Grab bag! Been a while, let's get to it!
HB Barnum — The Golden Boy Instrumental Album (1965)
Nothing here too beat-y, but good listening nonetheless, as it's the cream of the LA session crop and HB arranging those big wonderful crescendos. Not as all out funky as HB would get in a few years time, it's actually more at home in the easy listening side of things. The ballads are where it's at, mostly. Produced by David Axelrod, of course. Key tracks: it's all of one piece, but check out 'I Want to be With You' and get reminded of your grandparents 50th wedding anniversary party.
William Tyler — Deseret Canyon (2008/reissued 2015)
First released under the name the Paper Hats in Germany only, Merge decided to reissue this album —which can now be properly assigned as William Tyler's solo debut— this past Record Store Day. Super nice package, complete with a gatefold cover. It kicks off with the thirteen minute opus 'Man of Oran', which is an awesome statement of purpose. Just to prove he's not dicking around, track two is the tuneful twelve minute, twelve string jangler 'Parliament of Birds.' The middle section of the album is occupied by more concise pieces and one psychedelic sound collage. It's all very Fahey-esque. Another epic to end the album and it's quite likely Will's most resonating tune, pre-Impossible Truth. Wonderful to finally have it physically. Key tracks: the long ones!
Fine Steps — Boy's Co. (2012)
A Sacramento and San Francisco pop underground supergroup, of sorts, Fine Steps play modern jangle like nobody's business. 'Dig Me In' nails the Smiths so perfectly, I can't believe this didn't catch on. 'Course, the dummies only pressed like 500 or some ridiculous thing. Finishing up the opening one-two combo punch is 'The Heat' and that's a darned great start. Things never really waver from there and, as far as jangle pop goes, these dudes have tunes for days. Check out the stuff on Bandcamp (highlights conspicuously missing though) and then go check out 'Patty Smith Hearst' for the most resonating Echo and the Bunnymen song you've never heard until right now. Top gear, all the way. Just wish they had put out more stuff. Key tracks: 'Dig Me In', 'The Heat' and 'Pardon Me'
Crisis Arm — Rend (2014)
Hemet, California newgazers (that's "new shoegaze" for the uninitiated). They play shoegaze in the most faithful of ways, so when I say that, 'Resemblance' shouldn't come as the shock that it no doubt will. There's a lot of bands that can rightfully claim to be influenced by Slowdive and the Valentines and the like, but there's noticeably few who actually do such a thing justice like Crisis Arm does. I mean, when I say this is a shoegaze album, it doesn't get much more satisfying for fans of the stuff than the gargantuan highlight 'Stray.' Their whole catalogue is on the Spotify, but it would behoove you to check out their Bandcamp for tons of extras. Just now catching up to this, otherwise it would definitely have made my best of 2014 picks. Key tracks: 'Stray', 'Resemblance' and the beautifully woozy closer 'Sunder'
Gary McFarland — Today (1969)
Easy pop on Gary's Skye label. Mostly covers, some of them quite bizarre. Things begin with a winningly whispery, indeed almost folky rendition of the Beatles' 'Because.' Onward to the goofy spoken word variation of Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne.' Elsewhere there's bossa bachelor pad scatstrumental covers of Stevie Wonder, more Beatles and a couple Brazilian standards that you'd swear he'd already done before this album: 'The Shadow of Your Smile' and 'Desafinado.' The two originals (the guitarist Sam Brown feature 'Shadows are Falling' and 'Sambras de Saudade') are excellent, though not really jazz at all — which makes sense, as Gary had moved on from any pretense of being a jazz player by this point anyway. It all ends with a fantastic version of 'Berimbau.' Ron Carter and Hubert Laws guest among the supporting cast of excellent musicians. Not a total winner —and Gary has much better albums in this vein— but a must if you're a fan. It's on Spotify if you're curious. Key tracks: 'Because', 'Shadows are Falling' and 'Sambras de Saudade'
Matching Mole — Matching Mole's Little Red Record (1972)
Released the same calendar year as the band's self-titled debut, it gets even further out than that record. Just have a listen to 'Marchides' and you'll get a very good picture of where this album is headed, as the first three minutes is all scorching doodly chaos. Some fantastic rhodes piano work in the middle section, though. There's a concept at work here and sometimes, like on 'Gloria Gloom', it threatens to overtake the actual music. I prefer the instrumentals much more over the vocal tunes, as they really find the band exploring some interesting territory. This is the standard one disc edition of the album; there is an expanded two disc version that appends an entire live set, which I'm sure is worthwhile if you like the album (which I do). Key tracks: 'Marchides' and the closing trip 'Smoke Signal'
Kenny Barron — Sunset to Dawn (1973)
And some nice, spiritual jazz to finish things out. I was interested in this because it has one of my all time favorite sampled bits in the first minute or so of the album; I can finally cross it off my want list. Kenny plays rhodes on about half the album and he sounds really great doing so, really getting funky at certain points, but mostly he finds these deeply introspective and happy chords on the instrument; the sort of which made me love the sound of it in the first place. Overall, a darn good record by an underrated pianist. Listen on Spotify. Key tracks: the bookends 'Sunset' and 'Dawn'
If you're wondering where I've been or are worried that I don't have stuff to talk about, wonder no longer and worry not because there's this to get to. . .
We'll get there soon enough!