In the past week, I probably attempted fewer new listens than any other week in the past year, not counting vacations of course. There are a few reasons for this. Partially because my iTunes was overwhelmed with the massive amounts of music I've stuffed into it of late. Another reason was the fact that I was revisiting a previous writing project which often means revisiting music that inspired the project. I still made some time for a few good listens I will share with you, along with some items that have been sitting in queue for months waiting for a review.
Tweak Bird - Tweak Bird: This L.A. band's 2008 EP Reservations was a favorite of mine two years ago and I was pretty excited for this album, their first full-length. For good reason too! Tweak Bird is 30 minutes of blissed-out heavy stoner rock. Like most L.A. rock, there is a heavy glam influence to their blend of heavy grooves that set them apart from the sludgier bands in the genre. Put it on and turn it up.
Fitz and the Tantrums - Pickin' Up the Pieces: The first single off this album, MoneyGrabber, has been stuck in my head for an entire week. It's a perfect 70's soul style jam and one of the best soul revival tracks of the year. The album is a bit uneven, but certainly there are a bunch solid tracks that sound a little like David Bowie, ala the Thin White Duke era, singing soul music. Not too shabby.
Odawas - Raven and the White Night: Released on vinyl only on one of my favorite labels, Jagjaguwar, in 2007, this is the band's only album and obviously went largely unnoticed. It's really too bad because it's quite beautiful and interesting. Like labelmates, and fellow Bay Area band The Skygreen Leopards, Odawas are an experimental folk outfit but a type of folk that's much harder to place. There are swirling string arrangements, sound snippets and sonic landscapes throughout that all mix well with the fragile folk underneath it all. At times it sounds like 'More' era Pink Floyd meets Plastic Ono Band.
Panda Bear - Person Pitch: The 2007 spin-off album from Animal Collective's Noah Lennox has been much praised over the past few years. Now, anyone who follows my Roundups knows I'm certainly not the biggest Animal Collective fan. However, I was compelled to try this anyway simple because the cover is so fantastic. I do like this album better than recent Animal Collective albums, but I didn't love it. It shares many of the same flaws. It's a similar blend of swirling sunny indie pop trying very had to emulate "Pet Sounds" (an album I also don't like very much) but in the end comes out sounding like a jumbled mess. There are moments in every song that are perfect, yet no perfect songs.
Hayley Mills - Let's Get Together: For those who don't know, Hayley was Disney's IT girl in the early '60s and this album, an oddball mix of sentimental fare and teenybopper pop was released after the success of The Parent Trap. The title track comes from that movie and as a kid, I always dug that song. I still do. It's infectious. The rest of the album is kind of dull however. Still, it's a nice addition to any kitsch collection.
Black Moon - enta da stage: An east coast hip-hop classic from 1993, this album epitomizes the Brooklyn sound from the era. Buckshot's flow is dynamic to be sure, but there is a bit of dating that has accumulated over the past 17 years. In the mid-90s, living in NYC, I was heavily into east coast hip-hop. However, I much preferred the rap coming out of Queens and Staten during the time. Brooklyn hip-hop used much starker beats and flow, dropping most rhymes on the 1-2 instead of the 3-4. Still though, there's a wealth of classics on here.
The Pretty Things - The Pretty Things: This is a band I wrote off a long time ago after buying S.F. Sorrow back in college and hating it. A few months ago, I was talking to an old timer about British Blues and he recommended early albums by The Pretty Things. I told him about my S.F. Sorrow feelings and he said, "Forget that album, it's crap." So I knew we were on the same page and took his advice. This is the band's 1965 debut and it's a solid British Blues album much in the style of early Rolling Stones or The Animals. Solid stuff and recommended for those who've exhausted the standards of the genre and crave more.
Nas - Illmatic: Another mid-90s NYC hip-hop classic, this time from 1994. Now naturally, I knew this album inside and out back in the days but I didn't own it simply because everyone else I knew did, which meant I heard it plenty. But after listening to Black Moon, I was feeling the need for some Queensbridge New York type crime rhymes. Though I certainly prefer Mobb Deep's The Infamous, this album is pretty stellar. A must have for any east coast hip-hop fan.
Television Personalities - Mummy Your Not Watching Me: The London bands' second full length album from 1982 follows the brilliant 1981 debut ...And Don't the Kids Just Love It. Like that album, this one is also very ahead of its time. Part of the Post-Punk era, the band kind of doesn't fit with the others from the era though. There's heavy Syd Barrett influence and it actually resembles a lot of '90s British indie weirdness. They actually remind me of Blur's more whimsical moments. The band has tons of albums that I still need to hear, but so far both of the ones I've heard are brilliant.
Jeff Buckley - Grace: This album was released in 1994 and praised by critics while ignored by mainstream listeners. I admit to being one of them, mostly because the cover set me in the wrong frame of mind. It has since become a classic album especially following the singer's tragic death in 1997. I read that Radiohead wrote "Fake Plastic Trees" after being inspired by a Jeff Buckley show they attended and you can tell. In fact, I can hear a lot Buckley's influence on post-Britpop British bands such as Radiohead, Haven, Travis and others. Perhaps because these soft beautiful songs seem to capture the grey tones of that Isle. It's a fantastic album.