Nothing is New

For a couple of years some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.

The Black Keys – Turn Blue (2014)

After I shared what I did for the week, Tim suggested we all share our favorite album that has come out in the two years since we started playing this game. And it’s a great idea. Except I already shared (and I don’t listen to a ton of new music, so I’d have to think about it a little more). But here’s Tim’s: another Black Keys album.

And I didn’t like it as much as El Camino or maybe even Brothers (although I think I’d have to do a side-by-side listen).

It opened pretty strong, except the guitar seemed to be playing in a different key that the rest of the music at times. But mostly it was strong and it had a good build up. One of the highlights was the closer, Gotta Get Away. I really liked the southern rock feel. Most of the stuff in the middle had some solid grooves, and I probably won’t skip past, but they probably wouldn’t make it on a playlist of much beloved tunes. It’s Up to You Now had a jungle beat kind of feel for the first half, but then lost it for the solo where it could have been sweetest. Waiting on Words did some good stuff melodically and it was a nice style change, but the vocals bothered me – especially at the beginning. It was too floaty psychedelic at first. It grew on me, but hearing where it went made me like the opening of the tune ever less.

I wasn’t so much a fan of Fever or Bullet in the Brain. Ten Lovers was ok, but didn’t really do much for me either. A general complaint was that the rhythm guitar was often overpowering, especially over some solos. I thought this was the weakest of the week. 3/5

Here’s what my friends thought:

“This one was my favorite of the week. I like the Keys and have listened to several of their albums since you shared Brothers. This one sounds more modern, even borderline pop. But it still has the kind of bluesy grind that I really appreciate. Lots of good hooks, spacey but still a beat to keep your feet on.” 4.3/5 – Spencer

“I wasn’t expecting much from this album as I’ve slowly lost interest in their sound the last few albums. I LOVED all of their material up to Brothers (especially their early, gritty stuff), but El Camino was just ok to me, and I never did bother with this one. So I was surprised how much I actually did enjoy it. Sounds like they’re taking their time with the sound a little more and letting the groove marinate a little, which I like. Still not as good as their older stuff to me, but it did manage to bring me back into the fold a bit.” 7/10 – Chris

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971)

Spencer is much more like me, and so didn’t share something new. Also, he didn’t start playing until a little over a year ago.

I have heard of Funkadelic before, but never listened to them prior to this week. I’ve just listened to their sister band, Parliament, which I wasn’t super impressed with. I only heard a few tracks (from Parliament), but they seemed to have the same problem a lot of jam bands have: they were really high and all over the place, like we were listening to them practice their tunes instead of perform them.

I liked the inclusion of the acoustic elements in Can You Get to That, and Hit It and Quit It had a great groove and a great guitar solo. I also really dug the bonus track I Miss My Baby. Specifically the keys were really good. I liked the album version of the title track more than the bonus track version, but neither were great. The album version was a great guitar solo (a little too fuzzy distortion-y at times that made it clip out), but there wasn’t really any “song” to it.

The one real lowlight was Back in Our Minds. The auxiliary percussion was too distracting for me. 3/5

From my friends:

“This was a fun album, most of the time. Sometimes it just seemed to get lost in itself and struggled to find it’s way back. I actually didn’t mind the long track in the beginning, which is pretty impressive considering how much I don’t like long tracks like that typically. It had some great grooves, and like you mentioned, the guitar playing was really fun. Thanks for the share!” 3/5 – Tim

“I’ve never listened to a full Funkedelic album, but somehow this wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t bad (some parts reminded me a lot of Jimmy Hendrix) but I think I just expected a little more straight up FUNK and less classic rock. Overall a decent album but not really something I was into this week. The opening track was ok but way too uneventful to merit the length. My favorite was probably the Hendrixy “Super Stupid.” Also, It was fun to realize that track two “Can You Get to That” has a guitar line that was sampled in Sleigh Bells song ‘Rill Rill‘.” 6.5/10 – Chris

Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars (2015)

Chris followed Tim’s lead and shared a band he had shared before one of his favorite albums from the last two years.

I really dug the opening. Majorette turned out to be my favorite track on the whole album. Beach House has a chill, full sound, but a lot of it was the same. I didn’t really get bored of it. Other than the opening track and All Your Yeahs, there wasn’t a ton to hold my attention. In fact, I had a hard time figuring out where The Traveler was going. I can appreciate bucking normal pop rock song structure, but I felt like The Traveler was all over the place. True to it’s name I guess, but I think there’s value in having something familiar for the song to return to. I didn’t get that with The Traveler. It sounded good, but it felt like they were a rambling old person – just doing it musically instead of lyrically.

That brings up something else. I didn’t really understand the lyrics. Not that I didn’t comprehend the message of the words. I found their diction unintelligible most of the time.

I feel like I’m complaining a lot, but I did enjoy this album. It was my favorite album of the week overall. Somewhere Tonight had a nice almost late ’50s pop rock feel, but except for the opening track nothing really wow’d me. 3/5

From my friends:

“So this was a bit too spacey for me. Unlike the Keys album this week, this seemed to be so floaty that there wasn’t much of a beat. I’m fine with a track or a part of a song but a whole album wasn’t a treat. Not unpleasant, but ya. There were several hooks in there I liked but no song kept it up through the whole track so I didn’t stay engaged.” 3.4/5 – Spencer

“This was a really good album. One thing I really appreciated is it’s shear story and cohesion from one track to another. The music was unique and diverse, and never felt unrelatable, which is a feat. But I think I liked the other album that came out at the same time better.” 4/5 – Tim

My mix

This week, instead of sharing an album or even a mixtape, I’m sharing a collection of 18 songs. There is no order (and therefore no flow). The only thing they have in common is that I don’t know something about them. You can download them from dropbox here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yjhfmr11fg2ghns/AAC3Y4QHjUo18AbZMD5ZWWOra?dl=0

This is where I need your help. Years and years ago, back when Napster was a thing, me (and many, many others) downloaded gigs of music. A lot of it was mislabeled. Anything ska tended to show up as Reel Big Fish and anything metal (or even hard rock) tended to be labeled as Metallica. That sort of thing. Later, I was able to correctly identify quite a bit of the mislabeled stuff I had downloaded. But not all of it.

*EDIT: A year later, I have some updates which I’ll plug in as I go along.

The songs fall into a few categories (also, anything my friends have said follow):

Live. I know All Along the Watchtower, Bluegrass Breakdown and Wish You Were Here, and I know who wrote them, but who’s performing these versions? Are they part of an official release? Or did the sound guy just roll tape and shared the music with some buddies? And then there are Shark Attack and Work You to the Bone, which might not even be their real titles. I have no clue.

“Shark Attack sounds more like a phone or video cam recording or something.” – Spencer

*EDIT: As it turns out, Shark Attack and Work You to the Bone are from an Italian bootleg live album of the Specials performing in Hollywood, California in 1994 called Princes at the Palace.

Local. Asolo, Don’t You Dare, The First NoelReal Life, Ulcer, The Year’s State and You are the One are all by local (Utah, except I think Elbo Finn has since moved to Portland) bands. I even know who plays them. You are the One I know came off a CD of local artists (I think mostly from Utah County). But that’s the extent of what I know. Except the MoTab tune. All the others have a distinct lack of information (I’ve been able to find anyway). The MoTab, however, has so much music out there that it has the same effect. They’ve recorded this tune so many times, I don’t know which version this is (assuming it is them, of course). Some of these might be live, too, but they’re local first.

*EDIT: Asolo is a live recording of Elbo Finn at Trolley Square in 1996 at a regular Tuesday event put on by a local radio station, KXRK. The station later put out a collection of live/local tunes, called Cheap Live X, with this song on it.

Don’t You Dare by Holloh is from another CD by the same radio station, this one called Live and Local, Vol. II and put out in 2007. I have no idea about volume one.

Real Life is from AJ’s 2006 album Disturbance at Dusk. The painting on the cover is also named Disturbance at DuskThat’s all I know.

Ulcer is the seventh track (of nine) from Under Radar’s 2005 self-titled album.

The Year’s State is Nathan’s Chainsaw’s 2005 self-titled album. At least I think it’s self-titled. That black, blurry smudge looks like it says Nathan’s Chainsaw. And I’m pretty sure it was written by a guy named Joel Jensen.

The compilation Haley and Cath’s You are the One comes from is 2001’s Strictly Barefoot. Their full (more or less) names are Haley Gibby and Catherine Allred. I’m pretty sure. And I assume they are the writers.

Techno/Remixes. In junior high, I was kind of in to techno music. Indiscriminate Justice is not even that good of techno, but it has StarCraft unit noises mixed in, which is why I downloaded it. It might just be a fan remix. I also have a fan remix (at least I can’t imagine it isn’t) of Metallica’s One with StarCraft units thrown in (if you want me to add that). The Legend of Zelda Medley might have come from Super Smash Bros. or some other official Nintendo thing. Or it could be a fan creation. Techno Train might be a fan remix except the female vocals make me think otherwise. Transformers was listed as being by Vince DiCola, the guy who did the music for the animated Transformers film. Except it’s not the same sound as that soundtrack, so I don’t really believe it.

There are also a couple of songs that don’t fall into these categories:

All for You might be an acoustic Sister Hazel song, but it was labeled as a Blues Traveler cover.

*EDIT: As it turns out it was Sister Hazel, live at KYSR – an LA radio station. This version was released on the station’s Christmas 1997 sampler CD.

“This one sounds kinda raw and roughly mixed. I expect its a bootleg live copy, not a produced one.” – Spencer

The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) is, for all I know, from a video game. It’s certainly not Metallica (like I was led to believe when I downloaded it). I think the sounds are all synthesized.

“The orchestration here at least is definitely sampled/synthesized. The guitar very well could be too. Sounds video gamey to me.” – Spencer

Overall:

“So, this was an interesting collection. Most of them I haven’t hear of before. Many were fairly bad recordings and my tolerance of low-fi is quite a bit lower than it used to be, but I realize there are some bad recordings I like so I can’t really judge. I didn’t really fall in love with any of them. I was sad when Wish you were here cut off.” 2.5/5 – Spencer

“I wasn’t able to identify them for you (my only option was Google Sound Search). There was some interesting stuff, but obviously there wasn’t cohesion between the songs (nor was that intended). The music was good at times, but felt like an imitation a lot too. But I’m glad I listened for the good stuff.” 2/5 – Tim

“Sorry, just barely got a chance to listen to these. Not sure what to say in a review, I didn’t really have any information about the songs you don’t already have and nothing was particularly interesting to me on this collection. I think I liked the techno Crazy Train song the most. An otherwise uneventful mix of odds and ends to me.” 4/10 – Chris

*EDIT: I wish there was more into about Asolo, Don’t You Dare or You are the One.

I still have no additional info about All Along the Watchtower, Bluegrass BreakdownWish You Were Here, The First NoelIndiscriminate Justice, One, the Zelda medley, Techno Train, the Transformers remix or The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme).

So you can go ahead an rate/review these songs, but what I’d like even more is your help figuring out, once and for all, where these things come from. Still, 18 songs out of all the songs on my computer is a pretty good completion rate.

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