The sights and more importantly, the sounds of summer have reached my secluded corner of the globe with a ferocious roar today. I had been lulled by a few cooler days into thinking I'd escape the dog days. Faced with the brutal heat, I have no choice but to fend off my undying hatred of the season with music. Luckily the right set of tunes has the power to make me forget the fact that I'm slowly melting. So here's this week's choices for avoiding the punishment nature has chosen to dish out:
Dogs - The Other Side: This double disc compilation collects all the singles, b-sides, and otherwise forgotten tracks by the dynamite London outfit. Fast and angry, with meaningful lyrics that are catchy and easy to sing along to...this band is what I wished more punk sounded like. As is the case with most comps of this kind, it's not as strong as their albums, but still a worthwhile addition.
I Am Oak - On Claws: The second album from Dutch folk outfit that brought us 2008's great Ols Songd. This a very strong follow-up, a little moodier than the first and more depth in my opinion. There are a number of Dutch indie bands playing beautiful American style indie music these days and I Am Oak are definitely one of the better ones. Theirs is a early '70s style folk...I know folk tends to be a broad terms.
Karen Elson - The Ghost Who Walks: Okay, so I was thinking the same thing you are. A model making an album, who happens to be Jack White's wife, put out on his label with him playing on it. Sounds like a vanity project, right? But oh my god, it's so not. I've listened to this album a few times and like it better each time (and I liked it quite a bit the first time). Her voice is beautiful and the songs sound like catchier Cold Mountain tracks. Very americana and very very good. This is the album I always wished Jenny Lewis would make.
The Ledford Family - Songs We Love to Sing & Play: What a gem this record was when I found it in the vinyl stacks of the local music peddler. A family, from grandparents to children, recorded this roots album on several different kinds of dulcimers, some of Homer's own invention. These are the kind of lost American roots songs that were very regional, many that have become lost to time. Beautiful record, for fans of such things as The Anthology of American Folk Music.
The Rascals - Rascalize: This 2008 Britrock album features Miles Kane, the other half of The Last Shadow Puppets (Alex Turner's side project from Arctic Monkeys). This album from the now-disbanded Rascals, is more inline with The Last Shadow Puppets album than anything the Arctic Monkeys have done. It has the same sort of grandiosity while remaining hook-driven indie rock. Miles sounds like a sure ringer for Alex on here, which doesn't hurt either. A very good album for fans of British indie rock.
The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion: For the past several years, Australia has produced a whole crop neo-psychedelia bands (The Dolly Rocker Movement being my favorite). So why shouldn't New Zealand have a turn? This is the bands previous album, they have a new one out now which I haven't heard. Not unlike a lot of other bands playing this kind of lo-fi psychedelic music, it's not the best example of the genre but certainly not the worst. A good listen, though I have to admit it's not something that really captures the attention. But while writing, I sometimes just want a mood album and this satisfies that adequately.
Buddy Holly - Reminiscing: Released in 1963, this is the first full-length LP released after Buddy's untimely death. It's a little more rockabilly than many of his earlier hits, showing a slightly different side of his genuis. "Slippin' and Sliddin'" and "I'm Gonna Set My Foot Down," are easily top 20 Buddy songs for me. In my opinion, you can never go wrong putting on some Buddy Holly. Forget Elvis, this is the King right here.
The Virgineers - The Virgineers: The one and only album from the band, released in 1999. I only discovered this recently and was surprised by the Syd Barrett-y or more pyschedelic Kinks sound of the songs. I wasn't aware of any one doing that kind of sound then. Nowadays, there's tons. This is a very playful album, made by obvious music fans. It's just a really fun listen and sounds great. "13B Hawthorne Street" is one of my favorite songs of the summer so far.
Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender: Being a huge fan of Ys and Have One On Me, I was thrilled to get this, the singer-songwriter's first album from '04 from my friend the dANIMAL. This is very much a Joanna Newsom album, her voice and musical style sort of assures that. But this is a much less ambitious album than the two that followed. There are no 10 plus minute epics and no real attempt at making an "album." By that, I mean this is a more a collection of songs than a unified statement (as most albums are). That's not a knock on it...these are all great songs and it's a must-have for fans of her style of folk...however, I definitely think she's progressed and gotten better with each album she records.
Babyshambles - Wet Your Whistle and Get Bombed: There are certain bands, Nirvana comes to mind, whose demos and raw recording sessions reveal a level of authenticity and emotion that don't necessarily come across on the studio albums, even though the studio albums happen to be great. Pete Doherty's work is like that as well. When you hear him stripped of all production, strumming an acoustic guitar and working out his songs, you can hear a completely different side to the music. This bootleg captures a recording session pre-Shotter's Nation and is simply amazing. Another session, from a similar time and of equal beauty is The Whitechapel Sessions. Both are worth seeking out for anyone who likes unplugged style music.