Fantasma (1997) by Cornelius

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I have heard Fantasm described as ‘the Japanese Beck.’ It’s a comparison that sounds kind of ridiculous but is also kind of appropriate. It’s inappropriate inasmuch as Cornelius had been releasing music with Flipper’s Guitar well before Beck was known to most of us (is Beck, therefore, the American Cornelius?) but it is appropriate inasmuch as they both seem to approach the world in a similar way. (Rather, Beck used to approach the world this way too. He doesn’t really write stuff like this any more.) Read More

Earth Sun Moon (1987) by Love and Rockets

Categories: 1987 and Music.

I love Bauhaus and, initially, I think I found it hard to get into these guys simply because they are not Bauhaus, which is unfair. It’s unfair because these guys are very much their own band, particularly with the wind instruments. (By the way, that flute solo is hilariously Ian Anderson, who I would have thought was super uncool in 1987.) Read More

Forever Now (1982) by The Psychedelic Furs

Categories: 1982 and Music.

This is my first Furs record so I cannot comment on whether or not it’s some kind of sell out (doesn’t sound like it!) or some kind of compromise of their earlier sound, which I have never heard. I can comment on the music and try to comment on the context, as I am an avid British post punk listener. Read More

Going Blank Again (1992) by Ride

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I thought I was getting shoegaze, and I do.. But there’s a lot of other stuff going on here that isn’t strict shoegaze. One of the things that I don’t love about some shoegaze is the relentless commitment to one particular style. But there’s enough variety here that I’m kept interested. Also, the songs are pretty good so it’s not just the wall of sound that is appealing. 7/10 Read More

Music from The Unrealized Film Script Dusk at Cubist Castle (1996) by The Olivia Tremor Control

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is a rather ridiculous record that asks us to indulge this band’s impulses immediately. This is a debut album and yet it’s a double LP length and it’s full of 10 tracks with the same name and numerous experiment that could have been cut. When these guys want to write songs, they’re pretty good at it. But there’s just so much damn material here and lots of it isn’t up to the standards of the opening tracks. And this thing is just so damn worshipful of both 60s psychedelia and early 70s McCartney. If you like that stuff, well Read More

Yerself is Steam (1991) by Mercury Rev

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Mercury Rev combine recent goings on in Shoegaze with psychedelia (to a greater extent than the British Shoegaze bands that inclined that way) and a knack for poppy hooks. The result is a bizarre, perhaps too ambitious, crazy record that is better than anything the Lips had managed up till that point. (Why compare them? Sorry…) To me this stuff is more interesting than the straight Shoegaze; it connects with me more for whatever reason. It does feel like there are more ideas, for one thing. Even if that last track is way too long, this is great stuff. 8/10 Read More

Moseley Shoals (1996) by Ocean Colour Scene

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is among the most “rock” of all ’90s Brit Pop albums I’ve heard. The band not only appears to really like guitars a lot, but likes lots of rock music, not just the rock music made by British bands between 1962 and 1966. It’s certainly the most rootsy, or the most “classic rock” of the Brit Pop albums I’ve heard. Maybe that makes it more derivative (particularly of the Stones) than some of the more inventive Brit Bop bands (like Blur) or some of the ones more influenced by Post Punk (like Pulp), but I’d still much rather listen Read More

On Avery Island (1996) by Neutral Milk Hotel

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This feels like the inevitable result of trying to make folk music in the age of indie rock and, specifically, in the age of Pavement (and their related bands). So much of what they do here has become canonical or cliche (depending on your point of view) for the numerous indie folk bands that have followed in their footsteps. The songs are pretty conventional (with a few notable exceptions) but the arrangements are anything but – elaborate, dense arrangements featuring guitars, keyboards and percussion that would not normally have been applied to folk songs, or indie rock songs for that Read More

Recurring (1991) by Spacemen 3

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I understand why people like this stuff and I understand why it’s trailblazing. (Though I’m not exactly sure why some people consider this shoegaze, though that is a different story…) But I have two problems with this record that keep me from giving it the respect a lot of people think it deserves. The first problem is that for something considered “neo-psychedelia” it’s pretty samey throughout. There’s not a lot of variation even between the two band member’s sounds. I mean, there’s some, but it’s relative and very much “on style.” (On a related note: I find it lacking a Read More

Ritual de lo habitual (1990) by Jane’s Addiction

Categories: 1990 and Music.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I finally got around to listening to this record, but it wasn’t this. That is sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing. But expectations always mess with our appreciation. Hopefully I can get through mine. First of all, I finally understand why Navarro is a guitar hero to a certain generation. I had never understood why before, but had rarely heard him play. Aside from Slash (who is, by the way, much better), I can’t think of another guitar player to embrace classic rock guitar like Navarro does here. That’s pretty Read More

With a Little Help from My Fwends (2014) by the Flaming Lips et al.

Categories: 2014 and Music.

I avoided the Lips’ cover of The Dark Side of the Moon like the plague, figuring that was an album that absolutely did not have to be covered and also because I’ve been finding the Lips’ willful weirdness to be increasingly maddening and hard to follow. (I have no idea if I’m going to like anything by them any more – not since a long time ago – they release things in so many different ways, it’s exhausting etc.). But then I was sitting in the Only a while ago and something was playing in the background. I had to Read More

Veckatimest (2009) by Grizzly Bear

Categories: 2009 and Music.

On my initial listen I felt like these were some kind of less artsy fartsy Wolf Parade, not that this is accurate at all (or that I even know Wolf Parade). But on further listens what I hear is something very symptomatic of the late aughts: a band with a good sense of melody (not necessarily good songs, that’s not the same) who have elevated arrangements and production to the status of Gospel. That kind of thing sometimes bugs me, especially with music that is overtly hooky. (I prefer finer things: grit, dynamics, aggression, good songs, the destruction of or Read More

Shields (2012) by Grizzly Bear

Categories: 2012 and Music.

Cleaner and rockier (because of the collaboration, we’re told) than the last album, and it’s less interesting as a result. The appeal of these bands (for me) is in the idiosyncratic arrangements and production, not in the songs (which are never as strong as we’re told) or in the vocal harmonies (never been my thing). And when you strip this kind of stuff of its warts – even if those warts are [i]extremely[/i] affected – you are left with run of the mill indie pop or, in this case, indie pop that is just energetic enough to be better than Read More

The Faming Lips and Heady Fwends (2012)

Categories: 2012 and Music.

I want to make some kind of Supernatural joke but I can’t come up with one. I am all for pushing your creative boundaries, I think it is great that the Lips are being absolutely ridiculous with all these odd EPs and special releases. I won’t listen to most of it, but good for them for being ridiculous. I don’t see this compilation of collaborations to be consistent because of the collaborators; it’s actually quite consistent, amazingly enough. My problem lies elsewhere. This may sound weird, and it’s probably idiotic, but to me some of the tracks – the “rockers” Read More

The Terror (2013) by the Flaming Lips

Categories: 2013 and Music.

I have avoided everything the Lips have done in studio since Embryonic – I saw them live last summer – for two reasons: 1) because I am adverse to weird formats and must admit that I am just a CD kind of guy and 2) because Coyne kept promising “guitars” for album after album and instead we were left with more of the same noisy-but-catchy-and-clean pop shtick they had performing for the whole of the ’00s. But I caught this on NPR’s First Listen and I was suddenly intrigued again. This album is not the album I wanted but more Read More

Heaven Up Here (1981) by Echo and the Bunnymen

Categories: 1981 and Music.

This is very strong early ’80s British post-punk. They sound a lot like some their contemporaries – albeit rawer – which isn’t really a good thing, but the thing that, to my ears, distinguishes them from the pack is that they have way better lyrics on the whole. I don’t have to worry about listening to these lyrics, which is nice and a relatively rare thing for a young band. The strong lyrics helps elevate the music, which is often more creative – or at least more forward and backward looking – than their contemporaries. To explain the forward / Read More

Lines (2013) by Julian Lynch

Categories: 2013 and Music.

This was sold to me as some kind of “investigation” of American folk music. It’s hard to really see it as such. There are certain elements of it that are influenced by American folk music, but it’s hardly a dominant thing. (It also depends what you mean by “American folk music.”) But the label is kind of irrelevant. There is a lot going on here and it is interesting whatever its pretensions. The songs could be stronger, but everything else is pretty great. 8/10 Read More

Strange Grey Days (2012, Manimal) by Chains of Love

Categories: 2012 and Music.

My step-dad buys the odd CD because of the looks of the girl. And I make fun of him (behind his back) for this. At least I think it’s the looks. Maybe it’s the voice as well, but looks are definitely a part of it. And usually I can’t understand it. But occasionally I come upon something where I sort of get how an alluring female voice can make you forget the musical problems. It’s why I went through a period where I tried to like She & Him. Her voice did it for me, though at this remove I Read More

Telephone Free Landslide Victory by Camper Van Beethoven (IRS 1985)

Categories: 1985 and Music.

Imagine Kaleidoscope, if they were ’80s college kids (and so liked the Velvets), had far more interest in ska, far less interest in learning to play foreign instruments, and with a sense of humour, and you maybe sort of get the idea of these guys. The instrumentals tackle a variety of styles but many of them have a vaguely ska-ish feel underlying them (sort of like ska world fusion or something). The songs with lyrics are pretty much all parodies of either contemporary music styles, scenes or subcultures but given enough of an ’80s college radio feel that the album Read More

Zaireeka (1997) by the Flaming Lips

Categories: 1997 and Music.

In the CD players (this time around): 2 of the four discs of Zaireeka by the Flaming Lips. In case you don’t know, the album is 4 separate discs of the same “songs” and you are supposed to create your own listening experience using 2, 3 or 4 discs played at certain times. Right now I have disc 1 and 2 going slightly off, it’s pretty rid-damn-diculous. Incidentally, the theory is you will never once repeat a playing because each CD player is different. Who knows? It’s pretty crazy to hear one piano chord (obviously distorted by something) from one Read More