My big musical adventure this week revolved around my efforts to visit the only vinyl store in nearby Kingston. I had an appointment around the corner on Tuesday and figured I'd nip into the record shop a little early. They specialize in classic rock, but have a decent selection of 80's and 90's stuff for a small shop. The problem with this store is its odd hours and I always seem to catch it closed. It was closed on Tuesday, but I found out shortly later because Mercury Rev was using the space to rehearse. I went back on Friday and it was open. Not only did I get to shuffle through hundreds of records without anyone else there, but I also got to hear Mercury Rev still rehearsing. They sound amazing. It's was like a private concert. That's my music story for the week. Without further ado, here's this week's selections. Enjoy.
The Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass (Deluxe Reissue): A few weeks ago, this 1995 album was reissued with a ton of discarded tracks and early demo takes of songs. Being that this is an album I truly love, I was eager to hear the expanded version and I'm glad to report that it's pretty great. Their inner Neil Young, which shows on their studio albums, really shines on the raw demos such as "Hold Me Close" and "Ranch House in Phoenix." This band was really a decade ahead of the trend of using country influences in indie rock. If you don't know the album, or even if you do, I highly recommend getting this version.
Tina Dico - Welcome Back Colour: This double album from London based, Danish singer songwriter Tina Dico was a strong contender for my best-of list last year. This first disc is an upbeat blend of indie sounding R&B. There's definitely a pop sensibility to it, but with an Aimee Mann feel. "A New Situation" being my favorite song on that album. The second disc is more acoustic singer-songwriter and owes even more to Aimee Mann. "Break of Day" being my favorite track on that album.
Natural Snow Buildings - Waves of the Random Sea: The newest album from my favorite French drone folk outfit is a bit more subdued than some of their more grand efforts, including last year's space folk The Centauri Agent. There's less drone and more attempt at melody, along with more vocals which I always like on their albums. Also, unlike some of their other releases, which can extend for several hours, this is a more standard release of about an hour and a half. Listening to this band can certainly start to feel like your listening to same thing over and over, but individually, this is still a very good album.
Iron and Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean: This is one of those albums that took me a few listens to really enjoy. I admit that upon first hearing it, except for a few songs, I was ready to say I hated it. But on the next listen, it grew on me. On each listen since, it has improved to the point where I'm certain this is truly a good album. There are still some sound effect gimmicks and a bizarre sexy slide whistle and whomp bass that bother me, but the the song structures are impressive. "Monkey's Uptown" and "Rabbit Will Run" are amazing. And "Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me" might be my favorite Iron & Wine song of all time. This is why I almost never write off an album after the first listen.
Jason Webley - The Cost of Living: As I mentioned in my last review of a Jason Webley album, I came into his music because of the Evelyn Evelyn album which was my second favorite album of last year. This 2007 album has a bigger sound than Counterpoint (the other solo album of his that I have reviewed) yet it retains the spiritual nature of songwriting in the same way I consider Leonard Cohen's songs to be hymns. He is one of these figures who will one day be recognized as an amazing talent. This album sounds a bit like a gypsy Decemberists album, sung in a drunken harbor bar.
Jonathan Round - Jonathan Round: This 1971 homemade sounding bit of psychedelic craziness is a rare gem along the lines of The United States of America album. Coming from Detroit, there is a definite rawness associated to bands from that town in that era, a sense of danger in every song that is delightful to hear. There is an insane version of "Sympathy for the Devil" on here, which apparently Mick Jagger once called one of his favorite covers. "Young Sadie (Dancing Lady)" is another amazing track. Just a good forgotten psych album.
Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings: Every fan of the blues knows Robert Johnson, the King of the Delta Blues Singers, and regard him as the true father of blues music, having influenced the entire genre from the '30s and still continuing to influence music today. As far as I know, he's also the earliest known case of selling his soul to the devil for music. I'd been wanting this box set for a long time and finally got it for Christmas. A double disc, containing two recordings of every song, this really is the Holy Grail of old time blues music. His voice is haunting. His words are reach inside of you. And then there is his guitar playing which is as profound as the sound of the world spinning.
Sparks - Propaganda: This is the L.A. electro-glam band's second album released in 1974, along with Kimono My House, both of which I have on vinyl as part of a donated collection. Both of these albums are really inventive forms of prog-punk with cabaret elements and certainly sound more like albums coming out today than anything being released at the time. They are also maddening confusing in their manic changes. I certainly feel that Kimono My House is the superior album, but this one is also good. There's a sense of panicked fun about them that I quite enjoy.