Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The National "Boxer" (2007)

While The Boxer's followup got the greater hype, IMHO this is the pinnacle of their sound.  Indeed it is one of the best albums of the decade.  And why does no one ever refer to The National as Dad Rock?

Paul Weller "Illumination" (2002)

The next time someone asks for a definition of Dad Rock, just play this album.  It's not that there are glaring flaws with it.  Rather, it simply takes no risks and as a result tends to be a bit boring.

Great Lake Swimmers "Lost Channels" (2009)

Sometimes a record can do everything right and still not really get the job done.  That's sort of the problem here.  Lost Channels does everything that you could ask of it, but it's just not that memorable.  There's a fault in the songwriting somewhere....

Steve Wynn "Crossing Dragon Bridge" (2008)

This one is solidly in the ranks of records I just don't get.  Allmusic says that it's Wynn's "masterpiece".  A friend raved about it so much that I just had to check it out.  Keep in mind that my favorite Wynn songs were with the Dream Syndicate.  And this stuff just doesn't have that bite.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Devendra Banhart "Nino Rojo" (2004)

This is unexpectedly wonderful.  Coming from a place of childlike playfulness, Banhart gives us acoustic gems that are fun and hilarious. Here his affectations feel like play rather than cheap guile.

My Morning Jacket "It Still Moves" (2003)

This is probably their best album.  They begin to show some of the pop melodies that would later come to dominate while still clinging to their classic rock roots.  Sure there's still some reliance on production chicanery (reverb, anyone?) but that at least does cover their musical limitations.

Sometymes Why "Your Heart is a Glorious Machine" (2009)

Simply put, this is an allstar band of women from progressive bluegrass bands playing music that sounds more like indie rock than folk music.  While excellent technically, I seem to be unable to really connect.

Lucero "Tennessee" (2002)

Don't get me wrong:  I really like what Lucero has been doing the last several years.  Unfortunately, this record comes from before that time.  There's some serious problems here with lack of melody and rather plodding midtempo rhythm.

Bruce Springsteen "The Wild, the innocent and the E Street Shuffle" (1973)

Wow.  Just wow.  If you've only heard the hits, you will be totally unprepared for this one.  I always forget just how good this is.  wow.

Various "Jamaica to Toronto Soul Funk & Reggae 1967 - 1974" (2006)

There's something that I absolutely love when various sounds and areas collide.  This is a collection of Caribbean musicians playing soul. Absolutely brilliant stuff!

Jackie Mittoo "Last Train to Skaville" (2004)

Ever wonder why ska was so beloved?  This will let you in on the secret.  It's packed full of funky jams from Jamaica in the 60s.  Brilliant brilliant stuff.

Madvillain "Madvillainy" (2004)

If you're wondering where the line is between commercial viability and experimentation, it's here.  This is the collaboration between two outre musicians blending their warped sensibilities into one woozy vision of supervillains blunts and crimes.  It is as much a commentary on the gangsta ethos of hip hop as anything else, a fact which seems to have been forgotten by the larger community.  It's a shame, as this record shows a way out of the lowest common denominator trap that has become so prevalent.

Ghostface Killah "Fishscale" (2006)

By the first decade of the new millennium, there had been enough history to speak of backwards looking hip hop.  That's what we have with Fishscale.  It's classicist, in that it sounds like it could have come from virtually any period of hip hop's history.  If you're looking for hiphop that is clearly indebted to the 70s pulp literature of Goines or Iceberg Slim, look no further.

Iron & Wine "The Sea & the Rhythm" (2003)

Comprised of outtakes from the sessions that produced "The Creek Drank the Cradle", some of this material is amongst the strongest he's ever produced.  It's short, but absolutely essential if you're a fan.

The Coup "Pick a Bigger Weapon" (2006)

If I challenged you to put together a Bay Area hip hop group, what would they sound like?  PFunk beats?  Very political lyrics?  Hey, you just described the Coup!

And on Pick a Bigger Weapon, they do what they do.  Much like Public Enemy in earlier decades, you either dig that or you don't.

Elliott Smith "Either/Or" (1997)

Is this the best of his albums?  I don't know... I think that would depend on what I'm listening to at the time.  It does have some of my favorite songs.

It's more of a transitional record, still with the lofi approach to the earlier records, yet getting increasingly ambitious.

Love "Forever Changes" (1967)

Forever Changes is an interesting example of canon creation.  When I was growing up, listening to classic rock, Love were not in the mix.  I mean at all.  Yet in the last 20 years or so, critical acclaim for this album has snowballed, & it is firmly in the canon!  There's even a 33 and a third book about it!
I think that it represents the more flowery side of the Nuggets bands.  In many ways this record sounds like all the Nuggets songs combined into one album.
Unfortunately, personally I find it hard to connect with on any sort of emotional level.  It remains of interest on a purely intellectual level.