Thursday, December 20, 2012

Color Me Obsessed: A Film About the Replacements, DVD

What is it about a rock band that can get the attention, devotion, even adulation of music fans, fellow musicians and important critics and yet have, comparatively speaking, a small commercial impact? Film maker Gordon Bechard asks this question about the Replacements on Color Me Obsessed (MVD 2-DVD 5533D). What emerges from the nearly two-hour film and many extras is a full picture of a moment in the rock underground.

All this without a single second of music or any interview footage or even images of the band. It is a kind of music reception history documentary. That it works fully is a testament to Bechard's vision and the extraordinary impact the Replacements had (have) on people.

In the process the story of the band's career from first demo to breakup is told in successive interviews from first-hand obsessors--those who were a part of the scene from producers and record execs to floor-level fans.

A picture emerges of four musically modest young men who somehow transcended their limitations at the same time as they succumbed to them--and in the course of their heyday captured in song and sound the alienation of people who don't quite fit in, who disfunction yet create a kind of art that has absolutely no pretensions to being art, and comes out of their dysfunctional stance.

It's one of the very best rockumentaries I have seen. You leave the film with clear feelings about why this band, why people in this generation needed the Replacements, why rock needs a band like this, with rawness, balls, yet very immediate sensitivity about the life around them, to regenerate the scene.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord, No New Tunes

Not only is Jon Lundbom a jazz-contemporary electric guitarist at the forefront of new practice, his band Big Five Chord, individually and collectively, is one of the most important around today. And their latest, No New Tunes (Hot Cup LP or download), is perhaps the strongest album yet. Now I could just leave it at that and go get another cup of coffee, but I suspect that I should go into detail, no?

First the band: Jon Lundbom, guitar, Jon Irabagon, alto and soprano saxophones, Bryan Murray, tenor and balto! saxophones, Moppa Elliott, bass, Dan Monaghan, drums. The rhythm section is very hip. The Irabagon-Murray sax team is terrific. And Jon gets plenty of chances to show that he can (and does) line with originality and edge. He turns in some beautiful solos here. Then there are times when Irabagon and/or Murray play with your head a little. They may be blazing into a solo or solo succession with all sorts of imaginative twists and suddenly you realize that they are putting you on just a hair, but they are dead serious at the same time. It's the tradition, yet it is inside the tradition, taking it outside and making a humorous aside all at the same time. Well, you know Rollins has always done something on these lines when he felt it. There are some very uncanny moments like that. Of course these guys often have that kind of humor to them, but on this one they top themselves.

OK, then there are the compositions and soloing routines. First rate. Sometimes they pull out the rock stops and get very heavy. Sometimes they do less electric avant things. It all comes together, regardless of what.

All else can be said and maybe has been said by a critic who works for some big-name magazine, newspaper, etc. And gets paid and all that. But listen, my street cred by now should make you take me as seriously as Jon and crew. Because if I can say all this while I am scuffling, then you know I mean it. No shoot, this is the album to get.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Under the Psycamore

New Swedish Neo-Prog Rock? The debut album of Under the Psycamore (self-titled) (7D Media), out recently, gives you a very nice bundle of that.

They aren't into the bunch of notes speed thing so much as they come up with music that lays right, with not uninteresting chord progressions and thematics, very good musicianship, an edge when warranted, and some excellent vocal harmonies. They go for songs that stand apart as prog without being particularly reminiscent of others. They are original.

To me those are ingredients of a band that is very worth hearing. Under the Psycamore is that.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rafiq Bhatia, Strata (EP), Yes it Will (LP/CD)

I wasn't familiar with American guitarist Rafiq Bhatia until somebody kindly hipped me to his premiere recordings, Strata (EP) (Rest Assured) and Yes it Will (LP/CD) (Rest Assured).

I am so glad to be hearing his music. His playing, like his composing/arranging, is exhilaratingly singular. Everything comes out of his very evolved, very declamatory finger-picking style. Rafiq will finger pick a complicated pattern where another guitarist-composer would supply a couple of notes or chords. So it's an extremely ornate style but also one which has the rhythmic push of the in-time picking patterns.

Rafiq covers a jazz-rock of his own making. There's a little hip-hop in there and a hip band, outness and in-ness combined in interesting ways and very memorable compositions.

This is music with a real flair, on every level. Get the EP and the LP!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

José Luis Montón, Solo Guitarra

The spirit and tradition of flamenco guitar finds some brilliant extensions for today in the music of José Luis Montón, whose Solo Guitarra (ECM 2246) I have been listening to with great pleasure.

As the title makes clear, it is just Maestro Montón center stage with his nylon-stringed guitar in a series of pieces he composed and a singular arrangement of a Bach Air.

All the technique of the flamenco greats is implied and sometimes directly invoked in Montón's exceptional playing. But there is a modern, original element at play in the music too, in the more elaborate melodic details, in the more developed harmonic spelling, in some of the finger picking.

It's a beautiful recording in every sense, sure to grab the ears and hearts of guitarists and their friends everywhere.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Filipe Felizardo, Guitar Soli for the Moa and the Frog

Unaccompanied electric guitar recitals on disk occur less frequently than one might expect. Compared to solo piano excursions, for example, they are relatively rare. So those that come along generally get my attention, assuming I get access and such.

Today we have one, Filipe Felizardo's Guitar Soli for the Moa and the Frog (Shhpuma 001 CD). Felizardo was not familiar to me previous to this disk, but I am glad I've connected.

This is a moody, spacious, zen-like venture into atmospheric tones and the silence that surrounds them. The first six segments come together as a bluesy statement of some power. Track seven changes the mood to an acoustic jaunt with the guitar sounding like an oud. The final track returns as a kind of coda to the initial foray.

It's not a get-your-yayas exercise in technical wizardry we have here. What it is is music, and a good go of it at that. It is contemplative. It enriches the time you spend listening to it. That's a good thing these days.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Joy Mega, Forever is Something Inside of You

There are good things to be found these days with music that dwells within the interstices of categories. Take Joy Mega and their Forever is Inside of You (New Atlantis). It's the brainchild of bassist-vocalist-composer Jason Ajemian, who straddles the rock and new music/jazz camps in various very good ways and decided to combine rock/alt song and avant freedom with this group.

It's a pretty heavy hitting lineup: Jason on bass, Chad Taylor, drums, Matt Bauder, tenor/reeds, Mary Halvorson, electric guitar, Jessica Pavone, violin. Those who know the scene will recognize that this is a group of some of the most innovative improvisers around today, all bandleaders in their own right and major proponents on their instruments.

Well, that's the specs, so to speak. What you get music-wise is the successful results of the categoric experimentation. Jason's voice is in the raw, direct court and his songs bounce against the avant improv in unexpected, always interesting, and very creative ways.

If you don't give a hoot about categories and thrive on the new however it conjoins, listen to this one a bunch of times. It's seriously different.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Song Sparrow Research, Second Album

Today an alt band from Seattle who have named their second album simply Song Sparrow Research (self released), which also happens to be the name of the band.

This is a brightly jangley and deceptively straightforward guitar centered rock band that has some real songs that can give things a twist and get in your craw.

The musicianship is tight and the arrangements direct in a band-oriented way, but that can be refreshing and in fact is. The singer reminds just slightly of Morrissey but ultimately goes his own way and carries a distinctive signature sound.

It's a good sign that I've heard this one a bunch of times and it continues to grow on me. It's art rock and I hope it gets a good hearing out there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dead Kenny G's, Gorelick

The Dead Kenny G's, as their name implies, have always had a refreshing iconoclastic sense. The recent 17-minute EP Gorelick (Royal Potato Family 1120) (12-inch EP vinyl) takes it even further.

It's a joyously snide, brashly loud punk-rock-jazz set with some raunchy band vocals, Luttenbacher anarchy and a very sizable edge on it.

It covers a fair amount of ground from riff rockers to outright punkers, from thrasher skronk to free onslaughts with a beat.

I like it. You might also.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dylan LeBlanc, Cast the Same Old Shadow

If somebody writes songs that stick in the mind, and it's moody fare, and there's something about the voice and the arrangements that put it above the rest, then I'm there. That describes Dylan LeBlanc and his new album, Cast the Same Old Shadow (Rough Trade). I wont say Tim Buckley is what he sounds like, but he does have that upper range, his lyrics have something to them and he plays a kind of folkish guitar in accompaniment.

It has a slight country feel to it, especially when the petal steel is going, but it's more in alt rock territory with its quirkiness and edge.

Songs are what it's about. Songs about dreams, stories, movies for the ear and imagination....