Saturday, February 1, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

With the first month of the year behind us, the music scene is still trying to define itself, as it should be. I'm also still trying to find my interests for the upcoming year. As I mentioned last week, the new releases popping up haven't really peaked my interest. That said, there were two new records that I listened to this week. There are also some albums that came to me in various ways that I was really into. Perhaps it's the brief warm spell of temperatures over 30 degrees, or simply the fact that winter has been so brutally cold, but I've ventured away from the straight folk this week and included some more springish selections. Enjoy. 

Earthless - From the Ages: The three piece heavy psych jam band out of San Diego released this album, their first in six years, back in October. This was given to me as a gift and it's epically awesome. Consisting of four songs, two of which clock in at over 14 minutes, and the title track which clocks in at over 30 minutes, this is basically one amazingly endless guitar showcase with a driving drone rhythm section that adds a hypnotic layer to it. It's very melodic, but with enough guitar tweaks to keep it compelling throughout, creating expanding soundscapes that intrigue the imagination. Absolutely wonderful.

Dave Van Ronk - Inside Dave Van Ronk: Earlier in the week I wrote about the film Inside Llewyn Davis and how it was partially inspired by Dave Van Ronk. In the movie, this album is used as the basis for the character's album, and the opening song performed by the character is taken from this record. I'm a big fan of Van Ronk, but this 1964 release isn't my favorite of his albums. It is more folk in the traditional sense than some of his other albums that use blues to influence folk. That's not to take away from the beauty of this record. It has that perfect rainy day cafe feel, telling classic tales of hard luck characters found in a lot of '60s NYC folk music. An expanded edition contains 25 tracks, but the twelve best can found on the original release, except for "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" which is also featured in the movie.

Nina Persson - Animal Heart: As lead singer of The Cardigans, and sometime guest on Manic Street Preachers tracks, I've been a fan of Nina's voice for a long time. Almost unbelievably, this is the Sweedish singer's first solo album, released this past week. Like most solo records from lead singer's, the musical elements seem to be slightly underwhelming. Nina's voice is strong enough to carry the tunes, but everything else fades into the background. All in all, it's pleasant enough, with some beautiful moments. "Animal Heart," and "Food for the Beast" are among my favorites. 

Beck - Morning Phase: This Beck's 14th album, and first in six years. Though I haven't always liked everything he's done, I've always admired his willingness to take chances and try something new. Releasing in February, this album is a return to his contemporary folk style, which I much prefer over his electronic style. This album opens with the beautiful Slowdive sounding "Morning" which pulled me right in. This is a haunting and quiet album that manages to sound fresh even though many others have made music like this over the past few years. "Turn Away" is an absolutely brilliant song and my favorite on the album. It would feel at home on a Nick Drake record. This is an early contender to get consideration for next year's best of list. 

Lana Del Rey - Paradise: After the success of her Born to Die album in early 2012, this EP was released in November of the same year, trying to cash on the Christmas shopping rush. Of course, I slept on listening to her until last year, and as soon as I fell in love with the album, I quickly snatched up this as well, thus justifying the marketing strategy behind its release. The songs on here would fit perfectly on the album, making this feel like a extension. It opens with the haunting "Ride" and keeps the same seductive feel throughout. The only real miss for me is her version of "Blue Velvet" which is odd since it seems like it would be a perfect fit for her. It's not bad, just that my expectations were for the song to be perfect. All in all, this is a must have addition to the album if you enjoyed it.

Ima Robot - Another Man's Treasure: Before fronting the freak folk outfit Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros Alex Ebert was the singer of this indie band. I've been a fan of his for some time now, but was unaware of this project. After he won a Golden Globe a few weeks back, I discovered the existence of this band and sought out this, their third, and most recent album from 2010. Recorded after Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros had already emerged, this record is still surprisingly different. The electronic influences on his style are a nice fit, giving this a vibe that is even more out there than his folk stylings. It's more abrasive but that also makes it intriguing. "Life is Short" and "Shine, Shine" are standouts for me.

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