It's been a week of grey days and snowstorms that never came up around these parts, which means it's the time of year that I seem to retreat into acoustic soundscape music. Compounded with the weather is that fact that this week was dedicated mainly to the development of story ideas and concepts...this also lends itself to the mental imagery conjuring abilities of such albums. However, I do still need to clear the brain out with rock, so not everything here will strike the kids as b-o-r-i-n-g.
HIM - Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice: I'm not afraid to admit I've been a HIM fan for a decade (and several years before Bam or Hot Topic knew they existed, thanks to my Euro friends). They play love metal at its finest and I could listen to Ville Valo sing all day long. That said, I didn't have high expectations for this one. There last album was such a let down and I'd worried they'd lost it. This album is much better, but treads similar ground. HOWEVER, the special issue includes a bonus disc of the entire album acoustically...and that my friends is fantastic. Certainly worth the extra price (or extra searching).
Guns N' Roses - Live in Concert: Democracy in Japan 2009: This boot of GNR's December concert in Japan isn't their best concert or the best quality, but it was interesting to hear all of Chinese Democracy played live (mixed in with other songs in the 3+ hour concert). Whole Lotta Rosie and Rocket Queen sound great. And Tommy Stinson singing Sonic Reducer is pretty awesome, nearly as good as Joe Dick's version.
The Mad Trist - Pay the Piper: Certainly I was attracted to this by the great cover and the title (the Pied Piper of Hamlin story is one of my favorites). The album turned out to be a solid enough Queens of the Stone Age impersonation. Rock with just enough tinge of eerie to make it un-bland. If this is your genre, I don't think you'd be disappointed.
The Lickets - They Turned Our Desert Into Fire: One of the soundscape albums I promised. Sounding much like Pink Floyd in their Cymbaline days. Certainly more of a headphones album, I'm liking this one quite a lot.
Rocky Votolato - True Devotion: A singer/songwriter with a Midwestern folk vibe, I was looking forward to this. I loved Rocky's last album The Brag and Cuss. There was something smart about that album that captured that sense of loneliness that comes with escaping in the mind and drink too often. True Devotion doesn't quite capture it and seems to miss the mark a little. A decent listen, but I highly recommend going for previous effort over this one.
Small Black - Small Black: I've been reading great things about this debut from the Brooklyn band on one of my favorite labels, Jagjaguwar. It's very much a Brooklyn sound...fuzzed out vocals, subdued disco drum beats blurred by post-rock guitars. It's a formula that's worked for countless Brooklyn hipster bands and it works here as well. There's moments of brilliance on this album, but overall, I think it stays too close to that formula...or just that there's been too many bands to follow the same formula that it doesn't stand out to me. Good, but not great...though I certainly look forward to what these guys come up with next.
Jeans Wilder - Antiques: A garbled, lo-fi kind of album that sounds like an artifact from home recording past, though it's new...still though, more than likely a home recording and released on *gasp* cassette, as is the trend with a lot of these droney folk bands (read Natural Snow Buildings). I liked this very much, even though its impossible to know what the guy is singing about because it's soooo lo-fi, but somehow that adds to the mood. Keep in mind though, I am a sucker for this kind of album.
Harlem - Free Drugs ;-) : After the surprise of "Hippies" (and based on the dANIMAL's advice), I checked this out, Harlem's earlier release. Very good garage rock. Rougher certainly than "Hippies" but not in a bad way. Hailing from Austin, it's interesting that they really seem to capture a Washington Square Park vibe for me. Oh, and I highly suspect they were on drugs while making this album. Just a hunch.
Agalloch - The White: Another soundscape album, I really loved this one. A neo-folk sound, it's an album of atmosphere. That atmosphere to me is like the setting of a dark Victorian children's book where bad things are lurking in pretty disguises.
Ralph McTell - Not Till Tomorrow: British folkster that is very much in the long line of late '60s and early '70s British folksters to borrow heavily from Don't Look Back era Bob Dylan. This 1972 album is definitely Dylan-esque but a very passable. I put this vinyl on the spinner whilst building a fire and found myself perking up on nearly every song. That typically means, good stuff.