Tag Archives: blurt

Can: The Lost Tapes review

(9 out of 10)

Forget, for a moment, the circumstances that brought The Lost Tapes into existence. Forget the execrable history that most important bands have when it comes to archival releases. Forget, if it’s possible, that Can hasn’t released any new music since 1989’s middling Rite Time. Forget those things and ask yourself: If you could go out and buy a new Can album today, what would you want it to sound like?

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Neneh Cherry & the Thing: The Cherry Thing review

(9 out of 10)

For many people – especially in the United States – Neneh Cherry’s career began and ended with “Buffalo Stance,” which is why The Cherry Thing is being greeted like some sort of unexpected comeback. The thing is, Cherry never really went anywhere, and, more importantly, has spent far more time toiling on the experimental and interesting fringes of contemporary music than she ever did on MTV. The stepdaughter of Don Cherry was a bona fide founding member of the British post-punk/dub scene, working with both Rip Rig and Panic and the Slits, she released two albums after Raw Like Sushi that were incredible works of soul-pop perfection, she was a spiritual midwife to the Bristol trip-hop scene, she’s been working with her husband in the prog-funk group known as Cirkus, and, now, she’s collaborating with baritone saxophonist Mats Gustaffson’s free-jazz group, the Thing … a group that was named after, yes, a Don Cherry song. So while The Cherry Thing is definitely a new chapter, it’s in a book that Neneh Cherry’s been diligently writing for three decades now.

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The Best Music of 2010

As usual, I did a bunch of lists, and they were all kinda different. Here they are:

The Best (and Worst) Albums of 2010 (Orlando Weekly)

The best:

1) Janelle Monae: The Archandroid At no point since it was released in May did this album budge from its No. 1 spot on my list. This is what soul music should have sounded like for the past two decades: playful, weird, conceptually rich and genre-agnostic, not to mention completely amazing in concert.

2) Chemical Brothers: Further This album was, by far, the biggest surprise of 2010. With almost 20 years under their belts, the Brothers have no need to even try at this point. Yet Further shows a confident duo that has nothing to lose, abandoning completely 
their Big Beat past in favor of squelchy, 
krautrock-inspired, electro-noise suites that are challenging, weird and future-proof.

3) Serena-Maneesh: S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor Noise annoys, but in the case of this record, it can also be used to dizzying, assaultive effect. This album is the meth-addled inversion of Loveless, a brutally beautiful batch of psychedelic thunderstorms.

4) Viernes: Sinister Devices In a year filled with beautiful and evocative dream pop records, it’s pretty great that 2010’s most beautiful and evocative dream pop 
record just happened to have been recorded 
right down the street from me. It’s ethereal without being wispy, substantial without being heavy.

5) Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday Sure, Kanye West made the consensus favorite hip-hop album, but let’s be real for a minute: It’s exactly what you expected it to be. Pink Friday, on the other hand, was a complete disappointment. But after the 
disappointment faded, it soon became clear that Minaj was not only a gifted rapper but also a weirdo pop star in full bloom, and that combination means that she’s the only lady out there who can do flouncy, why’d-he-break-my-heart balladsand rhyme “punt” with “cunt.”

The worst:

Salem: King Night I hate Salem. I hate that the term “rape gaze” was coined to describe them. I hate their conspicuously druggy public persona. I hate that they co-opt a 5-year-old hip-hop remix style. I hate that they sing/rap/mumble about some truly execrable shit. But what I hate the most is that, after I played it at an appropriately 
loud volume, King Night made me enjoy, repeatedly, something that could be described as “purple drank shoegaze.”

“Revenge of the Writers” (Blurt)

Janelle Monae – The Archandroid

Best Coast – Crazy for You

Earl Greyhound – Suspicious Package

Sleigh Bells – Treats

Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

The Sword – Warp Riders

Shooter Jennings & Hierophant – Black Ribbons

Serena-Maneesh – S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor

Chemical Brothers – Further

Viernes – Sinister Devices

Best of 2010 (Shockhound)

**NOT PUBLISHED YET**

Pazz & Jop Ballot (Village Voice)

**NOT PUBLISHED YET**

The 66 Best Albums of 2010 (blog submission for Orlando Weekly)

Like every other music critic on Earth, I’m asked during this time of year to reflect on the prior 12 months and render a verdict on which music was the “best.” That’s an incredibly hard thing for me, because … well, because I like a whole lot of music, and depending on when/where/how I hear it, my opinion on what’s “best” can vary from day to day, if not minute to minute. This is not a unique problem, but it is mine.

But, of course, I’ve gotta make up my mind at some point, and whittle down my personal favorites into some sort of cohesive and concise statement about the year’s musical landscape. That point, however, is not now. Look to the final 2010 edition of Orlando Weekly for a distillation of what – at this particular moment in time, at least – I, music editorJustin Strout, and columnist/contributor/comment-generator Bao Le-Huu think are the handful of albums that truly are the best.

For now, though, just in time for Christmas shopping, I thought I’d share a long-ass, unedited, alphabetical, no-comment data-dump of the 66 – yes, sixty-six – albums that I thought were truly exceptional in 2010, a year that, it must be noted, was exceptionally exceptional for good music. No reissues, no singles, just the albums that got repeated plays and gave considerable pleasure during the year.

  • Olafur Arnalds – And They Have Escaped the Weight of Dark
  • ARP – The Soft Wave
  • Atlas Sound – Bedroom Databank, Vols. 1 & 2
  • The Attack – Of Nostalgia and Rebellion
  • Balmorhea – Constellations
  • Beach House – Teen Dream
  • Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night
  • Best Coast – Crazy for You
  • “Justin Bieber” – USMILEAMBIENT
  • Bilal – Airtight’s Revenge
  • Black Tusk – Taste the Sin
  • BLK JKS – ZOL!
  • The Books – The Way Out
  • The Chemical Brothers – Further
  • Citay – Dream Get Together
  • Coliseum – House With A Curse
  • Dead Confederate – Sugar
  • Earl Greyhound – Suspicious Package
  • Eluvium – Similies
  • Eternal Summers – Silver
  • The Futura Bold – The Futura Bold
  • Gatorface – Wasted Monuments
  • The Good Ones – Kigali Y’ Izahabu
  • Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer
  • Grinderman – Grinderman 2
  • Happy Birthday – Happy Birthday
  • Holy Fuck – Latin
  • Javelin – No Mas
  • Shooter Jennings & Hierophant – Black Ribbons
  • Seu Jorge & Almaz – Seu Jorge & Almaz
  • Konono No. 1 – Assume Crash Position
  • Kylesa – Spiral Shadow
  • LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
  • John Legend & the Roots – Wake Up!
  • Masters of Reality – Pine/Cross Dover
  • Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
  • Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid
  • The Morning Benders – Big Echo
  • Mumpsy – Fatelifter
  • No Friends – Traditional Failure EP
  • Radioclit – Secousse
  • Retribution Gospel Choir – 2
  • Jack Rose – Luck in the Valley
  • The Ruby Suns – Fight Softly
  • Salem – King Night
  • Serena-Maneesh – S-M 2: Abyss in B Minor
  • S.K.I.P. – Until the Very End
  • Sleigh Bells – Treats
  • Soars – Soars
  • Omar Souleyman – Jazeera Nights
  • Squarepusher – Shobaleader One: d’Demonstrator
  • Marnie Stern – Marnie Stern
  • Sun Airway – Nocturne of Exploded Chandelier
  • Sun Araw – On Patrol
  • Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
  • Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope to the Sky
  • The Sword – Warp Riders
  • Teenage Fanclub – Shadows
  • Thee Sgt. Major III – The Idea Factory
  • The Thermals – Personal Life
  • Torche – Songs for Singles
  • Julieta Venegas – Otra Cosa
  • Viernes – Sinister Devices
  • Various Artists – Fonogramaticos V. 10
  • Various Artists – Shangaan Electro
  • Various Artists – Tradi-Mods vs Rockers

 

Thin Lizzy: Thin Lizzy, Shades of a Blue Orphanage, Vagabonds … CD reissues reviewed

Let Us All Praise Thin Lizzy

The other day, I was sitting around watching some Thin Lizzy videos with my kids – you know, bonding – and upon learning that the band was Irish, my oldest boy proclaimed “Really? They don’t sound Irish.” Now, I’m fairly proud he didn’t say “they don’t look Irish” after gazing upon the browned lankiness that was Phil Lynott, and that he was more surprised that hits like “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak” could have come from anywhere other than the USA,  but I really wondered what he thought an Irish rock band *should* sound like. U2? The Clancy Brothers?

 

The answer – or at least one of the answers – can be found on the first few Thin Lizzy albums, especially the band’s self-titled debut. Before Lynott and the band had fully embraced their potent rock ‘n’ roll power, there was a considerable bit of identity experimentation, and on 1971’s Thin Lizzy (6 out of 10 stars), it’s interesting to hear the band that, in just a few years, would be roaring through a Bob Seger cover on the way to chart success, diddling about on a track like “The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle.”

 

Lynott would weave Celtic themes throughout his lyrics during most of Thin Lizzy’s existence, but on these first three albums – the band sounds quite a bit like “an Irish band,” albeit one that’s working toward a distinctly Americanized sound notably devoid of those very lyrical themes. Eventually, Lynott gets there, and by 1973’s Vagabonds of the Western World (8 stars) Thin Lizzy is beginning to resemble the band that is so well-known, with cuts like “The Rocker” and one of Lynott’s several near-creepy tunes, “Little Girl in Bloom” (one of the others, “Sarah,” is on Shades of a Blue Orphanage, 7 stars, from ‘72).

These deluxe edition reissues are quite overdue, yet they do not disappoint.  The remastering job is more than welcome, adding a depth long missing from previous CD editions, but it’s the bonus material that’s the real prize. The first two albums are nearly doubled in length with singles (yes, “Whiskey in the Jar” is on Shades), EPs, outtakes, and alternate versions, while Vagabonds adds ten bonus tracks and an entire disc’s worth of BBC sessions; of those sessions, a five-track concert from 1973 is a highlight.   Also worth noting: several of the singles featured as bonus tracks onVagabonds are some of Gary Moore’s first appearances with Thin Lizzy.

First appeared Dec. 23, 2010 at Blurt.

Carissa’s Wierd: They’ll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003 CD review (Blurt)

(8 out of 10)

Retrospective compilations are lazy, and retrospective compilations released in advance of a reissue campaign are lazy and a bit of a cash-grab. But, wow, They’ll Only Miss You When You Leave is a pretty fantastic bit of lazy cash-grabbing. Largely ignored during their time together, the Seattle band is best-known now as the predecessor to Band of Horses, Grand Archives, and Sera Cahoone’s solo career. Without getting too deep into the tangled web of shared members, it suffices to say that the later period of Carissa’s Weird had considerable overlap with the genesis of Band of Horses, Grand Archives was the band that CW leader Mat Brooke founded after splitting from BOH, and Cahoone played drums for both CW and BOH.

Still, it’s important to note that Band of Horses completists poking aroundThey’ll Only Miss You looking for archaeological clues will be sorely disappointed. Carissa’s Wierd was very much the baby of Mat Brooke and Jenn Ghetto, and the downcast drama of the 16 songs here was pretty unique at the time, and even a decade later, sounds remarkably singular. There are tinges of twang that make their way into a number of cuts here (“The Color That Your Eyes Changed With The Color Of Your Hair” is particularly tumbleweed-y), but the driving force is the interplay between gentle, spacious arrangements, Brooke’s soulful whisper of a voice, and Ghetto’s angelic harmonies. Carissa’s Wierd runs a full three or four gears more slowly than either Grand Archives or Band of Horses, with a sound that’s much more closely aligned with what Lowstopped doing right around the same time. Though certainly not slowcore in the strict sense, the harmonic interplay and glacial spaciousness of tracks like “You Should Be Hated Here” and “Phantom Fireworks” is definitely reminiscent of Low’s first few albums.

This compilation, of course, covers a pretty long stretch of time, and the seven years of material here represent three albums worth of material. Hardly Art will be reissuing those three albums later this year on vinyl, and each of them – especially the devastatingly epic Songs About Leaving –  deserves to be appreciated on its own merits. Yet the label and band have done a remarkable job at threading those years of material into a cohesive and beautiful statement with this compilation, one that functions both as a perfect introduction and a surprisingly effective standalone album.

First appeared August 16, 2010 at Blurt-Online.

Coliseum: House With A Curse CD review (Blurt)

(6 out of 10)

One has gotten the sense that, ever since the band’s debut in 2004, Coliseum has been chafing under the preconceptions of being a punk band from Louisville. With the city’s vaunted history of producing bands that just barely fit into whatever genre they’ve been slotted, it’s somewhat unusual to find a band that plays to type. And, to be fair, Coliseum never has, imbuing their music with a hostile grandiosity that manages to be simultaneously epic and raw.

When it was announced that their latest album was to be released on Temporary Residence (Mono, Explosions in the Sky, Grails), it was fair to assume that this would be the record that found them finally unshackled from the limitations of modern hardcore and fully embracing the ambitious sounds they’ve always hinted at. And, upon hearing the strings and gurgling analog keyboards that open House With A Curse, that’s an assumption that seems to be proving itself true. And yet … House With A Curse is pretty far from the epic genre-smashing Coliseum fans may have hoped for. Sure, the band has finessed some of its more aggressive tendencies, and introduced a much broader palette of sounds here, but the result sounds less like a reconfiguration of metalcore’s possibilities than it does a brand new Girls Against Boys record.

The throbbing low end of Mike Pascal’s bass lines and the insistent (and occasionally funky) rhythms of drummer Carter Wilson are pushed to the fore, while vocalist/guitarist Ryan Patterson alternates between suave growling and assaultive screaming. The band flirts with groovy slices of Scissorfight-style roughneck metal (“Everything to Everyone”) and even a bit of Faith No More-meets-Fugazi  (“Perimeter Man”) ponderousness, but for the most part, House With A Curse seems to pride itself on maintaining a swinging sort of rock swagger that has only the most tenuous links to punk rock. It’s an approach that’s certainly not unpleasant – in fact, House With A Curse may well be the most enjoyable and repeat-playable Coliseum record to date – but no way is it revolutionary.

First appeared Aug. 12, 2010 at Blurt-Online.

High Confessions: Turning Lead Into Gold with the High Confessions CD review (Blurt)

(8 out of 10)

From the mid-‘80s through the early ‘90s, it seemed that all the cool alternative musicians were part of a giant, collective family. Of course, in a philosophical sense, they were (and today’s musicians are no different), but in a practical sense, there was a lot more collaboration happening between artists that one would typically not expect to see together. To this day, I still can’t get my brain around the fact that Ian MacKaye and Alan Jourgenson made multiple songs together.

In the spirit of those days comes Turning Lead Into Gold with the High Confessions, a collaboration between Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Chris Connelly (Ministry, Revolting Cocks … but not Lead Into Gold; that was Paul Barker), Sanford Parker (Minsk), and Jeremy Lemos (White/Light). While Shelley may be the marquee member here, this is very much a project that reflects the Chicago roots of the other three musicians; there’s a crusty dissonance and sprawling, post-industrial gloom set upon all four of these tracks, three of which blow past the 10-minute mark with ease.

Yet, like all good collaborations, it’s not all that easy to suss out the individual members’ contributions. Nothing here sounds like any of the dudes’ regular bands (although “Dead Tenements” comes close to evoking the sludgy oppression of Minsk, albeit oppression tempered by Connelly’s gruff, militaristic vocals), and instead manages to evoke influences as disparate as the Velvet Underground (“Mistaken For Cops” pretty shamelessly rips the riff from “Sister Ray”) and even David Sylvian’s recent art-noise (“The Listener”). It’s unapologetically heavy stuff, but manages to also evoke an untethered looseness that naturally comes from the members getting out of their comfort zones.

First appeared Aug. 10, 2010 at Blurt-Online.com.