Year-end odds and ends
Before a turn of the calendar makes some of my recent favorites year-old releases, here’s a hodgepodge of records that didn’t quite fit anywhere, however often they sat in my stereo:
Mike Langlie’s new disc fits the profile of hip-hop, bedroom-based, Mad Scientist Of Sound stuff, but with a twist. Instead of opening himself up to the wide world of vinyl history, the samples here come almost exclusively from children’s records. Jumbled recitations of the alphabet, bunny-rabbit endearments, and barnyard sounds get looped and layered in a trippy exercise that, I’m guessing, would be a sure-fire gift if you were invited to a baby shower for DJ Shadow.
Mike Patton’s Ipecac label is the kind of place you’d normally expect to find a giddily twisted disc like Twink’s. This month, though, they’ve gone retro, with a two-disc collection by soundtrack legend Ennio Morricone, best known for Sergio Leone films. There’s much more to Morricone than spaghetti westerns, however, as this trippy set proves: psychedelia and sex sounds here, rain-soaked jazz and funky bass lines there, it’s the sound of a hundred Italian films that, save for the Maestro’s touch, would probably be best forgotten. (And others, of course, that we’d love to see on DVD!)
It isn’t a soundtrack, but there’s definitely a narrative threading through the latest work by this brother/sister team. Lots of stories, actually—and if they spill out in the fragmentary, elliptical manner of tales told for the millionth time to grandkids who’d rather be someplace else, that’s mainly because the band’s grandmother is actually the person telling them. Eighty-three-year-old Olga Sarantos is the croaking, strangely captivating voice here, speak-singing in cadences like Beat poetry while the kids twiddle electronic dials or bang away on spindly pianos. Like it or not, you have never heard a record like this.
Penitentiary Blues by David Allan Coe (Hacktone):
Again with the storytelling. The hard-living Coe spent his 20s in jail, and the result is this 1969 debut, full of tales that most of Nashville’s outlaws would have to take some imaginative leaps to equal. Coe’s flavor of Outlaw Country is more bluesy than his peers, and on this record even shares a bit with his folkie contemporary Fred Neil. Play it as a double feature with Johnny Cash’s At San Quentin.
Black Sheep Boy Appendix by Okkervil River (Jagjaguwar):
Okkervil songwriter Will Sheff may not be any more tormented than Billy Bob in real life, but he’s sure a lot more convincing when he writes about it. This EP follows the band’s excellent Black Sheep Boy — it doesn’t pack the same punch as its big brother, but listeners who got lost in that record will value another peek while awaiting the band’s next move.
Hobo by Billy Bob Thornton (Big Deal):
From a genuine convict to an ersatz tramp. Billy Bob Thornton is a fantastically entertaining actor, so I want to believe that he intends this as a comedy record. But I suspect that it is not.
Strange Geometry by The Clientele (Merge):
Literally, it took eight seconds for me to develop a strong suspicion I was going to like this record. Fortunately, the remaining 41 or so minutes lived up to it. Melancholy, melodic and drenched in atmosphere, the record sounds kind of like an ’80s band doing a great job of evoking wistful ’60s Britpop. Maybe if Wes Anderson remade Donnie Darko, this would make the soundtrack. Until then, I’ll be listening to Strange Geometry while 2005 fades inevitably into 2006.
By John DeFore