Sunday, September 27, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

The first week of Autumn brought with it the cooler weather, the coloring leaves, and some refreshing sounds. For the most part, I moved away from rock with my listening, as I'm oft to do this time of year. Naturally I found some folk music, but mostly it was a lot of very moody music that filled my head the last few days. I love albums that set a unique mood that can carry you into whatever world the artist is trying to establish. There were a couple of those this week. Overall, some fantastic albums that I see getting quite a few listens over the coming months. Enjoy.

Lana Del Rey - Honeymoon: Following last year's outstanding album, Ultraviolence, wasn't going to be easy. It was my favorite record of last year, so my expectations for this one were sky high, probably impossibly high. But before listening to it, I made sure to clear those expectations and hear this for what it would be, and what it is, is another album of heartbreaking beauty. Lana sounds like a brokenhearted old Holywood film star, accompanied with a bluesy jazz trip-hop backdrop. "Religion," "Blackest Day," "Honeymoon" and her cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" are standouts on an exceptionally enjoyable and moody album.

David Gilmour - Rattle That Lock: I've been a huge Pink Floyd fan since I was 16 years old, and have always preferred Gilmour's vision to Waters', but still I'm not one of those people who gets all amped up when one of my legends releases a new album decades after the music that I loved. However, the local indie radio has been playing the hell out of the title track from this for over a month, and I've been into it completely. So when the album was finally released, I was actually excited about it. This is the most inspired Gilmour has sounded in a long time. His guitar sounds as good as it did on Wish You Were Here. Every song on here is high quality and over time should be remembered as his crowning solo work. It is so satisfying when a legend reclaims their rightful place.

The Dead Weather - Dodge and Burn: The first full length album in five years from the Jack White/ Alison Mosshart combination, the band's third, sees them embracing even more of the hard rock vibe that was cultivated during the last album. Moving beyond garage rock and blues rock, this album showcases many influences and a heavier sound. The interplay between the two leaders of the band has always been what makes them unique, and that's true on this record as well. A few misses, but overall, this is a solid and interesting rock album worth listening to. "Lose the Right," "I Feel Love," "Rough Detective," and "Mile Marker" are my personal favorites.

Lucero - All a Man Should Do: The tenth album from the Nashville alt-country band came out last week. Their first album in three years may be their best in several. It opens with the amazing "Baby Don't You Want Me," which is reminiscent their great early 2000s material. This album reminds us once again why these guys are one of the best in genre. A great collection of drunken lullabies and tales of sorrow. Worth picking up if you're a fan, or new to the band.

Windhand - Grief's Infernal Flower: The Richmond stoner metal band's fourth album is my introduction to their heavy sludge sound. This is a very solid album, with tremendous riffs. In some ways it reminds me Alice in Chains mixed with some Electric Wizard. Musically it paints a bleak soundscape, but one that the listener is fascinated to wander through. "Two Urns," "Tannsgrisnir," and the surprising soft track "Sparrow" are standouts. 

Thin Lizzy - Shades of A Blue Orphanage: The second LP from the Irish rock band, released in '72 has always been my favorite of theirs and I recently picked up the 180 gram reissue. Unlike their later hard rock albums, this is mostly acoustic blues folk, reminiscent of Van Morrison, which makes sense considering the guitarist was a member of Van's band Them. There's a nostalgic sound on here that I truly dig, one of those great Sunday Morning listens. The title track is outstanding, as is "Brought Down," and "Baby Face."

Imperial State Electric - Honk Machine: The fourth album from the Swedish rock band is an interesting fusion of rock styles, from 80's hard rock, garage rock, and Clash style punk. All of these sounds can be heard throughout the album, creating something unique out of something familiar. Not most groundbreaking album I've heard, but one that grows on me. "Walk On By," "All Over My Head," and "Maybe You're Right" make up a fantastic middle of the record. Sounds like an album made by fans of many of my favorite bands. Solid enough.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Wasteland

As the new television season prepares to bombard the airwaves following the most recent Emmy awards, I figured it was time to make a confession. I've basically stopped watching television since my daughter was born back in May. It wasn't an ideological thing. Mostly it has been a result of not having time and realizing there are other things I'd rather do in the little free time I do have. 

I've never been the kind of writer who believes all television is evil. In fact, I find it quite inspiring and entertaining. This is why I'm rather surprised to find that I haven't missed it. Sure, there are a handful of shows that I wish I had time to catch up on. And yes, I will still make time for Game of Thrones when it returns. But overall, I haven't felt all that nostalgic for the tube. Perhaps there is some truth to the notion that one should throw away your television. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

Here we are once again, in the weekend world of music days past. This was another great week in the world of my musical experience, including a rare 5 Star album, the first since May. I also encountered a few almost 5 Star records, and few far lesser ones, but when you add it all up, I come out ahead. There's a couple of live albums on here, a few good folk, and one dynamite heavy rock. A great way to welcome in the changing on the season. Hopefully you'll find something here to search out. Enjoy.

Uncle Acid - The Night Creeper: It's been two years since the Cambridge heavy psych band released their last album, and given that they have been one my absolute favorite bands of the past several years, that is two years too long. Thankfully their return is glorious! From the opening notes, I knew I was going to love this record. It felt like one of those rare records that I'd been searching for since I started listening to music. The heavy sound, accompanied by Ozzy-esque vocals, create a record that I can't stop listening to. "Pusher Man," "Melody Lane," "Waiting for Blood," "Inside," and the title track, and basically every other song on here, are pure brilliance. Easily one of the best albums of the year. 

Simon Joyner - Out Into the Snow: I recently picked up the Omaha singer songwriter's 2009 album at a vinyl sale over Labor Day, and haven't really been able to stop listening to it. Though I've been a fan for years, and have many of his albums, this one immediately grabbed me in a different way than the others before. It feels darker, though his lo-fi Midwestern sound has never been especially cheerful. The second half of this record is near perfection, beginning with the epic "Last Evening on Earth."
Mad Season - Sonic Evolution: Twenty years ago, the Seattle super group, led by the late Layne Staley and including members of Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam, released their only album which remains a monstrously under appreciated rock record. To celebrate the album, the remaining members of the band put on a show back in January to benefit the Seattle Symphony, joined by said symphony and other Seattle icons including Chris Cornell and Duff Mckagan. I've never been a huge fan of symphonic rock albums, so that is one feature that unsurprisingly one element that I didn't quite love. Also, Layne's voice is impossible to replicate. A nice tribute, but not much else.

Natural Snow Buildings - Terror's Horns: The French psychedelic drone folk band released two albums this month (The previous one was reviewed two weeks ago and wrongly had this cover attached, but has since been corrected). Like The Ladder, this is another dark folk album, but with more lyrics. They manage to create a level of distrust and fear hidden in the music that keeps the listener uneasy. The band continues to make music that nobody has ever made before, and continue to explore the limits of the drone folk genre.
Ralph Stanely - Down Where the River Bends: I recently picked up this 1978 album on vinyl at a yard sale. Ralph, best known for singing "O'Death" on the O' Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, has an unmistakable voice that reaches deep into the soul. This bluegrass country album is a fine example of his vastly forgotten catalog. Sometimes you just need that old timey sound, and nobody does it better than Ralph. While not essential, still a nice addition to my collection.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Live in No Particular Order: This is the first live record from the L.A. folk collective and it's pretty spectacular. Though I've always enjoyed their studio albums, this is a band who truly seem to come alive in a live setting. Their energy is and engagement make the songs richer, and the the free form makes the musicianship better. They remind more of a band like Neutral Milk Hotel on these recordings, chosen from a period of the last five years, so granted, it only includes the best of the best. This becomes available on vinyl in October and I hope to be picking up a copy as soon as I can.

John Lennon - The Complete Lost Lennon Tapes Volume 7: Another in my ongoing process of going through this unbelievably rich bootleg collection. I happened upon this at exactly the right time as I'm currently going through my newest Lennon phase, something the seems to happen about every two years. This edition is quite good, featuring songs from his earliest solo album and some from his last, with a whole lot in between. The versions of "Mother," "I Found Out," "Beautiful Boy" and "Nobody Told Me" are highlights.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Loss and Memory

Three years ago today, I lost my father. My life has changed so much in that time that it seems like forever ago. But then there are moments when it feels as though it just happened. I remember shortly after his death, a friend told me that over the years I would find that I missed him in different ways. That is remarkably true. Especially since the birth of my daughter in May, I find myself missing him in a ways that I never expected. I miss his companionship. I miss his laughter, his generosity, his advice and his wisdom. The pain that comes with loss ebbs and fades, but at moments like this, it's still there. Maybe not as raw, not as immediate, but it's there. Just different. That's life though, it never stays the same.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

It has been a busy week, complete with a long weekend road trip, which while relaxing and fun, left little time for music listening. However, I had the foresight to load a bunch of new albums up in the car for some quality first listens. A few albums I did get to check out earlier in the week, and the combination has allowed for a very exciting Roundup, once again filled with releases that I'd been anticipating. With the storms finally pushing summer out to sea this past week, look for more Fall oriented albums in the coming weeks, but these are still mostly summer inspired. Enjoy.

The Arcs - Yours, Dreamily: The debut album from Black Keys' Dan Auerbach's side project band, which also includes Richard Swift, one of my other favorite musicians. This album is mellower than the Keys last record, while still heavily grooved blues rock. There's also a strong '70s influence on here that really sounds good to my ears. I'm sure a lot of people are going to hate on this record, but I've been finding it quite enjoyable.

The Libertines - Anthems for Doomed Youth: For the first time since 2004, the troubled London rock band is back together and has released new music. With Pete Doherty's addiction worries seemingly under control, he and Carl Barat have pooled their talents together once more to rekindle the demon that brought two groundbreaking albums to the world over a decade ago. Their combinded disillusioned perspective comes through a strong as ever, and the band clicks musically to once again give us a Clash infused garage rock. A solid garage punk effort, though I must admit that I prefer the fragile beauty of Babyshambles.

Mark Lanegan - Houston: This archival record captures demos from 2002, a full two years before the Screaming Trees frontman's breakthrough album Bubblegum that established him as the new generation Tom Waits. These recordings more than any others, really capture that dust bowl doom that has come to fine his revived career. This is a must for fans, or fans of his band, or fans of his Soulsavers work. This is a real gem of dark Americana rock.

Triptides - Azur: This is the fourth record from the Bloomington, Indiana band and it sounds like one of those sunshine indie surf rock albums born on the California coast. Laid back vibes wash over the garage rock riffs to create something altogether pleasant. There's a consistency throughout that gives the whole a thing a solidly definable mood. Certainly worth checking out if you like bands like Best Coast.

Maple Bee - Over at Mine: Just released is this intimate live recording of songs from the singer songwriter's career. I love Maple Bee (member of QueenAdreena) and all her albums, and welcome the chance to hear this kind of recording. There are moments of brilliance on here. At times she reminds me Drugstore and at others, it's more like her sister's Ruby Throat project. A little more raw than her studio efforts, and definitely worth getting into if you like her work. "No Ropes on Me," "Metal Bird," and "These Four Worlds" are my personal favorites. 

Elton John - Captain Fantastic and Brown Dirt Cowboy: Following the mega success of 1973's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton and Bernie Taupin were given free reign by the record company to follow their muse. Two years later they released this, their glam rock album of personal songs. Personally, I like it slightly better than Yellow Brick Road. It includes the wonderful "Somebody Saved My Life Tonight" and the underrated "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket." I picked this up on vinyl last weekend and it's a nice addition to my Elton collection.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

As I mentioned last weekend, there has been a wealth of new releases that are right up my ally, so many that I can't get through them all in a week, especially when each new week brings more. This is always my favorite time of the year for releases. I remember back when music sales were mainstream, the back-to-school release time was always special. For whatever reason, music sounds great at the end of the summer, just as the heat begins to break and the air clears up. I've been enjoying these albums all week. There's also a ton more for next week, and the get ready for another wonderful Autumn of listening pleasure. Enjoy.

Natural Snow Buildings - The Ladder: My favorite drone folk outfit return for their next installment of listening pleasure. They are continuing with the eerie horror theme of the last record, but in a completely unexpected way. They create an atmosphere that feels like an abandoned field with a lulling sense of safety that hides the dangers buried deep within the sound. Except for the last song, "16 Girls in a Hole" which is outwardly terrifying and brilliant.

Gliss - Pale Reflections: The L.A. shoegazer band's fourth record was released earlier this summer and follows the path of the last two efforts, creating a atmospheric sound similar to a indie-rock version of Slowdive. I really enjoy the way they infused some of the guitar elements from their first album, pushing this record a little farther than the dreamier sound of their previous two. There's something distinctly California about this record, like updated, uptempo Mazzy Star. "Time," "Come Back," and "Slow to the Kill" are my personal favorites.

MV + EE - Alpine Frequency: The Vermont based free folk duo have released dozens of albums over the past decade, making them yet another prolific artist in the genre. They remind me a little of another freak folk couple from Maine, Big Blood, but more drone and mood related, perhaps a little less artistic. This album has a wilderness feel, the kind of music you want to listen to listen to in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. That's a compliment. I love albums like that and can't wait to check out some of the other work.

Lianne La Havas - Blood: The second album from the British soul pop singer is one of those highly addictive records. It infuses elements of folk and trip-hop into the songs which keeps them from sounding too pop, while keeping a focus on the catchy joy of pop music. Her voice is incredibly soulful and beautiful, and definitely worthy of stardom. "What You Don't Do," "Tokyo," and one of my favorite songs of the year, "Never Get Enough," are real standout tracks.

Lou Barlow - Brace the Wave: The Sebedoh, Dinosaur Jr., Folk Implosion songwriter returns with his first solo effort in six years, and it's a beauty. Like most of his best work, this is a largely acoustic and personal album. He once again proves himself to be a master of lo-fi. There isn't a bad song on here, but "Lazy," "Nerve," and "Boundaries" are exceptional. A short album, but definitely a worthwhile one.

Never Shout Never - Black Cat: The Joplin pop rock band's seventh album in their six years is one of those rock records that feels made entirely for teenagers. It's very polished, very surface level, very full of angsty love, and feels rather musically immature. It reminds me of a lot of second, third and fourth tier indie bands from the '90s, or more recent contemporaries Nightmare of You, though not quite as interesting. My favorite songs were when they tried to move away from the pop rock formula, like "Peace Song" and the title song was fun. Other than that, the cover is the best thing about it.

Black Widow - Black Widow: The second album from the British heavy psych prog rock band, released in 1971 is one of those lost gems of the genre. During this era, music saw the birth of Hard Rock and this band fits in with other origin bands like Deep Purple, Captain Beyond, and Atomic Rooster. A quality record that is worth checking out if you're into that kind of sound and need a new fix.

John Lennon - The Lost Lennon Tapes Volume 5 & 6: Continuing to make my way through the Lost Lennon tapes, this edition features a lot of strange snippets and ramblings, but also an amazing home acoustic set of John covering Buddy Holly's "Rave On," "Everyday," "That'll Be the Day," and "Not Fade Away." Also included are demo versions of "Dear Prudence," and "Cry Baby Cry." Simply a joy to hear the intimate recordings of such an amazing person.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Evil Things We Do....

One thing I've always been a little uncomfortable about is the evil things we do to our characters. As a writer, we send them into horrible situations, cause their lives to spin out of control, and often leave them without any hope of a happy ending. In the current draft of my seemingly never-ending novel, I've been set with the task of inflicting even more suffering on my already tortured Elizabeth. But perhaps the worst part, beyond the sorrow, is the fact that often these sadistic scenes are some of the most enjoyable to write. It could simply be the pleasure that one can find in a horror movie, but I actually think it's something more. By writing those scenes, we grow closer to our characters, we get to know them in a way that we seldom get to know real people.