M. Ward "Hold Time". Just released and good on vinyl.
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As a big M. Ward fan, I'm a bit underwhelmed by Hold Time. I like the tunes, but the recording is not in the same class as previous efforts, especially "Transistor Radio" or "Transfiguration of Vincent". Maybe it will grow on me.
I've been enjoying an eclectic singer songwriter album by Jesse Sykes and the Great Hereafter "Like, Love, Lust, And The Open Halls of the Soul". This is from late 2008, but I'll count it. Her voice is, er, unique but the songwriting really grows on you with repeated listens. Nice 2-LP set on Southern Lord. And, despite the band name, album title and record label, this recording is completely secular in nature ;--))
Hold Time is the first M. Ward I've acquired on vinyl. The sound quality of the LP is good but not exceptional. It was apparently recorded on the same vintage 4-track he used to do She & Him Vol. 1-- which was an excellent 2008 release.
Another '09 keeper is Susanna "Flower of Evil". Haunting, stripped down covers of an unlikely selection by Lou Reed, Nico, Prince, Roy Harper, Phil Lynott, Ozzy O. Some help here from Bonnie Prince Billy-- who really gets around. I'm guessing that Susanna is the daughter of ECM jazzman Christian Wallumrod.
Palasr thanks for the tip. I really liked the one track she sang on the Sunn O))) - Altar album. I listened to 2 tracks on youtube and went straight to Waterloo Records here in Austin and found all 3 of her albums in the used bin :-)
ps. The best M. Ward album is Post-War if anyone wants my snobbish opinion.
As an aside, the first two Ray L. albums showed great promise. However his live appearance last year in my area was leaden. In concert he makes the mistake of combining hepped-up earnestness with a control-freak determination to throttle down his fine accompaniests so as not to distract from his showboating egotism. The introverted style that he turns to such great effect in the studio cries out for a looser more electric live presentation. The ethusiastic audience was primed to hear this interesting new artist succeed-- one wants this guy to be the next Neil Young or at least Cat Stevens. Instead he was tone deaf to the opportunity and by the end of the evening a good chunk of the audience was silent & immersed in text messaging.
"Dark Was the Night". This benefit compilation cuts a wide swathe through new material from David Byrne, The National, Kronus Quartet, Iron & Wine, Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, Blonde Redhead, The Decemberists, Yo La Tengo, Bon Iver, Conor Oberst, Feist, Sufjan Stevens, Cat Power, My Morning Jacket, and many others. Not to be missed by anyone who wants to know what's happening in the best alternative music. Excellent vinyl mastering by 4AD and a bargain at $25 for 3 LPs.
Just picked up the Neko Case album: one of the best--easily knocks out the U2 and Animal Collective albums. Fantastic backing tracks by Matt Ward, Los Lobos and Calexico. What a beautiful voice!
Also love the retro feel of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new one, dropping next week. I have an advance copy and it is a huge step up over previous efforts. Reminds me of the best New Wave bands like Blondie. I suspect you will find both groups on the top of many year-end "best of 2009" lists.
Ditto new U2. The Eno sections take you right back to Tiger Mountain & Warm Jets. The Lanois pieces amp-up the delicacy of early albums like Beauty of Wynona through U2 power pop. One of the strongest collaborations since George Martin & B; praise to U2 for having the modesty to open wide for these two great co-writers/producers.
No, I'm not joking at all about Working on a Dream. I do emphatically agree with you that Magic is terrible sonically, though. I'm not saying Dream is of "audiophile quality" in the same way we speak of acoustic jazz or classical music. It is very good, for rock n' roll, on my system, though. Very layered arrangements, and maybe not everyone's cup of tea in that regard, but it's far clearer, smoother, less distorted, and more dynamic than Magic. Just my experience.
John Wesley Harding with The Minus Five "Who was Changed and Who was Dead." As good as this guy has been over the years, nothing he has done to date anticipates this return after an hiatus of five years. Think Elvis Costello at his best without the artiness on his sleeve, Magical Mystery-era Beatles, vintage Kinks on Willesden Green. Excellent SQ on double CD in studio and live. A perfect antidote to troubled times.
Antony is great. Dark is the Night is v. good. Marianne Faithfull's new one is one of her best. Also have the DVD of Leonard Cohen's London concert--I am waiting to hear him live before I play. Van Morrison's concert in LA is up to his highest standard. Haven't heard the MP3 of Dylan's newest--but early word is his voice sounds pretty rough. Doesn't make any difference. Wilco has a new one coming out, as does Massive Attack. All may be candidates before the year ends.
Just acquired Jenny Lewis' "Acid Tongue" and gave it my first spin last night. In a word: excellent. Stellar performance and recording on 3 sides. Again from late 2008, but what the hell.
Also have been enjoying the latest Marianne Faithful (great tunes, but the recording is a bit disjointed...her vocals sound strange in comparison to the rest of the band), new Bonnie Prince Billy and the recent reissue of Man or Astroman's "Experiment Zero" a band I always enjoyed back in the early 90's. Heavy retro-surf/camp in a Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet kind of way. The latest Dan Hicks LP (who is slowly morphing into a Leon Redbone-esque vocal style), "Tangled Tales" is quite decent as well, speaking of campiness.
After waiting for them for a dozen years, I also picked up the reissues of the first two Ben Harper albums. Great tunes, but shitty remasters - though the second album (Fight for Your Mind) is better than the first. They sound flat, undynamic and digital - feh. Given the excellent and obviously analog nature of the sound off of CD, the remastering engineers ought to hang their head(s) in shame - these should have been blistering.