Nut Suite. Mini reviews of albums old and new. Minimum words. No fuss. No spoilers [?]. Occasional smugs.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

ROGER WATERS / The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking [1984]

After receiving mixed reviews for Pink Floyd's The Final Cut, Roger Waters opted to record a solo album (and ditch Floyd a year later) which resulted in 1984's The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.
The rest of Floyd chose The Wall over this album to record as their next opus in 1979 and it was probably a good idea career wise.  Critics and audiences weren't ready for Waters' bizarre sense of humor and only wanted him dark, melodramatic and cynical.  Still the story of a beaten down middle-aged man that dreams of fucking a hitchhiker he's picked up is still filled with plenty of anger, spit and melancholy as it dissects the human psyche.  Musically it isn't always up to par as it lacks any memorable hooks or melodies as it seems to jump all over the place as its searches for some common ground.  Maybe that's the point and it just requires the listener to dig deep to really find it's cold heart and soul.

3½ possible pasts out of 5

Songs of Note:  4:50 am (Go Fishing)4:58 am (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)

ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD / The Bible 2 [2016]

Andrew Jackson Jihad's (or AJJ as they like to be known as now) previous album Christmas Island was a nervous reinvention that wasn't quite right but thankfully they've worked out most of the kinks on 2015's The Bible 2.
Picking up exactly where Christmas Island's "Angel of Death" protagonist Cody left us, AJJ kicks right into hilarious misery and honest self-deprecation with "Cody's Theme".  There's only minor traces of the folk-punk detected, so instead the complete band relies on lo-fi guitars, booming drums and whiny synths to get the head a bopping to their trademark cheery sneers.  Heavy with frightening sincerity is what AJJ does best and thankfully they aren't watering down the uncomfortable lyrics with an ever-growing audience.

4 flaming mommies out of

Songs of Note:  American Garbage; No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread

RADICAL FACE / The Family Tree: The Leaves [2016]

2016's The Leaves completes Radical Face's Family Tree trilogy about the fictional supernatural Northcote family of yesteryear.
Still holding onto the same sparse instrumentations of the previous installments, Cooper merely layers on top of them with subtle strings sections, gentle electric guitar and humming synths.  The lyrics might supposed to be about the Northcotes but one can't help but feel the closer Cooper got to his characters the more his own trials & tribulations spilled into the mix.  It's clear The Family Tree was never a linear form of storytelling but more like snapshots of the all the important times in a lost soul's life.  The lyrics have a beautiful way of transporting the listener back to all the their good and bad times they've encountered and miraculously what they have yet to experience.

4 resurrected birds out of 5

Songs of Note:  The Ship in PortBad Blood

JÓHANN JÓHANNSSON / Sicario: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [2015]

Icelandic composer  Jóhann Jóhannsson earned himself a great deal of respect amongst the film score community with his beautifully realized lush music in The Theory of Everything.
Naturally being the type of artist that he is, Jóhannsson took a complete opposite turn with the nerve-wrenching soundscapes in Denis Villeneuve's heart-pounding Mexican cartel thriller Sicario.  It's a anxiety throbbing percussive score filled with low-end ominous strings and a vast horn section that perfectly encapsulates the gritty subject matter on screen.  There's a beautiful mournful string theme buried within the brutality of the score but it offers no reassurance of safety or hope.  It's not often music makes my stomach-turn with nervousness like this but Sicario does so with such force it's clearly not a listen that sets out to be enjoyed.  Heavily armed with technical and creative brilliance, it certainly is a challenge to listen to but definitely rewarding should you take on the overly intense task.

4 heartbeats beneath the ground out of 5

Songs of Note: The BeastAlejandro's Song

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

JULEE CRUISE / Floating into the Night [1989]

After collaborating with director David Lynch & composer Angelo Badalamenti on a cut from the Blue Velvet soundtrack, singer Julee Cruise ending up recording a full album with the songwriting duo, resulting in 1989's dream-pop cult classic Floating into the Night.
Combining Badalamenti's dreamy contemporary jukebox jazz, Lynch's playful cliché lovesick lyrics with Cruise's ethereal falsetto voice creates a hauntingly soothing atmosphere.  5 of the 10 tracks would end up appearing in Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks so it could easily be considered an extended soundtrack to the show but on it's own it stands quite well, considering you have a taste for this sort of music.  It can't help but escape comparisons to The Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil, so in short it's one of the best albums record label 4AD never put out.

4 sad dreams blowing through trees out of 5

Songs of Note: Rockin' Back Inside My HeartThe World Spins

THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM / The B-Sides [2014]

After The Gaslight Anthem parted ways with SideOneDummy records the label took it upon themselves to release one final album from the band, 2014's slapdash compilation The B-Sides.
It's exactly what the title suggests.  Mostly a collection of one "new" studio track, rough acoustic versions of past songs, live recordings and cover songs of Pearl Jam, The Rolling Stones and more.  Most of the material is between roughly okay to mildly decent but certainly not essential, so it makes it harder to excuse the shoddily arranged track listing that makes next to no sense.  The Gaslights wouldn't start producing great b-sides until they're move to Mercury records, which seeing as the band split ways in 2015 I wouldn't be surprised to see another collection in the near future which I know will be ultimately better than this.  

2½ Blackwater Surprises out of 5

Songs of Note: She Loves YouBoxer (acoustic)

GEOFF BARROW & BEN SALISBURY / Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One [2012]

2012 was a busy year for Portishead's Geoff Barrow with his side-projects Beak> and Quakers releasing full-lengths I don't know where he found the time to work with composer Ben Salisbury as well. 
Drokk: Music inspired by Mega-City One is what I suspect Barrow & Salisbury intended to be the score for Pete Travis' Dredd film before Paul-Leonard Morgan took over composing duties.  Rather than acknowledging the film, the duo opted to draw inspiration from Mega-City One of the comic books with a cold-hearted John Carpenter-esque blanket of menacing synth cues.  Drokk does nothing to hide it's '80's darkwave influences and relies heavily on throbbing arpeggiators, fuzzy synth strikes and stroboscopic drones spiraling in and out laying down an immensely unsettling atmosphere that threatens to suffocate with paranoid claustrophobia.

3½ Escapes from drokking Mega-City out of 5

Songs of Note: Helmet Theme; Exhale

DR. DRE / The Chronic [1992]

After a very bitter split from West Coast gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. head beat-master Dr. Dre broke new ground with his iconic 1992 solo debut The Chronic.
By combining the fat P-funk sounds of George Clinton with twisted slowed down hypnotic tempos and predominant portamento synth lines over frighteningly realistic themes of violence, Dre crafted the definitive gansta rap album that still has yet to be topped.  The lyrics are misogynistic, homophobic and unrelentlessly vicious but still with each lyricist's unique flow and mind-boggling lines to twist your tongue around it can't be anything but offensively creative.
Love it or leave it, you can't really deny that The Chronic is the most influential gangsta rap albums of all time.

5 introductions to Snoop Dogg out of 5

Songs of Note: The Day the Niggaz Took Over; Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang

Thursday, August 18, 2016

RON GEESIN & ROGER WATERS / Music from The Body [1970]

For his bizarre 1970 documentary art-film, The Body, director Ron Battersby enlisted Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and Ron Geesin (co-writer of Floyd's epic Atom Heart Mother suite) as the composers.
The results of these two collaborating on something so weird is unsurprisingly strange itself.  A mixture of short bio-music tracks (made up mostly of burps, belly slapping, crazed laughter and the occasional fart) with a few soft-folk numbers sung and played by Waters makes for a bit of a challenging listen.  As a heavy admirer of Ummagumma (and other art-noise Floyd works) this is a fascinating listen but I can honestly say I wouldn't recommend it to anyone without a taste for the same chaotic styles.

3 disturbingly intimate heavy breaths out of 5

Songs of Note: Old Folks AscensionGive Birth to a Smile

ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD / Christmas Island [2014]

For their fifth studio album, 2014's Christmas Island, anti-folk punksters Andrew Jackson Jihad beefed it up some more with producer John Congleton, known for his work with Swans, Marilyn Manson and not-surprisingly The Mountain Goats.
Pushing forward with a more fuller sound, that includes more fuzzy guitars, somber violins and humming 80's-esque synthesizers, AJJ are prepared for wider recognition.  They're still writing upbeat head-boppers but seemed to have found a love for some softer songs where frontman Sean Bonnette seems most emotionally comfortable.  His lyrics are still sarcastically vulnerable reality checks but as a whole the band sounds really tired which on many tracks it's used to their best bitter advantage.

3½ museum melt-downs out of 5

Songs of Note: Coffin DanceTemple Grandin Too

ANGELO BADALAMENTI / Soundtrack from Twin Peaks [1990]

With David Lynch & Mark Frost's 1990 primetime TV series Twin Peaks becoming a worldwide phenomenon it seemed like a no-brainer to release a soundtrack album featuring composer Angelo Badlamenti's iconic score.
Meticulously setting the tone of the oddball series with perfection, Badalamenti jumped from beautifully melodramatic to feverish-playful jazz, using a small ensemble led by his synthesized string section and flighty piano fingering.  The emotions weave in and out of dark, sad, quirky but most of all very atmospheric to the point that it's very much an unseen leading character of the television series.  As an added bonus to the score, we're graced with three wonderful source songs from the whimsically voiced Julee Cruise, written by Badalamenti & Lynch.
As short and sweet as it is, this is one of those albums that formed me into the person that I am today and it will forever be a defining staple in my collection.

5 dances for men from another place out of 5

Songs of Note: The Bookhouse BoysInto the Night (performed by Julee Cruise)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

CLAMS CASINO / Instrumental Mixtape 3 [2013]

Hip-hop producer Michael Volpe aka Clams Casino returned in 2013 for his third and final instrumentals mixtape, before unleashing his full-length debut LP in 2016.
Pulling from various sources, including A&AP Rocky, Doom and even the GTA V soundtrack, Clams also throws in a few unreleased tracks to go for a variable but smooth sampler of his many styles of work that he produced over the year since his previous mixtape.  It's a noticeable departure from past works as he hardly makes use of any sampled voices and instead focuses on thickening up the gooey euphoria with slow, heavy beats and tranquil rhythmic ambience.  
It's not as strong a compilation as the first two outings but it still floats through the ears like candy-coated syrup under a flickering black-light.  Yum.

3½ adult swims out of 5

Songs of Note: CrystalsBird Call

RADICAL FACE / The Family Tree: The Branches [2013]

Radical Face's second part of The Family Tree trilogy, 2013's The Branches, was a case of instant love for me.
Here we're stepping into the year 1860 through 1910 and the sound has developed a bit more adding in some more instruments and sounds but still reflecting back to the feel and heart of the first album.  Ben Cooper's lyrics are so honest and raw it sincerely compliments his soft falsetto voice that's delicate, sad and intimately personal.  Still recording in his backyard tool shed, Cooper's production isn't perfect but it's creaky enough to make you listen even closer to wrap your mind around it's minor details and off-kilter moments that make it feel all the more dear.
With it's organic textures, ethereal design and lyrical beauty, it's a constant reminder to remain grounded in a world of good, bad and everything in between.  

5 collections of scars out of 5

Songs of Note: The MuteReminders

FAITH NO MORE / Sol Invictus [2015]

18 years after their previous album and much-publicized self-destruction alt-rockers Faith No More returned in 2015 with Sol Invictus.
Picking exactly where they left off, FNM are still skipping around the boundaries of hard rock and bizarre art-rock, never once giving a toss about radio play (their first comeback single is a low-key operatic piece not-so subtly titled "Motherfucker").  Their smirking sarcastic humor and sinister piano lines are still firmly intact within the inviting tension they conjure up with each track.  For some odd reason, it seems as if the group forgot how to finish songs and each one peters out with slight boredom and misdirection.  The song order is a mess but with a customized re-arrangement one can easily remedy this minor problem.
There's a bit of dust and cobwebs collecting but hopefully this is just the boys getting back into the groove before they deliver another stellar album.

3½ leaders of men out of 5

Songs of Note: Separation AnxietyMotherfucker

GIN WIGMORE / Gravel & Wine [2011]

Sassy humored Gin Wigmore's second album, 2011's Gravel & Wine, is finer realized step-up from her upbeat soul-pop 2009 debut.
Armed with a coarse deep voice that explodes with passionate attitude, devilish playfulness and sultry seduction, Wigmore's songwriting compliments it with dirty blues, highway twang and a 50's diner daydream rock that was missing from her previous works.  The production is bright, big and spirited enough to never let her voice overpower the music and vice versa.  It might be an exact retro-replica of the music of yesterday but this is a pretty damned good reason as to why someone listened to those type of songs in the first place.

4 bad women to keep out of 5

Songs of Note:  Man Like ThatIf Only

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

VARIOUS ARTISTS / Blue Velvet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [1986]

Like the 1986 David Lynch masterpiece, the original soundtrack album for Blue Velvet is a grand mixture of the beautiful and bizarre.
Marking the first collaboration between the director and composer Angelo Badalamenti, the score is a dark nod to Bernard Herrman's neo-noir works with it's romantic combination of lush string writing and an ominous brass section.  The other half of the album transports you into the unspecified forgotten era of the film with a series of both modern and classic pop songs, a series of sound effects and some cool cat jazz numbers.  It's a nice little piece of audio memorabilia from the film but misses several musical moments that cries for an updated deluxe version on it's 30th Anniversary.  

4 songs that aren't This Mortal Coil out of 5

Songs of Note: Main TitlesMysteries of Love (performed by Julee Cruise)


Nick Mason, the only constant member of Pink Floyd, apparently released Fictitious Sports as his debut solo album but in reality it's songwriter/jazz enthusiast Carla Bley's show where she's merely assisted by the rock drummer as co-producer.
What this all results in is a relatively catchy alt-rock/bizarro jazz album that's more or less disappeared into the sands of time.  The amusing songwriting and coarsely captivating vocals by Robert Wyatt (who sings on 7 of the 8 tracks) stand out amongst the so-so inoffensive musicianship.  As a Bley album, it's a pretty average outing that simply leaves you not regretting the 30+ minutes you invest in giving this album a chance.

2½ creepy rust-lickers out of 5

Songs of Note: Can't Get My Motor To StartDo Ya?