December 16th, 2014
Ok. The usual rules- nothing on my label though of course they are awfully darn good. I thought I would get this out before Xmas for all of those who still need last minute gift ideas.
1. Prince – Art Official Age.
Ok, I’m a long time Prince fan. Saw him at the Tacoma Dome for the Purple Rain tour. That said, some of his recent albums have been in the “just okay” category. The purple one put out two new albums on the same day (neither of which included the rocking “Screwdriver”) and this one get the prize as far as I’m concerned. From minute one it just makes you want to get yer groove on. Nuthin’ ground breaking, just a delicious pleasure.
2. Julian Casablancas and the Voids – Tyranny.
I mostly get pushed toward Julian by Ben. He is a giant Strokes fan. Me, not so much, first album great, all that “Juicebox” stuff not my thing. This is horse of a different color. Or two. It roams from keyboard sample driven songs to fairly Strokesy guitar rock. In general, it’s pretty dense. At first I thought it was poorly recorded. It’s not. It is just choices made in the post-John Cage world where all sounds have musical validity. It all adds up to a pretty interesting pile of goo.
3. Sam Boshnack Quintet – Exploding Syndrome.
Don’t even remember how I came across this – I have one of Sam’s Reptet discs, which is quite good. So what you’ve got here is a straight up jazz quintet playing Sam’s compositions. I dig ‘em. This stuff is not exactly avant-ɡarde – it’s more like composition based openedness kinda like Mingus bands where they would have some clear, but a very interesting structure to get crazy in. They got an award for being a Northwest alternative jazz group. I have no idea what that even means. Floyd Reitsma did a great job recording this – it sounds warm and clear just like great jazz should. Very fine players.
4. The Tom Price Desert Classic – Hell.
I just got this recently from Tom down at Slim’s Chili Parlor so it is really new to me but, man, I think it is great. This despite the fact that it is a vinyl LP so lazy me had to go hook up el turntable to even hear it (turntable wanders between my living room and studio space, ok), further delaying my introduction. So what is it? Really basic, really great rock and roll. A little dark. A little fuzzy. Straightforward. Catchy tunes. Contains guitars using distortion. Tom was a U-man long ago as well as a long-time Gas Huffer and an occasional Monkeywrench. All those things kinda inform this, some of the same players, but this is its own thing. Available at local stores and from SubPop mail order. Did I mention really great? Tom Price is A Rock and Roll Devil.
5. Thumbscrew – Thumbscrew.
Straight up jazz guitar trio that plays the kinds of notes that I like. There is nothing particularly tricky about this album from a sound perspective, although I very much like the sounds here. Electric guitar, upright bass, drums that vary from “light” to “dense” whatever that means. Things resolve toward logical conclusions that are surprising . Distinctly pleasurable.
6. Jason Webley and Friends – Margaret
Jason is an Everett, WA guy and this is a album in a small hard cover book about a long gone woman from Everett, Margaret Rucker, who’s scrap book was found in a dumpster in San Francisco. It is a good tale and that is what got me to buy it. The first time I listened to it I thought “eh, not so much”. But I am a ways past that now and I am quite taken with it. The music is made by Jason and a bunch of his musical friends (including the consistently interesting Jherek Bischoff), originally for a show to be performed in Everett. The music is gentle and thoughtful while deep and dramatic. They did a really good job on this.
7. Scott Walker + Sunn – Soused
So you either hate this stuff or dig it (or you’ve just never even heard of it), because it ain’t pretty. It is totally art music. This one is a collaboration with metal guys Sunn who I know nothing about, but to me it sound like another Scott Walker album in the batch of his output over the last ten years or so. Not particularly melodic. Definitely challenging. Lyrically unique. I’m in.
8. Clipping – CLPPNG.
This album is less on the edge than their first download-only album, but it still isn’t what I would call pretty (am I sensing a theme?). It has plenty of “non-musical” (John Cage part 2!) sounds that carry the day – power tools! I am certainly no hip hop expert – what I like of current hip hop tends to be way over on the “art music” side, and this lands right dab in the center of that. A little weird, not dance music for sure, but pretty damn cool.
9. The Westerlies – Wish the Children Would Come On Home.
Read about this in the Sunday Seattle Times (old school). This is two trumpets and two trombones. Guys that went to Seattle high Schools, played in the school band went off to music college, graduated, became professional musicians and now here they are making this cool record. They are playing the compositions of Wayne Horowitz here (who adds keyboards and electronics on four tracks) which might make you think arty, but I would mostly call this lovely. Want something to listen to on a rainy Sunday morning while lounging on the couch and reading a book? This is gonna work pretty well.
10. Nels Cline Singers – Macroscope.
There are no singers in this group. Well okay, they do have “voice”. Instead highly proficient guitar, bass and drums, plus a couple buckets of extras. If you go to buy this in a record store, it goes in the jazz section. The free jazz section. Cepting the songs are all credited to to Nels Cline, so I don’t know how that works in free improv. But I do know how the music works. Works good. This is dynamic, fluid music that goes thru a pile levels and tonalities in a very short time. I am listening to “Hairy Mother” as I write. Seven minutes of throbbing goodness. There is nothing boring about this record.
11. Levi Fuller and The Library – The Wonders That There Are.
Levi is the fellow that puts out the Ball of Wax quarterly Audio journal thingy who always includes one of his tunes somewhere in the middle. This time he has a whole blessed album with his band The Library (take that, book reading Seattle). It ranges from the uber folkie to the fairly rocked out and outerspacey, keeping in mind that at his most rocking, no one will confuse the Library with AC/DC or Metallica. Nonetheless there is something about this album I find quite appealing. It is understated and quite tasty and well worth your attention.