Sunday, September 21, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

I'm beginning to feel spoiled lately with all the wonderful albums that have crossed my path in recent weeks. I can barely keep up with my listening as one anticipated release after the next begins to accumulate, waiting for me to find time to hear them all. With the quick and sudden return of autumn over the past weeks, my interest has once again turned to singer songwriter projects, heavy on folk inspirations. Most of this week's selections are albums I'd been waiting for, though there are a few surprises, things that crept up on me without any warning. Hopefully there is something here for everyone to be excited about. Enjoy.

Tweedy - Sukierae: This past week saw the release of one of the albums I'd been most anticipating this fall, the first solo record from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, with his teenage son on drums. Over the years, he's been one of most prolific and exceptional songwriters, both with Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, and he continues his incredible run with this fantastic album. Combining blues, indie rock, and alternative country, the songs are familiar and dynamic, but with a deeply personal touch that causes them to shine. "World Away," "High as Hello," "Low Key," and "Please Don't Let me Be so Understood" are among my favorites.

Moonface - City Wrecker: Last week, Spencer Krug released his fifth album under the Moonface moniker. This EP follows the four wonderful previous releases, and an entire catalog of fantastic music under various names (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, etc). This time around, he abandons the experimental aspects that went along with Moonface and follows the more singer songwriter style of Sunset Rubdown, a style which initially endeared him to me as one of the greatest songwriters of my generation. A melancholy mood hangs over these five songs, which is just the mood I love this time of the year. This is some his most accessible work in recent years and once again proves his immense talent. The ten minute long "Daughter of a Dove" is truly outstanding. 

The Legendary Pink Dots - Your Children Placate You from Premature Graves: As I continue to explore the strange world of this legendary London experimental psychedelic band, my travels brought me to their 2006 album with its eerie title. Like their other albums, this one seems to exist in some fictional dreamworld, and transports the listener there. This album is softer than some of their others. A kind of psychedelic folk that reminds of Big Blood, but with the quirkiness of Television Personalities. "No Matter What You Do," "Feathers at Dawn" and "The Island of Our Dreams" are my personal favorites.

Karen O - Crush Songs: Earlier this month, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer released her first true solo album, a collection of bedroom recordings that at times feel more like sketches than songs and have more affinity to her wonderful soundtrack work than the work of her rock band. Though it is still sparse, it is dramatically more realized than the KO at Home bootleg that emerged a few years ago. For fans who enjoyed that album, this is even better. And for those who thought that was too unfocused, give this one a shot. It's a beautiful and moody piece of lo-fi indie. "Day Go By," "Visits," "Body," and "Ooo" are standout tracks.

Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows - Mitternacht: Perhaps the most curious discovery of the week for me is this German darkwave band that has been putting out albums for the past 20 years. This is their newest, due out this week, and it's spectacularly unique. The woman on the cover is the actual singer, and that's really how she looks, like a spirit risen from some medieval fairy tale. Musically, the album carries the same feel. Classical and Neofolk elements combine to create songs that would feel right at home in Neil Gaiman novel. It's rare these days to find something that sounds truly unique and equally wonderful, this is one of those albums. "Beautiful," "Bang-Bang," "It's Just That My Sadness," and the wonderful four part "Under His Light" are among my favorites.

U2 - Songs of Innocence: There are few bands that annoy me more than U2 and in typically annoying fashion, the band decided to bombard me with their album by automatically having it show up in my iTunes. This epic marketing campaign, which saw the band give the album away to everyone with an iTunes account, has initially been a disaster, having only been listened to 5% of users in the first week. Given that they wanted so badly for people to hear their first album in five years, and given that I hadn't a heard an album of theirs in over 20 years, I decided to give it a listen. Some of their usual pretentiousness exists, but for the most part the album is more subtle, sounding like a watered down version of Manic Street Preachers without the intensity of their beliefs. It seems every time one of the songs threatens to please me, it takes some terrible turn that spoils it. That said, it's not as truly awful as I'd have expected. Certainly there are some terrible songs like "Every Breaking Wave" and "Iris," but there are also some songs that I admit are decent. "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" and "Sleep Like a Baby Tonight" are the two most worthwhile tracks.

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