Aphex Twin, Richard D. James Album. Besides posing one of the most frightening album covers ever, Richard D. James enjoys his status as one of ambient techno's foremost innovators. Witness "Girl/Boy Song" for proof.
Erin Bode, Over and Over. I can't say this disc has wowed me yet. Comparisons to Norah Jones are not unwarranted. Ms. Bode has a dusky, alluring voice, and a willingness to re-arrange Paul Simon's "Graceland" into something quite different, and that's admirable. If you're a windowsill type of soul, may I present Ms. Bode.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah, you've heard all about these fellows by now. I've just recently gotten my hands on a copy, and shame on me. This disc is killer. A little derivative of certain indie-rock trends, one might say, but I'll expand that to say it's the best kind of derivative: you have the attractive and earnest yawping of bands like the Shins and Wolf Parade, and the driving post-punk / dance rhythms of countless sub-par outfits who shall remain nameless, and an overall aesthetic of what I'll have to call "sweet punk", in which there are few chords, there are many lyrics about outraged and injured youth, and all of the keys are major keys.
Dave Chapelle's Block Party, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. The film which accompanies this album comes out Tuesday. It's a who's-who of banner rap: The Roots, Talib Kweli, Mos Def. You know, the good stuff. Also, there are conference call outtakes between the songs: Chappelle & co. are discussing the planning and logistics of the block party to come.
The Dirty Three, Whatever You Love, You Are. Ambient and sparse shoegazing post-rock. Think Low, or Yo La Tengo at their dreamiest. Lots of emotional violin solos. This is one of those albums for which the cover serves as a good representation of the overall sound.
Elbow, Leaders of the Free World. In a world where Coldplay does exist - for better and for worse - I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to like this disc. But it grew on me rather quickly once I started to consciously not care about the stadium-ready pace and the radio-ready production. These are good, big rock songs, and damn the comparisons.
Sarah Harmer, I'm a Mountain. Elegant mountain balladry from a young student of the country's rural tradition. It's simple, sure, but extremely accomplished.
Hem, No Word From Tom.
Jolie Holland, Escondida.
Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You. In the vein of Cat Power. Jolie Holland is part of the Be Good Tanyas when she's not putting out amazing records which are amalgams of folk (of course), blues, and jazz flourishes. The generally even keel on which this record rides doesn't prevent it from sounding like one of the year's most accomplished records so far. It's this Recently Acquired's Reigning Top Disc.
Charlie Hunter Trio, Copperopolis.
Choir of King's College, Cambridge, Gregorian Chant. Pretty standard devotional Masses.
Shooter Jennings, Electric Rodeo. Son of Waylan Shooter turns in this batch of somewhat bombastic electric country. See Hank Williams III (at bottom).
Kids, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Daniel Johnston contributes some excellent material to the soundtrack of this rather disturbing 90s film about that era's kids with their sex and their drugs and their lost innocence. Daniel Johnston was an inspired choice for this project, if you ask me; not only has he struggled for mental well-being for most of his adult life, but despite / because of this Johnston allows his performances an admirably slack character. His voice has an endearing squeak, an awkwardness, about it; there's a fey sweetness to his melodies; and the lyrics often involve imaginative youths and harmless ghosts and magical thinking. Juxtapose that with the more ominous work of Folk Implosion (which is less folky and more implode-y), and you get a pretty apt aural analog to Kids' subject matter and take on same.
Loose Fur, Born Again in the U.S.A. Lousy with A-listers from Wilco (Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche among them), and with avant-garde-minded console-minder Jim O'Rourke on board, we have Loose Fur's 2nd album. These are songs that were probably left on various cutting room floors for being too "easy" or "straightforward," but I won't call them that. I'll call them "fun" and "good." Check out the video of "Hey Chicken." There's a dance-off with a monster at the end.
Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Hang It High, Hang It Low. Sadly, after three or four listens, I have to say that this band's name is more fun that it is. The zydeco cha-chas the Zydeco Cha-Chas offer up here sound pretty much all alike. As a set of music seen live, it would make you nod along and tap your foot, but you wouldn't be impelled to get up and dance. And zydeco must make me dance.
The Notorious Bettie Page, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. What a soundtrack. I haven't seen this film yet, but the soundtrack's tangible and tacile enough to make me feel as though I have. This has it all: well-chosen jazz cuts from Art Pepper and Charles Mingus, a sassy novelty tune by Jeri Southern, a heartbreaking number from Julie London (of whom you must have more) and impeccable boom, BOOM BOOM boom kinds of numbers from Mark Suozzo that'll have you hopping in the car with all your buddies, aiming for the seedy side of town, and changing all your twenties for singles.
Robinella, Solace For the Lonely. With a sound that's very near to Jolie Holland's - and to various other songstresses rooted in folk - Robinella nearly beat out Springtime Can Kill You for this week's Reigning Top Disc. It was a bloody fight. Broken banjos all over the place. Freshly plucked posies lay on the eyes of the wounded as they convalesced. Reams of sheet music belonging to both sides made a gentle do-si-do on the field of battle. And when it was all over, the voice of Robin Contreras floated up over the scene, renascent, indomitable, in the same tone you use to whisper your promises.
Otis Rush, All Your Love, I Miss Your Loving. Just a killer set of live Chicago blues. Get this. Everything about it is right.
Igor Stravinsky, Les Noces and Other Russian Village Wedding Songs.
Hank Williams III, Straight To Hell. There's a lot to love here. In his disregard for the world's shame-shaming his drinking and cussing and rabble-rousing, Hank III blusters and stomps like Back to the Future's Biff and sings in a reedy sneer like Back to the Future's Marty McFly. Speaking of Back to the Future, you know that scene in BttF III, in which Marty and Doc are trapped in the old West, and one night they go down to the Hill Valley Hoedown or whatever, and there's a killer fiddling outfit barnstorming it up under the stars? Here, Hank sounds like that but three times as fast. I can't remember the last time I heard such manic, excellent playing in a country record. Hank III also takes modern Nashville and the country contemporary machine to task for putting out, well, terrible music. And that's just Disc 1. Disc 2 is one of the strangest aural documents ever committed to record. Even Pink Floyd with their signature freak-outs and slowed-down monster voices has nothing on this disc. I want to say that it's an aural representation of a ramble across the country, with very long trains whistling and rattling by, and gurgling streams suddenly appearing ahead, and so on, as though we're somehow telescoping at a great rate through the middle of the country... but there are too many other interjections for that to hold all the water: tape loops, ambient noise, sudden flourishes into ditties and song. It's completely unpredictable and completely captivating.