Active Music Listening Friday February 28, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 163
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 110
Not good music: 47

Honorable Mentions: 0
Buys: 0

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Defeater, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega, Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Okkyung Lee, Tiger Hatchery, Xiu Xiu, The Ballantynes, Debruit and Aljawal, Slidhr, Temples, The Whammies

@@@ Alsaharah: Soukoura EP (Wonderwheel, 2014).  A world music record I found via the WRIR weelky email.   From the WRIR blurb the singer has studied in the U.S. and she plays with an Armenian oud player and musicians from other countries in the Middle East.  There are influences in addition to Middle Eastern influences, sections where the bass player scats along with some fairly badass melodic bass playing, pop music background vocals and some slight electro-club influence.  To my ears this record is trying to be its own thing while not being one thing.   This is an EP with a bunch of remixes while the main release that was reviewed on WRIR is called  Silt, also on Wonderwheel records.  I’d like to hear more from the full non-remix record but it’s not on my streaming store.

@@@ Neneh Cherry: Blank Project (Smalltown Superjazz, 2014).  A semi-out popular music outing from free jazz legend Don Cherry’s daughter.  The second tune, the title track is an electro-hippie kind of thing — well tracked drums, a big bouncing synth patch and Cherry’s heavy lyrics, which I wish I could connect with better.  I think the reference for this record is late 1980’s Prince records like Sign O the Times without guitar playing and with more downer lyrics.  I wanted to like this more.

@@@ Bleeding Rainbow: Interrupt (Kanine, 2014).  Female fronted power chord rock with synth touches.  I got to this record the All Music weekly email.  Think Foo Fighters redux — very high energy mainstream rock.  Maybe it will move you.  I guess the most interesting thing about this band is how they switch from a female singer to a male singer and back again.  The band remains the same regardless of singer, for better or for worse.

 

 

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Active Music Listening Thursday February 27, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 160
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 108
Not good music: 46

Honorable Mentions: 0
Buys: 0

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Defeater, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega, Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Okkyung Lee, Tiger Hatchery, Xiu Xiu, The Ballantynes, Debruit and Aljawal, Slidhr, Temples, The Whammies

@@@ Trainwreck Architect: Traits of the Sick (Self-released, 2013).  Off the CFUV weekly playlist.  I always pushed the self-released records up to the top.  These guys start out with a proggy, quiet shreddy intro on the tune Comatose Era.  I predict this is going to melt down at some point.  Big, classic metal guitar player — these guys refer back to the classics.  The second tune, The Culprit, is a classic metal rocker.  I guess if all the hipsters are bringing back the synth rock bullshit, it was just a matter of time before someone looked past the hairspray cans and brought back the ’80s metal.  Check these guys out.

@@@ Maurica ‘Mobetta’ Brown: Maurice vs. Mobetta (Brown Records, 2013).  Off the CFUV weekly email.  Almost drum ‘n bass beats with a nu school r&b bass line and rapper that has had a lot of coffee.  After a bit with this record it’s not a pure hip hop record, it’s a hip hop/nu r&b record.  It’s an interesting blend of synthesized sounds and playing.  Overall a pretty fresh arrangement.   I’m not a slick r&b guy, but check it out.

@@@ Nishta Raj: Exit (Not sure, 2014)  A hybrid world music record I got to via music publicist.  I’ve clipped the track I’ve heard that has the hook which is carnatic classical Indian violin with a human beat box.  Other snippets I checked out had a saxophone, and one a piano as well.  I like her playing, I’ve heard more passionate players but she’s not trying to solely be a classical Indian artist.  There’s a bunch of variety and different contexts in which she plays — I wanted more with the beat box I thought that was the most interesting.  Check it out.

Active Music Listening Wednesday February 26, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 157
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 106
Not good music: 45

Honorable Mentions: 0
Buys: 0

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Defeater, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega, Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Okkyung Lee, Tiger Hatchery, Xiu Xiu, The Ballantynes, Debruit and Aljawal, Slidhr, Temples, The Whammies

@@@ The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 2 (Driff, 2013).  Another improvised/jazz record off the WNUR best of 2013 list here.  These guys are from the Midwest and they play Steve Lacy tunes in a variety of different moods.  Some quiet and ambient, some raucous, and pretty much always interesting.  The instrumentation in addition to horns is varied — electric guitar, electric bass, piano, accordion.  It’s a pretty far ranging album both in playing and instrumentation.  This will probably end up as an honorable mention when I get a chance to listen to the whole record.  This clip is from their first record of Steve Lacy music.

@@@ Beck: Morning Phase (Capitol, 2014).  This is a big record this week and everybody is comparing it to Sea Change, which is my favorite Beck record.  While I understand the comparisons I found Sea Change to be a sadder record than this and this is more like Beck’s lush Pink Floyd effort.  The songs really space you out — lots of big reverbs, some phased out sounds and washes of sound behind the stacked vocals.  I thought the songs got a less interesting towards the middle of the record and the production got a little tiresome when I didn’t feel the tunes transcended.

@@@ Schoolboy Q: Oxymoron (Top Dawg/Interscope, 2014).  Off the All Music weekly email I’m a bit surprised that a record marketed as left field hip hop opens up with a tune called Gangsta.  I thought left field hip hop as a genre is defined by the absence of gangster culture so once again we have an industry unable to label their products truthfully.  I like Mr. Q’s bouncy flow, he sounds a bit like Eminem but in a lower register, and while I dig the arrangements, his ignorant lyrics trump his positive skills and I flush him down the toilet.

 

@@@ St. Vincent: St. Vincent (Loma Vista, 2014).  Another big release this week.  I struggle with this type of musician.  She really is a female version of David Byrne of the Talking Heads, who she collaborated with a couple of years ago.  I hear the hipster pose, the slight funkiness, but it doesn’t work for me.  I’d rather listen to old Prince records that are way more funky and lyrically more interesting.  I guess I’m not white enough for St. Vincent.

Active Music Listening Tuesday February 24, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 153
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 105
Not good music: 44

Honorable Mentions: 0
Buys: 0

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Andrew Cedermark, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Defeater, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega, Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Okkyung Lee, Tiger Hatchery, Xiu Xiu, The Ballantynes, Debruit and Aljawal, Slidhr, Temples

@@@ East India Youth: Total Strife Forever (Stolen Recordings, 2014) This band is listed multiple times by Quietus writers as one of the best of 2013.  They are an electronic band.  The first tune, Glitter Recession, is an ass pile of synthesizers with a slow lower register piano melody underneath.  The second tune, Total Strife Forever I, is also beatless with echoing synthesizers and not a whole lot going on.  I’m not sure I’m seeing the year end/best of year quality but check for yourself.  Oh wait, here come the drums!  And more synthesizers!  And metallic squirggles! And I’m still ambivalent!!  There are some high minded vocals in the third tune and I still don’t get it.

@@@ Ches Smith & The Arches: Hammered (Clean Feed, 2013).  I saw this record listed on WNUR’s (Chicago!) best improv records of 2013.  It’s a dual horn attack with electric guitar, electric bass, accordion and drums.  I hear hints of klezmer, prog rock, Ornette Coleman, Frank Zappa, and improvisation..  The energy is high and to my ear it sounds like a half composed/half improvised record.  I don’t mean half composed to imply halfway or not well composed.  There are some really crazy, almost circus music sections that I really enjoyed.  B+.

@@@ Solids: Blame Confusion (Fat Possum, 2014).  Slotted as lo-fi on my All Music weekly email, it doesn’t sound very lo fi to me.  Not that I care whether it’s lo fi or not, but how can you trust an industry that is unable/unwilling to label their products truthfully.  Very stylish shitstorm of dirty guitar ala Sonic Youth.  Singer has a bit of that detached Jane’s Addiction vibe to him.  Not a bad first tune.  Also traces of earlier You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead.   Not the most original songs or sounds, but the energy is high and it’s satisfying for that reason.

@@@ Lydia Loveless: Somewhere Else (Bloodshot, 2014).  Some roots rock I found via the All Music weekly email.  Think of a revved up Lucinda Williams with some crunchy guitars but still slackness in the vocals.  Loveless has more of a rock ‘n roll edge than Lucinda Williams.  Tempos are higher, there are some rock riffs tucked in there with the slide guitar and she sings a bit like a rock singer.  It’s a solid record — well done but not blowing me away.  Maybe listeners out there will check it out and find it awesome.

 

Active Music Listening Monday February 24, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 149
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 101
Not good music: 44

Honorable Mentions: 0
Buys: 0

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Andrew Cedermark, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Defeater, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega, Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Okkyung Lee, Tiger Hatchery, Xiu Xiu, The Ballantynes, Debruit and Aljawal, Slidhr, Temples

@@@ Family Fodder: Monkey Banana Kitchen (Staubgold, 2014).  A reissue that I found via the Aquarius Records weekly email.   I would peg these guys as a hybrid of Frank Zappa and Devo.  Surreal lyrics, melodically strange over a somewhat mechanical krautrock rhythm section.  Oh no, they just went into a pretty fat dub breakdown.  Not roots per se in the guitar sense, but fat bass and some delays.  This is a pretty creative musical formula with the mashing of the nerd/dub lifestyles if you can get your head around it.

@@@ Helms Alee: Sleepwalking Sailor (Sargent House, 2014).  A indie mainstream rock record I found on the CFUV weekly playlist.  Has a wee bit of Eddie Vedder/Jane’s Addiction epic-ness in the singer’s voice.  Big fuzzy bass over arena rock/double kick metal drum sound.  The second tune introduces a female voice and more guitar shredding but the formula remains in place — to my ears this record is aimed straight at the heart of the alienated suburban crowd and maybe a schmear of Williamsburg doofus hipsters.

@@@ Step Brothers: Lord Steppington (Rhymesayers, 2014).  Hip hop off the CFUV weekly email.  Beats are pretty slick without being space age, monster bass line in the opener More Wins, and two rappers on the microphone.  They’re serious without being straight up gangster — I like the Dire Straits vocal hook in the second tune, Dr. Kimble.

@@@ Sousou & Maher Cissoko: Africa Maa Baalu (ARC, 2014).  Super pretty and laidback African music off the WRIR weekly email.  Instrumentation is kora, guitar, bass, and percussion.  I can appreciate the tricked out kora playing but the overall softness is not for me.

 

Active Music Listening Saturday February 22, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 145
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 97
Not good music: 44

Honorable Mentions: 0
Buys: 0

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Andrew Cedermark, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Defeater, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega, Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Okkyung Lee, Tiger Hatchery, Xiu Xiu, The Ballantynes, Debruit and Aljawal, Slidhr, Temples

@@@ Death Sky, Soft Eye: Gleemer (Not sure, 2013).  I’m going straight up to the #2 pick on the Gold Flake Paint best of 2013 list because the lower picks have been softer than butter and maybe he rolls differently towards the top of his list.  Oh my, I must be a mind reader.  We’re not talking Converge here, but there’s a bit more spine to this record — just way too many feelings on some of his lower picks.  Or too many of the feelings I don’t want to hear about.  The listener is treated to a space/shoegaze sound — dreamy, My Morning Jacket style vocals and a general bigness to the proceedings.  What is that, a power chord I hear?  The mouse has dropped on the second tune, and I think my hopes have been raised only to be smashed on the rocks of electronics and 1980’s chorused guitars.  Why do they play with my heart like this?  Rock a little and then just point the car straight out into the New Wave cheese wetlands.  Why do I allow myself to get hurt like this?  Just one more tune, I swear.  Electric piano and phasey vocals and a generous dollop of nostalgia and feelings.  Meh.

@@@ Frog: Frog (Not sure/Bandcamp, 2013).  This is it, I’m almost over you Gold Flake Paint duder.  We open up with some arpeggiated guitar and a roots rock sort of hillbilly vibe with more than a dash of space reverb on the voice so we may be looking at some psych garage in future tunes.  These gents are getting worked up and are shoutin’ and stompin’ like Brooklyn rednecks out on the stoop.  Upon closer listening there’s a pretty interesting blend of band influences — a little Velvet Underground, a tablespoon of Pavement, and various alt-country outfits.  I’ve decided this is the best record of what I’ve listened to off Gold Flake Paint.  Solid B+ which is a pretty good grade from me as I’m not a great fan of the indie sound these days.

@@@ Psicomagia: s/t (El Paraiso, 2013).  Some prog-ness off of Aquarius Records’ weekly email.  My generic feeling about many prog bands is that subconciously they’re trying to play jazz but they can’t so it’s a one dimensional exploration of sound.  They want to get their freak on, but much like a middle aged dude that’s eaten too much chicken and can no longer get fully erect, it’s half a hard on.  I like the energy of this band, the drummer is really pulling his weight, but much of the first tune is recylced late ’60s/early ’70s out rock/fusion.  C’mon, if you’re gonna get yer freak on, then go ahead and go full freak.  Buy some Sun Ra records and listen.  The drummer is killing it and I do appreciate the Afrobeat tinges that have been slipped in here, but I wanted more.

Best of 2013 Pick 17

Modern Life is War: Fever Hunting (Deathwish, 2013)

*** THIS DIDN”T GET POSTED IN 2013 — BETTER LATE THAN NEVER.

Strong players at all positions — great driving drummer, excellent guitar player and singer.
Shades of Fugazi in that they’re trying to say something and play with a sense of urgency.

The songs have sections that keep things moving.
The band, also like Fugazi, has some swing to it.

Burns all the way through with rippin’ tracks like Cracked Sidewalk Surfer at the second to last on the record.

Excellent band, hip songs, great energy.