Sunday, March 16, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup (The Singles Edition)

Every once in a while I like to do a list containing only singles or EPs as I've always been a fan of collecting these oft unappreciated gems. Frequently I find some of a band's best songs end up as B-Sides because they are songs not particularly meant for the mainstream album market. They are songs where the artist is willing take more chances and songs that are meant more for devoted fans than for the casual listener. Given that I was entirely too busy this week, today felt like a good time to go through some of the singles that have been waiting their turn for The Singles Edition to come around again. Most of these are from last year, with a few older ones thrown in for fun. Enjoy!

Okkervil River - Golden Opportunities 3: One week before Christmas the Austin folk rock band released the third EP in this ongoing series of oddities and live performances that began in 2007. This one features all covers of mostly 80's radio hits. One of the key features to any release of covers is making interesting choices, and they make great ones here, choosing songs that are way out of their norm and making them feel new. "Give Me the Night," "Money Changes Everything," and "The End of the Innocence" are  all fantastic. All three EPs in the series are available for free download on the band's website. 
The Dead Weather - Open Up (That's Enough): It had been three years since we'd heard any new music from the Jack White/Alison Mosshart fronted rock band until this single came out in late December. Having thought that perhaps the band had disappeared the way Jack's other project The Raconteurs seems to have, I was thrilled to have these guys back. The A-Side is a pounding blues rock number led by Alison's screech and contains their signature dangerous vibe. The B-Side, "Rough Detective" is a Jack led track with a garage rock feel. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to an album sometime this year.

Manic Street Preachers - You Love Us: The second single released from the Cardiff band's 1992 debut album "Generation Terrorists" is one of the band's boldest attitude statements. Being a huge fan, I was absolutely over the moon to find the Limited Edition 12" gatefold issue of this during my record search in Austin, and for only $3. Besides the brash A-Side, the single includes their amazingly on target cover of the GnR classic "It's So Easy."

Sic Alps - She's on Top: This 12" was released last May by the San Fran lo-fi indie band. I had expected it to be followed by another wonderful full-length, but that has yet to happen. Over the past few months the title track has grown on me to become one of my favorite songs of last year. It just has that magical blend of garage tone and energy. The two B-Sides are pretty good, too. If this is any indication, their next album will be their best to-date.

Mapei - Don't Wait: Back in 2009 Mapei released her phenomenal hip-hop debut EP "Cocoa Butter Diaries" that went criminally unheard. Then she vanished for the next four years until this single dropped last Fall and blew up online. I have to admit that I was disappointed that she has seemingly abandoned her unique hip-hop style, but after hearing this soulful dance number I can understand why. Despite the style change, it's not at all generic, still holding onto that deeply personal touch that made her first debut stand out. I can't wait for a full length album to finally emerge. She really is positioned to become the next Lauryn Hill.

Elliot Smith - Alternate Versions from Either/Or: Released in the Fall of 2012, this four track EP contains four alternate takes of songs found on the late singer songwriter's 1997 album. Though the versions aren't that terribly different, mostly just mixed slightly differently, with the exception of "Punch and Judy" which is an entirely different version, it's still worth it just to hear the songs remastered for maximum clarity. It's hard to believe it's been over ten years since his death, yet his songs still feel as contemporary and important as ever.

The Flaming Lips - 2nd Cassette Demo: This twenty year demo tape from the psychedelic rock band's early days was pressed on vinyl and released in December. Recorded in 1983, it shows the band's post-punk roots, sounding eerily like The Cure's "Three Imaginary Boys" or Joy Division. There's something wonderful about hearing this side of the polished band. "Flaming Lips Theme Song" is fantastic, and could've been an alt rock hit in the mid-90s. 

Generation X - Dancing with Myself: On a west coast shopping trip two year back, I picked the 12" vinyl version this new wave classic. The Billy Idol fronted band was the pop face of punk in the late '70s and this 1980 track put him on the fast track to success. I love this song, it was impossible to turn down this great cover art.

Dwarves - Fake ID, Bitch: The provocative punk band has been putting out albums since the mid-80s and when I came across this limited edition 2011 seven inch in L.A.'s Amoeba Records a few years ago, I snatched it up. Not to mention the far more interesting title, it contains an extra track not included on the "Fake ID" single. All the songs are full-on garage punk and quite good. Definitely a nice addition to my collection.

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