The Decemberists do their high-kick to "Billy Liar"

New This Week: The Decemberists, Lee Fields, & More

Jayson Greene

By Jayson Greene

on 03.13.12 in Spotlights

Everyone in the entire world is in Austin this week, guys. But that doesn’t mean that you and I can’t still hang out! We’ll grab some records, have a beer or a soda or something, eat some cheese puffs; just unwind, you know what I’m saying? Yeah, you do. It’s probably hot and messy down there with all that incredible live music anyway. Let’s do this!

The Decemberists, We All Raise Our Voices To The Air (Live Songs 04.11 – 08.11) – Our boy Meloy and his merry band of misfits sound quite solid live on this big double-disc celebration of all thing’s D that cover a broad range of their discography.

Lee Fields & The Expressions, Faithful Man – The latest from one of the best working soul revivalists around Dan Epstein writes:

Lee Fields doesn’t mess around. On Faithful Man, his first album since 2009′s acclaimed My World, it takes the veteran soul man just eight seconds to hit peak intensity. “I’ve always been a faithful man, till you came along,” he pleads against a tense “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”-style groove. His voice filled with apocalyptic dread because he knows he’s powerless against temptation, but he also knows that giving in will change his life forever. It’s classic soul conundrum – and these days, nobody does classic soul better than Lee Fields.

Spoek Mathambo, Father Creeper – The Sub Pop debut of the South African rapper/singer was mentioned in yesterday’s UK round-up; it’s here in theUS as well.

VCMG, Ssss – “VCMG” is an acronym for “Vince Clarke” and “Martin Gore,” otherwise known as “the two guys in Depeche Mode who haven’t worked together in years, and holy shit the two guys in Depeche Mode who haven’t worked together in years are working together!”

Sigh, Somniphobia – Wrote about this yesterday, and here it is again, in all its blitzkrieg, batshit militant glory.

Thieves Like Us, Bleed Bleed Bleed – Happy/sad indie-pop disco stuff. Indistinct but pretty.

The Burrell Bros, The Nu Grooves Years 1982-1992 – Roots of NY house music, right here guys. The studio band for the Nu Groove label. The sounds on this album are simply beautiful, and contain hints of a million different things: ambient synth music (chillwave!), chiptune, shoegaze, early computer music, synth-pop, and more.

Theo Bleckmann, Hello Earth! The Songs of Kate Bush – The hauntingly pure-voiced jazz/art song singer Theo Bleckmann offers his lucid, oblique take on the songs of Kate Bush.

Prurient, Oxidation – The Baltimore-based noise artist Prurient continues turning out his Chillwave for Snuff Films albums of squeedling, dentist-drill noises and wind-tunnel whooshes. Not for your next party, unless your next party is a demented social experiment.

Dave Sumner’s Jazz Picks:
Outstanding jazz drop this last week. Lots of recordings that stray from the conventional and some that beat the heart of classic jazz. A great week for music discovery. Let’s begin…

Beats & Pieces Big Band, Big Ideas: Fascinating mix of traditional big band sound and modern composition approaches and sound. Definitely some rock and Indie moments, some that veer into Steve Reich territory, and also willing to bring the funk without warning. Lots going on here, which means perpetually new discoveries with repeat listening. But, seriously, despite the experimentation, this is simply a joyous big band album. Find of the Week.

Lynne Arriale, Solo: This is why solo piano recordings exist. Evocative, but not a shameless grab at the heartstrings. Complex, but not a dissertation on the theory of black and white keys. To my mind, the best approach to the piano solo recording is to take the nuance and give it emotional impact, while simultaneously transforming the broader music statements into an undercurrent of subtlety. Arriale clearly gets it. Proud to make this my Pick of the Week.

Jonathan Edo, Traits d’unions: Likable outfit that brings a South African jazz sound, maybe a little South American influences, too, for a genial recording that’s very easy to tap the foot along to. Buoyant sax, grounded piano, polyrhythmic attack, ethnic vocals occasionally, talkative bass, some unconventional guest instruments. Just real nice jazz.

Jerker Kluge’s Deep Jazz, The Meeting: Nifty large ensemble recording, two feet firmly in the classic spiritual jazz of the sixties. Mostly original pieces, but does cover Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Freddie Hubbard, too. Bass clarinet absolutely sings, and harp adds some texture from the background. Occasional vocals won’t bother people who don’t like vocals in their jazz. Classic jazz sound. Recommended.

Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Legends Live: Liederhalle Stutt 1969: Another nice re-issue of classic live jazz by the JazzHaus label. Featuring Julian “Cannonball” Adderley: alto saxophone; Nat Adderley: trumpet; Joe Zawinul: piano, keyboards; Victor Gaskin: bass; Roy McCurdy: drums. Another nice archive release by JazzHaus. Adderley, know initially for his sublime Something Else with an all-star cast that included Miles Davis and Hank Jones, always had a soulful sound with some Blues stroll. Plenty of that here, though there are moments when he stretches out in the direction of the free jazz that was prevalent around the time of this performance. Reissue/Archive Find of the Week.

Josh Maxey, Incarnate: Guitarist Maxey has burst onto the scene with two albums in 2011 and one more soon to be released in 2012. On 2011′s Incarnate, his trio, with guest appearances by all-stars Rodney Jones (guitar) and Tim Collins (vibes), puts out a high-octane recording of modern jazz guitar that absolutely sings with life. Should appeal to both old school and new school jazz fans. Plenty swing, soul, and originality. Highly Recommended

Theo Bleckmann, Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush: Following on the Grammy nominated treatment of the music of Charles Ives, vocalist Bleckmann switches to the Kate Bush songbook. Working with long-time collaborator John Hollenbeck, Bleckmann brilliantly captures the magic of Bush’s music and gives it his own sense of drama and warmth. His version of “Running Up That Hill” is outstanding. Released on the Winter & Winter label, which has a habit of putting out albums of strange serenity. Recommended.

Scott Dubois, Landscape Scripture: I keep listening to this album and I continue to struggle to put it into some sort of succinct context. It’s got the ECMish world-jazz thing going on, as well as the multi-cultural jazz fusion a la Brad Shepik‘s Lingua Franca and Human Activity Suite. It’s got some free jazz moments with some thrilling sax and guitar solos. It’s also got a touch of the Bill Frisell serenity of his Nonesuch releases. I’m left with only summing this up as a fascinating recording that’s drowning in the type of serenity that’s got some kick to it, and which will invite repeat listenings. A lot of ‘em. Highly Recommended.

Eivind Opsvik, Overseas IV: Bass player extraordinaire Opsvik returns with the next recording in his Overseas series. Always exciting and always experimental, the fourth album continues that trend with an album that is as much rock and olde countryside folk as it is jazz. Backed by Kenny Wollesen on percussion, Tony Malaby on sax, Brandon Seabrook on guitar & mandolin, and Jacob Sacks on harpischord, farfisa organ, and piano. If you’re into Something Different, get this album. And if you’re unfamiliar with Opsvik, if you check your shevles for forward-thinking modern jazz albums, there’s a high probability that Opsvik’s name is in the credits. Recommended

Eric Alexander & Vincent Herring, Friendly Fire: Wonderful straight-ahead jazz recording from sax strongmen Eric Alexander (tenor) and Vincent Herring (alto). Recorded like at Smoke, and backed by piano, drums, and bass, the two saxes settle in and let go, giving a series of warm tones and soulful blasts. For pure undistilled jazz, these are two names you can’t go wrong with. Solid.

Scott Tixier, Brooklyn Bazaar: Brooklyn-based violinist teams up with piano, Fender Rhodes, guitar, drums, and bass for an intriguing set of light-hearted jazz that isn’t any less substantive for its joyous sound. Some very pretty moments. On the Sunnyside label, which puts out one winner after the other.

Another Capitol Vaults Jazz Series dropped, this one from Gene Krupa & Harry James Orchestra. Classic vocal-led jazz orchestra. Approximately seven-and-a-half hours of music in this box set.

Lionel Loueke, Virgin Forest: Digital-only reissue of Loueke’s debut album. An expanded edition with eight previously unreleased studio recordings and six previously unreleased solo acoustic performances. Loueke, a guitarist and vocalist, made a startlingly evocative recording with West African music and Jazz fused into one, and it’s nice to see it getting revisited. Guest appearances by Herbie Hancock, Gretchen Parlato, and Cyro Baptista.

Wallace Roney, Home: Viewed as one of Miles Davis’s torch-bearers, trumpeter Roney has fashioned a nifty sound that’s equal parts old-school Blue Note jazz and new-school modern. Roney can burn just as easily as let the silence do the work for him. This is a nice little recording, with some of that classic sound. Nice to see Aruan Ortiz on keyboards; he’s a welcome fresh voice on the scene, both on keys and through compositions. Released on HighNote, which can always be counted on for some tasteful jazz.

Skerik’s Bandalabra, Live at the Royal Room: Punk-jazz saxophonist Skerik has recorded an album that he explains as “Fela Kuti meeting Steve Reich in Rock’s backyard.” Well, I suppose all I’d have to add is it sounds like maybe Kuti made Reich sit on the time-out box for a little bit, ’cause this album is all up in joyous celebration.

Dayna Stephens, Today Is Tomorrow: One of four Criss Cross label albums that dropped this week. Tenor saxophonist Stephens brings together a strong cast that includes Julian Lage on guitar, Michael Rodriguez on trumpet, and Aaron Parks on piano for a nice set of modern straight-ahead jazz. Plenty of swing, bounce, and sway to satisfy any jazz appetite.

That’s all for jazz this week. Thanks Dave, as always. Moving on to the rest:

The Vines, Future Primitive – Remember this band? I do!

The Ting Tings, Sounds From Nowheresville – Remember these guys? Me too!

The Doors, Live In New York – Like it says it is! Live versions of “Roadhouse Blues,” “Alabama Song,” “Break On Through,” and tons more.

Jim Morrison & The Doors, An American Prayer – Did you think that the best part about the Doors was actually Jim’s poetry, and not all that pesky rock and roll? Did you long for an album-length recitation of said poems, both a capella and over waiting-room funk? No?

Big Brother & The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, Live At the Carousel Ballroom 1968 – My favorite live Janis Joplin moment has always been here tearing the song “Ball And Chain” to pieces like a deranged Rottweiler in front of an awed visibly gape-mouthed Mama Cass at the Monterey Pop Festival; this live set includes a tortured nine-minute take on the same song that is also gut-wrenching.

Tech N9NE, Klusterfuck EP – The long-standing, cult-favorite speed rapper releases an EP after he was unexpectedly invited to rap on Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV last year. No autotune here though.

Daniel Schell & Karo, If Windows They Have – Very cool, weird shit. A Belgian composer writes a series of miniatures for “strings, clarinets, synth, Chapman stick and percussion. It sounds like waiting-room music in the chamber of Kang and Kodos.

Jennifer Castle, Castlemusic – Just-slightly-off indie-folk tunes filled with shimmering, echo-laden guitar and slightly sinister vibes.

Primitive Weapons, The Shadow Gallery – Tortured, squalling hardcore.

Paint Fumes, Egyptian Rats – Scuffling blurts of tinny, barely controlled garage-rock mania.

Diplo, Express Yourself – Rubberized, booty-clap music from Diplo.

Evy Jane, Sayso – Haunting, liquid, and R&B-influenced torch song, heavily warped and nearly pulled apart by effects. A beautiful, unsettling song.

Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game – A very nice, Carole King/Todd Rundgren 70s’ AM Radio jam moment from Rufus.