January 2009

Truth and Soul: The Olympians

Over the last decade or so, the record consuming world has seen the number of re-issues in genres apart from jazz skyrocket. A glut of unknown punk bands from the ‘70s and ‘80s have seen the light of day on compilations like Killed By Death. And of course there are still some to come, but on top of those punk and jazz discs, funk compilations have been appearing in an ever growing number.

John Martyn's Second Attention

Yesterday, the music world lost another figure. An early proponent of stripped down Brit folk left us. A figure sometimes compared to Nick Drake or Bert Jansch, John Martyn left behind a body of work not necessarily lauded in the same manner as those other men - who both achieved at least a modicum of notoriety in the states.

For as much as was written about John Martyn passing away yesterday, I wasn’t able to find what I was looking for. And that is probably a much too selfish statement for this situation. But amidst all of the posting about the folk singer, I saw the cover of Stormbringer. It’s not the Deep Purple album of the same name, but a disc that Martyn recorded with his wife in 1970. And oddly enough, I couldn’t find it to download. That, though, isn’t the remarkable aspect of this.

These Are Powers: A Meta-Review

So, I’ve never heard of this trio hailing from the cool part of New York City. They apparently have made a name for themselves in a scene dense with clap trap as well as worthwhile bands. And even beyond that, they’ve landed a record deal with Dead Oceans.

That being said they’ve also set up a pretty extensive tour through the US. With SXSW ever approaching, These Are Powers have a few dates there intended to spread their weird gospel of electronica and poor singing.

Thus far in their career, the most notable thing about them is that they’ve set up a show with another overrated 2009 oddity – WAVVES. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really make their music any better.

Black Moth Super Rainbow Slated to Eat Itself

The easiest way to explain the music of Black Moth Super Rainbow is to say that the band could have been an Elephant Six associate that grew up listening to electronic music and instrumental hip hop records. That might be a bit obtuse for some, bit it makes sense.

And in a world where kitsch and looking backwards seems as valid a musical statement as any other, BMSR may stake their claim as one of the more prolific new millennia bands to date. Taking its army of vintage musical equipment, the band has released about an album per year since its debut in 2003 with Falling Through a Field.

Lights Out: Rodriguez Reconsidered

When Light in the Attic re-released Cold Fact last summer, they certainly had some sort of notion about how well it would sell. But there really was no way of them knowing how well.

It is, as it has always been, an acceptable form of expression to vent frustrations with a guitar and a few lines penned about personal trials. Rodriguez, amidst the ‘60s shift, was one of the many that worked in this mode. But for whatever reason, his album has aged well, whereas a great many of the offerings from his brethren have not

ROIR! Bad Brains and Some Flicks

Even if Bad Brains weren't one of the most musically talented hardcore bands ever, the personalities of its members would have assured their legacy.

But as luck would have it, considering the band's prowess, they've been knighted in the realm of punk. There really isn't a band playing hardcore today that doesn't in some way owe a debt to the Washington D.C. based band. And if someone denies that link, they really have no idea what they're talking about.

Sterling Morrison Mouths Off

“Anybody who needs Bob Dylan to tell him which way the wind is blowing is a serious mental defective.” – Sterling Morrison

If you’ve delved into the past of the Velvet Underground and learned anything at all, the fact that the band fell apart really shouldn’t be too confusing. With four different, quick minds anticipating and experimenting in every way they could figure, an implosion was really inevitable at some point. But even beyond the creative forces at work in the classic quartet, the disparate personalities and egos were probably enough to bring things to a close.

And thanks to the folks at Arthur Magazine, fans have the pleasure of reading a Sterling Morrison interview from roughly a decade after the band called it quits.

The Hunches Ate My Teeth

Last checking in with listeners on the 2004 Hobo Sunrise, the Hunches return in defiant form with Exit Dreams. This being only the third disc from the Portland quartet, one might believe that this recording might be where the band hits its stride – finds its own sound. And while that might be the case, it also might be their last recorded effort. At least that’s according to every cut-rate blog in the universe. There hasn’t been any confirmation or denial from the band via their label, In the Red, or through their own MySpace page. So, we’ll see.

Novak: Dumb?

Each part of the country can lay claim to its part in birthing punk. Some areas, obviously, had a greater role than others. And while San Francisco can’t boast a Ramones or a Dead Boys, they did have CRIME, Chrome, the Nuns, the Avengers and a little known music student who simply went by the name Novak.

Pick Me Up: James Jackson Toth

Part of the reason I like Daytrotter is the writing that accompanies each posting of those ever so tasty recorded works from all of your favorite musicians.

The latest installment comes courtesy of James Jackson Toth aka Wooden Wand.

Having ridden whatever that wave of freak folk was from a few years back, his maturity has manifested itself in more straightforward song writing and guitar playing. His latest album, released on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace, was received by a loving press that sees this marked change as a positive.

Version City Podcast: An Advertisement

Different groups, writers, media outlets, bands and labels have formed alliances in an effort to support and promote each others’ music.

Music is Our Occupation covers current ska and ska-related acts. It’s a decently comprehensive sight. But unless you’re a devout ska fan, it might be a bit too much of an homogenous thing for your eyes.

But that site has forged a relationship with King Django’s Stubborn Records to only occasional positive effect. More frequently than not, posts on MiOO, that relate to the Stubborn stable, are basically overblown advertisements. There is of course occasional ‘criticism’ – but that pretty much amounts to a positive dissection of whatever release is on the horizon.

Smile vs. Sgt. Pepper

More often than not Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is considered the high water mark in terms of psychedelic albums. And while there are countless reason as to why that’s a fair assessment of psych, there’d then have to be at least ten albums that would be tied for second.

One disc that really hasn’t been considered as a part of the psych cannon is the relatively recently re-released Smile. The version recently made available again, unfortunately, really has nothing to do with the original cache of songs that Brian Wilson and company recorded forty-two years ago in a secluded California villa.

Acoustic Electronics: Cale Parks

I’ve got to be honest. Aloha could very easily bore me to the point of falling asleep in a bar. And the solo work of Cale Parks is only vaguely interesting from an academic point of view.

That being said, I have nothing against pop music or pretty songs, or even songs that try to pull those influences into an electronically based setting. But sometimes music just sounds different to different folks.

But being blessed with a cool, rock star name probably hasn’t hurt Cale Parks too much. That name instantly summons images of Van Dyke Parks writing perfect pop songs with Brian Wilson, but also of John Cale birthing beautiful, caterwauling sheets of noise alongside Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground.

Slim Smith: Unique's Technique

Music history is littered with tragic and confusing endings. The story of Slim Smith is one of those. Maybe not as convoluted as the story of Sidney or as sad as Nicholas, but none the less, pretty complex.

The island of Jamaica was rife with talent during the flowering of its recording industry. Often times, labels and studios would have a day set up specifically for walk-in auditions. But Slim came to prominence fronting two groups: the Uniques and the Techniques.

Sidney: The Birth and Death of Punk

The mythology that has grown out of the life of Sid Vicious (nee John Simon Ritchie) so dwarfs the actual accomplishments of the person that at this point it’s not even about reality. Millions have been spent by punk kids trying to ape his style. Countless folks have devolved and settled into addiction predicated on the fact that, if Sid did it, it’s probably punk. And unfortunately, there’s really no way to undue that legacy.

The Dour Hour: Nick Drake and his Benefactors

Every article you read about Nick Drake will include some approximation of the following line:

Criminally ignored during his lifetime, Drake released three stunning and beautiful recordings during his all too short career.

And while I can easily agree with that statement, simplifying Drake seems to do him a disservice. It’s kinda like focusing on the fact that Obama’s the first black American President. Hopefully that’s not his greatest achievement.

Holy.....Modal Rounders

You can choose to either blame or revere the Holy Modal Rounders for being the basis of outrageous lyrical content in pop songs. While the band was for all intensive purposes a folk group who covered a great deal of American standards, the manner in which they were disseminated – short blasts of ridiculous and catchy guitar and fiddle tunes – was just a digestible story or idea. Their performances replete with shocking imagery could even be figured to have influenced punkers a decade later.

Recognized: Donovan

Folk music, in all of its forms, has the ability to do such a great many things that there’s not now, nor will there ever be, a shortage of troubadours. Folk can tell a history, relate a fact or specific incident, teach a moral, raise political awareness or just sound pretty.

Donovan, somehow, was able to do all of those things.

He was even a little bit ahead of the curve. Even though Bob Dylan’s first album came out in 1961 while Donovan didn’t record until 1965, they both achieved pretty similar success in their native countries. It would be a bit much to say that Donovan was the Scottish Dylan – but he was close.