Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What the heck are you listening to?!?! - January 2013 Edition

It's strange that after years of collecting, I largely ignore my digital music library. When I'm not listening to something on vinyl, I almost exclusively listen to music through the various streaming services available like Spotfiy, Rdio and the "new" Myspace. In part, it's because I no longer have my large-hard-drive iPod, and can't fit much onto my tiny iPhone. But it's also because it can be easier to just type in an album on a streaming service than it is to sort through a collection. I am concerned about the ability of musicians to make a living nowadays, but do really like the convenience of this Internet-based music era.

Here's some thoughts on the albums I've been listening to this month:

Camper Van Beethoven - La Costa Perdida (2013)

Camper Van Beethoven has long been a personal favorite of mine. I still think Key Lime Pie and Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart stand the test of time. Sure, these two albums don't sound modern, exactly, but they still hold up as excellent and creative albums.

I was thrilled when Camper Van Beethoven reunited about a decade ago and released New Roman Times, because it meant I was finally able to see one of my favorite bands in concert! Unfortunately, the album itself didn't really grab me. It was a very impenetrable concept album about a Texan who falls in with a revolutionary group while living in some kind of dystopian future. While it was great to hear the band making new material, the album was an interesting and creative work that I just never found myself wanting to listen to.

La Costa Perdida, on the other hand, has been in heavy rotation since it was released about a week ago. This is a fairly commercial record, but in a good way. It's accessible, but still creative, and the band is really playing well. I find the guitar playing in particular to be really great. There's even a bit more rock star swagger on display than I normally expect from Camper Van Beethoven, but it works! Standout tracks are "You Got To Roll", "Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out", and "Northern California Girls."

Preview it:

Listen to it: Spotify  Rdio  Myspace  Buy it: Amazon  iTunes

Ozric Tentacles - The Yum Yum Tree (2009)

Look at that album cover! It kinda tells you just about everything you need to know about this record. If you like this cover, you'll probably like this album, and if you don't...well, yeah. 

Ozric Tentacles have been around since the 1980's, and for the past decade or so have largely been a three-piece family operation. They have a very trippy and psychedelic sound, and focus on intense, driving electronica-tinged space rock. They do tend to have their sound, so the albums sometimes do sound similar to each other, but they put a lot of work into their craft, and it shows. 

I think this one is one of their strongest efforts in a while. They captured their power and drive really well in the studio this time. I love a lot of the wobbly bass, tight drumming, and wild careening guitar that marks their best work, and this album's got it by the ton. 

In looking at Ozric albums today, I came across this review in iTunes: "Have you ever been shot out of a cannon into hyper space while tripping on acid? this is the closest you'll get." Can't say I disagree.

Preview it:

Listen to it:  Spotify  Rdio  Myspace  Buy it:  Amazon  iTunes

Hello Seahorse! - Arunima (2012)

I first discovered Hello Seahorse in late 2010, while clicking through the TV channels one Saturday afternoon and coming across the cool video for their song "Un Año Quebrado" on Univision. This band is based in Mexico and plays Spanish-language alterna-rock in a way that is both familiar and totally unique. Their music tends to be strong and powerful, with tight beats, and a mix of raw guitar-driven rock and electronic/keyboard overlays that provide a backdrop for the female singer's soaring, almost operatic vocals. Catchy and cool.

It's unfortunate that a lot of people won't give them a chance because their lyrics aren't in English. It's not a problem for me, though; in fact, I often tune out the words of the bands I like until the voice becomes simply another instrument, providing a melody to whatever else is going on. I've been doing this for years! Not sure why. I think it has its roots in my love of instrumental music. I do wish I knew what they were singing about sometimes, but not knowing doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the record.

Their newest album is really hard to find if you live in Massachusetts. Whatever deal allowed them to release their last (and also awesome) album Bestia in 2011 must have fallen apart, because you simply can't find this album available for purchase as a physical copy, except perhaps as an import, even on Amazon. It's only available to purchase through iTunes, and is thankfully available for streaming as well through the new Myspace, which is where I was finally able to listen to it.

This album is a bit more polished and mature than their previous albums, and sounds like a band that has really grown comfortable in their sound. Standout tracks are the title track "Arunima" along with "Para Mi." If you do like this album, I would highly recommend checking out their previous two: the aforementioned Bestia along with Lejos. No Tan Lejos.

Listen to it:  Myspace  Buy it:  iTunes

Tell me what you are listening to in the comments section below, and perhaps link to it so we can all check it out!

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