Archive for the 'Vinyl' Category

(Upcoming Release) David Sylvian’s Dead Bees On A Cake Gets UK RSD 2 LP White Vinyl Reissue With Bonus 4/21/18

 

This year’s Record Store Day list seems to have a lot more interesting releases than previous years– or at least more things I’d consider picking up. One release that is coming out for Record Store Day, but unfortunately not in the U.S. is the (at least for me) long-awaited reissue of David Sylvian‘s 1999 sequel to 1987’s Secrets of the Beehive (another favorite of mine). Dead Bees on a Cake was a return to solo for Sylvian after 12 years of collaborations with the likes of Robert Fripp in Sylvian/Fripp (which was kind of a successor to their collaboration on Return to Earth), two albums with Can’s Holger Czukay, and the abortive quasi-reunion of Sylvian’s first band Japan as Rain Tree Crow.

Dead Bees was recorded while Sylvian was living in Minneapolis with his then-wife Ingrid Chavez (who is pictured on the new reissue album artwork) and echoes the very personal and intimate songwriting that he had for Secrets. A beautiful and sprawling work, it collects pretty much every style of music he had dabbled in leading up to it and introduced some new Eastern spiritual themes not previously represented on his albums. In some ways this is the last album that would feature more conventional song writing from Sylvian. The releases that followed have been a lot more experimental in nature. While I enjoy those releases from him, Dead Bees On A Cake is the album I’ll always go back to because I identify with these songs more.

The UK RSD reissue of Dead Bees On A Cake has brand new cover art using photos from Anton Corbijn and designed by Chris Bigg of v23 fame. Bigg and Vaughan Oliver were the groundbreaking graphic design house for a lot of albums– primarily identified with 4AD records, but they also did the cover art for Secrets of the Beehive. Pressed in complimentary white, the reissue represents the first vinyl version of this album, and expands it to 2 LP’s by adding four non-album tracks: “The Scent of Magnolia”, “Albuquerque ( Dobro #6 )”, “Cover Me With Flowers” and “Aparna and Nimisha ( Dobro #5 )”. All four of these tracks were included on the 2000 compilation Everything and Nothing.  “The Scent of Magnolia” was the single released with that compilation and is one of my favorite songs from this period and is really completes this album. The “Dobro” tracks feature guitar work from Bill Frisell.

Here is what Sylvian said about the reissue on Facebook:

It’s a bummer that we’re not getting this release in the U.S., so I’ll just have to see if I can get one of these for a deal.

The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2017

2017 to me felt like a transition year in many ways– personally, politically, culturally and certainly musically. For me personally 2017 will represent the year that my wife and I made the biggest steps away from 2011 when I was unemployed for eight months following a 13-year run in IT middle management. We bought a house after renting for over six years– the house hunt was a crazy one with lots of ups and downs. But we found a house that we love and it ends up being kind of perfect for being a place our grandson can come hang out and listen to records with Papa.

2017 was another year in a troubling pattern of musician deaths. The biggest of these is the unexpected passing of Tom Petty which for me was as big a loss as Prince was in 2016. I discovered Petty in 1986 with the release of Southern Accents. Although I had heard the big singles on the radio up to that, Southern Accents was released when I was searching for music that spoke to me. In that regard I look at Tom Petty as being “my Beatles.” The Beatles were a big part of my musical rearing, but they were already broken up by the time I started striking out on my own musical tastes. Petty was someone whose career set a benchmark for everyone who made guitar driven rootsy rock and roll. Petty continues to be something I can put on at any time and never tire of listening to. I was fortunate to be able to see him during his 40th Anniversary tour this summer in Des Moines and it was kind of full-circle as I was there with my dad and my brothers– just about 30 years after the first Tom Petty concert we saw in Chicago.

As far as new notable albums for 2017, I’m kind of out in left field again. My other writing gig as album reviewer for Little Village Magazine ends up determining what I listen to the most at any given time as I crash-listen to new Iowa-based or related albums and that is reflected again in my list.  That said, these are all really strong releases that hold up against the deluge of new major releases. Albums that others are including in their lists that I probably need to give at least a cursory listen to include the new Foo Fighters album Concrete and Gold, Queens of the Stone Age’s Villains, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Some releases that nearly made the list were the new National album, the new Fleet Foxes album, and the new War on Drugs.

Here’s my Top 20 for 2017 (In no particular order):

Beth Bombara – Map & No DirectionBeth Bombara has been cranking out really solid albums for a while now. She’s a gifted songwriter and musician and her releases are always really strong. With her 2017 album, she has taken her spin on folk, Americana and rock and turned the “rock” knob up a bit putting out a record that is up there with the best releases Sheryl Crow put out. Bombara is kicking off 2018 with her first tour of Europe which will give her more deserved exposure.

Pieta Brown – Postcards – Brown’s latest album is a collection of “musical postcards” which are made up of collaborations with folks like Calexico, Mark Knopfler, The Pines and David Lindley. The resulting album still sounds like a Pieta Brown album which is always a good thing. You can read my interview with Brown for Little Village Magazine here.

Charlie Parr – DogDog is Charlie Parr‘s second release for Red House Records and he’s continuing the full band trend for releases. Dog doesn’t have Phil Cook and friends behind him like Stumpjumper did, but the album still has the same energy and blistering slide guitar and picking we’ve come to expect from Parr.

Crystal City – Bartenderly – Iowa City’s Crystal City is primarily the duo of Dave Helmer and Sam Drella who stylistically occupy an intersection somewhere between John Prine and Paul Westerberg. Their latest album Bartenderly is a celebratory salvo of headbuzz rock for the bruised blue collar. You can read my review for Little Village Magazine here.

Deer Tick – Deer Tick 1 & 2 – This couple of albums from Deer Tick is as close to a #1 as I’m willing to commit to on this list. Aside from John McCauley’s stint in the supergroup of Middle Brother with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit I really hadn’t listened to any Deer Tick until this two LP release this year. The band took a four-year hiatus while the members did things like start families. They came back together and pulled a Use-Your-Illusion two album release this year. The band says that these are not to be considered as one release, but really it would be tough choice to only buy one of them. The band said that they were always kind of two bands: an acoustic folk band or an electric rock band. So, this is what we got, an acoustic album in Vol 1 and a rock album in Vol 2. These records are both full of brilliant songs– no filler (unlike the Guns ‘n’ Roses pair mentioned earlier).

SUSTO – & I’m Fine TodaySUSTO is a “friend of Codfish Hollow” band that’s played there a few times and I managed to catch them during the first GARP Festival in 2016 and was really impressed. They played a few songs from this album, so I was interested in hearing it when it came out this year. & I’m Fine Today is an album that slides around stylistically with ease and comfort making this album musically more interesting than their previous releases to me. This album was on a very regular rotation for me in 2017 and one that I never get tired of spinning. The song that rips me up every time I listen to it is what I consider to be the spiritual successor to “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat : “Gay In The South.” Brilliant song.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Hallelujah Anyhow – If you’ve been following my Year End posts, it shouldn’t be surprising to see this album on here, since M.C. Taylor has been a favorite of mine since before he launched Hiss Golden Messenger. His partnership with Merge Records and with Phil and Brad Cook (formerly of Megafaun) has created a music juggernaut: touring nearly incessantly and creating four albums in three years of head-nodding rhythm and groove albums which draw inspiration from the golden era of Van the Man and The Dead. Releasing Hallelujah Anyhow so soon on the heels of the double album Heart Like A Levee and Vestapol is counter-intuitive based on the typical album release/tour/album release cycle. Taylor said that when he and manager Brad Cook were talking about wanting to release an album right away, they thought it felt good to do it and Merge was amenable to the idea, and certainly it was the right time because this album fires on all cylinders.

Game Theory – Supercalifragile – Prior to his unexpected passing in 2013, Scott Miller of Game Theory and The Loud Family was working on a new album of collaborations. To be titled Supercalifragile, it was going to be the first album of songs under the Game Theory moniker since the 1988 album Two Steps from the Middle Ages (itself was reissued in 2017 as part of the massive Omnivore Records reissue campaign). Miller’s wife Kristine took the mantle of finishing the album by taking the notes and her memories of what he had planned and called in friends, former bandmembers and collaborators in to finish the album. The songs were in varying degrees of completeness: some had demo recordings Miller had created, some just notes. The resulting album is bittersweet: equal parts official posthumous release and tribute to the fallen songwriter. I find it to be a fitting closure. You can read my post on this site here.

Grateful Dead – Cornell 5/8/77 – When the Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux announced that Cornell 77 was going to be released as a Dead Archives official release, I was really excited (as many were). Cornell was one of the first full Dead tapes I ever heard and was really amazed by how good it sounded– both performance and recording itself. I had pretty much been avoiding Dead tapes due to how much of a mixed bag they were. As luck would have it, one of the early peer-to-peer trading networks (pre-dimeadozen) had the full cache of the Betty Boards tapes, which included the legendary 5/8/77 show. These were early rips of the reel-to-reels done by a close-knit group of Dead fans who bought the contents of the storage facility that she’d let lapse. Eventually the Dead pulled electronic trading of soundboards, but I had the show I cared about downloaded. I managed to snag one of the 5 LP box sets of which 7700 were pressed used on eBay. It had a crumpled box corner, but the contents were in fantastic shape. They did a fantastic job of cleaning up this recording and somehow even fixing the first missing couple of minutes. The bootleg that circulated had spliced in part of an audience recording which created a really annoying transition. The box has has re-energized my interest in the Dead, and I’ve added some LPs to my vinyl collection and I’ll continue to do that, I’m sure.

Ryan Adams – Prisoner B-Sides – 2017 brought the newest album from Ryan Adams titled Prisoner. It was his third release since his signing to Blue Note Records, and second album of original work (his full-album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 was also on Blue Note). In many ways Prisoner was kind of self-titled part 2. Most of the songs to me seemed like outtakes from Ryan Adams. Pretty good, but ultimately just more of the same 80’s influenced power pop mixed his trademarked Americana. For me, Adams is most interesting when he’s experimenting, and to that end, the massive 17-track collection of “B-Sides” from Prisoner is far more satisfying a listen. He still brings on the Smiths-influence here, but I just like the songs more. The B-Sides were released as a box set of 7-inch singles (that I should consider picking up at some point) and digital download. I’d love to see the 17 tracks released as a 2 LP (hint, hint Blue Note).

Loess – Pocosin – 2017 brought the glorious reunion of Clay Emerson and Ian Pullman as Loess. Their particular spin on electronic music comes from the Boards of Canada and early Autechre diced up and distorted ambient influence. I have loved everything that Loess has put out and Pocosin was an exciting addition for me this year. You can read my article about the release here.

The Right Now – Starlight – Chicago R&B and Soul band The Right Now’s third album came out this year and it veered a bit away from their more classic sound towards a sound very influenced by more recent disco and funk. While still fronted by the signature powerhouse vocals of Stefanie Berecz, the update is a welcome one as the push in this direction has inspired some of the best songwriting to date from the band. All Killer No Filler indeed! Here is my article about the release on this site. Here is an article about a remix from Starlight that has a 60 minute mix of songs that inspired the album, Here is an article I wrote for Little Village Magazine about a show at The Mill.

Gloom Balloon – Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom, Underneath the Stars and the MoonGloom Balloon is the moniker for Des Moines producer/artist/label head Patrick Tape Fleming. This album ends up being kind of the sonic brother from another mother of Christoper The Conquered’s album I’ve Given Up on Rock and Roll. I love this record– it sits somewhere around The Flaming Lips and ELO for experimentation and bombast at times. My review for Little Village is a good place to start reading about what I think.

Har-di-Har — we will will you – Julie and Andrew Thoreen released their first full length album as Har-di-Har in 2017. They used to live in Cedar Falls, but relocated to St. Paul a few years ago. we will will you is an album that captures a marriage in a precarious state of doubt. The resulting album is a compellingly personal album featuring their signature vocal harmonies and spiderwebby chord and percussion infrastructure.

The Pines – Pasture IIThe Pines returned with a second EP of covers. This time we get covers of a Bo Ramsey and a Pieta Brown tune. Read my review for Little Village here.

TIRES – LP1 – Phil Young is in a whole bunch of bands in and around Des Moines including The Wheelers. His instrumental side project TIRES put out their debut album in early 2017. It comes from the same “emergency rock” post rock space as bands like Trans Am and Cougar and I dig it a lot. The vinyl has a hand-screened cover, which is really cool. Here is my review for Little Village.

Colleen – Vol. 1 – Cedar Rapids synthpop duo Colleen put out their debut EP in 2017. Reminds me of Polica or Portishead. They have a new EP already recorded and should come out pretty soon. Read my review for Little Village Magazine.

NAOMI – Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish – Iowa band NAOMI is named after its lead singer and cranks out “snarky pop rock” which is as apt a description of the proceedings as any. A fun, anthemic guitar driven album that picks up where Avril Lavigne and No Doubt left off in the early oughts. Check my review for Little Village here.

Ryne Doughty – Date Night – Ryne Doughty has been crafting is particular singer-songwriter folk for a few years. I happened to catch him opening for The Pines at CSPS a while ago. He openly admits to worshiping at the temple of Greg Brown and that influence is obvious, but he’s got his own style and really we don’t have enough of the storytelling songwriters around. Read my review of Date Night for Little Village.


The Dawn – WoolyThe Dawn are the jam band ambassadors for the Quad Cities. Their latest album Wooly is the first for Cartouche Records and, I think is a bit of a departure for them. Wooly draws more R&B influences– specifically Prince into the mix which makes this album my favorite of their catalog to date. Here is my review for Little Village.

(Upcoming Releases) Colemine Releases First Cassettes : Sole Slabs Comp and Orgone Mixtape

Our friends at Colemine Records are dipping their toes in the audio cassette revival  with two releases set to drop 10/14/17 aka Cassette Store Day. For their first releases they picked a couple of real ringers!

One is a cassette reissue of their fantastic and essential singles compilation Sole Slabs Vol. 1 which was originally an RSD release in colored vinyl. It has recently been reissued in black vinyl as well.

The other release is a teaser of an upcoming Orgone release in January. Colemine is going to do a vinyl/CD release of a really great “mixtape” download of covers that Orgone did earlier this year called Underground Mixtape Vol. 1 that includes covers of choice funk and R&B from the likes of The Meters, Otis Redding, P-Funk, Booker T & the MG’s, Aretha Franklin and more.

You can download it from the link above, or you can listen to it here:

Either tape is a reasonable $8.99 from Colemine: Sole Slabs Vol. 1 or Orgone Undercover Mixtape Vol 1.

(Upcoming Release) Friends Gather to Finish Last Game Theory Album – Supercalifragile Out 8/24/17

At the time of his death in 2013, Scott Miller of seminal power pop bands Game Theory and The Loud Family was working on a new record. He was in varying degrees of completed on a bunch of songs– some songs had vocals and guitar, some of them had detailed notes. His wife Kristine reached out to Ken Stringfellow of The Posies to help coordinate finishing this record titled Supercalifragile based on conversations she had with Miller about the album (which, incidentally always included collaborations of singers and co-writers). In May of  2016, a Kickstarter was established to help fund the completion of the record. By July 4th it was 161% funded! At the time of the launch of the Kickstarter, they had already been recording for over a year, so the fundraising was primarily to wrap up some of the sessions, get mastering done and the rest of the process to get physical and digital product completed and distributed.

The list of contributors to Supercalifragile include former members of Game Theory (Jozef Becker, Nan Becker, Dave Gill, Shelley LaFreniere, Gil Ray, Donnette Thayer, and Suzi Ziegler) and notable guests including (of course) Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, R.E.M., Big Star), Jon Auer (The Posies, Big Star), Aimee Mann, Ted Leo, Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Doug Gillard (Guided By Voices, Nada Surf), Mitch Easter, Alison Faith Levy (The Loud Family), Anton Barbeau, Jonathan Segel (Camper Van Beethoven), Allen Clapp (The Orange Peels), John Moremen, Stephane Schuck, Chris Xefos, Dan Vallor (GT Reissue producer for Omnivore),  The inclusion of the former Game Theory members helps add continuity of this release to the Game Theory catalog, which has enjoyed renewed focus in the Omnivore Recordings reissues.

In a post to the Facebook group dedicated to Scott Miller, his wife has posted a lot of wonderful insight into how she and Stringfellow curated the release.

“This album is as close to what Scott would have created as is possible. I knew the artists he wanted to work with (he had even contacted a couple himself before he died as the artists confirmed this with me), and in a few cases which instruments he wanted them to play or which songs he wanted them to sing. Yes, he wanted guest vocalists and cowriters all over the record. Scott and I talked about his ideas and as he had worked with (and socialized and played tennis with) Ken Stringfellow, he proposed Ken help him organize and help produce this project. Scott spoke of having various artists bring their “arcs of influence” to the record. He said he would ultimately have veto power if anything got too out of hand (😉), but he was looking forward to having lots of great artists he admired and/or worked with to participate. (Scott even considered making track breaks mid-song when a new artist was introduced to the album. This was an idea we went with in the traditional sense by bringing on artists for entire songs. Not sure Scott would have brought this unusual idea to fruition or not.) So, in this case, with this record, completed without Scott’s final “veto,” no, we can’t possibly make the exact record Scott would have made. (And in fact, even Scott wouldn’t know what it would become until after working with everyone and it was done!) But with so much overwhelming respect for Scott’s work and in honor of his life, we all kept as much of it “Scott” as we could. All his ideas, all his lyrics, all his riffs, all his ideas for bridges and choruses…everything preserved and used as much as musically possible. In some ways, it might in fact be more “Scott” than the record Scott would have made. ❤️ And that’s why I think we all love it so much.”

In August of 2017 the finished product was shipped out to everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter and early reviews and posts to the Facebook group have been glowing. Now that the Kickstarters have been shipped out the team is ready to make the release generally available. In an email sent to people who signed up from the website, the album will be available on Bandcamp (the link isn’t available yet) this week: August 24th in download, CD and vinyl.

Click Here to Order

Tidal featured the first song from the album, a duet with Aimee Mann called “No Love” and it is striking how Mann’s vocals compliment Miller’s.

Here is a video of a rough take of “I Still Dream of Getting Back to Paris” shot at Abbey Road Studios in London during the recording sessions with Anton Barbeau on vocals. Miller (credited as The Loud Family) and Barbeau put out a kind of split release in 2006 titled What If It Works?

As a long-time fan of Scott Miller’s work, I’m really looking forward to getting this release. Like many, Miller’s sudden and unexpected loss was painful; too early in a career arc that certainly would have generated more significant releases. Supercalifragile brings some closure with this release in that regard and should provide influence for future artists the way the Big Star catalog has.

Order CD, LP or digital at Bandcamp:

(Upcoming Release) Charlie Parr Returns With Another Full-Band Album “Dog” Out September 8th

Red House Records‘ recent signing of Duluth, MN blues and folk master Charlie Parr yielded what I think was the most fleshed-out and imagined album in his catalog Stumpjumper. It made my Best of 2015 year end list. Most of Parr’s catalog has focused on solo or very stripped-down arrangements, so Stumpjumper was a departure, and with help from Phil Cook the album was a winner from beginning to end.

This week Red House announced that Parr is back with another album, and this one is also with a band. Titled Dog, it was supposed to be a solo record, but he changed his mind and brought in experimental folk artist Jeff Mitchell, percussionist Mikkel Beckman, harmonica player Dave Hundreiser, and bassist Liz Draper (who according to the Red House PR was asked by Parr to play electric bass instead of her normal upright bass). Parr explains:

“I was going to do it completely solo,” Charlie says. “I was going to go to this barn in Wisconsin, sit there and play my songs. And I was practicing them and I thought, this is devastating. These songs are hard to hear in this format. I would never be able to listen to them again. And then my friend Tom Herbers, he saw something was wrong. We talked, booked time at Creation” Audio, and made a plan to flesh out the album with a backing band.”

The first track we get to hear is the title track which reminds me of a more contemplative version of “Over The Red Cedar.” It’s a real heart-tugger for anyone who ever loved a dog since it questions whether dogs have souls. “How do you know that I don’t have a soul? How can you look me in the eye and tell me ‘no?’ A soul is a soul is a soul is a soul.”

The album shares a couple of songs with the 2016 Record Store Day 10″ EP release I Ain’t Dead Yet. The tracks “Hobo” and “I Ain’t Dead Yet” get a new life on Dog. BTW: copies of the RSD EP are still available from Red House Records for $15.

You can listen to samples of the tracks at the Red House Records page for Dog. Dog comes out September 8th on CD, vinyl and mp3.

Here is the tracklisting:

TRACK LISTING:
1. Hobo
2. Dog
3. Salt Water
4. LowDown
5. Sometime’s I’m Alright
6. Rich Food and Easy Living
7. I Ain’t Dead Yet
8. Boiling Down Silas
9. Another Dog
10. Peaceful Valley

(Upcoming Release) RSD Exclusive 2 LP Colemine Records Singles Compilation Soul Slabs Vol. 1 Collects the 7″ Gems

I usually try to post about the nuggets in the Record Store Day releases. When this year’s Record Store Day list posted yesterday, I was admittedly underwhelmed by the releases. I saw some compelling ones, like the third part of the Complete Big Star Third collection, the 2nd release of the CSC Funk Band on Electric Cowbell (their first release Funkincense came out as an RSD exclusive, which I have and love). The Fleetwood Mac Alternate Mirage is interesting, if ultimately non-essential as a vinyl release.

But, deeper in the list, down in the compilations was the new RSD exclusive Soul Slabs Vol. 1 compilation of the legendary 7″ R&B/Soul/Funk releases from the Ohio-based Colemine Records. In 2014 Colemine released a compact disc compilation of singles called 20/45 in celebration of their seventh birthday. Soul Slabs is an update of that compilation, bringing the collection up to 2016. There is a pretty big overlap of the two releases, but since this is on vinyl and updated, it really is the more essential release in my opinion. It doesn’t miss the big cuts: Ikebe Shakedown’s “Hard Steppin'” is pretty much an R&B classic at this point– Colemine reissued the single for RSD a couple of years ago and reissued the Hard Steppin’ EP on vinyl. Orgone has been a force for a few years, and the releases on Colemine are an essential addition to their catalog– their release Beyond the Sun is positively breathtaking and should be in everyone’s soul collection. That goes for Durand Jones and the Indications new LP as well. Damn. Colemine started a subscription service of sorts where they email you about new exclusive releases and they give you a chance to buy it before it goes totally public. A lot of those releases are on this comp too: Soul Scratch, The Ephemerals, Kris Lager, Gene Washington & The Ironsides.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Jungle Fire – Comencemos
2. The Droptones – Don’t Get Caught
3. The Rugged Nuggets – Yo Todo Tu Yo
4. Dojo Cuts – You Make Lovin’ Real Easy
5. Ikebe Shakedown – Hard Steppin’
6. On The Spot Trio – Suction
7. Monophonics – Like Yesterday
8. Los Sospechos – Jano’s Revenge
9. The Jive Turkeys – The Reggie
10. Fat Night – Things You Do
11. Alan Evans Trio – Authoritay
12. The Grease Traps – Street Sweeper
13. Gene Washington & The Ironsides – Next To You
14. The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble – City Heights
15. Kris Lager Band – Money & Loneliness
16. In Motion Collective – Jesse’s Jing
17. Orgone – Do What You Came To Do
18. Durand Jones & The Indications – Smile
19. Leroi Conroy – Remember When?
20. Soul Scratch – Pacified
21. Ephemerals – Things
22. The Gripsweats – Ziggy’s Walk

Here is a YouTube Playlist of all of the tracks. ENJOY!!!

Anyway. Go get this. Seriously.

(Upcoming Release) Chicago R&B Powerhouse The Right Now Return With a Pop Twinkle in Starlight (out 2/24)

Never content with staying in one particular sound, Chicago R&B band The Right Now, has embraced a classic R&B sound over the years, but has also included more updated R&B elements. Even on their debut album Carry Me Home, there were stabs of synths and electronic percussion over the proceedings. Their following 7″ “If I Wanted To“/”I Am Who I Say I Am” we get a gritty and even distortion laden track maybe akin to a more soulful Black Keys. When they returned in 2012 with Gets Over You, most of the tracks had a distinct later-period Motown and Stax bent to them, but outlying track “Call Girl” was straight up late 70’s disco and even got the remix treatment from the Deep and Disco crew.

The Right Now returns in 2017 with a new album Starlight with a renewed sense of direction and passion. While the band still hangs on to the horns and brings the funk, they also are approaching the new album with an “all-killer, no-filler” album with an eye towards a modern R&B sound. CFO (Chief Funk Officer) Brendan O’Connell explains,

“Our goal was to fine-tune the songs and production to make every note count, every chorus big and memorable, and craft something really special,” says keyboardist/guitarist/bandleader Brendan O’Connell. “While I love what we achieved on the last album, I felt it was important to try to transcend the ‘retro soul’ genre and concentrate on writing the best songs I could for (lead singer Stefanie Berecz)’s voice.”

The album is available for pre-order from the band’s website, and includes a limited edition transparent blue vinyl pressing! While you’re there order the last two albums and the 7″es!

(Upcoming Release) Electronic Duo Loess is Back! New Album Pocosin Out 2/17

I think the heyday of bands like Boards of Canada, Autechre, FourTet and Aphex Twin was in the early 2000’s. To be fair, all of these acts are still recording today, but I know I was listening to a lot more of bands that sounded like this back then. One band I discovered back then, through a friend of mine was a duo out of Philly/New Jersey called Loess. Something about Clay Emerson and Ian Pullman’s particular approach to this music really spoke to me, and to this day I still add songs from their catalog to my rotation. There is a loneliness or desolation to their music. Spare beats and distant melodies form the structure for loops of distressed samples. To me, it’s the audio equivalent of a Quay Brothers film.

The last release of all new songs from Loess was 2006’s Wind and Water, its sounds inspired by a relocation to a woodsier southern New Jersey. After a compilation release in 2009 that had some new songs and some rarities titled Burrows, we’ve had radio silence.

Until now. Seemingly out of the blue, we have the announcement of a new album from Loess titled Pocosin, and from the two tracks we’ve heard already it has the sound I’ve come to love over the years. Also, the album art is the trademark desolate and manipulated black and white photos that always fit the mood. The album is on n5MD, the label that also released Wind and Water.

Coming out on February 17th, we have a few different formats– digital download and CD, but also two different versions on vinyl. One is transparent and the other is a white with black splatter. You can listen to “Petrel” and “Striae” from the n5MD Bandcamp page, where you can order it. You can also order it from n5MD directly.

Pocosin Clear Vinyl

Pocosin white and black vinyl.

The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2016

2016 was the 10th birthday of It’s Time to Play B-Sides, as unreal as that seems. This blog started as an offshoot of the regular conversations about music I was having at work with my friends and co-workers. At the time there wasn’t the proliferation of music sites that there are today, and informed or researched information about music was tough to find. With encouragement from my friends, I started this as a way to capture some of the tangents we’d get into at work. It also ended up being a return of sorts to doing a music website after shuttering the somewhat popular website I was running about DJ Shadow.  The name of the blog came from the signoff post I made to the DJ Shadow boards and was also a line from “Burning For You” by Blue Oyster Cult which always represented the desire to dig a little deeper into music– to flip the record over and listen to the songs on the B-Side.

The focus of It’s Time to Play B-Sides has morphed a bit over the years, some of it due to the amount of time I have to dedicate to writing on it, some of it is because I have focused a lot of my music writing since 2009 as a contributor to Little Village Magazine. This also explains why this list includes a lot of Iowa artists since that’s what we review. That said, there are some really amazing bands in Iowa and even after I review the albums, they stay in regular rotation for me and earn spots on my list.

As many will note, 2016 was a really strange year for music– sadly, mostly notable for the striking number of losses: Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, and Paul Kantner. The one that really hit me hard was the loss of Prince. Prince represented for me the first artist that I discovered on my own. Most of my formative music taste came from my father and that music is still a big part of the foundation of what I think is good in music. Prince came onto the larger music scene for me with Purple Rain, and from there I followed his career, and bands he worked with closely. I don’t think that we’ll see another artist quite as influential or as boundless in talent and genius again. I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like part of his ability to branch out was due to the fact that he hit it big during a time when the music industry was creating  huge stars and he could afford to make some albums that were more daring and experimental.

The list below is in no particular order, but represent the albums that I listened to the most in 2016.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million – Justin Vernon got back on the horse. It really seemed like he wasn’t going to do another record as Bon Iver– he was burnt out of the attention and visibility he got from his Grammy-winning second album. He debuted a couple of the songs at the inaugural Eaux Claires Festival in 2015 with a glorious live show. It took the prodding of his friend Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Polica, etc.) to make him finish (or even keep working on) it. The resulting album seems related to the last album, but the textures and production are unexpected and frankly jolting in comparison, which was exactly his intention, I think. Lots of samples, and heavily affected recording techniques. I expect that this album will influence a lot of artists going forward. At the root of the album is still the perspective of Vernon. His losses and heartbreaks, the stories

Kalispell – Printer’s SonKalispell is the name of Shane Leonard’s solo music when he’s not working with other bands like Field Report and JE Sunde. Printer’s Son is a beautiful record, period. From my review on playbsides: “Printer’s Son is one of those rare records that is so completely imagined and executed that when you first listen to it, it seems to drop unexpectedly out of the ether. It’s a record that defies any convenient genre classification. Elements of ambience and folk and jazz come together to help deliver a grippingly emotional and personal album.”

Lissie – My Wild West – Rock Island-native Elisabeth “Lissie” Maurus becomes homesick and moves back to Iowa and self-releases an album based on the experience. Full of hooks, driving and anthemic, it’s a great start to a career back home. Here’s my review from Little Village.

King of the Tramps – Cumplir con el Diablo – A later addition to the list. King of Tramps from Auburn, IA packs a lot of classic guitar-driven rock remniscent of Black Crowes into their latest effort (which comes in a super-cool transparent vinyl version). Here’s my review from Little Village Magazine.

Durand Jones and the Indications – Durand Jones and the Indications – New release on the fantastic Soul and R&B label out of Ohio, Colemine Records. In 2016, Colemine Records started a kind of subscription series where they email you upcoming releases to allow you to opt-in to the special first-pressing variations. This is a much better approach to this idea than the forced-in versions that are the trend today. They let you listen to the releases and you can decide to be part of the drop or not. One of the releases was the debut release of Durand Jones and the Indications on transparent blue vinyl. Fantastic classic R&B in the tradition of Stax/Volt and Otis Redding. Check out the video for “Make A Change.”

Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like A Levee – MC Taylor’s second full-length on Merge started as a project to create musical accompaniment to an exhibition of photographs taken by William Gedney in 1972 of an Eastern Kentucky coal-mining camp. Initially the songs were going to be based on the photographs, but eventually took their own direction. The album is distinctively HGM with Taylor expressing the developing perspective of a man coming to terms with balancing a family life and a music career. I’ve been a fan from before the first release as HGM and eagerly await the next releases.

Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines – I found out about Steve Gunn through his connection to Hiss Golden Messenger– a one-off collaboration called Golden Gunn. His 2016 release is his debut on Matador Records. To me, his music is influenced by the great UK guitarists like Richard Thompson and Michael Chapman (whose upcoming release 50, he produced and played on).

William Tyler – Modern Country – Nashville guitar wizard William Tyler, who works with a lot folks including Hiss Golden Messenger and Lambchop, released another album of his particular atmospheric guitar acrobatics. For me, his albums add a wide cinematic soundtrack to whatever I’m doing.

Scott Hirsch – Blue Rider Songs – Scott Hirsch is the silent partner in Hiss Golden Messenger, but for his debut solo album (which has been a long time coming, frankly) he delivers a breezy laid-back album that sounds like JJ Cale’s best work.

Bo Ramsey – Wildwood Calling – Bo Ramsey returns with his first album since 2008’s Fragile. This album, recorded in his kitchen is instrumentals showcasing his distinctive country blues style he is reknowned for. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

The Pines – Above the Prairie – It’s safe to say that any time The Pines release a new album, it will be on my favorite albums for that year. Their signature atmospheric take on folk and blues has developed slowly over the releases to the point where it is nearly its own genre. I can’t think of any other bands that sound quite like The Pines. Read Matt Steele’s review in Little Village Magazine.

Chrash – Things My Friends Say – Chris Bernat of 90’s alt rock band Tripmaster Monkey released their first album of angular pop rock on Quad Cities indie label Cartouche. From my review in Little Village Magazine: “Things My Friends Say is an album that distinguishes itself in the landscape of new releases by the determinedly outsider approach to songs which, in the end, are damn catchy.”

Freakwater – Scheherazade – This reboot of Freakwater was a long time in the works, but turned out one of the best albums in their catalog. Scheherazade is a more rich and expansive version of their sound thanks to the band, which includes Jim Elkington of seemingly every band related to Chicago. Read my interview with Janet and Catherine in Little Village Magazine (Part 1, Part 2).

Halfloves – (self titled) – The Iowa band The Olympics reboot with the guiding hand of Brendan Darner to create a dark pop record of singular vision and execution. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

SIRES – Soul For Sale – Another rebrand/reboot of an Iowa band– this time the former Dylan Sires and Neighbors become SIRES and also work with Brendan Darner to create a moody masterpiece (I think I see a trend here). Fantastic record, though– from my review in Little Village Magazine, ” They’ve crafted an album packed with smart, bright classic hooks as well as dark, lusty bombastic rhythms: an impressive juxtaposition in contrast.”

Max Jury – Max Jury – After a run of amazing singles and an EP, Des Moines native Max Jury releases his debut album, and the anticipation built by the singles was justified. Max Jury is a jaw-droppingly solid album. From my review in Little Village Magazine, “a balanced delivery of Spector-esque wall-of-sound and an updated take on early ’70s R&B and soul.” It’s too bad that it’s going to take Jury moving to the UK and blowing up over there before his native country takes notice.

TWINS – Square America – More Sires, please. This seeming dynasty of anyone with the last name Sires cranking out amazing pop rock continues with Cedar Falls band TWINS, whose second album on Maximum Ames takes their guitar rock guns and point them at 70’s big hitters like Cheap Trick and KISS. These guys continue to slug it out on bar stages, but could easily fill an arena with their big sound if given the chance. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

Devin Frank – The Vanishing Blues – Devin Frank of Poison Control Center releases an album influenced by 60’s psych. “With The Vanishing Blues, Frank has made a refreshing stylistic statement by using a sonic palate derived from psychedelic rock’s dawning era — using bits of Syd Barrett, Donovan and the Zombies. This makes the album a delightfully unique and compelling standout in the landscape of releases this year.” – from my review in Little Village Magazine.

The Multiple Cat – Intricate Maps – This was an album I feel like I waited a long time for. I first heard these songs when Pat Stolley brought the band to Mission Creek Festival in 2015 opening for The Sea and Cake at The Mill. Really fantastic album that is tough to summarize. Lots of vintage tones in the guitar sounds, but not really a retro record, “It’s tempting to suggest that Stolley’s use of these elements makes Intricate Maps somehow retro. However, this stitched fabric of sound is more than the sum of its parts. It is a polished work that both honors the tradition of alternative rock and puts a current spin on it with Stolley’s signature production work.” from my review in Little Village Magazine.

Christopher The Conquered – I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll – Dramatically bold anthemic rock that can barely be contained in a record. Christopher the Conquered is a one-man tour-de-force of pop, funny poignent and self-aware. Here’s my review for Little Village Magazine.

(Upcoming Release) A Reissue of John Cale’s Revelatory “Fragments of a Rainy Season” Album Out 12/9/16

cale-fragments-of-a-rainy-season

For me, the early Nineties sent Leonard Cohen crashing into my consciousness thanks to a couple of covers and a couple of soundtrack appearances. The Cohen song “Everybody Knows” was featured prominently in the 1990 Christian Slater film “Pump Up The Volume” both as the original Cohen version as well as the Concrete Blonde cover version. In 1991 we were treated to another in that very 1990’s tradition of tribute albums– this time the I’m Your Fan album, which I bought as a completist of the R.E.M. catalog due to their cover of “First We Take Manhattan.” Other notable covers on that soundtrack were “I Can’t Forget” by The Pixies and Lloyd Cole’s cover of “Chelsea Hotel.” But, the cover on here that would launch a million others was the album closer “Hallelujah” done by John Cale as a stripped down midtempo piano and vocal. According to an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, Cale heard Cohen do the song live and was moved to cover it himself. When Cale asked Cohen for the lyrics, he was faxed fifteen pages of lyrics. Cale edits the song into the version that is best known. From the podcast, “Cale says, that for his version, he took the “cheeky” parts. He ends up using the first two verses of the original combined with three verses from the live performance. And Cale changes some words – most importantly, he changes the theme and brings back the biblical references that Cohen had in the album version.”

This is the version that Jeff Buckley heard and was moved to cover for his debut album Grace, which is pretty much the gold standard as far as “Hallelujah” versions go.

Getting back to Cale’s version, it would also make an appearance on his 1992 live album Fragments of a Rainy Season, described by Trouser Press as an “auto-retrospective” of Cale’s career made up of solo performances from his 1992 tour. I happened to hear it being played in a record store in Dubuque and bought it on the spot. I was a fan of the Eno/Cale record from 1990 Wrong Way Up, (from which the version of “Cordoba” on this album comes), so I saw this release as complimentary to that. It’s an album I played a lot and still dig out on occasion. It’s a good distilling of Cale’s solo career in that he experimented a lot with sound over the years, so a compilation of his studio work to me would be uneven at best, and in the minimal solo acoustic setting, the vocals and lyrics really shine. Admittedly, Cale’s piano playing is rudamentary, and his use of repeating pedal notes can be a bit grating, but the energy and emotion Cale brought to those performances draws the attention away from that and still ranks as one of my desert-island discs.

So, it’s with a certain sad coincidence that Fragments of a Rainy Season is getting the much-deserved reissue in light of the passing of Leonard Cohen last week. Domino Records is handling the expanded-reissue on CD, download and either a 2 LP or 3 LP reissue. The 3-LP version adds alternate versions of some of the songs with strings and a Velvet Underground song “Waiting for the Man.” The 2-LP version has the same songs as the original 1992 album, but re-sequenced.

The 1992 CD version of Fragments of a Rainy Season kicks off with five performances that, for me really set up the energy of the album: “A Child’s Christmas In Wales,” “Dying On The Vine,” “Cordoba,” “Darling I Need You” and “Paris 1919.” For the upcoming expanded reissue of Fragments on Domino Records the track sequence of the album is dramatically changed up for an unknown reason, and as someone who listens to the album a lot, it’s jarring. But, not so much that it detracts, and in initial listens for me seems to also set the performances up. The album proper (not including the bonus tracks) still ends with “Hallelujah” appropriately.

I’m looking forward to having Fragments of a Rainy Season available in vinyl so I can play it in my living room along with other essential records in my collection. The version of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” on Fragments kind of makes it a Christmas-y album a little. The song is a musical interpretation of the Dylan Thomas poem that was originally on his 1989 album of Thomas works Words for the Dying which was produced by Brian Eno.

Limited to one pressing, Fragments of A Rainy Season will be released on triple gatefold 12” vinyl featuring an LP of 8 previously unreleased tracks.On Heavyweight Vinyl With Download Card

DISC 01
Side A
01. A Wedding Anniversary (Live)
02. Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed (Live)
03. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (Live)
04. Cordoba (Live)
05. Buffalo Ballet (Live)
Side B
06. Child’s Christmas In Wales (Live)
07. Darling I Need You (Live)
08. Guts (Live)
09. Ship Of Fools (Live)
10. Leaving It Up To You (Live)
DISC 02
Side C
11. The Ballad Of Cable Hogue (Live)
12. Chinese Envoy (Live)
13. Dying On The Vine (Live)
14. Fear (Is A Man’s Best Friend) (Live)
15. Heartbreak Hotel (Live)
Side D
16. Style It Takes (Live)
17. Paris 1919 (Live)
18. (I Keep A) Close Watch (Live)
19. Thoughtless Kind (Live)
20. Hallelujah (Live)
DISC 03
Side E
21. Fear (Previously Unreleased)
22. Amsterdam (Previously Unreleased)
23. Broken Hearts (Previously Unreleased)
24. Waiting For The Man (Previously Unreleased)
DISC 04
Side F
25. Heartbreak (Previously Unreleased)
26. Fear (Previously Unreleased)
27. Paris 1919 (Previously Unreleased)
28. Antarctica (Previously Unreleased)

Pre-order Fragments of a Rainy Season:
Limited edition triple gatefold 12” vinyl from Domino Mart — http://smarturl.it/FragmentsReissue
Standard double 12” vinyl from Domino Mart — http://smarturl.it/Fragments2LP
Double CD http://smarturl.it/FragmentsReissue
Digitally http://smarturl.it/FragmentsDownload

Related Posts with Thumbnails