REVIEW: Heavy Breath “Muddy Life” [EP]/New England Brewing Imperial Stout Trooper

One of my jobs in the music industry is a live audio engineer at a few different venues around Connecticut. So I see a lot of local acts on a regular basis. Although I have a certain amount of respect for all my local musicians, there are a few bands that are just so incredibly awesome that I really look forward to seeing. Heavy Breath is one of them. I was introduced to them last year when they opened for Old Man Gloom at the Space in Hamden, CT. They recently released an EP titled Muddy Life, which will be coming out on a 12-inch this spring on Battle Stag Records and is available now on their bandcamp page.

THE RECORD: Heavy Breath Muddy Life Battle Stag Records

Muddy Life cover art

With a name like Muddy Life, I was expecting slow sludge, but I think a truer description would be a roundhouse kick to the gut. I like the contrast between the screams and the more melodic vocals on “Chekhov’s Bomb”, a track that also name checks the album title (“Complacency is enemy because this is Chekhov’s bomb/It’s a muddy life”).

“Be The Prometheus” is my favorite track of the three. It’s got those fast, punk rock drums with heavy, slower guitar riffs in between that I totally dig.

and of course, as someone who works in sound on a regular basis, I think the mix is well done on all of these tracks. Sometimes sludgy guitars get lost in a mix but all the instrumentation is heard really clearly and well-balanced.

Even the artwork is awesome- I am a big fan of vikings, so the combination of a horned helmet and a battle axe make for an awesome cover. I was told that it’s actually a screencap from the most recent season of Dexter, so I don’t know if that’s what’s going to be on the cover of the physical album. If it’s not, I hope there horns involved regardless.

My only negative thing to say is that there’s only 3 tracks. They totally leave me wanting more. I guess I’ll have to check them out live again, because Heavy Breath is a band that needs to be cranked up and rocked out to.

THE BREW: Imperial Stout Trooper- New England Brewing Co.- New Haven, CT

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I’m definitely a lover of stouts. They are my favorite beer style and although I enjoy plenty of them, the Imperial Stout Trooper is my favorite. It’s made right in my home of New Haven, CT AND the name is a Star Wars reference. What’s not to love? But even if it was made somewhere else and wasn’t Star Wars-related, it’s a great example of the stout style. The color is almost black, with a thin tawny head. Aromas of sweet milk chocolate, smooth, creamy mouthfeel. It’s great aged, or cask-conditioned in bourbon barrels.

THE PAIRING: I try to pair local bands with local brews whenever possible. This in-your-face EP needed a big beer to drink with it. Nebco’s Stout Trooper, like Heavy Breath’s music, is massive, but it goes down easy. Delicious on the ears and palate. Some stouts are tasty but sometimes too intense and difficult to drink. Kind of like some hardcore and metal bands. Heavy Breath’s music has a lot going on with it, but one of those qualities is a sort of punk rock sensibility that draws you in immediately. I would probably drink this beer either before or after seeing this band live, but not during because I wouldn’t want to pit it out with a tulip glass in my hand. And let’s be honest, this isn’t a band you’re going to watch live and stand still for.

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REVIEW: Tegan And Sara “Heartthrob”/Rodenbach Grand Cru

THE RECORD: Tegan And Sara Heartthrob Warner Bros/Vapor 2013

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Canadian sisters Tegan and Sara have been making solid records for quite a few years now, but they are one of those bands that I definitely don’t listen to enough. Until now. This record is a case where a strong single really makes a difference and draws you in, at least for me. I heard their first single “Closer” a week or two ago and I literally can’t stop listening to it. The whole synth-pop thing is something I hear from a lot of bands lately. I have to admit, I’m not really into it because I hear it so often, and it’s not always done that well. But Tegan and Sara have always released really awesome material and are great songwriters that this move into a little more pop sheen totally works for them.

I love the piano on “I Was A Fool”. The clean sound to it acts as a contrast to the electronic beats in the background in a really effective way. It gives it character, and a more personal, human quality. Which is how I see this whole record- it has the songwriting that listeners have come to expect from T&S with a pop sensibility.

I don’t go out to clubs or anything to dance. It’s just not what I do. There isn’t enough good craft beer on tap at these places. But if I did, I would definitely want to hear this record. It’s a dance-pop record for real people who want to hear something better.

The video for “Closer” is a lot of fun too. Check it out below after the beer talk.

THE BREW: Rodenbach Grand Cru

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Yum. This isn’t a beer I can drink every day, but it’s great once in awhile or for a special occasion. It is a Flemish-style red ale from the nearly 200-year old Belgian brewery Rodenbach. It pours a dark, brownish red with a subtle tan head. Tasting this beer is almost on par with tasting wine in the flavor profile. Plums, green apples, and cherries are all abundant on the nose. Although the sweet fruit flavors are strong on the nose, the taste is much more sour and dry than the smell would make one imagine. I think it’s really interesting how Rodenbach blends their brews- aged with unaged- so each batch has a totally unique flavor.

THE PAIRING:

In general, I’m not really into fruit-heavy beers. However, Rodenbach is always delicious to me. It’s a well-made fruit-forward beer. I think that it mirrors the way I feel about Heartthrob. I’m not usually into the electronic pop sound that so many bands are putting into records lately, but when it’s done well, it works and I can’t get enough of it.

REVIEW: Moonrise Kingdom Original Score/Yuengling Lager

Now for something a little different- I haven’t reviewed any film scores yet. I recently acquired the score for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom on 10-inch vinyl and I thought it was worth a review.

THE RECORD: Moonrise Kingdom Original Score– Alexandre Desplat/Mark Mothersbaugh 2012 Abkco Records

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Let it be clear that I love Wes Anderson movies. The only one I surprisingly haven’t seen is Rushmore. Everything else I’ve seen at least once and enjoyed. Moonrise Kingdom, which recently came out on DVD, was no different. One thing I really like best about Anderson’s films, other than Bill Murray, is the music. It makes these films stand out so much more, and makes them incredibly memorable. He frequently employs the help of composer Alexandre Desplat to musically accompany and portray what is happening on camera. Mark Mothersbaugh is often involved, who I think has a brilliant and colorful resume, with everything from his work with Devo to his projects for children with Nickelodeon and Yo Gabba Gabba! and all the other films and albums in between.

The back of this record has a little note from Wes Anderson that starts off, “Sometimes the music comes first”. As a music major in college, I spent a good part of 4 years studying music theory, analysis, and history. While much of it I probably can’t immediately remember now, some of the composers that I loved best remain in my mind. One of them was twentieth-century British composer Benjamin Britten. I especially thought it was interesting that he wrote music for children and amateur musicians, which is shown in Moonrise Kingdom. The main characters listen to Britten’s composition The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra on their children’s record player often throughout the length of the film. In Anderson’s note, he explains that he was inspired by Britten’s Noah’s ark-themed opera Noye’s Fludde when writing Moonrise Kingdom.

The score itself is called “The Heroic Weather-Conditions of the Universe”, which is  follows a theme in 7 parts. Each part employs different instruments to reflect the weather of the landscape being explored. It follows the two lovers on their escape by foot. It begins with Part 1, “A Veiled Mist” lead by soft wind instruments, harps, and light percussion, and slowly builds with each part, adding in guitars, horns, and a larger string section. The sequencing of the record itself is broken up with the rhythms of Mark Mothersbaugh and Peter Jarvis’ drum corps “Camp Ivanhoe Cadence Medley”, which ends the first side.

Side two begins with Parts 4-6 as one track (“Thunder, Lightning, and Rain”) and adds in a male chorus and more thunderous percussion. The last track takes Desplat’s composition and puts a Benjamin Britten-spin on it, with narration leading each instrument as it comes into the composition, similar to the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. I feel like this last track really brings the record together, and really shows where Anderson’s inspiration came from.

THE BREW: Yuengling Traditional Lager- DG Yuengling and Sons Brewing, Pottsville, PA

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The oldest brewing company in America. Yuengling’s flagship lager is light, crisp, and fairly inexpensive. For someone growing up in Connecticut, I’ve always considered Yuengling a treat to indulge in anytime I’ve spent hanging out in New York or Philly (similar to eating at Whitecastle, but with more damage to my liver than my arteries). So for some, Yuengling may seem not seem like anything special than the beer they drink on a regular basis. But it’s popular for a reason. It’s a bit darker than other commercially produced lagers out there (technically considered a red/amber lager I guess) but still incredibly drinkable. and it’s low-ABV allows for that. It’s not a beer I’m going to be snobby about. It’s just simple and delicious, and sometimes that is all you need.


THE PAIRING: I paired this record with Yuengling’s light, easy-drinking lager. I could have gone for a heavier ale with lots of different flavors to pair with all the different instruments. However, I thought this light lager paired better with the the film itself and the music that inspired it. Way back in history, people drank light lagers because they couldn’t drink anything else safely. It was downright healthier to drink beer! Lately, I have been seeing light beers are often found at sporting events because they are refreshing after a day of being active. I thought of the exploring couple in Moonrise Kingdom, and what they would drink after a long day of hiking and adventures. The movie also has a lot of coming-of-age aspects to it. Yuengling was one of the first beers I ever had, and I’m sure many other people can say that too. If you live in a state where Yuengling is sold, it’s easy to find, and it is a generally good-tasting, light beer. I’ll drink it anytime, but I especially love it after a long day of working or playing outside.

REVIEW: The Beards “Having A Beard Is The New Not Having A Beard”/Northcoast Old Rasputin

If you know me in person at all, you will know that as much as I love a good beer, and I love a good record, I also love a good beard. This review is going to be as light-hearted as this record, but sometimes that’s what you need. We can’t be serious and beard-free all the time.

THE RECORD: The Beards- Having A Beard Is The New Not Having A Beard– 2012

https://nowbeerthis.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/cover.jpeg?w=300I think I fell in love with The Beards before I even listened to their record. They are exactly what you think they are; a band of bearded men that writes songs about such. It should go without saying that I discovered this band through the world of college radio, where a record such as this one can totally be embraced. Yes, they are ridiculous. But listen to this record and try not to smile. It’s impossible. And more times than not, these are the records that you need, like I said earlier about this review. So here we go.

Album opener, “I’m In The Mood For Beards” is a rocker about being in the mood. Not just for making love. But making sweet, sweet BEARDED love. If you weren’t sure, skip ahead to track 4, “You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man”. Lead by synths and power chords and  I think there’s a part where they rhyme “man” with “mammary gland”. Also “watering can”. This might be the most ridiculous song on the album, which is quite a feat if you listen to the whole thing.

Now, if you decided to make a negative consideration to aforementioned song, track 6 “Still Got My Beard” is a bluesy answer to the heartbreak and general sadness of life. It sort of sounds like a Tom Waits song, actually. You might have just received a Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis, but this song puts it all into perspective. You still got a beard. Alright. Maybe that was reaching a bit.

Now onto a serious matter. “This Beard Stays” is about the plight of someone who is urged to shave their beard to enter the workforce. It’s practically a political anthem. I can totally get behind these lyrics. I don’t think you should be prejudiced by anything when trying to get a job. Gender, age, tattoos, or BEARDS.

Finally, the album closer “Beard Related Song Number 39”, I am pretty sure is a pirate song. It definitely sounds like they are marching and banging on, albeit well-tuned, pots.

THE BREW: Northcoast- Old Rasputin

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I forget how much I really enjoy Northcoast’s beers. Brother Thelonious, their belgian abbey-style ale, is my favorite. But Old Rasputin comes close behind. This old-fashioned Russian Imperial stout is dark, with a hint of sweetness. Roasted malts on the nose and taste make it full-bodied and delicious. Pours black as night with a thick, fluffy head. Perfect for a cold winter day.

THE PAIRING: Sometimes you need to judge a book (or brew) by its cover. The way I see it is that brewing companies make cool labels for a reason. They draw in your attention to make you want to try something. And I am more than willing to fall for this marketing, especially when consuming beer. So I chose Old Rasputin to pair with the Beards’ record because it has a wonderful beard on the cover. It’s also a heavy, dark, Russian Imperial stout. I feel like Russians often have great beards.

The label says “A sincere friend is not born instantly.” in Russian. A sincere beard is not born instantly, either.

REVIEW: Soundgarden “King Animal”/Samuel Adams Winter Lager

Here at Now Beer This we love having other voices talking about the two things that matter most- beer and music! This week we have guest writer Sean, who also has a review blog of his own, giving his take on the latest Soundgarden record. He even did a beer pairing with it! Thanks, Sean! Glad to have you on board!

THE RECORD: SoundgardenKing Animal– Released November 12, 2012

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Where were you in 1996?

Think back to it. I was in 1st grade. I loved Nintendo, spelling tests, and Jonny Quest. At this point in time, Soundgarden would be releasing their last album, Down on the Upside. A combination of their harder sound and a more eclectic style, it was an album so at odds with their iconic sound that it would prove to be their most difficult album to record and promote. The boys of Soundgarden would announce their breakup in 1997 and go their separate ways.

Fast forward to 2012. I’m roughly the same person with a host of new interests (though I don’t care for spelling tests anymore, obviously). Getting a hold of the new Soundgarden record, it’s clear that the band is in the same mindset as me: love for the nostalgic and the cutting edge.

As for the record? 15 years after their implosion, Soundgarden delivered with King Animal. Big time.

King Animal proves to be a difficult album to swallow. It’s a rough amalgamation of all the eras of the Soundgarden sound, yet it’s not merely nostalgic. It’s surprisingly contemporary yet shows the slightest hints of evolution to the band’s sound. In an alternate universe where Soundgarden never split up, I wholeheartedly imagine that they’d still release King Animal in 2012. The music is exactly where fans would expect Soundgarden to be in this point in time. It’s truly like they never left us, and that we just haven’t listened to them in years.

The album kicks off in full gear with “Been Away Too Long”, an explosive launch that soars. The song itself allows room for the band to breathe and show off the individual talents found within the rhythm section, the guitars, and the vocals. Cornell’s voice shows wear and tear over the years, but this rusty feel is appropriate in the track. “I’ve been away for too long/but I never really wanted to stay” seems to be the band’s sentiment that this is no mere cashgrab- Soundgarden would reform only when it was absolutely appropriate. The band is tight and connected, creating a track that has Pearl Jam-esque energy to it, but it never loses that intangible Soundgarden feel.

“Non-State Actor” finds the band in a sort of Audioslave territory, with a clear political message and sense of angst. The combined efforts of Cameron and Shepherd give the rhythm section a much needed boost, with intricate patterns and attacks that Audioslave’s rhythm section could only wish they could do. Crank up the volume in the beginning and feel the two-count kick drum hit you square in the chest. I promise you, it’s awesome.

“By Crooked Steps” and “A Thousand Days Before” flow seamlessly together despite clearly coming from two distinct eras in Soundgarden’s history. “By Crooked Steps” has a distinct Badmotorfinger quality to it, with it’s tricky time signatures and Chris Cornell’s vocals cutting through the track like a wave. It’s unabashedly Soundgarden, and it succeeds wholeheartedly. “A Thousand Days Before” would seem at home on Down on the Upside, and thus feels more eclectic. It’s surprisingly upbeat and exciting, lacking some of the darker edge found on most of the other tracks on the album.

“Blood on the Valley Floor”, by comparison, is HEAVY. It’s a vicious, slow-churning song, full of crunch and snarling attitude. Cornell sings “Once we were the end/ the end of a long road”, perhaps signaling the death and rebirth of the band. It’s 1 of 2 favorite tracks for me, full of breakdowns and bridges that fully utilize the band’s rhythm section and guitars. There is no sense of ego here.

“Bones of Birds” showcase a new element to Soundgarden: that they’re aging, wisened men on life’s journey. The eerie melodies are reminiscent of “Zero Chance” from Down on the Upside, and tell a story of a man tending to his life and family despite running low on time. “Taree” stays on this sense of sentiment, where Cornell desperately clutches to someone he lost. It’s a particularly difficult song to get through, full of evocative imagery (“Crying in your ghost’s smile” is particularly awesome), remorse and regret. Easily one of the most powerful songs I’ve heard all year.

The album hits a snag with “Attrition”. While it’s nice to hear something faster after trudging through 3 slower tracks, Chris Cornell’s vocals are weak by comparison, almost bored by the music. I don’t know if that was his intention, but it doesn’t work here. The album rebounds quickly with “Black Saturday”, a creepy set of promises between the singer and his audience to cut him down if he becomes a burden. While the band hits a cool acoustic tone on this song, Cornell lays down perhaps his best vocals on the album. It’s equally unsettling as it is exciting and mystical, very much in line with something off of Superunknown. The bridge of the song goes down an even darker tangent, lingering only long enough for the listeners to develop a pit in their stomach.

“Halfway There” is clearly from Chris Cornell’s solo career- it’s a good song, but it’s just very removed from what we know as the Soundgarden sound. Hardcore listeners might be forgiven for skipping this track because it’s so different from the rest of the album. As a single, it could carry some weight, but it’s an unusual fit on this album.

“Worse Dreams” basically incapsulates everything I love about Down on the Upside-era Soundgarden. It starts innocently enough with a cool bass line. Soon, the rest of the band joins in, and the track is off the rails, taking great twists and turns. It’s a delight coming in so late in the album’s tracklisting, and first-time listeners won’t see it coming for miles. Very much like their last album, “Worse Dreams” never settles into a comfortable groove; it keeps you on your toes, just changing enough at a fast pace to lock you in.

“Eyelid’s Mouth” is certainly a relic from the Badmotorfinger days of Soundgarden. It has an almost Alice in Chains feel to it, but it doesn’t totally succeed. The song settles into a disappointing rut, but it’s saved by a rather decent bridge that turns into the outro. For some reason, it reminds me of something Cameron and Cornell would have left off the Temple of the Dog album.

“Rowing” closes the album in probably the finest way possible. A slow foot stomp of a beat matched with a unique bassline. Cornell wailing about taking life by the balls. Kim Thayil slowly trickling in layers of snarling guitar. The song sets a cool, attitude-filled vibe quickly, making the chorus a chant that you can’t help but repeat. The song loses its composure and drops the hammer in what might be the absolute coolest breakdown ever: Guitars soar and stab from out of the darkness, the rhythm section kicks in full tilt, and Cornell is left telling us to get our hands dirty and “keep on rowing”. Just before this mood settles in, it quickly drops out into the moody chorus one last time before each band member takes his leave. The song disappears in echoes, and the listener finally knows where the rabbit whole ends.

Soundgarden avoids what every other reunion album seems to be doing wrong these days; there’s no sense of a cashgrab or nostalgia ride here. It’s an honest, great album made by people who love music. It’s a near-perfect set of songs that come together in a wonderful way. The best part is that these layers grow on you after repeat listens; some songs might catch you right away, while others build up on you until you realize “Wow, why wasn’t I listening to this first??” King Animal succeeds in so many ways that it becomes inspiring. I love this album, and if you have even an inkling of love for Soundgarden, there’s something for you to love, too.

THE BREW: Samuel Adams Winter Lager

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I know it’s a cop out to pick a beer from a well-known company, but hear me out. For the past few years, I skipped on Winter Lager because its taste was, in a word, lousy. I could never enjoy one until this year. I think it’s the perfect combination with this new Soundgarden record because its a return to form; just like the new Soundgarden record gets almost everything right, Winter Lager gets comes together and tastes better than ever. It’s filling and satisfying, slightly bitter, and incredibly refreshing. Just like King Animal. It’d be wrong to place something foul to match the aggressive music of Soundgarden- King Animal, like Winter Lager, is something that took years to get right, and Goddamnit if they don’t go together great.

REVIEW: Year End Albums And Brews

I suppose I will humor myself and make one of these year-end lists. To be honest, I’m kind of disappointed at how I really wasn’t as on top of new releases as I usually am. However, to make up for the lack of new music I listened to, I tried a LOT of beers I haven’t had before. So with each of my top records from 2012, I will pair a beer I tried in 2012 for the first time. Enjoy!

Alabama Shakes- Boys and Girls

This record has been in heavy rotation since it came out. It’s the perfect record for sitting back with a tasty brew and relaxing. The band is young in the age of the members (lead singer Brittany Howard is 23) as well as the band itself (formed in 2009), so it’s exciting to see what they have in store for the future after having so much success this year.

THE BEER: Sixpoint Brewing The Crisp

A record like this deserves a beer that’s clean, tasty, and drinkable. The Crisp, brewed in Brooklyn, NYC, delivers. It also comes in a can- really accessible, literally. I’m glad to see the abundance of good, craft beers in cans that I saw this summer, just like I’m glad to see this young band garnering lots of great press.

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The Sword- Apocryphon

The Sword just plain rocks. Sludgey, psychedelic rock with the sweet vibes of Austin, Texas. Enough tasty riffs to satisfy your rock and roll hunger.

THE BEER: Founders Breakfast Stout

Like this record satisfies my hunger for rock, this beer satisfies my hunger, period. This beer has perfect rating on BeerAdvocate for a good reason. It’s an incredibly well-made stout, and pairs great with this well-made record.

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Jimmy Cliff- Rebirth

Jimmy Cliff is a classic. The title of his first record in 8 years really says it all- he works with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong as a producer and it really adds a new vibe to his classic reggae sound.

THE BEER: BrewDog Punk IPA

I was looking forward to trying this beer for a long time, admittedly because I loved the name. The Scottish brewing company boasts “hardcore beers for punks”, which is why I wanted to pair it with this punk-rocker produced reggae record. This is a clean, easy-drinking IPA that’s not overly hoppy. It also has a fairly low alcohol content, so you can have more than one while you kick back and listen to the sound of Jimmy Cliff.

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High On Fire- De Vermis Mysteriis

I still haven’t listened to this record enough. So heavy, so awesome, and it was produced by Kurt Ballou of Converge, whose record “All The Love We Leave Behind” is definitely worth a nod for great releases of 2012.

THE BEER: Widmer Brothers SXNW

A record as dark as this requires something equally dark with crazy flavors. I tried South By Northwest this fall, which is one of Widmer’s limited edition releases. Brewing with cocoa nibs and green chiles gives sweetness with a spicy, unexpected finish. High On Fire’s latest is heavy and sludgy like this beer’s initial taste, but with a lot of interesting notes that add color to it.

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Rush- Clockwork Angels

I had to put this one in. Rush is an unrelenting, hardworking band that has been consistently putting out great records for over 4 decades. Their latest is nothing short of awesome.

THE BEER: Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

There is really no legitimate reason behind this pairing; I just felt that I had to put this beer in. It’s incredibly interesting and combines two of my favorite things- beer and bacon. Since Rush is also one of my favorite things, I’ll say this is a good pairing. This beer is so complex, and some might argue that it’s almost too much. But why not? It’s worth trying if you can find it.

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Review: Hoppy Holidays

It’s that time of year again… Time to start drinking beers brewed with crazy spices, winter fruit, and holiday deliciousness. I’d like to review a holiday album in its entirety, but to be honest, there aren’t really any that I like enough. There are however a lot of songs that I like to listen to around Christmas. So here are a trio of them, paired with some holiday beers that I’ve enjoyed so far this year.

2xmasSouthern Tier Brewing Company

One of my favorite brewing companies, Southern Tier doesn’t disappoint for their holiday offerings. This beer pours a gorgeous reddish amber with a light, thin head. Lots of spice notes, and some frutiness- it’s brewed with figs and orange peels.

The Flaming Lips “Christmas At The Zoo”- from Clouds Taste Metallic (1995)

I’m pairing this one with an original holiday jam from the Flaming Lips. There’s a lot going on with this beer, with some really unique, maybe offbeat flavors. It deserves to be drank with a Christmas record that’s has these same qualities. Weird but awesome.

Anchor Steam Christmas Ale 2012

One tradition I’ve really enjoyed is trying each year’s batch of Christmas Ale from Anchor Steam. This beer was first brewed in 1975, and is a little different every year. This year I get lots of pine notes on the finish, as well as nutmeg and some cinnamon. It’s a super dark pour, but it’s not heavy like a stout.

Tom Waits “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis” from Blue Valentine (1978)

I have my own holiday traditions. Making lots of Polish food, cutting down a live Christmas tree, and listening to Tom Waits! This isn’t even really a Christmas song, and it’s kind of a depressing song. I was suggested to play it on my radio show a few years ago and I’ve listened to it every Christmas since. Maybe it’s because I share a birthday with Mr. Waits, but either way, it’s another tradition of mine.

Winter LagerSamuel Adams Brewing Company

I actually like a lot of Sam Adams brews. They’re accessible, inexpensive, and easy to get in mass quantities for holiday parties. This year’s winter lager is dark, nutty, and spicy. However, it’s not incredibly heavy and you can definitely have more than one without it being overpowering.

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Henry Rollins “Twas The Night Before Christmas” from the Lump Of Coal compilation (1991)

Sometimes you need contrast in life. So I’m going to pair the totally easy to drink, easy to find Sam Winter with Henry Rollins reading “The Night Before Christmas”, which is somewhat difficult to listen to. It’s basically Henry Rollins celebrating Christmas with the nuclear apocalypse in the background. It’s downright terrifying. This is the last track on this great compilation that came out on Dead Line Records in 1991. I was given a copy while working at my college’s radio station and I highly encourage everyone to give it a listen. Lots of very weirdly done Christmas songs, if this one doesn’t tell you that already.

REVIEW: Dum Dum Girls “End Of Daze” EP/Magic Hat Heart Of Darkness

THE RECORD:

Dum Dum Girls- End Of Daze [EP]- Sub Pop Records 2012

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I fell in love with the Dum Dum Girls a few years ago at a CMJ showcase I went to during college. I watched their set and the whole time I kept thinking how much I wanted this band to do great things. and indeed they have, at least as far as the college radio community is concerned. With records holding the number 1 spot on the Radio 200 chart for weeks on end and plenty of great reviews, it’s clear that the Dum Dum Girls are just getting started. The main songwriter and lead singer Dee Dee pens genuine pop songs that only get better with each record that they put out.

“Mine Tonight” is slow with a heavy guitar to start things off. I love the vocal effects that are used for this band- the reverb sounds a little different on each record, and live as well, but it’s a similarity that gives the Dum Dum Girls their own unique sound. There are plenty of dreamy synthesizers to be heard, and the guitars are given generous room in the mix, giving the record a really huge sound.

“I Got Nothing” is lead by a really snappy-sounding snare beat and bass. It’s actually sort of simple in its orchestration, but this allows for Dee Dee’s vocals to shine and sound especially strong.

“Trees And Flowers” is a cover of a 1983 single by the Scottish pop punk girls Strawberry Switchblade. I checked out the original because I was only familiar with this band by their name. The Dum Dum Girls not only do it justice, but put a totally awesome, atmospheric spin on it. They don’t play tons of covers, but the ones that they do, the Dum Dum Girls really nail. “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” by the Smiths from the He Gets Me High EP and their rendition of the Misfits’ “Last Caress” are my two favorites.

I appreciate how hard-working this band is. They’ve got 2 full length records under their belt since forming in 2008, but they’ve also put out a few EPs and singles to keep things interesting in between. End Of Daze is more than a taste of the good things to come, it feels more like a short burst of energy that stands out in its own right.

THE BREW:

Heart Of Darkness- Magic Hat Brewing Company- Burlington, VT

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I like Magic Hat because they create some very accessible craft beers. Their seasonals are generally solid, tasty brews. I drank their winter offering, a take on one of my favorite styles, the oatmeal stout, with this EP yesterday evening. I enjoyed this brew straight out of the bottle, so I can’t really comment on the pour. The taste was surprising to me. I expected it to be sweeter than it was, and I got some smoky notes on the finish. Almost a little fruity as well. Lots of bittersweet dark chocolate. In addition to this record, it also happens to pair well with dark chocolate cheesecake. I love when I unexpectedly get cake with my beer. Definitely a very good offering from Magic Hat, and I imagine that it should be fairly easy to find on draft at your local bar, so get out there and try it!

THE PAIRING:

While the Dum Dum Girls create a lot of wonderful pop songs, there are a lot of different elements at play in each of their records. Yes, a light ale or IPA would fare well with the pop records here. But firstly, the weather is getting cold, and the time for stouts is upon us. This particular stout has a lot going on with it, as does this EP. Since it’s a short record, I wouldn’t want to drink a really massive beer with it, but Heart Of Darkness is just right. You need something with body, but something that will be okay to finish in 5 songs.

As I mentioned earlier, the Dum Dum Girls are starting to get pretty big. I think Magic Hat is a good brewing company to pair with them, because they are one company that has helped craft beers gain more of a presence and importance. I will always associate craft beer and independent music, so what better pairing than a record from an incredibly influential indie label like Sub Pop with a massively growing craft brewing company?

LOCAL Live Hops: Jamaican Queens/Passalacqua/Thimble Islands American Ale

I usually review shows after I’ve been to them but this is too awesome to miss. I am a huge advocate of getting some great music in the area and enjoying some local brews so here you go:

Here’s what’s going on. Jamaican Queens and Passalacqua will be in New Haven tomorrow night along with some fine DJ sets from Dooley AND local beer from Thimble Islands Brewing Company in Branford. Oh, how about some art and film? You’ve got that as well.

I just checked out the bands earlier this week and am really looking forward to seeing them live.

You can watch one of their videos below, or go to the Jamaican Queens website which I am on right now and it’s kind of insane and worth checking out of you have some time.  I am especially digging Passalacqua on this Election Day with this one line about Dennis Kucinich. But seriously. These bands are fantastic and I’m basically seeing them in a living room. As you should too! Details on the show are here.

The featured beer is American Ale from Thimble Islands Brewing Company. I just stopped by their headquarters in Branford, CT and chatted with them earlier this evening. The American Ale is classic; it has an incredibly drinkable quality to it. A bready finish without being heavy at all. I’ve had it on draft many nights at the Outer Space in Hamden, CT where it’s getting to be one of the most popular beers on tap. If you dig it but want something darker, no sweat. I asked what they are planning to brew next and it sounds like a stout is the direction that they are going.

So if you’re looking to catch a sweet blend of hip hop, electronica, good beer and good vibes, State Street is the place to be tomorrow (today?). Party on a Wednesday.

HURRICANE REVIEW: Neurosis “Honor Found In Decay”/Goose Island Pepe Nero

Usually I can only manage one review a week, but luckily (or not) Hurricane Sandy offered me a day off from work to drink beer and digest the new Neurosis record.

THE RECORD: Neurosis- Honor Found In Decay– Neurot Recordings 2012

Neurosis - Honor Found In Decay

The weather outside today matches this record pretty well- dark, heavy winds, rain- hurricanes are pretty metal as far as weather goes. But also like destructive weather, there is something beautiful in it as well. In fact, the title of this record, Honor Found In Decay kind of sums that idea up pretty well. It’s a great record for days like this when you have time to sit and really listen carefully- considering almost half the tracks are over 10 minutes long, it’s an album that requires a little more time. and that’s not a bad thing.

The first track, which has been made available as an online stream in several places, is “We All Rage In Gold”. First of all, I love this title. It brings to mind the imagery of an uproar that also has a contrasting grandeur to it. The lyrics discuss death and annihilation(“Death was my first companion/It showed me life and it snuffed it out”), but also nature (“The sky it holds my father/The sun recalls my soul”).

Scott Kelly’s vocals are unrelenting on every track- low, growling- moving seamlessly from slow, almost spoken-word to a heavy snarl. “Bleeding The Pigs” gets downright terrifying in the first few minutes. Only some random drumbeats in the background and guitar riffs that come in to punctuate Scott’s vocals. It soon starts to gain momentum about 3 minutes in, gets quiet again, and then this massive riff comes back in, keeping the sound huge until the end as the mix fades out.

I’m a big fan of great orchestration and Neurosis really brings that to to the forefront of this record. There are so many small pieces that stand out really effectively. “At The Well” has a killer bagpipe part about 4 and a half minutes in. I also love the end to “Raise the Dawn”- a simple violin that fades out is a really fitting end to this record.

Hurricane or no hurricane- just sit down and spend some time listening to this record.

THE BREW: Pepe Nero- Goose Island Brewing- Chicago, IL

I’ve been getting into Goose Island’s vintage line of beers a lot lately- they’re all very well done and I haven’t found a bad one yet. I wanted something dark for today, and found the Pepe Nero to be perfect. I usually crave stouts but today I wanted something dark in a different way. Pepe Nero is a Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale brewed with peppercorns. I was a little skeptical at first, but the peppery notes are very subtle. It’s dark, but not overly heavy. It pours a thick, cream-colored frothy head, and is deep espresso in color. This beer uses a blend of Saaz and Pilgrim hops, giving both earthy and citrus notes.

THE PAIRING: Again, today is about the dark and beautiful. This is a dark, yet elegant brew. Like the record, the beer has a lot of small nuances that come out as you taste/listen carefully. I do often pair dark stouts and porters with heavier records, and while this definitely covers the “dark” part, I wanted to do something that had more details and interesting elements in it for this. As this album is one I would recommend sitting for awhile and listening to, the same goes with Pepe Nero. There is a lot going on with this beer and it’s one that you can sit and enjoy, with more flavors and aromas coming out as it sits and breathes for awhile.