Saturday, August 20, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

So, I'd completed this week's Roundup and was all set to publish it when I hit the wrong button and erased a weeks worth of reviews. Unfortunately, I'm too drained to re-do them. Therefore, there is no Roundup this weekend. But there is always music. Here's two gem that I just found out about, covers of songs I love by a band I love. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Character Sketches

Over the next few days I'm planning to work on a number of character sketches for a new novel idea I've been playing around with in my head over the past week. It's going to feature a large number of horrors and I need to get them all straight before I can organize them in a way that makes sense. It's sort of a different way of working for me than I've done in the past and I'm looking forward to it. These are all secondary characters, but the way they come together will play a big role in the story. 

Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Woodstock Weekend

This weekend marks the 47th anniversary of the original Woodstock '69 Music Festival. I live in the area, and therefore am inundated with the event's importance on an almost regular basis, but that doesn't diminish the concert's place in history. Any list of greatest moments in Rock n Roll would surely include this in the top ten. Listening to the local radio station's tribute to Woodstock the other day, I decided to spin one record from every band who appeared at Woodstock that is represented in my collection. Here's my Woodstock weekend:

It was a great way to spend this ridiculously HOT weekend and makes up for the fact that I had no time to review new music due to a beach vacation last week. Don't worry, the Roundup will return in a few days, until then, celebrate three groovy days of love and music with some amazing performers. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

The end of the working week has arrived and with it comes my weekly blathering about music I've been listening to during the week. This was another week that mixed old with new as I try to clean through a backlog of music that has been awaiting my ears. There were some real surprises this week, some good ones, some surprisingly disappointing. Either way, all music is enjoyable in some way and I know that many people will have an opposite reaction. So give it try and see what you think. Enjoy.

Jerusalem - Jerusalem: Released in 1972, this was the only album that the heavy UK band would release before breaking up, only to reform a decade ago. This album, and band, was one that was getting attention and could've been huge. This falls somewhere between Jethro Tull and Deep Purple, with fantastic heavy riffs. In fact, it was produced by Deep Purple's Ian Gillian. "Hooded Eagle," "Frustration," and "Murder's Lament" are standouts on an exceptional record. 

Black Sabbath - The End: This EP contains four unreleased tracks recorded during the 13 sessions, and while they are straight forward Sabbath songs, it's not hard to see why they were left out of the final track list. Not embarrassing, just nothing terribly special. It also includes a few live tracks from the recent tour. Worth checking out for fans.

Nacho Picasso - Blunt Raps II: Released last summer, this is the Seattle rapper's latest mixtape, a follow up to one done a few years ago. Over the past few years, Nacho has become my favorite rapper. His flow is like no other, and he always comes out with some lines that make me smile. This is classic Nacho, some of his best work and highly recommended.

Tales of Murder and Dust - The Flow in Between: The newest release by the Danish psych band is their second album. This falls somewhere between drone and shoegaze in it's style, meaning that it is an expansive soundscape with minimal changes in tempo. It's been a few months since I've picked an album like this to listen to and it was kind of refreshing. There is always the issue of boredom when it comes to this genre, but I didn't feel that with this record. It was nice summer drive time album, just zoning out and watching the cars pass by.

Ike & Tina Turner - Hits & Classics The Archive Series Volumes 1 & 2: I'd been meaning to check out some Ike and Tina for awhile and finally checked this out. This set includes a lot of covers, including some great Beatles covers. To be honest, I was expecting this to be better. I had high hopes, but in the end, it was just okay.

American Folk Singers and Balladeers Vanguard Recordings: A few years back, I bought this four album box set a few years back in Washington state for $1. I've always been a fan of Vanguard folk recordings and this is great collection of lesser known folk artists from the label. The Odetta and Rooftop Singers sides are exceptional.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Shame on You, America!

The other day, the New York Times released this video of supporters at Trump rallies across America during the course of his campaign of hate. It is a disgraceful display of ignorance, anger, and hatred that has no place in this country, let alone in our political dialogue.

By no means am I saying people need to back Hillary Clinton. I have my own issues with her, though I will vote her, even if only to keep that fascist out of the White House. However, there are other choices out there than voting for Trump. If you are thinking about voting for Trump, keep in mind that you will be aligning yourself with people like the ones in this video.

But even if he doesn't get elected, which I'm fairly confident that he won't, the cesspool of hatred that he has drudged up with continue to fester. His campaign has awakened a beast that will not be easily calmed. Even after he is defeated, there will be work for all of us to do in trying to enlighten our fellow Americans who are stuck in a backwards way of thinking.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

It was another oppressively hot week in the Hudson Valley and I barely survived. But with the help of some anticipated records, I managed to get through it. It was a good week for listening, with one of my favorite artists putting out a new record and some great discoveries from the past, as well as some contemporary curiosities. I love checking out things I've never heard before and going in blind without any notion of what it is I'm going to encounter. Enjoy.

Ryley Walker - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung: After releasing one of my favorite albums of last year, this is easily one of the most anticipated records of the year for me. The Chicago singer songwriter has quickly become one of my favorites. This album, like last year's Primrose Green, is a child of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, more foreboding but just as beautiful. "Funny Thing She Said," "Sullen Mind," and "The Roundabout" were stand out tracks for me. Easily one to consider for the best of the year list.

Dinosaur Jr. - Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not: The great Boston indie outfit returns with their first album in four years. Following a string of great records since reforming last decade, the trio continues the streak with this record, which revisits the lo-fi groove of their heyday. Two Lou Barlow songs wisely break up the track list, giving a pause from J. Mascis' signature style. Most certainly deserves a place on the shelf alongside their best.

Reagan Cats - Sand Man: The new release from the Baltimore indie band reminded me a bit of some of the lesser known Elephant 6 bands in the mid-to-late '90s, not the experimental ones, but the lo-fi rock outfits like Ladybug Transistor and The Minders. These four songs have a simple honesty that makes them appealing. There's nothing showy, something that feels like a throwback to the indie scene in the '90s. Worth checking out their Bandcamp site.

Misfits - Evilive: This live EP was released back in 1997, but features material from the original lineup in their raw glory. I recently picked this up on vinyl in the midst of our sweltering heatwave. The aggression featured in this performance matched the weather and reminded me of what made these lo-fi demons one of the best American punk bands of all time. I was a little nervous that the recording quality wouldn't be great, but it's actually just right for the music.

Agnes Strange - Strange Flavour: This is the only album ever released by the 70's UK hard rock band. It came out in 1975, and is definitely of that time, though it actually feels as though it would have been mega huge had it come out a few years prior. This is blues infused hard rock with psych elements, varying from song to song. Quite good and a shame it isn't more widely known. "Failure," "Highway Blues," "Loved One," and "Children of the Absurd" are stand outs.

Gay Witch Abortion - Two Rats and a Pimp: Released last year, this is the latest EP from the Minneapolis noise rock band. Only four songs, but four intense post-punk songs. There is something Jesus Lizard about this band, something that makes them sound like a disturbing nightmare, but a nightmare you don't mind rocking out to. Full throttle noise that sounds like '90s punk, there's not much of that around these days, so it was nice to hear. "Red Max" and "Less Free" were the better half of the EP in my opinion. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Fiction Friday (43)

Well, my goal of reading more this year has failed miserably so far. I foolishly thought that by choosing a rather slim novel would propel me farther along, but hadn't counted on it being one of those books that I purposely wanted to go through slowly in order to cherish the language displayed in the text. Also when I set that goal for myself, I hadn't counted on the fact that I'd be going back to school for my Master's degree. That has taken up much of my reading time, which has also contributed to my desire to enjoy the reading I do for pleasure. All that said, I finished a book this week and wanted to share my thoughts. Enjoy. 

The Unlimited Dream Company by J.G. Ballard

I first encountered this book a few years back while reading a book of Ballard quotes and frequently found myself highlighting passages taken from this novel. The surrealist imagery displayed in the passages pretty much assured that this would be my kind of book, and having read it, it certainly was.

As with other Ballard novels, it deals with complicated and borderline obscene portrayals of sex and death and the way the two seem intertwined within his mind. But unlike some of his more controlled use of language and structure, this book has a freedom that I hadn't encountered in his other work. As the title suggests, this book follows a dream logic, complete with the flights that dreams tend to take. 

 The book follows Blake after he crashes a small, stolen airplane into the Thames as it flows through Shepperton. What proceeds is part science-fiction, part marriage of heaven and hell, and a series of bizarre miracles and crimes that often leave the reader feeling perplexed, yet captivated. 

This is the book that I'd been waiting for in all my encounters with Ballard. The language is poetic. The scenery is transcendent. And the plot, surreal. This is an astonishing work of fiction that feels more in tune with the French avant garde writers than the post-modernists, but manages to carve its own path through the world of fiction.