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The Music of January & February

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Here is the first in my six part series of new music in 2017, obviously very late; which is my modus operandi.  I decided to whittle it down from a blog post every month, to doing one every two months.  Even though my posting fell by the wayside last year, I am still determined to become more prolific in my music posting.  I just need to find the right balance of life, work, music, writing, etc.  One of these days I’ll get it down.  Until then, on to the music!

2017 is shaping up to be a killer year of music.  Some much anticipated releases from artists I enjoy are slated for this year, including Japandroids, Father John Misty, Alt-J, Future Islands, Pond, Mac DeMarco, Gorillaz, Arcade Fire, St. Vincent, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse, and Queens of the Stone Age just to name a few.  Hell, a release from half of those bands would make it a great year; all of them together could make it a fantastic year.

My favorite album of the first two months of this year goes to Japandroids’ Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.  This was the highly anticipated, five years in the making, follow up to Celebration Rock.  I was quite curious to see what Japandroids would do on this record.  Would they stay with the same sound?  Would they venture out of their tried and true two piece garage rock that blasts you upside the head?  The answer lies somewhere in between.  While sticking with the fundamentals of what works best for them, Japandroids also dabbled in expanding their sonic landscape by adding a few synthesizers and acoustic guitars.

While I keep waffling about which Japandroids album I like better, I strongly believe that this was the exact album that they needed to make.  It stays true to their original sound while venturing outside of that box and exploring new territories that might serve them well on future releases.  It shows that they’re not afraid to go away from what garnered them so much attention to begin with.

Other albums that have sonically crossed through my earway in January and February:

  • Allison Crutchfield – Tourist in This Town – solo debut from the Alabama born musician who opines about losing her former band and boyfriend in the typical moods that accompany a jilted lover. Through all the despair, a positive light streams its way through the music and lyrics to give the listener the sense of hope that Allison Crutchfield is feeling.
  • Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound – fifth studio album from the lo-fi Cleveland outfit that tones down some of the sharp edges of their previous releases. A minor departure from their previous sound doesn’t necessarily mean a change of pace; a slightly more mature sound is played with the ferocity that Cloud Nothings is known for.  I really enjoyed this album and the direction that Cloud Nothings veer towards.  Though the last two albums are killer, I liked the slight switch up, while still maintaining their distinct sound.
  • Delicate Steve – This Is Steve – the third album from songwriter and guitar player Steve Marion, under his musical pseudonym Delicate Steve. I wasn’t sure what I was in for when I first went to play this album; what drew me to it was the artist’s name and album cover.  So sometimes I choose music to listen to like I pick out wine; if the name and artwork capture me, I am in.  What I came upon was a pleasant instrumental album with contagious hooks sung to me by Delicate Steve’s guitar.
  • The Molochs – America’s Velvet Glory – debut album from the Los Angeles trio, led by lead singer and songwriter Lucas Fitzsimmons. A collection of songs that combine the sound of 60’s garage rock, a sprinkle of folk, and a dash of the Velvet Underground.
  • Son Volt – Notes of Blue­ – eighth album from the Jay Farrar brainchild Son Volt. This album builds on much of what Son Volt, and for that matter Farrar, are known for; well-crafted songs both musically and lyrically, with Farrar’s reflective lyrics.
  • Tinariwen – Elwan – African refugee band hailing from northern Mali are back with their seventh studio album. For this album and the one prior, Tinariwen had to record in exile due to ongoing conflict plaguing their country.  I was introduced to Tinariwen on their album Tassili, which was an instore play at Barnes & Noble when I was working there.  I was immediately enthralled with their sound and though I don’t quite understand what is being sung, it doesn’t matter, the music is just that good.
  • the XX – I See You – third album from the indie pop group hailing from London. Five years since their last album, the XX have returned with a moody, atmospheric vibe, but push their sound forward with a fuller sound than was seen on the first two releases.  I had mostly considered the XX as mood music to be heard in the background, but on this album there is much more to sink your teeth into.

Stoop Rant

This past Friday night I had one of the strangest encounters of my ten years of living in Albany.  Coming from the mountains, folks tend to have a dose of skepticism when it comes to city dwellers.  Whether its city people are rude, antagonizing, violent, or just plain bitches; there is always the belief that the worst is going to happen.  Yet in the decade I have lived here I haven’t had a problem with anyone.  Then Friday night came around.

Between work and moving, I had been right out straight for almost three weeks in a row.  I was looking forward to a weekend where I had nothing to do but set up the apartment and watch college football; and it was a three day weekend at that!  After stopping at Lowe’s and Target on the way home from work, just so I wouldn’t have to leave the apartment if I didn’t feel like it, my fiancée and I returned home to find a parking spot right in front of our new apartment.  What luck, given we had loaded her vehicle with boxes of things for me to put together for the apartment.

After settling the vehicle into its spot, I hopped out of the care prepared to unload and finally relax.  As I got out, there was a man and a woman sitting on the stoop of the building two doors away from ours.  The woman I had not seen before, the man had been perched on these steps over the course of the past few days as we were moving; usually with an acoustic guitar, attempting to serenade the people that walked by.  He looks like the bastard love child of James Lipton and Stacy Keach; though I would deem that as an insult to the two of them.  As I got out and turned to head for the rear of the vehicle, paying no mind to the two, the woman chimed in that if I moved forward or backward a little more, another car would be able to fit.  Since I have lived in Center Square for the eight of the ten years I have resided in Albany, I consider myself to be a pretty accurate judge of what will or will not fit in a parking spot.  After hearing her and deciding her special recognition dubious at best, I told her that I didn’t think it would matter if I moved one way or another.  The front of the vehicle was about a foot and a half away from a driveway and the rear of the vehicle was about five to six feet away from the car behind us.  It should be noted that the car behind us was about five to six feet in front of the truck behind it, not helping matters in the amount of cars that would be able to fit.

This was when the guy piped up that maybe next time I would be the one who was gypped out of a parking spot, then what?  Having grown accustomed to city parking, I am always prepared to not find a spot and having to deal with walking further than anticipated.  Also, I don’t mind walking.  Good exercise.  So my retort was that I would just park somewhere else.  I have no idea what the guy thought I would say.  Perhaps he thought he just dropped a truth bomb on me and with this epiphany I would run over and shower him with praise while at the same time wondering aloud where had he been all my life with his profound insight and wisdom.  Needless to say, he didn’t appreciate the matter of fact answer I gave and abruptly shouted out, “you just don’t get it, do you?”  What the fuck does that even mean?  Get what?  Having been completely caught off guard by this exchange, having never dealt with anything like this in my life, my only reply was, “I’ve only lived here for ten years, so you’re right, I don’t get it.”  My fiancée and I hopped back into the vehicle and moved it to a spot on the street our apartment sits on the corner of.

After we moved everything inside, I paced and paced.  Teeming with anger and frustration, “you just don’t get it” playing on a loop in my head.  Who the hell is this guy to be calling out how people are parked?  Is he parking enforcement for this thirty foot of curb?  Plus, this guy watched us move into this apartment a week ago, was this his alpha dog move?  Is he king of the stoop?  I snatched a beer from the fridge and proceeded to head out to the patio to puff on a cigar and drink.  This should calm my nerves.  But as I railed on about what I should do, my fiancée reminded me of what I tell her, kill them with kindness or just ignore them, it’s not worth it; not worth the frustration.  Hopefully this mantra won’t slip my mind the next time I see him parking.

Julune Jamboree

Perry Ponds

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A constant refrain I have heard recently is that summer has gone by way too fast.  Granted, this is uttered every year, especially in the northeast where winter always seems to be lurking around the corner.  So soaking up as much sun as one can is always a must and it never feels like enough.  However, this summer has flown by.  I can’t believe that we are almost half way through August and I have yet to post a music blog for the summer months.  Between running the roads across the state for different shindigs and going on vacation (which, by the way, definitely check out Pittsburgh if you haven’t), I couldn’t find the time to write a blog for both June and July.  So here is another two month into one music blog, the Julune Jamboree.

  • Broods – Conscious – sophomore album from the New Zealand siblings that takes…

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May’s More Than Casually Late Music Blog

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My favorite album for the month of May was White Lung’s fourth studio album, Paradise.  The Vancouver based bands’ newest release brings forth a more polished sound to their hardcore/post-punk nature.  Admittedly White Lung is not for everybody.  What drew me to their unabashedly, unapologetic, punch you in the face music was the swiftness in which they present their songs, leaving you in a daze and your ears ringing for more.  Their previous album did not have a song over three minutes, while the new material has a handful of songs clocking in above three minutes, but still under four minutes.  I have found this album to be more accessible than its predecessor, perhaps signaling that White Lung has found their groove and are poised for something bigger.

Other albums released in May that I had a chance to listen to:

  • The Joy Formidable – Hitch – I was a little apprehensive at first to listen to The Joy Formidable’s new album, not because I expected it to be bad, but clocking in at just over an hour, I was afraid I would come across a spot or two on the album that would seem to drag out. Perhaps it is the day and age we live in, but whenever an artist releases an album with over an hour of material, I start to assume that they did not quite cut off all the fat.  While The Joy Formidable don’t deviate too much sonically from the formula that has brought them to this point, the band’s third effort finds the lyrics taking a more introspective look than their past offerings.
  • King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity – I cannot remember when and where I read about King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, but based on their name alone I had to check them out. Luckily for me they had a new album on the way and it is a psychedelic/prog rock tour de force.  On the Australian bands eighth release all songs flow seamlessly into one another, leaving the listener to wonder exactly where they are in the album.  The band hypes it as the “world’s first infinitely looping album”.  It is an album worth taking a couple of loops through.
  • The Seratones – Get Gone – a very solid debut album for the four piece ensemble out of Shreveport, Louisiana that melds together a blend of rock and soul with a dash of swamp water. Lead singer A.J. Haynes sounds like she would be comfortable singing any genre with her dynamic, powerful voice.
  • Unloved – Guilty of Love – I first read about this band in an interview with Butch Vig and figured if they are good enough for him to name drop in an interview, I had to check them out myself. Their debut album is a retro sound of 60’s psychedelic pop with undertones of cinematic darkness.  A great album to light a joint and sit back and relax to.

Other things that have come across my sonic radar this month:

Recently I have found myself delving into 90’s rock records and reliving my teenage years.  These are some of the albums I cut my music teeth on and have led me down this path of music love over the years of my life.

  • Pearl Jam – No Code
  • Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
  • Radiohead – OK Computer
  • Rage Against The Machine – Evil Empire
  • Soundgarden – Superunknown

March & April Music Awesomeness

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Where did the month of April go?  It seemed to slip away from me.  Before I knew it, the month was half over and I had not written a blog about the new music I listened to in March.  So I scrapped the idea of a March blog and decided to do a two month music spectacular!  Though there isn’t nearly as much new music on this list as one would think; some new releases I listened to in March really ate up a lot of my listening time and are still prominently placed atop my listening list.

Over the past two months I don’t have an album that was my favorite, but all of the albums I listened to in March are easily my favorites of the year so far.  Just a lot of solid releases that I keep coming back to on an almost daily basis and most likely I will keep coming back to these albums as the year trudges on.  So without further ado:

  • Heron Oblivion – Heron Oblivion – described as psychedelic folk-rock, which admittedly is a genre I know very little about; this band and album comes across as something far more potent than any folk band would think of putting out. This is their debut album with members from a handful of other psych folk-rock bands.  Meg Baird is the singer and drummer, providing both an angelic voice and a steady backbeat for guitarists Noel von Harmonson and Charlie Saufley to showcase their playing abilities, which is typically bouncing solos off of one another while bassist Evan Miller locks in with Baird to provide a powerful, steady groove.  These four combined make a very moody, dynamic album that provides a fantastic listen and I’m guessing a great live show.
  • Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression – I have always known who Iggy Pop is and what his contributions to the punk and for that matter music scene in general, have meant. Yet I have never delved into his catalog as one should.  When I read that he was collaborating with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Ages), I knew I had to listen.  Rounding out the album with Dean Freitas (Queens of the Stone Ages) and Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys), the trio provides a lush sonic soundscape that allows Iggy Pop to move freely lyrically and tonally.  I found the album to be much more subdued than anticipated and I think it permits for a more retrospective look back at Iggy Pop’s career.  If this is indeed Pop’s final album, it is one hell of a way to go out.
  • Santigold – 99 Cents – an easily accessible, fun, and playful listen that has pop hooks littered throughout the album. Versatile song writing that weaves different genres of music together for a very cohesive sounding record.
  • White Denim – Stiff – the Austin, Texas based band is back with their sixth studio album and it is a doozy. The nine song album is over before you know it as the energetic songs flow seamlessly from one track to another.  Their intricate playing keeping the listeners attention so that you don’t miss the nuance of the notes being put forth.

Other things that have come across my sonic radar this month:

As I said before, I didn’t listen to much else other than what’s above, but there was time to listen to Prince.  A genuine, one of a kind artist that will certainly be missed, but whose legacy will carry on for future generations to appreciate.

Music 2015

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There are so many people that have helped influence and shape the different types of music I listen to.  I like to think that I give every genre a fair listen and then decide if it is for me or not.  I try my best to not have any preconceived notions about a band or style of music and how it will make me feel or what emotions it might elicit.

It all starts with my parents, growing up my Mom listened to country music such as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, etc. and female pop singers such as Madonna and Whitney Houston.  In the meantime my Dad introduced me to classic rock groups Queen, The Who, and Alice Cooper.  I can still remember being enamored with my parents’ 8-Track collection and thumbing through what they owned and thinking that all of these bands and singers were larger than life.

At the same time, my uncles, who I revered so much because they were only five and six years older than I, were into the hair metal that was so prominent at the time.  Fortunately neither of them had the hair to prove their merit in the scene.  Not that there was any type of scene in Newcomb in the 1980’s.  From them I was introduced to Poison, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, and Motley Crue.

As I moved up through Newcomb Central School I was fortunate to have teachers who had a strong love of music and wanted to share it with their students.  Mr. Stengrevics, the music teacher and conductor of the stage band, played all sorts of music for us that deviated from what was popular at the time.  From him I gained an appreciation, though it would be years before I realized it, for classical, big band, and jazz music.

Mr. Duggan, the business teacher, was a huge Beatles fan who would show us their music and even pull out the guitar to play us a song or two every once in a while.  Mr. Wight, the shop teacher, would let us listen to whatever cassettes he had in his room during his architectural drawing class.  These cassettes contained different songs from Elvis Presley, Three Dog Night, Tommy James & The Shondells, etc.  This gave me an appreciation for genres that I had completely dismissed as a know-it-all teenager.

I like to think that everyone I have come across in this life has helped shape where I am at as a music listener.  I am open to all sorts of suggestions, so if you have one, never be afraid to let me know.

As for the year in music, there were a slew of great albums out there to listen to; I had trouble trying to narrow down my favorite.  Modest Mouse finally returned with their first album in eight years.  My Morning Jacket had a very solid album with The Waterfall.  Alabama Shakes, Courtney Barnett, EL VY and Tame Impala all had albums that I considered my favorite for a spell.  But my favorite album of the year was the sophomore effort from Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear.  I have decided that my criteria for picking my favorite album consists of how many different songs I think could be my favorite off of the album.  And on this album, almost every song was up for consideration as being my favorite.

When I try to describe Father John Misty to people I am not exactly sure how to go about it.  It usually ends up with me describing him as an acid folk, lounge singer and I know that that description doesn’t do it justice.  I Love You, Honeybear is such a raw and emotive album that bares his life and soul to the listener.  As someone who went to school for English, I am particularly drawn to him as a lyricist.  I enjoy that he is unabashed in his word choices and doesn’t try to censor himself for any reason.  Each song on the album is unique and offers a different musical avenue to take your ears down.

Other albums from 2014 that have tickled my eardrum (along with a link to a Spotify playlist with a song from each album that stood out):

Perry’s Playlist 2015

  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  • The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily
  • Beach House – Depression Cherry
  • Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars
  • Bully – Feels Like
  • Cage The Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty
  • Calexico – Edge of the Sun
  • CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit…
  • The Dead Weather – Dodge and Burn
  • Drenge – Undertow
  • Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down
  • EL VY – Return To The Moon
  • Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
  • Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • Hanni El Khatib – Moonlight
  • Houndstooth – No News From Home
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • Justin Townes Earl – Absent Fathers
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
  • Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m going down…
  • Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon
  • Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves
  • Leon Bridges – Coming Home
  • Lieutenant – If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going To Eat For A Week
  • Low – Ones and Sixes
  • Mac Demarco – Another One
  • The Maccabees – Marks To Prove It
  • Marian Hill – Sway
  • Mikal Cronin – MCIII
  • Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves
  • MS MR – How Does It Feel
  • My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
  • Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass
  • Neon Indian – Vegas Intl. Night School
  • Pile – You’re Better Than This
  • Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This
  • Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again
  • Seasick Steve – Sonic Soul Surfer
  • Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
  • Tame Impala – Currents
  • Tanlines – Highlights
  • Turbo Fruits – No Control
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
  • Wilco – Star Wars
  • Will Butler – Policy
  • Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

2014 Music

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The older I get, the more I realize that there is so much music in the world that I will never get to hear.  In my younger days, the scope of my listening was quite narrow compared to now.  I still devoured a lot of music, but was quick to dismiss certain types or genres of music because I didn’t know any better.  Now that my horizons have broadened sonically, I don’t have as much time in my personal life to listen to everything that has been offered.  This saddens me, but it shall not deter my quest to listen to it all.

I can never bring myself to do a top whatever # list.  I definitely have certain albums that I prefer to others I have listened to, but could never come up with any argument as to why one is listened to more than another.  At one time or another every new album I listened to this year was my favorite for a particular period of time.

Last year I went with an album that I didn’t expect to fall in love with; however, no one ever plans to fall in love with a person or thing.  This year an album I fully expected to be one I would gravitate towards was my most listened to album for 2014.

Jack White’s album Lazaretto was the album that I listened to most; though St. Vincent’s effort this year was a close second.  When Jack White released his first solo album, Blunderbuss, it was my favorite album of 2012.  With his second solo effort I think he has furthered his craftsmanship.  For Blunderbuss, White employed two separate bands to record and tour with at the same time.  This time around he has whittled the two down to one and found a more focused sound with the band.  Instead of noticing the contrast between the acoustic band and the rocking band, the songs on Lazaretto have a better flow as White and the band excel as a cohesive unit.

Upon first hearing the lead single “High Ball Stepper”, I thought it was an odd choice.  No other artist comes to mind that has released their first single off an album that contained no lyrics.  After a few listens of that crunchy, fuzz soaked guitar riff, I realized there was no need for lyrics as that riff would become imprinted on my brain.

To me, the standout track on Lazaretto is “Would You Fight For My Love?”.  The opening tom groove laid down by drummer Ben Blackwell gives way to what is a haunting set of ooh’s, that sprinkle in and out throughout the song, sets the tone for this ominous sounding number.  As the song slowly gains steam and builds to the chorus, White lets us know that he has loved, lost, and is willing to fight for love he lost, but is she?

Throughout Lazaretto one can hear Jack White’s multi colored palette of musical influences, ranging from blues, rock, country, bluegrass, etc.  I really believe that the paring down to one band greatly aids in the improvement from Blunderbuss.  It is a fuller sounding record that pushes White to his limits creatively and musically. This makes for a pleasurable listen that never leaves one bored.

Other albums from 2014 that have tickled my eardrum (along with a link to a Spotify playlist with a song from each album that stood out):

Perry’s Playlist 2014

  • Alt-J – This Is All Yours
  • Beck – Morning Phase
  • Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker
  • Blonde Redhead – Barragan
  • The Bots – Pink Palms
  • Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
  • Coldplay – Ghost Stories
  • Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
  • FKA twigs – LP1
  • Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
  • Future Islands – Singles
  • Jack White – Lazaretto
  • Julian Casablancas & the Voidz – Tyranny
  • The Kooks – Listen
  • Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
  • Live – The Turn
  • Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
  • Perfume Genius – Too Bright
  • Pontiak – Innocence
  • Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  • Vincent – St. Vincent
  • Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time
  • Spoon – They Want My Soul
  • Strand of Oaks – Heal
  • Temples – Sun Structures
  • Tom Petty – Hypnotic Eye
  • TV On the Radio – Seeds
  • U2 – Songs of Innocence
  • The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream
  • Warpaint – Warpaint
  • White Lung – Deep Fantasy
  • Woods – With Light and with Love
  • Wye Oak – Shriek