Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Remote Regions and the Releases of the Week.

As an avid and reasonably open-minded music collector, it would be irresponsible of me to be to provincial or Amero/Euro-centric in my listening habits. I am proud to have multiple artists from each of six of the seven continents represented in my collection. As soon as that great Antarctic shoe-gazing garage punk band rears up its greasy head, I assure you I will be all over it. That said, the two great new releases on this weeks slate come from two of the more remote regions of the planet. One from the desert trails of Saharan Africa, the other from Perth, on the distant West coast of Australia.

The first of my releases of the week is the latest offering from nomadic desert blues icons Tinariwen, entitled Tassili ("the campfire album").  If you are unaware of Tinariwen, I highly recommend you become acquainted with their work. They are a (now somewhat legendary) band of musicians of the nomadic Kel Tamashek people (otherwise known as Tuareg, though this name is not preferred, as it has negative connotations) of Saharan Africa, based around the Mali-Algeria border. Their sound is generally referred to as desert blues, and is a delicious and hypnotic melange of traditional North African and Kel Tamashek folk music and the pentatonic West African and Delta blues, and features magnificent, mesmerizing, wriggly guitar lines that suggest the rhythmic pulsing of the desert dunes themselves.

Whereas Tinariwen's previous outing Imidiwan : Companions had an expansive sound evoking a large communal gathering (in fact, it was almost recorded as such), filled with a backing chorus and layers of electric guitars; Tassili is, as its campfire subtext suggests, a much more intimate affair. The guitars are almost exclusively acoustic, and the atmosphere more that of a group of Kel Tamashek musicians enjoying tea and song at the end of the day. Nothing of the quality of guitar work is lost however, in fact, it may be even more present in an "unplugged" setting. Magnificently recorded and performed, with guest appearances by Kyp Malone and Tunde Adabimpe of TV on the Radio (two gentlemen I hold in the highest possible esteem) adding guitar and vocals to several tracks, Tassili is a work of atmospheric beauty and, as always, Tinariwen has a way of making me feel like I'm hearing the guitar for the first time all over again.

For the second big rekkid of the week we travel around the globe to Perth; Australia's most remote major city, tucked away on the continent's Southwest coast. Innerspeaker, the much-anticipated debut full-length from Tame Impala, is my kind of psychedelic rock. With apologies to the Dead/Phish-head set, I've always preferred the Anglo-Euro version of psychedelic rock: Less Americana-gone-jam-band thing and more spacey-trippy in song structure and production; more musical logic and direction in the trippy improvisations, less a  countrified rock song diverge into an endless jam. Tame Impala satisfies my psychedelic needs in a way that no other current band other than their Swedish brethren in space, Dungen, can.

Actually, when I first heard Innerspeaker, my immediate impression was that Tame Impala were essentially the Australian Dungen, or Dungen with lyrics in English. While the comparisons are very obviously there to be made (in certain instrumental passages, one would be hard pressed to distinguish the two), there are important differences. Whereas Dungen's sound is almost purely informed by the psych/kraut/prog sounds of 1967-1974 (which is no bad thing, as they have largely perfected that sound), Tame Impala welcome smatterings of the future, or at least the present into their sound, incorporating welcome traces (sometimes more than traces) of synth, shoe-gaze textures, and the occasional particle of chill-wave into their sound. The result is a spacey psychedelic epic of a rekkid. Which might just be My New Fav'rit Rekkid.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The New and the "New". AKA My New Fav'rit Rekkid

My pick for new release of the week is The War on Drugs' Slave Ambient,  a tasty slice of indie rock genre hybridization that has somehow managed to marry the otherwise disparate sounds of earnest American songwriting a la Bruce Springsteen with shoegazing, heavily effected psychedelia. The resulting rekkid is so surprisingly successful that has prompted the indie rock geeks at Under the Radar magazine to attempt to coin the term Boss-gaze to describe it. The album really is quite good and deserves a good attentive listen. However, what I really want to talk about is my "new" release of the week...

A while back I read a raving review in Mojo magazine of a rekkid called Burning Your House Down by the Jim Jones Revue which pushed many of my correct rock and roll buttons. I decided I needed to seek this rekkid out with all possible haste. That was, by the way, the October 2010 issue of Mojo. Since then I have been checking the stores and the release lists to absolutely no avail. While the album was a relatively easy find on the other side of the pond, it could not, it seemed, be had for blood or money in the US. I had just about given up on it when it finally showed up on the www.newmusictipsheet.com release list a few weeks back and, after nearly a year of UK availability, got its US release this week. Hence it is my "new" release of the week and my "New Fav'rit Rekkid".

I like to consider myself a seasoned connoisseur of the garage, garage-rock, garage-punk, trashe, whatever-you-want-to-call-it genre. In fact, in the mid to late nineties it became a bit of an obsession for me, almost to the exclusion of other music. Sonics and Seeds; Stooges and Saints; Squares and Soledad Brothers; I ate it all up and begged for more. I've gotten better since, and my tastes are more diverse than ever right now, but I still have a great love for the big noise. It seems that there hasn't been a tremendous amount of trashe to get excited about of late. The Redwalls don't do much for me, the Black Lips are good but always lead me to other things. I hadn't heard any new garage rock that truly satisfied my jones for the snotty, high-energy rawk drug to which I was once hopelessly addicted in some time. I am here to tell you that Burning Your House Down is the pure stuff.

Shrieking, driving, explosive, evil, blistering, ROCKANDFREAKINGROLLLLL! A prime 33 minute slab of pure, screaming, nasty-guitar-laden, pulsing-piano-peppered, filthy, blasphemous Devil's music good for all of your booty-shaking needs. Lines like "Stuck in the tomb of the unknown blues/ You know it's gonna take the shine off your shoes" sum up the situation quite nicely. As does this: It's like Jerry Lee Lewis and the Stooges had a filthy, snotty, screaming, obnoxious baby and I could not be happier to be its nanny for as long as they'll let me. Available now on, appropriately enough, Punk Rock Blues Records. Did I say "blistering" yet?

Monday, August 8, 2011


When you consume music like a voracious gourmand in an audio smorgasbord as I do, occasionally the rekkids you love can get lost in the shuffle and you temporarily forget how much you love them. When Yo La Tengo's ...And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out came out in 2000 I was blown away by it's intimacy and swiftly proclaimed it a masterpiece. A decade, several Yo La Tengo rekkids, and several hundred other rekkids later, I found that it had fallen off of my radar. This morning something drew me to the "Y" section of the collection and I snapped it up almost randomly to throw in the player at work. It soon hit me what a truly magnificent and delicate masterpiece it really is.

For those of you who don't know, the rekkid is almost a concept piece. The concept being the love between Yo La Tengo's songwriting team of Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan, who happen to be about the cutest married couple in all of indie rock. Essentially, over the course of its 13 songs, the album tells you the story of their love with unabashed self-awareness. Lyrically, it plays out like a series of love letters. So much so that it's surprising that bassist/multi-instrumantalist James McNew doesn't feel like an interloper. Songs like "Last Days of Disco" are like shimmering fragile little jewels teetering on the brink of embarrassing self-consciousness without ever quite going over the edge. The cover of "You Can Have It All" (see and hear above) is one of the most charming milestones in the whole of indie rock history.

If you've never heard ...And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out I highly recommend it. If you know it and haven't listened to it in a while, I recommend revisiting. You will be rewarded. It is notably lean on the big noise and Ira guitar freakouts that can be found on other fine Yo La Tengo rekkids, but I find it's mellow languor to be a thing of great beauty. The moral of this story is that great art does not have a shelf-life and there is great music from every era. Embrace the new but always remember to play the old favorites from time to time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Loving Lykke Li

Just in case anyone out there hasn't seen this yet, or in case anyone wants it one more time, here is Lykke Li's delightful new video for "Jerome". When I saw this yesterday it gave me the final push I needed to go spend the big dollars on tickets for her November 13th show at Forced Attitude. With each successive listen, Lykke's latest platter Wounded Rhymes climbs closer and closer to the top of my best rekkids of 2011 list. I'm getting a bit obsessive. Just ask my co-workers. If'n you haven't already, check her out.