It's the weekend and the groovy kid has appeared once again to let you know that it's time to think about music. It's been a busy week that has seen me move into a new home and try to organize a life's worth of stuff into some manageable chaos. During that process, I've been listening to mostly CDs that had been packed away for ages. Thankfully, I had a backlog of new releases and recent pick-ups so that I don't have to bore you with reviews of albums that I've known for ages. This week sees one of my biggest surprises and a current contender for the top albums of the year list. Also there's some jazz and prog and metal. Enjoy.
Dead Heavens - Whatever Witch You Are: The debut album from the NYC band was released last month and it's terrific. This is indie rock, with elements of garage rock and psychedelic, along the lines of Dead Meadow. This was a nice surprise, having known nothing about them going into the record. "Bad Luck Child," "Gold Tooth," and "The Moon Will Listen" were standouts on what is currently one of my favorite albums of the year.
Mark Lanegan Band - Gargoyle: For the better part of the last fifteen years, the former Screaming Trees frontman has transformed himself from one of the Seattle sound founders into the modern day Tom Waits as his voice grows more rife with life's pain and experience. This is his first proper album in a few years and it's another gem. Soulful and mournful.
Saint Etienne - Home Counties: For the past three decades, the London band has been releasing their dance inspired, ABBA-esque pop and was really one of the pioneer indie pop bands. They've been releasing albums sparsely, but regularly since their debut in '89, and this is their newest, released three years after the previous album. As with all of their past records, at least the ones I'm familiar with, this is pitch perfect indie pop and super easy to listen to. The genre is not really my thing, but I can appreciate it when it's well done, and this is one of those records. Easy to digest and enjoy, but doesn't particularly leave a lasting impression.
Metalian - Midnight Rider: Released at the end of May, this is the speed metal band from Montreal's fourth album. It has a classic speed/thrash metal feel, which one would expect from their name. I appreciate the attention to the history of the genre, taking from classic bands like Metallica and Merciful Fate, and hopefully it introduces a new generation to this sound. "Burn It Down," "Bastards" and the title track were standouts for me.
Johhny Dodds - Weary Way Blues: One of the founding figures in New Orleans jazz from the '20s and '30s, Dodds was a self-taught clarinet player that helped invent the sound of that swampy city. I recently picked up this compilation, released in the great Archive of Jazz series, for a few bucks. I typically steer toward the trumpet players, so Dodds is a nice change. The New Orleans sound is part Dixieland, part ragtime, part blues, and one of the few true American artistic inventions. "Canal Street Blues" and "Mandy Lee Blues" are phenomenal.
Nektar - Recycled: The German space prog rock band's sixth album, released in 1975 and consists of one track extending parts across both sides of the record. It has roots in bands like Hawkwind and Pink Floyd, but by the mid-'70s, they've introduced more metal elements into their unique proggy space rock sound. This is an album that is clearly moving away from the initial feel of what we know as Prog Rock and into the second stage that would dominate the second half of the decade. A truly enjoyable listen with lots to discover in the many changes that present themselves for the ear.