Known Johnson

October 10, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: Neko Case, Isis & Aereogramme, Damien Jurado, Robert Pollard, Porcupine Tree

Filed under: General,Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 12:13 pm

Not having access to my own computer this week is seriously throwing me off. My computer, see, lays in pieces as I await the arrival of new components to update it and bring it up to speed with today’s specs – what I was working on was painfully out of date (ahem – by about 6 years) and struggled with just about every task I put to it. What started out as a weekend project quickly grew out of hand when I realized that everything about my old computer, case and power supply included, was so out of date that I was simply better off replacing just about all of it. I’d hoped to get by with “just” the motherboard, processor, RAM, and of course a fresh install of Windows, but I quickly realized that I could take advantage of the faster processes with a better hard drive, and then the power supply needed upgrading, and then the case didn’t have space for my three hard drives, and I needed more fans to cool all this hot-running equipment off . . . I went into this project much less prepared than I should have been.

And so my I remembered why I will always feel safe having my CDs handy, even while I tote my ever-present electronic friend, the Ipod, along everywhere I go – because I never know when something is going to prevent me from putting stuff on my Ipod. This week, at least, I’m carrying around a stack of CDs that aren’t on my Ipod and won’t be until the computer’s back up and running Itunes again. I’ll likely be adding a couple of these to the pile in the next couple days:

Neko Case – Live from Austin, Texas (DVD): Another great release from PBS’ fantastic Austin City Limits series. Why has it taken them so long to finally start releasing these shows on CD and DVD? (In this case it appears to only be on DVD, however.) This 2003 concert might be where I first experienced Case’s enchanting voice and music – I remember being so enthralled by what I heard that I immediately went out the next day and picked up Blacklisted and The Tigers Have Spoken. You can guess that this comes highly recommended. The DVD includes material not aired on TV.

Isis & Aerogramme – In The Fishtank: These “Fishtank” performances are always intriguing – pair two bands together for two days and see what happens. Usually they’re quite different in style, but in this case, Isis and Aereogramme aren’t all that different. Both are metal bands, but Isis is big, unrelenting wall of terrific noise where Aereogramme is more dramatic with greater dynamics (think a harder, weirder A Perferct Circle.) The result here is pretty interesting – things go further in both directions, but Isis’ influence stands out the most, being the most intense of the two.

Damien Jurado – And Now That I’m In Your Shadow: Jurado and his cracked, wavering voice has won me over. He’s not a perfect singer – he’s not even great in the way that enigmatic leads can be imperfect and yet still make it work. There’s something so earnest and vulnerable that sometimes I feel almost as if I shouldn’t listen, because it feels too private, but its because it’s so earnest and because there’s a genuine sound of desire in his voice to have people really listen to what he has to say. And so I can’t not listen. Jurado wasn’t an easy artist for me to get into because of this, but it’s been really rewarding – like slowly building up trust in a friendship. He may have put it all out there, but it’s only with time that I felt comfortable really listening closely to what he had to say. I can only imagine this new album will be more of the same.

Robert Pollard – Normal Happiness with Moon: Believe it or not, this is Pollard’s SIXTH (and technically seventh) release this year. First it was From A Compound Eye, then he released, in May, The Takeovers’ Turn To Red, the Keene Brothers’ Blues And Boogie Shoes, and Psycho And The Birds’ All That Is Holy – and his Psycho pseudonym put out an EP just a couple months after that, Check Your Zoo. There are even rumors of another album being readied. But we’re not talking about those – we’re talking about Normal Happiness here. I’ve stayed away from all leaks and previews so I can hear it fresh, so I can only tell you what I’ve read – that it’s a return to his Guided By Voices 2-minute pop song genius.

UPDATE: To find the indie store in your area carrying Moon, you’ll need to look for a store listed with the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. Here in Arizona that amounts to ONE store – Hoodlums, buried deep in the bowels of ASU’s Memorial Union, which is unfortunately an extremely inconvenient location for most people – on campus, open only during the week from 9am-6pm. But what are you going to do?

And if you buy from an indie store and you ask real nice, you should get a copy of Moon, a live album recorded this summer while Pollard and his Ascended Masters opened for Pearl Jam. This alone should make the purchase a must. Very limited – get at least one copy NOW.

Porcupine Tree – Arriving Somewhere (DVD): Why it’s taken Porcupine Tree so long to release a live DVD, I don’t know, but I’m glad to finally see one. Disc one is the show culled from two performances in Chicago on the Deadwing tour, disc two has a number of odds and ends (a couple videos from the Rockpalast performance which is available as an audio download from their store, movies that backed the band live, and a few other things.)


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