Due to the hurricane disruption, it's been several weeks since I've done a regular roundup of reviews. The good news is that since I've had weeks to store up music, there is a wealth of great albums to list here and more for the coming weeks too. I also binged last weekend and went vinyl shopping on two separate days. I found some amazing stuff, but I'm only part way through the records, so I'm saving most of them for the lists upcoming. Most of the stuff on this list are albums I've been listening to for a couple of weeks and are long overdue for their inclusion. A few others are things I've just listened to in the past couple of days. All in all, a pretty good mix. Enjoy.
The Rapture - In the Grace of Your Love: What started as a NYC dance punk outfit with 1999's Mirror had morphed into a more psychedelic sound by 2003's Echoes and more new wave by their last album 2006's Pieces of the People We Love. The five years off have certainly been spent wisely. This album sees the perfect combination of the greatness of Echoes with best bits of Pieces. It's still an alternative dance sound, but extremely well done. This has quickly become one of my favorite albums of the summer.
Olivia Tremor Control - The Game You Play Is in Your Head: Released two weeks ago, this five minute song is the band's first official release of new music since 1999's Black Foliage. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly given the ability of bands in the Elephant 6 to consistently deliver, this three part song could easily fit on the twelve year old album. It has the band's signature sunshine pop feel combined with noise effects. Pretty fun listen, though as with most of their work, I'm sure it will fit better in the context of an album.
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome: Released in the beginning of summer, this album was a project these two had been trying to get off the ground for years before finally getting Jack White and Norah Jones on board to do the vocals. The album is inspired by music in old spaghetti western films, though the sound has definitely been updated. The instrumental pieces are beautiful and the handful of tracks with vocals are quite good. Jack White once again proves his ability to blend into any genre, but it's Norah Jones who really shines on this. It's not the sort of unforgettable classic they may have set out to make, but it's a solid release that I've found to be a great morning record.
Jackie-O Motherfucker - Earth Sound System: For a while, this Portland, OR free folk outfit was putting out multiple albums a year during the last decade. So it's sort of surprising that this is the first release in two years. For those unfamiliar with JOMF, they are known for long compositions, mostly instrumental in nature, but quite a few including mellow campfire sort of vocals. Though this album doesn't come near the genius of such releases like Flags of the Sacred Harp, America Mystica or even Liberation, it's a solid effort. If not for the two unlistenable experimental compositions, "Raga Joining" and "Raga Separating," this would be a pretty great free folk record. Luckily in today's digital world, those two noise pieces can be deleted...as they should be. Rest of the album is 4 out of 5.
AG - Everything's Berri: My friend Marc turned me onto this album earlier this week. AG is an old school NYC rapper with a Guru type flow. The mellow jazzy beats totally fit his delivery on this album. It sounds as if he's freestyling this entire album, and with the exception of two or three weaker tracks, it's totally solid. Easily the best mellow hip hop album I've heard in a long time.
Dave 'Snaker' Ray - Kid-Man: This is the one recent vinyl score that I decided to include here simply because I listened to it last night and it's fresh in my mind. Dave Ray had been around for more than a decade before this 1977 album, but judging from the photo of him on the back compared with the photos of him on his 1967 album, the years were rough. Perhaps that's what infuses this traditional blues album with the magic that is the blues. This isn't anything revolutionary, nothing you haven't heard on other blues records, but the thing about the blues is that each person's expression of it is unique and worthy of listening to if it's down well. Some great guitar work here and a perfect blues voice. If you see this on vinyl for $4 as I did, you can't really go wrong.
Hawkwind - Doremi Fasol Latido: This is the pioneering space acid rocker's third album from 1972 and contains some of my all time favorite tracks by the band. Though I've been a pretty hardcore fan of the band's original lineup since I was 15 years old, I never bothered buying this album. That is mostly because I've always owned Space Ritual, the masterful 1973 live double-album which contains most of these songs. But somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that didn't make this album insignificant and finally acquired it. The studio versions of the songs are slightly different, more controlled, yet you can still hear them coming unhinged within their structures. "Time We Left This World Today", "Down Through the Night" and the powerful opener "Brainstorm" are among the band's best work.
The White Stripes - Live In Mississippi & Under Moorhead Lights All Fargo Night: Two new releases with vastly different results. Mississippi, recorded during the Icky Thump era is dynamic and really captures the schizophrenic energy of a White Stripe's performance. Jack is in great form, improvising on guitar and moving easily through a career spanning catalog. This album might be better even that last year's live album. The Fargo album on the other hand, though an amazing set from the De Stijl era, is of such terrible quality that it amazes me it was even released. Readers of this blog know how much I love bootleg quality material, but this isn't even that. This is of terrible quality even it were a bootleg...to have been actually released is kind of appalling. Skip that and go for the other one.