I have been obsessed with zombies for as long as I can remember and I am not really sure why, but I just can't get enough of them! Not the band -- we're talking actual zombies here! Not that zombies actually exist...but you know what I mean. When I found out there was a band named Zombi, I figured I had to at least check them out and I soon became obsessed with Zombi as well. Zombi are a sort of prog space instrumental rock sort of band from Pittsburgh. You could compare them to Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Goblin, Giorgio Moroder, Yes, Rush, and the soundtracks of John Carpenter. I actually first got into Zombi by listening to Majeure, the project of Zombi drummer A.E. Paterra, which has one album from 2010, Timespan. I was hooked and immediately got all of the Zombi albums that I could find, starting with their last album, Spirit Animal, from 2009, and now I couldn't be happier to have a brand new Zombi album in my life, Escape Velocity, on Relapse. And it is just as good as their last -- dark and spacey. Everyone needs some Zombi in their life.
Listen to "Escape Velocity" by Zombi from their new album Escape Velocity...
I didn't really become an Okkervil River fan until Black Sheep Boy in 2005. Not sure what took me so long but there are a lot of bands out there! It just took me a while to devote some time to them. I already talked about them a bunch in two blogs so I won't waste too much more time on them here. Here I talk about The Stand Ins in 2009. And here I talk about The Stage Names in 2007. I don't want to end up repeating myself but I do still love Okkervil River. And yes, they are still putting out great albums! The new album is called I Am Very Far. I just can't get enough of Will Sheff's voice!
In recently trying to fill in a friend on what I'd spent the last year or two listening to, I realized that my personal taste tends to gravitate towards some element of either Folk form (any hint of hill-folk finger-pickin' or Ozark/Appalachian melancholy and I'm in), Psychedelia or the tendency to extend a theme for a good long jam (a category in which I include a lot of the Jazz that I like), or just a great, funky groove.
With those qualifiers in place, the following is a year by year review of the last decade which somehow got past me with out noticing it. I mean, really?!! 2010?!!! I didn't see it coming:
2000: Album of the Year
Air's enjoyable and wacky Moon Safarihad been on the decks for a couple years before they contracted for the soundtrack to Sofia Coppolla's Virgin Suicides. The resultant score is absolutely sublime and marked the French electronauts as contenders to watch.
For myself, it was the defining sound of the millennium's new year.
Shelby Lynne released a killer country-soul gem, I Am Shelby Lynne, that echoed early material from the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Thinking that it was a brilliant debut from a talented 32yo unknown, I was eventually shocked to find that it was her 6th album. I listened to it for months.
I can't believe that it has already been a year since the last Okkervil River album. The last album came out last August in 2007 and it seems to somehow already be September in 2008. I was going through my big Okkervil River phase back then and really liked their last album,The Stage Names. I talked about it in my blog last year and you can read it here. There's something totally comforting about moving back to the part of the world you grew up in. Now I know why people stay in the same small town they grew up in for their entire life. I can't imagine living in a small town and still living in a small town, but I guess that is because I grew up in a very large town-- a large city in fact! If you asked me a year ago if I thought that I would ever end up back in Hollywood I would have never thought it possible, but here I am back in Hollywood in the middle of summer. It has been over 6 months now so I think I am starting to feel at home again. I may not totally be in love with the summer weather in Los Angeles, but it does feel normal and comforting. My body is accustomed to it. So back to Okkervil River...The new album out this week is called The Stand Ins. I quickly fell in love with that last album and this new one is just sort of an extension of that last one. It could have easily been recorded at the same time -- one year is really not that long of a time. The artwork is still fantastic. The lyrics are still great and make you feel like you are listening to a fantastic book on tape. The album is not boring and drawn out. It just has that literary feel to it.
First find on the dock: This has been waiting in the wings for some time, in fact, it’s a little bit of a redo, as it’s a title I championed a few years ago in the Music We Like book. I‘ll take this opportunity to expand my earlier opinion. Tracker - Ames (Film Guerrero) Tracker is, basically, a guy from Portland, OR named John Askew (not to be confused with the DJ of the same name) and whoever he collects around him when he’s ready to record and tour. This was the first album from 1999 and is almost completely played by Askew with some help from friends Adam Selzer (Norfolk & Western) and Erik Herzog (Buellton). I bought it solely on the strength of the album art and the weakness of the price tag. Thus, I was doubly rewarded.
In a number of ways there are similarities to the dynamics of Jason Molina’sSongs:Ohia/Magnolia Electric Company projects. Both are the aggregates of a single man’s songwriting and organizational vision. Both have an undeniably roots Americana base, but with a lot of layering, whether it’s voices, samples of classical music or electronic textures hazing around simple plucked banjo lines. Like Molina, Askew writes extremely strong melodies, and couples them with thoughtful and often mystifying lyrics.
The charm of Ames is due largely to its lack of self-seriousness. Askew lets a breath of ease into his writing and production. “Evan’s Getting It Together” is driven with some lazy and seemingly living-room recorded handclaps that work perfectly to prove that, as beautiful and lush as the songs here sometimes get, they are being played by some guys who are just trying to make some cool songs that get into your head. In fact, some of the song transitions (and there is a lot of ambient connective tissue) remind me of the great also-overlooked Purple Blue by Eric’s Trip, another group of dudes (and a dudette) who were just trying to make some cool songs.
This little band called Okkervil River have been a band for almost 10 years. They come from the wonderful little town called Austin, Texas. Austin is actually not really that little. Not only is it the capital of Texas but it is also the 16th largest city in the United States. It is also home to that little festival called South by Southwest and that brilliant little band called Explosions in the Sky. Although Okkervil River have been around for a while, I really think that this is the album that is going to make them big stars. Or maybe just a little bit bigger stars. They really are brilliant. Any fan of the Shins should for sure also be an Okkervil fan. Imagine the Shins mixed up with some Will Oldham and Willie Nelson along with some darker bands like Black Heart Procession or Arab Strap. "Stage Names" is basically their fourth real album and it comes out this week.
I have been hearing friends talk about this band for years. Numerous people told me of their great devotion for Okkervil. But I didn't really give them the time they deserved until the last album, "Black Sheep Boy." The album was great and a bit magical. It got a lot of praise as I am sure this new one will get as well. I say magical mostly because of singer Will Sheff. He has one of those voices that is really easy to fall in love with. He is also in the band Shearwater with Jonathan Meiburg.
As I have been talking about this band more lately, I have also found out that many of my friends also like Okkervil River. It is always a nice little surprise to find out some of your friends like a band that you had hoped they would like.