Mandatory music entry
I hope everyone's holidays are going well - lots of good food, many gifts, not too much family drama, etc...
I knew when I started this that at some point I was going to have to talk about music, so it might as well be now. Right up front, you all should know that when it comes to muisc I'm a picky, contrary, jaded bastard. I play in a band. I've worked in a record store. You know the movie High Fidelity*? Cusack's character? That could be me. (Except I'm not a list obsessive and I would like to think that I'm not quite so hard on the women in my life) As a matter of fact when my girlfriend and I saw the movie for the first time she put her head in her hands and whispered, "It's you..." about, oh, every five minutes. When it hit on DVD I watched it with my girlfriend's dad and he white knuckled it through the entire movie. After it finished, over a cup of tea with my girlfriend and her mom he kept saying, "The main character. There was something about that main character. I couldn't stand him. I couldn't put my finger on it but..."
*As separate from the book "High Fidelity" which, for some reason depressed the hell out of me.
With that in mind, here are some discs from 2004 that spent a considerable amount of time in my player:
(Format - Link to artist's page or a really good fan site - link to somewhere where you can buy the record.)
Mark Lanegan Band - Bubblegum
Lanegan's been putting out excellent solo records for years, and for years before that he sang with the (*sigh* I hate to use this phrase, but in this case it's true) criminally underrated Screaming Trees. The 'Trees, incidentally, released two of the best records of the '90's, '92's "Sweet Oblivion" and 96's "Dust"
On Bubblegum, Lanegan is joined by such luminaries as Polly Jean Harvey, Nick Oliveri and Joh Homme from Queens of the Stoneage; QoTSA producer Chris Goss; Qotsa collaborators Dave Catching, Molly Mcguire, and Alain Johannes; Duff and Izzy, formerly of Gun's 'n' Roses, members of the Burning Brides, and one Wendy Rae Fowler, who for my money puts Ms. Harvey to shame.
The sound is, as one might guess, reminiscient of Queens of the Stoneage, but rootsier, less slick, darker, and more honest. (Considering that the Queens are about a step and a half away froim being a goth band themselves, that's an accomplishment.) "Bubblegum" when taken with Lanegan's other solo discs ("The Winding Sheet" and "Field Songs" being my favs., but to be honest he hasn't made a bad solo record.) position him as the American equivalent of Nick Cave, steeped in folk and blues traditions, but not held by them. There are similarities to Tom Waits as well, but Lanegan is more rock 'n' roll, less arty, less theatrical.
For those w/a high-speed connection I suggest checking out this show from 2003 in which Langean and his band tear through his back catalogue in front of a hometown crowd in Seattle.
The Narrows - The Skull At Life Size
Most of the music I listen to is either lond and abrasive or sad and quiet. This disc is both. One song, clocking in at over 30 min., the piece runs through several movenments before building to a big freakout crescendo. Awesome. Oh wait, what do they sound like? Think Slint, Codeine, and maybe Low, but very heavy.
A sample: here.
Timothy, Revelator - Lost Gospel Music Volume One: Beneath The Bleeding Moon
So a while back The Wire did an article folk music made by young hipsters, they dubbed this movement, "New Weird America." (Sound familiar?) They tipped people such as the much over-hyped Devendra Banhart, Six Organs of Admittance (probably the best of the hipster crowd), Sunburned Hand of Man, and a bunch of other stinkin' hippies reviving the sounds of John Fahey, The Incredible String Band, and more recently Current93. As with most things, while a few media friendly types (i.e. young, "eccentric") grab most of the the hype there are people in the underground plugging away 'cause they love what they do, with no expectation of stories in glossy mags. or hanging with rock stars. Timothy, Revelator is one of those people and for years he's been doing the "free folk" (Free Folk and New Weird America are pretty much interchangeable) thing, even before it had a name.
On this, his first proper solo record, he combines the creepy, creaking sound of a heavily customized banjo, bowed dulcimer, and assorted incidental noises with the poetry of Catholic metaphysical poet Richard Cranshaw, subtle political commentary, and his own devotionals into some of the most haunting music you're likely to hear.
Gin Palace - Kicking On
Now this is rock 'n' roll. This lean, mean, trio from the U.K. start with the primal rockabilly scream of The Cramps, make it big and hairy like Black Sabbath, and amp it up to Black Flag like levels of aggression. They should be huge.
The Lost Sounds - The Lost Sounds
They call what they do "black wave" (with a wink and a smirk) as in black metal + new wave = black wave. It's a fairly apt description. Take the dark, creepy vibe of black metal, strip it of most of its ridiculousness (no "vox of the dead" here), bring in some new wave synths, pille on the hooks, toss in a bilstering guitar solo or two, and and some lyrics that would make Philip K. Dick proud and you have a disc that kicks all kinds of ass.
Dove - Dove
Bad Brains + High on Fire/Sleep + some of the best hardcore and heavy metal (is that redundant after mentioning Bad Brains and HoF?) + a touch of DLR-rea Van Halen (the guitar sound) + a touch of emo (the good stuff, like Planes Mistaken For Stars, not lame-o stuff like alexisonfire) = Dove.
Some discs from 2003 that I couldn't seem to pull out of my player:
Federation X - X-Patriot
Nina Nastasia - Run to Ruin
Growing - The Sky's Run Into The Sea
Favourite trend of 2004:
The rise of MP3-blogging. If you're as obsessive about checking out new music as I am, then MP3 blogs most likely made your year. The deal: Some guy or girl discovers a band. It could be someone established, it could be someone new. They want to share, so they post an MP3 or two along with a brief (or extended) discussion of the artist and/or album. The writer gets to write, the band gets publicity, the surfer gets to check out a new band or get their hands on rarity from one of their fav. artists w/out the icky feeling that comes with downloading an entire album (although, there are links to "'dexes" or "indexes" where full albums are sometimes available.) Everybody wins.
Some of my favourites:
Something I Learned Today
Mystery and Misery
20 Jazz Funk Greats
An Idiot's Guide to Dreaming
There are also a couple of aggregator sites that monitor a bunch of blogs and post the headlines:
Web Nymph Music
That should keep you all busy for a while. Up next: more noir.