Thursday, April 30, 2009

Roy Harper - Stormcock (1971)

There really is no better introduction Roy Harper's world than this early 70's acoustic-prog epic. Harper began his career in the english folky Donovan camp, but by the time he released Stormcock (I have no idea what the title implies but it sounds fucking dangerous) he was stretching his acoustic folk ballads into unending verses of psych exploration. If you're hoping for a chorus or two, good luck. Harper offers up plenty of melody, but nary a repeated line in these 6 min plus jams.

"The Same Old Rock" is a perfect example of this approach. Harper divides the 12 min excursion into multiple movements. For the first 6 minutes we are treated to an enjoyable, minor key folk ballad. A few overdubbed acoustic guitars and some impassioned singing (and what sounds a bit like Led Zeppelin III riffs). After the halfway point, however, the song quietly veers off into reverb drenched pools of harmony, that sound thoroughly West Coast. By 9 minutes we are in full on, droning, swirling eddies of sound that would make Panda Bear pull out the old poncho and get down. It all ends with some aggressive acoustic strumming and descending bass string lines. Stormcock indeed!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ofege - Try and Love (1973)

This album is the first reissue project on the new Academy LPs imprint, which is an offshoot of the generally awesome Academy Records store in Williamsburg Brooklyn. A group of secondary school teenagers from Lagos, Nigeria cut this record in the early 70's. With guitars chiming in the forefront, the band romps through a set of killer Afrodelic psych-rock. Apparently it was a huge success in Nigeria when it was released, and it is not hard to see why. These dudes prove there was more to the Afro rock sound than endless Fela funk jams.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

V/A - Boogaloo Pow Wow (2008)

Mid 20th century Latin jams from New York's fertile uptown music scene. Get in the mood for Spring with this one...

"...rare and classic selections in different latin styles from the ’50s and ’60s. Packaged with relatively brief liner notes but nice artwork and a cover photo by Bruce Davidson... As a culture,
Boogaloo Pow Wow… offers a glimpse into a world in which Cuban and Puerto Ricans rule, with the occasional Yankee contribution. This is best represented by the closing track "Feelin’ the Pain" by Dianne & Carole (along with their uncredited band, The Latin Whatchamacallits), an imaginary theme song for a world inhabited by Upper East Side debutantes and Puerto Rican musicians. The ladies, sounding almost fragile in their struggle to be heard and stay on key at the same time, sing lilting, neo-Bacharachian harmonies over what may be the album’s most classically boogaloo rhythm track, equal parts La Habana and Detroit. The song offers a prescient nod to what’s kept ladies like Adele and Amy Winehouse busy, only with less Latin tinge and more Limey sass." - Dusted Magazine

Exuma -Exuma I (1970)

So here is a post after such a long time away. For some reason, this album brought me back from the dead and compelled me to share this. I came across this gem at a great blog. I really don't have too much wisdom to drop on this one, other than it sounds fresh to my ears. Apparently a group from the Bahamas in the 70's that had a penchant for psych/weirdness. There is a bit of folk, rock, tribal beats, Richie Havens-esque gruff vocals, soul shouts, plucked acoustic geetarrrr, and copious amounts of tambourine - the shit really works.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Selda - S/T (1970's)

Turkish Pysch-Rock funkiness. Madlib's kid brother Oh No based a lot of his album Dr. No's Oxperiment on tracks from this record. Don't be fooled by the goofy cover art, her voice is tough and she will kick your ass with psychedelic groove. I haven't heard anything this awesome in a long time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What I learned in 2007: A best of (un)list

This year for an end-of-year list, I felt like doing something different. It's not that there weren't any great albums made this year, just the opposite really. I listened to a number of records that were exciting, interesting, challenging, fun, Loud. Most by new bands but there were also a few by old-time favorites (although I didn't hear Radiohead's new album until well after the fact). It was more that the music I found myself coming back to and was most excited about was older music. It may have been records that were made a couple of years ago or it may have been records from 30 years ago. It was really a year of musical discovery for me, hearing for the first time cult artists like Terry Riley and Mission of Burma, and discovering new favorites in each. All of these albums I heard for the first time this year, that was my criteria, and I was equal parts blown away by what I heard and embarrassed that it had taken so long for me to find them. So here, in no particular order, is my list of favorite discoveries of 2007:

Boredoms - Vision Creation Newsun(1999)

A wonderful, Japanese noise rock take on blissed out, new-age Krautrock. Swirling and tribal, in the same vein as their also fantastic Super AE, but with less pockets of blistering noise and a little more groove.

The Clean - Anthology (1970s-1990s)
New Zealand indie poppers from the early 80's. Clean guitars, acoustic strums, 4/4 drum beats, quasi-English accents. It's pretty much Flight of the Conchords meets The Feelies. Or as says,"psychedelic experimentalism".

Chrome - The Visitation (1976)
It is a fairly honest and accurate description to say this band sounds a bit like Can, the Stooges and early Santana jamming in the basement, with a bit of bizarro sound effects and electronics thrown in for kicks. Sounds a bit ahead of it's time, or outside of time altogether. Cover art is awesome too.

Jim Ford - The Sounds of our Time

Rediscovered 70's Country R&B dude. Jim Ford's music is something like a white Otis Redding who isn't afraid of a little twang.

Bad Brain - Rock For Light (1983)

Hands down one of the most powerful bands of our lifetime in terms of sheer force. A group of young black men with impressive musical chops from Washington D.C. who decide to ditch their jazz band in order to become the most badass Hardcore Punk group in the entire world world. This is their second LP which is only marginally more produced than their debut. The rastafarianism is still in force too.

Pylon - Gyrate (1980)

Mission of Burma - Signals, Calls, Marches (1981)

The unqualified-classic, debut EP. Incredibly I had managed to avoid hearing this until now, which is too bad because I would have really loved it when I was 15. Snotty and arty and fairly near perfect.

Terry Riley - Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band "All Night Flight" Vol. 1 (1968)Saxophone tape loops.

Tall Dwarfs - 3 EPs (1994)New Zealand weirdo-pop. This collection represents their early work from the 80's. A bit like Neutral Milk Hotel.

Jay Reatard - Blood Visions (2006)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade (1984)

Everyone's favorite post-hardcore band named after a Swedish board game. This was the third studio album by this Minneapolis trio. Suprisingly, for a double album, it's pretty much all highlights. Opener, "Something I Learned Today", kicks some serious ass. With a martial drum rhythm punctuated by rolling snare fills and a propulsive bassline, it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Classic pop masquerading as punk, played at tempos fueled by cheap trucker speed and smeared in a layer of trebly distortion. "Never Talking to You Again", is an uncharacteristically mellow moment. A real 60's pop nugget, all chiming guitar jangle. Throughout, Bob Mould does his best to scream himself hoarse but even his anguished shrieks can't hide the fact that these songs are overflowing with melody. If you're wondering why this band is an American Underground Rock legend, this album should make it pretty clear: they fucking wailed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chavez - Better Days Will Haunt You (2006)

M-A-T-H Rock!!! This two disc collection pulls together their first 2 albums, Gone Glimmering (1995) and Ride The Fader (1996), and a couple B-sides. It is angular, twin-guitar-attack goodness, and College Radio will never be the same.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Papas Fritas - S/T (1995)

What was it with white 90's rock bands and Spanish names? In what was perhaps a movement of solidarity with New Jersey indie gods Yo La Tengo (I have her or It), this Boston band decided to name themselves after fried potatoes. Interesting choice. In fact, they share a similar boy/girl twee sensibility with the Welsh threesome from my previous post (see Young Marble Giants below). This is really an enjoyable, lesser-known mid 90's slice of indie pop. A few crunchy guitars here, some upbeat vibes there. It's not important and it's not life changing, but it's fun. Which is more than you can say for a lot of the bummed out, aimless, downer bands of their time.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth (1980)

This right here is the debut and only album from a band that could have gone on to make many more brilliant records, but sadly they...didn't? Not sure why, but as it stands this is the only testament we have to the musical vision of these 3 youngsters from North Wales. The sound can be most easily summed up as minimal. Single track guitar, bass, drum machine (sometimes), and female vox. Singer Alison Statton sounds like a proto-PJ Harvey at times, although a bit softer. This is music built on quiet intensity. If they had been alive in the grunge era you could imagine some of these songs swimming in thick, crunchy guitars. Instrumental songs like "Wind in the Rigging" are another thing altogether. Beautiful, gentle, organ and drum machine driven slices of lounge cheese. The goofiness is a nice counterpoint to the more indie-pop oriented tunes. The album was apparently whipped off in a matter of days using almost entirely first takes and few overdubs in an effort to, as the band put it, keep the songs "alive". Well they still sound fresh, so they musta did somethin' right.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sebadoh - The Freed Man (2007)

"GIMME INDIE ROCK!" And give us Indie rock they did. The earliest collaborations between Ex-Dino Jr. member Lou B. and veteran W. Mass punk/hardcore scenster Eric Gaffney are collected here on this hand picked reissue. Being a native of Western mass myself, I have a bit of a soft spot for these dudes. When Eric confesses in the liner notes that the "lyrics for 'Ladybug' were written '84 while smoking pot in Greenfield, MA. before I sang a set in a thunder and lightning storm..." I can't help but well up with a little hometown pride. It has been said that these guys were the beginning of lo-fi, the jumping off point for all the would-be troubadours that have holed-up in their bedrooms with 4-tracks recorders, pouring out their guts onto shitty 1/8 inch tape. Everyone from the Elephant 6 Collective to the Animal Collective have borrowed some of the aesthetic first thrown down on these early Sebadoh recordings. More a collage of sounds and ideas than a true album, this is an essential collection for fans and new ears alike.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Jensen Sportag - S/T (2007)

Here's a little "Post Techno" for your morning commute. Jensen Sportag are an unsigned duo residing in Nashville, TN. The cover pretty much says it all. Keyboards, trashy 80's beats, post punk weirdness, and an arty sense of the absurd,  coalesce into a freaked-out batch of surprisingly catchy songs. This band even has a softer side reminiscent of the Junior Boys, as exhibited on "Just a Part of Me". Above all, Jensen Sportag seem to cherish a playful sense of humor. This is displayed prominently on the wildly divergent track "Dont Matter". The band starts of in their comfort zone, synth driven, hyperkinetic, melodic techno, and then branches off into southern rap, country, latin house, and 80's rock balladry, then returning to the dance beat from whence they came. It is a surprisingly enjoyable exercise in genre hopping.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Dead C - Vain, Erudite and Stupid: Selected Works (1987-2005)

Here's an oft-overlooked band who's just starting to get the due they deserve as innovators in the noise genre. Bill Meyer of Dusted Magazine sums it up nicely here:

"Despite receiving scant honor throughout their 17-year existence (the last couple Dead C albums were self-released in editions of 500), they’ve carried on making their patented entropic racket. But it’s a nuanced cacophony, neither monolithic nor monotonous. Brute power chords, processed machine sounds, field recordings of passing traffic, all are grist for the Dead C’s mill."

This excellent comp compiles a little bit of everything from over the course of the band's existence, from early recordings blanketed in tape hiss, to more recent extended jams with increased sonic fidelity (keep in mind it's all relative). I'm not an expert on these dudes nor do I feel the need to pretend to be. Check the links below for more info about this band's significance. If you're a fan of artists like Growing, Throbbing Gristle, Sonic Youth, and many others in the Drone/Noise category, you should really give these guys a shot.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pterodactyl - S/T (2007)

Here's the deal: I'm not going to share this album by righteous Brooklyn Noise-rock-head-busters Pterodactyl because they are friends and I want them to gets paid. So please, check out a sample of their song "Polio" below and think about buying their record. They are friends and associates of fellow racket-makers Parts & Labor, and if you like those guys you should dig this too. Lots of furious drumming, searing guitar work, and melodic screeching. Enjoy

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Vangelis - Earth (1972)

I probably would have uploaded this album for the cover shot alone. Can you believe that this disheveled wreck of a man is the very same Greek who gave us the lush and beautiful score to Chariots of Fire? Perhaps by the time of that movie's release in 1981 Vangelis had cleaned up his act. In the early 70's, though, he was really letting his earth mother hang out. This album was his attempt to fuse early christian music with rock, and in so doing he creates some really beautiful songs. "My Face in The Rain" is a particular standout. A gorgeous, swelling lament, that sounds like an inspiration to bands like Spiritualized and the Verve. Other highlights include opener "Come On", which is a sweet slice of hard stomping prog rock. Then there is "He-O" with its Eastern influenced guitar lines , hand percussion, and incanted vocals that sound like a chorus of monks. The variation continues with the grooving "Let it Happen", a song that wouldn't sound entirely out of place on Air's Moon Safari. The rest of the album is given over to prog-ish meditations on nature, freedom, spirituality and life. If you can get past the new-age-ness of it all (or if you get off on lyrics like, "I would like to write a song that is so vibrant and so intimate, that the Earth would adopt it, as if it had sprung like a stream from the land's memory") then you NEED this album. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Parts and Labor - Mapmaker (2007)

Well, I guess I kinda broke the Tiger Credo on this one. Luckily for anyone reading this, my moral decay (i.e. posting brand-spankin'-new album leaks) is your considerable gain. This really is an exciting new album from this Brooklyn trio. As on their last album, Stay Afraid, the P&L boys continue to carve out a unique Noise Rock niche for themselves. When looking for a comparison through the ol' lens of history, I can't help but think that these guys are like the Husker Du of their generation. They combine a well-tuned sense of melodicism with the highly energetic, reckless spirit of punk and hardcore. While Stay Afraid contained some fine songs and excellent playing, the album felt a bit rushed (which in fact, it was, as the band admitted in a recent interview). This time out, the guys were able to spend a little more time refining and tinkering, and it really pays off. The production is fuller and the band stretches their sound a little more. Opener, "Fractured Skies", even has a nice horn arrangement. I predict big (or at least bigger) things for this band in the coming year. Musically, I think a lot of people are adopting the idea that noise=good, and that means the time is about right for these boys to shine.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

I knew I would like this album as soon as I saw the cover. Perhaps it was the voyeuristic thrill of the album title being written by hand on the glass wall of a steamy shower, with the naked bodies inside just barely showing through. So fitting for an album by a husband and wife duo singing songs about personal pain. It's not only brilliant cover art, though, as the album inside is equally stunning. Richard Thompson was fresh from his first solo album after leaving the Fairport Convention, and in Linda Peters he had finally found his perfect vocal counterpart. There isn't any real contemporary comparison to Linda, though I am inclined to suggest Neko Case, who posesses a similar timbre and spirit of voice to Linda, not to mention her own ease with darkness and melancholy. The title track is the obvious highlight here, although everything else is so damn good it hardly matters. This is folk-rock in a carousing English sense, with traditional string arrangements and balladry boozing it up alongside barroom rock. It's the kind of beautiful melancholy that makes you want to raise your glass and sing along until you get too drunk to remember the words, and then perhaps your own name.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

B. Fleischmann - The Humbucking Coil (2006)

This is a nice one. Beautiful, easy lisening, electronic music. I would apply the term "chill", if that didn't conjure up images of over-packaged, completely generic compilation albums featuring glossy cover shots of sunsets and leather chairs. There is also something very organic about this music. The opening track, and album highlight, is enough to convince you that this stuff is worthwhile. I would compare the slow build of "Broken Monitors" to a band like Broken Social Scene. In fact, some of the tracks on here could have almost fit on their last self-titled album (BSS). There is a warmth to these recordings that is truly commendable. Forget "bleeps" and "glitches", and other sounds of digital technology gone awry. Sometimes it's nice to just have songs. Chilled-out electronic tracks for people that like rock music. Throw this on next time your waiting for your flight at the airport. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Polvo - Today's Active Lifestyles (1993)/Oxford Collapse - Remember the Night Parties (2006)

What's this? A double post?!! That's right. 1 album from 1993 + 1 album from 2006 = Math Rock then and now. Polvo were one of the foremost exponents of the Math Rock subgenre in the mid 90's, as well as a crucial part of the fertile Chapel Hill, NC indie scene. Their layered guitars, odd time signatures, dissonant chord structures, and predisposition for noisy (albeit melodic) songs, built them a cult following in the underground art/indie rock scene. Today's Active Lifestyles is Polvo's second LP, and for the adventurous listener it's well-worth hearing. There is a bit of something for "everyone", from the clattering, distorted guitar jabs of opener "Thermal Treasure", to the loping, quasi-psychedelic ramblings of "Lazy Comet".

Oxford Collapse is a band of young men from Brooklyn (of course). This is their third album, and first for the almighty Sub Pop label. Though Oxford Collapse is by no means a Math Rock outfit first and foremost, there are moments throughout this excellent album that recall the off-kilter explosiveness of those bands. "For the Khakis and the Sweatshirts" bears the imprint of bands like Polvo, with its vaguely Eastern, winding guitar lines, and heavily accented rhythms. There are also whiffs of another Chapel Hill group: The indie rock heavyweights and Tigers-of-Love-approved Archers of Loaf . Times being what they are, though, this record is much more pop accessible than most 90's Math Rock. The single, "Please Visit Our National Parks", is built on a insistent guitar riff that gives way to catchy hook and sing-a-long chorus. Check out the video for this song, featuring sheep and a seriously malfunctioning walkman: Here. This is a band to watch, as they only seem to get better with each album.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Free Design - Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love (1970)

"The commercial failure of the Free Design remains one of the most baffling mysteries in the annals of pop music -- with their exquisitely celestial harmonies, lighter-than-air melodies and blissful arrangements, the group's records were on par with the work of superstar contemporaries like the Beach Boys, the Association and the Cowsills, yet none of their singles even cracked the Hot 100." Jason Ankeny - ALLMUSIC.COM
Baffling indeed, if not downright criminal. Luckily, the incessantly upbeat pop contained on this record will help you overcome the anger of injustice. The Girl/Boy vocals recall in spirit, if not in style, the waves of indie kids that are still crashing on our shores with their twee pop, cute haircuts, and irreverent take on life. The four members (2 guys 2 girls) that make up The Free Design are all siblings, and their songs seem to be extensions of their childhood. "Bubbles", the opener, is a favorite. It has a bouncy bassline and jazz inflected harmonies. I have heard this record described as "the one where the Free Design discovered funk". "Bubbles" certainly makes a good case for that. "Butterflies Are Free", likely inspired by the Leonard Gershe play of the same name, is an uplifting ode to personal freedom supported by some lovely horn arrangements. "That's All, People" is a triumphant, horn driven The Free Design have always delivered superb covers of other people's songs, and the inclusion of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" here is no exception. Like they'd done previously for The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Mammas and The Papas, the group adds their cascading vocal harmony style and jazzy backing to a recognizable pop song and makes it their own. While it is possible to overdose on the sweet sugary-goodness that is the Free Design, sometimes a little hit of their unabashed sentimentality is all that you need to get over the hump.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Slint - Spiderland (1991)

Not much more needs to be said about the importance of this Louisville, KY band as far as their impact on Indie rock and Post-rock in particular. A band (and album) that has only continued to rise in the ranks of essential-must-hear-record status as years go by, they were mostly overlooked at the time (what with Grunge being all huge and everything). Slint may not have started the quiet-loud dynamic trend in Indie rock, but they at least made it a very convincing aesthetic choice. Same goes for speak/sing mumbling as vocal style. This record is certainly not for everyone, but those that dig off-kilter, angular rhythms, chilly atmospherics, deranged poetic ramblings, and occasional bursts of guitar noise will be, like, totally psyched. At the very least, it is worth hearing what all the fuss is about. I mean, you know they're historical importance is no joke when Spiderland's album cover has been featured in a Shins video.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Antena - Camino Del Sol (1982)

The peerless reissue gods at Numero Group unearthed a real treasure with this one. This French trio creates a compelling, unique fusion of electro-pop and smooth latin rhythms. Fans of Air and Miho Hatori will be especially pleased with Isabella Antena's whisper-soft vocals. Although they didn't get much recognition when they were on Factory Records in the early 80's, this group was definitely ahead of its time. Their dreamy, gently swaying, cosmopolitan sound, is the type of lounge music that makes you reconsider any negative connotations previously associated with that designation. Truly sublime.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Swervedriver - Raise (1991)

For those that like a little crunch with their swirl. These four lads from Oxford kept it rockin' through the shoegaze era. Not content to lose themselves in the ethereal netherworld of fuzz, reverb, and dreaminess, they stuck to big guitar hooks force-fed through effects pedals. In a way, they were like Britain's answer to Dinoaur Jr. Twisting electric guitar leads, bashing cymbals, and slacker-voiced vocals. They even wrote songs about the all-American Mustang. Personal favorite, "Deep Seat", builds up from a simple bass riff to a woozy guitar jam. It isn't until a minute-and-a-half in that the vocals finally emerge from the swamp of thick guitars. The lyrics are really an afterthought with this band, and that's not to say that they're bad. It's more like they're irrelevant. Simply one more current in their swirling river of sound. When the singing has run its course, the band finishes off with another minute-and-a-half of searing wah-wah guitar fuckery. While the album can sound a bit same-y, the current interest in all things shoegaze makes these guys worth checking out. Especially if you're feeling nostalgic for the muscular rock of the early 90's.

The Feelies - The Good Earth (1986)

The second Feelies album, coming six long years after their debut, shows the band switching things up and mellowing out a bit. The jerky, post-punk-isms are toned down, replaced by propulsive acoustic guitar strums. Could have been the influence of c0-producer Peter Buck (of REM fame), or perhaps the change in rhythm section. Either way, this album boasts more jangle than their previous effort. The driving beats are still there, and the band can certainly work up a good electric guitar jam, as evidenced on "Slipping (Into Something)". Highlights include the lovely, "When Company Comes", with it's ringing, acoustic intro that builds to a tambourine driven sing-a-long. The barely intelligible layered vocals are reminiscent of contemporary bands like Animal Collective. This is followed by the irresistibly-catchy "Let's Go", featured on Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale soundtrack. Though this back-to-back punch is certainly the heart of the album, there is much here to love. While you could make a case for almost any of the Feelies albums being the band's best, given their overall consistency, this one is my personal favorite, and definitely a great place to start.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Flying Saucer Attack - s/t (1994)

So, you like dreamy, guitar-swirling, noise-laden, drone-y, vocals-buried-in-the-mix rock music? How about folk and psychedelia, perhaps a dash of Krautrock? This album is most definitely for you. The duo of David Pearce and Rachel Brook unleashed this fuzzed-out masterpiece in 1994, dubbing their sound "rural psychedelia". This ain't your garden variety 60's psych, though. This is more along the lines of My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain. Fans of electronic artists like Fennesz, Tim Hecker, or Axolotl will want to check this out too, if they haven't already absorbed every feedback-drenched inch of it. Check out the Suede cover, "The Drowners". It's almost as though they just took the original and laid a pleasing film of noise over the entire thing. Other songs, such as "Popul Vuh 1", whose title is in fact a direct homage to the German band and frequent Werner herzog collaborators of the same name, shows the group's debt to their Krautrock forefathers. It is a ten minute-plus soundscape with rumbling hand percussion and eerie clarinet lines, that builds to a beat-less, droning, anti-climax. "The Season is Ours", a lovely acoustic guitar based ballad, brings the album to folk-y close. Of course, in fine FSA fashion, they see fit to ride out the song on a wave of electronic feedback. Essential re-listening for our times.