I recently got some new music for summer and the new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories, might be the album of the summer. I think it has the song of the summer with the feel good vibes of "Get Lucky." It is full of homage to old school disco and funk with a host of guest musicians like Niles Rogers and Pharrell. Other standout tracks include the first single "Lose Yourself To Dance," "Touch," and "Fragments of Time."
Most people are not familiar with Gerald Collier, which is too bad because he is a talented singer songwriter who I befriended in my Seattle days. He started out as label mates with Nirvana at Sub Pop with his band The Best Kissers in the World and got signed to MCA. They disbanded in 1995 and since then Gerald has been releasing heartfelt country-tinged solo albums including his eponymous debut for Warner Brothers. This May he released his latest album, Help Is On The Way. My favorite tracks are: "When I Think About You I Want to Kick Myself," "Sanctuary," "Nothing Lasts Forever," and "I Don't Believe I'll Make It Home For Summer."
Another favorite, The National, also has a new album out, Trouble Will Find Me, and this one is a grower-the more I listen the more I like it. My favorite tracks are: "I Should Live in Salt," "This Is The Last Time," and "Pink Rabbits."
The list is rounded out with the new Vampire Weekend album, Modern Vampires of the City, which is some what of a departure from their afro-pop sound. That being said I am liking what I'm hearing, especially:"Step," "Don't Lie," and "Hanna Hunt."
I was hoping to complete my collection of recent Nick Lowe releases, however, The Impossible Bird (1994) was not available on Japanese iTunes of which I had a gift certificate. But I did manage to get The Old Magic (2011) and Untouched Takeaway (2004). The former has some standout tracks that recall tin pan alley such as "Check Out Time," "Sensitive Man," "I Read A Lot," and "Somebody Cares For Me." The latter is a live collection, whose title was inspired by "Lately I've Let Things Slide" from Lowe's album The Convincer. There are several tracks from that 2002 album as well as different arrangements of a number of covers and older songs such as "What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding" and "Cruel To Be Kind." Other standout tracks include "I'll Be There" and "Let's Stay In."
I also got another Nick recording, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have a new album in Push the Sky Away (2013). It's a bit different since the music was recorded in loops and given the Nick cave singing-writing treatment. My favorite tracks are: "We No Who UR," "Water's Edge," "We Real Cool," and "Higgs Boson Blues."
I enjoyed listening to My Morning Jacket's album Z, so I thought I would add another album to the iTunes. Circuital (2011) is another strong album with great tracks like:"Victory Dance," "Circuital," "Otta My System," and "First Light." I can see myself eventually getting the whole catalogue.
The Old 97's have been a favorite band of mine for several years now. A while back I got the Old 97s record The Grand Theater Vol.1 and enjoyed it. So I've been meaning to pick up The Grand Theater Vol. 2 (2011) for a while and it is a worthy successor to volume one. My favorite tracks so far include: "No Simple Machine," "How Lovely It All Was," "Perfume," "Ivy," and "Visiting Hours."
I didn't really search out the music of The Decemberists until fairly recently as well, despite the fact that I read lead singer Colin Meloy's autobiographical book length essay on The Replacement's Let It Be for the Continuum 33 1/3 book series. And according to the All Music Guide,Castaways and Cutouts (2002) is their most essential recording. I'm not sure I agree, but it does have several standout tracks: "California One/Youth And Beauty,"July, July," "Grace Cathedral Hill," and "Clementine."
I've been a fan of the Avett Borthers for a while and hear that The Carpenter (2012) was a another good record. So I got a copy as well and while I don't like it as much as Emotionalism, it has some standout tracks like "The Once And Future Carpenter," "February Seven," and "Down With Shame."
A friend recommend My Morning Jacket to me and I was a fan of the collaboration of their front man Jim James with Calexico on the song "Going To Apaculco" on the I'm Not There sound track. So I decided to start with Z (2005). And I can see that I will going through their catalogue, because this is a really good album. My favorite tracks are: "Wordless Chorus," "What A Wonderful Man," and "Lay Low."
Yo La Tengo has long been a favorite, so when I saw that they had released a new album I was thinking it would probably be a good bet, since I think all of their albums have stood the test of time so far. The latest is Fade (2013) and has lots of great tracks like: "Ohm," "Is That Enough," "Stupid Things," and "Well You Better."
The only things that are new to me that I've been listening to recently were released in years previously. The most recent is the soundtrack from The Guard (2011) by Calexico by way of Ennico Morricone.
I have finally listened to a couple of Superchunk recordings as well. I was always curious about them, since they were from Chapel Hill, which was dubbed the next "Seattle." They were getting a lot of good press in the early 90s as well. The Steve Albini produced No Pocky For Kitty (1990) is very much of the era, guitar heavy and raw sounding with the standouts being "Seed Toss," "Cast Iron," and "Throwing Things." I have also been listening to Come Pick Me Up (1999), which was produced by Jim O'Rourke who does some counter intuitive things like adding strings to arrangements. My favorite songs are: "Hello Hawk," "1000 Pounds," and "Pink Clouds."
The first Sonic Youth album I got into was Daydream Nation, but I remember my room mates in college being fans of Sister and EVOL. So I've been listening to EVOL (1986) which is apparently a move to a more accessible sound and the first album with drummer Steve Shelly, who would become a mainstay. The standout tracks are: ""Tom Violence," "Shadow Of A Doubt," "Green Light," and "Expressway To Your Skull."
I also rediscovered my passion for Camper Van Beethoven, especially via their brilliant Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985), which has one of my high school anthems: "Take The Skinheads Bowling" as well as classics such as "The Day Lassi Went To The Moon," "Wasted," "Where The Hell Is Bill?," "Opi Rides Again - Club Med Sucks," and "Ambiguity Song." But let's not forget Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (1988) with "Eye Of Fatima (I&II)," "One oF These Days," and "Life Is Grand." and then there's Key Lime Pie (1992) and "When I Win the Lottery," "(I Was Born in a) Laundromat," and "Pictures of Matchstick Men."
Calexico is one of my favorite bands, so every release is a big event and therefore Algiers is something to rejoice about. It is their first album since 2008. And as usual there is a mix of instrumentals and songs with vocals. There is a variety of different arrangements with multiple instruments and music styles from typical American folk to Mexican folk and spaghetti western and beyond. My favorite tracks so far are the following: "Splitter," "Fortune Teller," Maybe On Monday," and "No Te Vayas."
Another of my favorite bands, band Of Horses, also has a new release, Mirage Rock, which is another strong collection of songs. This time around they are produced by veteran producer Glyn Johns (Eagles 1972-73). So this album has more of a conventional pop feel to it than their previous effort Infinite Arms. There are several stand out track especially the first three: "Knock Knock," then my favorite track--"How To Love," and "Slow Cruel Hands Of Time." All in all, it is another strong effort from the band.
Dummy by R. J. Wheaton is another compelling read about the seminal album from the British band Portishead. There's lots of detailed information about how the record was recorded and the impact of the album and the context of the scene from which it came from. I was a big fan of the short-lived triphop genre, in that I have an affection for other bands from the genre like Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, and Morcheeba. I enjoyed going back to the album to hear what Wheaton was describing. My only complaint about the book was the haphazard way in which it was organized. It wasn't organized by song order or even chronologically. That being said I learned a lot about the band and the album.
Fear Of Music (1979) by Talking Heads is the latest book from the 33 1/3 series by Continuum written by novelist Jonathan Lethem. Other than the hit, "Life During Wartime," this is an album that I was mostly unfamiliar with, so it was interesting to get to know it in the context of its being written about by Lethem. Letham chose to write about he music from a purely personal context, he didn't interview anyone and seems to have done little research about the album and group members. I would have liked to have heard more about where David Byrne thinks that album ranks in terms of the band's development and his relationship with Brian Eno. But I did find most of his musing on the album interesting after each section on a song Lethem muses on the album or music in sections such as: "Is Fear of Music a Talking Heads Record?" / "Is Fear of Music a Text?" / "Is Fear of Music a New York Album?" / "So Fear of Music is a Concept Album. What Happens On SIde Two?" / "Is Fear of Music a Science Fiction Record?" / "Is Fear of Music an Asperger's Record?" / "Is Fear of Music Paranoid Record?" / "What Was the Fate of the Fear of Music in Live Performance?" / "Breaking Up with Fear of Music." All in all, I gained an appreciation for the album and learned something about the band, however this edition is not among my favorites in the series.
Some Girls by Cyrus R. K. Patell is another welcome edition to the excellent Continuum 33 1/3 series about one of the Rolling Stones latest great albums. I think one interesting aspect of this book is that Patell discusses the album in terms of it being a New York album and a reflection of the cultural historical markers of the day. Thus the decline of the city along with the violence, energy, and decadence that was seen in the crime, the disco scene as represented by Studio 54 and the emerging punk scene at CBGB. But I also like how Patell starts and ends the book with his own personal connection, emotions, and history with the album. The discussion of the sessions and the personal history of the what the band members were going through gives insight into the album as well, Jagger was on his way to leaving Bianca for Jerry Hall, while Kieth Richards faced drug charges in Toronto that had very potential serious repercussions. Patell's song by song analyses are informative and fairly comprehensive. It is another great addition to a great series.