Saturday, May 19, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here, and around my way it's raining and cold, the perfect weather for staying inside and listening to music. This week I'm sharing some great new discoveries, some new and others from times long gone. Also on this list is my most anticipated album of the year and my most excellently unexpected new release. All rock on this list, but don't worry, there's plenty of jazz on the horizon. Hopefully you'll have some time to check out some these releases. Enjoy.

Green Seagull - Scarlet Fever: The debut album for the London psychedelic band came out back in March and from the opening notes, it compelled me. I've never heard a band before that I would say that they sound like The Yardbirds, but this band sounds like that, mixed with an early Syd Barrett Pink Floyd singles sound. Steeped in '60s mod nostalgia, this is one of those albums that sounds like a lost artifact from the past. I was totally blown away by this record and highly recommend checking it out.

Scorpions - In Trance: Released in '75, one year before their masterpiece Virgin Killer, this is an epic album that is nearly equally as good. Uli Roth is in his prime, helping to invent the sound of heavy metal guitar. There's an eerie and dangerous mood on here, as with Virgin Killer, which makes it sound unique. This isn't an album that you see around too often, so I snatched it up when I came across a used copy. "Dark Lady," "Sun in My Hand" and the title are track are my personal favorites on a monster album by a band who's early work is greatly underappreciated.

The Beatles - Twist and Shout: This is the Beatles '64 Canadian release, that country's edition of their debut "Please, Please, Me". I came across a beautiful copy of this the other week and picked it up. I've always been partial to real early or real late Beatles work. Their early work has this crazy unique quality. Interpreting American pop R&B of the late '50s and early '60s into a British sound gives these songs a strangeness that is still immediately enjoyable as it was then. This is a primal scream of a time long gone, but the sentiment is still loud and clear.

Fat - Fat: The 1970 debut album from Fat is a swirl of Doors style grooves and acid blues riffs. This is that early heavy rock sound that was forming at the time, a sort of take on the blues but giving it a heavy psychedelic gloss. I came across this and had to take a chance and it was sure worth it. Another one of those lesser known bands that would become forgotten, but who was a pioneer of a sound that would later catch on. "Black Sunday," "Mine Eyes Have Seen," and "Country Girl" are standouts on this fine artifact of acid blues.

Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino: It's been five years since the band's amazing AM album, but they have finally returned with their sixth record. This was possibly my most anticipated album of the year, so needless to say, my expectations were sky high. This was not what I was expecting. It's more of a lounge album than a rock album, as Alex Turner channels his Vegas persona to deliver these songs. It's not that it's bad, it's just a shock and will take some getting used to. I'm not quite sure what I think of this album, but I won't know for another six months, it's that shocking to my soul.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Robot World

With a little bit of free time this weekend, I actually watched a movie. I wanted something Sci-Fi and dystopian, so I was intrigued by a film titled Robot World which is streaming on Hulu. This is a film from 2015. It's a one of those old style indie films. A lot of hand-held camera. Very little dialog. Lots of slow pacing. Luckily, that's my kind of film.

It has a really clever plot twist about half-way through that makes it read like a Twilight Zone episode. It's not the most original twist, but is extremely well done. I enjoyed that it didn't come at the end, which gave the movie time to explore the implications of the twist and left me thinking about humanity, space travel, and perils of belief.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to the weekend! This week I take a look at some new albums that I've been listening to. It's mostly rock on here, but with one hip hop release that I'm excited about. I had other reviews all ready for this post but the internet gods have forsaken me and they vanished from their saved place. So, next week should be interesting as I try to re-capture some thoughts on other albums. Enjoy these and hopefully there's something here you'll want to hear.

Black Rainbows - Pandemonium: This the newest album from the Italian heavy rock band that is a bit of a mash up of all the heavy rock sounds of the time. Part stoner rock, part heavy psych, part space rock, it all comes together to form something that is quite enjoyable. It's been nearly a decade since they began releasing records and have worked hard to get their groove just right. "Sunrise," "The Sacrifice," and "The Abyss" are standouts.

The Choppy Bumpy Peaches - Sgt. Konfuzius and The Flowers of Venus: The debut album from the Luxembourg psychedelic space rock band is a quality effort in the genre. It blends 60's sunshine psychedelic with a space theme and the mixture works nice. The softer vocals are a nice touch to a genre that is dominated by aggressive vocals. "Spacetravel," "Red Velvet Cake," and "Juska" are my personal favorites.

Jean Grae X Quelle Chris - Everything's Fine: One of the best and most unheralded hip hop artists of the past two decades, Jean Grae returns with another album of rhymes that are intelligent, relevant, and delivered with expert timing. The addition of Quelle Chris makes for a great pairing of styles. As always, Jean is asking you to put your thinking caps on, urging everybody who is listening to wake up and pay attention to the shit going on around...never more so than with this concept album that takes on the institutionalized complacency that exists in modern society.

Dead Moon - Stranded in the Mystery Zone: For whatever reason, this garage rock band from Oregon never made it bigger in the States despite a slew of amazing albums released in late 80's and early 90's. This is their forth album, released in '91 and it's a good ten years ahead of the curve. This would have been HUGE in 2001. It's scruffy garage rock that would later take over the music scene, but was shrouded by the edgier punk sound of contemporaries. A fantastic album that I recently found used on vinyl.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Fiction Friday (69)

Finding time to read anything that wasn't a textbook or academic journal article has been difficult over the past few months, but through it all, I'd been carefully digesting this book written by one of my favorite authors, and biggest inspirations. Given that this book was about characters that I'm already familiar with, I enjoyed taking my time and alluding to their other adventures in my mind as I read. Though it doesn't require reading the other books first, it certainly would help. This is a book that provides a bigger picture to past events which take place after. 

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh
(W. W. Norton, 2012)

All the familiar scoundrels are back, including Rents, Sickboy, Spud and Begbie in this prequel to Welsh's popular Trainspotting novel. Fans will have encountered these characters in multiple books, learning about their lives after Renton took off at the end of Trainspotting, but knowing little about how they got to the place where Trainspotting began. This book covers the years leading up to the time where we first met them and gives some insight as to how they ended up being everybody's favorite junkies.

Readers learn more about Mark Renton than any of the others. We get a glimpse into his home life and discover what motivated his destructive pursuits. As with most abusers of drugs, and I know because I speak from personal experience, the direct connection is not typically clear to the user. There's a part of the user that convinces themselves that it simply out of boredom, or because its fun, or makes them feel good. What is is hidden in that way of thinking is the causes for the symptoms and subconscious ignorance pertaining to the depression that the drug use is usually masking. This is the kind of thing that a users doesn't usually face until the drug use stops being fun and becomes a contributor to hardship.

Though this book is a prequel, it's obviously written from a more mature and reflective view of addiction. Each character expresses some level of regret during this novel, which distinguishes it from the other novels in which they appear. Reading it with the other books in mind, this level of regret becomes an interesting aspect of future behavior. The regret will later become another contributing factor of abuse, giving a clear portrait of the struggle of abuse and how every action can be turned against getting better. Unlike some of Welsh's earlier work, there is no attempt to glamorize the situations. The behavior is displayed in all it's raw ugliness.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here again and it brings a second straight weekend with nice weather, the kind of weather perfect for sitting back and listening to your fuzzy warbles. This week, in honor of the nice weather, I've decided to dedicate the entire list to music that goes with the sunshine. Some are new releases, others are somewhat recent, and others are old but new to my collection. Plenty of good stuff on here, so take some time to check out something new. Enjoy.

Astral Blue - Out of the Astral Blue: The second album from the Texas psychedelic band was released this spring. Blending prog and psychedelic folk, this was a nice surprise. Consisting of five longer songs, this was a delight of mind expansion music that sounds like prog inspired Grateful Dead. "Speak to the Lady," "Soft Earth," and "Moon Door" are my personal favorites.

Mystic Braves - Desert Island: Released in 2014, this is the second album from the L.A. psychedelic surf garage band. After loving their third album from 2015, I finally got my hands on this mod inspired gem. The band holds some similarities with The Growlers in their cinematic sound and tales of the psychedelic underworld and bit like The Last Shadow Puppets in it's ode to '60s secret agent lore.  "I Want You Back," "Burn Without a Heart," and title track are among my favorites on this great album.

Gliss - Strange Heaven: I've been a fan of the L.A. band since their 2006 debut. Since that noise rock delight, they've released three shoegaze albums which I also enjoyed, with the last one being three years ago. I was expecting this to be similar, but was pleasantly surprised to find a slight return to their noise rock roots. There are certainly shoegazer elements infused with the sound, creating something refreshing. "My Lie," "Ja Ja," and "Hold Your Breath" are my personal favorites.

Rolling Stones - Tattoo You: The Stones were still going strong as the '80s arrived. Released in '81, this was their second album of the decade, after the previous years' Emotional Rescue. It opens with perhaps one of the most memorable first tracks, "Start Me Up" and singles that the band has not abandoned their blues rock roots even as a disco beats infused their sound. I had always avoided their post-Goat's Head Soup work, but when I came across this for $1 at a Thrift shop the other week, I took a chance. Certainly not in the class of their early '70s work, this is still a very strong album that won't disappoint fans. At least, it didn't disappoint me. 

Belle and Sebastian - How to Solve our Human Problems: The second in a three EP series, this one is much better than the first. While it still engages in the dance pop feel of the first EP, there is more on this one to identify it with the bands quirkly roots. Having been a fan of this Glasgow band for the past 20 plus years, it's nice to see them return to the EP format that they did so well in the early days. "Show Me the Sun" and "I'll Be Your Pilot" are great tracks, and "Cornflakes" is the only song I could really do without.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the Forth Be With You...

Three years ago, I was very disappointed that my daughter had been born two days too soon. I'd been holding out hope that she would be born on the 4th, which is Star Wars day. She would be certain to grow up a jedi had she been. Or at least, the force would be strong with her. 

I spent most of my imaginary time living in the Star Wars universe as a child. It was the first imaginary world that consumed my thoughts. It dominated my play and the stories grew within my mind. I'm still very intrigued by the Star Wars world and still spend time thinking about it, but my love of Star Wars truly stems from the impact it made on my childhood imagination. 

Stories are more than stories. Stories are what guide our thoughts, take our thinking in new directions, and shape our hopes and aspirations. Though I will never be a jedi, and never travel at hyper-speed, thanks to a universe that exists in movies, television, books, and toys, I feel like I have already been and done those things. So on this day, may the force be with you...always.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

When Music Comes Alive

Over the past few years, Ryley Walker has become one of my favorite songwriters and I got the chance to see him play this week. His music is a psychedelic folk that has roots in Americana, but twists it into something unique. Seeing the three piece band live was an experience. They were all super skilled musicians. The music would be spread out and then build to a synchronized intensity before spreading out again and drifting apart before coming together again. Truly amazing stuff and I can wait for the new album to come out next week. I've already pre-ordered my copy.