Saturday, October 14, 2006

Autumnal Tuneage

It's been awhile since I've done a wrap-up of stuff I've been listening to of late -- things have been busy, busy, busy both professionally and personally -- but things have slowed down a bit this weekend and I've got an opportunity to pull together a few things I watch the Chelsea v Reading game while Mrs. F is out doing errands (yes, even when I'm dialing it down, I still have a hard time multi-tasking).

My constant soundtrack over this past week has been the new self-titled Bluetones album, which I wrote a post about shortly after downloading the album from teh iTunes Music Store (iTMS). I dug it at first listen, and it's grown to become one of my favorite albums of this year. In a musical landscape of hard-edged hip-hop, throwaway dance music, and posturing retro rock (whether it be the goth Evanescence or the new wave 101 of The Killers), I don't see where the perfectly pitched guitar pop of The Bluetones can ever find a place. And that's a shame. It's true that the band's not flashy nor does it have a gimmick (a la the skinny ties of Franz Ferdinand), but they've got bags of hook-heavy harmonies that stick in your head for days on end.

And while not overtly displayed, the new album has a couple of subtly political songs in the guitar rave-up "My Neighbour's House" and "Baby Back Up" -- which, in light of the Foley scandal and release of a damning book by a former top official of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives here in the US, sums up the mood nicely:
Fumbling around looking for clues
Seemingly so naive and confused
All your fragility on display
Makes you such irresistable prey

Baby back up, enough is enough
You're freaking me out, not into that stuff
Baby back up, enough is enough

Detailed accounts of all your affairs
Came tumbling out at the party under the stairs
Looking for understanding and trust
Now what did you find?
Nothing but ridicule and disgust

Baby back up, enough is enough
You're freaking me out, not into that stuff
Nothing is quite the way it appears
I thought you were cool, but you are just weird
Baby back up, enough is enough

You can check out two songs over at The Bluetones' MySpace page ("My Neighbour's House" and the gorgeous "The Last Song But One"), and the album is available at iTMS and as an import from Amazon (I hear, though, that a domestic release is scheduled sometime soon).

While I haven't been able to access the full tuneage yet, I'm very excited about the return of My Friend the Chocolate Cake (one of my Four Pillars of Pop Perfection), a folksy conglomerate based in Melbourne, Australia. It looks from the news section on the band's site that they'll have a new album coming out in early 2007, but in the meantime they've released an EP -- Home Improvements (available as an import via Amazon). The band's site has two samples from the 5-song EP, and if you select Australia as your home iTunes store (at the bottom of the main entry page), you can check out samples from all songs on the EP as well as purchase it. (Oh how I wish I had a global iTunes account!).

laid to rest, I've been enjoying the final BR compilation put together by DJ cohorts Rob Da Bank and Chris Coco -- Listen Again (available for pre-order at Amazon; full track listing at Amazon UK) -- which is a nice summation of their signature out-of-left-field pop/folk/indietronica sensibilities (with a dash of cheeky humor). (Rob Da Bank is still currently on BBC Radio 1 with a new show, but I haven't had time the past two weeks to give it a full listen -- but what I've heard is promising stuff.)

Other stuff I've been digging of late:
  • "Mr. Tough" -- Yo La Tengo's horn-filled first single from their new album I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (best title of the year!) [AMZN | iTMS]

  • Bruce Springsteen's Pete Seeger tribute album has just been rereleased with a couple of extra tunes, including the anti-war "Bring 'Em Home" (which really should have been on the original pressing) [AMZN | iTMS]

  • I'm not quite sure how I found Rose Melberg (perhaps rooting around in the iTunes new releases), but I'm very happy I did. The cooly enveloping folk of her second album -- Cast Away the Clouds -- takes me back to my Minnesota college days. Check out "Take Some Time," the lead tune from the album over at YouTube. [AMZN | iTMS]

  • The deliciously chilled Al Usher remix of Grandadbob's "Hide Me" [AMZN | iTMS]

  • And finally, last weekend while Mrs. F and I took care of our young friends M & C (as their parents galavanted around Manhattan) I got a chance to listen to some great kids records -- a little from the past (Free to Be You and Me, which really stands up well to the test of time [AMZN | iTMS]) and a little from today's generation (in particular, Dan Zanes, the former leader of the Del Fuegos who has become a big name in kids music). We had Zanes' Rocket Ship Beach [AMZN | iTMS] on in the car, and both Mrs. F and I had trouble getting "Polly Wolly Doodle" (with Sheryl Crow) out of our heads for days. But really, I'm not complaining -- it had a great, catchy arrangement and harmonies that made me forget it was a kids' tune. And I have a feeling that we'll be playing more Zanes around Cracks Centraal starting next spring...
[PS] Oooooh... looks like The Magic Numbers have a new album dropping in a couple weeks over in the UK, and from the sound of the review, it might not be as happy-clappy as the last one.


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