Coincidentally or not, just in time for upcoming holiday season, a few albums are up for re-release this month. Re-mastered, and each with a slew of new previously unreleased bonus tracks. Most definitely this is a trend these days, and i still can’t figure out exactly what the reasoning is. More money, certainly. A celebration of a classic album, a chance to correct what they may have gotten wrong the first time. Introducing a classic album from musicians whose time has passed to a new generation, an excuse for a tour. A service to fans and other interested parties by releasing tracks that didn’t make the album cut. So maybe it’s worth a review of the albums as they were before tackling the new incarnations. Continue reading
Does the Spill still do AOTWs? Ok then, do we do proper rock albums? (be nice, you hecklers in the front).
1985. MTV Launched stateside in 1984. The US was flooded with pretty Britpoppers making pretty Britsongs. A quick gander at the top tunes of the year shows the charts populated with the likes of AHA, Simple Minds, Wham, Duran Duran, Paul Young, Thompson Twins, Sting, etc. Meanwhile rocks offerings were neutered down to the likes of Starship, REO Speedwagon, Bryan Adams, and Foreigner. (Thank fuck for Prince and the Smiths).
A somewhat recent (ok, so it’s been 2 years by now) university grad sits catatonically in front of MTV. Somewhere in between drooling over Power Station and AHA videos, the strains of a Within You Without You-ish guitar intro leads into another band setup that’s very pretty indeed. The lead singer looks like he wandered into the video from the Summer of Love. Guitarist switched at birth with Dolph Lundgren. But wait a minute…that sounds like proper hard rock! And it’s so pretty! Sweet balm indeed to RTJ’s poor rock starved ears. Continue reading
I’m nomming this 2001 album not because I love it (though bits of it I most definitely do) but because it’s a curio. It’s certainly outside my usual sphere of listening pleasure, but then I suspect that would be the case for anyone, given its mind-boggling diversity (Northern Soul, world music, old-skool hiphop, a bit of reggae…).
Been a while since we’ve had electronic music as AOTW (probably because most of you don’t like it). Nathan Fake’s (real name) Drowning In A Sea Of Love is in the box. To get you warmed up, here is an epic remix of one of the album tracks by James Holden & a Grasscut remix Nathan did earlier this year. For more info & some free downloads, check out: http://www.nathanfake.co.uk/content/
For those who don’t know, Roddy “Improbable Surname” Woomble is the lead singer of Scottish rock band, Idlewild. Bar the odd single (most notably “American English”), their stuff has never really grabbed me, but I think this album is an absolute gem. It’s not clever or flashy – in fact, it’s the complete opposite of flashy: it’s mainly quiet, contemplative, organic-sounding folk-rock. And it’s lovely.
Picking a favourite REM album is like picking a favourite Dylan or Beatles album. You could make convincing arguments for half a dozen of them. Their third LP, released a quarter of a century ago this year, divides opinion, but it tops my list fairly often.
Recorded with Joe Boyd over a dismal winter in London, it’s not an easy album. It’s murky, dense, introverted. It’s also unique, quirky, and beautiful. I’m hard-pressed to think of any album that starts with four stronger tracks than “Feeling Gravitys Pull”, “Maps And Legends”, “Driver 8″ and “Life And How To Live It” (it gets odder after that…)
I won’t try and better this fantastic appreciation from Drowned in Sound, which puts the album in context and deconstructs some of Stipe’s more elliptical lyrics. If you’re even vaguely interested, I’d highly recommend it.
If you only really know the FM-friendly global megastars REM became (and who, mind, I won’t hear a word against), then this album should surprise you. If you’re a fan of their early years, I’d be fascinated to hear how you rate this one.
A remastered version, released this year, shines a light into some of the darker corners: it’s on Spotify. I’ve boxed the original, or you can listen here:
Inspired by magicman’s post on RR this week in defence of starlings and emboldened by my own no doubt futile attempt to shoe-horn Josh Ritter‘s Bone of Song into the mothership’s Hunting rubric, I take the liberty of offering his Hello Starling as AOTW this week.
I first came across this, his second album, late. It was released in 2003, I believe, and I probably heard it for the first time in about 2006. (That is pretty true to Maki form). I remember being impressed that a young writer was taking time to put together intelligent lyrics, to play with the sound of words and daring to keep things as low key as possible and just let the songs speak for themselves. I suppose, if there’s one criticism that could be leveled at Ritter here, it is precisely the low keyness and lack of punchy arrangements that may make this, but perhaps not later works, a little too “samey” for some tastes. The reason I’m posting this is that this album turned me on to an artist who has given me great pleasure over the last few years. I know there are other ‘Spillers who are also Ritter devotees and will probably have better suggestions for anyone who wants to investigate further (I do too). But this was the one that grabbed my attention and it’d be nice to think that it may do the same for someone else.
Like Mr Ritter, I’ll let the songs do the talking. Details are in the player. There’s a bonus in the box for those with access.
This is Rain Machine’s self-titled album. Rain Machine is Kyp Malone from TV On The Radio’s mostly solo, mostly acoustic album. If you think TVOTR’s music is over-produced this might be more to your liking. If you like TVOTR already, you might also like this. To be honest I haven’t really listened to it properly, but a few songs have caught my ear already, so maybe we can do it together. Come on, let’s hold hands.
Nektar were an English band who were noticeably more successful in Europe than they were in the UK, particularly in Germany. They got together in Hamburg at the end of the 1960s apparently and worked and recorded in Germany, particularly on their earlier albums, which are pretty good examples of spacey prog. They continued to record and tour until the 1980s, I think and reformed in 2002, releasing a few albums and playing at prog festivals.
The band’s original line-up was;
Roye Albrighton – guitars, vocals
Allan Freeman – keyboards, backing vocals, mellotron
Ron Howden – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Derek Moore – bass, vocals
A Tab In The Ocean was their second release and it came out in 1972.
Here it is in all its progtastic glory;
As we haven’t had an AOTW for a while, I’ll throw this up. On Factory Records from 1982, those white boys on funk: A Certain Ratio. If you don’t like the tunes you can always enjoy the pretty sleeve. The reissued cd came with the Waterline 12″ B side from 1981 “Funaezekea” & a remix from a later 12″ that doesn’t quite fit the sound of this album (& goes on way too long); So I’ve substituted the original “Waterline” A side. It’s all fermenting in the box for your listening pleasure.
I still consider Submarine Bells the best release by a Flying Nun band, compilations excluded. It’s over in a fairly racy 36 minutes, but covers a lot of ground in a surprisingly cohesive way.
There’s the folky tied up in chains linking the exhilarating sweetness of heavenly pop hit with the rockier oncoming day, which is then tempered by the intricacy of part past, part fiction and the ballads; the oddness of dead web and the Smiths-like cynicism of familiarity breeds contempt then lead into the extraordinary effloresce and deliquesce, and the whole thing is rounded off by the exquisitely orchestrated sounds of the title track. The fishy cover and Greenpeace info of the liner notes convey something of the dramatic political change taking place in NZ at the time, while Martin Phillips’ light hearted sci-fi tendencies (the swooping-past-planets or diving-into-suns of heavenly pop hit and the pseudo astro-chemistry of effloresce and deliquesce) blend with more serious themes of confusion, longing, conflict, and distance.
Give it a listen, either on the box or below, and please post your own opinions.
Well, Shane seemed to give me the green light, so I went ahead and nominated myself for AOTW…
Formed out of the ashes (literally – the singer died in a car crash) of cult US indie heroes Brainiac, Enon have been a staple on the Japanther stereo for several years now
Whilst hardly being 100% unique, Enon can be filed alongside Deerhoof and Blonde Redhead (in fact, singer Toko Yasuda used to be in Blonde Redhead) in your off-kilter-American-indie-band-with-Japanese-American-female-singer section. But for me, Enon have got the edge when it comes to memorable pop tunes and songwriting sensibility.
Released in 2002 on Touch ‘N’ Go Records “High Society” was their third album, but first with Toko on the mic. (and then not all the time) and for me, still their best. I love the unashamed poppiness, all round indie-ness and the boy-girl vocals give it that extra zip that makes them something of an American Delgados.
I managed to see them live in Shinjuku a few years ago and they had a real chemistry and understated star quality about them that made them instantly engaging and likeable.
Here’s the obligatory (but rather sparse) Wiki:
and of course the MySpace:
Generic indie or pop genius? You decide.