Recent Releases, September Edition

Wait, September is already over?  Man, that month went by WAY too fast.

Here’s some good tunage that popped up during the past month that I’m grooving to.

Paul McCartney, Egypt Station, released 7 September. He might be in his upper 70s, but he’s still rocking out, still touring, and still writing some great melodies. Like his previous record (2013’s New), while his voice isn’t as sonorous and steady as it used to be, that’s no worry, because he makes up for it by still being an amazingly creative songwriter.

Eric Bachmann, No Recover, released 7 September. The former Archers of Loaf/Crooked Fingers singer returns with his second solo album, this time full of absolutely gorgeous acoustic tracks. It’s quite a relaxing listen and its melodies go in all sorts of neat places.

Chai, Pink, released 7 September. This is a very weird and goofy J-Punk band, but they’re a hell of a lot of fun. They kind of remind me of Shonen Knife in a way, but with a more Puffy AmiYumi pop direction.

Craig Armstrong, Sun On You, released 7 September. Armstrong is more known for his film score work (including many of Baz Luhrmann’s movies), he occasionally releases an album that’s just as lovely as his scores. This one’s primarily a piano-based record but it’s a wonderful listen.

Bob Moses, Battle Lines, released 14 September. My latest music obsession, this electronic duo’s second album feels more vibrant and alive than their previous record, and sounds just awesome on headphones. Love this one.

Low, Double Negative, released 14 September. A perfect example of a band going in a completely unexpected direction, throwing you for a loop. This isn’t your quietcore Low… this is Low as filtered through electronic distortion, overmodulation, and who knows what else. It’s not for everyone, but it’s pretty damn fascinating once you get used to it.

Failure, EP3: The Furthest Thing, released 14 September. The third of four EPs scheduled for this year from this trio continues their project of releasing an album piecemeal, recording and releasing four EPs of four tracks once every quarter. Eagerly awaiting the final release in a few months!

Jungle, For Ever, released 14 September. The London collective releases their second record of 70s inspired groovy soul funk, and it’s infectious. They’re such a fun band to listen to!

Metric, Art of Doubt, released 21 September. While their previous albums were veering more towards a synth rock sound, this one pulls it all back and provides a lot of angry guitars and heavy lyrics. It’s a dark album, but it’s amazing and their best in years.

Alt-J, Reduxer, released 28 September. The alt-rock weirdos release a remix album of last year’s Relaxer, only they’ve introduced hip hop and electronica into their sound. The result is not only surprising and unexpected but it works perfectly. Definitely worth checking out.

The Joy Formidable, Aaarth, released 28 September. Noisy and often hypnotic angular rock that goes to unexpected places but sounds fantastic. An album that sounds dissonant and beautiful at the same time.

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Coming soon: October tunes!

Favorite Albums: The Osmonds, ‘Crazy Horses’

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Yeah, yeah, I can hear y’all from here: oh god, he’s finally run out of things to blog about.  But hear me out:  I’ve been obsessed over this wonderful 1972 gem since I was a little kid when I used to listen to my sisters’ old beat up copy.

Why the Osmonds, you say?  Well, for starters, this is most definitely not your Jackson 5 wannabe album with sugary confections like “One Bad Apple” or feel-good grooves like “Down by the Lazy River”.  This is the five brothers taking an unexpected and amazingly competent turn into rock territory.

We’re talking about taking a page from freakin’ LED ZEPPELIN, fer pete’s sake:

It doesn’t hold a candle to “The Immigrant Song”, sure, but you gotta admit it’s got a hell of a punch. Their longtime fans didn’t know what the heck to think of it, but radio stations loved it and got it major airplay.

A few tracks later we get a goofy Beatlesque riff that I’m surprised more ukulele-playing hipsters haven’t covered, with “Girl”.

There’s also the groovy MOR sound of “What Could It Be”, which could easily be a song by Badfinger or The Raspberries:

…and the fantastic “Crazy Horses”, which is just as bananas as it is badass.

And my favorite track from this LP, “Hey Mr Taxi”, which sounds like they were trying to record their own version of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”, complete with all the noise, distortion and wailing guitars slowly going out of tune.

It’s does have their signature sugary pop as well, such as the swinging “Julie” and the ballad “That’s My Girl”.  There’s even a jamming groove dedicated to their home state, “Utah”.  There’s a nice comedic Looney Tunes touch at the end of the record with a twenty-one-second track called “Big Finish” that gives a teasing nod to their previous sound.

It’s definitely a trip to listen to.  While their previous album (Phase III, which had come out only nine months earlier) toyed a bit with rock, for the most part it stayed firmly in the pop category.  Their follow up after this one, their semi-religious concept album The Plan (released nine months after Crazy Horses) is even more of a head trip, with woozy blues, psychedelic joyrides and even the occasional horn-laden showstopper.  After that they’d return back to their safe haven of lite rock and MOR, and Donny and sister Marie would become a 70s television staple.

So yeah — I admit it.  Crazy Horses is a ridiculously fun album, and I still love it after all these years.

RIP Gord Downie

I remember hearing The Tragically Hip back in my senior year of college, when Fully Completely came out, just a few days before my 22nd birthday. I was the music director for our AM station, WECB, and I always tried to keep the selection eclectic and interesting. I’d heard of the band, having seen their previous three releases in the music bins (1987’s self-titled EP, 1989’s Up to Here and 1991’s Road Apples), but their third album was definitely their breakthrough, at least in Beantown. I loved that they were a mixture that defied description, other than they sounded really cool. I immediately put “Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)” in rotation and “Fifty Mission Cap” as an extra play.

A year later, I’m living quite skint in the burbs of Allston and for a brief time my roommate and I have cable, and my then-girlfriend and I start watching Canada’s MuchMusic channel in earnest. It’s where I first hear great Canadian musicians like Moist, Barenaked Ladies, and Sloan in regular rotation instead of just occasionally. I stumble upon The Hip’s classic single “Grace, Too” (from 1995’s Day for Night) when I watch their video, greatly amused and fascinated by its lo-fi genius, using only video feedback, reflection, and a shirtless Gord to play off the boasting lyrics.  It becomes my favorite song of theirs.

A few years later and I’m back home in midwestern Massachusetts, trying to get my life and accounts back in order, and I’m listening to WRSI and WHMP, two Pioneer Valley stations that weren’t afraid to play the same eclectic music that I loved hearing back in my college days. I hear occasional plays of “Ahead by a Century” (from 1996’s Trouble at the Henhouse) but alas, never get around to taping it off the radio.

By 1998 I’ve got a steady job at the record store and expanding my musical tastes with every new and intriguing release that comes in. So much the better if I can get a promo copy for it! The BMG rep hands me a copy of their 1998 album Phantom Power and I immediately fall in love with it, especially the lovely “Bobcaygeon”.

By the end of 2000 I’d be leaving that job, but not before getting another dose of the Hip with that year’s Music@Work album. I find myself amused once more, this time by the fitting title song:

…as well as one if the deeper cuts, “Freak Turbulence.”

In 2002, I’m writing my trilogy down in the basement on a nightly basis, and hitting up Newbury Comics on a weekly basis, and In Violet Light comes out, another excellent Hip album. Oddly enough it’s years before I actually see the hilarious video for my favorite song off it, “The Darkest One”.

I kind of lose track of the band in the mid-2000s due to multiple moves and personal events, but eventually I catch up and pick up the rest of their catalog. I sadly admit that I don’t listen to them nearly as much as I should, and I never got to see them live.

But The Tragically Hip has never really been a band that I wanted to overindulge in. I like the fact that I’ll throw on Live Between Us or Now for Plan A or even Yer Favourites and think…damn, this is one hell of a great band. I like being pleasantly surprised by just how fucking good a band like that can be.

 

Thanks Gord. You were one hell of a great songwriter and humanitarian.

When I left your house this morning,
It was a little after nine
It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves, one star at time

Recent Purchases, September Edition, Part I

September has long been the Big Release Month for music.  I remember back in my HMV days, the stock would grow exponentially and the back room would be filled with boxes of product just waiting to be checked in, priced up and put out on the floor.  Q4 always started a month early in that respect.  There was so much that came out this past month that I had to split this up into two posts!

LCD Soundsystem, American Dream, released 1 September. Again…was never a big fan of this group. But somehow this album just clicked with me in a big way, and I love it.

Mogwai, Every Country’s Sun, released 1 September. One of my favorite post-rock bands is back with yet another excellent platter of atmospheric sounds.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Punishment of Luxury, released 1 September. I’m finding this album a lot of fun. Yet another stellar album from the band.

Nothing But Thieves, Broken Machine, released 8 September. I’m really digging this one as well. This is a band that sounds commercially alt-pop, but they write some really lovely melodies.

Sparks, Hippopotamus, released 8 September. You can always expect something wildly creative and a bit off-kilter from the Mael brothers, and this album is one of their best in the last few years.

Tori Amos, Native Invader, released 8 September. Tori’s albums can be very hit or miss…you either love them or you think she’s gone off the deep end. I certainly do love this one.

Death from Above 1979, Outrage! Is Now, released 8 September. Another band I didn’t expect to get into. On the other hand, once again I find myself really liking guitar-and-drum duos!

Mutemath, Play Dead, released 8 September. I’m still trying to get over the fact that their amazing drummer Darren King quit the band just before this album came out, but that hasn’t changed my impression of this album in the least. Paul Meany can still write a hell of a great tune.

….More soon!