OTHER MUSIC YEAR END
RECAP (DECEMBER 13, 2005)
It's hard to believe that another year has just about passed us, and with
only a few weeks left in 2005, we're excited to bring you our Year End
Recap. This annual list is a compilation of our picks for the notable
releases of the year. Many of these reviews will be familiar to you, as
some of the descriptions were culled from previous Other Music Updates;
however, a few titles which might have been overlooked earlier in the year
appear here for the first time. While a couple of the albums featured in this
recap may be unavailable right now, we will announce any restocks in
future issues of the Update and on our website. We hope that you have as
much fun reading this list as we had compiling it.
Next week, we'll be sending
out our final Update of the year and, soon
after, our annual Staff Top Tens and the list of 2005's best sellers. In the
meantime, please visit our website's homepage for any notable new
release that may arrive before the New Year. Don't forget, we also offer
Other Music Gift Certificates on our website. To order one, go to
Have a safe and happy holiday!
-All of us at Other Music
***2005'S BEST ROCK ALBUMS***
AKRON/FAMILY "Akron/Family" (Young God) CD $13.99
These Brooklyn hippies explored elements of folk and psychedelia on
their Young God debut, but they stood apart (and above) many of their
bearded peers with a sense of openness and fun that incorporated a
myriad of other, less obvious influences: Radiohead, Captain Beefheart,
the Incredible String Band, Spiritualized, the Flaming Lips, to name a few,
and they found a warped individuality that seamlessly tied it all together.
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE "Feels" (FatCat) CD $13.99
TERRESTRIAL TONES "Oboroed/Circus Lives" (Uunited Acoustic) CD $14.99
JANE "Berserker" (Paw Tracks) CD $12.99
This onetime OM house band cemented their status as one of the most
important AND most enjoyable bands working today with "Feels," their
fifth album (approximately), and their most accomplished to date. The band
injected a healthy dose of pop into the mix, or rather, they finally allowed
the melody and songwriting that has always lurked just beneath the surface
of their haunting abstractions to show its face. A strong contender for album
of the year.
TERRESTRIAL TONES: Avey Tare's "noise" collaboration with Eric of Black
Dice, this one was less harsh yet just as beguiling as their debut, two long
tracks of loops and sounds.
JANE: Panda Bear's collaboration with OM's Scott Mou features hazy
beat-scapes and angelic vox from Panda that are truly moving.
ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS "I Am a Bird Now" (Secretly Canadian)
NYC's most highly acclaimed drag-cabaret-indie-folk-singer-songwriter
delivered that rare new album that can truly be called a classic. His
emotional piano-driven epics are beautifully arranged, tastefully orchestrated
and deeply personal tales of heartache, loneliness and redemption. "I Am a
Bird Now" featured guest appearances by such diverse luminaries as Lou
Reed, Devendra Banhart, Boy George and Rufus Wainright, but rather than
take typical star-turns, they each humbly added to the singular artistry of
Antony's music, a clear testament to his talent and achievement.
In a word: brilliant.
ART BRUT "Bang Bang Rock & Roll" (Banana/Fierce Panda) CD $17.99
Living in a no man's land between the DIY prole art commune (too catchy)
and the Britpop kingdom (uncool, not good looking enough), Art Brut's debut
was three chords and straight to the point. A major ode to The Fall and the
Television Personalities, but with updated production and enough new witty
twists and turns to keep it fresh and original.
BABYSHAMBLES "Down in Albion" (Rough Trade) CD $27.99
I know it's near impossible to believe that a record with this much hype
behind it could possibly be worth a listen, but Pete Doherty, for the moment
at least, is beating the odds. You know of his penchant for hard drugs and
soft models and the dark side of life, and obviously the Mick Jones-produced
debut album by Doherty's Babyshambles was a sloppy, drunken, nihilistic
mess. But with songs this good, recalling the finer moments of the Clash, the
Smiths, and even Pavement's seat-of-the-pants songwriting, we'd want it no
other way. (Only available as an import.)
DEVENDRA BANHART "Cripple Crow" (XL) CD $12.99
The undisputed king of the new-folk movement (to Joanna Newsom's queen?)
dropped a bursting-at-the-seams 22-song marathon of creativity. With a cadre
of backing musicians to flesh out his once-spare acoustic tracks, the songs
swung, floated, or occasionally even rocked without sacrificing the delicacy of
Banhart's delivery, and lyrically he seemed to have found a newfound reason to
leave the mythologies of his own making and come out into the real world.
BLACK MOUNTAIN "Black Mountain" (Jagjaguwar) CD $14.99
Although they come saddled with a healthy dose of "Easy Rider"
style freewheeling hippie attitude, Black Mountain's sound owes
more to the distinctly deep, dark grooves of Krautrock legends Can
than they do to any free-love jamboree, and they can jam those two
chords better than anyone currently out there.
BLOC PARTY "Silent Alarm" (Vice) CD $13.99
Another much-hyped Brit post-punk band this year, but besides their sharp
songwriting, Bloc Party came off fresh and original for two main reasons:
slick yet satisfying modern production, and frontman Kele Okereke a
scrappy, dreadlocked London kid buzzing like a live wire, singing and
chanting in his heavy accent about alienation and loss, with more than
enough personality to drive the band.
BROADCAST "Tender Buttons" (Warp) CD $14.99
Broadcast refined their trademarked sound this year with a heavier, colder
approach, without sacrificing Trish Keenan's warm and haunting vocal
melodies. Sixties psychedelia filtered through '70s no-wave and modern
electro-revisionism, yet somehow starkly original.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE "Broken Social Scene" (Arts & Crafts)
As on their breakthrough album "You Forgot It in People," BSS covered a
lot of ground on the new one too, bursting with ideas that should be
over-ambitious yet were almost always impeccably executed. Sometimes
slyly orchestrated, often just drenched in feedback and fuzz, but at its heart,
rousing and thrilling indie guitar rock. Their best yet.
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" (CYHSY)
The Talking Heads/David Byrne comparisons were inevitable (especially
in the vocals), only these newcomers were not on some new wave revival
trip. Both direct and quirky in their music, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
breathed new life into indie rock.
THE CLIENTELE "Strange Geometry" (Merge) CD $13.99
While they continued down the hazy, melancholic dream pop
path of their earlier releases, "Strange Geometry" also found the band in a
proper studio working with producer Brian O'Shaughnessy, as well as Louis
Phillippe, who contributed a few string arrangements, making this their finest,
most refined release to date.
DEAD MEADOW "Feathers" (Matador) CD $13.99
Less dense and sludgy than previous albums, "Feathers" saw Dead Meadow
add a (now departed) second guitar player which helped create a more
relaxed and spacious hypnotic trance. Still taking cues from thee olde
stoned masters, "Feathers" played like a Sabbath record run through an
early-'90s shoegaze filter. From start to finish, this is America's most
DEERHOOF "The Runners Four" (5RC/Kill Rock Stars) CD $13.99
Deerhoof seemed to be returning to their post-rock roots on their eighth
full-length. Within the 20 songs an array of influences could be cited--from
free jazz to hardcore to bits of '60s psychedelic pop--yet none could really
have been expected. Heavier and more direct than their previous few
DOVES "Some Cities" (Capitol) CD $17.99
The Doves didn't stray too far from home; "Some Cities" was a tightly
constructed, melancholic and yet somehow uplifting set that begged easy
comparison to their finest work on "Lost Souls" and "The Last Broadcast."
But rather than simply recreate their classic sound, the Doves refined what
they do with touches of Motown, northern soul and trippy splashes of
psychedelia, creating a beautiful and hypnotic album that became more and
more alluring with each listen.
FRANZ FERDINAND "You Could Have It So Much Better" (Domino/Sony)
Bigger, bolder, brasher than their breakout debut, Franz Ferdinand proved
it to the world and shook off any thoughts of a sophomore slump.
FURSAXA "Lepidoptera" (ATP) CD $14.99
Sad, beautiful, and psychedelic, Fursaxa's "Lepidoptera" recalled Nico,
Ghost, and Animal Collective but remained highly original. The
multi-tracked vocals sounded centuries-old and the swirling, humming
organs helped induce a hazy, mystic trance.
GANG GANG DANCE "God's Money" (Social Registry) CD $14.99
Although New Yorker's may talk about this band in the same breath
as their good friends and spiritual brothers Animal Collective and Black
Dice, that won't truly describe their sound. Imagine Elizabeth Fraser of the
Cocteau Twins sitting in with Can, add a myriad of non-specific
non-Western influences to the mix, and you might have some idea of what
GOGOL BORDELLO "Gypsy
Punk" (Side One Dummy) CD $11.99
[V.A.] "Mehanata" (Bulgarian Cultural Center) CD $17.99
Gogol Bordello's leader Eugene Hutz threw caution to the wind as he
screamed, chanted and howled his silly tales of vodka, revolution, sex
and other important Gypsy-underdog work. Also available: "Mehanata," an
excellent genre-defining collection of modern Gypsy-mania echoing NYC's
MEHANATA - NEW YORK GYPSYMANIA:
IRON & WINE/CALEXICO "In the Reins" (Overcoat) CD $8.99
Maybe surprising, but also a surprisingly successful collaboration between
Sam Beam's haunting, beautiful folk-pop and Calexico's exultant Southwest
swing. As their recent live shows have proven, this was a truly inspired union.
LOW "The Great Destroyer" (Sub Pop) CD $13.99
Slow-rock kingpins Low backed off just a notch on the slow and revved
up the rock quite a bit on their seventh full-length. Produced by Dave
THE MAGIC NUMBERS "The Magic Numbers" (Capitol) CD $13.99
2005 saw this unassuming London quartet blow up all over the UK, and
US tours with Bright Eyes and the Doves set them on their way here as well.
Buddy Holly meets Belle & Sebastian.
CASS MCCOMBS "PREfection" (Monitor) CD $14.99
With his second full-length taking inspiration from '80s music, Cass McCombs
shed his alt-country tag, and came into his own as a singular songwriter and
performer. A dark and moving record that owed much to the classic Creation
Records era of restrained post-punk.
MARISA NADLER "Ballads of Living & Dying" (Eclipse) CD $12.99
Accompanied by hints of autoharp, accordion, banjo, and delectable
fingerpicking, Marissa Nadler's debut was remarkable in all its atmospheric
beauty. Her velvety voice, at times reminiscent of Mazzy Star's Hope
Sandoval, told tales of forlorn love and ill-fated suicides and we stopped and
listened. Again and again.
NEW PORNOGRAPHERS "Twin Cinema" (Matador) CD $13.99
An undeniably fun pop record that passionately threw together elements
of A.M. radio, glam-pop, and old-fashioned rock and roll. The intelligent
lyricism and honest emotions paired with the chiming guitars, soaring
harmonies, and slight hint of danger made this album hard to deny.
PAAVOHARJU "Yhä Hämärää" (Fonal) NOT AVAILABLE
No doubt the most breathtaking album to come from Finland's prolific
psych-folk scene. Paavoharju's music is an otherworldy electro-acoustic
mix, bearing hypnotizing operatic melodies that often seem borne from the
Far East, interspersed with light bits of psych-pop. Individual notes of
instruments often echo and resonate until the frequencies turn into an
almost unrecognizable wash of tones that mingle with the electronics, and
eventually become one.
SIGUR ROS "Takk" (Geffen) CD $15.99
The bombastic drums, sweeping strings, falsetto vocals, bowed guitars,
and delicate piano melodies were distinctively Sigur Ros, but somehow
this album seemed happy and optimistic it might be a stretch to call
this their "pop" album, but it's all relative I guess. Regardless, this was
their most fully realized work.
SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE "School of the Flower" (Drag City)
Definitely Ben Chasny's most accomplished album, his fragile vocals and
impeccable guitar playing were wonderfully complemented by Chris
Corsano's free drumming and organ, creating a beautiful folk-psych
SKYGREEN LEOPARDS "Jehovah Surrender " (Jagjaguwar) CD-EP $9.99
Donovan Quinn and Glenn Donaldson delivered another stoned psych
picnic, still perfectly loose and lazy but in the shape of actual pop songs,
heavy on the fuzz and with drums that reverberated like empty trashcans
rolling down a hill. The great thing about all the Skygreen Leopards releases
is that they come across as if everything could fall apart at any moment,
without sounding purposely ramshackle.
SLEATER-KINNEY "The Woods" (Sub Pop) CD $14.99
Seven albums in, and Northwest pop-punk heroes Sleater-Kinney made
a sharp left turn and delivered the best, weirdest, heaviest album of their
career. Producer Dave Fridmann helped the band loosen up, turn up, and
step up to the plate with swooping, crashing guitars replacing their
trademarked thin two-axe-attack.
SPOON "Gimme Fiction" (Merge) CD $14.99
After 10 years of good records and their fair share of "next-big-thing"
hype, all the pieces finally came together and Spoon delivered a truly
great pop album. Britt Daniel sports a dynamic, soulful and expressive
voice that can hold its own with some of the greats--Faces-era Rod
Stewart and Ray Davies both come to mind--and on "Gimme Fiction" he
showed a vulnerability, as well as a swagger, that could almost put him in
league with such names.
M.WARD "Transistor Radio" (Merge) CD $14.99
Almost defying description with his utter straightforward simplicity, Ward's
songs are haunting concoctions of strummed acoustic guitar, lazy piano,
brushed or tapped drums and tremolo leads that crackle and hiss as if from
another era. Embracing elements of gospel, country, blues and early rock
and roll, Ward's melancholy songwriting and expressive voice nonetheless
make him a complete original, and "Transistor Radio" is his finest yet.
WILDERNESS "Wilderness" (Jagjaguwar) CD $14.99
Singer James Johnson's vocals certainly channeled the living ghost of John
Lydon, but rather than appropriate PiL's dubbed out rhythms, Wilderness
took the grooves in a more sprawling, anthemic direction. Another post-punk
homage, but anything but derivative.
WOLF PARADE "Apologies to the Queen Mary" (Sub Pop) CD $13.99
Frequently compared to fellow Canadians Arcade Fire, as well as friends
and tour-mates Modest Mouse, this relatively new band took the indie world
(and Internet) by storm and actually lived up to the hype. Wolf Parade's
debut full-length is one of 2005's best rock records, filled with spastic
rhythm changes, jagged guitars, analog keys, and some amazingly catchy
YURA YURA TEIKOKU "Na.Ma.Shi.Bi.Re.Na.Ma.Me.Ma.I" (Mesh-Key)
Sixteen years in existence, YYT are hailed as kings of the modern
psychedelic underground in Japan, and have also achieved huge
commercial success there, yet remain largely unknown in the West.
This excellent live recording from 2003 began to change that, exploring
every sub-genre from sunshine pop to noisy psychedelia with casual
precision and beauty.
BLOOD FARMERS "Permanent Brain Damage" (Leafhound) CD $16.99
New York's ever-so-obscure Blood Farmers recorded a demo tape in 1991,
and unbeknownst to them, it became an instantaneous landmark.
Released on a Japanese label, "Permanent Brain Damage" rocks like
Sabbath and St. Vitus with a serious '70s horror habit. Fans of the Melvins
and Sleep might also want to take note for this is stoner doom royalty.
BORIS "Akuma No Uta" (Southern Lord) CD $13.99
2005 was the year Boris broke and there was no finer example than "Akuma
No Uta." Made up of four blistering Motorhead-style rockers sandwiched
between two long atmospheric soundscapes, it's the most song-oriented in
the Japanese trio's catalog. Check out Boris' other albums (some domestic,
some import-only) for equal servings of psychedelic doom, freeform jams,
drone, and avant noise.
GREEN MILK FROM THE PLANET ORANGE "City Calls Revolution"
(Beta-Lactam Ring) $13.99
Spanning the genres much like Boris, Japan's Green Milk from the Planet
Orange provided an all out genre-defying onslaught with "City Calls
Revolution." A mish mash of metal, jazz, space rock, noise and technical
prog jams, all executed with perfect precision, the album is an intense and
dizzying listen. There's a new Flower Travellin' Band in town.
THE MARS VOLTA "Frances the Mute" (GSL/Universal) CD $15.99
The Mars Volta delivered a powerful epic of an album, full of Latin grooves,
Afro-Cuban palpitations, riff-heavy psychedelia, Kraut-inspired madness,
free-form jazzy breakdowns, soundtrack-y Morricone-esque segues, and
minimalist compositions. As always, paved with a vision that was passionate,
intricate, and inventive.
SUNN0))) "Black One" (Southern Lord) CD $13.99
Sunn0))) reached new heights (or lows, if you will) of extreme grimness with
"Black One," aided by guests including Oren Ambarchi, John Wiese, Wrest
(Leviathan/Twilight), and Malefic of US black metal saviors Xasthur, who laid
down some particularly frostbitten vocals (recorded in a casket, naturally).
The crushing black ambience and heavy, heavy doom made for one of the
year's most intense listening experiences.
***2005'S BEST ELECTRONIC MUSIC***
MATIAS AGUAYO "Are You Really Lost" (Kompakt) CD $15.99
One half of Closer Musik, Matias Aguayo's first solo outing wasn't just a
repeat of his now-defunct duo's album, "After Love." Though sharing some
of Closer Musik's skeletal funk, "Are You Really Lost" is much more varied
and propulsive, with many delicious nods to acid. But don't be concerned
that this one isn't deep; Aguayo knows how to lay out a groove that'll keep
you going until 6:00 A.M.
ALAN BRAXE AND FRIENDS "The Upper Cuts" (Vulture/Pias) CD $19.99
If you've been going to house parties even semi-regularly over the past few
years, it's almost guaranteed that you've gotten down to one or more of Alan
Braxe's productions. Yeah, he may be the man behind Stardust's "Music
Sounds Better With You," but only the serious disco-house connoisseur
knew Monsieur Braxe by name. Thankfully, "Upper Cuts" shined a spotlight on
the producer, compiling all of his best tracks into one collection, perfectly timed
to fill the hole of Daft Punk's let-down of an album, proving that the French still
do know how to keep the party going. Robot suits optional.
COLLEEN "The Golden Morning Breaks" (Leaf) CD $14.99
Still utilizing acoustic instrumentation like guitar, glass glockenspiel, and
cello, the latest record from Cécile Schott (a/k/a Colleen) displayed more
focus on the actual musical performance than the looped ambience of last
year's "Everyone Alive Wants Answers." While Colleen samples and
manipulates her own acoustic sounds freely, here it's done so in such a
loosely fluid style that the listener becomes engaged with the music rather
than the technology.
RICHARD DAVIS "Details" (Kitty-Yo) CD $15.99
More vocal-driven than 2002's "Safety," with "Details," producer Richard
Davis brought the pop elements buried in his tech house to the forefront.
There's an almost traditional sense of song structure in these tracks,
augmented, of course, by his signature tight sound-craft.
DEAF CENTER "Pale Ravine" (Type) CD $16.99
This year, Type Records delivered a slew of superb albums from artists
like Sanso-Xtro, Ryan Teague and Julien Neto. Deaf Center's was just as
memorable, only this Norwegian duo's follow-up to their debut "Neon City"
EP eschewed some of the modern classical-meets-electronica styling of
the aforementioned releases, instead mirroring the haunting ambience of a
film noir soundtrack.
VLADISLAV DELAY "The Four Quarters" (Huume) CD $15.99
Back on his own label Huume, Vladislav Delay created another beautiful
classic. These four, 15-minute-long soundscapes are deep, built around
warm bubbling synthesizers, light vocals, Basic Channel-inspired dub
rhythms and an occasional hint of soul. Ambient Luomo?
DOMINIK EULBERG "Kreucht & Fleucht" (Mischwald) CDx2 $23.99
After pleasantly surprising us with his "Flora and Fauna" album on Traum,
Dominik Eulberg returned with this double mix CD filled with solid tracks
and creative, cut-up production. Most of the selection here is neo-jacking
German house, with a "blunted haze" feel that keeps the beats and bleeps
from being too harsh. The mix coaxes you onto the dancefloor and keeps you
there, slow and steady.
ISOLEE "We Are Monster" (Playhouse) CD $17.99
Where are all the techno superheroes? Here's one. Half a decade after
releasing his seminal "Rest" album, Rajko Moller (a/k/a Isolée) finally
graced us with a new, highly anticipated full-length. "We Are Monster"
showed Moller was still at the top of his game, developing signature sounds
(deep melted funk embedded in minimal disco) and arranging them in a
personal and lively way.
JAN JELINEK "Kosmischer Pitch" (~scape) CD $15.99
The mossy green overgrowth on the cover of Jan Jelinek's third album for
~scape was a clue as to what direction the Berlin-based producer was taking
us. "Kosmischer Pitch" featured healthy portions of pre-millennium
micro/clicks and cuts-era music but with an organic, quietly majestic
Krautrock flavor. Imagine Cluster on the Mille Plateux label.
MARSEN JULES "Herbstlaub" (City Centre) CD $14.99
Newcomer Marsen Jules' "Herbstlaub" album was a breathtaking
amalgamation of classical music and modern electronics. Jules' built this
record from sampled loops of orchestra instrumentation like strings, muted
horns and piano, layering the different sections into gorgeous swirling
JAMIE LIDELL "Multiply" (Warp) CD $15.99
Since releasing his Warp debut "Muddlin' Gear," Jamie Lidell has kept
busy, making a second Super_Collider record and singing a few tracks on
Matthew Herbert's "Big Band" album. We knew he was diverse but I don't
think anyone expected his sophomore solo outing to be, well, this soulful.
"Multiply" bridges technology with soul, house and pop; and the results are
fresh, slightly freaky, and absolutely enjoyable.
MOUNTAINS "Mountains" (Apestaartje) CD $12.99
An impressive year for minimal electronic releases, but the one record
that stood out from all others was Mountains' eponymous release. A
collaboration between Apestaartje label heads Brendon Anderegg and Koen
Holtkamp, the duo meticulously constructed these four slowly-unfolding
tracks from layers of field recordings and sundry live instruments which
provide a palpable humanness. Like Fennez's "Endless Summer," this album
reaches far beyond the genre's boundaries as it nods to the past and
confronts the future.
MURCOF "Remembranza" (Leaf) CD $14.99
The second full-length from Murcof (a/k/a Fernando Corona) was a
striking electro-acoustic digital-classical fusion built from rich tapestries
of prepared sounds and slow building tones. Reminiscent of the work of
Vladislav Delay, Thomas Brinkmann, William Basinski, Fennesz, Basic
Channel (without the dub overtones) and Morr's pop ambient releases, this
is one of those records for a late night when "music" is too intrusive and
STEVE SPACEK "Space Shift" (Sound in Color) CD $14.99
The first solo effort from Steve Spacek (one-third of the minimal space
age soul trio Spacek) seemed to be a nod to America's nu-soul
movement; but the UK singer bent the genre by adding in some pretty
creative electronic production to the mix. Recommended to fans of Dwele,
Omar, Platinum Pied Pipers, and Peven Everett.
TAPE "Rideau" (Hapna) CD $15.99
Almost two years after the release of their sophomore effort "Milieu," Tape
brought us the perfect follow-up. Still utilizing similar warm acoustic
instrumentation like guitar, glockenspiel and harmonium, it didn't seem that
they had changed a bit aesthetically; however, the presence of producer
Marcus Schmickler (Pluramon) ensured that the Swedish group's music would
be even more beautiful, crystal clear and expansive.
33HZ "33Hz" (Outlook) CD $13.99
This year, 33Hz were certainly an anomaly in NYC and elsewhere, daring
to create and perfect the kind of electro-pop/R&B not heard since
Kajagoogoo and Cameo ruled the airwaves. The four-piece's debut album
was filled with solid blue-eyed soul crooning, live drumming and talk-box
keyboards, bringing us back to NYC's roller boogie sound of yesterday but
with a little modern twist.
[V.A.] "Acid: Can You Jack?" (Soul Jazz) CD $21.99
No label puts together a better primer than Soul Jazz, and they gave us
"the" definitive introduction to Chicago acid house. Featuring seminal
jack-masterpieces like "Box Energy" by DJ Pierre, Virgo Four's "Take Me
Higher" and Mr. Fingers' "Beyond the Clouds," this compilation "delivered,"
in both the track selection and its 50-page booklet written by "Love Saves
the Day" author Tim Lawrence.
[V.A.] "Kings of House: Compiled by Masters at Work" (BBE) CDx2 $17.99
The Masters at Work fellas put together this outstanding introduction to
house music. Mostly focusing on the '80s and with a few jams from the
early-'90s, this mix judiciously covers all of the bases--from the deep vocal
smoothness of Sterling Void and Joe Smooth to the acid jack of Tyree and Mr.
Lee. One might worry that Kenny Dope and Louie Vega would focus exclusively
on their New York roots, but there is also a fair share of early seminal
masterpieces from Detroit, Chicago, and the UK.
[V.A.] "Kompakt Total 6" (Kompakt) CDx2 $17.99
Kompakt made a strong comeback in 2005, marked not only by great
albums from Justus Kohncke, Markus Guentner, Matias Aguayo and the
Orb, but this sixth installation in the "Total" series. Twenty-four tracks in
this double-disc compilation and not a bad song in the bunch, with the hits
we know and love and a bunch of vinyl-only cuts that CD buyers had been
dying for--MFA's "The Difference It Makes" anyone?
SUSUMU YOKOTA "Symbol" (Lo Recordings) CD $14.99
What with "Symbol" being his 25th proper full-length, it's next to impossible
to keep track of the prolific Susumu Yokota's recorded output. That said,
the Japanese producer described this release as his masterpiece, and we
agreed. A gorgeous piece of work that's the perfect combination of classical
music and modern electronica, but unlike minimal composers such as
Marsen Jules, Goldmund or Johan Johannson, Yokota hits you over the
head with his compositions.
*** 2005'S BEST "THEN" ALBUMS***
ED ASKEW "Ed Askew " (ESP-Disk) CD $13.99
After a long wait, Ed Askew's 1969 debut, "Ask the Unicorn," was finally
made available on CD (though here, for whatever reason, the reissue is
self-titled). Askew's music bares a strong resemblance to that of his fellow
ESP-Disk artist Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine. He plays the tipple (a
ten-string lute-ukelele hybrid) and has a quivering, idiosyncratic voice. He's an
utterly unique and magical psychedelic folk minstrel, and this album is a
GEORGE BRIGMAN "Jungle Rot" (Bona Fide/Solid) CD $15.99
In the midst of all the South American psych gems and Korean pop
reissues came "Jungle Rot," a fascinating slice of inner city Americana.
Recorded in 1974, but not released until 1975, the majority of the album is
dominated by Brigman's discontented snarl and searing, murky fuzz guitars
(see the ruthless title track and the maniacal rhythm & blues of "I Feel
Alright"), and comes across as a truly pissed off Blue Cheer or a Stooges
without the recording budget. Brigman showcases a more reflective mood in a
couple of downer blues jams, but the lyrical angst and disaffected vocal slur
does nothing to detract from the album's overall intensity.
VASHTI BUNYAN "Lookaftering" (DiCristina) CD $14.99
Placed among recent records from Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom
(both of whom make appearances on this album) and countless other
members of today's neo-folk pack, Vashti Bunyan shone as their guiding
light. Released 35 years after her debut, "Just Another Diamond Day,"
"Lookaftering" felt very much like its natural successor, with her
unmistakable hushed vocals and gently picked guitar. While "Lookaftering"
included much of the debut's rich imagery, her poetic storytelling was filled
with more personal references that reflected her journey through adulthood.
One of this year's truly essential folk releases.
CLUSTER & ENO "Cluster & Eno" (Water) CD $15.99
A stunning album where fans of both artists will be able to pick out their
respective sound signatures--be it Eno's warm ambient cues or Cluster's
unique electronics, which is probably the most prevalent element throughout.
But dig in and you'll find a lot of personality to each of the nine tracks, and
unlike placid "new age" music, a wide range of emotions emanate from these
COB "Moyshe McStiff and the Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart"
(Radioactive) CD $16.99
COB (Clive's Original Band) was the trio formed by Clive Palmer a couple
of years after he left the Incredible String Band. Hard to come by until this
reissue by Radioactive, "Moyshe McStiff " has a similarly intimate and
traditional approach to the ISB's earliest work, when Palmer was still a
member, and it's on par with Robin Williamson's and Mike Heron's first solo
albums, both of which came out around the same time as this fantastic LP.
SHIRLEY COLLINS & DAVY GRAHAM "Folk Roots, New Routes"
(Fledg'ling) CD $15.99
A major catalyst for the British folk revival in the second half of the 1960s,
"Folk Roots, New Routes" was undoubtedly an influence on later albums by
Fairport Convention, the Pentangle, and Steeleye Span. Shirley brought an
impressive repertoire of traditional songs from both sides of the Atlantic to
these sessions, which Davy Graham accompanied with his exceptionally
fluid and expressive acoustic guitar playing. An aficionado of blues, jazz, and
Eastern music, Graham had a unique hybrid style that predated that of
similar players like Sandy Bull, John Fahey, Bert Jansch, and John Renbourn.
ROKY ERICKSON "I Have Always Been Here Before" (Shout Factory)
Roky Erickson is an artist of rare vision and accomplishment, and coupled
with his tenuous emotional state, his legacy was long left to the
bootleggers and well-intentioned fans who scrambled to release any scraps
that could be collected. This wonderful double CD succeeded at setting the
record straight once and for all by collecting a thrilling mix of Erickson's
best and most elusive work (including 13th Floor Elevators classics, long
unavailable late-'70s Roky & the Aliens tracks, and later solo work), and it
should be required listening for any fan of psychedelia, punk, and good old
fashioned rock and roll.
EVERLY BROTHERS "Roots" (Collectors Choice) CD $12.99
"Roots" was arranged by Ron Elliott of the Beau Brummels, fresh off the
sessions for his band's country-rock masterpiece "Bradley's Barn."
"Roots" combines the style of that great record--and the Byrds' album
from the same year, "Sweetheart of the Rodeo"--with the Everlys'
signature high vocal harmonies, and it sounds tremendous. This was
Warner's final stab at making the Everlys popular again, so the label
pulled out all the stops on this absolutely epic record.
BILL FAY "Bill Fay" (Eclectic) CD $19.99
BILL FAY "Time of the Last Persecution" (Eclectic) CD $18.99
The UNCUT quote on the front likened Bill Fay to Drake, Davies, and
Dylan, but his voice is quite distinct, and reminds us more of Scott Walker
circa "3" or "4." The self-titled album from 1970 finds Fay's British drawl in
fine, clarified form, with an orchestral backing not too far removed from
Andrew Loog Oldham's orchestrations of the time. Backed by a killer
tight-knit group of British rock/jazz players, the songs on 1971's "Time of
the Last Persecution" have more of a serrated edge, and the man is quite
honestly fed-up, disenchanted, and bleak in his outlook on the world.
Lashing out at the hypocrisy, malevolence, and dark forces surrounding
him, the music matches his lyrics blow for blow, with biting guitar, moments
of unbridled frenzy, and a seething, viscous feel to it all.
BILL FAY "Bill Fay"
BILL FAY "Time of the Last Persecution"
FIELD MICE "Snowball" (LTM) CD $17.99
FIELD MICE "Skywriting" (LTM) CD $17.99
FIELD MICE "For Keeps" (LTM) CD $17.99
LTM continued their ambitious pop and post-punk rescue work in 2005,
with the trio of Field Mice reissues as the trump card. Perhaps the best
known band on the now defunct twee empire Sarah Records, Field Mice
created beautiful and sparse pop music, which later morphed into a fuller New
Order-esque sound. "Snowball" collects the first three 7-inches, as well as the
"Snowball" 10-inch, all released in '88 and '89. While a little sparse and
shambling at times, these songs are their poppiest. "Skywriting" contains the
LP of the same name, the "So Said Kay" 10-inch, and "The Autumn Store Pts.
1 & 2" (both 7-inches), plus four outtakes, and a compilation track, all from
1990. At this time, the band seemed to be exploring more drawn out and
dancier territory, not unlike New Order or the Wake. 1991's "For Keeps" is the
Field Mice's finest moment. This disc compiles their final album along with the
"Missing the Moon" 12-inch and the "September's Not So Far Away" 7-inch.
"For Keeps" features the most varied songwriting along with a control of
dynamics that they were developing before their break-up.
FIELD MICE "Snowball"
FIELD MICE "Skywriting"
FIELD MICE "For Keeps"
GARY HIGGINS "Red Hash" (Drag City) CD $14.99
While many of the folk-psych "classics" are mediocre at best, "Red Hash"
is one of the tops in the genre. Maintaining a dreamy, melancholic
atmosphere throughout, Higgins' soft, but slightly raspy, vocal delivery is
complemented by an array of instruments, including electric and acoustic
guitars, percussion, flute, cello, piano, and mandolin. Guaranteed to appeal
to most fans of '60s/'70s folk and psychedelic music, especially if you
enjoyed the Bill Fay reissues, or genre-defining albums such as David
Crosby's "If I Could Only Remember My Name" or Linda Perhacs'
INSECT TRUST "Hoboken Saturday Night" (Collectors Choice) CD $12.99
Great reissue of this overlooked and underappreciated band's second
album from 1970. Centered around accomplished music writer Robert
Palmer, and a cast of guests that include Elvin Jones, Bernard "Pretty"
Purdie, and guitarist Hugh McCracken, "Hoboken Saturday Night" is a
melting pot of blues, jazz, folk rock, country & western, and second-line
marches. They even incorporate Moondog songs, Thomas Pynchon prose,
and a song sung by band member Koehler's six-year-old son, Glade, into the
LA DÜSSELDORF "La Düsseldorf" (Warners Germany) CD $21.99
LA DÜSSELDORF "Viva" (Warners Germany) CD $21.99
Long available only as expensive Japanese imports, these two seminal
albums finally saw a more affordable reissue this year, via Warners
Germany. Following the demise of Neu!, Klaus Dinger set his sights on
something far more symphonic than his previous minimalist explorations.
The eponymous album reportedly inspired David Bowie's "Low" record, not
to mention the first two PiL albums, while "Viva" reached even higher
stratospheric heights. Futurist rock at its finest.
LA DÜSSELDORF "La Düsseldorf"
LA DÜSSELDORF "Viva"
MAXIMUM JOY "Unlimited 1979-83" (Crippled Dick)
Superb compilation of rare 7", 12" and assorted album cuts from Maximum
Joy. Featuring former members of Pop Group and Glaxo Babies, Maximum
Joy was one of Bristol's most original post-punk bands, combining punk,
funk and soulful jazz with wild improvisational breaks. Essential for fans of the
Slits, Delta 5, and Essential Logic.
MERRY-GO-ROUND "Listen, Listen" (Rev-Ola) CD $17.99
Recorded while Emitt Rhodes and co-founder Gary Kato were still in high
school, the Merry-Go-Round sound quite a bit like the Beatles' albums from
the same time period, specifically "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver." The
Merry-Go-Round LP might not have been as technically innovative as either
of those albums, but the songs are of the same caliber and Emitt's voice is
strongly reminiscent of Paul McCartney's. Also included are some
unreleased tracks and Emitt's A&M solo album "The American Dream."
THE MOVE "Message from the Country" (EMI Import) CD $16.99
This was the Move's last album, released in 1971, and it was recorded
simultaneously with the first album by the Electric Light Orchestra
featuring the same core lineup of Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, and Bev Bevan,
but without ELO's extravagant orchestral overdubs. Many of Lynne's songs
on "Message from the Country" are quirky and fun like the stuff on Todd
Rundgren's first couple of solo albums, and with ambitiously odd vocal
arrangements in the spirit of the Bee Gees' early psychedelic pop period. If
you like Sweet, Slade, Be Bop Deluxe, 10cc, or Mott the Hoople, you'll
want to check out this incredible record.
JACK NITZSCHE "Hearing Is Believing" (Ace Import) CD $17.99
It's almost impossible to have a one-disc overview of the man, but "Hearing
Is Believing" does the trick. It opens with his stunning surf instrumental,
"The Lonely Surfer," and hangs ten through a wide and wacky range of
artists: from Bobby Darin to Tim Buckley, Doris Day to Buffy Saint-Marie,
Little Stevie Wonder to Graham Parker, the Righteous Brothers to the
James Gang. All of their singles have a little touch of Jack's madness in
'em, with potent doses of orchestral strings and a beatific nimbus of reverb
ORANGE JUICE "The Glasgow School" (Domino) CD $15.99
An essential compilation of early recordings from seminal Scottish pop
icons Orange Juice. The early 45s are poppy yet raw and shambling, like
a group of punks armed with Al Green and Maxine Brown records that had
grown sick of watching Sid and Johnny making fools of themselves on
television. The second half is made up of the brilliant "Ostrich Churchyard,"
an album which was intended as the band's debut LP on Postcard but
never saw the light of day. As the saying goes, "You gotta hear Orange
Juice to dig Jesus & Mary Chain, the Smiths, and Franz Ferdinand."
EVIE SANDS "Any Way That You Want Me" (Rev-Ola) CD $17.99
Most of the songs on "Any Way That You Want Me" were written by the
album's co-producer Chip Taylor who described Evie as "kind of like Dusty
Springfield only with more of a darker, honey coating to her voice." It's a
fitting comparison, and apparently Dusty herself once named Evie as her
favorite female vocalist. Evie's voice is untouchable, the songs are fantastic,
and the production is completely unique. Gorgeous and compelling.
SCRITTI POLITTI "Early" (Rough Trade) CD $15.99
This 13-track compilation was anxiously awaited by a lot of post-punk
aficionados not lucky enough to own the long out of print singles/EPs from
Scritti Politti's early years. Scritti Politti infused their songs with
unpredictable polyrhythmic shifts that would sway from loose, shambolic
funk to tight and dubby, the latter nicely juxtaposed against Green
Gartside's scratchy, angular guitar work. Many of these early recordings
stand among the best works from bands like Gang of Four, Pop Group, and
JUDEE SILL "Dreams Come True" (Water) CDx2 $21.99
"Dreams Come True" filled in a hell of a lot of gaps in the legend of the
late Judee Sill, a songwriter whose talent matched the likes of Neil Young
and Bob Dylan, and whose heavenly multi-tracked vocal harmonies often
drew comparison to her contemporary, Joni Mitchell. Judee was the first
artist signed to David Geffen's Asylum record label, for which she recorded
two absolutely phenomenal albums in the early 1970s (the self-titled debut
and "Heart Food" which were also reissued by Water this year). "Dreams
Come True" includes the entirety of Judee's third album, recorded in a
daylong session in 1974 and never completed or officially released. The
album's eight songs have been properly mixed for the first time ever by Jim
O'Rourke. Additionally, the 2-CD set includes early recordings and a
15-minute video of a live performance from 1973.
JUDEE SILL "Dreams Come True"
JUDEE SILL "Judee Sill" (Water) $15.99
JUDEE SILL "Heart Food" (Water) $15.99
THE STOOGES "The Stooges" (Elektra/Rhino) CDx2 $19.99
THE STOOGES "Fun House" (Elektra/Rhino) CDx2 $19.99
Definitive reissues of definitive albums from a definitive American band.
Elektra/Rhino remastered and expanded the first two Stooges
masterpieces, adding a second disc of bonus tracks to each, more than
doubling the length of both packages.
THE STOOGES "The Stooges"
THE STOOGES" "Fun House"
UNICORN "Uphill All the Way" (Get Back) CD $16.99
I doubt there was ever another English band that did late-'60s southern
California folk-rock this authentically. They were obviously quite smitten by
the incredible vocal harmonies of Crosby, Stills and Nash, whose influence
is apparent on literally every track. "Uphill All the Way" begins with a
stunning interpretation of Jimmy Webb's classic "P.F. Sloan" before moving
through five wonderful originals by guitarist Ken Baker and rousing covers of
Neil Young, John Stewart, Gerry Rafferty, Joe Cocker, and James Taylor.
[V.A.] "Folk Is Not a Four Letter Word" (Delay 68) CD $16.99
Curated by Manchester's number one crate-digging son, Andy Votel,
"Folk Is Not a Four Letter Word" was a cornucopia of hip, and sometimes
funky, folk sounds. Featuring longtime OM faves Brigitte Fontaine, Linda
Perhacs, and Wendy & Bonnie, the compilation also included obscurities
by Musica Dispersa, Welsh girl group Sidan, and a track from the cult mod
flick, "Bronco Bullfrog."
[V.A.] "Não Wave: Brazilian Post-Punk 1982-1988" (Man) CD $15.99
[V.A.] "The Sexual Life of the Savages" (Soul Jazz) CD $18.99
Great record collector hipster minds think alike, it would appear, as two
compilations of Brazilian new wave hit the stands in 2005. Surprisingly
enough, both Man Recordings' "Não Wave" and Soul Jazz's "The Sexual
Life of the Savages" only shared three songs between them. "Não Wave"
collects a plethora of tracks including Fellini's "Teu Ingles," a bilingual song
set to a samba beat--similar to the electro-samba that France's Antena were
making during roughly the same time period. Elsewhere, it would be easy to
mistake this for a compilation of British or German post-punk, but the
Portuguese vocals and occasional Latin guitars add unique warmth to the
often icy genre. On "The Sexual Life of the Savages," As Mercenarias riff like
early-X, frantic at a breakneck rockabilly pace, while Fellini sound like New Order.
[V.A] "Não Wave"
[V.A.] "The Sexual Life of the Savages
[V.A.] "Never the Same" (Honest Jons) CD $24.99
This collection gave a wonderful overview of the British folk revival and the
Trailer label's short history, with beautiful tracks from Nic Jones, Lal
Waterson, master fiddler Aly Bain and his group the Boys Of Lough, Dave
Burland, Tony Rose, who accompanied himself on the harmonium,
concertina player Alistair Anderson, Dorothy Elliott, and the sheepish
Dick Gaughan, who had to be coaxed into the studio by his friends Robin
and Barry Dransfield. The songs on "Never the Same" are simple,
intimate, and timeless; this disc is a must-have for anyone with any
interest at all in the genre.
[V.A.] "Yellow Pills" (Numero Group) CD $31.99
Don't stop, Power Pop! "Yellow Pills" focuses almost exclusively on a
specific era in which the genre wasn't exactly en vogue. All but two of the
songs on this pair of discs were recorded during the New Wave explosion
of the late-'70s and early-'80s. While all the other kids were copping their
ideas from Robert Smith and Siouxsie, these feathery-haired dudes were
studying Big Star, Todd Rundgren, the Raspberries, Badfinger, the Flamin'
Groovies, et al. As always with the Numero Group (Eccentric Soul, Fern
Jones etc), much tender love and care was put into the booklet and packaging.
LINK WRAY "Wray's Three Track Shack" (Arcadia Import) CDx2 $23.99
This is some of the most exhilarating and authentic American roots rock
that you will ever hear. If you're a fan of the Band, the Sir Douglas Quintet,
Neil Young, or any of the Stones' albums from around the same time period,
then prepare to have your mind completely blown. This two-disc set compiled
Link Wray's eponymous 1971 release, the UK only "Beans And Fatback," and
another release from 1971, featuring pianist Bobby Howard singing Wray's
songs under the pseudonym Mordicai Jones. Sadly, Wray passed away last
JERRY YESTER & JUDY HENSKE "Farewell Aldebaran" (Radioactive)
Never readily available on CD before, then husband and wife duo Judy
Henske and Jerry Yester's 1969 folk-psych-rock-cabaret masterpiece
"Farewell Aldebaran" has become a near mythical totem-like object over
the years. It's hugely ambitious and varied, with Yester providing the
towering arrangements to Henske's breathtaking vocalese and intensely
lyrical writing. They kick the album off with a Jefferson Airplane-style
rocker and then proceed to try their hand at Nina Simone-like pathos,
desperation-ridden country rock, and oblique protest balladry. There
honestly isn't another record even remotely like it.
***2005'S BEST PSYCHEDELIA (NEW & REISSUES)***
CLASSICAL M "Bad Guys" (Lion) CD $15.99
Classical M, an idiosyncratic pop group from France, recorded 24 songs
between 1967 and 1970, barely any of which were ever released until now.
Main songwriter Guy Maruanis' lyrics have a direct simplicity (often sung in
English) which often belie their actual sophistication. Occasionally coming
off like a Francophile version of Can, Classical M would bring ambitious
arrangements to envelop the electronic and jammingly percussive ethnic
flourishes that marked many of their finest moments.
CONGREGACION "Viene" (Sampler) CD $21.99
Chilean folk-psych group Congregacion's album "Viene" is a
masterpiece full of delicate atmospherics and dreamy textures. They
have a highly evocative sense of space, with layers of natural sounds
interspersed through all of the acoustic textures. The results are incredibly
romantic, and it's one of those albums that works just as well on a Sunday
morning as it does any given late night.
PEP LA GUARDA & TAPINERIA "Brossa D'ahir" (Discmedi) CD $17.99
Impeccably recorded by Daevid Allen in Mallorca in 1976, Pep Laguarda
and Tapineria's "Brossa D'ahir" is a great, charming, and unassuming
little album that seems to gently float outside of time. Peacefully
shambolic melodies, delicately strummed acoustic guitars, and lightly
tapped woodblocks succeed in cocooning the listener in an exquisite
BRUCE LANGHORNE "The Hired Hand" (Blast First) CD $14.99
Bruce Langhorne's shimmering score to Peter Fonda's classic revisionist
western "The Hired Hand" seemingly suspends time with each graceful,
echoed parsing of a banjo note or dulcimer slide. With a battery of
farfisas, recorders, and ancient Martin guitars, Langhorne single handedly
made a masterpiece we wouldn't fail to recommend to anyone with even a
passing interest in psychedelic-Americana or lysergically inspired
spaghetti western soundtracks.
LAU NAU "Kuutarha" (Locust Music) CD $14.99
This terrific album of new psychedelia came from Lau Nau, a/k/a Laura
Naukkarinen, who happens to be a member of some pretty fantastic
groups like Päivänsäde, the Anaksimandros, and Kiila. Her solo debut
solo features an intriguing intriguing mélange of folk, free and ethnic
musics, that seems doused in a pleasant fragrance of cassette hiss
and distinctively Finnish air.
KIM JUNG-MI "Now" (World Psychedelia) CD $17.99
One of Korean rock and roll mastermind Shin Jung-Hyun's greatest
discoveries was Kim Jung-Mi, a lovely voiced folk rock chanteuse for
whom Jung-Hyun provided superb arrangements via his backing band,
The Men. Really one of the best releases we've ever had in that whole
school of Asian psych rock ("Thai Beat," "Cambodian Rocks," etc.), Kim
Jung-Mi's release "Now" is an amazing amalgamation of west coast
American folk rock and French chanson a la Francoise Hardy, whilst still
retaining its essential Korean-ness.
KAWABATA MAKOTO "Jellyfish Rising" (Funfundvierzig) CD $14.99
With "Jellyfish Rising" we saw a bit of a departure from the Acid Mothers
main man's work of late. Its two tracks of solo guitar display a far more
gentle and introspective side to Makoto's art by being both cosmic and
intimate at the same time. Using only a handful of echo-delay boxes and
a six-string guitar, Makoto takes us on an undulating voyage through the
RAMASES "Space Hymns" (Vertigo UK) CD $18.99
The vision that central heating salesman Martin Raphael had from the
ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramases while driving his car prompted him
to seek a record deal that was consummated via Vertigo, an
adventurous UK label that sent him into the studio with future members
of 10cc as his backing band. The result, a concept LP of hippy-kinship
vibings stuffed full of raga soaked chant chorale on a level with the best
of Comus or the Incredible String Band. We've got a pretty good feeling
David Tibet may already have a copy of this.
SATWA "Satwa" (Time-Lag) CD $15.99
LULA CORTEZ E ZE RAMALHO "Paebiru" (Shadoks) CD $15.99
FLAVIOLA "E o Bando do Sol" (World Psychedelia) CD $16.99
A fantastic trio of lost classic albums from Northeastern Brazil's fertile
psychedelic scene, circa early-'70s. Satwa was originally self-released
by Lula Cortes and his friend Lailson, who had spent countless nights
together improvising a beautiful new hybrid of folk music, combining the
melodies they'd grown up with, but also informed by Indian and Middle
Eastern scales. A year later, Cortes, Zé Ramalho and about a dozen
other musicians created this stunning song cycle, "Paebiru." An
adventurous mix of Brazilian folk and contemporary rock music, this
album shares more in common with Träd Gräs och Stenar and Amon
Düül 1 than any other Brazilian release of the time. Of these three
reissues, "Flaviola e o Bando do Sol" is probably the most immediately
accessible. Featuring many of the same musicians as "Paebiru,"
predominantly Cortes, this record is incredibly tender and peaceful,
predominately acoustic, and with soothing melodies in spades.
LULA CORTEZ E ZE RAMALHO "Paebiru"
FLAVIOLA "E o Bando do Sol"
***2005'S BEST EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC***
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS "Strange and Sacred Noise" (Mode) CD $18.99
A new cycle of percussion works by composer John Luther Adams
performed by the Percussive Ensemble of Cincinnati. Adams, a resident
of Alaska, uses the aural and physical landscape of his home state as a
major influence on his composing style. These are rigorously minimal
works that incorporate chaos theory, fractal geometry, and naturally
occurring rhythmic phenomena and are performed on a wide array of
percussion instruments, including tam-tams, tom-toms, bass drums,
marimbas, and xylophones.
TETUZI AKIYAMA "Route 13 to the Gates of Hell" (Headz) CD $18.99
Tetuzi Akiyama's "Route 13 " was a sparse, meandering and abstract
acoustic guitar journey in the vein of the music that he contributed to
Locust Music's seminal "Wooden Guitar" compilation. The liner notes
describe the performance as the soundtrack to an imaginary film, the plot
of which is described by the lovely painting that adorns the gatefold sleeve
and a short story printed on the back: a lone motorcyclist rides across a
desert wasteland, "searching for hell in order to escape from being a human."
JULIUS EASTMAN "Unjust Malaise" (New World) CDx3 $45.99
A revelatory three-CD set that presents the near forgotten work of
Julius Eastman, an African-American and homosexual composer
who wrote hauntingly beautiful post-minimalist works with stridently
political titles like "Evil N**ger" and "Gay Guerrilla." A student of Cage
and Feldman, and a conductor of Arthur Russell's "Tower of Meaning,"
Eastman's entire corpus had been thought lost amidst the
circumstances that led to his tragic demise.
PETER GARLAND "Love Songs" (Tzadik) CD $14.99
One of the most consistently listenable of all the American minimalists,
Peter Garland's latest suite of recordings are perhaps his greatest works to
date. While the rhythmic framework is provided by an assortment of rattles,
maracas, and marimba, it is the wonderfully dry lyricism of the writing he
provides for strings that gives these pieces their emotionally moving impact.
GOLDMUND "Corduroy Road" (Type) CD $14.99
A suite of pastoral solo piano pieces that recall the spirit of Erik
Satie as filtered through a Civil War-era hymnbook. The sparseness
of the playing is advantageous to the material he's tackling here;
these burnished Americana themes could have been easily overcome
with melodrama. It's to his great credit and taste that they don't.
HAUSCHKA "Prepared Piano" (Karaoke Kalk) CD $14.99
Twelve miniatures that explore John Cage's most celebrated modus
operandi, the prepared piano. Never pedantic and wonderfully inventive,
these pieces open up new possibilities for the piano at every turn.
MOONDOG "The Viking of Sixth Avenue" (Honest Jons) CD $24.99
One of the major unsung heroes of American music finally got a proper
introductory retrospective. Comparable to the visionary work of Harry
Partch and Sun Ra, Honest Jons have culled many rare tracks from
Moondog's own rarely heard private releases from the mid-'50s. Swinging
and joyous, these pieces anticipated countess trends in both popular
and underground music and they still sound more relevant today than
NILS OKLAND "Bris" (Rune Grammofon) CD $15.99
"Bris" is an overwhelmingly powerful work by Norwegian Nils Okland,
a musician and composer renowned for his expertise on the
Hardanger fiddle. While something of a folk revivalist, he nevertheless
composes and improvises in ways that make Scandinavian traditions
seem both modern and timeless. With only the subtlest
accompaniment from harmonium, double bass, and percussion,
Okland creates music of real drama and passion.
SHINING "In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster"
(Rune Grammofon) CD $15.99
"In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster" is an unusual,
practically schizophrenic album that is hopelessly impossible to map.
Shining are a quartet that is able to move effortlessly from film noir to video
game music to Morricone sci-fi western weirdness. This prodigious musical
juggling act needs to be heard to be believed.
STEVEN R. SMITH "Crown of Marches" (Catsup Plate) CD $11.99
The best artistic statement to date from the highly prolific guitarist and
multi-instrumentalist member of the Jeweled Antler Collective, Steven R.
Smith. From the initial Richter scale rumble to the Eastern-tinged melody
that encloses the piece, "Crown of Marches"' continuous 40 minutes slowly
undulates and unfolds through a thick dreamy haze interspersed with bells,
cymbals, keyboards, and timpani.
***2005'S BEST AMERICANA (NEW & REISSUES)***
FERN JONES "The Glory Road" (Numero Group) CD $18.99
The Numero Group continued their impossibly strong reissue series with
"Singing a Happy Song" (reissued here as "The Glory Road"), the sole
professional album by gospel-rockabilly sensation Fern Jones. Fern was a
fixture on the small time tent revival circuit until Johnny Cash included one
of her songs on his debut album. Handed a contract to make an album for
Dot records, she turned in a creation that sounds as fresh as a Sunday
morning while retaining the raw emotion and love of life that speaks equally
of Saturday night.
CAST KING "Saw Mill Man" (Locust Music) CD $14.99
When young musician Matt Downer began recording the old-timey
musicians still to be found near his home in Alabama, he probably
couldn't have dreamed of finding a talent as rich as Cast King. King, a
former recording artist for the legendary Sun Records, resuscitates a
lost career with his weirdly haunting songs full of murder and one too
many drunken nights, proving that it's never too late to start again.
CHARLIE POOLE "You Ain't Talking to Me" (Columbia Legacy) CDx3 $37.99
"You Ain't Talking to Me," housed in an attractive cigar box with a new
illustration by R. Crumb, documents the life and times of renegade
early-country artist Charlie Poole. Poole was an ex-baseball player who
had a hand injury that necessitated a whole new approach to playing the
banjo; his innovation would lay the groundwork from which Bill Monroe
would invent bluegrass. His songs, however, were informed by his
rambling and alcohol fueled lifestyle; these would be the footprints
left on a road that Hank Williams would later follow all too closely along.
JACK ROSE "Kensington Blues" (VHF) CD $13.99
Jack Rose delivers his most diverse set of compositions to date with
"Kensington Blues." All recorded on the first take (!), Rose delves ever
further into ragtime, eastern-influenced steel guitar, and trance-inducing
picking. He always stays within the dark realm of the blues however,
which is never more apparent than on his glorious cover of John Fahey's
"Sunflower River Blues."
HOBART SMITH "In Sacred Trust: The 1963 Fleming Brown Tapes"
(Smithsonian Folkways) CD $15.99
This Folkways Records release is culled from the nine hours which
folklorist Fleming Brown spent recording the virtuoso old-timey musician,
Hobart Smith. A master of many instruments, with a prodigious memory and a vast
number of songs to choose from, Smith could turn in performances of such
speed and intensity that you'll be doubly astounded when you learn that he
recorded them very late in his life while suffering from a heart embolism.
[V.A.] "American Primitive Volume 2" (Revenant) CDx2 $29.99
The late John Fahey's final curated project features names that are all
but lost to time. Culled from a disparate array of worn out shellac, the
old-timey phantoms and spirits he resurrected over this CD's 50 tracks
feature more of the oddest made up songs, off-kilter musings, jazz stomps,
kazoo-fueled bands, and pure joie de vivre than you could hope to hear all
[V.A.] "Dark Holler: Old Love Songs & Ballads" (Smithsonian Folkways)
More than half of this disc features the unaccompanied singing of Dillard
Chandler, recorded by famed folklorist and filmmaker John Cohen in
1963. Chandler was an illiterate odd-jobber who nevertheless had
committed hundreds of soul searing ballads to memory, and he delivers
them with such honest intensity that they seem capable of practically
making time stand still. Included as a bonus disc is an absolutely
beautiful black and white film portrait Cohen made of Chandler in 1966.
[V.A.] "Good for What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows" (Old Hat)
This is quite a package. The folks over at Old Hat have presented us with a
rarely seen look at the bygone era of the American medicine show. These
post-Civil War performances were to have an enormous impact on the
following generation's great hillbilly and blues artists. There's more bawdy
sawing, comb and jug blowing, stovepipe hats and stovepipe brass than you
can shake a phony herbal cure at.
[V.A.] "Imaginational Anthem" (Tompkins Square) CD $14.99
There has been a wholesale revival going on in the world of the acoustic
guitar lately, and thankfully Tompkins Square Records has arrived to
document it. And not just newcomers to the scene either, but some of
the nearly-forgotten masters of yesteryear as well. Imaginational Anthem
serves as a ready primer for immersion into this world, be prepared to be
moved by expertly played six and twelve-stringed instruments in ways you
never thought humanly possible. Featuring outstanding contributions from
Jack Rose, Glenn Jones, Max Ochs, Sandy Bull, Janet Smith, and many
***2005'S BEST JAZZ REISSUES***
ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO "Certain Blacks" (Free America/Universal)
Even at their most fevered moments the work of the AEC is a music of
celebration. This is readily apparent on "Certain Blacks," one of the
greatest albums they made in France during their storied ex-pat days.
Featuring rootsy contributions from guest artist Chicago Beau, AEC cast
aside all inhibition in favor of complete elation and unimpeded expression.
PETER BROTZMANN & HAN BENNINK "Schwarzwaldfahrt" (Unheard Music)
Put to tape in Germany's Black Forest, in wintertime no less, during
the mid-'70s, Brötzmann and Bennink recorded as a trio with mother
earth as the third member. Brötzmann squeaks and skronks as
Bennink plays whatever natural landscape happens to be near by, all
the while enveloped by the ambience of the forest and the sounds of
birdsong and running water that it contains.
DON CHERRY "Where Is Brooklyn?" (Blue Note) CD $17.99
This year Blue Note finally got around to reissuing this really enjoyable
release featuring a quartet setting akin to Ornette's great Atlantic records.
Spontaneous interaction is the name of the game here, with Don Cherry on
cornet throughout and Pharaoh Sanders trading off between tenor sax and
piccolo. Expect rock-solid performances from the rhythm section of Henry
Grimes and Ed Blackwell, as well as a bluesier Sanders than you're probably
used to hearing, if you're more familiar with his Impulse work.
JOHN COLTRANE "One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note"
(Impulse) CD $24.99
A live recording from 1965, "One Down, One Up" was the ultimate
testament to the feverish force of a Coltrane live performance. The
band (Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison) keeps it
locked in, providing the perfect backdrop for Coltrane's modal
excursions. The 28-minute rendition of the title track is the real tour
de force here, especially when Tyner and Garrison drop out and let
Coltrane and Jones go head to head on saxophone and drums for
over 10 minutes. It's a deeply physical experience.
ANDREW HILL "Andrew!" (Blue Note) CD $16.99
The general mood on this album is one of dissonant reflection, but not
at the expense of casual listenability. Likewise, the solos probe and
search, but never far enough to break your last two wine glasses. Rather
than spazzing out or delving into free improvisation, Hill takes the high
road, creating a web of pan-tonal threads that, when viewed from afar,
are actually quite grounded in their approach. The fact that vibist Bobby
Hutcherson was on hand has more than a little to do with this since vibes,
no matter how they're played, have a mellow, calming effect on almost any
MAULAWI "Maulawi" (Soul Jazz) CD $18.99
Maulawi, a contemporary of the AACM and the Art Ensemble of Chicago,
recorded this little heard album for Strata East Records in 1973. This is a
deep jazz gem that echoes the sound of the streets in early-'70s Chicago,
with crowds of voices flowing atop fuzzy bass and funk-inspired grooves.
It isn't so much free as it is an experience in groove, displaying how soul
and Latin elements can blend with the structure and tradition of jazz.
ARCHIE SHEPP "Black Gipsy" (Free America/Universal)
Recorded in 1969 in Paris (where Shepp resided at the time) with an
all-star band including Dave Burrell, Leroy Jenkins, Sunny Murray, and
Clifford Thornton, Shepp delivers a spiritual and raucous set of controlled
chaos. With the aide of poet/vocalist Chicago Beauchamp, the free blues
of the 25-minute title track might be his finest recorded moment.
***2005'S BEST GROOVE ALBUMS (NEW & REISSUES)***
RAY BARRETTO "Acid" (Vampi Soul) CD $18.99
This year saw the CD reissue of Brooklyn-born conguero/band leader Ray
Barretto's seminal "Acid," one of the funkiest and exciting Latin music
albums from the '60s. An inspired fusion of Latin jazz, boogaloo, funk and
contemporary soul, Barretto and his ensemble are on fire amidst
hard-handed conga and timbale playing, soaring trumpet solos and
shout-outs of "Yeah, baby!"
SHARON JONES "Naturally" (Daptone) CD $14.99
Sharon Jones' "Naturally" sounded like a classic funk or Motown record,
never mind the 2005 copyright date. A strong, charismatic vocalist with great
material and the incomparable Dap-Kings backing her up, Sharon's full-length
wasn't, however, a tribute to greats like Lyn Collins or Aretha, but rather, a
real, honest soul album recorded today.
GERALDO PINO & THE HEARTBEATS "Heavy Heavy Heavy" (Retroafric)
In spite of being a major unsung hero of Afro-beat and cited as an important
influence to a young Fela Kuti, Sierra Leone bandleader Geraldo Pino's
music has been difficult to find. This amazing compilation was certainly a
revelation of sorts, giving many their first exposure to the man who was the
first to introduce American R&B rhythms and black power lyrics into popular
[V.A.] "Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up" (Numero Group) CD $18.99
Another winner from the Numero Group, "Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up"
compiled mid-'60s singles released from Belize's Contemporary
Electronic Systems label. The Belizean artists featured are influenced by
funk, R&B soul and reggae; and while there's no real fusion of all three
styles, there are some really incredible songs to be heard from each of
the represented genres.
[V.A.] "Dirty Laundry: The Soul of Black Country" (Trikont) CD $16.99
A great companion to the two volumes of Casual Records' "Country Got
Soul," the Trikont label released this 24-song compilation highlighting
African-American contributions in country music. Most of the selection is
culled from the '60s and '70s, featuring artists like Candi Staton, Bobby
Womack, James Brown, Ella Washington, Earl Gaines, Curtis Mayfield,
Bettye Swann and Joe Simon.
[V.A.] "Love's the Real Thing: World Psychedelic Classics Vol. 3"
(Luaka Bop) CD $16.99
Volume 3 of Luaka Bop's "World Psychedelic Classics," "Love's a
Real Thing" put the groove into groovy, with an awesome selection of
technicolor funk from West Africa. No "Sgt. Pepper" styled mindbenders,
these tracks are fuzzy, driving and loose in the vein of the Chambers
Brothers or early-Sly, with a little Hendrix-styled funk thrown in for good
(Negroclash) CD $14.99
Some of this year's most memorable (or unmemorable depending on you're
level of debauchery) nights of gettin' down took place at the monthly
Negroclash party at APT. Assembled by the Negroclash crew, the mix here
is an extension of the party, where DJs Language, Duane (from Other
Music) and Lindsay's choice selections reflect black music's important role
of incorporating electronic sounds into dance music. Educational, sure, but
more importantly, FUN!
[V.A.] "Rewind Volume 4" (Ubiquity) CD $15.99
The west coast equivalent of BBE hit us with another installation of
exclusive new covers in a future soul stylee; and Volume 4 might
be their best yet. Highlights include Sa-Ra's murky take on Sly &
the Family Stone's "Cry Like a Baby," the club smash "Evil
Vibrations" (a/k/a that joint that De La sampled for "Saturdays")
from Rebirth, and the Platinum Pied Pipers' vocodered Detroit
beatdown version of the Bacharch chestnut "The Look of Love." If
you're a fan of all of the above, you need this.
[V.A.] "Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats" (Essay) CD $15.99
[V.A.] "Funk Carioca" (Mr. Bongo) CD $17.99
[V.A.] "Senor Coconut: Coconut FM" (Essay) CD $15.99
Ever since "City of God" came out, the once self-contained Favela bass
scene in Brazil has gone international, leaving many Europeans and Yanks
jonesin' for these dirty dance beats. The problem has always been trying to
find the music, but 2005 saw the release of several Favela funk collections,
including the booty-shakin' "Rio Baile Funk" and "Funk Carioca"
compilations. Even Senor Coconut threw his hat into the ring, delivering a
comp that not only featured Brazilian tracks, but a wider range of Latino
and South American sounds, guaranteed to make your grandma stick her
butt out and pop.
[V.A.] "Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats"
[V.A.] "Funk Carioca"
[V.A.] "Senor Coconut: Coconut FM"
[V.A.] "Soul Gospel" (Soul Jazz) CD $18.99
One of the most dynamic reissue labels around, Soul Jazz delivered this
fantastic collection of 'soul gospel,' basically the meeting point between
soul, pop and black spiritual music. An excellent selection of great,
honest tracks from the likes of Odetta, Irma Thomas, Bobby Bland, Aretha
Franklin, Staple Singers, Della Reese, Sweet Inspirations, and many more.
WATTS 103RD STREET RHYTHM BAND " Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band"
(Water) CD $15.99
Best known for their monster 1970 hit "Express Yourself," Watts 103rd
Street Rhythm Band were precursors to crossover acts like Sly & the
Family Stone, War, etc. The sound of their radio-friendly debut album from
1967 is jazzy, poppy funk. Following this record's release, co-founders
Charles Wright and Fred Smith (who produced and co-wrote most of the
tracks here) hit upon creative differences. Smith left the group and under
Wright's control, Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band moved into looser and
***2005'S BEST HIP-HOP RECORDS***
COMMON "Be" (Geffen) CD $15.99
The follow-up to 2002's star-studded "Electric Circus" marked a return to
form for Common. One of the most lyrical voices in hip-hop, "Be" found
the Windy City resident inspired by, and writing about, his hometown.
There aren't any party jams or rock fusions, just raw, head-nodding loops
and smart, uplifting soul shouts with producer Kanye West's trademark
sound in full effect.
DANGERDOOM "The Mouse and the Mask" (Epitaph) CD $13.99
OK, I think we all approached this album with a little trepidation. Not that
either Dangermouse or MF Doom aren't at the top of their game, but the
prospect of incorporating characters from Adult Swim's cartoon and puppet
series?! In actuality, "The Mouse and the Mask" turned out to be a
wonderfully imaginative and fun hip-hop concept album, not to mention
Doom's virtuosic wordplay being the perfect fodder for Dangermouse's
soulful sampledelic beats.
EDAN "Beauty & the Beat" (Lewis) CD $15.99
Early in the year, Boston's Edan gave hip-hop a psychedelic shot in the
arm with his sophomore full-length. Boasting ill songwriting and a robust
vocal presence, "Beauty and the Beat" was bold and daring in its
soundclash production, tying vintage and new school together with '70s funk
breaks, bends and echoes. This kid was on some fresh s**t and we were
KOUSHIK "Be With" (Stones Throw) CD $8.99
This collection of previously released 12-inches verified why there was such
a "next-big-thing" buzz going on about this Vermont beatsmith. While
Koushik's hazy, downbeat hip-hop could be comparable to contemporaries
like Four Tet, RJD2 and DJ Shadow, what set him apart was the beautiful
'60s psych-pop element running through his tracks. Panned strings,
acoustic guitars and harpsichords fall in and out of each other while
Koushik's melodies bring to mind the vocal choirs that you'd hear on an
old Percy Faith or 101 Guitars record.
LADY SOVEREIGN "Vertically Challenged" (Chocolate Industries)
The rising star in Britain's grime scene, Lady Sovereign first caught our
ears with her killer track, "Cha Ching" on the first "Run the Road"
compilation. Her next single "Random" was further proof that the sassy
young, 5'1'' MC would soon be conquering these shores with her fresh
energy and razor sharp tongue. Her album drops in 2006, in the meantime
this EP should get you ready to "Make way for the SOV!"
LITTLE BROTHER "Minstrel Show" (ABB/Atlantic) CD $15.99
True school hip-hop's new poster boys, Little Brother returned with a
solid follow-up to their underground classic, "The Listening." You'd
think that after a major label signing, and 9th wonder producing a song
for Jay-Z's "Black Album," the NC trio would have made a play for
mainstream hip-hop radio. Instead, LB come back even dirtier, keeping
that classic sound intact. Not only that, these guys have created a
conceptual album that examines the costs of mass-marketing hip-hop
culture for mainstream success. Beats for the mind and the feet.
MED "Push Comes to Shove" (Stones Throw) CD $14.99
After appearing on both of Quasimoto's CDs as well as releases by
Madvillain and Lootpack, MED (a/k/a Medaphoar) finally dropped his debut
full-length. With a rapid fire flow, the staccato-tongued rapper told tales
of the streets and urban nightlife over quality beats and production by Madlib.
Also on board were J. Dilla, Oh No, Just Blaze and Diamond D.
M.I.A. "Arular" (XL) CD $15.99
When we reviewed M.I.A.'s singles in last year's Other Music Update, the
world was just starting to catch on to the soon-to-be superstar. Born in Sri
Lanka, moved to London, Maya Arulpragasam called attention to topics like
world poverty, bomb-making, child prostitution, and sweatshops; all while we
shook our asses to the crunchy double-dutch beats.
PLATINUM PIED PIPERS. "Triple P" (Ubiquity) CD $16.99
Other Music's J Dennis claimed that Platinum Pied Pipers' debut album
was "better than Sade." We'll let you decide, but the tight duo of Saadiq
and former Slum Village member Waajeed produced an urban/soul hybrid
that defied classifications. Was it hip-hop, nu-soul, or R&B? Who cares,
this album is great, with guest vocals from Jay Dee, Steve Spacek and Sa-Ra
[V.A.] "DJ Language: Real Music for Real People" (BBE) CD $14.99
Most noted for being one third of the great Negroclash crew, DJ
Language offered his first legitimate mix CD via the BBE label. "Real
Music for Real People" showcased his skillful art of blending, as he
effortlessly moved across genres: from hip-hop (Nas, Pete Rock) to
trippy soul (Koushik, Spacek) to broken beat (Bugz in the Attic), not
to mention classics from Roy Ayers and Patrice Rushen.
[V.A.] "Run the Road" (Vice) CD $14.99
[V.A.] "Run the Road Volume 2" (679 Import) CD $26.99
We were already singing the praises of Dizzee Rascal and Streets, but
the "Run the Road" compilation introduced us to a bevy of new names
associated with the now-sound emanating from the UK's housing projects
and pirate radio. Yes, the word was grime, and soon here in the States we
were sweating to the crunchy sounds of Kano, Roll Deep Crew and Lady
Sovereign. And for anyone questioning if grime was about to go the way of
electroclash, "Run the Road Volume 2" hit our shelves during the final
weeks of 2005.
[V.A.] "Run the Road"
[V.A.] "Run the Road Volume 2"
***REGGAE, ROOTS & LOVERS***
15-16-17 "Magic Touch" (DEB) CD $19.99
A great collection of late-'70s lovers rock sung by three British teenaged
girls who happened to be 15, 16 and 17 when this album was recorded.
"Magic Touch," released on Dennis Brown's DEB Players label, is a subtle,
smoky and soulful slice of reggae aimed at the heart. Fans of vocalists like
Ari Up, Neneh Cherry, or even Keith Hudson's slow, unorthodox, vibe-filled
singing style should find ease in the voices of these girls.
THE HEPTONES "Unreleased Night Food & Rare Black Ark Sessions"
(Auralux) CD $17.99
The fine folks at Auralux dug deep into the vaults and delivered this
amazing, 14-track album featuring unreleased Heptones recordings.
Includes four roots versions made with Harry J, five dubs, and four
extended mixes from a Black Ark session.
RANKING DREAD "Ranking Dread in Dub" (Silver Kamel Audio) CD $15.99
Evenly split down the middle with rhythms by Sly and Robbie and mixes by
King Tubby on the first side, and rhythms by Roots Radics and mixes by
Scientist on the second, "Ranking Dread in Dub" was the deepest and most
whacked out dub reggae find of 2005. For fans of Mikey Dread's "African
Anthem" and Keith Hudson's deepest, most spaced out productions.
RHYTHM & SOUND "See Mi Yah" (Basic Channel) CD $17.99
"See Mi Yah" was essentially one rhythm extended across 10 tracks, each
featuring a different vocalist, including Sugar Minott, Ras Donovan, Willi
Williams, and Rhythm & Sound mainstay Paul St. Hilaire (Tikiman). Like the
great dub and reggae producers of the past (i.e. King Tubby, Prince/King
Jammy, Keith Hudson), R&S saw the beauty of having various voices appear
atop the same rhythm. Never boring, always beautiful and spiritual.
PETER TOSH "Talking Revolution" (Pressure Sounds) CD $17.99
This is not your mom's Peter Tosh. Pressure Sounds' "Talking Revolution"
showcased Tosh at his most political, strident and fiery best, with
disc-one made up of a ferocious live recording at the One Love Peace
Concert in 1977, where Tosh waxes political over a killer psychedelic
reggae backing. Believe. Disc-two was the calm after the storm, as it
collected various moving acoustic radio sessions where Tosh comes
across like a Jamaican Terry Callier.
[V.A.] "The Bunny Lee Rocksteady Years" (Moll Selekta) CD $15.99
While there's certainly no shortage of funk and dub compilations, good,
solid rocksteady reissues have been scarce. Thankfully, "The Bunny Lee
Rocksteady Years" went a long way to fix the problem, with sweet lover's
classics by Owen Gray, Dawn Penn, Pat Kelly, Alton Ellis, and many more.
Best of all, most of these tracks have never been compiled before.
[V.A.] "Down Santic Way" (Pressure Sounds) CD $16.99
"Down Santic Way" gathered 18 of Leonard Chin's innovative productions.
The eerie keyboards and sounds that haunt the rhythms are supplied by
the Leonard Santic All Stars, with vocalists and DJs like Augustus Pablo,
I-Roy, Gregory Issacs, and Horace Andy. Definitely inspired by soul ballads,
but steady rocking at the same time, the era showcased on "Down Santic
Way" would pave the way for the lovers rock sound that Chin developed in
the UK a few years later.
[V.A.] "Safe Travel: Phil Pratt & Friends" (Pressure Sounds) CD $16.99
A perfect companion to the Bunny Lee compilation, "Safe Travel" collects
23 wonderful rocksteady tracks overseen by famed Jamaican producer
and vocalist Phil Pratt. With soulful arrangement by Lynn Taitt and
Tommy McCook, the set includes Ken Boothe, Larry Marshall, Horace
Andy (his first ever recording), and a handful of instrumentals.
[V.A.] "Studio One Women" (Soul Jazz) CD $18.99
Another essential installment in Soul Jazz's "Studio One" series
highlighted reggae's finest female singers. Featuring Rita Marley, Marcia
Griffiths, Hortense Ellis (Alton's sister) and Jennifer Lara, as well as many
more of Jamaica's leading ladies, most of the tracks are taken from rare
singles and 12-inches.
WILLI WILLIAMS "Messenger Man" (Blood & Fire) CD $16.99
Best known for writing and voicing "Armagideon Time" (which the Clash
later covered and brought to worldwide attention), what sets Williams apart
from the rest of the pack is his subtle soul and roots approach. Recorded
at Channel One and Joe Gibbs' studio, keyboardist Jackie Mittoo (whom
Williams befriended while in Canada) is prominently featured over these 17
***2005'S BEST INTERNATIONAL RELEASES***
BEMBEYA JAZZ NATIONAL "The Syliphone Years" (Sterns) CD $19.99
The greatest dance band in the history of African music, Bembeya Jazz
National were a state sponsored orchestra of unlimited talent who
effortlessly synthesized countless influences, from Congolese rumba to
American funk via Fela Kuti's Afro-beat. But it was the haunting vocals of
Demba Camara in counterpoint to guitarist Sekou Diabate's hypnotically
fluid guitar work that made them the kings of the continent.
DEBASHISH BHATTACHARYA "Calcutta Slide Guitar" (Riverboat) CD $15.99
Debashish Bhattacharya, an Indian classical musician, has had a
lifelong fascination with the steel slide guitar. He's designed 19 separate
slide guitars to make them adaptable to the complex possibilities to be
found in Indian raga. Key modifications in these instruments have allowed
him to expand the sound and color of ragas, while the slide technique
he's developed gives the music a sparking effect that seems to resonate
KONONO N°1 "Congotronics" (Crammed Discs) CD $15.99
Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Konono N°1 are the
leaders of a musical movement knows as "tradi-modern," which is
essentially electrified Congolese music steeped in the traditions of
Bozombo trance. The uniqueness of their sound is derived from their
practice of assembling instruments and microphones from car parts and
ARSENIO RODRIGUEZ "Quindembo/Afro Magic" (Epic Japan)
Arsenio Rodriguez is generally considered to be the godfather of
Cuban music. Enormously influential, everyone from Marc Ribot to
the Buena Vista Social Club owe him a great debt. "Quindembo Afro
Magic" is possibly his greatest album ever, recorded in the '60s and
intended to show off the rootsier aspects of his art, his highly original
guitar playing is complemented by the thrilling arrangements he
brings to his folkloric heritage.
TIBETAN BUDDHIST RITES FROM THE MONASTERIES OF BHUTAN
(Sub Rosa) CD $16.99
Some of the heaviest music ever set to tape, John Levy's field recordings
of Bhutan monks document sounds never before heard by western ears.
Chants, chimes, gongs, drums, and 12-foot-long trumpets make for music
that is both beautiful and discordant.
ALI FARKA TOURE "Red and Green" (World Circuit/Nonesuch)
"Red and Green" is a long overdue reissue of two of Ali Farka Toure's
earliest recordings. This highly celebrated Malian guitarist first came
to the ears of westerners through these two eponymous albums that
were originally released in the late-'70s and early-'80s. The bluesy,
trance-inducing melodic guitar lines that are his trademark are firmly
in place here, and it's readily apparent that international stardom was
[V.A.] "Choubi Choubi: Folk & Pop Sounds from Iraq"
(Sublime Frequencies) CD $14.99
Easily one of the most intriguing and satisfying releases yet from Sublime
Frequencies. Choubi Choubi is the name of an explosive, highly rhythmical
musical form in Iraq. Recorded during the reign of Saddam Hussein, these
recordings document a brutally repressed and hidden culture.
[V.A.] "Indiavision" (Buda Musique) CD $19.99
The best Bollywood compilation we've heard in years, with tons of funky
sitar, poly-rhythmic grooves, and Middle Eastern-influenced funk. Included
are several tracks originally sampled by the likes of Madlib and Jay Dee.
***LA DECADANSE MAGNIFIQUE***
ANA Y JAIME "Es Largo el Camino" (Amort) CD $18.99
A gem-encrusted reissue, Colombian brother-sister duo Ana y Jaime
were only teenagers when they recorded this album. Sung in Spanish,
the melodies and harmonies from these siblings are outstanding, at
times urgent, fueling the mix of folk-rock, mod pop, and fuzzy
BERTRAND BURGALAT "Portrait-Robot" (Tricatel) CD $14.99
Five years after the release of "Sssound of Mmmusic," Tricatel label head
Bertrand Burgalat returned with its follow-up. On "Portrait Robot," the
always-cool French producer steered us through his many musical
obsessions, from bittersweet Gainsbourgian pop ballads to his signature
collision of retro-chic, avant and electronica.
ERASMO CARLOS "O Tremendao" (Sony Brazil) CDx6 $65.99
This six-CD box set chronicled the development of the way under-heralded
(in the US, at least) Erasmo Carlos. From the initial energetic bursts of
mod pop that characterized the first couple of albums to the Jorge Ben and
psychedelia influenced later material, these are crucial and essential
moments in Brazilian song.
ROGERIO DUPRAT "A Banda Tropicalista do Duprat" (El/Cherry Red)
As longtime fans of tropicalia for nigh on a decade, we had no idea this
album even existed, and it is one dosed doozy. Duprat focuses not so much
on the wilder aspects of Tropicalia but on askewed orchestral readings of
Jobim, Chico Buarque, Veloso (his instrumental version of "Baby" is one for
the beat-heads), and Gil. Mutantes churn behind him on a few numbers,
tackling the Cowsills and an odd version of "Lady Madonna." For fans of
strange exotica, go-go, swinging instrumentals, David Axelrod, and of course,
SEU JORGE "Carolina" (Mr. Bongo) CD $15.99
SEU JORGE "Cru" (Wrasse) CD $15.99
SEU JORGE "The Life Aquatic Sessions" (Hollywood) CD $17.99
Though Brazilian musician/actor Seu Jorge first caught the attention of
American audiences with his role in "City of God," it was his much
smaller part (a crewmember playing Portuguese renditions of Bowie songs
in "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou") which jump-started his career
here in the States. First and foremost, Jorge is a gifted songwriter and
his two full-lengths "Carolina" and "Cru"quickly became two of our new
favorites from Brazil. Both of these records show Jorge as a great new
voice in samba funk. Also available, "The Life Aquatic Sessions" which
features 13 Bowie covers and an original.
SEU JORGE "Carolina"
SEU JORGE "Cru"
SEU JORGE "The Life Aquatic Sessions"
ENNIO MORRICONE "Crime & Dissonance" (Ipecac) CDx2 $17.99
We just featured this an update a few week's ago, but we cannot
emphasize how great this Ennio Morricone compilation is. (Hint: we
sold out of our first stock within a few days of its release.)
Executive-produced by Mike Patton and compiled by Sun City Girls'
Alan Bishop, this 30-track collection is essential for hardcore fans as well
as those who have yet to sample the legendary film composer's music.
These are his darkest, most psychedelic recordings, made during the
late-'60s and early-'70s. Includes a glossy 24-page booklet with liner notes
from John Zorn.
JOYCE WITH DORI CAYMMI "Rio Bahia" (Far Out) CD $16.99
One of Brazil's most beloved singers, Joyce released this gorgeous brand
new album, a collaboration with songwriter/guitarist Dori Caymmi. Not a
record for those hungry for the avant-garde, but rather a lovely and
restrained suite of relaxed jazz-samba built around Caymmi's lilting guitar
and Joyce's inimitable and passionate vocal melodies.
WANDA SA "Wanda Vagamente" (Dubas) CD $16.99
One of our favorite Brazilian reissues of the year, this dreamy album from
Wanda Sa topped the charts upon its release in 1964. Featuring
compositions from Jobim and Edu Lobo, "Wanda Vagamente" showcases
the gorgeous, delicate vocals of this chanteuse (who would later join
Sergio Mendes' Brazil '65). An absolute must for fans of the classic bossa
nova and tropicalia sound.
JEAN-CLAUDE VANNIER "L'enfant Assassin de Mouches"
(Finders Keepers) CD $19.99
Andy Votel dug up and reissued this amazing obscurity from Jean-Claude
Vannier, the arranger of "Histoire de Melody Nelson," for his Finders
Keepers label. All the elements from Serge Gainsbourg's classic album
are present but with a darker, more psyched out and experimental edge. A
must for beat heads and psych heads alike.
YAMASUKI "Le Monde Fabuleux des Yamasuki" (Finders Keepers)
Hot on the heels of the Vannier reissue, Finders Keepers served up yet more
mystery meat. "Le Monde Fabuleux Des Yamasuki" was conceived as a
choreography project by two French pop composers, who set themselves to
learning Japanese and assembling a children's choir in order to realize their
incredibly unusual vision. The album is very cool and very strange, a funky,
percussive, kitschy, and catchy journey that begs to be used by Quentin
Tarantino in a "Kill Bill" sequel.
Holiday Recap Contributors: Geoff Albores, Adrian Burkholder, Randy Breaux,
Brandon Burke, Amanda Colbenson, J Dennis, Daniel DeRogatis, Lisa Garrett,
Daniel Givens, Gerald Hammill, Duane Harriott, Rob Hatch-Miller, Evan Hecht,
Koen Holtkamp, Dan Hougland, Michael Klausman, Andreas Knutsen, Josh
Madell, Scott Mou, Jennifer Orozco, Carrie Pierce, Bert Queiroz, Jeremy
Rendina, Jeremy Sponder, Roy Styles, Mahssa Taghinia and Chris Vanderloo.
The Big Picture:
To see a complete list of Other Music new releases for the
week ending December 15, 2005, use this link as a shortcut:
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Thanks for reading.
-all of us at Other Music
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