I picked up a raft of new CDs last week, and I thought I’d make the next two entries brief reports on each of them. Since I’ve listened to each CD only a couple of times, these are more or less first impressions. And, I’m not very decided on which tracks are the best ones, so I’m simply posting the sixth track from each CD (unless the sixth track is only 19 seconds long or something…). So:
The Books The Lemon of Pink (2003) “There Is No There”: I’ve really been enjoying the Books a lot lately. I suppose I should know better whether anyone else out there sounds like them – but regardless, their mix of frequently acoustic-instrument sound sources with laptop editing, along with a very fine ear for speech rhythms and pitch that make their voice excerpts far more integral than the usual bluntly signifying soundbites that litter too many records, make their records instantly distinctive as their own. (Here’s an interesting interview with The Books, including some discussion of the source of the speech sample we hear in the middle of this track.)
Destroyer Destroyer’s Rubies (2006) “3000 Flowers”: Dan Bejar, of course, once more sounds nothing like his band’s previous release (Your Blues) and like nothing so much as himself. Although that last phrase is probably misleading – in that for the first time in several records, Destroyer sounds like a band rather than a thinly disguised Bejar solo project. Several tracks feature saxophones – a new wrinkle, but one that somehow complements Bejar’s ongoing interrogation of rock history (as much as I can make sense of his lyrics, that seems to be one of his main subjects: his own work is by no means exempt, as a few prior Destroyer albums get namechecked here, just as the band itself has been mentioned in earlier Destroyer songs).
His Name Is Alive Detrola (2006) “Your Bones”: Warren Defever – or Warn, or just War, as he’s billed here – is another restless musician whose work sometimes just barely seems to justify being released under a band name rather than under his own name…although HNIA has always featured different female vocalists, so there’s always a certain audible element of collaboration. Defever’s backed off from the hotted-up R&B of the last couple of HNIA albums, and some of the atmosphere of his 2002 solo albumWhen Flowers Covered the Earth – which sometimes created the impression that the listener was standing midway between a jazz band and the Steve Reich Ensemble – carries over to this release – which also features a saxophone on several tracks, an instrument rarely heard on earlier HNIA recordings. “Your Bones” is one of a handful of tracks with a strong synthesizer presence – again, something Defever has often avoided.
Lilys Everything Wrong Is Imaginary (2006) “The Night Sun over San Juan”: Apparently, I’m buying CDs by “bands” that barely qualify as bands: Lilys, of course, is almost exclusively the realization of the vision of one man, Kurt Heasley. His collaborators, though, have always strongly colored the sound of his CDs: this time, he again works with Michael Musmanno, and the sound is somewhat similar to Lilys’ last release(s) Precollection/The Lilys (US/British releases, with some different tracks and arrangements and running order). Heasley’s sometimes been criticized for being a musical chameleon with no discernible style of his own: to me, such criticism focuses too much on the style and too little on the music itself, which has always been quite distinctively Heasley’s in its melodic and structural contours. Regardless, as on the last album Heasley strikes out on no particularly derived path in terms of style and arrangement. There’s a sort of semi-dancey, synthy sheen to several tracks here (notably “A Diana’s Diana,” featured at Fluxblog a couple weeks back) but the results are distinctively Lilys. I’m liking this one a lot so far.
Next: the second half of the alphabet (funny how that works!), including another release by a band whose name ends in “-ys” (no, not the Dead Kennedys: second half of the alphabet…).