Thursday, November 22, 2012

New to the Rotation

I love exploring music, having new sounds to listen to, and (sometimes) finding things off the beaten track. Here's some of the stuff I've picked up over the last six months or so.

Mirage of Deep - The Garden of Gaia
The Lemongrassmusic label has captured my imagination over the last year or two, and this release by Spanish duo Mirage of Deep is a no exception. These guys have created a beautiful piece of ambient music on this effort. It's a fairly brief listen (24 minutes), but the mixture of ambient sensibilities, natural sounds, rhythm, and production flourishes is one of the best I've heard in a long time. Great set of tracks to listen to when relaxing or to get lost in by listening with attention. Beautiful.

Aimee Mann - Charmer
I'm not much into the indie genre as a rule. For me, the gestalt of indie-rock is college-slacker-geek mentality with wimpy instrumentation and whiny vocals. Unlike. However, I've found myself perusing some of it lately (still haven't bought much though). Aimee Mann is an artist I was introduced to back in the 80s via her fantastic band Til Tuesday. The better the band got, the worse their records sold. I'd lost track of Mann during the 90s as she drifted into the indie rock arena, but this album rekindles some of her pop brilliance. Plus the tone of her mumbling, resigned vocals have always appealed to me. Good to check back in with her.

Willie Nelson - Heroes
When people say they like all kinds of music, the footnote to the comment is usually: "except country and rap". I think people dislike the genres because 95% of the music created in them is derivative crap by poseurs out to make a buck. But both genres came from people who were not represented in the dominant music of the time (e.g., poor, rural whites and poor, urban non-whites). So there are good artists out there in the morass of each genre's overpopularity. Nelson is of course a major talent, survivor, and free spirit. His voice is not what it used to be, but the clarity of the recording on Heroes and the sincerity of the performances makes up for it. Straightforward country. Plus, Nelson's duet with Snoop Dogg on an ode to pot called "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" is one of the funnest musical moment of the year.

Another indie band. I heard about this UK duo in the pages of The Advocate (or Out, can't recall but they seem to be largely the same magazine). They were also Vogue's Band of the Week at one point. So, okay, they have some pretentious pubs touting them, but I have to say that their hypnotic, ominous sound appeals to me on a gut level. The best way to describe it is if you imagine the sound of the Byrds updated to the 21st Century and then given a make-over by goth chicks. Just digging into this CD, but it's my go-to disk on dark, stormy days.

Amorphous Androgynous - the Peppermint Tree & the Seeds of Superconsciousness
Amorphous Androgynous - Alice in Ultraland
In an earlier post, I mentioned how I had rediscovered my love for the Future Sound of London and learned to appreciate their 2003 disk The Isness. Amorphous Androgynous is a FSOL side project (or maybe FSOL is the side project at this point?).  I picked up these two CDs to catch-up with the band's output. Both are recordings made using the same neo-psychedelic, hippie art rock ethos that drove The Isness. Good for getting into when I want something acoustic/organic and creative in a somewhat twee sense. Again, I have yet to deeply delve into these two recordings as yet but the first listen was enjoyable.

Daughn Gibson - All Hell
Learned about this indie artist in the pages of BOMB magazine. The sound is so unique that I just had to have it. Definitely an album to stretch your ears. I can't figure out where to classify this on my iPod. It's acoustic core and vaguely country feel made me place it under my Roots category, but the production and overall sound leans much closer to trip-hop. Gibson's vocals add a whole other layer of genre-shattering to the mix. His phrasing can suggest Nebraska-era Springsteen, but his delivery also tends to evoke the gloom of brands like Depeche Mode. Knowing he's a dark-haired, manly hunk of man makes listening to his deep voice especially niiiiiiice. Thirty minute length is perfect for something this odd to my ears.

Vanessa Daou - Love Among the Shadowed Things
This thirty minute recording is a bit like a spoken word, prose poem, sound-effects collage, rather than a piece of music. Vanessa Daou's sultry voice always creates an intellectual exotica that you won't hear anywhere else. I've listened to the four tracks several times, but because this is a digital download there is no access to lyrics. I really need to go online and pick them up as Daou's work is as much about the lyrics as about the music. I'm sure I'll get more out of it with a better feel for the prose poem at the core of this work. Side note: I'm really liking some of these short releases. You can listen to the whole thing over and over without a huge commitment of time. The CD introduced longer play time for releases, but for a smaller price I'd forego the extra music in exchange for sharper focus.

Bengt Eklund's Baroque Ensemble - Courtly Trumpet Music
Continuing to scratch my unending itch for old music. This recording of trumpet processional music brings to mind kings and queens riding horses, surrounded by knights, as they make their way to their castle through an old European city with crowds of common people watching. However, the mood and tone of these pieces has a good variety. Some are triumphant and courtly, while others have a minor tone to them that makes them almost wistful. For me, it also doesn't hurt that four of the pieces are composed by Diabelli.

Queerboi Playlist Additions
I created a category on my iPod call Queerboi that contains all songs fitting a guilty musical pleasure of mine: silly, frothy dance music about sex. You know, stuff like "Rocket to Uranus' by the Vengaboys, "Best Friend' by Toy-Box, or "Boys" by Smile. It's not deep. It's not challenging. At best, the lyrics are doggerel, with rhymes straight out of Dr. Seuss. It's silly and fun (and it's about sex). It's also really good to work out to! There's a very specific sound and feel I'm looking for in songs I buy for the Queerboi playlist. Some recent adds:
- "Addiction" - Medina
- "Freak" - The True Star
- "Gimme More" - Bodybangers f/ Victoria Kern
Check some of this out!

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