Known Johnson

April 11, 2005

Overlooked Alternatives: new releases April 12, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:21 pm

(This is a new feature I’m doing for Blogcritics as of last week, in hopes of highlighting some lesser-known releases every week that seem to go sadly unrecognized. Look for this on the site sometime tomorrow morning.)

A few must-have reissues and a sparse few new releases vie for your attention this week.

If you’ve somehow missed out on the glory that is Super Furry Animals, don’t fret, because today’s your day to repent. The band has seen fit to finally re-release their early (pre Rings Around the World) material complete with bonus tracks. Purists should delight – these bonus tracks aren’t just tacked onto the ends of the albums, ruining that great flow from song to song – they’re packed in as a separate disc. If you’re in the mood for some style barrier-breaking music, the Furries have what you need: glossy pop with killer hooks, electronica, garage rock, whatever – it’s all tossed into the big song-blender SFA is known for being. These guys didn’t suffera a sophmore slump – Radiator, album #2 in their catalog, presents a more fully-formed and representative sound of the band, and makes a nice contrast to the raucous debut, Fuzzy Logic. Those new to the band might want to steer clear of Mwng until they’ve gotten more comfortable with the band’s many sounds – this is a very stripped down, practically raw version of the band, and everything is sung in their native tongue of Welsh (something that happens on occasion on other albums, but never for the duration of an entire disc.) Mwng also has the strange distinction of being reissued in its original form, which came with a second disc of extra tracks. If you happen to already own this, skip this reissue – you already own everything on this one. B-sides disc Outspaced is also being reissued in its original form – there’s nothing to add since all those extra b-sides are on the bonus discs of the others! And believe me – SFA’s b-sides are so good you wouldn’t have known had I not told you in advance that this was an album of unrelated songs.

Fuzzy Logic bonus tracks:

Organ Yn Oy Geg
Crys Ti
Lazy Life (Of No Fixed Identity)
Death by Melody
Waiting to Happen

Radiator bonus tracks:

Mu-Tron
No K
Foxymusic
Hit & Run
Wrap It Up

Mwng bonus tracks (same as original release – these are only new if you have the one-disc version of this album):

Cryndod Yn Dy Lais
Trons Mr Urdd
Calimero
Sali Mal
(Nid) Hon Yw’r Gan Sy’n Mynd I Achub Yr Laith

But that’s not all! In a couple weeks, the band will re-release their masterfully, weirdly electronic Guerilla with a disc of b-sides as well. (Why it’s not out this week, I can’t tell you. Just thank them for spreading it a bit apart to lessen the immediate impact on your wallet.)

Christopher O’Riley serves up a second disc of Radiohead covers on the piano, Hold Me To This and if this disc is anything like his first one, it’ll likely be pretty impressive. It’s easy to scoff, as anyone who’s hung out in a record store can attest that the racks are stuffed full of various “tribute” discs, which must be the most laughable trend I’ve seen in music in years. No-name bands tackling great music by great bands, often with some sort of gimmick like “Pickin’ on _______: a bluegrass tribute” or whatever. No, O’Riley’s tactic is not some get-rich quick scheme designed to part Radiohead fans with their money. His work is truly in tribute to the cinematic, atmospheric beauty hidden in Radiohead’s music, topped only by jazz pianist Brad Mehldau’s frequent covers.

If you like bands like Wilco, Lambchop, and newer Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, be sure and check out The National’s new album, Alligator. These guys ply their trade in a similar woozy, post-country drawl that Wilco is so well-known for. If you wanted a lot more of what Wilco created with songs like “Ashes of American Flags,” you might want to give these guys a spin.

Self-proclaimed “gay messiah” Rufus Wainwright’s sister, Martha, releases her first album (self-titled,) thus proving that talent really does pass down through genes, as the entire Wainwright/McGarricle clan is incredibly talented (surely you’ve heard of Rufus’ dad Louden III, or their mom Kate McGarrigle.) Martha Wainwright’s gift is easily on display – she’s as fluid and potent as Rufus, but takes a less confrontational path, preferring instead to mine the depths of a more country-inspired style. Think Emmylou Harris, but less angelic and a little more ballsy. This should be a very rewarding release.

And, really, it may seem a bit sparse in terms of amount of releases, but the quality level of what is being released this week is quite high. There’s more than enough to dent your wallet quite seriously.

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