Saturday, October 5, 2013


So can we talk this morning about the hot mess that is Daft Punk's Random Access Memories.

Worked my way through a second car listen yesterday to this towering, summer smash, a true behemoth of disco nostalgia cheese, and at this point still have no idea how I will ultimately rate it.  Probably no worse than a Solid, but after that all bets are off.

I do know that I enjoy it, and find much of it oddly relaxing, but song for song, it feels like such a slapdash, mixed bag (though in the album's defense, the title is Random Access Memories).

There are parts here that I already of the year Get Lucky and everywhere else vocalist Pharell Williams and Chic guitarist Niles Rodgers step in to lend a that I definitely enjoy...including guest star turns by Gorgio Moroder, Panda Bear, and yes, Paul Williams...and parts that don't work for me at Motherboard and the odd auto-tuned Juliana Casablancas number Instant Crush.

But regardless of where I end up on Random Access Memories, it is a fun album with some unreal musicianship, and definitely worth checking out if you've got a craving for some nostalgic, early-to-mid seventies disco/soft rock flavors.

So for a taste, I thought I'd break with the masses and spotlight the album's other Pharell Williams/Niles Rodgers collaboration, Lose Yourself To Dance.

I also listened yesterday to two other albums I'm much less on the fence about.

The first was Mikal Cronin's excellent MCII.  Not going to say much on this one today, other than if you've been digging the present-day, west coast psych-rock movement, definitely give this one a listen.

Here, Cronin offers up a batch of ten crisply produced, warm, garage-pop numbers, all embellished with an intriguing assimilation of Nirvana's explosive quiet-loud dynamic, which serves to differentiate these songs from all the other interesting pysch-rock that's coming out of San Francisco right now.

Here's an in-studio performance of the album's most popular track, opener Weight.

And finally, got in another pass yesterday on what has clearly emerged as my favorite album of 2013, The National's Trouble Will Find Me.

Stick with this one, friends, because it won't impress you at first.

It lacks High Violet's anthemic power, but with repeated listens, its thirteen incredibly consistent tracks (we're talking an early REM level of consistency here) will worm their way into your head like nothing I've heard this year. I honestly can't stop listening to this one.

And talk about instrumental nuance!

I thought High Violet was meticulously crafted, but Trouble takes things to another many brilliant little details that won't even begin to reveal themselves 'til the fourth or fifth listen, all in the service of the most complicated, multi-parted songs The National have offered to date.

And yet, despite that fine touch, Trouble feels like the band's loosest and most unpretentious offering...their excellent, intentionally less ambitious album, fitting into their discography the same way The Rolling Stones' Between The Buttons, or The Beatles' Rubber Soul fits into theirs.

Oh, and it's often hysterical.  I love the way singer Matt Berringer plays his sad-sack, depressive persona mostly for surreal comic exaggeration this time around.

So you get the picture...I love this one. Best eureka album of the decade.

And to show just how solid the album is, here's one of its three worst tracks, Demons (and the second half of this song is still amazing).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

DAILY LISTENINGS 10 - 03 - 2013

Hey Friends,

A couple of fine releases to discuss this morning.

Yesterday, I finally got in a headphone listen to former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell's latest Southeastern , and for a first sampling, I came away quite impressed.

Like most of Isbell's solo work, Southeastern pursues a folksier path than the rousing efforts of his DBT days, and is, if anything, his most stripped-down effort yet.

Primarily acoustic, literate, lean, and chock-full of tales of hard-earned wisdom (most inspired by his recent real-life struggles to get sober, and the woman, now his wife, who helped him win that battle), I can see Southeastern emerging over time as one of my favorite singer-songwriter efforts of 2013.

Here's a sample.

Then there's Kendrick Lamar's 2012 release Good Kid, m.a.a.d. city.

I just finished my final car listen last night, and all I have to say is the critics and fans have it damn straight  This is an exceptional rap album, an easy Strong Recommend, possibly a Highest.

But unlike my other rap favorites of this still young decade (Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Big Boi's vibrant Sir Lucious Left Foot, El-P's Orwellian Cancer 4 Cure), which all wowed me with their vibrant production and ambitious musicality, Lamar wins the day the old fashioned rap way...with his words.

Aside from a few unrelated tracks (Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe, Backstreat Freestyle), the bulk of Good Kids' songs and dramatic interludes...presented with a level of introspection almost unheard of in the gangster rap genre...make up a non-linear but ultimately highly engaging, Boys In The Hood-styled tale of growing up hard in the violent streets of Compton and Lamar's eventual escape through music.

A part of me wonders if Lamar may have blown his load with this CD...will he have anything left, other than new found fame, to write about on his follow-up effort...but for now, with songs as evocative as The Art Of Peer Pressure, Sing About Me/I'm Dying Of Thirst and mega-hit Swimming Pools (Drank) there for the enjoyment, who really cares.

Here's a look at haunting second half of The Art Of Peer Pressure.