Jesca Hoop: Hunting My Dress


RIYL: Tom Waits, Petra Haden, Laura Marling


The slightly off-kilter wordless harmonies that open Jesca Hoop’s “Whispering Light” immediately inform you that you’re in for a strange and possibly wonderful listening experience. With her folk music pedigree and Tom Waits connection, Hoop creates a sound firmly grounded in traditional instrumentation, with flashes and trickles of oddball noise made strangely beautiful.

Hunting My Dress is one of those records that opens up with repeated listening, for those with the patience and persistence to remain engaged. The charms of “Feast of the Heart” might escape you at first – its distorted vocal and wild-ass percussion are not typical fodder for easy listening. Get past the initial shock of the noise, though, and the layers of longing reveal themselves. The little-girl voice Hoop uses in “Angel Mom” may initially seem put-offish, but listen to it again. Hear how that voice wraps itself around the story of the child whose mother “visited me from beyond,” and determine for yourself whether Hoop could sing in any other register and be as effective.

Or consider the title track, which closes the album, and does so with a nod toward traditional folk singing and tight, multi-part harmony. Hoop’s vision – indeed, her art – can be encapsulated in this very song – her beginnings reflected in the album’s end.

Listeners open to the possibilities of the un-obvious melody, an unexpected noisy flourish, or the simple charms of a plaintive voice telling a story, will likely appreciate the artistry at work in Hunting My Dress. It might take a bit of work to get to that point, but the effort is worth it. (Vanguard 2010)

Jesca Hoop’s Myspace Page
Click to buy Hunting My Dress from Amazon

  

N.A.S.A.: The Big Bang


RIYL: Gorillaz, Afrika Bambaataa, The Neptunes

N.A.S.A.’s 2009 debut, The Spirit of Apollo, was one of the freshest, most creative hip-hop records to come out in years, a high-proof blend of booty-shaking beats (courtesy of partners DJ Zegon and Sam Spiegel), dizzying rhymes (from an astounding list of guest MCs that included Kanye West, Chuck D, Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, and Del tha Funkee Homosapien), and sharp pop hooks (with help from guests like David Byrne, Tom Waits, Lykke Li, Karen O, Santigold, M.I.A., and George Clinton). Those are some stuffed parentheses, but they only touch the surface of what Apollo has to offer; in the post-mashup era, it illuminates the fertile possibilities of cross-pollination and a healthy disregard for genre boundaries.

It’s therefore unsurprising – though still disappointing – that N.A.S.A.’s follow-up represents such a substantial comedown. The Big Bang is a remix project, and as such, it presented all kinds of strong possibilities; after all, we’re talking about a subgenre whose best-selling titles include Bobby Brown’s Dance!…Ya Know It! and Paula Abdul’s Shut Up and Dance, so the bar is set pretty low. Unfortunately, although The Big Bang is every bit as danceable as anyone could hope, it’s crippled by a narrow focus: Rather than remixing all (or even most) of Apollo, Bang‘s 17 tracks include four versions of “Gifted” and three of “Whachadoin?” – and it completely skips some of Apollo‘s strongest songs, like the David Byrne/Chali 2na/Gift of Gab collision “The People Tree.”

Still, it’s worth noting that all the songs being remixed here are solid; if you’re going to chew up most of an album with different versions of the same stuff, it’s definitely better to start with strong raw material. And of the two new tracks, the Maximum Hedrum/Barbie Hatch collaboration “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” with its breathy vocals and Tom Tom Club synths, is nearly worth the price of admission by itself. During the lead-up to The Big Bang‘s release, Squeak E. Clean has been in Ethiopia, recording traditional music for the next N.A.S.A. project, which suggests that even if this curious piece of between-album project represents a creative lull, they haven’t run out of barriers to ignore. (Spectrophonic Sound 2010)

N.A.S.A. MySpace page

  

Tom Waits B-sides collection gets expanded vinyl release

In 2006, Tom Waits released Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards, a marvelous 56-song collection of B-sides Waits recorded over his expansive career. It’s nearly impossible to absorb over a few listens but trust me, there are some gems.

In bittersweet news, an expanded edition of Orphans is coming to vinyl. I say bittersweet because, come December 8, I will desperately want to buy this but won’t have the money to do so.

On December 8, Anti- will release Orphans as a limited vinyl set. You’ll get all of the tracks contained on the CDs, plus six bonus tracks. That’s 62 songs spread over seven LPs, all of which will be pressed on 180 gram vinyl. You’ll probably want to limber up and do some stretches before you even attempt to lift this thing.

The bonus tracks include covers of Fats Waller’s “Crazy ‘Bout My Baby” and the Brecht/Weill song “Canon Song”, as well as “Diamond in Your Mind”, a track written by Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan for Solomon Burke, and the originals “No One Can Forgive Me” and “Mathie Grove”.

I think I hate re-releases more than anything.

  

Sonic Youth on “Gossip Girl,” Grizzly Bear on “The Tonight Show,” Tom Waits

Sonic Youth made their surreal appearance on last night’s episode of “Gossip Girl.” Unfortunately, their acoustic rendition of “Starpower” is hampered by the actors’ dialogue. At least Kim Gordon makes a surprising cameo as a minister.

Also, Grizzly Bear performed their song “Two Weeks” on “The Tonight Show.” I hope Conan continues to showcase talented bands.

In other news, Tom Waits is releasing a new live album full of cuts from his recent Glitter and Doom tour. Check out his new website to download some free tracks off the album.

  

Your favorite band sucks: bands and artists the Bullz-Eye music writers just “don’t get”

Every music lover has been there – in front of the television or a set of speakers, listening for the first time to the work of a critically revered artist whose songs are supposed to change the way you look at the world…only to come away wondering what all the hype was about. For the iconoclastic among us, these moments are opportunities to prove what independent thinkers we are; for everyone else – a group that often appears to include virtually every name-brand music critic on the planet – they’re opportunities to turn off your ears, nod your head, and smile. What kind of self-respecting music writer doesn’t love the music of Bruce Springsteen? U2? Elvis Costello? A total hack, right?

Your favorite band sucks Maybe. Or maybe we tend to forget that one of the most wonderful things about art is the utterly objective way we respond to it. One establishment’s treasure can be one lonely listener’s source of constant befuddlement, consternation or outright rage – and with that in mind, your Bullz-Eye Music staff put its heads together and drew up a list of all the bands and artists we’re supposed to love…but don’t. Each of the writers who contributed to this piece is speaking solely for himself, and you’re sure to disagree with some of the names mentioned here – and, of course, that’s sort of the point. But enough of our introductory babble – let’s break down some critical idols!

The Doors
“…don’t even think about describing their sound as “timeless”; you’ll be hard pressed to find music as trapped in time as these peyote-fueled dirges, and no one summed up the life and legacy of Jim Morrison – whose death was as brilliant a career move as you’ll ever see – better than Denis Leary: ‘I’m drunk, I’m nobody. I’m drunk, I’m famous. I’m drunk, I’m fucking dead.'”

Bruce Springsteen
“Perhaps Jello Biafra put it best when he referred to Bruce Springsteen as ‘Bob Dylan for jocks.’ But I can sum up what I dislike about the majority of the Boss in one word: Glockenspiel.”

Pink Floyd
“If you’re 14 and discovering pot, Pink Floyd’s a must. Hell, Dark Side of the Moon is practically a gateway drug in and of itself. If you’re out of high school and still into ’em, you’ve got a problem.”

Conor Oberst
“…his songs are duller than a steak knife in a prison cafeteria. I’ve tried repeatedly to ‘get’ Oberst’s work, but each time, I come away further convinced that his music is an elaborate prank hatched by the editors of Pitchfork.”

To read the rest of the bands Bullz-Eye doesn’t get, click here.

  

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