Saturday, July 29, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

It's the weekend and the groovy kid has appeared once again to let you know that it's time to think about music. It's been a busy week that has seen me move into a new home and try to organize a life's worth of stuff into some manageable chaos. During that process, I've been listening to mostly CDs that had been packed away for ages. Thankfully, I had a backlog of new releases and recent pick-ups so that I don't have to bore you with reviews of albums that I've known for ages. This week sees one of my biggest surprises and a current contender for the top albums of the year list. Also there's some jazz and prog and metal. Enjoy.

Dead Heavens - Whatever Witch You Are: The debut album from the NYC band was released last month and it's terrific. This is indie rock, with elements of garage rock and psychedelic, along the lines of Dead Meadow. This was a nice surprise, having known nothing about them going into the record. "Bad Luck Child," "Gold Tooth," and "The Moon Will Listen" were standouts on what is currently one of my favorite albums of the year.

Mark Lanegan Band - Gargoyle: For the better part of the last fifteen years, the former Screaming Trees frontman has transformed himself from one of the Seattle sound founders into the modern day Tom Waits as his voice grows more rife with life's pain and experience. This is his first proper album in a few years and it's another gem. Soulful and mournful.

Saint Etienne - Home Counties: For the past three decades, the London band has been releasing their dance inspired, ABBA-esque pop and was really one of the pioneer indie pop bands. They've been releasing albums sparsely, but regularly since their debut in '89, and this is their newest, released three years after the previous album. As with all of their past records, at least the ones I'm familiar with, this is pitch perfect indie pop and super easy to listen to. The genre is not really my thing, but I can appreciate it when it's well done, and this is one of those records. Easy to digest and enjoy, but doesn't particularly leave a lasting impression.

Metalian - Midnight Rider: Released at the end of May, this is the speed metal band from Montreal's fourth album. It has a classic speed/thrash metal feel, which one would expect from their name. I appreciate the attention to the history of the genre, taking from classic bands like Metallica and Merciful Fate, and hopefully it introduces a new generation to this sound. "Burn It Down," "Bastards" and the title track were standouts for me.

Johhny Dodds - Weary Way Blues: One of the founding figures in New Orleans jazz from the '20s and '30s, Dodds was a self-taught clarinet player that helped invent the sound of that swampy city. I recently picked up this compilation, released in the great Archive of Jazz series, for a few bucks. I typically steer toward the trumpet players, so Dodds is a nice change. The New Orleans sound is part Dixieland, part ragtime, part blues, and one of the few true American artistic inventions. "Canal Street Blues" and "Mandy Lee Blues" are phenomenal. 

Nektar - Recycled: The German space prog rock band's sixth album, released in 1975 and consists of one track extending parts across both sides of the record. It has roots in bands like Hawkwind and Pink Floyd, but by the mid-'70s, they've introduced more metal elements into their unique proggy space rock sound. This is an album that is clearly moving away from the initial feel of what we know as Prog Rock and into the second stage that would dominate the second half of the decade. A truly enjoyable listen with lots to discover in the many changes that present themselves for the ear. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dreaming in New Worlds

My dreams have always been affected by primarily two factors, my location and the phase of the moon. This week has tapped into both in a magical way. The full moon was last week, but its impact on my sleeping brain is far reaching. Combined with moving into our new home this past weekend, my dreams have taken an interesting and exciting turn. 

I frequently write about the Interzone setting of my dreams. It's usually a dream-warped version of some familiar location, or mashing of several locations filtered through the imagination. The dreams I've been having in the new house have taken me to places vastly unfamiliar. It feels like a long time since I've traveled into uncharted areas of the Interzone. Like unlocking new areas in a video game, I've been traveling to strange places laced with elaborate plots. If I loved the new house before we moved in, I'm really loving it now. I hope it continues to gift me with these stories.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has arrived and it brings the promise of cooler air in the coming days, a much needed relief from the hellish heat that we have suffered through during the start of the hottest month on record. Despite the heat, the music never stops and this week I take a look at some eclectic new releases, some eclectic older releases, and some recent vinyl pickups. Psych, Dixieland, and Soul...what more could you ask for, well besides cooler weather. Enjoy.

Devil's Witches - Cherry Napalm: A few weeks back, I raved about this heavy psych band from L.A. and their epic debut which came out in March and is currently among my favorite releases of the year. In May, they followed up with this acoustic four track EP. Taking the heavy psych tracks that blew me away and turning them into acoustic folkish tracks was equally mind-blowing and shows the immense talent of these guys. This is a band that I'm going to follow for years. Absolutely brilliant!

Emma Ruth Rundle / Jaye Jayle - The Between Us: This EP features one side of Emma and the other of Jaye Jayle (which is a band, not a guy). Over the past year, Emma Ruth Rundle has become one of my favorite new discoveries. Her powerfully fragile voice and emotional dream folk are right up my alley. These three songs are spectacular. Not knowing Jay Jayle, I was very impressed with their tracks as well, which had a country americana feel. A very nice sampler of two great artists.

Acid Eater - Black Fuzz on Wheels: The psychedelic garage punk band from Japan's 2010 full length is their most recent release, and possibly their last. This fuzzed out, noisy rock with obvious '60s influence but takes it to a new deviant level. I came across this by accident and had to give it a go, and I'm sure glad I did. Not for the faint of heart, only for those that like their garage sound to be heavy and strange. 

Otis Redding - Otis Redding: I recently picked up this French compilation on vinyl for free. The cover was a little beat up, but the wax sounds great. Otis is another one in a long list of musical greats who died too soon, passing away at the age of 27. But in his short career, he produced legendary songs that everybody knows. His soulful voice is unforgettable on every song he recorded. I'm so glad to finally have a collection of his on vinyl.

Mythic Sunship - Land Between Rivers: The fifth album from the Danish psychedelic band consists of three extensive instrumental tracks. There is a jam band mentality to these compositions, meaning that they are all given a lot of room to breathe and wander, which is a trait that often works well in psychedelic records. This is an enjoyable listen for background sounds, but I found it a little too thin to warrent careful study. Decent enough for those into fuzzy soundscapes reminiscent of later day Earth.

Muggsy Spanier - Muggsy Spanier: This album contains most of the classic recordings from one of the leading figures in Chicago's Dixieland Jazz scene. I should set the record straight by saying that I absolutely love Dixieland jazz. There is nothing in the world that sounds quite like it. It has the magic of a great drug movie and the mellow beauty of a come-down. Muggsy's work is fantastic. Definitely one of the players fans should have in their collections.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Trials of Movement

This Saturday, the family and I are moving across town into our new house...well, our new OLD house, 140 years old to be exact. And while I'm super exited to settle into the home that I fully expect to be my place of residence for the majority of my remaining life, I will admit that it has been stressful, busy, hectic, chaotic, and a bit exhausting to pack and prepare the new house, all while working full time and taking graduate courses...oh, and having a toddler who is currently velcroed to Daddy. 

Two days until the move and I'm counting down the hours. Wish us luck!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has decided to show its face again and thankfully decided to wash away the insane heat that had lingered most of this past week. This week's Roundup features albums that I first listened to a few weeks ago. This list consists entirely of bands and artists that I've followed for years, but don't worry, there are plenty of new discoveries lined up for the upcoming weeks. Mostly rock and folk on here, with the inclusion of some soul. There's a couple of new releases that I'd been waiting for, and a bunch of older things that I'm catching up on. Enjoy.

Ride - Weather Diaries: The British shoegaze band's return after 21 years apart is pretty much a triumph. I was looking forward to this album with a little bit of reservation, but it completely lived up to the hype and is their best album since '94s Carnival of Light. As with their later albums, this is more BritPop than shoegaze and their songwriting abilities have only grown over time. It never falls back on nostalgia, which was my issue with Slowdive's return a few months ago. Definitely worth checking out. 

Black Lips - Satan's Graffiti or God's Art?: While listening to the eighth album from the Atlanta garage rockers, I kept thinking of the Spacemen 3 album "Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To" because that's what this album sounds like. Over the past few albums, they've moved farther into the psychedelic garage sound and this sees them straight up living there. The album took me a few songs to get into, but it really picks up on the second half, reminding a bit of The Growlers. "Rebel Intuition," "We Know," "Losers Lament," "In My Mind There's a Dream," and the fun "Wayne" were my personal favorites.

Brett Anderson - Wilderness: Originally released in 2008, this was the second solo album from the Suede frontman, and has recently been re-released in a deluxe edition. Upon it's release nearly a decade ago, I ignored this album because the album he'd released a year prior was not good. It's the only album of his I never gave a chance, until now. I regret passing on it back then because this record is quite good, and possibly the best of his four solo albums. It's mellower than Suede, more personal, and quite beautiful.

Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant: The 1970 debut from the UK prog rock band is truly a giant. This is heavier than their later work, with blistering guitar work and pounding drums in fits and starts, blended with quieter moments and longer exploratory noodling. "Nothing at All" is a blockbuster track and this is certainly an album for fans of the genre, or even just early '70s heavy groove rock. 

Isaac Hayes - Don't Let Go: Released in '79, this shows the deep voiced soul singer's disco side. That's not to say it abandons his soul roots, rather it infuses it with the popular sound of the day and the combination works well. This was a $1 bin find at one of the local shops and is easily worth that price. "Fever," "Someone Who Will Take the Place of You," and the title track are standouts.

Red House Painters - Red House Painters: The legendary slowcore band released two self-titled albums in 1993, this being the second one. Back in college, this band was on heavy rotation, and Mark's current band Sun Kil Moon is still on heavy rotation. So when I found a copy of this on vinyl the other weekend, I was quite excited. This is the band's peak, a perfect collection of well-crafted emotional tracks that is great for lazy Sunday mornings. "New Jersey," "Blindfold" and the cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" are standouts.

The Strumbellas - Hope: The third album from the Toronto indie folk rock band came out last year, and though I've heard many of the songs played heavily on the independent radio station around here since its release last year, I didn't check out the entire album until recently. This band falls into the recent folk rock wave of bands like The Lumineers and Avett Brothers. It's a sound I'm totally okay with and thoroughly enjoy listening to, but one that I never quite feel passionately about. Lots of great songs on here, including "Shovels and Dirt," "David," "Spirits," and "Wild Sun." Definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of the genre. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Journey Through the Pages

Just over a month ago, I wrote about a dream I had venturing through a day in the Interzone and I talked about how it inspired me. A few days later, I began work on novel. This is the first bit of writing I've done in about four years where I feel as though it's the best thing I've written after each session. It's one of these books that takes place during one day in the summer of my imagined youth. Thirty pages in and the story is still very clear and present in my mind for at least the next fifty to a hundred pages. I haven't been this excited about writing in a long time and just wanted to share my enthusiasm. That is all.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has arrived and so have a bunch of stellar new releases come to welcome the summer season. This week, I take a look at several new releases. Some of them are ones I'd been looking forward to, and one was a complete gamble and a wonderful surprise. There's also a couple of older albums that I decided to check out and was rewarded with some great tunes. Hopefully you will all find something to gamble on here and be rewarded as I was. Enjoy.

Devil's Witches - Velvet Magic: This is the debut full length record from heavy psych stoner metal band and it's fairly brilliant. This is certainly a new golden age for fans of the genre, like myself, and this album is up there with the likes of Uncle Acid and Electric Wizard. It's HEAVY but groovy and grabbed my attention from the amazing opening track, "Apache Snow." Other favorites are "Black Cauldron," "Voodoo Woman," "Motorpyscho" and the title track.

Mark Kozelek - Night Talks: Released last month, this is the newest EP from the Sun Kil Moon singer songwriter. Just five songs, including an acoustic version of a song off the most recent album and a great duet with Kath Bloom. There are some tracks on here that return to his more traditional song structure and are nice to hear, while others are more inline with his new style. Worth checking out for fans.

The Wonder Stuff - The Eight Legged Groove Machine: The late '80s was a strange time for indie rock, especially British indie rock. It would be a few years before the '90s British sound would be defined, and the previous sound had been dying down by '88 when this debut emerged. Perhaps that's why this sounds more inline with American rock than British, though influences like The Kinks are apparent and the beginnings of the Baggy sound are forming. "It's Yer Money I'm After Baby," "Rue the Day," "Like a Merry Go Round," and "Poison" are standouts on a great debut.

Mando Diao - Good Times: The first album in three years from the Swedish indie band is a welcomed return to form after their album, which delved into electropop for some ill-advised reason. This uses some of those elements, but uses them sparingly and more effectively. While still not as compelling as some of their earlier work, this is decent enough record that fans will most likely enjoy. "Shake," "Watch Me Now," "One, Two, Three," and the title track were standouts for me.  

Eloy - Colours: This is the eighth album from the German prog rock band, released in 1980. I went into this album having no idea what to expect and was pretty blown away. There are clear influences on here, from Pink Floyd to Uriah Heep and it's equally as good, not simply watered down versions. After listening to this, I was sort of surprised I hadn't heard of this band before, because it's exactly the kind of album I've been into for decades. "Giant," "Gallery," "Child Migration," and "Illuminations" were my personal favorites.

Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up: Nearly a decade ago, the Seattle based indie chamber folk band released a stunning debut, followed up by another album three years later. Now, six years after that album, the band has finally released their third. Fans of the previous two records will enjoy this. I can promise that, and why can I promise that, because this sounds like the same album. I loved the first record, and liked the second, but my problem with that was that it was indistinguishable from the first. This one is no different. There were a few times while listening to this album when I was convinced that I'd heard the song before, either on a previous album, or already on this one. None of this is to say it's not good, because it is, but they've become one of these bands where you only need one album by them and you'll be fine.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

America, I Hardly Knew You...

It's been a strange year for America, but they always say the 241st year is a weird age. For so long now, we've been locked into combative view points and seem to have lost the gift of communication and compromise, two foundations that have contributed to every great social progress this nation has ever made. 

Instead of discussing our various opinions, we've mostly chosen to listen to echo chambers that spin the news in such a fashion that it all agrees with the beliefs already concreted inside of us. Our politics and policies have also fallen victim to this narrow mindedness. It's not about solutions, it's about winning and losing the news cycle, about grabbing headlines and possibly swaying another voter onto your side to get the slightest edge within the gridlock. 

The result of this way of life is that our country has become a paralyzed shell of the greatness it once represented. It is crumbling from within, not only figuratively, but literally as our infrastructure deteriorates due to a lack of political consensus. Our society has become polarized as well. On one side, we are becoming more tolerant, but on the other side, we are becoming more rigid and have no room for opposing thoughts.

Of course, as with any individual who has ever lived, I have only my lifespan to compare things to. Sure, I have the gift of history and the recorded knowledge of the past, but as for observations, mine only begin with America's Bicentennial. And though what I've written sounds perilous, even in my forty years, I can say we've been here before and we can make it out of here. We just have to demand something better, just as Americans have always done.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has arrived and I've returned from my journey across the pond to bring you some ponderings on music that I've been listening to. This week features the most anticipated album of the year for me, as well as a few other new releases and a couple of relatively recent vinyl purchases. There's a mix of rock and prog on here, which are mainstay genres in my listening habits. Hopefully there's something here that will make you curious enough to pick up. Enjoy. 

Portugal. The Man - Woodstock: My most anticipated album of the year came out in the middle of June and while it certainly didn't disappoint, it didn't exactly live up to my expectations. I will grant that it would've been nearly impossible to live up to my expectations given how much I loved the last record, and the first single off this album. This album veers farther into the mainstream than their previous releases, which isn't a bad thing, but the big production of it just feels wrong. I recently saw them in concert and they were selling a T-Shirt that said "I Liked Portugal the Man Before They Sold Out" and now I get it, because a lot of fans are going to say that about this record. Still a very good album.

Big Hogg - Gargoyles: The new album from the Glasgow band is their second and sounds as if it were transported out of the height of the Canterbury Scene of the '70s. Clearly inspired by bands like Caravan and Soft Machine, they blend prog elements into their folk rock sound. This is one of those records that traditionalist will love because of the authentic nature of a style that nobody makes anymore. Non-musical enthusiasts will find the infusion of jazz a nice switch from the over-exposed indie pop sound that has been going around. Worthwhile listening.

John Cougar - The Kid Inside: Though this wasn't released until 1983, after the success of his American Fool album, this was originally John's second album that sat on the shelf for five years. It's clearly the work of a younger artist, showing a rebellious side that isn't present on his later work. Though it's pretty much hated, I have to admit that I quite enjoy it. There's a rawness that is nice and there are some great tracks on here, including the title track, the epic "Too Young to Live" and "Survive."

Horrors of the Black Museum - Gold From the Sea: The 2008 debut, and currently only album, from the Paris doom metal band is one I picked up strictly because the title of the band and the strangeness of the cover. In the world of everything comes back around, this has a lot in common with Christian Death's early work, a gothic work of metal that is interesting enough to hold the attention of the listener. "Hiding Mask" is the real stand-out of the four lengthy tracks.

Family - It's Only a Movie: The UK psych/prog band released eight albums in their five years of existence, with this being the last one. Released in '73, this sees the band moving more into the prog realm than their earlier stuff, but still they never abandoned their taste for psychedelic rock. They get a little mellow on this album, and while not their best, still a nice addition to their wonderful and unheralded catalog.

Gentle Giant - The Missing Piece: By '77 the prog art rock band had released nine albums in seven years. By this point, some of the magic from their earlier work has started to fade a little bit as they move more into a sound that would become an '80s jazz rock sound, but there are still moments where they flash their Pink Floyd inspired psych rock, especially on "Memories of Old Times." Not their best work, and not essential, but still something fans might appreciate. I picked it up for $1 and for that price, it's a fine addition to the collection.