Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Music Library: Soundgarden, South Park, South San Gabriel, Southern Culture On The Skids, Spacemen 3, Spain, Spank Rock, Sparklehorse

Soundgarden - Louder Than Love (1990). But quieter than hate! I'm not much of a Soundgarden fan after they started to incorporate the pop, but this one is pretty good.

South San Gabriel - Welcome, Convalescence (2003). This is an offshoot of Centro-Matic with Will Johnson making glitchy-electronic folk-rock. It's mopier than Centro-Matic usually is, but it's pretty rewarding music, too.

Southern Culture On The Skids - Too Much Pork For Just One Fork (1991), Peckin' Party EP (1993), Ditch Diggin' (1994), Dirt Track Date (1996), and Zombified (1999). So much fun, these guys are. Ridiculous fun. SCOTS re-recorded a number of the songs from Too Much Pork and Peckin' Party for their major-label debut Dirt Track Date, and yet both versions are excellent. Ditch Diggin' flat-out cooks. And Zombified brings the SCOTS love of garage goodness to the horror rock extremes. So much ridiculous fun. Can't believe I haven't bought more of their albums.

Spacemen 3 - Dreamweapon (1988), Performance (1988), Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To (1990), and Forged Prescriptions (2003). There has never been a more accurately titled album than Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To. Spacemen 3 (so named despite there being only two members of the group) played heady drone music heavily influenced by the Velvet Underground. All of these albums are great. Dreamweapon is the only proper studio album of the ones I have. Performance is live. Taking Drugs is a collection of demos, and Forged Prescriptions is a collection of alternate takes and b-sides.

Spain - Spirituals: The Best Of Spain (1994-2003). A dreamy, romantic, shoegazey, gauzy sort of band led by bassist Josh Haden, son of Charlie and brother to the triplets of that dog (including my not-so-secret longtime crush Petra). Their best known song is "Spiritual," which has been recorded by a number of other artists. Here's a latter-day version of that song from KCRW with the Haden triplets on backing vocals.

Spank Rock - YoYoYoYoYoYo (2006). Baltimore-based hip-hop dude with a nerdy flow and Kool Keith-style obsession with sex.

Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot (1995), Good Morning Spider (1999), It's A Wonderful Life (2001), Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain (2006), Live At Lollapalooza 2007, and In The Fishtank 15 (Sparklehorse + Fennesz, 2009). One of my favorite weirdos to fall out of the 90s alt-country movement, where he was an ill fit anyway, Mark Linkous aka Sparklehorse made songs of Tom-Waitsian beauty and intensity with his own Appalachian bent. All of these are amazing albums in their own way. They are all full of quietly creepy songs of astonishing beauty and vision. Vivadixieetc. may be my favorite but mainly because it was the first one I discovered. Much of it was made with David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. The supporting tour had Linkous opening for Radiohead and he managed to hurt himself badly when he passed out from a near-lethal drug combination and pinned his legs underneath him for the better part of a day. With damaged legs and a damaged brain, he had to learn to walk and play guitar again, and the result is Good Morning Spider, which adds a lot of noise and power to his songs. With Wonderful Life, Linkous's heroes began turning up on the album, including Tom Waits hisownself and PJ Harvey. Dreamt has him working with Danger Mouse (as he would again on the collection Dark Night Of The Soul) and everything is firing on all cylinders. The live EP is ok, as is the Fishtank EP, which has a lot of Fennesz's trademark electronic clutter all over it. Linkous killed himself a few months after his friend Vic Chesnutt. David Lowery has blamed this on money and health problems, making him another victim of our idiotic healthcare system. But that's another story. And man, that just makes me sad. Here are some of his songs for your enjoyment:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Music Library: Sonny Rollins, Sonny Sharrock, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

Sonny Rollins - Sonny Rollins With The Modern Jazz Quartet (1953), Sonny Rollins Plus 4 (1956), Tenor Madness (1956), Saxophone Colossus (1956), Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2 (1957), Freedom Suite (1958), Sonny Meets Hawk! (with Coleman Hawkins, 1963), Alfie (1966), G-Man (1986). What made Rollins such a giant of bop was not just his willingness to experiment but his innate gift of making it work. Modern Jazz Quartet is Rollins's first album as a bandleader and he sounds quite like himself right out of the gate. Plus 4, Tenor Madness, and Saxophone Colossus were all recorded and released a few months apart in 1956 and the progress Rollins makes between March, when the first one was recorded, and July, when Colossus was recorded, is amazing. Rollins starts out as a contender with Clifford Brown and Max Roach as sidemen on Plus 4, pushes aside Coltrane to command Miles Davis's Workin'/Relaxin'/etc. quintet on Madness, and emerges as a giant with Colossus, which is one of the finest bop albums out there. Vol. 2, from the next year, has Monk sitting in on piano on his own compositions, Horace Silver joining Monk on "Misterioso" and playing on most of the rest of the album, J.J. Johnson on trombone, and a rhythm section of Paul Chambers and Art Blakey. Nutso. It is amazing. Freedom Suite, which has Rollins in a trio setting, showcases how the man pushed against the strictures of bop.  Sonny Meets Hawk! is fun, but breaks no ground. Alfie, which is the soundtrack to the Michael Caine movie of the same name, experiments quite a bit with bop, although this time in the context of Swinging London 60s. G-Man, from 20 years later, shows that the man can still cook, with three of the four tracks stepping out past the ten-minute mark.

Sonny Sharrock - Black Woman (1969), Guitar (1986), Seize The Rainbow (1987), Live In DC (with Pharoah Sanders, 1993), and Space Ghost: Coast To Coast (1996). Sonny Sharrock was an anomaly, a jazz giant who made the free jazz of the late 60s even more chaotic with his loud, skronky electric guitar, a guy who truly came into his own with Last Exit in the 80s. (and a quick RIP for Last Exit drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, who just passed as of this writing). Sharrock played on albums by Pharoah Sanders and Miles's best album Jack Johnson, and he inspired more rock guys like Thurston Moore than jazz guys. Black Woman, the only album I have of Sharrock's from the early part of his career, is a powerful, raw album. Guitar and Seize The Rainbow are both powerful and beautifully weird. The Live in DC concert with Pharoah Sanders shows how well these two innovators worked together, trading licks and backing each other's leads with familiar ease that belies the power of the music. Finally, the Space Ghost EP showcases different takes and mixes on the awesomely half-atonal Space Ghost: Coast To Coast theme, released two years after Sharrock's untimely passing.

Sonny Stitt - Only The Blues (1957). One of the great bop saxophone sidemen, Stitt played with everyone, most notably Charlie Parker. This is a solid bop album, good but not great.

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee - Drinking In The Blues (1960). Harmonica and guitar from the folk-blues duo who came to prominence during the 60s folk revival. Good stuff. Here's Pete Seeger getting all polite up in this song.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Music Library: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Son House, Son Volt, Sonic Youth, Sonic's Rendezvous Band, Sonics, Sonny Boy Williamson

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Broom (2005) and Pershing (2008). This band, despite their unwieldy name, does not play atmospheric post-rock, but pleasant indie pop.

Son House - Delta Blues And Spirituals (recorded 1970). I have many of Son House's sides from the 30s and 40s on other collections (including the excellent Charley Patton box), but the only album I have that is attributed to Mr. House is this one, which was recorded much later in his life. This one, though, has his version of "Death Letter," which is so brutal that it is practically metal.

Son Volt - Trace (1995). I love the hell out of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, but Son Volt is just too dry and studied for me. I mean, this album, their debut Trace, has some moments of real life. But I saw them right around the time this came out, and the band played the album so closely, so unvaryingly, that they could have been lip-syncing to the album. Then I picked up the next two Son Volt albums and found them really boring. And this was when I loved alt-country more than anything! I ended up selling them back to a record store long before I digitized my collection. This album is pretty good, though.

Sonic Youth:

Bad Moon Rising (1985), EVOL (1986), Sister (1987), Master-Dik EP (1987), Daydream Nation (1988), Daydream Nation: Deluxe Edition (1988), 4 Tunna Brix: Peel Session 10-19-1988. I haven't listened to the prior albums since the early 1990s, but I guess I should check out Sonic Youth and Confusion Is Sex again at some point. This is where the band became great, though. On Bad Moon Rising, Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo brought their experience with Rhys Chatham to bear on songs - actual songs, with beginnings, middles, and ends - with little psychedelic altars to noise erupting periodically. EVOL is not much of a leap forward, other than "Expressway To Yr. Skull," in which the little altar of noise because a full-fledged church. Then, on Sister, the devotion to noise and soundscapes became a damn cathedral, a testament to human experimentation, marrying compositional art music to straight-up indie rock like no one else. Sister is one of my favorite albums, but the Master-Dik EP that followed it is only ok. Then there's Daydream Nation, a masterpiece where Sonic Youth marries near-ambient noodling with hardcore riffage and energy, punk economy with krautrock scale, subject matter of totemic personal privacy with a gaspingly large vision of the world. This is the greatness of Sonic Youth: their ability to marry seemingly opposite styles and sounds into a coherent, overwhelming whole. The Deluxe Edition adds demos and live versions and nonalbum tracks, but it's only for collectors. The Peel Session has SY covering a bunch of tracks by The Fall (including a Fall-ish cover of the Kink's "Victoria," which was, incidentally, a hit for The Fall).

Goo (1990), Dirty (1992), Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star (1994), Washing Machine (1995). The first of their major-label releases, Goo is pretty fantastic. Maybe it isn't Daydream Nation-good, but what is? Goo is more audience-friendly but it still maintains SY's love of noise and speed erupting into placidity. Dirty, which is much maligned in some quarters for its willingness to please, is similar, but it strikes me as even more successful than Goo. SY had to balance their bid for new listeners (I mean, they headlined Lollapalooza back when that meant something) with their own style, and Dirty gets that in spades. Experimental, which bugs me to this day by lacking an oxford comma, is where the friction between SY's experimental side and their radio-friendly side start to come together, and it's slightly less great than Dirty for it. Washing Machine, while having one of my favorite tracks in the 20-odd-minute "The Diamond Sea," really starts to fall apart on the second side. The run from "Little Trouble Girl" to "No Queen Blues" to "Panty Lies" is almost like a parody of Sonic Youth, with Kim Gordon's usually righteous feminist rants sort of running the music in circles. Annoying circles. I almost never skip through a SY song, but I pretty much always skip these. Anyway, SY's growing popularity in the early 90s led to events like this absolutely fantastic clip of their network premiere on Letterman. I saw this at the time and it has been burned in my consciousness like few other TV appearances of favorite bands. And, oh hell, I can't stop posting clips of SY in the 90s.

SYR 1: Anagrama (1997), SYR 2: Slaapkamers Met Slagroom (1997), A Thousand Leaves (1998), Silver Session (For Jason Knuth) (1998), SYR 3: Invito Al Cielo (1998), SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century (1999), NYC Ghosts & Flowers (2000), SYR 5: Olive's Horn (Kim Gordon, DJ Olive, and Ikue Mori, 2000). Wrapping up the 90s are two excellent albums in A Thousand Leaves and NYC Ghosts & Flowers and a whole bunch of experimental EPs. Anagrama is the best of these, practically an outtake album. Slaapkamers Met Slagroom and Invito Al Cielo are both good album, although both run on a little two long. Silver Session and Goodbye 20th Century are both slogs with a few moments of greatness, and Olive's Horn is just freakin' awful.

Murray St. (2002), In The Fishtank 9 (Sonic Youth + I.C.P. + The Ex, 2002), SYR 6: Koncertas Stan Brakhage Prisiminimui (Sonic Youth su Tim Barnes, 2002), Sonic Nurse (2004), The Destroyed Room: B-Sides And Rarities (released 1994-2004), Rather Ripped (2006), SYR 7: J'Accuse Ted Hughes (2008), The Eternal (2009). The 00s albums were uniformly excellent as SY fell into a solid lock on their sound. The Fishtank EP, on the other hand, is lousy, but not as lousy as the two SYR EPs, which are so dull that I couldn't bring myself to pick up the final two. The Destroyed Room, with music spanning the 90s and 00s, is fan-freakin'-tastic. And The Eternal may be my favorite of all of these. It's a shame that Thurston Moore had to go and fuck up the band.

Sonic's Rendezvous Band - Live, Masonic Auditorium, Detroit, 01/14/1978. A killer punk experiment with Fred "Sonic" Smith and Scott Asheton.

The Sonics - Here Are The Sonics!!! (1965). Garage rock does not get better than this. As an added bonus, there's three extraordinary Christmas tracks from a 1966 EP added to the end.

Sonny Boy Williamson - Down And Out Blues (1959), More Real Folk Blues (1967), and Bummer Road (1969). The second of two blues musicians named Sonny Boy Williamson is the better-known one. Down And Out Blues has Muddy Waters, Robert Jr. Lockwood, and Willie Dixon. I don't know who's on the other ones. They're all pretty good.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Music Library: Slovenly, Slow Dazzle, Sly And The Family Stone, Small Faces, Smashing Pumpkins, Patti Smith, Smiths, Smog, Smokey Robinson, Snuff, Soft Boys, Soft Cell, Soft Pack, Soft Set, Solex + M.A.E.

Slovenly - Thinking Of Empire (1986), Riposte (1987), We Shoot For The Moon (1989), and Highway To Hanno's (1992). It is unjust that Slovenly have been so overlooked. This was an SST band with legs, and all of these albums stand up just as strong today. Slovenly had the Beefheartian eclecticism of The Minutmen, the jagged edges and fearless exploratory spirit of early Wire, and a genuine guitar hero in Tom Watson (who still tours and records with Mike Watt). These albums are sadly out of print now, and Allmusic seems to reviewed them more hamfistedly than usual. But Allmusic is wrong; Slovenly still packs a punch, even when they are out in guitar-god skronk-and-melody heaven.

Slow Dazzle - The View From The Floor (2005). A more insubstantial sideband of then-married Timothy Bracy and Shannon McArdle of The Mendoza Line. It's not terrible by any means, but it don't have the greatness of the Mendoza Line at their peak.

Sly And The Family Stone - A Whole New Thing (1967), Dance To The Music (1968), Life (1968), Stand! (1969), Greatest Hits (1970), There's A Riot Goin' On (1971), and Fresh (1973). It is fascinating to compare the utopian funk of Sly's 1960s albums, all the way up to the three singles ("Hot Fun In The Summertime," "Everybody Is A Star," and "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again)") on Greatest Hits. Then Sly's drug use got out of control and he made his version of Exile On Main Street, There's A Riot Goin' On, which took the funk and imbued it with dread palpable to turn the joyous funk of "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again)" into the terrifying, heavy drizzle of "Thank You For Talkin' To Me Africa." Fresh is more upbeat without releasing much of the darkness at the heart of Riot.

Small Faces - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (1968). A half-daft concept album that practically reeks of marijuana smoke from the moment you start it, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake manages to be fun and witty, even if only half-baked nonsense. Or all the way baked, as the case may be. I mean, check out the sheer rock and the whimsy on display in this clip.

Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream (1993). Ugh. I liked this when I was 21. Not so much now.

Patti Smith - Horses Live (2005). As the name and date say, this is a live version of every track from Horses from 2005 that accompanied the re-release. I've covered Patti Smith elsewhere at length. Just wanted to mention this. It's not really worth owning on its own, but any reason to own a copy of Horses is a good reason.

The Smiths - Meat Is Murder (1985), The Queen Is Dead (1986), Strangeways Here We Come (1987), and Singles (1987). I never listened to these guys when I was a teenager because, basically, I was afraid of them. The tiny punk scene where I grew up had some strong limitations on one's music intake, and the Smiths were on the other side of the line. So when I picked these up in the mid 00s, the Smiths were basically new to me. And I liked them! Then I took up smoking cloves and wearing black nail polish and calling my dad a few times every day just to let him know that eating meat is so bourgeois.

Smog - Dongs Of Sevotion (2000). Bill Callahan has been doing this for a long time, I think, but I'm not that much of a fan. This is ok without ever blowing me away.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - Anthology (1967-75). The thing that surprises me most about this is that these songs are from the late 60s and early 70s, not a decade earlier like I had somehow always thought. But these are the tracks you think of when you think of Mr. Robinson and the Miracles he fronted.

Snuff - In The Fishtank 4 (1999). This is the last of the Fishtank EPs before Konkurrent, the label that put the series together, realized that they should be getting dissimilar artists to work together. Snuff is a British punk band that I gather believes that they are funny. Thus there are variations on "Yes, We Have No Bananas" all over this EP, and it suuuuuuuuuucks.

The Soft Boys - A Can Of Bees (1979) and Underwater Moonlight... And How It Got There (1980). These are freakin' excellent albums. Underwater Moonlight, in particular, is brilliant. Robyn Hitchcock was pointing the way for psych-folk aficionados of the future while Kimberley Rew was laying down the best shimmering power-pop since Big Star.

Soft Cell - "Tainted Love." What other song would someone have by Soft Cell?

The Soft Pack - The Muslims (2009). The name of the album was the name of the band, but they changed it because of all the racism they encountered. Who could have guessed? I saw them at SXSW in 2009 and they were ok. But this song, "Bright Side," is excellent.

The Soft Set - The Soft Set (2000), Only Lovers Left Alive (2004), Unrequited Love's A Bore (2006), and a whole bunch of unreleased tracks (2006). Fantastic Go-Betweens-y/Smiths-y indie pop band that I was in at one point. Led by William Crain, who is an encyclopedia of rock. And now you can't hear them anywhere, which is a shame. Wish I could share some of these songs with you.

Solex + M.A.E. - In The Fishtank 13 (2005). This is a Fishtank EP from after Konkurrent had their big idea and it works pretty well. I know almost nothing of either of these artists, but the result is interesting, with electronica and horns playing off each other.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Music Library: Skeptic?, Skew, Slade, Slayer, Sleater-Kinney, Sleep, Sleigh Bells, Slick Rick, Slim Gaillard, Slint, Slits

Skeptic? - What You Were Told EP (2010) and Now Look What You've Done (2011). Birmingham, AL's greatest and possibly only hardcore band brings the hammer and passion. In the interest of full disclosure, that's my awesome brother-in-law Jeff rocking the Eastwood Stormbird in the video below.

Skew - "Doom Vs. Doom." I don't usually include one-off singles in these reviews, especially mashups, but this one, which marries DOOM's (nee MF) flow with the rumble of Sunn 0))), Earth, and Jehu, is awfully fun.

Slayer - Reign In Blood (1986), South Of Heaven (1988), and Seasons In The Abyss (1990). There are many excellent metal albums, but few perfect ones and fewer still able to claim a three-album streak of near-consensus perfection. Slayer brings thrash speeds, delightfully evil lyrics, crazy double-bass drum polyrhythms, and out-of-control locomotive dual lead guitars to the table. And then they clear the table. For Satan!

Sleater-Kinney - Sleater-Kinney (1995), Call The Doctor (1996), Dig Me Out (1997), The Hot Rock (1999), All Hands On The Bad One (2000), One Beat (2002), and The Woods (2005). I did not love Sleater-Kinney at first, but I grew to really like them a lot. Their progression on these albums is pretty interesting, too, as they learned how to lock their guitars by Dig Me Out and then turned into classic rockish guitar fiends by the last two.

Sleep - Volume One (1992), Volume Two (1992), Sleep's Holy Mountain (1993), Dopesmoker (1999), Jerusalem (1999), and Live At ATP (2009). Holy cow, the albums in this post! Sleep is the legendary stoner/doom band that split into High On Fire and Om. Sleep played metal with a definite 70s influence, specifically Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, so they cranked through very loud, often slooooooooooow, very fucking heavy anthems, which culminated in the hour-and-three-minute opus Dopesmoker. Their label balked at releasing it, so they re-edited it into a 52-minute, six-movement piece, which, unsurprisingly, the label liked even less. But the label was wrong, and their legend grew after their breakup to the point where they're playing again. I apparently missed them at the local festival Hopscotch this year, where they played all of Dopesmoker. Regrets, I've had a few.

Sleigh Bells - Treats (2010). Ah, yesterday's summer jams.

Slick Rick - The Ruler's Back (1991). The school, she is old. This is from Slick Rick's comeback, recorded while the seemingly harmless rapper was out on bail awaiting sentencing for shooting a couple of guys.

Slim Gaillard - Slim & Slam (1938) and various tracks. The great Slim Gaillard was so cool - excuse me, vouty - that he could make up his own slang/scat language for all of his songs and still come across as the voutiest rooster who ever set out to swing. And goddamn, this clip from Hellzapoppin'! Oh, and right, he was a big influence on that rock music that used to drive the kids wild, which you can hear in the bluesier track in the first clip.

Slint - Tweez (1989) and Spiderland (1991). Slint was a very interesting band from Louisville who became very influential later. They combined elements of hardcore and punk with a near-ambient soft touch, an experimental approach to song structure, and creepy whispered/spoken vocals. Tweez is good, but Spiderland is great.

The Slits - Cut (1979) and The Peel Sessions (1977-81). In the last entry of a post that increasingly seems to be filled with first-class innovators, the Slits were an all-female British punk band who were an excellent argument for how punk allowed musicians who were not proficient on their instruments to make astonishingly great music. While I probably should post "Instant Hit" or "Shoplifting," check out how the band uses reggae to reinvent "I Heard It Through The Grapevine."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Music Library Catch-Up: Belle Adair, Big Star, Bowie, Sally Crewe, Dave Van Ronk, Dexateens, Drive-By Truckers, Godspeed You? Black Emperor

Belle Adair - The Brave And The Blue (2013). This is a lovely blend of country-pop and chamber-pop, like a more relaxed version of The National. They remind me a lot of a old band I like a lot called Champale. Both have a quiet emotional base and lyrics that can pack a wallop.

Big Star - Nothing Can Hurt Me (2012). This is the soundtrack to the excellent Big Star documentary, which somehow includes unheard alternate versions of many of their songs, despite the fact of the box set that came out in 2010. It also contains new mixes of a few of the songs. The original Big Star engineer John Fry is shown mixing these songs in the movie and, well, this particular Big Star fan finds them amazing.

David Bowie - Space Oddity (40th Anniversary Edition) (1969). Not Bowie's finest album by a long shot, but an interesting start to his career. I had more or less overlooked that I did not have this album until talking with friends about Bowie's best work last week. They mentioned two songs I didn't know, "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" and "Memory Of A Free Festival," so I picked this up.

Sally Crewe - Live At WFMU (2011). This is a live set with Doug Gillard on lead guitar. Truly excellent stuff and available for free on the internets.

Dave Van Ronk - Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (released 2013). Coming out on Smithsonian Records in a few weeks just in time for the Coen Brothers' next film Inside Llewyn Davis, this collection features tracks by Van Ronk from 1959 through 2001. Van Ronk was the New York folkie who spearheaded the folk revival of the early 1960s and who taught a kid from Minnesota named Bobby Zimmerman a few folk songs. Zimmerman, of course, stole those songs and made them his own and, incidentally, reinvented music. Van Ronk is rawer than Dylan ever was, and he's an excellent interpreter of these songs, which span the 20th century.

The Dexateens - Live At The Georgia Theatre August 23, 2013. New version of the Dexateens kicking off their fall tour with a big stomp.

The Drive-By Truckers - Alabama Ass Whuppin' (2000). Live before the Southern Rock Opera, their songs were reaching towards greatness at this point.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (2012). Ten years after the last album, GY!BE put the band back together and made an album that sounded of a piece with their earlier work.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Music Library: Silver Scooter, Simpsons, Sir Richard Bishop, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Six, Six Organs Of Admittance, Skeets McDonald, Skeletons And The Kings Of All Cities

Silver Scooter - The Other Palm Springs (1997), Goodbye EP (2000), and Blue Law (2001). Indie rock from Austin. Pretty good! Some of these guys later turned up in Fivehead.

The Simpsons - Songs In The Key Of Springfield (1999) and various audio clips. It's a credit to the Simpsons writers that every single one of these audio clips still cracks me up.

Sir Richard Bishop - While My Guitar Violently Bleeds (2007). The guitarist for the Sun City Girls cranking out trippy guitar jams that look forward to Rangda.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Rock Me (1941-43). Sister Tharpe blended jazz, swing, gospel, and blues a provided a pretty clear path to the music that would become rock and roll, all while cranking a mean guitar. A short list of artists who called her an influence: Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Isaac Hayes. Amazing.

The Six - Trying Must Count For Something (1983). This is a Canadian band about whom I know nothing. But they do a sweet cover of "I'm Your Puppet."

Six Organs Of Admittance - Six Organs Of Admittance (1998), "All That They Fear (For Molly)," Dust and Chimes (2000), The Manifestation (2000), Dark Noontide (2002), Compathia (2003), For Octavio Paz (2003), School Of The Flower (2005), Sun Awakens (2006), 666 Days Of Blood Live (2006), Shelter From The Ash (2007), and RTZ (compilation, 1999-2003, 2009). Ben Chasny is a busy guy, playing in Comets On Fire and Rangda (with Richard Bishop), all while releasing many, many Six Organs Of Admittance albums. Six Organs is a Fahey or Robbie Basho-like folk project, featuring fingerstyle acoustic guitar overlayed with electronic sounds, feedback-laden guitar freakouts, occasional drums, chanting, and lots of psychedelic awesomeness. The greatest of these are the 2005-07 releases, all of which are intensely moving. RTZ is a bit of a throwback that I only recently learned consists of older pieces. I haven't picked up anything new in a few years, unfortunately.

Skeets McDonald - Don't Let The Stars Get in Your Eyes (compilation, 1952-8) and Rockin' Rockin' (compilation, 1952-8). Rockabilly and country from one of the great 50s artists who stood on the sides of both.

Skeletons And The Kings Of All Cities - LUCAS (2007). An interesting example of the panglobal kitchen-sink aesthetic in indie-rock. Thanks, Talking Heads!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Music Library: Shrinebuilder, Shuggie Otis, Sigur Rós, Silkworm, Silos, Silver Apples, Silver Jews

Shrinebuilder - Shrinebuilder EP (2009). Supergroups never work because of the enormous egos involved, except this one. This one has Al Cisneros of Om and Sleep on bass and vocals, Wino Weinrich of Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, and Spirit Caravan on guitar and vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar and vocals, and Dale Crover of the Melvins on drums. And it is awesome, which speaks volumes about how great the people involved with this are.

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information (1974). Pretty interesting psychedelic soul music from an iconoclastic musician. This is the 2001 reissue with a few tracks from his prior album Freedom Flight on it.

Sigur Rós - Von (1997), Ágætis Byrjun (2000), Angels Of The Universe (2001), ( ) (2002), Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do EP (2004), Takk (2005), and Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust (2008). Von is a bit of a bust, but Ágætis Byrjuni and ( ) are phenomenal albums, somehow spinning the silliness of orchestral post-rock sung in a made-up language with heavy falsetto into something astonishing and majestic. The EPs, Takk, and Med sud are not as good but far from bad, too.

Silkworm - Firewater (1996) and Blueblood (1998). Excellent indie rock band. Hard to talk about them without mentioning that their drummer was murdered by a woman in 2005 who was attempting to commit suicide by ramming her car into traffic stopped at a traffic light, which is one of the most selfish and evil ways that a person can attempt suicide. He died, as did his passengers, and she went to jail for three years.

The Silos - Cuba (1987) and The Silos (1990). Formed by the great Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe, the Silos were/are an rock band with a wide-open Americana/alt-country feel, as if Tom Petty had a little more grit and soul to his music. Salas-Humara has reformed the Silos a few times now without Rupe (who went on to play in Cracker, Sparklehorse, and House of Freaks), and he retains his sharp eye and deft, direct touch with a song. Both of these albums still sound fresh.

Silver Apples - Silver Apples (1968) and Contact (1969). Before there was electronica, there were two guys rocking drums, loops, and an oscillator. The Silver Apples picked up on the loop music of Terry Riley and John Cage and looked forward to, well, everything.

Silver Jews - The Arizona Record (1993), Hot As Hell 7" (1993), Starlite Walker (1994), The Natural Bridge (1996), American Water (1998), Bright Flight (2001), Tennessee single (2001), Tanglewood Numbers (2005), and Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (2008). If not my favorite band, then pretty damn close, the Silver Jews were David Berman and whoever was around him. They were sloppy-ass country and sloppy-ass indie rock all entangled. The early EPs are too rough and lo-fi, but the band was pretty close to great by the time of Starlite Walker, their first full-length album. That one has half of Pavement and the great producer Doug Easley backing Berman.

The Natural Bridge has a bunch of guys from New Radiant Storm King, and it is almost perfect. Nah, it's perfect. Every damn song is brimming with beauty and wisdom and dying to wrench tears from my eyes.

Then there's American Water, another perfect album. This one's a bit loopier but also the greatest American novel in song form. I mean, check this out and tell me it's not a close neighbor of The Dream Songs:

In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection
Slowly screwing my way across Europe, they had to make a correction
Broken and smoking where the infrared deer plunge in the digital snake
I tell you, they make it so you can't shake hands when they make your hands shake 
I know you like to line dance
Everything so democratic and cool
But baby, there's no guidance when random rules 
I know that a lot of what I say has been lifted off of men's room walls
Maybe I've crossed the wrong rivers and walked down all the wrong halls
But nothing can change the fact that we used to share a bed
And that's why it scared me so when you turned to me and said 
Yeah, you look like someone
Yeah, you like someone who up and left me low
Boy, you look like someone I used to know 
I know you like to line dance
Everything so democratic and cool
But baby, there's no guidance when random rules 
I asked a painter why the roads are colored black
He said, "Steve, it's because people leave and no highway will bring them back"
So if you don't want me, I promise not to linger
But before I go, I gotta ask you, dear, about the tan line on your ring finger

No one should have two lives
Now you know my middle names are wrong and right
Honey, we've got two lives to give tonight

Bright Flight is a bit of a step back, but what wouldn't be? It also has some of Berman's most devastating songs, especially "I Remember Me," which is the epitome of termite art, with all of the little details eating away at anything threatening to hem it in. It could be hokey and overblown, a song about a guy who loses his love when he's hit by a truck, but instead it shows the details of their life and winds up with a verse where he is touching the dent in the bumper of the truck, singing about how he remembers his former life as if it happened to someone else. Man, that's so beautiful and sad that it rips out my heart every time.

Tanglewood Numbers, with its William Eggleston cover, has a joyfulness to it that belies the subject matter of depressions, drugs, and fear. I love it.

Finally, Lookout Mountain has some high notes, but it doesn't really bring the emotion as much as the prior Silver Jews albums. It is ok, but just not consistently brilliant. Maybe I'm damning it too much, but, y'know, Dave Berman at 90% only seems weaker because he gave so much more than 100% on the prior albums.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Music Library: Edward Sharpe, Shawn David McMillen, She and Him, Shearwater, Shining, Shins, Shirley Collins, Shoes This High, Shrimp Boat

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below (2009). Oh, hippies. Singing indie rockish hippies. This album is okay, if not sometimes a little annoying.

Shawn David McMillen - Catfish (2006) and Sampler (2008). Fahey-esque guitarist who mixes fingerstyle Americana and electronics to lovely effect.

She and Him - Volume One (2008). Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward making groovy mellow folk-rock. The following song isn't on the album, but it's a Richard and Linda Thompson cover, so awesome.

Shearwater - The Dissolving Room (2001), Everybody Makes Mistakes (2002), Sham Wedding/Hoax Funeral EP (2004), Winged Life (2004), Palo Santo: Expanded Edition (2007). Like She and Him, Shearwater is ultra-polite folk-rock. The Dissolving Room is barely there, but Mistakes, the Sham Wedding EP, and Winged Life all have a clear vision and decent songs. Palo Santo is a big leap forward, mostly because the band decided to add feedback and noise into their mix.

Shining - Blackjazz (2010). This is the Norwegian skronk-jazz band, not the Swedish black metal band, although any 10-second clip of the music would make it hard to tell the difference. Shining beats the hell out of their sound. If you like spazzy skronk, this is for you. They may be the anti-Shearwater.

The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (2001), Oh, Inverted World (2003), and Wincing The Night Away (2007). Indie pop. 'Sokay.

Shirley Collins - False True Lovers (1959) and Love, Death & The Lady (with Dolly Collins, 1970). This is the motherlode of British folk revival music. She's not a great singer, but she's a great interpreter of great songs. Collins traveled with Alan Lomax through the US South when she was a teenager, and then she returned to England to record songs from both sides of the pond.

Shoes This High - Shoes This High EP (1981). Kiwi post-punk from a band that I know next to nothing about. Pretty good stuff, though.

Shrimp Boat - Speckly (1989). This is a great band led by Sam Prekop, now of The Sea And Cake. I think I may like Shrimp Boat a little more. They were more of a post-punky rock band than The Sea And Cake's fake jazz. They are also surprisingly hard to find on youtube.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Music Library: Serge Gainsbourg, Sérgio Ricardo, Seu Jorge, Sex Pistols, Shadows, Shaggs, Shangri-Las, Shark Quest, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Serge Gainsbourg - Comic Strip (collection, 1967-69) and Histoire de Melody Nelson (1971). Gainsbourg was so ridiculously cool. He sang (or uttered, I guess) songs about sex and culture, pushing boundaries that still shock today. Comic Strip collects tracks from four of his late 60s albums with Serge singing about suicide, Ford Mustangs, comics, outlaws, and sex, lots of sex, sometimes duetting with the insanely beautiful Brigitte Bardot or Jane Birkin. Melody Nelson is a song cycle about a rich older man seducing a nymphet, as if Humbert Humbert were someone to emulate, all while the bass purrs, strings caress, and twangy guitars leer. It is the album your parents warned you about.

Sérgio Ricardo - Trilha Sonora do Filme Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964). This is the soundtrack to a Brazilian experimental film I've never seen. It is okay.

Seu Jorge - The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions (2005). Who could argue with samba versions of Bowie songs sung in gently lilting Portuguese? Not I.

Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (1977) and The Great Rock & Roll Swindle (1979). Does this still offend anybody? I can't hear it as scary or offensive any more, but I sure loved it when I was 15.

The Shadows - Shadows Are Go! (collection, 1960-66). Super-influential British surf-rock led by the astonishing Hank Marvin. The Shadows were one of the first surf bands to incorporate sci-fi and secret agent overtones and to have, well, nothing really to do with surfing.

The Shaggs - Philosophy Of The World (1969) and "Paper Roses." From one of the most controlled bands of the 60s to the least! The Shaggs were--notoriously--a band of semi-competent sisters from New Hampshire whose father had an outsized belief in their talent and marketability. Despite their loose grasp of their instruments, the Shaggs managed to put together music that somehow makes internal sense.

The Shangri-Las - The Best of the Shangri-Las (collection, 1964-67). My favorite 60s girl group, the Shangri-Las were tough Queens girls singing about their love for go-nowhere thugs.

Shark Quest - Man On Stilts (2000) and Gods And Devils (2004). Very good post-rock instrumental band from Chapel Hill.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Dap-Dippin' With Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings (2002), Naturally (2005), 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007), and I Learned The Hard Way (2010). The first album plumbs 60s soul. The second adds more funk and afrobeat influences. And the third and fourth solidify that sound into one of the most exciting bands out there. Sure, there's nothing new happening here, but the way they breathe life into these genres is excellent.

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