Archive for Arbouretum

The Proper Ornaments, Waxahatchee and Arbouretum Comprise Our Lockdown New Music Playlist

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 10, 2020 by johnbuckley100

Punk rock should not be your soundtrack for the lockdown. We are playing a lot of Miles Davis, Cluster & Eno, and Philip Glass. To get through being cooped up at home, the springtime view out the window reassuringly normal even as our dreams reveal turmoil, you need music that is at once complex and beautiful, that gives our minds something to hang on to without elevating our blood pressure. We have some recommendations.

For nearly 40 years, when we’ve been in a certain mood, the artist who has filled the bill is Nick Drake, and it of course makes perfect sense that this past week saw a pink moon — a Pink Moon! But there was only one Nick Drake, and he left us Pink Moon and not a whole lot else before his tragic exit. Which leaves us needing… well, here are three albums released in recent weeks that all fit the bill.

It seems like only yesterday but it was actually last May that the Proper Ornaments gave us the brilliant 6 Lenins. Tulip Frenzy ranked it the 7th best album of 2019, and our admiration for it has only increased since. James Hoare and co.’s new record, Mission Bells, is so of-the-moment, playing it seems like it could be a live stream from his own lockdown studio in London.

If, to continue our Nick Drake theme, one could enact a rating system for how closely an album tracks melodic brilliance, quiet authority and mid-tempo thrills, we’d give this record four Pink Moons. We said at the time that 6 Lenins was music for a rainy day, and that we could imagine Woods, the Feelies, Anton Newcomb and Kevin Morby being fans. Mission Bells is music for extended home arrest, and we expand our universe of comparisons for an album that makes us think of the Velvet Underground, David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, the Perfect Disaster, White Fence and, of course, Hoare’s previous band, Ultimate Painting. If you are a fan of melodic British pop music, and who isn’t, this one just might see you through the miserable weeks ahead.

We’ve liked Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee alter ego since 2013’s Cerulean Salt. We’ve admired her music even when it morphed into 2017’s Out in the Storm, which sounded more like an update to Juliana Hatfield’s late ’80s power pop than the quirky Southern gothic rock that grabbed us in the first place. On Saint Cloud, though, she’s put it all together. It’s an album that bears comparison to Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which even schoolchildren know got four stars from Christgau and comparisons to Born To Run. Crutchfield has a sweet voice, and she really understands both pop songwriting dynamics and how to pace an album. We put this one on, pretty loud, we have to say, when we wish to think of glasses half full, to remember springtimes when we could go anywhere and hang with, like, people. Lest this read like the album is comprised of upbeat pop music — it is certainly bright and melodic — it’s not, you know, Taylor Swift. It’s just an album that never lets you see Crutchfield sweat as she powers through a nearly perfect run of great songs, Americana in the best use of the word. Somewhere we imagine Tom Petty smiling, even as Lucinda Williams, uncrowned, sighs.

Baltimore’s Arbouretum has done the seemingly impossible. Over the eight songs on Let It All In, as beguiling a record as has ever come out of Charm City, they make us think of artists as different as CSN&Y and Can. From the beautiful folk rock of “How Deep It Goes” to the Krautrock of the title track, it’s clear this is a band that, nine albums and nearly two decades in, have learned a trick or two. They get special points in our book for enlisting Hans Chew to play piano on “High Water Song.” Wilco-level musicianship and imagination coupled with respect for the British folk formalism of Fairport Convention makes for a brisk experience, but honestly, given what we all are going trough, this album is a tonic for our troubled times.

Today’s Best Rock’n’Roll Lets Its Freak Flag Fly

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on September 7, 2009 by johnbuckley100

The greatest rock’n’roll band in America today is First Communion After Party. They’re too young to have drivers licenses — or maybe it’s that they need some gig money to afford a van — so they don’t travel from Minneapolis very much, but man, when they do, can’t wait to see ’em.  We anxiously await the follow up to Sorry For All The Mondays And To Those Who Can’t Sing, and on their MySpace page, there’s a tantalizing reference to an album launch party in November.  Aside from FCAP, where’s all the energy in music during these econolyptic days?  Way over there on the furry side o’ the dial.

Uncut Magazine just put out a new CD with the October issue entitled Seeing For Miles, and it’s the best compilation they’ve done in years.  It turned me on to three bands in particular that have brought plenty of joy to this Labor Day weekend.  Let’s go through ’em.

Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound has First Communion After Party’s reverence for Summer o’ Love era Airplane, including that boy/girl choir in between crunchy guitars, but they also work their way back to bluesy power riffs probably in the same manner that Black Mountain get there.  When Sweet Sleep Returned is an astonishment: great songwriting, the ability to rock hard or soft, John Cippolina guitar cantering down through the desert sage, with Radio Birdman piano twinkling every once in the while.  The only complaint I have is with the album’s production, which is muddy in the middle.  These guys are the real deal, and they come by their San Fran roots naturally, as they, um, come from there.  Recently the WashPost had a funny piece on the problems Ang Lee had finding genuinely skinny, non-buff, hair folk to cast as extras in Taking Woodstock.  Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound play with muscle, but here’s betting they don’t actually have any.

Abouretum hail from Baltimore, and immediately join Greg Kihn and David Byrne in that town’s Rock Hall of Fame.  The singer sounds like Richard Thompson, and come to think of it, some of the songs on Song of The Pearl sound like they could have been performed by Fairport Convention.  But then they’ll turn a corner and the guitars going spiraling off into shafts of light, and dust motes tickle our brains.  A little more of Rock band than others on the neo-psychedelic left bank.  Way listenable and cool nonetheless.

Okay, we’ve been hearing about Wooden Shjips for years without actually hearing them, but their highly caffeinated trance music on Dos is so good for listening to while exercising in the gym, I think I’m going to forever ruin my chances to be cast in an An Wang movie.  Uncut refers to Spaceman 3 when doing their liner notes on the cut WS add to the sampler, and I can see that.  It’s just there’s no way these guys are ever going to evolve into Spiritualized.  Too much propulsion, too much beat.

Ok, haven’t yet listened to Six Organs of Admittance, and the new White Denim isn’t out yet (though seems to be preceded by thunderous acclaim).  But these three bands are a start.  If you think about where the fun has been these last few years, The Warlocks, Black Mountain, Black Angels come to mind.  And then First Communion After Party vaulted way up their on the Coolo’Meter.  Add at least Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound to your play list, and let your freak flag fly.

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