Staff Picks: Music
The Raveonettes are a Danish rock duo who compose infectious, fuzzed out pop songs that pay homage to the early sixties girl groups like The Ronettes as well as a reverential nod toward the reverb drenched tunes of eighties shoe gazers, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Their album Lust Lust Lust is a fantastic introduction to their sound, one that clearly draws its inspiration from earlier rock and roll pioneers but that does not come off as derivative or self consciously retro. You’ll be humming these catchy tunes all summer long as you trek west for some fun under the sun.
Lust Lust Lust
I am certain that friends, colleagues, and assuredly my own family have grown tired of my consistent response when the conversation turns to music and the inevitable “what are you listening to” question pops up. My answer, since its early May release, has been that I can’t get enough of the latest by the Akron, Ohio blues rock duo The Black Keys. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a real fan of the band and I have loved and continue to listen to everything that they have put out, but their latest record Brothers is just so good that I have found myself listening to it almost daily. The Black Keys music continues to be a perfect mix of the elemental power of traditional guitar blues with cool indie rock sensibilities and, on Brothers, bits of soul thrown in for good measure. From my perspective the band, six albums in, has matured in all the right ways, adding a bit more production and instrumentation on its last two records, Brothers and 2008’s Danger Mouse produced Attack & Release, and singer Dan Auerbach tests out a falsetto on a couple tracks on Brothers, including the great Everlasting Light - great live version posted below, that I never saw coming and weirdly comes close to sounding Antony and the Johnsons like, but the band never takes this experimentation too far, always keeping the song structure tight and holding firm to what makes them such a great band in the first place.
When I was putting together my previous post(s) about Patti Smith, I ran across a video of John Cale doing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Cohen’s writing was stark and hauntingly beautiful; certainly well worth checking out. But watching the video reminded me of how truly interesting John Cale is.
A former member of the legendary Velvet Underground and a producer for the likes of Patti Smith, The Stooges, and a bazillion others, Cale’s solo work runs the full spectrum of style and emotion; from lovely dark ballads (I Keep A Close Watch) to neo-classical ambience (Words For The Dying) to full on anger-induced rage (Leaving It Up to You).
KPL stocks Artificial Intelligence, commonly regarded as one of Cale’s worst solo efforts and admittedly not none of my own favorites. If you really want a concise discovery of Cale’s earlier solo work, scrounge around for a copy of his 1977 Guts compilation. Nary a single loser among the nine tracks and the cast of characters is impressive; Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Richard Thompson, Chris Spedding, Phil Collins (yep, back when Phil was a drummer), and a host of others. Close Watch - An Introduction To John Cale is an updated and re-mastered version with some of the same tracks. Island Years (1996) is even better; a two-disc set that pulls together 36 essential tracks, including everything from Guts. (This has since been re-released as a budget disc called Gold.)
A personal favorite of mine is Honi Soit from 1981. You won’t find any tracks from it on the compilations (it’s a different record company), but no matter. Everything here is as powerful and immediate as it was when it was released nearly 30 years ago (ack!).
If you want to read more about John Cale, check out What’s Welsh for Zen: the Autobiography of John Cale. The book is a dozen years old now but an interesting read with loads of great photos and drawings. And Hans Werksman’s Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend website is an essential resource if you’re hooked.
Here’s Cale in a lighter moment… Hallelujah.
What's Welsh for Zen : the autobiography of John Cale
Bob Parlocha was born to have a radio show. Richly textured and oozing with experience and knowledge, Parlocha’s voice is as smooth as the jazz singers and musicians he features on his radio show. Regrettably, I seldom listen to his fantastic playlists, mostly because he hits the airwaves at 10pm, nevertheless, I rarely ever steer away once I’ve tuned in. Parlocha’s program is well balanced in that it draws attention to both the seminal musicians from the past (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Gil Evans, Stan Getz) as much as it highlights current artists and their new releases. If you can stay up later than I can and you love jazz, be sure to check out Nocturnal Transmissions. Don’t forget to drop by the library to browse our large collection of jazz compact discs.
Orchestrion [sound recording]
Patti Smith has been one of my faves since a roommate back in the 70s once forced me (kicking and screaming) to listen to Radio Ethiopia, for which I’m now eternally grateful. Raw, immediate, surreal… yet truly real. Soon after, I discovered her first album – Horses – and I was hooked.
Patti actually created much of the groundwork for New York’s CBGB’s scene of the 70s, inspiring bands like Television, The Ramones, and Talking Heads. “Like her hero Jim Morrison she wrote absurd verses more fit for a diary than a rock ‘n’ roll record, but could also follow them with lines that genuinely terrified.” (Chris Dahlen, Pitchfork) Lovingly dubbed “Poet Laureate of Punk” by NPR, Patti layered her cutting poetry with a killer band to create a blend that continues to inspire fans and artists alike.
As I was rummaging through the library’s collection the other day, I was happy to find a copy of the Legacy Edition of Horses, the 2005 reissue of her seminal 1975 album that was named by Rolling Stone as one of the top 50 rock albums of all time. Expanded to two full discs, the 30th anniversary edition includes the original album as produced by John Cale, that’s been newly remastered by Greg Calbi with amazing results. The set includes a bonus track, Patti’s gutsy remake of My Generation (originally released as a B-side) and… a bonus live performance of Horses, recorded in its entirety at London’s Meltdown Festival in 2005. “These things, these relics, are alive in the fists of memory. We search for them in close-up as we search for our own hands in a dream.” (Patti Smith)
Just for fun, here’s an amazingly clean video from 1976 – the title track from Horses, leading into another classic remake, a cover of Hendrix’ Hey Joe from the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test. As the commercial says… “priceless.” Enjoy.
Patti Smith “Horses”
It took two tries, but I’m hooked on the music of the Fruit Bats on their cd The Ruminant Band. I hear touches of Neil Young and country rock “Waiting on a Friend” era Rolling Stones accompanied by a prog rock-voiced lead singer.
I was thinking that I should mention something about what the songs are about, but I realize I have no idea. I mostly listen to music while I’m doing something else so it’s the music that affects me more than the words.
Check it out, maybe twice. It grows on you.
Fruit Bats “The Ruminant Band”