Recent Purchases, April Edition

April is always an odd month musically — it’s the start of Q2 but a lot of the biggest releases won’t be coming out until the end of May or mid-June.  Still, a lot of great stuff that came out this past month that’s getting a lot of play on my player (when I’m not listening to 90s stuff for my writing)!

K Flay, Every Where Is Some Where (released 7 April)

Future Islands, The Far Field (released 7 April)

The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions (released 7 April)

Incubus, 8 (released 21 April)

Charly Bliss, Guppy (released 21 April)

Maximo Park, Risk to Exist (released 21 April)

Sylvan Esso, What Now (released 28 April)

…and of course, the long-awaited and welcome return of…

Gorillaz, Humanz (released 28 April)

Coming up for May:

–Slowdive, Slowdive (!!)
–Day Wave, The Days We Had
–Linkin Park, One More Light
–New Order, NOMC15
The Beatles, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remix/reissue

…and I’m sure there will be a lot more on that list by the end of the month! 🙂

Recent Music Purchases, March Edition

D’OH!  Forgot to do one of these last month, so here you go.  I’ll have April’s up in a few weeks.

This year is continuing to surprise and delight me with some absolutely solid albums.  A lot of new albums by old favorites, and numerous releases by bands I hadn’t heard of previously.  I’m looking forward to more of this!

Minus the Bear, Voids (released 3 March).  I’ve been hitting this one hard lately…they kind of remind me of Shearwater, with the odd melodies that somehow fit together perfectly.  LOVE this album.

Bush, Black and White Rainbows (released 10 March).  Glad to see them having a second life with a consistent run of excellent new albums.

The Creation, Action Painting (released 17 March).  A fascinating garage band from the UK, this one packages their single 60s album (We Are Paintermen) and the singles from the same era.  They were influential to a hell of a lot of UK musicians, from Jimmy Page to Paul Weller.  [And yes, the UK record label was named after them.]

Spoon, Hot Thoughts (released 17 March).  Probably my favorite Spoon album since Kill the Moonlight back in ’02.  It’s weird, heavy, and there’s a hell of a lot of funk going on as well.

Lloyd Cole, In New York (Collected Recordings 1988-1996) (released 17 March).  A lovely counterpoint to the box set he released for his Commotions work, this contains his first five albums plus an album of demos.  An exellent and underrated songwriter.

Depeche Mode, Spirit (released 17 March).  A return to the darker and more electronic DM.  I’d say this is on par with Ultra, with its heavier, angrier sound.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Damage and Joy (released 24 March).  Wait, this is 2017, not 1987, right?  Seriously, though…it’s a welcome return.  It sounds a lot like their mid-era sound, very similar to Honey’s Dead, but that’s definitely a good thing.

Jamiroquai, Automaton (released 31 March).  Jay Kay still has the funk, and he doesn’t skimp on it here.  I often find myself listening to this in the afternoon as a lift-me-up.

Wire, Silver/Lead (released 31 March).  What can I say?  I will buy anything and everything by this band.  They’ve never let me down once.

It Was Fifty Years Ago…

You may have heard the BIG NEWS from hither and yon that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is getting a super deluxe edition from Apple in celebration of the album turning 50.  It’s BIG NEWS because this is the first Beatles album to get this kind of remaster/expanded reissue.  The deluxe edition will contain a new remix from Giles Martin, two discs of outtakes, and a dvd and blu-ray of even more goodies — including a 5.1 mix (!!) and the Making of Sgt Pepper documentary from 1987.  The new stereo remix, per Martin, is not the original remaster we heard on the 2009 box set, but a true remix, in which he shifted the sounds to make it sound more like the original mono mix.*

Yer darn tootin’ I pre-ordered it as soon as I heard about it!

Anyway…I’m looking forward to hearing this new mix.  I gave the album a good listen the other day (the mono mix, actually) and it really did break a hell of a lot of rules and boundaries.  Hundreds of other bands who heard the album for the first time were completely blown away by it, even more influenced by it.  When people call songs ‘Beatlesque’, they usually mean it sounds like something from this album.

Me?  I’m looking forward to hearing “A Day in the Life”…it’s what I think of as their finest moment, not just in songwriting but in production.  It transcends being just a pop song and turns into an orchestral piece.  Hearing a new stereo mix of this song should be a treat.

To quote from my ‘Blogging the Beatles’ series from a few years back, plus a few added notes:

Though this track was recorded relatively early in the sessions (19-20 January, with additional work done a week or so later), by the time they finished recording, they knew that this absolutely had to be the last track on the album, no question. It’s long been considered one of their best compositions, and given the amount of time dedicated to it (a total 34 hours, twenty-two more than the entirety of Please Please Me!), it’s by far one of their most complex productions.

There are three distinct parts – the first and third, written mostly by John and taken from recent newspaper articles (the death of friend Tara Browne in a car accident, the report that the roads in Blackburn were filled with potholes, and so on), and the middle section provided mostly by Paul (a simple nostalgic trip of riding the double-decker bus through Liverpool when he was younger), each with its own personality.

The first part is performed with deliberate slowness, starting quietly but growing increasingly louder until we reach the end. [EDIT: Ringo’s drumming here is to the fore, punctuating each line of the verse, mixed high and given a thunderous echo.  The deliberate slowness of this first part adds to its haunting mood, which makes the first orchestral swell sound like a maelstrom.]

The link to part two is via a crazy idea from Paul and Martin, in which an orchestra plays an unscripted rise from the instrument’s lowest E up to its highest in the space of 24 bars. [EDIT: if you listen closely, you can just about hear Mal Evans under the din, counting out said bars, leading up to the alarm clock going off.] That link serves not just to wind up the listener but the speed, as Paul’s section comes in double-time, a bouncy and simple melody meant to evoke a commuter running late.

The second gives way to a third part via an absolutely breathtaking eight bars – it’s not complex, but listen to how Martin takes a simple four-note score and makes it dynamic by gradually increasing the volume of the brass, pulling them from the back to the foreground, while simultaneously pushing John’s angelic ‘aah’s being pushed back into the increasingly echoey mix.  [EDIT: In the mono mix, John merely fades into the mix, but in the stereo mix he pans from right to left as well. This entire section is by far one of my favorite moments of any Beatle song ever.  A few simple mixing and scoring tricks, but they’re done so beautifully.]

In part three we’ve returned to an abbreviated repeat of John’s first section, played double-time as well…only to be brought back to that nightmarish ascension again. This time, once everyone hits that high E, we’re left floating up in the air for a brief second…only to come crashing down – hard – on a final low E chord. That final breathtaking moment is played by John, Paul, Ringo and Mal Evans on three pianos and George Martin on a harmonium, and is drawn out to nearly forty seconds via the recording level being brought up as high as possible as the piano’s natural reverberation slowly fades.

The Super Deluxe Edition of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will be released on 26 May, one week shy of fifty years of its original release.


* Some background here…the Beatles were present for the original mono mix of the album back in ’67, but were not present for the stereo mix, which was done afterwards.  Audiophiles often say the mono mix is much better, as it’s closer to what the band wanted.  It also has a fuller, tighter sound, whereas the stereo mix feels a bit spacious.  Oh–and “She’s Leaving Home” is at the right speed on the mono mix, and in my opinion makes it a stronger song, where the stereo mix was slower and more maudlin, maybe too much so.

Recent Music Purchases, February Edition

I’m quite enjoying how 2017 is panning out musically so far.  There’s some really solid tunage being released, and even more to come in the next few months.  Looking forward to it!  In the meantime, here’s some more stuff that’s been getting lots of play on my PC lately, hope you enjoy!

Spoon, “Hot Thoughts” single, released 20 January (album coming 17 March).

Arcade Fire, “I Give You Power” single (feat. Mavis Staples), released 20 January

The New Pornographers, “High Ticket Attractions” single, released 27 January (album coming 7 April)

Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” from the album of the same name, released 27 January

Big Wreck, “One Good Piece of Me” from Grace Street, released 3 February

Porcelain Raft, “Big Sur” from Microclimate, released 3 February (I am hella obsessed over this album at the moment…)

Dutch Uncles, “Big Balloon” from the album of the same name, released 17 February

The Verve Pipe, “Cup of Tea” from Villains – Live and Acoustic, released 17 February (really, go get this or the original, it’s a phenomenal record)

Recent Music Purchases, January Edition

Hey there!  Here’s some tunage I’ve picked up over the last few weeks.  Hope you enjoy!

Dropkick Murphys, 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory, released 6 January.

Gone Is Gone, Echolocation, released 6 January.

The XX, I See You, released 13 January.

The Flaming Lips, Oczy Mlody, released 13 January.

Colony House, Only the Lonely, released 13 January.

Alex Clare, Tail of Lions, released 20 January.

Captain Wilberforce, Black Sky Thinking, to be released 27 March. [Special email list early bird download!]

Forth Quarter Music

You’ve heard me talk about this before: the best music releases of the year are quite often released within the fourth quarter — specifically, between late August and late November.  This is so prevalent that you can set your watch to it.  We’ll have a few strong spring releases, usually bands that already have a long-lasting cred; summer will be full of chart-worthy pop; late summer will be kind of skint, but may also contain some unexpected gems.  But from September to just after Thanksgiving?  You’re gonna see a crapton of releases.

Why?  Simple:  Christmas shopping!

It works on multiple levels.  The spring releases are usually slow-burners and tried-and-true names that guarantee a sale.  The summer releases are the impulse buys to celebrate vacation time.  The end of summer is usually quiet because the kids are too busy purchasing things for school or college.  But by the time September rolls around, there’s money in hand once more.  And secondly: as much as we hate to admit it, a lot of us really do start our Christmas shopping hella early.  And the music business knows this, so they’ll keep the guaranteed high-sale titles for when the shopping is at its highest.

So what do we have on tap in the rock universe, anyway?  What’s coming out that’s going to take my hard-earned money?

September 2:
–The Wedding Present, Going, Going…

September 9:
–Bastille, Wild World
The Beatles, Live at the Hollywood Bowl reissue
The Head and the Heart, Signs of Light
–Local Natives, Sunlit Youth
–Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree
–Wilco, Schmilco

September 16:
–Against Me!, Shape Shift with Me
Steven Wilson, Transience

September 23:
–Warpaint, Heads Up

September 30:
–Banks, The Altar
–Big Jesus, Oneiric
–Pixies, Head Carrier
Regina Spektor, Remember Us to Life
–Yello, Toy

October 7:
–Kaiser Chiefs, Stay Together
Green Day, Revolution Radio
–Melissa Etheridge, MEmphis Rock and Soul
–Phantogram, Three
Placebo, A Place for Us to Dream

October 14:
–The Orb, Chill Out, World

October 21:
–Beck,  (title TBA)
–Korn, The Serenity of Suffering

Ocboter 28:
–Empire of the Sun, Two Vines
Madness, Can’t Catch Us Now

…and that’s just what’s been announced over the past few months that I’m interested in hearing.  By late September we’ll start seeing more titles from all kinds of groups and across all the genres.  We’ll start seeing more box sets and major reissues (An expansive box from Pink Floyd, and Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage, for instance).  Mixes and greatest hits packages will start popping up.  And somewhere in there, probably mid-October and early November, we’ll start seeing new and repackaged Christmas albums as well.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year indeed, especially if you’re a music nerd like I am.

New (and Reissued) Tunage

A lot of really good titles out these past few weeks, giving me all sorts of new releases to listen to, which always makes me happy.  Let’s see what’s currently in rotation, shall we?

Silversun Pickups, “Pins & Needles” from Better Nature, rel. 9/25/15
This one took me a few tries to get used to…like Interpol’s last few albums, I really like what I hear but it didn’t quite gel with me the first few times.  However, SSPU continues to write excellent songs, and Nikki is still one of the best bass players out there.  I actually kind of prefer this album track over the new single that’s out (“Nightlight”, though Nikki gets a prime front-stage mix here).

Caspian, “Arcs of Command” from Dust and Disquiet, rel. 9/25/15
I’m usually very choosy about my post-rock and alt-metal, but this one connected with me right from the start (especially with this track) when NPR was streaming it the other week.  They’re like a heavier Mogwai (yeah, I know!) with the mindset of GY!BE (without the overly long noodling), with the drop-tuned heaviness of Deftones and Deathmøle thrown in, and they’re absolutely perfect for my writing sessions.  And they’re a Boston-area band, so yay!

Chvrches, “Leave a Trace” from Every Open Eye, rel. 9/25/15
This band’s sophomore album made even more of an impression on me than their first one, and I think it’s because they’ve really tightened the songwriting.  They know how to write a great and catchy alternapop tune without sacrificing substance for style.

New Order, “Restless” from Music Complete, rel. 9/25/15
The reviews have been spot-on:  this is the album New Order would have made right after Technique back in ’89 if they hadn’t gone on all those hiatuses, done all those solo projects, broken up and gotten back together, etc.  [That’s not to say Republic and the others were bad, just that they kind of felt like they were in neutral compared to previous records.]  This one is a fine return to an earlier form, one that fits them incredibly well.  On a side note, Tom Chapman does fine work as the new bassist to replace Hooky, though there are times I still expect to hear the high-on-the-neck bass riff now and again!

Garbage, “Vow” from Garbage [20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition], rel. 10/2/15
Daaang…it’s been twenty years already?  A phenomenal debut album from one of the best mid-90s bands out there, and well worth getting the super deluxe version with all the tasty remixes.  [And I’m snooty when it comes to remixes, so that’s saying a lot!]  It was one of the first albums I’d picked up after moving back home in autumn of ’95, and got me through a lot of personal things and writing sessions.

Editors, “Marching Orders” from In Dream, rel. 10/2/15
Oh man, I’ve been waiting for this one since being blown away by that first single, “No Harm” came out back in May!  After releasing the poppier, sunnier The Weight of Your Love back in 2013, they’ve returned to a much darker, more cinematic sound, which really suits them well.  I’ve given this quite a few spins since I downloaded it on Friday, and it’s already made its way onto my writing soundtrack list.


So let’s see, what do I have to look forward to the next few weeks?

Duncan Sheik, Legerdemain (10/9)
Oberhofer, Chronovision, (10/9)
Here We Go Magic, Be Small (10/16)
Dave Gahan & Soulsavers, Angels & Ghosts (10/23)
Guy Garvey, Courting the Squall (10/30)
The Neighbourhood, Wiped Out! (10/30)
Mutemath, Vitals (11/13)
The Comsat Angels, reissues of 7 early albums (!!) (11/20)

Yep, shaping up to be another excellent year for music!