Sunday, May 31, 2009

Destroyer - Notorious Lightning and Other Works

Destroyer – Notorious Lightning and Other Works

Soft Abuse/Merge, 2005

Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008

Price: $12

This record is half of the songs from Your Blues recorded as they probably would have been had Dan Bejar not abandoned his backing band for MIDI. While I adore Your Blues, my favorite Destroyer records are always going to be…well, all the other ones that aren’t Your Blues. But I still love that record, does that make sense? Basically I love Destroyer as a band. Here though, it’s extra weird, as Frog Eyes is his backing band. While I wasn’t sold at first, I’m now convinced (especially after how great Swan Lake has proven to be). The version of “New Ways of Living” on this record is FAR superior to the version on Your Blues and that’s why I bought the record. That and I was sure it would go out of print, like all Destroyer records, and given that I want to own his entire discography it was a safe bet. Now, if only I had an extra few hundred bucks lying around to pick up Streethawk: A Seduction or This Night, then I’d be in business. But alas, this is what I got. Well, this and the two Destroyer records that come after this. I should also say that I pretty much worship Dan Bejar and he picked the most perfect songs to remake for this record (though I would love to hear a full band version of “From Oakland to Warsaw,” I’d rather hear “Don’t Become the Thing You Hated”).

The Decemberists - Her Majesty, The Decemberists

The Decemberists – Her Majesty, the Decemberists

Kill Rock Stars, 2003

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007

Price: $12

This might be the Decemberists’ masterpiece. Actually, no, it is. And in that last post when I said “Grace Cathedral Hill” was Meloy’s masterpiece, it’s not. It’s “Red Right Ankle.” It’s just so simple, it’s Meloy casting off all of the fancy and weird instruments that the Decemberists have built their reputation on and just singing something simple and straight. Of course it’s not simple, his words wind around that beautiful acoustic guitar and it’s like he’s speaking directly to you (or your girlfriend, when you put it on a mix CD for her or make her listen to it with you late at night when you are trying to tell her how much you love her). That said, the rest of the album is great. It’s like Castaways and Cutouts on steadier footing. It’s more refined and self-sure. They’ve figured out where they’re going. The sequencing though, that’s a masterpiece in itself. Opening with the bizarrely wonderful “Shanty for the Arethusa” and then busting out the pop jam “Billy Liar” which is like a more restrained version of “July, July!” (for better or worse). It’s more somber but the pop songs are poppier. “Song for Myla Goldberg,” “The Soldiering Life,” and “The Chimbley Sweep” (the song that got me into them in the first place) bring down the house in their own way, but “Red Right Ankle” is right there in the middle. Oof. My only complaint is that I wish it ended with “Of Angels and Angles,” the last track from Picaresque (an excellent album in its own right) because I always thought this album ended with that song, as the songs on Picaresque were much more standalone and I forgot that it ended with one of Meloy’s finest bits of tenderness. I wish I owned that album, because I always forget that it’s really fantastic. It’s them taking it to the absolute max before the wheels fell off on The Crane Wife (though I should note that “The Crane Wife Pts. 1 & 2,” “The Crane Wife Pt 3,” “Summersong” and “Sons and Daughters” were all super solid if not fantastic jams). Anyway, maybe I can’t really call any of their albums a masterpiece. I know it’s one of the first three because (goddamn) Hazards of Love sucks pretty hard (sorry dudes, you’re just over thinking it!). REGARDLESS, listening to this record makes me realize that the Decemberists aren’t a gimmick, or weren’t a gimmick (though they might be now). Sigh, I long for simpler times.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Decemberists - Castaways and Cutouts

The Decemberists – Castaways and Cutouts

Hush, 2002

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006

Price: $9

Oh how I long for the old days of the Decemberists. When I was weaseling my way out of exclusively listening to punk rock in 2003 (much to the chagrin of my high school lunch room tablemates) the Decemberists were there to teach me that they were basically ripping off Neutral Milk Hotel and led me to what is easily my favorite record of all time. Yet, at the same time, their old-timey flair worked its charms on me. Granted, it was Colin Meloy’s songwriting that got me. I’ve been a lyrics kid for as long as I can remember (deciphering the meaning of Dion’s “Runaround Sue” at the age of 7, realizing it was about a tramp) and Meloy’s words were fun to sing along to. Though they’ve basically been beating a dead horse since singing to Capitol (though you could say they were riding a very ill horse that was doomed to die when the shtick wore out after three records), the old records are still fun to listen to. Now I listen to them with a certain nostalgia and recognize exactly why I loved Castaways & Cutouts in the latter years of high school and the early years of college. It was fun while it lasted, but I mean, c’mon. I had a chance to see the Decemberists for free at the Uptown Theatre last week and declined because I could barely get through their latest record, The Hazards of Love. That and I’ve already seen them like, three or four times (and though the first at the Jackpot wasn’t the best (it was the second at the Granada), I’ll never forget when the fire alarm went off as Meloy was trying to cover “Ask” by the Smiths on a misty night in October of 2004). Regardless, I still think that “Grace Cathedral Hill” is one of the most beautiful songs ever written (along with “Red Right Ankle” on Her Majesty). “California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade” was one of the first long songs I heard in modern music (when I started listening to modern music) that made me realize that it is a gamble to try a 9-minute song and a triumph to pull it off. The latter applies to that song, which is a total jam. And while they’ll be best known for “Here I Dreamt I was an Architect” and a couple of ill-conceived concept albums, jams like “July, July!” and “Odalisque” will always be little known masterpieces. That and of course, “Grace Cathedral Hill,” which I can’t get enough of. It might be Meloy’s masterpiece.

Dark Meat - Universal Indians

Dark Meat – Universal Indians

Vice, 2006

Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007

Price: $17

After seeing Dark Meat for either the first or second time, I immediately ran down to the record store the next day and picked this up on vinyl. It was right after it was reissued on Vice, whenever that was. Have you seen Dark Meat live? Surely you have, at least if you live in Lawrence. They’re here often enough to the point where they play the Jackpot and I go “Oh, Dark Meat is playing tonight, I’ll stay in and watch “30 Rock” and catch them next time.” And really, twice is fine with me because nothing is going to live up to that first time when 12 dudes and dudettes took the stage in white robes with crazy forehead facepaint and proceeded to melt my face off. I know, I know, everyone uses “melt my face off” to describe stuff these days, but that’s how it felt. Although that was like, 2007. Now I’m thinking maybe I should sell this record because I know I’m probably never going to listen to it. Don’t get me wrong, I dig it, but I mostly bought it for the monster jams “Freedom Ritual” and “Well Fuck You Then.” The rest of it is a little too jammy, too southern, and too hippy-psychedelia for me. It does come off as a communal effort though, which I like. Now, if only they were as tight as King Khan & the Shrines…

Damon & Naomi - More Sad Hits

Damon & Naomi – More Sad Hits

Shimmy Disc, 1992

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006

Price: $6

This is one of the prettiest records I own and the one I used as a sleep aid the most between the summer’s of 2006 and 2007. I remember listening to this in my huge room at the duplex on Illinois St in the afternoon for naps and at night after taking a sleeping pill. I’ve said this before, just because it’s good sleeping music doesn’t mean it’s bad or boring! On the contrary, I think if a band can make good music to fall asleep too, that’s a +1 for them. It’s called dream pop for a reason! While the group lacks Dean Wareham’s charm and ruggedly handsome good looks (sorry, Damon, you have fish lips), musically they’re what made Galaxie 500 so perfectly sad without dwelling on it too much. Both Side A and Side B start off with sadcore jams (“E.T.A.” and “Astrafiammante,” respectively), and I like that a LOT. This is one of my top 3 most listened to records in my collection (along with Jim O’Rourke’s Bad Timing and Tender Forever’s Wider). Not necessarily the best record in my collection, but one that constantly finds itself on my turntable.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

End of C

A + B = $333
C = $205
(A+B) + C = $541

This has really become an exercise in charting my irresponsibility. As of now I am jobless and pretty much wondering how I’m going to pay the rent for June (I’ll find a way I’m sure). I’ve been very, very good about NOT going to Love Garden and went for the first time in maybe three weeks to a month today (but only because I had some store credit and felt kind of low about being broke and my solution is to buy a record that I really like (I got the new St. Vincent, which is excellent)). Anyway, I’m thinking about selling the Bright Eyes record. Maybe just listing it for $300 on ebay and seeing if anyone bites. At least I know where the money went. Also, if anyone has a copy of Shining Hours in a Can by East River Pipe on vinyl and want to unload it, I WANT IT. I have a massive jones for “Make a Deal With the City” and have since been listening to that record on repeat. Also, if anyone out there in the KC/Lawrence area knows of a place where I could get a job, that would be better.

E.E. Cummings - E.E. Cummings Reads His Poetry

E.E. Cummings – E.E. Cummings Reads His Poetry

Caedmon, 1953

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $4

I adore reading E.E. Cummings poetry in books, but man, on record it’s very weird. Especially the first side, which is three plays written by Cummings. One is about Santa Claus. Really, it mostly sounds like a cluster of random words and phrases. The second side is a lot better, shorter poems, a few I recognize but mostly just beautiful, brief collections of words. I can’t remember why I bought this record. I know I got it fairly recently and I think the reason was that it was only 4 dollars. It’s nothing I would ever listen to frequently and really, I probably bought it just to have it. Although the one thing I don’t like about it is Cummings voice. It takes away from the sparse beauty of the words as they stand on the page. Here he sounds more pompous than I imagined. I mean, his language and diction is beautiful and he’s amazing at reading his poetry, but I just like the way it sounds better in my head. Not like I can sell it, it’s got a sticker on it claiming that it’s property of USD #302, so you know it’s cheap. Overall: Too hoity-toity! Although, I feel that there is a certain loyalty that I must uphold to EE, because his poetry subsequently led to me getting laid in high school. Score!

Crystal Stilts - Alight of Night

Crystal Stilts – Alight of Night

Slumberland, 2008

Acquired: Crystal Stilts show at the Replay, New, 2009

Price: $12

Crystal Stilts are one of the few bands that can pull off looking incredibly bored and still put on a good live show. It kind of goes with the sound of Alight of Night. It’s nothing incredibly groundbreaking, but it’s such a perfect combination of things that have been proven to work that it sounds really refreshing. I also think it’s shelf life is going to be much longer than the Vivian Girls first record, which is already boring. Good move, Frankie Rose! Actually, she was the best part of the Crystal Stilts show, as she was the only one that looked into it and made up for the fact that their keyboardist was absent and that they didn’t play my absolute favorite jam from this record, “Prismatic Room” (though I did miss a few songs, thanks Lawrence for establishing the very strict code that if Ian thinks a show is going to start late it will start early and vice versa). That’s really the highlight of the record though. The shimmery kaleidoscope that I view the rest of the record through. The cover is beautiful and feels like it could have been printed by hand (but surely was simulated) but I like it. It’s a tangible thing, and as trite as it is to say, it’s a record that sounds better on vinyl.

Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Armed Forces

Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Armed Forces

Columbia, 1979

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008

Price: $4

While I’ve been a huge fan of My Aim is True and This Year’s Model for a while, I’d never heard Armed Forces until last year when I bought it because it was cheap. Plus the back cover with the elephants is pretty cool. I really need to listen to it more, because after a couple of listens I could feel it growing on me. It’s not as immediately gratifying as the first two, but I think that’s part of the appeal. There are actual layers here, things to pick apart. I wrote a song called “Accidents Will Happen” assuming it had already been used as a song title and after hearing “Accidents Will Happen” by Elvis Costello, um, I think I need to change it because man, everyone will just think it’s a cover. A shambly one at that!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Elvis Costello - This Year's Model

Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

Columbia, 1978

Acquired: Amoeba Music (Los Angeles), Used, 2005

Price: $4

Saw this for cheap at Amoeba when I was in LA and of course had to buy it. Fuck any notion of a sophomore slump with Elvis Costello, because this album is just as good as My Aim is True. It phases out the raw rootsy punk sound of that record in favor of keyboardy new wave. It still kicks ass, though, and sophomore year my roommate and I held what I dubbed the “No Action” party, which was designed specifically for no one at the party to get laid that night. Alas, the title song never played, but whatever. Though “Pump it Up” is the best known song on this record and has been used in countless montages in films, it’s probably my least favorite song here. Maybe just because it’s been ubiquitous to the point of being obnoxious. “Little Triggers” makes me hurt every single time I hear it and breaks my heart just a little bit more. It’s still one of the sexiest songs I’ve ever heard. This is a record full of monster jams and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played “Radio Radio” when I’ve been pissed off with the way KJHK is going (now I’m listening to "Radio Radio" it all the time).

Elvis Costello - My Aim is True

Elvis Costello – My Aim is True

Columbia, 1977

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006

Price: $5

This is the record I immediately recommend to anyone I know who is just now getting a turntable. Sure, the cover is iconic, but there’s something about this record on vinyl that makes it even more special than it sounds on CD or iTunes. It’s from a time when thought was put into not only the record as a whole, but structuring a record between two sides. Side A is full of nothing but jams and the classic ballad “Alison,” ending with the mysterious “Watching the Detectives” which really feels like it should be the last song on a record. In a sense it is, because when you flip it you’re hit with probably the most recognizable jam on this record, “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes. The rest of the songs aren’t as massive as those on Side A but seriously, every single song on this album is great. It would probably find it’s way into my “Top 10 Records of All Time” list and I’m not even kidding. If you’ve heard this record, which I am positive you have, you know what I am talking about. Or at least you should. If you don’t own it, even if you don’t have a turntable, go out and pick up a copy for five bucks somewhere. It’s worth having and will always be one of the most insufferably cool records of all time.

Sam Cooke - The Man and His Music

Sam Cooke – The Man and His Music

RCA, 1986

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007

Price: $10

So I grew up on Oldies 95, and I’ve had a firm adoration of Sam Cooke since I was about 7 years old after hearing “Wonderful World” for the first time. That and “Another Saturday Night” were in heavy rotation on the station and I didn’t really get into the rest of his jams until early college when I downloaded this compilation. That and Britt Daniel of Spoon did a cover of “Bring it On Home to Me” that I got pretty obsessed with. This thing is just loaded with ex-girlfriend songs. I can’t even count how many times I’ve listened to “I’ll Come Running Back to You,” “Nothing Can Change This Love,” and “Bring it on Home to Me” while heavily drinking. There’s something about the sweetness and the warmth of his voice. How he has to know he’s one of the greatest singers of all time. These songs are about loving in the past, present and future and when I listen to him sing I can’t really think of a better (male) singer. I really think this is one of those records that could bring world peace (which is really sad, given that Sam Cooke was shot to death). It’s one of those records that makes me OK with the world and gives me hope in a REALLY sappy way. And then my girlfriend and I sang along to “Bring it On Home to Me” and it was awesome. So good.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Constantines - Constantines

Constantines – Constantines

Three Gut/Sub Pop, 2001

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007

Price: $5

While not as inventive as their much praised sophomore LP Shine a Light and not as inviting as Tournament of Hearts (my favorite record of theirs, which for some reason I do not own), the self-titled debut from Constantines is a collection of jams made by dudes who are clearly very very obsessed with Fugazi (with a little Replacements jones thrown in for good measure). I got into them via their touring with the Weakerthans in 2004 (who were and are one of my favorite bands of all time) and though the closest the tour was coming was Columbia, MO, I still checked out some of their stuff just incase I wanted to make the trek. “St. You” was the first song I heard, and it’s probably the reason I bought this record when I saw it. Though it sounds nothing like the rest of the album, it’s still one of my favorite “I’m having a sad fucking day” ballads. Though singer Bryan Webb always sounds like someone else (sometimes Springsteen, sometimes Ben Nichols from Lucero), he’s a good enough writer for me to not give a shit. It’s almost becoming a Canadian thing, good songwriting that is. John K Samson, Spencer Krug, Jim Guthrie, you know, now that I think about it maybe they’re trying to corner the market. Which is fine by me, because I’m known to trash a decently produced and poppy record if the lyrics are boring as shit. Fortunately, this is a pretty goddamned unique record for 2001.

Comet Gain - Broken Record Prayers

Comet Gain – Broken Record Prayers

What’s Your Rupture?, 2008

Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2009

Price: $18

Oh thank goodness for store credit, because in these tough tough times there’s no way I would have been able to afford this record. And I NEEDED to own it. It came into KJHK one day in the AAM Sunday Service package and I was completely blown away. Granted, the first three songs do a fucking amazing job of setting up this fantastic compilation of hits, singles, b-sides, and new jams. It’s launched my new crusade of telling everyone I know about how great Comet Gain is. I mean, I always kind of liked them peripherally. I had a couple of singles downloaded, etc. But this one really drives it home. I am fully convinced that “You Can Hide Your Love Forever” is the greatest pop song of the last ten years. It’s perfect, anorak pop relying on sweet heartbroken lyrics and a fucking killer melody. “Jack Nance Hair” is a close second, or first, depending on what my mood is. For some reason, only the Brits can get away with the mid-song-spoken-word rant thing. There’s a little quote inside and I think it sums up exactly what I can’t put my finger on when it comes to why I adore Comet Gain. It reads, “We started as a joke and idea, we played broken songs on broken amps and cardboard drums and it never got much more professional. We believe in obsolete things and passionate hearts and still do and made these records from our hearts to yours for whatever it was and still is and could be.” That, and this line from “Jack Nance Hair:” “We have torn ideals/ Comet Gain has torn ideals.” These things get to my Achilles heel when it comes to music. Shambling indie-pop songs played by people that might as well live down the street who just want to have a good time and at the same time have an incredible sense of melody. This record is fucking genius.

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

Impulse!, 1965

Acquired: Love Garden, Used (Reissue), 2006

Price: $10

I remember getting this record on CD for Christmas when I was 16. I asked for it because Henry Rollins mentioned it in one of his spoken word bits and cited it as a record that could bring world peace…in a sense. I think in the bit he’s talking about Palestinian soldiers going to kill some Israeli’s and hearing this record playing from their camp (this and Road to Ruin by the Ramones). It was about how people could just get along if they knew they liked the same great records. Anyway, I knew nothing about jazz then (I still don’t) but this record still sounds fresh. I pay attention to Coltrane like I would pay attention to a pop song. It’s so expressive, beautifully arranged and everything is just so precise there is no way anyone could not see this as one of the crowning musical achievements of the western world.

John Coltrane - Giant Steps

John Coltrane – Giant Steps

Atlantic, 1960

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006

Price: $8

I have an anecdote about this record, where I say that I love this record because Coltrane is so good that if he missed a single note the whole thing would fall apart and I would feel like dying. I don’t listen to a lot of jazz, but I still love this record. I don’t know shit about jazz and I still love this record. And Coltrane, given that I have two jazz records in my collection and they’re both by him.

Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man

Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man

Columbia, 1988

Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2007

Price: $2

While I’m more partial to Leonard Cohen’s earlier stuff, I’m Your Man has “Everybody Knows” on it, which I’ve rocked over the years while dealing with sinister ex-girlfriends. Lines like “Everybody knows you’ve been discreet, but there were so many people you had to meet without your clothes” are brutal, descript and mean in a slightly backhanded way that makes them perfect. “First We Take Manhattan” was one of the first Leonard Cohen songs I heard years and years ago and I thought it was really weird because I had just listened to “Chelsea Hotel #2” and was greeted with the weird 80s electro march of that song. But the big thing is, I really like this album and it’s a testament to Leonard Cohen’s genius. Even today his albums are still good, which is always surprising to me. Well, when any songwriter is about three decades out of his heyday and can still deliver, it’s impressive. Plus the cover has a picture of him eating a banana, which I find incredibly cool.