Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 26 Sep 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.

AMP were apparently late-comers to the whole droney post-rock party in the 90s; Kranky put this one out in 1998, but I had never heard of them until a few years ago. I have another album by them that's just two records of straight-up ambient drones, but this one has beats and vocals as well. Kind of indistinguished. If I had first heard this in 1997 I probably would have thought it was awesome, but it wasn't out yet.

Bowery ElectricBeat
...aaand speaking of 90s droney post-rock acts on Kranky, here's Bowery Electric. This one did come out in 1997, and I did hear it, and I did think it was awesome. Everything about this band holds up except their curiously unimaginative beat selection once they ditched the drummer and went with just loops. Cool guitar sounds, though.

There's now a bar/club called Bowery Electric. It's on the Bowery, about a block or two from where CB's used to be. I wonder if it's related. I think the band was primarily a couple, so maybe after they quit the music thing they settled down together and opened a bar. Total speculation, I have no idea.

BroadcastPendulum EP
This band got some buzz when Drag City put out a comp of their early EPs, but I didn't like it. So I kind of ignored them, but everything I've heard by them since then I've liked. This one's no exception.

Interesting to note that their inarguable best song isn't on any of their albums, it's a Warp compilation exclusive called "A Hammer Without a Master" from the Warp 100 comp. Okay, not that interesting.

Cheap TrickDream Police
Terrific artwork. I don't think bands have costumes designed specifically for their album cover shoots anymore.

Stormcrow/Coffins split EP
I'm filing this under Coffins because theirs is the better of two sides by bands I've never heard of otherwise, but neither is particularly good. Coffins may even be more disappointing because they appear to be Japanese. I always expect better from the Japanese. Heavier, louder, more extreme, whatever.

FlukeSix Wheels On My Wagon
Trancey ambient house from a few years before the whole electronica thing. Actually some really good stuff on here.

godspeed you black emperor!lift your skinny fists like antennas to heaven
Where'd these guys go? I guess this one will always remain their masterpiece.

Grand Funk RailroadCloser To Home
Now that's more like it.

Incidentally, this one has "Sin's a Good Man's Brother" on it, which might be the single best riff Farner ever wrote, but I don't even think their's is the best version of that song. Check out the cover on Suck's seminal Time To Suck.

Jamie LidellMultiply
Eat your heart out, Amy Winehouse.

Mercury RevDeserter's Songs

Willie NelsonCountry Willie

PavementWowee Zowee
This album holds up remarkably well, but I have no idea whether or not it's purely a product of its time. I remember it seeming that way when it first came out. I have no idea what someone hearing this album for the first time today would make of it. Probably the same thing I did, really, which was, "What a fucking mess." It took a while for this one to make sense. Would someone hearing it today be willing to give it sufficient time to sink in? I guess it would depend on whether they were already Pavement fans. The albums before and after this one in the catalogue are far more accessible, so perhaps if they liked one of those first.

G— saw these guys in Central Park last week and loved it, said it was one of the best reunion shows he's seen. I had curiously low expectations for the whole tour, but what do I know. It must have been pretty great, because if there's anybody who loves looking for reasons to hate shit, it's G—.

Primal ScreamScreamadelica
It's almost amazing how well this album holds up. This should the be the most dated slab of also-ran hackery on the Shelf, yet somehow the years do nothing to tarnish its in-the-moment freshness. What's more amazing is that the Scream, who collectively have little discernable talent other than an ability to spot trends early and impeccable taste in producers, have managed to make multiple excellent albums over the course of their wildly inconsistent (and still going) career. Never two in a row, but that's part of the fun, really.

QuasiThe Sword Of God

WilcoA Ghost Is Born
Had this on in the backkground the other day with the wife, kids and parents all hanging out in the living room. Reasonable volume. Made it all the way through that long drone on side four without anyone saying a word about it. It was all I could hear the whole time, I couldn't concentrate on anything else, but no one else even seemed to notice. I have no idea what this means.

WireChairs Missing
The label on side two of my copy is so far off-center that it partly covers the last song ("Too Late"), so the record makes hideous static noises as the needle runs over paper while the song winds down. It's a 4 Men With Beards reissue. I wonder if they'd replace it. I've never asked.

By the way, is it possible this album is even better than Pink Flag?

LA Vampires Meets Zola Jesus
I'm filing this with my other Zola J records because I don't have any LA Vampires albums and because she's the reason I bought it. Not as great as her solo stuff.

By the way, she's got a new EP out on Sacred Bones and it has "Sea Talk" on it, which is the most fantastic song I've heard this year other than Roll Deep's "Green Light". And maybe Robyn's "Hang With Me". Maybe.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 18 Sep 2010

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

Oh, and one other weird note: apparently I now have a reader. Welcome to the shelf, K—.

Panda bearPerson Pitch
Because he gets filed with Animal Collective, that's why.

BlurModern Life Is Rubbish
A good album, but not a great one. If we're going to get into Radiohead analogies (and we are), this is definitely Blur's The Bends. The first album was the one-hit work of a group of also-rans clinging to the coattails of someone else's scene, while the second the unexpected work of a mature band with a distinct sound of their own. It announced them as a band to be watched, with the potential for greatness in the near future. As with The Bends, it came on the next album.

Incidentally, Blur is their Kid A and 13 their Amnesiac, but Radiohead doesn't have a The Great Escape.

Grand Funk RailroadGrand Funk Lives
Not a live album, as the title seems to imply, rather a comeback album from the early 80s. Not especially good. Reportedly a great album if you were a major GFR fan in the 70s, and every bit the comeback it was intended to be. Not sure why I have this. Nor why I listened to it last week. Lord knows I have some far better Grand Funk records than this.

Guided By VoicesBee Thousand
My brother was in town last week, and I happened to be listening to a pile of 7"es. He asked, "So they all just have one song on each side?" I said yes, usually, but showed him an exception: GBV's Fast Japanese Spin Cycle EP, which packs eight songs into seven tiny inches. I played it and he thought the band was (a) hilarious and (b) pretty good. So I threw on this one.

What I love about this album, and what I think you can't truly understand the greatness of without knowing the context of the album in the band's career trajectory, is the way the band kicks in on the first song. The band had by that point spent nearly a decade self-releasing about a half-dozen albums that were roundly ignored. Then came Vampire On Titus, which got them a little bit of fanzine buzz, but not much more.

So they go to record the follow-up, knowing that at the very least someone's going to listen to it. They've got a bit of momentum from the last album, so they have to know that if this one's any good, the groundwork's already been laid for strong word of mouth.

So they're recording a number called "Hardcore UFOs", the arrangement of which consists of a verse and chorus accompanied only by a guitar, followed by the band kicking in full-strength for the second verse. But at the moment the band starts playing, the guitar cuts out completely. It sounds like it just came unplugged by accident or something. So do they do another take, try to get it just right? No. Not only do they keep that take, they make it the opening cut on the new album, their one and potentially only shot at the big time. God bless GBV.

Junior BoysSo This Is Goodbye

If you're using Windows, it's Alt+[Num]0134.

Led ZeppelinHouses Of the Holy
Used to be my favourite Zep record, now I'm not so sure. M—, the biggest Zep fan I know, hates "The Crunge" and calls Houses the first Zep album with filler. I think he may be giving III too much credit.

Incidentally, the title track appears on a different album (Physical Graffiti). I can't think offhand of any other title track-album title disconnects like that.

Massive AttackProtection
Massive's one of those acts whose first album was so amazingly great that they wound up setting the bar too high for themselves, so all subsequest records are seen as not living up to some impossible standard. Nas is like that too. He always gets bagged on for never matching Illmatic, but I mean, who could?

MinutemenWhat Makes a Man Start Fires?

Monster MovieEveryone Is a Ghost


RadioheadHail To the Thief
This, inarguably, is their Hail To the Thief. Or is this one their The Great Escape? Actually, both albums are their makers' respective Human After All.

Silver JewsAmerican Water

Spacemen 3Playing With Fire

The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of the Lid

The Stone Roses

Times New VikingDig Yourself
Two notes about this one:

  1. I ordered this direct from Siltbreeze and had it delivered to my office in New York, since that's the most reliable address I have for receiving packages. But I didn't realise how near my house in Philly is to Siltbreeze. Same ZIP code, in fact. So I had a bunch of records shipped from an address about a ten minute walk from my house to my office a hundred miles away, then brought them back to my house. I wonder if the Siltbreeze guy would let me just come pick up my next order. I'm told he works at the PREx on 5th Street.

  2. The production credits include the line "Lovingly fucked with by Mike 'Rep' Hummel". On the Guided By Voices live album Crying Your Knife Away, Bob Pollard at one point drunkenly (natch) asks the crowd, "Where the fuck is Mike Hummel?" Both bands are from Ohio. Same guy?

I was completely dismissive of this album when it first came out even though I loved Achtung Baby. I just found it on vinyl recently and must say I was completely wrong: this is an excellent album at best, a flawed but intriguing experiment at worst.

And it's also... their Kid A. Seriously, I was listening to this last week when this occurred to me. Then I got an email from K— saying he had read a bunch of old posts on this site and was taking issue with my characterisation of the Flaming Lips' Embryonic as "their Kid A". Funny coincidence.

But really, you can probably apply that tag to a lot of albums by a lot of different bands, and Radiohead's was both so shocking and simultaneously so good that it's become the gold standard for that sort of daring, potentially career-killing aesthetic move. But before there was Kid A, there was Zooropa.

The analogy works on a couple of levels. Both bands were at the height of their careers both in terms of commercial success and critical praise, having just released game-changing albums that would challenge their audience while standing the test of time as daring yet accessible artistic statements (Achtung Baby and OK Computer, in case you've forgotten, which you probably haven't, which, like I said about standing the test of time...). So they both release albums on which they subvert conventional songwriting by basing their songs around sounds rather than melodic hooks. The albums are greeted with skepticism at first, but ultimately come to be viewed as one of the best in each band's catalogue. There's further analogies you can draw here, but it's late and I don't feel like going on too long.

One other oddly coincidental note: both the previous albums were so iconic that they inspired other bands to parody their titles. David Bowie's Tin Machine have a live album called Oy Vey, Baby, and TV On the Radio's first demo tape was called OK Calculator.

WirePink Flag

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 12 Sep 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.

BeckModern Guilt
I hadn't bought a new Beck album in probably ten years when this came out. I really liked the single and was intrigued by Danger Mouse's involvement, so I picked it up. It's solid, but not great. Not as much hip-hop elements as you'd expect given the producer, more psych-pop over all. The single's still the best song, and I'm not sure I could hum any others. I guess the fact that I pulled it off the shelf says something, but perhaps it says that B artists are filed at eye-level.

Black MountainIn the Future
Ordered this on a whim without ever having heard of these guys because they happened to be promoting it on Jagjaguwar's website when I went to order an Oneida album. It's pretty solid 70s boogie rock with a spacey edge. I didn't remember how good side three was until today; the shorter songs on the first two sides had been the ones that stuck with me. Love that Hammond B3.

Anthony Gonzalez, for as much time as he spends getting lost in his own ridiculously overwrought album concepts (a lot), still makes beautiful sounds and occasionally knocks out a killer single. "Graveyard Girl": best neo-shoegaze song of the previous decade? Or was it "Ageless Beauty"? Discuss.

Mercury RevDeserter's Songs



RoyksoppThe Understanding

Russian CirclesGeneva

The SmithsLouder Than Bombs

SquarepusherGo Plastic
Not his best album by a long shot, but "My Red Hot Car" is easily his best single, perfectly balancing all the 'Pusher signature sounds: painstakingly programmed Amen beats, slick fretless bass work and juvenile humour.

Spank RockYoYoYoYoYoYo
Amazing how well this holds up given Naeem Juwan's obvious limitations as an MC. Goes to show just how far attitude can take you. Attitude and a fetish for killer old-school synth noises.

Wu-Tang ClanWu-Tang Forever
I've probably never listened to all eight sides of this in one sitting, but I know all of the songs because when I do listen to it I always pick a random side and throw it on. This time I tried starting at the beginning and going all the way through. Think I made it through side three. What can I say, I'm a busy man. Hadn't listened to side one in years. It's terrible. Side three remains awesome.

Thursday, September 2, 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.

Black Sabbath Vol. 4
B— asked me the other night to name my favourite Sabbath record. We both agreed it comes down to this one or Masters Of Reality. I give the edge to this one based solely on "Supernaut": best riff evah!

This led to an argument over whether "Changes" rules or is wussy bullshit. I say Ozzy's never written a bad ballad, so you can guess where I stand on this one. I even like "Dreamer".

Cat PowerYou Are Free
Probably my least favourite CP record, although C— insists that it's her best, I'm an idiot, blahblahblah. That latter sentiment he expresses a lot.

I played this one hoping it would be a good "go to bed, girls" album, but it's not particularly gentle. I guess since it's my least favourite I hadn't listened to it much. Or is it the other way around?

CornershopWoman's Gotta Have It
The opening/closing track on this one holds up really well. I remember seeing them open for Superchunk and playing like a fifteen minute version. The crowd was nonplussed, to say the least.

Del the Funky HomosapienBoth Sides Of the Brain
I was listening to this the other day and heard a guitar sample that I couldn't place and was killing me. It took me over an hour to figure out it's the Velvet Underground. Awesome. And that one's not listed on WhoSampled yet. Must rectify that.

Missy Misdemeanor ElliottDa Real World

Gang Gang DanceGod's Money
This one's supposed to be their masterpiece, but I think I prefer Saint Dymphna. I've only played this one a few times, but it has yet to leave much of an impression.

KMDMr. Hood
Know who was in this band? MF Doom. Seriously, he's Zev Love X. Little trivia for you there.

The closing track is maybe my favourite black metal song ever. Is that bullshit if it's American second wave stuff? Does it need to be old school Norwegian to be the best?

LCD SoundsystemThis Is Happening
I've always liked Murphy's stuff no matter how cooler than thou he gets. I don't know anyone who likes his music that's not an over-30 New Yorker, but I am, so I like it. It speaks to me and maybe just me. I also think that, since that demographic must include well over half the country's pop music critics, that's why his media coverage far outweighs his sales.

Anyway, sadly, while I liked his first two records, I've listened to this one a few times and I'm still waiting for it to grow on me. I have a feeling it might just stink.

Main SourceBreaking Atoms

OneidaRated O
Too long? I have a feeling an Oneida album can never be. This one's s'posed to be part two of a trilogy. I hope the finale's a quintuple.

Shinichi OsawaThe One

Procol HarumShine On Brightly

The Rolling Stones, Now!

Souls Of Mischief93 'Til Infinity
Finally got reissued. I've been waiting for this one forever. And it holds up really well. Not a weak track on there.

Spacemen 3Playing With Fire


Wrath Of the WeakAlogon
This is one of those records I bought without having any idea who the band is, just because I was ordering something else from their label (Profound Lore, but it looks like they're already out of it, chumps). I still have no idea who they are but this album is awesome. Think a cross between black metal and straight up noise. Like Horrid Cross but not as lo-fi. It's almost too monochromatic to really be brutal, it more trance-like. No copyright date, by the way, so I don't even know if it came out this year, but if it did then it'smy favourite album of the year so far.

X-EcutionersBuilt from Scratch

Bitterly disappointing. Sounds completely different from the first one, which is admirable in it's own way, but not a good album. And I really liked that first one, anti-Brooklyn backlash be damned. I think they really should have replaced the drummer instead of going with the programmed beats when the old one left.

Oh, also, that video with Kristen Bell sucks.