Sunday, June 22, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

After a steady stream of new releases, this was a slow week. Though there are a few 2014 releases on the list this time around, a good portion of Roundup this week is made up of albums that I've had laying around waiting for their moment in the sun. It's hard to find a theme here, but I suppose mostly it's made up of eclectic music with dark overtones. Perhaps that has to do with the two manuscripts I'm concurrently working on which both have dark overtones. As always, I find inspiration in music that seems to capture the mood that I'm attempting to capture in my writing. I don't typically find that type of inspiration in other books since I try never to write a book that feels like some other book. I'd rather my books feel like music, probably because many of my earliest desires to write came from songs that I was listening to rather than literature I was reading. Some very solid albums on here. Hopefully you'll find something new and interesting. Enjoy.

Radio Moscow - Magical Dirt: The fifth album from the Eureka, California heavy psych blues band came out this past week. I've been following this band for the past seven years and watched their sound grow from more classic rock influences into a heavier sound that seems to suit them well. This album, like all of their previous ones, certainly feels as if it could have been released in the mid-70's, standing nicely alongside Led Zeppelin, Mountain, and others. However, this record definitely feels more like it belongs in the here and now, with lots of other bands that have emerged since their debut. They have a great sense of the way blues melds with metal, and the gritty vocals match the pounding rhythms perfectly. "So Alone," "Sweet Lil Thing," "Gypsy Fast Woman," and "Stinging" are among my favorites. A must-have for any '70s rock enthusiast who swears that there hasn't been any good rock released since.

The Legendary Pink Dots - Dot-to-Dot: My continued love affair with this London neo-psychedelic experimental band was strengthened over the past few weeks as I added this 1988 live recording to my rotation. In the past year or so, the band has been releasing lots of archival recordings such as this through their Bandcamp page. Their description of this one says it was recorded on a cold night in February, it certainly has that kind of feel to it, capturing the madness of winter. It's hard to talk about songs with this band, and every recording feels like a unique translation. It's more the entire mood of the work that is striking. Listening to this album is like getting lost in my favorite kind of novel, like a Burroughs book complete with fairy tale horror elements. Their music is quickly becoming the soundtrack for the new draft of my Goblin Market manuscript.

Lissie - Cryin' to You: The newest EP from the Midwestern singer songwriter consists of five covers, with some surprising choices that yield remarkable results. Lissie has been releasing music for the past seven years, and I've enjoyed the handful of her work that I've listened to. She has a strong voice, though perhaps not the most unique. It doesn't strike you instantly the way, say Samantha Crain's voice does, but it's certainly appealing. This selection is helped by the choice to use that voice in songs you wouldn't expect. Covers of Danzig's "Mother" and Judas Priest's "Electric Eye" are fantastic reinterpretations that really stood out for me. One of these days I'm convinced Lissie will put out an album that will be truly unforgettable.

Joy Division - Still: About a year and a half ago, on a trip to Maine, I picked up a Factory Records first pressing this 1981 release which is more of a compilation than anything else, put out shortly after Ian Curtis's death. It features some the band's best early songs like "Ice Age," "Exercise One," "Walked in Line," and "Dead Souls" and also includes the band's last concert with Ian. For some, the 7+ minute version of "Sister Ray" is a highlight, but as for me, I purchased the vinyl in spite of that awful cover. I had waited so long to review this simply because it wasn't new to me. I've owned in on CD since my teen years, but having listened to the record again last night, it seemed like a good time to write about. There was a chaotic energy to Joy Division that always felt as if it might explode. A hint of danger lurks within each of their songs, giving them a truly original sound which is why they still prevail all of these year later. 

Luke Haines - New York in the '70s: The Auteurs, Baader Meinhof, and Black Box Recorder veteran released his eighth solo album last month and it's another theme album, which is quite obvious from the title. More than any of his previous albums, this album seems to pull in all of his various forms into one record. It opens with "Alan Vega Says," a song that would sound right at home on a Television Personalities album, and moves into "Drone City," which feels like an unreleased Suicide track and is most likely a homage to that band. The album explores many places and figures from the NYC punk underground scene, including the great "Doll's Forever" about the New York Dolls. Individually, any of these songs could've been found on a Auteurs record, or been the second Baader Meinhof release, having the same kind of elusive style that he does best. It's nice to see that Luke is back on top of his game.

Red Sparowes - At the Soundless Dawn: The 2005 debut from the L.A. post-rock band is a moody piece of atmospheric rock. The songs are quite long, including the 19 minute closer, giving them lots of room for exploration. I love the way their music ebbs and flows, building to powerful moments and then receding into drone elements. With song titles such as "A Brief Moment of Clarity Broke Through the Deafening Hum, But It Was Too Late," and "Alone and Unaware, The Landscape was Transformed in Front of Our Eyes," one might think the sound would be pretentious, but never is. If anything there's a beautiful honesty to it that makes it such a good listen. Like any atmospheric album, this is definitely one only when you are in the mood for it, but when that mood strikes, you could do far worse than Red Sparowes.

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