November 25, 2006

What I'm Listening To

Lots of musical discoveries over the past month.

During a recent trip to the Bay Area, I had a few minutes to spare between meetings so I stopped by Streetlight Records (Amoeba was too far of a drive) in Campbell . . . three-quarters expecting that the store would have gone the way of Tower Records. I was surprised to see it was still there, right near the crazy Zorba the Greek restaurant on Bascom.

I love these kinds of stores because the employees go to great lengths to explain why some albums by bands I've never heard of are worth listening to. And usually, they're right. I wind up buying a bunch of such CDs particularly when I see not only did one employee post a long, painstakingly detailed review on a tiny piece of construction paper, but a whole bunch of other employees taped stickers with their names to the CD jewelcase, giving their thumbs up as well. How can I lose?

So, here are the discoveries, not just from the Streetlight experience, but from the Hype Machine and other MP3 blogs:

  • Beirut - Gulag Orkestar. Sounds like Neutral Milk Hotel sitting in on a Balkan gypsy orchestra recording session. One downside: the songs thematically feel awfully similar and it begins to be pretty noticeable as you listen to the whole album.

  • Oneida - Happy New Year. A rave Streetlight review caught my attention. Plus the name. Passed through Oneida, NY a few times over the years. As for the album, it's all over the place -- from fascinating to ear-screeching to 60s-throwbacks.
  • Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra - Port Chicago. I love the opening. I first heard this CD parked by a cemetery in Soquel, CA, after stopping to eat some lunch before arriving at a tech conference. The somber first track is so perfect for a cemetery setting. I'm chomping on a hamburger while two gravediggers use a backhoe's shovel arm to lift a dirty coffin out of its resting place (who knows what was going on). And then comes track two, which is bright, jazzy, big band tune, completely breaking the spell... or something. A great record. And the opening theme keeps coming back between other tracks.
  • Underworld - 1992-2002 Not quite as good as Second Toughest in the Infants (which contains that incredible cinematic epic "Juanita/Kiteless/To Dream of Love"). But still good electronic music, and stuff I've never heard before from Underworld.
  • The Who - Endless Wire. How I dreaded listening to this. I had to buy it. Who fan from way way way back. Had to. But to listen . . . Suffice to say, I agree with the 4.7 (out of 10) rating by Pitchfork. It's, eh, ok I guess. Will it grow on me? No.
  • Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass . . . YLT never disappoints. Great new album.
  • Various Artists - Butchering the Beatles. I always seek out Beatles tribute albums, to see if there are any new musical insights to be gleaned from the cover versions. Bottom line: nothing insightful here. Imagine Spinal Tap doing a Beatles tribute CD. You get the idea. (FYI, no Streetlight Records employee recommendations on this one -- I'm solely to blame).
  • Tucker B's Came across this band from reading this blog post. I like both songs available as MP3s there. Now, how to get this Perth, Australia band to come to San Diego. Hmm. Maybe a demand might help...
  • Nada Surf - various albums - I've heard of Nada Surf for years, but was never really familiar with their material. Then one day recently, a colleague at work was flying home from New York to San Diego, and discovered he was sitting next to the members of Nada Surf on the plane. Unfortunately, my colleague had never heard of 'em before . . . ah well! So I went and checked 'em out and found their music is great . . . The Weight Is A Gift is a great album, as is Let Go.

Posted by brian at November 25, 2006 09:11 PM


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