Staff Trax: Janelle Monae, Social Distortion and Neutral Milk Hotel

Welcome to Staff Trax, 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. Consider it a chance for you readers to get some more insight into our own personal tastes. Maybe you'll find something good.

Janelle Monáe - "Faster"

I would not be surprised to see Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) on many best-of lists at the end of this year. Even I, somebody who doesn't regularly listen to hip-hop or anything hip-hop-influenced, can't deny how tuneful, multi-colored, and dense this record is. Sure, there are comparisons to Outkast's last few albums, but I also hear stuff that sounds like Stevie Wonder and Stereolab and whole bunch of other things. Definitely worth your time if you still haven't heard it yet. --Eric Grubbs

Social Distortion - "I Was Wrong"

When I noticed that Social Distortion was going to play our area in November, I started recalling the many times I've been lucky enough to catch Mike Ness and crew over the years. Back in 1996, I was out of town but managed to luckily stumble into a Social D show on the White Light, White Heat, White Trash tour. I remember thinking that the album title was the perfect summation of the band's sound. When Ness started the band way back in 1978 (!), they were just some foul-mouthed, snotty punks who had just enough attitude and songwriting ability to make a splash. After Ness' various run-ins with the law finally landed him in the slammer, I thought the band was done for good. But Ness proved resilient and has kept churning out noisy, aggressive, yet still tuneful albums. "I Was Wrong," the single from White Light is a blisteringly loud "ballad" that rings true for any guy who ever had to apologize to a woman. I guess that's all of us. --Darryl Smyers

Neutral Milk Hotel - "King of Carrot Flowers Parts 1-3"

Given the amount of hipster-love that In the Aeroplane Over the Sea has received in the 12 years since its release, it's kind of nice that the album doesn't feel 12 years old. Even today, it's still pretty darn accessible, actually. Indeed, this collection of lo-fi freak-folk is likely more relevant in today's sonic landscape than even when it was first released as little more than an audio-oddity. And with so many indie acts from years gone by are now reuniting, and cashing larger paychecks as a result, this band would be a great addition to the list. --Kelly Dearmore

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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

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