Monday, May 31, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 31 May 2010

Every time I listen to a record, I leave it next to the stereo. On Monday, before I go back to work, I re-file them all. Below are the contents of this week's pile.

The BeatlesHelp! (US), Help! (UK)
My dad picked these out of the stacks, wondering about the difference. He grew up with the US versions of all the old Beatles records, so he's always surprised by the CD reissues. "I've Just Seen a Face", for instance, which is on the UK Help!, is one of his favourite songs on Rubber Soul.

He pointed out that he used to have a copy of the US Help!. I pointed out that my copy is, in fact, his old one. It still has his name written on the cover.

Paul McCartneyRam
It's interesting to see how a shift in contemporary critical zeitgeist can prompt reƫvaluation of a long-held consensus. For instance, as critical appreciation shifted over the past ten years from the grand statement of the rock album to the compact joys of the pop single, Revolver seems to have accordingly surpassed Sgt. Pepper's as the de facto Greatest Album Of All Time, or at least the best Beatles album.

This shift in tastes naturally benefits the talents of Paul McCartney who, after decades spent listening to critics praise the bold experimental spirit of John Lennon's work, now at last is just beginning to experience true appreciation of his own perfectionist craftsmanship. And the most obvious effect of this shift is the way in which Ram, its dashed-off pop nuggets neatly presaging the indie 4-track boom of the 90s, seems to have surpassed both the triple-album ambition of All Things Must Pass and the soul-bearing honesty of Plastic Ono Band as many listeners' choice for best Beatle solo album. Perhaps in another 20 years Ringo will have his turn in the spotlight.

Black Moth Super RainbowEating Us

Delta 72The R&B of Membership
Unjustly forgotten. Surfaced in the wake of Jon Spencer's faux blues minstrelsy in the mid-90s, but with a more traditional line-up and without the in-your-face personality up front. Seek it out.

DevoFreedom of Choice
Hard to tell at such an early age, but my infant daughters seem to really like this one. Kind of makes sense, if you think about it.

Dinosaur Jr.Beyond
Best reunion album ever? Not a particularly crowded field of nominees, I'll grant you, but an accomplishment nonetheless. Really, picks up where Bug left off and sounds like what the first major label album should've sounded like had Barlow not left/been kicked out/whatever.

Brian EnoAnother Green World


Carole KingTapestry
One of my dad's all-time favourites.

Mercury RevDeserter's Songs
There are a lot of great breakup albums. There aren't a lot of great pre-breakup albums, the ones you listen to by yourself when you know and dread what's coming sooner or later.

Monster MovieEveryone Is a Ghost
Bought this on a whim because Graveface offered it at a discount in a package deal with the new Black Moth Super Rainbow, so I figured what the hell, the more the merrier. Pleasantly surprised. Similar to BMSR but poppier and more accessible. I've listened to it a bunch the past couple of weeks and it's really strong.

Pink FloydWish You Were Here
It seriously took me, no exaggeration, about 20 years to fully appreciate how awesome the full scope of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" really is. For a long time I just thought it was too long and formless. Now I finally get it. I think hearing the Flaming Lips cover of it on Nick Harcourt's show on KCRW helped me come around by showing me the song stripped down to its basic essence.

By the way, interesting comment at the end of the Trouser Press review of New Order's discography: How come they've never made their Wish You Were Here? Funny to chuckle over at first, but actually a good question. Unless you count "Perfect Kiss".

Psychic IllsDins

RadioheadIn Rainbows

Saint VitusMournful Cries
Odd that I'd never heard this until recently, as I was really taken with whole stoner rock fad in the late 90s. Just picked it up recently, listened to it a couple times, not so into it just yet. A few more listens, maybe.

Sly and the Family StoneFresh
Just grabbed this one to play my wife that version of "Que Sera, Sera" when it came up in conversation. It's the version that plays over the closing credits of "Heathers".

Swell Maps in "Jane From Occupied Europe"

Talking HeadsRemain In Light
Just got a new Eno bio, about to start it next week, gearing up for a full-on Eno kick. I was never a huge Heads fan, but I picked this up just in the past year and was blown away by it. Definitely better than anything else I'd ever heard by them.

The Velvet UndergroundLoaded
I was listening to Del the Funkee Homosapien the other day when I heard a sample that just killed me for like an hour. Finally realised it was a guitar lick from the intro to "Train Comin' Round the Bend", sped up and repeated. Awesome.

Yo La TengoI Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
As great as this album is, the inner sleeves might even be the best part, and I say that in no way intending to put down the music. They're just the funniest album art I've ever seen.

Wierd Compilation
Yes, it's spelled that way. A collection of underground acts from the past few years slavishly imitating the early-80s synth-pop sound. Remarkably high hit-to-miss ratio for a triple LP, with a few true gems scattered throughout.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 24 May 2010

Every time I listen to a record, I leave it next to the stereo. On Monday, before I go back to work, I re-file them all. Below are the contents of this week's pile.

Whoops, forgot to re-file and post on Monday, so I'm putting them all away today and starting over as usual.

All This and World War II Original Sound Track
There's a good reason you've never heard of this. The horribly-titled movie is a montage of WWII newsreel clips running over a strange variety of musical artists performing Beatles covers. Just as awful as it sounds. I've made it through one of the four sides so far.

Nice packaging, though, and honestly, for $4, this was just one of those weird finds I just couldn't pass up. I mean, I just had to know. Also I've seen it on eBay for way more, so in a way... no, that's not a valid excuse. Never mind.

Black Moth Super RainbowEating Us

David BowieYoung Americans, Low, Lodger, Scary Monsters, Let's Dance
Finally finished that Spitz bio. Decent read. Really enjoyed rediscovering the music. Low really is that good. If you've never heard it, believe the hype.

Guns N' RosesChinese Democracy
Most underrated album of the last twenty years. I'm quite sure I'm the only person I know who's listened to it more than once. Absolutely top-notch writing, arrangements and performances, with just enough embarrassingly shitty moments sprinkled throughout to turn off anyone looking for an easy out.

Mercury RevThe Secret Migration
I hate to keep harping on the same point but... Dave Fridmann, Producer of the Decade, 2000-2009.

Elvis PresleyElvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden
'72 is about the last good year for Elvis recordings, and this one's pretty hot. His band is so good for that '69-'72 era, and Elvis was still in top form before the drugs and cholesterol really started to take their toll.

Psychedelic HorseshitMagic Flowers Droned

QueensrycheOperation: Mindcrime
My sister-in-law's favourite album of all time, so she sent a copy on vinyl to make sure my daughters would have it. I hadn't listened to it since P— had a copy (on cassette!) during the album's heyday, and it holds up better than I expected. I don't care much for Geoff Tate's vocal style, but that's just a matter of taste. The guitar tone only really sounds dated during the solos, whereas the rhythm stuff sounds really cool. Biggest surprise: the drumming is excellent, tight and inventive, but with a subtlety rarely on display in this genre and era.

Rolling StonesExile On Main St
Another decade, another Exile reissue (the last one was in 1994), another chance for Jagger to tell interviewers that he really doesn't see what the hype is all about while Richards tells the same folks about the magical voodoo of his dank-ass French basement (where at least half the album wasn't even recorded). Best of the many articles I've read about it for this round was in last Sunday's New York Times, in which the writer (can't remember who) makes a compelling case that the album isn't really that great. He's wrong, of course; the album is that great. His problem is that he focuses on the album's admittedly many flaws, whereas what rewards repeated listens is hearing how the band overcomes those flaws.

Russian CirclesGeneva

Squarepusher Presents Selection Sixteen

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week, 17 May 2010

Every time I listen to a record, I leave it next to the stereo. On Monday, before I go back to work, I re-file them all. Below are the contents of this week's pile.

Animal Collective - Fall Be Kind EP
Now that I know the sample's really saying "Whoa I walk, sky," I can only hear it that way anymore.

The Besnard Lakes - "Casino Nanaimo" 12-inch

Between the Buried and Me - Alaska
Holds up quite well a few years down the road. Not sure what I'd think of this if I heard it for the first time now, as in hindsight it's kind of a good record in a bad genre. But I heard it then, I liked it and I still do.

I've actually gone to see this band twice, once in NY and once in Philly, and both times I didn't bother buying a ticket in advance, only to find the show sold out when I got there. So I've still never seen them. Apparently they're quite popular.

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us
Said it before, I'll say it again: Dave Fridmann, Producer of the Decade 2000-2009.

David Bowie - The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Alladin Sane, Pin Ups
Yup, still reading that Spitz book. I'm a couple albums past these in the book, but I'm taking the time to listen to each one multple times. Pin Ups is the most revelatory find here, it's terrific.

Nachtmystium - Assassins: Black Meddle, Part I
Some website called this the best metal album of the year a couple years back, so I bought it without ever hearing them. Good, but not holy-shit great. Or maybe it is and I'm just not ready for it; after all, my biggest complaint is probably that it's not extreme enough. Still, certainly the best saxophone solos I've ever heard on a black metal album. And only.

Pelican - The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
Why isn't Pelican better? What's missing here? On paper this is a great band, but I keep buying their stuff and thinking, "Oh, well this must not be one of their better ones." I think I'm finally ready to admit that they're not that good. I mean, points for trying, they really switched up their style on City Of Echoes, and I admire them for it, but I just don't think they have made or will make a truly great album. Beautiful packaging, though, for what it's worth.

Pet Shop Boys - Disco, Disco2, Introspective, "Always On My Mind" 12-inch
Just watched their bio-doc A Life In Pop. Decent talking-head-style doc, nothing special, but a very inspiring story from an artistic standpoint. What a fantastic band. And I don't even own some of my favourite albums of theirs. Need to get on that.

Neil Tennant makes an interesting comment at one point, observing that "West End Girls" is a classic one-hit wonder song, and he feels lucky they're still going. I think most musicians wouldn't be smart enough to realise that, but that's the kind of self-awareness that comes from being a former pop music journalist.

Elvis Presley

Wilco - A Ghost Is Born

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 10 May 2010

Every time I listen to a record, I leave it next to the stereo. On Monday, before I go back to work, I re-file them all. Below are the contents of this week's pile.


David Bowie, Images 1966-1967, Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World
Been reading Marc Spitz's new Bowie biography (Boi Bio?), so I've been going through and listening to all of the old albums in order. A few interesting surprises here and there, but this is still the early stuff. The real glory years are just about to begin. The plan is to write about each album on this site the same way I did a couple years ago with Neil Young.

Elvis CostelloGoodbye Cruel World, King of America
Just picked these up at the Marvelous in West Philly last week. I'm pretty sure I now have all of Elvis's Warner Bros. albums. The latter is every bit the confident, mature album it's reputed to be, the former every bit the overproduced 80s studio rubbish it's reputed to be.

EluviumLife Through Bombardment

Willie Nelson [box set] – a box containing repressings of no fewer than nine vintage Willie albums, one of them a double, so ten records in all. Picked it up years ago at Reckless in Chicago for a mere $50. Best $50 I ever spent. Or up there, anyway. Pulled it out this time to listen to Willie & the Family Live, the best double live album of the 70s in any genre, and Tougher Than Leather.

The latter includes the song "A Little Old-Fashioned Justice", which features one of my favorite Willie lyrics: "Little bit a' sowin', little bit a' reapin'/Little bit a' laughin', little bit a' weepin'/Just a little old-fashioned justice comin' 'round". Brilliant.

Random thought: Willie Nelson has a lot of concept albums. Seriously. This one, Red-Headed Stranger, Phases and Stages, Yesterday's Wine... And that's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there's more.

Neil YoungDecade
Picked this one up the other day for $7 solely for the purpose of filling out the collection. This one, on CD, was what got me into Young's 70s work back in high school. A completely unnecessary purchase, but I now have every Young album through Weld, with the exception of the Eldorado EP. Pathetic, I know. But I think I ditched the CD during the Great Purge a few years back, and hopefully my kids will want to listen to this.

Cold Waves + Minimal Electronics – Fantastic compilation of forgotten synthesiser acts from continental Europe in the early 80s. Never heard of any of these bands. The compilers couldn't even find some of them; the credits for some of the tracks ask that the copyright holders please contact the label.

Came out recently on Angular Records in the U.K. Not sure if it's out in the States, although it seems to have been compiled by the people who run Wierd [sic] Records, which is New York-based. Yes, I ordered the import. Paid a pretty penny, too, with shipping. Worth it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 3 May 2010

Every time I listen to a record, I leave it next to the stereo. On Monday, before I go back to work, I re-file them all. Below are the contents of this week's pile.

Panda BearPerson Pitch

The Beatles

David BowieZiggy Stardust Original Soundtrack
For an artist as talented and creative as Bowie, it's amazing just how many shitty double live albums he managed to churn out in the 70s. This one is a recording of the show featured in D. A. Pennebaker's Ziggy Stardust concert film. Other than Mick Ronson, whose solos are pretty insane, the band really drags this one down.

Cat PowerMoon Pix
Hadn't listened to this one in a while. The one thing that really jumped out at me was how much slower the tempo in the opening number is than what I remembered.

The Best Of Freddie Hubbard, Live and In Studio
Bought this primarily for the track "Red Clay", which A Tribe Called Quest sampled on Midnight Marauders.

JesuConqueror; Opiate Sun EP
I realise it's a pretty limited formula, but this guy really doesn't have a bad track in him.

LowThe Great Destroyer
Dave Fridmann: Producer Of the Decade, 2000-2009.

Moon DuoKilling Time EP
Ordered this based on the description alone because I was already ordering the Zola Jesus EP from the same label. Good, Krauty, worth hearing.

Randy Newman12 Songs
I was watching the Kentucky Derby with my brother-in-law when Costas said that the band plays "My Old Kentucky Home" before the race every year, and I was like, "The Randy Newman song? For real?" So I pulled it out to look at the credits. Nope. Different song. Then I had it out anyway so I listened to it.

Will OldhamJoya
I'm pretty sure this is the only Will Oldham album, as in not by Palace or Bonnie Billy. Neat packaging on the vinyl version.

The Pink NoiseBirdland
Another one from the Sacred Bones haul that I ordered without ever hearing them. This one not quite as good. The willful-incompetence schtick works better if you've got the songwriting to back it up.

Primal ScreamXTRMNTR
My browther-in-law seemed pretty stoked on this one. He'd never heard it, but knew the Scream's older stuff, which brought on a conversation reminiscing about the likes of the Happy Mondays and the Farm.

Sigur Ros()

Sonic YouthRather Ripped
I was wearing a Sonic tee and my 16-year-old neice asked me who they are. I chose this one to demonstrate. Right choice? Her tastes range from Mylie (sp?) Cyrus to the High School Musical soundtrack.

Zola JesusStridulum EP
So good. So good. Last song on side one is devastating. The whole thing is good. Go buy this now.