Recent Purchases, December Edition

There usually aren’t that many new releases in the last month of the year; December is usually reserved for titles aimed at gift-giving…the box set, the greatest hits mix, the best-of-year compilations, and so on.  New albums don’t usually do so well this time out unless they’re either from big-name bands.  I usually use this month to pick up whatever few new albums there are and catch up on some of the older releases I hadn’t gotten around to.

So without further ado, a much shorter list to provide…

Cindy Wilson, Change, released 1 December. This was quite a surprise to a lot of people, as Cindy’s vocals are usually loud and up front, right next to Kate Pierson’s when they’re singing B-52s tracks. She’s much more subdued and adventurous here. The album feels like a mix of Tom Tom Club with a bit of less-noisy Sonic Youth thrown in.

Steven Wilson, Last Day of June OST, released 1 December. This one almost snuck by me! Steven quickly follows up his To the Bone with the soundtrack to a video game based on one of his songs. Much of it is instrumental, but that’s not a problem here, as he’s always had a gift for lovely and often haunting melodies.

New Order, NOMC15, released 1 December. I’ve always felt this band was a little boring live, as they never really had much stage presence at all (per Peter Hook, it was usually because they were either wasted or putting on an attitude, or both), but apparently they’ve lightened up and put on a much more entertaining show over the last few years. This is a great mix of New Order songs both new and old, and they do almost all of them justice. [I say almost, because I feel they really do “Atmosphere” a disservice, as Bernard can’t hit Ian’s low notes and it ends up like he’s singing the words but to the tune of “Ceremony” instead. Other than that, it’s quite excellent.]

U2, Songs of Experience, released 1 December. An excellent follow-up to 2014’s Songs of Innocence, and just as solid and strong. Just like the previous album, they’ve recaptured the power and focus that had been lacking in the last few releases. One of my favorites of the year.

Belle and Sebastian, How to Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1) EP, released 8 December. The first of three planned EPs from a poppier version of a band formerly known for their lo-fi murblings in the 90s and 00s. It took me a few songs to get used to their new direction, but it works well for them.

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Coming up Thursday: the year-end compilation and best-of lists! 🙂

Recent Purchases, November Edition

A slightly shorter list this month, but running the gamut between soft, loud, delicate and noisy. November had quite the eclectic mix!

Lost Horizons, Ojalá, released 3 November. Simon Raymonde from Cocteau Twins, and Richie Thomas from Dif Juz? What’s not to love? A laid back, sort of jazzy album that’s a relaxing treat.

Bibio, Phantom Brickworks, released 3 November. Even more relaxing than the above album, this one’s filled with lovely meandering instrumentals and makes a fine writing soundtrack.

Sleigh Bells, Kid Kruschev EP, released 10 November. A usually-loud band surprises us with a mid-tempo, sometimes even quiet mini-set that’s just as excellent as their ear-bleeding noise.

Seal, Standards, released 10 November. I got a chance to see him play tracks from this album with the San Francisco Symphony a few nights ago, and it was absolutely fantastic. He really nailed the Sinatra/Rat Pack vibe on this album. I particularly love this track, as it really reminds me of The Wrecking Crew.

Morrissey, Low in High School, released 17 November. Questionable commentary, wonky politics and untrustworthy touring aside, I’m still a fan of Moz’s music, and I think this is probably his strongest album in quite some time. A lot of his previous records were good but not memorable, but this one’s got a goodly amount of keepers.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Wembley Or Bust, released 17 November. I totally admit I’ve been obsessing over this album lately! Yeah, I’m almost 47 and this is the music of my youth. It’s an excellent live mix of classics (and “When I Was a Boy” from 2015’s Alone in the Universe) and a hell of a fun listen.

Elbow, Best of, released 24 November. Go buy this already! One of my favorite bands of the new millennium. Absolutely stellar songwriting with gorgeous melodies and amazing vocals.  I don’t obsess over this band so much as I let their music pull me in and take me places.  I love it when a band can do that.

Bjork, Utopia, released 24 November. Weirdly beautiful as always, Bjork’s new album is once again less about the melodies and more about the sensation of its sound. Delicate and fragile, but always great.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds,Who Built the Moon, released 24 November. The Other Gallagher Brother (the one wot wrote nearly all the Oasis songs) puts out an off-kilter yet surprisingly strong album that’s quite different from his previous two.

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One more month of new releases to go!

Recent Purchases, October Edition

October was a somewhat quieter release month (and my wallet thanks the record industry for that), but these releases were no less awesome. Here’s a few albums I picked up…

Liam Gallagher, As You Were, released 6 October. Yes, I am still willing to admit I’m an Oasis fan (as well as a Blur fan, but that’s another post entirely), and I’ve followed both Gallagher brothers post-breakup. Liam, the snotty kid brother, is no longer recording under the Beady Eye moniker, and it seems he’s finally shed his Beatles/Jam hippie-mod hybrid leanings. The new solo album is strong and confident, much like post-Be Here Now Oasis.

Hans Zimmer, Blade Runner 2049 score, released 6 October. I’ve been getting into scores lately, which is kind of a new thing for me as an avid listener. Zimmer does a fantastic job updating the sound originated by the classic 1982 SF film, providing a bit of warmth to an otherwise dark setting. [For the record, I had a few issues with the film scriptwise but overall I quite enjoyed it.]

The Church, man woman life death infinity, released 6 October. One of my favorite bands from the 80s is still going strong, and still fiercely independent in their sound. This is one of their spookier albums by far.

Beck, Colors, released 13 October. I can always count on Beck to release one of two kinds of albums: either a beautiful heartbreaking serious album (like Sea Change and Morning Phase or an off-kilter weirdo album (like Odelay and this one). I’ve come to really appreciate his musicianship over the years, and “Dreams” is definitely one of my favorite recent singles of his.

St Vincent, Masseduction, released 13 October. St Vincent finally returns with a new album, and it’s even weirder than her last. This one took me a few listens to get into for that reason, but it’s just as solid as her previous work.

Stars, There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light, released 13 October. I can always count on Stars to come out with a laid back alt-rock album with no pretension or bombast, and they write such lovely melodies. One of my favorite albums of this month.

The Sound of Arrows, Stay Free, released 27 October. This Swedish electronic band is a new find for me, but I love them already. They’ve been described as a mix of Pet Shop Boys and M83, and I think that’s spot on. About halfway through my initial listen I realized this could very well be the style of music to listen to for my next writing project.

…More releases coming soon! 🙂

The kids would all sing, he would take the wrong key

Last Friday saw the release of a major compilation from the Who entitled Maximum As & Bs, featuring nearly all their singles from their first release as the High Numbers to their most recent.

I’ve been a somewhat passive Who fan in the past, knowing most of their more famous songs from listening to classic rock radio as a youth, but I never really followed them too closely until years later.  I found them very similar to the Kinks; they were an acquired taste and you kind of had to understand their very British influences in order to really appreciate them.

So of course during the course of Friday afternoon I streamed the collection from Amazon, and found it quite fascinating.  Like most bands from the 60s (yes, even the Beatles), the band flailed around for a few years trying to find their footing.  There’s a lot of mod posturing and moon-June lyricism going on in the early tracks.  They managed to get past this most of the time, thanks to Pete Townshend’s wit and amazing riffs, John Entwistle’s thundering bass lines, and of course Keith Moon’s manic drumming.  Roger Daltrey’s of course a great singer, but those first couple of years are a bit shaky for him; it felt like he was trying too hard to fit his powerful voice into quiet songs.  By the time they came to Tommy, though, they were a powerhouse and a rock radio staple.

[Granted, their concept album era of Tommy and Quadrophenia isn’t for everyone.  I myself find both projects a little too ridiculous, but they both contain some stellar songs that stand on their own amazingly well.]

This compilation is quite long, covering multiple decades (and is essentially a cd/digital repackaging of the singles box sets they released recently), so you may want to take it in a cd at a time, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

Finding New Music

Finding new music to listen to isn’t always easy.  As I’ve mentioned before, commercial stations tend to have a set rotation so we hear the same core songs over the course of a few months, with maybe a new track popping up every now and again.  But it’s rare for that new addition to the playlist to immediately get a lot of play right away.

In a way, the same can be said for listening to college radio.  While those stations often don’t have the set rotation setup, they can also be a bit too leftfield, playing nothing but obscurities and outsider music.  It’s fun to listen to if you like that sort of thing, but that sort of stuff doesn’t really resonate with me.

I tend to go somewhere in between; I’ll listen to college radio for part of the day (my home station lately has been Boston College’s WZBC, though I’ll slip over to my other favorite, Santa Clara University’s KSCU, later on), but then I might switch over to Boston’s RadioBDC or one of the SiriusXM stations.  Somewhere during all that listening, I’ll catch a new song that will catch my attention.

I’ll also stop by some of the websites that are streaming new albums.  NPR features an interesting selection, as do a few others.  I’ll also check out albums that I can stream through Amazon Prime (one of the main reasons I signed up for it, actually); I actually use that site extensively on New Release Fridays to check out the new stuff and decide if I want to explore the bands further or not.

Interestingly, I’ve found some favorites via social media as well.  Sometimes a random band will follow me, and I’ll always give them a quick listen and follow back if I’m interested. This is always fun, because these bands and musicians tend to be more low key yet absolutely fantastic. I’ve picked up a number of albums from bands this way.

Here’s a few of my favorite finds over the past year:

FiFi Rong (followed me on Twitter)

Of Verona (followed me on Twitter)

The DROiDS (followed me on Twitter)

Pia Fraus (suggested by AllMusic.com)

Cosima (suggested by Stereogum and The Line of Best Fit)

 

Cymbals (suggested by AllMusic.com)

Gang of Youths (heard on WZBC)

Recent Purchases, September Edition, Part II

More musical goodness from last month for you to enjoy!

Living Colour, Shade, released 8 September. Great to see these guys back, still rocking hard and writing some damn fine songs.

The National, Sleep Well Beast, released 8 September. A somewhat more somber affair for these guys (well, a bit more laid back than they already are!), but still a great album.

Lamb, “Illumina” single, released 13 September. A new track by Lamb? SWEET! A lovely track by one of my favorite electronic bands. Definitely looking forward to more from them.

Foo Fighters, Concrete and Gold, released 15 September. A harder, darker album, less catchy but just as great.

Ringo Starr, Give More Love, released 15 September. Ringo’s albums can be hit or miss, but he definitely hit it with this one. Very upbeat and confident on this one.

Prophets of Rage, Prophets of Rage, released 15 September. Music by the guys from Rage Against the Machine and rappers from Public Enemy and Cypress Hill. You’d better expect some fucking rage.

Gary Numan, Savage (Songs from a Broken World), released 15 September. I think I may have found another album that I will be listening to during writing sessions for the next Mendaihu Universe story. I’m amazed at how damn good this album is.

Cut Copy, Haiku from Zero, released 22 September. This band manages to create a new variant of their signature electronic sound with every new album, and I’m always fascinated by them. Yet another fine release.

Tricky, ununiform, released 22 September. Another ‘I will buy anything they release’ musician. Tricky’s not as grimy and gritty as he used to be, but he still retains the great triphop chill that defines his sound.

The Horrors, V, released 22 September. I stumbled upon this group a few years ago and I love their mid-80s goth retro sound that kind of reminds me of Comsat Angels. Definitely worth checking out.

Wolf Alice, Visions of a Life, released 29 September. This is such a fun band to listen to! You never quite know where they’re going next with each song, but the ride is a blast.

Coming soon enough: October releases! We have some fine albums for this month as well that I’m looking forward to picking up!

 

Recent Purchases, August Edition

The further we go along in 2017, the more this year seems to be that everyone is putting out an album!  Not that I’m complaining. There’s not just favorite bands releasing new stuff, I’m also finding new bands to obsess over. Here’s some of my favorites for August:

Life On Venus, Encounters, released 4 August. Dreamy, reverby shoegaze from Moscow? Sure, why not? Very Slowdive-y, in a really good way.

Black Grape, Pop Voodoo, released 4 August. Shaun Ryder once again proving he can’t hit a note to save his life, his poppier, dancier group returning after far too long with a new album.

Dan Wilson, Re-Covered, released 4 August. Known more for his songwriting and production now than his tenure in Semisonic, Wilson records some of his most well-known tracks that were recorded by other artists.

Frankie Rose, Cage Tropical, released 11 August. AllMusic described this album as sounding remarkably like a pop album from 1985, and they weren’t wrong. I most likely would have bought this at Strawberries back then.

Emily Saliers, Murmuration Nation, released 11 August. The other half of Indigo Girls finally releases her own solo album, and it’s a fun, poppy, maybe even a little electronic record worth checking out.

The Districts, Popular Manipulations, 11 August. A band that’s new to me, but won me over on the first track above. They kind of remind me of the Killers vocally but Beach Slang musically.

Paul Draper, Spooky Action, released 11 August. Draper has lost none of his quirky songwriting chops since leaving Mansun oh so many years ago. Definitely a welcome return!

Gold Class, Drum, released 18 August. It took me a few listens to realize they remind me a lot of The Cult, but without the overwhelming pomp and less Ian Astbury wail. I’m quite liking this one.

KMFDM, HELL YEAH, released 18 August. I really need to get back into Belgian industrial. I loved it way back in the day but could never find any of it (and when I did, I was usually too broke to buy it). Great to hear this band is still going strong.

Rainer Maria, S/T, released 18 August. I have been playing the hell out of this album. Over a decade since their last album, this is one hell of an excellent return. One of my favorites of the year.

UNKLE, The Road, Part I, released 18 August. Another band on the “I will buy anything they put out” list. They’ve come a long way from their more electronic sound, but James Lavelle still knows how to create a creepy ambience with his music.

Steven Wilson, To the Bone, released 18 August. It is kind of weird to see the Porcupine Tree front man playing alternapop here (and smiling in the video!), but it’s a great new record, apparently inspired by his favorite UK pop bands from the 80s.

PVRIS, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, released 25 August. Bonus points for one of my favorite album titles of the year! A group that was getting a lot of publicity that I just had to check out, and I wasn’t let down. And they’re from MA! Yay!

Cymbals, Light in Your Mind, released 25 August. Another record suggested by a music blog I read that I warmed right up to. Laid back but not blissed out, I find them quite pleasing to play during my writing sessions.

More to come…our September shopping list is going to be quite epic!