Vague Space: August 21, 2007
Good day to you. Vague Space will try to present to you a weekly guide for what is out there at your local record store and mostly likely what is on the air here at KXCI. If you have any questions about these releases, let me know and I will send you additional information.
This week alone saw over 30 new releases that held good prospect. It is weeks like this that make me feel like a bank robber. Returning from the record store, I have filled my bag after having made my escape like Jesse James, Bonnie & Clyde, or born in my home state and captured in my adopted one, John Dillinger. I can lay out all of my purchases and revel in my music listening gluttony. However, it feels like I owe some greater debt to these artists than just the 10 or 20 dollars I put down for their release – born Vague Space. Now, maybe I can convince you to revel in this music as well.
Long live the hard copy medium. It is on the decline, but there is nothing like popping that 12 inch or CD onto the player for the first time. Some highlights this week…
Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight (WB)
This release is another progression away from the little band from Los Angeles that moved to Omaha to “check out the boomin’ music scene”. After Rilo Kiley returned to their Los Angeles roots following a brief romance with Saddle Creek Records in Nebraska, the majors came running and gave the band a healthy contract and support to keep recording. Jenny Lewis is indie’s darling – and a child star gone right. She has a powerful voice that is somewhat matter of fact and makes this album not only distinctly Rilo Kiley, but tends to direct the band’s influence toward Jenny’s strengths, which can also be found on last year’s Rabbit Fur Coat recorded for Conor Oberst’s Team Love. The album is a strong major label release, but gone are the chances and the folk/country shimmer in some of what they did during the Saddle Creek years (wonderfully erratic, but risky). Blake, Jenny, Pierre and Jason seem happy and in fine form. While I wish I could still hear the iciness of the Execution of All Things (their Saddle Creek release), now it seems like it wouldn’t fit the band.
RIYL: Jenny Lewis solo, Hem, and Death Cab for Cutie.
Earlimart – Mentor Tormentor (Majordomo – A Shout Factory subsidiary)
Aaron Espinoza is a great songwriter, but the comparisons to Elliott Smith still exist and for good reason. Mentor Tormentor is an accomplished release, but I keep waiting to hear Dreamworks period Smith on vocal duties here (can’t ignore the multitracked vocals by Espinoza). The comparison seems almost as visible on Mentor as 2004’s Treble and Tremble that musically linked the two friends shortly after Smith’s death. Late last year, Espinoza commented on the then untitled album, “it was sonically all over the place.” And he’s right, it goes from rockers to ballads to musical partner Ariana Murray penned orchestrations that require multiple aural reviews. This will probably help boost the love for this record at a later date (think of the growers by The National -- Alligator or Boxer). Espinoza has the curse – he is a great songwriter, who keeps getting better with each release, but the progress is hard for most people to pick up unless they are ardent fans. This is the kind of record you wish you heard more of and want the music industry to embrace whole-heartedly. It will do well, but the keeper of the flame (indie media) will be the ones to champion this album with the hope that everyone else can catch on.
RIYL: Elliott Smith, Dolorean, M Ward
Talib Kweli – Eardrum (Blacksmith via WB)
What if I told you there was a new release out that featured Malib, Kanye West, Hi-Tek and Pete Rock on production? How about if we added guest appearances by KRS-One, Jean Grae, and Roy Ayers?
These names would probably indicate an iron clad new hip hop release.
Now, what if we added Justin Timberlake, Norah Jones and Musiq Soulchild to that list? Interested? Confused? Both?
Well, I have to tell you that I have been anticipating a number of new hip hop releases in the last month and at least two of them have let me down. I mean, I actually enjoyed listening to them, but these artists are in a continually conflicted battle – with themselves. Talib Kweli has again released an album that is risky because it is exceptionally predictable. This problem comes down to a creative conflict. Kweli still wants to be the backpacker he once was as part of Blackstar, but has continued to ally himself with big names and big producers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the line-up of producers, but how many can you have on one album before the message is muddied? Because of this line-up, the album is essentially a collection of singles. This seems to be a growing trend in the industry -- artists (especially hip hop artists) who have had long storied careers that struggle to figure out how to navigate the music industry. The decision being whether these artists should continue to struggle with artistic integrity, attempt to find “crossover” success, or bow out gracefully.
Additionally, Kayne West, a super talented producer, has reached a saturation point. Here is someone who is releasing albums himself, producing for everyone, and appearing on many of those albums as a lyricist. Kanye, it is OK – take a break. Please.
I wanted to be able to tell you that Kweli was attempting to keep his ear to the grindstone and deliver an album worthy or your attention. He has, but be aware it is not the underground vibe you might be looking for. If Talib just wanted to make people dance, then maybe he has succeeded in a big way.
RIYL: Common, Rhymefest, Kanye West
Caribou – Andorra (Merge)
OK, first off, former punker and wrestler Handsome Dick Manitoba is a creep. Dan Snaith, once know as Manitoba (sued by Handsome Dick), has released his second album as Caribou and is enjoying a continued evolution from bedroom producer to fully realized band (however, in production he still works alone). Andorra was completed shortly after Mr. Snaith finished his PhD in mathematics at the University of London and now seems happy to focus on recording. The result is the ultra-successful Andorra.
I am really overwhelmed by this release. It is super dense. It required about 4 listens before I could even think about writing something about it to you. It is steeped more in rhythmic sensibilities than the electronics Caribou first relied on in his Start Breaking My Heart days. This evolution has done something terrifically interesting to Caribou’s music. It has filtered rock sensibilities from the 60s and 70 through a bedroom producer’s lens. Much like the psychedelic artists from that period, Caribou has filled the midrange with so much sound it seems to leave you with a real sense of impact. I listened the first time through and felt like I was missing something. I listened to it again and felt a greater loss because of the pure density of the music. As Snaith becomes more comfortable in the experimentation that has brought him to Andorra, he will continue to find more confidence in the fact that is musical prowess seems limitless.
As with most Merge releases these days, the vinyl comes with a special code for a digital download. Listen…even if you don’t have a record player buy the vinyl and download the digital. For your troubles, you get the fantastic cover art and a full album of music that really should be listened to in the warm analog realm. Thank you, Dan, for putting this out. It is a great record and I had a great time listening to it.
RIYL: Four Tet, RJD2, Brian Eno
I wish I had more time this week, but the next couple weeks seem to be slower, so I will catch up on the rest as soon as I can. Since this is a new idea, I am a bit behind in the schedule. Normally this will appear on Monday or Tuesday as the releases become available to you the listener. Thanks for reading and keep buying music!
The best of the rest … (P.S. I could not find the Good Life and Hot Hot Heat singles or Jeremy Enigk’s The Missing Link, so I cannot confirm their release)
Animal Collective – Peacebone (Domino) single
Architecture In Helsinki – Places Like This (Polyvinyl)
Miles Davis – Evolution of the Groove (Columbia Legacy)
Jay Dee – Jay Deelicious: The Delicious Vinyl Years (Delicious Vinyl)
David Dondero – Simple Love (Team Love)
Jeremy Enigk – The Missing Link (RED Ink)
Galactic – From the Corner to the Block (Anti)
The Good Life – Heartbroke (Saddle Creek) single
Hot Hot Heat – Let Me In (SIR) single
Imperial Teen – The Hair the TV the Baby The Band (Merge)
Kinski – Down Below the Chaos (Sub Pop)
M.I.A. – Kala (Interscope)
The Mendoza Line – 30 Year Low (Glurp)
Minus The Bear – Planet of Ice (Suicide Squeeze)
Travis Morrison Hellfighters – All Y’all (Barsuk)
The New Pornographers – Challengers (Matador)
Over The Rhine – The Trumpet Child (Great Speckled Dog Records)
Peter Brotzmann Octet – The Complete Machine Gun Sessi (Atavistic)
Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (Victor)
Son Seals – A Journey through the Blues: The Son Seals Story (Sagebrush)
Cornel West – Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations (Hidden Beach)
Reissues: (All of these reissues are unbelievably amazing!!!)
Louis Armstrong – Live at the 1958 Monterrey Jazz Festival (Concord)
Miles Davis – Live at the 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival (Concord)
Dizzy Gillespie – Live at the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival (Concord)
Thelonious Monk – Live At the 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival (Concord)
Sarah Vaughan – Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival (Concord)
Sun Ra – The Night of the Purple Moon (Atavistic)
Vee-Jay: The Definite Collection (Shout! Factory) Box Set