Esbjörn Svensson Trio - From Gagarin's Point of View (1999)

Esbjörn Svensson Trio - From Gagarin's Point of View (1999)

This is one of my favorite albums from EST. If you're unfamiliar with them, they were a piano trio who played dynamic, spare, melodic jazz. Sometimes they create tempestuous, fx-augmented whirlwinds, other times the sparest of soundscapes. There's a tremendous amount of listening and respect within this group, and it shows- they've been playing together for a very long time. They don't really make jazz as most people think of it, because if this is jazz, we'll have to think of another word for the individualistic, overly cluttered mess that passes for jazz these days. This album makes most jazz groups seem about as cohesive and united as a class of kindergärtners biting each other on the playground. More albums to come. Also, I am sad to say that the titular dude passed away in a scuba accident a couple of years back. If you're interested in seeing the foundation on which they build their castles, here's a book of their charts, which includes a couple of tracks from this album.

Chris Thile - Deceiver (2004)

Chris Thile - Deceiver (2004)

Chris Thile is lamentably still best-known for his work with his pop-bluegrass trio Nickel Creek, since he's been produced superior solo albums before, during, and after that band's tenure. This is a true solo effort, as it sees him play and sing every part. With the exception of two peerless solo mandolin morsels, it comprises concise, complex, surprising, occasionally theatrical, lyrically delicious pop songs that rarely retrace their steps in any sense. Personally, I'd put this in the top handful of pop albums of the last decade. I would also encourage you to check out his newer albums, and don't miss a chance to see his new band.

Don Ross & Andy Mckee - The Thing That Came From Somewhere (2008)

Don Ross & Andy Mckee - The Thing That Came From Somewhere (2008)

This is a really excellent duo record from two of my favorite acoustic steel-string guitarists in the Candyrat stable. Andy Mckee has become a minor youtube celeb, but if you live where the interweb don't shine, this is pretty much what the record sounds like. This album contains a 50/50 mix of originals plus a couple of covers.

I'll post it, but I strongly encourage you to consider buying this or any Candyrat album. They're an amazing label that does a great job getting this sort music out into the world, and you can buy this and other albums straight from their site, with a nice straightforward no-BS download. Andy and Don are fascinating artists who have put a lot of devotion into perfecting very personal, interesting styles, and I really encourage you to support them. guilt guilt guilt.

Jimmie Rivers & The Cherokees - Brisbane Bop (1961-64)

Jimmie Rivers & The Cherokees - Brisbane Bop (1961-64)

I've realized recently one of the underlying characteristics that has drawn me to quite a bit of the music I like, especially improvised music: I'll call it flow. It's pretty easy to make a composed studio track flow (though a hilariously large number of artists, established or otherwise, fail miserably), but a lot harder for improvised music to really embody that same quality. The flow I speak of is not merely the ability to rip some gnarly bebop licks, but the ability to make whole song into a cohesive narrative, including but not limited to the solos, or to play every moment with the whole song in mind, to play every phrase in the context of the whole musical narrative. This doesn't happen all that often, because A. it's not an improvisational quality sought (or at least not accomplished) by all jazzers. B. It takes mutual understanding, restraint, and cohesion far beyond that found in most modern jazz groups I've heard. No bassist-in-7thposition, pianist-planing-quartal-stacks, or incessant snare chatter need apply, please. Anyway, there are some artists who really embody this (others of whom I will post in the near future), and Jimmie Rivers is one of them. He was a western swing guitarist who could play lines that both sizzled and made long-term sense. His foil in this group is Vance Terry, one of the hottest hands ever to play pedal steel. These are recordings from the 23 Club, a western dance hall in Brisbane, CA.

AAA - R. Soul (2010)

if you're familiar with A3 from their undeniably classic '97 country-acid-house album Exile On Coldharbour Lane (from which The Sopranos cribbed its theme), the opener on this release might throw you a bit. it's dark and 80s horror cinematic, with big beat drums and spacey reverb - nothing like their usual campy dance swag. but by the time track 2 rolls around, you'll recognize their sonic palette immediately - slinky, druggy, and wobbly. obviously they've had to update their sound a bit, but the most immediate thing you'll notice is the tone - relatively straight-faced and less silly, but just as fun.

semtex in my pants

Xasthur - Portal of Sorrow (2010)

this is some bedroom black metal shit, unmastered and lo-fi as a motherfucker. that being said, it's actually pretty impressive that dude could put this together on his own with incredibly limited resources - there's a wide variety of sounds and textures associated with the genre, like damaged guitars, choirs, and organs, but with some softsynths, doom folk touches, and that decidedly homemade aesthetic.

for the love of god, trim the bass on your EQ

Frank Ocean - Nostalgia,Ultra (2011)

ofwgkta affiliate frank ocean was signed to island def jam, then they didn't do shit for him and so he decided to give away his debut album for free. it's some really sweet modern r&b, other some weird beats like hotel california and some coldplay song. it's a good album, really nice and chill, some cool summer shit as well.

Those Poor Bastards - The Plague (2008)

those poor bastards is a really cool 'gothic country' act, but i don't like country music and i don't like gothic music and i do like them. they are really sad and miserable and good at it. i would recommend getting this, if only for the standout first track 'sick and alone', really beautiful.


To compliment this post, here is a compilation of original beats that were all recorded without using a computer, straight to a 4-track cassette recorder. All recorded over the last 10 years by some unknown dude in NY who gives this stuff out for free. Found this while browsing this site.

No need to insert tape-hiss, cause it occurs naturally.


Timber Timbre - Timber Timbre (2009)

Really beautiful songwriting that's sparse and haunting. Every conversation I've had about this album has praised its tracks and stressed its freak-factor... it's eerie, spooky, chilling.

It's been one of my favorites since its release, and from personal experience, is a great listen when deep in the woods, late at night, alone. Enjoy.

Shlohmo - Places EP (2011)

Shlohmo - Places EP (2011)
Nothing is sacred anymore. Everybody makes beats. Everyone's become a copycat and nobody tries to be different, it all just sounds the same now. Beat production used to involve tons of creativity and above all, a love for the craft. Nowadays, all you gotta do is sample an 8-bit loop from some Nintendo game, jack some drum sounds off a Dilla record, add that tape-hiss, loop it for a bit and then you've got a track!

Those who began in front of the game, tend to stay in the front. Shlohmo (Henry Laufer) who is only 20 years old, is finally sending us word of his debut LP! This is the EP of that LP but damn it's good! It's beat music, yes, but it's also a reinvention of the style. When you start getting copycats, you reinvent yourself. Flying Lotus did it with Cosmogramma, Bibio did it with Mind Bokeh and now, Shlohmo does it with Places EP.

"Forgot I Was Here" is a person favorite: "lumbering marimba and feedback-saturated chords" create a lush soundscape of beautiful sounds and tones. Did I mention that he recorded everything himself too? No samples.

Places EP made it to #2 on the iTunes charts so in celebration, Shlohmo posted a chopped & screwed remix of the title track. Nice.

Kaija Saariaho - Complete Cello Works (2006)

this album completely altered the way i think about/listen to music, and pushed Saariaho to the top of my list of Favorite Living Composers. her 2nd gen spectralist music isn't "tonal", but it's not atonal either... sort of like hearing someone speak Italian - you may have no idea what they're saying, but it sounds sexy as shit. it's ultra-mod (in a not lame way) and i think it points a way forward for new music.

think of these as Bach Cello Suites for the 21st century - there's obviously a ton going on musically, but the point is that it SOUNDS good. opener "Petals" is probably my favorite track - i had no idea a single cello could make all those sounds (with an assist from some reverb and a harmonizer). and the production work is really incredible - silky and cavernous at times, extremely jagged and aggressive at others. on Oi Kuu (track 2), the cello and bass clarinet merge seamlessly until you can't tell where one ends and the other begins.

[maxed out]

Cex - Megamuse EP (2011)

Cex used to make awesomely weird IDM/glitch, complete with white boy raps about self-mutilation, murder, and Britney Spears. he's since streamlined and modernized his sound, and the remixers on this all instrumental EP (Baconhead, Fulgeance, KingBastard, et al) add dancefloor friendly touches of dubstep and house to Cex's originals. be on the lookout for the full length, due later this month.

hot Cex

Ellington/Mingus/Roach - Money Jungle (1962)

fuck Cream, this is the OG power trio of the 60s. these tracks were composed specifically for Mingus's bass and Roach's drums by just about the only guy who could enlist these 2 bandleaders during the peak of their powers - Duke Ellington. the versatility of the session is obvious in the first two tracks - the title track opener is a furious post-bop and "Fleurette Africaine" is a florid exposition for bass and percussion that challenges "Portrait of Tracy" as the most expressive bass work in the repertoire. Mingus and Roach (esp. Mingus) are on another level, but Duke's subtle, soulful piano tie it all together. check the keys @ 1:43 on "Switch Blade" and the beat drop @ 3:15 on "Solitude".


Dinah Washington - Dinah Jams! (1954)

my cousin happened to be at this gig, and ranks it as the best show he's ever seen. that's pretty high praise from a cat who saw Chuck Berry in a podunk Pennsylvania bowling alley in the 50s and was in the Village when Bird, Miles, & Coltrane were carousing with Mr. Brownstone. the intrumentalists - members of Max Roach and Clifford Brown's band moonlighting in LA during the height of West Coast jazz - nearly steal the show; Maynard Ferguson's verses on "Summertime" may be the single most awesome trumpeting i've ever heard. but Dinah is up to the task, and her renditions of "Come Rain or Come Shine", "There Is No Greater Love", and "Darn That Dream" rival Ella and Etta at their finest.

if i could find a girl that could sing like that i would marry her