NEW MUSIC FRIDAY here to heat things up and help ease into the weekend.
Wrapped in blankets. Warmed by a fire. Served to you piping hot and fresh.
CASSANDRA JENKINS - An Overview on Phenomenal Nature [LP/CD](Ba Da Bing/The Orchard)
A backup musician with Eleanor Friedberger, Craig Finn, and Purple Mountains, Cassandra Jenkins has clearly been paying attention and finding her own voice. Her sweet Kathleen Edwards-like whisper dispenses some hard truths on this album where she turns her songs into short stories. Most of the time when an artist writes in the third person, it does not hit the ear as well as a confession (either as yourself or in character.) The tracks on “Nature” need a lot of room to develop because Jenkins’ words are so striking at times. Like The Weather Station, “New Bikini” depends heavily on its jazzy underpinnings of saxophone and lightly brushed drums. However, when she arrives at the last verse - there is a moment when the bed drops out and Jenkins cuts through it all. That is “Phenomenal” - as is the rest.
CAMERA - Prosthuman [LP/CD](Bureau B/The Orchard)
Celebrating their 10th anniversary, this instrumental Berlin band is pushing the parameters of Musik Kosmiche. “Prosthuman” is experimental in its grooves (“Alar Alar” goes for hypnotic, slightly Eastern, and Dub all at once) yet stringent in what the band does. There is no real jamming here, Camera is content to follow the ebb and flow of their creations. The synths sound vintage, but the production is very modern. “Prosthuman” plays with samples, Pop textures (“Freundschaft,”), and what could be a piece of great film music.
VALLEY MAKER - When The Day Leaves [LP/CD](Frenchkiss/The Orchard)
These earthy songs showcase a new writer in Austin Crane who is at his best when scaling down his dreamy, folky visions to wispy cloud-formation/songs like "Mockingbird." The more Folk/Rock cuts (with the band) like "Instrument" are sculpted for radio and fans of Cut Worms and the growing side of singer/songwriter Americana.
ALABAMA SLIM - The Parlor [LP/CD](Cornelius Chapel)
Alabama Slim comes to bat with a John Lee Hooker-esque sweet growl and the same percussive guitar work. "The Parlor" works best when it is just stripped down to Slim playing his axe and singing/talking. "Freddie's Voodoo Boogie" (featuring New Orleans’ Little Freddie King) struts nicely up and down the neck. His two best songs seem to have some age on them already. "Rock With Me Momma" percolates like classic Juke Joint blues, while the slow, steady blues of "Rob Me Without A Gun" is eerily reminiscent of slow Muddy Waters and Mississippi blues. Visit “The Parlor” and leave looking forward to more from this 82-year old true bluesman.
KATY KIRBY - Cool Dry Place [LP/CD](Keeled Scales/Secretly/AMPED)
Texas' Keeled Scales is quickly becoming the home of all the most evocative Southern singer/songwriters. With Texas native Katy Kirby, they have unearthed a singer/songwriter whose quiet voice packs a powerful songwriting punch. "Juniper" is punchy Pop with several dazzling stops and some smart wordplay. "Traffic!" is bouncy and wispy, but again Kirby tosses out some tricky melodies and lyrical spins that most writers would kill for. When she gets close to silent and meek on "Tap Twice," she unloads a walloping verse ("I tap twice on your doorframe and you let me in,") while her best song is the pensive title track whose chorus stays with you long after "Cool Dry Place" is finished.
NANCY SINATRA - Start Walkin' 1965-1976 [LP/CD](Light In The Attic)
It would so easy to link Nancy Sinatra with the burst of "Adult Pop" music that caught fire in the late Sixties. However, the simple fact is that Nancy (under the guidance of producer/collaborator Lee Hazlewood) was underappreciated. With her biggest hit edging her career into a higher gear in 1965, Nancy found a way to release albums and singles that were actually empowering. Like Britain's Dusty Springfield, Nancy was a powerful singer with marvelous control over releasing her energy over the course of the song. "Sugar Town," "Friday's Child" and especially "Lightning's Girl" were all far more brassy than most songs on the radio (especially Adult Contemporary where lots of music was landing in the haze of Rock and its many offshoots.) Pair her with Hazlewood's glorious baritone on "Some Velvet Morning" and you literally make history. When the pair get back together on the 1976 recording of the European hit "L' Ete Indien" (Indian Summer,)" the sparks still catch fire. These twenty-three songs are well-selected and even constructed to tell her story and highlight her contribution to pushing women further in music. Viva Nancy! Bring on the albums!
DEVO - Hardcore Devo Live! [LP](MVD Audio)
In this decade, Devo is most happy throwing back to their past. This 2014 set of only music from 1974-1977 by the band (minus Bob1 sadly) makes their early music sound a lot more fun than the pair of early Devo CDs from Rykodisc that capture them in those nascent days. While the band found success, hearing them (lightly) rage again like angry college students in a basement is an interesting trip. Mark Mothersbaugh's processed voice and eerie keyboards do a lot to set the tone, but the band is still punchy as hell ("Thing X/Soo Balls.")
MOTORHEAD - Bomber [LP](Sanctuary)
1979 was the year for Motorhead. As they combined their rugged biker rock, punk, and metal (really it was nascent NWOBHM,) a groundswell of fans surrounded them getting away from the commercial music of the day. Like its predecessor “Overkill,” “Bomber” is Motorhead just booming off of the blistering hot wax. “Dead Men Tell No Tales” and “Stone Dead Forever” leap from the record surpassing your normal post-Steppenwolf biker anthem to become body-encompassing headbangers. While the first four albums from Motorhead are essential, “Bomber” is Motorhead mastering their sound and fury. With Jimmy Miller producing, this molten metal is designed and destined for a general Rock audience. “Lawman” and especially “Sharpshooter” are full-tilt rockers where Lemmy, Philthy, and Fast Eddie ride in like the horsemen of the apocalypse. Lemmy leaves no stone unturned attacking everything-even his father, as well as allowing Eddie to sing on “Step Down.” Still, Motorhead put out two amazing record in the space of a year - and toured relentlessly. “Bomber” is a souvenir of Motorhead’s maniacal beginnings and only a hint of the cruise missile about to be dealt in 1980.
SONIC FLOWER - Rides Again [LP/CD](Heavy Psych Sounds ITA)
This groove-and-gallop Blues Rock band from Japan gets very heavy on this instrumental album. Their Cactus-like jams have a lot of moments where you get caught up in their titanium riffage. “Black Sheep” is easily the standout, while their cover of The Meters (?) “Stay Away” definitely shows that they gel together very well. When they rage through the Sabbath-esque “Quicksand Planet” and the thunderous opener “Super Witch,” you wish they had a howling wailer of a lead singer. Apparently, they do - “Rides Again” leaves you really wanting the next album.
BALL - Like You Are...I Once Was…Like I Am-You Will Never Be [LP](Horny SWE)
BALL - Som du är…var jag en gång…Som jag är – kommer du aldrig att bli [LP](Horny/Redeye)
Whether you choose to listen to the English version or the Swedish version, Ball’s album is so dirty - you might need a bath afterward. Like early Alice Cooper (except with Satanic imagery as its shocker,) Ball may be the grimiest Seventies style Rock/Metal since Uncle Acid emerged from their pit. Like Uncle Acid, this is some bad-trip psych-rock (“Sacred Snow,”) but when they slither into the sinuous “Have You Ever Been Dead?” you start to hear how clean the drums are and how well the bass feels sub-human but never overwhelms. Sabbath. Alice. Atomic Rooster. Pink Fairies. The comparisons come fast and furious. However, this is the way Metal should sound. The fuzzed out-yet-far away guitar on “Debauched” summons you. The biker/go-go “Death Deals A Hand” buzzes so hard your speakers might blow. Thankfully, they wind it up with the wild incantation of “Tonight’s The Night” which enchants your turntable to magically start this awesome slab over yet again.
We survived this week. Hats off. And then back on again because you lose too much heat without one. Take care. Be careful. Stay warm.
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