Category Archives: Listening To…

Listening To…

It’s been over a year since the last time I did one of these? Really?

Quasimoto – The Unseen. Quasimoto is a collaboration between hip-hop producer Madlib and his alter ego Lord Quas. It’s got a strong stoner vibe, heavy on odd/kitschy spoken-word samples, smart and funny lyrics and smooth jazzy beats. It’s not far from Madlib’s other project, MF-Doom, which I’ve liked for a while. So, this was a nice discovery.

Quasimoto - Jazz Cats Pt. 1

DJ Spooky – Songs Of A Dead Dreamer. Spacey, old-school record-spinning stoner hip-hop with lots of fun samples and occasional guest rappers. This and Quasimoto turned up on a few of the best-of lists I found when I was searching for ‘alternative’ hip-hop / turntablists.

DJ Spooky- 04 Galactic Funk (Tau Ceti Mix)

Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters. I’m finding this much tougher to get into than her previous stuff. I think I need to sit down and really listen, because it’s just not grabbing me. It’s dense. There’s a lot of repetition in the songs, almost mechanical. And when it’s not repeating, it’s taking hard, sharp turns and big leaps. So, a very up-to-date record. But, everything else she’s done I’ve liked, so I’m going to give this some more time.

Fiona Apple - Shameika (Audio)

Tame Impala – The Slow Rush. Much clubbier than their [his] past records with big beats and thick, lush production. But it’s still got that classic Tame Impala retro psychedelic thing. Good stuff.

Tame Impala - Let It Happen (Official Video)

The Daisy Age – Various. This is a compilation of tunes hip-hop groups from the early 90s, most of whom formed a collective called Native Tongues. It was originally centered around NYC groups like the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, etc.. But it eventually included groups from other places, including the UK. They pioneered a jazz-centered, upbeat, playful and positive (and sometimes silly) hip-hop that contrasted strongly with the macho and often violent west-coast ‘gangsta’ rap. The style didn’t last much beyond the mid 90s, but it’s the one that grabbed me.

Seinfeld’s latest stand-up show has a joke about how a man’s casual fashion choices stop keeping up with the times the day he gets married. I got married in 1996.

De La Soul - A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays


Listening To…

  • Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out. This is the sequel to their incredible “Time Out” (even though there were three other Dave Brubeck Quartet albums released between the two). It has that same mix of hummable jazz tunes played in odd time signatures. It’s not as great as “Time Out”, but that’s fine. It’s still good.
    Dave Brubeck - Unsquare Dance

  • Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be. Lo-fi pop that recalls a specific very-early-90s SubPop sound: the sweetly strange DIY sound of bands like Vaselines and Beat Happening, not the fury and thunder of Nirvana and Tad. And there’s a touch of Siouxsie and Blondie, in there too. Fun stuff. 12 songs in 32 minutes.
    Fifa 11 Soundtrack - It Only Takes One Night

  • Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is a Reptile. Raucous hypnotic NoLa street marching band Afro-Caribbean modern/old-school jazz/dub. There are so many things going on in here, it’s hard to come up with a suitable description. Maybe just “funky” will do. Amazing and funky. Mostly instrumental, but when the vocals do appear, they’re amazing too. I love it.
    Sons Of Kemet - My Queen Is Ada Eastman (Audio)

  • David Bowie – Station To Station. I’m taking my time going through Bowie’s stuff. He was hit and miss – I love “Hunky Dory” and “Ziggy…”, but “Low” and “Scary Monsters” not so much. This is a hit. It’s only six songs, but lasts 38 minutes. Golden Years and TVC15 are great, as is the title track. Stay rocks a bit. The other two are good enough.
    DAVID BOWIE - TVC15 (Live At Musikladen 05.30.78)

  • The Ventures – The Ventures In Space. Surf rock! It’s the only surf rock I own, and I think this will probably be enough. But it sure is fun.

  • Led Zeppelin – Houses Of The Holy (remaster). I was listening to the original version a couple weeks back and decided that the sound was a bit flat and muddy. So, I picked up the remaster, and it does sound better. I hear a lot of small details in the guitar and vocals that I’d never heard before, and even the bass is audible here and there! The songs remain the same, just better. I think this might be their best overall record, even if II is still my favorite.
    Led Zeppelin - Over The Hills And Far Away

  • FONTAINES D.C. – Dogrel The great-grandsons of Gang of Four, or the grandsons of Bloc Party, or the sons of Protomartyr? All of the above! But it’s an honorable lineage and they represent it well. The tracks at the front of the album are taut and searing and angular but soften and pick up more melody as they go. I prefer the start.
    Fontaines D.C. - Hurricane Laughter (Darklands Version)


Listening To…

  • Nod – So Much Tonight. Nod is always hard to explain. The best I can do is: Can, Pavement’s early EPs and The Stooges but without angst or ego. They’re so loose and ragged it seems like they’re always on the verge of falling apart. But there are enough hooks in their songs (rusty, broken, twisted hooks) to keep me listening. And, after something like 25 years, they put out this record which sounds exactly like a Nod record, but is still fresh and interesting.
  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs. Energetic melodic Aussie guitar rock. There’s a lot in here that reminds me of a lot of great Australian rock bands from the 80s: INXS of course, but also The Church and Midnight Oil and Split Enz (OK, they were from NZ). They also do a nice Feelies-ish guitar drone/jam thing now and then. Solid record, all the way through. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.
    Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Time In Common [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
  • Nujabes – Metaphorical Music. He was one of the originators of ‘chill’ hip-hop – lots of laid-back beats, smooth jazz-y samples, often with little or no vocals. It’s … exactly that. Good for layin about.
    Nujabes (Metaphorical Music) 07 - Letter From Yokosuka
  • Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon. If you like bands like Dirty Projectors (bands who seem dead set against repeating a phrase for more than two bars without a giant jarring leap in dynamics, rhythm or tempo) and you like modern jazz and soul, you’ll like this. The previous parenthetical is what kills it for me. There’s a nice phrase, I’d like to hear it a… oh, here’s something different, maybe I can get into … OK, another melod… ack! They’re talented players, no doubt. But why are they putting a dozen songs’ worth of ideas into this verse? It made a lot of best-of lists this year, but I find it grating and nerve-wracking.
    Hiatus Kaiyote - Breathing Underwater


Listening To

  • Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance – On this one, he leaves a lot of the pastoral 70s folk sound behind and takes up the more experimental sounds of John Fahey and those that followed him, like Gastr Del Sol, et al. Still great stuff.
    Ryley Walker - Telluride Speed (Official Audio)

  • Paul Simon – In The Blue Light – He pulled some of the deep cuts from past albums and re-did them with very soft, mellow and spare instrumentation, leaving his voice and lyrics up front. I like to think of it as a recording of him doing a show at a very small club with a new band. Like, it’s not the official Paul Simon show, it’s just a bit of him fooling around with his songs for the fun of it.
    Paul Simon - Can't Run But (Audio)

  • The J Geils Band – The Morning After. Classic 70s white-guy R&B. They were a hell of a band.
    J Geils Band - Looking for a Love

  • The Internet – Hive Mind Overall, it’s not quite as catchy as their last record, but I find myself listening to it every day anyway. I really dig that funky super-compressed guitar that shows up on most songs.
    The Internet - Come Over (Official Video)

  • Interpol – The Marauder. Keeping up that spiky gothy thing they’ve always been so good at.


Listening To…

New music time!

  • Sea And Cake – Any Day. Feels like I could just reuse the same review I’ve given their last five records. I don’t hate it, but I want them to mix things up a bit!
    Cover the Mountain

  • Belly – DOVE. I didn’t expect to see a new Belly record last weekend, but there it was on the iTunes front page. I had to squint to make sure that was the 90s indie rock Belly logo on the thumbnail pic, and it wasn’t from the rapper who goes by “Belly”. It’s OK, and grows on me a bit each time I hear it. But I wish it had a bit more of that slightly off-kilter weirdness that made the first Belly records so much fun.

  • Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. Pulls in more of that electronica that singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner used in her groovy side project, Flock Of Dimes. They’ve been moving in this direction for several albums now, and I’m liking it more and more each time.
    Wye Oak - It Was Not Natural (Official Music Video)

  • The Breeders – All Nerve. Full of all that awesome, raw Breeders strangeness. I like it a bit better than some of their other recent records.
    The Breeders - Wait in the Car (Official Video)

  • Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead. OK, not new. But new to me! A college roommate had this one, so I got to hear it a lot back in the day. Then I went 25 years without hearing anything from it except “Uncle John’s Band” and “Casey Jones”. I’d convinced myself that the rest it was just filler between those two songs. Then XM played “Black Peter” last week and I decided I had to buy the album immediately. It’s great!
    Grateful Dead - Black Peter (Studio Version)

  • King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. This is an earlier record and is a bit more lo-fi and much less produced than his latest (“The OOZ”). It’s good, but I like the sound on the new one better.
    King Krule - Easy Easy (Official Video)

  • Doc Watson – Live At Club 47. This is actually a new release, even though it was recorded Feb 1963, in Cambridge MA. It’s just Doc and his guitar on 21 of the 26 tracks, and of course the playing is amazing.
    Doc Watson - "Train That Carried My Girl From Town"


Listening To…

  • Riley Walker – Primrose Green It’s in the same family as so many bands of the 70s folk scene (especially British bands) who took old folk music and blended it with cool jazz: Pentangle, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Led Zeppelin’s more pastoral moments, etc.. But this isn’t all laid-back sleepy stuff. A lot of this really cooks in both a raw/folky way and a sophisticated/jazzy way, often at the same time. Love it. Many thanks to dbati for the tip.
    Ryley Walker - Summer Dress

  • Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue 60s bluesy jazz guitar. I find a lot of jazz guitar to be soulless and sterile, no matter how technically good the player is, but this sounds alive. It might be the blues focus that keeps things simple and moving; it might be the excellent recording that makes each player stand out clear and sharp; it might be Burrell’s un-fussy playing (I can almost imagine learning to play some of these tunes). Whatever it is, I like it. The first tune is Chitlins Con Carne, a cover of which appears on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s excellent, posthumous The Sky Is Cryin.
    KENNY BURRELL, Chitlins Con Carne

  • Opeth – Blackwater Park I love Opeth’s last three records. And this one, much older, has the reputation of being Opeth’s best record. But I just can’t take the death metal growling Cookie Monster vocals seriously. So, while I can hear the rougher precursor the of their current polished prog-rock sound in the music, I just can’t abide death metal vocals and that wrecks most of the tracks for me.
    Opeth - Bleak (Blackwater Park)

  • Robert Plant – Carry Fire Got tickets to see him in a few months, so I thought I should see what he’s up to these days… Lots of slow atmospheric stuff, exotic Celtic or mid-east touches abound. He still sounds good, though.
    Robert Plant - Carry Fire | Official Audio


Listening To…

  • St Vincent – MASSEDUCTION Maybe a bit too shiny in places. Her quirks and charms are still present, but it feels like she’s fallen into the same pit of hi-gloss lacquer that Spoon recently tripped into. I’ll probably grow into it.
    St. Vincent - Pills (official audio)

  • Replacements – For Sale: Live At Maxwells On the other hand… No, this is far from being as much of a mess as I expected, given their reputation. It actually sounds good and they only botch a couple of tunes. I had honestly thought that about 1/3 of the songs on their early records were things they flung together just to fill out a record. But here they are, playing a bunch of those songs pretty much identically to the album version.
    Can't Hardly Wait (Live at Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ, 2/4/86)

  • Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds Of Fire It’s impossible for me not to compare this to mid-70’s King Crimson. Heavy prog-rock with a strong 70’s jazz influence. There’s a bit more of the jazz influence here, but it’s that heavy electric jazz-funk-fusion thing of Bitches Brew; it’s not the lyrical horns-n-drums quartet thing of the 1950s. There aren’t any vocals, which is actually nice – they were often the weakest part of early KC. And John McLaughlin is a much more fiery and acrobatic guitarist than Robert Fripp who prefers geometric intricacy over wailing – and what a great tone McLaughlin had! But, I think it’s safe to say if you dig one, the other will at least interest you.
    Celestial Terrestrial Commuters

  • Built To Spill – There Is No Enemy Somehow I missed this band in the 90s. But now that I’ve heard them, a bunch of other ‘indie’ bands of the 90s and 00s have fallen into place in my big mental family tree of bands. Built To Spill is the forerunner of bands like Modest Mouse, Granddaddy, Death Cab For Cutie, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Decemberists, etc.. This is their latest record, and I do like it. But I can’t wait to get into their much-adored early stuff.
    Built to Spill - Things Fall Apart

  • LCD Soundsystem – American Dream As an LCD Soundsystem record, it’s really good. It has everything you want from them: slow hypnotic droney things, uptempo electro-ravers and Murphy’s distinctive vocals. It’s also full of subtle nods (and deep, low bows) to new wave bands of the 80s. New Order, Joy Division, The Cure, and especially the Talking Heads from Remain In Light, are all well represented – some of the guitar solos sound like they got Adrian Belew to dig up his guitar rig from R.I.L. and let it rip. Great stuff.


Listening To…

  • Spoon – Hot Thoughts. I’ve been trying to get into this for weeks. New Spoon records usually take a while to sink in, but this has taken longer. The songs are clearly Spoon songs, a bit funkier than usual, but there’s a thick layer of glossy dance-music production on top that I keep bouncing off of – lots of electronic blips and bloops, lots of compression, staccato everything. This pains me. Am I too old for this stuff now? Has one of my favorite bands moved in a direction I can’t follow? But, last night, I played this record on our Sonos system, and it clicked. For some reason Sonos thinks the first two songs should be at the end of the record (they were released early, so maybe their metadata is messed up). And it turns out what I don’t like about this record is that first song, the title track. Without that, the rest of the record is fine. The sound is still different, but I can handle it now. That first song just puts me in a bad mood! Skip it! This probably won’t be my favorite Spoon record, but at least I can stop worrying that I’m over the hill.
  • Flock Of Dimes – If You See Me, Say Yes. Jenn Wasner is half of the great band, Wye Oak. And this is her solo project. This has more synths and more electronic percussion, but it actually sounds a lot like current Wye Oak; unsurprising since her distinctive songwriting and singing are the core of each. The synths and heavily-chorused guitar sounds give off a strong 80s vibe – am I hearing Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson ? Whatever it is, I dig it. I like what she does with her vocal melodies.
  • Louie Jordan – #1s. Sometimes called the grandfather of rock and roll, Louis Jordan was a bandleader from the late 30s into the early 50s. He did a mix of danceable jazz and blues that got labelled “jump blues”. The bands were smaller than big-band jazz bands, and the tunes were cheeky and sometimes a bit bawdy (for the time). It wasn’t rock and it wasn’t R&B; the instrumentation and presentation was still in the 30s/40s jazz band style, and there was still a lot of swing in there. But it was close. By the late 40’s, Jordan was right on the edge of what we know as rock and roll. And the people who went on to become the first generation of rockers were clearly listening to him. For example, listen to the first few seconds of “Ain’t That Just Like A Woman”:
    Louis Jordan Ain't That Just Like A Woman

    Chuck Berry, who wasn’t shy about his love of Jordan, built a career off that lick.


Listening To…

  • Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service. A couple of weeks ago, A Tribe Called Quest put out a new record – an unexpected and very welcome surprise! They hadn’t put anything out since 1998, and one of the core members had recently died, so there was no reason to expect anything more from them. But, it turns out they had been working on this album for a while when Phife died, so he’s on most of the tracks. Posthumous (what a weird word – “after the soil”) recordings of are always weird. Maybe it’s that they can only use whatever audio they managed to get (no going back to re-do), so things are sometimes a little off from the rest of the track. Or maybe that when I hear his voice, I just can’t stop thinking that he’s no longer with us: morbid. And that Gene Wilder sample at the end of the first track compounds the vibe. Anyway, there’s good stuff here. Q-Tip is always great. Busta Rhymes contributes some classic bluster. Jack Black riffs away in the background of a couple. Elton John samples? It’s not about to bump Midnight Marauders off my List. But it’s good to have.
  • Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome. For the past few years, I’ve been listening to all the guys the Stones listened to: John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Albert King, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Buddy Guy, etc.. They’re all incredible. We’ve all heard a million covers of their songs, and I’ve come to think that the originals are usually better in every way. So, why would I want to hear the Stones cover them?
  • Gillian Welch – Boots No 1. The Official Revival Bootleg. Twenty one songs: outtakes, demos, alternate versions from their first record, Revival. I’m a completist, so I find this kind of thing interesting, but if I want to play some Gillian for other people, I’ll probably pick the official release.
  • Them – The Complete Them 1964-66 [v2.0 Revisisted by Prof. Stoned]. Prof. Stoned just put out this comprehensive collection of everything Them recorded – dozens and dozens of songs. I only knew the hits (‘Gloria’, etc), so this is a whole new world for me. Everyone knows Van Morrison’s voice, but it turns out the rest of the band is great, too! It’s also enlightening in other ways: Them, Beck. And Them, Beck.

Et tu?

Listening To…

I just wrote a long Listening To post but FYWP ate it.

Here’s the short version:

  • Beatles – Live At The Hollywood Bowl. Beatles live in 1964-65, in front of four trillion screaming girls! More fun than the BBC sessions or the final ‘rooftop’ concert-ish thing. Faster, more raw, fun! 4 things!
  • Norah Jones – Day Break. She goes back to the sound that made her a coffeehousehold name – that warm and fuzzy jazz/pop/country sound. Good, if not quite as catchy as Come Away With Me. 3 things!
  • Steady Holiday – Under The Influence. Dreamy, sad and sweet with whispered vocals and spacey guitars. Somehow finds a place between early Portishead and late Blonde Redhead – spacey and chilly yet delicate and intimate. 4 things!
  • The Pretty Things – The Pretty Things. Do you need more rough and raw early rock in your life? Think Elvis was too hammy and the early Stones were too wimpy? This is the band for you! 3 things!