Friday, December 28, 2012

Zomes - "Earth Grid" (LP Review)

About a year ago I covered the 2008 self-titled debut LP "Zomes", the drone alias for Asa Osbourne.  His second LP as Zomes, 2011's "Earth Grid" is very similar in structure, but with minor differences in the resulting sound.  I have to confess I liked the fuzzier, more distorted sound of the first LP, but really these two LPs are interchangeable.  I still haven't thought of a better description than from last year's review:
If Kevin Shields, Brian Eno, and Phillip Glass listened to a bunch of Ramones and Iggy Pop LPs and then went on a weekend recording bender, it would sound like this.

So I'm not going to try to improve on it.   Fortunately, there are a number of effusive reviews that do a better job at capturing the essence of this LP: Pitchfork, Tiny Mix Tapes, and Thrill Jockey.  And to be fair, here's a review from Spectrum Culture from someone who doesn't care for the genre. 

Standout songs: Again, this kind of LP doesn't lend it self to picking out individual songs.  The entire LP is available on GrooveShark, and only a few selections are on YouTube: Pilgrim Traveler, Alec's Anthem

Skip 'em songs: none

Final score: 8/10.  I gave the first LP a 9/10, and since I have a slight preference for the first LP I'm giving this one an 8/10. 

Bonus link: live 2010

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Matt and Kim - "Daylight" (spotlight)

I was recently telling a friend about Matt and Kim's upcoming show at the Norva. She wasn't familiar with them, so we started talking about their song from the Bacardi commercial, etc. I wish I was cool enough to say that I had heard of them before that, but alas...

"Daylight" is the lead single off their 2009 sophomore LP "Grand" (the single itself was released in 2008).  This song is just pure joy set to music, and the video is equally clever and charming (check out the stop motion work starting at ~2:12).

Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino have a formula, and as a drums & synth DIY duo there is a limit to the variation you get from them, but it's a good formula and their attitude is infectious so why mess with what works.  Their YouTube channel is filled with gems, but "Daylight" is a good place to start.

Daylight: official video, live on the Daily Habit, live 2012, 2009 live debut, 2010 live.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - "Time Out" (LP Review)

I've been meaning to include some jazz classics in the blog, but I've always been intimidated: 1) I'm a jazz dilettante, and 2) is there any genre of music with a greater ratio of "words written" to "minutes recorded"?  And since "What Michael Doesn't Know About Jazz" is a pretty long book, what could I possibly say that hasn't been said before?

I had been thinking about "Kind of Blue", "Sketches of Spain", or "Blue Train", but Dave Brubeck's passing today made the choice of "Time Out" an easy one.  If you want to read about why this LP was such a leap forward and how it became a universally accepted classic, read the Allmusic review or the Wikipedia page.

Instead, I'll tell you my involvement with this LP goes back to an early teenager rifling through my father's LPs and ultimately commandeering it for my collection.  If I recall correctly, he got this LP from one of his brothers; Jack is older, but Douglas was the family audiophile.  Even as a teenager (knowing even less about jazz than I now do) I was captivated by "Blue Rondo a la Turk".  Much later in life I read about the rarity of 9/8 time, but ~30 years ago I just knew it sounded unlike anything else I had heard.  It was even later in life when I realized that the LP's real masterpiece is the smoky, cool "Take Five".  That's not to slight the other songs on this LP, but you haven't really heard jazz until you've heard these two.

This is one of the few LPs that I have on both vinyl (from the early family collection) and CD.  It might have been soon after college when I purchased the CD (I'm not entirely sure, but I probably had to have had a job to afford the luxury of purchasing a CD for something I already had on vinyl), but I still recall my first time hearing the vinyl.  50+ years later, this LP still sounds modern.

Stand out songs: "Blue Rondo a la Turk" (live 1962), "Take Five" (live 1966)

Full LP: YouTube playlist, grooveshark

Final Score: 10/10

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Beach Boys - "Heroes and Villains" (forgotten song)

For most people, The Beach Boys discography mysteriously ends in 1966 with "Good Vibrations".  Largely forgotten is the single that followed, 1967's "Heroes and Villains", conceived as the center piece of the aborted "SMiLE" project that devolved into the less ambitious "Smiley Smile".  The single failed to duplicate the success of "Good Vibrations" and Brian Wilson's subsequent disappointment brought a messy end to the friendly competition with The Beatles.  It's a good song, but it really only makes sense in the larger context of SMiLE's cryptic theme of "journey across America".

Poking around on YouTube the other day, I was surprised to find the number of different videos for the song that most people don't know exists.  It turns out that Capitol Records held a video contest for 2011's (re-)release of SMiLE, and many of the submissions found their way onto YouTube.

There are many arrangements, demos, outtakes, etc. of this song, but basically they fall into 2 general categories: the simpler, ~3 minute version from Smiley Smile, and the more complex, ~5 minute version from SMiLE.  The latter has the "cantina" break, and is often prepended with two opening acapella tracks "Our Prayer" and "Gee". 

Smiley Smile version:

SMiLE version: