Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

As another week draws to a close on a cool and dreary Sunday, I find myself listening to the comforting sounds of drone folk and reflecting back on the music of the last several days. This was one of those weeks where I gathered a bunch odds and ends together, hoping for something spectacular to emerge. None of the albums on this week's list were ones I'd been particularly waiting for or anticipating, which always leaves the door open for surprise. However all the artists were familiar to me, so it was a lot of safe bets. Enjoy.

Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes: The Guided By Voices, Boston Spaceships, Circus Devils, et al, frontman released his millionth solo album in April, the first in two years under his name. Like the aforementioned projects, the songs on here are brief lo-fi pieces. What I love about his music is how the songs feel like fragments of William Burroughs novels, full of surreal imagery and the hint of some bigger story. Probably not essential, but as always, it's a quality album. Fans won't go wrong with this one. 

Riff Raff - Hologram Panda: This mixtape from the Florida dope boy came out in 2012 and is available for free on datpiff.com. One of his most consistent efforts, there really aren't any true "skip" tracks on here, and the beats are trippy brilliant. Like all mixtapes, there's a repetitive feel to some of the songs as artists try to work out rhymes, playing with them in a variety of ways. Great for the summer and definitely worth picking up.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Live in Paris: It's hard to believe the San Fran rock band has been around for over a decade, and though they've consistently released quality albums, they are still relatively unknown. I saw them live way back during their debut album and to hear them on this record proves how much they've grown over their career. This double album contains their last album played live in order, while the second disc is a career spanning set. Most surprising is how great the last album sounds, because while I liked it, I didn't love it until I heard it here.

The View - Which Bitch?: Released back in 2009, this is the second album the Scottish band and one of the greatly overlooked gems of the British indie revival of the past decade. While The Libertines and The Arctic Monkeys are constantly acknowledged for bringing youth angst back to UK rock, The View are just as creative and inventive. If anything, this album shows them to be far more creative than their contemporaries at the time, fusing many different elements and influences into this collection of outstanding tracks. I've been a fan of this album since it came out and recently broke down and ordered it on vinyl. Definitely one that shouldn't be overlooked.

Ryan Adams - Jacksonville: This single came out last fall in the wave of releases from the singer songwriter that preceded and followed the release of his self-titled album. None of these three tracks are found on the album, but the title track would certainly have fit. It's a classic Ryan Adams sound,  a sort of Neil Young inspired piece of nostalgia about time passing. "I Keep Running" is another solid effort, and the last song is more of gag kind of song, playing with old blues themes and styles. More of curiosity track than anything else. 

The Jayhawks - Live at the Belly Up: In the mid-80's this Minneapolis quartet pretty much re-invented the alt-country genre, reaching the height of their success with 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass. With all the core original members back in place since 2008, they are once again making the rounds and recently released this live set featuring a career spanning set list. I'm a sucker for their Neil Young inspired sound and they really nail it here. A must for fans.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Distraction Nation


Once again our nation seems bent on diverting attention away from its problems to focus on lesser, slightly related issues. A week after a hateful young man killed a number of people inside of a church, the public debate has turned to one about the Confederate Flag. In my opinion this is just another way of distracting people from the real problems in our society. 

Is there a segment of the population that uses the Confederate flag as symbol of racism? Of course there is, but does the flag make somebody racist? Absolutely not! Removing a flag will do nothing to remove racism from our society. It will do nothing to solve the mental problems of hateful young people with access to guns.

As long as we continue to refuse to address the real core issues that cause violence in this country and stop focusing on band-aid side issues, nothing will ever change. It's time for us to stop allowing the media and politicians to steer us away from meaningful public debate and demand they engage in real discussions rather than sound bites. As of now, that seems only like wishful thinking on my part...nearly as wishful as those who believe hiding a flag will solve a deep rooted issue.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

I finally feel like I'm getting back into the groove and getting the chance to delve into more and more music. This is actually one of the rare weeks where I've heard more new albums than I'm willing to include in the Roundup, which means I've already got a jump start on next week's list. This week is a collection of new albums by old favorites mixed in with a handful of artists I knew little or nothing about before listening to the record. Some surprises, some not to be missed albums, and all in all a good week for music. Enjoy.

Blur - The Magic Whip: The Brit Pop legends' first album in eight years was released back in April. This is their eighth album, and possibly their most creative and complete. I've been listening to this for a few weeks and there isn't a single song that I don't love. Unlike many bands that release a new record after years off, they wisely don't try to relive past glory, and instead continue to progress, utilizing the songwriting talents of both Damon and Graham to create songs that feel fresh, exciting, and transcending. Easily one of the best records of the year and a true triumph.

The Bright Light Social Hour - Space is Still the Place: The Austin band's second album, and first in five years, is a wonderful piece of hard psychedelic rock. Despite the title, this isn't space rock, but does incorporate a lot of classic grooves that give it a '70s influence. The guitar is captivating on here, and though it feels inspired by the past, it never feels outdated. A very solid record, and a definite for fans of heavy psych. Could possibly be one that grows on me with future listens.

FFS - FFS: This collaboration album from Franz Ferdinand and Sparks was released last week and is one of the biggest surprises of the year for me so far. Though I enjoy work from both bands, I never considered the similarities between them. This merging brings out the best of both, pushing Franz Ferdinand into more experimental areas and honing the pop elements of Sparks. This is what Legendary Pink Dots would sound like if they made songs that were ever meant for wide release. I thought I was going to hate this, but found if completely infectious. Never prejudge.  

Belle and Sebastian - Live 2015: It's been nearly 20 years since the Glasgow indie pop band's groundbreaking debut, and though they've lost some valuable members since, they continue to make stunningly honest and endearing music. Released a few weeks ago is this career spanning concert recorded in their hometown, accompanied with a full orchestra. This wonderful set is captured in terrific quality. Certainly a must for fans. 

Jane's Addiction - Love Junkies: This bootleg concert, recorded in their native Cali back in 1987 just before the band made it big, sees the band at their chaotic best. I've always been more a fan of their earliest days when their sound wasn't as polished or produced. On this recording, you can hear that they are part of the late '80s L.A. glam/punk scene, sounding more akin to Guns 'N Roses than any alternative rock band. I snatched this up on vinyl a few weeks ago and it's a great edition to the collection. 

Steve Von Till - A Life Unto Itself: This is my first introduction to the Oakland singer songwriter, though it's his fifth solo album, and I'm sort of amazed it's taken me 15 years to discover his work. With a voice that sounds as old as the hills, this is music that colors the soul. He reminds me a bit of Mark Lanegan, but with a darker mood casting a shadow of his work. A very nice listen on a dreary day, one I'm sure to return to in the Fall. 

We Are the Ocean - Ark: The fourth album from the British rock band spans a few genres, feeling very alternative rock at times and a little heavy at others. It reminds of that '90s "alternative" sound, which isn't necessarily bad, especially if it's new to you. As for me, having lived through the era, it just felt too familiar in a been-there-done-that way. I have so much '90s alternative rock sounds stuck in my head that there is little room for new ones.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Long and Winding Road


Sorting through the pieces of a story to determine which goes where and what section connects with which other is exactly the type of elaborate puzzle I'm currently working through. The craft of writing isn't simply knowing what needs to happen in a story, it's weaving it together in such a way that nobody can see the stitches that hold it together. The New York Times Book Review once accused me of "sketching" and possibly they were right on some level. But I'm not sketching anymore. I'm ready to fucking paint like Rembrandt, just letting the perfectionism within me take hold.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup


It's Sunday and another week has passed, time once again to review some of the music I've been listening to over the last couple of days. I'm still trying to catch up on the mounds of albums that piled up in the previous month and it's been quite fun working my way through them. This week saw some albums that I've been waiting for as well as a handful of records that simply looked interesting. Also, being summer around these parts, there is a lighter, sunnier vibe to the sounds I've been grooving to. Hopefully there's something on here that spark your interest as well. Enjoy!

Marietta - Basement Dreams Are the Bedroom Cream: I was drawn to this debut album from the French psych band because of the awesome cover. I mean, really, what's not appealing about that. I'm happy to say the music is equally as appealing, reminding a bit of Brian Jonestown Massacre. Nothing particularly groundbreaking, but definitely a nice summer dose of pleasing psychedelic sounds that's worth checking out.

Bang Gang - The Wolves are Whispering: Released this week is the first album in seven years from the Icelandic indie band. I first started to follow them over a decade ago when they released their stunning second LP and was excited to see this was coming out, especially since I figured they had disbanded years ago. Another solid effort, this album is musically down tempo indie pop with shoegaze type vocals, a combination that I certainly appreciate. Also, a stunning cover doesn't hurt either.

Beast Coast - California Nights: The L.A. indie pop duo's third album doesn't stray very far from their first two. If anything, it tends to be a little more pop than their slightly more garage inspired debut. Nothing on here is as endearing or earnest as their breakout "When I'm With You", and part of me feels as though I'm always searching for that song when I listen to their work. It's both a blessing and a curse to have a song so great that everything that comes after will be compared to it. This is an enjoyable listen, but probably not something I will return to all that often. Easily absorbed, easily washed away. 

Raekwon - Fly International Luxurious Art: Though it's been years since I've heard a Wu related album that holds up from start to finish, I never get tired of searching for one. The latest from the Chef certainly isn't the one that is going to end that drought, but like all Wu related releases, it has moments that make you remember that you are listening to the best on the planet. This one suffers from a bit too much repetition, and a bit too much R&B backing vocals, but when it's on, it's pretty solid. Probably for completists only. 

The Holydrug Couple - Moonlust: The third album from the Chilean neo-psych band was released earlier last month and it has a light airy feel in the vain of Boards of Canada with shoegazer vocals. This would be the ultimate kind of chill-out room record for back in the rave days, holding similarities with early Slowdive albums. The band name alone certainly makes this one interesting and worth a listen.

Black Pussy - Magic Mustache: The debut album from this Portland based heavy psych band shows a lot of promise. Definitely on the border between stoner rock and psych, this falls in the Kyuss, Kadavar, The Sword school of rock. Right up my ally, I enjoyed this album, and can see a killer record in the future. Definitely worth checking out for fans of the genre.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Crafting Terror


Sometimes fixing one problem in a manuscript can open it up to new ones, and it then becomes a test of determination as one begins tackling it all over again. I find myself once more returning to the tortured world I've created in my latest manuscript with the intent of making this large story even bigger, yet more entwined. 

These are times that try a writer and push one to stretch the limits of their craft. Having been working on this story on and off for the better part of three years, this is the project that will determine my dedication, and which I will probably use to gauge my skills. I'm fairly certain this won't be the last go round, but as of now, I'm confident that I will pull this all together and leave the world with a terrifying tale that won't soon be forgotten.    

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

As promised, this weekend I'm sharing with you all new albums. After nearly a month of not listening to music that I hadn't heard before, it was a welcome return to the norm. I had a ton to chose from, having gathered new music without having to listened to it, the list grew rather long. A lot of these are records that I've been anticipating for quite some time, while others are ones I wanted to take a shot on. Given that new music had escaped for a bit, I didn't want to overload with too many of the same sounds and mixed in a lot of different genres. Hopefully there's something on here for you to discover. Enjoy.

Sun Kil Moon - Universal Themes: Following up last year's fantastic Benji album, Mark Kozelek continues his re-invented style of songwriting on the band's new album released this week. Taking a Beat Generation sort of approach, once again these are tales of his every day life, relationships, and experiences told with brutal honesty. There's the danger of songs like this to become boring, but it never happens as musically the desperate mood expands and evolves. This certainly isn't for everybody as it is an album that demands thought and attention, but I really enjoyed it, and as with Benji, I see it growing on me with each listen.

Holly Miranda - Holly Miranda: The former Jealous Girlfriends vocalist and guitarist released her second proper solo record last month, her first in five years. Her debut was an album that I loved, and I got the chance to meet her twice and get her to sign my vinyl copy. I've been waiting for this record for quite some time and it certainly lived up to my expectations. Slightly more pop influenced, this collection of beautiful ballads is as honest and genuine as her debut, and even more consistent. Easily an album I will return to over and over again.

S.T.S. x RJD2 - S.T.S x RJD2: Philly rapper Sugar Tongue Slim teams up with the West Coast instrumental hip-hop artist for this collaborative album that came out last month. There's a 70's feel good vibe to this record that reminds me in part of Crooklyn Dodgers and a little bit of Souls of Mischief. A perfect summer album for the BBQ set. I really enjoyed this, finding it hard not to smile while it was on. Definitely worth listening to if you're into that old school hip-hop funk.

Kamchatka - Long Road Made of Gold: The Swedish blues rock band's fifth album came out two weeks ago and is a heavy dose of psychedelic blues. They have a bit of an Alice in Chains vibe, but more rooted in '70s hard rock than any kind of metal. Perhaps a heavy Deep Purple would be a better description. A solid rock album, even if not very inventive. For fans of the genre, you could do a lot worse, but for casual listeners, there are certainly more definitive records to pick up first.

Ryan Adams - Live at Carnegie Hall: Over the years, I tend to go back and forth on Ryan Adams, not that I've ever not liked his music, just sometimes I'm more into it than others. I thought this would be one of those albums that I would enjoy because it's just him in a acoustic setting. I thought that might be the perfect atmosphere for his work, and I was right. This is fantastic! Both nights are wonderful, so make sure to hear both if possible. The song selection spans his career, and to top it off, he's hilarious throughout. This is certainly a definite for fans, as well as for any fair weather fans like myself. A true achievement and probably to be on the year end list. 

Lyrics Born - Real People: The Japanese born Cali rapper's sixth album was released last month and it's quite the up tempo party record. This album is funky as hell, with a Sly Stone vibe that runs throughout. Sometimes it amazes me what happens in pop music, how a terrible song like "Uptown Funk" can become a hit, but a truly energetic creative interpretation of the same vibe can linger in obscurity. Not a perfect album, but a fun one to play on summer weekends.