Vol. 9 Issue 110 November 2014
November? November!?! Did we even have a summer? Man, this year is moving by quickly. Although judging from the news lately we should probably be glad that 2014 is almost over. Because it serves to stand that everything will be awesome next year, right? Isn’t that how it works? Alternating good and bad years, the karmic calendar. That’s a thing, right? So while there is still a 2014 to suffer through, forget about the world’s troubles for a while with new tracks from Philip Glass, Owen, Arca, Deerhoof and more!
Posted by Lyle On Nov 21, 2014
In an effort to make the office slightly less Grinch-y (we would kill for a heart... Read More
"Complete Piano Etudes "
Really? What am I supposed to say about the legendary Philip Glass that hasn’t already been said by every intelligent music writer since the dawn of music writing? (other than, as a company, we will never let NBC forget the time they spelled his name wrong during the last winter olympics when his music was being used during an ice skating routine). That fact that we are alive on the same planet as that man right now is pretty extraordinary (it’s like when you see a picture of Abraham Lincoln, it’s hard for the brain to process that much awesomeness at one time). So when a project as complete as The Complete Piano Etudes comes around it is reason to rejoice. In the early ‘70s, Mr. Glass vowed to become a better pianist. The result was the writing of 20 piano etudes (an etude is a generally difficult, shorter piece of music written to help people become more skilled at their instrument.) It just so happens that his “course material” is some of the most haunting, sophisticated, achingly gorgeous music ever written, and performed here exquisitely by Glass enthusiast Maki Namekawa. Check out the dramatic beauty of “Etude 11.”
"La Isla Bonita"
If you didn’t expect the new Deerhoof album to be a bonkers mish-mash of awesomeness, then you haven’t heard much Deerhoof. If you expected La Isle Bonita (Polyvinyl) to mix humor and seriousness while sort of sounding like Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, Talking Heads, Radiohead and a bunch of other great bands all playing at the same time, then kudos to you! You must be a fan from way back. If that’s the case, then you will notice a bit more immediacy to their sound, and more of a raw punk edge to their songs (even if it’s a quiet ballad, which is quite a feat if you ask me. And you sorta did. You are reading this after all.) Check out the backwards african blues funk (trust me, it kind of sounds like that) of “Paradise Girls.”
"Other People’s Songs"
Mike Kinsella’s about to drop another solo joint, son! That’s right, he’s got a new record under his Owen moniker, Other People’s Songs (Polyvinyl), and sure enough, Kinsella delivers on the title’s promise by not having written any of the songs on the album! We call that a “cover album” around here. Why is Owen’s so much cooler than the average cover album? Because he has better taste than the average artist, that’s why. Plus he strips down punk, post punk, rock, and new wave tunes down to their acoustic core – because that’s what Owen does! Among his targets you’ll find Lungfish, The Promise Ring, Against Me!, and even Depeche Mode. So buy a bunch of copies and stuff one in every Christmas stocking you can find! (Er… holiday stocking.) And check out his cover of Smoking Popes’ “Under the Blanket” – famous Popes fan Jorge Garcia (Lost’s lovable Hurley and part-time Weezer muse) is totally drooling over it right now.
"Human Heat EP"
Yellow Ostrich’s Alex Schaaf is taking a solo detour, as most restless musicians tend to do. You can’t do the same thing forever, don’t you know? (Well, you can if you’re Mick Jagger I guess. Or Eddie Vedder.) Schaaf is heading down the programmed path trod by such luminaries as Thom Yorke and … well that’s really the only example you need, isn’t it? He calls the project Human Heat, and his debut EP is called … Human Heat, and yeah, it exudes as much warmth as its title suggests, even though it’s just Schaaf in a studio with some collaborators. Good thing he knows his way around a melody! His vocals meld in a delirious swirl with those of Teeny Lieberson of the band TEEN on “All Night,” and the result is like Chairlift and Ben Gibbard decided to do a “Photobooth” duet. It’s as good as that description makes it sound.
What can you say about Arca? No really? What can you say? Info is really hard to come by on him. We know he worked with Kanye on a bunch of tracks on Yeezus. But for the most part, he is an exciting mystery. What we do know is that Xen (Mute) is his debut LP. As an album from a producer, it is surprisingly melodic, and unsurprisingly vibe-y. Cool stuttering beats shuffle around as ambient keyboards and sparse instruments quiver above. At least, until there aren’t any beats. A weird, gorgeous album to describe. Hip Hop, ambient, cinematic, new age, classical, EDM, dub. Really, you can throw a ton of adjectives at these tunes and they would all stick. It’s like Aphex Twin remixes of Hauschka. Maybe it’d be easier for all of us (me especially) if you checked out the haunting, beautifully bonkers title track “Thievery.”
So what part of 1977 do you think Nude Beach really wants to emulate? The snottiness of punk? The bridge and tunnel longing of Springsteen’s Born to Run? The, um… Tom Petty-ness of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ self-titled debut? (OK, so I’m playing fast and loose with release dates here, sue me – I’m within a year on either side!) The Brooklyn trio borrows from all these traditions on their new album ’77 (Don Giovanni), and the result is straight-up rock-n-roll. I can’t imagine a more raucous level of jangly energy, and the band’s club shows likely resemble those of the Replacements’ in the mid-1980s, except that the crowd collegiality probably borders on familial rather than confrontational. Like everybody’s your brother and sister and the booze is in endless supply! Super fun? SUPER FUN. Check out the Elvis Costello meets Teenage Fanclub rock action of “I Can’t Keep the Tears from Falling.”
You guys remember Karate right? No, not the ancient martial art (OR the cologne, you’re thinking of Hai Karate). I’m talking about the legendary indie band. Although they have been disbanded since 2005, frontman Geoff Farina has been releasing solo and side stuff, but now he is back as the front man of new band Exit Verse. Their self-titled release on Ernest Jenning finds Geoff and his new bandmates kinda sounding like his beloved old band, but with even more of a focus on the classic rock sounds they dabbled with. It’s like Pavement’s goofiness and Moody Blues’ seriousness met at a Yes concert. “Hey Pavement,” Moody Blues would say, “have you ever seen Yes before?” “Yes, no, I don’t know, whatever,” Pavement would respond, because they are totally standoffish. Check out the thrack-attack of the blissfully multi-tiered “Seeds.”
Jeffrey Dean Foster
I’ve never been a huge Grey’s Anatomy watcher, but it’s less the show’s fault than society’s. I mean, can’t we get anything other than hospital and procedural cop shows to top the ratings? That stuff stresses me out, no one is ever happy, and everyone is always dying right before the credits. Still Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a Grey’s regular, was good as the Comedian in The Watchmen, a movie I thoroughly enjoy even though it has its flaws. … Wait, Jeffrey Dean Foster, not Morgan? Whoops. Start over. JDF’s new record The Arrow (Angel Skull Records) is an album I thoroughly enjoy, too – and how can you not? The former leader of 1980s proto roots rockers The Right Profile (featuring a pre-Superchunk Jon Wurster!) is back with the sweetest combination of all your favorite power pop ingredients. A little Replacements here, a dash of Wilco there, some R.E.M. and Tom Petty for taste. Mix it up, et voilà! It’s like a rock and roll smoothie, and the jangle is what makes it go down easy. I could chug the whole thing. And hey, just start at the top with “Life Is Sweet,” because it is! And Jeffrey Dean Foster proves it right here!