Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I Am Old Music and You Can Too!*

*Sorry, Stephen Colbert, for ripping off the oh-so-clever name of your oh-so-clever book.

As someone constantly trying to keep her pulse on the latest and greatest music, I often find myself overwhelmed and, ever increasingly, disappointed by the latest offerings. Sure, you've got Plants and Animals and The Dodos to keep the flora/fauna fresh. Still, lately I've been skipping many of the newer releases in favor of thumbing through rock's back-catalog.

I figured I'd touch on some of my favorite recent discoveries and offer you all a sample. Dig in!

Chronological order seems to make the most sense, right?

Nico - Chelsea Girl (1967)

If you're a fan of Wes Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums, then you're undoubtedly familiar with Nico's take on Jackson Browne's "These Days." According to WikiLegend, Anderson was so taken by the song that he envisioned the scene where Gwyneth Paltrow steps off the train in slow motion before he started writing the screenplay. I was also quite taken by this song, and wasn't disappointed by the album's other lushly produced tracks. While this is definitely more of a "winter album," it's definitely worth a look, particularly if you're a fan of Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left.

David Bowie - Hunky Dory (1971)

Thank you, SonicRyan, for turning me onto this album. We all know the opener "Changes," but don't be fooled into thinking this is the album's greatest offering. Here Bowie pays tribute to everyone from Bob Dylan to Andy Warhol while creating his own masterpiece. "Life on Mars" = priceless. "Queen Bitch" (another track to figure on a Wes Anderson soundtrack) = a joyous rock romp. Listen to "The Bewlay Brothers" and marvel.

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

I remember first falling in love with Interpol and hearing the endless analogies made between Paul Banks' and Ian Curtis' voices. I gave Joy Division a go at the time, thinking anyone who influenced Turn on the Bright Lights had to be worth a listen. Well, as seems to happen far too often to me, I didn't get it on first listen. Now, ever since the junior junk that was Our Love to Admire, I've given Joy Division another go. Let me just say that now I can clearly see Banks didn't just rip off Curtis' vocal stylings, he ripped the very heart out of them.

Check out the cover, the last one hundred transmissions from a dying star. Haunting. Perfect.

Galaxie 500 - On Fire (1989)

After falling for Beach House I kept seeing all of these comparisons to Galaxie 500. Then I read a P4k column dedicated to the band that left me scrambling to hear them, and this exquisite song known as "Snowstorm." Finding this album led me to somewhat of a crisis in the past few months, as I couldn't understand how this album had just been sitting there all along, waiting for me to discover it. I guess Galaxie 500 is to blame for all this back-pedaling, back-cataloging... Just listen to the song. Please.

The last two wouldn't qualify as "old" -- both were released within the past decade -- though they would qualify as albums/bands I missed out on at the time.

Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs (1999)

Turn on Deserter's Songs, and you'll swear for a moment that you're hearing The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin. Coincidentally -- or perhaps not -- both albums have the same producer and guitarist John Donahue. But if you're a die-hard SB fan like I am, then your stomach just might flip when you discover that Mercury Rev's take on the SB-sound came first. While The Soft Bulletin is undoubtedly the superior achievement, Deserter's Songs is an incredible album in its own right. If you crave even more experimental fare, check out the band's 1993 album Boces. It doesn't even sound like the same band...

Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You (2001)

Recently I was reading a humor article, "How To Tell If You're a Hipster." One of the criteria was if you've ever said Blonde Redhead was "the poor man's Unwound." As a BR fan, my interest was piqued at the thought that anyone -- hipster or not -- would say this. I immediately downloaded this 74-minute, double-disc affair that is apparently considered the band's finest work. (As one fan stated, it killed post-post-punk, "with kindness.") I've been in love ever since.

Well, there you have my latest finds. Perhaps I'll continue this feature as I dredge up more gems. Until next time...


SonicRyan said...

I've said it once and I'll say it again, Paul Banks doesn't sound like Ian Curtis, he sounds like John Cale, and I'll hear no more of this Ian Curtis nonesense until you check out Paris 1919 and can look me right and the eyes, with a straight face, and convince me otherwise.

Other than that, brilliant post, though I'm a bit jealous that it was a humor article and not my Mixtape Monday that I made a few months back that turned you into an Unwound fan. Leaves Turn Inside You is pretty fucking great, and they're one of the first "indie" bands I saw live when I first started getting into "indie rock." They played the Granada, and there were like 10 people there. So sad. Then they broke up a month or so later. I guess I got lucky there.

The Moon said...

Actually John Donahue has co-produced every Flaming Lips studio album to date with the exception of Transmissions form the Satellite Heart (co-produced by Keith Cleversley) which I agree would definitely explain the sound similarities but he did not play with the Lips on SB. He stopped playing with the Lips shortly after Hit to death in the Future Head dues to David Bakers departure from Mercury Rev in 93... also explaining why Boces and Yourself is Steam sounds so different from the rest of their albums.

To be honest since you've introduced me to them I've found myself liking MR more than the TFL... *shrugs*

Oh, and Unwound is an amazing band! Prepare yourself for a bit of a shock when eventually attempt the back catalog, it's much more abrasive, but to me it is all equally good.

SonicRyan said...

Moon, what's your source that says John Donahue co-produced all but one of the Flaming Lips records? From what I can gather, Donahue maybe aided in the production of the only two Flaming Lips he was a part of, Priest and Hit to Death. While I don't own much pre-1990's Flaming Lips, internet searches have failed to yield his name as a co-producer for the three records they released in the 80's, and after checking the physical copies of the albums I own (beginning with Priest and everything after), his name is nowhere to be found in the liner notes for any of their records post Hit to Death period, let alone as a co-producer.

Also, if there are similarities between Deserter's Songs and The Soft Bulletin (and there certainly are), it probably has more to do with Dave Fridmann, not John Donahue. Dave Fridmann is the one who has produced every album for both bands since 1990 (except Transmissions for Flaming Lips), including the two records brought into question by Nicole in the original post.

The Moon said...

Crap! Your right, I screwed up... I melded John Donahue and Dave Fridmann in my head... I'm terrible with names... it'd probably be easier to remember if there were fewer connections between the 2 bands. =P

John Donahue = Mercury Rev's guitarist/The Flaming Lips guitarist for said 2 albums

Dave Fridmann = Mercury Rev's bassist and co-producer (with the rest of the band)/The Flaming Lips co-producer for all but said album

I actually feel like an ass mixing this up Dave's produced some other really cool shit...

Mogwai-Come On Die Young
Mogwai-Rock Action
Elf Power-A Dream In Sound
Elf Power-The Winter Is Coming
The Delgados-The Great Eastern
The Delgados-Hate
Longwave-The Strangest Things
Sleater Kinney-The Woods
Quasi-When The Going Gets Dark
Low-The Great Destroyer
Low-Drums and Guns
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-Some Loud Thunder*
Tapes ‘N Tapes-Walk It Off*
MGMT-Oracular Spectacular*

*well the last 3 aren't as cool but I figured should be mentioned...