Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 26 Dec 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.

Beastie BoysCheck Your Head
I'm gonna go way out on a limb here and say this might have been the defining pop album of the 1990s.

It was the last decade before the rise of iTunes, file sharing, mp3s, etc., and therefore the end of an era in which the music to which one listened functioned as a prominent self-defining factor socially. Nowadays kids listen to all kinds of music, partly because it's all free anyway if you want it, and partly because you only have to buy individual tracks, and partly because you can hear whatever you want without having to buy it first. Before that you were an indie kid, you were a hiphop head, you were a jam-band hippie, or you just listened to whatever mainstream alt-rock was on MTV that week. MTV used to play music back then.

The Beasties, specifically with this album, transcended all that. Everybody liked the Beasties. This was the album that rescued them from the fate of eternal one-hit novelty status to which their massive breakthrough album and its poorly-selling follow-up had seemingly consigned them. All of a sudden they were at the forefront of popular culture, and not just musically. I don't think any other album from the era, not even Nevermind, galvanised as wide a swath of America's youth. It wasn't some important generational statement, everybody just dug it.

Also, it holds up really well. It's a little long (a byproduct of the CD era), but remains a delight from start to finish.

Black Moth Super RainbowDandelion Gum

Dan DeaconBromst
The best album since the first Black Sabbath album on which all the songs basically sound the same.

Dinosaur Jr.Beyond
I continue to be amazed at how much I keep returning to this album. In the last couple years I've found myself pulling this one out even more often that the old SST ones when I feel like listening to J shred. Beats out the Read & Burn EPs as best reunion album ever, and they're pretty damn good.

FenneszEndless Summer
Just reissued by Warp in the UK and the first time I've been able to find it on vinyl. If you can find a copy of the original issue, believe me, you're a bit more resourceful than I. Also, this version's got all the bonus tracks from the 2006 reissue.

This album stands as a terrific example of how important separate sides can be in understanding an album. First off, I'm not arguing that sonically this album is "supposed to be heard on vinyl, man"; it's clearly a CD album. But it's a difficult album, and hearing it broken up like this really helped me wrap my head around it. I had it as mp3s and could never really get into it. It's too subtle, and I would get distracted and miss a lot of detail. But just the action of having to flip the record after every few songs forces me back into it, and I've come to appreciate it on a level I never could before. If you've heard of it but never listened to it, the answer is yes, it really is a masterpiece.

The Flaming LipsTelepathic Surgery

Neutral Milk HotelIn the Aeroplane, Over the Sea

Saint EtienneFoxbase Alpha
How come last year's reissues of all the early Etienne albums aren't coming out on vinyl? I've had a hell of a time trying to find a copy of Tiger Bay.

Frank SinatraThe Sinatra Touch
You can probably guess what I'm in the middle of reading right now. Believe the hype, it's every bit as good as you've heard.

By the way, reading this over before posting I just caught a funny typo: I wrote this title as The Sinatra Tough. Frank himself would probably agree, but by most accounts that's bullshit: he was all bark and no bite, no matter what Lee Mortimer would have told you.

Squarepusher Presents Shobaleader/One – d'Demonstrator
Not sure how to categorise this one. Oh, who am I kidding, it's a Squarepusher record. But apparently he really has a "band" now. He plays bass, natch. Not sure how much creative input the other guys had on this one.

Look, God bless Jenkinson, I'll continue to buy everything he puts out for as long as he keeps releasing stuff, but it's reached a point now where every like fifth album or so is any good. Still, they're so good that I do't mind slogging through the other four or so. I've listened to this a bunch and really tried to get into it, but, to return to my old habit of drawing debatable career analogies, I think this might be his Tin Machine.

Swell MapsA Trip To Marineville

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 12 Dec 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.

I was away for the better part of a few weeks, so this is about three weeks worth of in and out of town for a day or two at a time.

Cat PowerWhat Would the Community Think

Cheap TrickIn Color, Heaven Tonight
Picked these up a few weeks ago at Turn It Up! in Northampton. I have a bunch of early CT records now, all pretty good but none of 'em are great. I really like the production, though. Great drum sound, great mix. A couple other observations:

  • The original studio version of "I Want You To Want Me" stinks. Really flacid arrangement, limp tempo, nothing like the swingin' rocker they would turn it into on Budokan. I can see why it wasn't a hit until the live version came out.

  • "Surrender" has a terrific chorus, but the lyrics are absolutely baffling. If you can figure out what's going on there you're one up on me.

DJ SwampNever Is Now
This guy makes great battle discs, but I'm not so high on his album. Too much rapping, not enough scratching.

EluviumLife Through Bombardment

Grand Funk RailroadLive Album
Believe it or not, this is a concert recording. And believe it or not, there are excessive guitar solos. There's even a track with an extended drum solo. It's just full of surprises.

It's also really early, so they're still pretty young and hungry performers, but there aren't any well-known hits on here. Solid record overall.

LCD SoundsystemSound Of Silver
The best of a spotty three, as far as albums go. Murphy's a peerless singles artist, but his albums will probably always be a little inconsistent. Still, this one comes closest, and it's got the highest highs.

Lo Fidelity AllstarsKool Roc Bass 12", Ghostmutt EP
I wonder how these guys would have turned out had they stuck around. The early singles were pretty strong, but half of them quit right after the first album came out, and, based on the results, the others probably shouldn't have bothered trying to press onward.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say best best-of-type compilation of all time. For the casual 'Fits fan, this one's really all you need. The consistently high quality here is just phenomenal.

This is one of those bands I always read I should like and never bothered. Their hits just never really blew me away. So I picked it up recently for a few bucks and it's terrific. I was surprised at how many songs I knew from it (I didn't know any of the titles), and by how much better they sounded in context. This is one of those bands of actual musicians that got inspired by punk, rather than artsy amateurs, and their skills really take the songs to another level. Hynde sounds tough and unapproachable, so you listen from afar in awe as she mutters "Fuck off." Awesome.

QueenA Dat At the Races, News Of the World
I think that we as a society often underestimate the awesomeness of Queen. Yes, the first five albums are excellent, but beyond that? News is best known for its two big sports anthems (if you don't know which songs I'm talking about you probably don't know who Queen is), but have you listened to "Spread Your Wing" lately? Unstoppable.

Spank RockYoYoYoYoYoYo
As much as I'm strongly in favour of reforming copyright law in order to accomodate sample-based artists like Girl Talk, Spank Rock are an interesting example of how more restrictive laws can actually foster creativity. The band, inspired by a Baltimore club sound that relies heavily on flagrantly illegal sampling, had a minor underground hit with "Put That Pussy On Me", which features the unauthorised accompaniment of both the Beach Boys and Snoop Dogg. While the track appeared on this album's advance copies, it's not on the official release. And instead of pop samples, the album is full of completely original and extremely phat analogue synth riffs. Would this have happened if the band were allowed to simply sample whatever they pleased? Impossible (for me) to say, but the results are nasty. Necessity, once again, the mother of invention.

Kanye WestLate Registration
The new one hits vinyl next week. Mine's already pre-ordered. Super psyched.

Hank WilliamsCountry & Western Classics
A three-LP box set from... Time-Life Music! And it has everything the casual Hank fan wants.

Zola JesusStridulum EP, Valusia EP

We Are Skint Sampler2 EP