Saturday, November 18, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has arrived and the Roundup has returned after a week off. This week's list is another look at some recent releases that I'd been looking forward to hearing. Some of these are bound to be big albums of the year and deservingly so. Others are more nostalgic listens for me, but didn't disappoint. As the holiday's approach, I enter my mad rush to listen to the albums from the year that I might have missed in order to finalize my thoughts on the year that was in music. Hopefully you are all doing the same. Enjoy.

Beck - Colors: The long delayed new album from the funky Scientologist is his much anticipated follow-up to 2014's masterpiece "Morning Phase." This album is his interpretation of modern pop rock and it's quite fantastic. Having released the first single from this album over a year and half ago, and subsequent releases over the past year, many of these songs are familiar, but it's nice to hear them as intended. "Wow," "Dear Life," "Up All Night," "No Distraction," "I'm So Free," and the title track are my personal favorites.

Queens of the Stone Age - Villains: For their first album in three years, the stoner metal band turned to Mark Ronson to produce it and give them a fresh sound. The combination works much better than I would've imagined. It has a more radio friendly sound that actually suits them well, while keeping their signature creepiness and rock riffs. "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," "The Way You Used to Do," "Domesticated Animals," and "Head Like a Haunted House" are standouts for me.

Wu-Tang - The Saga Continues: It's almost 25 years since the Wu burst onto the underground and ain't nuthin changed, still better protect ya neck because they're still coming. Their 11th studio album continues the material arts saga they began with, thought their lyrics take on a more conscious hip-hop feel, urging men in the community to step up and be fathers. The originals are back, along with great guest spots with Redman. "Lesson Learn'd," "Frozen," "Pearl Harbor," "G'd Up," and "Hood Go Bang!" are standouts for me. A definite for fans.

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard - Sketches of East Brunswick: This is the third album this year from the Austrailan psych band. It mixes elements of jazz fusion with indie psych and ends up sound like a funkier Flaming Lips or a wilder Beck. This is a California of the mind kind of record that sets up a groove that runs throughout the record, and like all of their work, it's definitely meant to be digested as a whole so the listener can be immersed in the atmosphere. It's different, and groovy, and for those reasons, I enjoyed it.

Sisters of Mercy - Some Girls Wander by Mistake: In the time before their debut, the goth band invaded the goth clubs with single after single that developed their trademark sound. Like The Cure and Joy Division, they reworked punk into something new, dark, and danceable. This '92 compilation captures the early years and some of their most iconic songs. "Floorshow," "Alice," "Temple of Love," "Anaconda" and their cover of The Stooges "1969" are my personal favorites.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fiction Friday (63)

Hello again! It's another Friday and that means another book review thanks to the imposed reading placed on me by my desire for self-betterment via graduate school. One of the great things about the YA Literature class that I'm taking is that it's forcing me to read books outside of my usual interests. This week I had to delve into Chick Lit, a genre I'm not well-versed in or have any particular curiosity in discovering. I decided to read something by Meg Cabot, given her wide ranging popularity in the genre. I really hated this at the beginning, but grew to not hate it by the end. Enjoy.

How To Be Popular by Meg Cabot
(Harper, 2006)

Everyone wants to be popular, right? Well, maybe not everyone. But nobody wants to be the person whose name has become synonymous with making a blunder. That has been 16 year old Steph Landry's fate for the past five years, but she's determined to change fate with the help of an old self-help book found in the attic of her soon-to-be stepgrandmother's house. She diligently studies the lessons in the book as it directs her towards achieving popularity.

Becoming popular turns out not to be as complicated as Steph had always thought. Sure, it takes hours and hours of work, a complete attitude and fashion make-over, and sort of dissing the friends you currently have, but in the end, it's all worth it...or is it? As her master plan progresses and things begin to fall into place, Steph suddenly has everything she could have hoped for, except that it doesn't feel that way. And are the popular kids really into her, or just using her? Is she really in love with the most popular boy in school, and if so, what is she actually feeling for the boy who has always been her best friend?

The is a quick read, one that reads like a mash-up of every 80's John Hughes movie. It is extremely predictable for anyone who has seen those movies, and some major plot points feel far-fetched. It also simplifies the motives the behaviors of teens to a point that may feel condescending.

This is like junk food, but we all like junk food every now and again. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here, actually it's more than half over but for some unexplained reason, I forgot to post this yesterday. I'm continuing to work my way through some recent releases, and will continue doing that for the next few weeks. There's most rock on here, from space rock to lo-fi to garage rock. All in all an interesting week of music with promises of great things to come. Enjoy.

Ruby the Hatchet - Planetary Space Child: The third album from the Philly heavy psych sees them venturing into space rock, as the title would suggest. As a result, it's much more wandering than their previous records, and less heavy...but not any less entertaining. They show growth as musicians on this record. It has some 70's groove metal influences that really make it standout. "Killer," "The Fool," "Symphony of the Night," and "Lightning Strikes Again" are my personal favorites on this solid record.

Guided by Voices - How Do You Spell Heaven: Released back in August, this is the second album this year from the legendary indie lo-fi band. They continue to be in top form on this record and cease to run out flashes of brilliance to release on records. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish one record from another, but this one stood out as one of the best in a long time. "King 007," "Steppenwolf Mausoleum," and "Tenth Century" were my personal favorites.

Thee Oh Sees - Orc: The San Fran lo-fi pysch band has been one of the most prolific bands in recent years and they return with another quick flash of an album. While their earlier stuff was always a little hit or miss, they've really come into their own over the past few years. They keep up a frantic pace here, with tunes that slightly heavier than they usually do, but just as strange and enjoyable. "Jettisoned" and "Drowned Beast" are my personal favorites.

Lords of Altamont - The Wild Sounds of Lords of Altamont: Based in L.A., the four piece hard rock band have a raucous sound that is very L.A. glam rock influenced, which was always based in punk. It's no wonder they remind me of early L.A. Guns mixed with Dead Moon.  It's raw and fast, and good. These are short songs that pack a punch and was a nice surprise, given that I'd never listened to them though they've been around for nearly two decades. "Like A Bird," "Going Downtown," "Death on the Highway," and "Where Did You Sleep," are standouts.

Josh Ritter - Gathering: This is the indie folk rocker's ninth album, and while I'm familiar with his work to some degree, I admit to not having listening to much of his work. This album is steeped in Midwestern Americana roots that gives it a country folk feel, which I found refreshing in the current world of indie singer songwriter output. There is nothing here that is groundbreaking, just good folk music. "Showboat," "Train Go By," "Dreams," "Myrna Loy," and the great "When Will I Be Changed" with Bob Wier are standouts for me.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Fiction Friday (62)

Well, one good thing about taking a graduate course that requires the reading of two novels per week is that I'm back into the reading groove and have been encountering YA books that I never would have picked up or come across if I hadn't been forced by way of assignments to chose them. This week we did Fantasy and instead of the usual fare, I picked up this book which was fascinating and about JuJu magic, something I knew little about but am certainly intrigued by. This book is packed with imagination, something you all know that I admire. Enjoy.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
(Viking, 2011)

Sunny is a bit of an outsider in her Igbo community in Nigeria. As she states in the beginning of the novel, she confuses people. She was born in America, then her parents returned to Nigeria. So she is American and Igbo. But neither of those qualities are what truly make her an outsider, being an albino is mostly to blame for that. In Igbo communities, albinos are thought of as people who are half ghost, having one part of themselves existing in the spirit world.

Sunny never believed that superstition, at least not until she sees a vision of the end of the world in the flame of a candle. With the help of her mysterious new friends, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha, she begins to learn the secrets hidden within her community, and in her own past. Perhaps the superstitions are more than simple folklore? Perhaps Sunny really does have a connection to the spirit world? But will her connection, and the juju magic that she learns really be enough to put an end to the Black Hat killer's murder spree or prevent the end of the world from actually happening?

This was a unique kind of fantasy novel, one that was so full of effortless imagination. Nothing felt forced or over-explained. There were moments where I wished it would have gone into more explanation, but I also enjoyed how it left a lot for the reader  to imagine. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here and with it comes the return of the Roundup format. This week I continue to share my ramblings of some fall autumns that I'd been excited about. It's all indie rock on this list, but a wide range of indie rock so hopefully it won't feel boring. Some really great records on here, a few that will probably end up on my favorite albums of the year. Others were a little disappointing, but not terrible. I hope you all can find something on here that's worth checking out. Enjoy.

Wolf Parade - Cry Cry Cry: The Canadian indie band reformed last year and finally released their first new material in seven years. This was one of my favorite bands of the last decade, consisting of two of my favorite songwriters, so needless to say, I was looking forward to this. I'm glad to say it's just as good as their best work. It's the kind of indie rock that was so prevalent in the last decade but isn't made any more. It's emotional, powerful, and void of any pop influences. The Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Moonface) songs are as brilliant as I'd expect, with "Lazarus Online," "Flies on the Sun," and "Baby Blue." Dan Boeckner's (Handsome Furs) tunes are catchy, with "Incantation," "You're Dreaming," and "Artificial Life" . The balance is what makes them such a great pairing, as exhibited on "Weaponized." One of my favorites of the year. 

Black Pistol Fire - Deadbeat Graffiti: The first album from the Austin based blues rock band is perhaps their best yet. This is one of those bands that seems to get better and better with each record, perfecting their garage blues rock sound. Their early albums reminded me of The White Stripes, but they seem to be moving toward their own sound and have finally claimed it. This album blends the garage rock style with a gritty Southern blues that reminds me more of a wilder Kings of Leon "Youth and Young Manhood." There aren't any weak tracks on here, but "Bully," "Speak of the Devil," "Hearts of Habit," and "Coattails" are standouts in my opinion.

Andrew Bird - Ecolocations: River: This the second release in Bird's Ecolocations series, following 2015's "Canyon", with a standard album released between the tow. These minimal instrumental records are mood pieces meant to reflect a state of calm that the locations typically convey. As is to be expected from an album like this, it's very much a mood piece that best exists in the background. "Gypsy Moth" is my personal favorite track on here. Not essential, but fans will appreciate it.

The Rural Alberta Advantage - The Wild: This is the fourth album from the Toronto indie band. Coming nine years after their outstanding debut, this is their finest album. Though I've enjoyed all of their work, this record feels complete and triumphant. The honesty that comes through on these americana inspired rock tunes is both dark and inspirational. "Beacon Hill," "Dead / Alive," "Alright," "Selfish Dreams," and "Wild Grin" are my personal favorites.

Milburn - Time: After ten years, the Sheffield band returns with their third album. As they were in the past, they continue to be a less interesting version of Arctic Monkeys, and not quite as catchy as The Fratellis. They are certainly in the second tier of pubrock bands of the last decade and half that have come out of England, but they are still enjoyable. By no means is this essential, but it's worth checking out if you enjoy the genre.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fiction Friday (61)

I continue to make my way through a pile of YA novels for my current graduate course and am back to share my thoughts on the latest one. This week, I had to read a selection in the "street fiction" genre, which I must say, I find the name of the genre to be slightly racist as it's all about black urban teens. But not all black teens are "street" and not all "street" teens are black, so it kind of bothers me and I can't help but feel there is a marginalization going on here. That said, I enjoyed the book that I read. Told in alternating letters written between a boyfriend in jail and his girlfriend on the outside. There were rare moments in the text where I felt the voices were a little off, but not enough to turn me off. Enjoy.

Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon
(St. Martin's Griffen, 2005)

Antonio and Natasha are madly in love and plan to spend the rest of their lives together. But when Antonio is sent “upstate” for the murder of his dad, all their hopes and dreams for the future fall into jeopardy. No longer able to spend their days hanging out together in Harlem or even see each other face-to-face, they write each other letters to stay close. But can their love survive if they are separated from each other?

Told in alternating letters, this novel set in the early '90s details the strain that circumstances take on young love. Young love is hard enough to keep alive under the best of circumstances, but when you add an obstacle like a 10year felony sentence, it is nearly impossible for the two lovers not to grow apart. Antonio has his own demons to face as he comes to realize the harsh reality of his circumstances, meanwhile Natasha slowly realizes that she can't put her life on hold. And though it's clear that these two are growing apart, you never stop rooting from to pull through.

While this is a compelling love story on the surface, under the surface there is much to think about and consider. The backdrop of this love story is the toll heavy incarceration of black males has on the communities and families in their lives, the racially unbalanced legal system in our country, and the struggle facing those who try to raise themselves up from poverty and hardship. Written in an honest, straightforward style that pulls no punches, this is a compelling novel about teen life in a specific place and specific time that can be universally impactful.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup LIVE Edition

We interrupt this regularly scheduled posting to bring you a special Roundup that focuses on a concert the Missus and I attended last night in Hudson, NY. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of his debut album (recently re-pressed on vinyl in a limited run, and naturally acquired by me), Elvis Perkins played the entire album. This was one of only three shows where this was happening, and he was accompanied by all the people who played on that original album. It was one of those rare nights that was just as special for the audience as it was for the performers. 

For those of you who are not aware of this album, it is easily one of the best records made during the last decade. It's one of those perfect combinations of beauty, sadness, and hidden joy. There are only a handful records that capture that same mixture as effectively. Astral Weeks and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea come to mind, but like those records, this one is unique in it's sound.

There are two of my favorite songs from the album, recorded last night. This is a record that should not be missed, so if you've missed it, now is the time to correct that mistake.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fiction Friday (60)

So this past week, I read a book that had been on my "To-Read" shelves forever. I always avoided this book because I don't usually like to read realistic YA fiction in fear that it will influence things I'm working on. But given that I had to read one for class, I figured it was high time I read this and I could kick myself for not reading it sooner because I absolutely loved it. What a wonderful book! Enjoy.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
(Penguin, 1999)

Silence suffocates Melinda as she begins her Freshman year at Merryweather High. Isolated by her friends and despised by upperclassmen for breaking up an end-of-summer party, Melinda begins what are supposed to be the best years of her of life as a complete outcast. Part of her believes that things could be different if people only knew the horrible secret of that night at the party when she called the police, but a louder part of her fears that nobody will believe she remains silent. As the school year progresses, Melinda's problems grow. Her grades suffer, her family life becomes more a struggle, and she worries that her secret will eventually drive her to madness. But just like the seeds she studies in Biology and the trees she attempts to create in Art class, growth is inevitable and Melinda finds her voice when she needs it most.

On the surface, Speak is the story of a victim. Melinda is the victim of a horrific crime and a victim of social banishment, but she is more than just a victim. She is an intelligent, compassionate, and courageous young woman that the reader gets to meet thanks to the confessional tone of the writing. Her outsider perspective allows her to identify the absurdity of high school, which she relates in many hysterical observations. The character refuses to be defined by what has happened to her, and likewise the book refuses to be defined as a novel about rape.

Ultimately satisfying and poignant! One of those rare novels that brought to me to tears. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here, and as I promised last weekend, there are a ton of new releases from some of my favorite artists that have recently come out. This past week, I started to work my way through the albums that will become the soundtrack for this autumn. All of them lived up to expectations, which is a rare treat. This is all rock this week, but as it's a varied genre, there's lots of different sounds to check out. Enjoy.

Liam Gallagher - As You Were: I recently read an interview with the former Oasis and Beady Eye singer that said "Liam Gallagher is very good at being Liam Gallagher" and that is a great statement. As a fan, I believe that statement to be true. It's hard to put your finger exactly on what it is about Liam that is so entertaining. Yes, he's an amazing singer. Yes, he's become a great songwriter. But there is an aurora about him that comes through in everything he does, that indefinable "it" factor. On his first solo album, that factor is all over it. It doesn't stray far from his work in his previous bands, and that's exactly what I wanted. It's full of new classic Liam tracks that I will happily play over and over and over again just as I have with the old classic Liam tracks.

Neil Young - Hitchhiker: 40 years after it was originally slated for release, they long-shelved album has finally seen the light of day thanks to Neil's continual archival project. Though this album was set for release in '76-'77 and never saw the light of day, all but two of the tracks were eventually released on other albums. This falls in the center of a transitional period in Neil's career, a more pessimistic and reflective attitude toward the world than his early '70s catalog. This is just him and an acoustic guitar and that's what makes it so brilliant. Many great songs on here, and though they may be known, it's still nice to hear them arranged in an album form as they were intended. 

Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down: The rocker returns with his 10th album, and first in two years following the wonderful The Pale Emperor. This album sees a return to the industrial glam sound of his Antichrist Superstar, Holy Wood and Golden Age of the Grotesque era. It's heavier than anything he's done in a decade, and for that it's a welcome return to form for most fans, even though I loved that last record, probably more than any of his other records. Definitely worth a listen for fans as it falls into the top half of his work in my opinion.

L.A. Guns - The Missing Peace: It's been 5 years since the L.A. glam rock band's last record, and 30 years since their fantastic debut. With the resurgence of interest in this style of music, this is a welcomed return of one of the best. While it lacks the raw energy of their debut, this is as enjoyable as any of their other album and doesn't feel at all like a band simply trying to stick around and cash in.

The Districts - Popular Manipulations: The indie band from Pennsylvania's fourth album is a pleasant listen that reminds me slightly of bands like The Microphones and Sunset Rubdown, but without the level of experimentation that those two bands deliver. It's more straight forward indie rock, but vocally, it takes chances which makes it more enjoyable and less generic than a lot of others. The fantastic "Rattling My Heart" is a real standout on this record. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Where There is War, There are Voices

“It’s as if Sarajevo is slowly dying, disappearing. Life is disappearing. So how can I feel spring, when spring is something that awakens life, and here there is no life, here everything seems to have died.”
Zlata Filipović, Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo

It's not exactly a Fiction Friday since this isn't Fiction, but it is a book review of another book I just read. The saddest part about a book like this is that it still happens. It seems no matter how many times humankind tries to learn the lesson that war is horror, it never seems to sink in.

Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic
(Viking, 1994)
When Zlata begins writing in her diary, her life in Sarajevo is a happy one. She writes about weekend trips to her family's vacation home in the mountains and the excitement of beginning a new school year with her friends. Her life consists of the familiar anxieties and joys shared by most Middle School students. She worries about how she will perform on upcoming tests and recounts the excitement of holiday celebrations and watching popular videos of MTV. But in the spring of her eleventh year, Zlata's childhood ends seemingly overnight when war comes to the city she loves, the city she calls home.

The Bosnian War, one of several conflicts which ravaged the Balkins in the 1990's, killed tens of thousands and displaced even more across Europe. The politics of these wars were extremely complicated, and often ethnically motivated. But the politics mattered very little to Zlata as she lived through the three year siege of Sarajevo. What mattered to Zlata were the very real results of the war that stole part of youth away from her. Unable to leave her apartment, she watches as a city once teeming with life begins to die under the strains of war. Buildings are destroyed. Stores closed. Electricity and water are unreliable. Trees that have stood for hundreds of years are cut down to be burned for heat in the hard winter months.

Nearly all of Zlata's friends have fled with their families, or have gone to stay with relatives in other countries. Eventually, Zlata and her mother have plans to leave, but discover that it is very hard to get out of Sarajevo once the war has engulfed the city. Through it all, Zlata is a witness to the struggles of the city inhabitants. But she is also a witness to the human spirit that somehow finds a way to survive even in the worst of times. Though she sometimes wants to give up, to succumb to the tranquility of death, she refuses to be defeated and finds ways to carry on because she knows that one day the war will end and Peace will triumph.

A heroic account of one young person's bravery in the face of devastating circumstances. Zlata may have lost her childhood to the war, but she never lost her love for life.  

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

As it tends to do, the weekend has arrived once again. As I mentioned last week, there are a ton of new releases in the last few weeks from some of my favorite artists and I have begun to listen to them this past week. But as I always do, I like to mix in some surprises because music discovery is one of my favoritest things. This week are a few great albums that I'm excited about and make for a good start to the Fall music season. Hopefully you'll be as excited as I am about these. Enjoy.

Death From Above - Outrage! Is Now: The Toronto duo returns for their third album, the first since their return in 2014. They are back to their original name (dropping the 1979 which I assume was required because of some lawsuit which has since been settled). Thirteen years ago, they were one of the pioneers of Dance-Punk genre and though they have since morphed more into straight rock, they are no less intriguing. "Freeze Up," "Caught Up," "NVR 4EVR" and the title track are my personal favorites on one of the best albums of the year so far.

Tricky - Ununiform: Twenty two years after his solo debut, the Trip-Hop pioneer is still making interesting music that continues to explore the strange inner spaces that the genre has always seemed to infiltrate in my mind. This is one of his strongest albums, with varied influences and a pitch perfect mood that runs throughout. "New Stole," "Same As It Ever Was," "Running Wild," "Dark Days," and fantastic cover of Hole's "Doll Parts" were my personal favorites.

Daughter - Music From Before the Storm: The new album from the London is their third album is a soundtrack to the video game, Life Is Strange. It seems like an odd arrangement for a band that began to break through last year, but then again, there's nothing about the title that links it the video game, so I wonder if this wasn't simply their next album and was used as a soundtrack. Either way, this is another shoegazer art folk record, like their previous efforts, and like those, it's beautiful and subdued. "Burn It Down," "All I Wanted," and "A Hole in the Earth" were standouts for me.

Fleetwood Mac - London Live '68: The original incarnation of the British band was a British Blues band led by the phenomenal Peter Green. This version of the band ranks right up there with the best in the genre, and this archival release from 1986 captures the magic of that band. They run through a wonderful set of blues tunes that capture the sadness and despair in a way that was unique to the British bands of the time. Unfortunately the recording quality leaves a lot to be desired, keeping from being essential. But fans of the genre would do right by giving this a listen.

German Oak - Down in the Bunker: This instrumental heavy psych outfit released one album, way back in '72. It's recently been reissued in a three disc set that most likely includes everything the German band recorded. It's a psych jam that sounds like outtakes of UmmaGumma. Long extended ramblings that explore an interpretative idea of war as filtered through early '70s spack rock. An interesting listen, something that is good for a curious listen, but nothing that will really blow your mind.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fiction Friday (59)

So here we go again, the continuation of my increased reading habits brought on by graduate school. This is the next installment of several YA titles that will get their chance on Fiction Friday. This week I read a classic of the genre that I hadn't picked up before. I have seen the movie, but it was so long ago, and under the influence, so needless to say, I didn't remember anything about it. That was good, because the book felt fresh and I had no images in my head of how it was supposed to look...well, except for the Karate Kid as Johnny. Enjoy.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
(Penguin, 1967)

Greasers vs. Socs...Punks vs. Preps...Nerds vs. Jocks. No matter what labels are attached, teen literature is littered with stories of two opposing groups whose hatred for one another is based on appearances and social status. Perhaps it's because these differences are so important to us when we are trying to discover who we are and who we want to be. S.E. Hinton, being a teenager herself when she wrote this novel, understood that and that is why this novel remains so popular more than sixty years after it was first published despite the fact that the terms "greaser" and "soc" have long been forgotten.

Ponyboy Curtis is a greaser. He is a greaser because he wears his hair long and slicked back. He is a greaser because he lives on the East Side of his town instead of the richer West Side. He is a greaser because his friends are greasers. He is a greaser because others say he is a greaser. For all of these reasons, he identifies with being a greaser and takes pride in it. At least he did until one night causes him to question everything.

Do the kids who have nice clothes, cars, and money, really have it easier than those who have nothing? Or does every kid suffer from social pressures, issues with their parents, and the confusion that comes with getting older? Ponyboy doesn't have the answer to these questions, but two crucial encounters on that fateful night make him begin to think that perhaps there isn't much of a difference between those on the East Side of town and those on the West. Sure, they have certain material advantages and catch a lot of breaks when it comes to the cops, but that doesn't prove that their lives are as perfect as they seem to the outsider. 
--> Tragedy makes Ponyboy realize that before we are greasers or socs, or any other artificial label, we are all people.
A compelling novel about friendship, loss, and family framed in the age-old struggle between social groups with different interests.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has arrived and brought both the rain and the end of the heat wave with it. But the heat lingered all this past week, and as a result, I geared my listening to the summer weather. There's quite a mix of things in here, and a lot of artists who I hadn't heard before. All in all, it was a nice week of discovery before I settle in next week with a lot of new releases from old favorites. The Fall always brings high profile albums, and I'm excited to begin listening to them. Enjoy.

Laucan - Frames Per Second: The debut album from the London based singer songwriter was released over the summer and is a beautiful piece of indie folk. There's a sadness that permeates throughout this record, which I'm definitely partial to. It reminds me a lot of The Microphones, without the experimental elements, so I suppose, more like Mount Eerie. "I Want Out," "Symptom," and "The Tree (Came Down)," were my personal favorites on this quality record.

Matt Pond PA - Still Summer: The Philly indie band's new album follows last years wonderful Winter Lives. Departing from the melancholy folk vibe of that album, which fits the season of the title, this is a more upbeat indie rock album which fits the season of its title. Whereas the folk album held a unique sense of honesty that I really appreciated, this album, while it has less of that quality, is still quite special. It begins fairly formulaic, but by the end, builds into a thoughtful look at the concept of summer past and present. I still like last year's album better, but that could simply because I far prefer winter to summer. "Rabbit," "Last Breath," "Canada," and "Union Square" were my favorites.

Black Grape - Pop Voodoo: It's been 20 years since Shaun Ryder's spin-off band last released an album, and 10 since his main band, Happy Mondays, last released a record. Not much has changed in the passing of time. More than 30 years into his career, Ryder is still creating catchy Baggy Madchester tunes that attack the mainstream sentiments. As always, this is a fun listen, but as with the last HM album, it's really one of those one or two listens before it gets shelved and forgotten. "Money Burns" and "Losing Sleep" were standouts. 

Oddfellow's Casino - Oh, Sealand: The fifth album from the Brighton based indie band is pleasant piece of neo-psych that, unlike American bands of the genre which draw from '60s influences, draws more from BritPop influences. It sounds like a mellow Suede or Coral in their quieter moments. "Down in the Water," "Children of the Rocks," and "Penda's Fen" were my personal favorites on this thoroughly enjoyable album.

Felly - Wild Strawberries: The L.A. rapper's second full length album is a blissful bit of hazy summer beats and laid back flow mixed with an R&B vibe that all somehow just clicks in a way that is welcoming to my ears. Certainly not revolutionary, but certainly a sound that is rare these days. Reminds me a bit of Digable Planets first album because it combines R&B soul with hip hop the way that album did for jazz and hip-hop, but this album has a decidedly California feel to it. "Baby Boy," "Above Water," and the fantastic "Oceans V2" are standouts on this ray of sunshine.