Tag Archives: Rock

[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%)

[158] Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica

22 Apr

As weird and as random as its title, there is much to ponder and perplex in this 80 minutes of avant garde something or other.

captain-beefheart-his-magic-band-158-l

Color me unsurprised that Zappa was involved (as producer.)

There is an aura of experimental wonderfulness throughout this recording.  It is certainly not for everyone, or for every occasion, but there is so much to interpret and explore that I do not think I will ever grow tired of hearing the Rock-y, Blues-y, Folk-y, Jazz-y, Spoken Word sounds that skitter all over the place on each play.

The vocals at time remind me of Shel Silverstein’s wonderful, not safe for work or kids interpretations of some of his stories – both engage in very much the same way.

The guitars are in constant motion, twiddling in concentric circles.  The horns when they are featured squeak and squawk and demand attention.  And every now and then a nugget of wisdom or a moment of sublime discomfort peeks through the stream of consciousness lyrics.

It is loose and messy and sprawling, and despite the potential for negative connotations in all these adjectives, I am a fan.

Next Week: The Caravans – The Best of The Caravans

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 158 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 158 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (132 of 158 = 84%)

[156] Can – Tago Mago

8 Apr

Another week, another mish-mash of an album, cramming all sorts of sounds and feelings into its experimental 1970s frame.  (That’s five consecutive albums full of experimentation, for those keeping score at home.)

can-156-l

This time it’s German Rock.  This time I love it.

There are the sweeping prog-rock jam tracks, noodling and soaring for minutes on end.  There is the borrowed punk attitude, at times so necessary in life, put to excellent use here as a sort of color commentary.  There is the ponderous, goth-flavored epic “Aumgn”, so effective that my wife and daughter requested I turn it off since (and I quote), “It’s freaking us out.”

Unlike moments over the last weeks where the experimentation has been too extreme, too uneven, Can manage to create a homogeneous sound from all the diverse parts, resulting in an album that (when my girls aren’t around) I want to listen to from beginning to end.

There is plenty that is familiar here, more than enough influences in common with the rock I already know and love from the UK and the US of around this era.  When the guitar solos you can hear Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry.  In the layers of sound, with the raw vocals buried way down in the mix, it is not a stretch to intuit the inspiration of the more out-there Beatles moments.  The jam band tracks even have a Jazz tinge, following the idea wherever it leads, allowing each band member the opportunity to solo in the spotlight.

Surprisingly I find that the discords – the at times almost atonal vocals – do not grate.  Rather they act as a pleasing counterpoint to the tightly coiled rhythm that rules every track.  The driving, endless beats remind me of nothing so much as Harry Connick Jr.’s wonderful attempt at a Rock album, She.

Yes, I acknowledge what a weird combination I am juxtaposing here – experimental German Rock of the 70s and popuar US Jazz of the 90s.  But just humor me.  Play Can’s “Halleluwah” (all 18 minutes of it) then follow it up with Connick’s “That Party”, and see whether I’m onto something, or just plain crazy.

I’ll accept either answer.

Next Week:  Nati Cano’s Mariachi los Camperos – Viva el Mariachi

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 156 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 156 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (130 of 156 = 83%)

[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%)

[152] David Byrne and Brian Eno – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

11 Mar

“It’s got a beat, and you can dance to it.”

byrne

Names I know, a sound balanced somewhere between those I tend not to seek out and those I have actively studied, this experimental mix of found sounds and sampled beats is a wild mix of hit and miss, of cerebral and base.

Byrne and Eno had both already shown an ear for a cutting edge tune – separately and in collaboration – before this 1981 release, and it is that understanding of how listeners respond to rhythm and repetition which combines here to meld the weird and unexpected parts of each track into a coherent whole.

Beyond the looped guitar stabs and snippets of talk radio hosts and callers, sermonizers and exorcists, the pair also sample Middle Eastern vocals and African beats.  I don’t think Rock, certainly not Pop, and not even World when I’m listening to this sprawling and complex recording, but I do think long and hard about the sounds that are playing.

I think it is entirely possible that I don’t actually *like* this.  That does not stop me spending an engrossing week exploring and experiencing it, enough so that I have no problem recommending it.  I hear the experimentation, the craft, the artists’ choices.  I also hear the influence it had on the next decade plus of popular music, even if I did not always enjoy the sounds so influenced.

Would I rather hear “Psycho Killer” or “Once In A Lifetime”?  Absolutely.  (And I will, 18 letters down the line.)  In the meantime, I fall back on my longtime answer to the question, “What kind of music do you listen to?”

I listen to anything that took real passion and talent to compose and perform.  Also late-80s, early-90s Rock which I acknowledge at times took neither . . .

Next Week: Cafe Tacvba – Cuatro Caminos

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 152 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 152 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (127 of 152 = 84%)

[151] The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

4 Mar

I came pretty close to upsetting a lot of people when I began organizing my thoughts on this inarguably seminal album.

byrds-151-l

I love the Dylan-penned title track which opens the recording, and was excited to hear the rest, only to find the first few plays leaving me utterly cold.  I’ve heard it all before without seemingly ever having heard these particular songs.

So, I took a step back, playing other beloved Byrds singles – including the magnificent “Eight Miles High” and the moving version of Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn” – and I’m wondering what it is I’m missing, why it is Mr. Tambourine Man that gets such an emphatic nod while these “better” songs are left out.

I’m just not getting the love.

The high points of the album initially feel like little more than a tease – in the close harmonies and jingle jangle guitars I’m hearing mid-career Beatles and wondering why I shouldn’t just go back and listen to A Hard Day’s Night or Rubber Soul.

But then something happens.

A couple of the tracks which had previously just flowed past me without any affect began to leave an impression, and it was a childhood in England that offered the band a way into my head and heart.

It turns out I have heard some of these songs before, just never like this.

At first unrecognized by my ear, suddenly I am singing along with the playground chant “Bells of Rhymney” all grown up in its psychedelic splendor.  Soon after, I realize that this may be my favorite version of the wartime standard, “We’ll Meet Again.”

And I find myself reevaluating my every listen to this album to date.

Heard on its own merits, unencumbered by expectations and comparison, Mr. Tambourine Man is a fun and breezy ride, full of new Dylan lyrics and old folk favorites.  Once I recalibrate my ear to the Folk end of the spectrum, from my anticipated Rock assumptions, the acclaim becomes so much more understandable, the music so much more enjoyable.

And I get to remain friends with those few people who are still with me after failing to recommend Pet Sounds and Heartbreaker . . .

Next Week:  David Byrne and Brian Eno – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 151 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 151 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (126 of 151 = 83%)

[144] Buffalo Springfield – Retrospective

15 Jan

I, like so many others, was first introduced to Buffalo Springfield by the magical cover of “For What It’s Worth” on The Muppet Show.

61qx68atfBL

If that were the sole output of the band, there would still be an argument for inclusion on Tom Moon’s list.  That the rest of this Best Of album is as accomplished and enjoyable as it is makes this one of the easiest recommendations to date.

The guitar attack that anchors the entire record is at times laid back melody, at times frenzied distortion, and always foreshadowing the guitar innovations that were to follow – it inspired the sound that I discovered and adored a more than a decade later.  That the music also calls to mind earlier Beatles harmonizing as well as an older Folk aesthetic places Buffalo Springfield at an important crossroads in Rock, and musical, history.

The songwriting is varied and inspired, not surprising considering the personalities doing the composing.  The Folk sensibilities are toughened up by Rock edges, jam band noodling made relevant by the righteous anger of youth.

Buffalo Springfield almost sound like a proto-version of the bands and artists I idolized in my own angry (but not overly so) youth.  I may have leaned to slicker, less earnest iterations of this everyband, and certainly never explored beyond “For What It’s Worth” at the time.  But, thankfully for me, those bands certainly knew Buffalo Springfield and soared from their lofty foundations.

“Everybody look what’s going ’round . . .”

Next Week: The Bulgarian Women’s National Radio and Television Chorus – Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 144 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 144 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (119 of 144 = 83%)

[142] Tim Buckley – Dream Letter: Live in London, 1968

25 Dec

At the crossroads of Folk and Rock, Tim Buckley uses his voice more as instrument than lyric delivery system.

buckley-tim-142-l

In this long and winding live recording, Buckley whines and wails in unfettered and unapologetic sweeps, showing astounding vocal range and control.  It is quite fascinating to hear the things he makes his voice do.

Unfortunately – despite its unique character, its originality and style – I find that this aspect of the album quickly fades into the background, along with the rest of the music.  As impressive as the tone and talent on display from all on hand may be, I find myself constantly tuning out.

Nothing here holds my attention once the novelty of Buckley’s voice falls to familiarity.

It is a shame, because I really want to enjoy this.  There is certainly nothing wrong, nothing I dislike to be heard.  But it seems odd to recommend a recording as indispensable when I consistently forget all about it even while it is playing.

It is, I fear, perhaps a reflection of the songwriting aesthetic that it is only when a snippet cover of the hugely familiar “You Keep Me Hanging On” reaches my ears that I notice there is music on at all . . .

Maybe the studio albums are tighter, more engaging than Dream Letter.  But it is far more likely that in walking such a tightrope between Folk and Rock, Buckley has watered down both, served neither.

Which makes me sad.

Next Week: Buckwheat Zydeco – Buckwheat’s Zydeco Party

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 142 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 142 = 14%)
Recommend? No. (117 of 142 = 82%)

[140] Jeff Buckley – Grace

10 Dec

When a cover of a song as good as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” does not sound at all out of place on an album otherwise comprised of originals, the result is going to be special.

buckley-jeff-140-l

The mid-to-late ’90s was a very strange time for me, musically.

I simply wasn’t actively listening to new music anywhere near the mainstream, instead only discovering new stuff in small clubs played by bands who no one but me (and just maybe the performers themselves) still remember.  Newly returned to New York City, I was working in a comic store where I either listened to my own eclectic cassettes or Classic Rock radio.  I was shooting pool in East Village bars where the jukeboxes played familiar and comforting CDs.  I was only at home long enough to catch up on sleep and write papers for my Master’s classes, playing old mix tapes or watching B5 and Sports Night reruns.

For these reason I did not encounter Grace, although it would not have been at all out of place.

If I was still a part of any scene that listened to new music back then, Jeff Buckley would have been someone I listened to.  He hits all of the accents I tend to love in my Rock – polished soundscapes, ranging vocals, power and precision in equal measure.

So it is a shame that I feel like I have missed the boat here.

Buckley just doesn’t appeal to me today the way he would have done to my 20-something psyche.  This is not to say that I do not enjoy what I hear, that I am not glad to finally have the excuse to explore out this one-and-sadly-done album.

Instead, I just have a different relationship to music today.  I don’t pore over liner notes memorizing lyrics anymore – who has time?  I don’t dance around night clubs the way I once did – much as I’d still love to go dancing, I find I’d rather be with my girls at home, playing a boardgame with one of the 1,000 recordings playing over Sonos.

I understand the hype that Buckley generated, even before his early demise.  I appreciate the craft on display, the obvious talent, the sense of history and gravity with which every song is performed.

So I feel an appropriate melancholy that I did not connect with this when it might really have affected me.

Grace is never going to be a favorite album, but it will certainly be one that I revisit, one that enters my rotation of the new discoveries which I find I want to hear again.

Next week: Lord Buckley – His Royal Hipness

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 140 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 140 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (116 of 140 = 83%)

[138] Jackson Browne – Late For The Sky

27 Nov

The initial notes of this album capture my heart – huge warm piano and twangy guitar quickly followed by velvet vocals subtly understated in the mix – but it turns out this is only the start of my journey.

browne-jackson-138-l

Late For The Sky is far from the slam dunk, the instant favorite that the opening moments suggested.  My relationship with this fascinating album from the year of my birth is a more complex and ultimately more satisfying tale.

On superficial first blush I am wondering where this recording was in my formative years, imagining an alternate reality where I spent my teen years memorizing Jackson Browne lyrics instead of Billy Joel to teach me how and what to feel.

Quickly I step away from trying to decipher meaning and I’m caught up in the close harmonies, the unconventional melodies, hearing the Eagles, hearing James Taylor.  Which is when it all starts to sour . . .

With all of these touchstones – and without a lifelong connection to this voice, these words, these tunes – I find myself wanting to hear the songs and albums that are actually familiar, not mere shadows.

I want to sing along and find myself unable.

I am saddened and frustrated – a mindset not at all at odds with the sound of Browne’s creations on Late For The Sky – so I leave this album alone for a time to revisit old friends; Hotel California, Storm Front and Sweet Baby Jane.

That detour out of my system, I find myself back listening to Browne at odd moments, find myself with unexpected earworm snippets, and I realize that this album has touched me after all.  I am still not singing along, still don’t have a concrete handle on the story arcs of song or album, but I no longer seem to need these.

The mood paintings – perfectly crafted, soulful and sublime – touch me viscerally rather than intellectually which is all the more satisfying for being so surprising.  I love story songs, and expected to fall in love with this facet of Browne’s craft, but instead it is the production and performance which moves me and keeps me coming back to this album.

This blog has talked before about the limitations of Classic Rock radio.  That there does not seem to be a place for anything from Late For The Sky is as damning an argument as any.

Next Week:  Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 7 in E

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 138 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 138 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (114 of 138 = 83%)

THE PODS & SODS NETWORK

podcasts for the musically obsessed

kellycpowers

Days in the life

emilyleelifeandmusic

My rants, outbursts and musings.

Every number one

Journey through all the songs that topped the charts

musicophilesblog - From Keith Jarrett to Johannes Brahms

Writing About and Reviewing Classical Music and Jazz

Leaves of Logan

Rants, reviews, rambles and a whole lot of books

Punk Rock Reviews

Reviewing Music

Team Distraction

Dicemasters Strategy

Kenza Moller

writing | editing | marketing

The Delinquent Diplomat

The Diplomacy Player's Blog Of Choice

Sampling Station

Tasty tunes, laughs, TV + film

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

Serious Thinks Thought Here

Grown Up Blogging Platform - Same Crappy Content

%d bloggers like this: