The album is called Guilded Pleasures (Everloving) but I found myself wondering when the pleasure would make itself known. The Growlers play this kind of surf-meets-lounge style, and normally I would eat that stuff up as I am a fan of both styles. Then you have a singer that sounds like Bob Dylan and while I’m not thrown-off by the novelty of it, I wondered if this was all they were going to offer me. I tried getting into the songs, then the construction of the songs into an album, and I found myself coming up with various words, all of which lead to me thinking “I just don’t like this”. Or I should say, it’s not that I hate it, but I don’t find myself drawn to anything, enough to make me want to play this repeatedly. If this was played within a playlist of other artists that sounded the same, it would get completely lost because I could not detect anything different. A pass on this one.
Tough Age are a band that nicely balances rock and pop with great potential, but I found myself losing interest in what they were doing by the time I got to the half way point. Then they get into a nice punk powered song called “Dream Date” and I thought “if they had made this the second song, it would have helped to balance things”, at least for me. I don’t know, maybe people don’t listen to albums anymore in the order of song appearance, but I’d like to think there are those who still do this in a proper fashion. The second half of Tough Age’s album is better than the first, and maybe that’s due to deliberate pacing, to start things fairly calm before going crazy. The songs are good, and again the potential is there. I would like to see things structured a bit better, although I’m sure if I programmed this album, I would get a better result than I did when I played it in the order they appear. Definitely worth a listen or two, but feel free to adjust at will.
Melodic pop and rock can be blended perfectly, and this is one of the formulas of Portland, Oregon’s Norman, who are not normal by any means (figuratively and literally) but are the kind of band that may move you to make satanic hand gestures while wanting to dance and get into a slight blues dirge. This is what they do in their album Into The Eventyr (Hey Amigo). The group has a passion for creating infectious hooks and melodies, which may go back to the days of yacht rock but then they’ll rock out and do things in a Cheap Trick/Big Star fashion. While anyone can mix up different styles and genres, Norman does it well because they care about what they’re doing and how they present themselves. You get a sense that they’ve been listening to a lot of great music throughout their lives, but what they’re doing now is something that will carry that same spirit for the next few years, and perhaps another generation. The songs are easy to relate to, they don’t get into Tales From Topographic Oceans mode once, but rather do the kind of material that is simple and easy to comprehend. As they say in “Younger”, “can’t you hear how my heart sings?” but instead of obeying the request of turning the music down, this is one you’ll want to blast to everyone within your vicinity. The group keep the spirit of Portland rock alive and hopefully will continue doing this for years to come.
Wheels (Bellyache) is an album that screams for pain, relief, and joy all at once, and that is due to the power of a band called Bars Of Gold. The group have a dominant and glorious sound that may move you to cry into your belief of what a heaven is, as a means to want and demand more. These guys have the musicianship, the lyrics, and the elegance that will make you want to grab some boots and stomp. Part of it reminds me of the first album by Sunny Deal Real Estate, while other parts lean more towards sounding like Superconductor, where the volume and intensity of things is merely subdued by the sensitivity of the lyrics, even though one might not want to know some of the lines and verses in here are sensitive. Wheels can be like a clusterfuck of indie rock but it’s not just that angsty stuff that gets to me, it’s all the intricacies that take you from here to there, and then back into it a number of times. That might be one of the reasons why they call themselves what they did, because their songs are offerings of bars of gold. Maybe not, but it should have been.
Ron Morelli has made music as one half of Bad News and Two Dogs In A House but for Spit (Hospital Productions) he is taking the lone route and goes exploring on his own. Morelli creates the kind of electronic music that would have been greatly welcome in the late 60′s and early 70′s, I could name a string of artists that he sounds similar to and a few will say, after hearing this album, “oh yes, this definitely sounds like” him and her and her and him but what makes this album work is the willingness to create mixtures of old and new styles and techniques in the modern day. His exploration may not sound like much and there are moments where he will get into some nice lo-fi minimalism but concentrate on how he does it and it’s very fascination, to me at least. Other moments are when he just creates avant-garde sound paintings, sometimes it will have a rhythm and other times it is just rhythmless but it feels good. Then there are tracks that sound like some great house music that was made in a basement directly onto a reel-to-reel or two cassette decks and a dream, and Morelli’s dreams become reality, at least through the eight tracks here.
Uncommon Nasa’s Land Of The Way It Is is a slight throwback to the days when rappers and producers made an emphasis on well written and spoken lyrics and words, and deep production that wasn’t assembled from what everyone else was doing or wanted to be accessible. “Pasta w/ Butter” is a nice and funky song that touches on the struggles many of us have to deal with in order to make it in troubled times, while “My Ego’s Big” is about the attitudes we all tend to carry, even though we don’t have to. Aeon Grey and Elucid help out with their attitudes, creating a movement of smacks and cracks. The only time the album gets weak is in the final song, “The Future”, and with a title like that I expected things to be wrapped up nicely but for me, it didn’t, thus becoming the only flaw I could sense from Land Of The Way It Is, but it may not be a flaw for you. This is the kind of hip-hop I would turn to first, and I’d like to think that accounts for something.
(Uncommon Nasa has since released a new single with Sarcasmo and Google called “Uncommon Karma”, which you’ll want to check out by clicking here.)
Skycell (Fade To Mind) is an album length EP by producer Nguzunguzu (“En-guzu En-guzu”), who recently worked with Kelela on her street album, CUT 4 ME so if you liked what he was doing on that project, you’ll get to hear more here.
Skycell essentially works like a resume tape, the old term used by news reporters so they can send clips of their works to other TV networks, the newsroom equivalent of a demo tape. All seven tracks sound like they’re ready-made for anyone to sing and/or rap over them, they are each voluptuous in their own way but oddly enough, are also skeletal. A part of me thinks they sound somewhat empty without what I’m wanting to hear and yet on the flipside, there’s a lot going on in these tracks, almost as if Nguzunguzu has spent a lot of time listening to Timbaland’s productions and said “I want to go further than that”. I think if this guy was to be placed in the hands of the right people and worked with anyone from Rihanna to Kate Perry, Jennifer Hudson to Bruno Mars, he could be dangerous. I’m not sure if he wants to go down the pop route or stay doing indie projects but he’s more than capable of having some serious hits. Watch out, Diplo and Skrillex, this guy is going in for the kill.
Listening to this, I wasn’t sure if I’ve been away from Kid606′s music for awhile, or that he has been making so much movie that I wasn’t aware of his transformation. Happiness (Tigerbeat6) is the kind of great chillout electronica that would have sounded perfect in the early days of The KLF or The ORB, and with all of the wild variations of electronic music that has become a part of the mainstream these these, it’s nice to hear something a bit more relaxing and, well, musical. There’s even what sounds like a saxophone solo (or a keyboard with saxophone-like sounds) in some of these songs, so while this is far from being jazzy electronic music in the vein of Jazzanova or Jaga Jazzist, I think what Kid606 is showing is that he’s capable of making digital textures that suit any and all tastes. If he wants to continue making some lanky and danky hip-hop with a slight R&B flavor, he has “Coronado Bay Breezin’”. If he wants to make music that car companies would like to use for future promotions, there’s “If I am only allowed one song on this album with cut up female vocals then this song is it”. If he wants to stutter and startle people with his production, they can have a taste of “Blood Stevia Sex Magik”. If the title of this album is meant to describe Kid606′s current mind state, it’s safe to say he is in a good place/space.
Papermoons make moving pop music for those who choose/care to be moved, and their latest project No Love (Deep Elm) shows how much enthusiasm they have to create a positive movement. The singing is pleasant and easy, they’ll play in a sometimes-simple fashion but at the right times, they’ll turn up the electricity and cause jolts between one another to create a mighty crunch, as they do in “Arms Length”. Other times they’ll get into a melodic section that may sound something close to Wilco or even Coldplay, and what I like about these guys is that while they’re doing something with a bit of an edge, they’re also capable of creating radio/movie/app-friendly music that could appeal to a much broader audience. “Heart/Brain” gets into a blues/pop dirge that shows some of their strengths outside of their core circle but by including it as part of their repertoire, it’s not outside but an inside thing. The album closes with a slight country flair and twang with “Lungs”, as if they can see the highway signs telling them they’re close to home, and Papermoons play with the kind of fervor that show they want to travel much more, and further. I’m certain their navigation skills will keep them discovering new things, or finding new ways to get to their preferred destinations of choice.
The downtown New York music scene has shown brilliance for years, and two of its geniuses have now created a unique album together. @ (Tzadik) is John Zorn and Thurston Moore entering a room, coming together, opening the microphones to see what happens. Everything is improvisational (or most of it) so there is a “take it as it comes” approach to it. Zorn will play the sax, bite the reed, then suck, smoke, beat, choke, startle, squeeze and tickle his instrument, and that may be during the first two minutes of a track. Moore will do his Moore doodle thing and play what comes to him. Anyone who has followed Moore’s more adventurous works knows that this isn’t the first time he has made music like this where the structure of the piece lacks structure, but has some sense of construction, even if there isn’t a blueprint. There are times when it sounds as if they are complimenting each other, reacting to what the other does, and I guess for the most part that’s what they’re both doing, just to see what one draws from the other. What I like is how it sounds as if this was recorded in two different rooms during two different times and someone said “okay, let’s piece this together and release it as a an album. It has our names on it, it will sell a handful of copies on that basis alone.” What also works is when there’s deliberate magic to create a song, which comes through in “Her Sheets”. Then in a track like “Strange Neighbor” we hear the metaphorical strangeness of two people in two different worlds, the only thing holding them back is the wall or yard between them, as Moore’s guitar turns into percussion and sheets of metal. One could also say that “Her Sheets”, placed directly in the middle of the album (as song 4 of 7), could be the wall, or the space between friends and what Zorn and Moore are exploring the dimensions and color of that wall before the wall falls, if at all. There are times when what Zorn plays sounds, to me at least, Indian, or considering his roots, perhaps Jewish or Middle Eastern. I just imagined the sound of Kadri Gopalnath within, but as interpreted by Zorn for a moment. @ is not meant to be loved by everyone but then again, if you’re aware of who Zorn and Moore are, then you’re already halfway there.
I will say this: if you are a producer who is looking to sample unusual sounds and tones, or a weird drone or two, there are a few moments here that would be perfect for it. Of course, if you’re going to sample from them, ask for permission first or do some serious filtering.