My last business trip to Boston was happily full of music between seeing Sheryl Crow and getting to run to Newbury Comics before dinner the next night. Thankfully, the restaurant we were going to was just down the street from Newbury Comics. I had hit their website before we went out and they had listed in their Top 100 Vinyl Records sale that Beck’s new album Modern Guilt was on sale as was Endtroducing by DJ Shadow. I was disappointed to find out that these were apparently on-line only, and not in-store. I still picked up a couple of records, though.
Beck – Modern Guilt (LP, DGC Records B0011630-01, 2008) ($14.99) This album just begged to be released on vinyl– from its retro Blue Note-looking sleeve, to the production by Danger Mouse– so I was happy when they announced its release. The record is a hefty 180g slab, and there is a sheet included with lyrics and credits. In addition there is a code to download 320Kbps mp3’s of the album that were ripped from vinyl! I downloaded them promptly and compared them to my other 320Kbps rip from CD. Before the first track “Orphans” you get a needle drop sound and after the last track of side one “Youthless” sound of the needle lifting again. This is repeated for “Walls” and “Volcano” on side two. Cute. The coupon says “This higher quality sound has been taken directly from the vinyl playback — offering a broader sound spectrum to enhance your audio experience.” Well, I don’t know about that. It’s a pretty good rip, but even 320Kbps is compressed. They should have offered .wav’s if they wanted to maintain the fidelity. I read a lot of reviewers complaining about Modern Guilt dismissing it as Beck fronting Gnarls Barkley and other really clever criticisms. This is probably my favorite Beck album next to Sea Change which was another misunderstood Beck album.
Arbouretum/Pontiak – Kale (LP, Thrill Jockey Thrill 201, 2008) ($12.99) This is an interesting release in that the only physical media will be vinyl. Thrill Jockey, consistant with all of their vinyl releases in the last year also includes a coupon for a free mp3 download which is great. BTW: all of the mp3 downloads from the Thrill Jockey store are 320Kbps, so there is someone there who gets it. This is a split release between Arbouretum and Pontiak. This is the third release for both bands. I saw Arbouretum at the Thrill Jockey 15 shows last December and was floored by their live performance and their 2007 release Rites of Uncovering is in regular rotation for me. Both bands try their hand at covering John Cale songs in amongst original songs. Arobouretum tackles “Buffalo Ballet” from Cales very influential and groundbreaking 1974 album Fear. “Buffalo Ballet” is a beautiful song and Arbouretum’s take on it leaves it pretty much in tact other than adding some sludgy distortion goodness to it. (Note to self: go buy Fear) Pontiak takes on two songs “The Endless Plain of Fortune” from Cale’s brilliant Paris 1919 album from 1973 and “Mr. Wilson” from the 1975 follow up to Fear, Slow Dazzle. The original tracks for both bands are great and stand up well against their recent releases. I especially dig the track “Green Pool” from Pontiak in which the slapback echo vocals ride the wave of a circular guitar line and slinky bass to a crest that fits nicely next to their very delicate take on “Mr. Wilson.” “Green Pool” ends waaaay too soon. I hope they jam a bit more than the 3:27 lets them do in a live setting.
I’m still bummed that Pontiak didn’t make their show in Iowa City due to the floods. I’m hoping they’ll be back soon.