Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

With a manuscript out of the way, I had a little more time this week to gather up some music that I've been looking forward to hearing for some time. And since I started working on another project, it meant I also had time for multiple listens of each as I wrote. Some of these new albums I'm really excited to share, while I felt others needed more attention and will therefore appear in future roundups. In order to fill the gaps, I've included some albums that have been in steady rotation of late and have finally worked their way onto the list. It's a nice random collection of music that I hope you enjoy.

Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch the Throne: There hasn't been a hip-hop dream team album like this in a long time, featuring two of the top artists in the genre, one at the top of his game and the other sort of riding the crest of a long triumphant career. Kanye continues to explore new territory, expanding on the success of last year's brilliant My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. As on that album, he doesn't back down and brings some powerful statements to this record. He's an artist that after being vilified by the society has emerged with an attitude to say whatever is on his mind. This is a very political album, one of most political hip hop records since Blowout Comb. Jay-Z also has moments where he's talking about matters of importance, but he's never been my favorite. His flow is great, but it's always the same and after an entire album, he can bore me. He certainly benefits from having a dynamic Kanye to bounce back and forth from. This album is not perfect, but it's very, very good.

OndaDrops Vol. 4 - Oneway Ticket to Nowhere: This is the forth free collection in a series gathering unknown or under-known folk artists together for a double album of minimal Americana tracks. This might be the best collection so far, featuring amazing tracks by Turner Cody, Susie Asado, Ronnie Fauss, among others. Like any compilation, there are tracks that are weaker than others, but even the weak ones are never truly bad. I highly recommend you check this out and discover some great artists. I've discovered many great artists over the course of this series and look forward to more in the future. You can find the album here:

Skysaw - Great Civilizations: Originally released last year under the band name THIS, the album was recently re-released under the much better name of Skysaw. I first heard this band while watching Subterranean and caught the video for the stand-out single "No One Can Tell", a wonderful blend of neo-psyche that reminded me of Stardeath & White Dwarf. Though that is easily the best song on the album, there are some other good tracks with a Soft Machine meets Shudder to Think vibe. Definitely a curious record that needs more listens before I can really determine its longevity. For now though, I'm just enjoying the ride.

The Black Ships - The Kurofune EP: This is the first release from a new band featuring Nick McCabe and Simon Jones from The Verve. Though it consists of only one track, it has a running time of 25 minutes. However, it's essentially one 7 minute track resembling the more chaotic nature of McCabe's Verve compositions. The rest of the track is melodic experimental music that sounds like a transmission captured through the static of some unknown place. It's a band exploring their infancy. Hopefully it's a teaser to great things to come. This EP is also available for free from the band's website by joining the mailing list.

Timber Timbre - Creep On Creepin' On: A few weeks ago I reviewed an earlier album by this singer songwriter. I very much enjoyed it and sought out this new album released in April. Though two years passed between the release of the two albums, not much if anything changed in the structure of the songs. I got the feeling these tracks could have simply been a continuation of the previous album. They have the same dark cloud hanging over them and the same intelligent folk sensibility. I think I prefer 2009's self-titled album, but probably only because I heard it first. They are nice companion pieces that can easily be listened to together.

The Grateful Dead - Fillmore East (Late Show) 2/11/1970: This amazing live bootleg features the band playing with guests Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Arthur Lee, Peter Green, and Berry Oakly and with that many guitar legends, there is naturally a whole lot of jamming bliss to be found. A fourteen minute version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" is amazing, as is "Me & My Uncle" and "Dire Wolf". I know there is no short supply of live Grateful Dead bootlegs, but given the nature of the venue and talent on stage, this is certainly one worth investigating. During this period, the band is heavy on the country influence that was invading the California sound at that time and they do as it as good as anyone.

Calexico / Iron & Wine - In the Reins: Though I've had this collaboration album since its release back in 2005, I only recently took the time to appreciate it. For whatever reason, I found it forgettable back then. And though it's not the best Iron & Wine album by any means, it certainly isn't worthy of neglect. With Calexico backing Sam Bean, his folk becomes infused with a stronger Americana sound. It's a very calm record, perfect for early grey mornings. "Sixteen, Maybe Less" is the real standout track here and ranks up there with one of Iron & Wine's best.
Neil Young - Carnegie Hall: I bought this bootleg sometime around 1996 from Generation Records on Thompson Street in NYC (a place where I bought many, many amazing bootlegs). Ever since I first heard it, it has been one my favorite Neil albums and one of my favorite albums of all time. It's a solo acoustic show from 1970 that sees Old Shakey playing through his already expansive catalog of amazing tunes. But most notably, it sees some of the first acoustic reworkings of "Cowgirl in the Sand", "Down by the River", and "Southern Man". There's also an amazing version of "Helpless" on here. I love these solo acoustic Neil shows because the emotion in his voice and the feeling in which he plays these songs is overwhelming. This is a much better show the 1971 Massey Hall show that was released a few years back. Every Neil Young fan should have this album, period.

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