What am I listening to?: Portastatic, Saves the Day, The Ergs

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Portastatic – Summer of the Shark (2003, Merge)

Over the past two weeks, I spent a lot of time listening to Portastatic. For those who are not familiar with Portastatic, it is best explained this way: Mac McCaughan goes low-fi.

Under this moniker, he released 6 full length albums and a number of EPs. He does a lot of covers of songs like Bob Dylan’s “Its All Over Now, Baby Blue,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Growin’ Up” and “Bobby Jean,” and Ryan Adam’s “Oh My Sweet Carolina.” Then there are the originals like “San Andreas,” “Skinny Glasses Girl,” and “When You Crashed” (all from Slow Note from a Sinking Ship, the first album).

This week, Merge announced that Portastatic’s 2003 album Summer of the Shark will be available for the first time on vinyl. But Summer of the Shark is a nice 13 song album. It is full of quieter moments by the Superchunk frontman. I highly recommend the opening song “Oh Come Down” and “In the Lines.” Also check out “Noisy Night” and “Chesapeake,” two slightly upbeat tracks.

 


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Saves the Day – Through Being Cool (1999, Equal Vision)

Modern Vinyl reported on a somewhat mysterious reissue announcement (via Amazon) of Saves The Day’s Through Being Cool. And this happened to be another album I listened to a lot of the past 3 weeks, as it is coming up on the album’s 15 year anniversary.

This was a hugely important album for the pop-punk scene in early 2000s. It was slightly less raw than 1998’s Can’t Slow Down but not as radio friendly as 2001’s Stay What You Are. By striking this balance, songs like “Through Being Cool,” “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic,” and “All Star Me” became anthems.

I really hope this reissue happens.


As my week of pop-punk throwbacks continued, I also dove into The Erg’s discography. Having seeing Mikey Erg perform during Chris Gethard’s album release party at The Knitting Factory earlier this year, I became interested in the music of The Ergs. The band formed in Central Jersey in the early 2000s and are somewhat well-known by scene-kids of that era.

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The Ergs – Jersey’s Best Prancers (2005, Don Giovanni)

If you are a fan of bands late 1990s and early 2000s pop punk, The Ergs fit right in. They even released an album called Jersey’s Best Prancers (an obvious allusion to Lifetime’s seminal Jersey’s Best Dancers album). I was specifically drawn to “Kind of Like Smitten,” from Jersey’s Best Prancers. Like so many great punk songs, it clocks in at under 1 minute and 30 seconds and references the desire to just listen to bands (specifically Husker Du) with the one you love (or hope to love).

So many of the songs from 2007’s Upstairs/Downstairs, are hard and fast quick punk quips. “Things I Could Never Find a Way to Say,” at only 33 seconds, is a quick plea for a girlfriend because “it’d be so indie rock.” On the flip side, there is “Stinking of the Whiskey Blues”: a twangy jam with obvious props to The Replacements. “See Him Again” is another standout.

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The Ergs – dorkrockcorkrod (2004, Don Giovanni)

While dorkrockcorkrod (2004) is not on Spotify, I’d suggest checking out Hindsight is 20/20, My Friend. This album has many of their original songs as well as covers of Gin Blossoms’ classic “Hey Jealousy” and The Replacements’ “I’m in Trouble.” It includes insanely catchy songs like “Introducing Morrissey,” “Jazz is the New Coke,” and “Nasty Ho” (which is an absurdly amusing song about one of those kinds of girls).

According to their website, the band plans to release a Hindsight is 20/20 part 2 at some point. In addition, dorkrockcorkrod was recently reissued by Don Giovanni for the album’s 10th anniversary.

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