Music Notes July 2010

July 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm (Uncategorized)

 July’s round-up of good things to listen to.

1. M.I.A. – Maya

The third album by M.I.A. risked being overshadowed by the New York Times fiasco: Times reporter Lynn Hirschberg wrote an article highlighting M.I.A.’s talents but suggesting she was also a bit of a spoilt rock star especially when it came to her uncritical boosting of the LTTE. Unfortunately, M.I.A.’s response was to  post Hirschberg’s cell number, and engage in childish name-calling, coming off as… a spoilt rock star. So forget that. The third album Maya is still pretty good, even if it’s not as adventurous as her previous two efforts. The world beat vibe is downplayed, and instead a crunchy electronica  comes to the front. Rather than rapping, M.I.A. sings on a few songs (although some of the vocals have an auto-tune sound to them). The problem with creating something wonderful and unique, as the earlier records were, is you have to keep moving or people lose interest. This third record gives a reason to still be interested.   

2. Sleigh Bells Treats

Ooh, I missed the boat on this one. Sleigh Bells were in Toronto last week for a long sold out show at the Phoenix. But the album is still worth picking up. Imagine Fuck Buttons with a singer and more guitar. Treats will no doubt annoy some since the songs pretty much all sound the same, but it is a pleasant sound. You can pick up demos for the album here . Signed to M.I.A.’s label too.

3. Mary Weiss – Dangerous Game

The singer for the Shangri-las with a solo album. Nuff said? Mary Weiss backed by garage band The Reigning Sound on Norton records. Why don’t you own this yet? 

4. Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the indie label that got big and stayed small – John Cook, Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance.

What do Arcade Fire, Superchunk, the Magnetic Fields, Buzzcocks, Seaweed, Butterglory, She & Him (to name only a few) have in common? They have all released records on Durham, NC’s Merge records. This book is that story. A marvellous read that will enchant anyone who loves music and/or loves the underdog. The book is an account of the history of the label interspersed with comments from many of the bands who recorded for Merge. Some pretty cool pictures too.  

5. Superchunk  – Incidental Music 1991-95

It’s a tribute to Superchunk’s songwriting that they can release singles collections and rarities and they are very bit as good as their regular releases. Too often when a band re-issues a record and puts on outtakes, you realize why they didn’t appear on the album in the first place. not so this collection. Every bit as good as their previous singles collection tossing Seed with some great originals and covers (Motorhead and Magnetic Fields) thrown in. Perfect summer listening.

6. Best Coast -Crazy for You

It doesn’t come out until Tuesday, but you can stream it all over the net including at Urban Outfitters ! Hmm, garage, pop, gospel,lo-fi, take your pick. Judging by comment boards here and there you either hate this (“manufactured”, “dull” etc) or you love it. I’m in the latter group. Garage pop. Give it a listen. They seem to tour constantly and will be back in Toronto in September.

7. Wilko Johnson – Best of

An old compilation, but good to have. Wilko was the original guitarist and main songwriter in Dr. Feelgood. A good selection of songs from his career here. Check out this version of Roxette from the Old Grey Whistle Test, with the Feelgood.

8. Bo Diddley is a Songwriter

Not the first and probably not the last Bo Diddley covers collection. This one features many of the usual suspects: The Pretty Things, the Downliners Sect, the Animals, the New York Dolls and many more. Tending more toward 60s bands and it misses on Mo Tucker’s terrific version of “Crackin up” the collection has no misfires and it boasts lovely sleeve notes. Pick it up, but then seek out the originals. Ace records.

9. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

It’s not often I see the same band twice in a year. Saw Heavy Trash back in April, now Spencer is touring with his blues band to promote a greatest hits package. Opening for them is CatL, one of the best local bands around. Go see both at Lee’s Palace. July 31. C’m0n, it’s Saturday night.

10. The Avengers

“Opened for the Sex Pistols at their last show.” It’s not a bad thing to have on your resume. The Avengers belong to that unfortunately too large group of ‘could have been, should have been bigger’ bands, Their first album was released after they split, and even today their records are not overly easy to track down. Worth the search thought. All this would be historically interesting, but you should know they’re touring again. The Horseshoe Tavern August 2nd. $14 advance. C’mon, what else are you going to be doing on a Monday night?

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2 Comments

  1. Richard S. said,

    Interesting bunch of reviews here…

    I used to be hip and contemporary in my listening habits, but now I spend 90 percent of my music listening time listening to old Indian film music. (And just to illustrate that, I’m using my “official” WordPress link this time, going back to my Indian movie blog, instead of the political blog link I use here sometimes.)

    That strange transformation began about three years ago. Part of it had to do with my moving to the Jackson Heights/”Little India” area of NYC (where classic Bollywood DVDs can be found for cheap), part of it had to do with a longtime interest in music from the Subcontinent (spurred on sometime back by a personal relationship), part had to do with getting constant access to YouTube (got a better computer), and a good part of it had to do with an infatuation with a certain hip-hop fusion artist…

    Though my taste in film music now goes much further back than the stuff Maya sampled on Kala, she was still a big influence (more so in getting me into Tamil films than Bollywood films). And I still think she was brilliant at introducing Indian film music to people who otherwise would not have heard it before, in a context that somehow worked, marvelously. (She also had been great at fusing some South Asian influences with dancehall music back on Arular, which was almost as brilliant an album.) And Maya is a surprisingly good social critic in her music sometimes (“Paper Planes” – what a classic!)

    I was almost in love with Maya back in ’06 to about the fall of ’07… But I don’t feel at all that way these days. Maybe part of the reason is that she just isn’t doing the great global sampling that she did before. I used to be a fan of “crunchy electronica,” but maybe for me these days, it’s just a bit dull. And part of the reason is that damn personality. She can be brilliant (in case I haven’t mentioned that), but her behavior sometimes makes her look pretty stupid. (Maybe that shouldn’t interfere with appreciation of her music, but I guess it does.)

    Also, maybe another downer for me was that damn video she made for that Suicide-sample song. I know, we all should support it for its political message (even if it was a bit superficial) and we should defend it against being banned… But as far as I’m concerned, it bore too much a resemblance to so much sensationalist modern-day trash, with no real artistry involved (good technique, certainly, but no real artistry).

    On the other hand, I don’t regret once being a big fan of MIA, not at all. That’s maybe why I haven’t changed the URL to my Indian film blog, which is named after a line in an old song of hers.

    Hope this comment wasn’t too long, by the way. 🙂
    ————————

    P.S. Wow, The Avengers… I listened to them a bunch when I was about 19 (if I’m not mistaken, that’s three years before you were 19!)… It would be interesting to see them on a current tour! I saw Wire just a couple of years ago, and they really rocked. So, The Avengers might also, you never know…

    • fischerzed said,

      My daughter is always there to remind me that parents can’t be cool. These days I’d pretty much say I’d say I strive for balance. I like some new stuff, and I’m proud to say I listen to new music released by new bands rather than falling back into that dinosaur position arguing only the music of my youth is any good (it’s tempting, but…) Always good to see new stuff.

      As you might have guessed from its inclusion in the July list, I do like Maya quite a lot, but yes, it’s not as brilliant as her last record or even the one before. (I’ll cop to a little bit of the sin of pride by admitting that at work I know quite a lot of Sri Lankan Tamils, but I heard of Maya before they did) We’ll see where she goes next.

      And the Avengers. I’m always a little ambivalent about reunionis. I never saw the Sex Pistols and refused to go to the reunion shows, and I retain my admiration for the Clash because they never did. On the other hand, I remember seeing Buzzcocks and Gang of Four second time around, and they were great shows. Expect a review sometime next week. Tonight, it’s Jon Spencer whom I’ve seen in Pussy Galore, Boss Hogg, Heavy Trash and with the Blues Explosion. Apparently it’s already sold out, so it should be a good one.

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