Monday, June 29, 2009

Swedish Pop Music Break

Hey, aren't The Hives from Sweden? Yeah, so is the women's choir The Sweptaways.

Bonus video: Rocky's idea of a party.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rocky's Fantasy Friday

Obviously the in-dash record player never caught on. It seems like a colossally bad idea that defies simple physics. Drivers probably couldn’t countenance the skipping and scratched records produced by swift turns and potholes. But imagine having a 1960 Plymouth with one of these things, going to Rooky’s Records in the Lower Haight, where you could load up on cheap soul and jazz 45s from the 60s and 70s, and listening to these scratchy records in your car as you drive the streets of San Francisco to the Pacific Coast Highway to wherever the car and music take you. Think about it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Swedish Pop Music Break

If the guy dancing at Fun City near the end of the video doesn't bring a smile to your face, no amount of Swedish pop music breaks can save you. It reminds me of one of Stoner's dances.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Recent Acquisitions: 6-22-09 (Old Music)

Beastie Boys, License to Ill (Def Jam/Columbia, 2nd pressing, $2). This album confirms what I suspected all along: I missed out on a lot of fun in the 80's. I can't remember the un-fun things I was doing during the 80s when I should've been partying to the Beastie Boys.

Neil Young, Journey Through the Past (Reprise, UK pressing, 2-LP, $2). Rule No. 296 of Rocky's Record Club: Never pass up a Neil Young album from the 60s or 70s if it's in good condition and priced right. Rule No. 297: Don't pick up any Neil Young albums from the 80s no matter the price.

Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (Columbia, Holland pressing, $2). I have my reasons for picking up a third copy of this album. Don't look at me like I'm crazy.

David Bowie, Lodger (RCA, $5). This is his last great album before he went all "Let's Dance" on us. If Eno were a true friend, he would've called for an intervention.

Selecter, Too Much Pressure (Chrysalis, $5). One of the best ways to relieve pressure is to listen to ska. Skinny black tie and goofy rubber-legged dancing are optional.

John Coltrane, Crescent (Impulse!, orange-and-black label, original stereo pressing, Van Gelder in deadwax, $12). This is probably Coltrane's most underrated album, probably because it's over-shadowed by his next album, A Love Supreme. Crescent is beautiful and spiritual in its own right.

Ornette Coleman, The Empty Foxhole (Blue Note, Division of Liberty Records label, 2nd pressing, $10). Coleman is backed on this album by his 10 year old son Ornette Deron on drums and Charlie Haden on bass. A random thought: This recording session could've started a trend of giving drummers a time-out for bad behavior. If it had caught on, it may have saved lives.

Cruel Frederick, The Birth of the Cruel (SST, $3). This is another unexpected free jazz album on the SST label. Frederick probably wasn't cruel until he started listening to the sadomasochistic wailings of free jazz. SST albums usually have messages inscribed in the deadwax. Husker Du messages are the best. This album has "Angels Sing" on one side and "The Saints Come Marching In" on the other.

And more reissues of classic jazz albums on 45rpm vinyl:

Sonny Rollins, The Sound of Sonny (Prestige/Analogue Productions). The album delivers what the title promises.

Freddie Redd, Shades of Redd (Blue Note/Music Matters). Features Tina Brooks on tenor and Jackie McLean on alto.

Tina Brooks, Back to the Tracks (Blue Note/Music Matters). My favorite Tina Brooks album on Blue Note.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Recent Acquisitions: 6-22-09 (New Music)

Deerhunter, Microcastle (Kranky, 2-LP, gatefold cover, $17). This album was on a lot of best-of-2008 lists and near the top on some. I wasn’t too impressed when I sampled it on one of those ear-germ-spreading-stations at Amoeba last year. Those germ transfer stations have actually saved me a lot of money (without costing me any ear infections). If I went by the glowing reviews in Pitchfork, Spin, Paste, et al., I’d be sitting on a lot of crap right now. One conclusion to be drawn from the last statement is that I’m hopelessly out of touch with contemporary music and what is considered good music by the youthful consumer. I find a lot of highly praised albums jejune or, worse, insufferably shitty. Believe me I don’t want it to be this way. I would love to get excited by and embrace new music. But when I hear lauded bands such as Animal Collective, TV on the Radio, Vampire Weekend and so on, the first thing that comes to mind is: I’ve heard this before, done better. So I thought the same of Deerhunter’s Microcastle until I picked it up recently when the mood was right and the earth’s magnetic pull on my medulla oblongata was such that it sounded good at the listening station the second time around. The cover pretty much conveys the spirit of the music: a head shot of a guy with long hair obscuring half his face, looking strung out on some mind-numbing drug, with a tiny skull superimposed in the eye socket. Then there was the sticker affixed to the shrinkwrap quoting a Spin review: “A disturbing plea for erotic asphyxiation.” I question the marketing genius who decided to put that sticker on the album. I would think that people with a favorable impression of erotic asphyxiation represents a really small demographic group. And an even smaller subset would actually be enticed to buy an album because it promises a disturbing asphyxial experience. Admittedly that’s a hunch on my part. Perhaps a lot of people just nodded their heads in recognition when they discovered the cause of David Carradine’s death. I don't know.

If you haven’t guessed by now the album doesn’t offer a happy listen. Nevertheless it's got its own languorous beauty; it's like slow-cooked pop psychedelia. Near the end of one song, with fuzzed out guitars and vocals, I thought, This is something Tommy James and the Shondells would have recorded if they were all on downers. Sure enough, the first word of the next song is "crimson", but there's no clover in this album. Instead, it's ennui over and over. There's one uptempo song on the album, but the chorus is "Nothing ever happened to me". It's not a new sentiment in pop music. In fact, it goes back to Chet Baker and beyond. Deerhunter gives this nihilistic sentiment new expression to the current generation of listless youths. I can't quite connect completely with this album. But if a young hipster told me Microcastle was a great album, I wouldn't argue the point.

The sound quality is good for a modern rock album. There's a lot of spaciousness in the recording, which is important in creating the trippy vibe of Microcastle.

Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue (Warner Brothers, 2-LP, includes CD of album, $20). I'm not sure why I waited so long to pick up this album. I liked her first solo album and the last two Rilo Kiley albums. After listening to Microcastle, when I hear Jenny Lewis sing about dropping acid, all I can think is, Aw, ain't that cute. As much as I enjoy her music, I just don't think Jenny Lewis is that deep. Not all singers or albums have to be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Swedish Pop Music Break

This Swedish pop music break is for the little girl in you. 
(check out the detroit landmark in a swedish music video)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Upcoming Releases: Flaming Lips

According to the tinymixedtapes website (from which the photo above is pilfered), the new Flaming Lips album, Embryonic, will be released this September as a double-LP. This probably means the Lips will be touring around this time.

Their best album imho, The Soft Bulletin, will be reissued on 180-gram, high-quality vinyl next Tuesday (June 23). The double-LP will also include a cd containing three unreleased tracks from the SB sessions. This is good news for those of us who've balked at paying over $100 on ebay for the original vinyl.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Swedish Pop Music Break

Make my Swedish pop music break a double.

Jose Gonzalez covers "Heartbeats" by the Swedish band The Knife. Yes, Jose Gonzalez is also Swedish (of Argentinian descent)

Here's the original song performed live by The Knife (the audio of the official video has been disabled on YouTube)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Listening Session: Donovan, Fairy Tale

This morning I needed to listen to a Donovan album. It's been a rough week for the forces of peace, love and understanding, with the terrorist attack on the Holocaust Museum by a Neo-Nazi and the fraudulent re-election of Ahmedinejad in Iran. The von Brunn story reminded me that there are people in this world who's very existence is defined by who or what they are against. Von Brunn, with his hatred of Jews and blacks that consumed his life, is an extreme example, but this psychology also defines American neo-conservatives and Republicans. For the neo-cons, after the Cold War, it's a war with Islamic extremists, who tragically share the same psychological affliction, that keeps their blood flowing. The same existential psychology also pervades Republican rhetoric as they need to demonize Democrats as anti-American and Obama as a Muslim-sympathizer in order to define themselves.  I think Obama has been trying to move the general public away from this way of thinking, as he constantly beseeches us to look for common ground instead of emphasizing our differences.

The Donovan album I pulled from the shelf is Fairy Tale, an early album from 1965. It opens with a cover of the Buffy St. Marie's anti-war song "Universal Soldier". The song could describe American neo-cons, Islamist extremists and other groups who perpetuate conflict. The rest of the album consists of simple, pretty ruminations on life, with titles like "To Try for the Sun", "Colours", "Ballad of Geraldine", and "Reflections on a Sunny Day". The last song describes the pattern of light on a cat sleeping in the sun. The music and lyrics are innocent and beautiful. It's not profound, but it's still poetry. That's the elixir I needed this morning after feeling overwhelmed by the cynicism and the ugliness of world events. Is Donovan peddling a "fairy tale" vision of the world? Perhaps, if you believe his hippie world view to the exclusion of other views. But this is what I believe: Donovan's vision is just as real as that of the universal soldiers. Today, I'm living in Donovan's reality. It's nice, but I'm not sure how long I can stay.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recent Acquisitions: 6-10-09

New 45 rpm jazz reissues, all remastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray:

The Tony Bennett-Bill Evans Album (Fantasy/Analogue Productions).  Chills down the spine? No, it's more like the music bypasses the usual cognitive filters and hits you straight in the gut. This is why I spend my money on the best pressings and play them on a quality stereo. Listening to Bennett sing on this album is like watching a master paint an emotional landscape, each nuance in phrasing filling in a detail, breathing life into the music. A touch of grittiness in his voice grounds the songs in reality, unlike the impeccably smooth voice of Sinatra.

Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders (Contemporary/Analogue Productions)

Sonny Clark, Cool Struttin' (Blue Note/Music Matters).  My favorite album of probably the most underrated pianist on the Blue Note roster.

Tina Brooks, True Blue (Blue Note/Music Matters).  My second favorite Tina Brooks album on Blue Note. Well, he only recorded two albums for Blue Note. 

Freddie Hubbard, Here to Stay (Blue Note/Music Matters).  There are a number of great Blue Note albums that were shelved and released decades after the initial recording. This is one of them.

Horace Silver, Cape Verdean Blues (Blue Note/Music Matters)

The rest:

John Coltrane, Meditations (Impulse!, orange and black label, original pressing, Van Gelder in deadwax, $12).  I don't know how anyone can meditate while Coltrane's making that racket. Actually this is one of his better albums from his late period.  

Bill Evan, A Simple Matter of Conviction (Verve, original pressing, gatefold cover, $3). A fine trio date with Eddie Gomez and Shelley Manne.

Al Green, Gets Next to You (Hi Records, original stereo pressing, $9).  rocky gets close to Al Green or at least completing his Hi Records catalog.  

Spirit, Spirit (Ode, yellow label, original pressing, $3).  The band's first album. It's got a few good moments, but nowhere near the quality of their masterpiece, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.

Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark, Crush (Sire, $3). I've been waiting for an OMD and Echo and the Bunnymen revival for years. So has my friend, Estragon.

The Cult, Electric (Sire, Masterdisk DMM in deadwax, $5). rocky's guilty pleasures, Exhibit #2. This is like a Saturday morning cartoon of rock. I like to listen to it while eating my Life cereal or my pop rocks with Coca-Cola.

Monday, June 8, 2009

OCD Greatest Hits

And you thought I was crazy. This is what crazy looks like. I admit I find it interesting though.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Swedish Pop Music Break

For those of you who despair of the void in current rock music of political messages (where have you gone Joe Strummer, the world turn its lonely eyes to you), here's some Swedish Marxist rock. (Watching the video at work is recommended.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Swedish Pop Music Break

Who's up for Swedish pop music in the toilet? Me, too.

The "Musical Chill"

Interesting article touching on Mahler in the current issue of the New Yorker. Money quote:
His appeal is at once visceral and intellectual. On one level, he is the supreme magician of orchestral spectacle, the master of the oh-my-God moment. Neuroscientists have analyzed the phenomenon of the “musical chill”—the ambiguous tremor of otherness that runs through the body when, for whatever reason, a particular sound overwhelms the reasoning mind. Mahler generated chills by the dozen: the pianissimo, misterioso entry of the chorus in the “Resurrection”; the huge orchestral chord that blazes forth in the spacious slow movement of the Fourth; the “hammer-blow” percussion in the finale of the Sixth, which crushes hopes for a major-key resolution. Mahler’s chills often arise from collisions between music and noise, music and silence. They imitate the sublimity of nature—eruptions, thunderclaps, the roar of waterfalls—and thereby trigger an instinctive shiver of awe and fear.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Remembrance of Things Past

Last weekend, I dropped by to see Dean, who owns and operates a small, used record store in the antique district of a nearby town. We chatted for a while about the usual stuff--taxes, the weather, and record de-warping machines. I went through his store and selected four albums to buy. When I placed them on the counter, he looked at each of them and told me who he bought them from. It kind of amazed me that with the thousands of records that pass through his store, he remembered such details. Then again, I wasn’t so amazed. I probably have over a thousand records and I’m pretty sure I can remember where I got most of them. This is a trivial kind of memory associated with records. There's also a more powerful way records retrieve the past. For example, when I pull out my copy of Astral Weeks, I can remember exactly where I first listened to the album; I can picture vividly my father's turntable on which it played; and most profoundly the sensation of that first listen, though the magic of the initial experience can't be duplicated. Even if I don't have the same feeling listening to the album now, I remember having had such a feeling. Not only does it conjure my emotional response to the specific experience of listening to the album, I think it also revives my general emotional state at the time. Listening to Astral Weeks for the first time, my reaction was from the perspective of a teen-aged boy who had internal contradictions--arrogant but full of doubts about himself, humanity and the world in general--who possessed enough sensitivity to be touched by the soulfulness of Van Morrison without really knowing it. A ghost of that teen-aged self arises with each listen, sometimes more alive than at other times.

I've read that the sense of smell for a lot of people has that kind of power to return a person to a past moment with such vividness that that person has the experience of almost re-living that moment wholly. The sense of smell doesn't do it for me. But records do.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Swedish Pop Music Break

Are you craving more cowbell in your songs? Just listen to more Swedish pop music.