I’m lucky that in my day “job” I am inundated with (free) new music. A lot of the time this means I can review albums that I know I’ll love (or at least would have picked up on my own), or sometimes this means I’m exposed to a band I haven’t heard before. The last couple of months or so have been extremely fruitful in musical awesomeness and some of these albums have become influential writing partners for Book #4. Here are my reviews and picks:
What Didn’t Disappoint
Bohren & Der Club of Gore — Beileid
I heart this band. Ever since my friend Tami turned me onto Sunset Mission, one cold winter night in Seattle, I’ve been hooked on their smooth blend of horror jazz. It’s instrumental, dark, seductive, creepy…it’s the music that would be playing during a revamped version of Twin Peaks (heaven forbid). It’s minimal, contemplative and some of the best music to write to. Beileid may only have three (long) songs but they make the album worth it (especially “Catch my Heart” which actually makes me really moody, sad and reflective for some reason).
Elysian Fields - Last Night on Earth
I wasn’t expecting too much from Elysian Fields. I love Jennifer Charles when she’s on Lovage, and from the songs I had heard from Elysian Fields, I knew I was going to probably like this too. But I was blown away by how much I like the album. It’s funny because I am not a big fan of female singers. I like rock music and most chicks don’t cut it in that genre (except for Alison Mosshart — she rules all). But Elysian Fields isn’t really a rock band, per se, and Charles’s breathy vocals just work here. I said, “Last Night on Earth is rich and varied, yet leaves a peaceful, spirited feeling behind when it’s over. Taking a cue from the cover, it’s a gorgeous landscape of music best suited for drinking under the stars, a soundtrack for your mind to wander to.“
The Melvin’s — Sugar Daddy Live
What can you say about the iconic sludge/grunge/stoner/shoegazer/punk/swamp/metal group, the Melvins? Well, you haven’t really heard them until you’ve seen them live and that’s what Sugar Daddy brings to your stereo. “What’s most striking about the album is how well it captures the spirit and frenzy of a Melvins show, yet showcases in a very crisp and clean way (well, clean for the Melvins). The sound and the mixing of the album is perfectly done, making sure the listener hears every note as it was made to be heard: heavy, hard and fun.“
ISIS — ISIS Live I-V
After “insert adjective here” metal band ISIS broke up last year, fans were delighted to see that Ipecac released five live posthumous albums from them. Like the Melvins, ISIS is another one of those bands that flourish in a live setting and that comes through on each one of the albums, which “not only belong in every ISIS fan’s collections but each one makes a good starting point for those just getting into the band. It may not fill the void that ISIS created when they disbanded, but it’s a pretty good consolation prize.“
The Book of Knots — Garden of the Fainting Stars
OK, so this eagerly-anticipated experimental album did disappoint me. But I’d still recommend it for people who love the weird and the strange (like me). Decide for yourself. I’m including it here though for two reasons: A) the song “Planemo” — yes, yes it features Mike Patton and I really am trying not to be biased here cuz lord knows I don’t like everything he’s in. But unlike his guest vocals on, say, the new Praxis album, in Stars it’s not wasted. At all. You can’t deny it, “Planemo” is the best track on the album. It’s just the way it is. And I love it. Le sigh. Oh, and B) this album, with all it’s cosmic idiosyncrasies, makes excellent writing music. It’s not in your face, it festers in the background and provides a crucial soundtrack for those creepy scenes I write.
Explosions in the Sky — Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
I hadn’t heard much about this band, aside from seeing their name splashed on every festival line-up, so I was tickled pink when I discovered they were a wonderfully emotive band that is refreshingly vocal-free — the perfect combination for writing. Here is what I said about their newest album “Texas instrumental rock band Explosions in the Sky is back in soaring cinematic territory with their sixth studio album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. Like their previous offerings, the band explores the loud and soft dynamics of mingling guitars and melodic push and pulls but with more emphasis on drum work and a harder edge. The best way to describe Take Care is that it really does come off as the soundtrack to a dramatic film, exploring all emotive qualities from heartbreak to redemption to love to loss. There’s even a bit of terror thrown in there.“