Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

It's another weekend in the new year, and another installment of my ramblings on music. This week begins with a few 2017 releases, two of which were highly anticipated, and one which is sure to be in steady rotation throughout the year. Also on the list are a few albums from the past that I'm just getting around to listening to. All in all, its one of those nice mix of music kind of lists that I hope everyone can find something worth checking out. Enjoy.

The Screaming Thieves - Hooligans Heathens and Crafty Devils: This is the debut album from the Austin rock band. This has a distinctly 80's hard rock sound which I can appreciate. This the second album in recent months that I've heard and thought that had this album come out in the late '80s, it would've been a hit. That said, it wouldn't have been a smash it, as it holds more in common with lesser bands like Telsa and Black Crowes than with the really big bands of the era. Still, a nice listen and worth checking out on their Bandcamp site. "So Says the Criminal," "The Fix" and the title track are standouts.

Ty Segall - Ty Segall: The lo-fi garage rocker has been one of the more prolific artists of the last decade, releasing material under a variety of variations from solo to Ty Segall Band to collaborations. In 2013 and 2014, he released three dynamite albums, but this one goes even one stop further. It pulls together all of his different styles into one album that is sure to be one of my favorites of the year. "Orange Color," "Break a Guitar," "Papers" and the epic "Warm Hands" are among my favorites.

The xx -  I See You: It took years for the London dream pop band to record their third album, their first in five years. Not much has changed with their sound in that time as this record feels very much like a continuation of the wistful indie ambient sound that dominates their previous efforts. As with their other albums, my feelings are basically that I enjoy it, but it never seems to grab me completely. There are moments where it feels as though it's perfect, and then it drifts away and loses me. Others are going to love this more than me, but either way, it's definitely a nice addition to the year's music.

Korn - Follow the Leader: The nu-metal pioneers' third album was released in 1998, but I was on a totally different trip back then and ignored this Cali band. And though I've been into them for about a decade, I just finally got around to exploring this one, and I can see why it was so popular. As with most of their early work, there are a some huge misses on here (a duet with Fred Durst anyone?), but when everything comes together, they are a great band.

Sharon Van Etten - I Don't Want to Let You Down: This EP was released in 2015, off the heels of the Brooklyn based singer songwriter's breakthrough album Are We There. These five songs are fantastic and reveal what makes her such a great voice in a crowded genre. I actually think this EP might be stronger than the album, and five songs could be the perfect amount for her sound, allowing each track to reach through and leave you wanting more. Definitely worth picking up.

Stone Angel - Stone Angel: This 1974 album was the only album released by the British Folk band until they reformed in 2000's. This is one of those classic British folk sounding records that incorporates old tyme folk with progressive psychedelic folk of the time. It sort of falls into the Canterbury scene, and has a sound that would later come back into fashion in the last decade with bands like Indigo Moss. It's a pretty album, and worth checking out.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


With all of the craziness that is currently going on in D.C., it's hard to decide where to focus efforts, anger, and frustration. But Trump's ban on refugees from seven Muslim countries, and the instituting of religion preference is perhaps the most UnAmerican act a President has ever taken, right alongside the WWII Japanese interment camps. Hiding behind this ridiculous notion of "extreme vetting" is the biggest joke, as if the U.S. currently grants refugee status without vetting. The idea of religious preference is completely against what this country was founded on. The idea that people fled where they were because of religious persecution is the reason we believe in the Freedom of Religion. 

And to make all of it worse, the people perpetrating these illegal actions are those who claim they love America more than others. They declare that liberals hate America. From what I see, we are the only ones who actually love the ideals that America is supposed to stand for!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to the first Roundup under the reign of our 45th President. It's dark days for many and in my experience music can be one of the few uplifting things during dark times. It's not a retreat, but a respice. With that said, here are some albums that I've been listening to over the past week and half, some are a good escape, while others are a good outlet for anger. Both seem appropriate. Hopefully all of you will find some music to help you through. Enjoy.

The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody: Released last week, this is the Oklahoma City neo-psych legends first proper album of new material since 2013's The Terror. This falls into the same category of that album and the prior Embryonic. It takes a page from their iconic Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by being a concept album. The concept in this one is that a drug called Oczy Mlody cause people to sleep for a month and have dreams of evil unicorns, at least that's what I read. It's hard to pick up on that after listening to it a few times. As expected, it's weird synth psych, with moments of melodic bliss, as is their best work. "Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)"  "Do Glowy" and "Listening to Frogs with Demon Eyes" are personal favorites. Overall, this is good, but not legendary.

Duff McKagan - How to be a Man: This single from the GNR bassist came out in 2015 and it's three of the best songs he's ever written. Duff, being from Seattle, was the primary punk influence in GNR, and perhaps because of that, his solo work has always been of the more interesting of the group. He writes hard rock with a nod to The Stooges and it shows here. These songs feel more Velvet Revolver than GNR. Well worth checking out for fans. 

Tim Buckley - Lady, Give Me Your Key: In the late '60s and early '70s Tim Buckley was one of the most unique singer songwriter voices in the world, a voice that was silenced by his untimely death. While his folk style is reminiscent of some of his contemporaries, there was something different about him. This archival release, issued late last year captures the unreleased demo recordings. There is a raw power to these recordings that remind me of Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen, as do his studio albums. "Sixface," "Once Upon a Time," "Pleasant Street," "Knight-Errant," and "She's Back Again" are standouts for me.

Gun - Gun: The 1968 debut album from the short-lived London heavy psych band that would break up two short years later. This is one of those hard to find, little heard, but much sought after psych albums from the genre's dawn. Steeped in blues, this is a heavy album, much heavier than contemporary records of the time and about three or four years ahead its time. Well worth checking out. The 11 minute side B freak out "Take Off" is epic.

RPWL - Plays Pink Floyd's 'The Man and The Journey': In 1969, Pink Floyd was a band trying to find its sound after Syd Barrett's departure. They played a series of concerts under the "The Man and The Journey", some of these songs would later find release on "More" and "Ummagumma" but the entire concept album was never officially released. The German prog band's decided to cover these sets on this album, and the results are fantastic.

Bad Boy - Back to Back: The second album by the Milwaukee rock band was released in 1978. Had been released eight or nine years later, it probably would be legendary. This album captures the sound that would dominate '80s hard rock. In my book, that's not a bad thing. There's some great tunes on here. For any fans of 80's hair metal, this might be one worth checking out.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Black Friday

A few hours ago, a completely incompetent, arrogant, and dangerous man was sworn in the be the leader of the Free World. Ironic considering he was granted that position through a campaign of exclusion, belittling, and information suppression. Anybody who is not concerned about what a Trump administration might do is naive at best. The dangers are very real and the consequences are far-reaching. Despite this, I will say that I hope that he does a fantastic job. I hope he doesn't necessarily believe the things he's said. I hope a few months on the job will humble him. I hope, I hope, I hope...though I have little faith.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The second weekend roundup of the new year has come and it brings you some interesting releases. Most of the albums on are from artists that are new to me. Though most were released sometime last year, I always like to take this time, typically a lull in new releases, to check out some things that I might have missed in the previous year. As always, I found a few nice surprise...and a few that I could take it or leave it. Hopefully you'll find something here worth checking out. Enjoy. 

All Them Witches - Sleeping Through the War: The Nashville band's fourth album is the second 2017 release that I listened to and it's another solid one. I wasn't all that familiar with these guys before jumping in and it was a nice surprise to hear their brand of psychedelic rock. It has a harder edge than most, but doesn't really fit into heavy psych. "Alabaster," "Don't Bring Me Coffee," and "Cowboy Kirk" were my personal favorites. 

Ryley Walker and Charles Rumback - Cannots: Over the past three years, Ryley Walker has become one of my favorite artists. This is an instrumental album he made last year with Charles Rumback. It's sort of dark and moody album, the kind of free folk that I love. The title track is amazing as is "Oft Rift." These are the kind of soundtrack songs that are great for creative work and I'm glad I was able to finally track this down.

The Doors - London Fog 1966: Released just before Christmas is this archival recording of The Doors in London before the release of their debut. It's far more bluesy than The Doors would come to be known for, while still containing the raw energy that they were known for. The performance is electric. It is the earliest known live recording of the band, making it a must for fans. 

Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life: The sixth album from the Phoenix based singer songwriter was released late last summer. This is folk music in the old Gram Parsons, Kath Bloom style, in that it is mixed with a true country flavor, not a twangy one, but a roots one. As the title would suggest, this is an honest sounding album that I enjoyed. It's nothing earth shattering, but it's a good listen. "Table for One" is my personal favorite. 

Hyde - The Seeds of Doom: The self-released doom metal debut from the Belgium band is an interesting album. It takes vocals that could easily be The Cranberries and pairs it with melodic metal. This is something that has been going on for several years now, and while I like the mixture, I'm still waiting for the album that puts it all together perfectly. This is a decent listen, but it's not that album. There were moments where it all came together, but they were too infrequent for me.

The Powder Room - Lucky: This is the second album from the Athens, GA noise rock band. It came out last fall, and I admit to only giving it a go because I was attracted the cover. This reminds me of the heavier noise rock outfits of the '90s such Jesus Lizard and Tad, but with vocals closer to Helmet's In the Meantime. "Deep Dish," "That's No Way to Live," "Black Dress," and "The Elitist" are standout tracks on a solid album.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Rabbit Strikes Again

A little late for this, but needed to be reported. For the third year in a row, I managed to say "Rabbit Rabbit" upon waking up on the first day of the year. Over the past several years, I've come to see this as the ultimate controller of luck. This will be the fourth year that I've managed to do this in the last five, and the previous three were good ones, with luck showing up in strange and mysterious ways.  The traditional way that "Saying Rabbits" works is to say it every first of the month, but I only do it on the first of the year, which makes it extremely challenging, and especially potent. I give thanks to all the rabbit gods, those mysterious keepers of time, and wish you all the best of luck in the New Year.   (For More of My Thoughts on the Superstition, check here.)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to the first weekend of the new year. I always try to get at least one release from the new year in the first Roundup and once again, I've succeeded...and once again, it's a good one. There are also a few last minute 2016 reviews, including two that made my best of list. Beyond that, there are a few older albums that I picked up with Christmas money. All in all, I'm starting the year off right. I've always believed that everything good starts with good tunes, so hopefully you will all start of 2017 feeling groovy. Enjoy.

Ryan Adams - Prisoner:  The first 2017 release that I listened to and it's a good one. The rocker's 15th solo album is his first in nearly three years and his best in over a decade. His Taylor Swift cover album saw him get in touch with his 80s rock sound, a sound which he also did quite well in the singles leading up to his last album, but which failed to show on there. This is 80s rock guitar at its best. "Shiver and Shake," "Breakdown," "Doomsday," and the title track are standouts on a remarkable album.

Electric Wizard - Witchcult Today: Originally released in 2007, this was re-issued on RSD in 2010 and I finally tracked down a copy in my browsing. The British stoner metal band is among the best in the genre and I've been collecting their releases on vinyl for the the past half-decade or so. This is another gem in their catalog. Deep, dark grooves and heavy psych flair, this is another must have for fans.

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme: Along with Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, this is considered the ultimate jazz album. Though I've long been familiar with it, both digitally and on CD, I recently found a beautiful used copy on vinyl and purchased it with Christmas money. This is the golden era of jazz and a record that captures emotions in sound. A flawless album that everybody should have, even those who claim not to like jazz. 
Matt Pond PA - Winter Lives: Originally from Philly, the Brooklyn based indie band's 11th album in their nearly 20 years of existence is actually the first of theirs that I own, though I have been familiar with them to some extent. This was a late entry into my best of 2016 list. It fits in with indie singer songwriter stuff like Josh Ritter and Josh Rouse, but is void of some of the cheesier moments that I often find in those two. There's something deeply honest about this record without wallowing in depressive sentiment.

Shana Falana - Here Comes the Wave: This is the fourth album from the dream pop indie artist who is a local from my parts, and another late edition to my Best of 2016 list. The local radio has been playing a few of her songs quite a lot and I received the album for Christmas and have been really into the allusion to a 90's sound that hides in the recesses of these songs. Though it's technically "dream pop" it definitely has a darker feel. Not nightmarish, but certainly upsetting dreams, like Marianne Faithfull.

Blodwyn Pig - Getting To This: Mick Abrahams, the original guitarist of Jethro Tull, left the band in '68 because he wanted the band to be more blues based. He left and formed Blodwyn Pig who released two albums in '69 and '70 that are essentially blues based Tull. The first album is fantastic, and so it this one, the second and last one for twenty five years. This is a must for fans of the '60s heavy blues.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Star Wars: Rogue One

With the extra day off, I was finally able to get to the movies to see Star Wars: Rogue One. I'd planned to see it just before Christmas, but other obligations prevented me from making it. So when an opportunity presented itself last night, I jumped on it. 

Going into the theater, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was fairly certain that I would enjoy it. I've been a huge Star Wars fan since childhood. I have a rather large figure collection to this day. I enjoyed the prequels. I loved Clone Wars. I'm even a fan of the Ewok Adventure movies, the Ewok cartoon, and Droids. so there was no way that I wasn't going to enjoy it. The question was, would I appreciate it beyond the simple fact that it was an addition to the Star Wars universe, which is kind of how I felt about The Force Awakens

I have to admit that I like the fact that Rogue One doesn't fit directly into the trilogies. I like that it fills in a gap. It's like how they made three-part episodes of the Clone Wars, telling a short story that applies to the entire galaxy. It doesn't necessarily add story, it enriches story. This did a fantastic job of that. And they did a fantastic job of weaving it in with A New Hope. There is certainly the chance to do the same for period between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi...maybe on Cloud City? 

It was also nice to get away from the traditional Star Wars narrative. The dialogue broke from the typical stiffness of some of the other films. The story was darker (and far more violent). This was a delight, and a movie that can be watched again without feeling the need to watch seven other parts before or after.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017!