The Sonics

Best of the Rest: Other Highlights from 2015

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

His big-league debut was hit-and-miss, but when Action was on his game, it made for some of the most fun hip-hop of the year.

Baroness – Purple

These guys should be viewed as more than our token metal pick, since this was a truly enjoyable album with absolutely monster hooks.

Beach House – Depression Cherry.

The band has begun to reach the point of diminishing returns with their trademark sound, but there are still undeniably beautiful moments to be found, like in the gorgeously stunning “PPP.”

Built to Spill – Untethered Moon

One of our all-time favorites returned with a workmanlike effort.  No extra-long solos, just good solid rock.  And it seems to have rejuvenated the band in their live show.

Lou Barlow – Brace the Wave

The Dinosaur Jr. bassist is famous for being a member of possibly the Loudest Band in Rock, but his solo work explores the opposite end of the spectrum.  A haunting, delicate work.

Pusha T – King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude.

If this is the prelude, I can’t wait for the main course.

The Sonics – This Is The Sonics

One of the original garage rock bands reunited to create one of the most improbably awesome comeback albums fifty years after their initial heyday.  Pure rock’n’roll, no bullshit.

Tame Impala – Currents

If only the rest of the album was as awesome as its amazing opening track.  Unfortunately, the efforts to incorporate soul influences led to some rather unmemorable results.

Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

They were able to switch between a wide variety of styles on their debut album, but it was their post-grunge single “Moaning Lisa Smile” that got our attention.

Also Worthy of Praise

Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars; Ceremony – The L-Shaped Man; Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit; Death Grips – The Powers That B; The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World; Deradoorian – The Expanding Flower Planet; Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down; Moon Duo – Shadow of the Sun; Pfarmers – Gunnera; Ratatat – Magnifique; Wavves – V; Wire – Wire.

All Albums That Were Considered

In the interests of full disclosure, here are all the other albums that we listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just could not crack the previous lists.

The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily,; Coldplay – A Heart Full of Dreams; The Dead Weather – Dodge and Burn; Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi; Death Grips – Fashion Week; Deerhunter – Fading Frontier; Destroyer – Poison Season; Destruction Unit – Negative Feedback Resistor; Dr. Dre – Compton; Ducktails – St. Catherine; Editors – In Dream; Elvis Perkins – I Aubade; FFS – FFS; Frog Eyes – Pickpocket’s Locket; Fuzz – II; The Go! Team – The Scene Between; Helvetia – Dromomania; Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?; J Fernandez – Many Levels of Laughter; Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Going Down; Martin Courtney – Many Moons; My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall; Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper; Refused – Freedom; Reptar – Lurid Dream; Silversun Pickups – Better Nature; Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – The High Country; Surfer Blood – 1000 Palms; Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born To Lose You; Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb; Wavves x Cloud Nothings – No Life For Me; !!! – As If.


Reviews: Quick Hits (Part 1)

Though we here at Rust Is Just Right try as hard as we can, it simply is not possible for us to review all the great new albums that come across our way.  However, since our goal is to highlight great music that you may have not discovered yet, we feel obligated to at least give a brief mention to some of the records that we have accumulated over the past few months that are worthy of your consideration.

Ceremony – The L-Shaped Man This album sounds like a lost collection of Joy Division/early New Order B-Sides, and I mean that with absolutely no snark at all.  That should come as no surprise, considering the band is named after the song that served as a bridge between the two bands, but this actually represents a shift in sound for a group that previously trafficked in a style closer to hardcore.  In other words, take every smartass remark made about Interpol and apply it to these guys, but we suggest that you refrain from over-intellectualizing and instead embrace the gloomy grooves.

Deradoorian – The Expanding Flower Planet Fans of the Dirty Projectors are well-acquainted with the beautiful, ethereal voice of former member Angel Deradoorian, and they should be delighted with her solo debut.  It is easy to get lost in the trippy, psychedelic journey that Deradoorian takes on this record, though at times it can make for a frustrating listen, despite the abundance of talent on display.

Ducktails – St. Catherine The side project of Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile shares many of the qualities that led fans to appreciate his main gig, namely easy-going vibes and slick, pretty leads.  However, Mondanile does get to indulge a bit and explore other sounds, venturing towards the synthpop side of the music spectrum.

Ratatat – Magnifique There is nothing quite like this distinctive instrumental duo, who blend electronic beats and catchy inventive guitar riffs.  For this go around, Ratatat shows off their sunnier side, incorporating elements of surf music into their trademark sound.  The album seems to drag on a bit longer than it should, but it would be hard to cut out any specific track, because that would mean missing out on some excellent hooks.

The Sonics – The Is The Sonics The garage-rock pioneers have returned with a vengeance, proving that the old guys still have the energy to blow the young folks out of the water, so to speak.  In other words, this is not your typical embarrassing reunion of fogies who are long past their sell-by date–there is some serious verve and passion to this record.

Covered: “Have Love Will Travel”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original.  If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before. 

As we’ve mentioned before, the big news next week is the release of the latest album from The Black Keys, Turn Blue.  That means it’s a perfect opportunity to do one of our regular features for one of our favorite bands, so we’re going to give the Akron, Ohio duo the Covered treatment this week.

Much like their blues predecessors, The Black Keys have displayed a keen aptitude for covers over their career, so there were many options that we could have chosen for this feature.  Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney have shown that they’ve drawn inspiration from a number of sources, from the Beatles’ “She Said She Said” on their debut, to the Kinks’ “Act Nice and Gentle” from Rubber Factory, to blues legend Junior Kimbrough, for whom they did an entire EP of covers, Chulahoma.  We were tempted to showcase their excellent version of Jerry Butler’s classic “Never Gonna Give You Up”, but decided to highlight the earlier “classic” style of the band, instead of their more recent turn to 70’s R&B and classic rock.

The true mark of the brilliance of The Black Keys is how seamlessly their covers fit within their albums.  There is never any indication or signal from the band that “THIS IS A COVER”; all songs bear the same signature aesthetic of that trademark Black Keys “sound”, and they never disrupt the flow of the album.  In other words, as one listens through each of their albums, the novice listener would probably be unable to pick out which songs are the originals and which ones are the covers.  Perhaps this is a function of the basic setup of the band–drums and guitar, with the latter using a fairly consistent tone.  The simple structure (balancing between only three elements (drums/vocals/guitars) and relying on the same instrumentation) helps the band maintain a consistent aesthetic.

This is especially true of “Have Love Will Travel”.  It wasn’t until years after my first listen to thickfreakness did I realize it was a cover, and that was only after checking out the album credits on Wikipedia.  It’s got the same great dirty, fuzzy guitar tone found throughout the album, and features several tasty leads and solos.  Dan gives an impassioned performance with the vocals, matching the intensity of the guitar, and the production style of making it sound as if it was recorded through a tin can enhances the retro feel of the song.  Pat does a great job of mixing between shuffle and a more basic rock beat, and his single-beat hits before the last line of each chorus really liven up the song.

The song has a long history, having been covered by several artists since its release in 1959.  The version that probably inspired The Black Keys was rendition done by The Sonics.  It’s simply a perfect slice of garage rock.  It’s a bit quicker than the Black Keys version, leaning a bit harder on a basic swinging rhythm.  Here, the guitar sticks to the basic riff, but there’s a killer sax solo that kicks the track into a higher gear.  There is a bit of a different approach to each performance: while the Black Keys were committed to wringing out each possible bit of angst from the song, the Sonics would seemingly be content to just toss this one in their set to keep the energy up.

Considering the relative similarities between the versions presented above, hearing the original is quite a shock.  It’s a doo-wop song with a much more straight-ahead rhythm (listen to the instruments hit every single eighth note–the only hint of swing is found in the bass line).  The carefree nature of the original mirrors The Sonics much more than The Black Keys, but one can see how The Black Keys came to their interpretation through The Sonics version.  It could be argued that by focusing on emphasizing the bluesier aspects of the song, that The Black Keys were accentuating the origins, but even I think that’s a bit much.  Still, in the end I think I prefer The Black Keys cover most of all–they keep the integrity of the garage rock version of it, but they add their own spin to it that makes it sound like a “Black Keys” song.