Miles Davis Quintet - 'If I Were A Bell' from Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (1956)
Hardcore for Nerds (Best of) 2008: Year End November - Rhythm and Blues
1. Cold War Kids - 'Welcome to the Occupation' from Loyalty to Loyalty.
2. The Gaslight Anthem - 'Miles Davis and the Cool' from The '59 Sound.
3. Rarely Seen Above Ground - 'The Climb' from Organic Sampler.
6. Jape - 'Phil Lynott' from Ritual.
5. The New Year - 'Folios' from The New Year.
6. Grails - 'Acid Rain' from Doomsdayer's Holiday.
7. Mogwai - 'The Precipice' from The Hawk Is Howling.
This is the last instalment in my pre-end of year list, collecting together some albums that have caught my attention in the last few months. I've already discussed directly and indirectly the first and last pairs of albums, so I wasn't sure how to best construct a mixtape or post from the seven here. As it happened though, taking some less obvious tracks from those albums and an placing them around the newer additions, a theme seemed to appear. It's not rhythm and blues in the sense of "r'n'b" as such, but rather jazz/blues and the more primal origins of rock. The rhythm is in the brash, assertive first two bands and the two beat-driven, experimental Irish artists; the blues are more in the lusher, post-rock tracks of the final three - although within them there is a great variety of style.
Two features have been lifted from Geek Down - first, the genre-paralleling streaming track at top (I probably could have found a Miles Davis track from 1959 and the true 'cool' period instead, but I like that song and it's around the birth of the sound, anyway) and second, the longlist at the bottom of 2008 albums that I've listened to in full, all of which have been covered in this post or previous posts (with two exceptions - God Is An Astronaut and Loma Prieta). It's not perhaps that long - about thirty/thirty-five in total - but it should be the basis for a proper top ten-fifteen of the year in a few weeks.
Cold War Kids and The Gaslight Anthem are part of my loosely-conceived 'alt-Americana' typology of not-quite-indie, not-quite-punk, alternative rock bands that express something very strongly (and critically) American in their music. In the Cold War Kids' case, it's the jazz-rock angst of ordinary life; in that of the Gaslight Anthem, the Springsteen-esque musings. With one, theres's anxiety and fear; with the other, hope and wistfulness. Both are brash, somewhat derivative bands but with enough underlying complexity and creativity to fulfil their cultural role; to infiltrate the mainstream with sufficiently thoughtful and discordant music...
Rarely Seen Above Ground and Jape are both alter egos for Irish rhythm artists: Jeremy Hickey, a drummer and all-round instrumentalist and producer; Richie Egan, the bass player with Dublin instrumental post-rock heroes The Redneck Manifesto. Rarely Seen Above Ground is consequently a groovy, catchy, drum-based but richly coloured blend of pop, post-punk and funk constructed into a nebulous, Talking Heads-resonant feel of music. The song comes in two parts, by the way, so that's why it slows down in the middle. Jape, in general, is more heavily electro - check out this version of 'I Was a Man' or the popular video for the older song, 'Floating' - but this track, for all its minimalism, is an almost perfect encapsulation of his sound and direction. I'm no great fan, musically, of Thin Lizzy, but the sentiment of 'Phil Lynott' is hard to argue against. Pure Dub (as in Dublin, not Kingston).
The New Year is a find directly from Lex Dexter of Organizing Grievances/The Prisonship. The full self-titled album is very good, but I stuck with the same representative choice, the opening track 'Folios', a good deal like a mostly acoustic, jangly, upbeat version of Slint's 'Good Morning, Captain'. Grails and Mogwai are the combined object of josephlovesit's half-finished discussion as well, but in a case of parallel evolution of taste more than anything else: these really are the two most vital post-rock releases of the year, and from which I have chosen their respective closing tracks. Grails 'Acid Rain' is my favourite song on the album, out of a selection of many great ones; though opening with a familiar swipe of Eastern melody, in reality it is far different, a "lush, pacific world of surf melodies and jazzy rhythms, disintegrating into pulsing electronics and re-emerging cyclically into tender clarity". Mogwai may be underwhelming or irritating some critics with their latest album, but I'm in the ideal situation of never really appreciating anything else they did beforehand; and while 'Batcat' and 'The Sun Smells Too Loud' might be atypical Mogwai songs, 'The Precipice' is a straightforward but perfectly executed epic, a descent into sheer post-rock crescendo that identifies why Mogwai still really are, for me, the originals.
(all Irish bands have a Myspace link; other albums have a link to review/download on Worship and Tribute where available)
Bats - Cruel Sea Scientist
The Black Keys, Attack and Release
Chequerboard, Penny Black
Cold War Kids, Loyalty to Loyalty
Envy/Jesu - Split EP
Envy/Thursday - Split EP
Fight Like Apes, Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion
God Is An Astronaut, God Is An Astronaut
Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life
The Gaslight Anthem, The '59 Sound
Grails, Take Refuge from Clean Living
Grails, Doomsdayer's Holiday
Halves, Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy
Ham Sandwich, Carry the Meek
Have a Nice Life, Deathconsciousness
Heathers, Here, Not There
Human Bell, Human Bell
The Jimmy Cake, Spectre and Crown
Loma Prieta, Last City
Matmos, Supreme Balloon
Mogwai, The Hawk Is Howling
The New Year, The New Year
Patti Smith & Kevin Shields, The Coral Sea
Rarely Seen Above Ground, Organic Sampler
Shooting at Unarmed Men, Triptych
Sinaloa, Oceans and Islands
So Cow, I'm Siding With My Captors
Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
...Who Calls So Loud, ...Who Calls So Loud