Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What's New?: 12.27.2011

Andrew Hill — A Beautiful Day (2002)
Pretty decent post-bop, free-leaning stuff. And yeah, I know these are all Andrew's original compositions, but I've never really liked when he got so attached to the horn arrangements, like he does here. Most of the arrangements are dominated by the horn charts, in fact. But when Andrew takes a solo, wowweeee! That rare occurrence on '5 Mo' illustrates just why the man is a legend. It's almost like he deliberately creates these scenarios where he must rebel. The song's head is one of the more chaotic of the bunch here, so he appropriately takes a wandering, melodic solo in the face of otherwise dissonance. He is not up front for most of the proceedings here, but the tunes are all nice, if not a little more leaning towards his more rambunctious side. 'Faded Beauty' and the title track are both the sort of kind of free, mostly just searching tunes that Andrew used to make his own voice. Certainly not his most approachable work, but darn good for the already converted.

Jónsi — We Bought a Zoo (2011)
I've become such a big fan of Jón Þór Birgisson and his band Sigur Rós over the past two years that I am essentially at a clamoring state right now for anything new. I had high expectations for this one, perhaps foolishly. As far as the new material, it is definitely in soundtrack mode, as it essentially sounds like outtakes from what Jónsi does otherwise. Unfinished song ideas that don't sound totally right without the visual accompaniment. But still, it's music written in the style that will be familiar to fans of his previous work, so there's plenty for us dorks to latch onto. Most of the new material is instrumental with fleeting "Oooohhhhh aaahhhhhhh" vocals, but there are a couple of genuine brand new, fully fleshed out tracks here and they're surprisingly lost in the shuffle of the rest of the album. I mean, I like them just as much as anything else here, but they're not completely standouts, y'know? (the tracks in reference here are 'Ævin Endar' and 'Gathering Stories'). Still, even though this music probably serves its purpose quite well in the film —and yet, is somehow disappointing to me as a fan of the musicians creating it— I have to say that this will keep me satisfied for at least a little while. It's not a major revelation —or, indeed, a revelation at all— but it's still darn good. And it definitely has that feeling to it (the one that keeps me coming back to anything with Jón's name on it in the first place).

The Cure — Bestival Live 2011 (2011)
New Cure album and who gives a shit? ME! Because I'm a hardcore fan and I'm clearly who this 2 disc, 32-track, 140-minute behemoth was aimed at. I will keep my comments brief, because it is just a live album after all (despite that it's their first official live album in nearly twenty years and it marks as an account of an official lineup change [Porl Thompson is back out and Roger O'Donnell is back in!]). They sound infinitely better when hitting those earlier songs. Cons: crappy drum sound, predictable hits being played up front, Robert's 'spoken' vocals. Pros: jesus, are they having fun or what?, 'PUSH'!!!!!!!, the whole concept that they just played this show a few hours before I was at this show is somehow awesome to me, all the songs that they haven't played regularly in forever and finally 'THE LOVECATS'!!!!!!! Audience singalong FTW! Seriously, the FREAKING LOVECATS!!! YES!!! Overall, it's nothing that will appeal to anyone except dorks like me, but enjoyable as all hell. The fucking Cure, man. They're one of my favorites for a reason. All profits go to charity, buy it.

Solbakken — Music for Lost (2004)
They are the Mighty Bakk. And I love them. This is probably the Mighty Bakk's most post-rockin' affair, as it's easily their most instrumental album. It's also a soundtrack, so there are a few songs here that I knew previously (namely, 'Entertain the Elderly' and 'House Been Taken' from Klonapet and 'Your Cave' from their In the Fishtank session with the Black Heart Procession). But besides those, everything else was new to me (this is the only album of the Mighty Bakk's that I didn't buy at the time because it was brand new, ungodly expensive and nobody had it). The instrumentals range from short and sweetly bleak vintage numbers ('Hell Impro Insect Outburst' and 'Saloon'), to goofy (the pseudo-rockabilly sendup cover of 'Ring of Fire') to just downright incredible moments ('Birth of a Jumper'). The new vocal songs are dark and gloomy, but with that great injection of catchiness that the Mighty Bakk is just perfect at. If this is to be their last album (which is most likely), it's a strange one, but still exceptionally good. I still find much to go back to on this one, even with the recycled material. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite bands of all time.


Monday, December 26, 2011

What's New?: 12.26.2011

Been slacking off lately, so let's just get right into this one. . .
Bob Dylan — Self Portrait (1970)

I guess if you believe rumors and Bob's own whimsical soundbites, this album was supposed to be bad. Sure, it's not up to the standards he had established for himself, but I don't really see how anyone who likes albums like John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline and New Morning (a personal favorite of mine) can truly dislike this one.  At two records, containing plenty of covers and even some questionable live performances, it is a bit intimidating.  But how can you argue with songs like the drunken rockout 'The Mighty Quinn' or the almost pastoral 'All the Tired Horses'?  Sure, it essentially sounds like Bob clearing his vaults from his preceding two or three albums, but when you're as good as Bob Dylan was during these years, even your "crap" is listenable.  Not a masterpiece, but certainly not deserving of its bad reputation.

Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968
Seriously good stuff. Some people call it psych, some call it garage, I just think it's a good 60's pop by bands that had no idea they were capable of being accessible. The kickoff track is the enduring classic 'I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)' by the Electric Prunes, so that's just an absolute perfect way to start a compilation like this. I knew that one already, but the rest of the album had some real surprises for me; biggest of which was the moddy 'Don't Look Back' by the Remains (hailing from Boston!) is just about in my songs of the year list. Elsewhere, enjoyable Beatles and Bob Dylan knockoffs show up respectively in the Knickerbockers' 'Lies' and Mouse's 'A Public Execution' and I find these little oddities to be pure fun. There's covers too: the Leaves take an appropriately acid-soaked stab at Jimi's 'Hey Joe' while the Mojo Men seemingly try to bubblegum it up on a take of the mighty Buffalo Springfield's 'Sit Down I Think I Love You.' Overall, it's twenty seven tracks: all killer, no filler. How could it be anything else when it's the compilation that has birthed a series of boxsets?

Pink Floyd — A Nice Pair (1967/1968)
Just the albums Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets together as a two record album. No problems there. Piper is, of course, British psychedelic madness and a far cry from the Floyd as many would come to know them five years later. Not better or worse; just vastly different. I used to have it on CD years ago, but I honestly can't remember what happened to it (how appropriate). Mr. Gilmour was not yet in the band at that point and it's hard not to listen to it now and not hear it as totally "trippy man." Good tunes though, for sure. 'Lucifer Sam' manages to have a killer bassline, be totally psychedelic without getting carried and it's a great pop tune all simultaneously. 'Interstellar Overdrive' is pretty much the band at its most arty, and boy do I love it. Full disclosure time: 'Bike' has always been the clear highlight of this for me. A total goof of a song, I don't care; listen to all the wacky stuff in the arrangements. Musically, it's just silly and completely disregards all conventions, while acknowledging just about all of them within a time frame of less than four minutes. Secrets, the band's second proper album and record two of this collection, however, was completely new to me. And I must be a bad person, because I prefer it. Maybe it's still the freshness factor at this point, but it feels less gimmicky. I like how the is more sparse as well. It's just as trippy as Piper, but among the tempos of the actual tunes and the more nuanced production (which emphasizes the atmospherics of the keyboards), it just has a more "complete" sound to me. 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' is just excellent if you ask me (and it makes me think of Tangerine Dream more than a little bit — a good two years before they released their first album, too!). The title track is dark and sounds like a bad trip, but it's twelve minutes of artsy brilliance in the long run. 'See-Saw' looks ahead to the future, while 'Jugband Blues' is Syd Barrett's lone contribution to the album. Probably his best song on a Floyd album, ever. Fantastic stuff.

Squeeze — Babylon and On (1987)
The gratuitous 80's sax all over the opener 'Hourglass' should be a clue as to what Squeeze was up to here. Certainly past their prime, but not without enough good tunes to overcome the cheesy production of the day. So, yeah. Despite the really cheesy production, the band still has some choons left in them. Nothing life changing, but darn good rewarding fun for an 80's dork like me. Other nice ones on here are 'Cigarette of a Single Man' and the lyrically weird 'Some Americans' (a good indicator of why the band never truly made it over here, perhaps?).

Squeeze — Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985)
This is a good snapshot of a new wave band trying to stay afloat in the mid-80's and failing nobly. Still good tunes buried beneath all the overproduction ('Last Time Forever' for instance would be a great song under another presentation). The closer is the hilariously titled 'I Won't Ever Go Drinking Again (?)' and it's a completely weird dub-reggae riddim-laced, puzzle-esuqe jangler with a nearly ragtime piano break. Admirable as it may be for a band to try so much in the face of overproduction, it's a good zeitgeist for the whole album as it feels like they're trying too hard most of the time.

Squeeze — Sweets From a Stranger (1982)
When the album starts out with a very Devo-esque drum machine and synthesizer riff on 'Out of Touch' and then explodes into one of those incredibly swooping classic Squeeze vocal hooks, you should be at 'Aww hellzz yeeeaahh!!' status. It's one of the best (and most underrated) tunes. The rest of the album is not quite as good as East Side Story or Argybargy, but it hangs right in there with the band's initial run of early classics. 'Black Coffee in Bed' was the big hit from this one and I still love that song, no matter how many times I hear it. There are some classic-sounding Squeeze new wavers like 'I've Returned' and 'I Can't Hold On' that are just great pop tunes, while the closer 'Elephant Ride' is among the band's best tunes. And, overall, I have hard time thinking that a fan of the albums that preceded it wouldn't get completely into this one as well (I certainly did!).

Chris Squire — Fish Out of Water (1975)
Yep, the Rickenbacker bass playing guy from Yes. With Bill Bruford on drums, similar song structures to Yes and Chris' very Jon Anderson-esuqe vocal timbre, it's pretty much a sure shot for fans of any Yes albums up to (and including) Topographic Oceans. Seriously, listen to how much he sounds like Jon Anderson on the album's first two tracks. It does have that great pastoral, world-within-a-world feel of the best Yes material and I really just dig it. At times, it does play like the great lost Yes album, just because of the way it sounds. A funky backbeat melds into very jazz-fusiony improvisation on 'Lucky Seven' while the orchestrated, several movement epic 'Safe (Canon Song)' is the best Yes song that never was. Extremely good stuff for fans of 70's Yes (which is why I'm here, obviously).

Love — Love (1966)
Epic dollar bin win! Not sure why this was in there, but I question nothing when it comes to the dollar bin. I've slowly been getting into Love over the past couple years, but this first album has eluded me for some time. Finally have it and I have to say, boy do they sound like the Byrds! I love that, especially since they're a little more garage-y and weird. But that wonderful jangle is there at the base of it all. The bulk of the material here captures that longing melancholy that the best 60's possesses and, truly, it's all the better for it. 'A Message to Pretty' sums up the band's perfect synthesis of folk rock earthiness, kitschy penchants in their songwriting and the amateur garage-y playing. Love it. Elsewhere 'My Flash on You' just plain rocks while 'Softly to Me' is arguably the band's best song ever. Classic material. Hard to think that they actually created a more well-rounded and complete album than this one.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What's New?: 11.29.2011

Mainly a batch of re-acquisitions, with a couple of new-to-me things. . .

Biff Bang Pow! — Oblivion (1987)

Vintage British jangle from the peak of the whole thing. It's not a very breathtaking album, but it sure is danged good. It's just like all good 80's jangle bands: sounds like it could have come from the sixties, but has that nostalgic (for me) 80's sheen in the production. I would definitely liken this to bands like the Field Mice or even Belle and Sebastian. It was Alan McGee's main band before he decided to step out of the spotlight and sign bands like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine to his label (and then there was that one group from Manchester that he signed a little later). Overall, ten songs, barely thirty minutes and not a bad one in the bunch. Pure pop, pure jangle. Just being who I am, I'd have a hard time not liking it, honestly.

Karate — Cancel/Sing (2002)

Karate, in retrospect, is just "post"-fucking-everything. Post-punk, post-rock, post-hardcore, post-jazz, post-prog — you name the genre, they're recontextualizing the everloving snot out of it. This became more into focus when they released their fourth album Unsolved in 2000 (John Pruett, you're a dick and it obviously went completely over your head). By the time the band released this two song, twenty-six minute EP two years later, it just seemed to make sense that the band would release something that would otherwise be classified as a sound labyrinth. 'Cancel' seems to be the song that people recognize from this one, and it's a fine piece. Lulling and doodly guitar fun until Geoff Farina finally hits his fuzz pedal about six minutes in and then it goes into the technical wizardry that the band became known for. The droney, Can-esque textures achieved in the middle portion are fun. 'Sing' on the other hand, is arguably the band's best song. It starts off as another rambling noodle of a song, but when it finally gets going, Geoff Farina's finest set of lyrics will open itself up to reveal one of the finest songs I've ever heard in celebration of music. Using music as a coping mechanism for the stresses of everyday life is something I'm sure everyone can relate to (top lyric: "If Crass called the Clash, 'the Cash', then my stash would make them laugh, because even real injustice just makes me want to sing"). The build-up is natural, fluid and exhilarating and the last five minutes of the tune are arguably the best thing the band ever put to tape. The final two minutes are especially good. And, if nothing else, it's a rare moment of purely rocking out in the band's later material.

Karate — Some Boots (2002)

This was the first new album by the band that came out after I became a fan, so it's nice to finally have it back in my collection. It pretty much continues in the vein of Unsolved, uninterrupted. That album and this one are actually pretty interchangeable. The only big difference is that Geoff Farina favors his noisier, fuzzier, more distorted guitar tone on all of the songs here. But still, he plays all of those rhythmic, comping parts in that deliciously jangly tone. There are hints of the expanded textures and long buildups that the Cancel/Sing EP hinted at (the dubby, psychedelic time signature maze in the second half of 'Original Spies' is a fine example of how the band was able to abridge their explorations on that EP into an equally as listenable six minute song). Longer form songs dominate, as only two of the album's nine tracks are less than five minutes. But still, I might say this is arguably the most representative album the band ever made (either this one or pockets). The screeching, disjointed guitar workout that is 'In Hundreds' sounds like Second Edition-era PIL, in absolutely the best way that someone possibly could have in 2002. My favorite Karate song is 'Airport' and 'Remain Relaxed' is one of the band's best ballads and both are on here, so yeah. It was my summer soundtrack in 2002. Total winner.

Solbakken — Pinanti (1999)

Solbakken. Jesus christ. Fucking Solbakken. First things first: I used to have fucking all of their albums. All of them. You know, those ones that you don't see anywhere on any American webstores? The ones that are expensive, even on European websites? Those ones you can't even find on illegal downloads when you search blogs for hours on end? Yeah, I had all of those. Why, you might ask, did I get rid of them? Because, my friend, I am a very stupid man. A very, very stupid man. My first introduction to Solbakken were two songs on one of Konkurrent's In the Fishtank albums: 'A Taste of You and Me' (sung by bassist Klaas Schippers) and 'Your Cave' (sung by guitarist Empee Holwerda). I was big into the Black Heart Procession at the time, but those two songs —obviously being Solbakken's contribution to the sessions— made me take a step back and realize just how much better this unknown band was than the band I had purchased the record for in the first place. It had a chilly, Nordic quality. Like kind of Kraut rock, but more soulful. Sigur Rós, if they just rocked all the time. The band just sounds like the weirdest, Euro-centric hybrid of a Sonic Youth-y noise rock combo, but more concerned with tunefulness. A post-rock band, but more concerned with poppy hooks. A super technical math rock band, but more concerned with moods. I've come to conclusion that absolutely no description will ever do. They just don't sound like anyone else I've ever heard. As for this album, it's the band's second, and such it's a little more raw than they would ultimately become. But still, the layers and mini-movement, song-within-a-song feeling that a good chunk of the material has here definitely points the way towards their future achievements. It is a bit more unpolished, so a song like 'Montana Tiger' that is otherwise a rather interesting little tune, comes off kind of ramshackle (but is a bit charming because of that). Some songs like the Joy Division-esque numbers 'Youth Camps' and especially 'Four Sundays Left' are so dense and utilize so much low end dynamics that you may forget that it's just three guys in the band (indeed, Klaas slips in some chords at times to make the otherwise grey tunes a little bit more colorful — which isn't to say that the shade of grey as portrayed here isn't magnificent; because it is). The couple usages of sitar throughout and the slant towards isolated lyrics (an ongoing theme in the band's whole catalogue) make for a really out of place sounding mini-masterpiece. It's mostly Empee's album, as he sings about 80% of it and overall, it strikes me as what post-punk should have evolved into (and considering that Klaas and Empee have longstanding roots in the Dutch new wave scene, dating back to the mid-80's, this is no surprise).

Solbakken — Klonapet (2003)

I've played this album for fans of many different styles of rock music and they all agree: it rocks. This is a godlike masterpiece. Jelle Buma had been sitting in on drums since their previous album Zure Botoa and I've long had a theory about a band needing that right feel behind the drums for them to completely fulfill their potential. Klonapet is just pure brilliance for all of its fourty one minutes. I did not include it in my best of the decade wrap-up because I had foolishly traded in the band's entire catalogue (you're welcome to whoever scored them all at Amoeba in Berkeley) and I felt like there was too much distance between me and the last time I had heard it to genuinely get behind it. Revisiting now, it's easily among my albums of the 2000's decade — and probably among my favorite albums ever. 'Love Interest' is one of the most perfectly weird pop songs I've ever heard. It was offered as a free download on the band's (now non-existent) website and I played it on repeat for hours in those days when I awaited that package from Norway. What's actually pretty surprising about this album is that, besides Klaas taking most of the lead vocals, there is a slant towards an angular, metallic attack in the sound of the guitars. If you take the final movements in songs like 'Entertain the Elderly' and 'Space Bordello' and listen to them outside of the context of the rest of their respective songs, you may try to peg the band as some sort of nu-metallers. Things like the trumpet on 'Relaxing Yourself to Death' or the marimba on 'Dung', however, moot that entire statement. The instrumental 'Mickey' points the band directly towards the 'post-rock' section, while 'Small and Evil Hole' sounds like the Pentangle floating in space. So, it's another confusing affair to be sure. But, it's completely solid. I love this album. It's a stone cold modern day classic. I just wish more people knew who they were.

Kanipchen-Fit — Multibenefit (2010)

Wish I hadn't been such a miser on this one last year, because it's actually really damn good. It's Empee Holwerda from Solbakken, his wife (?) poet/artist Gloria Williams and a drum machine (although, the band's website features three early very Solbakken-esque demo recordings from 2005-ish with Jelle Buma on drums — click on 'news' to listen). I guess the main thing on display here is Empee's guitar playing, because, as most of this album was seemingly recorded live, he colors the songs with all kinds of textures and dynamics that you can only sit back and marvel at (not to mention that Solbakken fans will recognize his tone instantly). The layers and resonance of songs like 'Radio Torture' and 'Pay More' are just striking when you consider that it's only one guitar, one drum machine and two voices creating the music. The themes on this album lyrically are more overtly political than anything Solbakken has done, but I'll be darned if I don't get that great isolated Solbakken vibe from songs like 'Vodka Rescue Team,' 'Pay More' and 'Rainfall.' Overall, not a complete masterpiece, but it's an update in the Solbakken story that I didn't see coming. If the band is no more, this is a new direction, but a promising one.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Jónsi — Go Live

I guess consider me rather late on this one, as it has been available on his website since late last year. But, you know what? It's not how long it takes you to get there that matters, it's what you see when you do that does.

And, boy oh boy, I see many things.

Just ignoring the fact right up front that the entire first half of this album is one of the quietest, most reserved and downright spiritual pieces of live music I've ever heard, I will say that it feels like pure giddy triumph when he bursts into a piece of totally rare stage chatter after the whole thing and the opening glitchy sampled vocal loop of 'Godo' begins and the crowd, subsequently, finally relents and there are some genuine and very audible 'WHOOOOO!!!!!'s to be heard (amidst a clap-a-long, of course — yes, it gives me chills).

Now, I liked Go. It sounded exactly like I hoped it would: reminiscent of Sigur Rós, but with more of a poppier slant and a sort of streamlined approach to the band's music. Nine songs; none in great excess of the five minute marker and all with a nice layer of post-production and a delightful sheen that was neither kitschy nor over the top. And yet, it left something to be desired.

(in a good way, but I digress)

But this guy right here?

He's a bit of different beast altogether.

Where Go felt very much like a knee-jerk reaction against his band's never ending funereal pace, Go Live is just as much an affirmation of that kickback as it is a reassurance that Jón Þór Birgisson, as the frontman of one of the most unique and important bands of the past decade —the singer and guitarist as most of his listening audience knew him prior to his solo album— is still very much the artist and the man that made them love him in the first place.

As you can see above, the album wears a sticker that boasts five new songs among its contents and they are very much more along the Sigur Rós brand of Jónsi's repertoire, filling out the album's spiritually (and revelatory) calm first half; not only with compilation tape fodder but with genuine and true SONGS that make this a rare case where the live album bests its studio counterpart. The performances are great, sure. But it's the sequencing here that sets this one apart from the rest.

As I said above, the slow and quiet bunch is packed up front. Starting with the nearly solo acoustic "new" song 'Stars in Still Water', the album begins on this somnambulist, nearly pastoral thirty-seven minute meditation of ballads and, predictably, it's the perfect soundtrack for watching slideshows of aurora borealis (that is, unless you can watch the real thing in person). The third track is 'Icicle Sleeve.' Easily on par with the best of anything Jón has previously done, it's definitely the highlight of this album for me. As the song seamlessly segues into 'Kolniður,' everything comes fully into focus: this is no toss-off of a live album. This is the real deal.

Capturing the musician in a venerable stage of unsureness, presenting the new songs to an audience unfamiliar of the material but familiar with the musician's new (yet, unheard) direction is a rare thing these days. Hell, people with the stature of Sigur Rós rarely even play b-sides, not to mention completely unheard material. It makes the opening five song suite as heard on Go Live extra special as, not only do the songs flow flawlessly, the audience is on Jón's side the whole way. And it's a little redemptive to hear someone present so immaculately such definitive versions of the songs. New or familiar; doesn't matter. The familiar songs had emotional aspects to them before, but with the new songs and the intimately perfected familiar ones, these are all the most poignant recorded renditions of the tunes.

And when those uptempo numbers kick in on 'Godo,' it's just complete chills. He just poured his soul out to complete strangers and now it's time to dance a bit, okay?


The anticipatory between song claps, the chorus to 'Animal Arithmetic' sung in Icelandic, the extra long, noisy (noticeably Sigur Rós-esque) coda to the closer 'Grow Till Tall'; it all feels very celebratory, very rewarding.

I liked Go.

I absolutely love Go Live.

It harkens back to a time in rock music when a live album was supposed to be a statement within of of itself — a unique entity that was more than just a complimentary piece.

Far more than just "recommended if you like", Go Live is the definitive account of Jónsi as a solitary unit outside of Sigur Rós. He is a unique and infinitely intriguing musician on his own; this album has plenty of evidence.

The accompanying DVD isn't too shabby, either, presenting nearly all of the songs on the audio half in alternate recordings and professionally shot.

The stuff that I keep listening to music for.

Go Live can be purchased from Jónsi.com


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

King Krule — King Krule EP

What do you say about a release like this?

Every once in a while, something comes along that just doesn't fit. Sure, it may not sound totally revolutionary in the bigger picture, but when the context is considered, it just seems wrong.

Before going any further, I should point out the main thing: this young man is only seventeen.

He does not have a good singing voice. He does, however, have one of the most refreshing songwriting talents I've heard come out of Britain in recent years. Where the country's music still seems to be mostly planted in the looming shadow of Brit-pop's rockstar obsessed smartass culture, Archy Marshall looks completely inward and towards his heart for direction. As a teenager in post-post-Thatcher Britain, it seems like he's just disappointed with an outlook that simply accepts one's unsure surroundings while trying to continue forth life as a regular human being.

Oh, and he has incredible tunes, too.

I mean, honestly, I've not heard a stronger argument in a long time for the side of "Well, some people are just naturally born with talent."

The thing the dominates all of the EP's thirteen minutes is the fantastically jangly tone of Marshall's guitar. Sure, there is some post-production and whatnot that adds heavier reverb and a slight hint of noise to the songs, but ultimately, his jangly guitar is right up front next to his out of key baritone vocals.

And his words are just as important as anything else here. Truly, he sounds like a man at least twice his actual age. While the dramatics may take you to the edge of sadness while realizing that a person so young has lived and seen more than anyone his age should have, you will find a twisted redemption in his ability to articulate.

A song like 'Portrait in Black and Blue' simply doesn't make sense coming from a seventeen year old. But, somehow, there it is. The opening instrumental '36N63' and the short track 'Lead Existence' pack more maturity in their collective three minutes than some other bands have been yet to achieve after several albums of material.

The closing track 'The Noose of Jah City' is clearly the highlight and the most unique thing here. Amidst a sparse (but affecting) Fender Rhodes chord progression, light guitar arpeggio and simple drum loop, the song builds into a thing of sheer beauty. Its meaning is a bit unsure, but it ultimately seems to be about finding nothing but disappointment in a burgeoning world to a young mind. This sort of thing might be tedious under certain circumstances, but in Marshall's world, this is the foundation on which inspiration can build a masterpiece. I can't stop playing it.

If nothing else, the whole thing reminds me of early Aztec Camera in the best possible way.

Exponential potential.


PS— Marshall's early recordings from last year under the name Zoo Kid can be found here. They are just as good (if not a bit more rough).

Back to basics.

As my first true musical love, hip hop showed me that no idea is original.  No matter how great I thought beats by DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, DJ Shadow or Jay Dee were, there were very high chances that the beats were sampled from someone else' song.  My mind was blown by many songs, for many years.  But ultimately, I got used to it. 

By the time I became a Radiohead fan and found out that one of my favorite songs of theirs was a sample, I knew that it was game up. 

Everything was fair.  Nothing was really that surprising anymore. 

Sure, it was still fun to track down and hear those songs that had been borrowed from, but I didn't really take inspiration from that exchange like I used to.

Until now. 

It never occurred to me until last week that it was very strange that the song title 'Heirloom' on Björk's Vespertine showed up as 'Crabcraft' when I imported the album into my iTunes.

I did some research, asked around and finally came up with this:

For reference, here's 'Heirloom.'

I don't know why this has taken me aback as much as it has.  Maybe it's the image I had held up in my own mind of Vespertine as this singular masterpiece that was created in a fleeting momentary rush of emotion that came completely from within Björk's heart and mind

But, no.

Even masterpieces as unique-sounding as Vespertine even have their pre-existing seeds of inspiration. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's New?: 10.25.2011

Picking up on something I should have returned to years ago. . .

Thurston Moore — Demolished Thoughts (2011)

It's a damn shame that it took Kim and Thurston announcing their separation for me to finally get this album. I knew about it earlier in the year, but I just kept saying, "I'll get it next time" when I stepped into the record store. So, up front: yes, it's very mellow. Mellower even than Trees Outside the Academy. I loved Trees, plain and simple. It was a nearly shocking breath of fresh air at the time and it just felt for me like yet another sign of the great creative rebirth of all things Sonic Youth. The influence of Neil Young loomed large over that album. And (to continue that metaphor) if it was undeniably Crazy Horse in its sound, this one, while still retaining Neil's unavoidable influence, is a bit more Stray Gators. The string and harp accompaniment, the complete absence of electric guitars and the production and assistance touches of one Beck Hansen all add up to, hands down, the mellowest thing Thurston has ever stamped his name on. Truly, I have a hard time thinking anybody who liked Trees and that hears this will dislike it. The two albums almost play like complimentary pieces. The most Sonic Youth-y things get is on the centerpiece 'Orchard Street', which floats and strums its way into a very familiarly jammy territory for Youth fans (although, just played on acoustic guitars and, uhm. . . harps). 'Space' is clearly the best thing here. It's a long, dreamy meditation on private universes and the possibilities that could be. The string arrangements are decidedly in Sea Change territory and I can't say I'm anything other than absolutely pleased that the collaboration between Thurston and Beck yielded at least one thing I completely wanted to hear. The whole thing just becomes even more poignant and sad in the wake of the author's separation from his partner of 20+ years. It's one of those bittersweet musical triumphs. One that is just pure beauty on the surface, but with a bit of behind the scenes knowledge, it becomes an absolutely emotionally wrenching affair that I, as the listener, can only take a step back and marvel at the courage of the whole thing.

For Against — Black Soap EP (1984/2010)

Great to hear these very early recordings of one of the best American new wave bands ever. Things are very much in the early 80's post-punk vein here, as this basically documents the band's first serious trip to a recording studio (in 1984 — these recordings weren't properly released until 2010). The title track is a very short, angular, punky piece that manages to be punk and psych at the same time. And so, here it all is: what I've been searching for has been in front of my face all along (more on this later). 'Black Good Friday' follows suit and, if nothing else, previews the For Against sound that was to come. It's 'Amen Yves' (here sub-titled 'White Circles') that really puts forth that the band was completely special. A totally stock Factory Records sound is conjured up amidst a fantastically dreamy drum machine and bass synth groove that could fill the snobbiest of rock club dance floors. Totally ace. Scary to think they were this good this early. Short, but sweet!

For Against — In the Marshes (1984-1987)

This was actually recorded in the years noted, but not released until 1990. Again, pretty stunning stuff for an American band at the time. I'd say only the Mission of Burma had come this close to sounding nearly as genuinely bleak as their British counterparts (and that's a compliment to everyone involved). And yeah, I bring that up because the band still sounds totally stuck on their British influences (not that this is a bad thing, just limiting). The glorious wonderful gloominess that is 'Amen Yves' appears twice in two versions that are even more Factory Records-obsessed than the Black Soap version (and again, this is not necessarily a bad thing). Overall, it sounds like a band trying to find their voice. And, for a band that had so much greatness ahead of them, the potential is just blossoming.

For Against — Echelons (1986)

One of the great lost classics of the American new wave. It sums up 'tiny metropolis' living pretty well within the first track. Indeed, 'Shine' says it all: "I've had this idea, I've had it for a while: blow this town to smithereens. Yeah, that would be my style. Does that answer your question?" Growing up in an isolated, tiny metropolis myself in the early 90's, I can definitely relate. What follows is almost like the American Unknown Pleasures. A set of nine absolutely perfect bass driven, jangly songs that seem to be so fast because the band is so nervous. The grasp on atmospherics that the band had at this point is downright jaw dropping. Case in point: the way 'It's a Lie' develops from solo bass to an absolutely gloom-ridden wall of sound is just impressive. The band's first official single receives a reprise here on 'Autocrat' and it's another highlight. An angular bass riff and many fancy guitar pedal showcases by Harry Dingman atop a singular lyric of "Yeah, that's right: that's the way it is" by singer/bassist Jeffrey Runnings and the deal is sealed. 'Forget Who You Are' is a strikingly resonating rant against the record industry, but musically it sounds as faithfully Joy Division-esque as the best of any of their British peers. The album ends with the longburning, slow-developing 'Broke My Back' which is just as good and as gloomily wonderful as anything the Cure or the Sisters of Mercy could have churned out at the same time. I guess my point here is: this band was surely inspired by all the late-70's British new wave greats — but so were all their British contemporaries at the time of this album's release. Why should they be considered second tier because they were not British? They were using the same source material for their thesis as their British counterparts — and they did just as well, if not better. I initially bought this album about ten years ago during my tenure at the local used record store. I followed a recommend from the Chameleons website and happened to find an original vinyl copy of the album at work. I listened, loved it and thought nothing more of it. I surely read Jack Rabid's glowing reviews of the band's newer material in the Big Takeover over the years and just said to myself that one day I would go back to them. I just decided to go for it and order everything that Words on Music had available the other day. I doubled up on this copy of Echelons because it just felt right.

For Against — December (1988)

A lot of folks have gone out of their way to declare this the best of the For Against catalogue. And, as much I have to agree that it is certainly an exemplary work, it just isn't a standout in the bigger picture. I purchased this one on digital download way back when (not long after I scored my Echelons vinyl) and perhaps it was the reason for my lesser enthusiasm about the band. If it was the best they had done, maybe I was on the wrong track. I definitely liked it; then and now. But, I don't know. It has a bit of staleness to it. (I lost it, along with lots of other music I only had digitally over a year ago when an external drive crashed) The best songs are better than anything on Echelons (mostly looking at 'Sabres', 'Clandestine High Holy' and 'Stranded in Greenland' here), but the rest is just nice filler. A lot of the songs feel like they go on for too long and the tempo is slowed down a little too much (I mean, I found it great that they played so fast on the first album; illusions of being a punk band were nothing if not totally entertaining at that point for them). Throughout all of that though, Jeffrey Runnings' lyrics are quite nearly the best they've ever been. He captures an isolated, lonely feeling so well, so many times throughout the album that it's hard to believe these weren't the first set of lyrics he'd ever written (they sound naive enough, but affecting enough to be). A worthy follow up to Echelons in the bigger picture, but just not as good.

For Against — Coalesced (2002)

It's like so many of my own personal music-listening potentials, fulfilled and shattered in one gloriously jangly melancholy swoop. I've never heard this album until now. All the same, it strikes me as clearly the band's best work. And this is strange, as it features only one of the group's original members: bassist/singer Jeffrey Runnings. It's a lot more jangly than their 80's work, but it retains that same feeling of introspective isolation that only seems to genuinely occur to those of us that are landlocked for extended periods (the album cover photo, which crops a bundle of wheat inside an ocean blue square is very telling). Runnings returns to bass for the first time since December and maybe it was that that was the spark to his output. His lyrics are inwardly looking, but not down. Indeed, every song here has a retrospective slant that feels more redemptive than it does depressing. This is music of personal revelation. The excellently jangly backdrop (handled by Steven Hinrichs) is the perfect complement to the lyrics here. It finds that majestic balance between overtly self-indulgent mush and truly resonating art. Runnings seems like he can't say anything that's not profound when he blurts out in his boyish croon gems like, "Nothing this bad can ever last" and "Intangible things don't mean too much: isn't that sad?" I love this album. And, most of all, it fulfills the research I set out —when I decided that new wave was the genre for me and that I needed more sparsely jangly albums like the Cure's Seventeen Seconds in my life— and it just feels like epic redemption for me as a music fan after hearing it this far into my life and getting as much out of it as I am. And, for the band that created it, it's also an absolute triumph. It sounds like nothing else. There are shades of moods of the bands that inspired it, but there are no direct lines of influence to be heard. For an American band to accomplish such a feat just makes me feel great. It's a strummy, layered, mature, introspective and rewarding masterpiece from a band that seemed poised to make such a record all along. That they actually did and that it's actually better than the records from what most people would consider to be their peak period is just shocking. Jesus, it's good.

For Against — Shade Side Sunny Side (2008)

This one was hailed as a serious return to form at the time, mostly because original guitarist Harry Dingman was back on board. I like it. It's a bit more rockin' than I'm used to for these guys (the gratuitous distortion on songs like 'Glamour' and 'Aftertaste' just don't sound right). 'Why Are You So Angry?' has shades of Coalesced and it's definitely a favorite. The music on this album is very reflective of the stark, white on sparse black cover. It definitely has that quiet/loud dynamic going on. Songs like the piano-led 'Game Over' are just about as bleak as anything the band has ever done, while the closer 'Irresistible' turns all of Runnings' seemingly inward-focused anger over the years at an actual target and the results are just downright chilling. Overall, it sounds exactly like the sort of music that two-thirds of the original band should be making at this point.

For Against — Never Been (2009)

Striking again quickly, Jeff and Harry put out this even better album with a new drummer (Nicholas Buller, who had replaced Paul Englehard). Granted, it doesn't truly get off the ground until track two on the flat out gorgeous 'Different Departures', it's nothing but the sky from that point onward. The band has backed away from it's unnecessarily aggressive stance on the previous album, and back into the more subdued and sublime territory of Coalesced. Take for example the post-rock leaning instrumentals 'Black Willows', 'Per Se' and 'The Tenebrists' and you know something new is awry. 'Specificity' is an absolute classic in the band's playbook at this point. This album just seems to continue in the mature jangle sound that they started on Coalesced, and it's nearly as good. The closer 'You Fade' is a dark, cascading wall of dynamics and it's capped off back Runnings' confession that "It's always been this way for. . . like a thief who's fled the scene, you fade away from memory." Fantastic stuff. Especially for a band who may have been seen as a second tier act all along. It's nice to know that, yes, they were that good all along. And they've been here all along. Just waiting for your (re)discovery.

Also, as a side note, Oakland band Broken Cities is giving their album away for free. It's definitely in the post-rock vein of things. It reminds me very much of Sigur Rós without a singer. Been digging it a lot recently. Check it out; it's free after all.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's New?: 10.15.2011


Yes, it's quite true: I bought Genesis records. Let's talk about them. . .

Genesis — Foxtrot (1972)

Well, I guess if this is as good as Genesis ever got (which is the general consensus, reading over reviews sites across the internet), I guess I like Genesis pretty darn well. Even still, they do have a sense of second tier-ishness about them to me. I don't know what it is, but I can't connect fully and completely. But, gosh dang if there aren't passages of sheer outright beautiful awesomeness littered all throughout their music; a concentration of which whose percentage is rather high on this album. I mean, the first two minutes of the starter 'Watcher of the Skies' is just pure organ and synth blissout. The way it morphs so perfectly into the actual song is a pretty magical moment. The whole song has a lighter than air feel to it and the constant shift of the dynamics only enhances the triumphant feeling it also possesses. Maybe it's the Yes fanboy in me, but I instantly noticed a nick from the chord sequence of 'Time and a Word' in 'Time Table', but I still like the song, so there. I think what really appeals to me about the band's early material, most of all, is the British folk aspect that is present. At any given point, these complex and labyrinthine songs can break down to these bare bones acoustic riffs that are just heaven. Case in point, here, is obviously the ninety second long instrumental 'Horizons' which has such melodic originality to it, while still retaining hints of classical-mindedness, that I just sit back and marvel at how good it is. The by then status-quo sidelong, twenty two minute prog-rock symphony 'Supper's Ready' is appropriately dense and nearly impenetrable if you just pay attention to Peter Gabriel's (still thought provoking) lyrics. But the guitar and keyboard work throughout the song by (collectively) Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford is just excellent. I'm not a Phil Collins apologist, however. His drumming is merely adequate, but it does do the job, so there you have it. Overall, it definitely strikes me as simultaneously the album you play for people who hate Genesis and/or prog. Because it certainly contains the best and/or most accessible moments of both.

Travis — Side EP (2001)

Travis b-sides; now we're talking! The title track here is a longtime favorite of mine by the band; a surprisingly Cure-ish little thing that jangles during the verses and explodes with an grand swoop during the choruses — isn't that why I love them in the first place? (rhetorical answer: of course) The three b-sides here are a mixed bag. The studio track 'Ancient Train' finds the band filtering their sound through a nearly Bob Dylan-esque Americana twang and sense of irony. Can't say I saw that one coming; but darned if it ain't great. The other two tracks are live performances. 'Driftwood' is taken on and finds it to be more crowd singalong than actual Fran vocals. I do love hearing when a band has the crowd on its side, but it doesn't necessarily merit repeat plays. The final live song is a cover of Bowie's 'All the Young Dudes' and it's just pure fun. Fran can't hit all the high notes and it's pretty obvious, but the band clearly loves playing the song, so it's one of those rare cover tunes that gets by on pure vibes, despite how mediocre the actual reading may be. Fun stuff; always nice to hear more by these guys.

The Horrors — Primary Colours (2009)

After really loving Skying it was hard for me not to wonder just exactly where the hell these guys came from. With this album, question answered: they have been convincingly faithful revivalists for several years, apparently. This album is just noisier, that's all (take in a five second preview of every track here and you will mostly get squalling feedback and distortion. From the swirling, gooey, reverb-drenched guitars that dominate 'Three Decades' and the title track, to the incredible 'Scarlet Fields' and the stunning closer 'Sea Within a Sea' (both of which sound like Mark Burgess singing over outtakes from the Cure's Pornography), it's clear that this band has done their homework and that they are not just a revival group. Like I said of Skying: this just makes me think the band is less of a revivalist group and more of a genuine "apostle" of the sound. It just feels natural with these guys. And sheesh, they are incredible songwriters.

Prince — Mountains/Alexa de Paris (1986)

Sure, 'Mountains' —as far as its structure and overall tone— is essentially unchanged from the album version, but this is the epic ten minute extended version. Completely worth it on its own, as it features the Revolution, in peak form, just jammin' out. It's a rare moment of Prince actually releasing something that justifies all those bootlegs (I mean, there's a reason people wanted to hear more, right?). The b-side is the instrumental 'Alexa de Paris' and while it is a bit more guitar jammy than I generally prefer, it is Prince just wailing away, Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Hazel style. Really good stuff for Parade-obssessives like me.

Genesis — Trespass (1970)

Well, hey there, this is darn good, isn't it? I mean, I still have no clue what Peter Gabriel is talking about, but just the sound of his voice and the band on this album is pure chemistry. I don't get it for the life of me, but I do feel something. This is probably the band's real first album, as their initial material (from 1968/1969) has been pretty much disregarded by the band for years running. It's definitely the first album that sounds like "them." Every song here is just ace for me, but 'White Mountain' really sticks out. It's an example of buildup tension and release executed perfectly. The folkiness of the album cannot be denied. And maybe that's why I like it so much: musically, it's very reminiscent of John Martyn, Fairport Convention and Nick Drake albums of the same period. Really solid stuff.

Genesis — Nursery Cryme (1971)

This one is also really good — but a bit of a rehash. I mean, I like people who are clearly doing nothing wrong to repeat themselves as often as possible (Vini Reilly, Morrissey, Bill Evans, the Cocteau Twins, to name a few) but I don't know. This one feels formulaic. Now, after trashing it right out of the gate, I will say that the first four minutes of the album are absolutely thrilling on 'The Musical Box.' If only the rest of the album had been able to retain the same level of intensity. It's just fine, honestly. And look, I gave it a rather high score. I've already played it to heck and back, so there. It's a good pre-cursor to Foxtrot. They just did everything on here better elsewhere.

Genesis — Selling England by the Pound (1973)

Hey, more Genesis albums from the early 70's that are just darn solid affairs, imagine that! Again, this band knows how to kick off albums with insanely good buildups, as 'Dancing With the Moonlit Knight' is just fantastic, starting as acoustic plucking, morphing into charged-up gallop rock and ending with keyboard euphoria; hot damn, that's some listenable multi-movement rock music. Going off into left field immediately after that is the glammy (??!?!!!!?) 'I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).' I love the song, honestly, but my confusion arises from the fact that I was always under the impression that proggers and glam kids were not on the same page, but this just confuses me. The grandiose chorus, the esoteric lyrics about fashion; good stuff. The real kicker though is the album closing suite of the thirteen minute 'The Cinema Show' and 'Aisle of Plenty.' It follows the now familiar (yet, no less stunning) Genesis formula of slow acoustic folky thing that builds into prggy show off bits, but this then strips down the layers, slows things back down and ends on another (entirely different) acoustic folky thing and it's just downright affecting how well it's pulled off. Melodically new (for them, anyway) and conceptually great stuff. And the whole album hangs together exceptionally well.

John Lennon — Imagine (1971)

Re-acquisition. It's often been said that this album starts off like it's about to be the greatest album of all time, but then it falls in love with itself. Where the Plastic Ono album got scared by its own humility (and therefore, was an alltime enduring classic), this album almost sounds like it's going for too too much. That's not to say it doesn't have tunes for days, because it does. The bigger arrangements and backings and reliance on blues cliches that dominate most of the album do not play to its advantage. It also seems overtly political without reason. I'm sure everybody knew John was a Labour supporter, but some stuff is just a conceptual failure here ('I Don't Wanna be Solider' for instance). This is all balanced by fantastically genuine and venerable moments like 'Oh My Love,' 'How?,' the Dylan-esque 'Oh Yoko!' and the lifechanging title track. There's not an unlistenable song on the album, but it is very uncohesive. It's very telling that, on an album as uneven and chaotic as this one, Lennon would never again sound as assured and satisfied as he did here.


Monday, October 10, 2011

What's New?: 10.10.2011

Proggy bits and pieces. . .

Jethro Tull — Aqualung (1971)

Sure, there's a lot of guitar flashing and just an in general 'overplayed' vibe to the whole thing, but there are also really tuneful songs at the heart of everything here. And, you'll just never know when a song will go straight into acoustic folk rock territory. Wonderful stuff. The title track is a good indicator for the rest of the album: hard rocking and intense one minute, strummy and folky the next. There is a bit of a (what the band said in retrospect was unintentional) concept to the album of how religion in society is used to cover up unpleasantness (and subsequently, how organized religion is a bit of a noble failure in this respect). Conceptually, very "deep man." But musically, it's more folk rock than it is prog to my ears. It actually really reminds me of Fairport Convention albums from the same period. Songs like 'Mother Goose' and 'My God' are just excellent, regardless of how you want to classify them.

Jethro Tull — Thick as a Brick (1972)

First of all, the packaging for this record is completely and fully impressive as to the amount of detail and work that went into it. A gatefold sleeve that contains an entire fake newspaper. I even went through and read a good portion of it and, not only is it completely detailed, much of it is downright hilarious. The music feels like it had just as much consideration given to it, as the album is just one piece that is divided into two sidelong parts; and while it definitely has distinct parts and unique 'song within a song' passages, it's all part of the greater work. While there are also lots of light and folky acoustic passages, the album is much more electric and focused on soloing this time around. At that point, it becomes very clear that this was intended to be a more 'proggy' album. A glance at the lyrics is pretty impenetrable, actually. It's definitely got some poetic qualities to it, but there are lots of sidebars within sidebars and no thoughts ever really get fully completed. In any case, it's a profound work regardless, because it's just musically interesting. There is plenty of soloing and noodly purely technical passages (hey, it is a prog album after all), but unlike a lot of other prog that is technical for technicality's sake, the tunes here are impeccable and smart. Hard to pick a favorite between these two Tull albums.

Egg — Egg (1970)

One of the great bands of the legendary Canterbury scene. Definitely more classical-minded for a rock trio (heck, side two of the album is dedicated to an instrumental "symphony"). For a guitar-less trio, Egg manages to color their music with a surprising amount of tonal ambiance thanks to Dave Stewart's organ work. Take a song like 'I Will Be Absorbed' for instance: tons of dynamics shifting and a general sound about it that there has to be more than just three guys playing. There is also a real emphasis on tunes here. Take the group's adaptation of Bach's 'Fugue in D Minor' in which they transform the piece into a somewhat funky two minute psychedelic trip. The symphony (billed as 'No. 2') is a twenty minute instrumental experience that simply expands on the idea. It's a bit reminiscent of ELP, if they were more concerned with tunes than skills (and not to mention, it gets pretty wacky and dissonant at points). As a deluxe reissue on the great Esoteric boutique label, this features bonus materials that are all just as strong as the proper album.

Soft Machine — One and Two (1968/1969)

Neat two-fer CD reissue of the first two Soft Machine albums. Soft Machine was, of course, from the same Canterbury scene that Egg also rose from. Where Egg was a bit more focused on playing a sort of "classical rock," Soft Machine is more in the vein of playing "jazz rock." Be it through Robert Wyatt's decidedly jazzy drumming and occasionally even scatty vocals or Michael Ratledge's undeniably Herbie Hancock-esque keyboard work, there is definitely a sense here that group was raised just as much on jazz as it was on rock and roll. Both albums are divided into two sidelong suites that range in length from less than a minute to in excess of seven minutes. For all of the idiosyncratic and (presumably) sarcastically narcissistic lyrics and patience-trying density of the layout of the albums, you have to really take a step back and marvel at just how revolutionary and new this music must have sounded like in 1968. There is plenty here that could easily be considered right alongside the Krautrock bands that people seem to give a lot more credit to (for whatever reason). You really have to scratch your head with something like 'We Did it Again.' Essentially a fuzzier ripoff of 'You Really Got Me' — and yet, it still sounds fresh. The first album is a bit more solid overall, as Kevin Ayres is still in the band on guitar and it's just the trio playing some wildly psychedelic pop. The second album goes a bit more jazzy, with the addition of a horn section and Ayres being traded out for bassist Hugh Hopper. Two very distinct affairs, but both equally as revelatory in their own ways. Pretty fun stuff.

Hugh Hopper and Alan Gowen — Two Rainbows Daily (1980)

An all instrumental duets album that features Alan Gowen on various keyboards and Hugh Hopper playing his electric bass through various effects and pedals, both playing several parts through overdubbing. While not strictly a jazz album, it ventures closer to jazz than anything else. Kind of in an ECM mode, as it does get very ambient and nearly new agey at certain points. Something like 'Morning Order' (famously sampled by Common) is the kind of song I think of when I envision two aging British hippies getting together to have a cup of tea and make music. Lovely stuff, actually. The fuzzy bass tones and early synths do date this one pretty quickly, but the musical conversations these guys have are interesting to eavesdrop on, for sure. The album closes out with the fantastic nine minute ballad 'Waltz for Nobby.' This CD reissue features five tracks from a one-off trio performance (that features the headlining duo with Nigel Morris on drums) that is most certainly a jazz date. It does not compliment the proper album very well, but as its own session, it's not too bad. Highlighted by the eerie 'Little Dream,' it definitely illustrates that these guys were just as comfortable in a purely jazz setting.

Radiohead — Go to Sleep and There There EPs (2003)

Six b-sides from the Hail to the Thief album. As Radiohead b-sides go, they're all over the place, from acoustic numbers (the lovely 'Gagging Order') to glitchy electronic tunes (the surprisingly tuneful 'I am Citizen Insane'). The Amnesiac b-side 'Fog' shows up in a live solo Thom rendition, where he accompanies himself on piano and that's just fun (seriously, a b-side getting live love is awesome anyway, but to actually put out the live recording is great). 'Paperbag Writer' and 'I am a Wicked Child' sound like the album that birthed them, while the paranoid electronic doodle 'Where the Bluebirds Fly' sounds like a leftover from the Amnesiac b-sides. Definitely hardcore fan fodder, but good for what it is.