Sunday, March 29, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup (Singles Edition)


Given the cold spell in album releases of late, combined with the wealth of interesting singles, I've decided to devote this Roundup exclusively to singles, something I haven't done in quite some time. I've always been a big fan of singles, and B-Sides. They make nice additions to a collection, and have much snob appeal when it comes to ownership. In many of the cases here, they also serve as teasers for albums that I'm very much looking forward to. Some of my favorite bands are represented here, so hopefully you will have some time to check them out. Enjoy.

Blur - There Are Too Many of Us/ Go Out: As the release of their first album in 12 years approaches, the Brit Pop legends have released two new songs. These songs follow the glorious "Under the Westway" single from 2012. "Go Out" is an old school sounding Blur song, with fuzzy guitar and a club beat. "There Are Too Many of Us" is a beautiful, poignant ballad, the kind of song Damon Albarn has excelled at for the past 15 years. All in all, these two songs point to a wonderful return.

Bang Gang - Out of Horizon: The Icelandic indie pop's first release in 8 years doesn't stray far from the sound that made me fall in love with them years and years ago. With their fourth album due out in May, this single dropped in February. A combination of shoegaze and dream pop, this uptempo lullaby has been one of my favorite songs of the past few weeks. I'm really looking forward to the new record.

Peter Doherty - Flags of the Old Regime: Released this month, this single gives fans their first glimpse into a clean Pete Doherty and his new found passion for creating music. It seems sort of unfair to claim an artistic maturity to these two songs, especially when he has always been extremely talented, but somehow it seems undeniable that these songs show a new level of skill. Both songs are beautiful, and leave me excited to see what comes next.

Warpaint - No Way Out: The L.A. dream pop band just put out this new single, their first release since last year's amazing self-titled album. Showing no signs of losing their groove, these two tracks are eerie and wonderful. They make me think of soundtracks to empty city streets in the dead of night. A promising start to their next album.

The Dead Weather - Buzzkill(er): Released last year, this 7" contains two songs from the Jack White/ Alison Mossheart band. Both are heavy, Alison sung, blues rock numbers. Jack's guitar riffs on the B-Side are stellar and both tunes are right in line with their style. It makes me hope that they will get back together soon for their first album since 2010.

Gen X - Dancing With Myself: Released in 1980, this was Generation X's mega hit that propelled Billy Idol's career. I picked up this 12" single on vinyl in Seattle last year. I love the song, and couldn't resist the amazing cover. Perhaps the perfect '80s song, a combination of new wave, punk, pop, and synth rock. A prized possession to be sure.

Nacho Picasso - Smells Like Lean Spirit: Released in 2013, this digital single from the Seattle rapper is typical of his wit and skill. The song pays tribute to recent musical history of his town, not only in the clever cover and title, but in the verses, referencing Kurt, and Courtney. This could be his best song that wasn't a collaboration with Blue Sky Black Death.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Creation


As my journey into fatherhood quickly approaches, I've been thinking a lot about the act of creation. I've always been interested in the concept. As a writer, I'm constantly creating lives and stories, but they only exist in some other realm. Having a baby is an entirely different thing, and sometimes the whole thing can be overwhelming, contemplating how two people can create a life where one didn't exist before.

The other day, I was thinking about this, and I came to the conclusion that the concept that life is created by a divinity bothered me. A new life isn't made by an act of divine intervention, it is made by a man and a woman. To deny that is to deny the power we hold within us. It's what makes people believe that humans don't have the power to fix the problems of the world, when we do. If we can create life, we can certainly fix the environment, conquer hunger, poverty, and disease, but to do these things, we need to believe in ourselves and our ability to affect change. 

As a father, I want my daughter to be aware of her potential. I don't want her to ever think she can't do something. Of course, there are many things we can't do by ourselves, but together, I truly believe there isn't anything the human spirit cannot achieve. These are the values I want to pass on to her, because divinity is intrinsic within us all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup


As the week draws to a close, I'm ready to roundup the music that has occupied my head space for the past several days. Though it was another slow week for new music, the bulk of this week's list is made up of 2015 releases. I've been taking a few chances on things I know nothing about and catching up on new releases of bands that I've been following for quite some time. Also included are a few albums that I've owned for years and years. I'm still working my way slowly through the albums that I unearthed during my move towards the end of last year, and will continue to share those on weeks like this. Mostly rock music on here, so I hope you're in the mood. Enjoy.

Alamo Race Track - Hawks: Out this past week is the fourth album from the Amsterdam indie band, and their first 2011. Their first two albums from the early half of the last decade are phenomenal and when I saw this, needless to say I was eager to give it a listen. They have an interesting way of combining dark folk with the airiness of pop that makes their music compelling. They sort of sound the way some singer songwriters would sound if they melted their music with the creativity of a band. The Figurines are a band that comes to mind that have a similar energy. This is a delightful record, with just the right amount of weirdness. Easily their best since 2006's Black Cat John Brown. "Erase the Wires," "All Engines," "Young Spruce and Wires," and the title track are among my favorites.

Dopethrone - Hochelaga: Due out in April is the fourth album from the Montreal sludge metal band presumably named after Electric Wizard's landmark album. It would make sense, given that the grooves on here have the same intensity and darkness of Electric Wizard's recent work. This is an exceptional dose of sludge, played to perfection. Perhaps the best stoner sludge album I've heard in almost a year, and one that will quickly lead me to their past output. It has a wonderful horror vibe that fits with my current writing project and I've been truly digging it this week. "Dry Hitter," "Vagabong," and "Sludgekicker" are standout tracks.

The Black Light Social Hour - Space is Still the Place: The second album from the Austin band is a wonderful combination of psychedelic blues and stoner rock. Over the past few years, I've heard a lot of bands that try to walk a similar line and for one reason or another it always seems to falter somewhere along the way. This album is the closest I've heard to getting the delicate spacey blues balance just right. Still not perfect, at times it's a little more uptempo for the style in my opinion, but regardless it's a quality bluesy album that feels a little like a heavier version of "Division Bell" era Pink Floyd. "Slipstream," "Sweet Madeline," and "Ouroboros" are standout tracks.

Babybird - Rehearsal Tapes: This live album was released last month, and it's the first official release from the UK indie pop band in four years. In the late '90s, they emerged at the tail end of BritPop, blending the genre with indietronic. These performances are toned down, and more emotional than the music of theirs that I'm familiar with. Perhaps not essential, but this is a quality indie album from a band that is still more interesting than most others. A little quiet, a little rough, and all around enjoyable. "Man in a Tight Vest," and "Too Handsome to be Homeless" are my favorite tracks.

Drop City - A Revolution of Purely Private Expectations: The 1994 debut from the Australian psychedelic band is the latest in my rediscovery project. About ten years ago, I tracked down this hard-to-find import CD and recently listened to it again for the first time in more than half a decade. This is probably the closest band to Spiritualized in terms of combining Brit-Pop and psychedelic into an uptempo shoegaze haze. Part Ride, part early 90's American indie in the spirit of bands like Hum and Drop Nineteens, this is a curious lost record that will surprise some people who find themselves nostalgic for that era. "Inertia," "Kill the Day,"and "Worlds Apart" are my personal favorites.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is Is: Another revisit, this is one of those rare, true EPs, one that comes between albums and contains songs that are never featured again on other releases. Released in 2007, after their fantastic first two albums, I've had this CD since it came out and recently went back it. In some ways, this marks the peak of their career. I've never loved anything of theirs that has come after this, yet these five songs are damn near perfect. Definitely a must for fans that may have skipped an EP along the way. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Life of An Automobile


Yesterday, my car of the past 11 years made it's final voyage. On an icy morning at the tail end of winter, it lost a battle with a telephone pole, instigated by a dangerous curve on an untreated road. Actually, it's not fair to say my Jetta lost the battle since the telephone was cracked and has already been taken down and sent to it's own death. We'll call it a draw.

This is the first that I ever bought myself, and despite the problems that it always seemed to give me, I always felt as though it was trying its best. And in the end, it sacrificed itself to protect me. I walked away without a scratch. She took one for the team, I will miss her.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

It was an extremely slow week for new releases, which gave me some time to catch up on some albums from recent years that I'd been meaning to check out. Strangely enough there are three live albums on here, or maybe it's not so strange since I usually don't get too jazzed up about live albums and therefore it would make sense that they'd sit around until a week like this one came along. As it turns out, all three of them were pretty great, which makes me think I should revisit my "live album" policy. Anyway, lots of psychedelic weirdness on here to coincide with the psychedelic weirdness that I'm attempting to capture in my fiction. So strap in, get weird, and find something to dive into. Enjoy.

Legendary Pink Dots - Easter in the Deep South: As part of their continuing archival effort, the London neo-psychedelic band just released this live recording from 1985. Consisting of only one 48 minute track, this performance is especially chaotic and showcases the neurotic energy they bring to their music. Everything they record sounds as if it's a free form composition that has been improvised on the spot and will never be repeated again, giving each album a feeling of uniqueness. The quality on this album is exceptional, making it a nice addition to the collection.

Karen O - Live from Crush Palace: Recorded in September as part of the promotion for her solo album, the Yeah Yeah Yeah's singer was joined by a one-off band which included Holly Miranda, one of my favorite performers, and fellow YYY's member Nick Zimmer. The atmosphere is perfect for capturing these soft acoustic lullabies, which really come to life when played live. I loved the album, but hearing the songs here, they sound even better as Karen continues to redefine herself as an artist. Simply a beautiful record. "Beast," "Rapt," "NYC Baby," "Hideaway," and "The Moon Song" are highlights.

Red Sled Choir - Kettles: Matt Gordon's 2011 home tape is a beautiful acoustic album of kitchen recordings and yet another wonderful addition to the Ithica, NY folk artist's catalog released under the Red Sled Choir moniker. In the spirit of Neutral Milk Hotel, these bare tracks impart something pure and raw. There's a touch of O'Death's primitive gothic vibe, especially on "Cradling the Moon, Swinging" that keeps these five songs extremely interesting and worthwhile. Fans of Bon Iver should enjoy this this album, as I think it captures a similar sentiment but in a more honest way. Available for free download on their bandcamp site.

Spacemen 3 - Live at New Morning, Geneva Switzerland '89: The 80's psychedelic band from Rugby are a classic case of crash and burn, though their crash took longer than most. Clashing personalities, an abundance of drugs, and music that was ahead of its time all led to the band's breakup in 1990, but before that happened, they managed to release 3 groundbreaking albums that brought late '60s and early '70s underground psych rock into the present. Recorded at the peak of their creativity, and their limited commercial success, which also corresponds with their the peak of inner turmoil, this performance in a way encompasses the mystery of Spacemen 3 in all of its glory. Glorious versions of classics like their cover of 13th Floor Elevators'  "Rollercoaster," "Take me to the Other Side," and "Revolution," make this vinyl only release a must for fans.

Cancer Bats - Hail Destroyer: The Toronto punk band's second, and most popular album was released in 2008 and I recently picked it up after having it on my wishlist for quite some time. Two years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with their Bastards of Reality album, covering Black Sabbath, and though I found their other album that I'd heard to be rather mediocre, I decided to go back and check this one out before listening to their new album which just came out. This album is pretty straight forward metal punk. I can see why this one is popular, it has a Antichrist Superstar vibe and delivers a high quality blitz of heaviness. "PMA...," "Let It Pour" "Lucifer's Rocking Chair," and the title track are my personal favorites.

Starlight Mints - Drowaton: Released in 2006, this is the indie pop band's third album and one I've owned on CD since its release. As part of my revisiting project of the year, I recently pulled this out to give it a listen for the first time in about five years. They do a great job of including a psychedelic pop element to their music, reminding me a little of The Dolly Rocker Movement who also have a Brit Pop influence to their songs. Definitely one of those under the radar albums that is worth checking out if you're into the genre. "The Killer," "Inside of Me," and "Rosemarie" are among my favorites. Other albums of theirs are more uneven, so this would be the one to check out.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Beauty of Creepiness

As I continue to plunge into the revisions of my manuscript and mine the depths of my imagination for the weird, bizarre, and terrifying elements that are to make up most of the added pages, I've been conscious of finding the beauty in these things. I've always tried to present everything in my stories with an element of beauty, even if it's merely in the language used to describe it. Whether it's heartbreaking sadness, haunting terror, or paralyzing awkwardness, I try to show these emotions in a way that is touching and impactful. This story has allowed me to push the limits of this technique and develop my writing in ways that I never would have thought possible ten years ago. When I'm done, this may very well be my masterpiece...only time will tell.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup


After last week's explosion of unforeseen treasures, the last several days were largely consumed with spending more quality time with those albums while collecting a few new interesting pieces to play. A handful of new releases, along with a few missing links in the collection, make up the selections for this Roundup. Most of these were curiosity acquisitions. A nice mixture of heavy rock and soft psychedelic. I didn't want invest in anything too epic as I was still absorbing the ones from the previous week. However, there are a couple of essential records on here, and quite a few curios. Dig in, go exploring, and find something interesting. Enjoy.


Rob Zombie - Spookshow International Live: The bonafide Hollywood Fast Talking Devil Man just released this blistering live album, showcasing his phenomenal 2013 album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor along with other popular White Zombie and solo tunes from the past. Usually I'm not a big fan of live recordings, unless the performance is either intimate or stunningly professional. I've seen several Rob Zombie live videos online before and knew that he fell into the second category. This album proves it, catching the energy of the live show with excellent production. A thunderous set with many highlights, including "Demon Speeding," "Demonoid Phenomenon," "Jesus Frankenstein," and "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga."

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield - Sing Elliot Smith: Recorded over the past three years, this album of covers by two of indie folk's unsung stars will be released this month. There seems to be no better subject matter than the songs of Elliot Smith for these two to tackle, seeing as how both artists have clearly been inspired by his music. Jessica sounds great interpreting Elliot's work, and Seth brings his own style to the vocals, but somehow his voice doesn't sound rich enough to convey the emotion of of Smith's words. With the exception of "Angeles," he comes across slightly flat. "Fond Farewell," "Between the Bars," and "Ballad of Big Nothing" are the best tracks on here.

Comet Gain - RĂ©alistes: The Oxford indie band's 2002 album was their breakthrough record of sorts, garnering them a bit of attention seven years after their debut. Like the Zutons, they are very American sounding, channeling the fuzzy indie pop of the late '90s. It's not a surprise that they ended up on the Kill Rock Stars label, and they feel very in line with the style of their catalog. Given the year of release, it makes sense that there is a garage rock vibe that runs throughout. This is a solid record, one that was probably overlooked by most. It reminds me a bit of Gliss's "Love the Virgins" with a nice blend of fuzz and rock. "My Defiance," "The Kids at the Club" and the title track are real standouts.

Enforcer - From Beyond: Released this past week is the fourth album from the Swedish speed metal band. Their previous output has been quite strong, reviving 80's speed metal in a wonderful way. This record continues that push, and for the first time, it feels as though they aren't just authenticating the past, but also adding something to the genre. Easily their most definitive album to date. The production is superb, making it perfect for blasting and just getting your rocks off. Another fantastic metal album for fans of old school NWOBHM or sunset glam metal. "Destroyer," "Undying Evil," "One With Fire," and "Below the Slumber" are standout tracks.

Skygreen Leopards - I Dreamt She Rode on a Pink Gazelle: The 2001 debut from the San Fran psychedelic folk band has long been a missing piece in my collection, but I finally got the chance to listen to it this week. Not surprisingly, this debut is more free form and ethereal than their later releases. It's floats in the atmosphere like a beautiful campfire dream. This is the kind of music that washes over the listener and only penetrates if one dedicates their full attention. It makes for a wonderful naptime listen, or a headphone listen while flying in a aeroplane over the sea. "Peppermint Annie," "I Fell Asleep in the Sunbleached Grass," "Yellow Is Color of Bees," and "Wild Bird Songs" are my personal favorites.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Revolution Number Zero: This four song EP was released back in the fall of 2013, and given the San Fran psych band's recent resurgence, I was excited to check it out. This is one of their looser records, consisting of a lot of free floating grooves, something that they have always done well. The songs wash over you in a pleasant sunshine haze, making them perfect for lazy summer afternoons. Nothing earth shattering, or really essential here, but a nice addition for completists.

Monday, March 2, 2015

There is no one alive who is youer than you...


Today's literary birthday is Theodor Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, though I'm pretty certain he was never a doctor. The only medicine he was qualified to prescribe was laughter, and he dispensed that in unmeasurable amounts. Like most every child, his books were favorites of mine. I still return to many of them now to read for inspiration. Not only were his rhymes wildly entertaining, but his artwork was so inventive. He was a true master of imagination. 

Happy 111th Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup


The bitter cold returned this week, but this time it was kind enough to bring with it a whole host of records that I hadn't been expecting. If I had known most of these were coming out, needless to say, they would have been highly anticipated. Three complete surprises in one week is a lot, and three from some of my favorite artists is a rare treat. The first one, and the first album on the Roundup, sort of set the tone for my musical taste for the week. The cold weather, and my current writing project, led me back to the strange comfort of psychedelic folk. I figured it was a good week for it, besides, I need to get it out of my system before spring comes and wipes the slate clean. Hopefully you'll be just as excited to see these as I was. Enjoy.

Big Blood - Double Days I & Double Days II: Over the past half decade or so, this psychedelic folk duo has become one of my favorite bands, blessing the world with one stellar release after the other. Following up last year's two exceptional albums, they've released this two part album last week. It seems with each release, they just keep managing to get better and better. Their music always transports me to a world that somehow seems to match the universe inside my mind. "Double Day," "Babies Looking Weird," "Go See Boats," and "Endless Peace" are standouts. Also, there is an amazing cover of The Cure's "Disintegration" and Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" that are brilliant. But perhaps the most brilliant song is "You're Crushing My Heart" which is sung by a child. Easily a contender for best albums of the year.

Elvis Perkins - I Aubade: In the "Holy Shit! I didn't know this was coming out" category this week is the new record from one of my favorite songwriters. This is his first release since 2009, and his third full length album. Here, he scales back his folk style into a skeletal psychedelic folk that reminds me a little of Tim Buckley. The music is so beautiful and spiritual that it nearly feels holy. What it lacks in campfire singalong qualities, which his previous work did so well, it gains in artistic purity. "My 2$," "The Passage of the Black Gene," "All Today," "My Kind" and "I Came for Fire" are my personal favorites. Another album that is sure to be there at the end of the year for my Best Of List. 

Stoned Jesus - The Harvest: Due out this month is the fourth album from Ukrainian stoner metal band. Naturally, I was drawn to this by the cover and the band's name, both of which are brilliant. Heavy drums and guitar dominant this album, giving it a driving pulse that keeps it moving forward in ways that some stoner rock records forget to do. While it doesn't push the genre as far as say Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats or Electric Wizard, they still manage to deliver an electric set that satisfies. They have a dynamic sound, sounding a bit like Black Sabbath as times, such as the opening minutes of "Silkworm Confessions," but then changing into something more akin to Kyuss. A very solid album and a nice contribution to the collection. "Rituals of the Sun" is a must-hear track. 

Robert Wyatt - '68: This archival recording was released back in 2013, and chronicles the Soft Machine leader's creative burst that helped guide the band's first three albums between '68 and '70. This four song album includes two roughly 20 minute long tracks, one which would appear on the band's second album and the other on the third. They demonstrate the band's movement from the Canterbury Scene and into the jazz prog-rock arena. These versions are a little less polished, but also a bit more honest sounding. A really enjoyable listen. "Chelsa" is a gem and this version of "Moon in June" is fantastic.

Bill Ryder-Jones - Home Recordings Jan/Feb 2015: As the title makes clear, this is a set consisting entirely of covers that the Coral guitarist recorded over the past two months and released on his bandcamp page. This is his second such album, the other one covers recordings from the previous two years and is also available on his site. He chooses excellent songs, all of which fit his style perfectly. Rather than making them sound new or different, this is just a fan playing his favorite songs and enjoying it. Some of my all time favorite songs are on here, like "Baby Lemonade" and "Riverman," and every one is done in a scaled down acoustic version with just Bill's voice and guitar. A fantastic album of covers.