Monday, February 28, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #10: Jacques Brel- Olympia 64 (1964)/ Ces Gens-Là (1966) MP3 & FLAC

"Et ils tournent et ils dansent, Comme des soleils crachés, Dans le son déchiré, D’un accordéon rance."

Still little-known to the English-speaking world, Jacques Brel's cabaret-style character portraits and his intense, emotional vocal delivery have had an incalculable influence on ground-breaking artists such as Scott Walker, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and Nick Cave. One of the most distinctive aspects of Brel's work is his penchant for writing songs that lovingly, bitterly, and often satirically bump shoulders with the outcasts and "losers" of this world, whom we tend to push outside our field of vision in the false belief that we are somehow different. While Brel may poke fun at his characters, singing of their impotent resentments and sodden escapades, he never looks down on them. This, coupled with his singular voice (which he is said to have worked on tirelessly), established Brel as one of the most original singer-songwriters of the post-WWII period. Scott Walker has said that it was his discovery of Brel's work that inspired his early solo career, and clearly Walker's existential tales of despair owe a huge debt of gratitude to Brel. The crowning achievement of Brel's recorded oeuvre are his two "Olympia" concerts, the second of which, Olympia 64, begins with the first and only officially released version of "Amsterdam." This is brilliant and essential stuff that is quite unlike anything else you've heard, and it has long deserved a larger English-speaking audience.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Cult- Electric (1987) MP3 & FLAC

"Livin' in a shack in a one-horse town; trying to get to heaven 'fore the sun goin' down."

Electric was produced by Rick Rubin, who, at the time, had Slayer and The Beastie Boys as his main production credits. For their part, The Cult were making a second run at a follow-up to the seminal  Love, the previous "Manor" sessions with Steve Brown at the helm having disintegrated into a tug-of-war between Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury for creative control (a tension that would come to define the band for the remainder of its original run). While Astbury wanted to further explore the layered Goth-meets-Psychedelia that made the previous album so distinctive, Duffy wanted to pull The Cult's sound in a more straightforward hard-rock direction. With Rubin on board for the Electric sessions, the latter won out. While Electric bears little resemblance to its predecessor, it is, nevertheless, one of the finest hard-rock records of the decade.  Gone are the Led Zeppelin and Doors allusions, ably replaced by some well-chosen quotes from the back-catalogs of The Rolling Stones and ACDC. Unfortunately, the stylistic shift marked by Electric was only the first in a series of such shifts, a tendency that would eventually reduce The Cult to an afterthought by the mid-nineties.

Jacques Brel- "Tango Funèbre" (1964) Live at the Huis Met De Pilaren

What's cooler than Scott Walker? Check this out. Fucking brilliant!

Moon Requests Tab

Hello everyone,

Just writing to let you know that the "Moon Requests" tab beneath the header is now up and going. Before submitting a request, please read through the instructions carefully. Also, many many thanks to all of the faithful readers of La luna que mata; you are the ongoing inspiration for all of this. For those of you who have just been lurking about in the shadows, please hit the 'follow' button and become part of this amazing community of those who like their music mixed with a bit of darkness.  Much love to you all!                         ~curator of moonlight

Siouxsie and the Banshees- The Scream (1978) Deluxe Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC -For David-

"Got to give up life in this netherworld. Gonna go up where the air is stale."

Having already gained notoriety (and in certain respects, infamy) through their  early BBC sessions with tireless benefactor John Peel and with a hit single ("Hong Kong Garden"), Siouxsie and the Banshees didn't disappoint on their debut, The Scream, which, first and foremost, stands as one of the truly great albums of the British Punk movement of the late-seventies. Those more familiar with the band's later work will be shocked by the abrasive aggression on display here, but the straight ahead production (by Steve Lillywhite no less) does provide the songs plenty of room to breathe. And then, of course, there's Siouxsie, who is in fine voice throughout the album, wailing, shrieking, hiccupping, and generally creating the Goth-vocal template that went on to spawn a thousand imitators and continues to be an influence on contemporary artists such as Bat for Lashes and Zola Jesus. While its penchant for privileging dissonance over melody may conjure the ghost of The Velvet Underground a bit too frequently, The Scream is, nevertheless, essential, as it captures Siouxsie in purest form: hungry and unadorned.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Cult- Love (1985) Omnibus Edition (4 Discs) MP3 & FLAC -For Jo Jo-

"The sparkle in your eyes keeps me alive."

While The Cult's penchant for changing styles as frequently as they released albums eventually transformed what was once a great rock band into a awkward caricature of itself (see Ceremony), in their mid-eighties heyday, they were a force to be reckoned with. Nowhere is this more evident than on their second album, Love, which combines the Gothic overtones and tribal rhythms of their early work as The Southern Death Cult, the hard rock histrionics of vintage Led Zeppelin, and some psychedelic jangle, all of which adds up to something far more distinctive and memorable than what so-called heavy metal bands were producing at the time. As for the recording itself, it is an interesting admixture of bright guitar-driven sheen and heavy 4AD-style gloom, providing Ian Astbury with a perfect backdrop for his Robert Plant-by-way-of-Jim Morrison vocals. In especially fine form is lead guitarist Billy Duffy, whose glittering, melodic guitar riffs pull the album together as a whole, but on songs such as "She Sells Sanctuary" and the title track, his contributions push the proceedings to an entirely different level. Love catches The Cult at a midway point between their Goth and ACDC fixations; as such, it stands as their shining moment, and what a moment it is.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Swans- Love Will Tear Us Apart EP (1988) MP3 & FLAC

"You cry out in your sleep, all my failings exposed, and there's a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold."

Attempting to cover songs as intensely personal as Ian Curtis' Joy Division swansong, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is a risky business, and though Michael Gira more or less disowned this release some years back, it has considerable charms that make it worth seeking out. While Gira does as well as can be expected with the title track (two versions no less), the real gem here is "Our Love Lies," on which Gira, flush with a gospel-style chorus of over-dubbed Jarboes, sounds like an even more wrecked and messianic version of Mark Lanegan. Unfortunately, the CD version of this release did not include the "Black Version" of "Love Will Tear Us Apart," which featured Jarboe on lead vocal. This version is generally thought to be even better than Gira's "Red Version."

Joy Division- "Transmission" Video (1979) Live, John Peel Show

The Holy Grail of Post-Punk.

Julianna Barwick- The Magic Place (2011) MP3 & FLAC

Reminiscent of the wordless vocal peregrinations characterizing Elizabeth Fraser's much-heralded work with The Cocteau Twins, Julianna Barwick's first long-player, The Magic Place, is a startlingly beautiful recording that sounds both epic in its aspirations and humble in its approach. Comprised primarily of Barwick's voice overdubbed to infinity and looped to create something approximating Gregorian chant, The Magic Place is full of hidden aural nooks and crannies that flicker forth on repeated listens. While many reviewers are using terms such as "nostalgic" and "soothing" to describe this album, it nevertheless possesses a disquieting undercurrent that borders on creepiness in places; this adds an emotional weight to these otherwise quite ethereal compositions, resulting in a choral-ambient hybrid that steadfastly refuses to unfold quietly in the background.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #9: Scott Walker- Scott 3 (1969) MP3 & FLAC

"She fills the bags 'neath her eyes with the moonbeams and cries 'cause the world's passed her by."

Comprised entirely of original material and a few Brel covers, Scott 3 was a significant step away from the expectations of the mainstream audience Scott Walker had found through his work with The Walker Brothers, and though the album did still manage to garner him a final brush with commercial success, it clearly signaled the more mercurial creative path he would travel for the next 40 years. For many, Scott 3 stands as a flawed masterpiece due to Wally Stott's occasionally saccharin arrangements, which seem, at times, utterly at odds with the brooding existential impressionism of Walker's lyrics, and while there are moments when the arrangements do distract from Walker's performance, overall, they tend to lend the album a sense of irony that serves it well. And then, of course, there is "30th Century Man," a brief, ultra-cool acoustic guitar ditty that leaves one fantasizing about what an entire album of such material from Walker might have sounded like. We can only dream.

The Smiths- S/T (1984) MP3 & FLAC -For Jo Jo-

"It's time the tale were told of how you took a child and you made him old."

Simply put, The Smiths were the most important band of the eighties, and there is no better place to find out why than their eponymous debut, a raw and intensely beautiful album that brilliantly combines highly melodic guitar-pop with many of the hallmarks of the Post-Punk movement. The Smiths had initially recorded many of these tracks with Troy Tate (former guitarist for The Teardrop Explodes) in the production seat, but were convinced by John Porter, who had production credits with Japan and Roxy Music, that the sessions were unsalvageable. Under the auspices of Porter, The Smiths proceeded to record a stunner that would signal a sea change on the British music scene. The Smiths is nothing if not doggedly unconventional, and I can remember hearing "What Difference Does It Make?" for the first time back in 1984, thinking how strange Morrissey's disaffected vocals and Johnny Marr's charging guitar sounded in amongst all the synth-pop pablum dominating alt-rock radio in those days. From Marr's inventive song-structures to Morrissey's distinctive croon to the strangely literate lyrics to the band's unblinking willingness to explore the darkest recesses of alienation, The Smiths were simultaneously the crowning achievement of British Post-Punk and the harbinger of its demise. An absolute classic.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Czars- The La Brea Tarpits of Routine (1997) MP3 -For Douxee-

"I'll go back to find what I lost. I still see you, but the eyes are darker now."

Hampered in places by the over-zealous production of 16 Horsepower's Bob Ferbrache, and more or less disowned by the band in the years following its release, The La Brea Tarpits of Routine, The Czars' first studio release, is best described as a stunningly beautiful, but deeply flawed piece of work. The flaws stem from John Grant's often unfocused lyrics (though his achingly dark vocals do a great job of hiding this) and the production, which robs The Czars' sound of its trademark tension by sounding overly polished and fussed over. Nevertheless, this is an album deserving of a reappraisal, although given its scarcity (it was self-released and has never been re-issued), this is unlikely anytime soon. Tracks such as "O" and "The Eyes Are Darker Now" sound almost like a heavier version of Tarnation fronted by a male version of Paula Frazer. If you are partial to The Czars later work, there will be much to love on this rarity.

The Czars- Before...But Longer (2000) MP3 & FLAC -For Douxee-

"I'd like to get in your skin, to see what I could see from there."

Technically speaking, Before...But Longer was The Czars third album, having self-released two earlier albums that gained some attention in France but generally kept The Czars flailing in obscurity in the States. "Discovered" by two former Cocteau Twins, Simon Raymonde & Robin Guthrie, and subsequently signed to their fledgling label, The Czars perfected their singular sound and produced the kind of dark, haunting album their earlier work only hinted at. This is evident from the first track on  Before...But Longer, "Val," which opens with a laconic bass soloing the song's melody until John Grant's mournfully enveloping falsetto steps forth to draw the song upwards, all the while backed by the stunning voice of Paula Frazer. "Get Used to It" has a catchy country-folk feel that belies the song's depressive lyrics, and is easily one of The Czars finest moments. This is the album on which The Czars came into their own, and while they hit some greater heights on their next album, The Ugly People vs. the Beautiful People, Before...But Longer is arguably their masterpiece.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #8: Scott Walker- And Who Shall Go to the Ball? And What Shall Go to the Ball? (2007) MP3 & FLAC

Ever wondered what a Modernist ballet score composed by Scott Walker might sound like? And Who Shall Go to the Ball? And What Shall Go to the Ball?  was commissioned by London's South Bank Center in the hope of receiving a contemporary dance score, but could they have been prepared for the oblique descent into space-obliterating industrial hums and stark, atonal minimalism that Walker serves up here?  For those brave enough to have plumbed the unfathomable depths of Walker's recent (relatively speaking) Avant-garde work, this will sound like a even more "shaved down" (Walker's words) exercise in deconstructing listener expectations. For the rest, it could be rough-going, but then again, this could be said, to some extent, about all of Walker's best work since  Scott 3. Ultimately, there's just something deliciously ironic about a sparse atonal instrumental piece being penned by the owner of the most impossibly beautiful baritone imaginable.

Juli@n Cop3- Be@utiful Lov3 EP (1991) MP3 & FLAC

"Caught by the knob by the sickening mob, laid on a raft left for dead."

Many of Julian Cope's best songs can be found on his EPs, and there is no better example of this than "Port of Saints" from his Peggy Suicide-era EP Beautiful Love. Here Cope mixes up a brew of Brel, Scott Walker and psychedelia to create his own refracted approximation of  "Port of Amsterdam," and then somehow leaves this diamond off the album. If that isn't enough, the song, to the best of my knowledge, has never been anthologized, so this EP is the only place to find it.

Juli@n Cop3- W0rld Shut Y0ur M0uth (1984) MP3 & FLAC

"Oh, my stars that fall like ashen memories amidst the trees, then burst like leper sunsets on the shore."

With World Shut Your Mouth, Julian Cope set in motion a long and circuitous solo career that would produce more masterpieces than most of his peers, while somehow never earning him anything more than a cult following. Cope is, indeed, a quirky songwriter, but he also happens to be an extremely talented one who is graced with one of the most distinctive voices to come out of the Post-Punk era. On his debut, he introduces the psychedelia-laced pop that he would continue to refine throughout the eighties and early nineties, and does so to brilliant effect. The opener, "Bandy's First Jump," is a perfect example of Cope's unique ability to marry obscure/strange lyrics to tight pop perfection, and on the classic "Elegant Chaos," Cope sounds something like an acid-drenched Billy Bragg singing an ode to existential resignation. World Shut Your Mouth  is truly a forgotten gem, but then again, one could say the same thing about any number of Cope's albums.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Breathless- Three Times and Waving (1987) MP3 & FLAC -For Douxee's Girlfriend-

"As a matter of course you rush through your lifetime, turning a blind-eye to world-weary crossfire."

As was the case with Breathless' debut album The Glass Bead Game, their follow-up, Three Times and Waving, is a lush, darkly romantic piece of dream-pop that is easily the equal of, if not better than, what the 4AD stable, mining similar aesthetic territory, was producing at the time (okay, with the possible exception of Dead Can Dance). While Dominic Appleton's vocals (sounding something like a more overtly romantic Brendan Perry) clearly set this band apart, he does not take center stage in most of these songs; instead the vocals are integrated into hauntingly ornate but often ominous soundscapes, functioning as just another sonic texture. Appleton's voice has an unusually tender quality, which provides an intriguing counterpoint to the album's Gothic overtones, giving these songs (and all of Breathless' early recordings for that matter) a very unique feel. Tracks such as "Into the Fire" and "Waiting on the Wire" are simply stunning Post-Punk gems, and whenever I listen to Breathless, it amazes me how such a talented and sonically interesting band could have fallen through the cracks of commercial success (come on, they even had a singer with a big voice!).

The Cult- "She Sells Sanctuary" Video (1985)

Little known piece of Rock genealogy: Stevie Nicks and the ghost of Jim Morrison had a manchild- his name was Ian...

The Durutti Column- Circuses and Bread (1985) MP3 & FLAC

"All I wanted was your time; all you ever gave me was tomorrow."

Led by Vini Reilly, arguably the most subtle and gifted guitarist of the Post-Punk era, The Durutti Column dispensed with conventional notions of what guitar-based alternative music could sound like, and in doing so, played a big role in laying the groundwork for a more experimental, less structured form of rock composition, perhaps best embodied in the later work of  Mark Hollis' Talk Talk. Circuses and Bread  is fairly typical of The Durutti Column's early eighties work, in that it is dominated by Reilly's deft, electric arpeggios, which at times take on Jazz-oriented inflections, but more often than not, spin beautifully ornate, crisp melodies that may shine on the surface but also reverberate with regret and despair. For example, on "Royal Infirmary," Reilly's lovely, melodic guitar work is joined by piano and trumpet, creating a spaciously dark and moody soundscape that is hard to shake once the song ends. While primarily an instrumental album, Circuses and Bread does contain one of Reilly's better-known vocal turns on "Tomorrow," a gloomy ode to a love that dies on the vine; this is a song deserving of a far better fate than the relative obscurity it now wallows in. Truly one of the most distinctive bands of the eighties.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #7: Scott Walker- Climate of Hunter (1984) MP3 & FLAC

"He arrives from a place with a face of fast sun. Arrives from a space, his refuge overrun."

An oft-overlooked gem in Scott Walker's oeuvre, Climate of Hunter, a difficult and sumptuous paradox of a listening experience, is, in many ways, an extension of where Walker was heading with his shockingly groundbreaking work on the final Walker Brothers re-union album, Nite Flights. Lyrically, Walker has left behind the Brel-influenced existential flâneur narratives of his early solo albums, entering instead a more abstract realm that would give the album a sheen of artistic impenetrability if it wasn't for that familiar, burnished (yet now slightly unhinged) baritone. Musically Climate of Hunter is a strange and heady mix of classical arrangements, Prog-Rock excess, Post-Punk atmospherics, and synth-pop bloat, and yes, it sounds as strange as it reads. This was to be Walker's last album until his unanticipated experimental masterpiece Tilt  12 years later, but the groundwork for his ongoing deconstruction of the relationship between melody and lyric has its roots in this underrated project.

The Smiths- "Panic" Video (1986)

An eloquent diatribe on the fluff that passes for mainstream music, then and now. More Smiths to come...

The Church- Of Skins and Heart (1981) Enhanced Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC -For Scurfie-

"Tell those girls with rifles for minds that their jokes don't make me laugh, they only make me feel like dying."

Of Skins and Heart, The Church's debut, is something of an anomaly in their vast and sadly underrated discography due to its edgy Post-Punk core that reduces the jangle and psych-rock aspects of their sound (which would later become their trademarks) to a supporting role. This more focused approach serves the songs well, and nowhere is this more evident than on their first breakthrough single, "The Unguarded Moment." Marrying a jangly lead guitar riff to a spare, straightforward rock arrangement, Steven Kilbey's nascent croon dripping with New Wave affect, the song is a classic through and through. As with later Church albums, the guitar interplay between Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes is mesmerizing, with individual guitar parts melting into each other, achieving a level of musical expression that transcends the sum of its parts. While Of Skins and Heart isn't entirely indicative of the increasingly expansive sound the band would develop during the course of the Eighties, it is, nevertheless, a fine debut that deserves to be heard.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nicolas Jaar- Space Is Only Noise (2011) MP3 & FLAC

More fascinating pastiche than anything else, Nicolas Jaar's debut Space Is Only Noise is too introverted to be labeled techno and too spaciously comfortable to be labeled minimalist. However, Jaar is clearly out to deconstruct such genre-reifying labels, and does so by weaving together disparate textures such as subterranean beats, glitches and static, impressionistic piano passages, stringed instruments, heavily treated vocals, ambient recordings, and samples to create a strangely cohesive and stunningly singular listening experience. Don't let the breakbeats fool you, this is music that quietly demands to be contemplated rather than quickly consumed. Needless to say, this is quite a contrarian move for someone considered to be one of the rising young stars on the techno scene. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Leonard Cohen- Songs of Leonard Cohen (1968) MP3 & FLAC

"And I lean from my window sill in this old hotel I chose, yes, one hand on my suicide, one hand on the rose."

A masterpiece in every sense of the word, and oh, what a back-story: already an established poet and novelist, Cohen, at the age of 34, after having loomed in the margins of Andy Warhol's "Factory" scene off and on for years, decides to record an album of singer-songwriter material, so he plays a few festivals, comes to the attention of John H. Hammond (the guy who "discovered" Dylan) and is signed to Columbia, and if this isn't enough, he proceeds to record one of the greatest folk records of the modern era. However, to call Songs of Leonard Cohen merely a "folk" record really does it no justice because lyrically, the album was nothing less than revolutionary. In a way, Cohen's debut was a clarion call foretelling the death of the flower-power movement, for while these songs can, in a way, be described as protest songs, they are certainly not so in the sense of the early-sixties folk movement or the late-sixties anti-war movement; rather these are dark protest songs of the soul, delving into and narrating the lives of quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) desperation that all of us, in one way or another, lead but rarely speak of. This gives the album a feeling of deep and timeless universality. If anything dates Cohen's debut, it is some of the arrangements, and legend has it that he fought continuously with Producer John Simon, who wanted the album to sound more commercial. Nevertheless, what we have here is a life-changer if you are willing to step into the darkest corners of the heart.

A Stay of Execution: MP3, You're a Hard One to Kill

After receiving many many emails from readers making some very compelling points, I have decided to retain the MP3 links on Killing Moon posts. I realize a lot of you out there suffer with internet connections that make it next to impossible to download the large FLAC files, and there is also the issue of metered internet access looming on the horizon. I may revisit this at some point, but for the time being, I will post both FLACs and MP3s. While I encourage everyone to learn the basics relating to lossless music files, The Killing Moon is one of the few lossless blogs that posts both file formats, and I would hate to lose what makes this blog distinctive. Thank you for your input on this decision. Now on with the music!        ~ voixautre

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Siouxsie and the Banshees- Voices on the Air: The Peel Sessions (2006) MP3 & FLAC -For David-

"With a jaundiced wink, see his cunning slink. Oh, trust in me my pretty one."

If your frame of reference for Siouxsie and the Banshees is their "Peek-a-Boo" era goth-pop, then hearing some of these early Peel Session tracks dating back to 1977 will be a profound ear-opener. In an earlier post, I wrote that Bauhaus' debut album along with their "Bela Lugosi's Dead" single were largely responsible for the rise of the early Goth movement, but based on the evidence of these early Peel Sessions, a strong case can be made for Siouxsie Sioux having played a major role in the development of both Goth in particular and Post-Punk in general. This music is exceedingly dark, beautifully abrasive, and then there's Siouxsie's singular, unmistakable voice, a piercing call-to-arms that Punk would refuse to be easily defined. It also strikes me that this compilation is a perfect tribute to the late John Peel. The earliest of these sessions were recorded at a time when no record company would touch Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Peel was instrumental (and fearless, as he was for many bands) in getting them exposure. This is a vastly underrated chapter of the Siouxsie discography, and in many cases, the songs are often better than the studio counterparts.

To Follow Is to Lead

Hello all, just a brief plea to those lurkers out there: I realize many of you do not have a Google account, but if you do, could you hit the 'follow' button on the upper right-hand column beneath the handsome cat in the black & white suit? It really is an indication (to me at least) that you are enjoying the blog. The Killing Moon (La luna que mata) was born exactly two months ago today and has grown very quickly. I want to build a special community of music lovers here and gaining followers is a big part of this. To be honest, I hate the term "follower," as it implies that I am some sort of "leader" here. In actuality, maintaining a blog like this is more like writing a novel, in the sense that I feel like it tells a story post by post. However, it is a story that you, dear readers, have a huge role in writing. Your comments, recommendations, and requests have made this beautiful blog what it is. Thank you to all, and a big warm and fuzzy pretty please to those who haven't hit the button- man in the moon

Step into the Brave New World of Lossless (or Not...I Was Persuaded to Change My Mind on This, but You Can Still Enjoy the Kitten Photo!)

The Killing Moon will no longer be providing links to MP3 files unless FLAC is unvailable, and while I know this will disappoint some, it will cut the time I spend uploading files in half. This, at least in theory, should allow me to post more often; however, because I write my own content, I will never be able to post as prolifically as the other lossless sites who do not provide original content with their posts. Why? Simply because it takes time to write and edit good material.  I invite you to visit the "Why FLAC" tab beneath the header for a detailed explanation of how you can familiarize yourself (if you haven't already done so) with the FLAC format and how to convert it to other formats. If you become confused about the conversion programs, lossy vs. lossless or anything else, please leave a comment on the "Why FLAC" page and I will do my best to help out - voixautre

p.s. MP3 downloaders, I really want you to keep coming back, but I'm faced with a situation in which FLAC downloads are outnumbering MP3 downloads 9 to 1 on most posts. Please let me help you figure out this lossless stuff

p.p.s. I should have mentioned that MP3s will be fazed out rather than instantaneously stopped, because I still have some already uploaded and ready to post. However, I will no longer be uploading MP3 files for future posts

I heard studies have shown that cute kitten photos make people less angry about losing MP3 links ;)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Church- "Destination" Live, Italian TV (1988)

I saw these guys in '88, and I remember my ears ringing like hell for two weeks after. IMO, THE most underrated band of all time:

Scott Walker Series, #6: The Walker Brothers- Portrait (1966) MP3 & FLAC

"I don't look for her, I find her in the shadow of my mind. For she's just a girl whose memory will be wiped away with time."

As with all Walker Brothers albums, Portrait, the band's second and most commercially successful long-player, is a mix of jaw-dropping brilliance and WTF moments; however, unlike their other two sixties albums, Take It Easy with the Walker Brothers and  Images, Portrait seems more of a piece because it is consistently dark. Songs such as "In My Room" and "No Sad Songs for Me," both with Scott Walker taking the vocal lead, represent some of their best and most desolate work, and even some of the covers, such as "Hurting Each Other" and "Summertime," hit their mark. Nevertheless, what really makes this an essential listen are the bonus tracks included with this edition, among which are several transcendent moments, such as "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" and "After the Lights Go Out." For those with ears to hear, one of the best albums of the sixties can be found scattered somewhere in these 24 tracks.

John Grant- Queen of Denmark (2010) Limited Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC -For Douxee-

"You are where dreams go to die, and I regret the day your lovely carcass caught my eye."

John Grant, the figurehead of the criminally underrated (and now defunct) Denver band The Czars, has a big voice and a penchant for dour nostalgia painted in noirish hues (he could be the roving troubadour of Twin Peaks). On his first post-Czars solo album, Grant is joined by morose Texas soft-psychers Midlake, and while they prove to be a capable backdrop for Grant's breathtaking vocals, lending Queen of Denmark a noticeably warmer and more eclectic sound than what was typical of Grant's former band, they lack the disconcertingly dark and sumptuous Indie-lounge accents that made The Czars so distinctive.  This turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, for while Grant's voice is pushed into some new and interesting contexts, he seems to have traded some of his black licorice for cotton-candy (though definitely poison-laced). Nevertheless, Czars fans will find a lot to love on Queen of Denmark, and those unfamiliar with this band and Grant's voice now have a revelation sitting on their doorstep. Knock-knock.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Loudon Wainwright III- The Atlantic Recordings (1970-1971) MP3 & FLAC

"Chronologically I know you're young but when you kissed me in the club, you bit my tongue. "

Loudon Wainwright III was hailed as the "new Dylan" on the strength of the two albums that comprise this collection, and it's hard to figure where the critic or record company hack who came up with this comparison saw the connection. Whereas Dylan was a puppet-master of metaphors during his early "troubadour" years, Wainwright III  comes off as a more straightforwardly confessional lyricist; however, his trademark is to soak these confessions in a generous dose of irony and just as often, humor. Musically, these albums are fairly stark, just Wainwright and his acoustic guitar, but what he lacks in technique, he more than makes up for it with his lyrics and committed vocals. "School Days" is a beautiful ode to youth (and Delaware) ironically narrated by a teenager, and the famous "Motel Blues" moves between heartbreak and satire as it tells the story of a bored musician stuck in a small-town motel room trying to convince a young girl to spend the night with him. In a way, these early Wainwright albums were an antidote to the sappy sentimentalism of the singer-songwriter movement of the early seventies, and as such, they are far more dark and harrowing than his later work, which has gained the reputation, undeserved in my opinion, of lapsing into novelty on occasion. Highly recommended!

Scott Walker Series, #5: Scott Walker- Stretch (1973)/ We Had It All (1974) MP3 & FLAC

"If I find you've been creepin' round my back stairs, sundown, you better take care."

I have to confess that I like these albums more than I want to, especially We Had It All. This was Scott Walker's brief foray in Country music, and though it really has no right to be mentioned in the same breath as his iconic earlier solo work, it does have its perverted attractions. While the earlier album, Stretch, suffers from too much schmaltz, there are some nice moments, including "Someone Who Cared," which finds Walker's baritone positively dripping with despair. Things are a bit more consistent on We Had It All, which seems a little more committed to the Country theme. Walker's baritone adopts a tearful creakiness on songs such as "Black Rose" and "Sundown," which makes them pretty irresistible even though they probably shouldn't be. This period of Walker's career feels like a big "fuck you" to the fans and critics who had rejected the direction he had taken on  Scott 3 and  Scott 4, projects that were comprise primarily of his own compositions. As for proof, look no further than his cover of "Delta Dawn." I wonder if he was able to keep a straight face while singing this chestnut. Anyway, enjoy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Esben and the Witch- 33 EP (2010) MP3 & FLAC

If anything, Esben and the Witch's self-released debut EP, 33, is even darker than Violet Cries. Two of the EP's tracks, "Eumenides" and "Marching Song," were rerecorded for the album, and while the album versions certainly sound more epic and polished, the EP versions have a claustrophobic feel to them that serves the gothic-inspired ambiance quite well. However, what really makes this EP worth a listen is the final track, "Corridors," which is a glitchy, nightmarish tour de force.

Tame Impala- S/T EP (2008) MP3 & FLAC

"Broken drums, thriving dreams, not much else between these walls."

This is Tame Impala's debut EP, and while a little more scruffy than  Innerspeaker, it contains some great down & dirty psych-rock. "Half Full Glass of Wine" is damn catchy if given half a chance.

Tame Impala- Innerspeaker (2010) MP3 & FLAC

"Nothing else matters, I don't care what I miss. Company's okay, solitude is bliss."

Reviewers love to take bands such as Tame Impala and reduce their sound to a list of its more obvious influences, and while this can be an informative approach to describing music for those unfamiliar with an artist (yes, I confess to doing this too), it can also implicitly suggests an artist's lack of originality.What this overlooks is that all art integrates influences and previous forms, so in the case of music, what makes something derivative or fresh-sounding depends a lot on whether or not it pushes these influences or previous forms into new contexts. On Innerspeaker, Tame Impala effectively weave nearly every disparate thread of the psych-rock tradition, ranging from British Invasion to late-sixties San Francisco psychedelia to the hard-edged early-seventies riff-driven sound of Detroit bands such as MC5 to the space-jangle of another Aussie psych band The Church, into something truly distinct. Take, for example, "Expectation." While soaking with psychedelic overtones, there is also a surprisingly Electronic feel to the song, which envelops the listener in an unfamiliar billowy haze of sound that makes for some pretty damn fine listening. More please!

The Cure- Disintegration (1989) Deluxe Edition (3 Discs) MP3 & FLAC -For Jo Jo-

"Because I feel it all fading and paling, and I'm begging to drag you down with me, to kick the last nail in."

Arguably the closet thing to an "epic" produced during the Post-Punk era and widely regarded as The Cure's masterpiece, Disintegration was, paradoxically, both a huge commercial success (rare at the time for an "alternative" record) and a dark, introspective ode to ambivalent love and bittersweet despair. While Robert Smith & co. had traded in much of their Post-Punk abrasiveness for a quirky brand of goth-pop by the late eighties, on Disintegration, they managed to integrate the gloomy, oblique soundscapes of their earlier work with a more lush, dreamily romantic, and grand-scale sound, which also resulted in a more direct approach by Smith both vocally and lyrically. Sadly, The Cure would never sound this ambitious or relevant again. Truly one of the landmark albums of the last 30 years and absolutely essential.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Esben and the Witch- Violet Cries (2011) MP3 & FLAC

"Arms and legs, teeth and nail, our fragile companions are destined to fail."

While there is little doubt that Esben and the Witch (named after a Danish fairytale) have spent many hours listening to Siouxsie Sioux and the eighties-era 4AD canon, this takes nothing away from the majestic gloom of Violet Cries. As with Zola Jesus, Esben and the Witch are situated at the forefront of what appears to be a resurgence of eighties-style Goth-Rock, and on their debut long-player, they prove to be quite adept at interpreting and re-imagining what made the early Goth movement so compelling: mood and ambiance. While lead vocalist Rachel Davies is deservedly the focal point with her stunning dark-lit voice, it is the instrumentation and spaciousness of the songs that really sets Violet Cries apart. A promising debut indeed.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Esben and the Witch- "Marching Song" Video (2011)

The ghost of Siouxsie is really making the rounds these days. Good to hear. Along with the progeny, maybe we should post the original soon...

Cocteau Twins- Victorialand (1986) MP3 & FLAC

Because bassist Simon Raymonde was busy at the time fulfilling his 4AD "house band" duties on the second This Mortal Coil album, Filigree & Shadow, the Cocteau Twins' fourth album, Victorialand, features, as strange as it is to say, a more "stripped-down" sound in comparison to their earlier work. This doesn't mean that the songs have lost any of their trademark reverb-drenched ethereal quality, but there is a bright spaciousness to Victorialand that makes it sound, if anything, more intimate. Employing very little percussion and without Raymonde's bass, Robin Guthrie's spidery arpeggios and Elizabeth Fraser's vocal peregrinations are even more evocative and engulfing, and the more pronounced use of acoustic guitar gives the album a brittle warmth in places that is unprecedented in their earlier work. There is, perhaps, no better point of entry to the Cocteau Twins' unique sound than Victorialand.

Scott Walker Series, #4: Scott Walker- Scott 2 (1968) MP3 & FLAC

"Cascading tears for every heartbeat, tonight we'll sleep with the girls from the streets."

With Scott 2, Scott Walker reached the peak of his (fleeting) commercial success by essentially repeating the recipe of his solo debut (a mix of originals, Brel interpretations, and cover songs), but doing so to even greater effect the second time around. Walker himself famously called Scott 2 the "work of a lazy, self-indulgent man," but self-penned songs such as "Plastic Palace People" and "The Girls from the Streets" suggest a songwriter who has learned a thing or two from Brel in the sense of crafting distinctive existential odes to the outcast and the marginalized. Walker's bewitching voice is in fine form throughout, and it's interesting to hear how his vocals turn some of the more conventional material inside-out; for example, in the hands of most singers, the album's final song, "Come Next Spring," would run no deeper than syrupy romanticism, but Walker's baritone forces the song into much darker, melancholic waters, peeling away its sentiment to reveal the ambiguity beneath. As with all the "Scott" albums, this deserves a place in any serious music collection.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pearls Before Swine- One Nation Underground (1967) MP3 & FLAC

"...the Red's for the blood we lose; the White's for the gauze they use to cover burned-out blackened men; the rest is for the bodies numb and Blue."

Contemporary Neo-Folksters such as Espers and Charalambides owe much to Pearls Before Swine, whose leader, Tom Rapp, played a major role in inventing the template for psychedelia married to a folk aesthetic. As such, Rapp's definition of the term "folk music" was far more wide-ranging and far less in love with tradition than that of the typical protest singers of the early sixties. On One Nation Underground, he weaves together an eclectic array of elements including farfisa, acid-rock, and singer-songwriter melancholia to create something that still sounds original 44 years later. "Another Time," reportedly his very first song, is an achingly beautiful acoustic ballad about the aftermath of an escape from death, and one wonders if The Doors might have been familiar with "Morning Songs," with its electric organ, martial percussion, and sitar-miming banjo picking. Sadly under-appreciated, this debut, like all the Pearls Before Swine albums that followed it, certainly deserves the stature of a lost classic.

Tim Hecker- Ravedeath, 1972 (2011) MP3 & FLAC

Aside from having one the best album titles I've heard in awhile, Ravedeath, 1972 represents Tim Hecker's finest work in the minimalist Electronic vein. That eye-catching title reveals much about the music, in that it signifies, among other things, temporal displacement, the way past and future perpetually act upon and redefine each other. Recorded in a church, the album reverberates with the spaciousness of such a structure, but does so sounding both strangely organic and highly treated. As with much of Hecker's work, Ravedeath, 1972 is deceptively ambient. What I mean by this is that the compositions refuse any sense of linear progression or any trace of hierarchy among elements; however, they also insist on and reward one's close attention. "Cathedral Electronic," maybe, but Hecker's gift is to be both philosophical and visceral while never being aggressive about either.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Breathless- The Glass Bead Game (1986) MP3 & FLAC

"So christen these kind hearts with names they don't deserve, and measure out the sanity that falls into lunacy, hung bitter, sweet-faded and lost."

Despite his stunning vocal performances on This Mortal Coil's Filigree & Shadow, Dominic Appleton's band Breathless was inexplicably fated to spend the next two decades toiling away in abject obscurity despite being one of the more interesting and talented Post-Punk bands of the mid-eighties. Breathless integrated the dark dream-pop associated with the 4AD label with Appleton's dramatic (and sometimes sinister) vocals, sounding, at times, like a more straightforward version of Dead Can Dance or a more lushly ornate version of Joy Division. On The Glass Bead Game, named after a Hermann Hesse novel, Appleton & co. traverse some dark sonic territory, such as on the memorable "Monkey Talk," where Appleton's vocals take on the cadence of a death-chant as foreboding guitar textures and rolling percussion slowly build a soundscape of beauty and dread. For anyone interested in 4AD-style gloom, Breathless will be a revelation.

Paula Frazer- A Place Where I Know: 4-Track Songs 1992-2002 (2003) MP3 & FLAC

"By some strange design I feign to believe that this image was mine."

While Paula Frazer's otherworldly Patsy Cline croon has gained her some attention over the years, her songwriting skills have long been overlooked. Part of this is due to the slightly heavy-handed production on Tarnation's two studio albums (this is even more the case on her solo albums), which tended to push her subtle melodies and evocative lyrics down in the mix. A Place Where I Know: 4-Track Songs 1992-2002 offers the chance to hear some of Frazer's best songs shorn of all the dusty bottom-of-a-well reverb of the studio recordings. What becomes evident after hearing many of these demos is that Frazer's voice and lyrical ability are more than up to the task of conveying a sense of tragic desolation on their own. While the recording quality of these demos varies a bit, this never gets in the way of the music, and in some cases, the tape hiss actually adds to the ethereal creepiness of the recordings.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #3: Scott Walker- 'Til the Band Comes In (1970) MP3 & FLAC

"You've been beyond the boundaries, understood it all, and thought of nothing."

Universally panned at the time of its release, the ensuing 40 years have been somewhat redemptive for 'Til the Band Comes In.  What was once considered a sell out (and what wouldn't after a record like Scott 4?) now sounds like an album that lacks a clear conceptual focus but still manages to contribute a number of worthy additions to the Scott Walker canon. Songs such as "Thanks for Chicago Mr. James," "Jean the Machine," and "Cowbells Shakin'" would have fit seamlessly on one of the iconic earlier albums and deserve much better than the relative obscurity they have been relegated to for much of their existence. Where the album falters, and what has unfairly determined its reputation for many, is the series of covers finishing the album, all dressed in too much "saccharin," and thus quite at odds with the existential darkness of the original material. Nevertheless, this is essential listening for anyone with more than a passing interest in Scott Walker's early solo career.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Jesus and Mary Chain- Darklands (1987) MP3 & FLAC -For oh hi there-

"She can take my darkest feeling, tear it up till I'm on my knees."

After Psychocandy, The Jesus and Mary Chain found themselves at something resembling an artistic crossroads. In retrospect, their debut was one of the most important records of the decade, but at the time of its release, there were many who saw its prevalent use of feedback as a gimmick. Of course, those who gave Psychocandy anything more than a cursory listen could tell there were some great songs bubbling up through the haze, so on their follow up, the Reid brothers opted to dial things down a bit. On Darklands, the songs seem more rooted in the existential twang of Lee Hazlewood than the arty dissonance of The Velvet Underground; as a result, the production is noticeably cleaner than on the previous album even if the subject-matter is as dark as ever. Songs such as "Deep One Perfect Morning" and "On the Wall" explore, in different ways, the pain born out of infatuation for another person, and each hit their mark by marrying deadpan Lou Reed-style vocals to big hooks. While not as influential as their debut, Darklands represents an artistic highpoint for The Jesus and Mary Chain, which they would spend the rest of their careers chasing under ill-fated stars. 

Kunek- Flight of the Flynns (2006) MP3 & FLAC

"Strangers on the airwaves control you from the sky, taken by the slipstream, they lead you to the fire."

While sounding something like an American Midwestern hybrid of Radiohead and early post-Barrett Pink Floyd, Kunek's debut, Flight of the Flynns, is a strangely beautiful concoction of organicity and abstraction. Full of warm string instruments and icy piano textures, the album consistently constructs a lushly ornate minor key spaciousness that touches on the more melodic aspects of Post-Rock; as such, it is no surprise to find that it was originally conceived as an instrumental album. Occasionally, Jesse Tabish's vocals are haunted by the ghost of Thom Yorke, but they tend to comfortably settle into wistful resignation rather than Yorke's trademark knowing detachment. This album fell far beneath the radar mid-decade, and perhaps in search of a better fate, the band has since changed its name to Other Lives.

Bauhaus- Bela Lugosi's Dead EP (1979) MP3 & FLAC

"The virginal brides file past his tomb, strewn with time's dead flowers bereft in deathly bloom."

One of the pinnacles of the Post-Punk era, Bauhaus' debut single is both enigmatic and indelible. While David Bowie and Joy Division are clearly touchstones here, Bauhaus' use of Dub-Reggae studio trickery, such as over-emphasizing David J's bass sound and adding heavy reverb to guitar and percussion, creates an unforgettable and unparalleled atmosphere of dread, which propels the song toward greatness. Not to be overlooked are Daniel Ash's spectral guitar textures and creepy string manipulations and Peter Murphy's glowering croon, all of which virtually create the Goth-Rock template during the course of the song's nine plus minutes. Absolutely essential.

Bauhaus- "Bela Lugosi's Dead" Video (1982) Live at the Old Vic, London

Nice live version of a peerless song:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #2: Scott Walker- Scott (1967) MP3 & FLAC

"The girl across the hall makes love, her thoughts lay cold like shattered stone. Her thighs are full of tales to tell, of all the nights she's known."

I've always gotten a kick out of imagining British teenyboppers in 1967 seizing on this album as the latest fix for their Walker Brothers obsession and playing "Montague Terrace (In Blue)" for the first time (sometimes I include pink record players and slumber parties to further develop this theatrical scene of the absurd). While Images, the final Walker Brothers album of the 60s, occasionally hinted at the direction Scott Walker's solo career would take, nothing could have prepared his listeners for this unprecedented leap into Brel and existentialism backed by Wally Stott's gloomy orchestral arrangements. As such, Scott represents the juncture at which Scott Walker began his metamorphosis from teen idol to cult hero, and while often cited as the least consistent of his initial run of solo albums, this is only relative to the genius that would unfold over the next few years.

Tame Impala- "Half Full Glass of Wine" Video (2008)

Great psych-rock band from Perth; this is from their eponymous debut EP:

Cocteau Twins & Harold Budd- The Moon and the Melodies (1986) MP3 & FLAC -For Issi-

The Moon and the Melodies occupies an odd place in the Cocteau Twins' discography: while it contains a few of the band's better songs (e.g. "She Will Destroy You"), it was completely overlooked by Robin Guthrie when he remastered the Cocteau Twins catalog several years back. This slight reiterates its undeserved reputation as an inessential "ambient" album. While The Moon and the Melodies is not necessarily successful as a collaborative effort, in that it seems quite tentative in integrating the Cocteau Twins' unique vocal and guitar arrangements into Harold Budd's Eno-esque ambient soundscapes and vice versa, it does contain some memorable work by everyone involved. The final track, "Ooze Out and Away, Onehow" is, in particular, not to be missed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Jesus and Mary Chain- Psychocandy (1985) MP3 & FLAC -For oh hi there-

"It's so hard not to feel ashamed of the loving living games we play each day."

Most critics tend to describe Psychocandy as something of a mash-up of Beach Boys-style harmonies and Velvet Underground-inspired dissonance, and while these are unquestionably major elements helping to sculpt its overall sound, such descriptions tend to overlook just how singular this landmark album actually is. At the time of its release, Psychocandy was notorious for its piercing squalls of feedback, but looming just beneath this Noise-Rock veneer are some of the most achingly beautiful songs you're likely to hear. For example, on "Just Like Honey," the Reid brothers' naively laconic vocal harmonies coupled with the reverb-soaked production create an unlikely, and somehow perfect, marriage of Motown and Pych-Rock. To call Psychocandy "influential" does it no justice at all; the truth is, much of what followed in its wake, including everything from Shoegaze to Lo-Fi, owes a deep debt of gratitude to this album. If you've never heard Pscychocandy, I'm supremely envious; I would give anything to hear this album for the first time again.

Cocteau Twins- Garlands (1982) MP3 & FLAC

"At the bosom or the breast, of the forehead or the fist."

Easily the darkest and most straightforwardly Post-Punk album Cocteau Twins ever recorded, Garlands has a spare, desolate, insistently minor-key sound that owes a clear debt to Joy Division; however, what keeps the proceedings from sounding derivative are Robin Guthrie's spiraling guitar textures (far more primal than on future albums) and Elizabeth Fraser's vocals, which somehow manage to evoke beauty and dread simultaneously. While the album suffers a bit from the use of a drum machine and several songs that are overly repetitious (something rarely found on their later albums), Garlands manages to create a sound that, while not indicative of where Cocteau Twins were heading next, still played an important role in defining the 4AD sound of the early 80s.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Deerhunter- Turn It Up, Faggot! (2005) MP3 & FLAC

"Born of concrete, born out of chemistry, comes out of chaos, blooms into infinity."

Named after a taunt the band regularly heard at early shows, Deerhunter's debut, though more or less disowned by frontman Bradford Cox, stating the band was "just really desperate to put something out," is a beautiful mess that rewards the listener if given half a chance. While Turn It Up, Faggot! is often described as an impenetrable noise-fest, nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, the vocals are virtually indiscernible and the heavy wash of reverb drowning everything creates an atmosphere of impenetrability, yet the melodies somehow surface, allowing songs such as "N. Animal," "Adorno" and "Oceans" to transcend the noisy undertow of the album. More than just an interesting glimpse of a great band at a formative moment, Deerhunter's debut is a great slice of noisy, tuneful fragmentation.

Scott Walker Series, #1: The Walker Brothers- Images (1967) MP3 & FLAC

"You had a loveless week, and the world's let you down. But I'll make it up somehow, there are ways Mrs. Brown."

Images would turn out to be The Walker Brothers' final album of the 1960s and bears the unmistakable marks of a band in the process of fragmentation. While John and Scott Walker both contribute some memorable material here, they rarely occupy the same space on the album, instead sounding more preoccupied with their impending solo careers than with anything else. While Scott offers up a glimpse of the greatness to come with songs such as "Orpheus" and "Genevieve," John's mournful "I Can't Let It Happen to You" is probably his finest moment on record. Despite the many high points, you can't have a Walker Brothers album without a generous dose of filler, and Images certainly has its filler. For example, the ill-advised cover of  "Blueberry Hill" is simply cringe-inducing. While not their best album, Images contains some of their most mature, forward-looking work, making it well worth putting up with the clunkers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Jesus and Mary Chain- "Just Like Honey" Video (1985)

Does feedback sound any sweeter than this?

Internet "Kill" Switch (Seriously)

Apparently, the recent unrest in Egypt has inspired U.S. Senate Republican (what a shock!) Susan Collins to resurrect a dead piece of legislation, which would make it legal for the U.S. Government to effectively "shut down" the internet in order to, as she puts it, "protect against 'significant' cyber threats before they cause damage." What's interesting about this typically crackpot (and un-Constitutional) idea is its timing. Coming on the heels of the recent internet shutdown in Egypt to quell mass anti-government protests, it's not hard to read between the lines of what Collins really means by "'significant' cyber threats." The language of the legislation of course pays lip-service to "First Amendment rights," but so did the actual language of The Patriot Act legislation, and we all know how that turned out!  Isn't it wonderful having all these dedicated freedom fighters protecting us from the evil forces lurking out there in the badlands of cyberspace?

Bash the Fash

 Sen. Collins: "You powerless morons better behave yourselves out there, or I just might take away your internet!"