Friday, April 16, 2010

Music I'm Buying and Then Loving

I have a new ritual which keeps me smiling on Monday mornings: when I go to work that day I allow myself to buy ONE album off iTunes. I might buy something old that I'd never managed to find, or something new that I've been dying to get, or I'll simply hop around using the "People Who Bought This Also Bought That" links until I finally find something interesting.

Here's a chronological list of what I've been buying since I started doing this last August, with linked YouTube videos to appropriate songs when available:

Various singles by Rose Elinor Dougall. My favourite Pipette has gone solo with these lush songs, apparently inspired by '80s acoustic-goth music.

"Sign 'O' the Times" by Prince. I've long admired the tour video of the same name, but I've never been able to find the studio album until now. It was a shock to hear the original, stripped-down, somewhat bizarre versions of songs which became epic onstage, but it's grown on me...and "Hot Thing" is SUCH a sexycool song.

"Dali's Car" self-titled EP. Mick Karn from Japan and Peter Murphy from Bauhaus produced a very odd album: exotic, brooding, somewhat Arabic in its sound. It's not GREAT, but it's INTERESTING, and something I fondly remember listening to on vinyl.

"Imaginary Friend" by The Faith Healers. I heard their song "Don't Jones Me" on a compilation at CKMS, and it took me almost twenty years to give them a bigger listen. It's very much rooted in the '90s shoegazer-meets-grunge scene, but with a nice eccentricity and a hypnotic vibe. The twenty-minute "All at Once Forever" is especially fab!

"Here and Now" and "Moon Bathing on Sleeping Leaves" by Sky Cries Mary. Talk about eccentric: funk, prog-rock, DJ beats, and gorgeous vocals. The live album is amazing, but I'm disconcerted by the apparent presence of TWO copies of Anisa Romero singing at once. Overdubs or backing track? Either way, not cool.

Self-titled album by Zaza Fournier. Delirium gal Anissa sent me Zaza's debut video because she said Zaza reminded her of me. I am infinitely flattered, because Zaza's persona is the one I have always subconsciously tried to cultivate: playful, gawky, cute, individualistic. Do you think you wouldn't enjoy an album of accordian-dominated songs sung in French? YOU'RE WRONG!

"The Warning" by Hot Chip. Their song "Over and Over" is perhaps as close to perfection as a song can be, and it's one that DJ Al at Club Abstract plays when he's feeling very happy. "The Warning" is a good album but just a tad uneven and overproduced.

"Couples" by The Long Blondes. A happy random discovery, but again, a sort of uneven album...it's all good, but the hits stand head and shoulders above the rest. Oh, "Guilt!"

"Fixin' to Thrill" by Dragonette. Toronto's very own electro darlings full of attitude, oddness, and buzy-synthiness. Yet another slightly uneven album -- too long, maybe, to sustain its necessary energy -- but you've got to admit they have something original going on.

"Unmixed" by Freemasons. When I heard their cover of "Uninvited," I had to grab the album, and while it covers a huge number of styles -- being basically a collection of non-remix versions of their recent hit singles -- it thumps so beautifully hard, and the singers they choose are ALWAYS AMAZING.

"Replicas" by Gary Numan. I've mentioned here before that I've never picked up a cheap Gary Numan album that I didn't like; I love his gulpy voice and his ominous keyboards, no matter the era. But I found "Replicas" to be a tad overhyped; it's considered such a landmark album -- and it certainly helped shape the burgeoning New Wave sound -- but it's also awfully monotonous and sloppy.

"Damp" by Foetus. I'd buy anything by Foetus, so this was a no-brainer. A collection of demos, remixes, singles, and previously unreleased songs. His collaboration with Rotoskop will have to be an upcoming iTunes purchase, that's for sure...

"Your Bag" by Lida Husik. Back when I heard this album in the early '90s, it seemed so fresh and interesting: an oddball let loose in a recording studio to release a series of equally oddball releases, often with unconventional effects and weird noises and cut up tape montages. These days, however, it seems like more of a "good idea" than a "good album."

Self-titled album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. I'd buy anything by OMD, and I was looking forward to finally hearing all those older albums I'd never been able to find. The subsequent disappearance of most of their catalog off of iTunes has put the kibosh on that plan, but at least I got this one, their first. It's a mix of perfect pop songs and bizarre experiments, best listened to in the early '80s but still a real treat.

"Big Sexy Land" by Revolting Cocks. I'd heard good things about this first album, but it's of the more monotonous type of '80s proto-industrial noodling: the worst parts of both collaborators, Ministry and Front 242. In University I had a friend who said that, to him, all industrial music sounded like a sample going "Bodies everywhere. B-b-b-bodies everywhere." I was less than delighted to find out that he was thinking of a song on this album ("Union Carbide").

"The Golden Age of Wireless" by Thomas Dolby. One of my favourite albums ever, finally remastered and restored to its original track sequence. Worth it just for the album itself, even more worth it for the additional material.

"Lust Lust Lust" by The Raveonettes. Recommended to me by a friend, and an excellent Jesus and Mary Chain brand of lo-fi -- love that spring reverb! -- but there's such a thing as too much of a good thing...the album is longer than it needs to be by far.

"The Frenz Experiment" by The Fall. I'd buy anything by The Fall. Another excellent album from their Brix/Schofield period. "Hit the North" is such a wonderful song!

"Ljubi in SovraĹži" and "Arhiv" by Videosex, both incredibly cheap, both wonderful, both with awful sound quality, and both previously mentioned here.

"Horehound" by The Dead Weather. Since I'm probably the last person on earth who isn't 100% sure who Jack Black is, I can approach this supergroup without any preconceived notions or expectations. It's got a fun, gritty, dark-blues sound that gets a little dull after a while...but when it's good, it's GOOD.

"The Hazards of Love" by The Decemberists. I admit it: I've never heard anything else by them. I only stumbled across this album because amazing animator Julia Pott made part of their album-length music video. I watched the video and said "wow," and bought the album and said "WOW!" (Chorus of dead children excluded)

Many albums by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, bought in release order, from their self-titled release to "Solar Fire." Thank you iTunes, I finally get a chance to hear all the albums by a band I'd Buy Anything From.

"Prince Charming" by Adam & the Ants. It's hard not to love the Adam Ant concept: sexy guy dresses up like a "Top of the Pops" version of a highwayman, then sings a bunch of fetishy, over-the-top songs for a public scandalized, annoyed, and in lust. Do all the albums live up to this? Not "Prince Charming," but it's...well, charming.

"On the Threshold of a Dream" by Moody Blues. Another of my favourite albums, finally remastered and released with tons of bonus material. It's still just as scary and lovely as ever and -- in my humble opinion -- the only Moody Blues album you need to own.

"Tale to Tell" by The Mummers. Weird woman with amazing voice teams up with a soundtrack composer and releases and album with lots of potential. Composer commits suicide shortly afterward. We will never know what could (and should) have happened next, but at least we have this difficult album of outrageous orchestral pop.

"The Family Jewels" by Marina and the Diamonds. The only album in recent memory that has kept me literally SWEATING for its release...and yes, it's good, but the singles are far and above the most distinctive songs. Even so, I'd pay double the money just for that handful of songs, and there are some others that are "just good enough that another fabulous artist might have been able to do them."

"All Request Live" by Ween. They're always fabulous. Their new renditions of songs from the past are all wonderful, but check out "Where Did the Cheese Go," an insane presentation of their rejected Pizza Hut jingle. Six minutes long. It's the best.

All the cassettes by Pain Teens. I've already mentioned that I'd buy anything by the Pain Teens, so imagine my joy when I discovered all of their original cassette albums on iTunes! Well, lots of songs have been removed (probably for copyright reasons) and they're generally overpriced, but I love them both for the chance to hear the "demo" versions of songs from later albums, and for a format that they represent and has largely disappeared: the 4-track 90-minute tape recorded in your parent's basement by a person (Scott Ayres in this case, with a bit of input by Bliss Blood) who seems to have no end of creativity and talent. I recommend "Manmade Disasters" and "Cathy" if you like more song-oriented albums, and "Narcolepsy" for experimental oddness that is still listenable.

The self-titled album by Sons of Freedom. The tightest rhythm section ever, made even tighter by the fact that the guitarist usually played rhythm as well. This one just thumps and thumps and thumps along, and while the songs near the end are a bit self-indulgent and weak, the first half of the album is massively great.

The self-titled EP by Lioness. How appropriate that this should follow Sons of Freedom; take their thumpy rhythms and add the best bits of Dragonette -- everybody being Canadian, incidentally -- and you get the catchiest song in ages and a darn good EP too. They Will Be Big.

"Eyelid Movies" by Phantogram, recommended to me by Joshua, king of the OTHER twin cities, doesn't have a lot of variety to it but is excellent background music.

"Too" by Madita. Ahh, this is so good: a pop album that always sounds great, but still manages to pull the in influences and oddities that make it something special. And she has a perfectly capable voice without distraction.

"In the Flat Fields" by Bauhaus. I never used to enjoy this phase of Bauhaus' career, but now I see the joy. It's a weird album of chainsaw rhythm and guitar effects, held together by Peter Murphy's histrionics: exhausting, alienating, and -- apparently -- the beginning of Goth As We Know It.

"Trip the Light Fantastic" by Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Rarely does an album leave me so thrilled and happy! Perfect production, beautiful melodies, and Sophie's expressive voice; this is anything but a pop-by-numbers album and it baffles me that more people haven't heard it. You want to, right?!?

"Wild Young Hearts" by Noisettes. This is my most recent purchase so I haven't listened enough to give even a capsule review, but I'm liking it so far. Embarrassing fact: Delirium gal Annissa (her again!) told me about the Noisettes several months ago, and I brushed them off as manufactured entities ala VV Brown, then I forgot about them. This week I gushingly asked Annissa if she'd heard of the Noisettes, and she revealed to me my reactionary music snobbishness. Reality check!

4 comments:

Patrick said...

Mariana & The Diamonds reminds me of the Dresden Dolls (and Amanda Palmer's solo stuff) which you would probably like if you already don't.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I've liked Amanda Palmer's songs enough, but something about her annoys me...that sort of exaggerated showiness. So whenever I hear her music, I think of her.

But considering my Noisettes experience, I should probably just get over it! :)

madkevin said...

I love Sign O' The Times so goddamn much. It's stripped down because (aside from a handful of instruments, and the live track of "It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night") it's literally a Prince solo album - he plays almost everything on it. It's also got some of the weirdest and darkest songs of his career, like the Velvet Underground vamp of "The Cross" or the nonsense verses of "Starfish & Coffee". AND it's got that AWESOME extended jam middle section of "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man" where he finally moves past Hendrix and starts channeling Eddie Hazel.

That's it, I'm putting it on right now.

marco said...

Oooooo you have some good taste!