O Bando - O Bando (1969). Tropicalia from the psych-garage side. It's okay, but it's nowhere in the league of the identically named (given the translation) The Band.
Jim O'Rourke - Long Night (2008). From O'Rourke's experimental side, this is a single work split into two parts, each about an hour and 20 minutes long. While I like it, I'm not sure that I got enough out of it to justify the time I put into it.
The Obsessed - Lunar Womb (1991). Scott "Wino" Weinrich's band prior to St. Vitus was The Obsessed, based out of Maryland. When The Obsessed's original album from the early 80s was finally released in 1990, Wino left St. Vitus, pulled together a new rhythm section, and called this new band The Obsessed. This is the second Obsessed album, therefore, but it's the first with the band as it was comprised in the 90s. Anyway, it's typically great doom metal, like most everything Wino does. And the cover, one of Goya's dark period paintings, is metal as fuck all.
The Octopus Project - One Ten Hundred Thousand Million (2004). Oh, this is just great. Indie-pop from Austin with a killer electronica coloration. Fantastic stuff.
Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins (2005). Bowiesque indie pop. I sorta like it, but I'm not crazy about it. I generally love the Elephant 6 bands. Of Montreal, though, I don't love, Maybe someday.
Oh-OK - The Complete Recordings (recorded 1982-1984). Now this is an Athens band I love. Led by Michael Stipe's sister Lynda and Linda Hopper, Oh-OK was a fascinating band. At first, they featured Stipe on bass and vocals, Hopper on vocals, and a drummer pumping out dance beats. Later they added Matthew Sweet on guitar, and that's great, too, but I like 'em best with the more stripped-down sound.
Ohio Express - "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and "Chewy Chewy." Bubblegum music is the naked truth! Some folks don't take these songs seriously, but you can hear a whole lot of punk and post-punkish pop in them.
Nirvana - Bleach (1989), Nevermind (1991), In Utero (1993), MTV Unplugged In New York (1994). Is there a point to writing about these guys at this stage? I think everything that I could possibly say has been said ad nauseam. I will say that my favorite of these is the Unplugged album, not least because it has the Meat Puppets on it.
No Age - Weirdo Rippers (2007) and Nouns (2008). Great indie rock band. I always love these guys when I listen to them and completely forget about them later. And then I'm surprised when they come up again.
No Man/No Man's Band - Damage The Enemy (1989). Art-rock from Mission of Burma's Roger Miller in the between years. It's alright, but it ain't no Mission of Burma.
NoMeansNo - 0 + 2 = 1 (1991) and In The Fishtank 1 (1999). Solid SST-style punk rock. The Fishtank EP is one of the early ones, before they hit on the idea of bringing in two different bands to try to merge their styles.
NOMO - New Tones (2006), Ghost Rock (2008), and Invisible Cities (2009). An instrumental band with a healthy dose of afrobeat melding with jazz, tropicalia, post-rock, and avant-rock, NOMO is fascinating. Their cover choices are extraordinary, too. New Tones features, besides - it should be said - the killer originals, the most unlikely cover of Joanna Newsom's "Book Of Right-On." Invisible Cities, which does add quite a bit of tropicalia madness, includes a cover of Tom Zé's monster track, "Mã." All in all, all three of these are fantastic.
Norman Blake - Live At McCabe's (1976), Whiskey Before Breakfast (1976), Norman Blake and Tony Rice 2 (with Tony Rice, 1990). Blake, who is not the guy from Teenage Fanclub, is one of the major bluegrass guitarists alive today. He's played with pretty much everyone, including Dylan, Cash, and Steve Earle. His solo work features astonishing virtuosity presented with utter relaxation. That tension is amazing to hear. His collaboration with Tony Rice has the two greased-axle players trading licks with more notes than every other album released in 1990 combined. And it's only 30-something minutes long. If these guys didn't have such feel for their material, this would be Yngwie-style wanking, but they play with not just speed but nuance, and that means everything.
The Notwist - Neon Golden (2002). The formula of indie-rock-plus-electronica-percussion has been copied by a gazillion bands by now, but The Notwist were early adopters. These songs are excellent, and the unusual sounds they add are quite pleasing to my ears. I think Pitchfork stuck the song "One With The Freaks" on their best-of-the-00s list.
Nouvelle Vague - "Too Drunk To Fuck." French cabaret-style cover of the Dead Kennedys song. Yawn.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Mustt Mustt (1990) and Bandit Queen Soundtrack (1996). Khan was one of the major practitioners of the traditional devotional music of the Sufis, Qawwali. He's an amazing singer, but even in these albums, which are somewhat Western-oriented in their production, I find that I am sadly indifferent to his charms. I can hear his talent, but it doesn't speak to me.
Nick Lowe - Jesus of Cool (1978), "Let's Eat," Labour of Lust (1979), Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds Sing The Everly Brothers EP (1980), Nick The Knife (1982), Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit (1984), "I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock and Roll," Party of One (1990), The Impossible Bird (1994), Dig My Mood (1998), The Convincer (2001), Untouched Takeaway (2004), At My Age (2007), and Quiet Please: The New Best Of Nick Lowe (2009). It seems there should be a genre name for the type of songs that Nick Lowe writes, even though it's clear that, at least in the early days, he's working against multiple genre conventions. They're all somewhere between country and pop, deeply informed by the protopunk-ish pub rock of the 70s, but still hard to shoehorn in any subgenre other than just plain rock. What Lowe does is craft extraordinary songs, built around a central conceit that is generally simple and rich at the same time. As much as I like the younger, more rockin' Lowe, I really love the older, more mature songwriter that he grew into around 1990 with Party of One. That and every album after is a near-perfect collection of songs.
Nicky Hopkins - The Tin Man Was A Dreamer (1973). Hopkins was a session musician for many classic rock tracks, especially with the Stones. Considering how talented he was as a sideman, I hoped that this would be an excellent album, but unfortunately, I was a little underwhelmed in two listens. Perhaps I'll change my mind over time.
Nico - Chelsea Girl (1967) and The Marble Index (1969). She may not be much of a singer, but these chamber pop pieces are gorgeous and powerful. She wrote very little on the first and almost all of the second, but they seem of a piece. Consider how instrumental Jackson Browne was for the first album (even writing the amazing track "These Days," which is my favorite Nico song). I can't believe I'm complimenting Jackson Browne, but there you go.
Nina Nastasia - Dogs (2000), The Blackened Air (2002), Run To Ruin (2003), On Leaving (2006), You Follow Me (with Jim White, 2007), and Outlaster (2010). Nastasia is possibly my favorite underappreciated songwriters currently working. These songs tend to come across as folk revival tracks at first, but Nastasia is an odd bird of an artist. Her tracks veer off into odd tangents, chasing the emotion far beyond the bounds of traditional songcraft. With only six albums to her name, it seems unfair to say that three are my favorites, but it is true. The Blackened Air is a horror story masquerading as folk music, as if Flannery O'Connor and Shirley Jackson were collaborating on songs. You Follow Me features stunning interplay between Nastasia and Dirty Three drummer Jim White, who makes the most of Nastasia's lovely, unsettling songs. Outlaster is a heartbreaker with Nastasia's trademark near-perfect songs. Only "You're A Holy Man" stands out as a less-than-great track, and I'm even on the fence about that one. Seems appropriate that she should come up in a post that also includes Nick Lowe and Nico.
Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue (1958), Verve Jazz Masters 17 (1958-1967), Wild Is The Wind (1966), The Essential Nina Simone Vol. I (1967-1973), and The Essential Nina Simone Vol. II (1967-1971). A singer of neither pure jazz nor R&B, Simone was extraordinary for her ability to combine many different styles into something uniquely her own. Her deep, sometimes-brassy, sometimes-bassoony voice is like no other. I'm not crazy about all of the rock covers on the last two albums, neither of which seems all that essential, but there's enough pleasure to justify them, anyway.
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.
The Neville Brothers - Yellow Moon (1989). While I like the Nevilles, in theory, I've generally thought of them more as a fun live band than something where I'd find much of interest in their studio output. But I rather like this album with its funky and heartfelt Dylan and Carter Family covers, so maybe, once again, there is a disconnect between things that I think and things that I think I think.
New Establishment In Soul - "Whip It (Pt. 1)." No idea where I picked up this single, so it must be from a mixtape that fell apart somewhere along the way in my library. Anyway, it's cooking.
New Model Army - History (The Singles 85-91). New Model Army were a British post-punk band that I was mostly unfamiliar with before acquiring this from a friend. And it's ok, but it doesn't really inspire me to seek out more. I can hear elements of the Mekons and the Jam here, but I think the Mekons and the Jam did it better.
New Order - Substance (recorded 1981-1986). I enjoy some electronica and dance tracks, but it's just not something I prefer to listen to, for the most part. While I really like Joy Division, I enjoy New Order in more limited doses. That said, "Ceremony" is a killer track, and I really like how many of these songs are named after movies that I love. But I was ready to bail on this after five or six songs, and sticking out the whole double-album experience was definitely pushing on my tolerance level.
The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic (2000), Electric Version (2003), Twin Cinema (2005), Challengers (2007), and Together (2010). After all of that mopey dance rock, I was quite ready for The New Pornographers' power pop. They're basically The Cars of indie rock, with synth-drenched hook, singalongs, and ostentatious lyrics that mix the silly with the sublime. My favorite is the second, Electric Version, but all five are excellent. Considering how emotional Dan Bejar's work with Destroyer is, it's surprising that his songs match so well with Carl Newman's little pop masterpieces. And Neko Case's vocals are welcome in any context. So, what the hey, here's a link to one of their recent videos, directed by the hilarious Tom Scharpling with pretty much everyone who is awesome appearing in it.
While I'm at it, here's a version of "The Laws Have Changed" from Letterman in 2003. No Dan Bejar, but it does have the gorgeous Neko Case tearing it up throughout.
New Race - The First and The Last (1982). A supergroup no one ever heard of, New Race combines guitarist Ron Asheton of the Stooges and drummer Dennis Thompson of MC5 with three members of the venerable Aussie punk band Radio Birdman, including guitarist Deniz Tek and singer Rob Younger (I forgot the bassist's name and am too lazy at the moment to look it up). On fire throughout.
New Ruins - "Ships." No idea where I picked this single up. It's pretty good, though.
The New Year - Newness Ends (2001), The End Is Near (2004), and The New Year (2008). Picking up where Bedhead left off, The New Year sees the Kadane brothers (on vocals/guitar and drums) adding some friends (including Josh McKay of Macha and Chris Brokaw of Come and Consonant) and making more betterer songs in their signature style of being simultaneously loud as hell without losing their appealing mopey and sleepy quality. As long as I'm sharing video clips, here's a video for "The End's Not Near" from their second album. From the looks of it, it was made at the old Austin airport near my house back in TX. My band Parks & Wildlife made pictures there, too. All of that stuff is gone now.
NEU! - NEU! (1972), NEU! '72 Live In Dusseldorf (recorded 1972), NEU! 2 (1973), NEU! 75 (1975). I'm not shouting at you. All caps is how NEU! rolls. A duo of guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger, NEU! was formed with the two left Kraftwerk in 1971 to work on their own music, which influenced, let's say, everything that came after. Like the legendary Velvet Underground story, NEU!'s work never sold that well, but everyone who bought it formed a band. The opening track on NEU! demonstrates their genius, with driving, unstoppable drum rhythms (dubbed "motorik" for being, well, driving and unstoppable) combined with heavily distorted guitar parts that sustain on and on until your mind blows. The remaining tracks are no less fantastic, combining odd sounds, ambient textures, and field recordings with the aforementioned motorik drums and droney guitars (and no lyrics on most). Actually, I'm not so crazy about the last track, "Lieber Honig," with its maybe too-precious finger-style guitar and ugly-pretty hoarse vocals, but even that track has enough droney weirdness to be inching towards greatness. The live album, released in the 1980s, is just awful, with terrible sound quality barely marring the lousy, unfocused jamming. Unworthy of the NEU! name, for sure. NEU! 2 is another landmark for a completely different reason. The band ran out of cash with only half the album recorded, so they hit upon a pretty wild idea. They took their previously released single "Neuschnee/Super" and played it back at different speeds, one time even mangling it in a cassette player. Each one sounds like its own piece of music and a deconstruction of the music at the same time. I have no idea if they were aware of what Jamaican producers were doing with dub around the same time, but the idea is similar: using the studio as an instrument to manipulate the sound until it is completely ripped from its original context. Brilliant stuff, the precursor to remixes popular today. By the time of NEU! 75, Rother and Dinger were no longer communicating well with each other. This album is essentially a split between two different visions of music. Rother was playing in the ambient krautrock band Harmonia with the band Cluster, and his contributions (the first three songs, all of which were side A of the LP) are mostly ambient-leaning, keyboard-heavy, and pretty. For side B, Dinger brought in his brother and a friend to play drums, picked up a guitar, and cut some seriously angry proto-punk with vocals. Excellent stuff, even if it's not quite up to the heady heights of the first two studio albums.
Neurosis - Through Silver In Blood (1996) and Sovereign EP (2000). An incredibly creative band, Neurosis introduced a lot of psychedelic twists and turns, heavily ambient parts, and sludgy doom riffs into mainstream metal and thus influenced many of the metal bands I love today. However, I think I came to them to late, having already grown used to their innovations through their followers. I hear these as creative metal, but I'm not immersed enough in the metal scene to really have my head blown by their sound. Like it, don't love it.
Neutral Milk Hotel - Invent Yourself A Shortcake (1991), Beauty (1992), Hype City Soundtrack (1993), Everything Is EP (1994), On Avery Island (1995), In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998), Live At The Cat's Cradle (bootleg, 1998), Live In San Francisco (bootleg, 1998), unreleased tracks (1997-1999), and "Engine" from Oh, Merge (1999). I've told this story a bunch of times, so forgive me if you've heard it before. I picked up In The Aeroplane on my friend Phred's recommendation in 1998, but decided that I didn't like it and returned it to his record store. Over the next few years, I found some of the lyrics and snippets of the music stuck in my head. I finally decided in 2001 or so to pick up another copy and give it another listen. And I loved the hell out of it this time. As of right now, it has 36 plays in my iTunes library since I started counting in 1997. It's not much, but it was a good lesson about first impressions and the importance of giving myself time to change my mind. So, Neutral Milk Hotel. The first three of these are home-released "albums" of found noise and poorly recorded early versions that NMH leader Jeff Mangum made through the early 1990s. They are none too good, although it's clear that Mangum has some serious talent. In fact, if you've heard Everything Is, with its field recordings and good songs buried under noise, well, then, you have a glimpse of these first three sorta-albums. On Avery Island refines things a bit, with Robert Schneider's much-improved production making this a good-if-not-great album featuring some great songs ("Song Against Sex," in particular, is fantastic). And then there's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, which combines haunting imagery influenced by The Diary of Anne Frank and Freudian imagery out the wazoo with horns blaring, acoustic guitars intentionally pushed into the red (meaning: highly distorted by the recording, not by a stompbox or amp), wild drumming, and wildly passionate singing. One of the finest albums of the 90s, if not The Finest, and that's where I lean. The bootlegs are fun, the unreleased tracks probably better left that way, and "Engine" a bittersweet elegy of what we lost when Jeff Mangum walked away from his music career. He has been playing some shows of late. I hope that he's found it within himself to make another album, but I understand wanting to leave it all on a career-high, too.
Neko Case - The Virginian (with Her Boyfriends, 1997), Furnace Room Lullaby (with Her Boyfriends, 1998), Canadian Amp EP (2001), Blacklisted (2003), "Buckets of Rain (Live)," Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (2006), and Middle Cyclone (2009). Neko Case, besides being the most adorable singer in all of singer-land, grew by leaps and bounds on every album through her third. Afterwards, she continues to tweak her formula, making marginal improvements as she goes. Furnace Room Lullaby, with its spacey noir elements, is much better than the more traditional alt-countryish The Virginian. Canadian Amp is more stripped-back and bare, less a transitional album than a breath of air. Blacklisted has a huge sound, something closer to The Band's blend of country, rock, and soul, but with a heavy noir effect that Case has described as being influenced by Angelo Badalamenti's scores to David Lynch projects and by Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack. The cover of "Buckets of Rain" is from a SXSW show in 2005, as recorded by a pal of mine. Fox Confessor is another leap, this time into more elliptical songwriting that still evokes heavy emotion. I wasn't much taken with it when it came out, but I like it much more now. Middle Cyclone, besides having a contender for the title of greatest cover art of all time, seems more personal lyrically, but the music is definitely of a piece with that of the prior two studio albums. Personally, I never feel that I have to rush out and buy the new Neko Case release, but I will always get around to it eventually.
Chest (with the Nels Cline Trio, 1996), "In Store" (with Thurston Moore, 1996), "Self Referenced/West Germany" (with the Nels Cline Trio, 1996), and Pillow Wand (with Thurston Moore, 1997). One of the best, most technically accomplished, interesting, creative, and fun guitarists alive, Nels Cline is best known for being the guitarist for Wilco these days. However, his career goes back to the early 1980s. He was a jazzbo through most of the 80s and into the early 1990s. I was first aware of Cline as a guitarist on Mike Watt's Ball-hog or Tug-boat? album and tour. I have no idea how Watt met him, but thank the fates that he did. I actually met Cline (and Watt and Michael Preussner) on that tour. Watt moved Cline to a more central role by having him serve as the sole guitarist on his 1997 rock opera Contemplating The Engine Room. At that point, I knew I had to hear more of what Cline was doing. As it turns out, he was making great skronky jazz records and avant-noise albums with Thurston Moore. The Minutemen cover I mention here is pretty amazing, too.
Sad (with the Nels Cline Trio, 1998), Rise Pumpkin Rise (with Devin Sarno, 1998), and Interstellar Space Revisited (with Gregg Bendian, 1999). Like Chest, Sad is skronky jazz, as if Peter Brotzmann had a trio where he replaced his sax with a heavily-distorted guitar. Rise Pumpkin Rise is a collaboration with an L.A.-based avant-rock bassist, and mostly consists of atmospheric instrumentals that ebb and flow more than anything. Interstellar Space Revisited is an interesting idea. Cline and Bendian (a percussionist) are sorta covering John Coltrane's free-jazz sax-and-drums album Interstellar Space. Like any jazz guys playing their own version of a song, they play the theme and then improvise, but considering that Interstellar Space is bare-bones on themes and high on improvisation, Cline and Bendian are more-or-less doing improve in the style of Interstellar Space. Pretty cool, actually, although it would be shit in lesser hands.
The Inkling (2000), Destroy All Nels Cline (2001), and Instrumentals (with the Nels Cline Singers, 2002). Here's where things start getting phenomenal. Cline is lyrical as hell on The Inkling, which an utterly gorgeous album. Destroy All Nels Cline is amazing, a deconstruction of guitar noise and technique worthy of the great avant-noise composers of the late 20th century that also showcases considerable style, restraint, and talent. Cline has been trying to fuse post-punk adventurousness with jazz skill and minimalist compositional structure to this point, and Destroy All Nels Cline succeeds in spades. Instrumentals showcases Cline's new band The Nels Cline Singers kicking out more avant-noise punk-jazz in the vein of DANC, although I like it slightly less.
Buried On Bunker Hill (with Devin Sarno, 2004), Immolation/Immersion (with Wally Shoup and Chris Corsano, 2005), and Draw Breath (with the Nels Cline Singers, 2007). After all of this lyricism of the last three, the drones on Buried On Bunker Hill failed to move me. Immolation/Immersion is ultra-creative avant-jazz skronk with sax player Shoup and drummer Corsano. Draw Breath features more of the crazy unhinged noise-guitar of the DANC sound, along with some of the most beautifully restrained playing of Cline's career. Lovely album.
The Neon Boys - The Neon Boys EP (1973). Before Television, there was the Neon Boys, which featured Tom Verlaine on guitar, Billy Ficca on drums, and Richard Hell on bass. Hell was the primary songwriter and vocalist, and this EP contains early versions of "Love Comes In Spurts," "Don't Die," "Time," and "You Gotta Lose." Pretty awesome for fans of Television, Hell, and the whole proto-punk scene.
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