One thing that I always find interesting in the course of the grand musical adventure in life is how one sound can lead you to another even if they seemingly have no identifiable connection. Reading habits are the same way. I think that's what makes those two mediums so attractive to me, this sense of being on journey that starts early in your life and one which you never leave off. Sometimes it's like being on a interstate, checking off the mile markers and going with the natural course. Other times, you detour and wind through those strange back roads. This past week began was a lot of that for me. It seemed with each chapter I was writing, I was finding completely different inspiration. Enjoy.
Elvis - Rock 'n Roll Forever: This ten track compilation gathers some of the King's biggest hits, from ballads like "Love Me Tender" to big beat thumpers like "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," and "All Shook Up." What's amazing is that all of these iconic songs were recorded in a period of less than two years. I also love the cover, so for $5 this was a steal on vinyl.
The White Stripes - Aluminium: As a general rule, I'm not really into orchestral interpretations of rock music, but I gave this one a try anyway. The UK orchestra had been working on this project when Jack White was informed about it. Apparently it has his blessing and was released as an album 2006. Basically it transforms a fair number of well known White Stripes songs into arrangements that would feel at home in a Tim Burton animated movie. It's fairly enjoyable and adds a new dimension to the material. "Astro" and "Let's Build A Home" are particularly intriguing. Definitely worth a listen or two.
Bow Wow Wow - When The Going Gets Tough...: This is the third and last full length album from the new wave act, released in 1983. I have some of their earlier material, and though I was never a huge fan I picked this up on vinyl several weeks ago because it was only $1. I'm happy to say it was money extremely well spent. There are some amazing songs on here. "Aphrodisiac" opens the album with a bang. Then it moves onto tracks like "Lonesome Tonight" and "Love Me," which have a sound that feels like the place where Joy Division meets pop. One of the best new wave albums of the era.
Soap & Skin - Lovetune for Vacuum: The debut album from this Austrian singer-songwriter was recorded when she was eighteen and released in 2009. There are lot of comparisons that can made to her voice, with Nico being the clearest I think. She sings in a similar sense of removed sadness, but musically the album is very current. Part beautiful piano tunes and part electronic interference, the album has a soothing nightmare sound that is quite good. It also reminds me a bit Holly Miranda's The Magician's Private Library.
Katie Jane Garside - Lullabies in a Glass Wilderness: When this was released in 2006, it was one of my favorite albums of the year. I've always been a huge fan of hers and her bands (Daisy Chainsaw, Queenadreena, Ruby Throat). She has an amazing childlike quality to her voice that really shines on this lo-fi solo album. I pulled this out again this week and have been listening to it pretty much every day. It's been a great writing album, full of amazing imagery and insanity. Easily one of the best albums of the last decade.
W.A.S.P. - The Headless Children: So given my taste for metal over the past few weeks, I decided to check out this 1989 album from the L.A. glam metal band and it totally rocks. The guitars shred and Blackie Lawless has an amazing metal voice. There's really no bad songs on this record. Simply a great heavy album.
Black Sabbath - John Peel's Sunday Show: Always the innovator, John Peel had these Birmingham lads on his radio show in 1970 as they were just beginning to get their rocks off. Consisting of four tracks, this bootlegged show is pretty phenomenal. It opens with the wonderful "Fairies Wear Boots" continues to "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and then onto "Walpurgis" (an early version of "War Pigs"), finally ending with "Black Sabbath." Each song is played with the excellence I've come to expect from the band, but the real treat here is "Walpurgis" which has vastly different lyrics than the final version, including a great refrain about sinners eating dead rats' innards. This is widely available and I highly recommend it even if you know all of the songs already.
Nico - Desertshore: The third solo album from the former Velvet Underground member and '60s icon Nico was released in 1970 and is considered by many to be her best. In some ways this avant-folk album is a continuation of her work with Velvet Underground. It's trespasses into the same dark dens of imagination that the band explored on their earliest albums. There is nothing even close to a radio friendly song on the album, wallowing in strange arrangements and art world coolness. There are moments when the album is beautifully weird and others when it can be frustrating in its overbearing attempts at being unique. In the right mood, it can be fantastic. In any other mood, it's simply interesting.