As I mentioned in this weeks' posts, I've begun work on a new novel that is taking shape to be a terrifying fairy tale of a story. I was listening to a lot of different things trying to find the mood for it. Oddly enough, I found that classic jazz was giving me a really good inlet. Though not very dark by nature, it can add just the right amount of darkness to a cloudy day. I also was listening to a lot of softer mood inducing music. As a result, this week's roundup is a little coffee shop-esque, but in a good way. I threw in a couple other kinds of sounds just to mix it up. Enjoy.
The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz: I bought this six record box set on vinyl for $30 on St. Mark's Place when I was in college. Back then, it was a ton of money for me. I never really bought vinyl back then either, but this seemed too good to pass up. It has a great selection of wonderful tracks by all the greats, Mingus, Miles, Monk, Coltrane, Dizzy, Duke, Charlie, etc. Recently, I've found myself putting this on in the evening, randomly choosing a record and getting wrapped up into the mood. Nearly 20 years after purchasing it, there is still always something new to find within the sleeves.
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue: Another record that I've owned since my days living in East Village of the mid-90's, I listened to this album pretty much every morning this week. This is probably my favorite Miles record, it's less upbeat than other standards such as The Birth of Cool. For whatever reason, this album had the power to put me in the mind of goblins all week long. Such a fantastic crisp sound that resembles nothing else in the world.
Yuna - Decorate: A few weeks ago, I caught Yuna's video for her amazing cover of "Come as You Are" and was completely transfixed by her voice. I've since acquired both of her EPs. This is the newest, released in March and contains five really solid songs. Some of her songs veer too heavily into pop vocals, but the softer, bare singer songwriter tunes are incredible. There's also a longer version with some of her beautiful Malaysian language songs.
Wale - The Eleven One Eleven Theory: The newest mixtape from D.C.'s representative MC goes back a little to his Go-Go roots, but with a harder edge to the beats. As with most mixtape hip-hop releases these days, the material is very uneven. A lot of the songs tend to sound like toss off numbers dropped from the next studio album to come, but there are also some solid jams on here. The standout track for me is "Chain Music."
o'death - outside: I reviewed this record a few months ago and it has since become my favorite album of the year as of now. On a recent visit to NYC, I bought it on vinyl and thought it worthy of reposting my review. Here's what I wrote in March: The fourth album by the pioneering New York gothic folk outfit was one of my most anticipated albums of this year. Easily one of my favorite bands to emerge in the last five years, their previous albums all rank highly on my list of albums of the last decade. It only makes sense that this is hands-down the best album I've heard this year. Shifting slightly away from the death-folk harshness of their previous album, the band finds a something of a beautiful calm on this one. It's almost as if the last album, Broken Hymns, Limbs & Skin was an act of violent death and this album is the peace found afterward. Truly brilliant.
Sic Alps - Napa Asylum: The third and latest album in my continued exploration of this lo-fi San Francisco band is definitely the best. Released in January, this is also one my favorite albums of the year so far. The band has refined their sound by now, streamlining the songs into a perfect modern Grateful Dead experiment with heavier psychedelic overlays. The songs sometimes feel like snippets, but they all weave into one another making a truly interesting and at times stellar album.
Diamond Rings - Special Affections: After seeing the really good video for "You and Me" I was very intrigued by this Toronto native (take one look at the cover and you can see why). I was worried the album would be more Erasure than the single, but thankfully it isn't at all. The sound is somewhat a cross between Bauhaus and Violator era Depeche Mode. But it's also modern at the same time, a very respectable update of that sound with songs that have a really interesting point of view.
Jeff Mangum - Live at Jittery Joe's: Another album that I recently reviewed and have since picked up on vinyl. Even though I just reviewed this in August, I wanted to repost it in anticipation of seeing Jeff live in a few weeks. Here what I said then: This live solo album by Neutral Milk Hotel front man was recorded in 1997 but remained unreleased until 2001. This show was played around the time In Aeroplane Over the Sea was recorded and features many of the songs on there as well as some tracks from the first album and a few unreleased tracks. The atmosphere is amazing on this album. There's a baby that babbles and cries between songs, which in my opinion adds to the mood and the dreamlike quality of Jeff's songwriting. There's some bootleg NMH shows that are probably better, but this one is right up there with the best of them.