Recent Releases, October 2018 Edition

October has had a bumper crop of amazing releases, much to my surprise!  Sometimes these latecomers can go either way… they may be filler, or they may not quite live up to the hype, but this time out it most definitely did.  Loads of tunes worth checking out…

John Lennon, Imagine – The Ultimate Collection, relesed 5 October. Although John’s solo output wasn’t as pop-oriented or catchy as Paul’s, when he nailed it, it was flawless. His 1971 album Imagine gets a multi-disk overview here, filled with demos and alternate takes, as well as fascinating partial mixes (such as the amazing strings-only ‘Elements Mix’ of “Imagine”), all of which are worth checking out if you’re a hardcore Beatle fan.

Kristin Hersh, Possible Dust Clouds, released 5 October. I love the claustrophobic loudness of this album, a style Hersh perfected way back in her early Throwing Muses days. One of my favorites of her recent output.

Matt Nathanson, Sings His Sad Heart, released 5 October. After the surprise release earlier this year of his Def Leppard covers EP (which earned kudos from DL singer Joe Elliott himself!), Matt returns to his pop roots and writes an album that on the surface might be somewhat melancholy, but never ignores the more positive future.

Kurt Vile, Bottle It In, released 12 October. Kurt is one of those musicians I never thought I’d get into, but I find his stuff fascinating. It’s off-kilter alt-folk very similar to Courtney Barnett (no surprise they released an album together last year) with some really inventive and fun songs.

Justin Courtney Pierre, In the Drink, released 12 October. The former Motion City Soundtrack singer surprised everyone (even himself!) by releasing a solo record, and it’s just as great as you’d think it would be. Very similar in sound to his MCS work, and just as peculiar and fun.

Live, Local 717 EP, released 12 October. I was pleasantly surprised by this record — Ed Kowalczyk is back in the fold as lead singer — and the music is just as solid and powerful as their mid to late 90s output. Great to see them again!

Minus the Bear, Fair Enough EP, released 12 October. Alas this band has disbanded and this is their final release, but it’s a great way to go. I was late getting into their work, but their entire discography is worth checking out.

Cloud Nothings, Last Building Burning, released 19 October. This band has always been loud, but this record’s just brutal. It’s unrelenting, pissed-off punk that kicks you repeatedly in the head from the first note and doesn’t give up. A perfect punk record and one of my favorite releases this month.

Elle King, Shake the Spirit, released 19 October. Elle has no fucks to give, and she’s not afraid of letting you know that on this album. She’s always had sassy lyrics, but there’s an extra layer of it here. Sometimes it’s funny and clever, but just as often it’ll be pointed and biting. A great follow-up to her previous album.

Robyn, Honey, released 26 October. A VERY welcome return for the dance-pop singer, after a long personal hiatus. The new album is filled with infectious dance beats and sleek production and it’s a fun listen.

The Struts, Young & Dangerous, released 26 October. A very aptly named band with the cockiest swagger since the Rolling Stones. Their sound is most definitely a throwback to the late 70s-early 80s, with a bit of glam and a whole lot of attitude, but it’s an extremely fun if often ridiculous listen.

Sara Bareilles, “Armor” single, released 26 October. Per her Twitter, this wasn’t supposed to be released until early next year, but she felt its message was extremely important and much needed this second, and she’s not wrong. It’s a call-out to all the sexist bullshit going on out there and the power of inner strength to make it stop.

Semisonic, Feeling Strangely Fine (20th Anniversary Reissue), released 26 October. “Closing Time” may have been their biggest and only hit, but the rest of the album it’s from is simply amazing. Dan Wilson and Co. are stellar songwriters that know how to craft catchy tunes that get stuck in your head for days. This re-release has been remastered (it sounds much warmer than the original) and contains four b-sides as well.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, IC-01 Hanoi, released 26 October. An unexpected but fascinating follow-up to their Sex & Food record from earlier this year, it’s an all-instrumental jazz-rock record that sounds a little like Meddle-era Pink Floyd with its swampy jam sound.

Thom Yorke, Suspiria OST, released 26 October. No big surprise that Yorke was tapped to do the score for the remake of the 1977 Italian horror flick, as it’s full of weirdness and creepiness that was only hinted at on the darker edges of Radiohead’s Kid A, Amnesiac and A Moon Shaped Pool. There’s a lot of instrumental score going on, but there’s also some great full-song tracks such as “Suspirium”. Worth checking out.

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Next Up: November New Releases!

Twenty Years On: October 1998

October 1998: The fourth quarter kicks in at the record store, which keeps me ridiculously busy in the back room, processing all the stock coming in.  I do manage to sneak out onto the sales floor every now and again to check out what’s going on and upsell some of my favorite releases.

U2, “Sweetest Thing” single, released 4 October. A teaser single for their first official greatest hits album that would be released in November, this is a reworking of an old Joshua Tree-era b-side that got airplay even back in 1987. It’s a simple pop song even by their standards, but it’s lovely and fun. Plus, the video is wonderfully silly.

The Wiseguys, The Antidote, released 5 October. There were many electronica one hit wonders in the late 90s, and these guys were one of them. Their single “Ooh La La” did get some minor notice in a commercial, but it was this track that got the most attention. One of my favorite 90s videos as well, as this is pretty much exactly the visual equivalent of how I hear this kind of creative sampling!

Duncan Sheik, Humming, released 6 October. While not as gorgeous and introspective as his debut, his follow-up album did in fact show his fabulous songwriting chops with some great upbeat tunes. He’s definitely on my I will buy anything he releases shopping list.

Placebo, Without You I’m Nothing, released 12 October. While their first album flew well below the radar in the US, their second one got some major airplay thanks to one of their best songs, “Pure Morning”, which of course should always be played at top volume.

Fatboy Slim, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, released 12 October. Norman Cook’s breakthrough album is indeed a fine collection of some of his best DJing work and featuring “The Rockafeller Skank”, “Praise You” and “Right Here Right Now”.

Love and Rockets, Lift, released 13 October. The final album is so markedly different from their first from 1985 that it’s almost impossible to see they’re the same band — but it also shows how much they’d evolved since their Bauhaus/Tones on Tail days.

Eels, Electro-Shock Blues, released 20 October. Mark Everett’s quirky songwriting has always been naked and personal, but it’s also a fascinating listen. “Last Stop: This Town” got some heavy airplay on the alt-rock stations upon its release.

Robbie Williams, I’ve Been Expecting You, released 26 October [UK]. You either loved or hated Robbie Williams in the 90s and 00s; you either found him cheeky and unbearable, or you found him fun and enjoyable. I’m firmly in the latter, because his songs were always so full of relentless energy. In 1999 some tunes from this and his previous UK album (Life Thru a Lens) would be compiled into a hit album in the US, fittingly called The Ego Has Landed.

Phish, The Story of the Ghost, released 27 October. THE jam band of the 90s, this album was a lot quirkier and improvised than 1996’s Billy Breathes, so while passive fans who liked their single “Free” weren’t as excited, the hardcore ones loved it.

REM, Up, released 27 October. I’ll admit that I was never that big of a fan of REM’s later years, partly because they’d moved too far away from their original sound. I didn’t mind the sheen of Out of Time or the rock of Automatic for the People, but I couldn’t quite get into anything after that. However, Up was in fact an excellent example of just how tight they were as a band despite their change in style.

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Next Up: November 1998!

Thirty Years On, October 1988, Part II

Continuing with more great music from October 1988!

Compilation: Walk in Silence…, created mid-October. Way before it was the title of my music blog, it was the title of an ongoing mixtape series, starting with this one. The focus of this one was similar to my Listen in Silence mixtape in which it featured my favorite songs both old and new, but this one contained more emotional favorites and ones connected to my writing projects, such as tracks form Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Wire, Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and of course Joy Division. This past June I created the twenty-first volume.

REM, Eponymous, released 8 October. REM’s first greatest hits record may in fact be a contractual obligation album — it’s their last for IRS — but it’s a great mix that contains both popular hits and rarities. It’s not exactly essential, as all the rarities are easily available in later best-of mixes, but at the time it was a perfect retrospective for the band.

John Lennon: Imagine soundtrack, released 10 October. This is the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name, featuring the story of John (and Yoko) post-Beatles. It’s a touching tribute and a great mix. It also features the first official appearance of “Real Love”, which would be rerecorded eight years later by the surviving Beatles for the Anthology 2 album.

U2, Rattle & Hum, released 10 October. While some people think of this album as too long with too many throwaways (and the documentary as too self-important and navel-gazey), it really is a fantastic album, and contains some of their best late-80s tracks. The documentary, by the way, holds up surprisingly well!

Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey, released 10 October. After Ministry’s change from synthpop to aggressive industrial with 1986’s Twitch, they followed up with one of their loudest and most powerful albums to date. It’s a hybrid of industrial, speed metal, and unrestrained punk, and it’s a trip.

Duran Duran, Big Thing, released 18 October. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the slick Europop of 1986’s Notorious I really enjoyed the straightforward rock of this particular album. It’s got a lot of really great tracks on it, even though it tends to be overshadowed by 1993’s Wedding Album.

Various Artists, Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, released 18 October. A curious tribute album to songs from the House of Mouse, it contains some of the most interesting and/or odd covers from Los Lobos (a goofy “I Wanna Be Like You”), The Replacements (a wonderfully drunken “Cruella De Ville”), Suzanne Vega (the lovely “Stay Awake”), Tom Waits (a fantastically creepy version of “Heigh Ho”), and more.  Definitely worth checking out.

The Traveling Wilburys, The Traveling Wilburys Vol 1, released 24 October. What was originally supposed to be a b-side project for a George Harrison single became a supergroup that not just wrote and recorded a great classic rock album but reignited the careers of all five of its members.

The Fall, I Am Kurious Oranj, released 31 October. This band had evolved from atonal punk to noise-rock and beyond, so it was only a matter of time before they joined forces with UK dancer Michael Clarke to create a rock opera about…William of Orange? Sure, why not? It’s actually one of their most accessible and melodic records of this era, and a personal favorite of mine.

Ultra Vivid Scene, Ultra Vivid Scene, released 31 October. Kurt Ralske’s sort-of one man band project took its influence from the sludgy noise of The Jesus and Mary Chain, and was one of 4AD’s first signings to break out of the label’s reverb-drenched signature sound. While it’s noisy as hell, it can also be quite beautiful. Music trivia: a very young Moby was once its bassist!

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Next Up: Coming close to the end of the year, but there’s still a lot of great music to come!

Thirty Years On: October 1988, Part I

October 1988:  Switching between multiple writing projects and the occasional poetry or Flying Bohemian lyric, while digging through my last year in high school.  Amherst College’s WAMH returns to the airwaves, much to my delight, and I begin recording things off the radio in earnest when I’m not buying albums (mostly on cassette) at Al Bum’s or Main Street Music.  A surprisingly large assortment of great tunage is released this month, so much that I have to split it up into two posts!

Buffalo Tom, Buffalo Tom, released ?? October. A new wave of bands with a distinctly Boston sound had started making a noise in the mid to late 80s, and Buffalo Tom was a huge favorite of everyone. They weren’t just loud and raucous, they wrote amazing melodies and smart lyrics. One of my favorite Boston bands, their entire discography is worth checking out.

Dinosaur Jr, Bug, released ?? October. Meanwhile, out in the Pioneer Valley of western MA, stoner rock dudes Dino Jr made a hell of a loud noise and released their second album, which the Five College area stations played incessantly. Such was their fanbase that they’d eventually become one of the highlights of the 90s alt-rock scene.

Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation, released ?? October. And just a little further south in NYC, a band was making an even LOUDER noise (as it had been since the beginning of the decade) and released what would be one of their biggest albums to date. While not as dissonant as previous albums, it retained the power of their relentless energetic style.

Front 242, Front by Front, released ?? October. Following up from their absolutely amazing “Headhunter” single, the album provides not just their fast-paced EBM beats, but slower diversions that are just as intriguing. While a lot of industrial music from this era could sound great but feel emotionless (often on purpose), Front 242 always gave their songs an energy that brought their songs to life. One of my favorite albums of 1988, and a great listen on headphones!

Laibach, Let It Be, released ?? October. One of the more fascinating releases of the year, the Slovenian band covered almost the entire Beatles album of the same name (leaving out the title song). Each track was given its own style (such as the military stomp of “Get Back” or the Wagnerian operatic take on “I Me Mine”) but everyone gravitated to the absolutely lovely “Across the Universe”. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s well worth checking out.

Julian Cope, My Nation Underground, relased ?? October. He may be a bit of a weirdo, but Julian Cope certainly knew how to write some great tunes in his 80s career. “Charlotte Anne” is a lovely bit of dreamy British pop that became a fan favorite. He also does a really fun cover of The Vogues’ “5 O’Clock World” here as well.

A House, On Our Big Fat Merry Go Round, released ?? October. A great band from Dublin that flew under nearly everyone’s radar but dropped some really fun rock tracks that paved the way for guitar-based alt-rock in the 90s. This one’s a fun listen.

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Coming Soon: More tunage from October 1988!

Forty Years On? A brief overview of 1978, Part III

Finishing up on this little diversion, here are a few more songs and albums that were on my radar in my youth.  The year would of course end with my mom buying me 1967-1970 (aka the Blue Album) for Christmas, kicking off a now forty-year obsession with buying and listening to music on a daily basis.  And it’s not stopping any time soon…

 

Styx, Pieces of Eight, released September. Not quite prog, not quite arena rock, not quite glam, and sometimes a bit ridiculous, but Styx was a radio favorite for years. “Renegade” still gets played nowadays, both on radio and in stadiums.

The KISS solo albums, released 18 September. All four members released a solo album in the fall of 1978. Though it didn’t generate the critical or fan excitement the label had expected (and we now know that Casablanca was known for its brilliant yet catastrophic ideas…), a lot of KISS fans I knew went out and bought them anyway. The only track that got any major play was Ace Frehley’s discofied “New York Groove”, but it’s a hell of a fun track regardless.

Ramones, Road to Ruin, released 22 September. I may have been only seven, but I knew about “I Wanna Be Sedated” even then, thanks to WAAF’s hard rock playlist. Plus, one of my cousins was a big fan. [She was also the same person that would get me hooked on Duran Duran a few years later.]  They were never far from my radar, so I’ve always been a fan.

Blondie, Parallel Lines, released 23 September. I was never the biggest Blondie fan, but I loved “Heart of Glass”. Production so sleek you could see your reflection in it, and the insistent drumbeats front and center and propelled by that ticking sequencer.

Billy Joel, 52nd Street, released 13 October. Another musician whose songs you could not escape in the 70s. Not that I minded, because I quite enjoyed his piano work at he time! This album was a huge hit for him and started a long string of pop radio hits lasting well into the 80s.

The Police, Outlandos d’Amour, released 2 November. When “Roxanne” dropped, it was picked up by every rock station out there and never left. Their debut album is amazingly tight and shows off their punkier side, even when it veers into silliness (the classic ode to a blow-up sex doll, “Be My Girl – Sally”). A fun album from start to finish.

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So yeah, I definitely skipped a LOT of stuff in between. Some releases that I don’t own, some singles I’ve missed… but thinking about it now, 1978 was a watershed year on multiple fronts. As I’ve mentioned here before, this was the year where radio listening habits shifted from AM to FM. While FM was becoming more commercial and focusing more on set rotations, there was still quite a bit of room for free-form playlist experimentation. It was a turning point for a lot of music genres on radio; disco was on the wane, rock was rediscovering its spine, punk and post-punk was sneaking on to college radio, funk was still going strong, and even country would experience a surge in popularity. I may have been seven, but there was a lot going on musically that excited me!

Forty Years On? A brief overview of 1978, Part II

Welcome to another wave of great tunage that dropped when I was a mere seven years old and already listening to the radio far more than anyone else my age probably was.  (Again — I’m skipping a lot of music that could be listed here but isn’t, merely because I did not start listening to those albums and bands until years later.)

Journey, Infinity, released 20 May. The first Journey album to feature Steve Perry, this album finally pushed them into the limelight with less focus on lengthy jams (a holdover from Neal Schon’s Santana days) and more on power pop. They would remain an arena rock favorite for the next ten years.

Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town, released 2 June. After the powerhouse that was 1975’s Born to Run (and its ensuing tour), it took Bruce another three years — and some very ugly legal issues concerning a manager he’d needed to jettison — he returned with this strong and tense album. He can barely contain the energy he’d been holding onto for far too long.

The Cars, The Cars, released 6 June. Living in MA as a kid, you’d hear a track from this album on every single rock station that came in at least once a day, for decades. And you wouldn’t just hear one of the two singles, either; of its nine tracks, seven of them would end up in heavy rotation. There aren’t that many albums that can claim to have that much success, let alone debut albums. It truly is a classic worth owning.

The Rolling Stones, Some Girls, released 9 June. The Stones went through so many different style changes over the years they give David Bowie a run for his money. This particular album has them sounding like the two sides of Manhattan nightlife at the time: equal parts punk and disco. It was a critical success and the fans loved it.

Dire Straits, Dire Straits, released 7 July. They were a blues band that sounded nothing like Clapton, a jam band that sounded nothing like the Dead, and a London-based band that sounded Middle American. They were hard to pin down but they were amazing musicians and you couldn’t ignore them. And “Sultans of Swing” is still an amazing song after all these years.

The Who, Who Are You, released 18 August. After a long wave of two rock operas, a few filler albums and the occasional single, the band released one hell of a powerful and timely album. Alas, it would be the last record featuring Keith Moon, who passed away three weeks after it was released. Still, it’s one of their best albums of their 70s output and the title single still gets away with an uncensored “who the fuck are you” on commercial radio. Heh.

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More groovy tunes from 1978 coming soon!

Forty Years On? A brief overview of 1978, Part I

You knew it was going to happen sooner or later.  This is by no means complete, and I’m leaving out a LOT of great tunage primarily because it’s stuff I didn’t listen to or even know about until years later… but here’s a smidge of some of my favorite songs I heard on the radio when I was seven and my lifelong obsession was just starting out.

Electric Light Orchestra, “Mr Blue Sky” single, released January. Their fantastic Out of the Blue had been out for a few months by this time, but this became the fan favorite for years to come. Hearing it as the opening song for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 made me ridiculously happy.

ABBA, “Take a Chance on Me” single, released January, My sister was a big ABBA fan and I loved listening to The Album, which had come out in December. They may be sugary pop, but they could write one hell of a great song.

Van Halen, Van Halen, released 10 February. The local rock stations LOVED this album and played most of its tracks. A staple cassette in your boombox or your car stereo at the time.

Wings, London Town, released 31 March. I always say that Yellow Submarine and the Sgt Pepper movie kickstarted my Beatles obsession, but I’m pretty sure Paul’s “With a Little Luck” single had something to do with it as well, as it got played EVERYWHERE and I remember my mom and I liking it a lot.

Hot Chocolate, Every 1’s a Winner, released April. I loved the funky groove and the wonky production of this track, and it (along with their “You Sexy Thing” remains one of my favorite 70s songs.

KISS, Double Platinum, released 2 April. One of my other sisters was a KISS fan and got this for her birthday. I was quite familiar with their songs, so this was a great entry point for all involved.

Cheap Trick, Heaven Tonight, released May. “Surrender” drops and becomes everyone’s favorite rock song for the entire summer and for decades to come. One of the best rock songs of the 70s. A and I drove down a highway towards Houston with this song blaring, the both of us singing along like happy idiots!

Coming up: More 1978 goodness!