The Roundup returns after a week's absence due to a lack of electricity. During that power outage, I spent nearly two whole days without listening to a note of music, perhaps for the first time in my life. On the second night, the Missus informed me that our ipod stereo could also run on batteries, but would not charge the ipod due to Apple's devious plan to sell new accessories which each new model. But no matter, I had some juice and was willing to burn it. Like a dry drunkard, I drank furiously of the notes. While some of the albums on today's list date to that week past, many are from my return to full stereo so my enthusiasm may be a little drastic, but I ask that you bear with me.
Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me: Being a huge fan of her previous album Ys, I was eagerly anticipating this album...along with half of the music listening world. Four years in the making, this triple album was finally released. I was a bit skeptical. It could easily have been an overblown mess. What it turned out being though, is a masterpiece. Easily my #1 for the year so far, just an amazing literary folk album. Though admittedly, it's not for everyone. It's certainly the kind of poetry album that appeals to the English Lit student inside of me.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Beat the Devil's Tattoo: It's been three years since BRMC's last album, and five years since Howl, their crowning achievement in my mind (and one of the best albums of the last decade). To my surprise, this new effort turns back a little toward the roots rock nature of Howl than toward the fuzz rock of their other 3 albums. But unlike the soft tempered Howl, this album takes that sound and pushes it full speed ahead. It's a great blend of both things they do best. It's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it.
The Wooden Sky - If I Don't Come Home, You'll Know I'm Gone: North of the border has been a beacon for wonderful indie folk rock for years and The Wooden Sky is no exception. Much like other eastern Canadian bands, they play an indie rock inspired by midwestern americana. Just a beautiful, smart album.
The Warlocks - The Mirror Explodes: I've had this for a few months, but it got lost in my end of the year shuffle and realized I never mentioned it here. I've long been a fan of this L.A. psychedelic rock outfit and have all four of their previous albums. The best of the bunch is easily '07's Heavy Devy Skull Lover. So I was very much looking forward to this new effort. I was surprised that a lot of the heavy rock sound is missing from this album. The Mirror Explodes is much more a shoegazer album...a well-done one, but still, it's as if something is lacking. I enjoy the album, but is has a tendency to fade into the background while their previous albums command attention.
Big Narstie - What's the Story Brixton Glory: This album stands as a lesson that the same trick cannot always be expected to produce the same results. The Wu Tang vs. The Beatles album that I reviewed a few weeks ago is still on heavy rotation. So when I discovered this existed, a mash-up of UK grime rap and Brit Pop, what was not to love. The answer? This album. It just doesn't work.
Damon Albarn - Monkey: Journey to the West: The soundtrack to a limited run Chinese Opera created by Damon and Jamie Hewlett which I had the pleasure of seeing in Manchester during it's initial run. The stage show was an amazing experience combining acrobatics, theatrics and animation...so naturally the soundtrack feels incomplete. The music is an interesting blend of electronic and traditional Chinese...but fails to be more than a curiosity without the visual spectacle. Still though, it serves a further evidence that Damon Albarn has become one of the most diverse and creative musicians of our generation. I'm looking forward to the new Gorillaz album next week.
Turner Cody - The Cody Choir: A self-released anti-folk album from 2003, this was my first encounter with Turner Cody but certainly won't be my last. It reminded me of early Palace, a set of strong acoustic folk songs. A bit of an old-timey feel meets garage folk feel. I was thoroughly impressed with this one.
Roky Erickson - Demon Angel: Released in '95, this a lost gem that was sorely missing from Roky collection. It's essentially a re-recorded set of greatest hits, all done acoustically. Roky's voice is fragile and perfect as always. A stunning album. I can't wait to see him in concert again in a few months (this time joined by Okkervil River).
The Birdtree - Orchards & Caravans: This 2003 psychedelic folk album is the kind of sound I've been digging on of late, as evidenced by many of the selection of Roundups past. It's got that "Green is the Colour" Pink Floyd sound. Ethereal lo-fi folk at it's best.
David Bowie - Christiane F. Baal: A bootleg consisting mainly of two Bowie 80's soundtracks, one for Christian F: Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo and David Bowie in Bertolt Brecht's Baal. These two are good representations of show tunes stagey Bowie. But also on the compilation are a few rarer disco-esque tracks. "Cat People Putting Out Fires with Gasoline" and "Stay" are phenomenal. A good listen, but probably for fans only.