Listening To…

  • King Krule - Man Alive!. Even for King Krule, this feels very unstructured and mumbly. Full of slowly pulsing chords and mumbled lyrics backed by occasional percussion and wobbly melodic lines. I do like it, a lot actually, but I need to be in a very particular mood before I'll put it on.
  • King Crimson - Beat. One of those albums I think I must have owned and then lost (or sold). I know it front to back, but I didn't have a copy in my collection until this month. This is the second of the classic Fripp, Belew, Levin, Bruford -era trilogy. It's not as great as Discipline (few things are), but it's still pretty good.
  • Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher. Understated whispery pop. She has a lovely voice, and her songs are wistful and very delicately melodic. I don't have many reference points for this kind of music these days, so it's hard to come up with comparable artists. I could say something like "a more introspective and sad Taylor Swift", but that's because Taylor Swift is literally the only young female pop singer I know anything by anymore (because Mrs likes her). And really, Bridgers doesn't like anything Taylor Swift so I'll quit bring her up. She's playing here on the 21st, but sadly I can't bring myself to go to shows anymore - and frankly, as a soon-to-be-51-year-old, I'd feel a little creepery going to that show. I do like this record quite a lot though.
  • Ryley Walker - Course In Fable. I play this one daily. It continues his unique experimental jazzy folk sound but, as with each of his albums, takes things in a somewhat different direction. Thanks to a lot of warm strings, this one is a fuller and sunnier record than some of his others; Deafman Glance sounds harder and more minimal by comparison. The lyrics are as abstract and intriguing as ever:

    Uncanny
    Weeds begat a mandolin strung out on faith-works
    Splintered into seeds are showing under tongue
    Patterns upchucked from downstream
    A pack-a-day throat that sinks the blues I sing
    Transactions cashless, its collection call rings
    On the other end, I’m shaking shivers
    Taking requests from a queue of givers

  • Herbie Nichols - The Complete Blue Note Recordings. I recently finished The History of Jazz, which chronicles, in pretty much a continuous narrative, all of the big (and many of the lesser-known) movements, sub-movements and musicians in jazz. Pianist Herbie Nichols appears when the author reaches Thelonious Monk, with whom Nichols shares a style of playing (those big, clanging, block chords and a way of phrasing melodies). But Nichols was more of a conventional player: a bit less jagged in his melodies, a bit less likely to repeat a phrase for four bars (or let bars go by with just one or two dissonant spikes), and a bit less likely to slam a one of those big block chords in the middle of a melodic line for for the fun of it. There's a ton of material here - three and a half hours worth - including a lot of alternate takes. Good stuff, a bit much to digest all at once!
  • Throwing Muses - The Real Ramona. Are they the most underrated band of their time ? I don't know, I can think of a few other bands of the late 80s/early 90s that didn't get the props I think they deserved. But, they're on the list. At this point in their career, Throwing Muses had two songwriters and lead singers: Kristen Hersh and her stepsister Tanya Donnely. And so this record has some Donnely-style melodic guitar pop. And it has a lot of nervous, discordant, Hersh-style rockers - some of the guitar in Ellen West sounds like Gang Of Four. And then one or two sound like collaborations, despite what the writing credits say. After this, Donnely and the bassist would leave to form one of my favorite (and also underrated) bands ever, Belly. It's a good record, and a nice reminder of how big and weird the "alternative" universe was back in the final days before Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden (and the long list of sound-alikes) took over the phrase and the entire indie music world for a decade.

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