Let’s Play Ketchup: MGF Album Roundup

As of late, all of my review time has been spent reviewing albums that record companies send me and these albums, for the most part, really suck. Luckily, I don’t spend all of my listening time with these albums. Here is a quick review for some of my favorite albums in my iPod right now.

Tori Amos – American Doll Posse
Tori could easily release a carbon copy album of her old sounds and fit right in with the sound she has inspired in Feist, Regina Spektor, and even the Alt-Country gals like Jenny Lewis and Neko Case. But no, she released a hard-rocking, thematically schizophrenic album that blows these little girls out of the water. At times her sound is closer to Hillary Duff in tracks like Bouncing Off the Clouds, which should be a bad thing, but it isn’t. And there ain’t nothing wrong where she belts out in Big Wheel: “I am a M-I-L-F, don’t you forget.”

The National – Boxer
Simple, beautiful, yet unbelievably haunting. Like a Leonard Cohen/Mark Lanegan/Magnetic Fields love child. It reminds me of a darker Interpol.

Blonde Redhead – 23
Not a lot of people will like this album. But, if you are a fan of Air, Frou Frou, and Sonic Youth you will love this 10 track, 43-minute, album of catchy, yet experimental pop songs. It’s like a safe Deerhoof.

Battles – Mirrored
The term Math Rock is new to me, but if you need a definition then listen to Battles. This is Math Rock and I don’t know why. It seems so uniform and symmetrical, while at the same time, completely unique and bizarre. Think Oingo Boingo taken down a notch or two – especially tracks like Rainbow.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Baby 81
There are 3 or 4 amazing tracks on this album. The rest is shit. I won’t tell you what the tracks are… go find that out for yourself. I’ll give you a hint, one is NOT the song where they sing: “I took out a loan on my heart, baby.”

“Sightlines” – Rogue Wave from the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack
I can’t believe I made it this long on MGF without mentioning Rogue Wave. They are only one of the most talented bands currently in America. This track isn’t great to first get introduced to “The Rogue”, as I call them, but it is soft and beautiful. Some day soon I will do a Rogue Wave introspective, perhaps when their new album drops later this year. I also don’t recommend buying the Spider-Man 3 OST, as it just isn’t worth it for this one, and only, good song. Unless you count The Flaming Lips track “The Supreme Being Teaches Spider-man How to Be in Love”, which seems to be more tongue-in-cheek than anything else.

Daniel Johnston – Entire Discography
If you don’t know who Daniel Johnston is then you should see the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He is the king of low-fi home recordings. I guarantee that you have heard a song he has written though the mouth of a famous rocker on one album or another. Perhaps you know Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, Sparklehorse, Tom Waits, Wilco, and many, many others. I would say that his most accessible album is called Retired Boxer, from 1984. Daniel is a troubled soul with some of the most heart wrenching songs you could ever think to hear.

Mother Love Bone – Mother Love Bone (1992)
There is where grunge, along with Green River, Mudhoney and Soundgarden, began. The group consisted of future Pearl Jam members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament along with the taken-all-too-soon singer Andrew Wood. This is really when you begin to hear how the sound came to life. I strongly suggest that all you “Nirvana started grunge” believers need two things: to get this album and a serious kick in the head.

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)
I was just talking with someone the other day about how I am finally able to listen to music from the ’80s without a sense of nostalgia or irony. I am actually beginning to enjoy it and it has a lot to do with this album. This led me down a wonderful path to Echo and the Bunnymen, Mission of Burma and The Cure; even The Police and early U2 are starting to make an impression.

The Cramps – Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980)
Like demented surf music, The Cramps offend in every way… and it’s fantastic. There is little else to say about this early goth music. These underground rockabillies introduced me to the other side of ’80s music, taking me down a much darker path to Butthole Surfers, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Danzig and Dead Kennedys. And if you are ever on YouTube.com—and who isn’t—be sure to watch their live show in which they performed for the patients of a mental hospital.