Tag Archives: 2000s

[168] Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

25 Feb

I was extraordinarily excited at the opportunity to explore this album, completely ready to be blown away. A drummer-singer-songwriter in the country-indie-punk world? Where do I sign?

168 case

But the first play through was neither what I expected nor what I wanted. It all sounds so safe and bland – an engaging voice which speaks of a mind that has listened to a lot of Patsy Cline, over wandering guitars and drums.

Where is the fire? Where is the attitude? I tap along to “Margaret vs. Pauline”, then carry on with my day without noticing that the music has continued.

It is clear very quickly that I am going to need to take a listen to the lyrics to see what it is Moon is singling out here.

And while the lyrics are unusual and interesting, I find them disconnected from the music. It is all very pleasant (even the moments of unpleasantness) but again I’m left wondering why Moon chose Neko Case over Tori Amos in his 1,000?

It’s not the first time that the omission of one of my Top 10 albums – Little Earthquakes – is perhaps unfairly coloring my response to an apparently important and seminal female recording artist who came after Tori.

I would be surprised if it is the last, and for that I apologize.

So, before finally posting this entry, I give Fox Confessor . . . another spin, and it appears that the songs made a little more of an impression on first listen, since each track is now comfortable and somewhat familiar, if still lacking the hoped for fire.

I think this one might be on me rather than Moon – overlaying unrealistic expectations on top of an album that is one thing, and blaming it that it is not something else.

Next Time: Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison

Owned before blogging? No (12 of 168 = 7%)
Heard before blogging? No (21 of 168 = 13%)
Recommend? No (140 of 168 = 83%)

[167] Cascabulho – Hunger Gives You A Headache

5 Feb

From the very first beat (if you will pardon the easy pun) it is the hectic and insistent percussion that drives everything else on this fascinating album. The irrepressible, unending drums fly along at a healthy clip dragging the vocals and strings into their time and space.  More than anchoring, they actual author the shape of the music.

167 cascabulho

Stylistically we discover a wonderful mix of unbridled joy and angry edge, a juxtaposition of traditional instrumental sounds with touches of modern recording techniques. When a hip hop beat momentarily kicks in my attention is immediately recaptured, recalibrating the whole, making me reconsider what I am listening to.

This is not folk music despite similarities in instrumentation, in some of the endless winding contra-melodies buoying the vocals. It is vibrant and topical and entirely of today’s zeitgeist.

It is quite an achievement.

The call and response quality in the vocals between lead and chorus is hypnotic, and always there are the drums. There’s even a damn solo at the outro of “Clementina De Jesus No Morro Da Conceicao”.

I challenge you to sit still while it plays. I certainly can’t.

I wonder what my coworkers think while this plays, filling the office with South American flair. How does it compare to my steady diet of Dan Reed Network, The Wildhearts, Queen, Billy Joel, my occasional forays into otherwise embarrassing 80s pop? Cascabulho sounds different, but affects me at least as much as my standard listening fare.

As I remember from previous foreign language selections, I find myself curious as to what the songs’ lyrics actually say, but in this case not enough to do anything about finding a translation. The tone is almost chatty, a neighbor shooting the breeze on a street corner – sharing gossip, complaining about prices, discussing the weather.

All in all, the sound makes me want to explore some of the other forro artists that inspired this amazing sound, starting with Jackson do Pandeiro, to whom . . . Hunger is dedicated. So I do, and once more I am unable to sit still as the fluid vocals flow over the dreamy percussion. The pedigree of Cascabulho is obvious, with even songs not directly covered having the recognizable DNA of these earlier recordings. It’s like finding a hidden track at the of an album, only to realize it’s a whole hidden album!

Discovery upon discovery – perhaps the entire goal of my exploring the 1,000.

Next Time: Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Owned before blogging? No (12 of 167 = 7%)
Heard before blogging? No (21 of 167 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes (140 of 167 = 84%)

[153] Cafe Tacvba – Cuatro Caminos

18 Mar

Take the fire of post-punk, throw in a good helping of 60s melody makers, a dollop of world beats and you will come close to the recipe for this wonderful sound.

cafe-tacuba-153-l

The range of influences is impressive, from obvious Clash riffs, through No Doubt ska-pop and Beatles harmonies, to the catchiest video game soundtracks.  It is modern without sounding like it will become dated, since it is so anchored in other established sounds.

I can imagine rocking out to these tunes at a club even today, can understand how Cafe Tacvba could engage a teen encountering them for the first time the way that Queen and Bon Jovi captured my young attention.  There is a fresh earnest energy that goes hand in hand with the polished songcraft which results in a potent final product.

It’s so poppy, so much fun, and it is only my chauvinism that makes me wish it was in English.  Imagine how much more I might enjoy this if I could genuinely sing along.  But still, it is easy to recommend such an eclectic and accomplished recording which is also so undeniably enjoyable.

Next Week:  Uri Caine – Urlicht/Primal Light

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 153 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 153 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (128 of 153 = 84%)

[150] William Byrd – Harpsichord Music

26 Feb

The harpsichord has such a distinctive sound, the proto-piano, at once ancient and refined.

byrd-william-150-l

The performance here is careful and calculated, every note given its proper time and space and consideration even when the fingers occasionally offer a trill or an allegro run.  Byrd’s compositions highlight the limitations of the instrument, and in doing so uncover a quite charming sound, the delicacy of the individual notes worked together into a solid and indestructible structure.

There is an architectural quality to the music – functional, even workmanlike, but also beautiful.

Here is music which does not disturb my co-workers, which I can play at my desk while I work, which nonetheless does not disappear entirely into the background.  It is such a specific sound, so melody driven yet dominated by the instrument itself, that whenever my ear does catch a moment, it is pleasing and intriguing in equal measure.

While not a sound I would have sought out, nor one I expect to revisit often, Harpsichord Music is a recording which in some ways reminds me again why I began this quite ludicrous undertaking, almost three years ago to the day.

It is an excuse, an opportunity to spend some time with an artist, a genre I would otherwise have passed by, enjoying it in the moment, expanding my palette, growing my experience.

Next Week:  The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 150 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 150 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (125 of 150 = 83%)

[148] R L Burnside – Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down

12 Feb

From the first, there is a tension between the ancient music and the modern recording techniques here – Burnside’s old-as-the-hills voice captured in stereo, high fidelity clarity.

burnside-r-l-148-l

The sound is of the turn of the most recent millennium, far more than merely the one man with a guitar aesthetic of another hundred years past.  While the songwriting is simple – classic even – the instrumentation is full of synthesizers and drum loops mingled with the expected guitar wails and harmonica bleats.  And while this might alienate purists, it surely opened wide the door to the Blues for a generation and an audience which might otherwise have dismissed it.

Some of the scratching – for example in the upbeat “Miss Maybelle” – would not have sounded out of place on an 80s Hip Hop record, yet Burnside’s deep, measured voice anchors the feel of the whole in a less fleeting, more enduring and endearing place.

And I can see “Got Messed Up” – a sleazy, grooving jam with lilting guitars and moaning horns over a mechanical backbeat- finding its way onto any number of morning after playlists.

I can get excited by the muddy slide guitar, the underwater vocals and just when it starts to sound like any other talented Blues ensemble, a modern sound intrudes, capturing attention, integrated just enough so as not to distract from the whole.

And if you’re going to cover “Chain Of Fools”, you better have something up your sleeve to avoid less than flattering comparisons to the definitive Aretha Franklin version.  Burnside’s disaffected, almost industrial take is completely unlike any I have heard before, a valiant exploration of this beloved standard.

Once more, Tom Moon is highlighting a sound I have never heard before, but it is different this time.  I have heard all of the component parts before – enjoyed some, endured others – but in combining them together, Burnside has created a new sound, almost familiar, almost alienating, entirely fascinating.

Next Week: Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 148 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 148 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (123 of 148 = 83%)

[146] Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me

29 Jan

It is not clear to me why I haven’t heard Solomon Burke before, but then it’s not clear why he wasn’t better known at the height of his powers in the 1960s.

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Tom Moon’s choice of his 2002 “comeback” album, Don’t Give Up On Me, is inspired.

The complex and textured voice is cast in the role of seen-it-all-done-it-all elder statesman, as he sings songs at times written especially for the project by some of the best singer-songwriters to follow in the footsteps of Burke and his Atlantic cohorts.

The pedigree is undeniable, both on and off the record.  Songs here are penned by Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Mann and Weill.  No surprise then that, once the interest in the tempo and tone of this old soul voice starts to lose its initial wonder, the songs themselves keep the listener hooked and rapt for spin after spin.

And, in one of the highlights of this disc foll of highlights, The Blind Boys of Alabama join Burke in going to church on the soulful and haunting “None Of Us Are Free”, finally bringing attention to a song which had disappeared despite releases by artists as varied as
Ray Charles and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Under and around and through it all, the polished session musicians build a sound that is consistently crisp and enveloping, crafting the net in which the gem that is Burke’s voice lays on display for all who care to hear.

While not a household name, and without a signature hit of the kind that his stablemates – Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett – could hang a career on, Solomon Burke is now firmly on my radar as a talent to explore, to seek out, to hear more of.

The album is well named . . .

Next Week: Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 146 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 146 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (121 of 146 = 83%)

[128] Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

18 Sep

I have been watching a loving bands like Bright Eyes in small venues with even smaller crowds for years.

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

So I want to like this, I really do.  The small budget sound, the faux-acoustic indie rock is intimately familiar in a way that takes a while for me to recognize – I may never have seen Bright Eyes in person, but I saw many truly similar acts who never received the attention and acclaim of this new millennium sensation.

Bright Eyes seems to have been selected almost arbitrarily as a placeholder for a genre, for a generation.

And this in the end is one reason I can’t bring myself to recommend . . . Wide Awake – how can I when I could be using this platform to highlight any number of others bands I followed devotedly for short periods of time?  (Usually he time it took for them to move away from New York, or break up, or both.)

There are so many more worthies I am sure Tom Moon has never heard of, with names like David Kirby, Todd Deatherage, Amplify,  More.

I am unsurprised that my most recent guest blogger has a powerful connection to these songs, this album – his own band (the aforementioned David Kirby) had a strikingly similar sound several years before . . . Wide Awake was released?

But Avi had something that Bright Eyes does not – an actual singing voice.

As I spend time with . . . Wide Awake I am put off by the weak wavering vocals and weird breathing placements, seemingly affected but more likely covering up a genuine lack of talent.  Unlike with other affected artists, rather than growing on me, I find myself growing more and more irritated.

. . . Wide Awake has that folk-rocking Americana sound that critics – including Moon (see Ryan Adams) – seem to love so much and which tends to leave me cold (see Ryan Adams . . .)

And then take the deeply meaningful, obviously important lyrics

We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul

or

My ashtray’s overflowing and I’m staring at a clean white page

The too simple naivete of youth is surely just too twee to be real, but I never catch the nod or the wink which would confirm this, so I am left with the depressing thought that every word is meant in the original, literal sense.

And it makes me want to throw something.

Not in a rock revolution, burn it all down, ACT UP kind of way.  More just general despair for humanity and the state of the world today.

Lawn.

Next Week: Benjamin Britten – Peter Grimes

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 128 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 128 = 15%)
Recommend? No. (105 of 128 = 82%)

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