Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #11: October

“Rocktober”? More like “You-bought-too-many-damn-albums-again-Eric-Jerry-tober.”

Here we go, in no particular order…

  • Lambchop – OH (ohio)I’m sure there are states less deserving of a Lambchop album associated with them, but you could probably count them on your fingers. I can’t imagine this unsurprisingly excellent collection of mellow and interesting orchestrations supporting wry and wise observational lyrics will get much play in Canton or Lorain. But then again, this band—one of the best and underrated in existence—also did an album called Nixon, who is perhaps the Ohio of U.S. Presidents. You embrace your inspirations from wherever they spring. And as mundane and ridiculous and depressing as this state, this album is just as worthwhile.
  • Lambchop – What Another Man Spills OH (ohio) reminded me how much I love Lambchop. I have their last 5. Why not their 6? And again, it’s awesome. They potentially have the most solid back catalogue eva, although apparently I have 5 more to go in order to make this claim true. Same mellow “countrypolitan” or whatever you call the sound they invented. Some funk experimentation here, which I’ll allow but I’m happy they they no longer indulge.
  • Blitzen Trapper – Furr [Before the show…] I don’t think I like these guys. They seem to combine bad parts of the Beatles and Wilco, which really aren’t that bad, on the great scale of badness. But then there’s this touch of Tom Petty and that Skynard-southern-rock-thing, which tips the scales. And I think there’s a line about a “midget waiting for a midnight train” and “playing air guitar.” “Black River Killer” is further proof to my longheld thesis that indie bands should steer clear of murder ballads. I like the opener, though, and “Furr.” I like parts of half the songs here. Girl Talk could turn this into a wicked 3-song EP. [After the show…] Okay, fine. This is pretty awesome. The album is synergistic to their live performance, which isn’t as normal as it should be. That midget song still stinks, though.
  • Bound Stems – The Family Afloat Competent indie pop from Chicago. I think one of the guys went to my school, so any clear-eyed assessment is mired by a mix of alumni jingoism and envy. But I think some of the lyrics get a little too earnest.
  • Brightblack Morning Light – Motion To Rejoin Bluesy, slow, gospel-y. Kinda hippy-dippy, but to be expected from these tent-dwellers. Won’t set the world on fire, but sets a nice mood.
  • Clem Snide – End Of Love Last (?) album from Eef Barzelay’s great band. It’s good, but not as good as previous albums and the solo stuff he’s put out since. Seems like a good decision he made to move on.
  • Colleen – Les Ondes Silencieuses A few albums I buy a month are devoted to the purely functional purpose of drowning out my college-era neighbors with interesting but unintrusive sounds…I now understand why old people sit on their porches with shotguns. These cello-centered modernist (?) compositions do a nice job. Don’t know too much about this field to have a real opinion, though. Sounds good to me…on my rocking chair…with my shotgun. Damn kids. 
  • Damien Jurado – Caught In The Trees Lyrically, it doesn’t stray too far from Damien’s usual cheery themes of murder, failure, betrayal, shooting betrayers, etc. However, the sound is much more upbeat. With the drums, female vocal help, and some other instruments, he has created my favorite Damien Jurado album, all while doing songs that convey a deep suspicion or about doing songs. A lot of standouts here.  Canon-bound.
  • Department of Eagles – In Ear Park The Grizzly Bear guy does it again. Not as complex as Grizzly Bear, and I think it’s to the album’s benefit.
  • Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords I don’t think this stands so well without reference to the show. That said, if you know the show, it’s pretty great to have “Bowie” or “Inner City Pressure” come up in one’s shuffle as a way to recall the dead-on spoof videos from the show.
  • High Places – High Places More sing-songy fragments. Her drowned-out vocals are nicely complemented by his sharp rhythms. No conventional songs, exactly, to ever really get excited/pumped/moved by. Can’t imagine how you would experience this live. Your hands probably spend most of the time in your pockets. There’s no crowd-surfing at the High Places stage. 
  • Horse Feathers – House With No Home More subtle acoustic thoughtful cello-laden fun. Better than their great first album. For the sensitive Nick Drake-loving types. Who you should all be.
  • Juana Molina – Un Dia Don’t know what she’s doing, where she’s coming from, but I like it. Is this Brazilian? I need to expand my horizons a little more, it seems. Or just move to Brazil. All I know about Brazil is from City of God, so I imagine I’ll end up getting shot by a 5-year-old.
  • Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson This song “Buriefied” I had off a sampler kept catching me. I also don’t know anything about this guy either (it was a month of rolling the dice!), but it sounds like he’s coming out of his skin. It’s unhinged acoustic folksy rock, but some interesting production gives it a strangeness that differentiates it from the million others of its ilk.
  • Mount Eerie, Julie Doiron, Fred Squire – Lost Wisdom  Really great. Julie Dorion’s vocals make this a pretty special album. And there’s a brilliant use of a Bjork refrain, which comes out of nowhere on this otherwise folky gothic acoustic album. This Microphones/Mount Eerie guy’s kinda hit-or-miss, and he really hits one here. It’s a short and moving album. This one’s heading to the canon.
  • Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping Holy mole, what the hell is this? I’m not ready to throw it under the bus. But it’s no surprise to say it’s no Hissing Fauna. Pardon the glib psychoanalysis, but I imagine it must have been a little traumatic to have been so autobiographical about a break-up with your wife that you reunite with a year or so later. Trying to make amends with the same person you’re singing that you want to pay some other girl to hit must have led to complications. No wonder Mr. Barnes would retreat behind a swinging mystical transsexual persona. However exhaustively bizarre, still a standout for inventiveness. A mix of Prince and Fiery Furnaces.
  • Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual Again, what the hell is this? Unhinged lady just scream-skatting hyped dueling guitar rock. I have no idea when I’m supposed to play this. It’s too obnoxious to be appropriate for anything that I do while listening to music. Maybe if I got into coke-binges or knife-fighting, this might be the go-to soundtrack.
  • Portastatic – Bright Ideas Another album from Mac McCaughan’s post-Superchunk band. It’s from 2005. I’m still trying to catch up on all these albums I missed because I though Mac was too busy running Merge to do any more music. But, no. This guy runs a great record label and still puts out the good stuff on his own. This one makes me nostalgic for the Superchunk and some of the songs (“I Wanna Know Girls” especially) ranks with his former band’s best stuff.
  • Ratatat – LP3 Functional guitar/electronica instrumental background music. Part of the “soundtrack” genre. Which again, I know nothing about.
  • Stereolab – Chemical Chords If you’re from Southern Ohio or Central Pennsylvania, or any other part of Real America, then Stereolab is probably way above your Lynard Skynard-loving head. Stalwarts of post-rock from the Continent, they create chill odd lounge-y tunes for Chardonnay swilling at East Coast art openings or for planning terrorist attacks. It’s not much a departure from the last album, but still worthwhile if you’re into this sort of thing.
  • the castanets – City of Refuge Not for everyone, but I’m down with this guy. I would like to write more about this but I am so burnt out from this post. I, too, want to run to a city of refuge. What the heck…you should buy this, though.
  • Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls I listen to this album very early in the morning and it’s been one of my more favorite things this month. They take me back to the early days of Kim and Kelly Deal. By 10am though, my jaded sensibilities take over and I’m bored.

In full disclosure, these were not all the albums I bought this month. I have the new TV on the Radio and Deerhunter just waiting for me to play. But I am so done writing this post. It’s my little birthday gift to myself: a little slack on my self-imposed year-long project. Still feel a little guilty. If only I were so driven about recording albums and starting record labels, I could be like Mac. But no. I blog irregularly. A major reassessment of priorities will take place for 2009.

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #1: January-February

I buy a godawful way-beyond-my-budget amount of music. It’s becoming a problem. I’m on a 90-track monthly subscription to eMusic*, but even that does little to satiate this hunger for sound. I’ve already bought over 200 songs this year, and they were like so many cocktail weenies down a well**. I need to  appreciate more, unless my hyper-consumption strip my capacity to appreciate. So this year, I will take account of every album I acquire.

Little Amber Bottles by BlancheBlanche, Little Amber Bottles

I got duped by an NPR show. It lead me right for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, but they dropped the ball on this one. They’re like a polished version of the Handsome Family, who aren’t in need of any polishing. So you get this mundane glossy americana gothic sound. Glossy goth is not good market-wise (too gothic sounding for contemporary country scene, too glossy for the americana goths…they wear chaps AND fishnets). 

Basia Bulat, Oh My Darling

I like that she’s bringing back the autoharp. And she can sound like Tonya Donnelly, which appeals to this dark place in me. The album doesn’t hang together, but there are some real nice moments.

Ra Ra Riot,  Ra Ra Riot

Some tunes can sound like tossed off Police B-sides, like right when Sting started discovering his world music lameness. But still most of the tunes got an optimistic hop to them. I’m digging it.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Scribble Mural Comic Journal

I read a lot, so I need noise to drown out the everlasting bong convention in the apartment next door. This one does the job nicely so far.

Mark Lanegan, Bubblegum

I downloaded this one by accident. (It was only a matter of time…I’ve been visiting the page for a daily for updates since I heard about the upcoming Mark Lanegan-Greg Dulli collaboration “the Gutter Twins“…which I have a sneaking feeling will be terrible…these guys have like the combined age of 158 and they want to be called “twins”?) I was surprised to discover PJ Harvey on 2 tracks,  but I think this gets cancelled out by 2 choads from Velvet Revolver on 1 track. That leaves Lanegan’s gruff coolness that can sound a little manufactured to these authentically cool gruff ears. But still, I don’t mind that I have these.

Bon Iver,  For Emma, Forever Ago

I’ve been looking forward to this one. With the anticipation that usually leaves me feeling tricked. But not here. It sounds like TVOTR’sTunde Adebimpe, but like stuck with Iron & Wine’s touring band. I am very excited. Canon-bound.

Some Racing, Some Stopping, Headlights

It’s not going to blow any minds, but it may tap some feet. I like it better than their last album, which I liked alright. Maybe they’re a Death Cab for Cutie-type that I’m not embarrassed to listen to.

High Places, 03/07 – 09/07

More fractured soundscapes for reading. But a little more upbeat.

Beach House, Devotion

I could only get 8 of these tracks, and it’s driving me nuts. I loved their last album, and I’m thinking this one is a step up. The composition is a little more complex, without sacrificing the sparse ambiance of their first tracks. There’s even a cool Daniel Johnson cover. Instant canonization.

Puerto Muerto, Songs Of Muerto County

Their performance 2 years ago left an indelible impression on me. The wife stentorian, banging on a tom while the husband is all snakey on guitar. It’s taken me that long to finally buy something, but it was worthwhile. This one also appeals to my weakness for concept albums. It has something to do with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I have now idea how, and what a terrible movie, but I’m glad I was suckered. “Josephine” alone has made this one Canon-bound.

Black Mountain, In The Future

PASTE Magazine kind of panned this album, which is making me reconsider my subscription. No wonder they give them out free. This album is excellent. Amber Webber is more prevalent, which is a great thing (check out her excellent project, Lightning Dust). The songs can get a little jammy and he can sound too much like Mudhoney, but it’s still pretty great. Canon-bound

Breathe Owl Breathe, Ghost Glacier EP

Of course I love this. It’s like it’s been custom designed for me. But now I need to buy this guy’s entire oeuvre. Oh the obligation of discovery.

Evangelicals, The Evening Descends

I really like this. It’s a like spooky Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. There’s a moment in “Skeleton Man” (you’ll know it when you hear it) that has failed to not give me chills.

Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon by Devendra BanhartDevendra Banhart,  Smokey Rolls Do…

I’m not a really big fan of this guy, but I still manage to have every album. How did this happen. I’ve never listened to Television, I’m not too sure who John Cale is, and yet I have over a hundred songs by this unwashed Lindsey Lohan ex. Still, this one’s better than the rest.

He Poos CloudsFinal Fantasy, He Poos Clouds

To be honest, it was the title. And I got what I paid for. I’m sure what to make of it. It sounds pretty complex and strange, but I’m not sure it’s good. I might have to be patient with this one.

 Glass Candy, Beat Box

This could be a little too trendy, or I could be going through some sort of phase (a breathy-vocals-over-chintzy-beats phase), but I’m loving it now.

Disco RomanceSally Shapiro, Disco Romance

Another by-product of my breathy-vocals-over-chintzy-beats phase, but not as satisfying as Glass Candy. I think I just want more Glass Candy. Still, it’s cute.

JukeboxCat Power, Jukebox

Not as good as her last cover album. Holy mole this is becoming a long post.

Every Joke Is Half the TruthScary Mansion, Every Joke Is Half the Truth

I think I got this one only because I was disappointed by “Jukebox” so much. Scary’s being marketed as (or described like) early Cat Power. So that may be influencing my expectations overmuch. I need to just buy more old Cat Power and come back to this when I can listen to it one its own terms.

Little HappynessThe Aluminum Group, Little Happyness

Eyah. Even though it comes from Chicago, it’s still lame euro disco pop. But I’m still listening to it. And it nauseates me a little. The electronica binge stops now.

Times New Viking, Rip It Off

I’m very excited to see these guys and gal live, but the rough recording makes it kind of hard to find the song through the mess. I know it’s intentional, but I can’t help but feel a little, yes, ripped off. But what I’ve found, I’ve liked so much.
 Tiny VipersTiny Vipers, Tiny Vipers

I blew it here. This is some kind of live album, and it’s not playing to her strengths. She has some fine buzz, but this recording is not a very good introduction. But I think I just want the Bats for Lashes album. But it’s not on eMusic. I’ll have to buy the CD. Must…resist…the…compulsion.

*I am not a shill for eMusic. I am a fan, however. There is a diff.

**Pardon the mixed metaphor.