Thursday, June 30, 2011

I wish I had the patience for Facebook. I really do.

But, instead, it's like. . .

And I'm all. . .

Fucking FALSE presentations, man.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's New?: 6.28.2011

I don't know, man. I can't explain this combination. . .

Big Boi — Sir Luscious Left Foot. . . The Son of Chico Dusty (2010)

I mean, I get that Big Boi is trying to do something different and establish his name outside of OutKast as his own brand, but this sounds kind of crappy, for the most part. Musically, it's interesting at times, for a synth-heavy production. I guess that's my main problem with it: OutKast used to stand out musically. A groundbreaking swirl of live instruments, samples and electronic beats. The sounds were modern, but natural. But here, it just feels like Big Boi is emulating, instead of originating, sounds. I was actually one of very few people in the world who preferred his half of OutKast's precedent-setting "two solos packaged as group album" Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. In fact, I've always contended that Big Boi's Speakerboxxx was actually, musically speaking, the more boundary-pushing of the two albums. And his tracks on Idlewild (an album that I actually came to admire, despite feeling fairly lukewarm about initially) had an incredible grasp on the pop and "weird" aspects that OutKast's music had always possessed. But this album. I dunno. It feels, at times, like Big Boi doing a send up of the contemporary music climate's obsession with ultra-shiny, somehow retro-80's, synth-heavy production. And granted, his view of this sort of thing is a much more unique and melodically rich interpretation, as an OutKast fan who bought ATLiens on its release date and sat uninterrupted staring at the stereo to take it all in that night, I can't help but feel like he's regressing. Sure, there's grooves and nice little hooks throughout, but where 'The Way You Move' achieved its success because of similar vibes, it felt genuine and humble. Pretty much all of this material seems to strive to recapture that same vibe, but it feels a lot less sincere. All the porno references and juvenile-minded skits just don't sound convincing coming from a guy that's approaching 40. Big Boi just seems to be going through the motions for the most part. There's nothing even as substantial as 'Morris Brown' here and I never thought anything from the OutKast camp would dip lower than the Idlewild album. The only song here that even approaches that old OutKast feeling is 'The Train Pt. 2 (Sir Luscious Left Foot Saves the Day)' which finds Big Boi and Organized Noize in absolute sync in a moment highly reminiscent of Aquemini. I held off on buying this one when it was new. So now, roughly a year later, removed from the hype, I can't even begin to express my disappointment. Sure, for overproduced, crappy modern synth pop, it's top tier. But for someone from the mighty OutKast to stoop to that level and release something as lacking in substance as this, I can't help but feel like a little bit of my musical soul has died. Because most of this music is devoid of just that. I'm baffled by the overtly positive reviews it initially received.

Mark Isham — Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project (1999)

A recent nostalgic revisit to David Sylvian's Secrets of the Beehive made me listen to Mark Isham's playing and think to myself that I needed some of his own albums in my life. I saw this one for very cheap on Amazon and figured it would probably be the best gateway into his music: I was curious about his playing and I already loved Miles, so it would be a very easy listen. After reading a lot of reviews of Isham's albums and knowing that he was generally classified as a "new age" musician, I have to admit, I was apprehensive. However, if that is the case, this album betrays his other works. Because he is basically playing a very faithful rendition of electric fusion-era Miles. With a couple of surprisingly convincing originals inspired by Miles' fusion era (the screaming, busy fusion of 'Internet' and the outright jaw dropping ambient ballad 'Azael') and a radical reworking of 'All Blues', the source material here is all covers of Miles' 1967-1973 material. A seriously funked up 'Spanish Key' (which really plays up the explosive nature of the tune) and a downright wonderful reading of 'Ife' don't hurt things at all. Honestly, going in expecting new age music, the closest thing here is the rendition of 'In A Silent Way' which he brilliantly medleys with 'Milestones.' But even that double feature has arguably a better grasp on space and ambiance than the original did. Peter Maunu and Steve Cardenas are great on guitars, doing their most appreciative John McLaughlin and Pete Cosey imitations the entire time. Overall, really hard for me to dislike an album of somebody playing music in this period of Miles' career with so much care. Not mindblowing, but enjoyable as heck.

David Crosby and Graham Nash — Crosby & Nash (2004)

It does feel a little bit cheesy at times. Still, knowing that these guys really are just hippie idealists, the tunes come off as light, but having a naive appeal. I am a bit disappointed that, of the two discs contained here, disc one is so top-loaded with songs not written by David or Graham. It should be no surprise, then, that the first truly interesting song doesn't pop up until track three (Crosby's vintage sounding 'Through Here Quite Often' which comes complete with the awesomely naive lyric, "They say don't talk to strangers, I say why the hell not?"). Overall, the production is very samey and unfortunately compressed (say goodbye to all those dynamic harmonies from the old albums!), but the new tunes written just by David or Graham are quite nice, I must confess (in fact, Crosby's 'How Does it Shine?' which closes out disc one is completely vintage and totally good). Very comfortable, folk rock sound. Not amazing, but definitely good for fans of the duo.

Cocteau Twins — Treasure (1984)

Always fun to revisit a classic. I know I've had this album before, but I don't know what made me part ways with it. Anyway, it's a winner, through and through. Everybody seems to love the everloving bejesus out of 'Lorelei' and why not? It's definitely one of the Cocteau's catchiest moments. I've always thought 'Otterley' was a really underrated song. I would like to officially propose it as the starting point for 'Falling Through the Ice' by the Ocean Blue. 'Pandora' is great too, isn't it? Yeesh, what great music. I can't even imagine how unique it must have sounded at the time. Wonderful stuff.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's New?: 6.22.2011

More musical odds and ends. . .

Gary Numan — Telekon (1980)

I avoided anything post-Pleasure Principle for years, again, because of what I perceived to be an authority (but which I now realize is just a source for good information — a place where I should probably just ignore the editorial views). I mean, sheesh, this is Gary arguably doing the Pleasure Principle part two. But hey, last I checked, the Pleasure Principle was pretty much a one of a kind, era-defining album. So, to have the same guy that did that do a not quite as good redux doesn't really strike me as a bad thing, altogether. And hey, I'm essentially right, because Telekon is basically the same sort of detached, exquisitely layered, early synth pop — all it lacks is the one knockout blow that Pleasure Principle had with 'Cars.' Telekon captures that epic keyboard mini-symphony sound that Pleasure Principle captured so well initially. It's not more produced or more shiny or lacking hooks or any of the usual cliches that usually apply to albums following huge hits. It does lack the one big hit, but that's only because I'm looking at it in retrospect. I imagine, if I was there in 1980, anticipating it after Pleasure Principle, I'd be pleased as punch with it. And, with the inclusion of mini-post-'Cars' masterpieces like 'I Die: You Die', 'The Aircraft Bureau' and pretty much the bulk of side two, I find no faults with this one. And, perhaps most importantly, I see myself going back to it often just because of the unfamiliarity of the material.

Gary Numan — Dance (1981)

And this one, also despite lacking a big 'Cars'-esque hit, should be as highly regarded as anything else in the early run of Gary Numan's catalogue. Sure, it mostly ditches the analogue synths and the adopts a very pronounced fretless electric bass sound, but that's just the thing, isn't it? For the first time since arguably Replicas, Gary is evolving and getting more interesting. There is a very slow, slightly dark undertone to the whole thing. But the sheer scope of the album has to be marveled at. There's not one, but two nine minute epics ('Slow Car to China' and 'Cry the Clock Said') that are just about the best things with Gary's name on them that I've yet heard. Overall, not my favorite Gary Numan album, but easily number two, just because of the new sounds it contains. There's shades of OMD, Japan and old Numan material on this album, combined with a new sense of ambition and a grasp on space and longing melodies. Cool stuff.

Led Zeppelin — Houses of the Holy (1973)

Probably the best synthesis of Zeppelin doing the hard rocker and folk rocker thing simultaneously. They got bloated after this, but for this album, everything feels genuinely exploratory and new. The fully successful integration of keyboards into songs like 'Rain Song' and especially 'No Quarter' only ups the ante in the debate of the people versus Led Zeppelin as original songwriters (hint, they certainly didn't nick those riffs from anywhere that I know of). They do fall back on the old blues cliches a time or two, but less than ever; especially for a Zeppelin album. I will begrudgingly admit that this is a damn good album, and probably the band's most diverse and just best overall.

Pink Floyd — Music from the Film "More" (1969)

More early post-Syd, pre-Dark Side Floyd. Arguably my favorite period of the band. I'm already a self-confessed fan of "mess" and/or "transitional" albums and the Floyd made a few of those in these years. It's got some more rockin', strangely garagey moments ('The Nile Song') alongside purely instrumental, nearly ambient goodness (the excellently floaty 'Quicksilver' and a lot of the second half of the album). So, yeah. Strange times and lots of druggy sounds. I dig it. The lyrics aren't as preachy as they would come to be and the music is a lot more interesting than the guitar jam-focused affair that the Floyd would become in a few years (not to say that that wasn't good for what it was; I just prefer a little more diversity for diversity's sake). Really good stuff; and, if nothing else, just goes to support my "Pink Floyd as early progenitor of post-rock" philosophy even more.

Echo and the Bunnymen — Crocodiles (1980)

No excuses for not having this one around previously (especially since I've had the rest of the band's 80's output in my collection for years). I recall hearing it, roughly ten years ago, thanks to Reno legend Chris Hubbell, ad nauseum. So I definitely recognized a chunk of the songs on the proper album. But, wow, when I go back and sit down with it: quite a striking debut, to say the least. It's like Joy Division swirled around with some outright psychedelic moments. Fantastic post-punk stuff and it's hard for me to grasp that this was only the band's first album and that they had so many more highlights ahead of them. A classic of its era, that's for darn sure.

The Comsat Angels — My Mind's Eye (1992)

Finally, a physical acquisition after years of only having it digitally. I will maintain the same thing that I have since I first heard it: it's overrated by quite a bit. The band doesn't help either. Going around, raving about how they just loved recording it. Yes, it's good. Very good in comparison to some of their previous albums, but it's not like this thing is even seeing Sleep No More or Fiction (and, in fact, I'd argue that the Glamour is actually the better of the Comsats' two 9o's albums). There's no bad songs here and this deluxe (or, more like, "revised") edition on Renascent is the definitive. It definitely sounds like the band trying to be less intentionally commercial, but it does have a bit of a cheesy sound at times (especially in the guitar effects). Still, it is very consistent and, for the first time, there are some downright rock out moments that finally fulfill the urge to do so that the band had seemingly had since its early days. Overrated, but still worth the time and money.

Ben Webster — See You at the Fair (1965)

Ben Webster was one of the grandaddies of bebop tenor sax and it took him a long time to finally be able to lead smaller group sessions. But when he finally was given the opportunity to do just that, he just started rolling out album after album after album of downright classics. Mostly leaning on the smooth jam/classy ballad side of things, he honestly never sounded better. I guess file this one into that same category because it is completely in line with the precedent with its conspicuous greatness. Hank Jones is ace on piano and Ben sounds downright godlike for most of the material. He plays these long, melodic runs that aren't necessarily flashy, but jeez oh man, are they inventive (and, not to mention, completely awesome). The best part about the music Webster was playing in the later years of his life is that it retained a strong blues influence, without sounding irrelevant. He was genuinely inspired during these years and I'd like to think that he mostly stuck to ballads because he was wanting to be purely melodic and intentionally beautiful (mission accomplished). This edition of the album on Impulse is the definitive, gathering up bonus tracks from a label sampler and the best of Webster's features on Oliver Nelson's More Blues and the Abstract Truth. Just glaringly awesome stuff.

The Cocteau Twins — BBC Sessions (1982, 1983, 1984, 1996)

This magnificent two disc set definitely presents the case for the Cocteaus as one of the quintessential post-punk bands to emerge from the whole thing. The first tracks here are from a John Peel session in mid-1982 that predates the release of the band's seriously underrated first album and they find them full in blazing, wah-wah'd out drum machine glory. The last of the 8o's sessions documented here finds them running through three tracks from Treasure about a month before the album was released and sounding like they had the absolute true believer faith in the material (in fact, I'd nominate the version of 'Otterley' as played here to be the definitive). The two sessions from the 9o's that round out disc two are nothing if not intriguing. They provide a view of the band's neglected later day material with a more immediate take and, despite the drum machine being absent, fit right in with everything else here. And, if nothing else —amongst a smattering of rarities— three of the Cocteaus absolute best songs ever get two renditions a piece (that'd be 'Hitherto', 'From the Flagstones' and the epic 'Musette and Drums'). Really spectacular stuff.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's New?: 6.16.2011

Bits and pieces, old and new, so on and whatnot. . .

The The — Dusk (1993)

Although very popular as one of the big budget alt-rock bands of the late 80's and early 90's, The The is nearly forgotten these days. Poor Johnny Marr; some of his best post-Smiths was distributed amongst what have now become footnotes that only dorks like me know about (that would be Electronic and the topic of this review, The The). As The The is essentially Matt Johnson's guise for himself and whoever he happens to be recording with at the time, you have to approach every single album under the moniker as an entity unto itself. I've had a rough go of things with the band, honestly. I've bought up (and then traded back in, a few months later) the whole of the group's 80's output two or three times over. And yet, the past time I did that exact same thing, I held onto everything from Burning Blue Soul through Mind Bomb. I put in the work, vigilantly listened through headphones on the bus and several walks around town and I guess I finally got it, because I found the band's four 80's albums taking up nearly permanent residence on my iPod. Dusk though, is another chapter entirely. My best initial description is that it's Mind Bomb meets Burning Blue Soul. That big budget production and decidedly resonating left-field songcraft meets full on artsy tunefulness. As always, Matt Johnson is melodramatic as hell. But, in many ways, this feels like his true masterpiece — the big, overbearing finale that he's been working towards all along. 'Slow Emotion Replay' is pretty much godlike. Arguably Johnny Marr's best recorded harmonica performance accompanied by Johnson's most earnest lyric ever ("Everybody knows what's going wrong with the world, but I don't even know what's going wrong with myself") combine for a magical moment. The overtone here is, as opposed to Johnson's outright anger at religion, a genuine disconnect with social interpretations of what "GOD" is or may be and a complete plunge inwards to explore that very same topic. If it weren't all set to a totally great big budget (arguably dated, but nonetheless appealing) slightly Americana tinged musical backdrop, it may not have the resonance that it does. But when Johnson sings the chorus, "If you can't change the world, change yourself and if you can't change yourself, change your world" on the album's closer 'Lonely Planet' it feels very honest and maybe like he actually believes it. Affecting stuff. Shouldn't have waited so long to check it out. Arguably the band's best album.

Miles Davis — Aura (1985)

A tough turkey, to be completely sure. I love Miles, without question but I have firmly avoided his 80's material after being duped (i.e. Yes, I'm taking shots at Scott fucking Yanow again). However, a friend of a friend (who happens to be a novice Miles scholar in his own right), mentioned to me (at a chance meeting) that Aura is really the only 80's Miles that stands up with his pre-retirement material. And, first things first: it sounds NOTHING like his other 80's albums. That's for damn sure. It's a kind of modern classical/free funk hybrid. And its compositions were by a Danish guy (by the name of Palle Mikkelborg) who based the chords on letters from Miles' full name. And it's the last album that Miles recorded for Columbia (and, subsequently, the last one he had nothing but good to say about; his own words: 'Masterpiece'). The 80's cliches of big, overtly echoey drums, cheesy guitar effects and borderline embarrassing synthesizer sounds are present. But, in his solos, Miles sounds truly inspired. In the middle trilogy of tracks 'Green', 'Blue' and 'Electric Red' he sounds invigorated and inspired, not intimidated, by the overtly "modern" production sounds. I mean, hell, I praise for David Sylvian, Jon Hassell and Talk Talk albums of the same period for essentially the same things that I've subtracted points off of Miles' 80's output for so long. A lot of reviews I've read compare this to Miles' work with Gil Evans and while I definitely don't hear that, I guess I do get it now because, in addition to (awesomely) sounding like an inspiration to David Axelrod's 90's albums, I hear a definite similarity between what Mikkelborg and Miles were doing here and what like-minded rock bands were doing within the context that they knew. Very heady and nearly soundtracky music. I guess, consider it Miles' last truly artistic hurrah. Just be ready to deal with dated production.

Mazzy Star — Among My Swan (1996)

Oh, Mazzy Star. How I heart you so. This band. And this album! This fucking album right here! Have accompanied me through a lot in the last few years. And yet, I've never actually owned it. Bless and curse the internet all the same, in that regard I guess. Certainly their least exploratory and safest album, Among My Swan still strikes me as Dave and Hope's overall most accomplished album. It's also definitely their most acoustic-based. Things like 'Cry Cry' and 'Disappear' are downright pastoral, when you really take a step back and consider it. Will Reid's feature on 'Take Everything' is an indie dork landmark and really representative of the whole album: a boozy, slow-paced haze of an album. It's always been my favorite of the band's three albums and it's pretty darn relevant, even fifteen years after the fact. Loverly music, through and through.

Mazzy Star — So Tonight that I Might See (1993)

What the band is remembered for, and rightly so, as it's a darn fine album. Of course, the big hit was 'Fade Into You' and it still holds up after this long. But I still prefer the quieter, more acoustic-based side of the band. 'Five String Serenade' is unstintingly wonderful and things like 'Unreflected' and 'Into Dust' only make me happier. The title track ends things sounding like Crazy Horse meets the Pentangle and I can't help but think that this is one of weirdest hit albums of the 90's.

Jon Hassell — Fascinoma (1999)

I mean, Jon Hassell just does something else entirely all the time. Is it jazz? Is it new age? Is it ambient? No, not quite. And yet, it could easily fit into any of the above. I think I've actually found the manifesto for people who have the boldness to ask me what his music sounds like. And it's on this album. His Martin Denny-meets-electric Miles makeover of 'Caravan' (retitled here 'Caravanesque') is an in-general statement of purpose for a master. Funny how this album is now over a decade old and yet, it still sounds completely new and wonderful. I really should have more Hassell albums around. No excuses.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trembling Blue Stars Live

Hey kids—

As you are all probably well aware by now, I am a ridiculously big Bob Wratten fan. I've clamored to see the man live for at least five years now. But the problem is some twats booed him or something on his last tour and he figured that playing live was not worth his time.


I was not astute enough to catch him on his last venture along the west coast in 2002, so this is just about as close as I'll get: A thirty minute solo acoustic audience recording from 14 November of 2002 at a place called the Co-op (presumably on or around the UCLA campus): download here.

This incredibly cool person uploaded video of the set on YouTube and I have ripped the the audio from there as a zip file.

Do enjoy. Because it is quite revelatory for me.


PS — Please advise if there are any issues with posting this audio and I will delete all links and files immediately. I only share because I do believe the man is genius and needs to be heard in this setting more often.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Post-Punk Summer (original 2008 mix)

I did this mix three years ago in the midst of horrible wildfires burning all around Reno. Surround by grey smoke, orange sunlight and 90 degree temperatures, I thought these songs accompanied the atmosphere pretty well.


01 Joy Division — Transmission (John Peel Session) (1979)
02 Throwing Muses — And a She Wolf After the War (Doghouse Cassette demo) (1985)
03 The Sound — Hothouse (John Peel Session) (1981)
04 Modern English — The Prize (1982)
05 The Comsat Angels — Independence Day (1980)
06 Translator — Nothing is Saving Me (1982)
07 For Against — Shine (1986)
08 Tones on Tail — Burning Skies (1983)
09 The Chameleons — Swampthing (live) (1987)
10 Sonic Youth — I Dreamed I Dream (1982)
11 The Psychedelic Furs — All of this and Nothing (1981)
12 The Cure — A Chain of Flowers (1987)
13 The Go-Betweens — Twin Layers of Lightning (1986)
14 The Durutti Column — Bordeaux (1983)
15 The Jesus and Mary Chain — On the Wall (demo) (1987)

Download link.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

What's New?: 6.11.2011

A wealth of stuff; let's get into it. . .

Uncle Tupelo — Anodyne (1993)

Re-acquisition, of sorts. I know I've known this album before, but I just can't honestly say if I've ever actually owned it (my Napster days are kind of hazy). In any case, I can honestly say that I didn't get it however long ago I first heard it. I think I checked it out because I was really into Yankee Hotel Foxtrot at the time and I wanted to dig deeper. I was just then getting into Neil Young for the Crazy Horse aspect of his music, so while I definitely was able to appreciate (and still do love) 'The Long Cut', things like 'Slate' and the (now I realize to be awesome) title track were completely lost on me. With contemporary ears, I hear a very solid, distinctly American, modern folk rock album. Very good stuff and I now feel like I need to dig into Jay Farrar's post-Tupelo work.

U2 — New Year's Day 7" single (1983)

Essentially purchased and graded for its b-side: 'Treasure (Whatever Happened to Pete the Chop).' A seriously rockin' tune, it's very much worthy of the rest of the War material from which it can be most certainly aligned with. Good stuff — I tacked it onto War as a bonus track and it fits right on.

Dream Command — Fire on the Moon (1990)

This is the MIGHTY Comsat Angels recording under a different band name through a series of convoluted events. Released only in America and Holland. I avoided this album for years, even as a huge Comsats fan, because of one main thing: this review. Just further proof that AMG may be an invaluable information source, but that their editorial portions should be taken with a grain of salt. I mean, sure, it's the Comsats going for a pretty dumbed down sound. But, honestly, besides the keyboards being mixed in a bit louder here, it's not all that different from Chasing Shadows. A revisit to Renascent's awesome To Before collection revealed an interesting new perspective of 'She's Invisible' 'Venus Hunter' and especially 'Ice Sculpture.' I mean, I can sit through this album just fine and hear plenty of characteristics that I love about the Comsats: Steve Fellows' plain, but expressive vocals, Kevin Bacon's distinctive basslines and an all around sense of great, but purposely sparse guitar playing. I actually like it. I mean, hell, the Cure have made worse records than this and they're universally more well-respected than the Comsats. It's a hell of a lot better than 7 Day Weekend, that's for sure.

Marvin Gaye — What's Going On deluxe edition (1971/1972)

So much has been said about this album —and specifically, its words— that I perhaps have taken it for granted over the years. Sure, I've always had it in some form (in fact, this purchase replaces my beat up old original vinyl) and it's always struck me as a pleasantly bleak experience, I don't know how much I really have been able to appreciate it on its own merits. Sure, I dig it. And its title track is one of the greatest pieces of American social commentary ever written, but I don't know. I guess I've always been kind of bitter that Marvin went on to make, speaking from a production point of view, two of the greatest albums of the 70's in its wake (Let's Get it On and I Want You) and those albums always take a back seat to this one because it's "important." Fuck that, if Bob Dylan can spit out ridiculous stream of conscious tone poems on Blonde on Blonde (an album I happen to love as well) after years of writing "important" music, then Marvin should also be able to delve inwards (in a more sensual way) and get just as many accolades. But whatever, the baggage is what it is. The music press has re-written this album into its place in popular music history as it has. I still love it and hearing it in the two mixes presented here —the originally released smoother mix and the rough around the edges "Detroit Mix"— definitely gives me a new perspective on the album. The extras beyond that are generally excellent. The "rhythm and strings" mix included at the end of disc one is so good, I can't even do it justice with words. Besides harmonies, it, if nothing else, singlehandedly makes one realize that it's more than the words that make this album great. The original single version of 'God is Love' is a dream come true for me, as that has always been my sleeper favorite on the album. It sounds like much more of a stock Motown production of the time, but slows the tune down so it lasts three full minutes. Rounding things out, you get a nearly full performance of the album live that is valuable for nothing else than Marvin just fucking with the band — and the band never faltering one bit. An earlier take of 'Flyin' High In the Friendly Sky' (titled here 'Sad Tomorrows') is great, while 'Head Title' is a very early demo for 'Distant Lover' and clearly points the direction to where Marvin was headed. Overall, I have a new perspective on this album and I like it even more after hearing this edition — which is the point, after all, isn't it?

Marvin Gaye — I Want You deluxe edition (1976)

Just godlike status, basically. The title track on this album is one of the greatest songs ever written. Funk rock fuzz guitar swirling badass manifesto. Goddamn perfection, basically. I've always loved it. Always will. The "Vocal and Rhythm" mix presented here is just about as fucking revelatory as it gets for me. The song is such an amazingly swirling musical stew that its hard to forget one of the best singers of all time actually sang on it. But that version, if nothing else, illustrates how unique Marvin's arrangement skills were. He multi-tracked all the vocals on the song and he sounds downright incredible harmonizing with himself. Unbelievable. The instrumentals, alternate mixes and extended jams on the tunes give the listener a relevant insight into the sessions for the album and it's pretty darn interesting to hear how 'I Wanna Be Where You Are' originally started as a rambling six minute ode to Marvin's family — pretty much the antithesis of what most people would have surmised from the title. The two previously unheard songs —'You Are the Way You Are' and 'Is Anybody Thinking About Their Living?'— are fantastic. Overall, sheesh, why did I wait so long? Marvin's best album (yeah, I said it), finally given the proper treatment it deserved all along. Just alluringly good. Classic as they come and enhanced.

David Sylvian — Died in the Wool - Manafon Variations (2011)
I will review this properly in the next few days. . .


Sunday, June 5, 2011

What's New?: 6.5.2011

Couple of new releases on vinyl — both of which, surprisingly, did not come with digital download redemption codes. . .

Death Cab for Cutie — Codes and Keys (2011)

Color me downright pleasantly surprised. I was very excited after the one-two combo of Narrow Stairs and the Open Door EP. I watched the premiere for the performed live 'You Are A Tourist' music video and the song did not blow me away. It was a change, because the pre-album singles for their last two albums ('Soul Meets Body' from Plans and 'I Will Possess Your Heart' from Narrow Stairs) blew me entirely away right off the bat. But, with this new material, I didn't really feel compelled to go back and play it again right away. It was "just Ok." I bought the nice double 180 gram gatefold cover vinyl edition because it just felt right. Got it home, dropped the needle and turned up my old Carver stereo. Including sounding dynamically great, the material is actually really good too. I will have to mirror the wealth of other reviews for the album that point that it's not very guitar heavy. But they've been heading this way since Plans, haven't they? Keyboards have always been a part of the band's sound, but this album finds them to be central to the melodic ideas offered up. Nick Harmer's basslines are still very prominent and Chris Walla is still around to add echoey harmonic accents to everything, so it doesn't feel —to me— like as much of a one-eighty as some of the reviews I've read would have had me believe. The tunes are all very reminiscent of 'Different Names for the Same Thing' from Plans. Very likable, melodic stuff with buildups developed in post-production. 'You Are a Tourist' sounds amazing smack dab in the middle of the album, at the end of record one and there is an undeniably positive warmth that the band hasn't possessed since Transatlanticism. Songs like the title track and the downright impressive 'Doors Unlocked and Open' feature a newly invigorated Gibbard spewing some of his most enthusiastic words ever. It's still cynical positivity. But it's positivity nonetheless. I really didn't know what to expect from this album, but it's arguably the DCFC pop masterwork. It does come off as a bit too sprightly with songs like 'Stay Young, Go Dancing' but I can't help but admire the absolutely genuine positivity in the material. It's infectious. And therapeutic. Marvelous stuff. I will be curious to see what I think of it in six months.

Crosby & Nash — Another Stoney Evening (1971)

I've always been a huge fan of this duo since I first got into the whole CSN+Y family of albums a few years ago. This was recorded in the buildup to their first album and, unlike the official live album that was released later on in the 70's, this is just David Crosby and Graham Nash performing without a band; just two guitars, two voices. It was released, for the first time, on CD in the mid-90's and was just released last month on vinyl for the first ever. I waited and bought it on vinyl. I'm glad I did. It's a very nice gatefold double 180 gram vinyl issue and it sounds excellent. I don't know why it wasn't released at the time. The version they play of Crosby's 'The Lee Shore' is practically definitive. Lots of stuff from that first Crosby & Nash album, plenty of CS+N stuff and, much to my delight, about a third of Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name. Overall, serious stuff and very warm music. I don't want to get too deeply into adjectives and stuff because music like this needs to be heard to be fully understood. There's a dichotomy and undeniable chemistry at play here that just bleeds with resonance and fertility. I am pleased that it was documented for my hungry ears to get a hold of eventually. Fantastic.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's New?: 6.2.2011

Love Tractor — Love Tractor (1982)

An instrumental jangle album! Has anyone ever gotten to the point where you feel you've reached absolute music nerd terminal velocity and you just don't think you can progress any further? I've kind of felt that way over the past year. I'm not a shredder when I play guitar. I like Robert Smith. I like Peter Buck. I like John Martyn. I like sparsely difficult guitar playing. I like saying more with less. Where has Love Tractor been all along? I watched Athens, GA: Inside Out while I was home sick last week (with a fucking inner ear infection, if you can fathom that extra helping of ultra irony) and I was intrigued at how nonchalantly the band just tossed out that they —initially— didn't feel like they needed vocals. Fucking A, man. Is the album any good? Hell yes it is. Very much reminds me of 83/84 era Durutti Column where Vini was just unsure of whether or not he wanted to sing and, every once in a while, would bang these unbelievable instrumental songs that somehow managed to be simultaneously floaty and catchy. So, yeah. This first Love Tractor album is totally reminiscent of some of my favorite Durutti Column material. Maybe in a bit more of an angular way though.

Love Tractor — 'Til the Cows Come Home EP (1984)

This thing starts off with one of the most amazing 80's pop songs I can't believe I've gone this long without hearing before. Perfectly understated keyboard accents, humble vocals and a heavily effected 12-string make for a downright lost classic. Holy moly, I love it. It even has 80's sax, ferchrissakes! More instrumental floaty jangle songs, a genuine (although failed) attempt at a funk song ('Greedy Dog') and a revised song from the first album (with an actual fresh take on the tune) performed live and the whole thing is over. Overall, the sort of stuff that 80's indie jangle guitar nostalgia is built upon. Not perfect by any means, but the sort of thing I continue to scour used bins for.

Love Tractor — This Ain't No Outer Space Ship (1986)

By this point (their third album), the Tractor had fully integrated vocals into their sound. It's ok. They still have a great dual jangly guitar sound, but they seem to be writing intentionally poppier material — and that just doesn't fit them. Sure, a song like 'Neon Lights' was great, even with vocals, but that's because it still retained the floaty, nearly ambient sound of their earlier work. These are mostly dumbed down pop songs. I guess it's indicative that the best songs here are the two instrumentals ('Rudolf Nureyeu' and 'We All Loved Each Other So Much') because they seem the most inspired. Great guitar sound throughout, though.

Pink Floyd — Meddle (1971)

Re-acquisition. I have known this album for a long time, but have not actually owned it for several years. I know I've owned it before, I just can't say exactly when or why I ditched it. It's good, but very scatterbrained. I guess, of all the "classic" period 70's Pink Floyd albums, it's the one that makes me most understand the comparisons between the Floyd and Radiohead. I do have to say that, of the shorter songs on side one, I definitely prefer the more acoustic-y, conventional numbers 'A Pillow of Winds' and 'Fearless.' They remind me of Neil Young, actually. Very good stuff. Catchy and poignant. Of course, everybody knows this album because of the sidelong epic 'Echoes' and rightfully so. It is definitely one of the progenitors of what we now understand as 'post rock.' Shifting time signatures, cascades of guitar effects and just a general idea of presenting rock music as more of a long form "serious" minded thing; 'Echoes' is a piece of the blueprint, for sure. Good stuff.

Bob Dylan — The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991

A wealth of stuff, but jesus christ. The ninety second long demo of 'Like A Rolling Stone' is better than anything most people would dream of recording. The best part is: you don't need to know the stuff that was released at the time to appreciate this. The demo for 'If Not for You' (which, indeed, features George Harrison just fucking godlike status on guitar) is fascinating, for instance. It sounds like neither George's version, nor Bob's own previously released version. Fawn over all this stuff as most people do, it's essentially worth sitting through these three CDs worth of material for the Blood on the Tracks demos and outtakes. It's been well acknowledged by many folks (myself included) that Blood is probably Bob's most enduring (and probably downright best) work, but christ on a crutch, just hearing those more sparse works from the surrounding sessions is just revelatory. When Bob sings "We had a falling out, like lovers often will" atop just a solo strummed acoustic guitar on the demo for 'If You See Her, Say Hello', it injects new life into the song. I can't even begin to describe how much incredible music is contained on this set. I get more and more into Bob Dylan as I get older and I guess it's easy, in retrospect, to take for granted just how brilliant he was — and how consistently so. This set —consisting of nothing but things that were deemed unfit next to his released perfection— puts it all into context. He was so good for so long that it's easy to forget just how good he was (and is). Incredibly good.