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Saturday, November 25, 2006


It’s nearly 2007, and there ain’t a damn thing we can do about it. So what have I learned in the last twelve months? That there are some arguments you just can't win, for one.

But let's move on. Inspired by Jay's lovely list, I've decided to reveal a few of my choice picks for '06.

I had a tough year finding new music. For one reason or another, I retreated to my safe corner, re-investigating old classics and, well, classical.

That doesn't mean there weren't a handful of pleasant revelations. But let's not call it a "Best of." I think "Records I Happen to Dig" is more appropriate. Oh, and the ranking is completely arbitrary.

#1. Kayo DotDowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue

Is it metal? Is it experimental? Is it a quasi-pretentious mess? I still have no idea. But my puzzlement is no hindrance to enjoying this titanic slab of art-rock.

B000g1totq01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v64223372_#2: Comets on FireDogwood Rust

There are a lot of psych bands out there these days, and some of them should probably take more acid. These fellas don't need to. On earlier outings, COF's synapse-scrambling jams tended toward orgiastic squalls of fuzz. Here, they experiment with sun-baked ephemera, sounding like a grizzled cross between (here we go again) early Blue Oyster Cult and the Dead.

B000etrb9a01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v50350517_#3: EspersII

I used to not like Espers much, but this record rules. Previously, they were a pale imitation of several acts, including Pentangle and Vashti. Now they've metamorphosed into an acoustic/prog chimera of remarkable strength. And how can I not include a band that sparked the "what is folk" discussion on this very blog?

B000ht366e01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v60560123_#4: John PhillipsJohn the Wolfking of L.A.

Somehow being betrothed to the foxiest member of the Mamas & Papas wasn't good enough for this guy. Originally released to critical antipathy back in 1970, this long out-of-print album has aged better than many envisioned. It chronicles Phillips' post-fame dalliances with women and drugs — hardly groundbreaking in and of itself. But everything is set to a flaky, country-rock groove that goes great with whiskey 'n' Quaaludes. Yee-haw!

B000cqqhpy01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_#5: Jenny Lewis with the Watson TwinsRabbit Fur Coat

Jenny, Jenny, Jenny. Let me count the ways I love thee: First is your razor-sharp wit that cuts to the quick yet leaves no permanent scarring. Oh, you surgeon of the coyest cruelties! Second is your voice — a sweet 'n' sour mix of tender resentment. Third is your fetching appearance. Umm, I think I need to stop there. I'm almost a married man.

B000gpi2ek01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v41379817_#6: MastodonBlood Mountain

Major label metal kicking ass in ’06? Who could’ve imagined? As an aging shredder, I have to admire the sheer intensity this band brings to the table. To my ears, Mastodon sound like the missing link between ‘90s miscreants Kyuss and the new generation of technical hardcore brats. Besides, where are you gonna hear another song about a Cyclops this year? Well, besides my second pick.

B000f3ajki01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v53867424_#7: MatmosThe Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast

San Francisco duo Matmos are one of the best bands working in electronic composition, hands down. They’re not exactly “underground” (nor is this list, for that matter) but M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel possess a level of artistry that makes all of their releases worth investigating. And this one is no exception. Although I often forget to listen to it, when I do, I something new is revealed.

B000f1ioiy01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v54430418_#8: LoscilPlume

Another album I forget lives in my iPod. Scott Morgan, a.k.a Loscil, creates gracious, patient music that actually goes somewhere. He’s really hit his mark with Plume, an album that provides frosty ambient with a pulse. If you like dark drone, but find Lustmord too oppressive, this one is for you.

B000f3ajqm01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v54957790_#9: Serena ManeeshSerena Maneesh

Technically this was available in ’05, but I got it upon domestic release in May. I’m including it to prove that I can like Norwegian bands heavily influenced by the styles of yesteryear! This is straight-up shoegaze, no doubt about it. But I haven’t heard such a satisfying take on the sound since the genre’s heyday. And the publicists by and large left me alone.

B000ggsmda01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v64002284_#10: M. WardPost-War

I like his rough, manly voice. And the fact that he doesn’t use AutoTune.

B000fcuvca01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v61579401_#11: Woven HandMosaic

Christianity has never sounded so bleak. Except during the crusades. And the Inquisition. And the Salem witch trials. Aww, forget it. Anyway, David Eugene Edwards’ post-16 Horsepower work is like M. Gira’s Angels of Light in Sunday School. Which is to say, brooding, ironhanded and totally devotional.

B000i0ql4601_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v36650969_#12: Sunn 0))) & BorisAltar

Beauty + Doom = Altar. This review will further elucidate.

B000ffozym01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v35881955_#13: Brightblack Morning LightBrightblack Morning Light

Wow — two Matador releases made my list! Maybe co-owner (and sports enthusiast) Gerard Cosloy will take back the mean things he said about me for pissing on the now-defunct Prosaics. But I doubt it. Anyway, this record was pretty hyped, and a lot of people found it dull. To that, I say: drink more Robitussin and get back to me.


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Ashley J

What mean things did Cosloy say about you?


Oh, it's all water under the bridge now — it was two years ago. I admit it was harsh to make my review a forum through which to critique his label. I mostly wanted one of my fave imprints to not sign clones of their last big hit. I have no real animosity toward Cosloy, but I have been told he used to write quite a few pissy reviews back in his day.

Anyway, here's what he wrote to my Dusted editors:

“What to make of a review that castigates a band for their supposed
lack of originality…and in doing so, closely echoes several other
reviews that have appeared previously?

Casey Rea — like a few other commentators thus far — seems hung
up on the Prosaics’ “copping of Interpol’s patented Enigmatic
Urban Mystey”;, though I think it would be worth reminding anyone who
has grown to appreciate the latter band’s merits that they too, were
at one time, pilloried for their stylstic similarities to another
band (or two).

Your reviewer is obviously entitled to his (screwy) opinions, but
comments like “over-rehearsed miserablism” (as opposed to
under-rehearsed miserablism?) and “despite (his) admitted love for
gloomy English rock” say more about Rea’s biases and stereotypes he’d
like to ascribe to this band than what they actually sound like. As
one of the guys who signed them, I can categorically state that none
of the bands they reminded me of (in a good way) were English or
named Interpol ; Pylon, The Method Actors and Native Tongue amongst

Which brings me to Rea’s most ridiculous statement ; “Matador should
take a tip from Sub Pop and start signing groups without dwelling on
past successes”. Hey, thanks a million for the constructive
criticism. Up until this point, the entire history of Matador is
littered with examples of our signing one copy-cat band after another
and until this very moment, nobody has had the guts to call us on it.

Even so, we’ll continue to sign bands the same way we always have —
based on our personal tastes, which clearly aren’t the same as
Dusted’s correspondent. But to suggest that Sub Pop’s recent
signings have paid bigger dividends, either artistically or
commercially compared to Matador’s, is just plain nuts. But either
way, our associated with Prosaics hasn’t the slightest thing to do
with”the business of marketing”; — we’re psyched to be putting
out records by a NY band that we’d previously admired from afar, much the
way we were once fortunate enough to put out records by the Unsane or
Railroad Jerk or countless others who managed to make their mark in
an unfriendly climate. Said climate is different now. For one
thing, there are more self-styled commentators eager to end a band’s
career before it starts.

Let’s hear it for telepathy! Rea seems dead fucking certain of this
band’s inspirations and motivations, and equally cynical about
Matador’s. And who is he to pass judgement? To call the recordings
flawed or downright crappy, while still incorrect, is entirely Rea’s
prerogative. But he hasn’t the faintest idea what someone else’s
goals are. I humbly suggest that those equally sickened by this
review (all 6 of you) do your best not to fall into the same trap. I
can’t figure out for the life of me why Dusted gave this cretin a
public forum (though it probably beats paying someone), much as I can
only speculate on why his parents didn’t have him put down at an
early age. It’s really none of my business and I’m gonna try very
hard not to dwell on those questions."


Wow...what a bag o' douche....

Great list Casey; I've only listened to a few of the albums listed, heard of (but not actually heard) a few others & the rest I've never even heard of before. Looking forward to listening to the new stuff; thanks again for giving into my peer pressure and posting your list! :)


Nice list. Because Edwards is such a heavy-duty Christian, I'm surprised to find Wovenhand on your list. But since I like them, I'm glad to see it there.

Serena Maneesh make the list but no sign of Asobi Seksu's Citrus. Interesting.

How badly is John Phillips trying to look like Bob Dylan in that album cover?


Contrary to popular opinion, I'm not actually anti-Christian. That said, I find many mainstream practitioners to be some of the most tight-hearted, closed minded weirdos around. They also typically know less about the origins of their own faith than non-believers. But there ain't anything wrong with following Christ's teachings, whether you believe he was the Son of God or not.

Asobi Seksu would make the Top 20, for sure. But SM are moodier, and that seems to fit better with my overall mien.

Re: Papa John. You got it backwards, brother. Wolfking predates Desire by several years. 'Tis Dylan that's the ripoff artist!


Excellent point. You even mentioned the album came out in 1970 and I missed it.


Ah, I forgive ye. 'Tis the season, after all!


I'm about as die-hard a Dylan fan as they come, but the "Desire" cover is definitely a rip-off of the Phillips' cover. Or, knowing the little smart-ass Bobby can be, it could have been a inside joke mockery of it as.

Regardless, they're both fantastic albums!


as....well. God, it's been a LONG day....


I'm still writing pissy reviews, Casey. Pissy reviews of reviews, too. In any event, I try to focus my criticism or praise on the musical contents and leave the speculation about label motives to the bargain basement psychics and their sidekicks. Our reasons for being involved with the Prosaics were no different than what led us to be associated with the 2 Matador artists above that met with your approval. We liked their records and wanted to help 'em out.

That you're unlikely to dig all of 'em is neither unfair nor unexpected. But that wasn't the point of my letter to Dusted, either. If you're comfortable taking a shot or two at someone else's work, it shouldn't be so surprising if your own is held up for public examination.

douchebag O-U-T!


Amazing. My thoughts exactly. Keep releasing them there rekkids, and us retard peanut gallery will call 'em like we see em.

I'll keep my scrying mirror handy.

Stellar year, by the way.


After the guy from 120 Days posting and now Gerard, it really makes me wonder who many egomaniacs do daily Google searches for their name. I wish I had that kind of free time. Oh well, to each his own.

I stand by my "bag o'douche" comment. I'm not referring to Gerard as a person, but just his action in sending the letter. I find it baffling that people in the biz get so defensive about criticism when the critics are the only ones keeping the industry going.

Think about it--the only people who still buy CD's and don't steal music seem to be people who appreciate good music and want to support the artists. And where do these educated folks discover new music? It's certainly not from buying hundreds of random CDs to see what they like (though I'm sure the record companies would like that).

No, they pick up a magazine or go to a website (or a blog called solidstate or spittingoutteeth [excuse shameless plug]), and they take the recommedations of professional music critics, buy the CD and decide on their own what they think.

Sometimes the reviewer will love the album released by a band on your label. Sometimes they'll hate it. Sometimes they'll even question your labels motivations for certain actions or decisions.

That's their JOB. That's the job Casey does very well, and we appreciate him for it. I've bought many albums based on his recommendation. And based on his "Best Of" list, I would have bought some of the Matador releases, but I'm not now because of Gerard's letter.

In simple terms, treat your music critics right. They indirectly bring in a ton of revenue for your company, at a time when you desperately need this revenue.


Thanks for the kind words, Jay.

But I understand Cosloy's position – he thinks a review should center on the group, and not presuppose cynical motivations on behalf of its patrons. I might not compose that particular piece the same way today, but I stand by my dislike of the band's music. I wrote the review largely as a warning. I was worried about an imprint I'd come to count on for quality music becoming redundant, or worse, calculating.

Matador certainly deserves respect for all of the great bands and albums they've delivered to the world. Let's face it — they were the sound of indie-rock throughout the '90s: Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices... the list goes on and on. And not to sound like a shill, but they still are putting out good stuff.

Perhaps Cosloy heard something in Prosaics I did not. I still wonder what it could've been, but that's beside the point. My real problem with the CD, apart from its pretentious obliqueness, was that it sounded —to these ears at least — like the other post-punk/proto-goth acts haunting the Joy Division crypt. Matador had recently enjoyed major success with one such band. The entire industry thrives on marketing "cool," so it was all too easy to suspect the worst.

Cosloy says I'm wrong, and is sticking to his guns, which I respect. I greeted his initial letter with bemusement; I'm a big boy and can take it. As far as his commenting here? I find it pretty cool that he still gives a shit about the roster, even the bands no longer on it. It says a lot about his ability to stay passionate about music after years in this bizarre business.

Wonder if Matador needs a 32 year-old intern? ;)


Casey, you're being very tactful; you'd make a fine politician :)

Smart move, my friend....

Let me be the loudmouth--I don't have a career related to the music industry!

Matador is a great label though. They've released some of my favorite albums. But it still doesn't make them immune to criticism when they make a poor decision.


Me, tactful? I better take a long nap! Honestly, it's about looking at the different angles of any argument. I could even see "Donna's" point, but I had major problems with her delivery.

Anyway, I have no plans to stop criticizing until they pry the keyboards from my cold, dead hands. Any pretense to "career" is secondary.

But I can't run for office — my personal history is beyond compromised!


"After the guy from 120 Days posting and now Gerard, it really makes me wonder who many egomaniacs do daily Google searches for their name."

And I wonder how many record labels fail to do Technorati searches to see where their records were reviewed?

I certainly don't think Matador is immune from criticism. By the same token, I don't understand why critics --- online or otherwise --- are above reproach. I'm perfectly aware that Casey and the rest of the universe are entitled to their opinions about the Prosaics and everything else, but if you're not prepared to defend said views publicly nor allow for an opposing opinion, perhaps you oughta stick to a password protected forum.

If someone wants to question the label's decision making process without having the slightest clue why we're doing something, they most certainly have the right to do so. And if I have an opportunity to set the record straight, I'll be doing that, too. That's the bummer about free expression, you might actually have to contend with someone who thinks you're full of shit every now and then.

I appreciate the constructive advice about the role of reviewers, bloggers and "treating critics right" and I feel a-ok about Matador's treatment of all of the above over the past 17+ years. I might however, be so bold as to suggest your claim that "the critics are the ones that keep the industry going," is the height of pretense. Whether or not the industry even deserves to keep going is worth arguing, but I'd wager its tenuous existence is being propped up by the artists themselves.

Anyhow, it's good to know that you mean nothing personal by slurs like "bag 'o douche" and "egomaniac".



We could easily slide into a back and forth about what constitutes critical validity, but I don't see that as productive. Nevertheless, I think it's great to have the opportunity to critique a piece of music, and I welcome any kind of discussion my doing so engenders.

The music industry will keep on keeping on, long after I hang up my critical hat to become a used car salesman or fishmonger. I just hope good records continue to be released from time to time.

Concerning the rules of engagement: Gerard has every right to have been pissed off at what he saw as a poorly informed and personally biased review, as I had the right to present my negative reaction to the record.

I likewise have the right to poke fun at myself and/or the entire incident on this blog, and he the right to comment.

What's most amusing to me is the idea that I write scathing reviews all damn day. There are plenty of other things to do — reading, producing music, petting the cats and cursing organized religion are but some of my hobbies. Picking on a band doesn't even rank.


I might however, be so bold as to suggest your claim that "the critics are the ones that keep the industry going," is the height of pretense. Whether or not the industry even deserves to keep going is worth arguing, but I'd wager its tenuous existence is being propped up by the artists themselves.

I'll agree with you here Gerard; I figure it went without saying that the quality of artists playing the music is what mainly drives the industry. But beyond that, there are only two things that keep me buying CDs and not just illegally downloading all of my music--reading glowing critical reviews that make me think an artist & their label deserve my money, and cover art. I think beyond the nostalgia and audiophile qualities, there's been a modest resurgence in vinyl sales because it's such a great format for the artwork. I've bought several albums based on cover art alone.

Sorry for the tangent. But I stand by my comment regarding the importance of critics keeping the industry going because I can see the effect on myself and my friends. Thousands of dollars have been spent this year on albums that I never would have bought (and subsequently recommended to friends) because of Casey's reviews and those of other music critics. So just show respect where respect is due; they indirectly put money in your wallet.

I'm sorry Gerard, but I just don't feel that your letter was over the line. I just don't see the point in bashing on a guy for doing his job. You can disagree with me & that's fine, but from a pure business perspective, every time I pick up an album from now on & see "Matador" on the spine, I'm going to think of this. And I'm saying I'm boycotting Matador or any stupid B.S. like that. But it's just not worth it for you to get defensive about this kind of thing; it only makes you (and the label you represent) look kind of petty. And it's a shame because you have a great roster of artists and have released some amazing albums.

I'm just trying to be honest here, because from a business perspective, if I did something like this, I would appreciate feedback from people calling me out on it. It's up to you whether you care or not.

And I apologize for any feelings of ill-will regarding the "bag o' douche" line. Again, I wasn't referring to you, just the action you took. You can't always convey a tone of voice in writing & it makes things sound very blunt and harsh sometimes when you post to a blog. Again, my apologies Gerard.



I'm sorry Gerard, but I just don't feel that your letter was over the line.

should have read:

I'm sorry Gerard, but I just feel that your letter was over the line.

A little bit of a difference there.... :)


"Thousands of dollars have been spent this year on albums that I never would have bought (and subsequently recommended to friends) because of Casey's reviews and those of other music critics. So just show respect where respect is due; they indirectly put money in your wallet."

That's precisely why we continue to send music to all sorts of reviewers ---including those that other labels, big or small, might overlook or not bother to follow, and also why we spent more time than others (perhaps an inefficient use of time in your estimation), calling attention to their work, discussing it, linking to it, etc. I think we've been paying respect where it is due for an awfully long time.

I'm sorry if you think I was bashing Casey for doing his job. I took specific exception to his comments about one band and the Matador label --- Dusted is neither the first nor last place I've sent such a letter to. For every person who shares your opinion --- that such acts seem petty --- I think at least as many other readers appreciate that these reviews need not be a one-way conversation.

I mean, the whole "calling out" thing goes both ways. In this instance, I've called out a reviewer for what I thought to be a screwy review. If you don't mind, I'll decide for myself just how badly my business will be crippled by such behavior.

best wishes

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