Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day

The past three Father's Days have taken on new meaning for me, for the obvious reason of having become a father, but this year I find myself thinking more about my own father and his passing. He died two years before my daughter was even a thought and it has always saddened me that he never had the chance to meet her. But as I spend this day reflecting on what it means to be a father, I'm also missing my own father and all of the opportunities to seek his advice. I've been thinking about how I'm his only son who has become a father, and know how we would have bonded over this shared experience. And though I miss all of the advice and knowledge he could have passed on, I still have the memories of his actions and will always try to be as wonderful of a Dad to my little girl as he was to me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

It's Saturday and so it is once again time to take a look at that most sacred of arts, music. This week, I take a look a few new releases that I'd been looking forward to, and some older releases that I recently was gifted on vinyl. There's only one band represented that I hadn't heard before, and it was a pleasant surprise. There were also some disappointments, but such is the way of a music junkie. Hopefully there will be something that perks your curiosity. Enjoy. 

Ryan Adams - Prisoner B-Sides: This full length album of songs that didn't make it onto one of the best records of the year so far, is in itself one of the best records of the year so far. While Prisoner is an ode to '80s rock, this album has a bit more of an early '90s indie feel, albeit with ghosts of '80s rock thrown in. There really isn't a weak song on here and I'm sure glad that Ryan has been feeling super creative and sharing it with us all. 

The Rolling Stones - 12x5: Despite being a huge Stones fan, this is an album that I never acquired back in the day when amassing my Stones CD collection. To be honest, I was somewhat put off by the title, never fully comprehending it (until now: twelve songs by five guys...AH!). Anyway, found this in a $1 bin in decent shape and couldn't pass it up. It's early in their career, before they hit it big, and features a lot of early rock type stuff. Super solid record, but that kind of goes without saying. 

The Afghan Whigs - In Spades: The '90s alternative rock band made its return three years ago, following a 16 year hiatus. Now, three years later, they've released the second album in their second phase of existence, which doesn't sound very different from their first phase. Listening to this, I was reminded of what I've always enjoyed about this band, their rough sound which they make sound compelling and beautiful, and what has always bothered me, their tendency to be a little boring. "Arabian Heights," "Copernicus," and "The Spell" were standouts for me on this solidly okay album.

Smith - Minus-Plus: This L.A. band released two albums, their debut in '69 and this one a year later. This is a unique blend of soul and folk that is very catchy and reminds me of a serious version of The Brady Kids, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. It grabs you from the opening track, "You Don't Love Me" and then alternates between soul and L.A. style folk rock throughout. All in all, an very enjoyable discovery for me.

David Bowie - Station to Station: I bought this album, or thought I bought this album, nearly twenty years ago for $1 on St. Mark's place along with a few others. It was only after I go home that I discovered a copy of "ChangesOneBowie" in the sleeve. Not that ChangesOneBowie isn't worth having, but I'm not big on hits compilations. This weekend, I got a free copy of this, with the real record inside and it's like a mission fulfilled. This album marks the beginning of the Thin White Duke era and is some of Bowie's most mature offerings.

Wale - Shine: There was a time, about a decade ago, when the D.C. rapper was the most promising underground artist around. Mix-Tape after Mix-Tape, Wale brought it! His skills were undeniable, his lyrics were tight, and his flow was inspiring. We are now five studio albums into his record deal, and all of that promise seems to have been misspent. I went into this hoping it would be the album where he finally delivered. It's not. This is basically unlistenable. The cover is the best part, everything on the inside is trite shite.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fiction Friday (52)

With the year half-over, I've pretty much scrapped my plan to have read a lot more books than I did last year. Well, not exactly true. It's just that the majority of books I'm reading these days are picture books with my daughter. I hope to review some more of those soon. I've also been reading a ridiculous amount of academic articles. All of which limits my time to read the novels I so much want to consume. Slowly but surely though, I am making my way through books and today I'm sharing my most recent read, an interesting dystopian novel that is all too plausible to be dismissed. Enjoy.

The Unit by Ninni Homqvist
(Other Press, 2009)

This was one of those books that I expected to be far more intense than it turned out to be. 'The Unit' is nothing like Margaret Atwood's dystopian visions, as I had hoped, and has a limited scope to its view of the future. However, it's able to find power in the subtlety of the prose and narrowness of its vision.

Set some time in a possible near future version of Scandinavia, people who have not managed to have children, or partners, have been deemed dispensable because they are "not needed" and have not contributed to the continuation of society. Many of them are artists, outsiders, or recluses, or just homely people. They are not bad people, not evil, just essentially unlucky in love and life. At a certain age, they are sent to The Unit where they are to live the remainder of their lives in comfort, but also subject to medical experiments and forced organ donation until such a time where they either choose, or are selected, to make their final donation of vital organs. While this sounds horrific, it isn't presented as such, which is where the book succeeds in making the reader think.

People in the Unit accept their fate. They may not be pleased with it, but they accept it as it was a policy voted on in a democracy. We see this happening in democracies all of the time, where one segment of a population is valued more than another and one set of values is deemed more appropriate than another. Unique circumstances cause the main character to realize the true horror and unfairness of her situation, and cause the reader to comprehend the disturbing nature of the book. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here once again and so I bring you my thoughts on a handful on new releases and some old albums recently discovered. The weather is just starting to match the season, and with the summer sun and unbearable heat, comes my appreciation for mellow rock and psych pop, both of which are represented on this list. Hopefully there's some sounds on here that you can all dig. Enjoy.

Dan Auerbach - Waiting on a Song: The Black Keys member released his second solo album, eight years after his first. This is a departure from the Keys and his other band, The Arcs. Sundrenched would be the adjective that I would use to describe the '70s folk pop sound on this record. This turn is definitely unexpected, and I'm still up in the air on how I feel about it, but kudos for not just doing the same thing. "King of a One Horse Town," "Cherrybomb," "Undertow," and the title track were standouts for me.

Halasan Bazar - Don't Tell Anyone: This neo-psych band from Denmark has become my newest favorite band and I recently listened to this 2010 EP and it's just as fantastic as their new album which I reviewed a few weeks back. Just four songs, but every one of them is brilliant. You can find this for a name your price download on their Bandcamp site, or simply stream it for free. I highly recommend it. 

The Charlatans - Different Days: One of the lesser known bands from the BritPop era, at least on this side of the pond, this is also one of the bands that has survived the longest, releasing albums regularly for the past 27 years. I haven't checked them out in two decades and decided to give this a listen. It stays true to the Baggy Madchester sound of their youth. As with their past albums, I found myself never completely buying into it, but also like those albums, there are definite moments where I do. "Plastic Machinery," "Not Forgotten," and "There Will Be Chances" were those moments for me.

Terry Reid - River: The late '60s UK was a great place for a blues rock guitarist to burst onto the scene, and Terry Reid did just that with two stellar albums in '68 and '69. This is is his third, released in '73 and shows more maturity than the two prior albums. This album felt more special to me, more honest as he moves into a more folk inspired version of blues of rock that serves his talents well.

Matisyahu - Undercurrent: This is the seventh album from the Brooklyn based band, but is my first encounter with them. The remarkable first single off this album, "Step Into the Light," has been on steady rotation on the local indie station and I've been digging it. Mixing reggae with rock, the band creates a sound that falls somewhere near avante hip-hop. In addition to the lead single, "Tell Me" is another great song. The rest of the album carries a nice vibe, but isn't always my thing.

Bob Welch - French Kiss: The lead songwriter and vocalist in the transition years of Fleetwood Mac, Bob was responsible for two great albums "Bare Trees" and "Future Games" before leaving to go solo. This is his '77 debut and it's full-on late '70s coke inspired soft rock which really sounds great if your in the mood. Most of the current Fleetwood Mac lineup of the time play on this record, and sound like their more pop-rock records, but with Bob's sleeker feel.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dream Theory

As the full moon approaches once again, my dreams have taken on a James Joyce Ulysses vibe, sending me on endless journeys through the Interzone version of Manhattan that I've inhabited for a large portion of my sleeping life. My most recent day spent there was an alternative universe version of Record Store Day and involved a trek up the Hudson River side of the island, reminiscent of my walk during the great blackout of 2002. Along the way, I stopped off to browse through crates of imaginary records and shelves of odd nic nacks. I also came across an amazing piece of secluded real estate along the river whose land resembles the above picture. I also managed to dine on a lobster dinner and visit with old friends. But like Stephen Dedalus, my mission always remained unclear.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

Another weekend is upon us, and the groovy kid image is here to remind us all that it means ramblings on my music listening habits have arrived. This week features lots of new releases from old time favorites as well as a new discovery. In other music related news, I actually went to a concert last night for the first time in ages. I saw Portugal.The Man, one of my favorites, and it was pretty spectacular. I can't wait for their new album to come in two weeks. Take the weekend to find something new to listen to and enjoy. 

Hawkwind - Into the Woods: The new album from the legendary space rock band that is still fronted by founding member Dave Brock. This is somewhere around their 1000th album in the 100th configuration of the band that was born in '69, but this is one of their most compelling since their 70's heyday. Basically no filler, this still holds the transportive style of their best work. "Magic Scenes," "Wood Nymph," "Magic Mushroom" and the title track are my personal favorites.

John Mellencamp - Sad Clowns and Hillbillies: The newest album from the former Cougar is first work of his produced after the '80s that I've listened to, and like his early work, it's strikingly honest and genuine. Older, he has Tom Waits gruff to his voice that works well with this mix of bluegrass, americana rock. "Grandview," "What Kind of Man Am I," "Damascus Road," and "Easy Target" are standouts. 

Lana Del Rey - Midnight Fantasies: This bootleg features leaked songs from recording sessions over the past few years. As with any release like there, there are songs that were understandably left unreleased, but also typical of releases of this kind, there are fantastic tracks that leave me wondering why such a song would have been left off an album. "TV in Black and White," "The Man I Love," "You Can Be the Boss" and "Back to Tha Basics" could all have been at home on either of the last two albums. Worth checking out for fans as we wait for the new album that is due out soon.

The Seventh Sons - The Turnaround: The debut album from the Chicago blues rock band was a little less psych rock than I had hoped and was much more traditional blues rock. It's my personal opinion that to play blues rock in this day and age requires that you bring something new to the sound, and this doesn't. They are true to the genre and play it well, it just doesn't grab me because we've heard this kind of rock for forty years. This is okay, and others will certainly like it more than I. "The Cave Pt. 1," "The Cave Pt. 2," and "Shaman's Whisper" were standouts for me.

Ray Davies - Americana: The Kinks frontman released his first album in seven years, and this time around he's made his attempt at Americana music. He wisely chose The Jayhawks as his backing band on here, one of the pioneers of the current Americana sound. At times, this combination works excellently, and at other times, it falls a little flat. It's one of those odd records where the songs that I like, I really like, and those that I don't, I really don't. "Rock n Roll Cowboys," "Change for Change," and "Heard that Beat Before" were my personal favorites.

The Cosmic Dead - Psych Is Dead: The newest album from the Glasgow psych band is a thorough experience in sludge psych. The band effective uses drone elements in it's heavy style during the course of these three lengthy tracks. I always enjoy this band's work, even though it tends to be music that fills the void, only to alllow the void to quickly step back in once it's over. By that I mean, there is little lasting impression. But that's the nature of drone, and I'm okay with that.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sailing Off to Storyland

I've been packing up my office over the past week or so in preparation of moving to a new house. In the process, I've been coming across snippets of stories written long ago, ones that I came across almost three years when I last moved. I remember being inspired by them then, and that feeling came over me once again. Coming across all of these old fragments of imagination always seem to spark new ideas, as well as a nostalgia for imaginary worlds previously visited.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

It's not only the weekend, but it's a long one! This week I ramble about some highly anticipated albums in my world. I also found a few surprises, and an old favorite reacquired on vinyl. There's a lot of different genres on this list, which is perfect for exploring during the extra day. Personally, I'm going to spend the weekend listening to old favorites, but that's just me. Do as I say, not as I do. Enjoy the holiday and I'll see you back here next week.

At the Drive-In - in•ter a•li•a: It's been 17 years since the El-Paso post-hardcore band's last album, which may be a little misleading since Omar and Cedric had a Mars Volta career in that time, which was actually a more successful band. They also collaborated on 2014's Antemasque, which was also fantastic. To say I've been looking forward to this is an understatement. To say it lived up to expectations is also one. WOW! They picked up right where they left off with a burst of intense rock that begins with track one and doesn't quit. This is a definite must for fans of any three projects. 

Kasabian - For Crying Out Loud: The UK indie band continues it's trend of three years between releases with their sixth album. In the early days of Kasabian, I was a big supporter, and while the last two albums have been a bit of a letdown, I'm still a supporter. Unfortunately, this release continues the downward trend. The exciting thing about the band's first three albums was the sense of danger that was infused in their music. That was even there on the last album, "Bumblebee" is a great example of that. That seems to be lacking here. Including a second live disc on the deluxe edition is perhaps the worst choice because listening to that afterward, it just reminded me of what was missing on here. Still some quality tracks, "Comeback Kid," "Sixteen Blocks," and "All Through the Night" were my personal favorites. 

Dead Moon - Defiance: I still can't figure out how I missed the Portland garage punk band from the '90s back in their heyday, but they never really made it in NYC. I discovered their work only a few weeks back, but they've become one of my latest obsessions. I recently picked up this 1990 record, their third album. It opens with a brilliant cover of The Kinks "Milk Cow Blues" that pulls you right in. It continues on with a collection of perfect garage sounding punk that reminds me of Urge Overkill, but more raw. This is a band that would have been HUGE had they come about ten years later. 

Nektar - Remember the Future: This is fourth album released by the German space rock band back in '73. It's easy to compare this to Pink Floyd, especially to David Gilmour work in Floyd, but it's also quite different. It's definitely more prog rock than Floyd and reminds me a bit of Kansas in that way. Consisting of two tracks, one for each album side, this is an epic prog concept record with moments of great joy. Probably not essential, but fans of prog rock will certainly dig on it.

Halasan Bazar - Burns: The fourth album from the Danish psychedelic folk band was my surprise listen for this week. Knowing nothing about them, I took a chance on this one because I found the cover appealing and was rewarded with one of the most compelling records of the year so far. In the style of classic Brian Jonestown Massacre, this is psych folk with roots in 60's psych pop. "Freak," "Get Sick and Die," "Burns My Mind," and "Stretching Out" are standouts on a fantastic album.

Scala - Beauty Nowhere: Released in '96, this is the stunning debut from London electronic band, and has been one of my favorites since the day it came out. I was really in trip-hop and getting blasted back then and this album help illustrate my imagination. I recently picked up a copy on vinyl because I knew that it wouldn't be long before it became something that I wouldn't find anymore. Oddly, I paid less for the original vinyl than I paid for the import CD when it came out. This is like a time capsule for the mid-90s, one that is exciting to partake in again and again.

Returning to Places You've Never Been

I woke from a dream last night and in my half-sleep, recalled a different dream, one that I had years ago. The odd thing about it was that it took me a while to recall it was a dream and not a real memory. It started with this deli that was sparsely stocked where I remember frequently going to get a sandwich. Then I recalled the streets surrounding it. I knew the record stores on the one street was where I went to get imports. Another street was where I went for new releases. Then I recalled the streets expanding out from this Interzone version of the East Village. I kept trying to remember when I had been there and where exactly these places were, when it dawned on me that I had been there in a dream dreamt years ago.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is upon us and so I'm back once again to ramble on about my music listening habits of the week. This week features a wealth of new discoveries for me as well as a few artists whose new work I checked out. It's heavy on psych rock and garage rock, with a little outlaw country just to round things out. The summer is coming, so expect a lot more new releases in the coming weeks. Hopefully there will be something on here that you'll want to check out. Enjoy.

Church of Sun - Golden Ram: The third album from the heavy psych band out of Southern Cali. This album is a pretty dynamic and original. It's very uptempo and very heavy. I was entranced from the very beginning and my enthusiasm never faded. This sounds like a Flaming Lips record that has discovered the power of metal and punk. "Sad Sad Days," "Monkey See Monkey Do," "Yellow Rose," "Satanic Panic" and the brilliant cover of The Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog" are standouts. 

Thurston Moore - Rock n Roll Consciousness: The newest solo record from the Sonic Youth frontman. The title of this seems ironic, because it's more like a subconsciousness of Rock 'N Roll, as Thurston's guitar work has always been. Consisting of five lengthy tracks, this is vintage Moore. It starts a little slow, but finishes with genius. "Turn On," "Smoke of Dreams," and "Aphrodite" are perfect noisy tracks that are right at home with the artist's best work.

Waylon Jennings - Dreaming My Dreams: Released in '75, and the height of Waylon's outlaw country image, this album channels the ghost of Hank and is inspired by Cash. This is old time country, the kind that I like. Considered one of his finest, I found a copy of this for $5 at the local store and have been digging it ever since. "Waymore's Blues," "I Recall a Gypsy Woman" "Let's All Help the Cowboys (Sing the Blues)," and "She's Looking Good" are my personal favorites.

Dead Moon - What a Way to See the Old Girl Go: Recorded in 1994, right in the middle of the Portland garage rock band's career, this newly released live album captures the band at their peek. Years ahead of the great garage rock revival, this trio brings an intense punk vibe to the genre that wasn't included in the revival a decade later. "It's OK," "Walking on My Grave," "Demona," "Killing Me," and "Running Out of Time" are standouts on this great live set.

Electric Moon - Stardust Rituals: The seventh album from the German space rock band is clearly inspired by the transition period of Pink Floyd in the late '60s. Lengthy songs of psychedelic sound conjuring up the mysteries of space, this is one of those moody albums that I really like on rainy days. There's only four songs on here, but they they are all very decent. One of those perfect headphone albums that can take you to a transportive soundscape.

Goldfrapp - Silver Eye: It's been four years since the British electro-pop artist's last album, but nothing has really changed with her style. I've had mixed reactions to her previous records. I've always found them to be uneven, and always found myself hoping there would be more trip-hop elements mixed into the the dream pop. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

North Country

I just finished watching Season 2 of the FX series Fargo, based on the Cohen Brothers' film. Departing from the movie and the first season, this installment takes place in 1979, which beyond allowing for wonderful wardrobe, soundtrack, and cars, it also places the cop aspects in a world before DNA and databases and hyper media hysteria. I found this to be one of the most intriguing parts about this season.

We quickly learn that some of the characters are ones we met in the first season, albeit much earlier in life. Though it has no bearing on the show, it's another intriguing aspect that adds to the creation of this world that the viewer spends time in. In that time, the view become entangled in beginning of a mafia turf war between a North Dakota family and the expansion of the Kansas City mafia. Through chance events, this war crosses path with a small town in Minnesota and snares a few of the residents in its web.

The surface entertainment is certainly quality drama that is well-scripted and well-acted, but the the underlying themes are really what steal the show and reveal the reason for the time period. Society was changing drastically through the late '60s and '70s and by the time 1980 was coming around, a lot of those progressive movements were about to meet a new set of resistance. The show subtly deals with the issues of woman's rights, the changing way of big business over small town culture, and the scars of Vietnam. Thoroughly enjoyable, and I look forward to catching up with Season 3.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

It's the weekend again, and it's raining, so that means I'm fairly pleased with the world. This week I look at four highly anticipated releases in my universe from bands that I truly enjoy. I also ramble on about to more Record Store Day purchases, one a release issued for the day, and one just a record that I picked up at the local store to take advantage of their RSD sale. All in all, this is an all star kind of Roundup filled with goodies that you should check out...or in some cases, maybe lower expectations a bit. Enjoy. 

Slowdive - Slowdive: The shoegaze band was one of my favorites in the mid-to-late '90s and on constant rotation during my drugged out college years. Then they broke up and Mojave 3 was born, and they became on of my favorites of the early '00s. Like other fans, I was thrilled when they reformed a few years back and have been looking forward to this album, their first since '95. I knew it would be hard for them to live up to the hype, and while this is a fine album, it doesn't feel revolutionary to me, by that I mean it doesn't really add anything to their legacy. "Sugar the Pill," "Go Get It," and "No Longer Making Time" are standouts on a quality release.  

The Wooden Sky - Swimming in Strange Waters: This is the fifth album from the indie folk band out of Toronto. They've been a favorite of mine since their debut back in '07 and I've been looking forward to this one. It's been three years since their somewhat disappointing last album and I'm happy to say that the passion is back on this great album. It starts a little slow, but ends with a string of amazing songs. "You're Not Alone," "Deadhorse Creek," "Matter of Time," and "Black Gold" are my personal favorites. 

The Bevis Frond - Triptych: One of two albums released by the British psych outfit in 1988, this was another Record Store Day release that I picked up on colored vinyl. Nick Saloman hits his stride on this record, the band's fifth and most popular of the decade. His guitar work is Hendrix like on here and his poetry is Lennon-esque. This is one I hadn't had either on CD or digitally in the past and it was a thrill to hear it for the first time. Stunning.

Gorillaz - Humanz: It's been seven years since Damon Albarn's (Blur) cartoon band has released a proper LP. This time they delve even further into the realm of hip-hop, which has been a standard of the band since their first single. Loaded with guest spots, another staple of the band, this record runs a good groove throughout even if it feels a bit souless at times. Personally, I think it lacks enough Damon and would've liked to hear more of him. His feature tracks, "Andromeda," "Busted and Blue," and "She's My Collar," are my favorites. All in all, a solid okay.

Woods - Love Is Love: Last year's release by Woods was one of my favorites of 2016, so I was excited to see they were releasing another record so quickly. This is another psychedelic folk gem as this band continues to evolve and mature. This album settles into its groove immediately and flows beautifully from start to finish. "Bleeding Blue," "Lost in the Crowd," "Spring is In the Air," and the two versions of the title track are outstanding.

T.Rex - The Slider: The third album from the glam rock legends, release in 1972, was another Record Store Day purchase. It was not re-released, I picked up an original. I've been really into Marc Bolan this past month and this album is brilliant. This was the creative peak, along with Electric Warrior album which came out the year before. At the height of his fame, and the height of the genre, this record is absolutely essential.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dict(ator) Move

So I'd be neglect if I didn't comment on the news of the week. Our president fired the FBI director who was in the process of investigating his campaign, stating some excuse that nobody except his ignorant base would believe. Of course, it's since come out that the real reason was because the FBI wasn't doing enough to silence all this Russia intrigue. This was either the stupidest thing this very intelligently challenged President has done, or it's the first step toward his dictatorship.