Christmas is so close that I can already feel it being over. Holidays go by so fast that they are always over before you know it. This whole year went by pretty quickly, but I guess it actually took the same amount of time as the year before. It just felt quicker is what I mean. But a lot did really happen this year, and if you thought there were not very many albums out this year you are simply wrong. You might've just had to look a little bit harder this year.
Since the year is quickly winding down, there's only a couple more street dates of releases. This week includes releases from two of my favorites. One of them is only avaialbe on vinyl and the other is just a new sort of collection, but they are still worth our time to talk about. Cat Power still remains one of my favorite singers and personalities. Some might have turned their back on her, while others are still discovering the genius that is the sad, sad voice of Chan Marshall. Chan Marshall is Cat Power, just in case you didn't know. I have had my ups and downs with her over the years, but I have always stood by her side and always been a fan. If you have not heard her albums yet, you should come on down to Amoeba and pick one up. It is never too late to become a Cat Power fan. Or if you already have her entire catalog, you will need to complete it with this album. There is no time like Christmas to listen to Cat Power. Might not seem like the obvious choice for Christmas music, and she doesn't actually have any Christmas albums, but I always like listening to her around the holidays for some reason. I guess for the same reason I like listening to The Carpenters' Christmas Album. I like mixing dark and intense music with such a festive and joyous time. I am actually one of those people that does love Christmas, but I like my Christmas a little darker than normal.
This might be as close as Cat Power will ever come to creating a Christmas Album, but I do hope that she has an actual Christmas album somewhere inside her. For some reason only more mainstream pop artists are the ones that end up putting out Christmas albums. Every once in a while a band like Low or Sufjan Stevens puts out a Christmas album, but for the most part we are left with artists like Mariah Carey and every single country artist putting out the bulk of the Christmas albums. If Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond can put out Christmas albums, than really anybody should. I just wish that Bloc Party would put out a Christmas album, or how about Morrissey? I mean, wouldn't it just be fantastic to have a whole album of M.I.A. holiday songs?! So, anyway, no Christmas album from Cat Power quite yet. This is just sort of her gift to her fans for the holidays. Maybe it just makes your gift shopping for that hard-to-buy-for friend a bit easier. Who wouldn't want a beautiful double gatefold 10" from Cat Power? The album only includes six song but I gaurantee you that this will not be around forever. It is basically songs left over from her last album of covers, Jukebox. The EP includes these songs...
1. Dark End Of The Street (Aretha Franklin)
2. Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
3. Ye Auld Triangle (The Pogues)
4. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) (Otis Redding)
5. Who Knows Where The Time Goes (Fairport Convention)
6. It Ain’t Fair (Aretha Franklin)
Dark End of the Street by Cat Power (VINYL) BUY NOW
Another one of my favorites would be Mr. Mark Kozelek. The man behind Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters is putting out a collection of cover tracks this week as well. It is almost as if Mark and Chan got together and both decided to put out collections of covers as a gift to their fans right before the holidays. Cat Power does not need to be compared to any man. She is without a doubt her own unique entity. Still, I always like to think of her as the female version of Bill Callahan (Smog) or maybe Nick Cave. But I also always think of Mark Kozelek and Red House Painters when I think of Chan Marshall and Cat Power. They are both that good that it makes sense to compare them to each other. Mark is also known for doing many covers over the years. He has done covers of everyone from John Denver to AC/DC. This new collection includes 10 songs. It is basically a collection of 8 covers and 2 original instrumental tracks from Mark Kozelek. These instrumental versions, along with the Husker Du track, have never been released before. It also includes a song from an episode of your favorite childrens show Yo Gabba Gabba! Here is the tracklisting...
1. The Piano Song (Mark Kozelek Instrumental)
2. Finally (Kath Bloom)
3. New Partner (Will Oldham)
4. Send in the Clowns (Stephen Sondheim)
5. Lazy (Low)
6. Bedtime Lullaby (Yo Gabba Gabba!)
7. Celebrated Summer (Husker Du)
8. My Friend Bob (Dom Leone/Ed's Redeeming Qualities)
9. If You Want Blood (Live in Lisbon) (AC/DC)
10. Gaping Mouth (Mark Kozelek Instrumental)
Red House Painters is one of those bands that makes me cry like a baby, yet I can't get enough of them. Mark's voice is simply magic and he really does do magical things to these covers. You probably will not recognize most of these songs because his covers are usually more like reinterpretations. I doubt this album will become a Christmas tradition for most, but it is fantastic release for those of us that love Mark Kozelek and anything he does. I know I would probably buy a book on CD of him reading the biography of Rush Limbaugh. I just love him that much. This album is not yet on vinyl, but it might be confusing for some since the album is called The Finally LP. Just so we are clear: the Cat Power EP is only available on vinyl at the moment, and the Mark Kozelek LP is only available on CD.
Finally LP by Mark Kozelek (CD) BUY NOW
Our friend Sufjan Stevens gave us a fantasic Christmas box set a couple of years ago. It is still available and I highly recommend it. Sufjan Stevens has been a busy man, but I was really hoping for more albums from his United States project by now. He has so far only given us Illinois and Michigan. He has stated that he will put out an album about each of the 50 states, but he really is not making much progress. I would not be suprised though, if he just put out a 50 CD box set in a couple of years. Maybe he is just keeping the project secret and wants to put them all out the same time. Or maybe he will just release the remaining 48 once a week throughout the year, with weeks left over for a Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, and Valentine's Day album. For now we get Welcome to the Welcome Wagon by The Welcome Wagon. This album is supposedly not Sufjan himself, but it sounds suspiciouly like a Sufjan Stevens album. He produced the album and did all the arranging but the album is actually the husband/wife duo of the Reverend Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique. For those afraid of the reilgious undertones of any Sufjan Stevens album, I suggest you stay away from this one. But for those who love a good mashup of folk music, spirituals, religion, pop culture and show tunes, this album is for you. I can't help but fall in love with the Welcome Wagon. If you are a very religious person you will most likely hear this as a religious album, but if you are not, it is simply a fantastic pop album to listen to. I swear that the first couple of times I listened to it, I didn't ever know they were singing about religion. The songs are actually catchy and sort of fun. The album also features a plastic glockenspiel. I am sure those glockenspiel fanatics out there might want to hear the album for this fact alone.
I guess I really did fall in love with the album because of the brilliant cover of "Half A Person." This is orignally a song by The Smiths but they do a great reintrepretation of it. The album is worth it alone for this one song. I seriously doubt that I am going to start exploring the world of gospel and religious music, but it is for sure an unexplored area of music for many people, and like all genres of music, there are always amazing albums that we may have never even known existed. I also would have never listened to this without knowing that Sufjan Stevens put his magical touch on it. If you are a fan at all of Sufjan Stevens you will most likely love this album. If you are at all afraid of hearing gospel or christian music, the album might scare you a bit. Just think of it like listening to albums sung in a different language. You may love a certain album that is entirely sung in French or Spanish. You might have no idea what they are singing about. The language of religion is a bit like that. It is true, I am a member of the cult of Sufjan Stevens. I will admit it. You either love him or hate him. But really, this guy just sounds exactly like Sufjan. I still need some more convincing to believe that it is not really him. Maybe Sufjan used his magical powers to make this guy sound exactly like him.
Welcome to the Welcome Wagon by The Welcome Wagon BUY NOW
Another album out this week worth your time is the new Alice Russell. You may already be a fan or you have probably never heard of her. I was in the second group. This is actually her fourth album. It is called Pot of Gold. She is from the UK and could easily be compared to Duffy, Adele or Amy Winehouse. I am quickly becoming a big fan in just a couple of days. The album is most certainly that type of UK old soul that has become a bit more popular again over the last couple of years, but this lady has been at it for a while. She has also been more involved with the electronica scene than you might first expect if this album is your first introduction to her. She has worked with the Quantic Soul Orchestra, Massive Attack, and Mr. Scruff. This new album is out on Six Degrees Records. It doesn't really matter if she should be compared to Adele and Duffy or they should be compared to her, the album is just good on its own, and it is nice to see a great little album like this coming right at the end of the year. Just in time.
Pot of Gold by Alice Russell BUY NOW
also out this week...
Birth Canal Blues by Current 93
A Cross the Universe by Justice
Brighten the Corners: Deluxe Edition by Pavement
Curtain Speech by DM Stith