Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Music Roundup

 Spring has been in the air all week and the music has been streaming out of the fuzzy warble player. After a few weeks of new releases, I find myself retreating into comforting sounds. A lot of the albums on this week's list have been floating around in my head for years, but have recently been rediscovered on vinyl, which I truly find to be a different listening experience. Mostly mellower records on here after the metal onslaught of recent weeks. But not to worry, a lot of heavier stuff to come in the future. Enjoy.

Pink Floyd - Meddle: Along with Atom Heart Mother, this is my favorite Pink Floyd album and I recently picked it up on vinyl, nearly completing my Floyd vinyl re-buy collection. This album, the band's last before developing their 70's sound with Dark Side of the Moon, probably has the best opening and closing of any album. "One of These Days" has an incredible groove that leads into the mellow tracks that close out the first side. Side 2 consists only of "Echoes," a masterpiece in sonic storytelling that stands alone as one of the finest tracks ever recorded.

Rush - Fly By Night: Though legendary, Rush is a band I never had much interest in until VH1's Metal Evolution profiled them as pioneers of the prog-metal movement. Hearing them on that show, I couldn't understand what had turned me off from them for so long. I decided to begin my journey with this 1975 album and continue to 2112, which I will get to in a few weeks. This album is brilliant at times, heavy and electrifying. When it kicks, it's hard to imagine anything better than Rush's sound. However, there are down periods where they drift into mild radio rock territory, like on the title track. "Anthem," and "In the End" are easily the two best tracks.

The Smiths - The Old Guard BBC Tapes Volume One: The other week I came across this vinyl bootleg set (there is a volume two as well, but I didn't pick it up this time around). It's consists of the songs dating to the period around the first album when The Smiths were grittier and less polished, which has always been my favorite period for their work. Listening to it, I kept thinking back to the first time I heard their self-titled debut in my bedroom when I was 14 and how amazing it sounded. It still sounds amazing, especially on these versions of "Miserable Lie" and "This Night Has Opened My Eyes." Both songs start normal enough and develop into manic outbursts with basically the drums, guitar, and vocals all moving at different tempos and still it sounds unbelievably good. I found myself inspired all over again by these tracks.

William Fitzsimmons - Goodnight: This was the singer-songwriter's second album to come out in 2006, so in a way, it's kind of a debut part two. It's a little less country influenced than Until When We Are Ghosts, and it serves him well. Though still not terribly unique, it's quite good. Reminds me a lot of early Iron and Wine with its soft-spoken lyrics and minimal guitar. "Everything Has Changed," "Leave Me By Myself," and "Please Don't Go" make up a brilliant middle of the album.

Caribou - Swim: A few weeks back, I reviewed Dan Snaith's earlier Caribou album, 2007's Andorra. Three years passed between that album and this one and in that time, more electronic elements were added to the chamber pop orchestration. He still mixes ambient with Beatles-esque melody to a nice effect. This reminds me a little more of Hot Chip than the previous album, but the best of Hot Chip. With it's dreamy warm sound, it's been a great listen to welcome the arrival of spring.

The Cure - Pillbox Tales 1977-1979: Another vinyl bootleg that I picked up last week, this covers the earliest Cure songs that predate their first album. I'd only heard these songs before on really poorly recorded bootlegs, so hearing them on this wonderfully clear record was like hearing them for the first time. Except for a demo version of "Meathook," which would appear on Three Imaginary Boys, these songs were completely shelved, probably because the subject matter is a bit unhinged. But that's what makes it's so brilliant. "See the Children," "I Want to Be Old," and "Play with Me" are truly amazing tracks.

Bonnie & Mariee - This recently released EP is a collaboration between Bonnie Prince Billy and Mariee Sioux featuring four songs that sound as if they could have been on any of the Prince's last several albums. It's not a bad thing given his genius for constructing dreary, dreamy folk's just that it all tends to blend together after awhile. So while these songs are all very good, and certainly worth getting for fans, not sure any of them are truly unforgettable. 

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