Sunday, January 18, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

Halfway through the first month of the new year and already there have been some exciting releases to show up. Luckily my current situation has allowed me to absorb and enjoy the new selections for the week in a way that I haven't been able to in quite some time. As a result, I'm actually far ahead of schedule and will be staying current on the Roundup for the foreseeable future. This week's choices include several new releases, as well as a few from last year that I wasn't able to get to before. From rock to metal to hip-hop, there's a bit of everything on here. Enjoy.

Ty Segall - Mr. Face: Picking up where he left off last Fall, the busiest neo-psychedelia rocker from San Fran released another great four songs this month. Like last year's album The Manipulator this EP release incorporates a lot of folk elements and feels kind of like something the Grateful Dead would make if the magic of time and space could transplant their formation into the here and now rather than fifty years past. It's so exciting when a songwriter is completely on top of his game like Ty has been the past few years. Definitely a must for fans, and hopefully a sign of more good things to come in the near future. 

Dr. Dog - Live at a Flamingo Hotel: For the better part of the last decade, this Philly psychedelic folk band was one of my favorites. Two sub-par albums over the past three years, while not enough to derail my faith and loyalty, were certainly disappointing. So when this live album was released last week I was a little skeptical, but gave it a listen anyway. Then I gave it another, and another, and another...and you get the point. The band's freewheeling spirit, so evident on their earlier albums but curtailed in the production of recent records, shines though in their live performance. My first encounter with this band was seeing them open for The White Stripes way back when, and this album instantly sparked fresh reminders of that show. Their blend of swampy blues comes alive in such different ways in an organic setting. "The Beach," "Ain't It Strange," and "Shame, Shame" are standout tracks.

Test Icicles - For Screening Purposes Only: This crash and burn dance punk outfit from London released only this one album back in 2005 before they split up and Devonté Hynes went on to become Lightspeed Champion. Though for years I've had their EP that came out a month earlier than this album, it never connected with me until recently when I went back to listen to it. And since I was always interested in this record, due to my appreciation of Lightspeed Champion, I went back and sought it out. Not really to my surprise, it's fantastic. It's the closest thing to Death from Above 1979 that you'll find, but under the aggro punk energy, it's super groovy, kind of like The Rapture. Anyway, it's pretty much genius. "Circle. Square. Triangle," "Your Biggest Mistake," and "Boa Vs Python" are among my favorites. 

Moon Duo - Shadow of the Sun: The Portland based neo-psychedelia band's third album due out in March is another Saucer Full of Secrets artifact of fuzzy mind altering adventures. I really enjoyed their last album, 2012's Circles, and this definitely shows a progression as their songs are little tighter as they venture into the current brand of expansive rock. Much like the shoegaze era, there are several bands making this kind of music and often it's hard to tell them completely apart, but for fans of the genre, that's not necessarily a bad thing. "Free the Skull," "Slow Down Low," and "Ice" are standout tracks for me.

Tayyib Ali - Keystone State of Mind III: The Philly rapper's third mix tape was released at the end of last year, and it's pretty impressive. I still like to follow what comes out of the hometown and Tayyib shows more promise than any Philly rapper in quite some time. Unlike so many mix tapes these days, this one has a professional sound equal to any proper album. It's crisp. It isn't stuffed with filler. And there are no stupid skits. It's old school Philly beats, mellow flow, and smooth delivery make for a solid album. There's some uneven tracks, but even those aren't bad and don't detract from the over all feel. I get the feeling we'll be hearing from Tayyib for quite some time to come.

The Dodos - Individ: This is my first leap into the catalog of the San Fran indie band. Individ is their sixth album, due out at the end of January. The sound is a mixture of indie folk and indie pop, similar to The Shins on their uptempo songs, and more like The Antlers on their quieter songs. Like both of those bands, The Dodos tend to be a little too vague for my tastes. The music easily fades into the background, and while it can swim nicely over you, it rarely penetrates through you. "Retriever," "Competition," and "Darkness" are my favorites on an album that should appeal to fans of this type of indie music.

Truckfighters - The Complete History: Despite the title of this compilation from the Swedish stoner rock band, this is far from a "complete" history of their six albums and four EPs over the past decade. However, it does do a good job at giving a retrospective of their music over the years. They have a sound similar to bands like Kadavar and The Sword, with concentration of heavy riffs, blazing fuzz and the steady pounding of drums. This is a band that I'd passed over before, but seriously regret that now. I plan on digging into their catalog in a proper way from here on out. "Mind Control," "The Chairman," and "Helium 28" are my personal favorites.

Skunk Anansie - An Acoustic Skunk Anansie Live in London: In the mid to late '90s, this London alternative metal band was recording some of the most emotionally and politically charged music in the era when Brit Pop ruled the London scene. Most bands that are as high strung as these guys tend to burn out fast, and though they did disappear for quite some time, they never disappeared and have re-emerged in the last few years. Last year they released this album of their first ever acoustic concert. Acoustic might seem strange if you are familiar with the energy in their songs, but given lead singer Skin's mesmerizing voice, it's not that weird. These songs are reinvented, with anger giving way to sadness and reflection. In many ways, this album is a bit of a triumph. "Brazen (Weep)," "Weak," "God Loves Only You," and an amazing cover of Paul Weller's "You Do Something To Me" are highlights.

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