Archive for the '2012 review' Category

Twenty Twelve: A Best of for Playlists

My official 2012 “best of” list. This past year seemed to be more of a year of the side project single releases and/or remixes outnumbering originals.  I found it frustrating that a lot of good music was coming in “one hit” forms so in addition to a best of album list there will also be a best of songs list. Some of my top albums were mentioned when I made a 6 month update. You can see that here.    

 

Blackbird Blackbird – Boracay Planet blackbird   You might have heard this song playing in the background of a car commercial (at least the band gets money out of it!). This album is great, and it also makes good background music if you ever find yourself with a bag of shrooms and a friday night.

 

Errors – New Relics   1349182514_errors-new-relics Errors would best be described as synth, psychedelic electronic music. They remind me a bit of Psychic Ills but with a female singer and more downtempo.

 

 Lorn – Ask the Dust 5021392728193 This Lorn album is possibly their best. The remix album they released this year of this album is fantastic too.

 

Black Marble – Weight Against the Door tumblr_lya1r8HFDE1r4phooo1_1327365548_cover

Black Marble is a really great cold?/new? wave band. The lead singer has a perfectly deep monotone voice and the music is minimal but catchy.

 

Carnivals – Humility EP canrivals If I still had a car, I would turn this up and drive down a dark highway. Very spacey, they sound a bit like the band Hood in their song structure comprising of strung together spacey electronic samples with an indie rock foundation.

 

Chelsea Wolfe –  Unknown Rooms: A collection of Acoustic songs chelsea-wolfe Apparently she is a friend of a friend. Lucky me. I love Chelsea Wolfe and wish she would release more music under the Wild Eyes project as well. No matter, her music is stunning.

added bonus because this is a particularly beautiful cover:

 

Expensive Looks – Dark Matters expensive looks I can’t stop listening to this band, their new album (a 2013 best of) is just as addicting. They sound a bit like a mix of Lemonade, Discovery, and Pictureplane.

 

Tropics – Popup Cinema homepage_large.e05f165e This album filled the void that the disappointing Toro y Moi release created.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmYQJmAjlDQ

 

Shad[]wb[]x – Haunted by Colors shadowbox-haunted-by-colors She is amazing and yes I’ll probably post something about  Shad[]wb[]x on every music update.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XFBsfw_uj8

 

Vitalic – Rave Age vitalic-rave-age-nov-2012 This is definitely the best Vitalic album. I’m glad they came back full force.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s77Es2snCc

 

Benoit & Sergio – New Ships Ep benoit-sergio-300x300 Some electronic dance pop, I wish there were more songs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y54_cBl9hqw

 

Singles:

Revelator/Wear your Wounds Split

– I put the Adrift in You on repeat and it never gets old. Please let me clarify that this project should be associated with drone metal (like Om or Nadja). For some reason a review comparing them to Cold Cave, My bloody Valentine etc. has been copy and pasted everywhere. I would love to blame Pitchfork for this utter failure of a review but they have yet to word fuck this release. I hope these projects will release more and this isn’t just a “one time” thing like Greymachine because I really need more music like this.

Toro y Moi – so many details

– I didn’t care for the full release this year, nothing can bring me back to the kind of love I had for the Causers of This kind of Toro y Moi. This song kind of brings me back and I wish the whole album had been more like it.

Mixhell – Exit Wound

– This kind of reminds me of A Place to Bury Strangers. This song came out of nowhere from Mixhell and they don’t have anything else like it.

Andre Obin – A Star is Torn

– Dear Andre Obin, If you happened to google yourself and find that you have come across this article please release a whole album. Soon. Thanks.

Dropout Orchestra – Your Girl (Kinema Remix)

– This song is a bit cheesy and completely a dance song but it’s a personal favorite.   And so concludes my list for 2012.

 

 

Disappointments that I might have been caught ranting and raving about in anticipation:

• Purity Ring – Shrines   ———-  They released all of what I considered their best content prior to the album release and then the rest of the album sounded like filler. I was bored with it and definitely disappointed. Oh well… I do tend to get bored easily.

• Toro y Moi (I’m going to stop beating this dead horse)

• How to Destroy Angels – An Omen ————— I loved the initial release and so I was excited to see what Reznor and his wife came up with next. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t even sort of like it (ha but kinda I want to). The only song keeping it afloat is Keep it Together. It’s strange because I generally like all of Reznor’s side projects including the giant instrumental “Ghosts” album. His judgement has usually been spot on especially when he pulled the plugs on the material he worked on for Puscifer saving himself the embarrassment had it ever been released . This particular release of How to Destroy Angels completely lacked direction and therefore lacked a sense of inspiration. The sound and structure of the songs start as a seeming attempt to deliberately be anything but a Reznor song only for it to utterly dissipate into his trademark style. Its been apparent Reznor’s desire to feel something different, to be something different only to be stuck within himself and let that frustration fuel his creativity. This release had a strange impact, it seems as if he finally lost himself. No worries, The Fragile has a special place in my broken bruised forgotten sore heart.

Anything forgotten will be updated as I think of it.

- betweenthesound

Mid-Way Update errr close enough

Ok. So I think I promised a new music update halfway through 2012.

Here it is! Get your clicky finger ready!

 

1. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble

This is the full album that dropped June 11th (I think). Either way this is going to be an album of the year. I effin love this album so much. With audio inserts that are kinda like Pictureplane but is as danceable as Discovery or Toro y moi, my ears are so so very happy. Here is to hoping he will make his sweet music making ass over to the US for some shows.

 

2. Trust – TRST

Some very good darkwave (? genres can be hard for me to place). This album is solid. There is this part in Shoom, I think it is around 2:28 where in the middle of a break down he lets out this sigh and I get goosebumps because it is rare to hear someone so into their music that they let it consume them and then…. sigh… That is the kind of shit I can’t get enough of.

 

3. iamamiwhoami – Kin

Synth-pop. I am always partial to not liking artists that have this kind of vocal style. However I really like this music and Play is a really catchy song. Also it’s always cool to dance around with a bunch of bipedal Puli dogs or whatever those things are.

 

4. Elite Gymnastics – Ruin 4

I am really upset that I didn’t hear their original album in 2011. This band quickly became a favorite of mine that I will obsessively listen to everything they put out. Aside from their original being amazing, the remix is just as good. Their music tends to juxtapose their melancholy lyrics and so one minute you are dancing and the next minute you have your ear up to the speaker because you just caught the tail end of some depressing shit while trying to sing along. Example lyric : The things that felt like bliss/ only really felt like shit/ it’s a waste/ it’s a waste /it’s all it ever was .

I love them.

http://youtu.be/iGY5pqANpZs

 

5. The Invisible – Rispah

The Invisible would be what I think of as a mix between Calla and Thom Yorke.  Songs like Generational and Utopia really carry this album. I think most people will like this album for their own reasons.

 

6. oOoOO – Our love is Hurting Us

Most people are aware that I am obsessed with oOoOO. Listen. To. it. all.

 

Songs that I really like from this year detached from their albums:

Van She – Idea of Happiness (Sebastian Remix)

-Holy shit if this isn’t a good dance number!

Eyes (feat. NO CEREMONY///) – Stay +

Summer – MMOTHS

As A Child (with Machinedrums) – Lone

Open- Clark

Secret – Clark  (both songs are from Iradelphic)

Sleepless – Flume

Lights Out – Gauntlet Hair (actually this whole album is pretty good and they are awesome live too)

 

There you are. I am off to go find a life size labyrinth spiral that is a mile from my apartment. Happy Friday!

 

- betweenthesound

AlmostAGhost 2012 Review: Chimes Of Freedom – Songs Of Bob Dylan (disc four)

The Songs Of Bob Dylan

the wind begins to howl

One last disc of this, so far, surprisingly underwhelming collection. I certainly didn’t expect everything here to be good, but I was optimistic there would be more stuff blowing me away. Outside one or two so far, hasn’t happened.

1. Maroon 5 “I Shall Be Released”: I refuse to believe that a band as uncool as Maroon 5 is familiar and admires something as totally cool as Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes. So I wonder, how did they know this song? Other covers? Some producer forcing them on it?

2. Seal & Jeff Beck “Like A Rolling Stone”: Well, I guess someone had to do this one. Why not Seal? Their version kind of sounds messy to my ears–raw vocals, Beck shredding all over the place. This is a tough song to cover, and I’m not sure it’s possible to get it right.

3. Carolina Chocolate Drops “Political World”: The coolest bluegrass/string band around takes one of Dylan’s newer songs and turns it into old-time music. Just like, I think it is safe to assume, Dylan always wanted.

4. Taj Mahal “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”: Old bluesman dives into one of Dylan’s more surreal, bizarre trips. Maha’s voice is an acquired taste, but he’s clearly an influence on Dylan’s more recent growly old blues vocals, and I imagine, if Bob Dylan were to recreate Bringing It All Back Home today, it would sound like this.

5. Dierks Bentley “Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power) (live)”: Bentley does a live version of this cool song. There’s a Willie Nelson version of this song which, while also in the country vibe, is much more skilled. But if you like traditional country/bluegrass, this taps into that fairly well.

6. Mick Hucknall “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)”: The lead singer of Simply Red jumps in the crowd, and tries what has lately been my favorite Dylan song ever. (That changes a lot, of course.) It’s pretty tame, but Hucknall’s voice is good, and this is not one that gets covered enough.

7. Thea Gilmore “I’ll Remember You”: Gilmore years ago released a great cover of “I Dreamed I St. Augustine,” which eventually led to her putting out an entire cover of the whole John Wesley Harding album. It is a pretty sweet release (my 51st favorite album of 2011), and she obviously is a big fan, and it is nice to see her included here.

Thea Gilmore “I’ll Remember You”

8. State Radio “John Brown”: Don’t know this band, but Wiki lists their genres as “alternative rock” and “reggae.” Don’t have high hopes for that combination, to be honest. While the affecting story of the song gets slightly lost in this version, State Radio does drastically change the song–melody/rhythm/everything–and for that, they get some credit.

9. Dave Matthews Band “All Along The Watchtower (live)”: a 7-minute Dave Matthews live jam? No comment.

10. Michael Franti “Subterranean Homesick Blues”: Was excited to hear a rapper attack “SHB,” one of the forerunners of rap, with it’s stream of images and phrases. I didn’t really like Franti’s version, I found myself wishing it had more typical hiphop beats. But he is definitely having a fun time performing this, and who wouldn’t with those lyrics?

11. We Are Augustines “Mama, You Been On My Mind”: These guys are a pretty standard rock band; I checked them out for my upcoming Coachella trip and was not overly impressed. They tap into this amazing song, and do a nice job, though.

12. Lucinda Williams “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven”: One cool thing about this collection is to get to hear some good artists cover some of Dylan’s more recent things. Though, by recent, I mean his ’90s albums–for some reason, nobody did anything from any of his 2000s works. What’s up with that? There’s some amazing songs on there. You artists need better producers to tell you these things. Anyway, here, Williams pulls out the folky/country side of “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven.”

13. Kris Kristofferson “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)”: You know, it’s about time that someone covered “Quinn The Eskimo” again and had a big joyous hit song. Kris Kristofferson probably isn’t the right guy for that though. He makes it sound sad, which is an interesting choice.

14. Eric Burdon “Gotta Serve Somebody”: I had no idea Eric Burdon was still around.

15. Evan Rachel Wood “I’d Have You Anytime”: Actress Evan Rachel Wood makes one of the more unlikely picks for this, doing a song that Dylan cowrote with George Harrison, and is on Harrison’s epic All Things Must Pass. OK! She turns it into a smoky jazz nightclub type of song too. Cool.

Evan Rachel Wood “I’d Have You Anytime”

16. Marianne Faithfull “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (live)”: Faithfull attacks this blues song vocally, which doesn’t quite fit with the banjo picking that makes up the music. Her voice is strong, but the music is fragile.

17. Pete Seeger “Forever Young”: Well, how can we get even older than Marianne Faithfull? Pete Seeger! But he’s a great ending for the collection: he still has a vibrancy and the joy in this song is awesome.

There is also a Bob Dylan song after Seeger (“Chimes Of Freedom” of course), but that seems irrelevant by this point. Quick note: this fourth disc was probably my favorite of the four.

Disc 4 favorites: Thea Gilmore, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lucinda Williams
Disc 4 least favorites: Maroon 5, Michael Franti, Eric Burdon

This was an odd collection of popular musicians, young and old, of quite a few different styles. If you like diversity, I definitely think it’s worth at least listening through on the Amnesty website. Even if you’re not familiar with ALL of these Dylan songs, the collection comes off as adventurous just because of the sheer diversity present. And that, I think, above all the numerous reasons, is one of Dylan’s most amazing genius.

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost 2012 Review: Chimes Of Freedom – Songs Of Bob Dylan (disc three)

Songs Of Bob Dylan

there's beauty in that silver singin' river

Back for more! This disc looks even odder than disc two did, at first glance. A reminder: you can listen to the whole collection for free here (or purchase it if so inclined).

1. K’naan “With God On Our Side”: A few years ago, K’naan released a cool trilogy remix project, where he remixed the music of Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, and Bob Dylan. So he clearly knows Dylan, and it is great to get some rap/hiphop on this collection. K’naan impressively and effortlessly switches between his own rapped verses and singing Dylan’s verses of “With God On Our Side.” This might be the best track of all 3 discs yet. Dylan is an underappreciated influence on rap, and when a slow folk song like “With God On Our Side” fits so perfectly, that says a lot.

2. Ximena Sariñana “I Want You”: Ximena is a young Mexican singer (and soap actress). She gives “I Want You” a slight electro pop pulse. Fine.

3. Neil Finn with Pajama Club “She Belongs To Me”: You probably know Neil Finn from Crowded House, and this is his new band. I am surprised by the intensity of this, I was expecting something more laidback.

Neil Finn and Pajama Club “She Belongs To Me”

4. Bryan Ferry “Bob Dylan’s Dream”: Not long ago, Ferry put out an album entirely of Dylan covers himself. And before that his solo career has been full of them throughout the years too. I will say though, doing “Bob Dylan’s Dream” seems totally at odds to Ferry’s glam/suave style. It’s a quiet wistful song reminiscing about childhood friends. Not awful, but I can find you at least 10 covers of Dylan that Ferry has released I like better. (That’s another post entirely, I guess.)

5. Zee Avi “Tomorrow Is A Long Time”: This song sets an impossibly high bar, as it is one of my very favorites, and because this cover exists. I was not aware of Zee Avi, but I gather that she got famous on YouTube and is a Malaysian ukulele player. Her voice is solid, but I’m finding that riff she’s playing to be grating.

6. Carly Simon “Just Like A Woman”: well done, I guess.

7. Flogging Molly “The Times, They Are A-Changin'”: Celtic punk rock. “The Times, They Are A-Changin'” The first verse is done like an Irish jig, and I wish the whole song were like that, instead of the loud punk section that hammers any subtlety of the song right out.

8. Fistful Of Mercy “Buckets Of Rain”: Fistful Of Mercy is George Harrison’s son Dhani’s band. Slide guitarist Ben Harper is also in it (and does a great job here). I don’t like group vocals for this song, which is Fistful Of Mercy’s thing, and it is also way too foot-tapping upbeat. I guess I complained earlier when other Blood On The Tracks covers are done too one-dimensionally sad; this one does not have that problem.

9. Joe Perry “Man Of Peace”: Why am I listening to a Joe Perry solo song? What am I doing here? Why is this happening? Why do I exist? Would it be better or worse if this was Aerosmith?

10. Bad Religion “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”: The hot guitar section of this disc continues with some more soaring punk. By far the best of the run here, which started with Flogging Molly. This song is amazingly versatile, and can probably be performed in every style ever and be cool.

11. My Chemical Romance “Desolation Row (live): Who in their right mind cuts a version of “Desolation Row” and makes it only 3 minutes long? My Chemical Romance is clearly not in their right mind. This is trying my patience.

12. RedOne and Nabil Khayat “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”: RedOne is Lady Gaga’s producer! This, however, is not a pop techno track, it’s a fairly faithful and upbeat version of the song, with acoustic guitars, piano, slide guitars. I can’t help but wish Lady Gaga were singing this though, just to make it even more interesting. Still, not a bad track.

RedOne “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (feat. Nabil Khayat)”

13. Paul Rodgers & Nils Lofgren “Abandoned Love”: We had back into inane classic rock land and find Paul Rodgers doing his best to ruin one of the best and most intense songs Bob Dylan ever wrote. Please read about the song here. The live version written about there circulates, and it’s pretty phenomenal. Dylan never could get a studio version to work right, but fans have that live version: here it is.

14. Darren Criss & Chuck Criss “New Morning”: Um. Darren Criss is on Glee. Chuck Criss is in the band Freelance Whales, who aren’t so bad, though. I assume they are related. Glee! This disc is really freaking strange. The Crisses seem to be having a good time though.

15. Cage The Elephant “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll”: Never been a big fan of Cage The Elephant, but I like the singer’s vocals here, and the bluesy electronic mix. Not bad.

16. Band Of Skulls “It Ain’t Me, Babe”: I had been remembering Band Of Skulls being somewhat hard rocking, but either my memory fails me, or they tamed WAAAAY down to do this song. They try to blues it up, but mostly just feels dreary to me.

17. Sinead O’Connor “Property Of Jesus”: I’ve always kind of liked O’Connor, and I like this, mostly. I wish her vocals were clearer here, though in a way it does give the song a sense of urgency.

18. Ed Roland and The Sweet Tea Project “Shelter From The Storm”: I, I don’t even. Roland is the main songwriter from Collective Soul. Who invited him? Is that better than Aerosmith’s guitarist or worse?

19. Ke$ha “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”: This one got some press when the collection was released. Kesha sings the song, mostly acapella, before some strings join in, noteworthy because she actually breaks into tears while singing the song. And instead of fixing it, she left the moment in the song. Reactions were varied. It’s not an easy listen, that’s for sure, and I guess it depends on if you think it’s real or an act. Or your tolerance for that sort of raw emotion. I can’t imagine listening to this over and over, but I do kind of like it.

20. Kronos Quartet “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”: mostly orchestral version, though it’s barely recognizable. If I hadn’t just heard Ke$ha do it, I would’ve been wondering what song this is. Still an interesting end to a pretty wacky disc…

Disc 3 favorites: K’naan, Neil Finn
Disc 3 least favorites: My Chemical Romance, Ed Roland, Flogging Molly

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost 2012 Review: Chimes Of Freedom – Songs Of Bob Dylan (disc two)

Tribute To Bob Dylan

lay down the song you strum

The tracklist for this, the second disc, looks very bizarre. I see 4 or 5 older artists, who you would likely expect to be on a Bob Dylan tribute (Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Billy Bragg etc.). But also I see a bunch of female pop singers, from the obvious (Adele) to the intriguing (Natasha Bedingfield) to the WHAT THE FUCK? (Miley Cyrus). This might be really really interesting. Let’s get started!

1. Queens Of The Stone Age “Outlaw Blues”: Shockingly, the “Outlaw Blues” riff does sound like a QOTSA-style riff, so this ends up kind of fun. Not a song you hear covered too often, so that helps a bit too.

2. Lenny Kravitz “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”: Like I said in disc one, if you’re going to do classic Bob Dylan, bring something new to the song, if not your own personality/vibe. This meaningless recreation of the original has no point. Unless you really want to hear Lenny Kravitz’ voice, skip it.

3. Steve Earle & Lucia Micarelli “One More Cup Of Coffee”: Closer to what I’m saying about bringing your own style to a song, but still not quite there. Dylan’s song is a duet with Emmylou Harris, and is highlighted by a violinist. Earle sings Dylan’s part, Micarelli does both Harris and the violin (I think both are her); the template remains basically unchanged. The mood here is a little different, but still, this does not quite reach anything special.

4. Blake Mills & Danielle Haim “Heart Of Mine”: I’m not familiar with Mills or Haim, but their track has some excellent guitar. Is that Mills or Haim? Good one, I’m really liking this version of a relatively obscure song choice. I think I’ll check them out further! Success!

5. Miley Cyrus “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”: Cyrus gives a mostly uninteresting pop country version of a Blood On The Tracks song. Simple. Not much here. I refuse to think harder about this. It exists.

6. Billy Bragg “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”: Following a pop star with Billy Bragg must have been someone at Amnesty’s hilarious idea. His raw folk style fits the mood of this song, and I like the touch of background singers.

7. Elvis Costello “License To Kill”: This disc so far is noteworthy, not necessarily for the great versions, but a steady stream of quite underrated song choices. So far, not your typical oft-covered Dylan songs (those come later in the disc). Anyway, “License To Kill” is an interesting song (“man has invented his doom / the first step was touching the moon”). Diana Krall’s husband completely cuts into it, and the result is a unique funky track. I like it a lot.

8. Angelique Kidjo “Lay, Lady, Lay”: More light funk, but this time with a more African feel from Beninese singer, Angelique Kidjo. Now we’re rolling! Costello and Kidjo really get into the songs and find new angles, which is what I am looking for here.

Angelique Kidjo “Lay, Lady, Lay”

9. Natasha Bedingfield “Ring Them Bells”: Despite Bedingfield kind of oversinging, I liked this. Not much subtlety there, but sometimes that’s ok.

10. Jackson Browne “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”: very professional. Sounds nice, but kind of like it’s some generic studio band churning it out, in that plastic competent way. Where’s the spark of creativity?

11. Joan Baez “Seven Curses”: Dylan’s most famous ex-girlfriend has probably covered 50 Dylan songs over the years. So here’s one more, a rare outtake song. Baez gives a live version of this dramatic folk tale to the cause. Since she’s a dramatic folk singer, it works.

12. The Belle Brigade “No Time To Think”: I didn’t know the Belle Brigade, and Wiki didn’t tell me much about their style. I was not into their song though, their vocals feel a bit too sunny for this song to me, and at 8 minutes long, it was too much.

13. Sugarland “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You (live)”: oh boy, there are not many music styles that I just do not enjoy at all or can’t find someone within good enough to like. But modern Grammy-winning pop country music? That stuff comes close. Blah

14. Jack’s Mannequin “Mr. Tambourine Man”: Jack’s Mannequin is a slightly emo rock band. I don’t think “Mr. Tambourine Man” was probably the right song choice for them, at least lyrically, but the music is an interesting twist from familiar versions of the song. Didn’t expect to like this but I do.

15. Oren Lavie “4th Time Around”: Wiki tells me nothing about Lavie, except he’s from Israel, and his music is only described as “indie” or “songwriter.” Helpful! His version of “4th Time Around” is very cool though, and seems to have lots of dark drone-y instruments (harmoniums, sitar, etc.) which underline the dark humor of the song. Another artist I want to go check out more now.

16. Sussan Deyhim “All I Really Want To Do”: Another person to look up on Wiki–Deyhim is a ballerina and singer from Iran. Here, she takes one of Dylan’s more pop upbeat melodies and kind of similarly to Lavie, turns into something a little darker. This disc is ending much better than it started.

Sussan Deyhim “All I Really Want To Do”

17. Adele “Make You Feel My Love (live)”: It has always amazed me how a song from Time Out Of Mind was discovered by pop stars and been a hit song. Billy Joel and Garth Brooks started it, before heading to Kelly Clarkson and ultimately Adele. It does feel like this was tacked on because Adele is such a big star, and she had the big Dylan cover hit most recently, but you know, here it is.

Disc 2 favorites: Elvis Costello, Oren Lavie, Blake Mills
Disc 2 least favorites: Lenny Kravitz, Sugarland, The Belle Brigade

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost 2012 Review: Chimes Of Freedom – Songs Of Bob Dylan (disc one)

The Songs Of Bob Dylan

nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell

I consider myself a Bob Dylan fan. A pretty hardcore one. If you ask me what my favorite album ever is, Blood On The Tracks is one of my answers. I have been to his concerts, read his biography, and have every one of his albums on my computer. This is probably not unusual nor particularly insightful, I know. I say it to mean, I feel like I know his songs pretty well. And because of that I have always loved hearing covers of Bob Dylan songs.

There’s millions of Dylan covers, and, sure, few if any are as good as his original. This new release–Chimes Of Freedom–adds 76 more to the world, by many big-time artists. The album, I’ll note, is to celebrate Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary, and proceeds go to charity. It is cheap, and you can order it here if you so desire (you can also listen to it all at that link for free).

With that said, I’m going to liveblog going through this collection. I don’t know how long this will end up, or if all 76 tracks will be worth a mention, or what. But let’s dive in!

1. Johnny Cash & The Avett Brothers “One Too Many Mornings”: Not sure where this recording of Cash came from, though I know he’s covered this song a few times. Whatever it is, the Avett Brothers jump on it and sing along with Cash and why? I’m not clear what they really bring to the table, can’t it just be Cash? The song becomes a bit too upbeat country for my tastes. It’s actually a pretty mournful song, one of Dylan’s most underrated bests.

2. Raphael Saadiq “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”: R&B/soul is a genre of sincerity, for the most part. Marvin Gaye only makes sense if you believe he really wants to get it on, right? “Leopard-Skin” though is kind of droll bluesy comedy, and has a sense of disbelief to it that doesn’t particularly fit an R&B/soul singer like Saadiq. He sounds a lot like Prince here, and there is some cool guitar playing, so not a total wash.

3. Patti Smith “Drifter’s Escape”: While this doesn’t have the energy of classic Patti Smith, it does sound amazing. Despite her raw reputation, she’s also really good at telling stories, and that’s what “Drifter’s Escape” is (as is all of John Wesley Harding). A sharp combination of singer and song here, really dug this.

4. Rise Against “Ballad Of Hollis Brown”: This folk song has always surprised me how adaptable it is, as there are some great blues, funk, and soul versions out there (Nina Simone, for example). This screamed punk rock one, though, I would happily ignore (though I will credit, they seem to get the drama of the song correct).

5. Tom Morello The Nightwatchman “Blind Willie McTell”: If you aren’t aware, Rage Against The Machine’s guitarist, Tom Morello, has found a second life as a folk musician. Woody Guthrie and Rage aren’t as far apart as it may seem! Dylan’s in that spectrum too, somewhere, I guess. Not bad, this, but I don’t love Morello’s growl of a voice here. “McTell” is a unique and strangely beautiful song; I get none of that from this version. (PS. Rage’s “Maggie Farm” is my favorite Dylan cover ever.)

6. Pete Townshend “Corrina, Corrina”: I definitely like hearing Townshend acoustic and folky sometimes. Though his harmonica-playing is not nearly as good as Dylan’s, that’s for certain (or whoever plays that here).

7. Betty Lavette “Most Of The Time”: torch soul singer jumps in on one of Dylan’s most soulful and beautiful songs (“I don’t compromise / I don’t pretend / I don’t even care if I ever see her again / Most of the time”). Cool. What I said about sincerity and soul not fitting for Saadiq & “Leopard-Skin” actually fits here. The lyrics get slightly lost beyond her voice, but minor quibble. I love this song.

Bettye Lavette “Most Of The Time”

8. Charlie Winston “This Wheel’s On Fire”: I’ve never heard of Winston before this. He fills the song up fairly well, but it seems like How To Cover A Dylan Song 101. Nothing particularly new or engaging to it.

9. Diana Krall “Simple Twist Of Fate”: Blood On The Tracks covers are extremely tough to pull off. People usually just play the songs as super sad/heartbroken. But Dylan’s songs on that album have so many other angles buried in them, and those depths are usually ignored. (Or more likely, other artists can’t reach them.) Elvis Costello’s wife plays the song with a dreamy, foggy sadness. I do not like this take on the song, as I think that clarity is a big part of the memories in the song, and a necessary part. Instead of “my memories of the past,” the song becomes “here’s some stuff that might have happened in the past.” In other words, a lot fuzzier, and less effective. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it does in my head. 🙂

10. Brett Dennen “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”: I don’t know Dennen, but if this is what he usually sounds like (jaunty child-like folk), “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” was a natural choice. Most covers of this song sound just like this.

11. Mariachi El Bronx “Love Sick”: whoa, what?! MEB, a punk band called The Bronx who decided to start making Mariachi-infused music, and “Love Sick” is absolutely an odd choice for that sound. It is a song of a man haunted by his past, shadowy and destroyed, head down, which is kind of at odds with the more extroverted mariachi/punk styles. That said, I dug this, for the surprise. I never would have thought this could work at all. Very cool!

Mariachi El Bronx “Love Sick”

12. Ziggy Marley “Blowin’ In The Wind”: genrehopping continues with some reggae.

13. The Gaslight Anthem “Changing Of The Guards”: I don’t know them, but based on this, their sound reminds me of Rise Against from earlier. Perhaps a bit less punk, but still a full-sounding clean rock band. This is a much better fit of a song than Rise Against picked. Gaslight’s singer seems good, but the track is mostly forgettable.

14. Silversun Pickups “Not Dark Yet”: I really liked the moody atmospheric music on this version of the song, one of Dylan’s most moody and atmospheric. However, I did not feel the singer at all. This is a song for which you need to have years of life experience to sing effectively. This guy clearly does not.

15. My Morning Jacket “You’re A Big Girl Now”: nice. Jim James can kill at emotion when he tries for it. Loved when the slide guitar gets in there, and cries as well. Great recording.

16. The Airborne Toxic Event “Boots Of Spanish Leather”: not bad. Amazing how a cool Dylan song done with care can turn a boring band interesting.

17. Sting “Girl From The North Country” & 18. Mark Knopfler “Restless Farewell”: I wonder if the Amnesty people put the Money For Nothing duo back to back on purpose? Knopfler is better at adopting other sounds and styles than Sting is, and I like his classy track. It seems infused with a bit of Irish sounds, as well as some folk and rock. Sting sounds like he’s faking it, pretending to be a Scottish folk singer or something.

Hmm this is already getting long and probably unreadable and I’m only at the end of disc one. I’ll make the other discs their own posts over the next few days!

Disc One was pretty good, I’d say, nothing truly terrible, and enough different genres to be entertaining that way. So far, enjoyable trip into Dylan-land.

Disc One favorites: Patti Smith, Mariachi El Bronx.

Disc One least favorites: Sting, Tom Morello.

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost Review: Cate Le Bon – Cyrk (2012)

Cyrk

a gentle gentle shift sent all intents adrift

I wanted to mention Cyrk here, because it is a really cool album, that I keep enjoying more and more with each listen. I read somewhere that “cyrk” is the Polish word for “circus,” so I got to thinking about that in relation to the music. I guess it is a sort of apt title, for a couple of reasons. The songs have a touch of familiarity to them, but lying just underneath are some unique twists. Sort of like a circus perhaps? Cozy and familiar, but with slightly bizarre happenings. For example, “Greta” here:

Cate Le Bon “Greta”

As you can hear, there is nothing blindly original about it, as Le Bon purrs over a light electro pulse. But by the end, the song had mutated into a jazz beat. That may not be a totally unique idea either, but together? I love these odd little songwriting twists that show up throughout Le Bon’s music.

Similarly, much of the time I have no idea what Le Bon is singing about. Her voice is good, and clear, but the way she sings (perhaps her Welsh accent too?) makes much of the lyrics incomprehensible to me–sometimes phrases pop up here (“fold the cloth or cut the cloth” she wonders on “Fold The Cloth”) and there but overall, there’s some distance to that part of her songs. But this distance ends up putting that much more focus on the music’s subtle twists, so it works and I don’t mind.

The other note I had about the circus is the ’60s synth carnival vibe throughout. And I don’t mean that her songs are on some circus gimmick like “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” or something. It’s much more subtle than that. You can hear it underlying songs like “Puts Me To Work”:

Cate Le Bon “Puts Me To Work”

Anyway, the ’60s vibe runs throughout Cyrk. It is a clever work I think, in how Le Bon finds her way comfortably into a spot combining warmth/familiarity and experimental/distance. It may not make a huge mark on anyone, but it does impress. Like a circus.

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost Review: Spielgusher – Spielgusher (2012)

Spielgusher

geezerology

SpielgusherSpielgusher (2012): Legendary bassist Mike Watt joins with some Japanese musicians (Yuko Araki and Hirotaka Shimizu) to back rock critic Richard Meltzer, who reads his silly pseudo-beat poetry (“red snapper is the lettuce of fish!”) over their brief little jazzy blips. There are 63 (!) tracks on the album, which seems daunting at first, until you see how short they all are. The album feels amateurish to me, though I did dig a few of the musical moments–Watt’s bass in particular. But it is hard to get a sense of the work/creativity when it runs through so many moments so quickly. And frankly, sweet jazz bass is hardly enough to recommend an album.

Spielgusher “Minus Five And Counting”

PS. Instead of writing a select bunch of longish reviews at the end of the year, I am going to try to more regularly post shorter ones all year long. Mint and I always talk about expanding like that, so time to try it out! I’m sure if something comes along that inspires me, it will be longer and more thoughtful, but most will probably be like this one. And hopefully an increase in quantity won’t hurt the quality!

- almostaghost