This was one of those weeks where I spent most of my time listening to albums I've had for a few weeks. I tend to go on binges with new music and as a result I sometimes have a backlog of records to review. So rather than seek out anything new this week, I decided to pay a little more attention to some things that have been waiting their turn on the Roundup. Most of it belongs to singer-songwriter category, but there are few other genres thrown in to mix it up a bit. Enjoy.
Mr. Gnome - Madness in Miniature: This is the Cleveland duo's third album. Following up 2009's Heave Yer Skeleton, the band expands the psychedelic elements of their blend of folk rock. The result is an improvement on an already solid format. Where the last album felt a little like a warped Yeah Yeah Yeah's record, this one sees the band developing a more original sound. Stand out tracks include "House of Circles," "Run for Cover," and "Watch the City Sail Away." And once again, spectacular cover art.
Andrew Bird - Norman Soundtrack: A master of chamber pop songwriting, Andrew Bird breaks away somewhat with this original score. The instrumental pieces are sparse, but full of mood and atmosphere. The more traditional songs on the album feel right at home with the rest of his catalog. There are a couple of songs from previous albums and few songs by other artists, including a great collaboration between The Blow and Richard Swift, and a remix of Wolf Parade's "You Are a Runner."
Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: The other half of Oasis's sibling rivalry released his solo album a few months after the rest of the band, reformed as Beady Eye, released theirs. With the fantastic first single, "The Death of You and Me," my expectations were pretty high for this album. But here's the problem with being a devoted bootleg fan of Oasis, when I listened to this album, I found that many of the songs were already familiar to me in earlier versions. "If I Had A Gun," "I Wanna Live in a Dream...," "Everybody's on the Run," and "Stop the Clocks" all exist as Oasis demos and/or releases. They songs are improved on here and are easily the best songs on the record, along with "The Death of You and Me." The new songs on here are merely okay and that disappointed me and left me worrying about the things to come. A good record, but somewhat troubling for that reason.
Katzenjammer - Le Pop: The 2008 debut from Oslo's all female gypsy folk-punk outfit, while interesting, can feel a little gimmicky at times. When their songs work, they deliver a raucous sound of murky moods that resembles a deranged Tom Waits. On other songs, it just sounds confused and manipulated. An interesting listen for anyone into the movement, but much room for improvement.
Nina Kinert - Pets & Friends: Ignore the electro-dance looking cover, this 2008 album from the Swedish singer-songwriter is a beautiful downbeat collection of sad songs. Her voice is amazing and the lyrics are heartbreakingly sincere. This is one of those albums that took a few listens before it really grabbed me, but around the third listen it did and I haven't been able to stop listening to it since. It's not revolutionary by any means, but what it does, it does very well.
Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: My revived obsession with Sabbath continued this week as I moved onto the band's fifth album, released in 1973. By this time, the band had perfected the heavy metal sound that shines on the title track. Though not as stellar all the way through as some of the albums that came before, this is still a solidly good album. At times it sounds like the band is a little bored (releasing 5 albums in 3 years might do that). This is also the beginning of the band's slippery road to self-destruction. But even so, a damned fine effort.
Nico - The Marble Index: Released in 1968, this is the second solo album from Nico. As a follow-up to Chelsea Girl, this album seems to fail in all the places that album succeeded. On her first album, there were moments where the record threatened to unravel into a sonic mess of strings, but managed to hold it together for the most part. This album seems to lose its center from the beginning and never finds it again. Musically, it's certainly an intriguing album that attempts to capture the feeling of a dream. But too frequently it gets lost in its own maze and never escapes.
The Apples in Stereo - Fun Trick Noisemaker: The 1995 debut album from the mainstay band in Denver's branch of the Elephant 6 Collective is an indie pop pleasure. Borrowing heavily from The Beatles and The Beach Boys, the band has always delivered powerful hooks and a sunshine feel to their music. On future albums they would play a little more the psychedelic aspects of their songs, but this album is a bit more straight forward. Like their other albums, a very fun record.