Protozoan Album Addiction

I woke up this morning inspired to whittle something from the typically bloated piece of wood that many recent days have come to resemble.  I spurned the tentacles of Facebook from my sleepy eyes and threw on some athletic shorts and old, broken running shoes.  It seems that even in The Valley, which has proven itself time and repeated time to be simply the most Concrete locale imaginable, nature has maintained a presence.  What an astounding presence, at that: rolling hills of kelly green, lush and vibrant chaparral in neon mustard yellow and jet-marble sprig and pastel lavender, the smell of spinach and sage, the twinkle and rumble of the day’s hidden wildlife.  It certainly is lovely to find yourself bathed luxuriously in a sort of Everything that had been tucked hidden and unknown in your back pocket for the better part of twenty years; taking a jog through the thicket and splendor, all but alone and completely at peace, is the equivalent of your soul dipping into a bucket of frosty, existential water for the most quenching and profound of gulps.  Thank you, Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy.

After that, and the requisite literal gulp of water and subsequent doccia, I opted to head off to Amoeba Records to cash in on the certificate my dear friends had gifted me for my post-natal commemoration.  This was my first visit since September 2008, and, outside of a quick purchase of a (great) Ute Lemper album from CD Trader a few months ago, my first real domestic record store experience in quite some time.  Considering this, I shall again offer my profoundest thanks for such a thoughtful and appreciated gift.  After about three hours jumping around with a full heart and a spinning mind, I escaped considerably unscathed, spending almost exactly the quantity of the gift, an accomplishment I consider to be quite the success.  The bounty is as follows:

The Roaring Twenties – An out of print two-disc compilation of the bright and full sound of that era, it was purchased for its inclusion of Cliff Edwards’ “I’ll See You In My Dreams”, as well as the presence of Whispering Jack Smith, Gene Austin, and Paul Whiteman & Orchestra.  At first listen, it seems like “The Okeh Laughing Record”, which was, according to the liner notes, a huge hit in 1922, is the real find thus far.  It’s a marvelously strange track of a German couple laughing hysterically for two minutes and fifty seconds as an uncredited woodwind sings droopily, almost narcotically, in the background.  I’m excited to get into the second disc which, with the advent of electric recording in the latter part of the decade, should offer more complex harmonies and better fidelity (and The Whispering Baritone, no less!).  $15.99.

Rachel Goodrich’s ‘Tinker Toys’ – I heard of Goodrich while dutifully researching the genre of Whimsical in music, if such can be considered a genre (if so, give me all).  She was listed on, I believe, as a follower in spirit of Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, or some similar connection, and is, according to my following look and listen, a young and strangely attractive (in a ironic fluorescent Ray-Ban sort of way) female and busker from Miami.  This was my first listen on the ride home as I’m excited to find a musician that both doesn’t take herself too seriously — the album is littered with kazoo — and has a solid grasp of melody, a real depth to her songwriting.  At first listen, she seems to have all of these qualities, and goes so far as to sing a song about drinking “ukulele water”, all of which has her on the shortlist for a potential awkward and swooning-but-wholly-reserved relationship with your author.  $2.99.

Via Tania’s ‘Moon Sweet Moon’– I guess I first heard of her through that marvelous ‘Shoot the Player’ website, and am always on the lookout for attractive and expressive female musicians from Oceania.  This Australian’s music video for “Wonder Stranger” I had uploaded on my computer while in Thailand, and, since I had the worst sort of dial-up access, I kept that window open for a good two weeks, allowing me to indulge in its considerable beauty, both visually and sonically, and I might say that I owe it a bit of my creative sanity, for it inspired me more than once in an otherwise stifling artistic climate.  The album, meanwhile, seems a bit too flat and restrained, all whispery and monochromatic, for my tastes.  I won’t hasten, but am tempted to, immediately classify her in my mind with Sarah Blasko (which isn’t necessarily a black mark), but nevertheless I highly recommend watching the aforementioned video.  I showed it to my lovely couchsurfing host while in Napier, New Zealand, for it reminded me of her warm, book-laden gingerbread house, and she seemed to like it: perhaps you will, too.  $1.99.

Bachelorette’s ‘My Electric Family’ – Another antipodean female muso (musa?) whose remarkable album art has enticed me for sometime.  All I can say is her music isn’t quite as intimidating as I had expected it; it has hints of disco and drum machine, but the layered harmonies are nice so far, and it is not as electric as I had feared.  $2.99.

Clare and The Reason’s ‘Arrow’ – Female once again, I’ve been after this one for a while (though ‘Arrow’ was released rather recently, her previous album, ‘The Movie’, had appealed to my obvious love of retro-whimsy and extreme harmony for some time.  I have only listened to a few tracks from the more recent album but have enjoyed their good cheer and musical prowess.  She’s talented and her music feels good in you, like the warm water that trickles down your stomach when you take off a wetsuit in the sun.  Oh, she’s also Geoff and Maria Muldaur’s daughter, and that’s cool with me because Geoff is amazing, as Maria may very well be, and because both seem like true experts in preserving obscure/aged folk and blues.  And Clare came from their collective gonads, so.  $1.99.

Vic Chesnutt’s ‘The Salesman and Bernadette’ – I like the latter name, both for The Four Tops and for B. Peters, but mostly I was intrigued by Chesnutt after buying the Spanish copy of a Beach Boys tribute album at the “world’s oldest record store” (Spiller’s, in Wales) while on a road trip with my roommates from Italy.  He’s on there singing “You Still Believe In Me” with a eerie and completely baffling vocoder.  It’s really wonderful, and so is the opening of this album.  His voice sort of quavers and shakes, and it’s backed by a competent and interesting backing band in Lambchop.  I guess Chesnutt died, oddly enough, in December 2009 — I thought he had died a less recently, but reading about him is sad, as I didn’t know he was a quadriplegic at one time (is this true?) — and I don’t want to let any of this influence my thoughts of the music itself.  So far, it sounds old and new or timeless, and I expect to take a bit of time easing into this ol’ creaky rocking chair.  $2.99.

The Puppini Sisters’ ‘The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo’ – Two Christmases ago, I was staying with some dear friends, a British/Quebecois couple, in their home in Phetchaburi (?  How is it I’ve already forgotten the name of the city?), Thailand.  Our British friend, David, is an accomplished chef, and I spent the day helping him cook as his dear, sick partner, Mylene, spun the music.  She put on a CD that I really enjoyed for its — again! — wonderful retro harmonies, diverse instrumentation and whimsy, and since then I’ve been trying to figure out the album.  I know that this wasn’t it, but thought for a minute that it was at least by The Puppini Sisters (I’m probably wrong).  Nevertheless, they play the “1940s cinematic darlings” card well, and I’d file them between Leftover Cuties and The Ditty Bops on the scale of bland (if this type of music could ever be called “bland”) and irritating, not to say that those two bands are either (though I would sort of call the Ditty Bops annoying at times, okay, fine).  The Puppini Sisters cover “Spooky” as well as a few others, and do so in their style, but I think the covers come off as contrived — I guess the whole album is, but that’s the intent — and not as ironic or interesting as they were meant to be.  I don’t mean to sound like a Pitchfork reviewer, and anyway it’s my own fault for buying so many similar-sounding records, but it was how I felt.  $1.99.

Adam Green’s ‘Minor Love’ – I don’t like how smarmy The Moldy Peaches come off at times, and I guess that trait is how this guy has gotten by thus far, but I did hear some stuff I loved from his last album (I think it’s called Sixes & Sevens?), and a few in-studio tracks sounded great.  He’s come to have this surprisingly powerful baritone  (Lou Reed-ish?) that I really like, and so far I hear it on this album and so far so good.  He has great taste and these albums seem to shift around stylistically, while his lyrics are very amusing (as was that appearance he had on that German talk show, when he drunkenly sits on the host’s laugh, then throws a glass bottle at the audience.  Awesome!).  Also, this is an advance copy and the disc, which I guess is CD-R, is almost completely transparent, which is weird.  $1.99.

Jennifer Gentle’s ‘The Midnight Room’ – I just like to see that some Italian musicians are doing something contemporary, though they seem to be treading on the American power pop thing…I hate that foreign musicians feel the pressure or need to sing in English, though I can’t say whether or not that’s what they’re doing or if that’s their reasoning, as I haven’t yet listened to the album.  I used to see this everywhere in Amoeba a couple years ago, and now it’s on clearance, so why the hell not.  Il mio cuore e’ pieno di un tipo di sangue italiano, o almeno sangue che ha un naso per le cose italiane. If you don’t understand that and are curious to its meaning, no, it makes no sense.  $1.99.

Pink Martini’s ‘Splendor In The Grass’ – Again with that retro melodic sound!  I was pretty consistent with my purchases on this trip, where though I hoped to stock up on summery, loud, fun stuff (I almost bought a Mint Chicks album, but got too scared), my taste of late has been all of the above, I suspect.  Pink Martini is talented and fun, sort of like Nouvelle Vague with less novelty and more talent?  Camille would kick my ass if she read that (now I’m making snooty, obscure references to musicians as if I know them personally…ugh, stop me, please).  I like the album art and the band and the title (it’s a seemingly great Australian music festival I was unable to attend).  Haven’t listened to it yet, nevertheless.  $4.99 (I wanted to buy Tom Waits’ ‘Blood Money’ instead, but it was $6.99…I should shove those two dollars up my ass, and wish I had that album, now.).

Floating Action’s ‘Floating Action’ – To be honest, I bought this because I thought it was a Park The Van promotional compilation.  Park The Van is known to me as Dr. Dog’s record label, and the only way they could endear me more at this moment is if they had originally signed Guillemots, too, because I’m fucking GORGING on Dr. Dog (I also bought ‘We All Belong’ with an iTunes gift certificate last night and it’s great).  Anyway, this album cover is generic and has “Park The Van” written in huge, orange letters at the top, so my mistake is forgivable, but I think of it as a nice gamble, and am glad to have a dark horse candidate in the pile, as those tend to prove well.  I almost bought an album by The Electric Confectionaires instead, based on my continuing love of Kiwi music, but anyway it doesn’t matter.  So far this album is, like that Kiwi band, a bit Marshall stack soulful, and the frontman’s voice sounds like that of the snarling singer from Dr. Dog, though obviously not as world-melting.  $1.99.

I was meant to meet old pals Alicia and Peyton for supper at 6:30, but failed to have my watch — which I brought to ensure my punctuality — updated for the time change.  I only write this in the event that they read it, thereby securing the credibility of my excuse.  A lovely dinner, nevertheless.

I could include all other details of the day, but I think I’ll spare you (as I’ve OBVIOUSLY spared you so much in the above…).

Praising the Amoeba in Hollywood, cursing the prokaryote  currently embedded in my small intestine,



~ by nearhelsinki on March 21, 2010.

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