Thomas Jefferson Aeroplane-Nailbiter EP

a2548718981_10           So many artists do an excellent job of hiding their influences down in their work.  Some of the obvious ones shine through, but there are some influences that require some digging.  Of course, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats was influenced by Bob Dylan, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that this was the type of guy that regularly listened to the likes of Mayhem and Church of Misery (save for the references of “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton”).  Despite this, there’s certainly something admirable in artists early works, where their influences are sewn firmly to their sleeve.

Thomas Jefferson Aeroplane are still in this early stage, and it’s certainly endearing.  In case the name hasn’t given it away, these guys are clearly fans of AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad, catch my drift?) and Neutral Milk Hotel, and upon first listen, this trio clearly loves The Front Bottoms.  From the simple acoustic, folk punk format to the wordy, heart on their sleeves lyrics, it’d be easy to just call these guys a bunch of ripoff-artists, but their songs are really great.  Even the Atom Bomb Shelter Salesman, which was written and recorded in a day has solid songwriting (see: “Nuclear Winter”) that shows them evolving quickly.  The Nailbiter EP is 11 minutes of catchy lo-fi promise from an incredibly emotive trio.

Once listened to attentively, you start to realize that Nailbiter has something of an arc with the first and last songs ending with the lines:

But it’s all for you

I’ll do what you do.

Cause you told me to.

The seeds I grew

Flowers could have been blue”

The first closes with the line “It’s a noose or excuse, and I can’t choose,” but the last is more resignedly “and they never do.”  Where “Bitchin’ Nightmares” sounds hopeful with its jangling guitars and middle-paced tempo, the last verse sounds determined.  “Bitchin’ 2: The Bitchining” is much more frantic throughout until the refrain sounds much more defeated.  While there’s something of a story, the album’s shift I pretty quick making the back half much more bleak where it opened up with a pretty fun sounding release.

The EP is pretty standard folk-punk.  Mostly acoustic and clean guitars are accompanied by simple drums and bass, with a smattering of distortion.  The vocals are shaky and whiney, not unlike Sean Bonnette of AJJ.  When TJA’s lead vocalist really shouts is when he shines through the best.

As is the case with a number of folky punk bands, the lyrics are where this trio shines though.  The EP’s title track is incredibly wordy in just over 2 minutes.  “Nailbiter” has the best image on the EP, where it’s sung “I wanna swim in your black coffee/stir me up and then dissolve me.”  Imagery is really where the lyricism shines best.  The album opens with “Drunk in my room watching Kitchen Nightmares,” and it only gets better from there.  The seemingly timeless familiarity of things like multiple lives in video games mixed with the little time capsules such as Kitchen Nightmares makes it easy to insert one’s self into these narratives.  While these guys haven’t defined their voice just yet, one is definitely there, and for now, we can all sing along and pretend.

 

James Crowley is trying to start bitchin’ friendships on Twitter.

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16 Odd Ends from 2016

Summing it all up.

 

Even though we’ve all been talking about how 2016 is the worst year ever, this year did see a lot of good coming out of it.  Don’t get me wrong, 2016 sucked, but it does seem like the arts flourished.  We got Stranger Things this year!  I’ve heard the new Star Wars is pretty good, and I don’t even like Star Wars.  I saw Brand New, The Front Bottoms, and Modern Baseball twice each!  Those aren’t bad things.  Since music is where my passion lies (and I’m not that original), I wanted to post BurgerADay’s official standings on Pitchfork’s normal and bizarre year end lists.

1.Best Lyric of 2016: The Front Bottoms-“Joanie”

            “I finally am what I am, a fucking bag of bags”


Although The Front Bottoms are stealing a page from Katy Perry’s book here, Needy When I’m Needy provided some of the most refreshing, fun songs of the year.  When Brian Sella sings that he’s just “a fucking bag of bags,” it’s absurdist but enticing.  It’s a line that you can’t help but to sing along to.  Unlike Perry, I’ve never “felt like a plastic bag/drifting through the wind,” but I’ve totally felt like “a fucking bag of bags.”

2.Best Rap Album of 2016: Kanye West-The Life of Pablo Continue reading

The Best Albums of 2016: Honorable Mentions

As album-of-the-year season approaches, we’ve been reflecting on the music we’ve heard this year.  While a more formal list is coming, these items are all honorable mentions for a number of reasons.  While it may just be that we felt our list was better, for many of these albums it has to do with the fact, we just didn’t get to spend as much time as we would have liked with them.  These are still some of the best records of the year, in no particular order.

Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book

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Chance’s third mixtape is one of his strongest.  With gospel-infused hip hop, he brought some of the best feel-good songs of the summer.

Must listen song: “No Problem”

Continue reading

10 Songs for 4 years: A Playlist for a Trump Presidency.

Now, the polls have closed. Clinton won the popular vote, but Donald Trump received the majority of electoral votes. He will be our next president. Eight years of progress will be undone once Trump takes office in January. While I legitimately do hope that Trump is a good president, my better senses tell me he won’t be. Even though it seems that no good can come of all of this, some of my favorite music came out of anger for politicians. Here are some songs for a Trump presidency:

Green Day-“Holiday”


American Idiot has been in heavy rotation today. Even though the title track is often used as the marker for discontent, “Holiday” is easily the most political fueled track on the album. Billie Joe has recently been altering the lyrics to include “Pulverize the Donald Trump Towers,” and just as Green Day amplified a nation’s disgust in 2004, this song still rings true. Continue reading

AJJ-The Bible 2

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Following Christmas Island, arguably the band’s least exciting album, Andrew Jackson Jihad dropped all but their initials.  The Bible 2 lacks some of the laugh out loud humor of classics like People Who Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World, but AJJ hold onto their lyrical grace, while continuing to shake up the worlds of folk and punk.

AJJ have never been virtuosos with their instruments.  This album sees some more experimentation: “American Garbage” is very synth heavy, and “Small Red Boy” is an incredibly produced, textured track.  Most of the experimentation is nothing to write home about, and the album even closes on a lo-fi track reminiscent of the band’s early recordings.  Most of the fuzzy tones and weird vocal effects tend to be mediocre at best and annoying at worst.  Still some of the riffs are catchy enough to compliment the songs like in “Golden Eagle.”

What AJJ lacks in virtuosity, they make up for in lyricism.  When discussing AJJ, it’s important to note that they’ve been growing more and more serious as a band in recent years.  While the band always did address serious issues, there was always some tongue-in-cheek humor of interpolating Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” or singing the joys of being a straight, white, cisgendered male in America.  Of course, the band couldn’t completely ditch the laughs.  Watch the video for “Goodbye, Oh Goodbye” or catch the Cannibal Corpse reference in “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread.”  Much of The Bible 2 seems to reflect on the past as a means to make sense of one’s self currently.  Lead vocalist Sean Bonnette battles his childhood demons on tracks like “Cody’s Theme” or “Goodbye, Oh Goodbye.”  He references sleeping through church or his teacher speaking to his mom.  The album’s penultimate track is a larger number than AJJ has tackled before with an outro that sees Bonnette practically bursting at the seams.  “My hatred turned to pity/my resentment blossomed flowers/my bitter tasted candy/my misery was power,” he sings in a moment of triumphant self-loathing.

AJJ still brings some of the most infectious vocal melodies to their simplistic lyrics.  “Junkie Church’s “Oh, I love you cause I love you cause I can” is one of the most soothing melodies to ever leave Bonnette’s lips.  While the band may no longer be telling dirty jokes.  They’ve brought a new offbeat sense of emotionality to their band, and The Bible 2 is a nice change of pace following a new name.

Listen to The Bible 2 here.

James is on Twitter.