Category Archives: Listening To…

Listening To...

  • All Them Witches - Live In Brussels - Heavy and hypnotic, this is throwback stoner rock for sure, but it's also great anytime! Lots of long, slowly pulsing songs with a lovely Rhodes piano or wailing Les Paul for color. The full show is available on YouTube (though I always buy the album).


  • Newen Afrobeat - Curiche Fela Kuti-style Afrobeat, with influences from their native Chile. Tremendously groovy.


  • Robyn Hitchcock - Life After Infinity. An instrumental record: guitars with occasional bass. Robyn's distinctive improvisational style is free-flowing on several pieces, and you can't mistake his melodies.

    Celestial Transgression

  • Wilco - Cruel Country. They're getting sleepier with each record. And at 21 songs, this takes a while to get through. It's mostly very mellow country rock, recorded live in the studio. But, I saw them a couple of weeks ago, and the songs sound great, live!

    Cruel Country

  • Emma Ruth Rundle - On Dark Horses - This is deep, heavy, atmospheric rock, also in the stoner rock category.


  • boygenius - the record. I hate the word "supergroup". Phoebe Bridgers has a band with two other women, called "boygenius". I am not (yet) familiar with the other two women's other work. If you like Phoebe Bridgers, as I do, you'll probably like this, as I do - all the same descriptors apply to this as apply to her eponymous output.

    Not Strong Enough

  • Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I. I missed this record when it came out in 1999. Situation remedied.

    Back and Forth.

And you?

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:

    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.


Listening To...

  • Madlib - Shades Of Blue: Madlib Invades Blue Note. Hip hop producer Madlib was allowed to run through the entire catalog of legendary jazz label, Blue Note records; and he put his remixing skills to work. So we have remixes of tunes by the likes of Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, and others. The result is a lot of 'chill' hip-hop, mostly instrumental, very groovy. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with most of the source material, so I can't say how they compare to the originals. I do know this one, though, and it is pretty great.
    Madlib - Song for my father

  • Sumer Is Icumen In : The Pagan Sound Of British And Irish Folk 1966-75. Thirty (!!) songs from the folk music explosion. The quality varies, and the styles range from rough recordings of people sawing away on their fiddles to well-produced psychedelic folk (ex The Strawbs - the only of these bands that I'd heard of). It's ... interesting.

  • Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - All The Good Times. I think this is the first of their records where they both sing. It's always been Gillian sings on "Gillian Welch" albums and David sings on "David Rawlings [+/- Machine]" albums. This is a mix of both; and there's even one tune where they trade verses (Johnny and June's version of "Jackson", which they've been doing live for a while). Not my favorite collection of tunes, but it's nice to get new stuff from either of them.

  • Low - Things We Lost In The Fire / Double Negative. I'm late to Low. They been around for a while, doing their low-key indie stuff, but I didn't catch on till 2018's (awesome) Double Negative. Things We Lost In The Fire is older, but newer to me. And it's more organic and more delicate, without the electronics and extensive sonic manipulations that Double Negative has. But, they're both full of beautiful, slow, droning songs that ebb and flow around you. Great in headphones.
    Low - Fly [OFFICIAL VIDEO]


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 (Official 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.


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) ft. Joshua Idehen

  • 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 (Official 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" (Official Audio)


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.

  • 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.

  • 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.