Elvis Costello And The Roots – TRIPWIRE I somehow managed to avoid the news that Costello and the Roots were making an album together until a few weeks before it was released, which meant that I was still high on the idea of the collaboration when the actuality of it hit my ears. I can't say for sure if my enjoyment of the music itself has been polluted by how charmed I am by the idea of it, but I seem to be out of step with the scuttlebutt I've heard poo-pooing the album. Even at their second or third best, though, both of these artists are pretty spectacular, and in particular I've been in love with how the Roots seem to get better and better. This song is a bit slower and less "funk-y" than a lot of the other stuff on the album, seeming generally less concerned with referring to its hip-hop pedigree and more interested in itself as a song. The songwriting is sharp and full of images, while remaining open to multiple interpretations -- just the kind of songwriting I love. There's a lot of great stuff on the album, and (although Helean and Robb think it sounds like Smash Mouth) I recommend checking it out in toto.
Nirvana – Negative Creep There was a lot of coverage this month commemorating the 20th anniversary of In Utero. While that was all really interesting, for some reason I just found myself wanting to listen to Bleach. Actually, I think I know why. Most of the talk about In Utero trumpets Steve Albini's penchant for "just getting the sound of the band" without any studio tinkering. While I do think this is something Albini is amazing at and really appreciate on other projects he's worked on (which I've written about here), it seems slightly disingenuine, given the way Bleach sounds, to act like this is something Nirvana needed any help with. In reality, it seems like what they actually needed was an ally against the record label blowhards who wanted Nirvana to be the next, well, Nirvana - and what better ally than the famously caustic Albini? I can't listen to this without thinking about my high school best friend (and first bandmate) Patrick, who went through a serious Cobain phase before he discovered rap music and weed.
Johnny Otis – Willie And The Hand Jive A couple weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of DJing a birthday party at an outdoor pool in Jupiter, FL for my friend Griffin, who turned four (you can hear the whole playlist here). The sound system was the super old-school type of tinny loudspeakers blaring into the air, spread out over a long distance. Listening to music from different eras, it struck me how well the older music, like this great song, translated to the washed-out, trebley, mono sound of that pool system. Which makes sense. This is music for AM radios to blast out of a window during a block party or over the speakers in a noisy bowling alley. Voice + drums. Everything else is superfluous.
William S. Burroughs – Did I Ever Tell You About The Man Who Taught His Asshole To Talk? This just popped into my head one day while I was sitting at my desk working. I probably haven't listened to it in fifteen years. Well, that's probably about right, considering how unsettling/gross Burroughs is here. Around the same time I was listening to this album (deep in my Beat period) I ran across a late book he wrote full of sentimental poems about his cats.
Richard Buckner – Surrounded I got to meet Buckner briefly years ago when I worked at the Congress Hotel in Tucson, AZ (yes, it is haunted), where he frequently performed. He's a big bear of a man. And then there's that voice. Some people are just blessed with a wholly unique instrument, I guess. Jerk. My sister, who spies on my Spotify listening, let me know that my six-month-old nephew Miles was really digging this new album.
Artur Rubinstein – 19 Nocturnes: No. 2 in E flat major Op. 9 No. 2 Artur Rubinstein – 19 Nocturnes: No. 10 in A flat major Op. 32 No. 2 Artur Rubinstein – 19 Nocturnes: No. 11 in G minor Op. 37 No. 1 On a recommendation from Gabe I recently read (and fell in love with) Ann Patchett's gorgeous novel Bel Canto, which contains some of the most moving writing about music I've read. There's a dramatic scene where a minor character sits down at the piano and plays the first of these three nocturnes. Curious to experience what the characters were experiencing, I popped open my computer and found it. I've since finished the book, but these Chopin nocturnes have become a frequent fixture on my stereo. Listening to them is kind of like time-traveling and eating ice cream and scraping your knee and being hugged by your mom all at the same time.
Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me (2012) Gabe and I rented a car when we were down in Florida and it had satellite radio. She and I have distinctly different reactions to the over-abundance of choices available. By chance (fate?) this song (or the original, which is not on Spotify) was on the radio when I decided to prove my point that it's better to stick to a whole song than listen to 10 seconds of thirty different songs. I spent the rest of the weekend with this stuck in my head over and over, trying to figure out how to play it on the ukulele I had brought with me.
Shigeto – Detroit Part 1 Robb and Helean and I went to see Shigeto perform in support of this new album a few weeks back. My suspicion that the album has a lot of actual drums on it, or is at least heavily informed by the fact that main Shigeto guy Zachary Saginaw is a drummer, was substantiated by the fact that he played live drums along to the "pre-recorded" music. It's possible that I just haven't seen enough of it, but watching a DJ play electronic music onstage remains one of those mysteriously anticlimactic experiences for me. Especially in a rock club setting with 100 twenty-something indy kids standing around and swaying imperceptibly to loud dance music. I know there's skill involved, but it just doesn't translate to the typical stage/audience paradigm (which demonstrates the smarts of someone like Dan Deacon, who refuses it). There was something interesting about watching him sit down and play along with a live instrument though. Not really that it changed the music at all, but more that it changed my experience of it, that it illuminated the physical/biological/personal origins of the music. It connected what is typically mechanical to the organic, even if it wasn't being purely generated organically. It loosened the music up. I know there are financial reasons against this, but I'm waiting to see an electronic music artist figure out a way to have a band of musicians play this kind of music 100% live, to let the audience connect the dots between biology and sound.
NRBQ – It Feels Good Seeing as how he just told me he's been getting into Thin Lizzy, I had to let Steve know that, along with his recommendation of this song, he's officially lost on a 70's music binge. I guess it does, though, you know.