Sunday, August 2, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

This week took a strange course as I realized a lot of the albums I'd selected to listen to were throwbacks to earlier eras of my life. Though many are new releases, they are archival releases, which is basically the same thing as being old. Toward the end of the week, I started to infuse more "new" new releases, though they also ended up linking back to times gone by. Either it was a strange collection, one that I put the foundation together a few weeks back, so it didn't necessarily represent my mood at the time, which in a way was refreshing. I let the music guide me, and found myself receptive. All in all, a good week. Enjoy.

 Wilco - Star Wars: When one of the best bands of the past 20 years releases an album for free, it's something that people pay attention to. Far more valuable than the U2 album in my opinion, this is another very strong album in a career full of them. As with their other records, there always seems to be a few uneven tracks, but even their weaker songs are very listenable. Their sound continues to evolve from the alt-country of their beginnings, and though it has folk roots, this is simply indie rock at its finest. "More...," "Where Do I Begin," and "Magnetized" are some of the finest songs they ever recorded.

Maple Bee - Little Victories: The fourth solo album from Melanie Garside (of QueenAdreena and sister to Katie Jane Garside, one of my favorite artists of all time) is another stellar mixture of chamber pop, noise rock, avant folk, and eclectic beauty. It was a joyful surprise to see this come out this past month and it didn't disappoint. Much like her sister's Ruby Throat project, this album is mostly soft with "Row You Up River," "To All the Lost," "Almost Home" and the cover of Donovon's "Catch the Wind" being my personal favorites.

The Kinks - The Live Kinks: In the great debate between who was better "The Beatles or The Stones", the one British band that is overlooked are the lads from London, whose '60s catalog stands side-by-side with those other two giants. I picked up this '67 Live album on vinyl a few weeks back, and though it epitomizes what I dislike about live albums of the era with its poor mixing, the band still sounds great and their energy manages to come through, especially on "You Really Go Me" and the "Milk Cow Blues" melody. Way too many screaming teen girls to make this essential, but a nice pick up for fans.

Monks - Black Monk Time: Recorded in '65, this landmark proto-punk album is one of those records that all serious collectors will demand be in your collection. On such recommendations, I purchased this on CD over a decade ago, but never really got into it. Having recently pulled it out to give it another go, I find myself drawn to the Beat sensibility and hip swing of the music, but still can't connect with the oddball nature of much of the record. Highly inconsistent, this certainly shouldn't show up on any all time best lists, but it is a very important record and one of immense interest. At times it's brilliant, like on "I Hate You" and "Monk Time", at others just peculiar. I would recommend Jack Starr instead.

Sebadoh - BBC Sessions: A new compilation of BBC recordings from the seminal '90s lo-fi band proves just how unique they were, and how unlike they were from many of their contemporaries who they are often grouped with. One of the problems with the categorization of '90s music is that bands are simply thrown into the "90's Alternative" label, though they really span the spectrum of sound. Sebadoh were lo-fi noise rock at its finest, standing right beside Guided By Voices in that category for the decade. Built on Lou Barlow's Dinosaur Jr. foundation, and paving the way for his Folk Implosion path, these songs fall somewhere between the two musically. Definitely a must for fans, and also a good introduction for newbies.
The Dandy Warhols - Dandys Rule OK: In my continuing effort to go back and re-experience albums that I've owned for a long time, I gave the Dandy's '95 debut another listen, having not picked up the CD in over a decade. This album is different from their others, much more shoegaze influenced than than the psychedelic pop that would follow. There are moments where this is fantastic, and many more where it is simply average. "Ride," "Just Try," and "The Coffee and Tea Wreaks" are my personal favorite. Interesting for fans, otherwise I'd skip to their break-through follow-up album The Dandy Warhols Come Down.

Fugazi - First Demo: This archival album was released last Fall and contains the first finished recordings of the band that would go on to become one of the most influential hardcore acts of the '90s. Though recorded nearly 30 years ago, there is still an immediacy to these songs which stems from the raw energy they've always displayed. It contains a few songs that never ended up being released, making this essential for fans.

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