2010 hasn't, for the most part, been the best year in terms of financial nonchalance. It would be safe to say that, if not for the generosity of record labels and PR reps, I'd have nothing to review and Letters From A Tapehead would probably shrink to irrelevance and ultimately disappear.
But, I did manage to score a couple opportunities this year to hit the record stores, and though I sort of lagged as far as detailing my purchases, many of them have been 2010 albums that I've been meaning to discuss.
So, my first record store trip happened in May as I was armed with some gift certificates.
Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, PA:
Hairway To Steven
Latino Bugger Veil
Originally Released: 4.11.88 (on Touch & Go)
Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 is still, for me, music literature's wish list for pre-Alternative independents and Hairway To Steven was one of the book's points of discussion. I found it used for $2.99 and, for all its absurdity and callous insanity, I would've paid more.
This is a compilation/reissue of some very early Melvins recordings from 1986 entitled 10 Songs, along with some outtakes and demos lifted directly from vinyl. It's actually very cool to listen to the second half of the album, the light static of the LP very crisp against the Melvins' sludgy guitar scrawl. Also used.
This year's reissue of Fables of the Reconstruction inspired me to seek out and add more R.E.M. to my record collection. Document would more than constitute mandatory listening in terms of R.E.M.'s output, "The One I Love" and "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" having been breakthrough hits for the band. I find Michael Stipe's vocals incredibly forced to a flat squeak in many songs on this album, most notably their cover of Wire's "Strange," but you can't beat the timbre on "The One I Love"'s opening riff. It's iconic at this point and the most memorable moment on the album.
REM The One I Love
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Iggy & The Stooges
Raw Power (Legacy Edition)
Originally Released: 2.73
If it's not THE greatest rock album of all time, Iggy & The Stooges' Raw Power certainly warrants placement in the top ten, (though I would put it below Funhouse). Sony's Legacy imprint revived the David Bowie mix of the album after Iggy Pop's muddied speaker-bursting treatment in the late 90s, this time suitably mastered for a digital format. My first exposure to Raw Power was via Pop's mix and hearing the Legacy Edition was tantamount to culture shock. It really is like listening to a whole new album, though I can't quite determine if it's better. I'll say, without having heard the original analog recording, though, that this is probably the truest version.
I didn't have the scratch to splurge on the 3-disc version with the DVD, so the two-disc Legacy Edition with the Georgia Peaches live album had to be good enough. And, honestly, it is. The 1973 concert inclusion is truly entertaining, especially when you overhear the crowd comment on Pop's disposition with comments like "I don't think he likes us very much," or "He certainly expends a lot of energy!" And, of course, he eggs on some of the crowd and then continues to rock n' roll, cocky motherfucker with a "Cock In (His) Pocket."
The Besnard Lakes
The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
Two of the year's best albums in my opinion.
The Besnard Lakes' ...Are The Roaring Night is dominated by swelling crescendos and pensive gaps of radiating atmosphere. "Albatross" is easily one of 2010's best singles, a light and airy track with bass rhythm peddling jaggedly through its ambience. It just sounded so heartfelt the first time I heard it, and this unfeigned sensitivity continues as you get through ...Are The Roaring Night; some exceptional moments propagated by a desire to leave the physical plain for another more beautifully isolated.
Sisterworld, though, is claustrophobic and paranoid; the Liars' mocking ode to Los Angeles emulative of Brett Easton Ellis' bored complacency and Travis Bickle's urban plague. "Scarecrows on a Killer Slant" perfectly illustrates their intent, the ease at which singer Angus Andrew questions ("Why'd you shoot the man with the gun?") and then answers ("'Cos he bothered you!") a perfect conveyance of apathy as a byproduct of privilege.
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