Saturday, July 7, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here! I missed last weekend due to a hectic schedule, but I'm back now with more music ramblings. There's a lot of recent releases on this list that I've been into lately. There's also some 90's throwbacks that I've picked up in the past few months, as well as some jazz. One weekend soon will focus solely on obscure late '60s and early '70s psych rock, so stay tuned for that. Hopefully there's something on here that perks your interest. Enjoy.

T. Hardy Morris - Dude, the Obscure: The third solo album from the Dead Confederate frontman is another wonderful lo-fi indie album with folk roots. I've followed his career since the first DC release and have really grown to appreciate his song writing on the previous two solo albums. This one is no different, as he continues to show maturity and depth. There's something genuine about his music and it reminds me of John Frusciante in that way. "The Night Everything Changed," "Cheating Life, Living Death," "When the Record Skips," and "Purple House Blues" are standouts on another fantastic record.

Gorillaz - The Now Now: This is the sixth album from Damon Albarn's cartoon band project which has always been a hit or miss outfit for me. Perhaps because this is less a parade of guest appearances (which some previous albums fell victim to), this is the most consistent album they've released. It's also the first one which doesn't have a bunch of "skip" tracks on it. An incredibly groovy record with standouts such as "Humility," "Hollywood," "Idaho," and "Fire Flies." 

Beat Happening - Black Candy: Released in 1989, this is the third album from the influential Olympia indie band. This is a band that never crossed my path during my youth, but one I'd been meaning to check out for a long time. This has the kind of lo-fi post punk sound that reminds me of Violent Femmes and a sound you don't hear any more. It's a very 80's sound that went on to influence the huge explosion of indie music in the decade that followed. Lots to appreciate on here. "Gravedigging Blues," "The Other Side," "Bonfire," and "T.V. Girl" are my personal favorites. 

Radiohead - OK Computer (OKNOTOK 1997-2017): Released for the 20th anniversary of the landmark album, this triple vinyl includes the whole album as well as another whole album of B-Sides and unreleased tracks from the era. I held off on this for about a year, partly because I've really grown to dislike this band over the last decade, and partially because of the price tag. But OK Computer remains a 5 star album and one of the most influential in my life, so I went for it and was rewarded with a wonderful product. The entire package is perfect and the extra songs flow seamlessly with the originals. 

The Dentists - Naked: In the late '80s and early '90s all signs pointed to this jangle pop band hitting it big time. And while they did achieve some success in the UK, they never made it stateside. I was really into this band during their third album, "Powdered Lobster Fiasco" when it came out in '93 but haven't listened to them in over a decade. I was excited to come across this self-issued EP from '91 and snatched it up. I now have No. 0544 of 1000 of this lo-fi 10" of raw songs that is even more compelling then the jangle production of their albums. "Reading the News," "Naked," and "We Thought We'd Got to Heaven" are my personal favorites. 

King Curtis - King Soul!: Released in 1970, a reissue of 1960's "The New Scene of King Curtis", this is a companion album to "Soul Meeting" and together they demonstrate the innovation of the Texas saxman. While definitely hard bop (my personal favorite sub-genre of jazz), this also shows Curtis developing the soul sound that would later sweep the decade. The two long tracks on here, "Have You Heard?," and "In a Funky Groove" are dynamite. Wonderful record. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Birthday America!

Given the current state and backwards progression of this nation that I love, I choose to celebrate a fictional rendition this's hoping for a better year ahead.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The first weekend of summer is here and if there is one thing I do enjoy about summer (and really, there is only one thing) that is the slew of new music that comes out and the chance to listen all of those albums that create a summer vibe, of which there are many. So keeping that in mind, I've chosen to feature only albums that have that summer feeling for this weekend's roundup. Hopefully you all have some time to sit back and listen to some music. Enjoy.

Black Thought - Streams of Thought, Vol. 1: The first solo release from The Roots frontman is a stellar five song EP that highlights his skills. Black Thought has remained consistent in his 20+ year career, always delivering conscious rap that doesn't shy away from telling it like it truly is. Being a native of the Philly area, The Roots have always been a source of pride for the city and I've always been a fan. This is a strikingly bare EP with minimal beats that showcase Black Thoughts talents. One of the best hip hop releases that I've heard in last few years.

Phantasm - Three Men Make a Tiger: Released late last year, this is the fourth album from the Philadelphia noise rock, post punk band and the first album that I've encountered that captures the creative fury of At The Drive-In. Being from the Philly area, this is a sound that was prevalent in the hardcore scene of the 90s in the area, and it's great to hear it revived and refreshed. "Over and Over," "Say Their Names," "Checkmate," and "Discordia" are among my favorites.

Brian Jonestown Masscare - Something Else: Appropriately, this album isn't named "something new" because the San Fran psychedelic band never strays from the sound they established for themselves back in the mid-to-early 90's. The good news is that the sound they developed is a perfect blend of sunshine psychedelic garage pop that I never tire of. This is among their most focused albums, and easily falls in their top ten or so. "My Love," "Skin and Bones," "Animal Wisdom," and "My Poor Heart" are among my favorites.

St. Vincent - Masseduction: The sixth album from the art pop artist and member of the Polyphonic Spree was released at the end of last year. There are two songs that the local station plays on mass repeat, and it took me a bit to warm up to them enough to want to dive into the whole record. In a lot of ways, she's like a version of Karen O with more of a synth pop mentality, but I can dig that. Aside from the hits, "Los Ageless," and the title track, there are some great tunes on here. "Hang on Me," "Happy Birthday Johnny," "New York," and "Young Lover" are my other favorites. 

Syl Johnson - Diamond in the Rough: The Chicago soul artists fourth album was released in '74 and one I recently came across in the cheap bins at the local shop. I didn't know much about him, but he has that good soul look on the cover so I took a chance and was rewarded with a groovy early '70s soul vibe. Easy to compare to Sly and the Family Stone, or even Bobby Womack. Great nostalgia sound that I can dig, especially on summer evenings. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Going Solo

Last week, I finally made it to see Solo: A Star Wars Story. I will admit that I was more than a little skeptical of this film from the very first news that it was being made. Rouge One was different because it was an expanded universe project and I'm all about the expanded universe. This film was an origin story for my favorite character in the universe and therefore, I was nervous about it. One of the biggest concerns I had was watching somebody else play Han Solo. 

Not surprising, my biggest problem with this movie was the first third as I tried believing this guy was Han. I was also not so into the story of the first third, but once Han was off on his own, flying solo, the movie picked up for me. Woody Harrelson was the highlight of this film, in my opinion. He made the perfect Star Wars character. And by half way, I was able accept the new, younger Han. 

I enjoyed this film, but it was more of a space caper movie that followed the blockbuster format rather than a Star Wars format. That was disappointing, but acceptable. I just wished it was more steeped in the rise of the Empire. There were flashes of that, especially with the Join the Empire propaganda that showed up, but I wanted more of it. A solid okay, but in the future, I hope they chose to do more movies like Rogue One instead. They could easily bring in some Clone Wars characters, which I was sort of hoping they would do here.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Something About my Father...

This is a little story I told about my dad for a class last quarter. On this day, it feels appropriate to share it with all of you. Happy Father's Day, Dad! I miss you.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here and I'm enjoying some vacation time round my way, which means extra time for listening to tunes and finding more tunes to listen to. This week I bring you a few new releases that I'd been looking forward to and some albums that I found while looking for new things to get into. As always, there's a mix of styles on here, from stoner metal to jazz, Britpop to indie rock. Hopefully there's something you'll want to listen to. Enjoy.

Sleep - The Sciences: The legendary sludge metal band's first album since Dopesmoker was released 15 years ago was released back in April on Jack White's Third Man Records. Despite time away, these guys are still the masters of stoner sludge metal. These extended metal grooves are just the right amount of mellow and heavy and perfect for the soundtrack of their favorite hobby of choice. "Sonic Titan" takes up the entire second side of the double album, and I could stand another side of it. Side 3 features another full length track, "Antarcticans Thawed" which is a Melvins-esque if they ever did a sonic novel. The first and last side of the album each contain two tracks, with "Giza Butler" being my personal favorite. Pure audio satisfaction.

Roadkill Ghost Choir - In Tongues: Released in 2014, this is the debut album from the Florida based indie band. Having recently listened to their newly released second album, I have to say I prefer the sound on this one which is more honest. It reminds me of Wooden Sky, The War on Drugs and other indie bands of the past 10 years. "HWY," "I Could See Everything," "Womb," "See You Soon," "Lazarus, You've Been Dreaming," and "Dead Friend" are among my favorites on this solid effort.  Definitely one for fans of the genre to check out.

Mason Proffit - Wanted!: The debut album from early '70's country rock band out of Indy. This has a definite David Crosby vibe to it that I'm really digging. It's very much a precursor to the kind of folk rock that would become a radio staple in the years to come, but this is early enough in the expanse of this sound that it still borrows heavily from bands like Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds. It might not be the best thing out there, but I really love the sound of this album.

DMA's - For Now: The second album from the Britpop band out of Australia was released this spring. I just recently heard about this band on an Oasis fan site where fans were saying this is their new favorite band. Always in search of Oasis inspired material, I was eager to check this out. It's much more Britpop-y than Oasis's 60's and 70's nostalgia, reminding more of later Britpop bands like Haven. "In the Air," "Tape Deck Sick," "Do I Need You Now?," and "Break Me" are standouts on a solid sophomore album.

The Flying Eyes - Burning of the Season: The fourth album from the Baltimore stoner rock band. Like a lot of albums in the genre of late, it seems to take inspiration from Led Zeppelin and more blues grunge bands in equal parts. It has a sort of classic rock vibe the way Alice in Chains or Soundgarden did in their interpretation of punk and metal. Not the most original record but worthy of a listen. "Sing Praise," "Come Round," and "Farewell" were my favorites. 

The Amazing Jimmy Smith Trio - Live at The Village Gate: Recorded in '63 and released two years later, this album highlights the energy Jimmy Smith brings to the keys in a live setting. Already well into his career, this performance shows the improvisation that Smith was a master of. This swings from hard bop to soul jazz and rhythm and blues. A great bit of up-tempo jazz with a nice clear sound. Definitely worth checking out.

Fiction Friday (70)

It's a break before my last quarter at grad school, which has given me a brief respite to do some reading that was not based on peer-reviewed academic articles, and so I dove into this thin volume from one of my favorite French writers of the first half of the last century. A more serious book than some of Queneau's other more popular works, but still excellently written and equally captivating. This is a great author for people looking for someone they may have never read before. I have yet to encounter a book of his that I didn't enjoy.

Odile by Raymond Queneau
(Dalkey Archive, 1999 originally published 1937)

How does one fill the emptiness that has been left inside after the experiences of war? How does one search for meaning in a world where humanity feels bankrupt? These are the questions at the heart of Queneau's novel about a young man in Paris during the years following the first world war. Somewhat absent the usual wit and playfulness of many of his other works, this is a more serious look at human society (though to be sure, flashes of his wit and playfulness do show through). And while this novel is about a specific place and specific time, the overarching themes serve us well in our current climate of post-truth and increasing cultural bankruptcy.

The cast of eccentric characters who populate this novel embrace the politics of socialism to satisfy their unhappiness. But they never embrace the ideals of the movement, only the idea of being part of the movement while they find ways to subvert it and turn it into a game that attempts to create meaning, purpose, and amusement in their lives which feel rudderless. Travy, the main character, never fully commits to the charade, only to the destiny of unhappiness. As is often the case in life, love becomes the great equalizer, helping him to recover his sense of humanity and discover what the true meaning of life must be, because love is the only true thing we have.