Fly-By: brb, busy doing a bajillion different things.

Right now I have a hell of a lot on my plate, so I’m going to take the rest of the week off so I can get caught up and give myself a little bit of breathing room. I may take next week off as well.  We shall see.

In the meantime, please enjoy this new Beatles video for “Glass Onion”, which will be on the new White Album box set out this Friday.  And yes, of course I pre-ordered it ages ago!

Getting into (the) Spirit and other classic rock bands

First off, my apologies for that terrible pun.

Lately I’ve been reading Kent Hartman’s Goodnight, L. A.: Untold Tales from Inside Classic Rock’s Legendary Recording Studios, and it’s quite an interesting read.  The 70s was definitely an interesting and extremely varied decade for music, that’s for sure.  But what struck me was that this is yet another music biog where I’m quite familiar with the titles of the albums mentioned from this era and the surrounding years: The Family That Plays Together, TapestryEverybody Knows This is NowhereRumoursTea for the Tillerman, and so on.

But how many of them have I actually sat down and listened to?  Sure, I know Rumours and Hotel California and Fly Like an Eagle from my preteen years listening to the radio and getting records from the library.  But I know only two Spirit songs: “I Got a Line On You” and “Nature’s Way”, and I only know the latter because This Mortal Coil covered it in 1991.  I know tons of Carole King songs (and I just recently read her autobiography, Natural Woman) but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to any of her albums, including her most famous one.

I’m thinking I should change that.  I mean, sure, do I really have enough time in the day to listen to streaming radio stations, new releases, and older favorites on top of listening to classic albums for the first time?  Well, maybe.  I have Amazon Prime so I can give a lot of these a listen essentially for free.  And this is back when full albums lasted maybe thirty minutes, forty tops.  I can fit in a few a day, I think.  I’m always up for expanding my musical knowledge.

It’ll be a long-term project, but I’m thinking it’ll be fun to finally give these a listen and figure out what all the buzz was about.

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!

Mixtape: Listen in Silence XXIV

Yes, the current volume of Listen In Silence is number twenty-four.  Not bad for a mixtape series I started back in 1988, yeah?  Missed a few years in between, but I’m glad to say after I resurrected it, it’s still going strong.  The links are for the YouTube videos because I can’t be arsed to attempt to build a Spotify playlist right now.  Enjoy!

Side 1
1. John Hardy, “Hidden Title Theme”
2. Gorillaz feat. George Benson, “Humility”
3. Bob Moses, “Heaven Only Knows”
4. Mitski, “Nobody”
5. Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”
6. The Kooks, “No Pressure”
7. Eric Bachmann, “Daylight”
8. tunng, “Crow”
9. Metric, “Dark Saturday”
10. James, “Many Faces”
11. Lucy Dacus, “Night Shift”

Side 2
1. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again”
2. Gorillaz, “Tranz”
3. tunng, “Dark Heart”
4. Dog Party, “Operator”
5. Nothing, “Us/We/Are”
6. Paul McCartney, “Fuh You”
7. The Neighbourhood, “Softcore”
8. Jungle, “Happy Man”
9. Failure, “Heavy and Blind”
10. Art Brut, “Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!”
11. The London Suede, “The Invisibles”
12. ShadowParty, “Celebrate”
13. Mogwai, “We’re Not Done (End Title)”

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!