Albums »Wicked Witch: Chaos 1978-86

by Wicked Witch (1978-86)

Hands down Chaos 1978-86 is the weirdest album I’ve discovered.

You know how they can record your thoughts as those grainy distorted images? This is kind of the music version of that. So lo fi it feels like it’s inside this awesome basement musicians own mind and his mind is filled with spooky sounds, avant-garde takes on cop movie soundtracks and strange interpretations of Parliament and Rick James.

I feel like this oddity will only grow on me more and more as it seems to offer new sensations every time we listen to it. So I was almost hesitant to write about it until it had totally washed over me, but it’s really too cool, bizarre, and unique to keep a secret from you all any longer.

I really want to thank the blog Music to Flip You Around for introducing this to me (during a random image search). You can get a down-loadable zip of the album from them too.

We have a new creative hero in our house, and his name is Wicked Witch.

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Posted on October 9, 2011

Albums »Come Away With ESG

by ESG (1983)

First awesome Spotify discovery! I don’t know why, but since I found Come Away with ESG on a pitchfork list I expected it to be inaccessible. Instead it’s incredibly fun and infectious. I can’t imagine anyone not being driven to dance and smile by these snazzy tracks.

If you had told me ESG was some new darling of the moment I’d believe it because the sound is timeless and refreshing but they are old school 80’s Bronx mixing hip hop, dance, disco, punk and everything else fun. You like fun, right?

They look like fun, real ladies that you share the subway with too. Standing for emerald, sapphire and gold ESG consisted of four cool sisters who, without much credit added a new sound to the scene.

Fun stuff. How come no one told me about them before?

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Posted on September 23, 2011

Albums »Marvin Gaye Live in Miami

by Marvin Gaye

I was excited to broaden my horizons with Spotify. Friends know that give or take a few artists I am hopelessly ignorant of most new “cool” music (LCD Soundsystem, Beirut, Animal Collective… the list goes on and on and on).

I also have a lot of catching up to do with bands from the past (was curious to finally give a good listen to XTC, Husker Du, Mission of Burma… again the list goes on and on).

So what do I do with the few hours of work time I have to discover a new album? Spend it grooving to Marvin Gaye Live in Miami. What can I say, I know what I like and may just be stuck in my ways more than I’d like to admit.

I can’t find much information about these performances which seem to be cobbled together from several dates. Even the year is unclear, though a very touching medley sung for Tammi Terrell indicates its after her tragic death in 1967.

The recordings themselves are not very professional, they’re noisy and muffled but Gaye is vibrant, charming, and heartfelt.

He ends Let’s Get It On with a plea to turn the lights off and get busy that aches with sexed up desperation and woos the crowd by taking breaks to sip honey tea and asking women from the audience to dance with him.

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Posted on September 12, 2011

Albums »See What Tomorrow Brings

by Peter Paul and Mary (1965)

Peter Paul and Mary are mostly known for their hits Leaving on a Jet Plane (yay) and Puff the Magic Dragon (ehh) but See What Tomorrow Brings displays the trio’s diversity and their signature beautiful harmonizing.

From the bluesy lament of forbidden love in Tryin’ to Win to the medieval awesomeness of one of my favorites (obviously), Hangman (which of course makes me think of this gallows folk song) SWTB shows range.

I am also happy to find that it’s all refreshingly new to me. Even songs I am familiar with and associate with other singers (like The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face which belongs to Roberta Flack) are fun to hear in a new way.

In a prolific 50 year career, this album seems to have almost been forgotten but it is a fine folk experience that deserves to be remebered.

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Posted on August 30, 2011

Albums,Style Icons: Female »Comme à la Radio and Brigitte Fontaine

by Brigitte Fontaine (1969)

The strange and beautiful album Comme à la Radio by Brigitte Fontaine is like a marvelous magical mash up of some of my favorite things:

Take the sultry french vocals of Francois Hardy, add the discord of Morricone‘s jazzier scores, throw in the baritone tones of Nico at her most avant-garde and toss in the bizarre moodiness of Amon Duul II and you’ve got one album I simply cant resist getting excited about.

That such an interesting talent is not more well known is both a surprise and a fact that makes me happy with the world. If someone as cool and amazing as Fontaine was unknown to me, just imagine how many more gems are out there for my discovering.

This is another find I have my Pandora app to thank for. Le Goudron, one of the albums most universally listenable and fantastic tracks came on during a Quick Mix and I was beside myself.
Fontaine herself is fascinating. Not only was she a major figure in the French underground art scene of the 70’s, she’s relevant and active today incorporating electronic sounds into her music and collaborating with such artists as Sonic Youth, Jarvis Cocker and Grace Jones.

I might just be in love.

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Posted on August 19, 2011

Albums »Moon8

by Brad Smith (2011)

Dark Side of the Moon is always ripe for homage and Brad Smith’s 8 bit version, Moon8, might just be the most charming.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with Nintendo as background music a huge chunk of my youth, but I find this album wonderfully soothing and good for loop listening (which might come as a surprise since it seems like it would just be gimmicky).

Master of awesome geekdom Smith used a Nintendo Entertainment System’s sound chip to create this mini masterpiece.

Tons of fun for classic video game and/or Pink Floyd fans (which covers pretty much everyone I know).  And anyone not covered in those categories should like it because it was mentioned on NPR.

 

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Posted on July 28, 2011

Albums »Ella and Louis

by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1956)

I usually like my albums, particularly jazz ones, a little messy. I always think artists, like Ray Charles for instance, suffer from over production and accompaniment, but the 1956 album Ella and Louis benefits from the clean sound.

The duos’ unique voices, which are in stark complimentary contrast to each other, are the centerpiece with limited but beautiful musical arrangement. Even Satchmo’s signature trumpet only makes brief appearances.

In what is arguably the pinnacle of vocal duet albums, Ella and Louis perform with love and joy some of the era’s greatest songs by, among others, Berlin and Gershwin. Isn’t It a Lovely Day?, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, and Cheek to Cheek are some of my favorites that have been filling my apartment with musical sunshine as I prance around with Mr. Van.

This is genuine and heart swelling feel good music that sounds as wonderful as the album cover photograph would suggest.

An easily accessible album to those weary of vocal jazz. Even Jim, not so much a fan of the genre has been requesting it get replayed.

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Posted on June 14, 2011

Albums »Gal Costa

by Gal Costa (1969)

Gal Costa’s self titled album begins like a sunny afternoon:

you’re resting your feet and eyes swaying in a hammock in your backyard, the scent of tropical flowers lulling you to day dream.

Quickly, though it turns into the same afternoon once your lover has returned from a walk along Ipanema carrying ingredients for mojitos with half the tanned, good looking population from the beach trailing behind him for an impromptu party…

Perhaps even an impromptu party where some hallucinogens might be passed around as stuff does get pretty psychedelic.

Have Fun!

 

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Posted on June 3, 2011

Albums »Soundway Records Presents Cartagena! Curro Fuentes & The Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72

Various Artist (1962-1972)

If you were to play Cartagena! Curro Fuentes and the Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia album outside your window on a rainy, dark afternoon, the sun would come out and people in the streets would be compelled to start dancing.

Definitely on the short list of the greatest things I have recommended this year, this compilation is joyous, unusual, and all around awesome.

I have been a huge cumbia fan since I was in Jr High, when I used to listen to an album called Cumbia Cumbia Dos. It was never easy finding an equally interesting compilation of the Colombian genre – that was influenced by Africa and Spain.

Soundway Records, described as “a UK-based label, dedicated to re-releasing lost and forgotten recordings from the world’s most vibrant musical cultures” has found some absolute gems. I found them on emusic, which is a great site for discovering the obscure, particularly (non-lame) world music.

Every track is excellent, you could easily put this one on a loop for any margarita filled party and not worry about things slowing down.

Soundway has a slew of other releases I look forward to hearing including Afro-Psychedelia and the sounds of Siam. If small indie labels finding old, out of print amazing music is a new trend (see the fantastic Numero Group and their soul catalog), then I am one happy lady.

Below are images of the original albums of some of the artists included.

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Posted on May 26, 2011

Albums »Sleepwalk

by Santo and Johnny

Slide guitar reminds me of two things: Hawaii – to which I’ve never been and High School Proms – well, OK, not MY prom where I had just broken up with my date and Toad the Wet Sprocket still ruled, but you know, the fluffy dress, Enchantment Under the Seas kind of prom.

No one was as prolific on the instrument as the Brooklyn born duo Santo and Johnny, whose collection Sleepwalk, Vol 1 has been brightening my days lately.

They lend their musical styling to a variety of songs, so that in the end, you’ll be taken on a slide guitar journey that goes beyond Hawaii and Proms while still making a stop at each with Sweet Lelani and the excellent title song respectively.

You’ll hear hints of the Old West in one of my favorites, The Wandering Sea, and be able in envision a David Lynchian scene with another favorite, You Belong To Me.

You’ll be whisked away to a groovy party via Watermelon Man, think you’ve just turned on a 1970’s variety show with the musak-y glitz of Volare and even say hello to a sunshiny Christmas with Twistin’ Bells (Van’s current favorite – the boy loves Christmas music).

This just seems like the perfect music to be listening now during the fresh air days of May.

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Posted on May 12, 2011

Albums »Unleashed in the East

by Judas Priest (1979)

“Down on your knees and repent if you please!” – Judas Priest‘s Unleashed in the East begins with the highest point of the live set with an exciting “Exciter“. Not that the rest is “down hill” but it’s almost impossible to top the opening number, though Sinner and The Ripper (possibly my favorite Priest song depending on the day) come pretty close. In fact, the whole set, recorded during their 1979 live show in Tokyo is incredibly rocking and sounds great… perhaps too great?

Nicknamed “Unleashed in the Studio” by sceptics, many claim this can only be called “live” in the loosest terms. Holford, after years of denial even admitted that some vocals were re-recorded in a concert like setting. But really, who cares. It’s fun to listen to, it’s exhilarating and showcases the band at the height of their popularity in front of an adoring audience.

 

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Posted on April 2, 2011

Albums »Raphael Saadiq Live at SXSW

at NPR

Having not found a babysitter (and honestly, being ok not leaving Van with a stranger) we probably do not have a Raphael Saadiq concert on our horizon (though fans, take note! – he will be playing Webster Hall May 10th).

Lucky for us NPR came to the rescue with this SXSW set that includes rocking tunes from the new album Stone Rollin, some from his breakout solo hit Instant Vintage and a couple from that loveliest of soul revival albums, The Way I See It.

The showmanship is lively, exciting and perfected. Do enjoy!

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Posted on March 24, 2011

Albums »Grinderman

by Grinderman (2007)

Grinderman’s self titled debut swaggers. It sways and struts around the stage in tight pants while extravagantly yanking the mic around thrusting its hips. It is pretty much the embodiment of most of the rock and roll fantasies of most of the men I know.

It’s racous, simple rock and roll and the world absolutely loved it when it was released. I enjoy it too, though if I had to pick, I am more partial to the weirder, genre bending stuff from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

It’s interesting seeing this other side to these musicians though. Grinderman is made up of Cave plus various “Bad Seeds” and it sounds like they’re having fun; leaving behind some of the signature gloom while still retaining enough to set this apart from other rock albums out there.

Now that I’ve finally got caught up with this release, I need to look into Grinderman 2, released last year.

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Posted on February 17, 2011

Albums »Histoire de Melody Nelson

by Serge Gainsborg (1971)

If Serge’s most renowned album, Histoire de Melody Nelson sounds like a sensual movie soundtrack – that’s because it kind of is. Not for anything released in theaters, but an indulgent, psychedelic music video piece, starring Serge and his lady Jane as a chain smoking, well dressed, slimy older man and the young gyrating, grinning nymphet he falls for after hitting her on her bike with his car, at least as far as I can interpret without speaking French.

That’s one great consistency with Gainsbourg, even if you have no idea what’s being said, you always know it will be sleazy and beautiful – a hard balance for most people, but the man’s way of living.

And beautiful this album is – thanks to the deep spoken word, the hushed giggles, and the lush orchestration of Jean-Claude Vannier, a character I am going to have to learn more about since within a two minute internet search I discovered that he was born during a bomb scare and composed music for YSL shows in the 70’s.

If there’s any complaint about this highly influential album it’s that it seems to go by in a glorious breathtaking instant.

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Posted on January 27, 2011

Albums »Polyfonia

by Apparat Organ Quartet (2010)

If you took the biggest movies of the 80’s (specifically Conan the Barbarian and Beverly Hills Cop to name a couple) and set them in the future (I can tell you already like where this is going) then asked a talented avant garde orchestra with rock and roll leanings to write a score, then let video game musicians play it – you’d end up with something like Polyfonia, a bold, instrumental album from the Icelandic band Apparat Organ Quartet.

According to founder Johann Johannson, a think tank leader (of a group called Kitchen Motors) in his country, the band’s latest release is “more suited to the musical tastes of the masses” so even us common folk will find it enjoyable.

Before you think their band name was just chosen by the latest facebook game, they are in fact a quartet of organ players (plus one drummer) who use old, cast away keyboards, synthesizers, and other machinery. Fellow young and talented Icelander, Siggi Eggertsson is the artist behind the sweet cover.

Thanks to Shaun for introducing me to this unique album.

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Posted on January 12, 2011

Albums »Best of 2010 Album Round Up

Great Albums

Choosing just a few best albums of the ones I enjoyed this year was tough and I am sure I’d pick another bunch depending on my mood – but after much deliberation here are some great listens, some of which you have probably heard a million times, others that might be a new surprise.

1. The Queen Is Dead

2. Opium

3. Cannibal Holocaust Soundtrack

4. Stretchin’ Out In Bootsy’s Rubber Band

5. Let My People Go

6. The Switched-On Box Set

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Posted on January 1, 2011

Albums »Let My People Go

by Darondo (1973)

Darondo led an unusual life: according to wikipedia “Later he traveled the world collecting interesting artifacts, became the king of Bay Area cable with three shows per day, and worked as a physical therapist coaxing patients to walk again” this was after a brief but brilliant stint as a soul singer which left us Let My People Go, a solid, hip swaying album.

You’ll hear hints of James Brown, Prince and Al Green among these nine songs and some will surely become new favorites for any other lovers of the genre out there. Didn’t I, which brought Darondo back into the spot light thanks to radio play, is one of those favorites and the whole album starts off with a great bass line bang with the title track.

It took years for this virtually forgotten artist to get a rerelease – but I can’t claim I found the album having any knowledge of the history. I was just browsing emusic (a site I am sure to tell you about soon) and was struck by the album cover, that featured, to my mind, possibly one of the coolest men on earth. Lucky for me, judging a book by its cover worked out (I actually find it often does) because I found some excellent new music that I can’t wait to share with friends.

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Posted on December 30, 2010