09 December 2009

B l o n d e R e d h e a d - M e l o d y o f C e r t a i n D a m a g e d L e m o n s (2000)

From allmusic (4/5):

"For a record produced by Guy Picciotto (Fugazi, Rites of Spring), Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons is a surprisingly quiet affair. Rarely do the cuts on Blonde Redhead's 2000 release get much louder than an electric guitar. With their fifth record, Blonde Redhead finally emerges from the shadows of Sonic Youth's post-punk legacy by avoiding the expected detunings, distortions, and shrillness of the genre. The three-piece manages to create a record that is subtle, tuneful, and sublime. On "Loved Despite of Great Faults," instrumentation mainly consists of acoustic guitar, piano, and percussion rather than an assault of power chords, yet the mood of the song is just as effective. While the record may be quieter, it still manages to move in several different directions. "This Is Not" tips its hat to Ric Ocasek with a new wave-inspired piece while the opening cut, "Equally Damaged," and "Ballad of Lemons" suggest an influence from Danny Elfman. Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons may not accurately reflect the full body of Blonde Redhead's work, yet it presents an easy place to start."

Get it here.

06 December 2009

Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson (1971)

From allmusic (4.5/5):

"You don't need to speak a word of French to understand Histoire de Melody Nelson — one needs only to look at the front cover (with its nearly pornographic portrait of a half-naked nymphet clutching a rag doll) or hear the lechery virtually dripping from Serge Gainsbourg's sleazily seductive voice to realize that this is the record your mother always warned you about, a masterpiece of perversion and corruption. A concept record exploring the story of — and Gainsbourg's lust for — the titular teen heroine, Histoire de Melody Nelson is arguably his most coherent and perfectly realized studio album, with the lush arrangements which characterize the majority of his work often mixed here with funky rhythm lines which underscore the musky allure of the music. Perhaps best described as a dirty old bastard's attempt to make his own R&B love-man's record along the lines of a Let's Get It On (itself still two years away from release), it's by turns fascinating and repellent, hilarious and grim, but never dull — which, in Gainsbourg's world, would be the ultimate (and quite possibly the only) sin."

Get it here.

Serge Gainsbourg - N°2 (1959)
Serge Gainsbourg - L'étonnant Serge Gainsbourg (1961)
Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg (1969)
Serge Gainsbourg - L'Homme à Tête de Chou (1976)

04 December 2009

David Bowie Megapost (1976-1979)

God, what artist/band can ever compare to Bowie's creative output in the 70s?

Station to Station (1976)

From allmusic (4.5/5):

"Taking the detached plastic soul of Young Americans to an elegant, robotic extreme, Station to Station is a transitional album that creates its own distinctive style. Abandoning any pretense of being a soulman, yet keeping rhythmic elements of soul, David Bowie positions himself as a cold, clinical crooner and explores a variety of styles. Everything from epic ballads and disco to synthesized avant pop is present on Station to Station, but what ties it together is Bowie's cocaine-induced paranoia and detached musical persona. At its heart, Station to Station is an avant-garde art-rock album, most explicitly on "TVC 15" and the epic sprawl of the title track, but also on the cool crooning of "Wild Is the Wind" and "Word on a Wing," as well as the disco stylings of "Golden Years." It's not an easy album to warm to, but its epic structure and clinical sound were an impressive, individualistic achievement, as well as a style that would prove enormously influential on post-punk."

Get it here.

Low (1977)

From allmusic (5/5):

"Following through with the avant-garde inclinations of Station to Station, yet explicitly breaking with David Bowie's past, Low is a dense, challenging album that confirmed his place at rock's cutting edge. Driven by dissonant synthesizers and electronics, Low is divided between brief, angular songs and atmospheric instrumentals. Throughout the record's first half, the guitars are jagged and the synthesizers drone with a menacing robotic pulse, while Bowie's vocals are unnaturally layered and overdubbed. During the instrumental half, the electronics turn cool, which is a relief after the intensity of the preceding avant pop. Half the credit for Low's success goes to Brian Eno, who explored similar ambient territory on his own releases. Eno functioned as a conduit for Bowie's ideas, and in turn Bowie made the experimentalism of not only Eno but of the German synth group Kraftwerk and the post-punk group Wire respectable, if not quite mainstream. Though a handful of the vocal pieces on Low are accessible — "Sound and Vision" has a shimmering guitar hook, and "Be My Wife" subverts soul structure in a surprisingly catchy fashion — the record is defiantly experimental and dense with detail, providing a new direction for the avant-garde in rock & roll."

Get it here.

"Heroes" (1977)

From allmusic (5/5):

"Repeating the formula of Low's half-vocal/half-instrumental structure, Heroes develops and strengthens the sonic innovations David Bowie and Brian Eno explored on their first collaboration. The vocal songs are fuller, boasting harder rhythms and deeper layers of sound. Much of the harder-edged sound of Heroes is due to Robert Fripp's guitar, which provides a muscular foundation for the electronics, especially on the relatively conventional rock songs. Similarly, the instrumentals on Heroes are more detailed, this time showing a more explicit debt to German synth pop and European experimental rock. Essentially, the difference between Low and Heroes lies in the details, but the record is equally challenging and groundbreaking."

Get it here.

Lodger (1979)

From allmusic (4.5/5):

"On the surface, Lodger is the most accessible of the three Berlin-era records David Bowie made with Brian Eno, simply because there are no instrumentals and there are a handful of concise pop songs. Nevertheless, Lodger is still gnarled and twisted avant pop; what makes it different is how it incorporates such experimental tendencies into genuine songs, something that Low and Heroes purposely avoided. "D.J.," "Look Back in Anger," and "Boys Keep Swinging" have strong melodic hooks that are subverted and strengthened by the layered, dissonant productions, while the remainder of the record is divided between similarly effective avant pop and ambient instrumentals. Lodger has an edgier, more minimalistic bent than its two predecessors, which makes it more accessible for rock fans, as well as giving it a more immediate, emotional impact. It might not stretch the boundaries of rock like Low and Heroes, but it arguably utilizes those ideas in a more effective fashion."

Get it here.

26 November 2009

V a n S h e - EP (2005) & V (2008)

Brian B's review on Amazon (5/5):

"Like fellow Aussie Dance Rockers Cut Copy, Van She craft their full-bodied rock-dance sound to maximum effect on their debut self-titled EP. VS was released on the rising Aussie dance label Modular, which is also home to Cut Copy, The Presets and New Young Pony Club. Van She lean more towards the rock side of the spectrum while utilizing synths and a sequencer. However, their songs are a dance-rock hybrid that sizzle and pop with club energy, and new wave influence. "Kelly" was the first single released. Very much reminescent of 80's dance pop, with synth-driven melody, and poppy lyrics, this sounds like something M83 might put out. The second single -"Sex City" is a dark, driving dancefloor standout that pulses with heavy dance beats and flashy synths, packing an incredible punch. "Survive" is another solid song that flirts with rock song conventions before veering off into glittery, dancefloor territory. The instrumental reprise of Kelly feels like an interlude. "Here With You" surges with floating layers of electronica and echoing vocals; this is a great conterpoint to their other songs, adding variety to their solid contribution. Van She show amazing potential on their debut EP."

David James Young's review on SputnikMusic (3.5/5):

"If you’ve ever seen a picture of Australian band Van She, you’ll appreciate the difficulty of actually taking them seriously. Decked out in the kind of clothes even Rick Astley would have cringed at in his heyday, they pushed this even further on their debut EP, a ghastly tribute to Countdown glory days where the only thing cheesier than the synth lines were the lyrics themselves.
Three years after that, however, it’s an almost entirely different story. They are still undeniably fashion victims, yet the music has taken a significantly sharp turn in the right direction. V is energetic, ambitious and versatile; a snapshot of, and subsequent soundtrack to, Australian city nightlife. You will certainly enter the record doubtful, but the band makes every effort to keep you entertained throughout the 45 minutes you spend with them.

It is hard to pin down Van She to a certain sound on V. Some elements to each of the songs are consistent throughout. Vocalist Nick Routledge’s breezy pop harmonies immediately come to mind; so too does the confident, distinctive backbeat, provided by drummer Tomek Archer. The musical environments that said elements are surrounded by, however, vary significantly throughout. The layered, dynamic build-ups of lead single “Cat and the Eye” and closing number “A Sharp Knife” find the band at their catchiest, with assertive big hooks and a near-perfect mix of both natural and synthesized sounds.
V juxtaposes this with straightforward rollicking grooves, such as the spaced-out funk of “It Could Be the Same” and the buzzing alternative rock of album highlight “The Sea”, packed with an impressive drum beat and distorted electro guitar. “Virgin Suicide” provides further contrast from its peers on the record by stripping the sound back to lush acoustic guitar and a dreamy shoegaze backdrop- in turn proving to be one of the stronger cuts from the album.
Even when the band’s past comes to haunt them in the form of their first-ever single “Kelly” from back in 2005, the band flesh out the song in a very stylish re-recording that is just as retro-sounding as before, yet does not sound as forced and artificial as it once did. It’s certainly miles away from the song that Phil Jamieson of Grinspoon once described as “the one song I never want to hear again”.

Perhaps it is not the variety of sounds that are found on V that are its best asset, but how well Van She pull it all off. Given, the songs are at times a little too refined and tightly structured, occasionally restricting the band from going the distance. However, when the band present you with a potential hit (“Cat and the Eye”, “Strangers” and “Changes”), the charm and appeal of them is practically irresistible. Despite a few average tracks along the way (the irritating filler of “Temps Mort” and the lagging Tears for Fears tribute “Sunbeams”), some below average lyricism (Both apple and orange juice are mentioned somewhere in “Changes”) and the keyboards occasionally going into overkill (granted they’re a synth-pop band, but it wouldn’t kill them to have the guitar up a little louder), the band don’t drop the ball once here.

There appears to be new-found purpose to what Van She are doing. With a handful of high-octane numbers that could well garner a new legion of fans, Van She are out to impress and prove all of their past critics wrong. Many bands are afraid to make the next step into trying new things and fulfilling their potential as musicians and songwriters. V, however, is the sound of a band that is willing to take that step.

Hurry up and get both here while you can.

20 November 2009

Blue Sky Black Death - Late Night Cinema (2008)

Tyler Fisher's review on SputnikMusic (4.5/5):

Instrumental hip-hop, a form of hip-hop that almost goes against the very basis of the genre (in essence, rhythmic poetry), makes the artist's job both harder and easier to create a timeless album in the realm of hip-hop. While the instrumental nature of the music allows for music much more melodic, it often completely leaves the hip-hop category without the correct beats, labeled better simply as electronica. Blue Sky Black Death's Late Night Cinema, the first album for the production duo to not feature any emcees throughout the album, strikes the balance between the necessary melodicism and hip-hop beats perfectly, making a stunning and enthralling album from start to finish.

With this balance, many will mark the album's primary influence as Endtroducing..., but besides both albums' incredible melodic composition, these albums have little in common. Beneath that veneer, Late Night Cinema breathes much more as a whole rather than a collection of samples – largely because many of the parts on the album were recorded live. Instead of a plunderphonic album, Blue Sky Black Death, comprised of producers Kingston and Young God, composed a true musical entity with violinists, vocalists, trumpeters, and keyboardists adding their contributions while still keeping it in the vein of hip-hop.

In terms of production, the album has that decidedly hip-hop feel, a groove completely different from neo-classical electronica, a realm that the album's melodic content takes much inspiration from. For example, the breakbeats in “My Work Will Be Done” envision an ensemble where Venetian Snares provides the background accompaniment rather than the main material. Throughout the whole album, hip-hop cliches are abound in the beats – from the actual drum sounds to the rhythm of the grooves to the fills that transition between parts. Even some of the synth melodies, such as the ones that begin “Forgive Me”, recall modern hip-hop.

What really makes Late Night Cinema stand out, however, is the way these two aspects blend for an incredible, enveloping sound that even Endtroducing... could not accomplish for more than a few tracks. The album is dense and packed with material, which is both its greatest strength and its greatest (perhaps only) flaw – at some points the listener doesn't know where to listen. Kingston and Young God know exactly where they stand, however, and each song has enough natural harmonic motion to complete itself, a remarkable feat especially for the lengthier cuts in the beginning of the album. They almost always return to a main theme and link everything together masterfully. Opener “The Era When We Sang” achieves all of this brilliantly, reaching a climax that is capitalized by a catchy trumpet melody that brings a new sense of regality to the sound with its fanfare-like rhythm. Where “The Era When We Sang” delivers its progression harmonically, “A Private Death” does so rhythmically, progressively becoming more intense with more breakbeats and rapid bass drum kicks. The frenetic string sample, which provides the song's main melodic theme, helps advance this nature in the melodic spectrum.

On first glance, it may seem that the duo placed their longest, strongest songs at the beginning of the album to give a powerful first impression that wows the listener until the album's end, thus hiding some of its flaws in the lesser tracks. And after “A Private Death”, it seems impossible that the album will continue its road of excellence. While nothing bests the first four songs (also the four longest), the album suffers from no major drop in quality. “Listen Child” offers relative repose from the constant swirling of melodic material with a simpler format, though still very evolved in comparison to other artists. “Different Hours” uses all its different sounds brilliantly, from the soaring violin to the constant undercurrent of the organ chords, perhaps the most soulful song on the album. Moment for moment, the album never falters, but what makes songs like “The Era When We Sang” and “Ghosts Among Men” stand out is the scope of the composition, the way it weaves so many threads together and remains cohesive.

Those threads extend to tie together the entire album, as it all falls inside an umbrella sound that makes Blue Sky Black Death unlike any other artist around right now. Their combined melodicism and appreciation for hip-hop cliché make an album at first accessible and still worth listen after listen after listen. And, for once, I find myself not going back to Endtroducing... to get this album, but better. Late Night Cinema is a beast of its own kind. While they have detailed their future as one of collabaroations with emcees, something they have done twice in the past with Wu-Tang affiliates Holocaust (Warcloud) and Razah, this is a duo that can stand on their own two feet and are best when not suppressed."

bmlarson's review on Rate Your Music (4.5/5):

"What BSBD have accomplished here is so much bigger than an instrumental hip-hop album. It's some kind of post-rock electro-hop frankenstein that is indescribably, paralyzingly beautiful. Throughout the 11 tracks, I heard shades of Shadow and Blockhead sure, but also Burial, M83, Godspeed!, Diplo, and Explosions in the Sky. It's that dense, that diverse, and that epic.

Every layer, every bar seems crafted in a way that reaches IDM-like levels of OCD and perfectionism - the architecture of each piece expansive yet balanced. Listening to where songs like "The Era When We Sang" and "Forgive Me" begin compared to where they end is amazing - NO other hip-hop producers have that kind of confidence in their ability to shift the mood within a track...absolutely groundbreaking. Luxurious in its sonic depth but rewarding in its compositional complexity, this is the music I would make if I was a lot better at making music. It is simultaneously the most organic and the most sophisticated hip-hop album I've ever heard, and I cannot recommend it highly enough"

Get it here.

Katy Perry - MTV Unplugged (2009)

Before I start getting heckled, I just had to clarify that, yes this is Katy Perry, and that her unplugged was brilliant. I am speaking on a completely objective basis (although I fucking love her as a pop star anyways), but this performance affirms my belief that Katy Perry is a decent singer-songwriter, and more importantly, a musician. First off, I absolutely loved the way how all her soulless mega pop hit songs are arranged in an intimate acoustic manner. Everything seems to be on point, the guitar, the bass, the drums, to a certain extent; it is a very professional yet raw sound. I believe that presentation is everything in music, and Katy Perry presents 7 songs, and they are an extremely enjoyable listen. “I Kissed a Girl” jazz style never sounded so damn good.

Another important thing was her voice. I feel as if Katy Perry has finally found her place, as her voice sounds absolutely fantastic in this small intimate setting. So don’t give me that bullshit that she can’t sing, because she sounds soulful.

Either way, if she could move her career to doing shows like these, I’d be down.

Stream Katy Perry’s Unplugged performance


Get it here

18 November 2009

Tarwater - Animals, Suns & Atoms (2000)

An album with sentimental value if anything. I remember buying this album high with my friend Nick and Steve, my friend/ other writer on this blog. It was tossed in among the other shitty used CD’s that haven’t seen the light of day. Anyways we played this and took a cruise around town, and to say the least, it’s a very decent album. The sound is mellow, and very reminiscent of The Notwist, and Department of Eagles, and maybe, just maybe a small pinch of Portishead with the use of samples and/or sampling, repeating motifs within songs . In case you haven’t heard of Tarwater (Which I wouldn’t be surprised), they are a German duo who play post rock music.It may sound a bit dated because of the types of sounds the German duo uses at times but nevertheless, it’s a decent album for smoking if anything. Calm, smooth, relaxing listen.

Get it Here

16 November 2009

Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg (1969)

nlm1984's review on RYM (4.5/5):

"As I was playing this album just last night, my mother asked me the name of the title track, the first cut. I told her "Je t'aime... Moi, Non Plus" or, loosely translated, "I Love You... Nor Do I." She gave me the crook eye and asked, "Wasn't that a banned song?!" "Why yes, it was," I replied. That song raised the ire of The Vatican. Well, I must say that my mother surprised me. I had no clue she knew one Gainsbourg song.

Now, to the album itself. As the majority of this album was recorded a Londres, it carries an aire of its time. It's very charming!

The classic title track: Fantastic arrangement for being a C-F-G chord song. I, personally, love the organ and string arrangement. His version with Bridgitte Bardot is all the more better, as it's mix is re-structured with the orchestra in the fore. "Je vais et je viens/ entre te riens" I go and I come/ between your kidneys.

Speaking of organs, L'anamour or Non-love, features some of the best sounding Hammond B-3 organ ever recorded.

The guitar on this album is nice an clean, manipulated only on occasion by a stray wah-wah peddle. This effect is found in the precious Orang-Outan. J'aime ma poupeé orang-outan! En anglais, I love my toy monkey. This monkey is featured on the album cover of L'histoire de Melody Nelson. This monkey is also one of the sources of Jane's tears in the song Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'en Vais from 1973.

Soixent-neuf, Anneé Erotique is another stand-out. '69 the erotic year. Serge always loved his play of words. Just use your imagination as to what that means. This cut also features a delightful arrangement; bass-driven, orchestra, vibes, peddled-out piano.

Les Sucettes, features a very English arrangement. Written for France Gall in '65, Serge reclaims this suggestive work. Great!

This album is a masterpiece. This is an album that should be owned by everyone, yet thankfully isn't. If you can appreciate this, consider yourself lucky."

Get it here.

Serge Gainsbourg - N°2 (1959)
Serge Gainsbourg - L'étonnant Serge Gainsbourg (1961)
Serge Gainsbourg - L'Homme à Tête de Chou (1976)

11 November 2009

The Antlers - Hospice (2009)

This album has been poping up everywhere from Pitchfork to Blogs, and I am not really into hipster bullshit, but this album lives up to the hype its been getting. The album is about a true story about the lead singer's daughter dying of bone cancer. Its an incredibly sad album, in the sense that every lyric has meaning. The way they blend this story together with the music is heartbreaking, and if you don't feel anything listening to this....you may not have a heart. Nevertheless, every good album should touch you on an emotional level and the antlers did it with Hospice. No Hype, all good.

03 November 2009

Deltron 3030 (2000)

Dolemic's review on RYM (5/5):

"Deltron 3030 is a concept album about an Orwellian future where a giant conglomerate has taken over the world and homogenized our lives, jobs, music, etc. Two heroes have stepped forward to battle our oppressors: Deltron Zero and the Automator. On another level, Deltron 3030 is a concept album about right now where a corporate structure has taken over the music industry and homogenized our hip-hop. Two artists have stepped forward to battle trite, radio-ready rap music: MC Del the Funkee Homosapien and producer Dan the Automator (with DJ Kid Koala along for the ride).

The former concept doesn't really hold water to close scrutiny, as Del's lyrics are designed more to dazzle with acrobatic wordplay and a barrage of pop culture references than to spin a cohesive yarn. Of course, that doesn't mean that it isn't a load of fun. In dizzying fashion, Del spits verses about "Ghost in the Shell", Silver Surfer, the Decepticons, "The Matrix", Neo-Tokyo, Micro Machines, Final Fantasy and Optimus Prime. And that's in the first two songs. To claim that Deltron 3030 is somewhat "nerdy" would not be unfair. Again, that doesn't mean that it isn't a load of fun.

As far as the latter concept, it is sadly very true, both now and when the album was released. In similar fashion to his efforts on Dr. Octagonecologyst, Dan is purely brilliant in his crafting of sonic landscapes for his counterpart to play in. Unlike the aforementioned album, however, he now has a partner who is equally talented in his respective craft. Del delivers his gonzo rhymes with precision and intensity. Together they create a magnificent sci-fi epic with a great sense of humor. Del's crazy lyrics would sound out of place over a Timbaland or Kanye West beat, for example, in much the same way that a generic rhyme about hustling or fashion would never make sense over the cinematic production of the Dan the Automator. Throw in the superb and tasteful scratching of Kid Koala and you understand why this album has become the cult classic it has.

Although Deltron 3030 is meant to be taken as a whole, with skits interspersed between each song, certain tracks do stand out. "3030" is sweeping and grandiose, like a John Williams score. "Turbulence" boasts the darkest, scariest hip-hop production since Dr. Octo. Nowhere do the talents of the three chief collaborators culminate in such a beautiful fashion as on the tremendous "Madness". The best song on the album is also one of the best in hip-hop history.

Deltron 3030 is a fearless, uncompromising and sprawling masterpiece. It doesn't surprise me that it hasn't garnered a lot of attention in the casual hip-hop community. None of these artists have ever made any attempt to market themselves to a mainstream audience. That's not a compliment or a fault, just a fact. Regardless, any fan of any type of music should find this album enthralling and worthy of their time. There really isn't anything else out there that sounds like this. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be a little nerdy yourself."

Get it here.


Trust me on this one: get this. The beats are amazing. Like, you know the beats are gold when you can listen to them alone and you enjoy it as much (if not more) than the parent album. I give this a 6/5. See if you can freestyle over the beat to "3030".

Get it here.

02 November 2009

The Long Blondes - Singles (2008)

The BBC's review:

"Far more glamorous than your average indie band, there was a time when it looked like The Long Blondes were going to make it big. NME and Radio 1 loved them, three singles from Somebody To Drive You Home' went top 40, and Once & Never Again was the soundtrack to every indie disco. Then came Couples; album number 2; and everything seemed to unfairly dry up.

So, presumably to renew some interest, the band are going back to basics with Singles - a compilation of their first four 7"s released on small labels like Thee Sheffield Phonograpic Corp, Angular and Good & Evil, and thus essential only for your most die-hard fan.

Like so many Sheffield bands before them, Kate Jackson and her fellow scarf wearing pals make intelligent indie music with some of the wittiest lyrics in town. Now we hear them at their rawest form, before the likes of super producer Erol Alkan got hold of them and added unnecessary whizzes and bangs.

The very first releases New Idols and Long Blonde are, in fact, so rough and ready that the distortion hurts your ears. But Autonomy Boy soon presents their delicious melodies that we that made us love them so, with the original versions of the complicated Giddy Stratospheres and Lust In The Movies a definite highlight. On the flip side, the shoutier riot grrl side of the Long Blondes blasts through on tale of heartbreak Separated By Motorways.

Distinctly English with tales of Peterborough and darts, The Long Blondes should be a national treasure. Despite having lost their way, this compilation shows that going back to basics isn't perhaps the step backwards it might seem."

Get it here.

01 November 2009

Sunny Day Real Estate - How It Feels to Be Something On (1998)

From allmusic (4/5):

"The cryptically titled How It Feels to Be Something On was the first fruit of Sunny Day Real Estate's reunion, and it simultaneously smoothed out their sound while shifting it into something altogether more ambitious. Always somewhat arty and challenging to begin with, SDRE flirts with out-and-out prog rock here, cleaning up the production to reveal the contrasting layers in their ever more intricate arrangements. There's a droning, almost Middle Eastern feel to some of the songs, pointing up Jeremy Enigk's newfound taste for spiritual mysticism (though the mantra-like chanting on "The Prophet" comes off a little awkwardly). Enigk has matured greatly as a vocalist, applying lessons learned from his solo project; gone is the strangled roar he frequently used on Diary, but even while confirming his softer bent, he's reined in the swooning, bordering-on-fey excess of LP2. Similarly, the band's musicianship keeps getting sharper, handling the twisting chord progressions with an easy grace that keeps the songs flowing smoothly into one another. Almost too smoothly, in fact -- if the album has a flaw, it's that the climactic peaks don't seem to scale quite the same heights as on the band's other albums. That's a minor complaint, to be sure, but perhaps that's why How It Feels to Be Something On can feel at times like a dry run for the magnificently perfected The Rising Tide, where Enigk's piercing falsetto really hits its stride and where the band's songwriting fulfills their every anthemic ambition. But that's only in hindsight; taken on its own terms, How It Feels to Be Something On is a remarkable step forward from a band that seemed destined to leave its full potential untapped."

Get it here.

30 October 2009

LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem (2005)

From allmusic (4.5/5):

"If a music-nerd version of Animal House set in 2005 is ever made, "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" -- the boisterous opener of LCD Soundsystem -- would make an ideal theme song for the fraternity on which it is based. The self-conscious, awkward music obsessives pledging into this fraternity would have to pass a complex trivia test, own a compulsory list of records, and, as a hazing ritual, ask to dance with someone in public. If LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy were the least bit open to the concept, he could be the fraternity's advisor. Judging from a handful of singles and this album, he'd be more than qualified. His first A-side, 2002's "Losing My Edge," laid all his cards on the table, name-checking nearly everything that has been branded indispensable by a record store clerk during the past 20 years. This is someone who clearly owns tons of records and cannot escape them when making his own music. Acid house, post-punk, garage rock, psychedelic pop, and at least a dozen other things factor into his songs, and he's not afraid to be obvious. On occasion, he doesn't even allow fellow nerds to play guessing games. This is the case with "Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up" -- drowsy/dazed John Lennon vibes through and through -- as well as the drifting/uplifting "The Great Release" -- an alternate closer to either of Brian Eno's first two solo records. Otherwise, Murphy's songs cough up references from his subconscious or are put together as if he's thinking more like a DJ, finding ways to combine elements from disparate sources. "Movement" careens into high-energy guitar squall after a pounding beat and cranky synths; "On Repeat" happily replicates the scratches and jabs of guitar heard from A Certain Ratio, PiL, and Gang of Four, but its mechanical pulse and curveball synth effects couldn't be any more distanced from those three groups. Nothing here exceeds the brilliance of "Beat Connection" or "Yeah." Like just about everybody else these days, Murphy's more skilled at creating isolated tracks than making full-lengths, even though this particular full-length has few weak spots and unfolds smoothly as you listen to it from beginning to end. The bonus disc, containing all the stray single tracks, adds a great deal of value."

Get it here.

Coming back bearing gifts

Oh No, brother of Madlib, is back after coming out with Dr. No's Oxperiment which has the most crucial use of Turkish & Lebanese Psyche samples. Now he has done it again with Ethiopium which has...you guessed it, all Ethiopian samples.

It finally came out and to say the least, it is amazing... download quickly, stones throw takes down these things quickly. Sorry for the delay of posts, school has been a bitch, who would have thought taking 3 spanish lit classes would be a shitload of work. I am back for weekly album reviews.

29 October 2009

Portishead - Portishead (1997)

Once upon a time, there were multiple bloggers here. One of my cohorts (that has since vanished into the ether) previously posted Portishead's debut and new album. So, with this you'll have all the Portishead you need (since I'd recommend the DVD version of Roseland NYC Live over the CD version).

From allmusic (4.5/5):

"Portishead's debut album, Dummy, popularized trip-hop, making its slow, narcotic rhythms, hypnotic samples, and film noir production commonplace among sophisticated, self-consciously "mature" pop fans. The group recoiled from such widespread acclaim and influence, taking three years to deliver its eponymous second album. On the surface, Portishead isn't all that dissimilar from Dummy, but its haunting, foreboding sonic textures make it clear that the group isn't interested in the crossover success of such fellow travelers as Sneaker Pimps. Upon repeated plays, the subtle differences between the two albums become clear. Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley recorded original music that they later sampled for the backing tracks on the album, giving the record a hazy, dreamlike quality that shares many of the same signatures of Dummy, but is darker and more adventurous. Beth Gibbons has taken the opportunity to play up her tortured diva role to the hilt, emoting wildly over the tracks. Her voice is electronically phased on most of the tracks, adding layers to the claustrophobic menace of the music. The sonics on Portishead would make it an impressive follow-up, but what seals its success is the remarkable songwriting. Throughout the album, the group crafts impeccable modern-day torch songs, from the frightening, repetitive "Cowboys" to the horn-punctuated "All Mine," which justify the detailed, engrossing production. The end result is an album that reveals more with each listen and becomes more captivating and haunting each time it's played."

Get it here.

28 October 2009

Keith Hudson - Flesh of My Skin, Blood of My Blood (1975)

From allmusic (4.5/5):

"Producer Keith Hudson notched up his first hit in 1968 with Ken Boothe's "Old Fashioned Way." Many more followed in its wake, excellent vocal numbers, sizzling DJ cuts, and extraordinary instrumentals all found favor with the public. What were receiving less notice, however, were Hudson's own self-productions, and in 1974, the singing producer decided to shift his attention from producing others to producing himself. Relocating to London, Hudson set to work recording; the result later that year was the Flesh of My Skin Blood of My Blood album. It proved particularly popular in the London sound systems, as did the following year's Torch of Freedom, resulting in his signing to the Virgin label, suggesting they hadn't listened closely to either set. Although Flesh of My Skin is an extraordinary album, even at its most accessible, it's filled with slight quirks that preclude any hope of mass market success. The lavish "Treasures of the World," sweet lover's rock with notable crossover appeal, is a prime example; its lushness and sweeping melody foiled by a slightly too-insistent-for-its-time reggae rhythm and pattering hand drums. The even more extravagant "No Friend of Mine" could have been a chart-topping ballad in other hands, but is similarly undone by the percussion, disconnected synth, downbeat lyrics, and Hudson's own vocal limitations. Those numbers at least showed potential, but his cover of "I Shall Be Released" sounds like a bad night at a karaoke bar. So much for Hudson's forays into the pop world. In reality what was stirring up the reggae scene were his brilliant excursions into roots realms never before explored. The artist first planted his flag in this new territory with his inspired, smoldering, 1971 single "Darkest Night on a Wet Looking Road," which slides from dread roots straight into Delta blues. Hudson included the single, under a truncated title on this set, while the stunning then-new instrumental "Hunting" delves even deeper into the sounds of the Deep South, brilliantly weaving blues together with dread roots, nyahbinghi rhythms, and even a touch of funk. "Talk Some Sense (Gamma Ray)" and the instrumental "My Nocturne" are further fabulous forays into the blues, ones that would finally reach an apotheosis on Hudson's 1978 Rasta Communication album.The title tracks, spread across a vocal cut and an accompanying instrumental version, beautifully intertwines R&B, pop, and roots reggae. "Stabilizer" meanders across even more genres, blurring the lines between C&W, blues, R&B, and reggae, across an inspired version of Hudson's own 1972 single "True True True to My Heart." For "Stabilizer," Hudson and his backing group the Soul Syndicate Band deftly connect the dots between genres, while "Testing of My Faith" erases them, cleverly twinning C&W with roots reggae. The song is faintly reminiscent of the theme to "Midnight Cowboy," assuming Jon Voight disembarked not in the Big Apple, but Trench Town. In which case, "Fight Your Revolution" sends "Shaft" era Isaac Hayes on a Greyhound bus to Memphis. The music on this set is so astounding that it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of Hudson's dramatic lyrical themes and the album's overarching concept of the black experience and history. On "Faith," he pleads to "be just like any other man," but if his prayer was granted, the world would have lost one of its most unique artists even sooner."

Get it here.

27 October 2009

DJ Shadow - Preemptive Strike (1998)

From allmusic (4/5):

"DJ Shadow assembled the singles collection Preemptive Strike as a way for American audiences to catch up on his career prior to his debut album, Endtroducing. The 11-track album contains three new interludes and three complete singles that he released on Mo'Wax -- "In/Flux," "What Does Your Soul Look Like," and "High Noon" -- and a bonus disc, "Camel Bobsled Race," which is a megamix of DJ Shadow material by DJ Q-Bert. Given that Endtroducing was a masterpiece of subtly shifting texture, Preemptive Strike almost seems purposely incoherent, even though the tracks are sequenced chronologically. The jerky flow can make the album a little difficult to assimilate on first listen, but it soon begins to make sense, even if it never achieves the graceful flow of the album. Several of the selections on Preemptive Strike were available in different forms on Endtroducing -- parts four and one of "What Does Your Soul Look Like" are in their original forms here, presented along with one and three, and there's the "extended overhaul" of "Organ Donor." All of these are significantly different than the LP versions, and "What Does Your Soul Look Like" is necessary in its original, half-hour, four-part incarnation. But the key moments are the seminal "In/Flux," which arguably created trip-hop, and "High Noon," the dynamic, fuzz-drenched single that was his first single release since Endtroducing. Those three A-sides are reason enough for any serious fan of the debut to pick up Preemptive Strike, but the B-sides and "Camel Bobsled Race" are equally intriguing, making the package a nice summation of DJ Shadow's most important singles through the end of 1997."

Get it here.

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist - Brainfreeze (1999)

26 October 2009

Cranes - Loved (1994)

From allmusic (4/5):

"On the band's third major album, Cranes found themselves balancing more immediate accessibility with its own particular musical obsessions like never before. If nothing on the album was as immediately harrowing as much of the band's late-'80s/early-'90s work -- guitars and drums both were generally less forceful and out in front -- Loved was still a mysterious and artistic experience, effortlessly standing aside from prevailing music trends. The band's self-production skills continued to improve, evidenced by the sometimes elaborate arrangements; if the core of Cranes' music revolves around intentionally basic rhythms and melodies repeated as mantras, it's always been the focused delivery that puts everything together. Where things get more conventionally catchy, it's an interesting combination of brute electric power and hooky melody. "Pale Blue Sky" is a good example: A roiling band performance, slightly buried in the mix, kicks out the jams while Alison Shaw's much clearer singing traces a hummable lead melody. It's not power pop, but it's a change nonetheless. Lead single "Shining Road," with its quick, catchy pace, sets the tone for a fair number of the album's cuts like "Reverie" and "Beautiful Friend." If anything, there's something of Siouxsie and the Banshees' early-'80s work coming out in the brisk performances. "Paris and Rome" is the sleeper on the album, appearing towards the end. It's another in the line of beautifully orchestrated numbers like "Adoration" and "Cloudless," building towards a dramatic, evocative ending. Other weirdly pretty numbers include "Are You Gone?" and the piano-led, very Cocteau Twins-styled "In the Night." Three remixes appear on the American version of the album as bonus tracks. Two, Michael Brauer's take on "Shining Road" and Flood's revamp of "Lilies," come from the Shining Road EP, while the third is new, with Flood remixing "Paris and Rome.""

Get it here.

Cranes - Wings of Joy (1991)
Cranes - Forever (1993)

25 October 2009

Saint Etienne - Sound of Water (2000)

From allmusic (4/5):

"Ten years on, Saint Etienne found themselves at a bit of a crossroads. They had long ago stopped having hits in the U.K., settling into a cult audience in both their homeland and the U.S. There isn't an inherent problem with having a cult audience, but cult bands often have the stigma of being on the cutting edge. At the start of their career, Saint Etienne was on the cutting edge. Their first two albums were at the foundation of many '90s pop trends, including the revival of swinging '60s London, the unabashedly melodic bent of Brit-pop, the fascination for forgotten easy listening artifacts from the '60s, the kaleidoscopic blend of '60s sound and '90s sensibility later heard on Beck records, plus the insurgent twee-pop of the late '90s. For their tenth anniversary, they decided to reclaim the cutting edge with Sound of Water. The album strove to keep the concise, song-oriented focus of Good Humor, while expanding the horizons of their music to focus on abstract, dreamy, electronic sounds. There are moments of pop pleasure here, surrounded by spare, languid electronica sections, vaguely reminiscent of the High Llamas. This is where maturity pays off. Saint Etienne never lingers too long in one area, letting the album flow gracefully between these two extremes and placing some very good pop melodies along the way. There are no knockout singles on par with those from So Tough or Tiger Bay, but Saint Etienne has pretty much given up on the pop charts, preferring to concentrate on cohesive, stronger albums. That may mean that Sound of Water simply isn't as exciting as their earlier work, and it also means that there isn't a good gateway song to the record. But that's OK, since with repeated plays, Sound of Water reveals itself as a first-rate effort."

Get it here.

Saint Etienne - Good Humour (1998)

24 October 2009

Pale Saints - In Ribbons (1992)

From allmusic (4/5):

"An argument could be made for In Ribbons topping the Pale Saints' debut, and it would be a rather solid one. Thanks to yet another stellar job by "knob twiddler of the mighty atmospheric pop bands" Hugh Jones, the Pale Saints sound full and polished, gleaming and bright. What makes this a lesser record in comparison to its predecessor is the absence of that loose sense of adventure from before. The songs are strong, the musicianship is improved, and Meriel Barham's presence as second guitarist and vocalist provides for more muscularity, but In Ribbons is missing the slightly perverse sense of experimentation that The Comforts of Madness had in spades. The unpredictability is gone, which is one of the few downsides of a band whose members are getting to know each other musically. That doesn't prevent In Ribbons from being a great record, stacked to the gills with great songs. Barham's sporadic contributions provide a fine spoil to those of Ian Masters. The mid-tempo moodiness of "Thread of Light" benefits from Jones' excellent treatment of her voice, with swooning backgrounds that dart between the left and right channels. (The verses bear odd sonic resemblance to Duran Duran's "Save a Prayer" -- no kidding.) Her reading of Mazzy Star's "Blue Flower" tops the original, and "Baby Maker" also makes the grade with its dizzied liveliness. Masters' love for the abandonment of rock constructs strikes upon a zenith on "Hair Shoes," a drumless cluster of limpidly jousting guitars that simultaneously jiggle, rattle, moan, twinkle, and reverberate. His miasmatic vocals seal the track off as a brilliant approximation of the oceanic wash of 69-era AR Kane. Otherwise, more accessible fare, like the sprightly "Throwing Back the Apple" (a single) and the melancholy epic "Hunted," are also accountable for the record's success. Though these tracks' more traditionally structured material doesn't sound a great deal different from many of the Pale Saints' peers, the wan voice of Masters -- who sounds less world-weary here -- clearly sets this unit apart."

Get it here.

Pale Saints - The Comforts of Madness (1990)

23 October 2009

Trembling Blue Stars - Lips That Taste of Tears (1998)

From allmusic (4/5):

"Though Trembling Blue Stars' second record, Lips That Taste of Tears, makes some progress toward healing the wrenching heartbreak of Robert Wratton (as documented in great detail on Her Handwriting), the record is basically another monumentally sad and forlorn artifact of one man's despair. As mentioned above, there are some beams of light that shine through the blinds, namely the reappearance of Wratton's former lover (and cause of his despair/inspiration), Anne Mari Davies, who provides vocals on the choral opener, "All I Never Said," the storming house-influenced "Tailspin," the incongruously happy dance-pop tune "The Rainbow," the almost funky trip-hop song "Cecilia in Black and White" (which borrows much from engineer Ian Catt's main gig as Saint Etienne's sound guru). There isn't enough wattage in a light bulb factory to brighten Wratton's mood though as he mopes and moans his way through heartsick ballad after heartsick ballad like "Never Loved You More" (with its refrain of "I'm so far from being over you"), "I'm Tired, I Tried," "You've Done Nothing Wrong Really" ("Sometimes I want to scream/Why did you abandon me?"), and "Farewell to Forever." It could be enough to drive even the happiest camper to thoughts of homicide if it weren't for the flawless balance of wrenching sadness and musical beauty and grace. As on Her Handwriting, Wratton and Catt have again crafted a brilliant-sounding record built on cheap electronics and perfectly utilized guitars and percussion. They are equally skilled at capturing intimate moments of introspection, blissful dance grooves ("The Rainbow"), and soaring indie pop mini-epics ("Made for Each Other"). In fact, the only time their knack fails them is on the repetitive and bland techno instrumental "Old Photographs." Lips That Taste of Tears is an emotionally harrowing and musically near-perfect record, proof that Robert Wratton's heartbreak and misery makes for great art."

Get it here.

Trembling Blue Stars - Her Handwriting (1996)

22 October 2009

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist - Brainfreeze (1999)

From allmusic (4.5/5):

"The hip-hop mix tape has come so far. As passed down through DJs such as Kid Capri and Funkmaster Flex, it has served essentially the same purpose -- as a compilation of segued-together cuts rather than a stand-alone work itself and, therefore, an archetypal soundtrack to house parties or underground gatherings. But taking its cue instead from Grandmaster Flash, who pioneered the form commercially on his landmark cut classic "The Adventures of Grand Master Flash on the Wheels of Steel," Brainfreeze transforms the mix tape into a genuine piece of musical art, a sampladelic, turntablist collage that may be the apotheosis of -- or at least a turning point for -- the genre. Even prior to the release of the album, the collaboration between Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow had developed an almost legendary buzz. In the fall of 1999, the two kicked off a series of live performances sponsored by San Francisco art collective and record label Future Primitive Sound. Brainfreeze captures for posterity, in two uninterrupted takes, the live DAT rehearsal tapes from the duo's premiere show together, and it is an amazing display of spontaneous music-making. The music splits the difference between the groundbreaking, Brian Eno-worthy soundscapes that have characterized DJ Shadow's solo career and the ebullient, breakbeat-savvy, street-corner jive of old school-style rap, as exemplified by Chemist's crew Jurassic 5. Some of the snippets cut and pasted here will be readily familiar to longtime fans of rap music, and some formed the basis for tracks on Shadow's first two albums, but the majority are from extremely rare and generally forgotten 45s absent from the crates of even the most ardent beat-diggers. The project itself signifies a duality of sacrifice and resurrection. Sacrifice applies because in the act of spinning these premium records the DJs were literally destroying or damaging their rare vinyl. Also, due to the music's improvisational nature, the set could never possibly be repeated in quite the same way. On the other hand, it is a resurrection in that it synthesizes a half-century of soul and funk music that has fallen through mainstream cracks, thereby revealing an entire alternate history of principally black urban music. Unfortunately, the album stops short of being the actual history lesson it might have been, as it fails to list the artists and song credits. Some of the value in uncovering them in the first place is, as a result, nullified. It is a minor blemish, however, when measured against the visionary, forward-looking aura of Brainfreeze. It is a dizzyingly brilliant, virtuoso work of two exceedingly fecund imaginations."

From cravenmonket's review on RYM (4.5/5):

"Imagine the guy in college with the incredible funk and soul record collection setting his stash out in several crates, then inviting a couple of rude white boys over to spin them on four simultaneous turntables, with plenty of frantic scratching thrown in, until these glorious rarities are totally destroyed. Imagine, also, that they managed to incorporate some of the most solid down-tempo beats you've ever heard. Imagine, if you will, that these two styles blended into a one-off, never-to-be-repeated fusion - the greatest funk night out you've ever had in your life - and you are finally coming close to imagining this album. It's pure gold. Sell your car for a copy."

Get it here.

21 October 2009

R a i n T r e e C r o w - R a i n T r e e C r o w (1991)

RHalpain's review on RYM (5/5):

"Rain Tree Crow's lone album is a bit of an oddity. This album came a decade after their final album as Japan (the fantastic Tin Drum) and really sounds absolutely nothing like any of their previous work. From my understanding, David Sylvian dominated the recording of the album (including the name change), and stylistically that shows. Not only that, but the band seemed ready to break up once more (which happened shortly after the album's release, I believe).

Given that, it perplexes me how this album is so damn good. I honestly don't know what the ex-Japan bandmates were trying to do with this album. Even after having listened to this quite a few times over the last 2 years, I'm not really sure what the aim of this album was. I'll be damned, however, if it isn't amazing.

The music on Rain Tree Crow generally lingers in a realm of bizarre cinematic tranquility. Songs like "Scratchings on the Bible Belt" are instrument drenched (woodwind instruments as well as banjos and strange flares of guitar penetrate a predominantly organ and percussion driven track) visions of the reality in which Rain Tree Crow seems to operate, while "Blackwater" is simply the most beautifully concise track ever written by this group.

What baffles me about this album is how peaceful it sounds. While the later Japan albums seemed about achieving a certain sound (assuming Tin Drum was the culmination of their experiments), Rain Tree Crow sounds absolutely natural. It's as if they were passing a stream some day and played exactly what they heard; there's a certain rhythm throughout the album that seems to gently and patiently carry the listener along.

Overall, I would put this, along with Tin Drum as Japan's best albums. As a Sylvian fan, I would rank this only behind his Secrets of the Beehive (probably the album that sounds most like what's on Rain Tree Crow, not to mention my favorite album ever) and Snow Borne Sorrow by Nine Horses (which features Sylvian's brother, and former Japan bandmate, drummer Steve Jansen). If you like Talk Talk, I would highly recommend this."

Get it here.

20 October 2009

Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure (1973)

From allmusic (5/5):

"On Roxy Music's debut, the tensions between Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry propelled their music to great, unexpected heights, and for most of the group's second album, For Your Pleasure, the band equals, if not surpasses, those expectations. However, there are a handful of moments where those tensions become unbearable, as when Eno wants to move toward texture and Ferry wants to stay in more conventional rock territory; the nine-minute "The Bogus Man" captures such creative tensions perfectly, and it's easy to see why Eno left the group after the album was completed. Still, those differences result in yet another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting. This is especially evident in the driving singles "Do the Strand" and "Editions of You," which pulsate with raw energy and jarring melodic structures. Roxy also illuminate the slower numbers, such as the eerie "In Every Dream Home a Heartache," with atonal, shimmering synthesizers, textures that were unexpected and innovative at the time of its release. Similarly, all of For Your Pleasure walks the tightrope between the experimental and the accessible, creating a new vocabulary for rock bands, and one that was exploited heavily in the ensuing decade."

Get it here.

19 October 2009

Françoise Hardy - Comment te dire adieu (1968)

dorotea's review on Rate Your Music (4.5/5):

"Twelve songs, all versions except two composed by herself. ¡But what versions!, wonderful renditions of Phil Och's "There but for fortune", Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne", Jobim's "Sabia"and three hits of pop like the title track "It Hurts to Say Goodbye", "Lonesome town" and "The Way of Love", all of course translated to French language. Still, the best is in home: Gainsbourg's "L'anamour" and the poem of Louis Aragon with music of Georges Brassens "Il n'y a pas d'amour hereux".

Following an extended fashion of late 60's between French artists of recording in London, city of studios and new techniques, the delicious arrangements of Arthur Greenslade, Jean Pierre Sabar, Mike Vickers and John Cameron and the unique voice of Françoise, make of this one of her best albums. Great cover of Jean Paul Goude."

Get it here
. And, if anyone can find me Message personnel, her album from 1973, I'd appreciate it (as would the readers of this blog; they seem to love them some Françoise Hardy). Word.

Françoise Hardy - The Yeh-Yeh Girl From Paris (1965)
Françoise Hardy - Ma jeunesse fout le camp... (1967)
Françoise Hardy - La question (1971)

17 October 2009

Shiina Ringo - Karuki Zame Kuri no Hana (2003)

Zorbo's review on Rate Your Music (5/5):

"I think Ms. Shiina must be a Taoist. Or, if not, at least someone deeply interested in the concepts of opposites, doubles, balance and equality. Everything about this album screams a predilection with it. The title, translating to “Lime, Semen, Chestnut Blossoms”, seems bizarre, but it is a well-crafted one and, by her reckoning, a logical one. She claims that the first and last items both smell like semen and thus the title is a olfactory palindrome. Of sorts. Next, there are the titles themselves. When viewed down the page, the titles of the first and last, second and second-to-last songs, and so on, all have the same number of characters. Even the second song is called Doppelgänger, a German word meaning a person's double.

It is appropriate then that such an album, at first glance overwhelmed with doubling and copying, be so original. It is doubly appropriate that the album's sound be made of opposites. On the one hand, it's the tightest pop album I've ever heard. Not a note or melody is poorly placed. At the same time, it's all over the place. The range of instruments and styles featured on the record is astounding. Why, Ringo herself plays guitar, piano, drums, koto, shamisen, harmonica, harpsichord, and accordion, and let's not get into what her band plays. Lyrically? Well, I don't know, I don't speak Japanese. I have been informed that it uses obscure, obsolete kanji in the lyric sheet that accompanies the CD, which is of course to be expected from such a modern and forward thinking album from someone so obsessed with opposites.

This album, on paper, should not work so well. It shouldn't be so tight and perfectly crafted, but it couldn't be moreso. It sounds like a mash-up of swing, jazz, noise, a capella, rock, pop, folk and even classical, but it doesn't sound cluttered or jumbled in any way – it's wonderfully catchy and addictive, great to sing along to, relax to, or get excited about. It's brash, noisy, funky, experimental, complex, and in-your-face. It's also low-key, calm, accessible, simple and humble. Crafted by a fragile, young soul, and forged by a demonic sexual beast.

I could go on, but frankly, why bother? My point has been made and I'm just hammering it further. This album, at its heart, makes no sense. It's untouchable and innately indescribable. It defies logic, it defies theory, it defies one's prejudices or pre-conceived ideas. It defies belief that you haven't gone looking for it already."

Get it here.

Shiina Ringo - Shouso Strip (2000)
Tokyo Jihen - Adult (2006)

16 October 2009

Hieroglyphics - 3rd Eye Vision (1998)

From allmusic (4/5):

"Consisting of Del tha Funkee Homosapien, A-Plus, Opio, Tajai, Phesto, Casual, Domino, Pep Love, and Jaybiz, Hieroglyphics has an all-star lineup of underground talent. One might expect Hieroglyphics to have a gangsta rap or West Coast rap sound since Del tha Funkee Homosapien is related to the infamous Ice Cube; however, 3rd Eye Vision has a traditional underground rap feel reminiscent of albums by Common and Black Star. The 22-track album features strong, clever lyrics accompanied by creative, catchy background beats. Fortunately, Hieroglyphics manages to avoid the common error of over-sampling beats, which detracts from the lyrics. The hip-hop group also amazingly uses its large size as an advantage with memorable choruses, unique background voices and raps, and great interplay between lyricists. This synergy is future illustrated by the variety of songwriters and tracks like "You Never Know" and "Miles to the Sun" that are a collaboration by six of the group members. The album's standout track is "You Never Know," which was made into a video and single."

Get it here.

15 October 2009

The Smiths - Dance With Octopuses (1986 Bootleg)

Really, it's The Smiths. That's all that needs to be said. This is a very good quality recording, and is probably my favourite Smiths bootleg (if my words mean anything to you). For those who care, I think this is from the 23 October 1986 show at London's National Club. Check out "The Draize Train," an instrumental jam where Johnny Marr really lets loose (the song also appears in a lesser form on Rank). Too bad this blog's namesake wasn't on the setlist; it's a really underrated song in their catalogue. The closing one-two punch of urgent renditions of "How Soon Is Now?" and "Bigmouth Strikes Again" is a real treat.

Of course, I have to give credit where credit is due; if you want Smiths boots, alternate mixes, etc., then you need to check out akiraware. Between the studio albums you should already have and this website, you'll have all the Smiths you need.

  1. The Queen Is Dead
  2. Panic
  3. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out
  4. Ask
  5. Frankly, Mr Shankly
  6. The Boy With the Thorn in His Side
  7. Is It Really So Strange?
  8. London
  9. I Know It's Over
  10. The Draize Train
  11. How Soon Is Now?
  12. Bigmouth Strikes Again

Get it here.

14 October 2009

The Submarines - Declare a New State! (2006)

From allmusic (3.5/5):

"How better to accurately convey the pain of breaking off a long-term relationship than to write and record songs about it with your ex-significant other? Apparently, Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti couldn't think of a more appropriate way, and what came out of those sessions (which eventually led to their reconciliation and marriage) was Declare a New State!, their first album as the band the Submarines. Needless to say, it's sad, pretty music that finds them reflecting about themselves and where they went wrong, never blaming anyone specifically but never accepting full responsibility, either. Each of them (they sing tracks both together and separately) puts pretty much everything out in the open for everyone to hear ("On Super Tuesday I wanted to die...I'll never vote again," Dragonetti whimpers in "Vote," referencing their breakup, which happened on the eve of the 2004 California presidential primary), leaving little to hide behind. This actually becomes kind of tiresome; it's as if the Submarines don't quite trust their audience to get their not-so-subtle references. In "Brighter Discontent," Hazard sings lines like "I rearranged the place a hundred times today/But the ordering of objects couldn't hide what's missing" and "All these things should make me happy...to be home again," rendering her point quite clear, but as if there were a possibility you might not understand her implications, she throws in a bridge with the phrase "Love is not these belongings that surround me/Though there's meaning in the memories they hold" to really drive things home, a gesture that while perhaps innocent enough, is not necessarily welcome. There are some wonderfully poignant lyrics in Declare a New State! as well ("You got a way with words/Just sentiment without revealing how you feel," Hazard states in the gorgeous "The Good Night") that work well with the gentle guitar arrangements and melodies (which don't so much jump from the record as blend smoothly in with the layers of instrumentation) the band chooses to employ. It's all very nice, but there's not much that sticks when all is said and done, which is the album's biggest problem: its lack of distinctive qualities. It's not boring -- there are still a lot of drums and the occasional indie electronica effect on the record, but it's not going to leave any long-lasting impression, either. The music on Declare a New State! was certainly a useful tool for Dragonetti and Hazard, but it's a little too self-involved to do as much for anyone else."

Get it here.

13 October 2009

Mojave 3 - Ask Me Tomorrow (1995)

From allmusic (4/5):

"After the spare, delicate power of Slowdive's final album, Pygmalion, with influences like the Durutti Column and Brian Eno readily apparent, it would have made perfect sense for Mojave 3 to continue in that vein. Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell had a much different idea in mind, though, and Ask Me Tomorrow, though even further away from Slowdive's shoegaze beginnings, is just as intoxicatingly intriguing. Arguably it remains the group's high point, flashes of inspiration here and there; as the band grew more straightforwardly authentic and less swathed in an aural cocoon, much of their uniqueness went with them. Here, though, both Goswell and Halstead -- along with drummer Ian McCutcheon (more often than not using brushes), pianist Christopher Andrews, and some guests -- tapped into a drowsy beauty that ran parallel to the burgeoning alt-country movement without completely sounding like it yet. Slowdive's cover of "Some Velvet Morning" is a good reference point -- everything is swathed in echo still, but the emphasis on slide guitar twang and a gently down-home feeling, plus some occasional soft cello, makes the album a hushed masterpiece. Andrews' piano often takes the lead, further emphasizing Mojave 3's own approach, while the Goswell/Halstead vocal combination suggests a cousin to the killer Chris Eckman/Carla Torgeson blend in the Walkabouts. Ask Me Tomorrow starts and ends with its best songs; "Love Songs on the Radio," also the band's debut single, sets the tone perfectly, Goswell's sweet but strong voice and Halstead's guitar in perfect balance. "Mercy," meanwhile, concludes things on a dramatic, powerful note; without completely exploding, it's the most fiery song hands down, with Andrews' steady, doom-laden piano and the ever more strung-out guitar the bed for an at once soothing and warning vocal duet, Goswell and Halstead closing the album with a final a cappella singing sigh."

Get it here.

Also, if anyone can procure me a digital copy of The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever, I will be eternally grateful :3