Album Picks: Bob Dylan, Dean Blunt, Deerhoof, Arca

Posted by Billy Gil, November 4, 2014 09:48am | Post a Comment

Bob Dylan - Basement Tapes Vol. 11 (LP out 11/24, two-CD set, CD box set)

In between the albums Blonde on Blonde and John Wesley Harding, Bob Dylan holed up in Garth Hudson’s Woodstock home with his band (that would be The Band), where the group tore through multiple recordings a day for the summer of 1967. Those recordings would not only provide the seeds of hit songs for other artists, they would go on to spawn The Band’s Music From Big Pink. Though a collection of these recordings was released in 1975, the entirety of this legendary fertile period had never been released until now. Vol. 11 of The Bootleg Series gives Dylan fans what they’ve dreamed of having. Running in chronological order, we start with the sweet “Edge of the Ocean,” a simple, rough-and-tumble recording that of a never-before-released song that represents the seedlings of Dylan and The Band’s momentous summer. We get early versions of “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere” with cool, scattershot lyrics about feeding cats. There’s an early take of The Band’s “I Shall Be Released” that is stunning in its shambolic simplicity. You can almost feel the room around which “Quinn the Eskimo” was recorded as the band casually rolls through the future Manfred Mann song. Some of the recordings can be a bit rough, sure. But listening through these recordings and finding your favorites is the next best thing to having been there yourself during these epic recording sessions. And the prime cuts from Vol. 11 taken together still represent the great lost Dylan album. For fans of Dylan and The Band—really, for all fans of music history—Basement Tapes Vol. 11 is an essential listen. Hear "Odds and Ends" via Rollingstone.


Dean Blunt - Black Metal (LP, CD, Download)

Dean Blunt’s Black Metal exists in some mystery universe between King Krule, The Weeknd and Galaxie 500. On one hand, the experimental pop artist, who put out the acclaimed sound collage mixtape The Redeemer, last year and who was once one-half of the duo Hype Williams, touches on the indie-pop past of his label, Rough Trade, with airy guitar-and-piano soundscapes. But unexpected elements, like an ‘80s pulse on “X,” cut-up beats on “Forever” and female counterpart vocals on songs like the jangly “100,” keep things endlessly intriguing, while Blunt’s dry delivery cuts through dreamy tracks like “50 Cent,” giving them an urgency that contrasts sharply with the austere music. On one hand, it can be a little jarring to hear such disparate sounds on one record, as Black Metal’s second half takes electro/hip hop detours that sound pulled from an entirely different album. But when Black Metal works, it really is seamless, and music that sounds messy on paper is nothing less than sublime on record.


DeerhoofLa Isla Bonita (LP, CD)

I’m really glad Deerhoof didn’t break up after their last album, Breakup Song. Clearly they still have so much to say. La Isla Bonita successfully ushers Deerhoof into the maturity they’ve fumbled with in the past, on songs like “Mirror Monster” and “Black Pitch” that find Satomi Matsuzaki singing rather than yelping and the band using their guitar-mangling skills to create beauty rather than mayhem, while still plugging in and going full-tilt on tracks like “Paradise Girls” and “Exit Only.” You might miss some of their silliness a bit, but 12 albums in, La Isla Bonita feels like where Deerhoof should be as a band. It feels like all the best sides of Deerhoof on one album. Their best release since 2007’s Friend Opportunity.




Arca Arca (LP, CD)

Arca puts the same dizzying power into his debut album as he has as a producer for FKA Twigs and Kanye West. Tracks like “Now You Know” feel four-dimensional, like they’re coming at you and falling away at the same time. Minus a presence as powerful as the aforementioned artists, Arca’s pure skills as a manipulator of sound come to the fore, and tracks like “Xen” are cinematic, digital beasts of sound that heave and crawl and build into stunning climaxes. Arca is not a gentle listen, but it’s one you want to continually revisit and dissect. A brilliant debut that proves Arca is more than a producer; he’s an artist in his own right. Can’t wait to hear his work on the next Bjork album,

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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (214), Bob Dylan (63), Dean Blunt (4), Deerhoof (14), Arca (4)