Though it's Monday, today is my unofficial weekend day as I was working the entire 'real' weekend. But don't fret. A day late just means more audio satisfaction to pass onto you all. That's why this list is expanded to 12 albums from the usual ten.
This past week was a return to habit. I've been working on cutting down my endlessly ballooning wishlist, so the spread here is a nice mix of old and new. A very diverse list with something for the whole family.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Pol Pot's Pleasure Penthouse: This is an interesting listen for fans. On this early release, the band hasn't yet perfected their signature neo-pysch sound. But the roots of it are there. Hearing it mixed with a more traditional shoegazer sound makes this a solid listen. Plus, the title. They always have the best titles.
Sivert Hoyem - Moon Landing: This is the third solo album from the frontman of one of this decades best bands (Madrugada). His voice sounds like it rose up from the icy depths of the Scandinavian landscape . . one of those voices that you feel in your bones. This collection of songs is very good. But it does feel like a collection of songs. Worth it for fans, but if you don't his work, I'd still recommend picking up his fist solo album and the first few Madrugada albums.
The Flaming Lips - Embryonic: The album that completely blew me away this week would have to be this one. Now, I'm not a huge Lips fan. Like everybody else, I appreciate the beautiful concept album Yoshimi and enjoy The Soft Bulletin, but most everything else I've heard from them feels over indulgent and bloated. So, my expectations for this were non-existent. I put it on, half feeling like I'd pay attention to it. It got my attention from song one and held it throughout. It feels huge but doesn't feel bloated. It's like a sci-fi or fantasy novel that is successful in creating another world. It's an epic work.
Kaizers Orchestra - Vare demoner: The newest from Norway's Kaizer's outfit is probably not as good as some of the earlier releases this decade, but it's still very good. What I love about them is that the music is very clever. In my mind, their albums run like conspiracy plots involving very shady characters. Perhaps that's because I don't understand everything they're saying, but the music alone definitely tells a story. It's dark, up-tempo garage with a clean sound.
Dead Man's Bones - Close second for the album that blew me away award. This is Ryan Gosling (the actor) playing with a Children's Choir singing very roots kind of folk songs (mostly about death) with lots of chimes and bells and other calamities to make the sound of marching skeletons. His voice is deep and surprisingly great. The children are amazing. The combination...perfect.
The Littl'ans - Primitive World: This London band has been one of my latest obsessions the past few weeks. After listening to an EP they did with Pete Doherty, I was instantly hooked by their jangling free-form tales of travels through the seedy underworld. This, their only full-length was equally good, actually better because there's more songs. I dare you to be able to listen to Chelsea and not get it out of your head for two days.
Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen - The Typewriter Tape: Recorded in Jorma's home in the summer of '64, this is one of those great lost treasures. Two legendary musicians got together and played this very relaxed set of blues. Stripped of all production, you hear the talent and the enjoyment they had laying down these tracks. The title comes from the fact that Jorma's wife is playing the typewriter keys throughout. Some may find that annoying. I actually love it, but I'm a sucker for typewriters for obvious reasons. Plus, it adds to the "being in the room" feel.
Fredrik - Na Na Ni: This is turning into the Scandinavian list (unintentionally). Hailing from Sweden, this band is one of those experimental folk outfits that I love so much. This is a very solid record. It's not quite up to Natural Snow Buildings, but along those lines. Though, it should be noted that Fredrik strives for more of a pop melody than NSB, which is probably a welcomed note for some of you.
Betty Wright - My First Time Around: This is a record I missed last Fall when I was doing my kidcore studies, but I'm glad I found it eventually. Only 15 when this Southern Soul singer recorded this stomping album, Betty Wright's voice sounds much older and wiser than her years. (Not that 15 years old can't be wise, mind you). A must for any late '60s soul fan.
The Incredible String Band: I'm by no means an ISB illiterate, owning three of their other freak folk classics (which is probably three more than my wife feels necessary). Going back to my college days, my best friend and I would throw on The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter and mellow out to their crazy hippy vibe. When I saw this, their first release, used on vinyl at Kim's in the city for $4.99, I had to get it...and it just may be my favorite of theirs. It's much more controlled, much calmer, but at the same time sounds out of this world. It sounds like you kind of expect it to have been recorded right there as they were taking that cover photo. All hail the freak folk pioneers.
Tim Buckley - Starsailor: Tim is one of many who have been on my "someday, you need to check this out" list for years. He's a legend, but I can honestly say I didn't know any of his music. I picked this up with years of curiosity going into the first listen. Lots of times, that's a dangerous thing and a sure way to disappointment. Not this time however. It was more than I ever imagined. I expected a folk singer-songwriter. I got something much more experimental and lasting. I feel this will be in heavy rotation for the long winter months, much as Sandy Hurvitz's was last winter.
Alice Kooper - Killer: My recent experiences with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden have caused me to go back and look at some of these earlier acts that, by the time I started getting into music, had become kind of caricatures of themselves and were dismissed for the youth of the day (meaning late '80s). Alice was one of those. Over the years, I've always been a little curious to check out his early 70's work. I knew it was one of the roots of glam and being that I love Detroit rock, it only seemed natural that I'd like these albums. I finally listened to Killer and wow, that's some good rock and roll. Aptly titled, there's the swagger of the New York Dolls and the grit of the Stooges on this album...can't wait to hear some more.