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Album Picks: Fiona Apple, King Tuff, Grass Widow, Liars

Posted by Billy Gil, June 19, 2012 07:27pm | Post a Comment
fiona apple the idler wheelToday Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel … was released. The first time I spun the album my jaw dropped. I grew up listening to Fiona Apple. She was one of my favorite artists in high school, and I’d followed her since the Tidal days, through her more “mature” albums When the Pawn … and Extraordinary Machine. I’d always still liked her, but my fervor had subsided a bit since those awkward teen years when her brand of super-confessional experimental pop really hit home. Well, this is something wholly different. As great as her previous three albums were, The Idler Wheel is the gutsiest thing she’s put out yet. Even more so than on Extraordinary Machine, Apple sounds uninterested in storming the radio with The Idler Wheel. She’s after something bigger here. Lyrically, she exposes her greatest wounds and digs at them with extraordinary candor and self-directed venom. “I root for you, I love you, you you you you” she sings on one of her lovelier tunes, “Valentine,” but even then, that devotion has a desperate tone that makes it hard to take at face value. Similarly, on “Jonathan,” lines like “I like watching you live” are accompanied by a fairly dissonant arrangement, deranged drumwork by collaborator Charlie Drayton and musique concrète that makes the whole thing sound like a ship coming apart. Vocally, Apple has never sounded stronger, scarier and more assured, frequently unleashing shiver-inducing cries, growling and singing with unchained vibrato within the same breaths, on songs like the searing “Left Alone.” And just when things get too grim, she closes the album with a jazzy, sexy ode to a guy who cuts through her like a “hot knife.” From start to finish, across its jagged edges and soaring heights, Idler Wheel is an exhilarating, simply astonishing listen.
 
king tuffI’m a big fan of garage rock but not necessarily of its sometimes limiting factors — guitars and vocals have to have just enough care balanced with slop, that sort of thing. So it’s nice to hear a couple of great up-and-coming albums from bands who subscribe to garage rock aesthetics but not “surf rock fun times” generic modes. King Tuff’s self-titled album is a real riot, from its opening track “Anthem,” which delivers perfectly delivered riffery the likes of which is pretty rare these days. Along with like-minded peers Ty Segall and the late Jay Reatard, King Tuff write songs first and foremost, and the ground covered here becomes more apparent upon repeat listens, which isn’t hard to do with an album that’s this much fun to listen to. “Alone & Stoned” has terrific ascendant vocal lines and a cool ’80s vibe under its garage veneer. “Unusual World” is a touching garage ballad that doesn’t shy away from varying its instrumentation, with synths and vibes adding nice touches to Tuff’s Marc Bolan-esque delivery. What I’m most taken with on King Tuff is that it delivers catchy garage pop tunes while refusing to adhere to one tempo and one sound like so many albums of a similar ilk. My personal favorite: the Vaselines-ish “Stupid Superstar.”
 
Along those same lines, I really can’t get enough of Grass Widow’s Internal Logic. Starting off with its lo-fi sci-fi opener “Goldilocks Zone,” Internal Logic is a perfect example of a band perfectly executing a much-missed particular sound while adding its own peculiar flair of cool nerdy girl chic. Not to be limiting, but the album in some ways plays like a master class in post-punk girl bands: the multiple harmonic voices of Stereolab; the out-of-step tempos of Kleenex and ESG and their progeny, like Erase Errata and Electrelane; and off-kilter charm of bands like The Breeders. Fun and clever without biting off more than it can chew, Internal Logic pretty much leaves me with a smile on my face from start to finish.
 
liars wixiwLast but not least, I hope the new Liars album doesn’t get lost in the shuffle ‘cause WIXIW is every bit as good as their previous few releases, in my mind. Thought it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Drum’s Not Dead, I’m digging this new, quieter yet just as paranoid edition of Liars. WIXIW is pop in the way the Silver Apples or Portishead’s Third are pop, equal parts sinister and beautiful, with a throbbing heart underneath its digital beats. “Octagon” is disturbing, atonal at parts, yet its whole is instantly memorable, sticking mean hooks into you that feel better than they should. “No. 1 Against the Rush” sends goth down the autobahn, playing out like a krautrock variation on The Cure’s “A Forest.” WIXIW has been compared to Radiohead’s Kid A, and, listening to the title track — which disintegrates eerily under waves of oscillators and comes pulsing back for a haunting chanted chorus — it’s not hard to see why.

This is Your Library with Cheech Marin, Lol Tolhurst, and more! Downtown LA Central Library, 6/2

Posted by Amoebite, May 16, 2012 06:10pm | Post a Comment
Join Amoeba and the Library Foundation for the sixth installment of This is Your Library, a series of late-night talk show-style events occurring after-hours at the historic Central Library downtown. June 2nd's event will feature actor, comedian, and art collector Cheech Marin; founding member of The Cure Lol Tolhurst; Taschen's Sexy Book editor Dian Hanson; and poet and UCLA Professor of English Harryette Mullen

There will be DJs, live bands, a bar, food, and librarians too! Special musical guests: Wildcat! Wildcat! and Boys School (aka Brett Farkas and the Library All Star Band).

More info HERE!

This is your library

Amoeba Bloggers Answer: What Was Your First Album?

Posted by Billy Gil, March 6, 2012 07:09pm | Post a Comment
I recently was at Amoeba Hollywood and overheard a customer telling an employee Davy Jones had died. I hadn’t heard the news yet. She brought it up because she was buying Katy Perry records for her daughter. She said her daughter didn’t even have a record player — she just wanted every bit of Katy Perry merchandise she could get her hands on.
 
The only artist I can ever remember being that obsessive about was The Smashing Pumpkins, but that was in high school. But it got me thinking about those first tapes, records, singles etc. that everyone got as a kid.
 
For me, the first album I ever bought on my own was Ace of Base’s The Sign on cassette. I had always liked music, but at 11, I had just started to pay attention to what songs were on the radio. A friend made me a tape from the radio and “The Sign” was on it. I loved it. In the coming weeks and months, albums by Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day, and my beloved Pumpkins would follow, but really it all started with Ace of Base for me. Though if I’m being technical, I had a cassette single of Paula Abdul’s “Promise of a New Day” that I listened to constantly when I was like 9, but I didn’t buy that — I won it at a cousin’s music-themed birthday party, at which my dad dressed himself and me as Simon & Garfunkel. I had no idea who they were. I think I was Paul Simon.
 
While I’m embarrassing myself, I thought I’d extend the question to the other Amoeba bloggers: What was your first album? Not kids’ music, but not just the cool stuff, either — the tapes we once listened to repeatedly and then put away in a drawer somewhere once we realized how lame they were, though I’m still on the hunt for The Sign on vinyl. Here are their answers:
 
Eric Brightwell
the cure kiss me kiss me kiss meMy first record was Luciano Pavarotti's My Own Story, a compilation of “musical highlights of his spectacular career.” They used to heavily advertise it on TV when I got home from school, and I was hooked. My first cassette was Peter Gabriel's So. I'd liked the singles from it, but when “Big Time” came out, I was obsessed. My first CD was The Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. I was introduced to it by a German exchange student named Ina. Before she left I rode my bike into town to a Wal-Mart to get a blank cassette to dub it. I loved it so much, I thought it warranted being purchased on CD. 
 


Job O Brother

First vinyl album: Chipmunk Rock The Chipmunks
First vinyl single: Crush On You The Jets
First 8-track: Street Player Rufus
First cassette: Mesopotamia The B-52's
First cassette single: Been Caught Stealing Jane's Addiction
First CD: Upstairs at Eric's Yaz
First CD single: Makes No Sense At All Hüsker Dü

I still listen to and love all of these albums. I would be remiss if I didn't give an honorable mention to the Superscope Storyteller Series, whose fairy tales were backed by beautiful classical music, which made me the lover of the genre forevermore.
 
Ricky Frystak
My first single was “The Cattle Call” by Eddie Arnold. My mother got it for me in the late ’50s.
 
As I was completely enthralled by the yodeling on the record, and as I had a record player of my own already at the age of  5 or 6,  I played the hell out of it. The other thing around that time was a Sandy Nelson album called Let There Be Drums, as I had been given a snare drum and cymbal by my parents, and was playing percussion on all the pots and pans in the house to boot.
 
Then The Beatles hit and the rest is history.
 
Joe (The Vinyl Beat)
Paul Revere and the Raiders Here They ComeI'm a little older than most of the bloggers, so I'm going back a little further. The first album that I bought was Paul Revere & The Raiders Here They Come.  I still think it’s a great album.  It had tunes like “Louie Louie,” “You Can't Sit Down,” ”Money,” and “Do You love Me,” and it rocked real hard. I listened to it over and over because it was the only album I had! I got a few more while in high school, but couldn't afford many. I didn't start collecting until I went to college at UC Berkeley. On Sunday a few of us would go to the Alameda flea market at a drive-in near the Oakland Coliseum. I'd come home with a pile of scratched up LPs that I had spent a total of $5 on. Soon I had many crates full and I never looked back.
 
Gomez
kiss destroyerMy family did not have much money. So whatever one of us got we all shared. When I was in first grade, my father took my sisters and I record shopping. I wasn't into music and I remember all the surfer/hippie freaks in the record store scared me. Together, my sisters and I decided on getting KISS Destroyer over Aerosmith's Toys In The Attic. We eventually got the “Walk This Way” single from Zody's, so that sufficed our need for Aerosmith.
 
We would play the album when our parents weren't home and grab some tennis rackets to play air guitar while Destroyer blasted in the background.
 
The first single I bought was years later when I was in eighth grade. It was Fun Boy Three's “The Telephone Always Rings” I saw the video on MV3, a local new-wave video show that I couldn't stand but would watch daily. I liked the song because it was weird and it had the guys from The Specials in it. By then, I was into buying LPS and cassettes. I couldn't find the The Fun Boy Three album so I settled on getting the single. I bought it at Spider Records in Gardena, Calif., where later I got all my early punk records.

Rachael McGovern

I remember CDs being expensive — or at least perceiving that they were expensive — when they were first introduced. It was just me and my mom for many years when I was growing up, and CDs were not something we could afford, as much as we both loved music. My mom remarried when I was 12 years old, and we moved to New Delhi, India, where my stepfather was working on assignment. This is important for one reason — the accessibility to new American music was pretty slim during that time overseas. The details are a little hazy, but I remember my stepdad coming back to India after a business trip to the States with two CDs for me and my stepsister to choose from — EMF's Schubert Dip or Boyz II Men's Cooleyhighharmony. She and I shared a room so, in effect, we got to share the albums. But I choose Cooleyhighharmony. “Motownphilly back again...” Oh man, did I love that record. Still do. It was way, way better than that EMF album.
 
(Also of note that year: During a stay in a New Delhi hotel while our house was under construction, I was able to watch Asian MTV, and that's where I first heard/saw Right Said Fred's “I'm Too Sexy” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”)

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Album Picks: Grimes, Sleigh Bells, Tennis, Frankie Rose

Posted by Billy Gil, February 21, 2012 05:37pm | Post a Comment
GrimesGrimes – Visions
 
GrimesVisions is the rare pop album that feels like you’re traversing through the private mind of its creator. Claire Boucher coos and chirps her way over synth loops and dance beats not unlike your average pop star, only her vocals and song construction are far more mysterious and dreamlike, almost like you’re seeing her thoughts before they’ve fully formed. Boucher rides sweetly over soft electronic seas in songs like “Genesis” and “Oblivion,” while “Eight” is the other side of the coin, with Boucher awesomely screeching over a Knife-style electro jam. Her visions may be strange indeed, but inviting; you won’t be able to get them out of your head.

sleigh bellsSleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
 
Did you think Sleigh Bells were gonna soften up for their sophomore album? Maybe trim the hair metal guitars and jock jam beats and turn out some slick dance-pop? Hell no! Reign of Terror sounds like the natural progression from 2010’s Treats — guitars that pummel even harder, courtesy of better production; skittering industrial beats; and Alexis Krauss’ awesome voice, which can go from Poly Styrene to Kylie Minogue in a heartbeat. “Comeback Kid” is their rallying cry for this album, with Derek Miller’s twisted arrangement showing increasing deviousness. “Leader of the Pack” could actually blow out your speakers — that’s not an exaggeration. Their “ballads” have grown a pair, too; whereas Treats’ “Rill Rill” got by on casual winsomeness, “End of the Line” is a genuinely emotional breakup song. Reign of Terror won’t necessarily prove naysayers — and there are plenty of them — wrong that their music is ridiculous, but it’s such a badass refinement of their sound that it’s nothing short of swift kick to the groin of anyone in their way.

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The '80s List: Part 10

Posted by Amoebite, September 2, 2011 12:46pm | Post a Comment
Wipers One day at Amoeba Hollywood I proclaimed that Aztec Camera's 1983 release High Land, Hard Rain was one of the best records of the '80s. This single statement eventually led to over 200 Amoebites ranking their top 10 favorite albums from the ‘80s.

From the beginning we realized that it was impossible for most of us to condense our favorites from all genres into a tiny top ten list. So, we limited our lists to Rock/Pop and its sub-genres like punk, metal, goth, and new wave. Even so, it was a difficult selection process because not only are there hundreds of amazing records to consider, there is also the added dynamic of time.

The '80s were a long time ago and the music has had many years to gestate. We have a deep sense of nostalgia and sentiment with these albums as our fondest memories are associated with them. These are albums we LOVE.

- Henry Polk

P.S. We'll be posting new additions to the '80s list project from Amoeba staff members on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. See all entries in our ‘80s list series.

P.P.S. The '80s List Book is available for sale at Amoeba Hollywood.


Heather Long

Pixies Doolittle (1989)
Husker DuZen Arcade (1984)
Judas PriestBritish Steel (1980)
X – Los Angeles (1980)
PretendersPretenders (1980)
The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
The ClashLondon Calling (1980)
Duran DuranRio (1982)
Iron MaidenThe Number Of The Beast (1982)
Adam And The AntsKings Of The Wild Frontier (1980)

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