July 30, 2011

Playlist Week of 7-30-11

Lord Of The Birdcage

* Bernard Foccroulle: Cathédrale Saint-Michael et Gudule, Brussels 2-11-11 (d.1) (FM 2CDR)
* Buxtehude: Six Sonatas (Holloway/ter Linden/Mortensen, et al.) (Naxos CD)
* Telemann: The Complete Tafelmusik (Freiburger Barockorchester) (Harmonia Mundi 4CD)
* Geminiani: Cello Sonatas, Op.5 (ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics CD)
* J.S. Bach: Motetten BWV 225-230 (Collegium Vocale Gent/Herreweghe) (PHI CD)
* Saint-Saens: Symphony No.3, Op.78 (“Organ”) (Boston Symphony/Munch) (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Mahler: Das Lied Von Der Erde (Chicago Symphony/Reiner/Forrester/Lewis) (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Leontyne Price: Arias (Rome Opera Orchestra) (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Copland: Billy The Kid/Rodeo (Morton Gould & His Orchestra) (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Grofé: Grand Canyon Suite (Morton Gould & His Orchestra) (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Roland Kirk: Pre-Rahsaan (Prestige 2LP)
* Roy Haynes Quartet: Out Of The Afternoon (Impulse! CD)
* Oliver Nelson: The Blues And The Abstract Truth (Impulse! CD)
* Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison Sextet: Illumination! (Impulse ! CD)
* Pharoah Sanders: Black Unity (Impulse! CD)
* Sun Ra: Dance Of The Living Image: Lost Reel Collection Vol.4 (Transparency 2CD)
* Herbie Hancock: Flood (CBS/Sony—Japan CD)
* Jeff Beck With The Jan Hammer Group: Live (Epic LP)
* Parliament: Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome (Casablanca/PolyGram CD)
* Parliament: The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein (Casablanca/Polygram CD)
* Grateful Dead: Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA 11-21-85 (SBD 3CDR)
* Jerry Garcia Band: Shining Star (Arista 2CD)†/‡
* Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song/Atlantic 2CD)†/‡
* Led Zeppelin: Presence (Swan Song/Atlantic CD)†/‡
* Led Zeppelin: In Through The Out Door (Swan Song/Atlantic CD)†/‡
* Led Zeppelin: Coda (Atlantic CD)†/‡
* Genesis: Duke (Atlantic LP)
* The Art Of Noise: (Who’s Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise! (ZTT/Island LP)
* Bill Laswell & Pete Namlook: Psychonavigation 2 (FAX CD)†
* Bill Laswell & Pete Namlook: Psychonavigation 3 (FAX CD)†
* Bill Laswell & Pete Namlook: Psychonavigation 4 (FAX CD) †
* Original Silence: The First Original Silence (Smalltown Superjazz CD)
* Original Silence: The Second Original Silence (Smalltown Superjazz CD)
* Flaming Lips: Embryonic (Deluxe Edition) (Warner Bros. DVD-A)
* Robert Pollard: Lord Of The Birdcage (GBV, Inc. LP/MP3)(†/‡)
* Boston Spaceships: The Planets Are Blasted (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Boston Spaceships: Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Boston Spaceships: Let It Beard (GBV, Inc. 2LP)
* Fleet Foxes: Sun Giant (Sub Pop EP)
* Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop LP)
* Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop 2LP)



At this point, it is a lazy cliché to say Robert Pollard is ridiculously prolific—perhaps too prolific—but the fact remains, he puts out an unbelievable number of records per year, year after year (and I am lazy). With last month’s release, Lord Of The Birdcage, this makes four full-length LPs so far in 2011 (not including the three-LP “official bootleg,” GBV: Live in Daytron 6?°)—and there’s more to come: the long-awaited Boston Spaceships double-LP, Let It Beard, comes out next week and a new Circus Devils album should be released just in time for Halloween. Seriously, it is a full-time job keeping up with the guy—and requires another one just to afford it.

As you all know, I am a huge fan. I buy it all sight unheard, preordering directly from Rockathon or picking it up on day of release at my favorite local record store. Is it always first rate, top-shelf stuff? Well, no—how could it be? The guy is only human, despite all appearances. What’s astonishing is that his records are at least consistently good, if not great, and I’m rarely too disappointed. Even a mediocre Pollard record is better—or more interesting—than nine-tenths of the music out there, in my opinion. Even the most tossed-off album will usually contain a perfect gem of a song that most bands would sell their souls to write. While I enjoy finding those diamonds in the rough, it makes me wonder if fewer records containing only the best songs would be more satisfying and less taxing for his fans (and give newcomers a chance to catch up). On the other hand, I appreciate that Pollard caters to the fanatical record collector (like me). He’s a vinyl guy and his collaged cover art is almost always exquisitely well done; the records are objects d’art, irrespective of the music contained within.

So…Lord Of The Birdcage is a mediocre Pollard album—that is to say, merely very good rather than truly great. So what? As the story goes, the songs were based on poems previously written rather than freshly written lyrics, the opposite of his usual approach. Perhaps that is part of the problem. Pollard is the master of the allusive non-sequitur, the nearly nonsensical turn of phrase that is miraculously elevated to enigmatic profundity when sung. It is the sound of the words that matters, not their literal meaning. In this case, the poems (which work well enough on their own) feel shoehorned into the songs’ structures—and it doesn’t help matters that Pollard’s voice sounds rather rushed and peculiarly strained, like even he has his doubts about the proceedings. Todd Tobias’s slick production and multi-instrumentalism makes the best of it, but despite a month of dedicated listening—at home, in the car, on the iPod—none of the songs have really made much of an impression. Then again, fuck me. Sometimes it takes a long time for Pollard’s records to sink in. Something which previously sounded irritating and obtuse will, months later, suddenly develop into an infectious ear-worm, a super-catchy piece of pop I can’t get out of my head. That happens a lot with Pollard, if you keep listening. Regardless, the deluxe gatefold album jacket is gorgeous and comes with a free download card to boot (including lossless FLAC format—nice).

Of course, Lord Of The Birdcage is already superseded by Let It Beard, which arrived in my mailbox this morning. My impression after one listen? It rocks! But the sprawling, twenty-six-song album will take some time to absorb. Maybe I’ll have something more to say about it in a few weeks. You can check out sample tracks from both of these albums (and more) here.


As an update to last week’s playlist, Grimey’s called me on Wednesday to inform me I’d won the drawing for Wilco tickets. I was stunned. I never win anything! But it looks like we’ll be seeing them both nights at The Grand Ole Opry—Yee-Haw!!

1 comment:

Sam said...

One of these days I'll get off my ass and try to snag some of the sample tracks that are out there. All in good time!

In the meanwhile, here's my playlist for last week:

Playlist 2011-08-01:

*Ravi Shankar: Master of Sitar
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Phase One
*Daniel Barbiero/Gary Rouzer/Chris Videll: Indigo over Red on Grey (web release)
*John Coltrane: Sun Ship
*John Coltrane: 1965-09-30 Seattle (unreleased) CDR
*New Loft Quartet: Mergus Goes to Baltimore
*New Loft: 2005-06-03 Incubate, Richmond VA (wav)
*Wayne Shorter Quartet: 2010-10-27 Zurich (CDR)
*Spring Heel Jack: Masses
*Sun Ra: Very Early, Very Rare (CDR compilation)
*Sun Ra: Space Probe (Art Yard)
*Sun Ra: 1970-07 Red Garter, NYC (CDR)
*Sun Ra Quartet: New Steps
*Sun Ra: Media Dreams (Art Yard) disc 2
*Sun Ra: Untitled Recordings
*Sun Ra & His Disney Odyssey Arkestra: 1989-02-16 Bottom Line, NYC (CDR)
*Sun Ra Arkestra: 1990-10-12 Maxwell's, Hoboken NJ (CDR)
*Sun Ra: Sun Radio Omniversity (CDR selections)
*Cecil Taylor/Anthony Braxton/William Parker: 2007-10-12 Bologna (CDR)
*Henry Threadgill & Zooid: 2007-05-17 Jazz Gallery, NYC (CDR) disc 1
*Beatles: A Hard Day's Night Studio Sessions: Back to Basics Vol. 1 disc 2 (boot CDR)
*Blackman: Blackman (CDR compilation)
*Circulatory System: Signal Morning
*Chris Clark: The Motown Collection (disc 1)
*Deerhoof: Offend Maggie
*Deerhoof: Deerhoof Vs. Evil
*Bob Dylan: The Genuine Royal Albert Hall Concerts (boot CDR)
*Flaming Lips: Embryonic
*Grateful Dead: 1968-11-22 Columbus OH (CDR)
*Jimi Hendrix: Hendrix in the West
*Jimi Hendrix: Paris 1967/San Francisco 1968
*Jimi Hendrix: South Saturn Delta
*Jimi Hendrix: Love or Confusion (CD single)
*High Llamas: Talahomi Way
*Love: Love
*Love: Da Capo
*Mars Volta: Frances the Mute
*Curtis Mayfield: Curtis (side 2)
*Olivia Tremor Control: Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One
*Olivia Tremor Control: Music From the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle
*Prince: 1999
*Prince: Box of Chocolates (boot CDR)
*Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St. (deluxe ed., remastered) disc 1
*Rutles: Archaeology
*Santana: Lotus (disc 2)
*Vanity 6: Vanity 6

Reading List 2011-08-01:

*Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (transl. Malcolm C. Lyons) Vol. 2 (in progress)
*Campbell, Eddie. Alec: The Years Have Pants (A Life-Size Omnibus) (in progress)
*Gifford, Don, and Robert J. Seldman. Ulysses Annotated, rev. and expanded ed. (in progress)
*Joyce, James. Ulysses (reread/in progress)
*Martin, George R.R. A Dance with Dragons (in progress)
*Meyerowitz, Rick. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead (in progress)
*Segar, E.C. The Complete E.C. Segar Popeye Vol. 8 (Dailies 1932-1933) (in progress)
*Sim, Dave. Cerebus, Vol. 1 (in progress)