The Beatles "Abbey Road," Apple/Capitol/EMI
Without Abbey Road, contemporary music would be in an entirely different place. Defying conventional standards of production, creating a happy medium between complexity and accessibility, and essentially redefining the word "catchy", The Beatles brain-child has as much historical legacy today as works of the Founding Fathers of the United States or religious texts. Hell, if the majority of Christians go to church a handful of times a year, then Beatles-maniacs obsession with McCartney's divinity trumps the majority of Christ-believers faith in Jesus.
This re-issue is nothing new: same songs, same production (though now slightly more over-the-top), and the same melodies that made a nation fall in love with long hair. Abbey Road is more than just an album: it's a definitive icon.
*****Shelton's Single of the Week: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"*********
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Beatles, four-working class Liverpool boys who came out of nowhere to conquer the world with the greatest songs ever heard.
Outasight "Further," Asylum/Warner Bros.
Somewhere between soul and white-rap, Outasight mixes a cocktail of New York hip-hop ala Jay Z and soul-rock of '70s and creates something surprisingly new. Half sung and half rapped, he showcases his multiple talents in one package.
Outasight is skilled in flow as well as melody-creation, making the transitions between the two feel logical. While he loses massive amounts of respect for collaborating with fratboy Asher Roth, there is undeniably something special about Outasight.
*****Shelton's Single of the Week: Willie Nelson: "On the Street Where You Live"*********
Nirvana "Bleach Deluxe Edition," Sub Pop
Even after 20 years, Bleach is still one of the most surprising albums to come out in the mainstream. Yes, Sub Pop today is hardly comparable to that of last century, but the band's rise to fame a few years later defines the album's importance, and Bleach is absolutely an essential part of rock history.
And in history, it is probably the heaviest album to make the charts. The Melvins never reached this level, and neither did Sleep, but somehow Bleach stands apart as something more magical. Included on this repress is the original works, with the same fuzzed out recording quality, and a live performance in Portland circa 1990. Absolutely perfect.
******BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK*********
Shelton's Single of the Week: "Sifting"
EDITOR'S NOTE: Only a handful of musicians have been able to catch their zeitgeist and watch their music resonate far beyond their fan base into the culture at large.
Gossip "Music For Men," Columbia/Sony
Possibly the most impressive contemporary mainstream indie-punk band around today, Gossip unleashes Music For Men, an album that continues the band in their trajectory without losing speed.
Gritty, emotional, and with more sass than a diva convention, the band has lost a bit of their sharp edge as their major-label career progresses. But rather than suffering, their music continues to evolve and recreate itself as an equally impressive force. An absolute must have.
Shelton's Single of the Week: "Don't Cost a Dime"
EDITOR'S NOTE: Martina always delivers a set of neo-traditionalist country
and county-inflected folk songs that showcase her ability to get to the heart of a song and turn it into something communicative and thought provoking. The "Independence Day" women with her incredible vocals and unmatched artistry reinforced her musical dominance with new songs.
Meg Hutchinson "The Living Side," Red House
Launching her into the fame she deserves, Hutchinson's sophomore album The Living Side lists her strengths in fairly plain to see language. Songwriting ability? Check. Performance ability? Certainly. Distinctive and soulful voice? Yup. Honesty? This album is as straightforwardly sincere as singer/songwriters get.
Fairly low energy, blurring the line between folk and indie ala Mirah or the like, Hutchinson is a name that everyone across the board should take note of.
******ARTIST TO WATCH!!!*******************
Spoon "Transference," Merge
While defined traditionally as indie rock, Spoon is undeniably so much more. Noisey, dynamic, and filled with the most intricate of detailed production, the band has released a constant flow of impressive records since their beginnings in the early '90s.
Transference is, thus far, my favorite album from the band. Moving further and further away from traditional rock roles, the newest set of recordings feels more like Radiohead with pop sensibilities than The Replacements. Best track on the record, without a doubt, is the monumental opus "Is Love Forever". Another absolutely flawless record.
Daryl Hall & John Oates "Do What You Want Be What You Are 4 CD SET," RCA/Jive/Legacy/Sony
Hall & Oates complete works, put together in one inconveniently sized package, puts together everything you could ever need from '70s pop music. 74 tracks, including 16 previously unreleased ones, a book of pictures, lyrics, and commentary, this box-set is essential for any Hall & Oates enthusiasts, and particularly for those with any sense of style.
Yes, while too big to really fit anywhere nicely in your CD collection, the artwork and layout are beautiful, tying the package together rather than just a collection of music. Upbeat pop music that is recognizable as none other, this duo's legacy is safely preserved in this timeless package.
************LATE BUT GREAT***********
*******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Whole Lotta Rosie"**********
EDITOR'S NOTE: No pair of artists persued the mellow R&B sound like Hall & Oates.
Madame Pamita "Wax Works," Old Time Is A Good Time
The revival-obsession with "old time medicine show" in full swing, Madame Pamita comes on the scene to make everyone else look like fools. Recorded on equipment from the 1890s, Wax Works has an authentic quality that I have heard from no others.
Amazing traditional-style blues/old time music, with little that would give away the fact that she's not dead (aside from her song about cocaine), Madame Pamita is a silver lining in a sky of hopeless music. One of the most impressive things I have heard in a long time.
*******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Back Broke"**********
EDITOR'S NOTE: Their shockingly successful cult phenomenon is one of the strangest rock stories of our time. Check them out.
The Red Chord "Fed Through The Teeth Machine," Metal Blade
While blown away by Fused Together in Revolving Doors, The Red Chord's subsequent albums have been on a steady downhill slope. Fed Through The Teeth Machine luckily takes a few steps in the right direction, abandoning their emotionless metalcore persona for one a bit more metal.
Now a full fledged tech-deathmetal band, The Red Chord's reliance on technical skill breaks away a bit to give a hint of emotion. Heavy, driving, and filled with breakdowns that aren't just a steady series of chugging, The Red Chords manages to create an album that makes head-banging completely irresistible.
*******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Burn"**********
Mark Knopfler "Get Lucky," Reprise/Warner Bros.
Irish musical genius Mark Knopfler's elegance with crafting albums is mesmerizing: Get Lucky flows from beginning to end without any sense of mediocrity or jerky nature. No, Knopfler is better than that.
The entire album feels like the continuation of a single concept, all relating back to the central theme. This certainly isn't Dire Straits; the influence between the previous project can be heard solely in style and flow. If you are interested in Irish soft-rock, Get Lucky is the album of the year.
*******Shelton's Single of the Week: "SEEING STARS WITH PATTY GRIFFIN"**********
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mark Knopfler is more interested in satisfying himself than any audience, but when he played "The Sultan's of Swing" with Dire Straits and you don't get a multiple orgasm when you listen, you need help.
Angie Stone "Unexpected," Stax/Concord
Angie Stone career spans over decade, but little compares to this '90s pop throwback. Maybe it's just because I have a soft spot for '90s R&B, but anything that feels remotely of Mariah Carey's "Butterfly" is my kryptonite. Despite an (ironically) repetitive feel throughout, Unexpected isn't quiet what it says it is, but still manages to make a pop album that is easy listening from beginning to end.
***********LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL*****************
*******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Half of My Heart (w/Taylor Swift) "**********
EDITOR'S NOTE: There's always room in pop music for a well-groomed young man with an ear for melody and unpretentious demeanor.
Space Cowboy "Digital Rock Star," Tiger Trax/Interscope/Universal
Catchy as shit euro-pop from Nicolas Dresti (aka Space Cowboy). As electronic pop music goes, this is unstoppable. 12 tracks of high energy, low morals, and unfaltering dance beats that are virtually irresistible. While this is not what I am usually attracted to, this album manages to construct everything I want from this style.
Los Texmaniacs "Borders Y Bailes," Smithsonian Folkways
Described as "hip music that everybody in the world can relate to" Los Texmaniacs aren't quiet what they aim to be, but still feel more genuine that most everything else. Combining traditional conjunto music with a bit of rock and jazz, the band manage to be catchy and intricate while remaining true to their style.
Straight to the point, and genuinely catchy, Borders Y Bailes is a piece of history that most are blissfully ignorant to. Change that and check this album out.
************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************
******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Never Learn"*************
EDITOR'S NOTE: THAT JUST MADE MY HAIR STAND UP, LISTENING TO HIM. IT SEEMS "THAT'S JUST THE WAY THE WORLD IS".
The Stan Kenton Alumni Band "Have Band Will Travel - Live," Summit/Allegro
Wonderful big band jazz from trumpeter Mike Vax. As the name suggests, the musicians were collaborators with the late Stan Kenton, genius pianist/composer, and manage to channel the artistic prowess that Kenton endowed on the world. Dynamic, emotional, and downright fun, this album is terrific for any jazz enthusiast.
Various Artists "Good Ol' Nashville," Sony
I recently got in an argument with a friend over Hank Williams III, attempting to define what exactly "good country" is. I guess Good Ol' Nashville is my best defense in this case. Featuring Hank Williams (the original), Johnny Cash, Elvis Presely, Ray Price, and many of the less-than-household-name classics such as Webb Pierce and Hank Snow, this album showcases what country is all about.
Every track on here, as most of Starbucks unfortunately-perfect compilations tend to be, are perfect. Production is minimal, recordings are gritty yet surprisingly clear, and almost 45 minutes of material, Good Ol' Nashville is a punch in the face to all contemporary country artists.
**************** NEW ALBUM OF THE WEEK**********
******Shelton's Single of the Week: Chet Atkins "The Poor People of Paris"*************
EDITOR'S NOTE: They go to a place outside themselves, sitting under the stars or all of a sudden there's a hailstorm.
Nick Moss "Privileged," Blue Bella
Rock-influenced blues that feels about as fake as phonies get. While moments of the album carry redeeming qualities (the driving flow of the second track "Louise", for instance), the overall package just seems a little lackluster. Over produced, and a bit on the end of cheese, Privileged is to blues what Good Charlotte has been to rock and roll.
EDITOR'S NOTE: One of my true heroes. Her singing is so unique it's like speaking. She's completely naked within a song.
Becca "Alive!!," SonyMusic Japan/RED
So the record industry seems to know my soft-spot. Girl-pop with embarrassing pop-punk tendencies are my guilty pleasure, and from the opening chords of Alive!! I've been reluctantly hooked.
Soulless pop music with production that makes the record sound more like teen movie than a piece of art, Becca's recent debut onto the music scene is bringing the 20 year old the attention she (or her ghostwriters) deserve. With a full-voice shout and cranked up distortion, this Avril Lavigne clone is as good as the genre allows it to be. Personally, I'm going to be holding onto this for a while.
******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Dreamless Sleep"*************
Copernicus "Nothing Exists," Moonjune
As an artist, I have infinite respect for Copernicus: not only creating something original, but incorporating theory and poetry into an expanse of recorded art. As music, I can barely listen to it.
Nothing Exists, as a 35+ minute opus of new age jazz mixed with silly rambling poetry that reminds me of a drunk Shatner, the album just does nothing for me. I actually laughed through half of the recording. Maybe I just don't get it, but this album is one of the goofiest things that has wound up in my lap in a long time.
"SO NICE GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE" (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)
******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Hey, Soul Sister"*************
EDITOR'S NOTE: He drives around aimlessly - feeling there's no way to be in his kind of hell, no way to extinguish a
flame that burns, burns, burns.
Gil Scott-Heron "I'm New Here," XL
While most attempt creativity these days by incorporating new elements into old tricks, Gil Scott-Heron recreated trip-hop in his own dynamic image. Flowing freely between minimalist down-tempo spoken word to digital r&b backed blues, Scott-Heron has put together a new sound all together.
Each song blends himself differently into the genre, but continues to create sounds and textures that are simultaneously familiar and original. Highly recommended.
******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Why I'm Leaving"*************
EDITOR'S NOTE: His political wordplay anticipated rap. As a novelist, poet, and pianist, Scott-Heron achieved an incredible synthesis of laid-back soul music long -- with jazz-fusion, embellishment borrowed from Bitches-Brew - period.
Carlon "Johari Window," Ropeadope
Blues-influenced indie rock from Carlon. While I cannot think of another artist similar to this, the band creates something that's somewhere between mediocre and enjoyable.
Each song is different from the last, creating a bit of anticipation on first listen, but becomes a dull gimmick a few times through. I guess this album is interesting enough, but nothing in it makes me care. Better luck next time.
******Shelton's Single of the Week: "All Comedians Suffer"*************
Sting "Songs From the Labyrinth," UMG
Sting taking on Dowland. A valiant effort, but unfortunately falling quiet short of the mark. Musically impressive, but hearing Sting attempt to recreate the work of a 15th century English composer is not necessarily what I would call a walk in the park.
Previous recordings of Dowland's work has been exceptional, but Sting's recreations come off awkward and gimmicky. Maybe it's the fact that I can't separate this from the man who wrote "Roxanne", or maybe this is just weird, but I cannot get behind this.
***************If You Like Music You're Gonna Love This******************
******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Surfing in a Hurricane"*************