Grab Bag: October 2007 - Back To School Edition

By: Chris Pacifico

It's that time of year for the lot of you where the days of sleeping in and mom's cooking have ended and all night partying, beer bongs and questionable trysts at college have begun. Surviving off Ramen noodle cups and lager, you may be a little timid to download some tunes from a file sharing service because either your school has banned them or the RIAA is pinning huge five figure fines on your peers. The following albums were specifically chosen to get you through as you count the days until you head home for Thanksgiving weekend where a balanced meal and a chance to get two and a half months laundry done await you. If you're sick of hearing too many O.A.R. and Dave Matthews Band bootlegs blaring down the hall in your dormitory, here's some antidotes.

Album of the Month:
Miracle Fortress: Five Roses (Secret City)
Sometimes, one can almost hear an Andy Rooney segment on 60 Minutes asking, "What's the deal with singer-songwriters these days? Why can they release their music under their given name instead of making up some lavish moniker?" Yeah, I could see where he's coming from. I mean, Conor Oberst's eyes aren't really all that bright. But, Graham Van Pelt lives up to his alias. His debut solo record as Miracle Fortress is a panacea of sunshine pop secluded deep in a magical realm, and his voice serves as a deep thought version of Willy Wonka guiding the listener through the nebulas of candy sweet droning, cloying ruffles and lilting melodies garnished in fuzz. The wall of sound production and folkie glitters complete the wafts of oohs and ahhs. Five Roses was a contender on the shortlist for 2007 Polaris Music Prize. Even though Patrick Watson snagged it, which is a good thing since he is an underdog, Five Roses is the victor in spirit according to the Grab Bag.

Runner Up:
The Evil Queens: Lovesong Werewolves (Sunken Treasure)
The Evil Queens are the Buckeye State's best kept secret. Charging with a brand of sloppy stoner rock that's tough as nails, you could easily find the Queens sitting at the end of a bar sharing a bottle of Old Granddad or challenging you to a tussle with a broken bottle. While the music has the most abrasive elements of grunge ala early Soundgarden and the tormenting stance of Mudhoney, it's bar rock and "fuck you" attitude will leave the leave barkeep mopping up blood and sweeping teeth off the floor after one of their gigs. Guitarist Mike Eckhardt's scraggy riffs are more chiseled than Clint Eastwood while the chili powder snarl from lead man Jacob Sundermeyer's voice sears with the heat of a tattoo needle. Loud, fiery and pulverizing, The Evil Queens remind us that rock & roll and troublemaking have never been too far apart.

Sadaharu: Resist. Revolt. Reclaim (C.i.)
Did you know that Sadaharu have the same first name as a Japanese baseball player (Sadaharu Oh) who hit 868 homeruns in his career? That's more than Barry "*" Bonds! And he wasn't even on the juice when he socked all of those balls out of the park for the Yomiuri Giants. More amazing is this band straight from the mean Amish streets of Lancaster, PA who burns with a wiry amalgamation of post hardcore noise rock. Spastic and pissed off about the status quo of the geopolitical climate, Sadaharu aren't too in your face but tickle the Jones for those who like it loud. The revolution may not be televised but it'll be a rockin' good time full of charging anthems if Sadaharu has anything to do with it. Recommended for the devout fans still weeping over breakup of Q and Not U and the "hiatuses" taken by Fugazi and At the Drive In.

Master P: Ghetto D (Tenth Anniversary Edition) (No Limit)
Before this album saw daylight, saying "ugggh" with enthusiasm was only reserved for those moments when you'd be dropping a mean deuce in the porcelain bowl. But thanks to Master P's seminal release it's now associated with being a No Limit soulja', son! Master P proclaims his classiness by stating that he rolls his blunts with Cohibas and on the opener, "Ghetto Dope," gives thorough and simple instructions on how to properly cook a batch of homemade crack just like mom used to make. Most of this album could be considered proto-crunk with the space funk jawns like "Captain Kirk" and odes to getting fucked up like such as "Pass Me Da Green". Ugggghhh!!!

Amiina: Kurr (Ever Records)
Amiina are four lovely ladies from Iceland who are down with Sigur Ros. What's not to love? Some situations where this album could come in handy include when you need to get to sleep or when you're looking for a way to come down off the diet pills you took to study for that exam. But, it's best when sucking on a bong near your dorm room window with the black light on so you can dodge that square R.A. who roams the halls when he's not at his Young Republican's meeting. Kurr is a serene take on neo-classical instrumentation with lush harps, guitars you've never heard of and metallophones that hover lightly in the air with delicate ambient looping and the pings from light clanks and clutters. A gentle, peaceful listen that'll soothe you in ways you never knew how.

Townes Van Zandt: Our Mother the Mountain (Reissue) (Fat Possum)
When listening in closely on Townes Van Zandt's voice on this 1969 album, considered by many to be his maiden gem, it's a lot like looking into the eyes of Montgomery Clift. In his films, no matter what mood is being shown it's apparent that there is a deep sadness underneath. His country-folk serenades were sheepish and lonely but Van Zandt proved to be a genuine troubadour when he recorded this album around the age of 24. While it sounds straight off of the Western frontier, it also shares traits with Los Angeles artists of the day such as Love, Tim Buckley and Roger McGuinn. Imbued with the campfire harmonica and tones of lonesome nights spent under the stars with the Gene Autrey, this powerful, gentle record is a perfect place to start with Van Zandt.

Von Sudenfed: Tromatic Reflexxions (Domino)
Mark E. Smith of The Fall is like the Robert Pollard of England. He's got a gazillion albums and songs recorded under his name and can pen a pop ditty in his sleep. He's spent the past thirty years reinventing the sound of The Fall over and over again but now he's taken a welcome detour with Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma of the German experimental techno outfit Mouse On Mars. This is a wry crash course in what it takes to sound completely lazy while making dance music. Smith, as always, sings like half of his mouth is oozing drool while the Mouse On Mars boys add sandstorms of dub, disco and snooty house to make a jaded album of pulsing beats. Those who dig Blitzen Trapper will bask in the Delta blues robo funk of "Chicken Yiamas." However, if you've never heard The Fall before be sure to get acquainted with them first before giving this a spin.

Arthur & Yu : In Camera (Hardly Art)
Probably the sexiest release of the year, Arthur & Yu create cinematic bliss woven into heady, stripped down arrangements with glistening layers of early Brit-folk, lounge pop, girl group sensuality and the psychedelic fluorescence of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. In Camera has the chic retro sheen of a French New Wave flick tied up with a spaghetti western where singer Sonya Westcott is a sexy, mysterious cowgirl heroine. With the face of Anita Ekberg, she stumbles into a saloon of strangers who know that she's liable to offer painful heartbreak but bandmate Grant Olsen and his country croon go with the flow anyway. In Camera is martini hour in a libidinous desert dotted with tender pop that'll nibble on your earlobe while you listen to it. "Come to View (Song for Neil Young)" is proof alone that you urgently need to get this album.

Pearlene: For Western Violence and Brief Sensuality (High and Dangerous)
In the past four years since their eponymous debut was released, Pearlene has had to endure comparisons to the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as well as the punk-garage blues tag. But now, Reuben Glaser and company have matured like a good bottle of aged bourbon. It appears as if the members have been sitting in their woodsheds listening to their dad's old records as they consume cases of Stroh's. They're from Cincinnati but they play like a house band in the Kentucky backwoods used to smuggling moonshine. With a bit of indie cred now, they still carry enough honky tonk moxie to rock a country ass cowboy saloon like the one in Thelma and Louise. Apparently, they've had knowledge dropped on them from albums by Leon Russell, Coach Fingers and the Chess Records roster, and they barbecue it all up at a pie-eyed, shit kickin' punk rock square dance.

Imperial Teen: The Hair, the TV, the Baby & the Band (Sub Pop)
Imperial Teen sing and play like they're so much damn cooler than you, and, to some degree, they may be. Back after a five-year break, they still have a lazy pep flow on songs that sound like advertising jingles for a grocery store ("Do It Better") or show great love for The White Album ("Fallen Idol"). Comparisons to Stereolab are understandable, but where Stereolab make music for the futuristic, space age bachelor pads, Imperial Teen seductively tosses turpentine on all that to keep things stripped down. This is a heapin' helping of no-filler pop that sits easy and reigns snooty.

Femi Kuti: The Definitive Collection (Wrasse)
Nepotism is not a Kuti family value. Femi may be the son of Afrobeat pioneer and legend Fela Kuti, but he has no need to depend on the family name for his success, as this retrospective testifies. Not as super polyrhythmic as his pop, Femi's Afrobeat is more saturated in heavy tribal jazz and deep, introspective bass funk. Highlights include the somber but vibrant soul of "'97," titled after the year his father passed away along with his cousin and a younger sister that had cancer and was misdiagnosed and operated on for the wrong ailment. "Traitors of Africa" throws a blunt wave of defiance in the face of early '90s Nigerian dictator General Ibrahim Bababgida and subconsciously follows in the footsteps of Fela's "Zombies" from 1977. The songs are socially conscious and amongst the most powerful is "Stop AIDS," where a slithering organ and jiggling horns back Femi up as he denounces the religious institutions in Africa for prohibiting the use of condoms as AIDS is ravaging the continent. The bridging of cultures is rich with guests such as Common, D'Angelo, Macy Gray and Mos Def. The duet with Rachid Taha on "Ala Jalkoum" is a beautiful arrangement of emotive Arab rai music and North African desert folk. Also included is a second disc of remixes mostly in the fashion of deep house and dub.

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[Published on: 10/25/07]

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KCReb Thu 10/25/2007 07:24AM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
21mmer Thu 10/25/2007 09:03AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


so, kcreb, you're ok with the q-tip show getting reviewed but not the master-p album. explain....i don't get it.

ps- chris, nice job as always.

rulosa01 starstarstarstar Thu 10/25/2007 09:34AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

i dig these things. get a bunch of album reviews with a bunch of bands i don't know all at once. the little introduction was good too. MAKE EM SAY UGGGGGHHHHHHH

KCReb Thu 10/25/2007 10:27AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I am ecstatic about the Q-Tip show being reviewed!

That man and Tribe have always given hip-hop a good name with positive thoughts and impressive beats. I said JamBase should stick to GOOD music, not Billboard artists rapping about getting fucked up w/ their bitches.

It is just an opinion of one man.

tommont starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/25/2007 01:49PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


That is a nice group of records you've selected to review, Chris. Some stuff that I have never heard of + Arthur & Yu, Femi Kuti, Imperial Teen and probably the first review of the late great TVZ that I've ever seen on Jambase. nice.

tom / berkeley ca