I've been misplaced, misconstrued, misinformed, and generally missing music cuz I've been shanghaied by movies, art, fiction, documentaries, and other smart culture around the Culture Catch website. My desk is overflowing with all manners of auditory stimulation, from both near and far. And I assure you, dear readers, as of late, I have plugged in my headphones to my daughter's Hello Kitty portable pink CD player and listened while I updated the site or typed out emails to potential podcast sponsors. I must confess that recently I'm very encouraged by the indie music scene. The winter's hibernation has spawned some engaging and dynamic music
And of course the major labels continue to regurgitate all of their evergreen catalog with fervent regularity and with all manners of added bonus CDs of remixes, old mixes, 12" mixes, demos, B-sides, and live material. Some of it is welcome, some of it an annoyance, and some of it dreadful. But all in all, I can't complain. Music is everywhere -- movies, TV shows, adverts, mp3s, digital devices, and satellite radio receivers, even on elevators. Please know that I'm barely reaching the summit of my mountainous pile of discs, but of the three or four dozen I've sampled as of late, these have tickled my audio sensory nerve endings several times over again. I recommend the following:
Wolfmother: s/t (Interscope)
Black-Steppen-Sonics retro-fitted rawk trio swims ashore from Down Under and kicks up some tasty tunes just in time for BBQs and Coney Island Hot Dog-eating contests. I say it's more garage teenage kix than heavy metal thunder, but regardless of your musical proclivities, it works. They even toss in a Jethro Tull-style flute solo on the infectious "Witchcraft." And don't let the fact that Apple is pimping them out on their new iPod commercials freak you out. Perfect for Saturday nights, so turn it up.
Vetiver: To Find Me Gone (DiChristina)
Indie dreamy folk-pop from San Francisco-based singer/songwriter Andy Cabic with an assist from Devendra Banhart. Nearly wearing his love like heaven, these songs delicately tickle your senses with all sorts of acoustic wonder and gentle sonic embellishments. At times they seem like trifles of nearly completed songs, but then they lodge in your brain and reawaken several days later, unfolding like a fond memory.
Pal Shazar: The Morning After (Shiffaroe)
Once a member of the seminal LA band Slow Children, Pal got married and moved east and started her solo journey. Being married to Jules Shear might crush the average songwriter, but not Pal as she's always been capable of spinning a tune even while co-habitating with a legendary tunesmith (and former producer) under the same roof. Her seventh outing finds her quirky ruminations of love and life engaging and invigorating indie rock. She's quite the painter/illustrator, too. You can reach her at: www.palshazar.com.
Eric Clapton: Deluxe Edition (Polydor/Chronicles)
Clapton wanted to join The Band, but was befriended by Delaney & Bonnie. And that was a very smart move. Delaney gave Clapton the pat on the back and the production assist that he needed to kick start his solo career. This is his first solo record and one of his best (and my favorite). The bonus CD is the original mix by Delaney himself, and for me, the favored mix of ragged R&B infused white boy country blues.
Jose Gonzalez: Stay in the Shade EP (Hidden Agenda)
I loathe to draw these painful comparisons, but this Swedish-based (via Argentina parents) singer/songwriter has the stark, mystical folk vision of Tim Buckley and Nick Drake. Thanks to Zero 7 for sharing him with the world on their new effort, The Garden. And witness what Europe has already consumed on this impressive five-song EP, a follow-up to his essential debut, Veneer. You can dig deeper here: www.jose-gonzalez.com.
Cheap Trick: Rockford (B3 Records)
Are you kidding me? Yup, these '70s dinosaurs from Chicago still know how to write right hook-laden melodic pop rock songs that crush most, if not all, of the radio-friendly hits of today. And if you ever caught them in concert, you know that their live shows still kick ass. I'm down front next time thru NYC. Surrender and download "Give It Away" today.
Grateful Dead Wake of the Flood, From the Mars Hotel, Terrapin Station (Rhino/WEA)
Finally got my copies of three of my favorite post-Warner Brothers releases. (Thanks, Dennis.) Wake of the Flood, from 1973, still sparkles today. It was the very first Dead album I ever owned and one of their best, start to finish. And, as always with the Rhino's Dead reissues, bonus tracks that are indeed worthwhile. The demo of Bob Weir's epic "Weather Report Suit" is stripped-down acoustic magic, a view of an artist laying bare his Dead soul. And forget the initial critical ambivalence, I love the majestic, string-laden studio version of the title track from the Dead's first Arista effort Terrapin Station. English rock orchestrator deluxe Paul Buckmaster's sweeping orchestral arrangement and Jerry's guitar synth weave an intricate fabric of mesmerizing psychedelic patterns. Plus the first recorded version of Mickey Hart and Robert Hunter's two-note workout "Fire on the Mountain." And 1974's dynamic release Mars has plenty of excellent songs including "China Doll," the funky rootsy "Loose Lucy," the pedal steel-fueled Phil Lesh country ditty "Pride Of Cucamonga," and the swirling "Unbroken Chain," but the opening cut "U.S. Blues" ranks as one of my favorite Dead sing-a-longs by these truly uniquely American musicians.
I Marc 4: I Solisti di Armando Trovajoli (Plastic Records)
I happened upon this CD thru a band on myspace.com. I thought it was a new U.K. act mugging retrofitted bossa nova and jazzbo grooves. Little did I realize that I was hooked up with some very smart vintage psycho-beat Italian lounge music that has a twisted Ennio Morricone vibe coursing through its freaked-out arrangements. As it should, cuz the organ-playing leader of this quartet is none other than the soundtrack composer/conductor Armando Trovajoli. Since the '40s, he's scored over two hundred films. (Check out his soundtrack to the classic '60s erotic flick The Prophet starring Ann-Margaret.) Though guitarist Carlo Pes composed most of the songs. I just tracked down their 2000 re-issued copy a few weeks ago. Go find your own. And if you can't find a copy, drop me a note and I might sell you an mp3 or two. And two more that I just received that deserve repeated loud replays include the latest effort from
The Buzzcocks Flat-Pack Philosophy (Cooking Vinyl) and the reissue of the ultimate jam band, The Allman Brothers' Eat a Peach with a bonus disc of the final Filmore East Concert from June 27, 1971. Can't wait to crank these two up and rattle the walls of my apartment. Let me know the summer pleasures on your sonar. If you locate anything outstanding, send it our way and I'll reconvene in August with another satchel of tuneage.