Check Out This Jam: David Karsten Daniels, Dessa, Smoking Popes, The Photons, Cheap Trick, Dan the Automator

Welcome to Check Out This Jam!!!, the weekly feature here on DC9 where we shed some light on the music we've been enjoying of late, regardless of the touring or album release schedules that tend to bear the focus of most of our coverage. Also, it's a chance for you readders to get more insight into our own personal tastes. Anyway, don't think too much about it. Just go on and check out these jams, already.

Former Dallasite David Karsten Daniels released his last album, Fear of Flying, back in 2008, but, for whatever reason, I set it aside shortly afterward, only happening upon it again recently thanks to the shuffle function on my iPod. Standout track "Martha Ann" is essentially all chorus, building quickly from a lone acoustic guitar and keyboard into a folk-pop cacophony of low, buzzing saxophone, understated violin, and sticky sweet female harmonies that lasts but two minutes and six seconds--which makes it pretty easy to listen to five, 10, or 20 times in a row. --Noah W. Bailey

While in Denver last week, I was fortunate enough to catch the Every Never is Now Tour featuring Dessa and P.O.S. I've always been a fan of the dense hip-hop stylings of P.O.S., but had never had the opportunity to hear his former girlfriend, Margret Wander aka Dessa. Seeing this tall, attractive philosophy major on stage was a vacation revelation--not only were her backing beats totally unique (rhythms set by samples of clarinet and viola), but her words were explosive without succumbing to the genre's clichés of self-importance. Dessa's debut full length, A Badly Broken Code, came out a week or so ago, and it's as heady and heavy a collection of hip-hip as you're likely to hear all year. Check out the video for the album's fist single, "Dixon's Girl" and be sure to make the trek to Denton when Dessa and P.O.S. hit Hailey's with Astronautalis on February 27. --Darryl Smyers

Recently, while browsing at a record shop in Pennsylvania, I came across a used copy of the Smoking Popes' Born to Quit album that I just couldn't pass up. The Popes were a hugely influential band in the mid-'90s--a testament backed by the fact that four of this album's tracks alone appeared on different film soundtracks. Most notably my all-time favorite Smoking Popes track "Need You Around," from the movie Clueless. The way Josh Caterer casually croons such lyrical gems as, "If I could change one thing in this world / I'd change your mind and make you my girl," with a Morrissey-like disregard for tempo is pure brilliance. No wonder Moz once cited this as his "ninth favourite album." And priced at just $3 like my copy was? I'd say that's an absolute steal. --Cory Graves

Even with the fairly heavy subject matter of a troubled relationship, The Photons' "This Must Be Love" somehow remains easy on the ears. This San Francisco troupe uses instruments like the xylophone helps make this one fun to listen to... and it helps that the chorus sticks in your head all day long. --Lance Lester

Maybe this was because the band allowed one of its greatest songs to be reinterpreted for a Super Bowl ad, but Cheap Trick has been on my mind as of late. Add in the fact that I heard songs from its most recent record on Sound Opinions lately and I was reminded that Cheap Trick has made some great records in its career. While I, like many, find the band's first four records still incredible, I think the band's last four studio albums are worth a listen as well. Granted, you know what you're going to get with the Rockford four--but at least they're not trying to make hits for Top 40 radio anymore. Left to their own devices, '97's Cheap Trick, '03's Special One, '06's Rockford, and '09's The Latest showcases how good this band still is. -- Eric Grubbs

Smooth, down-tempo production from legendary producer Dan the Automator serves as the backdrop for this hip-hop narrative, "It's Over Now." As he always seems to do, Kool Keith (Dr. Octagon) adopts a different approach from the storytelling style often heard in rap music. The rapper instead chooses to reminisce about his former days of glory as a member of the Ultramagnetic MCs after the money has all dried up. And to add insult to injury, the song's protagonist is forced to watch as lesser-skilled wordsmiths rake in the dough: "What's this clown rhyme / That's paid for on prime time?" Still a timely sentiment a full decade after the song's release. --Nic Hernandez

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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs