Saturday, February 25, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

Happy weekend everyone! Spring arrived in the foothills of the Castkills this week with silly warm temperatures, which meant it was time for some rock and roll. There's a mixture of new and old on here, a handful of 2017 releases and some great 80's rock that I acquired on vinyl. The list also features one legendary crate digging find. I paid $3 for a record on this list that sells for a minimum of $85, and that's the kind of pull that us diggers dream of. Enjoy.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Flying Microtonal Banana: This is the Australian bands ninth album in their six years of existence, but represents my first encounter. This is one of the most interesting combinations of garage rock and psychedelic rock that I've heard, and also incorporates elements of surf rock. The drumming insane, almost sound line a drum loop with its speed and repetition. This is quite good, with "Billabong Valley," "Doom City" and "Melting" being standouts.

White Zombie - Psyche-Head Blowout: The second EP from the New York band was released in 1987, a few months before their debut record. This is before they were full on metal, more of a garage punk sound that is reminiscent of early Mudhoney and other pre-grunge bands of the late 80s. It's fierce and explosive and all around awesome. Only ever released on vinyl, I was able to find a copy for a few dollars, which is a total steal. Though I'm a fan of the band, these raw songs totally blew me away. A punk treasure!

Circus Devils - Laughs Last: One of Robert Pollard's many deliveries for music, this band is similar to his better known band, Guided by Voices. This is the new album, and like their previous records, it's a little more straight forward rock than GBV, though it still consists of snippets of brilliance that leave you hungry, which is a good recipe for addictive albums. "Get Out of My Way...," "End of the World Ice Cream," "Teenage Rooster," and "Time Trapper" were standouts for me.

Blondie - Eat to the Beat: Released one year after the huge success of '78s "Parallel Lines", this was the band's first album as bonafide New Wave stars. Listening to this album, I was struck by just how much Madonna borrowed from this band on her first two records. It is really one of the foundation albums for the New Wave style that would explode in the years following. Some great tracks on here like "Union City Blue," "Atomic," "Accidents Never Happen," and the hit, "Dreaming."

Brendan Benson - Upstairs and United Vol. 1: This 2011 EP features four covers from The Raconteurs member. There are several artists who have participated in this series of recording live to analog and released on vinyl. I found this one severely marked down at a local shop for a few bucks and had to pick it up. I love Benson, and the covers of Bowie and Elvis Costello are great. The Kinks and Randy Newman covers are also quite good and different. Definitely not essential, but fans will enjoy it.

Scorpions - Lovedrive: This 1979 record is the German rock band's first release after the departure of their gifted guitarist Uli Roth left the band. It also finds them moving into a style of rock that would explode in the decade that followed. Though his playing is definitely missed, they still rock this album. It's actually a little better than Taken By Force, the album that came the year before. "Coast to Coast," "Another Piece of Meat," "Can't Get Enough," and the title track are standouts.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Traveling Through the Blank Pages of My Mind

I've haven't written about writing on here in some time. That's not because my interest in the subject has waned. It is simply morphing. I've been attending grad school for the past year, and my time for writing has been severely compromised by other responsibilities. Coupled with the fact that the last three novels that I spent so much time and energy on were unable to find a home, I've been feeling the need to rediscover my passion for the craft. 

In my mind, I know the type of stories I wish to create going forward. I see them every time I day dream. I breathe them in my imagination. But I must shape them more. I must find the right vehicle for delivering this piece of me into the world. So for now, rest assured that I've been traveling through the blank pages of my mind with a keen eye on the scenery. I promise that my return to the publishing world will be brilliant.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is upon us, a nice long weekend. This week, I focused my listening habits on discovery, choosing a few albums by bands or artists who were new to me. In a rare display of luck, most of them were eye-opening good. I love weeks like this because they expand my overall knowledge and broaden my horizons. I've found a handful of performers this week who I will most likely explore further in the future, which is always something that I find inspiring. Hopefully you will all feel the same. Enjoy.

The Souldiggers Band - III: The new album from the Russian hard rock band was released earlier this month and is a powerhouse of heavy blues based hard rock. It's no wonder that the singer is also in a band named Sex Type Thing, since this album sounds as like a legitimate follow-up to STP's second album. Being a fan of that band, this was a joy to discover. Any other fan of STP or Scott Weiland will most likely enjoy this record.

Strand of Oaks - Hard Love: Though this is the fifth album from Philly based indie singer songwriter, it was my first encounter. I can say without hesitation that it won't be my last as this is one of the best albums that I've heard so far this year. There's something incredibly honest about this record that really struck me. One song after the next really had a way of grabbing me and I was left feeling very impressed with the Timothy Showalter's talent. Highly recommended.

Katamine - In Praise of Shadows: Another new band for me on this week of new bands, this dark folk record from the Israeli band is their third album and was released last month. It's one of those quieter albums that invokes feelings somewhere between a dream and nightmare, or a pleasant nightmare, which are my favorite type of dreams. It's one of those albums that I love to listen to in the darkness of late autumn or winter. "Killer No More" is my personal favorite track.

Thievery Corporation - The Temple of I and I: For two decades, the D.C. area dub, trip hop band has been putting out interesting records that mix a variety of styles to create a unique sound. As always, the beats are great, and a slew of guest artists provide a steady flow of hip hop and soul vocals. I don't usually go for truly upbeat records, but every once in a while, it's nice to listen to music that is designed for groove than thought. Another decent addition to their catalog. 

Fred Thomas - Changer: This is the newest album from the indie rocker who has been released records for over 15 years. However, this is my first encounter with his brand of lo-fi garage rock and it has me curious to look at his earlier work. I got the impression that this was a bit of a lazy album, and by that, I mean that the songs, while all good quality, seemed to lack a kind of passion that I've come to expect from albums of this type. To be sure, there were inspired moments on here, but too frequently it felt to slip away into the background. 

Legendary Pink Dots - Festive: Released in very limited handmade CD format this fall as a way of funding the band's rare North American tour, this compilation pulls together the band's holiday/ seasonal selections. I listened to this on two consecutive days of driving through snowy weather and it was the perfect soundtrack for those rides. It brought me back to my High School days when so much of what I was listening to was mysterious and strange and brought me to weird places in my mind. That's the joy that I always get with the Pink Dots and why I continue to seek out new things from their never-ending catalog.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Manchester By the Sea

Last weekend, I went to see Manchester by the Sea and have to say it was one of the more important movies that I've seen in a long time. It was the kind of movie that was made in the height of indie cinema in the late '90s, but doesn't often get made today since it's not an easy movie and not a movie that fits into a pre-defined marketing category. This is a story about sadness, about dealing with sadness, about learning to live again after sadness. I wouldn't call it a depressing movie. It's about healing. While it's definitely sad, it's ultimately uplifting by the end.

One of the things that is curious about this movie, and one of the things that makes it important, is that it is specifically about men and how men deal with sadness. Despite the advances our society has made, there is still this prevailing idea out there that men should deal with sadness in the traditional way. This movie examines that concept in a powerful way and shows how tragic that concept can be. It also shows the private side of male bonding and the healing power of that bond. 

While I enjoyed La La Land immensely, and thought it a fun love story, it's not on the same level as this film. There is a scene between Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, the scene in the poster pictured above, that is perhaps the best acted scene that I've ever watched. For that scene alone, both deserve Oscars, as does the film. This will be the first year in many that I've watched the Academy Awards with a winner to root for.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to the weekend music review! I'm glad you stopped by to hear my ramblings about music I've been listening to over the week. This week features a lot of bands that were brand new to me before hearing what's included below. Two of the albums are from bands I've been following for years, but the rest were new. I love going into a week like this and not knowing what to expect. As probability would dictate, there were some duds, but there were a few that were enjoyable finds. Hopefully you will find something enjoyable on here. Enjoy.

Moon Duo - Occult Architecture, Vol. 1: I've been following this neo-psychedelic band from Portland for several years now and was looking forward to this new album. It's their most accessible album to date, refining their electronic elements and indie rock elements to flow together in the creation of entertaining and interesting space rock that doesn't resemble classic space rock of Floyd or Hawkwind.

Ordos - House of the Dead: It's been four years since the Swedish doom metal band's debut, but a follow-up was finally released this past month. I must admit to being attracted to this by the cover and my hunch was rewarded. It was a little touch and go as the first song is easily the worst, and the least representative of the album with its growling. After that, it is a groove heavy force of stoner rock. Not quite Orchid or Electric Wizard level, but close and certainly appealing to fans of those bands.

A Projection - Framework: The second album from the Swedish goth band was my biggest surprise of the week. I took a chance on this and was rewarded with a Sisters of Mercy type goth punk record that was enjoyable from start to finish. It's nothing groundbreaking in that it is a sound that has existed for decades, but one that hasn't been done well in a long time.

The Burned Witches - Recipeace: The debut album from the French stoner rock band is perhaps one of the albums that I've enjoyed the least in some time. While musically, it is certainly heavy and tight, but the vocals completely ruined this record for me. I simply don't understand singing in English if you can't speak English. The singer's accent is ridiculous. I actually had to turn this off about halfway through. Feel free to check them out, you may like it more than I.
Sic Alps - Long Way Around to a Shortcut: I've had this double LP for a few years, but never spent a lot of time listening to it until recently. This collects the San Fran lo-fi psychedelic band's early EPs and singles on one compilation. While the first side is consumed entirely of the noisey "Description of the Harbor", the album picks up on Side B and Side C with the band's typically great garage rock sound. Definitely one that's more for fans than anyone else, but fans will enjoy getting all of these rarities in one set.

Sisters Doll - All Dolled Up: The second album from the Australian hair metal revival band perfectly emulates the late 80's look and sound. Falling somewhere between Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi, this is a pitch perfect replica of a bygone era. Because I enjoy that era, I found this a fun album and a pretty flawless example of the genre. However, because there is no nostalgia to the songs, it didn't have the same enjoyment as throwing on one of the classics. Still, a fun listen.

Friday, February 10, 2017

This Land Is Your Land

While I wouldn't call myself an "environmentalist," the environment is one of the things I'm most concerned about when it comes to my daughter's future. For two decades, I've been of the mind that, as a nation, we should be investing in renewable energy over expanding the arena of fossil fuel development. I'm a ruthless recycle-er and frequently chide my colleagues when they throw recyclables in the trash. Basically, I do what I can. So, the recent trend going on in our government is disturbing.

Opening national parks for drilling. Building pipelines to transport dirty energy across thousands of miles. Expanding coal production under the ruse of "clean coal." Parking barges on rivers. Dismantling the EPA and all regulations. These are things moving us in the wrong direction and putting our planet in jeopardy. The selfish nature of these policies is shameful. Why should these people care if the world is a terrible garbage landfill in fifty years? Chances are these individuals won't have to live with the consequences. Well, the children of this world will and our duty as stewards of the planet and their future is to protect it for them.

The image above is the creek near where I grew up. I spent a good part of my childhood playing in the woods that surround it. That was a different era. The idea of recycling was new, and I had family members who refused to recycle, seeing it as some Big Brother operation of the government telling them what to do. I had one relative who used to encourage us to throw our lolipop sticks out the window of the car as we drove over a bridge that crossed this creek. Littering was a thing that people did. That is the mentality of these people who support these policies. Convenience and self-interest. It's short sighted. It's selfish. And it's WRONG! 

You don't have to be an environmentalist. You don't have to be a fanatic about things. You just have to do what's right for our planet, for our children, and for all life on Earth. It's not that hard. Tell your representatives to do their part!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

It's hard to believe that the first month of this strange year has already passed up by, but at least it hasn't gone by without some good tunes being sent out into the world. This week is pretty heavy on rock, which I also see as the case for next week. This time of year, I begin feeling the need to rage a little and tend to chose heavier than I would in any other season. There's a nice mix of new releases and a few classics to keep everything going nicely. Hopefully you'll find something on here that you'll want to check out. Enjoy.

White Light Cemetery - Careful What You Wish For: Released a few weeks back, this is the second album from Louisiana rock band. This is basically a heavy blues album with vocals that sound like Chris Cornell. A bit uneven, but when it all comes together, the songs are damned good. Personal favorites for me are, "Better Days," "On a Dime," "Bullet to Erase," and "Misery Loves Company." Worth checking out for anyone looking for a decent hard rock record.

Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White - Gentlewoman, Ruby Man: This collaboration album came out in the middle of January and was one of the more interesting listens of the past few weeks. It's hard to categorize because of the various genres that are at play on this record, from indie pop to psychedelic soul. I suppose that's what made it so interesting, however, it is also the reason why it never really felt like it found it's groove. There are some lovely moments on here that remind me of The Magic Numbers. "Looking for You," "The Colour in Anything," and "Look at What the Light Did Now" are my favorites.

Snowy Dunes - Snowy Dunes: The 2015 debut from the Swedish hard rock band is one that I came across recently. Perhaps unsurprisingly, based on the cover, there is a kinship shared with The Doors on here. The singer sounds like Jim Morrison would sound singing hard rock. It's an interesting combination that works on some levels, but never fully grabbed me. The epic opener, "Tranquil Mountain Lake" is the real standout here.

Metallica - Kill 'Em All: The 1983 debut from the monsters of thrash metal is one of those indispensable albums for any fan of metal. I recently picked up the remastered vinyl of this record and have been rocking out to it ever since. The furious tone of this record was eye-opening upon its release and is still equally as powerful as it was back then. While the band would continue to progress and continue to invent thrash metal for the rest of the decade, the sheer raw energy of this record makes it stand out.

Zior - Zior: The 1971 debut from the UK heavy psych band is one of those little known albums that were the foundation of genre that has been revived lately. I've been listening to a lot of these records lately from bands like Horse and Gun and I've found that while these records manage to create a sound that is way ahead of its time, they rarely are able to carry it through the entire album and there are always a least one or more songs that fall back on a heavy blues hard rock. It just points to how difficult is to create a new sound. This is a solid record, maybe not as good as those other two bands, but definitely one to check out if you like heavy psych. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

It's Groundhog Day

This year, in a rare turn of events, the groundhog came up from his hole, saw America, and predicted four more years of total bullshit.