Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekend Music Roundup

I have to admit, it's been sort of an explosive few weeks in my music listening. I always have phases where enthusiasm wanes and then picks back up. I'm happy to say, I'm on the climb. A lot different sources have been converging to excite me. One of them has been a steady diet of Metal Evolution episodes on VH1. If you haven't watched any and you're a rock fan, not just metal, then I highly suggest it. It's a great program that examines the way rock grew heavier over time, tracing the roots through bands and scenes like an entertaining college course. I'm currently into exploring more "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" these days and have a couple here on the list. But folk is never far from my heart either. Enjoy.

Einar Stray - Chiaroscuro: Last week I reviewed the newest OndaDrops compilation and mentioned this Norwegian band's song "For the Country" as being a highlight. This week I tracked down their 2011 debut album to hear their other work. It's actually quite different than the lone track I'd known. This is an album of swirling sounds and dreamy moments. At times it gets lost in its airy arrangements, but overall a pretty enough album. I certainly look forward to hearing what they do in the future.

Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself: Releasing next week, the newest album by Andrew Bird is on the grande scale one has come to expect from the chamber folk maestro. The album feels slightly more intricate than some of his more recent work and somehow more personal too. There's a solid folk song structure that hangs over the songs, giving them a truly beautiful feel. "Give it Away," "Lazy Projector," and "Near Death Experience Experience" make up the middle core of the album are pure perfection. I can easily see this ending up on my favorite albums of the year.

Pink Floyd - A Nice Pair: This double album is a bind-up of the band's first two studio albums, repackaged in 1973 to cash in on their chart-topping popularity. I own both of these albums on CD and when I saw the original vinyl pressing recently, it seemed like a good way to get 'a nice pair' of great albums. I prefer this sound of the band to their 70's heyday, full of their more manic space constructions like "Let There Be More Light," "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," and "Interstellar Overdrive." In addition, the albums include some Syd gems like "Scarecrow" and "Bike." A great gatefold presentation really adds to the niceness of this record.

Deep Purple - In Rock: By the time 1970 rolled around, this UK band was looking for a switch and it came with the introduction of Ian Gillian on vocals. This is the band's fourth album, but really the first to feature their heavier sound. Considered one of the founding albums of heavy metal, this album speeds up the blues and attacks it, yet keeps some of the space rock elements mixed in. There's a reason this is their 'classic' album. It opens with a blast of "Speed King," which has that in your face attitude and killer beat. I can't believe I waited so long to get this album.

Dirty Three - Toward the Low Sun: This experimental three-piece instrumental folk-rock band released great albums in the second half of the 90's that most people probably never heard. Ocean Songs and Sad and Dangerous and fantastic. This is their first album in seven years, and it continues the epic scope of their music. It plays like the soundtrack to a tragic fairytale shot in grainy colors. It's quite beautiful. "Rain Song" is a real standout track in my opinion.

Iron Maiden - Killers: Growing up, I was never really exposed to Maiden too much, and it wasn't until one of my metal phases a few years back that I really got into their debut album, which I love. In what is probably the longest span between loving an album and getting the band's next in the history of my musical education, I finally picked up the band's 1981 second album a little over a week ago. It's another blistering guitar album with a pounding back beat. It is also the last album with singer Paul Di'Anno, whose voice is perfect for both the band's faster songs and eerier ballads. In this album, you can really hear the roots of the L.A. glam metal scene that would emerge in next few years, but still it has a firm hold in the Judas Priest style of British metal. Another rock solid scorcher of an album to be sure.

Saxon - Wheels of Steel: Another British metal band that emerged at the same time as Iron Maiden, Saxon is a power riff machine on this 1980 record, their second album. Playing at a reckless pace, this album reminds me of early Mötley Crüe (a compliment in my book) and Hanoi Rocks, but with more a nod to metal than glam, especially on tracks like "Stand Up and Be Counted" and "Street Fighting Gang." A great, straight-forward heavy rock album.

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