Starting this month I’m adding a new section for capsule reviews. I review albums semi-often in an online review spreadsheet, although I rarely write more than a few sentences.
Very strange. I was writing a capsule review of one of my favorite albums, 99.9 by Suzanne Vega, then checked if there was a live version or music video of the song. There was! To my surprise and delight, I saw that I had written a Youtube comment already last year: Not to diss Vega in any way, but Mitchell Froom’s musical arrangements in 99.9 and Nine Objects of Desire are positively ethereal. The two of them together really did amazing things…
Here is what I wrote today about 99.9: Iconic album which merges Vegas’s songwriting and Mitchell Froom’s unconventional percussive arrangements, producing masterpieces like IN LIVERPOOL and IF YOU WERE IN MY MOVIE, BAD WISDOM and BLOOD MAKES NOISE. Although Vega’s acoustic songs like BLOOD SINGS, AS A CHILD and SONG OF SAND are poignant and beautiful, Froom brings pulsating magic to BLOOD MAKES NOISE and 99.9. Who would have ever thought that two antithetical aesthetics could form such a beautiful result? I particularly love the restraint of IN LIVERPOOL; that song just lingers and then its guitars lead it blissfully away.
Wow, I see that rateyourmusic has 4 pages of longish reviews for this album!
Articles and Interviews
- Neura by Juliano Guerra. 99 cents, 52 minutes
- Cuerpo, Ritual by Michelle Billiet, 99 cents, 20 minutes
- 2 albums by Marem Ladson : Azul (99 cents, 14 minutes and s/t for 4.99)
- 2 albums by that Malaysian rap star Namewee: here and here. (Both 4.49). These are early albums around 2016, and since then Namewee’s star has exploded, but the first album especially has some good tracks — accompanied by funny or stylish videos.
- Myopia by Black Ice. 6.99
Learned through Twitter that Merge Records is having NYP for some of its artists.
- Goths (Deluxe Version) by The Mountain Goats
- Getting Into Knives by The Mountain Goats
- In League with Dragons by The Mountain Goats
- Dark in Here by The Mountain Goats
- Heart Like a Levee (Deluxe) by Hiss Golden Messenger
- Terms of Surrender by Hiss Golden Messenger
- Haw (Remastered) by Hiss Golden Messenger
- Poor Moon (Remastered) by Hiss Golden Messenger
- Bad Debt (Remastered) by Hiss Golden Messenger
- Lateness of Dancers by Hiss Golden Messenger
- What a Time to Be Alive by Superchunk
- I Hate Music by Superchunk
- Sometimes a Cloud Is Just a Cloud by Fruit Bats
- Siamese Dream by Fruit Bats
- Gold Past Life by Fruit Bats
- Uyai by Ibibio Sound Machine
- Live at Earth by Ibibio Sound Machine
- Doko Mien by Ibibio Sound Machine
- Kaputt by Destroyer
- Streethawk: A Seduction by Destroyer
- Poison Season by Destroyer
- Silver Tongue by TORRES
- Live in Berlin by Torres
Here is that wonderful Vega song and video
Here’s a great 90s song by an Austin group I was vaguely aware of called Fastball.
The song has an immensely interesting backstory. The Austin songwriter wrote it when an elderly couple went missing after going to a music festival outside Austin. One had Alzheimer’s; the other was recovering from a stroke. They lost their “way” and turned up dead in Arkansas. Tony Scalzo explains in a 1999 documentary about the group a nd then the local TV station does a great profile of the song and its history 19 years later.
Freegal and Library CDs
Reviews (Rateyourmusic/Personal Reviews, etc)
Here’s a review of one of my favorite albums that is also one of the most obscure albums I know about. It’s also a free download on archive.org
Weltenshaaung by Psychonada. The titles and samples might suggest that the songs have political overtones. I don’t know; they are just fun. Psychonada, aka Siegfried Gautier, is a French trip-hop electronic musician who writes unconventional, zippy, dadaistic stuff with a light-hearted sense of political anarchy. He produced an album, Weltanschauung, which I think is just a compilation of the nutty stuff Gautier has been producing over the decade. Highlights include Ihr Seid Nicht Frei, (just marvelous upbeat triphop, groovy nonsense). Demagogic Repressive – a slight atmospheric moodscape with a nice strumming beat (I snap my fingers every time i hear this one), Lendemain de greve, a slow contemplative piece. Actually every track has surprises: vocals, strange samples, melodic reversals. Actually all these unconventional tracks seem to work together as an album.
Key of Cool by Mitchell Froom. This brilliant but easily overlooked synth-jazz album by Mitchell Froom was used as the soundtrack for the post-apocalyptic avante-garde 1980s porn movie CAFE FLESH. The tracks were eerie and tricky and unpredictable and full of percussion and random cool sounds and slow jazz interludes. I’ve seen the movie and can report that the music is so well-integrated into the movie you’d swear it was written specifically for it; the pounding industrial beats work as well on the dance floor as in the bedroom. But there’s a smattering of vocal effects throughout which though absent in the film’s version, kind of work; in ZIP CODE and PATIO, the beat poetry lyrics are almost nonsensical and sung in an almost campy style. THIRD FACTOR, WE DON’T DREAM and FRUTO PROHIBIDO really pound the life force out of you (into you?) I love how the melodies will settle on a single note and then transform into something totally different. Face Down starts as a melancholy piano melody with a fallen faded style, and then it reinvents itself into some mystical dance number. The final piece, Jungle of Cities starts out with otherworldly humming, then turns into a long solo piano piece that is both elegiac and impressionistic and full of Cage-like silences. One piece, Miami Priests, starts out with mystical magical intonations and layers of industrial effects, then twinkles into cool bebopping melody — broken up with interjections of coughs, drums, and wild guitar licks. By the midpoint of the relatively sedate Blue Lips, the melody begins to melt and the synth conga drums get away from us. I’ve gotten in the habit of mentally subtracting the main melody and just listening to the layers and the flourishes which are almost as fun as the main melody itself. (In many ways, the sounds of sexual congress are just another strange layer of sound laid upon the rest). These pieces of indeterminate genre feel just as fresh as they were in the 1980s; postapocalyptic synthjazz is the best phrase I could come up with.
(About this album, it has never been for sale as a CD or in digital form. in the late 2000s I purchased it as a used audio cassette and asked the fluffertrax DJ to turn it into mp3s. This seems incredible to me because Froom himself has gone on to be an A list music producer and winning multiple Grammys and even playing in two bands himself).
To see how well Froom’s music integrates into the movie, see these two G-rated Safe-for-Work clips here and here and here. (The last link is the PG version of the full film — and I just realized that one track from the movie — the last scene — is missing from the album. Darn).
Here’s a solo by a gifted 8 old Pakistani singer Hadia.
Here’s a bizarre nostalgic sing-along which will provide nice surprises to American viewers of a certain age. It was put together in 2010 to spoof a 1990 musical fundraiser to help victims of a ferry disaster.