Monday, August 29, 2011

August Roundup: A Fly on the Freeway

In May, I moved into a new apartment, and in my roundup I apologized for being too busy to post consistently.  Well, true believers, August has made May look like a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Life has transformed yet again, and at the end of this month I can call myself a father.  I admit that it feels pretty weird to don that title, but it also feels natural and right. 

As predicted in July, I have posted relatively little this month, and only small percentage of what did make it out is informed by experiences in the car (which was the original mission statement of the blog).  Truth of the matter is I have not spent that much time in the car recently, but rather in hospitals and nurseries.  Still, music seems to grab my attention no matter where I go, admittedly because I often seem to place it in my path.

Regardless of my change in parental status, summer has come to an end.  I have one week left of leave before I become a fly on proverbial windshield and return to a school year already in progress.  Also, the “CrossFit project” has been a resounding success.  I’ve dropped about fifteen pounds and feel great and the car, although a secondary listening venue for this month, does play on.

Arena - Pepper's Ghost:  Inspired by the success of Yes' Fly from Here, I revisited this 2005 release and decided that it is probably the last album I will ever buy by this frustrating neo-prog outfit. Frustrating, because instrumentally I really, really like them, but their overall melodramatic clich√© factor makes them an unshareable commodity.

Brendan Benson - The Alternative to Love:  Before he garnered some added visibility by shacking up with Jack White in the Raconteurs, Benson suddenly showed a new maturity on this album.  It features some of his finest songs and his most adventurous production.

Tyondai Braxton - Central Market:  This album is still blowing my mind.  I can’t decide whether to have goosebumps or burst into tears when I listen to it.

K. Sridhar & K. Shivakumar - Ocean of Sound vol. 2:  A masterful rendering of raga Todi featuring violin and sarod.  Shivakumar's violin performances are particularly captivating. 

Mastodon - Crack the Skye:  Finally watched the DVD that came with this 2009 release and fell in love all over again.  It’s like Hemispheres for the drop-tuned generation. 

Blackfield: While Porcupine Tree was dabbling in darker, more metallic terrain, Steven Wilson’s 2005 “side project” with Aviv Geffen shines brightly.  Blackfield may not totally eclipse the bolder work of Wilson’s parent project, but it does emphasize the strength of his songwriting skills.

Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs:  A collection of quirky pop tunes driven, unusually, by a killer and distinctive bass player.  I can’t seem to get it to stick to my ribs, but I enjoy listening to it when it is on.

The Rolling Stones - Goat's Head Soup:  I have had this album sitting in my collection for nearly twenty years and have never really listened to it.  As usual with the Stones, it has more attitude than substance, but there are some outstanding tracks.

Jakzsyk, Collins, and Fripp - A Scarcity of Miracles:  This subtly masterful album can hang in the background or withstand meticulous study.  It may not be as commanding as King Crimson’s best work, but it still succeeds at being a meaningful listen.

Trichy Sankaran - Laya Vinyas:  A full album of mridangam (A South Indian drum) solos might seem exhausting, but with a little concentration, Sankaran’s mindblowing virtuosity is undeniable.  In fact, he kinda rocks.

The Mars Volta – Octahedron:  I doubt anything that the Mars Volta releases will ever beat out De-Loused in the Comatorium in my book, but Octahedron is a step in the right direction.  It has the kind of focus that distinguishes their better work from their more meandering releases.

Fitz and the Tantrums – Pickin’ up the Pieces:  An unflinching blue-eyed tribute to the funk and soul of yesteryear.  It’s infectiously energetic, undeniably catchy, and actually pretty good, especially for the closet Hall and Oates fan.

On a final note, I am not purposefully overlooking the Indian music examples in my playlists.  Nothing would make me happier than to put Trichy Sankaran's performance of the Kriti Padavini up there between Mastodon and ProjeKCt 7.  This release, and others like it, is a little obscure, though, and finding streaming examples is proving difficult within my current resources.  I will keep my eyes open for solutions.

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