Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

The music never stops, only sometimes the listener needs to catch up. I spent most of this week listening to albums I've reviewed here in the past few weeks. As a result, most of the stuff on this week's list are albums that have been hanging around waiting for their turn to appear on the roundup. But all of them are records in the past few months. I've also put a few singles on here as I read recently that most major labels have decided to kill the CD single. I suppose it was inevitable, but it's still the end of an era. For a long time, the CD single was a great way to get those rare B-side gems that often rank among a band's best work. On one hand, those songs are now readily available. On the other, without a B-Side outlet for these songs, you have to wonder if in the future, will they ever see the light of day. Of course, the first item on the list may disprove that theory completely.

The Enemy - No Time for Tears: I'm reviewing this 2009 single from the West Midlands rock band strictly for the B-sides, but more specifically, the B-sides available only on the UK itunes edition. The reason: they are both covers. The band performs acoustic versions of 80's new wave classics "Blue Monday" and "Tainted Love". Both are phenomenal. I've heard many version of "Tainted Love" and this may be my favorite.

The Roots - How I Got Over: Being from Philly, I've been a fan of The Roots since this first album, which is still available on vinyl only. I'd been wanting to hear this for some time, actually thinking it may have been an oversight on my best of the year list for 2010. Well, that fear was relieved. This is probably the band's weakest album by far. It simply lacks any intensity. That said, it's not awful and still better than most major label hip hop. But if I'm going to listen to The Roots, I might as well listen to one of their more compelling albums. However the collaboration with Joanna Newsom is definitely worth hearing.

Kurt Vile - Constant Hitmaker: This 2008 album is the first solo LP from the indie songwriter. It's a nice bit of lo-fi rock with a subtle vibe that adds to the moody sense of the record. It sounds a bit like someone reeling off dreams set to fuzzy guitar. The irony of the title cannot be lost on the listener.

The War On Drugs - Wagonwheel Blues: The first full length album from the alt-country Philly band (featuring Kurt Vile on guitar) was released in 2008 on one of my favorite labels Secret Canadian. It feels like a more experimental Wilco. It has definite roots influences, but brings them into a contemporary indie feel. In some ways, the album reminds me of Dr. Dog, another Philly band.

Big Blood - The Grove: My fascination with this Portland, Maine freak folk collective continues with this stellar 2007 album. Their sound is simply fantastic, capturing something out of a child's nightmare and making it sound spiritual. There's certainly an element of stoned hippie campfire craziness in their music, but it easily transcends that genre. "The Grove is Hotter Than an Ocean's Oven," "In the Shade" and "Beast" are amazing tracks.

Arctic Monkeys - Fluorescent Adolescent: This single from 2007's Favourite Worst Nightmare contains three great B-Sides that feature the band's softer side which rarely shows through on their full-length albums. "The Bakery" and "Plastic Tramp" could easily have make the album. Not to mention this is one of the best A-sides of their career. This is one single that is a must have for any fan of the band.

Thin Lizzy - Thin Lizzy: This 1971 debut album, released on Decca, is completely unlike the sound the Dublin band would later be known for. The band's first two albums are decidedly more blues and folk oriented than their later hard rock albums. I prefer these early albums. There is something incredibly honest in these songs with their flashes of Captain Beefheart inspired blues that shows through on more than a few songs on this solid album.

Dave Mason & Cass Elliot: Sometimes when two legends come together, something magical happens. That's what I was hoping for when I discovered the existence of this 1971 album. I got it on vinyl this past Christmas and listened with great anticipation. But the reality is that sometimes when two legends get together, it can feel like a collection of minor tunes discarded from their primary work. This album falls somewhere in between. The result is an enjoyable album of decent songs. It's possible however that my expectations were just too high. A worthwhile listen though for fans of either artist.

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