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Gimme Indie Rock - Part One
January 07, 2011 - 04:20 AMSo we bought a massive heap of excellent indie "rock" CDs from early 90s to present. We'll be dishing it out over the coming days/weeks and I thought I'd highlight some of it for those of you not fortunate enough to be of my generation.
If you're my age there's probably little here that will be new to you, but for people in their 20s I'm certain there will be some unfamiliar bands. Many of these albums are among my favorites of the past 20 years (the seller had phenomenal taste, if I do say so myself). It's not all rock--there's some electronic, some ambient, some pop, some noise, some avant... I'll make a new post for each batch we put out. Hopefully this will appease those of you who've commented that they miss the "featured titles" section which we lost due to space. If that section were still around, these titles certainly would have made the cut.
Nina Nastasia's The Blackened Air doesn't sound anything like her New York home town. Her albums are dark, sparse, and beautifully written, often sounding like they come from another time. Allmusic asks of her second release, "Just how beautiful is The Blackened Air? Remarkably beautiful, though it's far from a smooth train ride through the rustic southern town where it seemingly takes place. ... This record flows so easily that it sounds as if it made itself. However, engineer Steve Albini should be commended for making this record sound as if it was birthed in a spacious, creaky farmhouse. Intimate, delicate, and laced with greatness, Nastasia's second release is one of those records that only takes one listen to be justly evaluated as special and timeless. The pain is sweet." To the best of my memory this is the only time this release has come into Vortex. People who buy Nastasia's records (she has six so far) keep them. Here's two tracks by Nina--the first is on The Blackened Air. The second is a live version of a track from her most recent release.
Archers of Loaf were a Chapel HIll, NC band known for their very angular take on "indie rock". They released five full lengths in the 90s and several singles/EPs. The last two full-lengths are snoozers but the first two, Icky Mettle and Vee Vee are fantastic albums head-to-toe. The third, All the Nations Airports, has some terrific songs but is a little too long. One of the EPs, Vs. The Greatest of All Time, is an absolute stunner. Says Allmusic: "...here's a two-guitar quartet that takes a normal starting point -- whirling, loud, harsh guitar pop with an unpredictable edge -- and adds a bawling, full-throated vocalist ... Music to sing to and bounce off the walls to at the same time."
Here's a track each from the first two albums and one from the EP:
(Christian) Fennesz is a contemporary guitarist from Vienna who crafts consistently good ambient/electronica. His 2004 album, Venice, is one of his best and we rarely see it come in used. Allmusic gives the album 4.5 stars outta 5 and says, "Venice is another success and every bit as delightful as its predecessor. The presence of David Sylvian will make it easier for new fans to jump in." Here's the opening track, Rivers of Sand:
The Afghan Whigs were easily one of the best rock bands of the 90s. I'd argue that their album Gentleman was the best rock album of the period--I'd take it over Nevermind any day. On their best work, singer/lyricist Greg Dulli hemorrhages self-loathing and this 1993 release is no exception. Though Gentleman is their masterpiece ("Dulli's blend of utter abnegation and masculine swagger may be a crutch, but when everything connects, as it does more often than not on Gentlemen, both he and his band are unstoppable."), Congregation is also excellent. Their first proper release, Up in It, is also worth a listen. Here's three from Gentleman and one from Congregation:
Joel R.L. Phelps is probably the least known performer on this list. For a while he was one of the singers for Silkworm, leaving the band after their delightful Libertine. He then released a number of albums under his own name or as/with The Downer Trio, each of which I love for different reasons. Though Silkworm made some great records, they're not very well remembered (at least they don't sell very well at Vortex) but you'd be smart to familiarize yourself with them. Each of their releases--especially the ones featuring Phelps--offers something excellent. Phelps' solo records rarely come into the store (only 3 in the years I've been there and never the same one twice). This is the first and probably last time you'll see Blackbird so if you dig this track, snatch it up.
That Phelps track only has a measly 70 listens on Youtube, but here's a Minders' track with only 42. It's from their outstanding 1998 pop album Cul-de-sacs and Dead Ends. I've never ever seen a used copy and, along with Herschel Savage and the American Flag's debut and Bikeride's Morning Macuba, it's among my most loved pop albums.
Y'all probably know that Bonnie Prince Billy is one of my all-time favorite musicians. We got about 5 of his CDs in with this batch so there's a bunch to pick from. Here's tracks from a few. From these albums: The Letting Go, Master and Everyone, Lie Down in the Light.
Someone I've been listening to a little longer than I have BPB is Smog (AKA Bill Callahan). Allmusic gives his seventh album, Knock Knock, an almost perfect score of 4.5 stars and says, "It's a moving album on many levels; not only do the songs have Smog's usual emotional intimacy, their subjects move away from difficult, claustrophobic situations toward maturity and acceptance." Check out these two tracks from the album:
Okay, that's all I got for this post. Just a few of the 125 or so quality indie CDs I put on the floor today. As I said, I'll make a new post with each batch.
Tom Ze and Other Post New Years Arrivals
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All content © 2009.
All content © 2009.