Spinning The New… 2

Taking a momentary pause from the Pearl Jam series for, as those playing along at home may have sussed our, the final three all dropped between 1993 and 1996 and I thought it was time to take a quick gander at the newer stuff spinning right now.

This is fairly genre-specific. I’m not about to jump any sharks and start discussing Eminem’s ‘diss track’ (this is something that baffles me as a concept) or even start talking about the new Paul McCartney stuff (some of the worst material I’ve heard from the former Fab that didn’t involve frogs). While I have heard the new Smashing Pumpkins track I must have dozed off listening to it so it’s not going to be appearing here.

Mogwai – We’re Not Done Yet (End Title)

Another year another new Mogwai album. Well, sort of. These dons of post-rock have seemingly hit a real stride in terms of output as there’s a been a release per year of late alternating between ‘studio’ and ‘soundtrack’ album. Their soundtrack albums are different to their ‘own’ as the music is, obviously enough, written to suit someone else’s vision / story but each have been strong and worth additions to their catalogue (take Atomic as a prime example). Kin the film would appear to be destined to be seen by nobody: a box office and critical bomb. Kin the soundtrack should be heard by many – it’s a great, moody, sci-fi soundtrack that feels like it could just as easily blend into the background on Stranger Things (yes, I’m a very recent convert all binge-watched up to speed).

Jim James – Just A Fool

Back in 2015 My Morning Jacket were talking up the possibility of a very quick follow up the then-new The Waterfall on the back of how much material they’d written and recorded in those sessions. It hasn’t happened and can’t see it happening any time soon. Instead we got three solo albums from Jim James: one patchy, one a continuation of his covers project and this year’s Uniform Distortion which I picked up from the record store while collecting my pre-order of KinUniform Distortion feels actually like a very fine MMJ album and is well worth exploring.

Kurt Vile – Loading Zones

There’s a new Kurt Vile album dropping later this year and I’ve already got it on pre-order. I got hooked on Vile’s sound following Smoke Ring For My Halo. There’s something hypnotic about Vile’s sound and once you’re hooked.. well.

J Mascis – See You At The Movies

Oddly enough, there’s a direct line between Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis and Kurt Vile in terms of style and sound and the two have often shared a track. It’s fitting, then, that Mascis has a new solo record dropping this autumn too – his solo work is less wall-of-sound guitar than the Dino albums but he’s started mixing his trademark guitar solos and shredding into his folksier / acoustic solo stuff to strong results so I’m looking forward to Elastic Days – also on pre-order from my not-quite local dealer.

Currently Spinning

It’s not just books. I’m consuming a lot of music lately. Specifically I’m playing the arse out of the new albums from Built to Spill and Last Days of April (of which more to come).

 

I’m stuck on this song:

 

Still blasting the My Morning Jacket album from the car:

 

And, because my son still rocks out to this album:

Time to roll the answer floats on down the farthest shore…. of the mind

There’s a few music ‘magazines’ I’ll read online. Things like Spin (for their lists, their in-depth Dinosaur Jr article etc) predominantly, occasionally Consequence of Sound, even Pitchfork (which I take with more than a grain of salt thanks to their hipster-heart-on-sleeve and love of things not even slightly alternative) from time to time for news. I’ll also get the Rolling Stone email on a close-to-daily basis.

I’m sure this isn’t unique or blog-worthy in itself but bear with me.

Sometimes there’ll be an article on a band I’m loving. So what I like to do – having read said article – is kinda back-explore the coverage of that band on the site(s). See what they were saying about them / reviewing etc before I was reading them.

IMG_4439My Morning Jacket dropped a new album this year, The Waterfall. It’s brilliant. No question from me that it’ll be up in the most played of 2015 come December.

Checking back on some of the earlier reviews for the band it’s interesting to see there’s a lot of comparisons for their seminal Z album to Radiohead’s OK Computer. Rolling Stone lead their review with “America is a lot closer to getting its own Radiohead, and it isn’t Wilco.”

I can understand the comparisons. It was a Big Step album. It was more experimental with the sound and was a deliberate move away from regional sound to something altogether more Universal and moved them into a different orbit in terms of sales, concerts and coverage.

I’ve spoken of it before so won’t do too much here.

In a way the comparisons thereafter also work. In the same way as some people never got over OK Computer and judged each subsequent release accordingly, the same is true of MMJ and Z. As Radiohead went further ‘left’ with their follow-up so did MMJ. The difference is that the quality control switch on the 1-2 punch of Kid A and Amnesiac was significantly higher than MMJ’s Evil Urges which alienated many by straying too far into the falsetto-funk and wandering – while Librarian and Touch Me Pt 2 still hold up not a lot else really does. A quick dart back to the centre followed for both bands too – Hail To The Thief for Radiohead and MMJ’s Circuital (obviously the timelines are a bit off). Circuital almost felt like an apology – straight ahead, less trip and almost subdued.

So if your wanderings into experimentation alienate some and your move back to please alienates others, what do you do next?

For Radiohead it was In Rainbows. Their now high-point. The culmination of their experimentation crafted into finely honed and tight songs without any flabby excess or weak points, taking every element of their sound to date and pushing it forward with the kind of expert confidence that can’t be ignored.

I didn’t get over OK Computer until I heard In Rainbows.

I didn’t get over Z – until I dropped the needle on The Waterfall (even if I did need to change the speed settings – who puts an album at 45rpm?!).

The Waterfall is not only MMJ’s most direct album, it’s also their trippiest. All the elements of their sound are contained in these 10 tracks and yet rather than feel like a retread, there’s an urgency to it, a compelling move forward. Everything is here from the big, live crowd-thrillers, the guitar solos, the orchestral / folk-rock, the psychedelic wanderings and the falsetto-hitting funk all surrounded by Jim James unimpeachable voice.

In the same way that Z sounded ready to blast forth from the stage (for evidence see the live album Okonokos that followed), The Waterfall sounds just as tailor-made to thrill audiences. Believe will undoubtedly be opening every live set for the next 5 years – a slow entry propelled with guitar-chord punching and the title repeated an octave higher each time until Jim James lets rip with a BELIEEEEVVEE that strays oh-so-close to Journey, the song lifts-off in the same way as Worldless Chorus and suddenly we’re airborne with the song. I’ve probably played the tune to death already but the rule at the moment is that if my toddler son rocks out to it, it gets played a lot – slipping this in the CD player (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – putting the CD in with the Vinyl is a win-win in my opinion) in the morning is the best way to start a day. Especially if the journey is long enough to include In Its Infancy (The Waterfall).

It’s something of a different tact for the band lyric-wise. There’s a different voice here, it’s more personal; certainly a break-up album, albeit with an air of “and so it goes”, with lines such as “I’m getting so tired of trying to always be nice,” (Big Decisions), ” it’s a thin line between lovin’ and wastin’ my time” (Thin Line) and “I hope you get the point, I think our love is done” (Get The Point).

That there’s another album due next year from the same sessions is great news – four years separate this from Circuital – even if a predetermined release schedule can sometimes spell an ease in quality.

It feels very much like My Morning Jacket are back in the game.

Starting…

…somewhere. But where? First posts are tricky so lets start at the end. The end of the alphabet – with Z. Or the two Z’s I’m stuck on at the moment.

The first is Z by My Morning Jacket.

My_Morning_Jacket_-_ZThis is one of those albums that sits up high in my list of bests. It wasn’t the first MMJ album I owned (that was It Still Moves) but it’s arguably a highpoint in their catalog. It’s one of those rare albums where tracks don’t get skipped – with the possible exception of Into The Woods depending on mood – and has everything that makes them great distilled into a little over three quarters of an hour. It’s got some scorching guitar-driven rock tracks (while there’s no One Big Holiday there is Anytime), the jam outs and nods to funk and even delicacy (and while It Beats 4 U isn’t quite as delicate as the later Librarian or earlier Golden it’s still tender) all soaked in just the right amount of reverb and remaining the right side of countrified.

There’s also a very strong likelihood that I’ll be seeing them this summer so it’s going to be playing a lot more.

It’s out there on the Mediafire’s of the world but it’s just as readily available at stupidly low prices as it’s already close to 7 years old.

The other Z is for Zdob şi Zdub. They’re a Moldovan band who I’d never heard of before I saw a short, 20 minute Romanian film with my wife and this happened to play over the credits. Since then I can’t get it out of my head but why would I, it’s fun, upbeat and beats the arse off any of the cack on The Voice etc and I love a bit of forgein music