers PRE, our second night in L.A we headed out to the Silverlake district to watch the two bands tear the roof off a crappy little shoebox called Spaceland. If I hadn’t copped it before, that night confirmed it for me, these guys were my new favorite band ever of all time. starting their set in the crowd, all singing as loud as possible, eyes shut tight, walking toward the stage where for the next 30 minutes they would jump, dance, fall, scream, cover the crowd in the Mae Sheet (RIP), and just generally fuck shit up while giving you one of the most energetic and memorable performances you’ll ever witness. I went to see them again in Oakland three days later.

Jesus. I’m writing way to much and I really shouldn’t because:
A – I’m not a writer
and B – I never know how to end these things.
Luckily I have a small interview with Bill Gray, Mae Shi bassist and professional beard wearer, below and that should wrap things up nicely. Thanks for reading.

Hey Bill, how does it feel to be the first ever winners (Ruan) /not winners (Nick) of the ‘the
nick thinks… best album of 2008’?

Ha ha, It feels awesome, it’s like feasting on the flesh of our young white masters bro.

Can you sum up the last year for The Mae Shi in 5 words?

Hilarious, revealing, stressless, broke, legalize.

What were your top five musical moments from the past year?

In no particular order:
Adam Payne from LA came out with a record called ‘Organ’ and on that organ was a song called “The One After Eyes” and it blows my mind, I should send it to you.
Abe Vigoda’s record “Skeleton” really made made me feel like everything’s going to be ok.
Seeing legendary Chicago hardcore band LOS CRUDOS (reunion 08′) at The Regent was nothing less then inspiring.
Gene Clark’s “Silverado ’75 Live & Unreleased” was finally released this year and the live version of “Set You Free This Time” gave me the chills for the last half of this year.
Playing with No Age and Health in Sweden was pretty rad..I think that’s five.

and your favorite non musical moment from the last year?

Discovering the saudero burrito at Tacozone on Alvarado.

so what’s next for The Mae Shi?

We’re making a new record. Touring more, I mean… you know, being a band. Jon’s making new shirts right now on the balcony of our boy palace. Also we’re trying to figure how the fuck bands tour Japan for cheap, if anyone out there knows, tell us.

nick thinks… Top 25 of 2008: 02 // Jay Reatard – Singles 06-07 (In The Red 2008)


Nick: I can’t say anything about this except that I really like it, it’s got everything; energy, lyrics, variety, yeah it’s good stuff.

his voice reminds me of someone, but I don’t know who.

well in October we reviewed the 6 singles he put out this year and you said pretty much the same thing.

so I’m not inconsistent.

nope, I think we can leave it at that.

Musically, Mr Reatard hasn’t put a foot wrong yet, everything I’ve heard from him this year has been solid gold, I even bought my first Beck record since Sea Change just to get a ‘lil-bit-o-Jay’. But there’s still one record better than this for 2008, and that’ll be revealed tomorrow, how exciting.

nick thinks… Top 25 of 2008: 3 // Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual (We Are Free 2008)


Nick: I have no idea what this is based on but I like it.

it’s quirky and fun but unfortunately, well so far anyway, it seems to be just one idea.

fast and furious pop rock, is it pop rock?

I guess you could say that.

well fast pop rock with a screaming girl making it sound spontaneous.

good party music, maybe not for dancing but it does create an ebullient atmosphere.

it’s so hectic.

(halfway through track 4 – Celebrate the Body Electric {It Came From an Angel})

ahhhhh a quiet bit.

it’s sort of quite original, but I think that the musical idea, if that’s what you can call it, is not really big enough to sustain itself over a whole lp, if you know what I mean, because we’re already at the stage where it’s ‘okay heard all this before’. it’s started to become wallpaper.

her screaming voice is interesting the first and second time but I’m bored with it now.

but it’s exuberant in places, which is nice.

it’s written as a….sort of….it’s almost symphonic isn’t it? themes returning all the time.

final verdict; it’s interesting up until halfway through and then you just want to hear something else.

but apart from that it’s pretty good and somewhat original, it’d be interesting to see where they can go after this, do you keep the screaming girl? how long can she go ‘eeeeh yyyyyeeeeeee aaaaaaiiii’? can they release record after record of hectic pop rock with enthusiastic screaming?

if was listening to their next cd in a shop and the first song was exactly like this, well then, no I wouldn’t be buying that. it’s a problem with a lot of today’s music, it’s a gimmick that isn’t based on great lyrics or a memorable melody and there’s only so far you can go with that, there’s nothing to be expected after this. this is just what they do.

in the end you just remember the gimmick not the melody.

One Idea? yes. But when that one idea lasts 33 minutes and contains all the energy and joy of 100 children’s birthday parties, well whats not to love? Music like this often gets a bad rep for being ‘flimsy’ or ‘lightweight’ or some shit, like one day soon you’ll grow out of it, forget it forever, not like ‘Blood On The Tracks’ or some other classic. But I reckon when I’m an old man, low on energy, friends and time, I’d be much more welcoming to distillations of technicolour bliss than another old man moaning about a girl.

nick thinks… Top 25 of 2008: 4 // Lucky Dragons – Dream Island Laughing Language (Marriage / Upset The Rhythm / Mistletone 2008)


Nick: well….it’s um…………………………………………………… ‘interesting’, gimmicky, quite boring , I mean it’s basically somewhat irritating, I reckon that it could be, over a certain amount of time, it could be used as a kind of torture, like if you listened to it over a long period of time it would drive you bonkers.

(a little bit later)


it’s an interesting experiment that’s completely unsuitable for consumption.

(track 17 – Oh I Understand)

ahahaha yeah so do I.

send it to guantanamo bay.

now, I can understand why someone would make something like this, there’s nothing wrong with trying to find something new or make music in a new way, but this doesn’t work.

I always imagine people like this sitting round having incredibly serious conversations about the ‘new’ sound they’ve created while the rest of the world are saying ‘what the fuck is this rubbish?’

and this is your 4th favorite album of the year? I’m seriously beginning to doubt your sanity.

and they’re called lucky dragons? I presume the lucky part refers to them still being alive after making this music.

I’d say this is a great room emptier.

Oh well, ‘Dream Island…’ exists somewhere in that moment just before sleep, on a shaky old bus in a foreign country, showered in rainbow rain and noisemagik. On drugs. Maybe. Also the first letter in each of the title’s words can be rearranged to spell LIDL!

nick thinks… Top 25 0f 2008: 5 // The Ruby Suns – Sea Lion (Sub Pop / Lil Chief 2008)


Nick: extremely eclectic, with very nice bits obviously stolen or inspired by all sorts of other things and some completely unnecessary sound effects, some are quite nice but most are quite irritating, dragged in by the hair, nothing to do with the melodics etc.

same story, ‘lets add sound effects to sound original’, and these guys need it because the bulk of each song is highly unoriginal.

you’ve been complaining a lot about people ‘dragging in’ needless sound effects to sound original recently, so if lots of people are doing it do you not think they might be thinking it’s for something else other than to sound original?

well, I guess it’s just an unoriginal way of trying to sound original.

there’s everything in this; it’s an amalgam of 300 sounds every minute.

(track 6 – Remember)

bit of beach boys now.

bit of Sgt pepper.

but it’s very well put together, it’s quite a successful amalgam of everything.

though I enjoy listening to it.

but it’s really a triumph of editing over everything else isn’t it? if I took a beach boys record, a bjork record, some radiohead and a few orchestral pieces and edited them altogether, put some sound effects on top of it all, I’d have the exact same album as these guys.

ok, all over.

well it gets 8 or 9 for editing and mixing, 3 or 4 for originality.

they have a serious problem tho, if they were played on the radio would anyone be able to instantly recognize them?

you said they were from New Zealand yes? well there’s the thing, they don’t have any of their own music to fall back on so they have to steal from everywhere else.

Who cares? This is a sunny swirling sunscape of a world tour, the ball growing and expanding as it trundles over continent after continent, crushing african farmers and the wandering minstrels of patagonia as it goes, ‘Take that you stupid idiots!’ say The Ruby Suns ‘we’re gonna steal your music and give it a good going over with our fancy samplers and faux sunny disposition , DIE! DIE! DIE! ahahahahaha’

probably not actually, they seem like pretty decent folk.