Here's what's caught my ear in the past two years.
David Sylvian / Nine Horses:
Snow Borne Sorrow
is a collaboration between
, his brother and frequent
collaborator Steve Jansen and electronic composer/remixer Burnt Friedman. I wore
this disk out during 2007. Favorite tracks are: Wonderful World, The Banality of
Evil, Darkest Birds, and Serotonin.
Wikipedia says "The album successfully fused together elements of pop, avant-garde jazz,
folk and electronica, creating an overall sound...". While there is a dud or two,
some of these have great ear candy. I interpret many of the songs as revealing
the anquish, torment, and recrimination following a divorce. Sure, heavy but it conveys.
Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise!
It's kind of a roundabout story. In early December of 2006 Ned Wharton, NPR's
Music Director made gift
for Christmas. Several artists caught my ear: Sufjan Stevens, Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau,
The Decemberists (see below), and Jon Auer's Songs From the Year of Our Demise
Wharton was recommending the most recent release from Sufjan Stevens which was a compilation
of Christmas related music Stevens had recorded over the past few years. The music sounded
creative and that led me to Amazon.com. Instead of the Christmas release, I picked up
his previous release called Come on, Feel the Illinoise! This is the disk I wore
out in the first half of 2007. Uniquely, Stevens was two steps along a pledged effort
to make a CD of music and songs about each of the fifty states. Wikipedia says:
"As with Michigan, Stevens used the
state of Illinois as a leaping-off point for his more personal explorations of faith,
family, love, and location." and "Among the subjects explored on Illinois: the
cities of Chicago, Decatur and Jacksonville; the World's Columbian Exposition of
1893; the state's (somewhat confusing and obscure) observance of a holiday in
honor of Casimir Pulaski; the poet Carl Sandburg; and the serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr."
Wikipedia has detailed entries for Sufjan Stevens
and, more specifially, the Illinoise!
Labels such as Indie folk, Experimental, Folk rock, and Baroque pop have been
applied to Sufjan Stevens music. I liked the Illinoise! disk so much that I've
since obtained most of his catalog from Asthmatic Kitty Records
. Yes, I'd say some of his earliest work does sound like Baroque Pop. I find
elaborate arrangements on Illinoise! that make me think classical. My
favorite selections off of this are: Chicago, Decatur, Jacksonville, and Night Zombies.
The Decemberists: The Crane Wife
I took a chance on The Decemberists The
. I like it! And I wore it out during 2007. Intelligent lyrics and
creative, developed rock music. Where else can you hear names of birds like
cranes, curlews, and cormorants in rock lyrics? Their rock sound of today draws
on much of the classic rock of the last 30 years. I hear Kansas, Jethro Tull, and
xxx in their sound. But their sound is their own too. Wikipedia says:
"...the band's songs range from upbeat pop to instrumentally lush ballads,
and often employ instruments like the accordion, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer organ,
and upright bass. In their lyrics, the band eschew the angst and introspection
common to modern rock, instead favoring a storytelling approach,..."
I caught them on tour in Knoxville, TN during December 2006. What a great venue!
And their show was enjoyable. Most of their readings were much like the studio
versions. Still, it was nice to see the music brought to life. The best songs are:
The Crane Wife Parts I, II, and III; O Valencia!; and The Island (both parts).
Darla Label Samplers: Little Darla Has a Treat for You
Here's a bit of a story as well. In the late 80's, I liked a (4AD label) band
called The Cocteau Twins
. Their lush,
chiming guitar sound mainly stemmed from
their guitarist, Robin Guthrie. The band broke up over ten years ago. While browsing
on Amazon.com, somewhere I saw Robin Guthrie's name. That led me to search Amazon.com
and find that actually Robin Guthrie had been producing solo work over the past ten years.
I ordered one or two of his disks to try and catch up on what he's been creating.
In one of the Amazon reviews of his work, was a reference to a single, exclusive
track that was ONLY available on a Darla label sampler. That led me to Google
Label". There I found a label that gives a viable outlet for many artists and
bands which the large labels ignore.
The Darla label has artists from all over the globe and all over the musical map.
Yes, there are plenty of "post rock" instrumentalists. But that's a good thing.
The Darla label has samplers all titled Little Darla has a Treat For You Volume
. I ordered all they had--volumes 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25. I've
started with just the last two and have been wearing them out. (Yes, I found the Robin
Guthrie track Argenta
I was seeking.) Certainly, samplers
are never 100% winners. I skip the songs that just don't move me. There are plenty
of good songs. Some are so good that I was compelled to order full disks of music
. The bands that really intrigued me are:
, Keith Canisius
and Twin Atlas
. What other
discoveries await me in the other volumes?
I must mention Japancakes. This band from Athens, GA is a large instrumental band.
They have violin and pedal steel in addition to more traditional band instruments.
You might say much of their work sounds the same--well, I like it all. Sure,
the pedal steel could be interpreted as a "country" sound but I see past that to
the wonderful lead instrument that it is.
Flaming Lips: At War With the Mystics
The Flaming Lips
followed up 2002's
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
in 2006 with At War With the Mystics
This is a fine album. My favorite tracks are The Sound of Failure, Mr Ambulance Driver,
Pompeii am Götterdämmerung and an instrumental, The Wizard Turns On.... What I like
about the Flaming Lips is that they don't sound like a lot of other bands to me. They sound unique.
I saw the Flaming Lips at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. It's the loudest
concert I've ever been to and I failed, unfortunately, to put in my earplugs. Yes,
the show was amazing and I'd recommend a Flaming Lips show to anyone for sheer entertainment.
released Bare Stripped Naked
It is more acoustic, but not exclusively so, than their previous releases. Highlights
are: a crunchy "Certainlie" and "The Rope". Caught them in concert in Feb 2007
at the 7th Street Entry and, once again, enjoyed it a great deal.
released World Container
early 2007 (in the US). It will continue to grow on me. Highlights for me are:
Lonely End of the Rink, The Drop Off, and Luv (Sic). Two slow songs, Pretend and
World Container are fine. I caught their live show at First Avenue in May and had a great time.
Chrome Dreams II
in late 2007. It's pretty good. The highlight is an
18-minute piece called "Ordinary People". The track is actually from around 1988
when he was recording the Bluenotes
in late 2005. She had a 12 year break since her previous release.
This has two disks. Most of the songs are good. Standouts for me are: Pi, How to
be Invisible, Joanni, and The Coral Room. It's gentle. Nice to see what she's creating these days.
My previous Music of Note page is here
Yes, I was wrong in my comments about the Flaming Lips implying that the leader of the band is
the drummer and that is why their albums have prominent drumming.