I imagine that everybody will be so busy talking about Grizzly Bear this week, they will forget about any other albums that have also come out this week. I am still trying to get into the Grizzly Bear, but it just hasn't been working. I don't neccessarily have a problem with them and maybe they will finally grow on me in the next couple of weeks. It just has not happened yet. But I imagine if you are already a Grizzly Bear fan then you will love this new album -- everybody seems to like it. Some lucky fans got to hear the album early and even buy it early on this Monday here at Amoeba, the day before the album officially came out.
But there are some smaller albums that are getting me very excited this week. First up is the new album by Blank Dogs. The album is called Under & Under and is released by In the Red Records. Blank Dogs is actually just one Blank Dog: one dude from Brooklyn. We seem to know way too much about most artists these days, so I find it refreshing when I know absolutely nothing about an artist. It just makes it all about the music, which is what it should be. This guy even goes so far as to wear masks when he is photographed. Blank Dogs have been putting out music for a couple of years but this is my first real introduction to him. I have long been a fan and will always be a fan of shoegaze...and shoegaze this is not, but it does sort of fall into the new genre -- "Shitgaze," brilliant term that makes complete sense. He basically is sort of making up his own weird distorted intrepretation of a genre. It makes it super personal and way more interesting than anything else out there. I am also forever in love with the keyboard, so when it is done right, I usually fall in love with the album. Blank Dogs sound not too different than the synth bands you might have grown up with. Elements of Joy Division, The Cure, and Tuxedomoon are easy to find in these songs. He is not really hiding his influences, but imagine a Jay Reatard type playing with those old genres and making his own sound. The album is dark and dreary but also has a hidden energy inside that make the songs have a sort of more fun, pop feel to them. This is probably the music I would have wanted to play if I had ever continued on my career in music and perfected my keyboard playing skills. Lots of good songs on the album, however, the first track is still my favorite. As much as I love Joy Division, sometimes I need a break. This album is the perfect alternative -- giving you the darkness you desire but with a little something else. Maybe if Ian Curtis had found the right medication and managed to survive the 80s and 90s, this is the sort of album he would have ended up making.
One of my other favorites of the week is the new James Blackshaw. This guy has been around for a while but I have never actually gotten around to listening to him...although it is very possible that I did listen to him before and it just didn't hit me until now. I honestly always thought this guy was some 60 something Irish dude playing old timey folky ballads. I pictured him with a long white beard and maybe in a wheelchair -- not unlike Robert Wyatt. I was amazed to find out he was actually born in 1981, and he is from London...so I was not so far off on his location, just a bit off on my guess of his age. He has been putting out albums since 2004. He made his way to the label Young God for this new album called Glass Bead Game. Like the albums of Grouper and Jose Gonzalez, this album manages to break my heart a little every time I listen to it. At first it just seems like a simple little album of solo guitar and piano, but it managed to get inside me and break me all up inside. It was one of those albums that I put on not really expecting to like, but I was intrigued because it was on Young God. I just expected some Glenn Yarbrough style vocals over the music. I have not had a chance to explore his old albums, but I know he has crossed some boundaries and experimented with a couple different genres. I just like what he is doing right now. There is also some great piano work on this album. The Glass Bead Game is actually the last book by author Hermann Hesse, the man who brought us Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. The album features Joolie Wood on violin, clarinet, and flute; and also John Contreras playing the cello, both of whom also play with Current 93. Lavinia Blackwall also contributes some vocals, but most of album is instrumental. The album is nothing short of beautiful. While it manages to break my heart every time I listen to it, it also mangages to heal it every time. The album is sort of a spiritual classical album. It really makes me feel like I am living in a different era.