I know that posting here has been sporadic lately. Just a lot of things on my mind that are not bloggable, some related to work, some related to life in general. Also I’ve been giving more time and attention to my photoblog, Spike’s Photos, trying to build up interesting photo-related content there and build up the number of readers.
Of course music is a constant in my life and I thought I’d run down some thoughts on things I’ve been listening to lately. In no particular order:
Dion – Tank Full of Blues – I guess you’d need to be around my age to recognize Dion’s name at this point. Hailing from The Bronx, his big hits came in the early 60s, alone and with The Belmonts, especially Runaround Sue and The Wanderer and later on Abraham, Martin & John. He’s now 72 years old and it may come as a surprise to you that he’s never stopped recording. Not only that, he’s made some great albums along the way. This is not a great one but it’s a good one.
The Explorers Club – Grand Hotel. A new album by a new(ish) band, I was attracted to this by its mondo retro cover. The music is crazy retro as well. Goofy fun.
David Sylvian – Victim of Stars. Sylvian is one of those guys whom I always knew I liked but never paid enough attention to. This double disc retrospective, curated by Sylvian himself, strikes me as both a nice career summation as well as an excellent introduction to a sometimes challenging artist.
Elvis Costello & The Imposters – The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook. As big a fan as I am of Costello’s, sometimes the last 25 years of his career leaves me perplexed. This recent live set isn’t essential by any means but it does focus on his better material and includes a DVD of the concert as well.
Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball. Well, you all know that Bruce is #1 for me and has been for almost 40 years. I intended to write a longer review of this but I guess I won’t get around to it. There’s plenty of good stuff here, that’s an understatement. I think it’s problematic that two of the songs are quite old and I think his admirable attempt to extent his sonic landscape via working with a different producer and some electronics backfires and takes away from the songs.
Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now. An alt-country band produced by T-Bone Burnett, the opening track almost seems more influenced by Philip Glass than Hank Williams. Multiple listens have proved rewarding.
Hoodoo Gurus – 20 Golden Greats. I’ve got a real fondness for this punky power pop band from Australia and have always wondered why they never made it bigger than they did.
Madonna – MDNA. You might be surprised to find out that I’ve been a huge Madonna fan from day one. Nevertheless, this album is awful. Cynically produced pop for the masses, this is the first album released under her mega-deal with LiveNation and it’s clear that the goal here is to sell concert tickets and not to produce lasting music. She’s simply following trends and stealing from her older material rather than trying to get out in front again.
Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin – Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968. Some are saying this is the best officially released live Janis album ever. Considering the competition that’s not hard. It’s also proof of how hopelessly inept Big Brother was as a band and why Joplin had to leave them.
Rocket Juice and the Moon. Honestly, I’ve found many of Damon Albarn’s side projects borderline unlistenable and this collaboration with Flea and Tony Allen does nothing for me. I take it as bad news that he recently announced that both Blur and Gorillaz are finished if this is what we’re gonna get.
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday Roman Reloaded. No less than the NY Times recently lauded Minaj as the most influential female rapper of all time and I’m a big fan of hers but this album leaves me puzzled. There’s some good stuff here but you have to wade through a godawful amount of crap to get to it.
Dr. John – Locked Down. The big news is that this was produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and it’s already the best selling album of Dr. John’s 50+ year career. I don’t much care for it. I think too much Auerbach, not enough Rebennack.
Paul Weller – Sonik Kicks. There are those who are fans of Weller’s increasing sonic experimentation – first on 22 Dreams and now here. Yes, again, it’s admirable that he’s getting old and still trying to sound new. Call me old but I wish he’d focus on the songs and leave the frills behind.
Chemical Brothers – Don’t Think (Blu-Ray/CD, DVD/CD). This is one of the great concert films, shot at the Fuji Rock festival in Japan with 20 cameras and some great editing. I’ve ripped this to MP4 and it’s on my iPad and I keep coming back to this.
Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream. If I was only going to buy one album from all of these, well it would probably be Springsteen, but this would be my #2 choice. I’ve been a fan of Bonnie Raitt’s since her second album came out back in ’72 or so. I think her last few albums were a bit on the lazy side. Now, after a 7 year gap, she’s back with one of her best albums ever, simply Bonnie doing what she does best. Heartfelt bluesy ballads and lots of guitar.
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls. Classic Southern rock, this is one of the bands pegged for stardom in 2012, Brittany Howard does indeed have a pretty good voice. But like that guy in Kings of Leon, she sings as if she’s got a mouthful of marbles and the material is okay but not really memorable. I’m told this all comes off better live.
Jack White – Blunderbuss. Hard to believe it’s taken so long for White to do a solo album. As odd as it may seem, I’ve never been a big fan of the White Stripes but I am a fan of White’s. This album is all over the stylistic map but I think will hold up to repeated listens.
Johnathan Wilson – Gentle Spirit. Gentle, slow burning psychedelic folk that sounds like California in the early 70s but was released at the tail end of last year. Best for listening late at night with headphones on.
That’s about it for now. Here’s the stuff cued up for the near future:
Which of these have you heard? What else would you recommend?