Thai Pop Spectacular

Sublime Frequencies is a label run by Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls (and filmmaker Hisham Mayet), with help from brother and fellow SCG (Sir) Richard, where they can share little heard or seen musical treasures from Southeast Asia to the Middle East. And with Thai Pop Spectacular, they've managed to compile an eclectic mix of Thai music from the 60's to 80's that I wish would have been a part of my musical language long ago. It's a wild mix of genres held together for English-only ears by not only the foreign, melodic, slightly melancholy longing warble of the singing but by a strange sense of familiarity with the music. The first two tracks below especially gave me the feeling I had heard them somewhere before (especially the second one, I'm almost positive this is a cover but can't find info on it, it's not the "Don't Deceive Me" listed on allmusic.com - anyone?). And in this album the funky grooves, killer guitar/bass/keyboard/horn riffs, surf and disco-wah-wah influences, and a reverence for standards and oldies aren't the generic pastiche or giant mess you might think, but rather like a glorious Thai Nuggets, like what you expect to find in the record collection of a hip Thai kid in the 70's or 80's, who wears the same new-wave sunglasses as his American contemporaries, only with more wistfulness, palm trees, heat, and coconut curries.

Buy it direct from Sublime Frequencies. This is #32 in their collection of unique audio and video, and admittedly the first I've come across, but I look forward to exploring their other releases, too, which are all listed on their main page.


Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus

Super Furry Animals are one of my favorite bands. The show I saw of their Rings Around the World tour, 2002 in Austin at the Mercury (now Parish), replete with head-swirling quadraphonic speaker set-up, is perhaps my favorite show of all time. I admittedly didn't fall in love the very first time I heard them in the 90's, I thought they were just OK. I had heard they drove around music festivals in a large blue tank that had techno music blasting out of it, that they were on Creation Records, and that I just hadn't listened well enough. I listened again to Guerrilla and it hit me - and it's funny, all of their albums are the same way for me - it's always on the second or third listen that the genius truly reveals itself, the interplay of harmonies is comprehended, the great lyric is realized (tongues are often either firmly in cheek, stuck out at bad politics, or on their first two EPs and the LP Mwng lilting unintelligibly in their native Welsh). The magnificently polished production fills the ears with warmth, repeated listenings affirming the hand-crafted care they take with every song.

They've always straddled the line between guitar-pop and electronica experimenters with various genre-bending including country thrown in, but on their newest, Hey Venus, they sound more like a proper rock band than they ever have, but at the same time they are as mellow as they've ever been. The songs are a bit simpler, leaner, less epic, more light-hearted, and both they and the album as a whole are as short as SFA have ever made. There's still the wonderful string and horn arrangements by Sean O'Hagan (Microdisney, High Llamas, Stereolab) which always provide an extra lovely richness to their sound, and a touch of 50's nostalgia at the core of several of these songs, like the doo-wop-ish "Runaway" or the summery longing strings of "Carbon Dating". Their psychedelic wackiness does still peek in from the cracks, like the random electronic arpeggio over the chorus of straight-ahead rocker "Neo Consumer", the bursts of spacey electro-whirring and Turkish-style dulcimer on "Into the Night" (Gruff says he's into mostly 70's Mediterranean pop these days), and the crickety rollercoaster-pitch trickle of the guitar on "Battersea Odyssey", or all the lyrics and 'No-no-no-no' vocals on "Baby Ate My Eightball" or that song's polyrhythmic bridge. Even a relatively subdued song like"Carbon Dating" has sound effects at the end that sound like the shrieking metallic apocalypse at the end of "Full Metal Jacket". But mostly here they're showing how brilliantly keeping things in check can sound, especially after the previous album, the less-focused Love Kraft. Closing track "Let The Wolves Howl At The Moon" is a late-night piano-bar sing-along elevated to perfection with just a backing band and no frills, an apt close. This is SFA's first album for the beloved Rough Trade label (after a major-label stint), almost hit #10 in the UK (as almost all of their releases do, this hit #11) and entered the iTunes charts at #9, and hopefully is a sign that after over a decade as a band there's still no end in sight.

Be sure to check the SFA official site (listen to streaming tracks from this album and others in the upper-right), especially the extras section with mp3s and videos of the recording session for "Hey Venus!" (including some funny outtake tracks). Like the new AC, I've had a few months to fully digest it and be able to say without a doubt it's one of the tops of the year. You can get it now for about 14 bucks on (UK) CD at Amazon, and they have it digitally for $9.49. There is a Japanese version available with two bonus tracks, but these are also the two b-sides to the first single, "Show Your Hand" ("Aluminum Illuminati" and "Never More"). The US vinyl release is apparently in November, and domestic CD (with bonus goodies according to fansite superfurry.org) Jan 22, 2008.

Here's first single "Show Your Hand" performed live recently at UK's T4 Festival. Apparently, Yeti costumes are out and Power Rangers are in (although the drummer Dafydd Ieuan seems to be wearing a bright yellow yeti body with red arm scales? in this performance on morning TV)

Here's the video for the second single, "Runaway", starring Matt Berry (anybody see the bizarre British hospital-over-the-gates-of-hell show 'Garth Marenghi's Darkplace'?) and directed by Richard Ayoade (same show - he acted, and wrote and directed episodes)

And why not take this chance to have you (again) watch the great video for Juxtaposed With U, one of the gentler cuts on 2002's "Rings Around The World", about letting go in more ways than one. Nice, serene video by Pedro Romhanyi


Mick Jagger

"Greatest hits albums are for housewives... and little girls." -Bruce McCullough's KITH sketch about the Doors. And it's partly true. I had the Best of Creedence for a long time until Pavement's cover of "Sinister Purpose" inspired me to buy CCR's "Green River" album, which blew me away and made me mad at myself for relying on the greatest hits package for so long. But for some artists, a greatest hits package makes perfect sense, as in the case of the brand new "Very Best of Mick Jagger." Mick obviously wants to spread his wings and do something different than he's done with the Rolling Stones in his four solo albums and other side projects, but it can end up sounding like a generic 80's pastiche, like on the faux-urgent driving rock of the Lenny Kravitz produced opener "God Gave Me Everything" or the strutting "Lucky In Love" and "Just Another Night" from his first solo album in '85, which did have Bill Laswell producing and Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, and Herbie Hancock playing, and both of those songs and the album itself were huge hits at the time, but they haven't exactly aged well. But even though a few hits are misses, several of these tracks hit the mark, especially when he and the music stretch out and are at their most soulful, like on "Memo From Turner" (from the "Performance" movie soundtrack, written with Keith Richards and with Steve Winwood on bass and Ry Cooder on the bottleneck, from 1969), "Sweet Thing" (not too dissimilar from some newer era Charlatans UK, from Jagger's ecelctic third and by far most acclaimed album), and on his appearance on Peter Tosh's "(You Got To Walk And) Don't look Back" (I can hear it: 'Hey, mon, dijoo see 'im doon that chicken dance? cuh-razy, mon'). Also included are three previously unreleased tracks, including the long-fabled super-funky John Lennon-produced "Too Many Cooks (Spoil the Soup)" and a fine blues stomp with the Red Devils. If you're a fan of Jagger's legendary sway and swagger with the Stones, it'd be worth picking this up, ten bucks or less at Amazon.


Collections of Animal Collective

Here is every known Animal Collective live recording

And a large selection of Animal Collective rarities

Huge thanks to all the Animal Collective fans who record and give their time to help share, especially sherbz at bansheebeat.com for compiling the live shows and chemotion.com for compiling the rarities.

There's not much more to say that hasn't been said about Animal Collective. If you haven't joined the bandwagon, then ignore it and listen to the music (after emptying your mind of preconceived notions), but note that most of the old-school fans are still on board.

On their newest, Strawberry Jam, their forest-chanting experiments and shakers and stick rhythms have completely gelled with their samplers and electronics and pop sensibilities into a more focused, steadier beat - where the whoops and ahhhs and hey-oooos and squirts of noise synchronize with the arpeggioed scales and steady but warbling waves of delay that shimmy off of nearly every sound, the whole time phasers and swooshes and other indistinguishable effects are all ingrained, the whole glorious mess somehow vibrating as one. They practice and prerecord their music as much as they improvise, but it always has a live manic energy, and always blends together, and it can be a game wondering during their live performances just what the hell sounds beyond drum shots and singing each member is producing. Third man Geologist (with headlamp) has compared his role to that of Bob Nastovich's in Pavement: the extra background sounds and flourishes, the icing on the cake. But even if Geo doesn't whip out the maracas or shout loudly, perhaps his role is even more important - he's talked on the Collected Animals message board about some of the electronics that are being used, how he and Panda synch their machines together and bounce sounds and samples back and forth to each other. But mainly it's the hooks and beautiful, primal vocal melodies that Panda (top) and Avey (second from top) seem to pull out of a never-ending bag of inspiration that elevate this band to something special. Says Geo: "You can give someone the best sampler in the world and are they gonna make something as killer as what Noah (Panda Bear) made with two sp-303's when he did 'Person Pitch'?" And while both Deakin (bottom) and guitars have been absent from Animal Collective on their recent tours, his recent appearance with the rest of AC on Conan seems to indicate he may be rejoining them again soon. It'll be interesting to see how his guitar fits in to some of the new songs, it seemed to just gently reverberate into the background in the Conan appearance - perhaps there will be some Afro-pop noodling on some of the post-Strawberry Jam tracks like "Will To Joy".

Before you dive into the treasures linked to at the top, be sure to have a taste of Strawberry Jam if you haven't already:

Amazon has it for about twelve bucks new, Insound has it for ten bucks on mp3 and nineteen on LP (nows a good time to experience the richness of vinyl) Thanks to Daniel/Arnold for the Panda pic, *Peter for the Avey and Geologist pics, and Soulsick for the Deakin pic - all three of them have other great pics of AC with not a whole lot of views on them, a shame. BTW, I do have an AC show in my previous post, and it is a great performance of their post-Strawberry Jam tracks with not-too-bad sound, but since then other recordings have come out that handle the super-low bass they've had rumbling lately a bit better, check the newer recordings in the above thread, especially the Charlottesville and London summer shows that come from the Live Music Archive. And if you missed it, they finally made their national TV debut on Conan last Friday night. Avey explained on the CA board that they were limited to around four minutes, so options were limited, but the only rationale I can think of for them choosing to play #1, perhaps the strangest of all tracks on Strawberry Jam, as opposed to the shorter (more energetic) "Chores" or even shorter (and less dissonant) "Derek" is clear: it is them saying, "this is who we really are - even though we're poppier than ever, we're still freaks":