Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #12: November

I only bought 15 albums this month. It is the calm before the storm that will rain down recorded music on me. In December, I know will succumb to the suggestive powers of numerous Best of the Year lists. I will ask for and receive a lot of music. I will have to account for every CD I bought this year that I haven’t yet mentioned yet for various good reasons.

But before I face that monster, here’s what happened this month. I seemed to go for the freewheeling ladies this time, with some degree of success.

  • Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer? Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls appeals to the 15-year-old goth girl in all of us. Or maybe just the one in me. You don’t have Yes, Virginia… by now, whatever. That said, Amanda’s solo album is not the place to start. There’s something definitely worthwhile in “Astronaut” and “Guitar Hero,” but only because they should be Dresden Doll songs. The weaknesses seem to be when she goes beyond what I’m expecting…which could just be me and my 15-year-old’s problem.
  • Ane Brun – Changing Of The Seasons “Treehouse Song” is probably my song of the month. Ane Brun is a Nordic Dolly Parton, which is actually pretty awesome. It can be a touch adult contemporary though and I did not havethe fortitude to listen to her (or anyone’s) cover of “True Colors.” Still, “Treehouse Song” is an awesome song. Did I say that you should probably hear “Treehouse Song”? Please listen to the “Treehouse Song.” (I don’t really stand behind the video)
  • Deerhunter – Microcastle I was not a huge fan of their last effort, Cryptograms. I definitely liked parts. I liked fewer parts of the solo Bradford Cox effort Atlas Sounds. But now, it’s liked they took whatever made those best parts and madean entire album. And after seeing their excellent live show, I now stand fully within the Deerhunter camp. I am ready for a T-shirt.
  • TV on the Radio – Dear Science, For my money, they don’t hit it out of the park this time. But it’s no whiff either. No “Wolf Like Me” on here. Nonetheless, the Vores like it enough to collectively hop into the proverbial bed with TVOTR. I think they’re moving a little fast and that they should be thinking about their reputation, but they could do—and have done—much, much worse.
  • Parts & Labor – Receivers P&L got a lot better. Kinda felt ripped off by the last album, even with all the critical praise. This new almost makes up for it. I half recall reading/hearing the duo expanded by two. And I can say they became twice as good. Actual melodies this time. They went from No Age-type noise to Secret Machines-esque anthems. I would recommend it to all my dudefriends. Probably not for the ladies. Even freewheelers.
  • Lou Reed – Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse Lou Reed is like a freewheeling lady. And I don’t really know what to make of this thing. It’s a live performance of a concept album that I never heard. There’s an awful sax (hah hah! as if there’s any other kind!) and gratuitous gospel backup. And Antony is mooning on it, which is never a good sign. Still, where these elements would doom a download to digital oblivion, I’m still listening, and I kinda like it. That has more to do with Lou than with any change of heart regarding Antony, the saxophone, or rock songs with gospel backup singers. Those are treacherous rocks and Lou steers the ship clear. But I should probably know more about it.
  • Frida Hyvonen – Silence is Wild I kind of wish I was one of Frida’s ex-boyfriends. That’s probably why my ladyfriend hates her (but she says it’s the grating off-tune voice and mundane literal lyrics). Nonetheless, Frida’s expressions of nostalgia are excruciating in the frustrating funny-sad-important way that makes you want to be implicated in them. I loved her last album, Until Death Comes, as a perfect small singer-songwriter album. This one has greater ambitions, and it may not be perfect, it’s better for those ambitions. I hate songs about cities (or maybe just about New York City…and Memphis), but “London!” is an ass kicker.
  • Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love Cut Copy’s release earlier this year, In Ghost Colorshas been fungally growing on me and my freewheeling ladyfriend (gets no mention in Paste’s top 25, of course). But of course all the supercoolindiekids say it’s not as good as this album (oh, supercoolindiekids…your nostalgic attachments belie your avant garde pose). And this album is good. But I—the true avant garde—like the new one better. I may be burned out on eighties retro this month from repeated listens to Ladyhawke.
  • Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke Ladyhawke is freewheeling it back to the eighties. And yeah it’s a little gimmichy , but we’ve been hearing the eighties retro for years now (probably since we left the eighties), so it shouldn’t surprise or yield novel enthusiasm. Even though some of us may have lived through it, we need to dispassionately accept it as a valid idiom for expression. Once you get past the gimmicky synths, there are some pretty great songs here. Again, I hate songs about cities, but “Paris is Burning” is a new running song.
  • Joyce – Hard Bossa Brazilian lady recommended by Mac McCaughan on his superb dozen. Mac doesn’t let me down (Get Back Snowball, aside…which was probably more Bob Pollard’s fault, anyways). Lady’s singing gibberish (or Portuguese). I’m pretty sure there’s some pan flute on here. Nonetheless, it keeps pretty close to the bossa nova thing. So it’s “hard” insofar as it’s real bossa, not that it’s like metal bossa (which doesn’t make sense, but I was still a little disappointed). I like “Garota de Ipanema” like anyone else and this will keep me warm as the Wisconsin freeze begins. Plus, she sounds a little like a Brazilian Joni Mitchell, which is alright.

 

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  • Desolation Wilderness – White Light Strobing Straight up. I bought it on the strength of the album artwork alone and that they may sound a little like Deerhunter. A little, but it’s Deerhunter-lite. Deerhunter is expanding their sound while these guys are comfortably ensconced within hazy reverb and indecipherable lyrics. Palatable enough, but it won’t make any lists. Not that it should. They’re a new band and they’re on the right path.
  • Deerhunter – Weird Era Cont. This one seemed to be made with more of the parts I didn’t like from Cryptograms. That said, it’s still pretty great and better than Cryptograms. And, from the story I heard, it was released in anger because Microcastle was leaked early. An amazing feat that Bradford Cox can pull off two pretty great albums. He’s like Axl Rose, but completely opposite. Get him a Dr. Pepper.
  • Mates Of State – Re-arrange Us I am a little embarrassed I own this. And I wouldn’t otherwise admit it if it was not the case that full disclosure is essential to the integrity of this project to document every album I buy this year. I was moved to buy it for its mention on the Paste best of list for 2008. Oh “Best of the Year” lists, I am weak to your suggestive powers, even when I know you’re terrible (to my credit, Re-Arrange ranks pretty low on that terrible list, which to my mind, meant that it should rank pretty high on mine. I’m not sure it will.) BTW, this album’s alright!
  • The Whispertown 2000 – Swim The lead vocal is a little precious, in that lazy-cute-drunk way. I’ll still listen, but I need to follow them up with a chaser of Marnie Stern, or drill sounds. And they may be under the guidance of Gillian Welch, which can only mean good things. Good for Sunday mornings.
  • Marnie Stern – This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He When Angus Young finally quits AC/DC to join Deerhoof, they’ll be surprised to find their intended terrain well trod by Marnie Stern. She’s got the wicked licks (especially on “Transformer”…which I keep thinking is “Thunderstruck” creeping out from the darker less-visited corners of my digital music library) and she can appealingly grate like Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzakie. Definitely not for Sunday mornings. But there’s a whole week to get through.

Bring it, December.

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #10: September

Simply, this is getting ridiculous. I’ve been dreading the September edition of my self-imposed project to account for every album I buy this year because it gets me all that closer to the October post. We’re not even half-through and yet I’ve already amassed 22 albums. Isn’t there an economic collapse going somewhere?  

Oh wait, that’s everywhere. Perhaps I’ll spend an impoverished 2009 reassessing my accumulated purchases and frittered wealth. 

Only 17 albums for this entire month. And there’s kind of a theme or three to my purchases: back catalogues and wordlessness (or at least English wordlessness).  And also Bill Callahan-like sounding front(wo)men. And I liked most of it!

  • Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar – Go Marko Go! A great Serbian brass band (Caveat: I’m not confident I could tell a great from a good Serbian brass band) and this is a great album. Passionate and funky folk jazz. They got kind of dampered by rain at this year’s Pitchfork, but rumors of their raucous rowdy live show abound. A bonus: Serbian words can kind of sound like English, which leads to fun mishearings. Like on the outro for “Bubamara , Ne kuni me , Kalasnijikov” sounds like they’re passionately and repeatedly intoning that “Carl likes people.” He may very well, but not as much as I like this.
  • Breathe Owl Breathe – climb in I liked the Ghost Glacier EP so much, I felt obligated by that discovery to buy more of this guy. This is his last full album that came out a few years ago (2005). Just as great as the EP. A little more Bill Callahan this time. But like a camping and high Bill Callahan.
  • Chicha Libre – Sonido Amazonico I don’t anything about these guys, but I know they’re based in Brooklyn. Any band based in Brooklyn makes me suspicious. But they do a competent, nay…exciting…job of jazzy folk latin. It was also recently touted by Sound Opinions’ Greg Kot on their “buried treasure” show.
  • Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People Apropos of nothing (or was it the Brendan Canning album…alas, purchases beget purchases), I realized I didn’t have enough Broken Social Scene. So I went back to their so-called “breakthrough” album. It’s great and is exactly what is to be expected. It’s so much easier buying thoroughly vetted albums from 2002.
  • Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – Knives Don’t Have Your Back Part of the campaign to fill my Broken Social Scene bucket. And now I’ll probably have to fill me up a Metric bucket. Emily’s in both bands. And she has this excellent solo album. I need to blog less. Unlike BSS, you can understand the lyrics here. They’re pretty saucy and pessimistic with wry deadpan humor (the Bill Callahan of chix?). Not a whole lot of romance here, unless you consider romanticizing nihilism romantic. Still, it’s great. Wouldn’t buy it for a depressive, though.  
  • Giant Sand – Provisions It’s the Southwest version of Bill Callahan, but I think this guy precedes Bill. So maybe Bill’s the Pacific Northwest version of Giant Sand. Either way, both are worthwhile. Great collaborations here, too. Isobell Campbell, Neko Case, and a great PJ Harvey cover to boot.
  • Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter – Gentleness of Nothing EP I’m onboard with Jesse, so this EP works as the other ones do. Does not sound very much like Bill Callahan.
  • Justice – ? (Cross) Apparently, “D.A.N.C.E.” was one of the most overplayed anthems of this summer. I haven’t heard it once before downloading it this month. I’m not “dialed in” anymore I guess.  Nonetheless, great to run to. Hey fatboys, before mocking my belated electronica purchase, do 50 squats. I could squish you.
  • Lindstrøm – Where You Go I Go Too Chill electronica/house long compositions to drowned out the returned student horde. Cheesy in parts, but very worthwhile for having only 3 tracks.
  • Mates Of State – Bring It Back Not sure why I was moved to buy this one. I know most of these songs and have seen them twice live. I already know what they have to offer and it’s okay.
  • Mitch Hedberg – Do You Believe In Gosh? Not as polished a performance as on the other 2 comedy albums, but the guy’s dead. It’s still funny as hell and worth repeated listens. Like the other albums, the jokes are only alright. Ridiculous observations and reductions to the absurd (“Is a hippopotamus a hippopotamus or a really cool potamus?”). But clearly the key to Mitch is his delivery. This manic burnout jumping from one-liner to one-liner. I could probably listen to this guy talk about anything.
  • Okkervil River – Down the River of Golden Dreams Occaisioned by the release of the new album, went back and got this nifty set of tunes. Not as solid as the more recent releases. Nonetheless, worthwhile nuggets abound.
  • Okkervil River – The Stand Ins Will Sheff makes me feel extraneous. It seems like he’s doing everything I would do if I were in a indie band. I guess that’s a little self-aggrandizing of me to say.  Pardon me. I’ve been at this for 2 hours. The defense against my inflated self-assessment is wearing down.
  • Rhymefest – Mark Ronson presents Rhymefest: MAN IN THE MIRROR It’s available for free so I don’t feel obligated to write much about it. Just know that it’s worth the download effort. Despite his implosion at the  Hideout Block Party.
  • The Cool Kids – The Bake Sale I was turn on to them by an article in the NYTimes, which is about as cool as checking out what your mom listens to. So I’m kinda behind the trend. I like the idea of it. Nostalgic low-fi hip hop. But I’m not sure I’m completely sold on this one example yet. 
  • The Uglysuit – The Uglysuit The band I saw at the Hideout Block Party, who’s performance was only remarkable for the fact that each band member seemed to be wrestling with their own unique hair issue. The album’s alright. Kinda like an earnest Flaming Lips?
  • Clinic – Do It! I’ve been buying Black Angelsalbums so I wouldn’t have to buy Clinic albums. But I broke down, as I always do, and here we are. Can’t say I was that far off on my earlier assessment. Both are garage rock psychedelia.  But you can tell Clinic songs apart. So both bands aren’t that alike. And there’s something still appealing to the saminess to the Black Angels. Clinic may be reaching too much. And they probably have better albums,
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