Friday, January 10, 2014

Number Eight: Jason Isbell - Southeastern (2013)

Southeastern Records ■ SER 9984
Released June 11, 2013
Produced by Dave Cobb




Side One:Side Two:
  1. Cover Me Up
  2. Stockholm
  3. Traveling Alone
  4. Elephant
  5. Flying Over Water
  6. Different Days
  1. Live Oak
  2. Songs that She Sang in the Shower
  3. New South Wales
  4. Super 8
  5. Yvette
  6. Relatively Easy
I suppose it's a given that I know Isbell from the Drive-By Truckers, but the truth is I got into them via 2008's Brighter Than Creation's Dark, which postdates both his final album with the band (2006's A Blessing and a Curse) and his debut solo record (2007's Sirens of the Ditch). This put me in the strange and seemingly unenviable position of liking a band in what was considered a reduced state; many felt they'd declined severely after his exit, even with the natural caveats for the remaining members. It made me--as such things do--wary of his solo work, as it doesn't give the greatest impression of anyone's fans to often couch that fandom in dismissal of something else.

Still, during a random bit of shopping in 2010, I ran into his second post-DBT album, the one which eponymously named his band the 400 Unit, and fell madly in love (after all, wariness is not cause for dismissal, either!) with it. Since then, of course, he has released, inbetween that and this, 2011's Here We Rest, still with the 400 Unit, and in post-or-mid-I'm-not-quite-sure start to sobriety. A lot of people prefer that record and this one, as I even found zero songs from that favourite four years ago in the last set I saw him play.

A lot of people called this one out around release as a pretty solid candidate for album of the year (the first I recall being someone I used to work with) and in principle I most definitely cannot disagree. Here We Rest felt a little more scattered to me than Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit--not weaker, mind you, just less focused. While Southeastern abandons a lot of the rock that drives that self-titled record (not all, though), it stays the course it chooses to perfectly to find any criticism in this.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Number Nine: Toro y Moi - Anything in Return (2013, of course)

Carpark Records ■ CAK77

Released January 16, 2013
Produced by Chaz Bundick
Engineered by Patrick Brown, Second Engineer Jorge Hernandez
Mixed by Patrick Brown and Chaz Bundick
Mastered by Joe Lambert



Side One:Side Two:
  1. Harm in Change
  2. Say That
  3. So Many Details
  1. Rose Quartz
  2. Touch
  3. Cola
Side Three:Side Four:
  1. Studies
  2. High Living
  3. Grown Up Calls
  1. Cake
  2. Day One
  3. Never Matter
  4. How's It Wrong
Toro y Moi came to me via the broadcast that is staff overhead selection at one of the music stores I frequent on longer trips--Lunchbox Records in Charlotte, NC. The album had been out for all of two months when I heard "Cake" playing there and decided to go with an instinct I'd previously experienced during my endless trips to CD Alley in Chapel Hill in years prior. I'd never heard of Toro y Moi, nothing new for me and my complete obliviousness to modern independent music, except as it filters in by chance or through the few friends who track it.

As it was the one I heard (a reasoning that also inspired the purchase of records like Tobacco's Maniac Meat and Youth Lagoon's The Year of Hibernation), it was the first one I purchased. Causers of This followed in April, and then it was the synchronicity of a work trip to Atlanta that led me to see Toro y Moi in concert in October last year. I picked up the rest of his albums, as well as a few odd singles and the 3x7" box set of bedroom recordings that was released as well. Still, Anything in Return is the one I return to most often.

At that show, Chaz was the closest thing I've seen to a superstar. Classixx opened for him (new to me, and worth checking out, as their Hanging Gardens could easily slip into an expanded top list for last year), but when he came out, it was unlike anything I'm used to in small venues or even large ones. There's a roar for bands, and everyone is often focused on vocalists, but the fact that Chaz does his albums "Prince-style" (in the impossible-to-read-in-the-LP notes, it mentions he performed the entire album alone) seemed to shift the tone, somehow. The crowd was larger, it was a different kind of music, a different kind of venue, but there was still something to it.

It's a bit strange, to be honest--not undeserved, but almost out of keeping with his music. He was first identified with the aptly-named "chillwave", one of those terms that seemed a flash-in-the-pan, but defiantly remains in use as many such things do, thanks to sheer bull-headedness. Unlike his earlier work, though, Anything is a lot more energetic. That said, the energy is of a subdued and extremely cool variety, in most slang senses of the world, and often even a bit of the metaphorical incarnation of the most "literal" use of the word.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

So This Is the New Year...

Well, it's 2014.

Every year I seem to flutter into a new approach to how to write about music, as one of my driving instincts is to share music, but an audience that is attuned to such a thing is not something I've yet grasped how to acquire (indeed, most of my traffic--what isn't spam--is folks looking at something they already like). Of course, I understand--even my wide splatter of taste is informed more at random than it is by seeking out explicit and continual sources of new material, barring those cases where it comes as a by-product of what I'm doing otherwise, as is most readily seen in my affection for Nevermind the Buzzcocks and much of the music it exposed me to.

So, all I can do is type out words into the ether, maybe here and there actually clicking with someone, and maybe not. This format still seems logical to me, as it has that "hook" of the familiar, surrounded by things that aren't.

I may relax the alphabet, or otherwise change up the progression (as facing Album XY, or Z would often leave me faced with forced listening), but I think I'll stick with the overall theme of my own collection, unless I can again wrangle in some of my good friends to include their own thoughts.

What I think should start the year is a countdown of the top 10 albums--for me personally, of course, not necessarily as definitive answers--of 2013, as I own most of them on vinyl as well as CD. There's at least one exception, and that would be number ten, hence this very entry.

It skirts the line for me on a multi-medium purchase, but it's Neko Case's record from last year--I haven't got anything against it, obviously, but also no overriding instinct to double up on it, for whatever reason. I suppose, then, that's why it comes in at ten. I do, however, own all 9 of the others on vinyl, so if I can manage around work, you can look forward to them (or down on them, if you so choose!) over the next nine days.

Cheers to anyone still here to see this!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Faint - Danse Macabre (2001)

Saddle Creek Records ■ LBJ 180
(Originally LBJ-37 on same label)
Released August 21, 2001
(This compilation released November 1, 2012)
Engineered and Produced by Mike Mogis and The Faint




Side One:Side Two:
  1. Agenda Suicide
  2. Glass Danse
  3. Total Job
  4. Let the Poison Spill from Your Throat
  5. Violent
  1. Your Retro Career Melted
  2. Posed to Death
  3. The Conductor
  4. Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen
Though it ended up one of the most brief hiatuses I've taken, early June's was instigated by a work-related trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa, which happens to be right next door to Omaha, Nebraska. I currently live in an area where there are barely handfuls of record stores for a good 60+ miles, so hitting a larger college town (like I myself used to live in) was a blessing and a curse: I flew back with a shoulder bag filled with vinyl, and a suitcase veritably lined with CDs. While there, I took occasion to visit the store that the Saddle Creek label operates there in their hometown, inspired more than anything by the associations it has with Cursive, a fellow fan of whom I discovered I was working with (who also shared a love for The Format and a handful of others--and ended up passing me a copy of Cursive's The Ugly Organ on green vinyl!). While I was in there, I did walk out with a copy of Cursive's I Am Gemini, having failed to pick it up already, and (rather amusingly) did finally get a copy of Whiskeytown's Strangers Almanac, an album by a band from the area I last lived in, but thought I should really pick up a record the label itself put out (I Am Gemini being on CD). The Ugly Organ wasn't there (and, as mentioned, I serendipitously acquired it later in the same trip anyway!), so I wandered about until I ran into this.

I remember around the time this album came out, the band was pretty darn hot around the internet, though I was still in my formative musical explorations. I did glance at them, but moved on before anything took hold, eventually picking a copy of the album up on CD many years later. When this edition was released, I first stumbled into the CD/DVD version last year, and suddenly realized I'd really missed something. That was what pushed me to add to it this vinyl version--it's actually the "deluxe edition" which contains not only a second 12" of bonus tracks (remixes and b-sides) but also that self-same 2xCD+DVD set I already have, albeit in far more inconvenient format for a portable medium.

When it originally came out, the record used a different cover, but the rights to use it were thoroughly rejected--even more than a decade later, which is why it continues to use the cover above. Though this new cover was used for the later pressings, for this deluxe reissue it was re-tinted in neon pink instead of its original blood red. It's a weird colour, very eye-catching, and actually feels more appropriate in a strange sort of way--though the red, black, and white colour scheme of the original issue fit nicely with the cynical overtones of the record and its goth-y vibe, the pink hits on the fact that those are not the whole, and it's a ridiculously danceable record (or so I would guess, being as I lack the skill at such activities, personally).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Donald Fagen - The Nightfly (1982)

Warner Bros. Records ■ 23696-1
Released October 29, 1982

Engineered by Roger Nichols (Chief), Daniel Lazerus (Overdubs)
Assistant Engineering by Wayne Yurgelun, Mike Morongell, Cheryl Smith, Robin Lane
Mastered by Bob Ludwig

"Note: The songs on this album represent certain fantasies that might have been entertained by a young man growing up in the remote suburbs of a northeastern city during the late fifties and early sixties, i.e., one of my general height, weight and build.

D.F."


Side One:Side Two:
  1. I.G.Y.
  2. Green Flower Street
  3. Ruby Baby
  4. Maxine
  1. New Frontier
  2. The Nightfly
  3. The Goodbye Look
  4. Walk Between Raindrops

While I definitively eschew any such categorizations as best I possibly can, I remain fascinated with the lines that are drawn around any work or artist to render it "untouchable" by certain groups. A work or an artist may be unmentionable to fit comfortably under the umbrella of "serious music fan" or "metalhead" or any of the other myriad communities associated with music--some very carefully defined, and others so loose as to be questionably meaningful. I like a lot of artists that cross those lines quite heavily--the first albums I ever owned mystify people to this day, and the first mix-tape I ever had made for me (by my father, partly from my requests, and partly from his own insertions) was a slew of Dr. Demento tracks from various decades and styles ("The Martian Hop", "The Cockroach That ate Cincinnatti", etc) mixed with Paul Revere and the Raiders ("Cherokee Nation"), the Coasters ("Poison Ivy", "Mother in Law", "Yakety Yak"), Tommy James and the Shondells ("Crimson & Clover", "Crystal Blue Persuasion"), and a few odd other tracks I'll occasionally recall out of the blue.

For a time in and around middle school, my taste remained confined by the distance I kept from my father's turntable and thus the questionable volume of music available to someone who didn't look to spend limited allowance-type funds on it. The local library had its share of odds and ends, and I checked some out from them here and there, but two in particular ended up sticking with me for quite a while, as my non-existent owned music meant whatever I had checked out was what I was listening to, short of hitting the radio. Those two albums were--bear with me now, and feel free to look back at other albums I reviewed (and thus own) and drop jaws or shake heads as needed--Billy Joel's Storm Front and Donald Fagen's Kamakiriad. These (and the few albums I would gradually purchase) were strangely important: listening to the same songs from each over and over would have been tiresome with the limited (and tedious) programming capabilities of my cheap (discman-style!) CD player at the time, so I ended up listening to both albums straight through many times.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Intermission V [End of "E" Part 1, Or: Intermission MCMXXVIII]


Ah, "E". If it isn't a big enough giveaway to see how uniform the image above is, it ought to be. Considering 5 of those are the same artist, 3 are another artist, 2 are one more artist...well, it's not really a shock how little there is. How many artists do you like that start with "E"?

Now, I did almost buy the new Electric Six album on vinyl when I saw them a week ago, and that would've made a difference to be sure. A Dave Edmunds album wouldn't be out of the question, either--heck, I've got plenty of Nick Lowe's Edmunds-infused albums, and Rockpile's Seconds of Pleasure, so it wouldn't be too surprising, either. Edsel's records were never released on vinyl, to be fair--though I sure as heck would not turn down their split with Jawbox. Some Brian Eno? Heck yeah. Eyedea & Abilities' By the Throat? Actually, may do that. I look at Bill Evans records pretty regularly, as I do at The Extra Lens (John Darnielle's non-Mountain Goats side project). I almost picked up a copy of Explosions in the Sky's Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever.

But, all that aside, it's pretty well destined to be a pretty shortlisted letter all the same.

Man, to be honest, if I could get my hands on The Elephant Kashimashi's stuff on vinyl--those first two albums, or one of those singles...but, well, those are ridiculously difficult for an American with limited funds to get a hold of. Alas!

Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal (2008)

Back Porch/Manhattan Records ■ 50999 5 824111 1 9
Released June 10, 2008

Produced and Mixed by Tony Visconti
Engineered by Mario McNulty
Assistant Engineering by Tim Price
Mastered by George Marino


Side One:Side Two:
  1. Always a Friend
  2. Chelsea Hotel '78
  3. Sister Lost Soul
  4. Smoke
  1. Sensitive Boys
  2. People (We're Only Gonna Live So Long)
  3. Golden Bear
  4. Nuns Song
Side Three:Side Four:
  1. Real as an Animal
  2. Hollywood Hills
  3. Swallows of San Juan
  4. Chip n' Tony
  1. Slow Down
  2. Falling in Love Again
  3. I Got a Right
I could completely obscure how I know the name Alejandro Escovedo, but that would really just be disingenuous, wouldn't it? Truth be told, he does a duet with one Ryan Adams on Whiskeytown's Strangers Almanac--one of my favourite records in the world--on a track called "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight". A snide reviewer once noted that Adams's music was inferior and a listener might be better off with Escovedo's, seemingly unaware of this connection or, I later found out, a bit of a friendship between the two. That interview was what really pushed me to check Escovedo out for himself: in it, Adams said Escovedo shared an "outsider's" perspective on love, being less defined by it than most and thus able to record it that much more acutely, in a strange way. He mentioned a song ("She Doesn't Live Here Anymore"), referencing it as astonishingly sad and evocative emotionally--which was something that appealed to me a lot in Adams's stuff, particularly that which he did with Whiskeytown.¹

I was out on a business trip in Iowa and Nebraska, which meant a lot of trips to the record stores in Omaha, where I found quite a few things of interest (to the point that I started to stress the space I'd quite deliberately left in my luggage for music to come back with me). One of those "things" was Real Animal: Escovedo's third-to-last album at the time (back in June this year), on sale and predating the CD I'd picked up just previously but not much listened to (2010's Street Songs of Love).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...