Staff Picks: August

James Brightman
Senior Contributor
Artist: Eugene McGuinness
Album: The Invitation to the Voyage
Comments: Inspired by 60s music, fashion and sensibilities (combined with an uncaring 21st century brutality), Eugene McGuinness’ second solo album is frighteningly brilliant. Complete with artery-severing hooks and toe-tapping interludes, The Invitation to the Voyage is a dream in a plastic case. Indie rock has taken a bit of a drubbing in the past few years, with bands either turning their backs on it (The Killers, Coldplay) or fledgling groups pursuing half-assed concepts. Luckily, Eugene McGuinness is flying the flag to bring erudite and catchy indie disco back into the charts.

Justin Wesley
Artist: Howler
Album: America Give Up
Comments: Young Minneapolis band Howler’s full-length debut, America Give Up, is a blistering, badass rock and roll record steeped in muscular surf guitars, a thunderous rhythm section and not-yet-legal frontman Jordan Gatesmith’s brash, post-adolescent wit and worldview. Riding a grimy, lo-fi a-frame drenched in bratty Ramones brawn and the balls-to-the-wall, rambunctious spirit of Minneapolis heroes The Replacements, Howler dishes out a record indebted to and approximating the greatness of The Strokes’ seminal Is This It over the course of America Give Up’s eleven relentless songs. With the furious, testosterone-fueled garage rock attacks of “Beach Sluts,” “This One’s Different,” “America,” “Told You Once” and “Wailing (Making Out),” you’ve got an album of the year contender full of boozy, shout-along anthems for your hormonal teenage dreams and drunken summer blowouts.

Josh Gripton
Artist: Jeff Buckley
Album: Grace
Comments: ‘Variation’ is a concept thrown around all over the place in the critical sphere, and with Grace, Jeff Buckley’s only complete album in his lifetime, one of the greatest singers of recent years achieved just that. Held together by a lonesome, desperate but powerful tenor, Buckley transcends through the distorted guitars and wailings of “So Real” to the falsetto of “Corpus Christi Carol” and all places in between. At best, it’s subtle genius, at worst, it’s a display of outrageously rich vocal talent. His revered version of “Hallelujah” remains a high point, a cover so ingrained on the public consciousness that 90% of the population of Earth have wept in to their Doritos whilst hearing it on Ugly Betty or the like. But the true gems are the title track and the Zeppelin-esque “Eternal Life.” The former is an otherworldly melody of sweeping guitars, imploring whispers and a sustained, high E wail; the latter is a mix of wall stomping guitar and angry, pleading vocals. It might be his only complete album, but Grace made sure that Jeff Buckley left his mark on the world before he took that fateful swim back in 1997.

John Beringer
Artist: The Exploding Hearts
Album: Guitar Romantic
Comments: On July 20th, 2003, a drive from San Francisco to Portland turned tragic for an up-and-coming power punk band called The Exploding Hearts when their bassist fell asleep at the wheel and crashed their tour van. Guitarist Terry Fix was the sole surviving member of the quartet, and he opted not to continue on with the band, immortalizing their sole LP, Guitar Romantic, as a piece of sad, rock history. The Exploding Hearts created a buzz with their brand of throwback power pop – derivative of bands like The Clash and Elvis Costello – that felt both groundbreaking yet old-school, as well as fun and heartfelt. The Exploding Hearts received a posthumous accolade in 2009 when Pitchfork Media ranked Guitar Romantic as #60 on their list of the 200 Best Albums of the 2000s. Standout songs on the record include “Modern Kicks,” “Rumours In Town” and a personal favorite, “Sleeping Aides and Razorblades,” the best breakup song ever written. My staff pick this month is a tribute to musicians taken before their time and a reminder to get your kicks in before the whole shithouse goes up in flames… or whatever it was that Jim Morrison said on “Roadhouse Blues.”

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