Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

My journey through the past has continued for yet another week as I've been listening to albums that I've owned for months, and in some cases years. Perhaps it's just the desire to wrap myself in the comfort of winter's last vestige, wallowing in familiar sounds before the explosion of spring sets my ears off in newer directions. But for whatever reason, looking at this week's list, I'm struck by the fact that it could very well represent my musical interests for this time of the year circa 1998 (provided of course these albums all existed then). I suppose no matter how much our artistic interests evolve, there will always be a core foundation upon which all is built. Enjoy.

Interpol - Interpol: This is a band that's difficult for me to evaluate fairly, having been friends with certain members before the band was famous. In many ways, it's the band I love to cheer for, kids from the old gang making it huge. I got this for Christmas, after being obsessed with the single 'Barricade' (which I still maintain is one of the best songs of last year and one the band's best songs since the first album). And though I really enjoy this album, it definitely falls easily into the background. It rarely commands your attention in the way I had hoped. I'm always skeptical when a band decides to self-title their fourth sends the signal of being creatively bankrupt. Thankfully, that's not the case here. However, the danger that used to be present under the surface of their songs seems to have vanished, leaving nice enough songs in the wake, if not entirely memorable ones.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs: There was a time when a new Radiohead album would instantly receive heavy rotation in my fuzzy warble spinner. I lived on a steady of diet of The Bends and OK Computer in the mid-90's. I was a decedent of Kid A and Amnesiac in early years of the last decade. And then came two albums that left me feeling, well, nothing much at all. Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows were both a bit messy and unsatisfying in my opinion. So it was more with a yawn than anything else that I decided to listen to the new album. I certainly like it better than those last two albums. At the very least there is a consistency that runs through it. It feels like an album. It's all very moody and pleasant, however it does tend to be a little boring. There's a lot of tinkering around. In many ways, it sounds like a demo album, a first draft of Amnesiac maybe. That said, I have been listening to it quite a bit. It's been a great background album while working. "Morning Mr. Magpie" and "Little by Little" are the two real standout tracks for me.

Big Blood & The Bleedin' Hearts: Those of you who follow the Roundup know that I raved about this Portland, Maine band a few weeks ago upon first hearing them. Ever since hearing those first two albums from the freak folk collective, I've been gathering the rest of their decade long catalog. This 2008 album is just as great as the others I've heard. They remind me of O'Death with a softer tempo and richer sense of traditional folk. What I love about Big Blood is that their music sounds so timeless, yet could never have existed in another decade. The Syd Barrett cover of 'Terrapin' borders on a religious experience for me. Wonderful stuff, this.

Dave Kelly - Keeps it in the Family: This 1969 debut album for UK blues man Dave Kelly is a wonderful lesser known blues album. What's sort of unique about it is that unlike his contemporaries like Peter Green or John Mayall, this is less of a 'British Blues' album and sticks real close to a traditional Robert Johnson style of blues. It's nothing earth shattering, it's a blues album. But it's a good one and one worth hearing.

Sandy Hurvitz - Sandy's Album Is Here at Last!: This is an album I first heard a few years ago and it quickly became a five star album for me and still is. I decided to review it this week because after digging it out the other day, I've listened to it four times in the past week. Sandy, later known as Essra Mohawk, a member of Zappa's Mothers of Invention, recorded this solo album when she was 16. It was produced by Zappa, but sounds more like a more raw, more experimental precursor to Carole King's Tapestry. It's so beautiful and heartbreaking that I could listen to it a million times and never tire of it. Easily on my Top 100 albums list with "Many Different Things" probably being my favorite song on it.

George Harrison - Beware of ABKCO!: This is hands-down one of the best bootlegs ever released. It gathers together early studio sessions for the landmark album All Things Must Pass (one of my Top 10 albums of all time). The versions of "Hear Me Lord" and "Art of Dying" are brilliant. Hearing George play these songs in stripped down versions and just listening to the emotion that comes out both in his voice and his guitar is amazing. For any fans of the Darkhorse, I highly recommend seeking this out. You won't regret it.

The Cosmic Jokers - The Cosmic Jokers: The 1973 debut album from a Krautrock collaboration of other Krautrock bands including Ash Ra Temple, The Cosmic Jokers is wonderful space rock piece of music. It's all very much like a full length wandering through the same space that Pink Floyd's 'Echoes' explores, which to my ears is a place I never tire of visiting.

Grateful Dead - Anthem of the Sun: A few weeks back, I bought this, the psychedelic band's second album from 1968 on vinyl after listening to Wake of the Flood for the hundredth time in two months. Though I prefer the bands later inclusion of country rock into their psychedelic folk, I do admire this earlier raw sound as well. And as it seems to be with all of their records, it grows on me with each listen. Though a bit messy in places, this album certain finds a groove and stays with it. A bit more experimental and less polished than what was to come, but in a way that's what makes this album interesting.

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