To keep the football metaphor alive, birthday boy Drake “Goes Big” with this week’s crop of new releases. -ed.
Drake’s Take: New Releases 09.28.10
If two weeks ago was Super Tuesday, this must be Ultimate Tuesday, as there are at least four albums likely to make more than a few year end top 10 lists (there are two likely to make mine — I’ll let you guess which ones). So you’ll forgive me if this week’s post is late, as the word count has spiraled out of control laying praise on the latest from The Posies, Deerhunter, No Age and Neil Young. Other notables this week include new releases from Abe Vigoda, Women, Glasser, Nellie McKay, Owen Pallet, Ben Folds/Nick Hornby, The Corin Tucker Band, Owen, Grandchildren along with a greatest hits comp from Soundgarden and a deluxe reissue of 2009’s list topper Bitte Orca from Dirty Projectors.
Playlist: New Releases 09.28.10
The Posies – Blood/Candy
Stream / Purchase [mp3]
Download: “The Glitter Prize” [mp3]
I’ve been a Posies fan going back to 1988, when you could catch them playing the occasional house party near the University of Washington campus. In terms of bias, familiarity can make a sub-par record seem better, but by the same token, it’s also fairly difficult to be surprised by someone you’ve known for nearly 23 years. So when I say the greatness of Blood/Candy shocked me, it’s not just hubris void of perspective.
|Ken Stringfellow / Sasquatch 2010|
Initially inspired by a 2009 performance of 93’s Frosting on the Beater in it’s entirety, B/C was going to be a ‘return to roots’ rock record for Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. But a funny thing happened on the way to
the forum recording the album… the songs just weren’t going to cooperate with the initial box laid out for them. The restless Stringfellow has been harder to pin down creatively since the Posies first broke up (and thank God breaking up is the one thing The Posies are horrible at) and his song contributions here seem like they’d be especially difficult initially to button down. Witness the theatrical “Licenses to Hide,” the zany Pet Sounds-inspired “Enewetak” – name for the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific which were abused by the US for nuclear testing – and the soaring “For the Ashes.” Meanwhile, Auer had his own left-turns up his sleeve, unleashing the challenging “Accidental Architecture,” after which it must have become obvious that this was not going to be a ‘return to’ anything album.
|Jon Auer / Sasquatch 2010|
Sure, there are a couple songs here that fall into the classic Posies sound, and those have always tended to be Auer’s contributions, whose confidence in his McCartneyesque songwriting has made him Mr. Reliable (see “The Glitter Prize,” “So Caroline” and “Notion #99”). But even the classic (and the almost nursery rhymish “Cleopatra Street”) have so much going on that it begs, nay demands, repeat listens to get the full effect. To my ears Blood/Candy is the first album since Auer and Stringfellow’s styles started more noticeably diverging (around 1996’s Amazing Disgrace) where the potentially conflicting styles mesh in perfect harmony, with both artists reaching forward and out to each other, and it’s a wondrous thing to behold.
The slow and steady progression for Deerhunter from damaged art rock to accessible (yet still damaged) pop band has been fascinating to witness. In some respects, we’ve been witnessing frontman Bradford Cox’s split personality gradually merging together, with the tripped-out art of Deerhunter now almost impossible to distinguish from the pop ambitions of his solo project Atlas Sound.
|Cox / Deerhunter / CHBP 2009|
Witness the Cox’s cooing bedroom vocals on the pop nuggets “Revival” and lead single “Helicopter,” two highlights from the album (that still don’t eclipse Microcastle‘s “Nothing Ever Happens,” but that’s to be expected). Cox’s lyrics are still kind of a downer and purposely obtuse, but on the final track, the sprawling 7 1/2 minute “He Would Have Laughed” (dedicated to the late Jay Reatard), he comes as close as ever to letting us inside this thoughts. Cox pleads “Where do your friends go?/ Where do they see you?/ What did you want to be? Ah shut the hell up… shut your mouth” and then the song peters out, ending mid-note, much like Reatard’s life. It’s a powerful coda to an endlessly fascinating release.
Watching No Age play Bumbershoot a year ago, I got the impression that the duo (Dean Spunt on drums/vocals, Randy Randall on guitar) was perhaps a bit bored, drawing mostly from 2008’s well-received Nouns. Everything In Between, the band’s 2nd proper full length), kind of reinforces this opinion, with No Age mostly amputating nearly all the punk-fueled up-tempo elements (“Fever Dreaming” and “Shed & Transcend” remind us they still have that in their arsenal) that made their last album a dizzying affair.
|Spunt / No Age / Bumpershoot 09|
The aptly named “Positive Amputation” is a drum-less instrumental that explains this theory better than words can, built as it is from loops and sonic experimentation. Lead single “Glitter” is the perfect distilling of No Age’s strengths, combining looping sonic landscapes with Spunt’s simple repetition on vocals. The only weakness here for No Age (and it barely can be called that) is that with their leap forward in sonic sound, unfortunately Dean Spunt’s vocals just don’t seem strong enough at times to hold their end of the bargain. Spunt’s laid back Cali skate punk feels at home riding the wave of their punkier numbers (again, see “Fever Dreaming”). Even with the tempo ratcheted down a notch, it’s still another dizzying affair.
Download: “Fever Dreaming” [mp3]
Neil Young is in the enviable position where he really doesn’t need you to like him, which makes his album choices always an event of sorts. Take Le Noise, an album that is very recognizably a Neil Young joint (it’s just Neil and his electric guitar playing within his idiom) and yet manages to be kind of out there through the funky mix job by Daniel Lanois. The result is a swirl of guitars and echoing vocals dancing around what are otherwise superb Young songs. Compare this with fellow rock legend Eric Clapton, who’s vanilla offering this week challenges nobody, and we’re reminded again why Young is such a treasure (I’d say national treasure, but some Canadians might scoff at the thought). In concert with the album, Young’s YouTube channel is streaming the album as a short film, with artful black & white footage of Neil in the studio intercut with some crazy effects (much like the album itself) – see below:
More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Glasser – Ring / Free AOL Album Stream / “Home” [mp3]
Abe Vigoda – Crush / “Crush” [mp3]
Women – Public Strain / “Eyesore” [mp3]
Ben Folds/Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue / Free AOL Album Stream
Nellie McKay – Skit I Allt
Owen Pallett – A Swedish Love Story EP
Owen – New Leaves / “Abandoned Bridges” [mp3]
The Corin Tucker Band – 1,000 Years / Free AOL Album Stream
Grandchildren – Everlasting / Free AOL Album Stream
Peelander-Z – P-Tv-Z
Mark Ronson & the Business Intl. – Record Collection / Free AOL Album Stream
Tired Pony – The Place We Ran From / Free AOL Album Stream
Free Moral Agents – Control This / Free AOL Album Stream
Pete Yorn – Pete Yorn / Free AOL Album Stream / “Velcro Shoes” [mp3]
Three Mile Pilot – The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten / Free AOL Album Stream / “What’s In the Air” [mp3]
Tied to the Branch – Tied to the Branch EP / “Fog” [mp3]
Meridene – Something Like Blood / “Parade of Fools,” “Gone Baby Gone” [mp3]
Jimmy Eat World – Invented
Soundgarden – Telephantasm / Free AOL Album Stream
Bad Religion – The Dissent of Man / Free AOL Album Stream
The 88 – Station To Station (Remastered/Bonus CDs) / Free AOL Album Stream
Check out a couple of videos from The Posies and Neil Young after the jump
The Posie’s first ever performance of “The Glitter Prize” on KEXP (May 2010):
Neil Young’s “Le Noise”.