Friday, June 18, 2010

B. Dolan - Fallen House Sunken City [2010]

There's hardly a more painful way to spend an evening than a slam poetry performance. Something about the art form encourages hysterical, ill-considered prescriptions for societal remedies. Rhode Island rapper B. Dolan is a former slam poet and anti-corporate crusader known for his criticisms of American Apparel. Though his music is likewise concerned with social activism, it's appealing even to those who don't share his political views, simply because Dolan is a compelling rapper who takes great care in his craft. His latest release on Sage Francis' Strange Famous Records, Fallen House, Sunken City, is a blitzkrieg of boom-bap raps, rock beats and experimental structures. It holds together beautifully, thanks to the production of Anticon-affiliated beatmaker Alias. Sure, you can expect rants on tracks with such titles as "Fifty Ways to Bleed Your Customer," but when the music is this solid you'd be wise not to complain.

click here for the album.

2 Foot Yard - Borrowed Arms [2008]

2 Foot Yard's second album, Borrowed Arms is an album of thoughtful, complex songs that defy easy classification. The trio's members -- violinist-vocalist Carla Kihlstedt, cellist-vocalist Marika Hughes, and drummer-guitarist Shahzad Ismaily -- are known for their genre-crossing efforts in collaboration with folks such as Tom Waits, Secret Chiefs 3, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and others. Even so, this album is surprisingly song-oriented and could almost pass for "pop" in an alternate world in which Fiona Apple and Björk played the role of, say, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Call it "artful chamber-pop with cinematic overtones," or something along those lines. Both Kihlstedt (who handles most of the lead vocals) and Hughes (who handles the rest) are excellent singers, and all of them handle their instruments impeccably -- though it should be emphasized that their playing is consistently subtle and tasteful rather than flashy. Borrowed Arms features several cameos, including ones by Kihlstedt's Tin Hat Trio bandmates Rob Burger (pump organ on "Red-Rag & Pink-Flag") and Mark Orton (string arrangements on the title track and "Chapter IV"). Meanwhile, Ben Goldberg lends his klezmer-tinged clarinet playing to a couple of tracks, and Jim Campilongo adds a barbed-wire guitar solo to the opening track, "Octopus." Even so, the strength of this album is the combination of sturdy, memorable songwriting and the distinctive group sound the trio gets out of its unusual (but very natural-sounding) violin-cello-drums lineup. It's not always the case that highly talented musicians succeed at writing three- or four-minute pop (or almost-pop) songs, but here is a case where they do. ~ William York, All Music Guide

click here for the album.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Various Artists - Rockin' Bones: 1950s Punk & Rockabilly [2006]

The rawest '50s rock retains an irresistible pop culture gravity: indeed, the farther one moves away from it in time, the more compelling--and often intoxicatingly alien--it can seem. Produced with fervent devotion by Rhino roots-rock veteran James Austin and featuring a detailed, track-by-track annotation by rockabilly guru Colin Escott, the 101 tracks on these four discs (fully a third of them making their American CD debut) reinforce that notion at every turn. The oft-dizzy, lust-crazed music here argues that the set's "punk" appellation is but marketing-driven redundancy, even as the range of its rockabilly riches gratifyingly defies the attempts of the set's contributing pundits and musicians (including James Burton, the legendary axeman on many of the tracks, as well as Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Rev. Horton Heat, and The Blasters' Dave Alvin) to define the genre.

The set shrewdly uses expected contributions from Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Link Wray, Jerry Lee, the Burnette brothers, and Gene Vincent as but familiar anchor points for a journey that bounces from coast to coast (and the UK, courtesy of Johnny Kidd's great "Shakin' All Over"), fueled by a high-octane brew of folk, country, and R&B on its ever-manic, guitar-driven thrill ride. Underappreciated pioneers like Bob Luman and Wanda Jackson are showcased along the way, as are early efforts by eventual stars in other genres (including Buck "Corky Jones" Owens, George "Thumper" Jones, and Canadian Ronnie Hawkins, later to become the Band). But it's the loopy, reverb and echo-drenched side of one-hit (and no-hit) wonders like Freddie and the Hitchikers' theremin-crazed "Sinners," sex romps like the Caraways' "Ballin' Keen," and John & Jackie's downright heated "Little Girl"--not to mention a virtual parking lot full of Cadillac tributes from Vince Taylor, Sonny Fisher, Larry Dowd, and Joyce Green--that are the true treasures of the set's pop archaeology. --Jerry McCulley

click here for disc 1.
click here for disc 2.
click here for disc 3.
click here for disc 4.

Birdy Nam Nam - Manual for Successful Rioting [2009]

I kinda guessed I wouldn’t like this. And I was kinda wrong. most ‘bass’ music is formulaic, boring and enjoyed by kids from Croydon who think they live in the ghetto. It’s jungle for the new generation, with all of the shock and none of the awe. Birdy Nam Nam are a different prospect entirely, though on the surface they are just another bunch of rude boys with big subs and lots of swagger. manual for Successful Rioting, apart from being gorgeously produced by folks who clearly know their way around a music studio, is infected buckets of charm, inventiveness, and a flow that means when the bass does drop – and whoa, does it drop – things go seriously wonky.

click here for the link.

Paul Cary - Ghost of a Man [2010]

It only took two songs for Paul Cary to win me over. Two songs tucked away on a split EP wih John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees and I was firmly on board whatever bandwagon he was driving. Cary was the frontman of US garage band The Horrors (not to be confused with the UK incarnation), whose 2000 debut on In the Red is a standout album, even among that label’s stellar catalog. Full of wired, frantic garage rock from the Midwest, it’s an absolute blast that follows in the template laid down by The Sonics all those years ago. Yet in these two new tracks, Cary was working with a more laid back, reflective sound that drew as much from country, soul and blues as it did from rock ‘n’ roll. “Coyote” in particular was all smoulder and swagger leading up to a howling outro that sent chills down my spine. “Goner” was even more stripped back and soulful with some lovely horns. These songs weren’t just a surprising shift in approach – they felt like a new leap in his songwriting, more evocative and subtle. So when a full-length Paul Cary album was announced, all I could hope for was that he’d produce something that could equal these two amazing songs.

So when “The Curse of China Bull” opens with slow-burn rockabilly with Cary’s sneer pasted all over it, and then this raggedy-ass sax solo comes skronking along in the middle like a drunken noir soundtrack, I was immediately blown away. It was exactly what I was looking for – rough and dirty and full of bitter soul. “Yes Machine” kicks up the tempo a little, running on fumes, all loose stomp and swing. “Iryna” and “On the Rise” deal in dirty, blistered-fingers blues, all ruckus and drooling static. They’re electrifying without losing that ragged songwriter’s heart. Really, what’s best about Cary is that he doesn’t simply slavishly copy what’s gone before him – he takes the spirit of the music that influences him and filters it through the aesthetic he knows and loves, resulting in these bloody-edged songs that sound alive and essential. It’s the same trick that Greg Cartwright pulls off time and again, and it’s no small compliment to say that Cary’s work on this album is right up there with the best of Cartwright’s.

“Angel from Heaven” functions as a sort of mid-album bridge between the more up-tempo first side and the ballad-heavy flip. Initially it comes across as slight, a simple acoustic ditty that could’ve been dredged up from some lost ’50s collection (although the line “maybe I’ll tell her she’s ugly and wait for her reaction” isn’t quite the typical sentiment of the era), but over multiple plays it feels more and more charming, especially in his vocal delivery. But as many delights as the first half of the record holds, it’s the final three tracks that elevate the album to truly extraordinary. “Ghost of a Man” slinks into view with this gnarled, woozy guitar line with Cary crooning his way into a wordless chorus that sways and shivers. It’s almost impossible to separate out the strands of blues, country and soul from in here; it feels like it comes from a time before such distinctions were made and it’s all the better for it.

“Bad People” is even better, opening with Morricone-tinged guitar flickering in the firelight. “It’s a classic tale of good versus evil / And it starts and it ends with just two people,” Cary sings, before telling us, “If it wasn’t for the devil, the Bible would be so boring.” The chorus sits on a bed of dissonant strings humming over what sounds like castanets. “Bad people make the world go round,” Cary croons, safe in the knowledge that he’s one of them. There’s a moment when the bass comes in and kicks up the pace a little that’s just wonderful (and, bizarrely enough, reminds me of Blur deep cut “The Man Who Left Himself”). It’s all kinds of gorgeous despite the misanthropic subject matter, especially when he breaks into falsetto. “If it stings and it burns, that’s when you know it’s real,” he sings, and it feels a little like a guiding principle for him. Closing track “Green Monster” strips right back to basics, just Cary’s voice and a close-mic’d acoustic guitar. “I was so messed up when I met you, all full of liquor and hate,” he sings, and it only gets worse from there. “Let me tell you ’bout a place called hell / There’s no fire and there’s no flames and there’s no sleep.” The lovely solo he breaks into towards the end is a small light in the darkness before he succumbs back into the chill of despair. It ends with just his vocals, singing about how “it’s bitter and it’s cold and it starts at your feet / Creeps up the back of your legs, through the spine and into your heart.” Part of me wishes there was something after this song to buoy me back up, but it makes for a hell of an effective ending.

It’s always been a crowded market in the garage rock scene, but every so often an album comes along that stands head and shoulders above the pack by virtue of being more awesome than the rest, by having more soul and more feel. Paul Cary’s Ghost of a Man is the latest to grab me by the heart. It feels right and it feels necessary. It’s a record that I want to live with. And, best of all, it makes me believe there’s still more that can be done with the simplicity of a man and his guitar.

click here for the link.

Trampled By Turtles - Palomino [2010]

If you're a fan of the Duluth music scene, then you're probably a fan of Trampled by Turtles (TBT). And I'm happy to report that their newest album, "Palomino," is going to keep fans enthralled with some tremendously original tunes.

Although you could hardly call this album a departure from what the band has done in the past, these 12 songs are proof that this band is constantly growing and changing for the better.

The band seemed to put more emphasis on their instruments than lead singer Dave Simonette's sharp poetic writing in this album. This is an idea that paid off as there are certain points when you wonder how Erik Berry's mandolin didn't burst into flame during "New Son/Burnt Iron."

TBT has been quoted saying that the album was an attempt at bringing the energy from their raucous live shows to a CD. This is exactly what has happened. Songs like "Help You" make you feel like you're front row at a bar in Lutsen, Minn., drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon…Not that I would know anything about that.

One of the highlights of the new album has to be the song "Wait So Long." This is the first song they've accompanied with a music video, so you know it's special. This banjo shredding song seems to move at a pace that you've never heard a bluegrass tune move.

One thing people may notice when listening to the new album is that there definitely a few songs that have almost a dark feeling to them. "Gasoline" is the first song to my recollection that I've heard Simonette use a voice modifier to make it sound like he's singing into one of those old fashion metal microphones.

How these guys have been in the game as long as they have without catching on with a larger audience is stupefying. This could be that album that puts them over the top for many casual listeners. Their blend of folky bluegrass and rock has stayed mostly under the radar because it's so untraditional.

Their under-appreciated status may not last much longer, so go buy this album and, more importantly, go see them live. You can thank me later.

click here for the link.

Various Artists - House of Broken Hearts Pt. 1 [2009]

Early R&B, Doo Wop, Rockabilly & Instrumentals by various artists.

Side A
1. The Counts - Enchanted Sea
2. Sonny Day - Beyond The Shadow Of A Doubt
3. The Versatones - Bila
4. The Saxons - Camel Walk (Part 1)
5. Vernon Green & The Phantoms - Sweet Breeze
6. Noland Strong & The Diablos - The Wind
7. The Vitones - The Storm (So Blue)
8. Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs - The Winds
9. The Sound Offs - The Angry Desert
10. Wanda Jackson - Funnel Of Love
11. Maylon Humphries - Weep No More
12. Hasil Adkins - By The Lonesome River
Side B
1. Art Neville - Arabian Love Call
2. The Neptunes - House of Heart Ache
3. Roy Junior - Victim Of Circumstances
4. Dee Clark - Blues, Get Off Of My Shoulder
5. Buddy Knox - I Think I’m Gonna Kill Myself
6. Donald Woods & The Vel-Airs - Death Of An Angel
7. Link Wray - Facing All The Same Tomorrows
8. Slim & Ann - I Just Can’t Stay Away
9. Charlie Feathers - The Man In Love
10. Bo Diddley - The Great Grand Father
11. The Chell-Mars - Roamin’ Heart

click here for the link.

Maker - Maker vs. Now-Again [2010]

Chicago-area beatsmith Maker marks his Now-Again Records debut with Maker Vs. Now Again an entry in the same “music-library” series that saw the release of limited edition (and often not-for-sale) albums like Oh No Vs. Now-Again and Koushik Vs. Now-Again. A boom-bap era hip hop exercise in dusty drum breaks and two bar loops, this accessible series of tracks was clearly made for easy synchronization.

click here for the link.

Count Bass D and DJ Pocket - Hartsfield JAXson [2010]

Upon his recent relocation to Atlanta, GA, the Nashville native Count Bass D along with his right hand man DJ Pocket, have decided to continue their activity mission with another collaborative effort. This time around they’ve joined forces with some of Atlanta’s underground favorite MC’s – Eddie Meeks, Señor Kaos, Flux, H2O and the Serious Knock Entertainment veteran S.T.I.N.K.Fest. “Hartsfield JAXson” is produced by both Count & Pocket and is dedicated to one of the most active MC’s to ever rep the A-Town… JAX of Binkis Rec’s.

click here for the link.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Various Artists - Cooler Than Denzel Washington [2010]

So I decided to restart my blog by posting random mixes I have put together in the past few years. I plan on upping them as soon as possible, but I figured I'd start with my newest one.

I've been listening to hip hop and r&b almost non-stop these past few months due to the California weather, so I put together a mix of some of my favorite songs I've listened too during these past few months.

01 XV (Ft. Wiz Khalifa) Gobstopper
02 Freeway Flow Monster
03 Ryan Leslie Here She Comes Again
04 Devin the Dude What I Be On
05 8Ball & MJG (Ft. Young Dro) Bring It Back
06 Jigg Perfect World
07 Jaheim (Ft. Jadakiss) Ain't Leavin' Without You (Remix)
08 Lloyd Banks (Ft. Juelz Santana) Beamer, Benz or Bentley
09 Z-Ro (Ft. Chamillionaire) Denzel Washington
10 Aloe Blacc I Need A Dollar
11 Lloyd Get A Room
12 Paperboyz Freeze On The Game (Remix)
13 Slim Thug (Ft. Pharrell) Already Platinum
14 Lee Fields And The Expressions Ladies
15 Gucci Mane Soldier
16 Big Boi Shutterbugg
17 Gyft They Just Don't Know

click here for the album.