2013 Honorable Mention Pick 12

Della Mae: The World Oft Can Be (Rounder, 2013).

A beautiful all female bluegrass/country/folk record from the folks at Rounder.  Outstanding  vocal harmonies, high quality playing by the fiddle, mandolin, and acoustic guitar players.

The record only has one or two super uptempo tunes and the rest are midtempo and a few ballads, including one of my favorite tunes on the record, Pine Tree.

Whoever recorded this band did a really good job — acoustic instruments are not easy to capture, but everything is here and in the right place.  I would have put this record on best of 2013 if the lyrics were more original.  I found myself listening more to the music but I do love great lyrics and will listen to them when they’re sent my way.

This is a cool embedded Youtube video Rounder Records put up.  You can click on each individual tune within the whole record.

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Active Music Listening Friday June 28, 2013

YTD recordings listened to: 478
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 300
Not good music: 136

Honorable Mentions: 13
Buys: 13

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Patterson Hood, Skyzoo,  Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ether Net, Oddisee, Holly Williams, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Orchestra Super Mazembe, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, Inzinzac, Afrolicious, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Joseph Arthur, Melt Yourself Down, Zomby, Mavis Staples, Retox

@@@ Retox: YPLL (Epitaph, 2013).  Their new record, this one, is now up on MOG.  I had previously checked out their previous effort, Ugly Animals, which I enjoyed.  This is not your typical Epitaph punk — these guys really bring it with very little pop mixed in for the kiddies.  A complete package of energy, agitation, and some freshness.  I’m gonna check out the full recording when I’m more in the mood to burn the neighborhood down.  A little reminiscent of Stanford Prison Experiment, a band I highly recommend.

@@@ Wale: The Gifted (MMG/Atlantic)  This hip hopper is getting a mighty push and I’m very suspicious of the quality of the big label hip hop.  The arrangements are more band like than sequencer constructed.  There’s a piano hook in the first tune, The Curse of the Gifted and he sounds like he’s got musician behind him.  Mr. Wale raps in a staccato, breathy manner.  I wish it was less slick r&b and funkier.  Not the worst corporate hip hop I’ve heard.

@@@ Primal Scream: More Light (First International, 2013).  I came to this record via the mid-year record pimpin’ party over at All Music.  It’s some slightly quirky space rock.  Lead singer is stoned and smooth as butter.  The second tune, River of Pain, reaches further back to the early-mid 1970’s for its sonic palette.  Things get more interesting towards the end of that second tune.  I give this a B.

@@@ Burnt Ones: You’ll Never Walk Alone (Burger, 2013).  Another highlighted All Music halfway point record.  Opens up with a droney intro number, Glitter Death, and moves into a joyous garage sounding number, Web.  The guitars are hurting my ears.  They are doing the multiple singer/chorus thing.  It’s a decent sound, but I’m not feeling the tunes.

Active Music Listening Wednesday June 26, 2013

YTD recordings listened to: 470
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 299
Not good music: 134

Honorable Mentions: 13
Buys: 13

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Patterson Hood, Skyzoo,  Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ether Net, Oddisee, Holly Williams, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Orchestra Super Mazembe, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, Inzinzac, Afrolicious, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Joseph Arthur, Melt Yourself Down, Zomby, Mavis Staples

@@@ Mavis Staples: One True Vine (Anti-, 2013).  Off the MOG new release section.  Anti- has the one/two punch of Bettye Lavette and Mavis Staples.  Lavette is more the rockin’ r&b and Staples is more the spiritual black church r&b.  Oh, no, she’s covering Funkadelic’s Can You Get to That?  How hip is that?  Pretty hip. It’s a well made record and I particularly like the acoustic guitar accompanying her.  These are not wailing tunes, they’re more buttoned down.

@@@ Bass Drum of Death: Bass Drum of Death (Innovative Leisure, 2013).   I caught their 2011 effort, GB City, and they’re both decent records.  It’s raucaous guitar/drum garage dirtiness with a bass dream of death.  The record is sizzly as fuck and I hate records that hurt.  I’m sure this is killin’ live, the record is a B (for me).

@@@ The-Drum: Contact (Audraglint, 2013).  Space-tronica from the MOG new release page.  Synthesized human voices, big fat pillowy synth patches and midtempo jeep beats.  I’m not an expert in all genres of beats, but these sound like club/jeep to me.  Solid C+, I like my electronica a bit more abstract, well a lot more abstract actually.

@@@ Wise Blood: Id (Dovecote, 2013).  A live indie/adult alternative record from the MOG new release section.  The music has an interesting hip hop thread running through it — the beats are kind of loop sounding, the singer doesn’t straight up rap but he works in a limited range that is very hip hop.  However, the record is very bright/treby, the tunes are all right — nothing most people need to run out and check out.

Active Music Listening Thursday June 27, 2013

YTD recordings listened to: 474
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 299
Not good music: 134

Honorable Mentions: 13
Buys: 13

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Patterson Hood, Skyzoo,  Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ether Net, Oddisee, Holly Williams, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Orchestra Super Mazembe, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, Inzinzac, Afrolicious, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Joseph Arthur, Melt Yourself Down, Zomby, Mavis Staples

@@@ Femi Kuti: No Place For My Dream (Knitting Factory, 2013).  I bought Shoki Shoki in 1999 and didn’t like it, so I have stayed away from his music.  The title track, Nothing to Show for It, is traditional Afrobeat.  A tight band, big horn lines, political lyrics.  The second tune ‘The World is Changing’ continues in the same manner.  I want to like this music but I don’t see why I shouldn’t just spin my Fela records.  I’m sure he throws an insanely great live show but this record isn’t workin’ for me.

@@@  Palms: Palms (Ipecac, 2013).  Another MOG new release record.  Has a 1980’s arena rock sound with a teeny bit of prog thrown in.  This is very smooth space rock, maybe a shout out to Pink Floyd.  Not horrible, not making me jump up and down.

@@@ Bosnian Rainbows: Bosnian Rainbows (Sargent House, 2013). An indie rock/electronica record.  I would put the rock/electronica ration at 75/25.  Sounds more than a bit like Rush, those libertarian bastards.  They get less Rush-y in the second tune, Worthless so maybe they were just trying that sound on for size.

@@@ Overkill: The Electric Age (eOne, 2013).  Their new record is a staff pick over at All Music, but this record is up on the MOG.  This is old school metal with more modern sounding production.  High octane rock with an aggressive singer that you can understand the lyrics, a string bass, and your classic kick drum sound.  One part Scorpions, one part Iron Maiden.

Active Music Listening Monday June 24, 2013

YTD recordings listened to: 466
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 297
Not good music: 133

Honorable Mentions: 13
Buys: 13

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Patterson Hood, Skyzoo,  Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ether Net, Oddisee, Holly Williams, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Orchestra Super Mazembe, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, Inzinzac, Afrolicious, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Joseph Arthur, Melt Yourself Down, Zomby

@@@ Les Boukakes: Marra (Mimouna Productions, 2008)  I could not find the new record by these guys in my MOG store, but this 2008 record is up there.  I found these guys via the WRIR weekly playlist email.  These guys are a true melting pot of influences – North African music, punk rock, dub, etc.  I prefer Cheb Khaled’s music to this, but this is some pretty adventurous and hard hitting music.

@@@ Empire of the Sun: Ice on the Dune (Astralwerks, 2013)  From the MOG new release section.  Space age, sci-fi, Asian influenced pop electronica?  Yup, you guessed it.  This is some lush, cheesy ass club music.  This is the kind of music you find cranked at the Gap while the teens are buying blue jeans.  I dig the vocal hook in the third tune ‘Alive’ but otherwise this isn’t really my cup of tea.  Wow, 4+ million hits on this tune clipped below.  That’s a buttload of blue jeans.

@@@ Spectrals: Sob Story (Slumberland, 2013).  With a singer doin his best to resurrect the spirit of late 1970’s Elvis Costello, at least in tone.  Guitar base indie rock, with some shiny arpeggiated melodic lines and a straight forward rhythm section.  Pretty, but I love Elvis Costello’s edge.  Sounds good, performed well, I just wanted a couple teaspoons of the nasty chucked in there.

@@@ Drug Honkey: Ghost in the Fire (Diabolical, 2012).  Their new record is one of Aquarius Records’ records of the week, but this 2012 effort is up on MOG.  This is some sizzled out psycho-sludge metal.  Delays on the voice, big caveman drums and poked with needles guitar.  The second tune, the title track, is opening up more slowly.  I’m not sure if this is music for stoned out fuckers or for Satanists (or for both!) but it’s pretty heavy.

Why would the New York Times run Press Play?

The blurb from the New York Times:

Press Play is the place where The New York Times debuts noteworthy new music. Every week, we present tracks from an upcoming new album. Listen to them here exclusively.

The combination of the New York Times brand the use of the word noteworthy might make a listener think the New York Times thinks this is really great music.

I think they don’t really have a strong opinion about this music because they have not written a word or devoted any energy in doing any music journalism regarding this record.

I think the New York Times is renting their logo and their servers to give this record/band/label/PR person credibility.  I bet they got loot to do this.

Check it for yourself here and draw your own conclusions.

2013 Honorable Mention Pick 13

Maurizio Minardi: The Cook The Clown The Monk and the Accordionist (Belfagor Label, 2013)

I’m prejudiced towards the accordion — I think it’s a cool instrument.  If you don’t like accordion music you probably won’t dig this record.

The instrumentation here is accordion, piano, violin, bass and drums.  I would say the energy on this record is high but not manic.  It’s melodic as you would expect from this instrumenation, but it’s not a straight jazz record.  The group sounds like they’re playing tunes, but there are sections that change the tunes that really engage the listener.

There are gypsy music strains woven into this record, there are cartoon/movie soundtrack  sounding tunes, and there are just pretty ass tunes like Five is Better than Four.

Here’s a live version of the tune I just namechecked, Five is Better than Four.