Sunday, December 28, 2014

Weekend Music Rounup

Welcome to the last roundup before I buckle down to choose my favorite sounds of the year. This week I tried to cram in as many of the 2014 releases that I could before I go on a week long process of review. Unlike most years, the last great push produced only a few albums that I will need to rank carefully, but a few on here are definitely under consideration. There's a bit of everything on here so maybe something will jump out at all of you before you put a ribbon around 2014 and call it a year. Enjoy.

Jason Webley & Friends - Margaret: It's been seven years since the Seattle singer songwriter's last solo album, and even this isn't quite a full album with many of the middle tracks being performed by other Seattle area chamber pop artists. But the project was curated by Jason. All the songs were inspired by a scrapbook found in a dumpster containing articles and mementos from the life of Margaret Rucker, one of the founding daughters of Everett, WA. This is exactly the kind of project that Webley does best, reminding me of his Evelyn, Evelyn album from a few years ago. In the end, this tragically sad concept album is moving and soulful. Definitely one of the best surprises of the Fall and high on my list of recent faves.

Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor: Reinventing himself into a demonic version of Bowie's Thin White Duke, The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles returns with his first album in three years. Ever since Twiggy returned to the band in 2008, Manson continues to deliver the most complete music of his career. This is one of his most dynamic albums, reminding me of Mechanical Animals, with softer and heavier elements and super accessible while keeping the edge he's always had. After a few listens, this may be my favorite of his. Both versions of "Fated, Faithful, Fatal," and "Day 3" are fantastic, as are "Slave Only Dreams to Be King," "Killing Strangers" and "The Fall of the House of Death."

Ty Segall - $ingle$ 2: In April, the Cali psychedelic garage rocker followed up last years two outstanding LPs with one of the best of the year with Manipulator. That album has been followed by this compilation last month. As expected with any comp of B-Sides and other fodder, it's rougher and rawer than recent work, but no less fantastic. Perhaps it's because of his mellower side shining through on recent albums that he wanted to get this out there and remind people that he could make psychedelic weirdness with the best of them. I've been thoroughly enjoying this record. "Cherry Red," "It's a Problem," "Spiders" and "Children of Paul" are my personal favorites.

Avenged Sevenfold - Waking the Fallen Resurrected: Back in August the Cali metal band released this resurrected version of their 2003 second album, an album that got them noticed before their breakout third album City of Evil two years later. Packed with demo versions, lost tracks, alternate versions and live versions, this is one those releases that serves as a gift for fans and probably not of much interest to others. I'm one of those people who, at moments, truly loves this band, and at other times couldn't care less. When they are on however, they are really on. Their blistering duel guitar sound and pounding drums is better than any other hard rock sound out there, but the moving back and forth between screamcore and rock vocals has always bothered me, simply because I don't particularly care for screamcore and the singer has a great voice. The live versions on here are the real standouts.

Billy Idol - Kings & Queens of the Underground: Hoping for an Adam Ant style comeback, I was really interested to hear the former pin-up boy of punk's first album in eight years. Perhaps like Adam Ant's comeback record, this suffers from being horribly uneven. There are a few decent tracks where he sings about a fall from grace and the attempt to climb back, but a lot of those sentiments are buried in generic '80s rock chords. A nice curiosity listen, but probably not one I will return to for more.

Wiz Khalifa - 28 Grams: The Pittsburgh rapper put out this mixtap back in May in preparation for his new LP which dropped in August. Over the years, I keeping checking out Wiz's work hoping for the breakthrough that really impresses me. His flow has that kind of potential, but so far it hasn't come through. Like most mixtapes, this is a collection of fragments strung together. And as to be expected from Wiz, every one of them seems to be about smoking weed. Very forgettable, but has some moments. I will still hold out hope that one day he'll come through for me.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - In The Heat of the Moment: I wanted to end this week with a single from last month in anticipation of an album I'm looking forward to in 2015. This is the fist song released off of the former Oasis founder's second record. Even more so that Beady Eye, Noel's post Fab Five work sounds as if it could be leftovers from a recording session with his old band, but I suppose that has more to do with the fact that he was the primary songwriter for Oasis. These two songs are a solid dose of rock 'n roll with more of an ode to Paul Weller than any of Noel's other usual influences. If these are any preview of the album, it should be a good one.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

This time of the year is always slow when it comes to new releases, which thankfully gives me time to catch up on some albums from the year that I hadn't yet had the chance to listen to. As the year winds down, I like to make sure I hear all of the music that I think might end up on my year-end favorites. It's never possible to get them all in before the calendar turns over, but I try my best. This week I have a few 2014 records that I've wanted to check out for a while. There a nice mix of heavy stuff, hip hop and of course, psychedelic tunes. Hopefully you'll find something that will make your year. Enjoy.

The Oscillation - From Tomorrow: A few months ago, the London psychedelic space rock band released their third record. Like a sonic journey through a future wasteland, this Spacemen 3 sounding record combines the elements of drone and shoegaze with the psychedelic edge of Hawkwind. Being a new band for me, this was the record that really blew me away this week. It's a relentless album that manages to keep up the intensity throughout and never veers into boring or slow. There's an exciting danger that lurks under the surface, something reminds me of early Rapture. Definitely worth checking out. I know I'll be checking out their previous albums. "All You Want To Be," "Corridor," "No Place To Go," and "Chrome Cat" are among my favorites.

Kadavar - Live In Antwerp: For the last two years in a row this Berlin based stoner metal band have released two albums, both of which have ended up on my best of the year list. Without an album of new material, they released this stellar live record over the summer. When a live record sounds as tight as the studio albums, you know a band is in perfect groove. The setlist covers songs from both of their albums and includes a previously unreleased song. A perfect gift for fans of the band or fans of the genre, and a nice way to get the best of both albums in one set if that's your thing.

Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2: The second album from the hip hop tag team of El-P and Killer Mike is already showing up on best of the year lists and I figured it was time to pay attention. I've been a fan of El-P's work for years, he's one of the consciousness rappers that also has a great hardcore flow, and his sound pairs well with Killer Mike's style...and both go with the extremely interesting and fresh sounding beats throughout this album. I disagree with some of what I've read because I don't see this as a revolutionary album, but it's still a very exciting return of hardcore hip hop that incorporates a lot of the newer trends of the genre. "Jeopardy," "Lie, Cheat, Steal" "All Due Respect," and "Angel Duster" are my favorites. 

Archie Bronson Outfit - Wild Crush: The fourth album from the UK indie rock band came out this past spring, and what I really like about it is the growth it shows from their previous solid albums. This one evolves their garage rock sound into a psychedelic blues kind of album that feels exciting. I think they benefit from taking time between albums. They've only released four in ten years, which seems to allow them to develop. A lot of late '60s throwback sound on here, but in a positive way. "Cluster Up and Hover," "Love to Pin You Down," and "We Are Floating" are standout tracks.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - +- EP: The San Fran psychedelic band continues their resurgence, following up their brilliant LP from earlier in the year with this brilliant EP. Ever since Matt Hollywood and other original members rejoined the band several years ago, they are once again living up to that potential they showed in the early '90s to become the greatest psychedelic band of their generation. These four songs have a classic BJTM fuzzy bliss sound. "Heat," "Leave It Along," and "Reconstruction" are among their best songs ever in my opinion. Fantastic stuff.

Jean Grae - Gotham Down Deluxe: For the past decade, the Brooklyn rapper has been one of the best MCs around, sadly flying under the radar. The compilation released last year collects a bunch of EPs into one album. Jean's flow is as spectacular as ever on these songs, and the interludes, unlike on many hip hop albums, are actually funny and poignant. She's intelligent and displays deep insights on life that rank right up there with other top conscious hip hop. "Before the Summer Broke," "Kill Screen" and "BITS" are my personal favorites.

The Market of Oddities

There was a time in my life when I dreaded getting editorial feedback because I knew it would mean a lot of rewriting and rethinking of ideas that I'd had completed in a form that felt right. Over time I've learned that thoughts are never really completed and have learned to find enjoyment in returning to worlds of my imagination for further exploration. 

After talking with my agent this week, I'll be returning to the goblin market and the fears that are sold there. It's rare that I'm told to make my work "darker" and "weirder," which are elements that I typically find myself toning down between drafts. Needless to say, I welcome this kind of feedback. Adding unusual scenes and aspects is something I could never tire sure beats adding characters or changing character motivations. 

So as I get ready to dive back in, please send all of your dark thoughts and fears my way. Thank you.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

I'm finally back! Last weekend I moved out of my home of ten years. There was a ton of crap to pack, a lot of it music and a lot of it toys, and naturally books. Piles and piles and piles of books! Given that the decision was made quickly, leaving little time for packing, I must say I have not had the chance to listen to new music in the past two weeks. What I have been listening to is my record collection which I carefully unpacked and set up in a more central location of the abode. But rather than bore you with reviews of albums I've probably already reviewed at some point, I've decided to focus on the theme of home and share my favorite songs about the topic. Enjoy. 

o'death - "Home"

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - "Home"

Simon & Garfunkel - "Homeward Bound"

Nirvana - "Sliver"

Guns N' Roses - "Paradise City"