Upcoming Music Releases – May 2012

Another selection of upcoming indie (and not so indie) music releases:

1-May-2012:

Welsh straight-up rock act Feeder returns with new album Generation Freakshow.  Their albums have been less consistent lately, but once upon a time they (nearly) conquered the world with radio-friendly records like Comfort in Sound and Pushing The Senses.  Foo Fighters fans may find much to like here.

Frequent indie collaborator Santi White (aka Santigold) releases her second full-length record, Master Of My Make-Believe.  This time out, the album features a veritable mix-tape of guest producers, running the gamut from Diplo to Dave Sitek.  Expect a correspondingly wide range of sonic textures.

8-May-2012:

Last month it was Amadou & Mariam.  This month, their English compadre Damon Albarn gets in on the new-release racket with Dr. Dee.  Here’s a quick summary from the album’s tumblr site (and no one will ever accuse Albarn of playing things too straight):

Dr Dee is 18 tracks of songs and music inspired by the life of John Dee, mathematician, polymath and advisor to Elizabeth I. Described by Albarn as ‘strange pastoral folk’, Dr Dee is a fitting companion to the end of another Elizabethan age. The album combines Albarn’s voice with early English choral and instrumentation alongside modern, West African and Renaissance sounds.

UK trio Keane return with new album Strangeland.  Coming on the heels of 2008’s transitional Perfect Symmetry, the new album is reportedly a back-to-basics affair with a greater emphasis on songwriting and fewer production tricks.  As always, success or failure will begin and end with the quality of the songs.

Silversun Pickups are back with Neck of the Woods.  Will be interesting to see if producer Jacknife Lee and his Topanga Canyon recording studio influence the band’s unique sound.  It also sounds like the album will come out on very cool 180g yellow double vinyl, if you’re so inclined.

Sony Japan are releasing new remastered CDs by The Byrds, including Notorious Byrd Brothers, Turn Turn Turn, Fifth Dimension, and Younger than Yesterday.  These records are the fountain of jangle-rock genius from where bands like the Flying Burrito Brothers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, R.E.M., Blue Rodeo and Dawes nicked all their best ideas.

15-May-2012:

Indie darlings Beach House release Bloom, the follow-up to 2010’s well-received Teen Dream.  Let’s see if a more expansive approach to their multi-textured dream pop can continue the momentum.

At the complete opposite end of the indie-rock spectrum is Rise of the Fenix by Tenacious D.  It would be hilarious if Jack Black and Kyle Gass came out with a multi-textured dream pop album, but who are we kidding.

22-May-2012:

Kind of a slow day for new releases.  If you’re in the mood for vintage two-minute rock gems wrapped in black leather, try the posthumous Joey Ramone solo release called …Ya Know?

28-May-2012 (UK release date):

2:54 is the self-titled dark-pop debut album from the hotly-tipped UK sister act that’s named for their favourite moment of a Melvins song.  They were discovered last year after posting their GarageBand experiments online.  Doesn’t get much more indie than that.

Meanwhile, Scissor Sisters get back in the game with Magic Hour.  Check out the album cover – I can’t decide if it’s stunningly brilliant or everything that’s wrong about Photoshop.  But it is undeniably eye-catching.

29-May-2012:

It’s virtually impossible to describe Icelandic indie-rock superstars Sigur Ros in mere words.  You might be better off seeking out a copy of new record Valteri and listening for yourself.  If it’s anything like previous works, imagine guitars turned up to eleven, played at half speed, all while providing the sound track to icebergs cleaving from glaciers into the North Atlantic.  Utterly unique – you either get them or you don’t.

Indie rock’s most anticipated new May release is undoubtedly the new album from The Walkmen.  Heaven promises to expand upon the sterling reputation earned by previous albums You & Me and Lisbon, two tough acts to follow.

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Bon Scott, We Miss You

Bon Scott was the original singer of seminal rock band AC/DC.  Every album up to and including Highway to Hell features his unmistakable singing (and occasional air-accordion).  Bon Scott died in 1980 after a particularly hard night of drinking, and the band replaced him with Brian Johnson (who has his own merits), but it was never quite the same.

After a few days of grey skies, sleet and snow the weather finally broke long enough for a sunny & warm afternoon to break through.  To celebrate, your faithful correspondent got out of the house and jumped on the Heel-Toe Express for a walk around the neighbourhood.  Not quite as epic as last weekend’s hike (18 km) or as speedy as last Monday’s blitz (10’10” per km over 6.5 km), but a nice & tidy 14.7 km over 2.5 hours.  Not too shabby.

The song that lodged in my tape-recorder brain for most of the trip was “Love Hungry Man” by AC/DC.  This might be the perfect rock song, and the cadence is tailor-made for stomping uphill and making great time on the trails.  I’ve often said that being Malcolm Young would be the best job in the world; stand in front of your Marshall stacks and grind out the purest riffs known to mankind while your fans go bananas and your brother Angus does all the running around.  This song has it all – a great riff, crunchy guitars, snappy snare drums, a fluid bass line, and Scott’s sexually suggestive vocal.  Four minutes and seventeen seconds of rock ‘n’ roll magic.  I’m sure other songs came up in the rotation as I finished my walk, but “Love Hungry Man” was permanent lodged on infinite repeat.  Three hours later and I can still hear every riff.

It’s springtime in central Alberta, so most of the migratory birds are back in town.  I spotted Canada geese, mallards, coots, grebes, and pelicans at the local wetlands, red-winged blackbirds lurking in the cattails, and even a hairy woodpecker in one family’s backyard (he flocked off before I could get my camera out of my pocket).  I’m not sure they would appreciate the unadulterated hard-rock goodness of Scott, Young, Young and Co. but the birds seemed to be making their own fun in the sun this afternoon.

A Treatise On Sweat Pants

Did I not get the memo?

I took the day off of work today.  Let’s borrow a term from the NHL playoffs and call it a “maintenance day”.  A day to recharge the batteries, get a change of perspective, and take care of some odds ‘n’ ends.  Pay some bills, do some shopping, run some errands.  That kind of day.

While I was out and about, I noticed a disturbing trend.  Sweat pants in public.  Seinfeld’s George Costanza once wore sweat pants in public; Jerry said it was a statement to the world declaring “I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable”.  But seriously, sweat pants?  The Craven Hermit isn’t exactly a GQ clothes-horse, either.  I have no problem with people wearing sweats around the house or at the gym – that’s what they’re for.  I will even admit that, if you’re just kicking around the house on a Saturday night getting your drink on, then comfy fleece casual wear is totally acceptable.  But while out in public, people should at least make a half-assed attempt at being a little more presentable.

And your correspondent wasn’t in the sorts of places you would expect people to be wearing $9 sports-leisure wear.  I was at the largest mall in town, an international tourist destination, picking up some new records (including a vinyl copy of Jack White’s Blunderbuss for $15 – review to follow).  I was at a busy suburban supermarket.  And I dropped by the local Infiniti dealership to have some work done on my car.  Everywhere I went – people in sweat pants.  Young people.  Old people.  Males.  Females.

Seriously, WTF?

If you are a five-year-old boy at Walmart, I’m willing to look the other way.  A twenty-nine year old lady window-shopping at Holt Renfrew?  A fifty-five year old guy shopping for a $50,000 sedan?  Come on now.

On the way home, I stopped by a reputable establishment to pick up some ‘beverages’ for the weekend.  Just as I’m leaving, a young couple pull up in a 3-series BMW.  She was a reasonably attractive blonde creation, maybe 24 years old and full of freshly-scrubbed promise and potential.  He was wearing a Tap-Out t-shirt, a UFC ball cap (worn backwards, of course) and the now-ubiquitous pair of sweat pants.  This is my competition in the dating world, yet Captain Douchebag is kicking my ass.  This was more depressing than an eight-hour marathon of Real Housewives.  I felt like throwing myself off a bridge.

Again, was there a memo that went around saying that people should appear in public this weekend wearing sweat pants?  That society has abandoned all sense of decorum and just decided to emulate Britney Spears on a tacos-and-tequila bender?  I realize that it’s unseasonably cold here in central Alberta this weekend, and we’re not exactly the epicentre of fashion at the best of times.

But, come on, folks.  Throw on some jeans.  You could at least TRY.

Epilogue:  For the record, I am on board with Denis Leary and freely admit that I am totally cool with yoga pants in public.  Just not on dudes – that’s just wrong.  It’s called a double-standard, and I’m standing by it 🙂

Craven Hermit Blows His Wad on Records

Relax, the title of this blog post is a metaphor, and an homage to some of the deliberately unsettling chyrons they use on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Believe me, you DON’T want to know what other titles were under consideration 🙂

Today is Record Store Day 2012.  I moseyed down to my favourite local indie record shop this morning to see what they had on offer.  I originally planned to get there right when they opened (10 am) but some under-publicized road construction sent me on an impromptu detour.

I walked in the doors of Blackbyrd Myoozik at 10:15 am to find the place jam-packed with hipsters, enough to surely test the maximum occupancy limits in our local fire code.  Usually on my Friday afternoon sojourns to the store I’m the only customer.  But on this day, by the time I got there the store was overrun by people with WAY more facial and/or cranial hair than me.  And the ubiquitous music-nerd glasses too.  I would estimate that there were 30 to 40 people in the store by 30 minutes after opening this morning.   Everyone behaved in an orderly fashion, and it did the Craven Hermit’s soul good to see so many people with armfuls of albums waiting in the check-out line, even if the line-up effectively filled the entire store.  The shopkeepers’ choice of spinning the new Spiritualized record as a backdrop to the mayhem likely helped maintain some semblance of decorum.  It could have gotten really ugly if they’d played the new Lou Reed / Metallica album instead.

Not only were there many Record Store Days special promotions available, but they put all the new vinyl on sale 20% off, and all used vinyl was 50% off.  This proved to be a popular move.  Maybe RSD cuts into Blackbyrd’s profit margin a little bit, but they more than made up for it in volume today.  Good for them.

Your faithful correspondent went on a bit of a spending spree today (hence the wad-blowing title of this post).  I’ve accumulated some overtime at work lately, getting the next phase of my latest project set up for my team.  So today was a reward for keeping my nose to the grindstone.  I decided to focus my weekend on what makes me happy, so that meant adding new records to my collection.  I managed to get there early enough to come away with these RSD exclusives:

  • Pete Townshend – Quadrophenia Demos 2 (10″ vinyl)
  • Uncle Tupelo – March 16-20, 1992 (on 180-gram 12″ vinyl)
  • Blitzen Trapper – Hey Joe (7″ on yellow vinyl)

As I mentioned earlier, in-stock vinyl was also on sale today so I picked up a number of titles that I’ve seen on the shelves but just never pulled the trigger on until now.

I was really hoping to find a copy of the Decemberists’ new live record, but they didn’t have it in stock.  I consoled myself with a copy of last year’s most excellent The King Is Dead on 180g.  Peter Buck is about as close to a hero as I have, and his influence is all over this record like stink on a monkey.

I also helped myself to a copy of the Fleet Foxes debut album.  Nice thing about this one is it comes with a copy of the excellent Sun Giant EP.  Two birds, one stone.  Very nice.  Can’t wait to hear “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” the way it was meant to be heard, rotating rotisserie-style at 33-1/3 rpm.

I saw a copy of The Clash’s debut album on 180g and had to have it.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the slashing strains of “Career Opportunities” in my tape-recorder brain while having a bad day at work.  That’ll be my go-to record the next time I get wound up (so… Tuesday, at the latest).

I’ve also been looking for a copy of Spoon’s Gimme Fiction album for awhile now.  There is something magical about the carefully crafted sparseness of songs like “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” and “My Mathematical Mind” that really gets to me.  Can’t wait to drop the needle on this one.

M. Ward’s new album A Wasteland Companion was in stock, so I helped myself to a copy.  The early reviews sound very promising; I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve had time to give it a proper listen.

One of my favourite bands is UK rock act Muse.  What I love about this band is how fearless they are.  Prog rock is decidedly uncool these days, yet Muse find a way to make interstellar paranoia and balls-to-the-wall compound time signatures sound relevant and topical.  My favourite live gig in 2010 was Muse’s tour in support of The Resistance, so I finally picked it up on LP today.  I’m still not 100% sold on the symphonic ambitions of Side 4, but the brilliance of rock songs like “Resistance” and “Undisclosed Desires” simply can’t be denied.

Yours truly was privileged to be in attendance this week when the Joel Plaskett Emergency blazed through town.  Their new album still isn’t available on vinyl, but I broke down and picked up Plaskett’s best ‘solo’ record Ashtray Rock today.  There is just something unmistakable about Plaskett’s musical talents that really comes through on this record; it captures the essence of being 18 years old and stupid (yet cool) all over again.

At this point, with ten pieces of new vinyl in hand, I remembered that discretion was the better part of valour and headed for the cashier.  The store was so grateful for my (over)consumption that they offered me a very nice complimentary tote bag to transport my new purchases home.

I got home just before lunch, and felt suitably inspired by what had just transpired on Record Store Day to set out across the neighbourhood for a long walk.  I picked up a new pair of cross-trainers in Georgia while on a slurry pump training course last month.  Since the weather has been nice lately and the trails are mainly dry, I decided to break in the new shoes today.  It was like walking on a mattress – my new Air Pegasus trainers have beautiful bounce and traction.

When I returned home 3 hours and 6 minutes later, I was expecting to see that I had traveled 15 to 16 kilometres.  Instead, my trusty app tells me I clicked off exactly 18 km over those three hours, which is a very good pace by my standards (10’20” per km).  It must have been the new shoes.

Today’s walk has inspired me to go downstairs, rip the packaging off of some new top-notch music, and set up shop in front of my turntable.  Tonight has been a long time coming, and while I may have the absence of a couple of people hanging heavy on my mind, I can still take refuge in the age-old thrill of spinning some excellent new recordings for the first time.