Music Library: Strange Attractors, Streets, Strokes, Stuff Smith, Subset, Subtle, Sufjan Stevens, Sugar, Suicide
The Strange Attractors - Sleep And You Will See (2009). This is an interesting and quite compelling indie-rock band from Austin who make heavily layered bluesy psychedelic-ish indie-rock in the vein of Roky Erickson or Wooden Shjips with a thick haze of analog keyboard noise. Excellent stuff.
The Streets - Original Pirate Material (2002) and A Grand Don't Come For Free (2004). I enjoyed the Streets/Mike Skinner's oddball and somewhat crude take on hip-hop back in the early 00s because it seemed quite original and charming for a working-class British kid to take an American artform and turn it into something new, but in truth, I think now that this was just my unfamiliarity with the fluidity of hip-hop. This kind of repurposing had been done before and better, too, and The Streets still sound clunky, but that is much less compelling to my ears now.
The Strokes - Is This It (2001). Decent and fun guitar rock. It may be a rehash of the clean, guitar-centric sound of the Feelies or Television by a bunch of rich kids, but what the hell is the problem with that?
Stuff Smith - Time And Again (1936-45). Top notch swing violinist.
Subset - Overpass (2000) and Dueling Devotions (2003). Quite good Austin power-pop band that I didn't realize were pretty much only locally known. These are good albums!
Subtle - Exiting Arm (2007). This is a fairly poppy and psychedelic album. I wouldn't classify it as hip-hop, although I think the band identifies more or less as working in that genre. It is led by Doseone, aka Adam Drucker, who was a founder of the Anticon Collective and previously was a member of the truly mindblowing cLOUDDEAD. There are some songs on the album, though, that work as hip-hop, and here is one.
Sufjan Stevens - A Sun Came (2000), Enjoy Your Rabbit (2001), Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State (2003), Seven Swans (2004), Come On Feel The Illinoise (2005), The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album (2006), The Age of Adz (2010), All Delighted People (2010), and Silver & Gold (2007-11). Stevens embodies many things that I dislike in indie-rock, but he is so amazingly talented that I cannot help but enjoy his albums. Most of them, at least. The first two here are a bit dull (A Sun Came) or unfocused jammy electronica (Rabbit), but the major leap forward with Michigan is nothing short of astonishing. I mean, yes, Michigan is precious in so many ways: the chamber pop strings, the goddamn banjo, the mannered and studied lyrics, the earnest religious talk, the ultra-long titles with enthusiastic asides in them, and yet it all works like gangbusters. Stevens' time in the Danielson Famile is on the plus side, though, as is his obvious love for Terry Riley's music. Seven Swans is precious acoustic music that nevertheless still works, and Illinois(e) perfects the obnoxiousness and then brushes it all aside with the strength of Stevens' vision. Man, that is a near-perfect album of chamber-pop sweetness. The rest of these are quite good-to-great, as well (well, The Age of Adz, which leans more into oddball electronics, is a bit lackluster). I have Stevens' earlier Christmas album, too, but I reviewed it some time ago. Anyway, here's a video to make you feel extra-precious and a little awkward at the Vacation Bible School social. Geez, every time he opens his mouth, I want to punch him a little, but I still really like his songs.
Sugar - Copper Blue (1992), Copper Blue Deluxe Remaster (1992), Beaster EP (1993), File Under: Easy Listening (1994), File Under: Easy Listening Deluxe Remaster (1994), and Besides (1995). Almost the exact opposite of Sufjan Stevens is Bob Mould's 90s band Sugar, which was completely unforced and direct. As in Husker Du, Mould's songs bury pop melodies under crashing guitars, although less deep. Copper Blue is chock-full of excellent songs, and the reissue adds some b-sides and a live show from 1992. The CD and LP versions apparently include a remaster of Beaster, too, but that did not come with the digital version I bought. Beaster, though, is an EP of pure rage, mostly focused on religious hypocrisy, quite unlike the two full-length Sugar albums with their pop sensibility. FU:EL is even more radio-friendly, and the remaster adds a live show from 1994 that was previously released as The Joke Is Always On Us, Sometimes. Besides collects odds and ends, some of which appear on the reissues.
Suicide - Suicide (1977). Ominous, oppressive, angry, and utterly unlike anything else that self-identified as punk (a descriptor coined by Suicide), Suicide built on the keyboard-plus-vocals stripped back sound of the Silver Apples with layers that were unavailable to the more hippyish Apples. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. This version adds bonus tracks and live tracks, including "25 Minutes Over Brussels," which records a Suicide concert that descends into a riot.