Posts Tagged ‘nick drake’

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Nick Drake – Family Tree

June 21, 2007

I think most fans find it a little unbelievable that Nick Drake has been dead for over thirty years. It is a little hard to believe. For how fresh these songs sound even decades later, it feels like Drake just left a few years ago. For an artist so precious not only to fans but to the entire American folk scene, it is a shame that so little material is in circulation. The era of this monumental artist that fans seem to appreciate most is the “less is more” themed album Pink Moon, which featured, with only one exception on the title track, only Nick Drake and his guitar. That is the spirit of this long winded rarities compilation. Most all of the songs are home recordings featuring only one instrument and vocals, and exceptions are few.

Which is why, in theory, this collection sounds like it should be completely boring. From what I hear, most of these songs can be found on other bootlegs already, and this is more of an official release of the rarities than anything. This is good. I don’t have time to track down bootlegs, let alone more than one from an artist with such a sparse career, so it’s nice to have all sorts of stuff worth having on an official release, with a few completely unreleased songs no less. But either way, calling the album Family Tree was probably misleading. Are Nick Drake rarities so scarce now that they must be created, as performances from Nick Drake’s family? At that, these songs were probably never good enough to be on full albums anyway. Most all of the songs are simple finger picking and slow vocals.

So that sounds pretty dull, and pretty disposable. But fortunately for the casual listener, this collection is simply essential and completely different on your stereo than on paper. For one thing, the low quality of these recordings only adds to the fragility and mystique of many of the songs. And the fact that they are home recordings brings some personal vitality to the songs, sometimes when Nick Drake speaks after the cuts or makes a tiny little mistake. The fact that these songs are not studio recordings only help them. Sometimes, the fuzz in the background sounds like soft rain, and the effect is amazing. Also, the brevity of most of the songs actually helps as well. All the more room for interesting melodic nuances. For collectors, this is not only an official release from the Nick Drake estate, but it also has a lions share (if not all, after all I’m no expert) of the rarities all in one place. But for casual fans, this is a completely lovely triumph in every way.

Stylistically, I’d have to mark these songs as more bluesy than usual. Which really is an area that was not explored before in Nick Drake’s released career. Some of these takes are extremely relaxing and simultaneously fun, like Cocaine Blues, If You Leave Me, and Black Mountain Blues. A good portion of the album is similarly relaxing blues, but there are other areas touched on. Songs like They’re Leaving Me Behind and Rain are simple and wonderful enough to have been on Pink Moon. But there are also some things that one might not consider real, solid material here. It seems as if the Nick Drake estate was trying to milk some of Nick Drake’s more obscure, some would say useless recordings. At first glance, little nuggets such as a poetry reciting called Time Piece (that features no music at all) and a tiny piano recording Paddling In The Rushes seem like they mean nothing at all. But the truth of it is, even this little “filler” songs are simply dropdead gorgeous. Nick Drake has kept up his romantic, emotional style even at home where he has nothing to prove.

Although it may seem like a blemish to include recordings from Nick Drake’s family, they do add to the experience at levels not understandable unless heard. All of these songs are lovely, regardless of who sings them, and the music speaks for itself. Poor Mum, the family recital of Kegelstatt Trio, and the duet of All My Trials are all wonderful. And the best is the ending… After a touching reprise of Come Into The Garden, a girl who I assume to be Nick’s sister wraps up the album with a mindbendingly fragile and wonderful rendition of the classic Try To Remember. It’s almost like staring into a photograph.

For any Nick Drake fan no matter the caliber, Family Tree is an asset. It plays beautifully and delivers some truly classic songs that stand alongside other of the mans great pieces. Twenty eight songs of pure, touching Drake music. Who could ask for more? Although I’d hardly call it a 2007 “album,” it is still one of the best releases of this year. I love reclining on my garage roof during the summer and listening to Nick Drake. These brilliant gems will keep me staring at the blue sky and the stars for a long, long time.

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Ten More Reviews

March 15, 2007

Cocteau Twins – Love’s Easy Tears

Love’s Easy Tears kind of ties Echoes In A Shallow Bay as the Cocteau Twins best EP. It’s killer, that much is obvious; both Orange Appled and Those Eyes, That Mouth are frequent picks for favorite songs by the band, and both are fantastic. Those Eyes, That Mouth is a hypnotic pop love wave, and it’s really hard to get better than that. But Orange Appled does it. The song is just about as good as Carolyn’s Fingers if not better. It has a killer hook and a quenching Guthrie solo alongside absolutely gorgeous vocals, as usual, from Liz Fraser. The title track is also very fun and simple, and Sigh’s Smell of Farewell is nice too, just not as good as the others. In short, this is vintage Cocteau Twins, and some of the best of it. Don’t waste any time; if you are a fan who wants to delve into the EPs, go for this first. First timers should pick it up if nothing else because the songs are fantastic, but it might be better to start with a full album like Treasure or Blue Bell Knoll.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Psychocandy

When The Jesus And Mary Chain first started out, they had an idea, and it was delicious. And usable too, and even better, it could appeal to a mass market. Fans of pop and catchy hooks could appreciate the melodicism, and punk rockers valued the noise and chaos in the sonic density. The idea was to ultimately slam innocent pop tunes into a wall of sonic guitar sheen and noise, and the result is somewhat reminiscent of the albums title. It is candy and very sweet candy, that much is true. But it is candy in the most perverse and guilty way possible. Just listen to any track on this album and you will hear the utterly ingenious pop flowing through different parts in ways that even The Beatles would be somewhat impressed with if the production was smoother. But it’s not. It’s both rough and smooth, ugly and beautiful. These tunes are constantly accompanied by a sonic wall of meaty feedback, guitar shine, and occasionally the addition of a disturbing but fun sound effect like a hushed scream of agony in the background or an unintentional burst of noise. And it just keeps coming. Every track on this album is priceless in some way, from the pretty surf rock ballad Some Candy Talking to the relaxed rock of Taste The Floor to the pretty Just Like Honey and even the garden variety punk of Never Understand. Each song has an almost sinisterly simple beat and a simple chord progression. Even skilled musicians will sit and think to themselves, “hey, I could have written this.” But then they will realize that they so couldn’t have. What’s really amazing about this is how none of the songs have choruses or verses…a melody or tune is never used for more than a half minute, after which a completely new and impressive hook is thrown the listeners way. It’s candy, delicious sweet candy, and only a skilled band could have made it. It would take a little while for The Jesus And Mary Chain to reach a wider market and truly gain respect, but this is the start of something beautiful and easily The Chain’s best album.

Led Zeppelin – Coda

This is really not as bad of an album as you have been told it is. If you would even consider it an album. We should really be thankful of Jimmy Paige and company for releasing this after our dear John Bonham died, although it was more of a contractual thing than an act of kindness, but in any case this wraps up just about everything the band had to release save a good live album which would take a few decades to surface. So this is a b-sides collection. It doesn’t do anything more or less, and considering only a select few album tracks by the band are ever bad, this isn’t a huge blemish on the bands discography. We’re Gonna Grove is a pretty immediate winner, and it goes back to the blues rock that the band started out with. Wearing And Tearing is actually also very good, an answer to the seventies punk movement. Beyond that, Bonzo’s Montreux is an interesting drum-fest and Poor Tom is among the best of the bands Led Zeppelin 3 material, and most likely the best on the album. Yeah, of the two sides, half the material is bad, but not disposable. For a band where every scrap is a treasure, this is really pretty good. But only for the hardcore Zep fan.

My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow Single

The Only Shallow single from My Bloody Valentine is actually a promo on vinyl that subscribers to certain French magazines acquired in a 1992 issue. The single contains three great songs, the first of which is Only Shallow, one of the better songs from Loveless. The song is truly single material, and it’s huge sound and wonderful melody are reasons enough to have made this single at all. But two b-sides are also included. Sugar is a MBV classic and one of the bands rarest songs. Instrumental B is also very good, and was released prior to this single on the Instrumentals promo a few years earlier, accompanying the Isn’t Anything release. A true rarity for hardcore MBV fans; it’s an antique, but it’s probably worth a ton and well worth the price if just to hear Sugar.

Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth

Back in 2005, Nine Inch Nails returned from a six year fallout with the fifth studio album and nineteenth Halo, With Teeth. I remember driving home from the record store and listening to this for the first time, and I was generally impressed. This album does get a lot of shit though, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Collectively I suppose it is kind of weak, but this easily delivers some of Reznor’s finest material since The Downward Spiral. The sound still echoes of The Fragile’s reconstructive cool production, but the album still stands alone with a good amount of success. It’s a compelling enough listen to make fans happy, and the songs are very good. Many songs are characterized by heavy riffing, especially the grooving The Collector and a popular live/club pick, The Hand That Feeds. But most of the songs are very individual, especially Only, Every Day Is Exactly The Same (a personal favorite and subject of it’s own remix EP), and Beside You In Time. The disk ends on Right Where It Belongs, a very Hurt-esque ballad that deserves some respect. The problems are minimal, and this is about as consistent as The Fragile, simply one disk less. If this is the future of Nine Inch Nails, I’m happy. Without a doubt this is the worst album NIN has produced thus far, but considering this album is very good, I think that says a lot for how much talent Reznor actually has. A good one, hardly disposable like most people will tell you.

Singles Soundtrack

Singles really wasn’t that great for a date flick, but it had a pretty good soundtrack and at least captured the look and part of the feel of the 1990s Seattle grunge scene. In retrospect, this soundtrack is probably less disposable than the movie itself. The soundtrack is mostly comprised of various rarities from some of Seattle’s most popular rock acts, save the conspicuous absence of any Nirvana. And there were some songs from the movie that didn’t make it here, namely Alice in Chains’ It Ain’t Like That and Soundgarden’s Spoonman. But hell, you probably already had those songs if you were ever interested in this disk in the first place. For that reason, the inclusion of Would? and I Nearly Lost You is probably unnecessary to the grunge fan, but both songs are fantastic in any case. Other highlights include some contributions from former Replacement John Westerberg, some really good Pearl Jam rarities, Soundgarden’s Birth Ritual (one of Chris Cornells best vocal performances), and a great Mother Love Bone take. It’s more of an odds and ends collection, but that is actually good, and you would stand well to pick this up if you like grunge or 90s alt rock.

But come on, theres no version of the movies original novelty “Touch Me I’m Dick.” That would have been a hilarious inclusion.

Malory – Not Here, Not Now

A decent shoegaze album, Not Here Not Now delivers the dreamy goods in as good of a way as it can. The problem is probably a lack of originality, because the band rips on Slowdive pretty relentlessly. This can only be complained about so much considering Slowdive are one of the worthiest bands to rip on in the genre, but the sampling only makes Not Here, Not Now more easy to call an attempted Souvlaki clone. If anything, the acquisition of this album would be justified enough by the opening Falling, an absolutely gorgeous dreamy instrumental that is nothing like anything else on the record. But the rest of the album doesn’t exactly continue with this same style and very obviously draws influence from Slowdive in just about every way. But in the same way Kevin Shields would probably be proud of some of Pia Fraus’ escapades, Neil Halstead probably wouldn’t have too much of a problem with someone drawing heavily from his style if it is done this tastefully. Dany, Sunday Nights, and Spring are all gorgeous songs, but once again, you can’t help but feel like you are being lied to. Everything down to the male/female vocals, soft beats, and emotional guitars, this practically IS Slowdive, the only difference being the bands serious problems with concluding their songs which Slowdive can conversely do very well; the most pretty of these songs just seem to drone with no conclusion when they were clearly within sight. It’s good, but uninspired and unfortunately completely disposable.

My Bloody Valentine – Olympia, Paris

While every My Bloody Valentine bootleg can be considered a treasure, this may well be the bands worst available bootleg that I have heard, and extremely overrated. The band is simply not in fantastic playing condition at this show, for one thing. But the real killer is the fact that the recording quality is atrocious. This bootleg is really almost unlistenable, but it does win in one respect on one song. The version of To Here Knows When here is good if you crank it up to ludicrous volumes and appreciate it for what one of MBVs greatest charms is, a wall of beautiful sound. However, this is really the only time that this bootleg is worth anything.

Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports

The ambient breakthrough of Brian Eno, Music For Airports was the blooming result of years of ideas and contemplation. Eno first honed his pop skills with the utmost reliability, and then took a turn for the experimental. The new idea was mood music, relaxing pieces that could be used in films or to make someone feel a certain way with just instruments. The new direction was explored with great success on Another Green World, again employed on Music For Films, and completely fleshed out into an ambient masterpiece with Music For Airports. The idea was simple, and utterly ingenious. Eno had been in an airport and had a bad experience witht he music playing, and decided to make a record of music built specifically for being played for the enjoyment of a wide array of people in public places. The soul of the music is relaxation and sheer beauty, but when the music is analyzed as closely as Eno explains it, it only makes more and more sense. The music had to be long so that it wasn’t changing too much on the listener, easily interrupted by P.A. systems, higher or lower than voice frequency so to not be a nuisance, and ever changing to keep the listeners interest. And beyond that, the music also had to be non intrusive a nd passive in the background of a situation, and also accessible to a wealth of people. While this is not the first album to employ modern ambient sounds, it is surely one of Eno’s most influential and enjoyable ambient works.

Nick Drake – Pink Moon

Considering the direction that it’s predecessor Bryter Layter took, Nick Drake’s last album is at first seemingly a step backward. The complexities of Nick Drake’s other work has been conspicuously stripped down to it’s core, a brutally honest album consisting of little more than Drake’s voice and a skillfully played acoustic guitar. And even more touching is how sudden and momentous it feels. And yet Pink Moon doesn’t play like anything close to a suicide note or a final farewell so much as a deeply personal and trusting letter from a friend. Aftergiving this gem enough time to unfold, every song can reveal a subtle relaxing beauty. The title track is fantastic if not a little misleading, projecting the definitive late night chill image. But as the album goes on, the music stays revealing and yet surprisingly simple. Only someone such as Nick Drake could possibly say so much with only a few chord strums like he does on Horn or discuss mixed feelings like on Parasite. In many ways, this is as close to Nick Drake as you will ever get, and as moving of an album as it is relaxing. Truly a classic album, taking the best of the folk genre and it’s most important aspects and bringing nothing more than poetry and personal taste.

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Shuffle Time (the snow is shining)

February 19, 2007

I guess I’ll do another shuffle, as I really have nothing better to do at the moment (four day weekend!).

Gorillaz – M1A1

One of the more punky songs on Gorillaz 1. I’ve always been a huge fan of this album, it’s really an album from my childhood. I was in eighth grade or so when I got this album and I got really excited about it, so I listened to it constantly, and I realize now that I liked it so mich for a good reason. It’s a friggin awesome album. It shifts so wildly and spontaneously with so much skill, and it never bores you. M1A1 is an ass kicker, like Punk I suppose, but it take a while to get to it’s point because it has this creepy little atmosphere thing going on at the beginning. In it’s own little strange way, Gorillaz is a masterpiece, and even though some of the songs might be confusing or strange, the album only has one or two weak songs. This is not one of them.

Nick Drake – Hazey Jane 1

My favorite Nick Drake album has always been Pink Moon by a longshot, and Bryter Layter has always been my least favorite. I guess the production always just felt very lacking. The strings are pushed to the back and have this very repetetive almost sleazy feeling to them. Bryter Layter is a good album, no question, but it shows it’s age after a while when Five Leaves Left and Pink Moon still sound great today. I think it’s on At The Chime of a City Clock where there is this long elegant saxaphone solo that just annoys the shit out of me. It just screams seventies, and not the seventies I like either. If they haden’t put the sax so low in the mix it would have been fine too. It’s got that echo on it that just doesn’t sit well with me. This is a good song though. It is more reminiscent of Five Leaves Left. I just really wish that Nick Drake hadn’t subdued himself so much in his music. He broke free and did what he really wanted to do on Pink Moon and that is why it’s such a touching record, but Bryter Layter just doesn’t have what it takes to carry on.

Rammstein – Mein Herz Brennt

This is a choice Rammstein song that makes use of great strings and some crunching guitars, yadadadadada. I’ve gotta tell you guys this story… I was down in Chicago one day around Christmas and a friend and I were sort of going record store hopping. We stopped at this small place called Rock Records because it looked like it would have the more obscure stuff we wanted. It didn’t have anything we wanted, and what few things appealed to us were way too expensive. So we sucked it up and walked into Virgin, and they had everything. It was ridiculous… I was specifically looking for some Mudhoney and Screaming Trees and they had pretty much everything by both bands, not to mention everything I would have ever wanted by Meat Puppets and everything else that was on my wishlist. I was fucking impressed. It’s my new favorite record store, I think. One of my friends is a huge Rammstein freak and he saw a Rammstein box set that came out last year I believe to accompany their tour on a shelf, that I believe contains a cd and a dvd. It’s called Volkerball, and it’s a rare import that usually runs for fifty bucks, sometimes even more. He found it on the shelf for thirty five bucks. I was about to smack him on the backside of the head for considering it because I wasn’t sure of it’s real value, but in any case he took it up to the counter and they had some trouble with it because it’s a rare import and shit… He ended up getting it for five dollars. I nearly crapped my pants. Depending on how you look at it, that’s a huge value. Easily the best deal on music I’ve ever seen. The cashiers looked so weirded out. He doesn’t have a region free DVD player which is I guess the only problem, but he still loves it and it is a choice live album. I’ve heard most all of it and it’s great, very crisp heavy sound quality.

Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight

Goddam, I just keep getting songs with strings today. Another great use of an orchestra. For the most part, the strings are out in front in this song and the guitars are more subdued, making the feeling very momentous and special. It’s really a song that you have to crank the volume to get the best out of, but it is classic Pumpkins for sure. It is probably the most pretty thing they ever wrote that made it to the radio, and this is one of the openers to the bands sprawling double disk Mellon Collie for a reason. The lyrics are pretty wonderful too “The indescribeable moments of your life (tonight, tonight)/The impossible is possible (tonight, tonight).” It’s just great. The ending is a nice explosion of energy and the song ends on the subtle note that it started out on.

Pia Fraus – No Need For Sanity

For as much as Pia Fraus rips on a lot of other shoegaze bands, In Solarium is still a great album. For sure this is one of it’s more individual and unique songs. It goes at a very slow pace. The bassline is cool and the guitars mimic Lush and MV at times but it is a nice song noetheless. One problem it does have is that it has problems really going anywhere. The long guitar solo instrumental parts are very nice though and give the rest of the song a lot of meaning. It’s probably what you would want to hear if you were on a beautiful tropical beach and you wanted it to snow just for five minutes.

Led Zeppelin – Friends

One of Zeps more underrated songs, and it’s on my favorite Zep album too. It starts off with a fairly simple guitar strum, but the indian influences come in full force very quickly a solo guitar playing very distinct little ditties and then the addition of (holy shit) some very soaring strings and Robert Plants voice when it was in it’s prime. I’ve learned something about eastern scales lately; most indian music uses it’s own modified scales for ragas and such, but a lot of times indian music is variation on the harmonic minor scale, and the varient is specifically the minor second. You may say, but Alex, isn’t the minor second the same as the major second? Actually, no. A minor second is just a chromatic, or a half step. It’s not the way it works in the normal minor scale but it is still called a minor seond for some reason. So you get that really rich indian sound by digging that second a half step lower so it’s just next to the first, specifically on the descending scale and not so much on the ascending. You can hear it here pretty distinctly as it really gives shape to the indian sound.

The Barenaked Ladies – Alcohol


Eh. There is a fine line between sleazy 90s rock and simply apathetic 90s rock. It’s not that great. When it goes off into the annoying little anthem at 1:45 it’s practically asking me to skip the rest of the song. You could do better for drinking songs. Mostly those should be more testosterome fueled than this, which ends up being pretty repetetive and boring. Whatever.

Elvis Presley – A Little Less Conversation (Radio Edit)


There is no reason this wasn’t featured on the Oceans 11 soundtrack. Period. It was released on an Elvis greatest hits compilation at almost the exact same time, and it’s a great remix. The movie instead settled for the original version. Stupid stupid stupid. I can just picture Andy Garcia flipping a shit at his realization of the heist at one of the songs great chorus transitions. It has a great bassline and the mood is well improved over the original while not sacrificing any of the Kings charm. It’s got trend and some great horns and energy highs. If you were ever to crank an Elvis song, this would be it. Yes, it may be a radio edit but even the original is extremely cool. I got no problems with the king and this is a great song no matter how it’s sliced.

Radiohead – Paranoid Android


Some people call this the modern day Bohemian Rhapsody, but that’s actually an insult. To Radiohead, I mean. Queen never meant much of anything, and I could never take them seriously. This is one of OKCs more serious songs and it is very rhythmic and reminiscent of everyday modern life, which is very much what this album is all about. Not a lot can be said about this album that hasn’t been said before, but I do still discover new things about this album every so often. As a friend pointed out to me, there is some nice foreshadowing in the song with the Apple robot sounds in the background forecasting what is to come on the great filler Fitter Happier. What is really strange about this song is that it sort of comes in distinct movements, the one at 3:32 being the most developing and poignant. When the vocals start to triple up the effect is hauntingly beautiful. I have some great memories of listening to this album a few years ago. I know it’s nerdy, but I associate a lot of music with video games, and OKC is totally perfect for Final Fantasy VIII. The huge open plains for Airbag, the nighttime city for Exit Music, and the wonderful technological Garden for Let Down. It’s a choice song from a perfect album.

Xymox – Spiritual High


One of the two good songs off of Headclouds, the other being A Single Day. The fact of the matter is that most people would buy headclouds just for the club hit A Single Day which is very good, but the rest of the album isn’t that great. I guess I haven’t given this band enough attension, as they are a pretty big deal in the electronica genre. They usually go under the name “The Clan of Xymox,” so I guess the career of “Xymox” is pretty mediocre while The Clan has had some pretty monumental albums since ’85 up until today. They aren’t small time, that’s for sure. But they aren’t exactly my favorite of their genre but I sure as hell won’t turn them off if they squeeze into any of my industrial/electronica/club loving friends mix CDs. Club hits, not too much more.

I guess that was ten. That’s all for now.