Monday, April 22, 2013

What's New?: 4.22.2013

Slovenly — We Shoot for the Moon (1989)

God, this band is so unjustly forgotten. And their level forgotten-ness is roughly proportional to their level of awesomeness. I don't think I've ever discussed the mighty Slovenly on RC ever before, but over the past few years, I've quietly coveted the few albums I've been able to find in used bins. I have no idea how to describe them. The Red Hot Chili Peppers on Mother's Milk, except with two lead guitarists, a singer that couldn't sing but was accidentally writing lyrics like the new Bob Dylan and good (apologies to RHCP fans everywhere, but they stunk in those days). And yet, that only scratches the surface. This is their fourth album and it sounds like the band was intending it to be their big masterpiece. It's sprightly and colorful, where their previous album was subdued and one-dimensional (though totally great, as well). It rocks about as straightforwardly as Slovenly could (which is to say, it's still arty as hell). Singer Steven Anderson's Ian Curtis on mushrooms style reaches its apex on this album, with songs like 'A Year With No Head' (going all in with the Dylan-isms) going straight into the deliciously genuine slacker manifesto 'Spy Surf' without blinking an eye. The band is top gear here, the whole time, rocking out and riffing like they never had before. 'Self Pity Song' sums up the streamlined Slovenly approach perfectly. It's fantastic. And then they cover Neil Young. Fantastic-er. Shame this band's catalogue is stuck in SST purgatory. They really are one of the most unique (and best) American bands of the 80's.

Dinosaur Jr. — Fossils (late 80's)

Just a short singles collection, but Dinosaur is just kicking my butt these days, so this will be a nice place holder until I can get the proper albums. Even though I knew a few these tunes pretty well already, I did not have them on any format, so yeah. No less than three American indie rock classics are included: the excessive and pretty much band trademark 'Little Fury Things' (featuring Lee Ranaldo on proto-screamo), the surprisingly tuneful 'In A Jar' and the band's brilliantly messy deconstruction of 'Just Like Heaven.' All completely ace. 'Freak Scene' is on here, too, along with another sloppy (but respectful) cover tune, along with 'Keep the Glove' (which was the mellow b-side to 'Freak Scene', pointing the way towards Dinosaur's moody future).

Dinosaur Jr. — Without A Sound (1994)

I remember the band's biggest hit, 'Feel the Pain,' as a staple of MTV and radio in my early teen years.  It wasn't my thing back then at all, so I won't even pretend like I understood it.  Hard thing to do when you never give something a chance.  Hearing it though now, as the leadoff track on this album, time signature switches and nearly confrontational repetition makes me nostalgic for those days.  Granted, yes, I'm on a Dinosaur bender lately, so I'm prone to that sort of nonsense, but it's still a great tune.  The rest of the album is more in the subdued later Dinosaur vein —— very Neil and Crazy Horse-ish, actually.  Not bad!  I understand a lot of big fans from the time don't really rate this stuff too highly, as they say it was basically a J. Mascis solo venture at this point (which it was, to be honest).  But, hey man, I like the tunes.  I actually really like the quieter ballads on here: 'Outta Hand' and 'Seemed Like the Thing to Do' (fantastic guitar tone here!).  But, it does rock out, in a very 90's-sounding way.  The whole is a lot better than the pieces may propose.  Great stuff.

The B-52's — Cosmic Thing (1989)

This is at least the fourth time I've purchased this album.  And yeah, I've acquired and reacquired this thing that many times because it's that good.  So, not much to say about this one.  Yeah, it has 'Love Shack' and I'm frankly sick of that song, thank you very much.  But hey, 'Deadbeat Club.'  And, I don't care, 'Roam' is great.  Side two of the album is amazing, actually.  'Topaz' has always been my favorite B-52's song and it's easily the last great thing they did.  Yeah, this album is easy to overlook because it was such a blockbuster, but I like to think of it as a triumph in that respect.  Because, without sounding too crotchety, I sure wouldn't mind seeing something as good as 'Roam' on the charts these days.

Donny Hathaway — self-titled (1971)

One of the albums that defined me in my late teens and early twenties.  Gospel-tinged Chicago soul from the peak years.  It just occurred to me upon seeing it (still sealed!) in the dollar bin: I've never had this one on CD.  Ergo, I've never heard the two bonus tracks that are on this disc.  Imagine my disappointment to see that they are christmas songs.  But still, the proper album is a personal classic for the ages.  It didn't dawn on me until later that it's essentially a covers album, but Donny makes every last tune here his own, giving everything a slow, dramatic makeover.  'Giving Up' as a side one/track one represents the album pretty well, as it very rarely raises the tempo any higher than that.  'Magnificent Sanctuary Band' picks things up and begins with a classic breakbeat.  But, other than those highlights, I'd say this is more of a front-to-back listen to really "get it."

Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions — Through the Devil Softly (2009)

No excuses for not being up on this one sooner. It's more of an even-handed affair than her previous album, with no immediate standouts, but a very pure end-to-end vibe. No surprise covers or appearances from folk rock legends this go 'round; nope, nothin' but dreamy tunes here. So, if you dig the vibe of tunes like 'For the Rest of Your Life', you know there's plenty here to latch onto. 'Trouble' is the one tune that raises the tempo up a bit and, with it's eerie 60's pop sound, it sticks out. But yeah, mostly a very unified and lovely album.

Sex Pistols — Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols (1977)

I didn't have this album. . . . wait, what!???!!? Might as well end it with a classic, I s'pose. I know this album very well, but somehow it's slipped through the cracks of my collection over the years. Some people are so punk that they will deny how good this album is. Not I, however. And I don't even really care for "classic punk." It's offensive and sneery and loud and catchy as hell. Besides the obvious picks, I've always thought 'Holidays in the Sun' was actually the best track on the album (how appropriate that a punk band should have a side one/track one that's as incredible as that tune). Sure, what it berthed is worlds better, but there's a reason a lot of my favorite music of all time started here. Not much more to say about this one.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring Podcast

A new mix.  Happy to be sad/sad to be happy.  Whatever.  Slow and acoustic-y.

The Turn of the Screw (conclusion)
Pink Floyd — Grantchester Meadows
Mark Burgess + Yves Altana — Hollin High
Morrissey — I Know Very Well How I Got My Name
The Durutti Column — Please Let Me Sleep
Leo Kottke — Tiny Island
Kristin Hersh — Gazebo Tree
David J — Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh (Revisited)
Bob Dylan — Girl From the North Country
Dick Gaughan — Both Sides the Tweed
Fleet Foxes — Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
Björk — Desired Constellation
David Crosby — Where Will I Be?
PJ Harvey — Sweeter Than Anything
Fotheringay — Nothing More
Aztec Two-Step — Cockroach Cacaphony
America — Donkey Jaw
The Pentangle — Child of the Winter
John Martyn — Call Me Crazy
Neil Young — Will to Love
The Appleseed Cast — Silas' Knife
Van Morrison — Snow in San Anselmo
The Finn Brothers — Only Talking Sense
David Sylvian — A Fire in the Forest
Nick Drake — From the Morning

Unimpressed at this point.