Sunday, September 17, 2006

On summer music

The Grateful Dead American Beauty
In the final episode of the short-lived NBC series, Freaks and Geeks, Lindsay Weir, the super smart former mathlete who has taken to hanging the not-so-super smart “freak” crowd at her high school, befriends a group of hippies who are planning to follow The Grateful Dead tour around the country. They rave to Lindsay about American Beauty, one of the girls saying, “I wish I’d never heard it just so I could hear it again for the first time.” Lindsay takes a copy of the record home and absorbs herself in the front porch harmonies, summer sun arrangements, and homespun lyrics about boxes of rain, truckin’, and the devil. I did the same thing many times this summer. The longstanding connection between psychedelic and roots music might seem like a weird one, but it isn’t so surprising when you consider how deeply rooted in Americana both ideas are.

Brightblack Morning Light Brightblack Morning Light
The Rhodes electric piano is one of my favourite instruments, an instrument you will recognize from countless soul, rock, and pop hits, including Ray Charles’s “What I’d Say,” 54-40’s “Since When,” and Beck’s “Where It’s At.” Brightblack Morning Light, a couple of Deep South expats who’ve relocated to the West Coast and embrace every stereotype about coastal life, use this soulful, resonant instrument throughout this amazing album, blending it with sleepy slide guitar, whispery vocals, and woodlands percussion to create the most beautiful album in recent memory. Perfect for early morning walks, bedtime listening, and getting stoned.

The Dears Gang of Losers
Critics seem hesitant to use The Arcade Fire as a reference point these days, and not without good reason – the Montreal orchestral-pop group’s influence on today’s indie music is so complete that comparisons to them are as redundant as comparisons to The Beatles. But it’s impossible to talk about this brilliant new record by The Dears without acknowledging their influential Montreal contemporaries. On Funeral, The Arcade Fire sang about the desperate, sad, and chaotic nature of modern existence in a celebratory way. Murray Lightburn, The Dears frontman, has always sung about desperation, sadness, and chaos, but on earlier records, this dark vision, while full of ringing truths, overwhelmed the music, which suffered from overproduction and self-absorption. On Gang of Losers, Lightburn has rinsed and cleansed this sound, writing the most focused, energized songs of his life and leading The Dears to the most fully-realized, powerful album of their decade-long career.

Zero 7 The Garden
The British duo of Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns take 21st-century soul to new heights on their third full-length album, introducing both Kraftwerk and The Beach Boys into their deep well of sound.

Patti Smith Horses
I don’t really know this album, but I get it.

Islands Return to the Sea
There are so many ideas in this album that it’ll take you months to digest the whole thing, but the whiny indie-boy vocals will grate after a while.

Billy Bragg & Wilco Mermaid Avenue Vol. One
Setting Woody Guthrie’s unfinished words set to newly written music by an old British punk and America’s best American band sounded like a brilliant idea at the time. And it was.


Blogger clifford d said...

the funny thing about the mermaid avenue songs is having gone back to some of them only after hearing live renditions on wilco bootlegs. They are guthrie lyrics through and through, but they are awfully comfortable coming out of tweedy. So much so that I wonder how many wilco fans stop to think that two or three cuts every live show are indeed off mermaid avenue. and it's bias speaking, but many of the bragg tracks drag a bit.

choice mermaid cuts:

walt whitman's neice is as fine an album opener as you can come by.

california stars is an obvious one.

hoodoo voodoo is the requisite tweedy take on guthrie's childern's rhymes and lullabies.

christ for president, especially after their recent spat of playing it live on the context of george w.

one by one is a live mainstay.

hesitating beauty is wilco going rootsy for old times' sake.

i'll have to go back to vol. ii a little more, but airline to heaven and remember the mountain bed are two singles that more than justify the purchase.

11:37 AM  

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