When the Gravity Shackles Were Wild
Some stuff I’ve been listening to, but only the stuff I could think of something to say about.
Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, On The Beach
One day I’ll be old and wise and will finally recognize Neil Young as my contemporary, someone who speaks for me, but then I’ll realize I’m listening to a much younger man. That will be a great, weird way to leave this world. One can only play Rust Never Sleeps and After The Gold Rush so many times (well, not really), so now I’m relating to some less worn discs, in young, naïve ways.
Jungle Brothers – Straight Out The Jungle
3 Feet High & Happy to Stay There, for a Kind of Enlightenment Can Be Found at That Elevation, Too… and probably why this album is important but not exactly famous, and also why it’s so fun.
Orbital – Wonky
Even better than The Chemical Brothers’ Further. It’s fun to see what these guys can do when they’re not burdened with carrying so much of the world’s musical imagination. I wondered if Wonky would read as tacky or timely, and the answer, neither, is what makes it so exciting.
Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action At A Distance
As much time as I spend thinking about Bradford Cox, his Deerhunter bandmate Lockett Pundt makes more sense to me, probably. The dude sounds more content to walk on sanctioned paths, less apt to try to break out of his own skin, hence this very fine traditional album of riffs and shifting lights. Some have said that, emboldened by his musical “coming out” on Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest, Pundt offers bigger jams and more vivid vocals here than on his Lotus Plaza debut. Even so, Lotus Plaza will always imply cloaking; Deerhunter is a different band.
Lightships – Electric Cables
The great naturalist and pacifist Gerard Love is one of the essential songwriters, even or especially when he sings only of his contemplation of the trees. And yet in celebrating Love I miss the point that Lightships are a band; I’m always amazed, touched, when a group of guys finds a way to press their energies into such a singular, intimate, quiet sound.
Grimes – Visions
These are visions of the album Madonna might have made just before her debut, in the white room where “Lucky Star” takes place: No restrictions on sound in that gleaming void of self-creation, no pressures from MTV to squash such expansive experimentation. In fact, maybe this is Madonna’s first album, kept secret all these years and only now released under the name Grimes, for fear the world wouldn’t abide learning how quickly something personal can be transformed into something commercial (sometimes with no reduction in quality, as in this theoretical case).
The Silos – Cuba
One of the great artifacts of the strong backbeat 80s. “Just this morning I heard my favorite record on the radio,” Walter Salas-Humara sings, naming the kind of intense music love that, more than any dictate of style, provides immediate entry into this album for any fellow music lover.
Wanda Jackson – Vintage Collections Series (‘56-‘61)
One of my favorite pastimes is to seek out narrative arcs on greatest hits compilations. This one’s not arranged chronologically, but no matter, since the narrative to be found here is more of a perpetual back-and-forth, as embodied by opening track “I Gotta Know”: from true and permanent love (country music) to frivolous freedom (rock ‘n’ roll).
Compulsion – Comforter
I’m less interested in the music, honestly, and more interested in the way I found it, shrinkwrapped and selling for 97 cents at the local CD superstore. This disc, never played, represents so much packaged hope (namely, that Compulsion would be really famous, the great post-Nirvana, post-grunge band, and that it, the disc, would be unwrapped and played to death simultaneous with countless other copies in 1994), and nothing I could do while opening it, no amount of excitement I might muster, could reclaim that hope.
Beck – Odelay
Funny, I tried to reactivate this album last year but thought it had permanently expired, and then, listening to it the other day, I felt like the coolest person in the world. It’s still so great and state of the art, and reminds me that if I wrote a teleological history of music and had to assign an endpoint when all of our strivings in the world of sound were finally realized, 1996 would be the year. (So what have these last 16 years been?) Here’s the comedy version of Emperor Tomato Ketchup, or at least I think that’s a proper designation for an album with such a continually unexpected implementation of its mastery of styles.