Sunday, November 23, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

This has been an extremely busy week, but one where my activities lent themselves to music listening. Granted, a lot of that listening time was spent on one four disc box set, but even so, I still had time to catch up on a few new releases. I'm also continuing my rediscovery of albums from the past during the great reorganization of my collection. I found a few old favorites as well as a few albums that for whatever reason I never spent enough time with after purchasing. That's one of the aspects that makes going through the work worth it. I always find things I forgot I owned. Hopefully there's something on here for you to eventually forget about and rediscover as well. Enjoy.

Wilco - Alpha Mike Foxtrot (Rare Tracks 1994-2014): This four disc set encompassing the Chicago alt-country band's entire career was released this week, yet another wonderful gift for their fans, something they have always done well. This was a two day listening experience, and quite a fantastic one at that. There's a wealth of live versions, some with great guests, like Andrew Bird on "Jesus Etc.," and Fleet Foxes on a cover of "I Shall Be Released." Hearing this set in its entirety is a great reminder of just how amazing this band has been for the past 20 years, and how important Jeff Tweedy is as a songwriter with the ability to capture the weariness of these times. This is a must for fans, even ones who think they have too much Wilco as it it. It's also a great item for the casual fan who doesn't know where to begin. Way too many individual songs to list.

TV on the Radio - Seeds: The Brooklyn indie band made their return with their first album in over three years with the release of their sixth album this past week. Over the years their sound has come to incorporate more and more electronic elements, and this album certainly continues on that path. Like their last few records, I found this to be very enjoyable, yet sort of forgettable. Nothing particularly stands out or sticks in my mind. It all easily blends in, making it a nice mood album but not necessarily a cherishable one. "Happy Idiot," "Test Pilot," and "Trouble" were the real standout tracks for me. Who knows, this may be album in ten years that I forgot I owned and rediscover.

The Beta Band - Three E.P.'s: This is an album I've owned since it's release in 1998, and one I used to listen to religiously during that year. I listened to it this week for the first time in over a decade and was reminded on the joy these early works of the Edinburgh indie band evoke. Part folk, part neo-psych, part indietronica, there is a beautiful groove to this album. They were part of that late 90's post-Brit Pop wave of bands from the UK who were trying something different, along with Gomez and Belle and Sebastian. This release saw them get some fame, and even appeared in High Fidelity, but the band ended a handful of years later without ever fulfilling the promise shown here. "Dry the Rain," "Inner Meet Me," and "It's Over" are personal favorites of mine.

Soen - Tellurian: Released this month was the second album from the progressive metal group comprised of members from Opeth, Testament, Death, and Willowtree. Given that a good portion of the group are Scandinavian, they definitely resemble the current trend of symphonic metal coming out of that part of the world. It feels sort of like a later day Porcupine Tree record, yet explores different paths. At times it can be very appealing, but I suppose I'd hoped it would be slightly more progressive. Unlike Mars Volta for example, they don't venture into new areas, choosing to follow courses already set out in progressive metal. All in all, a solid okay and worth a listen. "Pluton," "Ennui," and "Void" are my personal favorites.

Boris - Amplifier Worship: This is the second album from the Tokyo kings of sludge metal. Released in 1998, just when the genre was beginning to blossom, and long before their 2005 breakout "Pink," these five tracks of epic length are a blueprint for the coming drone metal wave that followed a decade later. The great thing about this album is the amount of metal in each song. Sometimes Boris can emphasize the 'drone' too much and forget the 'metal', but not here. It's really one of their stronger albums, right up there with "Akuma no Uta." The nearly fifteen minute "Kuruimizu" is my favorite track on here.

Detroit Cobras - Seven Easy Pieces: One of the less widely known bands of the early '00s garage rock revival, the Cobras were unique in their incorporation of rockabilly into the sound of the times. Another CD that I've had for nearly a decade, this E.P. dates from 2004, when the band is probably at its tightest. Rachel Nagy's sultry old school voice is as seductive as ever on these seven tracks that are a throwback to swinging '60s garage style. One of my favorites of theirs, definitely worth checking out. "My Baby Loves The Secret Agent," and "Ya Ya Ya (Looking for My Baby)" are two really excellent tracks. 

The Explosion - The Explosion: This Boston punk band emerged in 2000 with two E.P.s and a full length. This is the second of the two E.P.s and one I bought on a whim about 13 years ago. Listening to it again this week, I've had the same positive reaction that I had back then. It's rare to hear an authentic sounding punk record that wasn't recorded 30 years ago, and these kids manage to do that. Despite the trend of the time to move towards power punk, this record stays true to the original aggressive sound of punk and for that, it's definitely worthwhile for fans of the genre.

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