Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

This week I got back on track a little, listening habits returning somewhat to normal. Though I must admit that a lot of the records that I'm writing about today have actually been in the rotation for a few weeks. It's a strange mix to be sure, but that's something I blame on the weather. Recently winter and spring have been sparring in my neck of the woods and therefore the music spinning throughout my world is a competing sound of winter and warmer weather vibes. As result, there should be a little something for everyone in here. Enjoy.

The Strokes - Angles: The band's forth album and first in five years is a bit of a sea change for the band and easily their best album since the debut. They move even farther away from their garage rock roots and move into an '80s vibe, but with a decidedly dangerous feel unlike many of the new wave revival albums surfacing today. It's nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it's a really decent listen. Of course, as with their their previous albums it has the most awful artwork (with the noted exception for the original cover of Is This It).

Papercuts - Fading Parade: The San Fran dream pop band's sixth album is a pleasant enough sound, even if it does tend to fade away even as it's playing. It reminds me of MGMT's Congratulations, an album that I didn't love, but without pushing the expiermental boundries. In some ways that makes this album more enjoyable to listen to on a sunny day. On the other hand, it makes it rather too simple. However, any fans of indie dream pop should really dig this. Personally I prefer their previous album You Can Have What You Want. This one seems to lack that standout track like "A Dictator's Lament" from the last album.

Frank Sinatra - The Frank Sinatra Story: This double vinyl has been in my house for over a decade without me ever giving it a listen. However, the other day it was cold and getting dark, and I felt like something smooth as I lit the fireplace. That's the thing about big band era vocal music, when I'm in the mood for it, there is nothing better. I'm just rarely in that mood. This 1958 collection has never been released on CD and contains a nice smattering of Blue Eyes. However, like most collections of artist with such wide-ranging careers, at times it doesn't gel properly, going from a jazzy lullabye to a showtune type number. But the voice is undeniable. The Chairman of the Board will certainly be getting some more air time.

Wye Oak - Civilian: I really enjoyed this Baltimore band's 2008 debut If Children, but somehow missed the 2009 follow-up The Knot and went straight to this year's Civilian. There's always been a shoegazer scene in Baltimore and this album continues that tradition. There are a lot heavy guitars and jangling bells that fight with the soft vocals to create a nice little album. I'd still recommend If Children over this one, but another good effort which will probably sound even better once I can open the windows and let a warm breeze in.

Amandine - This Is Where Our Hearts Collide: On a trip to Europe a few years back, I bought this Swedish band's 2006 EP Leave Out the Sad Parts and listened to it religiously for quite a while. A few weeks back I finally got my hands on this 2005 debut album and have been really enjoying it. The band's americana sound, interpreted through a Scandinavian winter, is fantastic. The songs evoke a dreary day, my favorite kind of day, in the same way Bonnie Prince Billy's I See A Darkness can.

Essra Mohawk - Primordial Lovers MM: A few weeks back, I reviewed on of my all time favorite albums by Sandy Hurvitz (later to become known as Essra Mohawk). This 1970 album is Sandy's second album and it's nearly as perfect as the previous. A member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, Essra Mohawk applies the same experimental vibe to Carole King type love songs and the result is phenomenal. There isn't a whole of experimentation in the love song genre, which makes her albums so unique and so memorable. This album is filled with slightly more joy than the debut album, but the heartache in her voice is really the appeal for me.

Damien Tavis Toman - Despair: Easily the most listened to album in my collection over the past two weeks, Despair is an album that's hard to pin down. Though it certainly has its roots in gothic folk such as Nick Cave, there is also a great sense of melody in these songs. As the title suggests, the songs are about longing, loathing, and loneliness, but they are presented with an undeniable sense of hope, or at least a wish that hope is something that is still possible. A truly wonderful album.

The Soft Machine - The Soft Machine: This 1968 debut album from the psychedelic pioneers is one that first peeked my curiosity nearly twenty years ago when I was I fist getting into early Floyd and William Burroughs (the band's name comes from a Burroughs novel of the same name). But for whatever reason, I always chose something else at the record store. What a mistake. This album is brilliant. The experimental elements seem to ebb and flow, fading out when the folk rock vocals come in, sounding like a tortured ghost lost in the machine. It reminds me a bit of the first Hawkwind album, yet is totally different at the same time. "A Certain Kind" and "Lullabye Letter" are fantastic. I can't wait to search out their other early albums on vinyl this summer.

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