Friday, December 19, 2014

Music Library Compilations: Us, Ws, Ys, Zs, and #s

HOLY COW, this is almost the end of this incredibly long journey. I started reviewing everything in my music library in February 2008, when my 9-almost-10-year-old son was a 3-year-old. At that point, my whole library was, as I said at the time, 250 Gigs, 140-odd days, 47,000+ songs. After continuing ripping CDs and vinyl, vigorous music purchasing, and trading music with friends, my library is currently 518 GB, 221-odd days, and 80,000+ songs. And with this post, it is about 98% listened to and reviewed. Following this post, I have to catch up with albums bought over the last 18 months or so, and then I'm done. Coming soon: a book about how an easy-seeming project wound up taking 7 years to complete and drove me stark raving mad. On second thought, that may be a boring book.

The Unaccompanied Voice: An A Capella Compilation (2000). Too much a cappella! But the Richard Buckner/P.W. Long collaboration on "Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down" is fantastic.

Uncut Presents: Highway 61 Revisited Revisited (2005). Solid choices for a Dylan tribute here: Drive-By Truckers, Paul Westerburg, Dave Alvin, Handsome Family, American Music Club.

United States Of Punk (rel. 1998). Cheapo collection of live versions of punk classics. Good songs, though.

Until The End Of The World Original Soundtrack (1991). Soundtrack to a decent Wim Wenders movie with well-chosen music (outside of U2).

Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson (1990). Such a great tribute album. This is where I first heard Roky's brilliant songs, and the artists here are very well chosen. I started listing the good ones but realized I was just listing almost all of them.

White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s (rel. 2006). Accompanying legendary producer Joe Boyd's autobiography, this compilation features some of the albums and tracks he worked on in the late 1960s, including Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne" and a boatload of Brit-folk.

White Riot Volume Two: A Tribute To The Clash (2003). This is another Uncut compilation with Stiff Little Fingers, Sparks, Waco Brothers, Cracker, and Billy Bragg.

The Wire: "...And All the Pieces Matter." - Five Years of Music from the Wire (rel. 2008). Soundtrack to the greatest work of television to date.

Works In Progress: Rubber Records Sampler 2007. Another group of inoffensive but uninspiring group of songs from a label I don't know much about.

The World is a Wonderful Place: The Songs of Richard Thompson (rel. 1985). The American tribute album to Richard Thompson had a bunch of dissimilar artists cranking the hell out of some RT songs. This one has mostly polite Brit-folkers mostly politely Brit-folking in the proximity of some RT songs. The saving grace is the previously unreleased eponymous song by Richard and Linda Thompson.

Yo Gabba Gabba! Music Is Awesome (2009). Kinda obnoxious, but one of the better children's show when my kids were preschooling age. I bought the album then and can't quite bring myself to delete it now, although I think the odds that I'll ever listen to it again are nil.

You Thrill My Soul!: Female and Girl Groups from the Early Stax Sessions (rel. 1995). Collection of early Stax singles much more from the girl group genre than Stax's eventual R&B/soul sound.

The 3rd Annual IODA SXSW Opening Day Bash Sampler (2007). Freebie from eMusic with fair-to-middling tracks and one standout.

The 7 Inch Wonders of the World (1986). SST collection of a bunch of early singles and EPs by Black Flag, the Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Husker Du, Wurm, and LA Overkill.

1995 Sugar Hill Sampler. Freebie collection from the bluegrass label.

2006 Pitchfork Music Festival Sampler, 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival Sampler, and 2008 Pitchfork Music Festival Sampler. Since the Pitchfork Festival is generally well-curated, these are also pretty well-curated. Neat, huh?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Best Of 2014, Album Edition + 2009 Best-Of Report Card

Don't let the title fool you; this is almost definitely going to be the only best-of 2014 post. Here's what this particular old man liked to listen to in 2014.

1. Wussy - Attica!, which dug right in and took over my consciousness in the last few months.

2. Sun Kil Moon - Benji, which did the same in the first few months of the year. I hear Kozelek is kind of a dick, but his bizarro rhyme-and-meter-denying confessional folk songs may be the best thing he's done since the second Red House Painters album.

3. Boris - Noise, because I love rock music in all of its variances almost as much as they do.

4. Bob Mould - Beauty & Ruin, which - like the last Mould album - is unexpectedly fantastic.

5. Fucked Up - Glass Boys/Glass Boys (Slow Version)/Year of the Dragon EP, in which I combine all of the Fucked Up releases for the year into one entry because all three have been inseparable on my playlist since I added them and because Glass Boys - while not their greatest effort - is great enough that I've essentially bought it twice in one year, just so I could hear the version with the more conventional drumming (which, ironically, actually made the songs sound less conventional).

6. Deerhoof - La Isla Bonita, which is the latest entry on this list, but after a few listens, I think this may be the best Deerhoof album in a few years.

7. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2, which is jam-packed with ideas, many of which I have yet to parse, but all of which I like.

8. Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country, because - like Fucked Up - it breathes life into a rigid genre.

9. Earth - Primitive And Deadly, which has abandoned the cello and electronics of the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light era (and I really, really loved those albums) in favor of guitar work that is simultaneously massive and more subtle than their past and vocal work that is better-integrated into their sound.

10. Spoon - They Want My Soul, which is my favorite Spoon album since Gimme Fiction.

Also considered and regretfully not included:
Thee Oh Sees - Drop
St. Vincent - St. Vincent
Dean Wareham - Dean Wareham
Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun
Drive-By Truckers - English Oceans
Hartle Road - Hartle Road EP
Through The Sparks - Invisible Kids
The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams
Andrew Bird - Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of...

Bought too recently to be heard yet, but maybe a contender later:
Hookworms - The Hum
Melvins - Hold It In


Although I haven't been so good at doing this lately, I generally like to go back and look at my best-of from five years previous to see how well my end-of-the-year choices held up. So, my best-of for 2009 was, as of January 5, 2010, as follows:

1. (Tie) Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
1. (Tie) Vic Chesnutt - At The Cut
3. Mastodon - Crack The Skye
4. Isis - Wavering Radiant
5. Dexateens - Singlewide
6. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
7. Oneida - Rated O
8. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion/Fall Be Kind EP9. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free
10. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm

Other albums considered were:
11. Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship
12. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
13. Sonic Youth - The Eternal
14. The Bats - The Guilty Office
15. Pelican - What We All Come To Need
16. Darcy James Argue's Secret Society - Infernal Machines
17. Sunn 0))) - Monoliths and Dimensions
18. The Clean - Mister Pop
19. Mission of Burma - The Sound, The Speed, The Light
20. A.C. Newman - Get Guilty
21. The Soft Pack - The Muslims
22. The Clientele - Bonfires On The Heath
23. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
24. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
25. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night Of The Soul
26. The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away
27. Molly Berg and Stephen Vitiello - The Gorilla Variations
28. Sparklehorse + Fennesz - In the Fishtank 15

With five years of hindsight to work with, my Revised 2009 Best-of List is now:

1.  Vic Chesnutt - At The Cut/Skitter On Take-Off (was 1/unranked)
2. Dexateens - Singlewide (was 5)
3. Baroness - Blue Record (was unranked)
4. Sunn 0))) - Monoliths and Dimensions (was 17)
5. The Clean - Mister Pop (was 18)
6. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm (was 10)
7. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs (was 1)
8. Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship (was 11)
9. Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall (was unranked)
10. Darcy James Argue's Secret Society - Infernal Machines (was 16)
11. Shrinebuilder - Shrinebuilder EP (was unranked)
12. Mastodon - Crack The Skye (was 3)
13. Isis - Wavering Radiant (was 4)
14. Pelican - What We All Come To Need (was 15)
15. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast (was 6)
16. Sonic Youth - The Eternal (was 13)
17. Om - God Is Good (was unranked)
18. Che Arthur Three - Like Revenge (was unranked)
19. Bob Dylan - Together Through Life (was unranked)
20. The Bats - The Guilty Office (was 14)
21. Girls - Album (was unranked)
22. DOOM - Born Like This/Unexpected Guests (was unranked)
23. My Dad Is Dead - New Clear Route (was unranked)
24. Mission of Burma - The Sound, The Speed, The Light (was 19)
25. A.C. Newman - Get Guilty (was 20)
26. The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away (was 26: SCORE!)
27. St. Vincent - Actor (was unranked)
28. Wooden Ships - Dos (was unranked)
29. Strange Attractors - Sleep And You Will See (was unranked)
30. The Clientele - Bonfires On The Heath (was 22)

Now unranked:
7. Oneida - Rated O
8. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion/Fall Be Kind EP9. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free
12. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
21. The Soft Pack - The Muslims
23. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
24. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
25. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night Of The Soul
27. Molly Berg and Stephen Vitiello - The Gorilla Variations
28. Sparklehorse + Fennesz - In the Fishtank 15

In short, there were 13 2009 albums now in my top 30 that I had not heard at the time I made my list. Seven albums moved up and nine ranked albums moved down. Ten slipped off the list altogether, including three from my top ten. Pretty poor showing, Childs. I'm giving myself a C- for 2009.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music Library Compilations: Ts

Taste Test #1 (1990). SST sampler of live cuts with two d. boon outtakes, Universal Congress Of, fIREHOSE, and Roger Miller on the positive side and some pretty dull SST also-rans on the negative side.

Texas Psychedelia From The Sixties (rel. 1986). Pretty cool Texas-specific nuggets comp.

That's Why We're Marching: World War II and the American Folk Song Movement (rel. 1996). Smithsonian/Folkways has an amazing archive. This one is notable mid-century folksingers and blues artists (Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Josh White, Pete Seeger, y'know) playing songs in support of the war effort. Every track is from 1941-45.

Three Ring Sampler Vol. 1 (2007). Free label sampler from eMusic with a bunch of sorta nondescript but pleasant enough folky indie-rock bands.

Times Ain't Like They Used To Be: Early American Rural Music, Vols. 1, 2, and 3 (rel. late 90s). Three out of eight or so comps of early hillbilly/folk/country music. These aren't quite as well curated as the Harry Smith anthologies (although there's a lot of overlap, the flow and cohesion aren't there), but still quite fun at times.

The Tompkins Square 5th Anniversary eMusic Sampler (rel. 2010). With their semi-eclectic roster of artists from the John Fahey school of freaky fingerstyle guitar, vintage folk, and aging purveyors of vintage folk, this free sampler is a good reminder of how much I like this record label.

Total Lee! The Songs Of Lee Hazlewood (2002). Hazlewood's a brilliant songwriter and this tribute album matches some truly simpatico artists with his music. Good stuff.

Trojan Dub Box Set and Trojan Ska Box Set (both rel. 1998). There's a metric ton of these Trojan comps now, but these two are the only ones I've sprung for at this point. Don't know why I haven't gotten more because these are flat-out magnificent.

Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound (rel. 2005) and Tropicalia: Ou Panis Et Circenses (rel. 1968). Interestingly, these two comps, one released years later to document the high points of the musical movement and one released during the heart of it, make similar-yet-different arguments for the importance of tropicalia. The later one hits some of the weirder highlights while the earlier one emphasizes how much this music was based in traditional Brazilian folk music. Very cool back-to-back, and both leave you wanting to explore these artists more.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Music Library Compilations: Ss

A Sampler of Sounds: ESP Records (rel. 2010). With its incredibly weird catalog of music from the late 60s and early 70s (as well as some odd contemporary electronic sounds), this ESP sampler is a lot of fun. Includes Timothy Leary, Ayler, Sun Ra, the Godz, Charles Manson (although fuck that guy), among others.

Samurai Champloo Music Records (2004). I'm a fan of the anime Samurai Champloo, but four soundtrack albums seemed quite extensive to me even before I heard them. Afterwards, it is definitely too extensive. I mean, there is some good music on here, maybe an album's worth, but a lot of it is just soundtrack loops, beats meant to be paired with a scene, but without the visuals, are just beats that go nowhere. The four albums are Masta, Departure, Playlist, and Impression. The 2nd and 4th are the best.

The Sandinista Project (2007). A long tribute to the Clash's weirdest album, documented here.Worth a listen! Contributors include Jon Langford and Sally Timms of the Mekons, Steve Wynn, the Sex Clark Five, Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, Ethan Lipton, Camper Van Beethoven, and The Lothars, a mostly-theramin band with my pal Jon Bernhardt.

Schoolhouse Rock! (1973-84). Those of you who are parents in your late 30s through early 50s understand.

A Second Tribute To Jandek: Down In A Mirror (2005). Another very strong tribute album, with Jeff Tweedy, Six Organs of Admittance, Okkervil River, the Mountain Goats, and the Dirty Projectors, among others, kicking out the mondo-depressive-weirdo-recluse-shut-in blues. Hey, I love Jandek, and some days are perfect for being melancholy.

Skybucket Records Sampler 2011. Skybucket is an excellent Birmingham, AL-based label with a smattering of artists on the alt-county and lush guitar-pop side of the rock genre. This sampler includes Through The Sparks, which is a band I like very much, along with other interesting Alabama bands like Vulture Whale and Delicate Cutters.

The Slaughter Rule Original Soundtrack (2002). Jay Farrar of Son Volt & Uncle Tupelo made the incidental music and curated this soundtrack, which has some first-rate alt-country tracks, like Vic Chesnutt playing the Carter Family's "Rank Stranger" and Freakwater playing the Louvin Brothers' "When I Stop Dreaming."  Good stuff.

Smithsonian-Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music Sampler (rel. unknown). Since I have the Anthology of American Folk Music, why have the sampler, too, you might ask? The answer is I don't know!

So Blue So Funky: Heroes Of The Hammond, Vol. 1 (1991) and 2 (1994). These are compilations of organ-based blues-jazz-funk on Blue Note from the 60s. Solid.

So Indie It Hurts: ROIR Rocks Volume One (2008) and Two (2009). Through the 70s and 80s, ROIR put out cassette-only albums of classic protopunk and punk bands usually playing live. And it may still be a going concern? I don't know. Anyway, good stuff on here, even if the sounds quality is not always the best.

Sō: Japanese Traditional Music (rel. 1994). Interesting in the abstract, but a little dull for these Western ears in practice.

A Soldiers Sad Story: Vietnam Through the Eyes of Black America, 1966-73. This 2003 compilation collects sad soul tracks that are directly or indirectly related to Vietnam, as the title clearly states. This is an excellently curated collection, definitely worth picking up at the right price.

Something Wild Soundtrack (1986). I don't understand how Jonathan Demme could make a movie prominently featuring The Feelies and yet include no Feelies music on this soundtrack. Given the choice between Oingo Boingo or Fine Young Cannibals and the band that actually appears in the movie, I know which one I would want to appear on the soundtrack, but apparently, I am alone in preferring timeless music to dated 80s pop. Here is a clip of what this soundtrack should have been.

A Sound Legacy: 60 Years of Folkways Records and 20 Years of Smithsonian Folkways (rel. 2008). I think this was a free Amazon sampler? Anyway, it is a pretty cool freebie.

The Squidbillies Present: Music for Americans Only Made by Americans in China for Americans Only God Bless America, U.S.A. (2012). Another freebie sampler from [adult swim] with an absurdly strong list of contributors. I've never warmed up to the Squidbillies cartoon, but this collection makes me want to. This clip includes half of Nashville and half of Austin and it makes me laugh like hell.

Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films (1988). This is one of Hal Willner's many, many tribute albums, and I've had it since the late 80s because it has the Replacements on it. First place I ever heard Sun Ra or Ken Nordine.

Step Right Up: The Songs Of Tom Waits (rel. 1995). This is the Tom Waits tribute album that doesn't have Screamin' Jay Hawkins on it, and it is, accordingly, the shittier of the two.

The Stiff Records Box Set (rel. 1992). "If it ain't Stiff, it ain't worth a fuck" was one of their slogans, and this box makes a good argument for this statement, at least until the third disc is taken over by the British proclivity towards the soggy cheese of overemotive vocals and plink-plonk keyboards. But the first two discs, with Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, The Damned, Wreckless Eric, The Adverts, and on and on, is fantastic. I mean, even after the Brit-pop erupts, there's still The Pogues.

Stroke: Songs for Chris Knox (2009). Merge put out this compilation to benefit the recovery of NZ-based Chris Knox of the Tall Dwarfs and Toy Love, and the incredibly strong contributor list indicates how beloved his music is among the American indie-rock set. Besides his countrymen (and sometimes collaborators) David Kilgour, The Chills, The Verlaines, The Bats, Peter Gutteridge, and (full-time collaborator) Alex Bathgate, this comp features Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Stephin Merritt, Yo La Tengo, Portastatic, Jay Reatard (one of the last songs he recorded before his untimely death), Lambchop, and the Mountain Goats. Fantastic album, fantastic cause.

Studio One Rockers (rel. 2001). Excellent comp of 60s and 70s rock-influenced reggae.

The Sun Story (rel. 1990). Solid comp of Sun singles.

Supraphon Selections (2008). Compilation of classical music from the Supraphon label. Pretty good for a dabbler like myself.

SXSW 2007: Breakout Bands That Tore Up Texas. This must be an eMusic comp. Not the best, but not the worst, either. There are a few strong cuts.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Music Library Compilations: Rs

Repo Man Soundtrack (1984). If not my introduction to LA hardcore, then this album was very close to it.

Return Of The Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons (1999). I love Gram Parsons a lot. This is ok, I guess, but no substitute for the original.

Riverside Original Jazz Classics Sampler (1957-63). Out of all of the Original Jazz Classics Samplers, this one is the best, mainly because the label was a going concern for such a short time that it captured a lot of hard bop and then went out of business.

Rock The Bells: Six Years Of Live Hip-Hop (rel. 2009). This is a free sampler with some top-notch artists on it, including the RZA, Cage, Dead Prez, Aesop Rock, and Del The Funky Homosapien. What's not to like?

Rockabilly Psychosis And The Garage Disease (rel. 1984). Like a precursor to the Lux & Ivy's Favorites collections, this fantastic compilation puts together tracks from all kinds of Cramps-friendly acts, including a blistering collaboration between the Cramps themselves and Jim Dickinson, producer and wild man extraordinaire. Also included are Tav Falco, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Hasil Adkins, a bunch of punk-rockabilly-garage tracks, and a bunch of psycho garage bands from the 60s. Good stuff is what I'm saying.

Roots N' Blues: The Retrospective (1925-1950). Yet another mystery comp that I picked up somewhere down the line. This one has a bunch of early blues tracks with some hillbilly/old-time music thrown in.

The Rubble series (rec. all over the late 60s, rel. between the mid 80s and early 00s). This is one of the mini-Nuggets series with some crossover with the Nuggets II box. Lots of interesting psych here, albeit with more duds than the more carefully curated Nuggets boxes. Website can be found here.

  • Rubble 1: The Psychedelic Snarl
  • Rubble 2: Pop Sike, Pipe Dreams
  • Rubble 3: Nightmares In Wonderland
  • Rubble 4: The 49 Minute Technicolour Dream
  • Rubble 5: The Electric Crayon Set
  • Rubble 6: The Clouds Have Groovy Faces
  • Rubble 7: Pictures In The Sky
  • Rubble 8: All The Colours Of Darkness
  • Rubble 9: Plastic Wilderness
  • Rubble 10: Professor Jordan's Magic Sound Show
  • Rubble 11: Adventures In The Mist
  • Rubble 12: Staircase To Nowhere
  • Rubble 13: Freakbeat Fantoms
  • Rubble 14: The Magic Rocking Horse
  • Rubble 15: 5,000 Seconds Over Toyland
  • Rubble 16: Glass Orchid Aftermath
  • Rubble 17: A Trip In A Painted World
  • Rubble 18: Rainbow Thyme Wynders
  • Rubble 19: Eiderdown Mindfog
  • Rubble 20: Thrice Upon A Time (Nothing Is Real)

Rudy Van Gelder Remasters Sampler, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (both released 2006). These were a couple of free samplers of the Blue Note and Prestige remasters by Rudy Van Gelder, the engineer who recorded a ton of hard bop back in the day. Unfortunately, eMusic released these free samplers with low-to-middling nitrates (128-170 kbps) and I don't hear too much of the sonic clarity that they were supposed to offer, let alone any serious difference between the original mix of, say, "Oleo" from Bag's Groove (attributed to Miles Davis, but featuring Davis, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Milt Jackson, Percy Heath, and Kenny Clarke) and the one offered here. Maybe they sound much better when using quality equipment or a higher nitrate. In the youtube videos following, the RVG remaster has a lot more space and warmth.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Music Library Compilations: Os and Ps

Short post this week. Too many Rs to drop them in after the Os and Ps. No Qs.

Odessa Records eMusic Sampler 2012. Comp from Chapel Hill with especially great songs by the Spider Bags and Kingsbury Manx.

OHM - The Early Gurus of Electronic Music (rel. 2000). Compilation of compositional music from composers who experimented with electronic sounds. Because of the nature of the music, the earliest works are late 30s-early 40s, but it quickly jumps to the late 60s and spends the rest of its running time catching up to the punk-influenced sounds of the late 70s through 1980. Interesting stuff, though.

Once (Music From The Motion Picture) (2007). Ugh. Do not like.

One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found (rel. 2005). Much more like it. This compilations collects girl groups from the 60s with the ear of the Nuggets box. There are so many great songs here with such a clear lineage to punk music. This comp also came packaged in a hat box, so there's a heavy cool angle here, too.

The Oxford American Southern Samplers: I probably should talk about each of these as a separate album, but let's face it: I'm ready to wrap up this portion of this project. I was going to tell you my favorites, but realized that I enjoyed the hell out of every single one. If anyone has the discs after 2010, please hook me up.

  • #1 (1997).
  • #2 (1998).
  • #3 (1999).
  • #4 (2000).
  • #5 (2001).
  • #6 (2003).
  • #7 (2005).
  • #8 (2006).
  • #9 (2007).
  • #10 (2008).
  • #11 (2009).
  • #12 (2010).

Pablo Original Jazz Classics Sampler (1957-81). Pablo stuck to the sweeter side of jazz, didn't they? Lots of artists I like on this sampler playing their least-offensive music.

Paw Tracks eMusic Sampler 2006. Yeah, I don't care.

A Portrait Of The Roots Of Rock N Roll (rel. 2001). No idea where I picked this one up. Lots of blues, little bit of country, little bit of western swing.

The Powerpuff Girls: Heroes & Villains (2000). Pretty great album, all things considered!

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