Saturday, December 8, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has arrived and there are two roundups left before I put together my best of the year list. So I'm trying to listen to a bunch of remaining 2018 albums that I have in the que. This week I bring my thoughts on seven releases from this year, some are in definite consideration for the best of list, others not, but definitely worthy of a listen. Hopefully there's something on here for you to discover before the end of the year. Enjoy.

Bill Ryder-Jones - Yawn: The latest solo record from former member and founding guitarist of The Coral is another beautifully crafted indie singer songwriter album in the style of Nick Drake with shoegaze guitar breaking through every now an again. Over the past decade he has consistently released these quiet wonderful albums, and this might be the best yet. One great line sums up his style for me, when he sings, "there's a fortune to be had in telling everyone your sad." Lots of great songs on here, including "There's Something on Your Mind," "Time Will be the Only Savior," "And Then There's You," and "No One's Trying to Kill You." 

The Good, The Bad, and the Queen - Merrie Land: It's been 11 years since the Damon Albarn project released it's last (and only) album. Of course, he's been busy with Gorillaz, Blur and six million other things he's always doing, but I'm definitely glad this is a project he returned to. Like the s/t debut, this is a record lovely surreal record that blends dark cabaret with elements of art pop to create something poignant and special. "Gun to the Head," "Ribbons," "The Poison Tree," and the title track are my personal favorites. 

She Makes War - Brace for Impact: The fifth album from the London singer songwriter Laura Kidd has a 90's rock feel, with influences from grunge, The Breeders, and rrriot grrrl bands, but fused with a pop rock sensibility that makes it sound current. I definitely enjoyed this record and feel confident that a lot of her favorite artists are also mine. "Devastate Me," "Hold On," "Undone," and "Let Me Down," are personal favorites for me. 

The Myrrors - Borderlands: The sixth album in 10 years from the Arizona psych band is one of those albums the mixes psychedelic folk with drone to create lengthy soundscapes. I listened to this one while driving through the autumn rain and it made a great soundtrack for that experience. It's probably the kind of album that won't get a ton of listens in my world, mostly because it demands some time and attention to fully appreciate the world it creates. Certainly worth exploring if drone psych is your thing. 

Plastic Tears - Angels with Attitude: This glam band from Finland has been around for a long time, but has released only three albums, each nine years apart. This is the newest one, released this year and it reminds me a lot of the only other Finnish glam band that I know, Hanoi Rocks. This is definitely a throwback to 80's glam metal, and it succeeds at times at capturing the best of that genre, though it also falls into some of the traps that represent the aspects of the genre that people despise. Interesting for those who are curious to hear what's happening in the revived world of what is referred to as "hair metal." 

Tina Dickow - Fastland: This is the tenth album from the Danish folk pop artist (also known as Tina Dico). I was first turned on to her work with her 2010 release, four albums ago. She's got an amazing voice that fluctuates easily between pop and folk, as does the music on her albums, enough so that I don't mind the more pop elements that otherwise would not interest me. "Parked Car," "Not Even Close," and "People are Strange" are my personal favorites. 

Weedcamp - Weedcamp: The debut record from the German stoner rock band is six instrumental grooves that kind of get everything right. A lot of times, at least for me, a lot of stoner rock bands kind of get the levels wrong, or go too heavy on the drums, or loose focus...hence the pitfalls hinted at in the genre name. This is nice short album that doesn't stray from what it's best at and I found myself feeling it throughout. You can check it out on their Bandcamp page linked above.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Alice in Paris

One of the great things about being a collector of stuff that is supposed to appeal to children is when your child discovers something you didn't know you had. My daughter wanted to look at all of our movies the other day and so I opened the cabinet where we keep the DVDs that we never watch and she found this one and said, "That's Alice! Can we watch that?"

The movie in question is a little known 1966 Czech/American production called Alice of Wonderland in Paris. Being a huge Alice enthusiast, I acquired this DVD years ago. Upon my daughter's discover, it was still unopened and unwatched. 

Now I had an excuse to watch it, and I took it. We made a Daddy & Me afternoon and watched Alice in Paris. This isn't really an Alice story, she's used more as a frame tale to show three illustrated stories, one by Crockett Johnson, another one about the moon, and Madeline and the Bad Hat. I was thrilled with the Madeline and Alice connection, two of my favorite storybook characters. 

The animation was very 60's cartoon style, as was the voice work, which isn't surprising seeing that William Snyder of Tom & Jerry and Popeye fame, produced it. All in all, it was interesting, entertaining, but certainly for Alice completionists only.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here and the Roundup is back. With the holidays, I missed a few weekends, but that just means a few extra ramblings on this list. Though mostly new releases, there's some other discoveries thrown into the mix here. The genres span the spectrum pretty much, with metal, garage, folk, and jazz all represented. In the coming weeks, I will be trying to compile my best of the year list, and as always, it's going to be tough. Until then, keep discovering, keep listening, and enjoy.

L.A. Witch - Octubre: The new EP from the L.A. based all female garage rock band is one of the best discoveries of the year for me. Somehow I missed their debut album last year and picked this up, because, one, I'm a sucker for any band with L.A. in their name, and two, it has the look of the kind of noise rock I like. This is fantastic west coast style garage rock that reminded me a lot of Sweet 75. The only down side is that it is only an EP, so I will now have to seek out the album I missed. Don't miss this one. 

Cat Stevens - The World of Cat Stevens: This compilation was released in 1970 across Europe, featuring songs from Cat's first two albums and other early career work that went overlooked. With the success of "Mona Bone Jakon," his third album, in 1970, Decca saw a chance to sell this work in a new package. I love Cat Steven's early '70s work and grew up listening to it as a young child. These songs showcase his transition from pop folk into more serious songwriting. I found this in the 4 fro $10 bin at the local shop and snatched it up. There are great lost tracks on here including "granny," "here comes my baby," "I'm gonna get me a gun," "kitty," and "the first cut is the deepest."

Phosphorescent - C'est la vie: The seventh album from the indie folk rock band is their first in five years. Much like My Morning Jacket, this is a indie band that draws from country roots to create the kind of folk rock that is has been around for the past decade. This is also one of those bands who I've been waiting for a breakthrough release that fully captures the potential brilliance that seems to exist on each album. And while this album has those elements, it's still not the one I've been hoping for. Lots of great sounds on here and certainly solid.

Moonface - This One's for the Dancer and This One's for the Dancer's Bouquet: This is the fourth album that Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, etc.) has released under the Moonface moniker. This seems to be a semi-concept album with a reoccurring theme of songs surrounding the Minotaur and his labyrinth. Despite the concept, this is easily the most accessible of the Moonface albums, with song structures similar to Wolf Parade, his most successful project. I really enjoyed this album, as I've enjoyed all of his albums.

Jelly Roll Morton - Blues and Stomps from Rare Piano Rolls: One of the early pioneers of jazz, Jelly Roll Morton was a unique piano player that changed the way the instrument was played, and later influenced the way it would be used in R&B and blues rock. This collection of early recordings showcases his skills on a number of tracks. I picked thus up for a $4 a few weeks ago and it's a great weekend morning groove to start the day. He had a hipness that is unlike any other.

First Aid Kit - Live from the Rebel Hearts Club: This live EP from the Swedish folk duo was released in the summer and I'm just getting around to listening to it. The live setting showcases their extreme talent, but the weird thing about this live record is that there is zero indication of an audience. It's strange, but not problematic. They play a traditional folk style of music that is beautiful and touching. The version of "Rebel Heart" on this recording is outstanding.

Grave Disgrace - Sabbatharium: This is the third album from the Russian stoner doom metal band and it's exactly the way I like my stoner doom metal. The recipe for me is a heavy undertone with extra-muddled Layne Staley emotion in the vocals that take the listener down a drain into a world even heavier than one the music alone can create. And one thing that I would never criticize a band for, though many do when it comes to doom metal bands, is sounding too much like Black Sabbath.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


At the beginning of the month, like the beginning of the past two Novembers, I set out to complete the novel challenge. And like the previous two Novembers, I failed. But unlike the last two years, I haven't had to abandon projects due to other obligations. And unlike the previous years, I split my time working on two projects, which didn't contribute to accomplishing the goal. However, progress was made on both and both continue to move forward, which isn't something I could say when the calendar flipped to December before.

Sometimes, I think we need to look at accomplishments in increments. Progress is, in itself, an accomplishment.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup (Black & White Edition)

It's the weekend and this time around, the Roundup took on an unexpected theme. As I was putting it together, I realized how many records that were waiting for a review featured Black & White cover art. The range of music goes from hard rock, noise rock, folk, and jazz, but the covers are all colorless. Some new releases on here that I'd been excited for, and some wonderful discoveries as well. Hopefully you'll find something to check out. Enjoy.

Richard Swift - The Hex: One of my favorite songwriters of the previous decade, I was saddened when Swift passed away over the summer. Though he'd been active with The Arcs, this is the first solo release of his work in nine years. It was certainly worth the wait and stands proudly along his best works. Swift had a way of bringing a 70's blue eyed soul sound like Boz Scaggs and combining it with current indie singer songwriter sentiments to create something that was loving, warm, and yet heartbreaking at the same time. "Sister Song," "Selfishmath," and "Dirty Jim" are my personal favorites. 

Marriages - Salome: This the only full length release from the L.A. based noise rock band, though it was released in 2015, it has recently been re-released and I decided to check it out. While listening to it, I thought, "Wow, this is sounds like Emma Ruth Rundle" only to find out that it is Emma! And then I found out that Emma is also the voice of another band that I love, The Nocturnes. There's something about the vulnerable darkness of her work that I find incredible, something akin to Katie Jane Garside (Daisy Chainsaw and Queenadreena). I've really been digging this record and love hearing her voice with more of a noise rock feel. 

Tom Petty - An American Treasure: This boxset was set into motion almost immediately after Tom's death last year and features a wealth of unreleased and rare material. I've always respected Petty's work, even if he's often a hit or miss for me. The songs of his that I love, I really love. The one's I don't love, I still find to be alright. He's always been a poor man's Bob Dylan in some respects, but he owned that and that's what makes it work. There's lots of great stuff on here, but listening to this definitely made me aware of what my Petty limit is. I like him in much smaller doses than this lengthy box set. 

Pearl Jam - Greatest Songs: I've never considered myself a Pearl Jam fan, though they've always had songs that I've liked here and there. They were just too based in classic rock for my tastes back in the day. My tastes have changed over the years, and recently, I've been digging their songs when they come on the radio. This compilation is one of those bootleg comps that have been going around for pretty much every band and I figured it was worth checking out. As it's titled "Greatest Songs" there's no real reason to list tracks, but though I knew there were a bunch I liked, I was surprised by how many great tunes that I wasn't familiar with, and how many more there were that I knew and liked. I was also struck by how much I was reminded of The Doors while listening to this album. 

Charlie Parker - New Bird: Hi Hat Broadcasts: Recorded in 1953, two years before the legendary sax man's death, this captures a live performance from the Hi Hat Club in Boston. Jazz, more than other genres for me, is usually best when recorded live. I think that's because each time, the piece is different. Jazz is organic. There's no wonder why Parker was considered the definition of "cool" with the smooth way he tackles a groove and bends it.   "Now's the Time," "Ornithology," and "Groovin' High" are standouts for me from this set.  

Friday, November 9, 2018

It's Not Harmless...It Means Something.

I saw the above image circulating on social media and it made me pause. Before I had a daughter, I don't think I would've given it a second thought, and that's part of the problem. Having a daughter has made me think about gender equality in entirely different ways. 

Had this said "intelligent" or "caring" or "strong", I would've shared it without thought. Though I do think my daughter is beautiful (every parent does), I don't want her to grow up thinking beauty is the only attribute worth having. Too often we teach our daughters that beauty is the most important thing. Fairy tales teach that as well. I recently wrote a research paper on gender stereotypes in Fairy tales, and one lesson that most of them teach girls is that beauty is the most powerful gift a girl can have. And as I watch my daughter get sucked into the Disney Princess marketing machine, I've been trying extra hard to counter that message. 

This week, over 100 women were elected to Congress...not because they were beautiful, but because they are smart, compassionate, and strong leaders. Those are the qualities that matter most. And while I do tell my daughter that she's beautiful, I tell her that she is smart at least ten times more often. I know there are people out there who will think I'm making too big of a deal out of something so harmless, but I disagree. All of these "harmless" things add up and multiply and help to reinforce the traditional gender roles that have never benefited women. I want better for my daughter and her friends.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

There's no doubt that Autumn is finally here to stay on this wet and chilly day. After Halloween ends, and before Christmas, this is the time when I really like to listen to the kind of music that fits a grey day. With that mood in mind, this week features some new releases and older albums that fit that feel for me. Some favorite artists have new albums on here, some that really surprised me. Hopefully you'll find something worth staying indoors for on the list. Enjoy.

Cat Power - Wanderer: It's been six years since the pioneer indie singer songwriter's last album, but thankfully she's returned with her tenth album. I was expecting something very good, simply because all of her albums have been really good, but this one really grabbed me in a way that her best work has. It so heartbreakingly honest and genuine, the way indie folk rock is supposed to be. "You Get," "Woman," and "Black" are standouts, though honestly, there isn't a bad song on here. 

Richard Ashcroft - Natural Rebel: The Verve frontman's fifth solo album sees a return to his attempts over a decade ago to capture the soul vibe of Marvin Gaye, albeit in a pop rock vein. As a long time devotee to his work, I have mixed reactions to these attempts, finding myself wishing for more of his Britpop roots to show through. Given that, it always takes me a few listens to wrap my head around this direction of his work, which is certainly worthy, just not always my cup of tea. That said, I do enjoy this album. "Birds Fly," "Surprised by the Joy," "Born to Be Strangers," "Streets of Amersterdam," and "Money Money" are my personal favorites. 

The Magic Numbers - Outsiders: It's been 13 years since this London band of sibling pairs released their first album. This past spring, they released their fifth, and while it's still a pleasant indie pop sound that they've always had, they definitely move toward a country rock sound here, or at least incorporate country rock influences. I enjoyed this album and the Fleetwood Mac vibe it gives off. "Ride Against the Wind," "Sweet Divide," and "Dreamer" are my personal favorites.

Count Basie - Basie's Best!: This compilation was released in 1967 and features recordings from throughout the NJ native's long career. This is Big Band music and swings from start to finish. I love his piano work and the crazy rhythms that he produces from the keys. "Red Band Boogie," "It's Sand, Man!," "The Mad Boogie," and "Taps Miller" are my personal favorites.  

The Skygreen Leopards - The Jingling World of the Skygreen Leopards: This new release from the S.F. psychedelic folk band is a compilation of their first two self-released albums from 2001 (I Dreamt She Rode on a Pink Gazelle & Other Dreams and The Story of the Green Lamb & The Jerusalem Priestess). I have both of those digitally, but I'm sure glad this has seen the light of day on vinyl. The band is in raw form, dreaming of a lo-fi psych sound that has gained prominence, but was certainly fringe back then. A great way from people to check out a band that hasn't released anything in four years.