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Actual physical CDs I’ve bought in 2009 (so far) November 14, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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Hudson Mohawke: Butter

I used to buy a lot of CDs. Now I get a lot of music from eMusic and other online sources. But they don’t have everything, and they don’t cater to the collector side of me, or to the side of me that remembers to play something more often if there’s a physical copy lying around. So how many CDs have I bought this year? (I’m not counting the ones mounted on magazine covers.)

Raphael Saadiq: The Way I See It
John Foxx: My Lost City
Cadence Weapon: Afterparty Babies
D’Agostino/Foxx/Jansen: A Secret Life
Ultravox: Quartet
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It’s Blitz!
John Foxx and Robin Guthrie: Mirrorball
Lupe Fiasco: Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor
J Dilla: Donuts
Nadja: When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV
Various artists: Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture
Various artists: Play Drill: Dugga Dugga Dugga
Editors: In This Light and On This Evening
Franz Ferdinand: Tonight
John Foxx and Louis Gordon: Shifting City
John Foxx and Louis Gordon: The Pleasures of Electricity
John Foxx: In the Glow
Leyland Kirby: Sadly, the Future Is No Longer What It Was
Hudson Mohawke: Butter

That’s nineteen so far. But a few of them are expanded reissues of albums I already owned.  How about last year? Leaving out magazine covermount CDs and audiobooks, in 2008 I bought 24 CDs, again with a few being expanded reissues. In 2007? 58. In 2006, 35. In 2005, 30.

Okay, so not as much of a decline as I thought; 2007 was an atypical year. I think being unemployed is enough to explain the difference. Part of the reason 2007 was atypical was dubstep: I got into it in a big way then.

I don’t have an ipod, though occasionally I use my cellphone as an mp3 player (it has a capacity of one gB, or about a dozen albums). I tend to listen to albums as albums, not random selections of tracks, and I still like CDs because they can be played in more places, although our next car may be able to handle mp3s. Still, the main selling point of mp3s is price and storage space. If I know I’m going to listen to them a lot, I’ll burn them to audio CD.

There will be more posted about some of these albums before too long…


October eMusic downloads November 14, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Canadian content, Music.
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Fucked Up: The Chemistry of Common Life

Fucked Up: The Chemistry of Common Life, Year of the Rat, Hidden World. They’re Canadian, they won a big award, and they’re an atypical hardcore band, so I was curious. I like the first one, haven’t listened to the others much yet. They’re definitely neither the kind of hardcore I listened to many years ago nor the annoying stuff the genre evolved into over the years. They’re doing something different.

Various artists: 5: Five Years of Hyperdub disc 1. I have pretty much everything on disc 2, which is a sampling of past releases on Hyperdub; disc 1 is all new material, showing the future of one of the most consistently interesting dubstep and post-dubstep labels. And the future looks bright, not constrained by the cliches that some dubstep has fallen prey to.

Close Lobsters: Forever Until Victory. Singles collection from the jangly late ’80s band who recorded the great Foxheads Stalk This Land, a missing link between the Soft Boys, the House of Love, and other great pre-shoegazer guitar bands.

Raveonettes: In and Out of Control. Latest from the Jesus and Mary Chain-influenced retro fuzzpop band, more melodic, less noisy this time around.

Kevin Drumm: Imperial Horizon, Imperial Distortion. Austerely minimalist ambient/drone.

Bad Lieutenant: Never Cry Another Tear. The full album by New Order minus Peter Hook, it’s another okay outing with some pretty good songs but nothing that’ll change your life.

2562: Unbalance. Second album of techno-fied dubstep. I think this one has a little more character than the first.


Annie: Don’t Stop

Annie: Don’t Stop. More retro dance pop. Catchy and fun, with the occasional touch of melancholy.

Nurse With Wound: Salt Marie Celeste. Experimental ambient/drone/noise.

Robin Guthrie: Songs to Help My Children Sleep EP. More of the usual instrumental guitar bliss, quieter and more ambient than some of his other material.

Anuj Rastogi: Dark Matter EP. A Canadian mix of dubstep and Indian music, going deeper than some UK dubstep producers who just drop in random Indian samples.

Andrew Liles: The Dead Submariner. More dark ambience. Where its predecessor, The Dying Submariner, used processed piano sounds, this one uses guitar.

Plus the usual dubstep and electronic singles, this time around from Broken Note, Various Production, A Made Up Sound, Darkstar, Ital Tek, Sp:Mc, and Sully.

John Foxx: In the Glow (2009) and various reissues November 2, 2009

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John Foxx: In the Glow, Shifting City, the Pleasures of ElectricityYes, I’ve posted about John Foxx several times already. But if he keeps putting out albums…

Unlike his four previous releases this year, his latest albums are expanded reissues of previously available material, remastered and in some cases remixed, and shuffling some material previously available on other releases.

In the Glow has the most previously unreleased material, in the form of live recordings from two 1983 concerts. There are no songs that haven’t been released in some form before, but many of these particular versions are new to CD. Nine songs appeared as the first disc in the 2002 double CD The Golden Section Tour/The Omnidelic Exotour, which is now out of print. There are 26 songs on this new release, though many appear twice. There are some differences in the performances, though, which makes the duplication worthwhile. For fans of Foxx’s most commercially successful era, this may be the album to get, as it’s a full band playing songs from The Garden and The Golden Section as well as Ultravox’s Systems of Romance. Sounds like the drummer is playing electronic drums on all the songs, and Foxx seems to be losing control of his voice a little towards the end of the first concert, but for anyone who wanted to know what a live Foxx concert sounded like back then, this is well worth getting. The sound quality, incidentally, is very good. Much better than the bootlegs that have been floating around for years.

After these concerts, Foxx released one more album, In Mysterious Ways, and then disappeared from the public eye for over a decade. He returned in 1997 with Cathedral Oceans, an ambient album, and Shifting City, a collaboration with the relatively unknown Louis Gordon. Shifting City is a bit odd — it’s a guitar-free album, totally electronic, harking back to his Metamatic album, but some of the songs draw on the Beatles and psychedelic influences that were noticeable in his music circa The Golden Section. Songs like “Crash,” “Shadow Man,” and “Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible” are somewhere between techno and industrial, but “Through My Sleeping,” though electronic, is unmistakably influenced by the Beatles’s psychedelic period. There are a couple of forgettable, underdeveloped slow tunes (“Forgotten Years” and “Everyone”), but overall, despite the slightly inconsistent tone of the album, it was a very welcome return. The reissue has been somewhat remixed and remastered, and the first disc has three bonus tracks, a demo version of “Shadow Man” and Subterranean Omnidelic Exotour versions of two Ultravox songs. The second disc of the Shifting City reissue is the second disc of the 2002 Golden Section Tour/Omnidelic Exotour mentioned above. That in itself was an expansion of two very limited edition releases called Subterranean Omnidelic Exotour, which I don’t have. They’re live-in-studio versions of songs played on tour by Foxx and Gordon, released in lieu of an actual live album. Some older songs sound a little thin and flat with only synths; some sound quite good, and some Shifting City songs have a more dynamic feel.

The Pleasures of Electricity was the second Foxx/Gordon album, originally released in 2001. It’s more stylistically consistent than Shifting City, hewing closer to Foxx’s 1980 Metamatic album and classic Kraftwerk. When I first heard it in 2001 I thought it was a bit samey and unoriginal, but over time it’s grown a lot in my estimation. This reissue is a bit odd, though. The first disc is the original album with four songs remixed. The second disc is the original album with those songs in their original form, plus two previously unreleased songs from the same recording sessions. There’s a lot of duplication here, but the album, the alternate mixes of those four songs, and the two bonus songs wouldn’t fit on one disc. This way, at least, fans who missed the original can have both versions of the album. And fans who have the original are already used to having a lot of duplication in our collections.

And speaking of duplication: two other Foxx CDs were reissued recently. Impossible and A New Kind of Man, released in 2008, were originally limited to a thousand copies each, but have been re-pressed due to popular demand. Impossible was largely rerecorded versions of songs from Foxx’s back catalogue, but it also included two new tracks. A New Kind of Man was a live recording from a 2007 tour in which Foxx played his 1980 Metamatic album and some related songs. The only change was that one song on Impossible was remixed; the remix was made available as a free mp3 download, so people who bought the limited edition wouldn’t have to buy the CD again. Very thoughtful and much appreciated, that was.

I’m going to guess that that’s it for John Foxx for 2009, but there’s always the chance something else may pop up. He has several albums in the works and has been talking with other people about starting new projects.The future may yet see collaborations with Leftfield’s Paul Daley, Benge, Vincent Gallo, Harold Budd (again), Robin Guthrie (again)….

Joanna Newsom: Ys (2006) November 2, 2009

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Joanna Newsom: YsI have tried. Really. I didn’t like the first bit of music I heard by Joanna Newsom, whatever it was, but Ys got so much praise from music critics, and it was available on eMusic at the time, so I thought, maybe I’m missing something, maybe this is the one where it clicks and I get it.

After all, she gets compared to Kate Bush and Bjork, two adventurous women musicians with distinctive singing styles, and I like both of them. The news that she added full orchestral arrangements to her usual harp accompaniment also made this sound more interesting, more substantial somehow.

But I listen to this and all I can think of is some precocious five-year-old girl singing to herself, just rambling, sometimes following a hint of melody, sometimes just jumping up and down the scale, sometimes with a hint of rhythm, other times randomly speeding up or slowing down or singing more softly or getting abruptly louder. And sometimes she sings like a senile old lady with a cracked voice. And it’s hard to find any rhyme or reason to any of it.

There are moments when it’s possible to imagine what a less affected Joanna Newsom might sound like, when you can almost imagine her putting aside her bag of tricks and just singing. They don’t tend to last long, but they make me wish they did. Chances are she’d lose her current fans if she did, though; there’s a reason she’s sometimes categorized as freak folk, and the reason is that some people enjoy unnatural and contrived freakishness. (I heard a song by Devendra Banhart once. Life’s too short, but if life meant having to listen to Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom regularly, it’d be worth making it shorter still.)

The arrangements aren’t bad, anyway, in a children’s fairy tale movie soundtrack kind of way.

So, no, I still don’t get it. Every so often I give it another shot, but I don’t think that’s going to change.