Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Music Library: New York Dolls, Gary Newcomb Trio, Joanna Newsom, Ney Matogrosso, Nick Cave, Nick Drake

New York Dolls - New York Dolls (1973) and Too Much Too Soon (1974). I doubt I have to convince any of the theoretical readers of this blog that the New York Dolls were both groundbreaking and astonishingly great.  A lot of dudes put on makeup and ladies' clothing after the Dolls, but none wore them with the same crazy wit and most made music that wasn't even in the same ballpark.

The Gary Newcomb Trio - The Gary Newcomb Trio (2008).  An Austin-based country-pop trio that featured a pedal steel player in the traditional guitarist's role and my pal Brandon on bass, The Gary Newcomb Trio are a fun listen.  Recommended.

Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (2010).  Perhaps I'm overwhelmed, but this is the first Joanna Newsom album that really has failed to grab me.  I mean, I like it, but I don't love and I don't really see it as a great leap forward.  Her first had more catchy songs on it and her second seems more wildly ambitious.  This one seems more like a tribute to Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac than an attempt to rewrite American folk music.  More isn't always more, if you know what I mean.

Ney Matogrosso - As Ilhas single (1974).  Apparently this guy is a sort of Brazilian Klaus Nomi, with a stage show featuring absurdist outfits and a outlandishly high singing voice.  These two tracks are rather like Brazilian chamber pop.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - From Her To Eternity (1984), The First Born Is Dead (1985), Kicking Against The Pricks (1986), Let Love In (1994), Murder Ballads (1995), and The Boatman's Call (1997).  I'm a relatively recent convert to Nick Cave.  He seemed so overwrought to me when I was younger, but his music hits me right in the gut now.  Fans: what should I get next?  These albums are fairly remarkable for their ability to be somewhat the same over a lot of variation in style.  For Her To Eternity combines avant-noise with Tom Waits-ian theatrics and some wonderfully tense dynamics.  The First Born Is Dead has all of those elements, but the album deconstructs the blues.  Kicking Against The Pricks is a covers album that maintains the building dread of the first two albums with even more cabaret-style theatrics.  There's some five albums I don't have in the gap here, but Let Love In is an astonishingly dark and fun albums of songs about the destructive nature of love.  Murder Ballads promises on its title, with death and (comical) mayhem filling each song to the brim.  The Boatsman's Call, on the other hand, shed the theatrics in favor of breathtaking intimate ballads.  All of these albums are fantastic, so tell me: what next, friends?

Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970), Pink Moon (1972), Time Of No Reply (released 1996) and Made To Love Magic (released 2004).  The tragedy of Nick Drake's death is part of the story of his life, the quintessential talented young guitarist and songwriter who was too sensitive for this world.  These albums support the image of oversensitivity.  Five Leaves Left is almost impossibly beautiful, but it is also a chilly album with quite a bit of remove. Every song is perfect, though, with the right amount of taste in the accompaniment (Richard Thompson's guitar on "Time Has Told Me" is especially great, as are Robert Kirby's string arrangements).  Bryter Layter is a mistake that amplifies the arrangements to an unfortunate level. There are good songs under all of that goop, but only a few are pleasant listens for me.  Pink Moon, the last album he made while alive, is of an even more perfect and chilly and bleak beauty, like the harvest moon referenced in the title song.  The two posthumous albums consist of outtakes and home recordings and are mostly not that enjoyable.


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