Given all the hubbub this past holiday season surrounding the opening of Peter Jackson's newest venture into J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I think it's time to shift the spotlight onto a little known sub-subgenre tucked away, much like a hobbit hole snugly abutting a hillside, withinAmoeba Music's extensive Rock Various Artists section: Hobbit Rock.
Now, I have to admit the first timeI clocked the Hobbit Rock bin card I was taken aback, gagging on the question: what the heck is this? Browsing though the titles it began to make sense. Much like unfolding a map of Middle Earth to explore a visual representation of the diverse cultures and histories that Tolkien invented to people his fictional universe, browsing Hobbit Rock is to peruse a collection of music that either inspires sincere impressions of Middle Earth or is unequivocally informed by Tolkein's fantasy writings.
In other words, if an artist makes blatant Tolkien-esque references in lyric (apparently Led Zeppelin couldn't resist slipping more than a little Middle Earthliness into practically every album) or otherwise artistic content (seemy list below) then that, friends, is pure, gem mint ten Hobbit Rock.
I suppose it should go without saying that we here at Amoeba Music thrive on finding hidden gems buried in plain sight, but I'm just gonna go 'head and reiterate said statement, kicking it off with a completely enthused, rustic expression. Oh my lands is the recent reissue of the lost recording/private press These Trails record ever the very boon of my acid folk dreams! Resurfaced, re-pressed and well regarded by the good folks down at Drag City (it seems like I'm always tipping my cap at them, with good reason) this enchanting collection of hallucinatory rambles (circa 1973) is redolent of paradisiacal psychedelia espoused with that patent sundazed acoustic folk sound that forever seems (to my ears anyway) second-nature to native Californian singer-songwriters. However, there is no question that this masterpiece of psych/folk ecstasy could have been conceived anywhere other than its Hawaiian birthplace thus making it a top, if lone, contender for best literal inclusion into one's "deserted island" fantasy list of music must-haves. The second song on side A, "Our House in Hanalei" being one of the most mana-licious, check it out:
"Our House in Hanalei" - These Trails
With a voice that seems to echo from the same otherworldly well the likes of Melora Creager and Linda Perhacs draw from, Margaret Morgan's melody driven yet free-wheeling vocal style intoxicates as it harmonizes with the smokey vocals of These Trails co-conspirator Patrick Cockett, mixing with their heady, hallucinatory acoustic folk instrumentation - an odd/complex muddling of dulcimer, sitar, tabla, ipu, recorder, electric guitar and then state-of-the-art Arp synth - to spawn a crystal clear yet purple hazy sound-geography that feels all together edge-of-the-map exotic and humbly homespun.
Scaredcomes from the dark, eerie place that is the mind of Johannes Auvinen, better known as Tin Man. Veering away from the pop sensibility of his last offering, Cool Wave, and diving into the murky depths of a dark abyss, Scared features Auvinen's unique soporific voice posing questions which are as deep as the music he makes.
One of the great things about a Tin Man release is the sheer variety in his output. From quirky tripped out acid to jazz pop and dark electronic sounds, Tin Man is a name you can always count on for quality.