Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

This week I'm returning to the traditional Music Roundup format of sharing a random selection of albums that I've discovered over the past few weeks. (Don't worry though, for those who like theme week, there are more planned.) I've been doing a lot of writing lately and by default, a lot of music listening. As always, I've discovered many amazing albums. I'll never understand people who refuse to search out new sounds to inspire them. I find sonic landscapes to be some of the most influential contributing factors to creativity. Here's some of what has been occupying my time of late.

Bear Hands - Burning Bush Supper Club: After 2008's Golden EP, I'd been looking forward to this first full-length album from the Brooklyn based outfit. The band tones down it's aggressive indie sound for this album, creating soft songs that are sometimes a little too soft and seem to fade away as you're listening to them. That said, it's certainly a grower. With each listen, I hear more of the complicated bits and pieces going on under the surface. Slightly too subtle, but in a noisy world that isn't always a bad thing. "Wicksey Boxing" is a real stand-out track for me.

Stardeath & White Dwarfs - The Birth: Released last year, this is easily one of my favorite albums that I've heard of late. I came into this band because of their collaboration with The Flaming Lips on last year's remake of The Dark Side of the Moon and there is certainly an element of Pink Floyd on this. The album has a fuzzed out psychedelic groove, but also a great sense of melody. Of recent bands, only Portugal. The Man seems to compare in range of creativity. A sensational album by all accounts.

Coraline Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Rarely does a film score succeed as a stand-alone listen without the aid of the visual picture, but Coraline does. The orchestra arrangements, coupled with the eerie sounds of The Children's Choir of Nice, create such a wonderfully dreamlike mood that captures the feel of the film perfectly. It reminds me in part of another great soundtrack from last year, Where The Wild Things Are. This album has been in heavy rotation during this past week's dreary mornings.

Richard Swift - Ground Trouble Jaw: In 2008, the talented singer-songwriter Richard Swift released a series of EPs that differed from his brilliant '70s inspired albums. These EPs showcased a wide-range of influences from the 50's, '60s and 70's. The five songs on here are no different. Though this EP does resemble more of Richard Swift's core sound, somewhere between John Lennon's solo musings and Harry Nilsson's playfulness. A perfect companion to his finest solo album Dressed Up For the Letdown.

Archie Bronson Outfit - Derdang Derdang: The London outfit's second album from 2006 is a fantastic piece of psychedelic blues much like the Black Angels. It's got a dirty rough garage sound that suits the songs perfectly. Most of the songs build into a big sound wave that always seems to take over. Wonderful bits of slide guitar, backing singers, and pure energy. Good stuff.

Picadilly Line - The Huge World of Emily Small: This 1967 album is the only album by this British psychedelic pop group. It's kind of a mishmash of early Pink Floyd singles like "See Emily Play" or "Apples and Oranges", the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album and the Stones' Her Satanic Majesty's Request. In other words, it was a band trying to create a sound of super popular bands of the era with mixed results. There's nothing earth shattering contained in it's songs, but it's still a nice addition to that short-lived genre of flowery pop psychedelia.

Shudder to Think - Curses, Spells, Voodoo, Mooses: Before signing to Dischord Records in 1990 and becoming one of the finest and most unique bands of the '90s, Shudder to Think released this vinyl only album in 1989 which wasn't re-released on CD until 2003. It's a fine album that sees the band's early manic sound already fully formed. Playing with frantic post-hardcore driving beats and quick guitar, it's Craig Wedren's swirling voice that really made this band stand out, and it's the same with this record. This album actually comes the closest to the band's Get Your Goat album, (my first introduction to the band when I purchased it at the age of 15). It's much wilder and more chaotic than the band's later albums which evolved into a more glam-inspired sound. Includes an inspired cover of John Lennon's "Imagine".

Eyes Adrift - Eyes Adrift: In 2002, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana hooked up with another Kurt, this time Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets to form this short-lived band which would release only the one album. Though it received a decent reception from critics, the album was lost in the shuffle and never made much of a splash. In part, I believe this is because the melodic brand of alternative rock, while pleasant enough, never makes much of an impact. I'm a huge fan Krist's first post-Nirvana band, the criminally neglected Sweet 75's, but this band has none of that excitement and fire beneath the surface. A enjoyable enough listen, but doubtful it will stand out. Still though, it would have been nice to see where the band would have gone from here.

Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina - Sittin' In: I have to admit, this album was much better than I expected. My image of Loggins isn't very positive and I was ready to put this album on the record player and turn it off quickly. But in the end, I found it an enjoyable example of lite '70s country folk. "Danny's Song" is the big hit on here and for good reason. It's super catchy and super radio friendly, yet still endearing. "Back to Georgia," "Pooh Corner," and "Same Old Wine" are also top quality songs. I love when an album surprises me.

Camel - Mirage: Released in 1974, this is the second LP from the British prog rock pioneers. This was given to me by a friend and I've been listening to it all week long. This easily fits in with Pink Floyd's output of the same period. The music always seems to move forward, taking you along on a journey. As is the case with much of the best prog rock, it's hard to pin down this album because it's so vast. It's got heavy guitar moments, soft airy moments, and pretty much everything in between. A truly complete album that is a must to complete any collection.

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