Friday, April 29, 2011

Blast it, Amazon! (plus, a mini-shopping spree) has gone and done it again: 1500 $5 mp3 albums for the month of May.  This one is sure to cause my month music budget to balloon exponentially.

After the first pass through the list, I added the following to my wish list:

  • Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising
  • The Band - Music From Big Pink
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival - (self titled)
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bayou Country
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's Factory
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival - Green River
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival - Pendulum
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival - Willy And The Boys
  • John Denver - Different Directions
  • John Denver - The Flower That Shattered The Stone
  • John Denver - Higher Ground
  • Steve Earle - Jerusalem
  • Steve Earle - The Revolution Starts...Now
  • Steve Earle - Transcendental Blues
  • John Fogerty - The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again
  • Ben Harper - Fight For Your Mind
  • Ben Harper - Lifeline
  • Ben Harper - Welcome to the Cruel World
  • Emmylou Harris - Blue Kentucky Girl
  • Emmylou Harris - Elite Hotel
  • Emmylou Harris - Luxury Liner
  • Emmylou Harris - Pieces of the Sky
  • Paul McCartney - Band On The Run
  • The Very Best of Otis Redding
  • The Rolling Stones - Black And Blue
  • The Stills-Young Band - Long May You Run (incorrectly credited to Neil Young)
  • Neil Young - Sleeps With Angels
Obviously, I'm not going to buy all of them, but even if I buy, say, half, that's still a bit of spending.

Also, today I bought the following used records while looking for the new Paul Simon album on vinyl:
  • Steve Earle & The Dukes - Exit 0
  • Emerson, Lake, & Palmer - Works Volume I
  • Waylon Jennings - Are You Ready For The Country
  • Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson - Waylon & Willie (I already have this one on CD; it's easily my favorite country album.)
Not bad for $15.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Release: Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers - Unida Cantina

Release Date: April 19, 2011
Label: EmmaJava Records

By now, all of my friends should know I like Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.  Sonoran Hope And Madness is one of my favorite albums... It perfectly exemplifies the union of cowboy, suburban, and Mexican culture found in Arizona.  There has never been an album to better capture modern Arizona, but I digress...

After the last two albums, No More Beautiful World, and Turbo Ocho, I wasn't exactly holding out hope for greatness with RCPM's new album.  NMBW is forgettable, and Turbo is solid, but lacks the feel that made the band so great back in the day.  I have heard some of the new tracks in a live setting over the past week, and some of them were promising.

The album opens about like I expected, after the past two albums: with a watered down pop rock song, "All Over The Radio."  Unfortunately, the next song, "Heaven On A Paper Plate," is even worse.  "Dinero" is no improvement.  "Love Is A Road" starts out cool, but quickly reverts to the form established in the first three tracks.

"Go With The Flow" is the first track I enjoyed.  It's a little faster, but it would still be an average track on Turbo Ocho.  "Marie" is the first song on this album I consider to be truly excellent, and we're already on track six.

The back side is a little better; the first track, "Empty Highway," is still a little trite, but has a great tune.  This is a good song.  "Small World" is a nice, slow acoustic piece, and possibly the most country on the album.  After a short acoustic instrumental, we get "Just Got High," which brings us back into lame territory.  "Today Belongs To The Light" is a reggae-infused song, which is normally not RCPM's forte, but sounds good here.  "Paper Airplanes" belongs on a Gin Blossoms record.  The closer, "Play On," is a nice, medium-tempo song with a relatively catchy tune.

It's hard to pinpoint what exactly went wrong here.  The lyrics are trite...where are the stories?  It's been awhile since we've had a "Jack Vs. Jose," "Lupe Montosa," or "Switchblade."  Has the lifestyle described in "Captain Suburbia" finally gotten the best of Roger?  It's really hard to identify with, or care about, anything that is said here.  Is it the slick production, bereft of any dynamics?  Thom Jurek said it best in his all-music review: the songs are "simply generic, indistinguishable from a morass of American music that has rightfully faded from memory."

This band is still one of the best live acts to see in the Phoenix area.  They still put on a heck of a show.  Their studio output, however, seems to be in a state of near-constant decline.

1All Over the Radio3:13
2Heaven on a Paper Plate3:43
4Love Is the Road4:13
5Go with the Flow3:36
7Empty Highway3:52
8Small World3:55
9Unida Cantina1:18
10Just Got High3:37
11Today Belongs to the Light4:36
12Paper Airplanes3:41
13Play On3:22


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Record Store Day!

So, today is Record Store Day.  How did you celebrate?

I celebrated first at Stinkweeds in Phoenix.  We made it to the 9AM opening and subsequent frenzy.  I didn't really have much of an idea what I was going to buy...there were several items on the list that looked good, but nothing I absolutely had to have.

Impulse Buy #1: Grateful Dead
Along the wall, I saw a 12" album by Grateful Dead.  I hefted it and saw that it was their self-titled first album in the original mono mix, and decided, what the heck, I'll pick it up.  Out of all the 12" records I picked up, I am least impressed with the packaging here.  It's a simple slip case, but the cardboard is slightly warped and a very tight fit.

Impulse Buy #2: Foo Fighters - Medium Rare
I'm not sure where this material comes from, but it's all covers by the Foo Fighters.  I have heard a Foo Fighters cover of "Have A Cigar" before, which I liked, and I'm assuming it's the same version that is included here.  Also included is "Band On The Run."  I'm excited to see how this one turns out.

Impulse Buy #3: Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, and The Dharahar Project
I've already reviewed this album.  I decided it would be cool to have it on 10" vinyl.  I guess I was planning on getting this one going in, so it's not such an impulse buy.

I then wandered over to the other side, where the 7" vinyls were located.

Impulse Buy #4: Opeth - The Throat of Winter
I figured it'd be cool to have a new Opeth track.  I already have three of their albums with surround sound, so we might well see how Opeth in vinyl compares.  The B-side has no song, but it does have a cool etching of the Opeth logo.  It'd be even cool if they somehow managed to etch the logo in, and still have music.

Impulse Buy #5: Justin Townes Earle - Move Over Mama
I already have the A-side from Harlem River Blues... Figured I might add another track.  Also comes with a sampler of bands I've never heard of.

Impulse Buy #6: Steve Earle - I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
Steve has a new album out by this title, but this track is not on that album.  Apparently it's a Hank Williams cover version.  This one is cool because it's on red vinyl.

Impulse Buy #7: The Flaming Lips box set
This is the biggest impulse buy.  I wasn't going to buy it because of the $125 price tag, but there were four copies staring right at me.  So I splurged.  I'm sure this is the one that will take me months to fully digest.

Impulse Buy #8-10: Nickel Creek's self titled album, This Side, and Why Should The Fire Die?
These are, of course, all three of Nickel Creek's albums, and until today, they were never available on vinyl.  This one is not RSD exclusive, but it is only available in indie stores until the beginning of June.  I figured I might as well pick them up, since I'll eventually get them anyways, and I have a man crush on Chris Thile.  I am very impressed with the packaging here; they're all double vinyls in beautiful gateful sleeves.

After this $300 plunge, a few of us headed over to Hoodlums in Tempe for their 10AM opening.  Surprisingly, this place was actually more crowded than Stinkweeds.  I did pick out a two used Waylon Jennings albums, two used Willie Nelson albums, the new Paul Simon, and The Head And The Heart, and was ready to spring for them, but by then, the line was already to the back of the store.  So I figured I'll pick them up next time I'm there, which will be Wednesday, for Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers' in-store performance.

Next, we headed to Zia in Chandler.  I picked up a copy of The Dodos' Time To Die, and they gave me a bunch of promo crap, a shirt, and a pint glass for $5 extra.

Now for the promo stuff... This was a haul in itself:
Black Bell Records sampler on white vinyl
Elton John - Hey Ahab b/w Leon Russell - If It Wasn't For Bad 7"
"Le Disquare Day" French region music sampler CD
Leonard Cohen classic album reissues sampler CD
Burn Down Tempo - Slowgaze hand-numbered CD (#100/100)
Let It In The Attic Records 2010 sampler CD
Select-O-Hits sampler CD
Mobroder - Rush (the remixes) CD (no clue what this is)
Zia Record Exchange local music compilation vol. 5 CD
Sub Pop "Please Enjoy Terminal Sales Vol. 4" sampler CD (this one is actually pretty cool)
New West Records All Stars & Rookies 2011 sampler CD
Last Gang Records 2011 Sampler CD
Gospel Claws debut album digital download
A used Third Eye Blind CD (it's a nice gesture, but this one might find its way to the garbage if nobody wants it)

That's a lot of free stuff.

Here's a photo.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put the pile of sampler CDs in there, and I'm too lazy to do a new photo.

Friday, April 15, 2011

New Release: Blackfield - Welcome To My DNA

Release Date (UK): March 28, 2011
Release Date (US): April 19, 2011
Label: KScope

If you haven't heard of Blackfield, which is probably very likely, they are an art rock collaboration between Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame and Israeli rock/pop star Aviv Geffen.  In case you didn't know, I am a huge Steven Wilson fan, and I consider him to be one of the best, most diverse, and most creative musicians of our time.  Blackfield is just one of several projects he has been involved with.

Even if you have heard every song Steven Wilson has ever recorded, you still haven't heard Blackfield.  This music is textured, melodious, and somewhat mellow.  The arrangements are simple; you don't hear the odd rhythms and frenzied dynamics which sometimes proliferate Porcupine Tree's work.

The first album, simply called Blackfield, featured a few tracks written by Wilson, a few by Geffen, and the rest credited to both.  The second, Blackfield II, featured a little less Wilson and a little more Geffen, but Wilson still made a significant contribution (including my favorite track, "Christenings," which was may have been an unused Porcupine Tree song, and partial credits for "Epidemic" and "1,000 People").

When I heard about the new album, Welcome To My DNA, I decided to go the vinyl route and preorder the hand numbered vinyl version limited to 2,000 copies (I got #491).

The first thing I noticed about this album was that Wilson was only credited with writing one song, "Waving."  This struck me as a little concerning; was Blackfield evolving from a Wilson/Geffen collaboration into a project solely owned by Geffen?  I always liked Wilson's work better, and it's not a surprise that "Waving" turned out to be the best track on this album.  What is surprising is that the album is still good.  Maybe Geffen's writing is improving (after the first few listens, I do like "Glass House" and "Far Away").  Maybe the fact that Steven Wilson is still in the producer's chair is holding it together.  Who knows.

The weakest point for Welcome To My DNA?  Easily the lyrics.  Someone needs to confiscate Geffen's pen and never give it back.  I find it hard to believe the guy who wrote the lyrics to "Cloudy Now" also wrote "Go To Hell."  The lyrics to "Go To Hell" are basically this (I don't have the album on hand right now, so I may be misquoting):
F*ck you all, f*ck you.
F*ck you all, f*ck you.
I don't care.

Go to hell, go to hell,
Go to hell, go to hell...
That's deep. (Musically, it's not bad, though)

As with the other Blackfield albums, I consider this to be good, beautifully produced music, but nothing groundbreaking.  Nobody, as far as I'm aware of, creates more richly layered and elegantly textured music than Steven Wilson, and this is not an exception.

1Glass House2:56
2Go to Hell3:03
3Rising of the Tide3:47
5Far Away2:47
6Dissolving With the Night4:06
8On the Plane3:41


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

4/12/2011 New Releases

This week was stacked with intriguing possibilities in the new release department:

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Low - C'Mon
Panda Bear - Tomboy
Paul Simon - So Beautiful Or So What
TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light
Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane

Six albums I'd give a shot in one week.  It's been awhile since this has happened.

Yesterday, I crammed in as much as I could.  Here are mini-reviews of the four I was able to get to, in the order I got to them:

Low - C'Mon
Hmm... Liked the sound and texture here.  I'm not familiar with their olds stuff, but c'mon, this is pretty boring.  Maybe I'll give it another listen, but c'mon... It wasn't that promising.  C'mon.

Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane
You know, I don't know what it is about AKUS... They sound great.  Their music is absolutely beautiful.  But I can't think of a reason to listen to this instead of, say, Lonely Runs Both Ways.  Nothing here really stands out... Might get it when the price is right, just to add more AKUS songs to the mix, but probably won't listen to it straight through.  I should probably bump it up to three stars, if only because of Jerry Douglas.

Paul Simon - So Beautiful Or So What
Now this one is the big winner this week.  I do like Simon & Garfunkel, but I don't know too much of Simon's solo work.  I decided I wanted to hear this one, and I'm glad I did.  This is definitely the one that most demands further listens.  Temped to give it four stars, but typically I have to hear an album several times before deeming it worthy of that... Perhaps an upgrade is forthcoming.  At this point, I'd say this is one of the four or five best albums of the young year.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
I haven't heard a Foo Fighters album in some time.  Not a big fan of the band, but I do like some of their songs.  That said, this album was better than I expected.  It was pretty in your face.  Heavier than I remember them being.  I'll probably give it another listen.  Probably deserving of 2.5 stars or so.

I still want to listen to the TV On The Radio album, and I'd give Panda Bear a shot if I have a free moment.  Don't think either will happen tonight though, because I suspect I will be listening to nothing but vinyl tonight.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

500: Eurythmics - Touch

I've been having trouble thinking of new albums to review... The problem is, I've been indiscriminately listening to any and all albums that sound like they'd be even remotely appealing (thanks MOG), and unless something really grabs me, it's hard to make a case for a review... And if I only review albums that grab me, all of my reviews would be three or four stars... And let's face it, that'd be boring.

So, I thought of a new feature.  I recently read through Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and decided it would be cool to go through them, one by one, and listen to them.  Starting at #500.  And I would post my thoughts about each one here.

Of course, this will probably take years to do, and I'll likely give up at about #485.  But we'll see.

I figure I'll skip greatest hits albums and compilations, because, in my opinion, these shouldn't be considered.  We'll see about live albums when I get to one.  And it's also possible I skip a few I really, really do not want to listen to.

And here's #500... Eurythmics - Touch

Release Date: November 26, 1983 
Label: RCA Records

I wrote up that intro during the first track... Which was tolerable.  I typically don't like 80s music, so the fact that this is not driving me insane is promising.  The second track, "Regrets", is...also tolerable?  A little funky, which is nice.

We all know Eurythmics by their smash hit from their previous album, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" (which was famously (or maybe infamously) covered over a decade later by Marilyn Manson).  Eurythmics is a British duo consisting of Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart.  They recorded consistently throughout the 80s, before going into hiatus in the 90s.  They reunited to record one more album in the late 90s, and since have been limited to sporadic appearances.

 As I type this, I'm listening to the first track on this album I don't really care for: "Cool Blue." The funky bass is pretty cool, but the song is upbeat, with a strong dance beat.  I hate dance music.  That, and it has trite lyrics, like the repeated "How can I forget you baby? I'm never gonna give you up."  Ugh.  I hate the 80s.

"Who's That Girl?," the first single from the album (followed by the first and third tracks, "Here Comes The Rain Again" and "Right By Your Side"), is the first real slow song.  Once again, I hate the lyrics, but I kind of like this song.  It's got a nice foot-tapping groove, and it has a tone that really works.  Easily my favorite thus far.

Over half way through this album, and my first impression is that overall, I am pleasantly surprised.  I don't like synth, but it works here.  Part of that is probably because of a healthy dose of funky bass work, which is probably my favorite characteristic of this album.  Lennox's vocals also fit like a glove.  The lyrics are a weak point for me; I don't get the impression that Stewart and Lennox had anything to say.  They were making music for the sake of making music (which is not a bad thing in itself, but if none of the lyrics are making a point, it detracts somewhat from the human aspect of the music).  Unless I'm just missing the underlying message in repeating the lyrics "Don't touch me; don't talk to me about it" over and over.

The last couple tracks I've listened to, "Touch" and "No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts)," have been slower and funkier.  The former was a little boring and repetitive; I'm kind of digging the latter.  This is the most dynamic so far, and the added strings (apparently by the British Philharmonic, according to Wikipedia) are really working for me.

"Paint A Rumour" opens up with some really in-your-face synth.  I think the first minute or two was completely devoid of any organic instruments, but after that, the bass guitar and trumpets join the fray.

1Here Comes the Rain Again4:54
3Right By Your Side4:05
4Cool Blue4:48
5Who's That Girl?4:46
6The First Cut4:44
8No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts)5:24
9Paint a Rumour7:30

The 2005 remastered version contains several more tracks, but I won't address those, as they weren't part of the original album.

Overall, I found this album enjoyable, despite its heavily synthesized 80s sound and boring lyrics.  There are a few tracks I'd add to my library, but I don't think I'd often have the patience to listen to this album straight through.

Here's a video, straight from the 80s: