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Turntable Untapped: Thin Lizzy, “Jail Break” – Odell Brewing, 5 Barrel Pale Ale

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As mentioned on the latest podcast (if you haven’t listened to it yet, get to it!), there are a couple of new BDWPS projects coming this week. I’m proud to announce the first development, a new ancillary blog entitled “Turntable Untapped”. Posts on the new blog, located at TurntableUntapped.wordpress.com, will be linked here on BDWPS. The new blog’s purpose is to combine my love of music with another passion of mine – craft beer. One of my favorite things to do on a lazy Sunday is to crack open a finely crafted micro-brew, put a classic album on the turntable, and lay down on the couch to enjoy the combination of the music and beer. Over the past few years, I’ve had fun trying to pair my beer choices with albums, and I’ve had the idea for a beer/music pairing blog series brewing for a while now.

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2. Road Trip 2008, Day 2: Good Vibrations

“Sometimes the path you’re on is not as important as the direction you’re heading.”

Kevin Smith

We continued our trek up I-29 with the sounds of Thin Lizzy pushing us along. Since I’ve always panned Lizzy as garbage, Paul felt it important that I listen to something other than “The Boys Are Back In Town”.

“You’ve got to appreciate the double lead guitar harmony; they were like the first band to do that. Anytime you see a critic reference Thin Lizzy in a review, they are just basically saying that they use double lead guitar.” His lesson on Lizzy would explain why every Ted Leo review ever written mentions Thin Lizzy (I still don’t understand why they always mention Springsteen, other than the obvious New Jersey connection). For the remainder of the trip it became a game to point out Thin Lizzy’s double guitar influence on an artist: Wolf Parade, Iron Maiden, Turbonegro…who knew Thin Lizzy’s influence ran so deep.

Not only was Paul trying to coerce me into liking 70s double lead guitar rock, he also had the goal of convincing me to purchase a giant back-pack for camping up in the mountains. I kept trying to explain to him that I already had a backpack; the same backpack I hauled around in college filled with over-priced textbooks and Bruce Chatwin travel novels. When he began listing the items we would need to take with us, I gave in: water, sleeping bags, pillow, water, tent, food, and more water. We made a short stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to pick up equipment at Scheel’s. I wanted to take him to Ernie November’s, the record store my friends and I used to visit as teenagers. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time, and I didn’t even where the new store was located. It’s pretty sad that back before the internet, poor little Iowa punks had to drive almost two hours to buy independent music.

My high school sanctuary.

Back on the road, we made way into the dismal sprawl of South Dakota, a land of vacant hills covered in yellowing grass. The only objects breaking up the monotony were the barrage of advertisements for Wall Drug. Every five miles a sign would appear amidst the bland scenery advertising “Wall Drug: Free Ice Water!” After a dozen signs stating the same sentiment I became annoyed shouting, “WE GET IT!” This didn’t seem to stop the signs from coming though.

At one point Paul asked me about Wall Drug, suggesting we might have to make a stop. That’s what these signs do to you: beat you into submission until you are drawn to visit likes zombies. “Must go to Wall Drug, drink ice water. Eat rock candy.”

Wall Drug: home of free ice water, steam baths, and blow-jobs from horses.

I explained to him that it wasn’t worth stopping for. I remember going as a six year old and being unimpressed, which says a lot. Six year olds are entertained by sandboxes for Christ’s sake. Wall Drug is basically a glorified gas station with lots of old timey souvenirs for Midwestern rubes to spend their money on.

My only fond memory of Wall Drug is when my brother and I got the chance to lay our heads on the plastic boobs of a mannequin.

To help wake us from our Wall Drug stupors, I decided to put the Pixie’s “Doolittle” on. Soon we were both caught up in the music, nodding our heads and screaming alongside Frank Black and crew. With the Kim Deal’s booming bass-line pounding out the speakers, Paul shouted, “I wish I could inject the Pixies into my bloodstream!”

I don’t know if the Pixies ever wrote a bad song (I’m sure you could find one in their rarities, but those don’t count). I’ve always felt they are hugely underrated. I know, it’s not like they are some unknown, underappreciated geniuses like Slint or Neutral Milk Hotel, but I still don’t feel they get the credit they deserve. I know their song “Where is My Mind” is known by pretty much everyone on earth thanks to “Fight Club”, but I doubt the majority of the public would be able to tell you who sings it. They are even featured on several video games, but that’s not saying much since game makers always seem to throw us indies a bone (only “NCAA 2006” could make me sick of Guided By Voices “Teenage FBI”).  I’m not claiming the Pixies are some little garage band that never made it, I just don’t think they get recognized for their genius. They are always referred to as influential, which is a nice sentiment and all, but they are more than influential; they’re fucking incredible.

Once the “Doolittle” greatness ended, we were forced to concentrate once again on the Wall Drug phenomenon, with signs coming every mile now. We had to escape this insanity.

Then, our savior appeared in the distance: The Badlands. Without much discussion, we pulled into the Badlands entrance, looking forward to an escape from the Wall Drug Menace. Despite the $15 dollar entry fee, we both agreed a change of scenery was in order. As we drove up to the first viewing area, we both sat quietly in awe. The bulbous rock hills of beige and crimson looked like something out of a Star Wars movie (pre-CGI). The sun was just beginning to set, which added to the grandeur of the land, casting a golden glow amidst the green grass, straining to grow at the foot of the mounds.

At one of the viewing points, there was a sign discussing how settlers used to try driving their stage coaches through the hilly terrain, hence the name “badlands”. After reading this tid-bit, I looked out onto the bumpy land and thought,” Damn our ancestors were stupid.”

I don't remember passing through these Badlands when playing Oregon Trail.

Back in the car, I put on some Neil Young (we didn’t have Springsteen’s “Badlands” on us) and soaked in the majestic terrain. Paul was so caught up in our surroundings that he suggested we just stop and camp for the night. I would have agreed, but I had a goal for the night. While researching micro-breweries for the trip, I came across a tiny little brewery called Crow’s Peak in Spearfish, South Dakota. My mind was set on the notion that we would end our first day of driving sipping on homemade brew in western South Dakota. Paul was concerned that we wouldn’t make it before closing time, but stubborn as I am, I stuck to my goal. “We will be drinking a beer by drive’s end.”

Paul said goodbye to the beautiful scenery by taking a piss.

As we were exiting the Badlands, still reeling in the brilliance of our surroundings, an antelope with antlers a foot long came running out into the road. As we sped toward the antelope, who decided to stop in the middle of the road, I suddenly awoke from my dream-land.

“AHHHH!” I screamed, swerving the wheel and slamming the brakes. The tires screeched in horror.  Once at a complete stop, the antelope calmly trotted to the side of the road.

“Dude, why are you screaming like that?” Paul asked. I tried defending myself, but it was futile: I’m a puss.

Pulling out of the Badlands entrance, we saw the epic-center of evil right before us: Wall Drug. I pushed the pedal to the floor, hoping to speed past its mesmerizing powers. For some masochistic reason, I still kind of wanted to stop to check it out. Luckily, the thought of sipping a foamy beer helped me escape the evil clutches of South Dakota’s blackhole.

As our drive continued the land became a little easier to tolerate. Paul threw on the Beach Boy’s “Friends”, which I didn’t know how to take. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great songs, but the lyrics were pretty miserable. For example, on “When a Man Needs a Woman” Brian Wilson sings in a falsetto:

You know it makes you nervous
When you wait for your boy
You wait nine months for a bundle of joy
There’s a baby
Yes, there’s a baby about to be born
When a man needs a woman,
They make things like you, my son

This is by the same guy who wrote “Hang On To Your Ego”! What makes it more baffling is that “Friends” was released just two years after “Pet Sounds”.  Those drugs really sunk Brian Wilson fast, at least the lyric writing part of his brain.

Around 7:30 we rolled into the Black Hills, with exits for Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Devil’s Tower popping up every few miles. Spearfish stood at least another 45 minutes away. Our chances of getting to the brewery in time were bleak (the website said it closed at eight). Paul asked if we should just camp in the Black Hills and do some sight seeing in the morning, but after eight hours in the car, I was becoming delirious and stubbornly stuck to my goal. “We’ve got to get to Spearfish,” I insisted.

We sped past the Black Hills, through Sturgis, and soon found ourselves at our destination around 8:15. Since I didn’t plan ahead and actually get directions to the brewery, we made a quick stop at a gas station where we were pointed in the right direction. After maneuvering through a residential area, we came upon what looked like a tiny barn sitting upon a giant clump of dirt. When we saw the sign, we knew we’d found the end to our day long journey. Once parked in front, we hopped out of the car and noticed the closed sign taunting us from the window.

“Damn it, it’s closed,” I said slamming my hand onto the hood.

“Wait, I think I see people inside,” Paul whispered. We tiptoed up the stairs and could see a bartender behind the bar and a girl sitting on a stool sipping on a mug of beer. I creaked open the door, realizing how ghoulish we must seem.

“Uh, hi. Are you guys open?” I asked shyly.

“Um, no, but if you guys want to have a beer that’s cool,” the young bartender replied. YES! Our goal had been attained after all! We didn’t haul ass for nothing. We both took a seat at the bar, and the bartender poured a couple of ice cold brews. Paul ordered up a stout and I asked for the IPA.

“You’re going to love the IPA, it’s the best I’ve ever had,” the girl said. I was so entranced by the beer that I had forgotten about the sole patron at the end of the bar. I looked over to find a cute brunette smiling over at us. She had a spunky, sophisticated look to her, reminding me of a young Parker Posey.

“Oh really? That’s saying a lot,” I joked. On cue, the bartender plopped the golden IPA before me. As I took a sip, the hoppy freshness soothed my parched tongue. This girl knew her beer. It wasn’t an over the top IPA with its perfect blend of hops and a crisp, fruity finish. I told her I agreed with her, and soon the four of us were chatting over our beers.

There was something about this girl I couldn’t put my finger on, a certain intensity. Whenever I’d talk she stare at me with the most captivated look, like she could see the words floating out of my mouth. I began to get the feeling she might be interested in me. Usually girls are staring blankly in the distance when I discuss beer, but she was unfazed by my rambling.  When we told her that we were from out of town and doing a tour of breweries, she seemed even more interested in these two stinky nomads from the Midwest.

A few brews in, she began listing bars we should check out in Spearfish, and I began to wonder if she was suggesting places for Paul and I to go, or if she was inviting us to go with her. Every time she’d take a drink, I’d catch her eyes glancing at me from over the edge of her massive mug. Like something out of a “Wonder Years” episode, our eyes met and I could hear the entrancing organ intro of “Good Vibrations”, followed  by Wilson’s voice:

Softly smile, I know she must be kind
When I look in her eyes
She goes with me to a blossom world
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations

I awoke from my dream-state when the bartender came around the bar and took a seat next to her. Right before my eyes, she stared at him with the same spellbound stare she had been aiming at me for the past 10 minutes. I was confused. Is she dating the bartender? Was she digging me until he cock-blocked me? Or is she just an attentive listener with everyone?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a boob I had been.  A girl gives me an inkling of attention, and I think she’s instantly fallen for me.  I let the beer wash away my internal embarrassment and continued with our conversation. In the end, I think that the bartender’s stomp upon my hopes was a good thing because I know longer had the need to be self-conscious: I could simply enjoying the South Dakota beer.

Our discussion went all over the place: beer, hiking, tourists, kayaking, and yes, even Wall Drug. Soon the bartender was enjoying our company so much he decided to let us have another round for free. We ordered a brown (amazing!) and a pale ale (only mediocre beer there), and continued our banter. He went on to tell us about the current hops shortage in the brewing community. I’ve heard about gas shortages but never a hops shortage. Due to the lack of affordable hops, we found out that the brew master at Crow’s Peak had been experimenting with spruce needles.

For the next hour, the four of us sat around sipping on some tasty beers and conversing like we’d known each other for years. I knew we’d be visiting many more breweries in the next few weeks, bigger and more well-known, but I doubted any would match the intimate experience we had at Crow’s Peak.

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Best Summer Albums of 2010 (10-1)



10. The Soft Pack
“s/t”
[Kemado]

The Soft Pack’s music is a lot like the infamous tight-roper Phillipe Pettit: it teeters between the ram shackled reverb of the garage and the slick, streetwise attitude of the West Coast, yet they somehow balance their alter-egos with ease.  Never has garage rock sounded so smooth.  Their 2010 self-titled release rolls out before you without hesitation, one song after another picking up where the prior left off, continuing this Army-brat band’s direct assault of surfer guitar solos and matter-of-fact vocals.  There isn’t one song that stands out as the “hit”, yet there isn’t a song you can bring yourself to skip past.  Like Pettit, who conquered city skyscrapers one step after another, Soft Pack methodically satisfy, one great song at a time.

This video for “Answer to Yourself” reminds me of all the dumb stunts my friends and I used to pull while working at the swimming pool:

9. Kings go Forth
“The Outsiders are Back”
[Luaka Bop Records]

Have you ever wondered what Sly and the Family Stone would sound like with bongos? What about a James Brown with a higher register and a jazzier backing band? Enough with the rhetorical questions; I’ll get right to the point: Kings Go Forth may be a call-back to classic 70s funk, but as their name suggests, the sound goes forth, diverging in new directions while still yielding that retro-vibe of the soul kings that came before.  Singer Black Wolf gives the album that classic 70s vocal display while the production of Andy Noble provides a modern edge. Summers of the past have been labeled a variety of “explosions” (ska, latin, british), and this year looks to be the explosion of soul.

Overall, a pretty lame video for the song “One Day”, although the cut scenes of records being made is like watching “How It’s Made”:

8. Free Energy
“Stuck On Nothing”
[Astralwerks/DFA]

I’m embarrassed that I like this album. The cover to “Stuck On Nothing” is hokey and easily a contender for our year end “Worst Album Cover” list. The production is polished and conventional. The music is nothing new: joyous melodies reminiscent of Thin Lizzy (this is the first time I’ve mentioned Thin Lizzy in an album review without bringing up the two-guitar-lead; kudos to me!). But despite all these setbacks, I can’t lie to myself; there are some great fucking songs here. In fact, “Stuck On Nothing” has the potential of being one of those albums where 80% of the songs end up becoming Top 40 Hits.  But I doubt it will happen. You won’t see any Disney shows called “Free Energy” nor will you witness the band flipping off the New York Mets for publicity.  They are simply a rock band from Philadelphia who happen to write kick-ass melodies. Remember the days when that’s all it took to make it big in music?

The downfall of the MTV that actually played music?  High School themed music videos:

7. Woods
“At Echo Lake”
[Woodsist]

I understand this list is flawed. Summer music isn’t simply restricted to albums released within that year.  It goes without saying that each July a moment will arise where I’ll dig up some old Neil Young for those long drives back to Iowa.  I guess my goal here is to introduce some new music that you can check out this summer or possibly pull out in future years when in need of some cheer.  But if you need a replacement for that “Tonight is the Night” album that you’ve played to death, the Wood’s “At Echo Lake” might be that modern Neil Young stand-in.  I know, I know, that’s a huge statement and I wouldn’t dare to suggest that Woods are even in the stratosphere of Sir Neil Young, but you’ve got to give these kids credit.  With innocent, falsetto vocals, and natural, weeping guitar solos, this lo-fi outfit seems to be on the right path toward someday being able to sing, “Neil Young take a look at my life I’m a lot like you.”

The ultimate sign of a cool band? Not having one music video on YouTube:

6. Tanlines
“Settings”
[True Panther]

I used to love getting tanlines when I was a kid.  There is just something so strange about that distinct line that forms between the sun burnt red skin, the bronzed tan, and the pasty white flesh, resulting in the appearance of a human neapolitan.  “Settings”, the six song EP from Tanlines, follows that same neapolitan form with several distinct auras bouncing off each other but never crossing that line toward unity.  While the album relies heavily on the tribal rhythms of the djembe and steel drum, a pounding dance bass line throbs throughout each song as well, springing off of the more natural, earthy tones.  The final layer of 80s pop sensibility will be burned into your memory way before you apply to sun block.

Seattle’s KEXP undoubtedly does the best job of in studio performances:

5. Morning Benders
“Big Echo”
[Rough Trade]

The cover to “Big Echo” says it all: a swimmer stands knee-deep in the forefront wearing a full body swimsuit and  a swim cap, staring out into the vast expanse before him where other swimmers are already enjoying the ocean’s swell.  He seems tentative, yet intrigued, just like the Morning Bender’s sound on this album.  Like the flowing of the tide, the music moves fluidly between several genres. It begins planted in the simple, serene 1950s-style confines of the shore, and then before you know it, you are caught up in the gushing experimental expanse of the ocean, taking the listener off into uncharted territory.  Their more mainstream side leans towards a laid back Phoenix, while the experimental splashes remind me of the Ruby Sun’s 2008 offering “Sea Lion”.  As much as I enjoy The Morning Bender’s sandy beach love songs, I always find myself awaiting that next big wave of sound to whisk me back away to the enchanting sea of sound and hope that it won’t return me to the shoreline.

Who needs a video for “Excuses” when you’ve got an album cover like this:

4. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
“I Learned the Hard Way”
[Daptone]

A few years ago while visiting my friend Sewer in Lake Havasu, Arizona, we spent our afternoons lounging in the swimming pool, drinking margaritas, and listening to Hepcat, the SoCal ska band that we saw perform while still in high school.  In our drunken reverie we’d sing along to the sweet melodies and dance amid the lukewarm water as the blaring horn section blew out their minds.  Why am I bringing this up?  No, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings aren’t a ska group, and my friend and I have never sang along to their music. The reason I bring up this up is because every time I listen to Sharon Jone’s latest release “I Learned the Hard Way” I can’t help but be brought back to my memories of Hepcat over the years.  There isn’t even a hint of ska in Sharon Jones sound, in fact her sound is straight up funk/soul of the 60s and 70s.  I guess the connection is due simply to the combination of upbeat harmonies set next to a jovial horn section.  Then again, I don’t remember Hepcat ever having such a soulful, passionate voice or writing such fiery love songs.

Sharon Jones is a musical Jackie Brown:

3. Surfer Blood
“Astrocoast”
[Kanine]
Don’t let the youth of Surfer Blood fool you; these kids understand the power held within their six-strings.  The guitars of Thomas Fekete and John Paul Pitts complement each other in the same way I imagine it may sound like if Doug Marsh and Dick Dale joined forces.  The band succeeds at blending the surfer guitar licks of old with distorted riffs reminiscent of Pavement.  Back in March, I’d been listening to “Astrocoast” two weeks leading up to SXSW, but when I actually saw them perform, all thoughts of it simply being a happy rock album were erased.  Watching the guitar work of these Florida youths had me in awe.  At first glance, “Astrocoast” is simply fun, but if you delve deeper there is a darker beast brooding beneath the surface; a creature that craves to devour your pop sensibilities and digest them whole.

I like how in this performance of “Take It Easy” half of the band is filmed on surveillance camera in what resembles a panic room:

2. The Amazing
“s/t”
[Subliminal Sounds]

It’s that time of year again when a company airs a commercial laced with happy summer imagery, all set to the music of the late great folk hero Nick Drake.  This season’s offering is an AT&T commercial set to Drake’s “From the Morning”, because really, what says “better coverage” than Nick Drake?  But I get what they are going for: Nick Drake’s soft serenades fit perfectly with the calming spirit of the summer, which leads me to the Swedish side-project The Amazing (two members of The Amazing are from Dungen).  On this project, Gustav Ejstes moves away from the psychedelic and focuses in on the same warm approach that Nick Drake mastered decades ago; it is pulled off brilliantly on the self-titled LP.  Every song swells with emotion, all bottled up in Ejstes soft, tranquil voice, warbling on command, guided by the docile strumming of acoustic guitars.  The fact that this album actually came out in December of 2009 may make this entire 2010 list a bust, but the idea of this warm album not getting the chance to see the sunlight is a thought that sends shivers down my spine.

The only thing missing from this video are images of people talking on their AT&T phones:

1. Fang Island
“s/t”
[Sargent House]
The opening track to Fang Island’s self-titled album features the sound of fireworks popping, reminding me of when my dad used to take us out on the 4th of July in his fishing boat to watch the display over Spirit Lake. “Dream of Dreams” multi-layered, Queen-like chant brings me back to the year “Wayne’s World” came out and how whenever the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio my brothers and I felt compelled to re-enact the famous car scene. “Davey Crockett” has a swirling synth/guitar line that conjures up memories of watching “Reading Rainbow” with my brother Alex and laughing our asses off at the strange synth outro, and then commencing to imitate it the remainder of the day.  “Careful Crossers” punk rock anthem reminds me of the summers my friends and I would make trips up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to see punk bands sweat it out at the now closed Pomp Room.  “Daisy” and its organ heavy backing track transports me to the summer I worked the late shift at a gas station and listened to Bob Dylan’s organ-heavy “Blonde On Blonde” while selling cigarettes to meth addicts. “The Illinois” is filled with guitar solos that almost seem stolen straight from classic video games, pulling my conciousness back to the days when, after a long day at the swimming pool, my friends and I would ride our bikes to the video store to rent the latest Nintendo game.  Simply put: Fang Island makes me feel like a kid again. And isn’t that what summer is all about?

You may want to be annoyed by this video for “Daisy” and it’s cast of characters, but by the song’s end, I dare you to not enjoy their antics within the confined space:

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