Archive for February, 2010

5 albums: 14 February – 20 February 2010.

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

This week is a “catching up on promos” edition:

1) Levon Helm: Electric Dirty (Vanguard, 2009). Not sure why I don’t listen to more Levon Helm– or why it took me so long to get around to this one– but there are some great moments here: the droney “Golden Bird” and the nice vocals on “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had”. I feel like this album took a few songs to nestle into its groove, though.

2) Laura Veirs: July Flame (Raven Marching Band Records, 2010). Laura Veirs is an artist who, much like Nina Nastasia, doesn’t connect with me as much as she should. Of the two, Nastasia has a few records that I go back to more often than Veirs does, but it might just be a recording thing: there was much about Veirs’s live show that I quite enjoyed when I saw her a few years ago. There’s something about Veirs’s albums that just doesn’t stick with me, though, and unfortunately, July Flame didn’t have much lasting power to my ears, although a few tracks (namely, “Wide-Eyed, Legless”) were lovely.

3) Four Tet: There Is Love In You (Domino, 2010). Hey, remember how a few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I love Fridge and bemoaned that I just couldn’t connect with Four Tet in the same way? Well, I take it all back: There Is Love In You is fantastic and beautiful and haunting and powerful and resonated with me from its very first note.

4) Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté: Ali & Toumani (Nonesuch, 2010). It’s always weird listening to someone’s last recording; I felt that last week as I was writing about Jack Rose‘s excellent Luck in the Valley, and I feel it even more so on Ali & Toumani. I’m not sure why this album took so long to come out (it was recorded in 2005, and Touré passed away in 2006; Diabaté is still alive), but there’s just such a quiet intensity here, and you can feel the friendship and respect between these two Malian musicians in this album.

5) Emma Pollock: The Law of Large Numbers (Chemikal Underground, 2010). Admittedly, I was never the hugest Delgados fan, but I enjoyed Pollock‘s first solo album. This new one is pretty and sweet, and I enjoyed the nearly-a cappella intro on “The Loop”. Plus, well, I’ve gotta love an album that’s named after probability theory.

5 albums: 7 February – 13 February 2010.

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

As always, in roughly chronological order:

1) Mazzy Star: She Hangs Brightly (Capitol, 1991). I always said that I’d like Mazzy Star if “Fade Into You” weren’t so freakishly annoying. I’m not sure that She Hangs Brightly has really held up over the years, but Hope Sandoval’s voice is just beautiful here.

2) R.E.M.: Out of Time (Warner Brothers, 1991). R.E.M. is a band that wasn’t super-important to me growing up the way it was for some of my contemporaries. Don’t get me wrong: I liked them well enough, but I was still stuck in the ’60s and ’70s during most of the early ’90s, so I didn’t gravitate towards this as much. Still, these albums are always a familiar place to which to return, and every time I do, a different song grabs hold of me and won’t let go. This time, it was “Country Feedback” (“It’s crazy what you could’ve had” &c.).

3) Cowboy Junkies: Pale Sun Crescent Moon (RCA, 1993). I loved this album when it first came out, but it’s only with time that I’ve realized how utterly cheese-tastic some of these songs are. There are just so many swoony love songs on the first side of this album (“First Recollection”, “Ring on the Sill”, “Anniversary Song”, “White Sail”, etc.). But then things take a darker turn, with songs of abandonment (“Seven Years”), stalking (“Hunted”), and just general sorrow (“Pale Sun”, “Hard To Explain”). It’s a bizarre mood-shift, but strangely, it works: just when you’re lulled into thinking that all is happy and sweet in the world, the Timmons siblings and their band change gears into something more troubled and sinister. Plus, this album contains one of my all-time favorite Cowboy Junkies lyrics: “Memories are just dead men making trouble.”

4) Tortoise: Millions Now Living Will Never Die (Thrill Jockey, 1996). I’m not sure I can even put into words how important this album was to me as a music fan or how hard the song “Along the Banks of Rivers” still hits me, to this day, with its sighing swells and lyricless perfection.

5) Gillian Welch: Revival (Almo Sounds, 1996). Love.

5 albums: 31 January – 6 February 2010.

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

the SnowtoriousB.I.G. edition of 5 albums for this week; in roughly chronological order:

1) Silkworm: Italian Platinum (Touch & Go, 2002). This album really hit me hard, both at the time and in retrospect. At the time: I was a longtime Silkworm fan, and I remember getting this right when it came out– and listening to it over and over and over again. I don’t think it left my car stereo for weeks. There are some epic, fantastic songs on here (“A Cockfight of Feelings”, “(I Hope U) Don’t Survive”, “The Ram”, etc), and I just could not get enough of it. In retrospect: this is probably the last album I remember just throwing myself into and listening to almost nothing else for days/weeks on end. Writing about music has changed the way I listen to music, and this album somewhat symbolizes that for me. And then, of course, there’s the sad end to the Silkworm story; the Chicago model named Jeanette Sliwinski who got in a fight with her mom and tried to commit suicide by driving 90 mph, running three red lights, and ramming into the back of a car carrying SKWM drummer Michael Dahlquist, the Returnables’ John Glick, and the Dials’/EXO’s Douglas Meis. Such a crappy end to such a great band.

2) Benji Hughes: A Love Extreme (New West, 2008). This album was recommended to me by a friend who compared it to the Magnetic Fields. That was enough to pique my interest, so I picked it up this week. To my ears, it’s a little more Beck than S.Merritt, but that’s hardly a complaint; this album has more than enough of Beck’s genre-jumping and weirdness to make this listener happy. The other great thing about it: I couldn’t make it through from start to finish in one listen; I kept rewinding to listen to a few songs over and over (“Neighbor Down the Hall”, “Waiting For an Invitation”, “Vibe So Hot”, “So Well”, etc). I’m betting that most reviews of this album talked about how “ambitious” it is to release a 2-disc album as a debut– and it certainly is, and he probably would’ve also been fine with a little editing to make this into one disc– but I’m also pretty stoked to hear what he does next.

3) Robyn: Robyn (Konichiwa/Cherrytree, 2005/r:2008). Man, am I ever glad that Robyn crossed paths with The Knife. It took me until now to shake the sound of “Show Me Love” from my head whenever I hear the name ‘Robyn’, and this album is just delightful pop.

4) Glasvegas: Glasvegas (Sony, 2009). Disappointingly average UK indie-rock.

5) The Horse’s Ha: Of the Cathmawr Yards (Hidden Agenda, 2009). I love Janet Beveridge Bean and all her various bands (currently Freakwater and Eleventh Dream Day), and so i expected to love this. Instead, I merely like it.