Sunday, June 1, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

Another week has come and gone, so here I am once more with my thoughts on some music that has passed my way recently. Where as last week was a heavy dose of psych rock, this week finds me slipping back into quieter songs. There's no rhyme or reason for the sudden return of indie folk except that maybe most of listening time was in the morning this week and I do like me some folk sounds in the morning. As I'm oft of doing, the albums on this week's list have been my soundtrack for today. Though I had listened to all of these before, with one exception, I always find it nice to make the Roundup my Sunday soundtrack. There's some Record Store Day releases on here, a few rarities, and finally some more hip-hop. Enjoy!

Songs: Ohia - Journey On: Nearly a year to the day after Jason Molina's untimely death, this box set of five 7" records was released for Record Store Day. It includes 18 brilliant songs collected from singles released during the contemporary folk band's nearly 20 year career. Now that Jason has passed, his songs have even more of a haunting feel than they've always had. In many ways, he was a modern day Neil Young, writing songs of incredible beauty and emotion that have an immediate connection. Every song on here is unforgettable. It's truly a wonderful release to honor a songwriter whom I dearly miss. If you don't know the band, or Jason's other work in Magnolia Electric Co. then this would be a great place to start. Or, if like me, you are quite familiar, then this is a fantastic way to celebrate his tragic career.

Sea Wolf - Song Spells, No. 1: Cedarsmoke: The new album from the L.A. based indie folk band was sent out to Kickstarter supporters this month and will be made available to the public in June. It's the band's fourth album and their best since 2009. I've been a fan of this band since I saw their first video back in 2007. I remember loving the song, but finding the video hard to watch for some reason. But I bought the album anyway and was rewarded, and have been rewarded with each new release. Alex Brown Church never strays too far in terms of his style, and Sea Wolf consistently produces melodic poetry heavy with nature imagery and feelings of loss. "Whitewoods," "Bavarian Porcelain," "Cedarsmoke," and "The Water's Wide" are among my favorites.

Jordaan Mason - He Could Have Been a Poet or He Could Have Been a Fool: Over the last decade, having released albums under a variety of different project names, Jordaan Mason has become one of my favorite songwriters, and one of the most under recognized. Influenced by Neutral Milk Hotel, Jordaan explores the surreal elements of songs in his work. On this album, available on his Bandcamp page for a name-your-price download, he has decided make an album of covers that range from the complete unexpected to the somewhat more accepted. Being a sucker for covers albums, I couldn't wait to hear this. On his page, Jordaan explains that these songs are are all deeply personal to him and were recorded over a span of several years. As is to be expected, this is a series of bedroom type recordings that reinterpret songs from every genre into the kind of swirling lo-fi folk that Jordaan is known for. His voice is so unique and powerful that I could listen to him for hours. His version of Hole's "Asking for It" and The Smiths "Still Ill" are real standouts for me.

Mazzy Star - I'm Less Here: Following the L.A. dream folk band's unexpected return LP last year is this limited edition Record Store Day 7" inch release. The A-Side, and title track, has a bit more of an indie rock feel, at least as the guitar part goes. The upbeat strumming makes a nice backdrop for Hope's ghost dream vocals. This is a song that would feel right at home on any of their 90's albums. The B-Side, "Things" is very much a traditional Mazzy Star song, and perhaps feels more like a track that might have been left off their most recent album. As always, beautiful work.

Blue Sky Black Death with Deniro Farrar - Cliff of Death: The San Fran beat masters have always collaborated with various hip-hop artists to create some of the best albums in the genre. Back in 2012, they teamed up Deniro, a southern hip-hop rapper to create this EP. As with all Blue Sky Black Death releases, the music is hypnotically eerie, making for an excellent backdrop for hard core hip hop. They are easily the best since RZA at creating the beats for the genre and this is yet another quality addition to their catalog. Though not their most indispensable effort, the album keeps a nice vibe throughout and makes for a good listen. "Danger" and "Hold Me Down," which features the talents of Nacho Picasso, are my favorites.

Lana Del Rey - From the End: This bootleg EP showed up online several weeks ago in anticipation of the new album due out later this month. Like the companion EP released at the same time, Young Like Me, this is mostly a collection of scaled back acoustic demos that were probably never meant to be heard. They are quiet songs, which isn't exactly the thing that was so appealing about Born to Die but which does showcase her wonderful voice and intelligent lyrics. "Aviation," "Drive By" and "Bad Disease" are my personal favorites, and seem the most likely to become full-fledged Lana songs if given the right production. Not for everyone, but I always appreciate hearing an artist's less polished works, especially when they reveal a different side to the artist.

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