Saturday, May 28, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

Summer has arrived! With the sweltering heat, it feels more like July than May. I hate the heat, but at least it's a good excuse to lounge around and listen to music. Continuing with the trend of the last few weeks, this list consists of pretty much all new releases. Next week is likely to also include many new releases, because like I said, it's summer and with the heat comes an explosion of new tunes. This was a good week with lots of great stuff and a few contenders for my best of the year list so far. So sit back, find some music, and above all, enjoy!

Guided By Voices - Please Be Honest: The Ohio lo-fi indie band's first proper album in two years is unsurprisingly similar to any of their previous albums. By that, I mean these are more flashes of brilliance in brief song sketches that hint at some horrible and interesting mythology that lies just around the corner. Some people get easily frustrated by the nature of GBV's albums, but the sketches are what I love about them. This is a great addition to their catalog. Some favorites of mine are "I Think of Telescope," "The Quickers Arrive," "The Caterpillar Workforce," and "Eye Shop Heaven."

The Red Krayola - Baby and Child Care: Just released is this recently unearthed, unheard 1984 recording from the experimental band. The band takes words from Dr. Spock books on child care and reads them over their usual brand of quirky experimental psych pop. More interesting than actually good, though it's not as hard to listen to as it might seem on the surface. One of those albums that is really a one-listen kind of thing. A curiosity for those familiar with the band. "Make Believe in Moderation" is probably the best on here.

The Fucking Champs - IV: Released in 2000, this is the fourth album from the Santa Cruz metal/ math rock band which features the former guitarist from Nation of Ulysses. In a lot of ways, this is prog rock, mixed with indie rock, but with metal elements. The entire album is instrumental and as with all math rock, features intriguing arrangements. It reminds in a lot of ways of a more structured Mars Volta. I was unfamiliar with these guys until this album was given to me, which is surprising considering they are on Drag City records and in the '90s and early 00's, I was well-versed with that label's catalog. Great stuff and I will definitely be checking out more of their offerings.

PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project: It's been five years since PJ's landmark "Let England Shake" and last month this long awaited follow-up record was finally released. As with that album, this is a bit of political protest record. Also like it's predecessor, it's more art rock than anything she did earlier in her career. A solid album, though a little less earthy than LES, which was one of the things I loved about that album.

Woodpigeon - Trouble: The Calgary indie folk band's seventh album came out last month, their first in three years. I loved their last record, but this one is even more spectacular. There's a eerie darkness shrouded in beauty, which is the kind of album that always grabs me. Similar to Cocoon, this catchy enough to appeal to indie pop fans, but deep enough to thrill folk fans. There is not a bad song on this album, which is shaping up to be one of my favorites of the year.

The Rise of Ignorance

The other day, there was a parade of pick-up trucks that drove by, flying both American and Confederate flags in honor of a 16 year old who died in a car accident nearby. According to the mother, her son was "proud to be a redneck", a reference to a slogan on the bumper stickers of other local teens who fly Confederate flags. THIS IS IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, not even ten miles from Woodstock, a place that stands for the complete opposite of this attitude!

On some level, I can understand Southerners' attachment to the flag of their rebellion. I don't necessarily agree with their argument, but for better or worse, there is a heritage issue. There is no heritage defense in New York State. Up here, a Confederate flag is nothing but ignorance at best, and racism at worst. And the fact that people are proud of their ignorance is absurd. 

This is the whole Trump anti-PC argument. It's a celebration of ignorance and stupidity. I see it all around and I can't help but feel there is a large part of this country that is reverting to standards we abandoned decades ago in favor of progress and enlightenment. This anti-PC nonsense is simply a ploy to be able to say racist shit and not be called out for it. Disgusting.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Father's Day

Today would've been my Dad's 60th Birthday. It's hard to believe that three birthdays have now passed without him here to celebrate. At times it feels like I just spoke with him, but the more time that goes by, the less it feels that way. I find myself not only missing the good times and the laughs, but now that I have a daughter, I miss all the parenting advice he would've given. If there is one thing I could've changed about his passing, it would've been that he had the chance to meet my daughter. Wherever he is...I'm sure he's throwing a big party today. Have a blast, Dad! We miss you.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

I know I've been saying it for a while now, but this week I finally got around to listening to new releases from old favorites that I'd been looking forward to.  It was a lucky break that none of them disappointed, and thus contributed to what is shaping up to be yet another great year in music (the 67th consecutive year in a row). I also have a few vinyl pick-ups from the past weekend. Who know that stores still took trade in on CDs? Well, I did, and traded a stack of CDs that I had on vinyl for some shiny new wax. All in all, a good week of listening. Enjoy.

Richard Ashcroft - These People: One of the most anticipated albums of the year for me has been the new solo record from The Verve frontman. This is his first solo album in ten years, and in many ways it's a return to form. It's more in tune with his early solo efforts and abandons the adult-contempo/ soul vibe of the previous two albums. There's a lot to love on here and very little hate. I have to admit that some of the songs weren't really my cup of tea, but even when they weren't, I could get into them. The great songs though are great. They include "Black Lines," "They Don't Own Me," "This is How it Feels," and "Out of My Body."

Holly Miranda - Party Trick: After the success of her self-titled second solo record last year, this new EP was released, though it's not exactly new. It is an abridged EP of a self-released album of covers put out in 2012. As always, Holly's voice and mellow style bring something beautiful to every choice on here. Worth picking up even if only for "Love Came Here." Another great release from one of my favorite singer songwriters.

The Jayhawks - Paging Mr. Proust: The legendary alt country band's first album in five years is a true return to their 90's glory sound. It opens with two wonderful songs and from there just keeps going. While it stands alongside their classic albums, it's not simply a revisit of their Americana Elton John vibe, this delves deeper in midwest psychedelic ala Wilco or even Flaming Lips, especially on the amazing track "Ace." There isn't a bad song on here. I just love it when an album surprises you in such a positive way. 

Jess and the Ancient Ones - Second Psychedelic Coming (The Aquarius Tapes): The second album from the Finnish heavy psych band came out at the end of last year and is the follow up to their 2012 debut. It's refreshing to hear a female lead vocal in this genre, something that is still rare in rock after decades and decades. Her voice is Grace Slick like, making this sound like a heavier Jefferson Starship. There's a real '70s hard rock vibe to this record which is enjoyable, if not terribly original. Definitely worth checking out if you like the genre. 

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III: This is a band that I go through phases with, but currently I'm really into them again and have been for about a year. I never had this 1970 classic before, but picked up a vinyl copy last weekend. This blues rock at it's finest. It's easily their most blues influenced record and hearing it not, I can hear it's influence on bands like White Stripes, especially on tracks like "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" and "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper." Then there's the amazing "Since I've Been Loving You" that blows me away. Fantastic stuff.

M - New York-London-Paris-Munich: Best known of the synth-pop hit "Pop Muzik" that is the first song on this, their 1979 debut album. I found this for $1 and it's quite good. Along with Gary Numan's Pleasure Principle album, released the same year, this is the beginnings of New Wave and a classic of the genre. I've been into New Wave a lot these days, finding it very fun and reminiscent of music from my early elementary school years. Definitely worth a dollar. 

Mötley Crüe - Theatre of Pain: Two years after their glam rock landmark Shout At The Devil the L.A. band released this album in 1985. On their third album, we see them moving away from glam and into pure hard rock. I had this on cassette when it came out, and later on CD as part of the Music to Crash Your Car To box set. It's never been quite as good the as the two albums that came before it, but I still picked it up on vinyl last weekend as part of a CD trade-in. There's lots of quality tunes on here, in addition to "Home, Sweet, Home," especially "Louder than Hell" and "City Boy Blues."

Friday, May 20, 2016

Finding the Groove

A few weeks back, I posted about starting a new project, the first completely new project I've attempted in far too long. As expected, it took a bit of time to get back into the swing of things. The first chapter was a lot of feeling my way around, not only with the story and characters, but also with the style in which I wanted to present them. Time being a commodity that is hard to come by these days, that process took a while. 

This week I had a string of breakthroughs. It started with a solid day of being able to write, which quickly allowed the story to begin taking shape. Once that happened, I was able to piece together some notes I'd taken and actually outlined the next thirty pages or so. I'm determined not to fall into some of the same traps that have blocked me in the past, and so far, I think taking my time has aided in that quest. It feels good to feel productive once again.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here at last and it couldn't come fast enough. This was one of those weeks where I never seemed to have time to listen to music. Though I always manage to make time, I wasn't able to get to a whole host of albums that I'd planned to throw up here for the Roundup. I didn't get to listen to two that I'd been really excited for, and finally made time to listen to a few remaining Record Store Day purchases. There are three $1 bin records on here, so be prepared for that. I find myself often buying nostalgic albums in the $1 bin, things that I remember from childhood. I feel like you can't go wrong that way. Even if the album ain't all that great, it's worth it for the memories it conjures up. Hope something here will spark your interest. Enjoy!

The Cosmic Dead - Rainbowhead: The new album from the Glasgow heavy psych band came out this past spring. This is their tenth album in their six years of existence, my previous experience with them is based on a compilation that came out in 2011. Unlike most heavy psych bands around these days, Cosmic Dead aren't afraid to vary things up a bit, and mix in space rock and drone elements into traditional stoner metal riffs. Only four songs on here, the last two being extended jams of over ten minutes apiece, of them, the title track and "Skye Burial" are my favorites.

The Legendary Pink Dots - Pages of Aquarius: Released a few weeks ago, this is the newest album from the band that has had the biggest impact on me in the last two years. Though they've been around for nearly 40 years, it's only been a two years since I started to exploring their catalog. This one opens with the amazing "Mirror Mirror", one of my favorite songs that I've heard by them. As it progresses, it drifts into their more soundscape style, producing intriguing and fascinating worlds, though I must admit, not their most intriguing or fascinating. Definitely worthwhile, but a bit of letdown...though it must be stated that my expectations were very high. 

The Bevis Frond - Inner Marshland: Released in 1987, this is the second album from the psychedelic rock band, not counting the extremely limited release Bevis Through the Looking Glass. This was re-released on vinyl for RSD and I was lucky enough to score a copy. They've been a favorite of mine for years, and this was one album I did not yet have on CD or digital. It's a great psychedelic record that contains all genres, from folk and acid rock to indie. At moments, it's part Floyd, then it swings to Hendrix on "Mediaeval Sienese Acid Blues," while all throughout, capturing that unique and little explored world of '80s psychedelic rock.  

Dizzy Mizz Lizzy - Forward in Reverse: The Danish band's third album, and first in twenty years, came out last month. Being unfamiliar with their two mid-90's records, I have no point of reference on which to base their progression or revival. What I can say is that this album feels similar to other emo and post-rock albums that feature heavier guitar. It reminded me a little of The World Is a Beautiful Place..., which is another band that I've never been able to fully embrace. This album sort passed through me and made little impact with the exception of the last song, "Say It To Me Anyway." 
Slim Boyd - Hits Made Famous by Hank Williams: This was a $1 bin find back on Record Store Day. This is a fine record of old time honky tonk country, which is really the only kind of true "country" music. Doing some digging trying to find out more about this album, it seems unclear whether this is simply a tribute album done by Slim Boyd or actual Hank and I'd have to listen to them side by side to know. Either way, it's a good listen and one dollar well spent.

Steve Winwood - Arc of a Diver: Released in December of 1980, this is only the second solo album from the legendary blues rock leader of Traffic. As the '70s are ending, so is the daze that came with it, and the stars of the decades before began to mellow out. This has to be one of the earliest 80s sounding albums, all smooth jazz fusion that reminds me of my early childhood. Certainly not in the same league as something like Traffic or The Spencer Davis Group or Blind Faith, but respectable enough that there's nothing to be ashamed of. "While You See a Chance" is the biggest hit on here, but "Slowdown Sundown" is the real standout.

Dr. Hook - Pleasure & Pain: By the late '70s, the New Jersey band had all but abandoned their country rock roots in favor of more commercial soft rock, something that proved successful with hits on this album like "When You're In Love with a Beautiful Woman" and "Sharing the Night Together." I took a chance on this one for $1 and while you can never go wrong with a one dollar record, this is a far cry from their '71 debut which I have and love. One of those nostalgia records that I'll have to be in the mood for, which definitely happens from time to time, so you need these kind of records around.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

It's Not Easy Being a Mom

When you have a child, there are no doubt sacrifices that you will need to make. I was aware of this before my daughter was born, and had prepared myself for it. However, the sacrifices a father must make are nothing compared to those a mother makes. Even the most dedicated father doesn't have to give up nearly the same amount as a mother. 

Given that reality, it amazes me the way mothers are judged by completely different standards than fathers. I've noticed first hand that when a father does something, even routine things that mothers do daily, there is a positive reaction from people. For some reason, you're a hero simply for taking your baby shopping. When a mother does the same thing, it seems there are always eyes watching, waiting to judge every little detail, ready to criticize for any small thing she does. 

I've seen this happen to my wife and in infuriates me. I know what she's given up, what she sacrifices for our daughter. She does so much for our daughter and always tries to be the best mother she can be. Maybe if we took the time to celebrate mothers more than just one day a year and stopped judging them by impossible standards, the world would be a better place.

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has come once again, thus is the nature of time. Nothing can stop the weekend from coming, and therefore nothing can stop another list of my opinions on a random sampling of albums. Though it's Mother's Day Weekend, there is no particular connection to that and my list this week, except that maybe these are all albums the mothers somewhere along the line have probably objected to having their kids listen to. There a few classics on here from favorite bands and two wonderful new metal selections. Hopefully there's something on here that strikes your fancy. Enjoy.

Rob Zombie - The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser: Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated album of the year for me is this one. After 2013's fantastic Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, I've been looking forward to this one and it finally came out last week. Not quite as unbelievably good as its predecessor, this is still pretty terrific and follows the same groove metal vibe, if not as psychedelic as the previous. The Zombie still remains at the top of his game even after all these years.

New York Dolls - New York Dolls: On RSD, the one local shop was having 50% off used vinyl and when I saw the New York Dolls 1973 debut in mint condtion, and knowing it could be mine for a mere $10, I had to have it. This is the album that launched glam rock in the States and which inspired all my favorite '80s glam metal. Perfect from start to finish. Fun fact: in the 90's, I lived in the same building that Sylvain Sylvain lived in during the '70s.

The Mars Volta - Live at the Electric Ballroom: From their debut album, this double LP captures them on the tour that I saw them play in NYC. Obviously, it is songs from the first album. Probably not the cleanest sound recording, and perhaps a little off putting to some fans of their polished studio work, but capturing their energy live makes up for the drawbacks. It helps that I'm a fan of bootlegs, especially bootlegs on vinyl. A nice addition to the collection.

Dead or Alive - Youthquake: The Liverpool new wave band's second album, released in 1985, features the smash hit "You Spin Me Round" which was a featured song in my childhood and one of my all time favorites. I picked up a really nice copy of this for $1 and have enjoyed the high energy of it. It falls squarely into the realm of other new wave favorites of mine, Adam and the Ants and Duran Duran. Much of my elementary school years were spent in new wave sphere, before I moved into rock, this was a fun flashback to those years.

The Beatles - Yesterday and Today: Still in Liverpool, I picked up this 1966 Beatles record on RSD. I was hoping my used copy was a stickered over butcher cover, but turned out not to be. Regardless, this is one of the best collection of songs by the Fab Four. I actually like these better in their entirety than Rubber Soul and Revolver (the two records that book end this release in their career). It's basically a comp, featuring singles and songs that were available before, but put together, it makes a stellar record.

Merlin - Electric Children: The second album from Kansas City heavy psych band is similar to other recent greats of the genre including Electric Wizard, Sleep, and Orchid. It's very heavy, with clear roots to Sabbath. It's no surprise that this is right in my wheelhouse, and no surprise then that I love it. There isn't really a bad song on here. "Will 'o' the Wisp," "Bad Trip" and the title track are standouts though. Available for listen and purchase at the Bandcamp site.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Game On!

As I've mentioned in posts over the past year, my television time has been greatly reduced with the coming of baby, who is quickly outgrowing the 'baby' moniker. However, I've made it a priority to keep up with Game of Thrones as the new season has finally begun. In today's world, it's crucial to stay up to date with this show as people continue to post status updates that while technically aren't spoilers, they are spoiler hints that prepare you for things that will happen. Just the mention of a character's name is sometimes enough. Well, I'm not going down like that this season.

The first two episodes have been fantastic, really laying out the evolving storylines for the main characters, which had taken turns by the end of the last season. There's still no telling who is going to end up winning the game, but their immediate paths have been laid out, and future complications can already be anticipated. Can't wait to see what happens next.