Essential Records: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Murder Ballads

Posted by Amoebite, July 9, 2015 12:55pm | Post a Comment

Essential Records Nick Cave Murder Ballads

Mute Records just wrapped their recent run of Nick Cave reissues, including the first-ever North American release of eleven classic albums on 180 gram heavyweight vinyl, dating back to 1984’s From Her To Eternity. Remastered by founding member of the Bad Seeds Mick Harvey, the rereleases started coming in December 2014 and continued on into spring 2015.

Nick Cave Vinyl Reissues

When you’ve spent years working in record stores, it’s almost impossible to answer the perennial question, “So, what’s your favorite band?” For a while I had about five bands I would answer this question with, then slowly (probably after finally realizing most people asking this had no idea who I was talking about) I refined my answer to, “I guess Nick Cave.” I “guess” this is because his songwriting is literate, dark, sometimes slyly humorous, and always fiery and unabashed. I “guess” it’s because his aesthetic concerns include haunted Southern Gothic imagery and brutal Revisionist Western stories—basically it’s like someone started writing music, films and books tailored entirely towards my interests. (According to the internet, he also shares my less intense beliefs in the importance of cat art and telling people to “just Google it.”) So in the mid ‘90s when the song “Red Right Hand” gradually lurked its way into my teenage consciousness through repeated exposure via The X-Files movie soundtrack and the approximately two dozen crappy teen horror flicks it was used in (ok, a quick internet search reveals that it was pretty much only Scream), my curiosity was piqued.

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Essential Records: Portishead's 'Dummy'

Posted by Amoebite, October 27, 2014 04:24pm | Post a Comment

Essential Records Portishead Dummy

During the summer of 1996, I became obsessed with Portishead. Dummy had been released two years earlier, so generally speaking, I was late to the game, but in the suburban town where I was about to start high school, I was definitely way ahead of the game. Because when it came to underground music, culture or film, there was no game.

I was just about to turn fifteen and leave all the friends I'd known for nearly a decade to attend the state's largest high school on my own. It was a deeply mopey time. At the same time, I was starting to realize that the music on Top 40 radio made me feel like something was missing, that musically-speaking, there must be more out there. So, I started tuning into the local alt-rock station after school, alone in my room, and that's where I first encountered Portishead's "Sour Times."

Portishead - Sour Times
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I hated this song. I thought it was irritating and abrasive. Singer Beth Gibbons would wail "Nobody loves me/it's true/not like you do" with her '60s jazz influenced vocals and I would get pissed off that I'd have to sit through it for the next three or four minutes. (For some reason I never went as far as actually turning the radio off.) Every time I heard it, I would get angry at it, angry that I had to sit through it, angry that the station's Music Director had poisoned the rotation with this grating, slightly terrifying few minutes of song. 

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The 90s...the best albums of 1992...

Posted by Brad Schelden, October 26, 2012 06:00pm | Post a Comment
1992 was a big deal for many reasons. This was my last year of High School. The year I turned 18. My last year living at home. It was also my first year at college. My first year living away from home. And another year that I got even more obsessed with music. And it all happened 20 years ago! Hard to believe. By 1992 I had really worn out my copy of Disintegration by The Cure. So I was ready for the new Cure album. Wish was released in March of 1992. It would really become the album that I most associate with 1992. I can remember listening to it for the first time. It became the album that I would listen to most throughout the summer and well into 1993. I was still primarily listening to cassettes at this point. I don't think I got a CD player until 1993. I held out for a while for some reason. The Cure was one of the first bands whose catalog I upgraded to CD as soon as I got a CD player. 1992 was also the year that I discovered Lush, Curve & Pale Saints! The year I discovered Bjork & The Sugarcubes. The first time I heard PJ Harvey and Red House Painters. These bands would all become a huge part of my musical life throughout the 90s. I became a lifelong fan of both PJ Harvey and Red House Painters. And I seriously can't imagine my life without these guys. I was still listening to a lot of radio in 1992. KROQ was starting to become a bit annoying this year though. It seemed that every other song was Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers or U2. I didn't like any of those bands and had to constantly change the station whenever they came on. But KROQ still played a lot of Morrissey & The Cure. It is where I first heard Lush, The Sugarcubes, The Lemonheads, James, Cause & Effect, Catherine Wheel, Soup Dragons, St. Etienne, Curve & Utah Saints. So I did still manage to listen to it quite a bit. I also watched 120 Minutes every Sunday. Dave Kendall was the host until 1992 when Lewis Largent took over. 1992 was also the first year of Alternative Nation on MTV. I became a big fan of this show and its host Kennedy! She probably annoyed most people. But I loved her. And I loved being introduced to new bands by watching their videos. 120 Minutes was always cooler though. There was too much Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers on Alternative Nation just like on KROQ. Just to give you an idea of what was being played on KROQ in LA here is their top 20 songs of 1992...

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge
2. Pearl Jam - Jeremy
3. The Cure - A Letter to Elise
4. Nirvana - Come As You Are
5. U2 - One
6. Toad the Wet Sprocket - All I Want
7. Shakespear's Sister - Stay
8. Pearl Jam - Even Flow
9. Morrissey - Tomorrow
10. R.E.M. - Drive
11. James - Born of Frustration
12. Sugarcubes - Hit
13. The Cure - Friday I'm in Love
14. Temple of the Dog - Hunger Strike
15. L7 - Pretend that We're Dead
16. Peter Gabriel - Digging in the Dirt
17. The Charlatans - Weirdo
18. Cause & Effect - You Think You Know Her
19. Annie Lennox - Why
20. Alice in Chains - Would

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50 Favorite Albums of 2011

Posted by Aaron Detroit, December 18, 2011 12:00am | Post a Comment

Aaron Detroit, Buyer at Amoeba Hollywood. As you may know, I've worked in Hollywood for 8 years, but started my time with Amoeba - way back in 1998 -  at the San Francisco store. This is my extensive list of 2011 releases that I fell in love with or had hot and heavy affairs with this year.

50 Favorite Albums of 2011

  1. Wild Beasts Smother

In 2008, Brit quartet Wild Beasts released their shaky-legged -but- stunning debut, Limbo Panto. In the four years since, the band has released two thoroughly dazzling masterpiece full-lengths of deceptively delicate indie rock, lyrically bent towards looking in the dark recesses of the heart and libido, largely sung by co-vocalist Hayden Thorpe in his trademark falsetto. Smother finds the band adding a new restraint to their arrangements that allows the tension in the lyrics to hit with hair-on-end chills. It is a singular LP by a singular band that I expect will eventually reach a Radiohead-level stratosphere. 

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Best of 2011: PST

Posted by Billy Gil, December 14, 2011 06:30pm | Post a Comment
Oh hey! It's time for some top 50 album love.

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Longtime devotees of Anthony Gonzalez’s M83 got to see him make good on the promises of his previous albums, all of which are great in their own way, on this unabated masterpiece. Across two albums’ worth of material, Gonzalez’s childlike ethos spreads across synth pop dreamscapes taken to arena-level sonic and emotional territory in a way that never feels trite or untrue. If he overreaches, he does it in the best way possible.

2.  Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine
Chaz Bundick’s second album is a light-year’s jump over 2010’s chillwave capsule Causers of This, an album that seems to take a young lifetime’s worth of backseat radio listening and picks just the choicest bits, whether its early hip-hop or psychedelic rock or cool jazz, filtering it through Bundick’s too-cool specs.
       3. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
PJ Harvey’s perfect instincts have guided her through the starkest of emotional territory with only the most necessary accompaniment. She continues that trend here, on an album reflecting on war and England’s history in a way that feels loose and not heavy-handed, aided by strangely fitting samples and tasteful effects, but still allowing for the emotional sucker punches she’s so adept at (“I’ve seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat” in “The Words That Maketh Murder” is one for the ages).

4.  Dirty Beaches – Badlands
Dirty Beaches’ Alex Zhang Hungtai is a master of minimalism. Over pitch-black surf riffs he plays and then samples, he breathes, whispers and cries tales of teenage longing inspired by ’50s rock ‘n’ roll (“Sweet 17,” “True Blue”), unearthing the dirt beneath the saccharine. At only eight tracks, two of them wordless, Badlands is the year’s most beguiling release.
       5. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
Hip-hop that feels worlds removed from the realm of hip-hop, this forward-thinking album manages to stay fun while its psychedelic tones intimate something more cerebral and transcendent.
      6. Real Estate – Days
While Real Estate seemed primed to take the throne as leaders of the reverb pack with their self-titled debut in 2009, this glorious jangle-pop opus puts them more in line to grab the torch from the departing R.E.M.
        7. Iceage – New Brigade
Real noise punk from Danish teens that rocks so hard it puts just about every other band alive to shame in comparison.

8. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Her oddest yet most compelling release yet marries Annie Clark’s quirky avant-noise experimentation and virtuosic guitar playing to juicy tunes ripe with nuanced imagery.
        9. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Like their self-titled debut, this one’s a grower but soon its strange pop diversions --  whether it’s Hawaiian shirt-style late Beach Boys (“Honey Bunny”), George Harrison style odes to mama (“My Ma”), or Dark Side-era Pink Floyd as lovelorn pop songs (“Vomit”) -- sink their teeth in.

10. Jay-Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
What could have been a mess ends up an uplifting testament to two of hip-hop’s greats, and a lot of fun to boot.
11  11. Yuck – Yuck
British kids raid their older sibs’ record collections, discover Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Fanclub and Yo La Tengo, and make one of the year’s most irresistible rock record.
12  12. Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion
For a certain sect of music fans wired into liking all things spacey, reverby, ominous and still pop-oriented, Crystal Stilts have been a godsend, and this is their strongest set of songs yet.

13. Drake – Take Care
There’s something really appealingly delicate about Drake, despite the requisite machismo from an A-list hip-hop star. Buoyed by expert production work from fellow Canucks 40 and T-Minus, among others, Drake makes the case for Canada as the bastion of thoughtful, crowd-pleasing hip-hop.
14  14. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
More of the gorgeous rustic harmonies and able folk songwriting we can now hopefully expect to be blessed with every so often from Robin Pecknold and co.

15. Neon Indian – Era Extrana
A gauzey tribute to navel-gazing, like the soundtrack to half-remembered childhood dreams.
15  16. The Antlers – Burst Apart
A more mature affair than 2009’s Hospice, Burst Apart still brims with emotional power but backs that up with more precise pop songwriting.

17. Washed Out – Within and Without
Washed Out’s Within and Without to me sounds like the most luxuriously bummed out vacation ever, like being broken up with poolside at a five-star resort. Hopefully, between the quality of this album, Era Extrana and Underneath the Pine, the word “chillwave” will die and we can appreciate these artists on their own terms.

18. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
Classic rock melodies and riffs under a wash of milky reverb and swirling orchestration. Between this and former cohort Kurt Vile’s Smoke Rings for My Halo, these Philadelphia types seemed to soundtrack some imagined road trip, its details murky but its destination all the more vital for their mystery.

Radiohead – The King of Limbs
It wasn’t Kid A or In Rainbows. But The King of Limbs still packed worlds of music into each track, from the twitchy Britpop of “Morning Mr Magpie” to darker, dubstep-inspired tracks like “Lotus Flower,” inviting either deeper study or as casual a listen as one could hope for from Radiohead while still maintaining their integrity.

20. Twin Sister – In Heaven
I unexpectedly fell hard for Twin Sister this year, who make a kind of anime-futuristic lite pop that makes me think of some domestic sci-fi scenario, like walking your space dog to space Starbucks.

21. Atlas Sound – Parallax
Bradford Cox’s most humanistic release yet under the Atlas Sound name, with a pack of great pop songs (namely “Mona Lisa”) amongst the typically gorgeous atmospherics.

22. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
Mark Ronson produced several tracks on this album, adding only the most minimal pop sheen to the “flower-punk” formula Black Lips have perfected over the years. The result is their most instantly pleasurable release yet.

Tyler, the Creator – Goblin
Scary, sad and bracing hip-hop that shows vulnerable soul beneath its sneer. The menace of songs like “Yonkers” is nearly impossible to shake.

24. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – S/T
Quirky lo-fi psych pop that makes its home in your brain and stays there, particularly on the addictive “Ffunny Ffriends.”

25. Drive Soundtrack
The year’s best movie also had its best soundtrack, a pack of perfect night-drive pop songs (especially College’s “A Real Hero”, ft. Electric Youth), moving into Cliff Martinez’s dark ambient score.

26. Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams
Taken together with the crystalline He Gets Me High EP, Dum Dum Girls come out of the excellent but murky depths of their debut I Will Be with their chins up high and noise-pop hooks aplenty.

27. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
About as appealingly strange a release you could find in 2011 came from Ethiopian Canadian (again with Canada!) singer/producer Abel Tesfaye, who emotes falsetto R&B style over samples from Beach House and Siouxsie & the Banshees, as well as his own grimey production work.

28. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls
I know I’m not the only one who fell hard for this C86-loving twee toting Slumberland band that remembered you can’t nail a signature sound without memorable tunes.

Zola Jesus – Conatus
Conatus continued Zola Jesus’ evolution from noise-drenched operatic curio to full-fleged goth pop star, with dance beats and hooks underpinning her freaky awesome voice.

30. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
A dance-rock epic that is perhaps a bit bloated, but its highest points (“Need You Now,” “Pharaohs & Pyramids,” “Alisa”) are pretty towering pop achievements.

31. John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
Here’s what I said earlier this year: “It’s like someone left their Tangerine Dream and New Order cassettes in the wash and out came a perfectly fused, gauzy amalgam of new age floweriness and new romantic pop.” Good enough/too lazy to write something new.

32. Cults – Cults
Cults were like the too-cute kid at school you wanted to hate if they weren’t so damn nice. Backlash was aplenty to “Go Outside,” but it was harder to dismiss the rest of their album, which packed longer-lasting but still-sugary tunes like “You Know What I Mean.”

33. Kurt Vile – Smoke Rings for My Halo
The prolific Vile gave us his best yet with Smoke Rings for My Halo, full of gravely voice, lonely drugged out folk-pop tunes like the infectious “Jesus Fever.”

34. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
Epic post-hardcore concept album about a nihilistic young couple. You have to love a band for attempting something of this magnitude.

35. Geoffrey O’Connor – Vanity is Forever
The power of the PR pitch — I hadn’t heard of Geoffrey O’Connor or his band, Crayon Fields, until someone randomly emailed me about him. This could be the year’s most overlooked release, a nighttime romantic synth album akin to Bryan Ferry or even this year’s uberhot Drive soundtrack.

36. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Handsome Furs has always been my favorite of the Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown pack of related bands if for no reason than their sheer consistency. This album ups the two-person organ-laden indie rock of yore with gnarly post-disco beats.

37. Wild Flag – Wild Flag
The first of what hopefully will be a fruitful career from veterans including Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and Helium’s Mary Timony, firing off guitar blasts and twisted harmonies just because they can.

38. James Blake – S/T
OK, not really on board the dubstep train, but you have to hand it to James Blake for injecting the young genre with some personality and songwriting chops. Plus he’s pretty killer live.

39. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years
I really couldn’t stand “The Great Pan is Dead” the first time I heard it. Too loud! For what reason? But I dug into Cherish the Light Years and its weirdo keyboard noise and post-punk hooks and couldn’t really stop for a while there. So now I get what these guys are getting at and can’t wait to see where they go next.

40. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
Like its predecessor, Wounded Rhymes is a bit sleepy at times, but its best moments can knock you on your ass when you least expect it. “I Follow Rivers” is her best song yet.

41. Smith Westerns – Dye it Blonde
Super fun garage pop that’s delightfully polite and winsome without being cloying.

42. Fool’s Gold – Leave No Trace
A more streamlined and brass-ring-reaching second release from Fool’s Gold saw the band largely dumping the Hebrew-sung lyrics and even some of its afropop leanings to focus on pop immediacy, and it suits them well.

43. Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania
I slightly prefer the ramshackle pop of Castlemania, released early in the year, to the more recently released and more acidic Carrion Crawler/The Dream, but really, they’re both great. Anyone else release two kick-ass albums in 2011?

44. The Soft Moon – S/T
A simply harrowing listen from start to finish, with nary a humanistic trait — Luis Vasquez breathes and howls his often lyricless vocals — but the songs are also toe-tapping post-punk jams. It never lets you sit as comfortably as you want to.

45. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine loving alterna-twee gems. This shit was made for me.

46. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
More goodness from the Cal Arts pool that birthed Ariel Pink and John Maus — if there’s any through line, it’s that none of the artists seems to be able to stay put, changing gears per song while keeping things structured. EMA’s electro-dusted, emotional singer-songwriter material harkens back to Suzanne Vega and early Liz Phair and PJ Harvey without slapping “’90s” across your face.

47. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
Really weird shit. I kinda wish they would calm the fuck down and do the stuff they do best — Eastern-tinged, Siouxsie-ish electro — all the time, but vaguely conceptual albums with crazy prog-rock art and song titles like “∞∞” will do.

48. Blouse – Blouse
Beautifully dreary post-punk that sounds best when it drops the mope and rouses itself to emit bleary pop (“Videotapes”).

49. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Is it too “duh” to say this is really overrated but still pretty good?

50. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
I barely listened to this but I feel like I’ll love it in like three months.
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