Friday, April 30, 2010

Lapsed Review Round-up

There a couple of things I wanted to at least put my ratings on that I was late in hearing:

Titus Andronicus
The Monitor
XL Recordings

This is my favorite album of the year so far. It expands on the tempate created on their debut The Airing Of Grievances. Full of false endings and strangely addictive hooks, I have very few grievances to air about this album.

Overall Grade = 9.11

Black Tambourine
Black Tambourine

The timing for releasing this complete collection of old (and four new) Black Tambourine songs has never been more right as countless bands (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Vivian Girls, Surfer Blood, Best Coast, etc.) are all becoming indie media darlings, having borrowed from Black Tambourine's sonic landscape. Strangley, Black Tambourine is not quite as interesting musically or melodically as some of those bands or their contemporaries (My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus & Mary Chain). Nevertheless, if you look at this collection as an album, it is fairly enjoyable.

Overall Grade = 7.94

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Black Francis - Nonstoperotik

Black Francis
Cooking Vinyl

Wait. Let me get this straight. The label is called Cooking Vinyl but the album is only available on a CD? OK then. Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of the Pixies, the first two Frank Black solo albums, as well as the first Black Francis solo album, Bluefinger. So it is with great disappointment that I have reviewed Nonstoperotik.

No matter what Charles Thompson calls himself, he is nothing if not prolific. When it was revealed in the liner notes of Frank Black's Christmass, the part-live part-studio album, that songs were indeed being written by Black Francis, I was excited and cringing all at once. I can get behind the reunion tour with the Pixies to get his share of the millions that Nirvana and other band made from his influence. But recording under that name again when you had long renounced it smelled of nothing but cashing in. Bluefinger, however, had some real gems including Thompson's finest post-Pixies tune, "Threshold Apprehension,". The idea is that we were supposed to hear the strangeness again. This collection shows slightly more resemblence to the Pixies than the output of Frank Black & The Catholics.

There are a few tracks worth checking out, if for nothing other than hearing Thompson's chord progressions and unique timing. The hope here is that, with bringing keyboard player Eric Feldman back into the fold, we could hear something like "Alec Eiffel," or "Hang On To Your Ego," again. But living in the past is fantasy and trying to recapture it is foolhardy. Sound advice for the listener and the artist.

Track Grades:
  1. Lake Of Sin - 7.0
  2. O My Tidy Sum - 8.4
  3. Rabbits - 4.7
  4. Wheels - 8.1
  5. Dead Man's Curve - 8.3
  6. Corrina - 7.2
  7. Six Legged Man - 7.8
  8. Wild Son - 6.7
  9. When I Go Down On You - 7.3
  10. Nonstoperotik - 5.6
  11. Cinema Star - 7.7
Overall Grade = 7.16

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Around The World In A Day

Prince And The Revolution
Around The World In A Day
Warner Bros.
Produced by Prince

These days, much of the world regards Prince as just a weirdo. Much in the way that Michael Jackson's reputation was tarnished because of allegations and many, many plastic surgeries, Prince's legacy is a tad shadowed by his eccentricities. This is the price for living such a public life in an age of pop culture transparency. There was a time, though, that both artists were regarded as geniuses.

Around The World In A Day is one of several albums in the eighties that exemplified the pop craftmanship of Prince Rogers Nelson. An album with two amazing singles ("Paisley Park," and "Raspberry Beret,"), soulful ballads ("Condition Of The Heart," and "The Ladder,"), and up-tempo dance tracks ("America,"), ATWIAD is smack dab in the middle of the era of Prince's creative apex. The album shows a prodigy continuing to expand his horizons and test the boundaries of his audience with a diverse group of songs and not just aiming for potential singles. It polarizes, it challenges, and does its intended job with expectedly mixed results. The truly wonderful moments on the album do ring clearer than the so-called shortcomings and do stand up 25 years later.

Overall Grade = 8.12

Monday, April 19, 2010

Best Ever Non-Album B-Sides

With Records Store Day just passed, I thought we could celebrate what makes vinyl special - an A- and B-side. Some b-sides are fantastic songs that, for some reason or another, never made it onto an album. This is their list.

Let's have some qualifiers before we start:
No live tracks, no remixes, or alternate versions of songs that appear on other original pressings of studio albums by the artists. No tracks from EPs, singles only. Tracks added to later or deluxe versions of albums as well as tracks on singles or b-sides compilations by the artist are eligible.
OK, now that that's out of the way:

  1. "Silver Springs," Fleetwood Mac (b-side of "Go Your Own Way," 1977)
  2. "You Looking At Me Looking At You," Ozzy Osbourne (b-side of "Crazy Train," 1980)
  3. "Hey, Hey What Can I Do," Led Zeppelin (b-side of "Immigrant Song," 1970)
  4. "Am I Evil?" Metallica (b-side of "Creeping Death," 1984)
  5. "An Ugly Death," Jay Reatard (b-side of "Painted Shut," 2008)
  6. "Burning Ambition," Iron Maiden (b-side of "Running Free," 1980)
  7. "I Want You Around," Ramones (b-side of "Rock 'N Roll Radio," 1979)
  8. "Children In Heat," The Misfits (b-side of "Horror Business," 1979)
  9. "Did You No Wrong," Sex Pistols (b-side of "God Save The Queen," 1977)
  10. "Devil Bunnies," My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult (b-side of "Kooler Than Jesus," 1989)
  11. "Ages Of You," R.E.M. (b-side of "Wendell Gee," 1985)
  12. "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore," Prince (b-side of "1999," 1982)
  13. "Dive," Nirvana (b-side of "Sliver," 1990)
  14. "Neat Parts," Fucked Up (b-side of "Triumph Of Life," 2006)
  15. "Footsteps," Pearl Jam (b-side of "Jeremy," 1991)
  16. "Flying Dutchman," Tori Amos (b-side of "China," 1992)
  17. "Into The White," Pixies (b-side of "Here Comes Your Man," 1989)
  18. "When Death Had No Name," Danzig (b-side of "Dirty Black Summer," 1992)
  19. "I Don't Think I'm Ever Gonna Figure It Out," Elliott Smith (b-side of "Speed Trials," 1996)
  20. "Novelty," Joy Division (b-side of "Transmission," 1979)

I'm sure there are some real gems that I'm missing here, so let me know.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - I Learned The Hard Way

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
I Learned The Hard Way
Daptone Recording Co.

The R&B soul revival began in earnest over a decade ago with The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill but as quickly as the former Fugee made this musical genre relevant again, she vanished from public consciousness. Thank goodness for Sharon Jones. Admittedly, I watched at least 40 minutes of a "Best Of Soul Train" infomercial last night but my interest in this music has been re-ignited. And I have Ms. Jones & The Dap-Kings to thank for that.

This music is so authentic that it's hard to believe that it is new. The rest of the Dap-Kings are very able musicians and, with Jones's voice and the production of Bosco Mann, they form a perfect union. I Learned The Hard Way is, in short, an album that is very easy to enjoy. There are fantastic grooves galore and no wasted time (unlike the Lauryn Hill album that suffered from the need to have skits, a hip-hop staple). The arrangements are rich without being cluttered. And the horns, oh how I usually loathe horns, mesh wonderfully. There is plenty of great R&B, soul, and Motown flavor to silence even the staunchest critics. It may not be the best but this is my most enjoyed album of the year so far.

Track Grades:
  1. The Game Gets Old - 8.5
  2. I Learned The Hard Way - 8.8
  3. Better Things - 8.2
  4. Give It Back - 7.8
  5. Money - 8.5
  6. The Reason - 7.5
  7. Window Shopping - 9.1
  8. She Ain't A Child No More - 7.7
  9. I'll Still Be True - 8.1
  10. Without A Heart - 8.4
  11. If You Call - 8.7
  12. Mama Don't Like My Man - 8.5
Overall Grade = 8.32