As the weather begins to turn from fall into winter up here in the mountains, I've noticed my listening habits retreating back to its folk roots. It doesn't help that the book I'm currently writing is steeped in late autumn imagery and requires the same type of inspiration. As a result this week's list is crowded with a variation of a folk, from traditional to more progressive psychedelic. Of course, one cannot survive on one genre of music, so naturally some other albums found their way into the rotation this week. Enjoy.
The Bevis Frond - The Leaving of London: Nick Saloman has been releasing quality psychedelic indie rock records as The Bevis Frond since 1986. I own many of them, and they are all quite excellent. This is his first album since 2004 and is definitely worth the wait. With 18 tracks, spanning an hour and twenty minutes of great music. The formula hasn't changed much since the late '90s...driving guitars, piano melodies, and a wonderfully interesting voice singing songs representing a sense of disenchantment with the world. I've been listening to this a lot over the past two weeks and it's quickly becoming one of my favorites of the year.
Richard Swift - Walt Wolfman: The L.A. singer songwriter Richard Swift has put out some of my favorite albums of the last decade, including The Novelist (2003) and Dressed Up For the Letdown (2007). In the past few years, he's released a bunch of playful EPs, most notably, Richard Swift as Onasis (2008). Walt Wolfman, released two weeks ago, continues the trend. Like the other EPs, it is steeped in proto-rock roots of twanging guitars and boulder heavy drums. The seven tracks here are decent numbers that remind me a bit of old Jack Starr tunes. Nothing groundbreaking however, unless you include the great cover and unbeatably awesome title.
Nirvana - Live at the Paramount: This 1991 concert was recently released during the media blitz surrounding the 20th anniversary of Nevermind's release. Though it had never officially been available before, I've had this show on CD since the mid-90s as part of the ultra rare bootleg Nirvana box set Into the Black. The band is in great form during this show, playing songs from Bleach era and showcasing tracks from the just-released Nevermind. They also play an early version of "Rape Me." I recently watched the video and multiple cameras provide a nice feel for the concert. If you recently purchased the Live at Reading DVD a few years ago, probably not necessary to get this as well, but certainly you couldn't go wrong having both. Otherwise, the audio is widely available in bootleg form.
Slowness - Hopeless but Otherwise: This 2011 debut, four song EP from San Francisco trio Slowness shows a lot of promise. It's a familiar sound of layered guitars with an undercurrent of moody dreamlike vocals that's very reminiscent of early '90s UK bands such as Th' Faith Healers and My Bloody Valentine. It's hard to say whether Slowness would grow tiresome over a full-record, and there's little done to update the sound, but as an EP, it's not a bad listen and makes me curious to find out.
Donovan - Fairytale: Released in 1965, this is the UK folk hero's second full-length album and, in my opinion, his best. The songs on here are so honest and simple and descriptive that they become haunting even as you're listening to them. "Sunny Goodge Street," "Colours," and "To Try for the Sun" are easily among his best songs. Later albums, though I still love them, can be gimmicky at times. None of that exists on this one. Fantastic.
The Grateful Dead - Golden Gate Studios 1965: These sessions, recorded when the band was still known as The Warlocks are the band's first studio sessions. This early version of the band was quite different, borrowing from the early California psychedelic garage sound than their later groove oriented material. On Jerry's songs, you can hear a heavy Dylan influence. Some of the songs would later evolve and appear on Grateful Dead albums, but in different forms. On these sessions you can hear a band that is still growing, but one that is clearly ready to take off. A great glimpse into the beginning of the San Francisco sound.
Nick Drake - Tanworth-in-Arden: This bootleg of home recordings made between 1967 and 1968 consists almost entirely of covers or takes on traditional folk songs. I'd heard this album back in college when my friend and I were heavily listening to Nick Drake, but hadn't heard it in in over fifteen years until this week and it really blew me away. The beauty of Nick's music is the tortured sadness that seems to surround his voice. That aspect comes out wonderfully on these home recordings. Particularly of interest for me are the several covers of Jackson C. Frank songs and his version of "Summertime." Though I own all of Nick Drake's records, I never realized how incomplete the collection was until this week. This is a must have for any fan.
Family - Fearless: This UK progressive folk band released six albums in its first three years, from 1968 to 1971, with this being the last of the six. During that time, the band's sound grew heavier, moving away from prog-folk to prog-rock. The one thing about their albums that really impresses me is the immense range found from beginning to end, making very hard to pin them down. I suppose the closest comparison I could make for this album would be to Jethro Tull's Stand Up, but even that doesn't quite fit for the whole album. But if you're into that era UK rock, this album (as well as their previous albums) are definitely worth checking out.