Wherein I load 7 albums on my iPhone, listen to them for a week, and write something about each record.
Artist: Alice Coltrane
Album: Journey in Satchidananda
Comments: A meditation on life and death. Pharaoh Saunders. Harp. Om. A deep record, you should listen to it late at night.
Artist: Brian Eno
Album: Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy
Comments: Art-punk before punk existed, Eno used a deck of cards called Oblique Strategies to mimick the randomizing effect of the I Ching. The results are weird, moving and incredibly influential. Repetition is a form of change.
Artist: Dr. John
Album: The Sun, Moon and Herbs
Comments: Gris Gris. Voodoo. Funk. Death and magic lurking everywhere. A criminally underrated Dr. John record. Zu Zu Mamou might be the most terrifying thing ever, in a very good way.
Artist: James Blake
Comments: No one else sounds like James Blake. You can trace his influences–Burial, R&B, Gospel–but Blake somehow blends them into something way more interesting than “spot the influences.” Overgrown is close to a perfect album. It has 9 songs that are basically a window into Blake’s bittersweet head-space. But (and this is a big but) Overgrown is marred by the absolutely horrendous RZA collaboration “Take a Fall for Me.” It is hard to over-state how terrible this song is. It weighs down Overgrown like sack of rotting potatoes, damning the entire record. Deleting it from iTunes doesn’t help either, because you still know it exists.
Artist: STS 9
Comments: I like STS9 a lot but this record is missing something. It’s culled from a New Year’s Eve run, but it lacks the narrative of a good STS 9 show. I highly recommend downloading an STS9 show from either the band’s website or archive.org.
Artist: Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and Yo-Yo Ma
Album: The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Comments: Since leaving pop bluegrass favorites Nickel Creek, Chris Thile has been concocting a strange fusion of Bluegrass and Classical Music with his band the Punch Brothers. The Punch Brothers records are close to good, but show their seems a little bit too much. The Goat Rodeo Sessions, however, represents a seamless blending of the American Folk tradition and Baroque romanticism. This is a great a record for a Sunday afternoon if you have a very, very intellectual front porch to sit on.
Artist: Tom Waits
Album: Glitter and Doom (Live)
Comments: It turns out a circa 2009 Tom Waits show is basically a freaked-out, lysergic blues revival carnival. The band is super tight and Waits is “in good voice.” This is definitely not a “greatest hits live!” album, it’s like a post-card from the road. If you like Tom Waits, you’ll like Glitter and Doom. If you aren’t sure, this probably won’t help you make up your mind.