Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scott Walker-The Drift (2006)

The first time I heard Scott Walker, I did a classic double take. It was Scott 2 and the song was that great and hilarious opener "Jackie". Here was this guy I'd heard so many people cream their pants over, singing like a maudlin David Bowie over a track of an enormously produced arrangement of fully orchestrated strings, horns and pounding drums. I was immediately taken to the streets of Paris, where I was buying a hot dog from a vendor with too much mustard on it, sharing it with a cute European girl, the Eiffel Tower peaking behind our heads. It remains one of the best listening memories I've ever had. "Jackie"is as sentimental to me as Scott's soaring voice.

Then I checked out The Drift, released in 2006. Holy shit. What had happened to this guy in between 1968 and 2006? Where was the sap, the love, the warmth? The opening chords of "Cossacks Are" are dark as hell, and with lyrics like "Touching shattered lives, it unearths a nocturne filled with glorious ideas/ A chilling exploration of erotic consumption", the song gets darker. And through ten tracks, it never gets any brighter. Notorious for his self-secrecy, the recluse himself had taken nearly 11 years between this and his previous release.

It took a matter of bravery to record the way he did in the late 60's. In a time where turning up the amps was hip for youth, Scott sang with perfect swank and schmaltz over sappy orchestras. Thats for old people, how square. And The Drift is nothing if not as brave as he's ever been. Then again, Scott Walker has always made his career out of writing what he wants to write and recording the way he wants to record. and of course, never doing interviews or photo-ops. grab The Drift in the comments, but make sure to collect his late 60's albums, too. fucking beautiful, if you dig it.

Funk-up Supreme: The John Tropea

John Tropea's 1977 funk jams off Short Trip To Space are so perfectly filling my rainy day in Chicago. The bass line on "The funk you see, is the funk you do" is just making me cringe it's so dirty. And "Can't hide love" might be the sleekest-sexy disco influenced funk track I've heard all year. If it's a downer day, snag this smooth funk release and groove the rest of it away.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Rainy Monday

Yowie - Cryptooology (2007)

Yowie is a hardcore/avant-rock trio from our hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. The band is known for creating extremely visceral and "kung fu" compositions, usually achieved by using Beefheart-esque tunings, speeding up the time signature, and adding totally maniac drum textures. Today I'm presenting their debut LP, Cryptooology, which was released on Skin Graft records in 2007. If ya don't know about Skin Graft, check out there band page here. They've always had a really, really solid lineup which currently includes AIDS Wolf, Dazzling Killmen (another famous St. Louis avant-punk act), Melt-Banana(!), and Brise-Glace (O'Rourke+parts of Dazzling Killmen). Link in comments.

Also, don't miss their next live show on June 11 at the schizoid art/performance/junk hub Cranky Yellow on Cherokee.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Punch Brothers cover Gronlandic Edit

Well arranged, well executed, as always from Chris Thile.
Gronlandic Edit (of Montreal cover)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wild Flag - Live at The High Dive 11/12/2010

After Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss (formerly of Sleater-Kinney), Mary Timony (formerly of Helium), and Rebecca Cole (The Minders) announced their reunion for a project called Wild Flag last year, I was skeptical. Brownstein has kind of been a personal hero for a long time, and Janet Weiss is probably the best live drummer I've ever seen, but I was kind of bothered that all the headlines about the project would have you believe that it's the "first female supergroup...ever." Ever? Really? Personally, I consider the Breeders' (even though there are two men in the band) Kim Deal/Tanya Donelly/Cheryl Lyndsey lineup a "supergroup." And what about Free Kitten? How could you not a band consisting of members of Sonic Youth (Kim), Pussy Galore (Julie Cafritz), and the Boredomes (Yoshimi P-We), that is all female, not be a "female supergroup?" I mean they even had more star power than Wild Flag.

I think the answer that I'm looking for has to do with fans' long desire for a Sleater-Kinney reunion. Wild Flag is a band that received a lot of media coverage (playing at SXSW and having a member of your band write for NPR doesn't hurt) really fast without even releasing a full-length. Also, I found it really disappointing that writers focused so much on the Brownstein/Weiss reunion (which I don't mean to downplay, I've always been a huge S-K fan), without spending music time on the fact that Mary Timony is rocking again. Her band Helium was a really really kick-ass 90s act (if appearing on Bevis and Butthead means anything), and from that half-dozen videos I've seen of her playing, she's still got the snotty drawl and can still shred.

But never mind all that critic jumblage. I offer you today a gem of a live show. This was the band's third ever live show, recording at the High Dive (Portland) on November 12 of last year. It's real swell quality, so the guitar duet and the Janet's pounding toms just powerful as shit. If that's not enough to get you to download it, there's also a "Beast of Burden" and a Patti Smith staple "Ask The Angels." Pure nuggetology in the comments.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Delta Spirit covers Tom Waits. schweet

This week Delta Spirit covered 4 Tom Waits songs for their Daytrotter session. Of course it's a pretty obvious pick for their gravel voiced lead singer to take on Waits, and he does so endearingly.
I'm such a sucker for a good ballad.

"Come On Up To The House"
"Innocent When You Dream"
"San Diego Serenade"
"Tango Till They're Sore"

DOwnload em for free mang

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Redd Kross - Phaseshifter (1993)

Though their debut LP Born Innocent (1982) placed Redd Kross amongst other pop-punk contemporaries (the Viletones, the Warm Jets...), by the time their fifth album, Phaseshifter, came out, it was hard to tell what the band's sound had mutated into. Sure, the album still contains many aspects that would warrant it being called a punk record, but at the same time its damn melodic and jangly, vaguely bluesy, and towards the end, really influenced by hair metal.

So did they fail at hardcore or simply adapt to the college radio pop sphere that was ruling the alternative universe of the late 80s and early 90s? And did they adapt, or cash in? How could a band that opened for Black Flag stray so far and end up producing a bubblegum album with lyrics like "sometimes all I want is the sunshine."

Simply put, I think the contradictory nature of the hardcore scene got to them, the same way it got to many other bands struggling to both be a band in a particular movement, while also striving to play their own (really good) songs. The same thing happened with Dinosaur Jr. They came off the tongue with bands like ALL, Descendants, Black Flag, and Minutemen as SST staples, but they never really embraced hardcore. Yeah, they can be loud and fast, but in the end it still sounds like you put your finger on a hardcore record to slow it down and add a ripping solo. They could actually play. And they could actually write really classic pop songs. But there wasn't any room for that in hardcore culture. Solos were not celebrated, extended sound was not considered "cool," and melody was shunned. In fact it's odd that a movement that claimed to be so individualistic, revolutionary, and anti-capitalist had so many rules to begin with. Because it wasn't a rock movement defined by subject matter or place (necessarily), but a movement defined wholly by sonic aesthetics. Much like the blues, it was a narrow subgenre that was defined by chord structure (to an extent), song structure, lyrical primitivity, and brevity.

And if a band breaks this, even to make unique, beautiful music, you no longer are seen as vital, or even relevant to a scene. This isn't a bad thing, but it will always mean that bands like Redd Kross, who lasted longer than their contemporaries and strayed further from their original sound, will always be an afterthought behind the "forefathers" of punk. Again, this isn't necessarily bad, but I would argue that the shunning of bands because of their divergence from the norm is a fairly transgressive labeling practice for a movement that is often seen to be so musically, economically, and politically radical.

What I'm trying to prove here, is that Phaseshifter is the perfect example of an album that has absolutely no place in Rock history, but remains a really, really good Rock album. Like the other classic example of overlooked bands, Big Star, it didn't start anything or end anything, but it's still really good rock. "Lady in the Front Row" and "Only a Girl," stand out to me as a band pushing themselves to the limits of what they never though (or probably believed) they would ever play. This album also proves that a band can survive for over a decade playing sub-5:00 songs, while also contributing to two musical sub-genres (hardcore and "indie rock") at the same time.

And in spite of Nick Lowe, I might proclaim it the best power-pop album of all time.

Here's a fun little video of bassist Steve McDonald trying, in desperate, to get his beloved bass back:

Pussy Galore - Exile on Main St. (1986)

Lo and behold, Pussy Galore's mythic and sloppily perfected interpretation of
Exile. Recorded in some junk barn on a 4- track cassette that sounds even junkier, you'll either hate it or dig it. The songs are out of sync and out of tune. They're disfigured and muddied up, then reconstructed in an arousal of that terrific entropy that was seeping through NYC rock & roll during the 80's. (case in point, "Tumbling Dice"). And by the time you listen to the damn thing all the way through, it's obvious Jon Spencer has listened to Exile religiously like any other young disciple of rock & roll. Knows it so well in fact that he justifies distorting it song by song and essentially destroying one of the unanimous masterpieces of the 70's.

Of course, Exile is the only album that could even work that way, which is why it remains the best testament to an ageless type of rock 'n roll. Don't get me wrong, I love Steely Dan, but the minty freshness of each fucking track or chord change or solo arrangement leaves it stuck forever in that age of mid tempo, cleansing 70's rock. Fourteen years after Exile was originally recorded, Pussy Galore recorded their version, a raucous and trashy interpretation that is, despite any misgivings you have, distinctly 80's slack.

there's only something like 500 or so cassettes tapes of this in circulation, so find the digital convenience in the comments.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Broken Water - Whet (2010)

Quick post, but you'll dig this one Austin. Sort of low-end production on this debut lp from Broken Water. Sort of sounds like the slowcore Bad Moon Rising days of Sonic Youth. Mixture of syrupy reverb and dense walls of distortion. Let this one sit with you for awhile and the results should be pretty memorable. I haven't been interested in this genre for a little while now so I'm glad to have heard of something fresh, thanks to "Glowing Raw" for this one.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

This is Piglet!

Piglet are a math-rock group local to Chicago that put things to an end after the release of their first semi-full length, Lava Land. God damn I love these guys. They create intensely intricate rhythms through guitar tapping/harmonizing and dual drumming. I haven't listened to this for awhile, but there was a time when it would put me into a beautiful, reflective sleep everytime. The guitar section at the end of "Little Bubble, Where are You Going?" will blow your brain out. Enjoy. Chicago's never had weather as good as today...err so it seems.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Biel Ballester Trio - Live In London

From 2006, and featured in some Woody Allen film that wasn't good, this gypsy jazz release really doesn't fit into my typical taste in music as of lately. However, Live In London is a gorgeous album and is rather difficult to find. It holds an acoustic, swinging vibe throughout and has a beautiful cover of the Beatles' "In My Life" midway through. Get it in the comments and dance, monkey, dance.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hackamore Brick-One Kiss Leads To Another (1970)

The influence that Lou Reed and VU has had on rock 'n roll is boldly imprinted through the 70's and 80's and into the 21st century, branching to Bowie and Television and to Tweedy and Yo La Tengo. Hackamore Brick's 1970 One Kiss Leads To Another is the first (and most obvious) nod to the Velvets I can find. Despite more of a folk, and at times, psychedelic essence to the record, the deadpan vocal croons, the jambly guitar strums, the flat Tucker drum beats--they're all there. And on "Oh! Those Sweet Bananas", well, it's a little too obvious.

Still, on many of the tracks, they pull it off quite well. "Bananas", one cannot deny is a hell of a fun tune, and "Radio" is one of those I can imagine sitting in the back of a flat bed, rollin' through a city block, eating an ice cream cone or something. I don't know. But you can grab One Kiss Leads To Another in the comments.