#tbt Influential Covers

Once upon a time, there was a record label called Tooth and Nail (well, technically they’re still around, and there’s a documentary in the works).  In the ’90s, they were home to some pretty interesting bands—outfits that were too “soft” to be underground but too “alternative” to be mainstream.  One of these bands was Blenderhead, who released three albums that started out punk and ended up emo (with a lot of math rock thrown in).  On their second and best record, Muchacho Vivo (released in ’95), Blenderhead introduced me (sheltered nerd that I was) to one of the greatest songs, and bands, of the ’80s:

Similarly, I was introduced to another legendary ’80s band, and classic song, by the electronic duo House of Wires in 1998 (again, I had a pretty fragmented exposure to music—I’ve been playing catch-up for years):

New release grab-bag: Adult Toys, Beck, Schoolboy Q, St. Vincent

Sorry for being one day late with this; I wasn’t able to listen to much music yesterday.

Faceless by Adult Toys (B)
adult toys

Aside from Starflyer 59, I don’t hold much esteem for music emanating from my “hometown” of Riverside, California.  Adult Toys has a chance to change that.  The band plays straightforward desert-influenced psychedelic rock, bursting with energy and reverb.  Their second five-song EP was released last week, and it’s an invigorating listen.  Stronger production and increased seasoning could lead to big things down the road.


Morning Phase by Beck (B+)


Beck’s new album, his first in six years, is a mournful beauty.  Beck has never sounded this achingly sad. He delivers lines like “I’m so tired of being alone” with his trademark mumble-mouth delivery awash in vocal effects that ebb and flow.  The entire album feels like a cold, windy day at the beach; it makes you want to put your headphones on and take a walk in the rain.  Morning Phase is glistening melancholy, woven into a work of sublime restraint.

Oxymoron by Schoolboy Q (C+)


I’m not really a hip-hop expert, but I know what I like:  slick, imaginative beats and an MC with consumate skill and creative flow.  Oxymoron is an intriguing listen, and clearly the man is talented.  Ultimately, however, the album is fleeting because of its subject matter.  I think I’ve heard the words “gangsta” and “pimp” enough to last me two lifetimes.  The track Collard Greens is a lot of (NSFW) fun, though.

St. Vincent (s/t) (A)


Annie Clark, doing work as St. Vincent now since 2007, just keeps getting better.  Her guitar prowess and vocal chops blend together on her new album with a dizzying array of musical embellishments that make the head spin.  Clearly influenced by her time with David Byrne, there is a rhythmic nuance to her music that only adds to the impact.  Her talent and experience would all be for naught if she didn’t find a way to weave them into interesting, creative, endlessly inventive songs.  She runs from a rattlesnake, laughs on the floor with Pinnochio, takes out the garbage, and comments on the vapidity of social media, all while blasting the listener with technically brilliant guitar licks, cascading horn sections, operatic vocal gymnastics, and a sensibility that effortlessly straddles the line between art and pop.

Upcoming Release – Eels – The Cautionary Tales of M.O.E.


T minus two months until the eels release their 11th full length studio album, and 5th since 2009.  Mark Oliver Everett & Co. have been hard at work releasing nearly one album a year since the short hiatus following the critically acclaimed Blinking Lights double-disc in 2005.  No album since then has been able to justify itself as a follow up to that piece of musical masterpiece.  The latest installment, entitled “The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett”, ambitiously attempts to finally do what the others could not — be long lasting.

A preview of the album was released weeks ago giving the fans an opportunity to hear what direction the new album would take.  If what is heard becomes true then the cautionary tales will be an intimate and stripped down album, and, as in the first single Agatha Chang goes to show, will be unashamed to the vulnerabilities that happen with honesty.