Tons to chose to from this week, due in part to last weekend's Oasis tribute and due in LARGE part to the successful hook-up of the turntable in my living room which has allowed me to spin some fuzzy warbles that had been put up on the shelf for quite a bit of time. Add all that into the usual influx of new tunes and what we have here is a great Labor Day list. Feast your ears:
Sea Wolf - White Water, White Bloom: I've been waiting for this follow-up to 2007's Leaves in the River for quite some time. Sea Wolf is a band that came with the first tidal wave of melancholy folk rock and they do it well. Though this album didn't quite live up to the first one, it's still a really good album. Smart sounds, smart lyrics. The second half of the album is breathtaking, too bad the first half is slightly lacking.
The Mars Volta - Octahedron: Granted, I'm a Mars Volta fanatic (ranking Amputechture among the 50 best albums ever), but still, I truly mean it when I say this album is fantastic. A more low-key approach doesn't hamper the genius I've come to expect from Omar and Cedric. What I love about their albums is that every listen leaves me with feeling of having read a great sci-fi novel. And with Frusciante always nearby to lend his majesty, everything clicks.
Dandelions - Dandelions: What a find this was! I stumbled upon this record and wondered how I missed it in last Fall's kidcore plunge. It was like discovering a key lecture you missed during semester studies, because this is one of the best child performer albums ever. Period. Recorded in 1971 by two 8-year-old girls who wrote all the songs, sang them and played acoustic guitar, Dandelions is beautiful folk record. It's a superb album that sonically captures all that is good about humanity, and that's not hyperbole.
Skygreen Leopards - Gorgeous Johnny: The new album by one of my favorite bands of the decade. This new effort continues Skygreen's brand of psychedelic folk. Sunshine sounds with daisy clad skeletons just behind the sky, haunting us with a presence felt but never seen.
Neil Young - Citizen Kane Junior Blues: This live bootleg was recorded at the Bottom Line in NYC 1974. It's one I've sought out for a little while, mostly because all of those early '70s Neil solo-acoustic shows are beautifully fragile and brilliant, and partly because in college, I walked by the Bottom Line every day. What's special about this show is the set list, showcasing a lot of songs that don't typically fill these Neil solo acoustic shows. "Revolutionary Blues" (one of my favorite Neil songs) is done in an unbelievable rendition that shook me.
Joanna Newsom - Ys: This is my first encounter with Joanna Newsom, but most likely won't be my last. I could see some people being turned off by the somewhat Ren-Fair style, but there's a fine line between that and this, which transcends its roots to create something more meaningful. It's like reading fairy tales, dark and beautiful fairy tales. Reminds me of a modern day Incredible String Band.
Jimmy Smith - Peter & the Wolf (arranged by Oliver Nelson): The classical piece was remade by these two legends of funk/ jazz fusion back in 1966 and to my ears, it brings the piece to life more than it ever was before. It's as if they woke up the music that previously had been sleepwalking and now it's out on the floor with a heartbeat ready to explode. Think "Night on Disco Mountain" but with two masters in the driving seat.
Black Star: The fact that I'd missed this is due solely to chronology. Released '98, I'd already soured on hip-hop and couldn't be bothered to sift through the endless club crap being churned out at the time in order to find a gem hidden in the racks. This is one of those gems. Lyrically dynamic, impeccable flow, and beats that ooze from the speakers...I finally understand how Mos Def became a star.
Electric Wizard - Dopethrone: I'd never heard of EW before coming across the above album cover. My interest was peaked. I did a little snooping and saw it highly rated and figured, well with a cover like that and name like dopethrone, how could I not chance it. I'm glad I did. This is a heavy, heavy piece of sludge doom metal that summons the darker spirit of Black Sabbath but without falling into the traps the bore me about death metal. File under D for Delicious Heaviness.
Jefferson Starship - Blows Against the Empire: The transitory effort to Starship is on par with the last Airplane releases. The first track Mau Mau is a bit of a mess, but an interesting mess. Highlights for me are A Child is Coming, presumably about Grace and Paul's coming daughter who would appear as the baby on the cover of the Sunfighter album the following year. The other real highlight is Hijack, the lone Marty Balin song. Fantastic.