Saturday, February 10, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here once again, and so is the Roundup. I spent most of my time this week catching up on some things that have been waiting around for their turn on the list. There are a couple of 2018 releases on here, some new reissues, and a couple of old vinyl records that I picked up recently. Mostly rock, mostly bands that are familiar to me, yet there there are some new discoveries. Hopefully there's something on here you'll want to check out. Enjoy.

The Warlocks - Vevey: The first live album from the L.A. based neo-psychedelic rock band captures a kind of raw grit that has been lacking from some of their more recent and polished releases. It's a career spanning set of fuzzed out rock that serves as a nice introduction for those who may have missed the last 20 years of this band's history. Like a dirty version of Spacemen3, these guys have been overlooked. "Caveman Rock," "Shake the Dope Out," "Lonesome Bulldog," and "Dead Generation" are among my personal favorites.

Red Stone Souls - Mother Sky: Hailing from Detroit, this four piece band brings the kind of destructive energy that one has come to expect from bands out of that town. This is their second record and it's a guitar driven version of heavy blues rock. Sort of like a modern heavy-psych version of Grand Funk, this is a fun record, even if it's not anything that hasn't been done before. "Nights Watchful Eye," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," and "Murder Thrills" are standouts for me on a record that can feel repetitive at times. 

The Rolling Stones - R.S.V.P. New Version: This bootleg captures studio outtakes from the Beggar's Banquet era, many of them extremely rough and raw, and some of them not very different from the final versions. Like The Beatles, it's always nice to hear this raw sound from The Rolling Stones as both bands were so carefully packaged because of expectations on their releases. Of course, The Beatles were far more produced, so the contrast when it comes to the Stones is much less, but still nice to hear.

Coleman Hawkins - Colman Hawkins: One of the local record shops always seems to have a bunch these "Archive of Folk & Jazz" albums in their $3 bin, so I always try to rummage through and find something to check out. This week it was Coleman Hawkins, a St. Louis saxophonist of the Big Band and Bop jazz era. Like all Big Band jazz, there is a part of it that is an adaptation of classical, warped around the edges to give it a life beyond math and instrumentation. Also, to anyone who grew up long after this age, it has the feel of old Hollywood soundtracks. There's something about those combinations that I can really get into early in the morning. The version of Brahms lullaby is phenomenal.

The Cure - Acoustic Hits: Back in 2001, the band released a Greatest Hits set, and this collection of acoustic renditions was a bonus disc to the set. Last year, the band decided to release this a its own album and for good reason. These are songs that fans know well, but there is always something about hearing acoustic versions of electric songs that is appealing. The Cure are professionals, and the acoustic versions are detailed arrangements that aren't scaled back versions of the songs, but new interpretations. A definite must for fans looking to be reacquainted with songs they grew up with. 

Tracker - Rule of Three: This is the second album from the Austrian band and while decent enough, it's fairly by the numbers heavy rock. While the musical arrangements were interesting, the vocals were a little flat, leaving me with a sort of generic reaction. It will certainly appeal to anyone clambering for 90's style noise / grungy rock music. "Recalibrate" and "Veins Out" were the two real standout tracks for me on an otherwise passable album.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Sports Don't Matter...Except When They Do

What's the big deal about a team winning a Championship? What does it matter? These are the questions that non-sports fans always ask whenever somebody gets going on about their team. And the answer is of course, it doesn't matter. In the grand scheme of the world, it matters very little. Nothing is going to change, not really. But to fans, it matters on a level that is often far deeper than simply bragging or boasting, or a false sense of pride that you encounter from people. Sports allegiances are typically inherited, or sometimes developed in rebellion, which is still a form of inheritance. Because of this, there is usually a bit of family rolled up into rooting for a sports team. 

The Eagles winning the Super Bowl this past weekend was a moment that my brothers and sisters couldn't help but link with my father who passed away five years ago. My father lived and breathed Philly sports. It was the one thing that we could all bond over even if we were angry at each other about something else. My father and I had a bit of rocky relationship when he married my mother when I was 8, and even more so during my teenage years. But watching Eagles games together was the one thing that we could always do and we could rejoice in victory, and share disappointment in a loss.

When the Eagles went to four consecutive NFC championship games in the 2000's, I went to the first three with my father. The fourth one, he refused to go, and they made the Super Bowl. He, as was his nature, threw a huge viewing party for that game. They lost, but he never gave up hope. The first year after he died, it was Mondays when I missed him most, because we'd always talk on the phone every Monday about the game the day before. Since his death, I've invested much less in sports than I did when he was alive, because the connection with him, the conversations with him, were just as important to me. The one team that my passion for has never waned is the Eagles. So this past Sunday was a great day for me. An Eagles championship was something my Dad never got to witness, but my Dad was the kind of the person who would be just as happy that his children saw it, even if he didn't. So does it matter? No, not really...except that it does.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The new year is in full swing and with it comes new music, easily the best thing about time moving forward. This week I listened to a few new releases that I'd been looking forward to hearing. I also give my opinions on some older albums that I recently picked up. Seeing as it is winter, the mix here is mostly folk rock and psych rock as that is what I tend to want to hear during the cold months. Hopefully there's something here you'll want to check out as well. Enjoy.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Wrong Creatures: The San Fran indie rock band's first album in five years is a fuzzed out mix of neo-psych and garage rock. It's another fine effort from a band that has been chugging along for nearly two decades. "King of Bones," and "Carried from the Start" are my personal favorites on what is their best album in ten years and hopefully signs that they will continue on.

Belle and Sebastian - How to Solve our Human Problems (Part 1): Released at the end of last year, this is the first of a three part EP series put out by the Scottish indie band. I've followed this band since their early days and love their moody sensitive folk pop. Their last album was a splendid return to form after a few years of decline. This goes back to their more dance pop style that I don't like as much as their heartfelt tales. It's okay, but I'm hoping the next two parts get back to type of songs I prefer. 

John Lennon - Rock 'n' Roll: Back in my Lennon obsession days of the late '90s, I managed to avoid this 1975 album for whatever reason. I hadn't heard good things, it was a collection of old time rock, and just didn't appeal to me. In the twenty plus years since, I've grown to appreciate the likes of Buddy Holly and have heard many of these Lennon tracks on various bootlegs, so when I saw a pristine copy of this on vinyl for $5, I snatched it up. This is Lennon at his most laid back. He's not being serious, he's just having fun with these great songs. Nothing earth shattering here, but a really enjoyable record.

Olivia Tremor Control - John Peel Sessions: These BBC recordings date from just before their landmark Black Foliage record came out and features music from prior to that. This is one of those bands that really influenced my musical listening direction in the late '90s and I was thrilled to find a copy of this limited edition vinyl. I put it on and instantly was transported into their picture book world filled with outsider art. Absolutely wonderful stuff. 

Tyrannosaurus Rex - In the Halls of Faeire: This collection of studio outtakes from '68 and '69 reveal a the beginnings of T.Rex as the band transformed from the Incredible String Band type of freak folk band Tyrannosaurus Rex. It mixes fairytale aesthics with burgeoning electric playground of the coming Glam Era in a delightful way. "Blessed Wild Apple Girl," "Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles," and "Demon Queen" are personal favorites on this nice archival release.

Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman - Dear John: I've been really into Robert Ellis ever since his 2013 release "The Lights From the Chemical Plant" and was excited to see this album. He's folk singer songwriter with a country twang to his voice that pairs well with Courtney's sweeter sound. These are classic Americana sounding folk songs that feel genuine and traditional. It has a '70s AM radio feel to it, especially on tracks like "Gentle on My Mind", that remind me of the songs of my childhood. A very nice record that's perfect for lazy Sunday mornings.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Wandering Through Imagined Lands

Over the past several months, or maybe even longer, I haven't written much about writing. That's mainly because I haven't been writing. It's not that I don't have the desire to write or that my imagination isn't active. It's more that my imagination is so full of stories that are fighting to come out that I can't seem to make them stay in line. Coupled with the fact that my time is pretty much spoken for, what with an active toddler, working full time, and going to graduate school.

Recently I've been able to shuffle some of those ideas into line, bullying some farther to the back and keeping a small crowd gathered near the doorway. They are fighting for position and I'm trying to keep them in line. My approach is to keep a little notepad like back in the old days. Put down some ideas and possibly build them into one. 


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here, and after taking most of this month off to listen to my favorites of last year, I'm back in groove. This is a list that I started late last year, with the first one being one of my favorite albums of the year in 2017. It also includes the first release of this year and some older albums that I picked up not so long ago. Hopefully there's something on here to get you grooving as well. Here's to another fantastic year of music! Enjoy.

Ruby Throat - Baby Darling Taporo: The fourth album from the UK duo featuring Katie Jane Garside (Daisy Chainsaw, Queenadreena) is another limited release in amazing packaging and their first release in five years after they moved onto a boat. It's also another stunningly beautiful album that plays like the soundtrack to a dream. They continue to create a catalog of music that seems simple on the surface, but listen closely, and it reveals incredible subtle elements that add a spookiness to the dream folk vibe, like a dark fairy tale that hides the conflict under the surface. Brilliant stuff, this.

Death and Vanilla - The Tenant: It's been three years since the Swedish neo-psych band's last album, the brilliant To Where the Wild Things Are, a favorite of mine. So needless to say, I was looking forward to this album and made it the first 2018 album that I listened to. I was slightly disappointed that it was instrumental, but that's just my personal preference. Musically, it is dreamy and eerie, and a wonderful mood piece. I enjoy it, but had been hoping for more.

Two Dark Birds - Bow: The third album from the indie folk band is another beautiful piece of down-tempo music. This is a local band based up here in the Catskills who I had the chance to meet back in 2008 when their debut came out. There's. a sadness that has infused itself into their sound over the last decade and it serves them well as it graces this tales of maturity. "Pretty Wing," "The King Of...,"  and "Winter Song" are standouts on this fine album.

Grand Funk - Closer to Home: The Flint rock band released three albums in their first year and half, this being the third of those. I've been kind of obsessed with this band since I picked up their self-titled album for free over the summer and when I saw this for $1, I snatched it up. Half-way through this album, I thought to myself, "How have I gone so long without the Grand Funk?" True to the Michigan tradition, this is raw and raucous and like The Stooges, pushes the boundaries of rock of the time, though unlike The Stooges, this band took off like a rocket.

Mott The Hoople - All the Young Dudes: Released in 1972, this is the glam rock band's fifth album, and features the Bowie penned title track, which is easily one the best tracks in the genre. But this album is far more than one hit wonder. This one of the landmark records of the blossoming Glam rock movement that bent psychedelic blues rock into a fantasy world of abundance and decadence. Certainly worth the price of admission.

The Holy Dark - Pretty Little Bird: This is the third album from the Portland, OR indie band, but the first as a band, previous releases being basically solo efforts. There's something about this record that reminds me of late '90s indie. It owes a lot to fellow Oregonian Elliott Smith. All in all, it's a decent enough listen that when in the right mood can be just what you're looking for. But when not in that mood, it's quite skip-able. "Guilty and Out of it," "The Worst Part," and "Backfire" are stand-out tracks for me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Delightfully Disturbing Cinema

Four years ago, the movie adaptation of Irvine Welsh's 1998 novel Filth was released, and despite being a big fan of his novels, and the movie versions, I missed this one. But I finally got to see it this weekend, and like the book, it was delightfully disturbing. 

The story follows a detective in Welsh's hometown of Edinburgh Scotland who is trying his best to manipulate every person and situation around him in order to secure a promotion. Played brilliantly by James McAvoy, Detective Bruce Robinson is a drug riddled malcontent not unlike the skagboys in his popular Trainspotting novel, except Bruce Robinson carries a badge, which he uses as a means to get away with indulgences. 

Handed a high-profile murder case, Bruce has his hands full trying to work the case while also undermining his colleagues to put himself in the front runner position for the promotion within the force, which he believes will win back his estranged wife and daughter and reunite his family. 

For a little while, he able to handle this tangled web expertly. Everything seems to be going his way and falling into place, but eventually, his drug habits and hidden psychological problems begin to take their toll and he begins to crack under the stress.

The movie begins to unfold like a crime mystery, though the mystery isn't the actual murder at the center of the film, but rather the complicated hidden parts of the life of Detective Bruce Robinson. There's a weirdness about this movie that is part Terry Gilliam, part David Lynch, part John Waters. For the first half of the film, these weird elements seem disjointed and odd, but as the mystery unfolds, they take on meaning and prove themselves to be relevant to the story. Certainly not a film for everybody, but fans will appreciate it.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup (BEST of 2017)

Welcome to the last weekend of 2017, a year that most of us will be happy to see pass. In most areas of life, and by that I mean politics, social conduct, and public discourse, this hasn't been a banner year for humanity. However, it's been a damn fine year for music, as has every year of my life. This year was another great mix of new records by old favorites and discoveries of new artists. Here is my Roundup of the best albums of the year, in relative order, but not any specific order. Enjoy!

Top 25 Albums of 2017


Honorable Mentions:
Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger in the Alps
The Dears - Times Infinity Volume Two
Kadavar - Rough Times
Lana Del Rey - Lust for Life
Elizabeth & the Catapult - Keepsake
Bjork - Utopia
Karen Elson - Double Roses
Mozzy - 1 Up Top Ahk
Queens of the Stone Age - Villains
Langhorne Slim - Lost at Last, Vol. 1
Aimee Mann - Mental Illness

Best Live Releases of 2017

And since we once again live in an age of songs, here's my favorite singles of the year:

Portugal the Man - "Feel It Still"
Beck - "Dear Life"
Killers - "I'm the Man"
Liam Gallagher - "For What It's Worth"
Ian Felice - "In the Kingdom of Dreams"
Morrissey - "Spent the Day in Bed"