Active Music Listening Friday June 29, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 389
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 213
Not good music:161
Buys: 13 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Glenn Hansard, Ebo Taylor, Sigur Ros, Le Super Borgou De Parakou, Left Lane Cruiser/James Leg

@@@ Beachwood Sparks: The Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop).  There’s a lot of this blissed out/stoned faded pop rock floatin around these days.  Sinuous clean guitar lines, tamborines, and comfort vocals.  No feelings will be hurt with this record to be sure.  There is musical skill in these tunes, but it’s not a sound/formula I find particularly attractive.  Say you took the Meat Puppets drummer and had him take a groove behind these tunes and pound that shit into the ground.  That I could easily sign on for but it’s a little shy on the muscle.  How timely.  The second tune just opened up into a classic meat puppets tequila soaked guitar I’m not completely off base here.  Solid but not mind blowing.

@@@  The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (Warner).  A somewhat duct taped affair with special guests on each tune.  I don’t know what it is about these walk on records that irritates me so much.  Maybe it’s the blatantly commercial slant of drawing on every guest’s audience into your orbit.  There are some very good musicians on here, but I would say this record is for the hardcore Flaming Lip Heads out there and this is the kind of record made for streaming music.

@@@ Casey Abrams: Casey Abrams (Concord).  Blue eyed soul out of Concord, which tends to be on the soft side of the music spectrum.  I’m gonna give it a shot.  Good voice, production is solid — the problem is the lyrics.  It’s the sort of, oh no in the first tune there are zeb-a-debs and dib-a-dubs!  Aw shucks, everything is gonna be all right.  Life is hard, but keep you chin up and it’s all gonna work out.  Too neat, too cliche.  This is the macaroni and cheese of soul music.

@@@  Lorn: Ask the Dust (Warp).  With beats that harken back to old school hip hop and layered chainsaw synths you get a unique robotic mechanical rhythmic beatdown.  This may or may not be club music, the tempo doesn’t seem to be ideal for the Xers out there, but what the fuck do I know?  Not much is the answer to that.  The third tune, Weigh Me Down, is heating up pretty good. I think that’s a highlight, the fourth tune is a bit more plodding.  You might need to be high for this record, and I don’t mean that to be insulting.  It might be an essential part of the formula.

Active Music Listening Thursday June 28, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 385
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 210
Not good music:160
Buys: 13 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Glenn Hansard, Ebo Taylor, Sigur Ros, Le Super Borgou De Parakou, Left Lane Cruiser/James Leg

@@@ Left Lane Cruiser/James Leg: Painkillers.  Step aside soft ass indie humps and let the white trash punk rock blues punks step to it.  An album of classic blues/rock done in a way to make you feel cheap and dirty.   I will have listen to the whole record, but this one is most likely going on the list.

@@@ Maroon 5: Overexposed.  It would be too easy to say the album title says it all.  I never understood the appeal of this outfit and this release does nothing to disabuse me of that notion.  I find the singer annoying, the lyrics are recycled, and while this may be great music to sell blue jeans at a store in the mall it has little if any emotion packed into.  Corporate emotions — all clean and shallow.

@@@ Chain and the Gang: In Cool Blood. (Secretly Canadian)  Sporting a most massive bass sound the most relevant question here is:  where the fuck are my sloppy ass garage punk guitars, motherfucker?  In the second tune you can at least hear a guitar, but I would say if you’re gonna put out a garage punk record with a somewhat sneerless singer, you should be ramming some feedback and distortion up the listener’s behind.  Flaccid.


Active Music Listening Wednesday June 27, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 382
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 210
Not good music:158
Buys: 13 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Glenn Hansard, Ebo Taylor, Sigur Ros, Le Super Borgou De Parakou

@@@ Linkin Park: Living Things.  I’ve always thought this was an emotionally overwrought straing of corporate metal/hip hop/arena rock, so clearly I’m not starting from a good place.  Firing up the first track we see a nice slab of synthesizer followed by the low self-esteem simulatneous rising up rapping style of the two head dudes whose names I do not know.  On the fourth tune Lies Greed Misery you actually get a nice simple groove with some decent flow over it, but when the other cat comes in on the chorus with the screaming nonsense I just tune out.  I don’t like the formula.

@@@ Zongo Junction: Thieves! (Self-released, 2010)  I found this record from a concert series email from Philly called RipRig.  This is Brooklyn afrobeat taken at a slighlty slower tempo.  I really liked the fourth tune ‘Madoff Made off’ — the dueling horn solos are beautiful.  Check it out.


@@@ Reed’s Bass Drum (Self-released, 2010).  Jazz that is neither striaght nor free, similar to Mark Turner’s outfit Fly but with a baritone sax instead of tenor.  I like how they’re connected to each other and there’s a looseness to what they’re doing that I dig.  The third tune, Changes, is pretty happenin and you can find the record on Spotify. or over here at, gasp, MySpace.

@@@ Jack Wright: Open Wide (2011).  :Looks like this was recorded in 2011 and put up on the digital stores last year.  It’s further out on the jazz branch.  The drums are reverbed out, but not washed out or faded and I like drummer Dan Breen’s player.  The other players, Wright on alto, and John Dierker on bass clarinet and tenor ebb and flow through the 20-minute opener and the next three 10-15 minute pieces.  The horn playing is bird like and interesting.  I don’t have any clips or place to send you, this appears to be quite underground — it is on Spotify if you would like to check it out.

I found a live clip:

Record release dates in the internet age

Back in the day before they storage capabilities of the internet the music business was focused on selling as much as they could right after the release date.

Now, records get released and can be accessed and played and purchased far out into the future so the record release date is much less important.

Why is this important?

What it takes to sell a ton of records right after release date is massive publicity and saturation marketing.  The effectiveness of those marketing strategies appears to be diminishing in the age of the net as people are much more able to click and listen and decide for themselves.  The marketing might drive them to click but it does not guarantee a sale.

The larger labels have the resources to conduct those massive marketing campaigns and in my opinion the large labels tend to put out watered down music that has less long lasting value.

All this is to say that hardcore music listeners like myself don’t really give a shit when a record was released if it’s burnin’.  Also in the age of the net there is a much clearer view of just how much music is out there and even hardcore listeners can miss all manner of great music.

Especially if they are listening in a variety of genres, which is where this blog thinks the action is.

Active Music Listening Tuesday June 26, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 378
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 207
Not good music:157
Buys: 13 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Glenn Hansard, Ebo Taylor, Sigur Ros, Le Super Borgou De Parakou

@@@ Le Super Borgou De Parakou: The Bariba Sound (Analog Africa).  This re-issue from 1970’s Benin does more to stoke my desire for old school soul and funk than 99% of today’s retro ‘authentic’ soul records.  It’s rockin’ and swingin’ with a dollop of funk.  It’s almost horn free with some crazy occasional organ parts, it’s mostly a driving rhythm section with all manner of guitar playing — some rhythmic, some picking and some stretching out.  Please check out the groove on the second to last song ‘Bininhounnin’ to see how funky humans can be.

It’s not going to be easy to check that tune out unfortunately but here’s another one.

@@@ Inner Ear Brigade: Rainbro.  I found these guys via a musician’s mailing list.  They a blend of indie/prog/fusion.  Not so proggy that you feel like putting your pocket pen protector in your shirt, and not so indie to be just painfully mindless.  And not so fusion-y…oh, I ran out of wittiness.  It actually has a slight Meat Puppets vibe to it — not in the instrumentation or the lyrics, but it has a few components of the Meat Puppets sound — a spaced out clean guitar sound and the drumming in spots.  It is also reminiscent of Frank Zappa.  Check it out and support indie folks.


@@@ White Wires: III (Dirtnap).  For fans of the Ramones — tight ass melodic punk rock.  This is a pretty well established formula but they execute it well.  The guitars sound really good and I like the singer which is very important when you have such a stripped down sound.  This surpasses a great amount of indie rock out there.

@@@  Ronn Forella: Moves (Ubiquity).  Slow instrumental funk.  A stringy Stratocaster guitar sound and a basic blissed out electric organ make for a downtempo jam.  It is a re-issue by Thomas Janusz under the name of Ronn Forella.  These funk cats can be highly obtuse.  I liked it, it didn’t take me to another planet like Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain.

Active Music Listening Monday June 25, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 374
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 204
Not good music:157
Buys: 13 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Glenn Hansard, Ebo Taylor, Sigur Ros

@@@ Sigur Ros: Valtari.  Nobody sounds like these guys and I don’t think anybody could even if they wanted to.  They make some epic dreamscapes without falling into cheesiness or uncomfortable weirdness/pretension.  I could see how the vocals might bug some more mainstream listeners out, but I’m happy not to understand what the hell they’re on about.  I need to listen to the rest of the record, but there’s a 90% chance it will make my best of 2012 list.

@@@ Ravi Coltrane: Spirit Fiction.  I like it more than I thought I would.  I like the trumpet player Ralph Alessi and the drummer E.J. Strickland.  I guess he uses two different groups on this record.  It’s bit restrained for my taste, but to each his own.  For my money, Alice Coltrane is the unsung hero of the Coltrane family.

It’s on Spotify and you can stream some tunes here at Myspace.  Wow, myspace.

@@@  Father John Misty: Fear Fun (Sub Pop).  A soaring 1970’s soaring pillow soft rock voice over a schmidgeon o’ country/folk mostfly soft rock.  It’s got a tiny bit of a Beach Boys hyper-arranged vibe — I hear triangle  and other percussion and it generally has a woven, layered feeling to it.  I like it all right.  It gets garage-y and rawer as it moves through the record, but despite the various musical settings the main attraction here is the singer and his voice.

@@@ The Toure-Raichel Collective – The Tel Aviv Session (Cumbancha).  An instrumental African recording.  The acoustic guitar is the center of the record with piano and percussion and another African stringed instrument involved.  I like it all right, but it’s a tad New Age-y in sound and spirit.  It’s 6 at night, and I’m jonesing for a bagel with a schmear because of this record.

Active Music Listening Thursday June 21, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 370
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 201
Not good music:157
Buys: 12 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Glenn Hansard (review below), Ebo Taylor (review below)

@@@ Ebo Taylor: Appia Kwa Bridge (Strut).  I found this record via a review on the Quietus over here where you can see their review.  It’s an Afrobeat record — Taylor is the guitar player and he sports a Chicago sounding chicken scratch sound — thin and propulsive.  Sometimes I’m not up for the super rhythmic beatdown of Afrobeat, and while this is a tight hammering sound it’s not as militant as other Afrobeat recordings I’ve heard.  The second tune retreats into a more laid back spaced out sound intro affirming that there’s more here to hear.  Taylor does the singing and I dig his non-soaring voice as well as the well arranged backing vocals.

I need to check the whole record, but this could go on my best of 2012 list.

@@@ Trembling Bells & Bonnie Prince Billy: The Marble Downs (Honest Jon’s).  I like this label, I’ve really liked some of their releases.  This is a kind of melange of pastoral British rock and folk.  Jethro Tull but not as rockin’ and weirder.  It’s got a kind of midieval hobbit-y thing going.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some tight hosiery worn during the recording of this.  I don’t know if I’m mistaken in my impression that everyone thinks Bonnie Prince Billy is a genius, but I’ve yet to hear a recording by him that makes me feel he’s an extraordinary talent.  I also have yet to hear a Cecil Taylor record that’s blown me away.  Solid B record.

@@@ The Folk: Say it Again (Bandcamp 3 song EP).  I found this band over here at Quick Before it Melts.  Don’t be fooled, this is not folk music.  It’s big shiny power pop behind a dreamy female voice.  As a recording engineer I’m not a big fan of the shiny/compressed/crunchy sonic formula being employed here but I know the white indie hipster folks absolutely love it.  The playing is good and while I’m not connecting with it, you should check it out for yourself.

@@@  Zulu Winter: Language (Arts and Crafts).  Epic ambient rock, think U2 with synthesizers with a Coldplay sounding vocalist.  Highly combed and produced with everything in its place.  If there was more energy and passion to offset the anal retentive arrangements and production I could get with this, but there’s a restraint to this music that limits its emotional wallop.  Everything sounds good and big, but there’s no coloring outside the lines here.

@@@  Vestals: Forever Falling Toward the Sky (Root Strata, 2012).  Found this over here at Olive Music.  It’s a reverbed out female voice over a slowed down Oxycontin tempo band, guitars upfront.  An indie Beach Boys, but not exactly.  I’ve clipped a tune below and the whole record is on Spotify.  These kids are taking their time, and while I dig some of the guitar sounds and textures, I think they need to have some coffee and trim it down a bit.  Just one listener’s opinion.

Active Music Listening Wednesday, June 20, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 365
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 198
Not good music:155
Buys: 12 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Glenn Hansard (review below)

I listened to two Bandcamp recordings that shall remain nameless.

@@@ Prince Henry Stout: Untitled and upcoming.  The singer sounds like Axl Rose with his dick caught in a vice and the guitar player most definitely owns some AC/DC records .  And the hardcore band backing him is tighter than a welldigger’s ass.  I would listen to more of these guys.


@@@ Glenn Hansard: Rhythm and Repose (Epitaph).  This is not the punk rock Epitaph, this is all growed up adult music.  I’m not a huge fan of the confessional songwriter genre, but this guys does it without cheese and  bullshit with just a bit of Van Morrison.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is that he just sings his songs without breathy urgency and overwroughtness.  I can’t help but think this is the record John Mayer was trying to make the last time out, but he’s become too much of a douche to convey real emotions.  The songs work across a range of tempos, but nothing that’s gonna hurt anybody’s feelings, because a lot of feelings have been hurt already

@@@ Seth Walker: Time Can Change (The Royal Potato).  Slow non-shredding but not quite acoustic blues.  Walker has a good voice, not particularly unique but he can stretch out.  I would call these coffee shop blues or the macaroni and cheese comfort blues.  B.

@@@  White Arrows: Dry Land is Not a Myth (Atlantic)  It’s an updated vaguely Tears For Fears kind of thing without the bombasticity of Tears for Fears — it’s not soft rock, but it’s rock that is soft.  I like the guitar sound, and the band has a sliver of quirk woven into them and the singer does a good job of pulling the songs off.  It’s not a formula I’m particularly hot on, but it’s not your expected major label dreck.  B.


No name attached to Bieber review – why? Embarrassing.

Review of Justin Bieber’s new record here.

Luckily, his instincts (or at least the instincts of the small republic of people employed to steer the USS Bieber) are strong, and Believe works surprisingly well as a reinvention and a reintroduction. It’s the rare album that tries to be everything to everyone and largely succeeds.

There is no name on the review — the writer should be proud of that insightful fawning biscuit.

Or the label wrote it and got paid, I mean they published it.

Just another example of high music business ethics.  We here, everybody at, love Bieber’s record (because we’ve been told to like it) so we’re all getting behind it.

Active Music Listening Tuesday, June 19, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 359
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 195
Not good music:151
Buys: 12 (not all 2012 releases)

@@@ Neneh Cherry & The Thing (Smalltown Superjazz).  I bought the Steve Albini produced Thing record.  I don’t find these guys to be the most amazing exploratory players ever, but I sure as shit appreciate the fire and energy they put out.  The sax player has a strong tone and I dig the bass player.  I like this record — it’s loose, has a raucous feel, it pushes.  I’m not sure I would recommend the dropping of the $14 on it I don’t find the Thing’s playing to be endlessly interesting, but it’s a really good record.

@@@ Peaking Lights: Lucifer.  Being marketed as noise pop/dub/lo-fi.  I can get with that.  We’re starting out with a hammered percussive on the first piece. The second piece is called Beautiful Son, and I find it to have more of a New Age vibe than a dub feel.  The third tune, Live Love, confirms that we are entering more of a crystal palace than a blunted weed den.  I don’t feel ripped off, just deceived.  I don’t know who the genius who tried to slap a dub sticker on this badboy, but he needs a bit of a slap.

@@@ Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel… (Sony).  Quirky and not surprisingly very Regina Spektor-esque.  I read a review that called this difficult listening, which I think is more than a bit hyperbolic.  The record is not nearly as dark as marketed — she’s not all shiny and happy, but each of the first two tunes contains a verbal hook.  She’s an above average songwriter, her voice is fine without being overly emotive.  I like the muted drum sound that emerges in songs 4 and 5.  There’s not enough dark energy here to produce the sort of catharsis these recordings can produce.

Try John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band if you would like some dark beauty.

@@@ Justin Bieber: Believe.  He’s Wonder Bread passing himself off as a biscuit.  That’s right it’s a 2012 version of Elvis Presley, although I believe Elvis was indeed much funkier than Justin Bieber.  It’s surreal to hear him conciously try to sound black when he raps on the third tune.    His voice is all right, the production is straight club music lite with very few instruments, the lyrical subjects are well…let’s leave it at that.