Archive for the ‘5 albums’ Category

70 albums: 4 April – 10 July 2010

Monday, July 12th, 2010

An (extremely long!) list for now; perhaps I’ll include some thoughts next time…. It’s a long entry, so look beyond the jump.

15 albums: 14 March – 3 April 2010.

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

It’s been another hectic 3 weeks here at the Autumnshades HQ, so we’re doing a mega-roundup. Three weeks in one post!

14 March – 20 March 2010
1) Red House Painters: Ocean Beach (4AD, 1995). I love Mark Kozelek, and I love RHP, but sometimes this music is just a little bit too sad.
2) Yo La Tengo: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (Matador, 2000). I’ll admit it: Painful is the last YLT album that really resonated with me (yes, apparently I am still stuck back in 1993). Every few months, I go back to one of their newer records in the hopes that it’ll click.
3) Emiliana Torrini: Fisherman’s Woman (Rough Trade, 2005). There are a few songs on this album that I quite like (“Sunny Road”, for one), but as a whole, this album doesn’t stand up quite as well as I’d hoped.
4) Tara Jane O’Neil: A Ways Away (K, 2009). I love both Rodan and the Sonora Pine, but I always seem to be the last to find out about new Tara Jane solo records.
5) Mastodon: Crack the Skye (Reprise, 2009). So this album might have been a little too conceptual– even for Mastodon. But despite the utterly absurd story behind it (y’know, a soul that escapes through a wormhole and ends up in an underground Russian Orthodox sect and then gets put in the body of Rasputin), this album still completely slays. Let it go! Let it go! Let it go! Let it go! Let it goooooooooo!, indeed.

21 March – 27 March 2010
1) Judee Sill: Heart Food (Asylum, 1973). Sill’s music is just so devastating. And maybe part of that devastation comes after-the-fact, since we know how her story ends. Either way, this album is still beautiful after almost 30 years.
2) PJ Harvey: To Bring You My Love (Island, 1995). In some ways, I react to PJ Harvey much in the same way as I do YLT (see above)– none of her later albums resonates with me quite as acutely as this one does.
3) Sigur Rós: () (MCA, 2002). For a long time, I didn’t think I ever needed another Sigur Rós album beyond the stunning Agætis byrjun. And I probably don’t. But I picked up () super-cheap at a certain record store’s going-out-of-business sale, and it’s a nice addition to the group’s beautiful, cinematic sound.
4) Joanna Newsom: the Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City, 2004). Love.
5) Joanna Newsom: Have One On Me (Drag City, 2010). Holy cow. Newsom kinda lost me with 2006’s Ys (which is a weird thing to admit, since I love prog, and I bet I’d love Ys if I revisited it now), but this new one– despite its 3xLP length– takes her prog inclinations and channels it into more distinct songs, a la her 2004 debut the Milk-Eyed Mender. I doubt I’ll ever sit and listen to all 3 LPs in a row again, but each one works on its own. Favorite track of the moment: “On a Good Day”.

28 March – 3 April 2010
1) and 2) Norah Jones: Come Away With Me (Blue Note Records, 2002) and Feels Like Home (Blue Note Records, 2004). I never jumped on the Norah Jones bandwagon back in the early ’00s, but these albums are quite pleasant.
3) Converge: No Heroes (Epitaph, 2006). I’m really not sure why it took me so long to embrace Converge.
4) Sade: Soldier of Love (Sony, 2010). By contrast to Norah Jones, Sade put forth a laid-back vibe that I can really get into– even more so here than their earlier albums.
5) Carrie Rodriguez: Love & Circumstance (Ninth Street Opus, 2009). It probably says a lot about Rodriguez’s aesthetic that I had completely forgotten this was a covers album until I got to her take on Lucinda Williams’s “Steal Your Love”.

15 albums: 21 February – 13 March 2010.

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Things have gotten a bit hectic here at the Autumnshades HQ, and while I’ve been holding up my goal of listening to 5 albums per week that I’m not reviewing, I haven’t gotten the chance to write about ’em. Today is, unfortunately, no less pressed for time; therefore, I offer 4-word reviews of the 15 non-review albums I’ve been listening to over the past 3 weeks.

7 March – 13 March 2010
1) Nico: The End… (Island, 1974). Cale + Eno + Nico = swoon.
2) Mogwai: Young Team (Jetset, 1997). Indeed, Mogwai fear Satan.
3) Sparklehorse: Good Morning Spider (Capitol, 1999). Rest in peace, Linkous.
4) Camera Obscura: Let’s Get Out of This Country (Merge, 2006). Ready to be heartbroken.
5) Aimee Mann: @#%&*! Smilers (SuperEgo, 2008). Delightfully wry, acerbic pop.

28 February – 6 March 2010
1) Tom Waits: Small Change (Elektra, 1976). The piano’s been drinking.
2) Jay-Z: the Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella, 2001). H to the Izzo.
3) Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: Cold Roses (Lost Highway, 2005). Gets even better retrospectively.
4) Samara Lubelski: Parallel Suns (The Social Registry, 2007). Ethereal, moody, pretty, sweet.
5) Bowerbirds: Hymns for a Dark Horse (Dead Oceans, 2008). Not quite as remembered.

21 February – 27 February 2010
1) Jonatha Brooke: 10¢ Wings (MCA, 1997). Sweet, Lilith folk-pop.
2) Son Volt: Wide Swing Tremolo (Warner Brothers, 1998). Uncle Tupelo’s better half.
3) Jonatha Brooke: the Works (Bad Dog Records, 2008). Woodie Guthrie improves anything.
4) Richard Hawley: Truelove’s Gutter (Mute, 2009). He could sing Broadway.
5) Black Eyed Peas: The E.N.D. (Interscope, 2009). Make it stop. PLEASE.

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.

5 albums: 24 January – 30 January 2010.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

1) and 2) Massive Attack: Protection (Virgin, 1995) and Mezzanine (Virgin, 1998). So much of my mid-90s was soundtracked by the Bristol trip-hop scene. As much as I loved these records at the time, they don’t resonate with me as a whole the way they did at the time (and the way Portishead’s Dummy still does), although several songs are still immensely mood-inducing.

3) Thalia Zedek: Been Here and Gone (Matador, 2001). Zedek has one of the awesomest voices in indie-rock, and I do miss Come.

4) the Decemberists: Her Majesty (Kill Rock Stars, 2003). My favorite Decemberists album overall is probably Picaresque, but Her Majesty certainly has a few of my all-time favorite Decemberists songs on it.

5) Josh Ritter: the Animal Years (V2, 2006). Ritter is such an under-rated songwriter, and this is probably my favorite of his releases. I always get a chuckle out of the fact that my mentioning his song “Girl In the War” in my “Best of 2006” round-up for the Washington Post‘s Weekend section got me mentioned on, a blog dedicated to “exposing and combating liberal media bias”, for my (and I quote) “liberal/radical picks”. Ha! Sure, my political views are probably apparent in some of my writing, but c’mon, people– I’m just a music critic!

5 albums: 17 January – 23 January 2010.

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

This week’s summary will brief, because there is much to be read/written still today. In chronological order:

1) and 2) Galaxie 500: Today (Aurora, 1988) and On Fire (Rough Trade, 1989). It’s impossible for me to capture G500’s influence and impact here, especially when I am short on time, as I am today. These are outstanding albums, and it’s a crime that they appear to be out of print, both individually and in box set form. The song “Tugboat” still absolutely slays.

3) Love Spirals Downwards: Ardor (Projekt, 1995). There was a time when I was really into all of those Projekt/”love” bands– Lovesliescrushing, Love Spirals Downwards, Love Is Colder Than Death (the latter was not on Projekt). There is still something about Love Spirals Downwards’ ethereal dream-pop that is so captivating.

4) Cat Power: Moon Pix (Matador, 1998). You know, I am genuinely glad that Chan Marshall has gotten over her stage fright. But there’s something still so charmingly awkward about Moon Pix that her later albums have polished out; these songs sound as though she’s performing them as she always did back in those days– face completely covered with her hair as she stared awkwardly at the ground. I still remember vividly the Cat Power concert I saw in the late ’90s– she was obviously in complete agony standing in front of all of us, and I remember her mumbling things about how we didn’t even know who she was. It was a trainwreck of a performance– we wanted to hear the music, but we also just wanted her not to be so miserable up there. And this was in a small room in a house, with maybe 30-50 people in attendance. I can only imagine what some of her bigger shows were like at the time.

5) Fridge: the Sun (Temporary Residence, 2007). I would love to see these guys again. I would also love to be able to connect with Four Tet as much as I do with Fridge.

5 albums: 10 January – 16 January 2010.

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

This week’s non-writing listening, in roughly chronological order:

1) Ednaswap: Wacko Magneto (Island, 1997). I was in the mood to listen to Ednaswap this week because I thought I was reviewing a record with a cover of “Torn” on it. And then I realized that that review isn’t due for another few weeks (whoops!). This isn’t the original version of “Torn”; that honor belongs to Ednaswap‘s 1995 self-titled debut. But the band re-recorded that song for this album and turned it into a gut-wrenching, anguished performance. And then Natalie Imbruglia made it an almost-cheery pop song, and Ednaswap never got the big break that they so deserved. Chief songwriters Anne Previn and Scott Cutler have continued writing together (most notably, “Listen” from the film Dreamgirls), but they were really at their peak on this Ednaswap album– and “Torn” isn’t even the best performance here. Previn’s desperate shouts on “More”, her near-taunts on “YDWIBE” (‘you don’t want it badly enough’), and the skidding-off-the-tracks energy of “Stop Counting” all make this one of my favorite major-label albums of the late 1990s.

2) Holly Williams: The Ones We Never Knew (Universal South, 2004). Folksy, pretty ballads from Hank Williams’s granddaughter.

3) Jucifer: If Thine Enemy Hunger (Relapse, 2006). First concert of 2009: Jucifer. First concert of 2010: Jucifer. Coincidence? I think not! Seriously, though, there’s such a disparity between Jucifer’s melodic, powerful metal albums and the sheer wall of sound that emits from the tower of amplifiers behind this duo live. The contradictions don’t end there; frontwoman/guitarist/vocalist Amber Valentine is charmingly girly, with her vibrant minidresses and flowing wigs— but when she opens her mouth, she emits the most stunningly guttural growls. I have seen them three times in the past year (and before that, in 2000 on their tour with Enemymine), and while I do greatly prefer their studio sound to the earsplitting tornado that is their live attack, I also love watching a performance by people who fully and completely embrace what they’re doing. Photos by my pal Brandon for the Washington CityPaper can be seen here.

4) and 5) Beach House: Beach House (Carpark, 2006) and Devotion (Carpark, 2008). Is it cheating to count two albums that I listened to in preparation for something I’m writing this week? Who knows. It’s always so nice to get lost in Beach House’s stunning swirling watercolor sound.

5 albums: 3 January – 9 January 2010.

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

One of my goals for this year is to listen to five albums every week beyond what I’m reviewing. The “beyond what I am reviewing” clause didn’t get added until late this week, so I have an exception granted for this week’s list. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to blog about my 5 albums every week or not; I’ve been keeping a list of everything I listen to since April of 2001, so you can always check in there to see what I’ve been piping into my earbuds.

With that said, here are my thoughts on what I listened to this week, in roughly chronological order:

1) Scratch Acid: the Greatest Gift (Touch & Go, 1991). My love for this group is no secret: in addition to the Cobain-adored Scratch Acid, these guys were members of some of my all-time favorite bands (the Jesus Lizard, Rapeman). This album (really, a compilation of all of their recordings from 1982 to 1986) was the perfect way to end a particularly rough week at work.

2) Phish: Lawn Boy (Elektra, 1989). I know that listening to Phish is probably even less hip than listening to the Grateful Dead, but I listened to this album a lot back when it first came out. That was probably less because I enjoyed it than because I (with my contrarian nature) would listen to just about anything that wasn’t on mainstream radio at the time. Hadn’t listened to this one in about 15 years, and it surprised me how much I remembered it (especially the uber-catchy “Bouncing Around the Room”)– these songs are poppier than most people give them credit for. Probably won’t be in my regular listening rotation, but it was a nice blast from the past.

3) Codeine: the White Birch (Sub Pop, 1994). Slow and bleak, this is the perfect album to listen to on a winter’s day that looks a lot like the cover photograph. It would be more perfect only if it were actually snowing outside.

4) Vic Chesnutt: About to Choke (Capitol, 1996). I was going to write a post about the musicians that died in 2009, since there were a ton– Michael Jackson, Mary Travers, Jack Rose, Rowland S Howard, Lux Interior, Jay Bennett, Les Paul, Ron Asheton, and Jerry Fuchs, to name a few. But Vic Chesnutt‘s death on Christmas Day hit me particularly hard; I’d been listening to his music since the mid-90s, and I have always loved his songs. There’s a story I heard once about how when Michael Stipe produced Chesnutt’s first two albums, he carried him up the stairs to the studio since there was no wheelchair entrance– I don’t know if that’s an urban legend or whether it’s actually true, and it doesn’t much matter: Chesnutt persevered despite his paralysis, and words cannot express how sad I am that he’s no longer with us. I count myself truly lucky that I got to see him live once (October of 2004), and I kick myself for staying home the last time he came through town; too many other shows that week seemed like a good enough excuse at the time, but I wish I’d made time to go to that show. I remember at the show I saw how he could make us chuckle with his exceedingly bleak humor (“when I ran off and left her, she wasn’t holding a baby; she was holding a bottle and a big grudge against me”). I’m pretty sure that About to Choke is my favorite album of his, even if Drunk has a few songs that are even more exceptional (most notably “Supernatural” and “When I Ran Off and Left Her”).

5) Vetiver: Tight Knit (Sub Pop, 2009). Listening for a review, which should be out in about a week. I liked this more than I thought I would; I saw this group open for Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart in June of 2004, and I was so impressed with Newsom and Banhart that I sort of forgot about Vetiver. But this is a solid folk album; I wish it didn’t sound insulting to say that it makes for great background music, because I don’t mean that in a negative way: this album is an exceedingly pleasant listen, even if it doesn’t grab your attention with look-at-me! flash.