After taking a break from newish albums last week, I got back on the bandwagon and listened to a few new releases over the past several days. I've also been going through my latest vinyl bounty and have some older classics to throw into the mix. It's mostly a folkish blues kind of week with lots more snow and rain to damper the spirits. With the warm weather rolling in this weekend, perhaps I will make the jump to more upbeat sounds in the coming days, but until then, you'll have put up with my somber choices. Enjoy.
Noah Gundersen - Ledges: Released two weeks ago, this is the first full length album from the Seattle singer songwriter, and already one of my favorite releases of the year. This is a folk album with a country twinge. It sounds like an album Ryan Adams would make if he made a scaled back acoustic album. There is also a sadness to it that reminds me of Jason Molina's work. This is one of those albums that makes me excited about new acts as already I can envision years of wonderful music from Noah. "Poor Man's Son," "Separator," and "Cigarettes" are among my favorite tracks, though there really aren't any that I don't like.
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - A Child's Guide to Good & Evil: During its four years of existence, the L.A. psychedelic band released five albums between '66-'69. Despite the title of this 1968 album stating it's Vol. 3, it is really the fourth, and wildly considered the best. I've had digital copy of this album for years but finally picked up a vinyl edition in Texas. I read someone describe them as "The Flaming Lips in '60s" and it seemed like a fair analogy. They have the same blend of weirdness and melody that makes the album a unique experience. It's one of those records that you need to be in the mood for, but when that happens, there's nothing quite like it. A bit uneven at times, but still high quality. "A Child of a Few Hours is Burning to Death" is the one truly outstanding track, and perhaps the best and most graphic anti-Vietnam song ever recorded.
Robert Ellis - The Lights from the Chemical Plant: The second album from Robert Ellis was released two weeks ago. His sound has a country folk feel with a nod to 70's rock. His songs are straight forward and very well done. These are traditional country tales of lonely life that have a musically modern feel, somewhat like My Morning Jacket though less grandiosity. "Good Intentions," "Houston," "Only Lies," and a wonderful cover of Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" are stand out tracks on a solid album.
Groundhogs - Blues Obituary: Twenty years ago, I bought this on CD and it blew my mind. At the time, I was just getting into the British Blues and this cover was impossible to ignore. I instantly connected to this 1969 album, and still love it, which is why I picked up the re-released vinyl. The Groundhogs take the blues style developed by John Mayall and add a darker layer to it. In that way, they are really the pre-cursor to bands like Black Sabbath, which did the same thing and made it heavier. Tony McPhee is one of the unsung guitar greats, and his vocals are perfect for hard rock blues. Seven songs on pure brilliance, I've been enjoying this all over again this past week.
T. Hardy Morris - Audition Tapes: Released last summer, this is the debut solo album from the singer of Dead Confederate. I've been a fan of the Athens, GA band since their first album and was eager to give this a listen. Stripped of the band's dynamic, Morris delivers an eerily beautiful album heavily influenced by the sound of Neil Young. He has a similar wonderful warble to his voice and a twangy guitar style that gives it that Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere vibe. "OK Corral" and "Lucky" are my favorites.
Roky Erickson & The Aliens - The Evil One: My love affair with all things Roky began with this album over a decade ago. Originally released in 1980, I found a rare copy of one of the re-released CDs back in the turn of the century. It was only the second Roky album I'd heard and it began an endless acquisition of his work. During my trip to Austin, I came across the wonderful deluxe 180gram vinyl reissue that came out last year and had to pick it up. In addition to the complete 15 tracks (some versions have less) it includes a 20 page booklet and two-headed dog etching on the Side 4. This is one of my favorite albums of all time. Every song is a masterpiece of hard psychedelic rock, highlighted by "Bloody Hammer," "Night of the Vampire," "Cold Night for Alligators," and "Stand for the Fire Demon." If you don't have this record in your collection, you must go out and acquire it now.
Fecal Matter - Illiteracy Will Prevail: Given that Kurt's birthday was this week, it seemed like a must that I include this recent vinyl purchase on the list. Fecal Matter was Kurt's pre-Nirvana band with Dale Crover and Buzz Osborne from The Melvins. They recorded this demo in 1985 to submit to the labels, and nothing much happened. This has been floating around digitally for years, and some songs even showed up on the box set released years ago, but to find the complete demo on vinyl was still a thrill. Though it's raw and a bit messy, there is something remarkably entertaining about it. "Downer" and "Spank Thru" would later become Nirvana songs, and parts of "Laminated Effect" would later be reworked into "Even in His Youth." There are also some rare songs that are wonderful examples of Kurt's humor and insight into culture such as "Bambi Slaughter" and "Buffy's Pregnant." A perfect record for collectors and fans of early American punk underground.