Friday, April 30, 2010

Butterglory - Crumble (1994)

Some wonderful indie pop from early '90s boy-girl duo Butterglory, hailing from Lawrence, Kansas by way of Merge Records. Sounds like a cross between Pavement and Archers of Loaf. Enjoy!

Dün - Eros (1981)

Q: Was France teeming with awesome prog rock bands thirty years ago?

Outside of Christian Vander and his band Magma, here's the best one I've ever heard, Dün's Eros.

A true hidden gem in the avant-prog school of Zeuhl; incorporating elements of jazz fusion, odd time signatures, a penchant for all things Zappa, this is a can't miss for progressive rock fans...

Dün - Eros (1981; self-released)
59.2 mb, ripped at 224 kbps

Donny Hathaway - Live (1972)

I used to love live music; something inexplicable happened in the last few years that has switched my focus to the supreme worship of the album as ultimate artistic statement- I think it's one too many shitty concert experiences. You know what I'm talking about- some places have really bad acoustics or are cramped or too hot, but the one I hate the most is the inattentive crowd busy chatting away or texting it up. I guess any number of things serve as deterrents from an awesome live music experience. Oh well.

This record, however; is one of the best live albums of all-time,
judging from the crowd's response. Donny Hathaway was like a man possessed these two nights back in '72 (side one is from The Troubador in Hollywood and side two is from The Bitter End in Greenwich Village). The cover versions of John Lennon's Jealous Guy and Carole King's You've Got A Friend are as good (if not better) than the originals, Hathaway's soulful voice gives them a warmth that they're missing.

I gotta give a shot-out to J.D. for introducing me to this album a long time ago; we used to listen to his parents' vinyl copy on the good stereo in his living room. Download it now, people...

Donny Hathaway - Live (1972; Atco Records)
121.7 mb, ripped at 320 kbps

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Silver Jews - American Water (1998)

"Wild metaphors and dry wit..."

I'd say that's David Berman's mission statement. I was trying to think of the most American music possible; (Will Oldham's various projects and monikers come to mind) but Berman is way smarter and what's more American than rampant intellectualism? I swear half of these songs could be little snippets of college thesis statements...

Silver Jews - American Water (1998; Drag City Records)
45.2 mb, ripped at 128 kbps in lossless .m4a format

This Heat - Deceit (1981)

First time I ever heard this record, I was really high. Like insanely paranoid and high. Needless to say, this album terrified the shit out of me. I vowed to never listen to it again.

I listened to it again years later, totally stone sober; I finally understood what it was This Heat was trying to do- completely deconstruct the layers of what can be considered a "song" and break it down to its basest, most common denominator: noise. Pure, awesome unadulterated noise (and its relative constituent parts). It's probably the most avant-garde and experimental of the whole early-'80s "post-punk" scene; that's probably why I love it so.

I hope you give it a chance to terrify the shit out of you too...

Wanda Jackson - Rockin' With Wanda (1960)

I was introduced to Wanda Jackson a few years ago, by the wonderful KALX radio station. I had just moved to California and was trying to learn the area roads, out driving around- and this song comes on called Fujiyana Mama; it was equal parts awesome rockabilly and hilarious late '50s camp.

I was hooked; got this album from Miss Jackson. The tunes range from straight rockabilly to honky tonk to country to rock & roll- if ever Elvis had a female counterpart, it'd be Wanda (she briefly dated Presley in 1955, so there you go).

Download this record if you wanna hear an early influence on rock music, from a woman's point of view (this is the 2002 re-mastered issue with bonus tracks)...

Kings Of Convenience - Riot On An Empty Street (2004)

When I'm in a foul mood, this is one of the albums I put on. It has that certain something that creates just the right amount of perspective shift until I'm right sized again. Kings Of Convenience craft soft and folky melodies, courtesy the Norwegian duo of Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye. Leslie Feist also appears on two tracks; this is really a pretty record, one of my favorite pop albums of the decade...

Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep (1994)

What happens when you take rapper Too Poetic, Stetsasonic's Prince Paul & Frukwan and the Wu-Tang's RZA and put them all in a studio with some Freddy Krueger and Jason movies?

This album...

I'mma send a personal shout-out to Weady D for this one; I can remember driving around his old whip smoking blunts and noddin' our heads to this one, way back in the days of '95. I think Scotty Del and Haji Casale know what's up, too. This album is for all you cats (suicide, it's a suicide, widda bop-bop...)

13th Floor Elevators - Easter Everywhere (1967)

It's been said that the 13th Floor Elevators invented psychedelic rock; I don't know if that's an accurate statement, but one thing I can tell you- they definitely introduced schizophrenia to the masses. This is their second album, Easter Everywhere. While not as popular or groundbreaking as the first, in my opinion it's just as trippy, dark and weird as its predecessor.

Started by University of Texas student (and jug player) Tommy Hall and guitarist Stacy Sutherland, the Elevators' most recognizable figure would be singer/guitarist Roky Erickson; his well-documented struggles with severe mental illness
over the years add to the band's mystique but eventually caused its downfall (Erickson spent 3 years in an institution and was never the same man after).

So sit back and enjoy a psych rock classic that's equal parts period piece and a study in unraveling madness...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985)

This is another record I point folks to when they make the ridiculous claim that the '80s sucked as far as music is concerned. For every Toto, there's a band like The Replacements. For all the Foreigners, there's the Minutemens. For every Bryan Adams, there's a Tom Waits...

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Worn Copy (2003)

Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti project take accessible melodies and render them inaccessible under layers of broken keyboards, human beatboxing and four-track tape hiss; he's the lo-fi psych pop disciple of home-recording pioneer R. Stevie Moore. Pink's influences are as far reaching as The Beatles to Zappa to Roxy Music to cheesy '80s synth music and on and on...

Give this one a try if you're the type that likes to make bedroom recordings on the ol' Tascam 4-track.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can - The Classic Years

Can is the most under-rated band of all-time.

Probably for several reasons; one (the biggest) was that they weren't American (or even British), so they didn't have the luxury of over-exposure (they called Cologne, Germany their home-base). Had they been an American (or British) band, they'd have been as big as The Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd; as improvisers they were just as talented, and as far as locking into a groove; they were un-matched (stickman Jaki Leibezeit was like a human drum machine). They could be as funky as George Clinton's bands or as free as Sun Ra's Arkestra.

Before you shoot flames at me for not acknowledging original lead singer Malcolm Mooney's contributions (ironically he is from the United States), I'm choosing to focus on their three best albums, the ones with Japanese-born Damo Suzuki as their lead singer. He was a street po
et that basically scat-sang, usually an unintelligible mix of English, Japanese and screaming.

Another reason they were so under-rated; they were so ahead of their time. Light years ahead. Just like their influences, The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, electronic music pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen; they were more or less misunderstood, another fact that hinders their recognition because again (god-dammit!) even those bands aren't as appreciated as they should be.

In terms of who they influenced, let's start with the entire Krautrock scene; Brian Eno's forays into ambient dream-scapes; all those post-punk bands (especially Mark E. Smith, penning the homage I Am Damo Suzuki on The Fall's This Nation's Saving Grace), P.I.L. (who collaborated with bassist Jah Wobble in the '80s), even Joy Division and Siouxsie Sioux have named Can as a primary influence. Other groundbreaking artists that kneel at the altar: Radiohead, David Bowie and Talking Heads.

If any of the aforementioned artists are on your list of favorites, and you've s
till never listened to Can, skip the rest of the reading and start downloading these records!

Here's some neatly arranged bullet points to further assert my position in this essay:
  • They were incorporating rock instrumentation into "World Music" before the term even existed, experimenting with tribal drum patterns, dub basslines and primal screaming.
  • They spent hours in the studio recording then later going back and editing said sessions into "songs", the track Yoo Doo Right from the album Monster Movie was edited down from a 24-hour jam into a 20-minute song. This was all done by hand, called micro-editing; meticulously done with razor blades and splicing tape- I can only imagine the frustration (and the time involved) to cut down 24 hours of reel-to-reel to a twenty-minute edit.
  • Bass player/engineer Holger Czukay studied under Stockhausen for three years, as well as keyboardist Irmin Schmidt- who was a well-established concert pianist/composer with the Vienna Symphony.
  • Guitarist Michael Karoli was a classically trained cellist and violinist before picking up the six-string, even playing violin on a few albums (although uncredited).
  • They more or less anticipated and influenced entire movements of music (see above).
I'm just going to say download the whole lot of these records, find them on vinyl, get the CDs, the re-issues, the remasters, download 'em here; three of the greatest albums of all-time...

Tago Mago (1971; United Artists)
96.8 MB, VBR ~ avg 174 kbps

Ege Bamyasi (1972; United Artists)
65.4 MB, ripped @ 224 kbps

Future Days (1973; United Artists)
62.4 MB, VBR ~ avg 205 kbps

The Legendary Pink Dots - The Maria Dimension (1991)

The Legendary Pink Dots are an experimental psychedelic freak-out band; this album is what you wanna listen to right after you paste a ten-strip to your forehead under your bandanna in 95-degree heat at some god-forsaken hippie festival in upstate New York in late August and you want things to get really weird.

These guys moved from London to Amsterdam in the mid-'80s, way before it was the cool thing to do. I'm just saying...

Wanna Buy A Bridge? - a Rough Trade Records compilation (1980)

A totally awesome and definitive compilation of post-punk from Rough Trade Records' artists from the late '70s. Includes tracks by Cabaret Voltaire, Young Marble Giants, Robert Wyatt, The Pop Group, The Raincoats, Stiff Little Fingers, The Slits, Kleenex, Television Personalities and a few more!

Never made available on CD, this is one of those "vinyl-only releases"; so the rip is from the actual record. There's some copies of the LP floating around on eBay and, so it's a pretty rare find.


1. Alternative Ulster Stiff Little Fingers
2. Mind Your Own Business Delta 5
3. Man Next Door The Slits
4. Aerosol Burns Essential Logic
5. Part Time Punks Television Personalities
6. Read About Seymour Swell Maps
7. We Are All Prostitutes The Pop Group
8. Soldier Soldier Spizz Energi
9. Ain't You Kleenex
10. Nag Nag Nag Cabaret Voltaire
11. In Love The Raincoats
12. Final Day Young Marble Giants
13. Skank Bloc Bologna Scritti Politti
14. At Last I Am Free Robert Wyatt

Albert Ayler - Spiritual Unity (1964)

This album sounds like how Gumby feels. I don't mean how he feels emotionally, I mean how Gumby would feel if you touched his green skin.

The tone of Albert Ayler's saxophone has that Gumby-esque texture, it squeaks and squonks and blurts its way into your brain. If you dig free jazz, then this may be one of the crowning achievements of the genre.

...and to answer your question; yes- I used to do a lot of LSD.

Albert Ayler - Spiritual Unity (1964; ESP-Disk)
67.5 mb, VBR (~average 318 kbps)

Death Cab For Cutie - We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes (2000)

I'm kind of embarrassed by Death Cab For Cutie these days. Having to defend their early work up against the awful pap they've been putting out the last few years has grown tiresome; I say give this record a listen and decide for yourself.

But hey, maybe you like the radio-friendly hits they're churning out, maybe you've put them on a mixtape for some chick your were trying to get with, I don't know...

I'll take their first five records (everything up to and including 2003's Transatlanticism) and make pretend they all died in a plane crash before they had a chance to make Plans and Narrow Stairs. Sorry.

Bert Jansch - L.A. Turnaround (1974)

Bert Jansch is better known for his associations with Brit-folk mainstays The Pentangle, as well as his duo work with band-mate John Renbourn. This album isn't even considered by his fans to be one of his best, I think the two records preceding this one (Rosemary Lane & Moonshine) are the two mentioned as the apex of his solo work.

I can understand why, here on L.A. Turnaround he abandoned his traditional British folk leanings and went to Los Angeles to record an album steeped in California-esque country folk-rock, not to mention ex-Monkee Mike Nesmith played on and produced this album.

If you dig the singer/songwriter country/folk thing, then this one's for you...

Bud Powell - The Amazing Bud Powell (1951)

Bud Powell was the first truly great jazz pianist (along with his friend Thelonious Monk) and got the chance to see jazz grow from swing to bebop to hard bop to avant-garde and free jazz; working across three decades- the 1940s, '50s and '60s.

This record was the result of two separate sessions; the first is notable because it featured a young Sonny Rollins on tenor sax and Fats Navarro on trumpet (also included were Tommy Potter on bass and Roy Haynes on the drum kit; he also recorded tunes with these two gentleman as a trio here; dated August 9th, 1949) and another trio session; May 1st, 1951 with bassist Curley Russell and the one and only Max Roach manning the skins.

This album has some historical significance in that it was one of the first records to fully synthesize African and Cuban rhythms successfully; before this the two genres were sort of dabbled in and poked around by Dizzy Gillespie, but Powell's interest in these funkier art forms are explored more deeply here.

This is the Rudy Van Gelder 2001 re-master (with bonus tracks and alternate takes- there are re-issued versions of this from 1955 titled The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 1); a must-have for any fans of jazz piano...

Smog - Red Apple Falls (1997)

Bill Callahan, the one-man "band" hiding behind the Smog moniker, is one of my favorite modern-day miserablists. That's not even a word, according to spell check, but fuck it; I'm using it. He's up there with Leonard Cohen, Morrissey and Will Oldham. Of course, they've all softened with their ages; Cohen's art is usually centered around the broken-hearted; Mozza's become too self-aware, his misery is almost comedy these days and Oldham's as well is laughably ironic. But Callahan, you are a miserable sunnuvabitch.

Wilco wrote a song years ago called I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. Bill never had to try to break your heart, he crushes it with this record...

Greyboy - Mastered The Art (2001)

Andreas Stevens (aka Greyboy) first emerged as a DJ at the end of the 1980s. After christening Michael McFadin's Ubiquity imprint with his Greyboy 12 #1, he provided the label with one of its first full-lengths, 1994's Freestylin'. On his third outing, Mastered the Art, the DJ's dusty, hip-hop beats are found mingling with the retro sounds of his extensive 8-track tape collection. Late '90s rare-groove may still be the best description but Mastered the Art's flavors include the sounds of Italian cinema, 70s easy listening and tropicalia as well. Supplying the exotica, are Greyboy All-Star multi-instrumentalist Elgin Park (guitar, piano, omnichord, sitar), and veteran jazz vibe player Dave Pike. It's plainly obvious that Stevens' genre-warping concept couldn't have worked without them.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

David Bowie - Low (1977)

When I first heard Low a few years ago, I didn;t know what to make of it. I was fresh off a serious early-era Bowie jag; the more glammy period starting with 1969's self-titled (re-issued in '72 as Space Oddity) up to the awful covers album Pin Ups from 1973. Then there's the next era, where Bowie transformed himself into a soul crooner called The Thin White Duke, experimenting with funk and R&B on Diamond Dogs through Station to Station.

This album is the start of the Berlin trilogy (Low, "Heroes" and Lodger) when David up and shipped himself off to Germany to rent a flat with Iggy Pop and get straight from the piles of coke he'd been snorting for most of the 1970s. It was a great idea, Bowie would not only put out two of his best records, he worked with Iggy on The Idiot and Lust For Life.

Enter Brian Eno as well, he worked alongside Bowie with the second half of the record on the more ambient-based tracks (here as a musician and consultant to his friend, the actual producer role fell to Tony Visconti); this album is the synthesis of the whole Krautrock movement, listen to Tangerine Dream's Phaedra or Klaus Schulze's Timewind to get Bowie's inspiration.

So here's David Bowie's Low from 1977, an album totally ahead of its time...

David Bowie - Low (1977; RCA Records)
54.5 mb ripped @ 192 kbps

Pink Floyd - Ummagumma (1969)

I always thought this early version of Pink Floyd (right after Syd left) was the impetus for the whole Krautrock movement; listen to Can's Monster Movie or Faust's Faust or Amon Düül II's first two records and you'll hear what I mean.

This is as concept-driven as the idea of a "concept album" would allow; the first disc is four tracks from two live performances in late April and early May of '69, and the second disc has four "solo" albums that were recorded the following week. These solo records are interesting in that each member of the Floyd took on the role of band-leader (after Syd's departure, there was no clear "leader" of the Floyd camp, hence the following decade would be a bit of a creative push-and-shove between band members, tensions were instigated by Roger Waters and David Gilmour's insistence on being their leader) so it's interesting to see exactly where Pink Floyd was as a band here, and where they'd be going. Experimentally-inclined as always, it's a nice primer to the casual fan to see and hear what they were doing in the years leading up to Dark Side of the Moon.

This album was requested by my friend Martin, so here's Ummagumma in all of its glory, folks...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sarah Vaughan - Sarah Vaughan (1955)

When it comes to female jazz vocalists, to me, there are only two- Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. But what do I know about vocal jazz? I don't listen to all that much, I think that the lead instruments in jazz provide more than enough of a voice to the music itself- but Sarah Vaughan...

This is one of those rare albums that I can click play on (that sounds antithetical to the listening process, it should read, "drop the needle on...") anytime of day or any mood, because of the timelessness of not only Vaughan's voice but Clifford Brown's trumpeting, (this album is also known as Sarah Vaughan
with Clifford Brown) it somehow manages to soothe my mind.

I read somewhere that Vaughan said this was her favorite album of hers, and it's my favorite of hers, too.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gang Starr - Step In The Arena (1990)

Rest In Peace, Guru. You were truly one of a kind...

Dungen - Ta Det Lugnt (2004)

Swedish-born Gustav Ejstes is the one man band behind Dungen (pronounced doon-yen) and I gotta say that when I first heard this album a few years ago, I remember thinking "there's no way this isn't from 1973..."

Well, I was wrong; Ta Det Lugnt ("take it easy") was recorded in 2003
on vintage instruments; almost entirely by Ejstes himself, (ironically using computer software like Cubase for the recording and mastering).

It's a psych-pop-rock masterpiece of the early millennium.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Andrew Hill - Point Of Departure (1965)

I buy a lot of jazz records based on the line-up; after all- an album is only as good as the sum of its parts.

But I don't need to rattle off a bunch of names here; just one: Eric Dolphy.

He totally steals the show. Yes, it's an Andrew Hill record, but it could be under Dolphy's name just the same because the brother shines. Completely awesome. After Out To Lunch and the stuff he did with Mingus, this is one of Dolphy's finest moments. Apologies to Hill, he's a pretty awesome pianist, too- his compositions are wonderful; but they exist so Dolphy can stretch out his unique voice and imaginative soloing. Listen closely during the track Spectrum, when the bass solo ends and Dolphy takes over- that's as sublime a moment on record you'll ever find. I'd be remiss to not mention Tony Williams' amazing drumming, but you'll just have to listen to understand this...

This is the 1999 Rudy Van Gelder re-issue with alternate takes of three tracks. Download this now!

Robyn Hitchcock - I Often Dream Of Trains (1984)

Psych-tinged folk ditties from the quirky mind of Robyn Hitchcock. It's like he went through his old diaries, cleaned up the prose to make it rhyme and set it to this bare-bones and fragile music. Somewhat whimsical and zany, often times disturbing and dark; it's one of those albums I listen to and wonder if this is what Syd Barrett would've done if he hadn't gone batshit bonkers and retreated to his mum's basement to watch British soaps on the telly all day.

Maybe that's what Hitchcock imagined this record was; an homage of sorts to the crazy diamond himself.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Univers Zéro - Heresie (1979)

Univers Zéro are an instrumental Belgian band known for playing dark music heavily influenced by 20th century chamber music. The band was formed in 1974 by drummer Daniel Denis. For a time they were part of a musical movement called Rock in Opposition (RIO) which strove to create dense challenging music, a direct contrast to the disco and punk rock being produced in the late 1970s. Obvious early influences were Bartók and Stravinsky however the band also cited less well known composers such as Albert Huybrechts, who was also Belgian.

Their early albums were almost entirely acoustic but with later releases their sound became more electric. In 1977 they released their first album 1313 on which the members played with a heavy rock and roll approach despite the fact that the instrumentation was largely acoustic. This is mostly due to the use of drums. Two years later the album Heresie proved to be even darker. Several reviews have cited it as the darkest album ever recorded.

- from Wikipedia

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Slowdive - Souvlaki (1993)

Slowdive so badly wanted Brian Eno to produce this record, but after speaking with him he told them it would be better if he was a collaborator instead. He wound up playing keys on a track and co-writing another. It's too bad this came out the exact time Suede and the Britpop movement began because this record totally got lost under that massive cloud.

This is what I think of when someone
mentions the word "album", as in; the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. This isn't a record with a single on it, it has to be played end-to-end. That being said, this is a re-issue with three bonus tracks at the end of the record.

So, in short: dreamy downtempo rock music that plays best during a snowstorm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Terry Riley - A Rainbow In Curved Air (1969)

Experimental minimal electronic progressive drone music?

Fucking sign me up.

And while you're at it, sign up The Who (for the inspiration Pete Townsend got to do the intro to Baba O'Riley), better sign up Rick Wakeman too.

Keith Emerson, you hear this shit? I know you did, stop hiding behind that monstrosity of an organ.

Tangerine Dream, you're on this list. Ja, ja sind sie hier eingeschaltet.

Steve Reich, where'd you get the idea for your "pulses" and all that stuff on Music For 18 Musicians?

Philip Glass- you're so on the list (you're probably the only one to admit it...)

These are all the people that directly benefited from Terry Riley's work. Now you can benefit from it, too. Click the link below the album cover...

Brian Eno & David Byrne - My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (1981)

Take Brian Eno's penchant for electronic experimentation and David Byrne's Afro-beat leanings and what you have is one of the more innovative records of the early '80s, it wasn't the first commercial music album to feature sampling, but it is considered landmark in its achievements. When asked if he invented sampling, Eno said in an interview:
"No, there was already a history of it. People such as (Can's) Holger Czukay had made experiments using IBM Dictaphones and short-wave radios and so on. The difference was, I suppose, that I decided to make it the lead vocal on the album My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts..." (Q Magazine, July 2001)
So there you go, an album that's both funky and ground-breaking. This is the 1990 re-issue, and missing from it is the track "Qu'ran" which was considered offensive to Muslims because it used real samples of recitations of the Islamic holy book, recorded in an Algerian mosque. In its place is the B-side to single The Jezebel Spirit, titled Very, Very Hungry.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Destroyer - Thief (2000)

This should be subtitled: The Portrait of a Starving Artist at the Turn of the Century...

Destroyer (Dan Bejar) is the most talented of all his New Pornographer band-mates; that's right (I'm looking at you both, Neko and A.C.), and if you doubt this assertion, why are they covering a bunch of his older solo songs and playing them now? Because Bejar's tunes from 10 years ago are better then theirs now. Fact.

Anyway, Destroyer has three records from the last ten years that I consider my favorite of the decade, and I'll post them in the coming weeks. Just to let you know, they just re-issued this record as a 2xLP with 1998's City Of Daughters; buy it!

Gram Parsons - Grievous Angel (1974)

The term alt-country didn't exist back in the '70s, but Gram Parsons existed so far outside of the contemporary country music scene he was definitely the "alternative" to Nashville, not just for his associations with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Rolling Stones; more for his desire to blend country and rock so that the two were blended seamlessly into a more accessible brand of country rock.

This is my favorite of his two solo albums, it really should be labeled "Gram Parson featuring Emmylou Harris" because she absolutely shines on every song; between Gram's heartbreaking pitch and
shaky phrasing, Harris' steady and confident vocals sit high up in the mix on top of everything- it's really a beautiful record.

Surrender To The Air - Surrender To The Air (1996)

Surrender to the Air is the only album from free jazz ensemble Surrender To The Air - an instrumental collective organized by Trey Anastasio of Phish in early '96.

Though never explicitly stated on the record or its notes, the album was a sort of tribute to jazz composer and bandleader Sun Ra, an Anastasio favorite (several of the performers on Surrender to the Air - Allen, Choice and Ray - had performed with Sun Ra).

The album has been out of print since 2000. (from Wikipedia)

The Players:

Marshall Allen, sax

Trey Anastasio, guitar

Kofi Burbridge, flute

Oteil Burbridge, bass

Damon R. Choice, vibes

John Fishman, drums

Bob Gullotti, drums

James Harvey, trombone

John Medeski, organ

Michael Ray, trumpet

Marc Ribot, guitar

The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? (2003)

Recipe for making an amazing pop album: add one part broken drum machines, one part toy keyboards, one part concept record about death, one part heavy LSD consumption, mix together in a studio where some/all of the equipment is falling apart/completely fucked-up/useless, fold in some fuzzy guitars, swirl, liberally add some catchy-ass hooks, swirl some more, add a little anti-hipster douchebag-ism, and pour evenly out of your speakers.

This record is what the Flaming Lips would sound like if they had no money (or ProTools. Or massive egos. Or that stupid fucking bubble Wayne Coyne lives inside of.) This record sounds as if it’s about to become a humongous fucking mess every song but manages to not only completely keep it together, it’s as coherent a mesh of 13 songs anywhere on this best-of list.

It’s fun, it’s pop, it’s accessible and inclusive- it takes absolutely all the seriousness and pomp out of “indie elitism”.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Perrey-Kingsley - The In Sound From Way Out! (1966)

Jean-Jacque Perrey and Gershon Kingsley made space age pop albums before the term electronica ever entered the music-scape, they were considered much too avant-garde to be "pop".

While working for folk company Vanguard Records, Perrey
had accumulated hundreds of hours of animal noises and began experimenting with tape loops (before multi-tracking technology you had to do everything by hand, so literally it took days to compose short musical passages with this anti-technology; just scissors and scotch tape!). He was masterful at splicing the magnetic tape to create the desired loop effect; and by speeding up or slowing down the playback he created a synthesized feel to the music. Enter Kingsley; with his composer background and his knowledge of Moog synthesizers (he was the first to play one in a live setting) they created the earliest form of listenable, electronic "pop" music.

So I'm happy to bring to you the very first electro-pop record...

The Dickies - Great Dictations: The Definitive Dickies Collection (1989)

So this is my friend Willis Stork's reward for being the first to get the trivia question right last week about the Slint album cover photo (Will Oldham took it). Actually he answered second but "Ben" never claimed his prize. This is why you people either need to make your Blogger profile public or include your e-mail. K THX.

Anyway, props to Willis. Here's his request, The Dickies and their singles collection from 1989.

The Dickies were one of the earliest punk bands from L.A., forming in 1977. Sprinkled among their own songs were an array of cover songs, some of which are hilariously irreverent and totally WTF-inducing; Barry McGuire's Eve Of Destruction, Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds Of Silence, Black Sabbath's Paranoid, Moody Blues' Nights In White Satin and their best, The Banana Splits' TV-show theme song.

Stay tuned for another trivia contest, winner gets to choose an album they would like to see uploaded. For now, download The Dickies!

Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth - Funky Technician (1990)

The copy I used to have of this was a $5 bootleg cassette I bought in the tunnels underneath City Hall in Philly when I was a freshman in high school, circa early '91. We used to cut school and go down and skate Love Park all day, maybe go to South Street, whatever. Hopefully someone would have a boombox, but mostly I would listen to my shitty General Electric walkman (bought with my dad's employee discount). Yeah, this was well before iPods. I used to rock tapes, kid.

Lord Finesse was the leader of the Diggin' In The Crates crew, these guys had records upon records in their repertoire- the samples on which they built their tracks are from thousands of old soul, funk, R&B and jazz records from the '60s and '70s. Back in the day before ProTools, they used to use those Akai MPC samplers. This is a classic from that era, and also one of my faves. Also heralded for its
beats, samples and production, this album features Showbiz, Diamond D and DJ Premier. A lot of James Brown is sampled on here, so you know it's got to be funky.

Grab this shit...

Bobby Hutcherson - Dialogue (1965)

The best thing about record shopping for jazz albums is that you have plenty of elbow room; no one listens to it anymore. Well, old dudes and guys like Jimmy Mac do. So, every once in a while I find something that I shouldn't in there, some rare out-of-print limited edition original copy of something, but mostly I'm a listener- I'll leave the collecting to the nerds, I need these records to actually listen to.

You might find a Bobby Hutcherson record, or a record he played on every now and again. Buy it. Even this record, his under-rated debut solo outing. It features no numbers written by Hutch, but just take a look at that line-up! Andrew Hill (composed four of these pieces) on piano, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Sam Rivers on sax, Joe Chambers on drums and Richard Davis on bass.

I wish more people listened to jazz...

Songs: Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co (2003)

An album that lies at the intersection of "working class rock, white soul, swamp rock and outlaw country" (according to the one-sheet accompanying this record), Songs: Ohia has been native Buckeye-stater Jason Molina’s singular vision since 1996. His songs of love and hate on here are heralded as a major change for him both lyrically and musically, but ask him and he’ll tell you previous release Didn’t It Rain was the last Songs' record- he leaves behind the spare arrangements in favor of a bigger, fuller sound.

Either way, Molina is channeling the kindred spirits of Springsteen, Neil Young and John Cougar- blue collar country rock with an attitude; a shot and a beer with Jason and his road crew while Hank Williams plays on the jukebox at some hole in the wall in Skokie or Wabash. Guest vocalists Lawrence Peters (doing his best Merle Haggard impression) and Scout Niblett appear on two tracks right in the middle of the record; meshing with the material perfectly.

Oh, and it’s produced by Steve Albini himself, so…

João Gilberto - João Gilberto (1973)

This is the album I listen to after a really tough day at work. João Gilberto (pronounced zhwan) on guitar and vocals, Sonny Carr on percussion. It's soothing and hypnotic in its easy-going, laid-back simplicity. Gilberto's calming voice, understated yet excellent guitar work and Carr's reliance on the bare minimum of a beat is what draws me to the record.

The album has only two originals (Undiú and Valsa) and features tracks from his friends, fellow Brazilians Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Antonio Carlos Jobim. If the only thing you've ever associated with this man is his album with Stan Getz (Getz/Gilberto; 1964) then get this; missing is Getz's saxophone and string arrangements- all that's left behind is the bones.

And it's entirely in Portuguese!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Cure - Seventeen Seconds (1980)

Before they went pop, The Cure was a simplistic band, artless and unpretentious. Here on Seventeen Seconds, we catch the band as a quartet; Robert Smith (the only mainstay of the group, as it was his singular vision that would guide the group up until present time) on vocals, guitar and violin; Simon Gallup on bass; Matthieu Hartley on keys and Laurence Tolhurst on drums. We can see their trajectory from the new wave Three Imaginary Boys album to this and on to the next few albums, reaching lower and lower into darker, more gothic aural landscapes.

At times this record can be both dark and sinister in its downtempo grooves, other times it's propulsive and aggressive. One thing that can be said about this record above all other Cure records is its cohesiveness; all these songs fit with one another like lock and key.

Be careful, this record might just make you miserable- it definitely scared the shit out of me when I was a kid...

King Crimson - Larks' Tongues In Aspic (1973)

This album marks the start of a three album run that defines the very sound, no- the attitude of Robert Fripp's King Crimson. The albums aren't necessarily related in any way (it's not a thematic trilogy per se) but 1973's Larks' Tongues In Aspic kicked off the most adventurous period of this band outside of their 1969 debut In The Court Of The Crimson King.

This is exactly what I think of when I think of '70s prog rock; the over-the-top production, the start-stop drumming, the strange and hard to name instruments (gamelan and mbira, courtesy of percussionist Jamie Muir), the odd time signatures (drummer Bill Bruford quit Yes to join Fripp and his jazzier explorations), the classical flourishes (this album has a lot of viola, violin and flute on it from David Cross) and deep, satisfying bass work from John Wetton.

The main focal point of this record is the title track(s), split into two parts that bookend the album. There are some parts to this record that are insanely heavy and there are others that are ridiculously light and airy. Running throughout the whole thing is a jazz-fusion feel, creating a cohesive quality to the entire work.

John Scofield - A Go Go (1998)

Jazz guitarist John Scofield with John Medeski, Billy Martin & Chris Wood; one of the best studio jazz records of the '90s- there's some really funky shit on this album (everything revolves around the "groove", kids...). Medeski Martin & Wood bring their avant-garde background to Sco's modal and hard bop leanings to create one of the most rewarding listens from a jazz guitarist ever.

A must-have for any fans of fusion and/or funk...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Talk Talk - Laughing Stock (1991)

Talk Talk was at first a new wavey synth dance band in the early '80s and morphed into pretentious art-rockers into the '90s, a move that appears (to the label heads at EMI) to be career suicide. I think it's one of the greatest stories of modern music: band makes Duran Duran-esque club tunes, band gets big record deal, band says "fuck off" to synthesizers and '80s excess, band makes three successive records the way they want to make them (1986's The Colour Of Spring, 1988's Spirit of Eden and this album in '91), band loses fans, record deal, etc. Yet band escapes from the industry somewhat unscathed, with suitcase full of money and unflappable creative license to make one of the landmark albums in the post-rock genre.

I still haven't figured out what post-rock means, but I think this is it. It's actually closer to jazz than anything else. Laughing Stock, if anything- was one of the albums that metaphorically killed the '80s by smashing all barriers associated with what can be considered pop by deconstructing it by its constituent parts and re-assembling it into this sprawling and massive masterpiece.