record-reviews


Mosaic Box Set Review

Dial Records and Jazz History, Examined

Stephen Smoliar, who writes about music for the San Francisco Examiner, published this review of Mosaic’s new box set, The Complete Dial Records Modern Jazz Sessions. He has some unusual commentary on other things Ross Russell and Dial Records had on the burner at the time these sessions took place. To listen to samples and to get your box set, go here.




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Ed Ward on Johnny Cash's first self-reinvention:

In 1955, John R. Cash was a sometime auto mechanic, sometime appliance salesman who liked to play the guitar and sing, mostly gospel songs. The “R” in his name didn’t stand for anything — and, in fact, he’d been named J.R. at birth and had to come up with “John” when he joined the Air Force. He’d spend the rest of his life reinventing himself.

Image of Cash courtesy of Columbia

Fugazi, Washington, DC USA, 3/03/88 (FLS #0015)

Photo © by Bert Queiroz

The third show at the Wilson Center. Note that Fugazi played at this venue exactly 6 (first show) and 3 months earlier. The band plays a short set of nine songs as part of a benefit for the Christic Institute, and does not headline as both False Prophets and Kingface followed suit on this particular occasion.

However, what this recording lacks in length and sound quality (I’d rate this show as “good” personally), the band definitely makes up in terms of performance. Basically, this is a no-nonsense, straight-up gig that hardly features any stage banter (aside from a tongue-in-cheek sneer at Fidelity Jones for “cashing in on punk rock”), yet includes an overall great and vigorous performance by all.

As was the case at the St. Stephen’s Church Cafeteria a couple of months prior (see FLS0002, September 26, 1987), the Intro to this gig features the outlines of a song that doesn’t seem to have left the drawing board; whereas Ian also added some lyrics to the song at St. Stephen’s Church, you now just get a short instrumental as people gather inside to attend the rest of the concert.

All in all, the somewhat jumbled ending to Bad Mouth and sloppy guitar breakdown at the end of Suggestion are the only (minor) blots on an otherwise very convincing and ardent performance in my book. If pressed to pick a favorite, I’d probably go with And the Same or especially Burning, as Joe prolongs the bass intro to accentuate the mood and Guy literally growls and snarls his way through the lyrics.

The set list:

1. Intro 2. In Defense of Humans 3. Furniture 4. Merchandise 5. Interlude 1 6. Burning 7. Interlude 2 8. And The Same 9. Interlude 3 10. Song #1 11. Bad Mouth 12. Suggestion 13. Break-In

BEST OF THE BEST OF 2012: NPR’S TOP 50

It’s that time of year again: anus itch season. Talkadoodles and decidamathons. Music music guess what’s what. A time when publications that talk about music release their you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours list of artists whose record labels bought ad space or sent free download codes. Or, less cynically: music from the year, presented in a more digestible form than most of the time, cranked out and hastily invoiced by beleaguered critics everywhere, hopefully in time to get the poor bastards on the bottom rungs of the biz a little extra holiday cash, and editors and mid-tier scramblers can wait out the clock until the new year by dicking around on Twitter and calling it business. Yes, that’s the least cynical version I can think of for what happens every December with the lists. It’s a mad dash to be the first to limp to the finish.

The good news for regular citizens is you can finally just read one thing and get some straight answers out of people. Or at least less crooked answers. Most of the time music reviews are complete bullshit, like that timesomebody at Vice didn’t like the new Metz album because apparently in that particular 20 minute chunk of their lives they had a migraine and the drums kicked too much ass for them to handle without pukeyfacing. Music reviews are bullshit because the person writing them is getting paid somewhere between zero and some piddling useless amount of dollars, and therefore there’s no stakes, and therefore say whatever you think is best to keep the piddling useless dollars coming in, and do it quick with the first thought that pops into your head because your opinion will never matter as much as word of mouth plus time anyway, and it’s not like the free download is a huge favor because the internet exists. BUT: end of the year lists pare down all that regular bullshit and focus on the bullshit that these people apparently actually believe.

I am a fan of year-end lists because they serve as a roadmap to what kind of people believe what outlandish bullshit things. I like to take these lists, most of which consist of stuff I never heard of because I’ve managed to limit my informational intake to hyper-specific, reliable filters which generally do not waste my time telling me about stuff I have a low chance of actually liking, and attack them with my own kneejerk bullshit. Why? Because that’s even lazier and more cynical than writing a list of my own, and it results in more piddling useless dollars for me. You’re welcome.

Take for example the alphabetically arranged non-hierarchical list supplied by the poor deluded fucks at NPR. Alright gang, let’s riff. Let’s have an NPRty.

Ab-Soul, Control System

I’m sure NPR likes this because this guy is saying some moderately thoughtful stuff and the beats are less predictable than usual, but who actually wants to listen to a song called “Double Standards”? Why stop there? Why not a club banger called “Airport Security”?

Alabama Shakes, Boys And Girls

Making music your parents would like isn’t just for the Fleet Foxes anymore.

Alisa Weilerstein, Cello Concertos (Elgar & Carter)

Look out Yo-Yo Ma, there’s a new cellist in zzzzzzz

Alt-J, An Awesome Wave

Here’s the first of probably many entries on this list which seems like its primary reason for existing is to be transition music on NPR. Like there’s some report on a Peruvian ballet troupe struggling to make art with their limited resources, and then this pops on for fifteen seconds to help convince you that what you just heard was in fact very interesting and not a desperate attempt at interestingness which combines several things you don’t care about. It is relatively high energy, but stark and dramatic at the same time, and it’s constantly throwing “interesting” sounds at you, like bassoons and toy pianos, and layering everything a million times for no reason. And now here’s Terry Gross with “Fresh Air.”

Andy Stott, Luxury Problems

This is the kind of electronic music you’d hear in a modern art museum and it’s actually more boring than silence.

Astro, Astro

A nice lil’ multi-culti entry for NPR, this one apparently a Chilean version of MGMT. There is actually some very cool shit going on in Chile right now. This is the Wavves to that cool shit’s Thee Oh Sees.

Berlin Philharmonic, St. Matthew Passion

You know who I love? Classical radio DJs. They’re the best. Just in general, when people are only into classical music: the best. I mean, terrible, yeah, but taking the stance that nothing good has happened for over a hundred years is incredible. I can just picture them wincing at the overbearing city noise and fully bear hugging not just their ears but the entire sides of their heads in agony as a wailing ambulance drives by them on the street. Classical-only people are so prim and snooty and delicate they’re like some vestigial form of cultural renegade. I imagine if you pushed one over they would just lie there totally fucked like an upside-down turtle. You’ve got to love it when human society subverts nature and allows people like that to exist.

Meek Mill, Dreamchasers 2

I feel like hip hop at this point is as horrible and predictable and soul-crushing and ceaseless and artless and stagnant as the poverty and violence on the streets it comes from. This guy tells the narrative of how he grew up in a terrible place, sold drugs, and then became successful while so many others didn’t, and his embrace of every trapping of his prosperous lifestyle is fueled by guilt and regret. You may be familiar. Also: you can dance and fuck to it and play it real loud in a car with a lot of bass. Not that NPR listeners are doing those things. Instead they’re nodding their heads to the narrative and saying “oh, isn’t it awful” and “good for him.”

Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man In The Universe

Damon Albarn picked Womack up off the scrap heap and produced this album. It’s kind of like an extremely crappy version of the Rolling Stones reviving Muddy Waters’ career, or a more commercial and electric version of Jon Spencer and R.L. Burnside. I wonder if Bobby knows or cares what the hell is going on here.

Bomba Estereo, Elegancia Tropical

You can guess what this sounds like: an impulse buy CD at a fair trade coffeehouse.

Brooklyn Rider, Seven Steps

If you type “Brooklyn Rider, Seven Steps” into Google, the first results are Amazon, Brooklyn Rider’s website, Brooklyn Rider’s website, Brooklyn Rider’s website, and NPR First Listen. They’re a string quartet, FYI. An extremely well organized one. With a name that sounds like they should be a 2000’s synthpop version of Bachman Turner Overdrive.

Cafe Tacvba, El Objeto Antes Llmado Disco

If a band from Mexico sounds like 70’s Italian prog (think Gentle Giant plus opera) meets Animal Collective (i.e. post-digital American prog), are you allowed to not like it? Not if you’re NPR.

Carla Morrison, Dejenme Llorar

The score so far. Hip hop: 2, soul revival: 2, classical: 3, Spanish language pop: 4, bland Indie pop: 1, minimalist techno: 1, boring: yesalways.

Cat Power, Sun

Cat Power is the musical equivalent of Say Yes To The Dress (the least intolerable reality show my girlfriend watches).

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'As a cohesive piece – and I carry no qualms in confirming it appearing thus even from an inaugural run-through – it quite incontrovertibly ranks right up there with Untogether among the most challenging records of the decade to date.’

Dots & Dashes review Calgary trio BRAIDS flourish emphatically on their sophomore full-length effort, Flourish // Perish.

Dismantling Summer
  • Dismantling Summer
  • The Wonder Years
  • The Greatest Generation
Play

Dismantling Summer - The Wonder Years

8.3 out of 10

After building hype with their first single “Passing Through A Screen Door”, The Wonder Years are back it again with more suburban woes. “Dismantling Summer” is an ode to a sick comrade who suffers during the year’s most celebrated season while his friends frolic about. Through it all, Dan Campbell questions his own toughness and sincerity repeatedly “If I’m in an airport/And you’re in a hospital bed/Well, then, what kind of man does that make me?.” More calculated muting, high-toned solos and thunderous cymbal crashes gives Campbell traction as he drives his pride into the ground. The track is another display of overall maturity in musicianship as TWY improves on captivating bridges between the verses and the chorus and maintains highly intense anecdotes through Campbell’s self-bashing. It’s sounding to be some of the best work from the suburban romantics as they get set to release The Greatest Generation on May 14. 

Ken Tucker reviews Bob Dylan's newest release, “Another Self-Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10" from Columbia Records.

 [S]elf-Portrait just did not fit in with its era, with its moment in pop culture and in Dylan history. Which, in retrospect, seems to have been Dylan’s intent. Now, a new collection includes alternate takes, demos, and songs that weren’t included in the original double-album. What emerges is a Self-Portrait with more vivid detail and brighter, sharper colors.

Why Don't They Teach Heartbreak At School?
  • Why Don't They Teach Heartbreak At School?
  • Aerial
  • Why Don't They Teach Heartbreak At School?
Play

Aerial - Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School?

Every so often a record comes along that takes you completely by surprise, blows you off your feet, then helps you up again so you can wear your feet out dancing to it, as is the case with Scottish power pop band Aerial’s second long-player, a mere 13 years after their debut album ‘Back Within Reach’ (!). 

I’m talking the kind of record that makes you want to purchase this band’s record, and all their other records, and their t-shirts, and then more copies of their records so you can give them to other people. That is how good it is.

The unassuming pastel pink cover hides a deceptive dozen new gems that will thrill and delight upon repeated listening. It must be something in the water up Glasgae way: like fellow denizens Teenage Fanclub and Attic Lights, Aerial deal in sweetly melodic rock with big hooks, Beach Boy-esque harmonies and buzzsaw guitars. And let’s not forget the lyrics! In short, the kind of songs that, once they’re in your head, they never want to leave.

[To these ears, anyway, there’s also quite a resemblance to late 90s heroes Silver Sun and Dutch power-pop-punks the Travoltas, so if all of these bands tick your boxes you’ll be all over this without having to read any further].

But for those that need any more convincing: Check the hammering Smithereens-esque guitars and drums on the opening track “Cartoon Eyes, Cartoon Heart” before the too-catchy-for-words title song asks the question that most of us have been asking since the dawn of time (or at least formal education). 

[The band have graciously allowed that track to be shared here for your aural delight, and I can assure you that with one listen you will be as hooked as I was.]

Each successive song is just as good as the last, each with new sounds to get lost in, like the surf guitars on “Great Teenager”, the melodica on “Madeline It’s Me”, the lap steel licks on “More Than Alcohol”.. and so it goes. 

But the last two tracks are my personal highlights: the epic “Where You Are” (which I am totally, utterly, unabashedly unashamed to admit moved me to tears on the first listen) and the heavenly closer - quite literally - “Wave Goodbye To Scotland”. 

I could dissect and describe every aspect of all these songs for you but that would be a complete waste of time; all you need to know is that you need to hear them as soon as possible. If you have ears and a pulse, your life will be improved immeasurably by this joyful record. Couldn’t be more highly recommended - 10/10

Long Play: Interpol, El Pintor

Interpol is morose, but they are also defiant, they are frenetic, they are despondent and daring, colored both with gloom and glory. They build a long dark tunnel, but they also show the glimmer of light at its end. With El Pintor, their fifth album, they have smoothed out the edges, left behind the contrived roughness of their self-titled fourth album, and let more of that light in. The result is lean, composed and driven, a 40 minute dose of music that has more wisdom than angst, that is interested in the sounds of destruction, but pays equal attention to the act of rebuilding: this is post-punk with the emphasis on post, on looking back, but also forward.

A band that by any measure should be passed its prime, Interpol remain immediate by wearing their influences well, by standing on the foundations they’ve built without becoming weighed down by repetition. They are melodic on lead track and single “All The Rage Back Home”which we featured back in July, and on “My Blue Supreme”, but they find time for lavish rock on “Anywhere” and on the darkly romantic “My Desire”.  On “Everything Is Wrong”, they play a bait and switch, taking a depressive title and filling it instead with optimism, asking “Can we start over as agents of peace?” If this is their aim, they’ve found a good start. 

Their new leanness of sound is reflected in the band’s lineup: with the departure of bassist Carlos D during their four year hiatus, they are reborn now as a trio, with frontman Paul Banks taking up the four strings, at least in the studio.

The result is a clarity and focus that has been missing from their last few efforts, and that gives El Pintor the resolute urgency it needs to thrive. There is darkness here, but it is tempered with a newfound lightness, every wistful croon blanketed in a metallic haze of guitar, but also with drive, and hope. Interpol will always be more at home in a cigarette shrouded bar than a yoga studio, but they have emerged from the post-emo, post-9/11, post-punk scene of a decade ago with more brevity and depth, to make an album for here, and for now.

El Pintor is available for purchase on iTunesor to stream on Spotify, courtesy of Matador Records. Image courtesy of interpolnyc.com