Friday, February 22, 2013

Playlist: February


  • Steven Wilson—The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) (2013)
  • Atoms for Peace—Amok (2013)
  • Colin Edwin + John Durant—Burnt Belief (2012)
  • Otis Taylor—My World is Gone (2013)
  • Henry Fool—Men Singing (2013) 
  • David Sylvian—Dead Bees on a Cake  (1999)
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds—Push the Sky Away (2013)
  • Max Richter—Vivaldi's Four Seasons Recomposed (2012)
  • Howling Bells—The Loudest Engine (2011)
  • Richard Thompson—Electric (2013)
  • Miles Davis—Bitches Brew (1970)
  • Jesca Hoop—Kismet (acoustic re-recording) (2013)
  • Ghosting Season—The Very Last of the Saints (2012)
  • Peter Gabriel—So (25th Anniversary special edition)  (1986)\
  • Foals—Holy Fire (2013) 
  • Henrik Freischlader Band —House in the Woods (2012)
  • The James Hunter Six—Minute by Minute (2013)
  • King Crimson—Larks' Tongues  in Aspic (40th Anniversary box set) (1973)
  • Santana—Caravanserai (1972)
  • The Sundays—Static and Silence (1997)
  •  Boss, original soundtrack—Brian Reitzell  (2013)
  • Taj Mahal—Maestro (2008)
  • Patty Griffin—American Kid (2013)
  • John Grant—Pale Green Ghosts (2013)
Sorry for a longer list than usual. It includes some of the albums I've been listening to since last month and its mix of progressive rock, indie rock, alt-country, blues, folk, electronica, jazz, and classical reflects my schizophrenic music tastes. As usual, I won't write about each of the albums I'm listening to (too time consuming!) so I'll just hone in on three worthy new releases that may not be on your radar.

It's only February and I am already pretty sure that Steven Wilson's third solo album, The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) will be the best album I'll hear in 2013. It is a flawless album. I wrote a cover story about Wilson (best known as the singer-songwriter-producer-guitarist of Porcupine Tree, one of his many diverse projects) for the current issue of Prog magazine.

Raven... is a decidedly old-school progressive rock album with modern virtues. The songwriting is memorable and though there are lengthy instrumental sections, the songs are tightly arranged so that there's no noodling and not a note wasted. It's a record of sublime beauty that will take you places. For starters, check out the (literally) haunting music video for the title track at the top of this blog. Then try this video, below, which excerpts the end section from an epic track titled "The Watchmaker."

(P.S. Porcupine Tree fans should also investigate the fine new album of instrumentals by Colin Edwin and John Durant.)

I'm knocked out by the latest album by Otis Taylor. In a just world, Taylor would be widely recognized as one of the great artists of our time. No exaggeration. He is nominally a bluesman, but the Denver-based musician's ouevre is much broader than that. (Ever heard blues played with a banjo?) His music incorporates elements such as jazz, folk, rock, and African rhythms. He is arguably the most progressive blues musician since Taj Mahal. Otis Taylor calls his style of music "trance blues." Indeed, his music is richly atmospheric and hypnotic.

Taylor releases an album a year. And every record is killer. He never repeats himself and gives each album an individual sound. With My World is Gone, Taylor has managed to outdo Contraband, which was one of my favorite records of 2012.  Taylor's voice is his greatest asset. His voice is a little gruff and stacatto and slightly reminiscent of John Lee Hooker but it is astonishingly soulful instrument and affecting. (The third track on Contraband, "Look to the Side" has such an emotional vocal that it could pierce the blubber of the hardest heart.)

On My World is Gone, the mixed race musician has teamed up with Mato Nanji, the singer-guitarist of the band Indigenous. Mato has big shoes to fill: Many recent Taylor albums featured my all-time favorite guitarist, the late Gary Moore. The Native American more than rises to the occasion with guitar parts that linger long in the memory.

I previously interviewed Otis for PopMatters four years ago and you can read my interview with him here.

For his score for the TV drama Boss, Brian Reitzell wrote original pieces of music for each episode and roped in collaborators such as Air, Shearwater, My Morning Jacket, Mark Hollis, Explosions in the Sky, Paul Buchanan, Califone, Onehtrix Point Never and Ludwig von Beethoven.

You read that last part right. The creator of the show told Reitzell that the final episode was going to include a snippet of “Moonlight Sonata” so Reitzell wrote and recorded an 18 minute piece, titled "Punishment" (which includes an interpolation of “Moonlight Sonata”) in just two days. The result is pretty amazing. The whole soundtrack coheres as an album with a sustained mood. (The video below offers a seven minute preview of the music.) The new song by Shearwater (my favorite American band) is very good. Notably, the Boss soundtrack also includes the first new song by Mark Hollis, the reclusive songwriter and singer of Talk Talk, since his 1998 solo album. But downgrade your expectations for the Hollis track as it is only a 2 minute instrumental. Nonetheless, it reveals what sort of sound we might expect from Hollis on his next solo album (at least, we hope there will be another solo album).

Next, Brian Reitzell is doing the soundtrack for the new Sofia Coppolla's movie (he’s done them all, including The Virgin Suicides) and he did the soundtrack for Promised Land, the Matt Damon movie currently in theaters. He is currently scoring the TV show Hannibal, based on Silence of the Lambs.

A talent to watch.