I've been purchasing and listening to a lot of new music lately, both new as in new release and new as in older cds that I finally got around to getting, mostly thanks to serendipitous browsing in the used section. Some of these have immediately struck me as awesome, some have proved challenging, and some disappointing. Here are some from each category. I'm also throwing in a category of "mild pleasant surprise from impulse buys which ordinarily don't turn out this well." Do with this data what you will. Might I suggest buying one or two from the first category or even the last one? Preferably from one of the local independent music retailers.
1) Cotton Jones - Paranoid Cocoon
I picked this one up after reading a couple reviews and seeing that they were coming through town in March. This was a very wise purchase. I totally dig it. Reminds me of The Dutchess and the Duke or even She & Him, but a bit more warbly and a lot more real.
2) Trouble Books - The United Colors of Trouble Books
This record is lovely. I cannot believe these folks are from right down the road. If you buy one record this year purchased by a NEO band, get this one. Until the Unsparing Sea new one comes out, then get both.
3) Coconut Records - Nighttiming
After a couple friends burned the new Coconut Records album for me (which I might like even more than this one, but is not included in this blog because I did not purchase it), I decided to pick up this one. I totally dig it. I could do without the extended versions of the songs and go with a brief regular album, but still Jason Schwartzman seems to be one of the very few actors that can record, as well. In my humble opinion. Keanu Reeves, he is not. And I like Keanu's movies. Sue me.
4) Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
Bought this one because I'd been hearing so many good things about it from folks with good taste, dug what I heard online, and because, like Cotton Jones, they are coming through the area in March. It was a wise purchase, as well. Especially the second half of the album.
1) Menomena - Friend and Foe
I don't know why it took so long to get this, but I finally snagged it used a few weeks ago. I've had some long drives since and given the disc multiple chances. I still haven't wrapped my mind around it. Like the other albums in this category, it doesn't mean I don't like it. If I disliked it, it'd be in the "disappointing" category. It is just taking some time for me to process. I'd say each of these albums are 2-3 more long car rides away from being put in a more definitive category.
2) Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals
This one was recently a Music Saves album of the week, and the store's write-up persuaded me to buy it without hearing a single note. Like the Menomena record, this one isn't easy. It is smart and diverse, which is good, but I still need to think about it more.
3) Phosphorescent - Pride
This one was recommended to me by a dude whose own music I really dig. At first I didn't like it. In fact, I recently made a slight scene complaining about it, yet in the same afternoon bought Phosphorescent's recent Willie Nelson tribute. The tribute was good, though it is so straight-forward it makes me just want to listen to Willie. Still, dude is coming through town soon so I figured I'd dust the Pride LP off for one of the aforementioned long drives and see what I thought. The track "Wolves" really got me, and after listening to it on repeat a couple of times, I went back and had a whole new appreciation for the rest of the album. Funny how that happens. Anyway, it isn't in my top albums list or anything, but it has earned its way back into rotation for drives that take more than a half-hour, which is at least something.
4) Cut Off Your Hands - You and I
This one isn't as deep or diverse as some of the other albums in this category, but the poppiness has me torn between throwing it out the window and listening one more time. There is something underneath the surface glee I want to think about more.
5) I'm From Barcelona - Harry Houdini
This one isn't as easy as the first I'm From Barcelona, which was a favorite of mine the year it came out. That's probably a good thing, as that album was pretty one-dimensional, even if that dimension was bliss. I got a really funny and charming email from the lead dude of this band after he came across a review I wrote of the first album when I was still in grad school and doing "journalism" for peanuts on the side. We traded a couple emails after that and until he pulls a Kings of Leon on me (i.e., starts to horribly, horribly suck after being so cool for the first two albums) I'll always give his new work a second, third, and tenth chance. Alternatively, that deal is off if he pulls a Jeff Tweedy on me, too (i.e., becomes such a boorish douche that I try to hack into my old email account just to delete the previously referenced charming and funny email).
6) The Notwist - The Devil, You + Me
I bought this one even after I decided not to spend the extra bucks and see these guys play the Beachland Ballroom, mostly because every one I know was raving about it. It is complex, maybe because it is a bit more "Euro" than what I usually dig. Still there are so many clearly redeeming things about it that it is on my "long drive" list, though farther down than the others listed above.
1) Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell
Holy Shit - did the Death Cab guy get even worse and record this album under an assumed name? I hate this cd, which bums me out, because I kinda like Harlem Shakes, the band that is opening for them when they come to the Grog in a few days. Maybe I'll cough up the dough and leave after the opening act... (Note: The track "Your English is Good" is AWESOME - so much so I can't believe it is the same band, the same album, or even the same universe).
2) Marnie Stern - This is it ...
Call me a philistine, but I just don't dig this. Smart and tasteful people do, and good for them, but I can't get behind it. I even gave a copy to my little hipster sister (who has her 2nd album coming out next month ... and she's only 17! Or maybe 18, I can't remember.) for Christmas as a way of showing her what other solo chicks are up to. She hated it, too.
3) The Bird and the Bee - Ray Guns are Not Just the Future
I bought this one even after I was warned I wouldn't like it, so no one can be blamed but me. Way too sugary, and this is coming from a guy who used sugary pop music as a way to self-medicate for quite a while. I got it because I was strongly considering going to the Obi Best show last week, which didn't happen mostly I think because I hated this one so much.
4) Annuals - Such Fun
This one was fighting with The Notwist for the bottom of my "challenging" list, until I saw them live and hated the band on sight. Now they are a disappointment, which is obviously a euphemism for the most vulgar way of saying "fucking terrible" you can think of.
Mild Pleasant Surprise ...
1) Minus Story - My Ion Truss
I bought Black Mountain's eponymous album for my brother for Christmas and one day after the holiday, while I was still visiting my parents, I went to take a crap. There wasn't anything to read in the bathroom, but he had brought the cd in there to play while he was taking a shower earlier that day. So I read the Jagjaguwar insert. The description of Minus Story was appealing, and upon returning to Cleveland and insisting to Melanie at Music Saves that I had read about a band called "Minus Cell" she convinced me this was the one I meant. I bought it and dig it. (Note: I also dug the Black Mountain cd, which I don't own. The brother in question is leaving for Air Force boot camp in a few weeks and he won't be bring that cd or much else with him. I will be bringing the cd I gave him back to Cleveland after his going away party ends. I'm a bad, bad person. Talk about supporting the troops, right?)
2) Vetiver - Tight Knit
Just got this one because it was cheap and because it was the newest Music Saves album of the week and because they are coming through town in May and because a few friends had mentioned it mostly positively. I like it, ESPECIALLY the tune "More of This." It is in my car stereo as we speak, almost certainly queued up to track 7. Unless the thugs down the block stole it last night. Which is possible. I haven't checked my jeep yet today, as I'm working from home for now. And by working I obviously mean typing up long and boring blog posts about my cd purchases.
3) Maps & Atlases - Trees, Swallows, Houses EP
I bought this one on accident. The other day at brunch at the Beachland (which was, of course, awesome) I misunderstood what a friend said about this band, thinking he was comparing it to Russian Circles when he was really just saying they were a decent band from Chicago. I bought it as a way to settle Ducky down for his ride home - he gets very nervous about, well, everything, but particularly long drives. I decided to rip it onto my laptop before he left, but when we played it and the vocals started, backed by a band that sounded nothing like Russian Circles, I realized my mistake and, most awesome of all, told Ducky I was keeping it. Then I found that I liked it. A lot. And that they were coming to Akron this week. But it is on a Thursday and I don't think I'll make the drive down, as I work until about 10.
4) The Dutchess and the Duke - She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke
I got this one a long time after the buzz exploded. I like it a lot, especially the lyrics. There are two tracks ("Out of Time" and "I Am Just a Ghost") on this one that'll probably be included on my latest burned cd masterpiece, "Surviving Winter 08-09." Let me know if you want a copy. Seriously.
4 weeks ago