Installment number 3 in the saga of the ongoing bloat of my hard drive.
- The Decemberists, Her Majesty The Decemberists (2003). Having recently gobbled up both Castaways and Cutouts (2002) and Picaresque (2005), I downloaded this middle album from eMusic. I'm still down with the Portland art-rockers, but this album is the least convincing I've heard to date. In songs like "The Soldiering Life" and "The Chimbley Sweep," they pull off their trick of merging Dickensian storytelling with catchy melodies as well as ever, but elsewhere—in "Los Angeles, I'm Yours" and especially "I Was Meant for the Stage"—they seem all too close to confirming the complaints about pretentiousness and self-indulgence that they draw. It may be that I've just overindulged on them and need to take a break.
- Neko Case and Her Boyfriends, Furnace Room Lullaby (2000). I gushed about Neko Case quite enough last month when discussing Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. This album from her days on Mint Records (downloaded from eMusic) is much more obviously a country (or at least Americana) release. There's still lots of good here, the most memorable being her ambivalent loveletter to Tacoma, WA ("a dusty old jewel on the south Puget Sound")—"Thrice All-American."
- Futurism and Dada Reviewed, 1912-1959 (2005). I was pretty intrigued when I dug up this collection of historical recordings on eMusic. It's a bit of an odd mix, ranging from Marinetti to Tristan Tzara, from poems to interviews to dance music. The best piece is certainly the excerpt from Kurt Schwitters' "Die Sonata in Urlauten" (with its wonderful refrain of 'Rakete Be-be, Rakete Be-ce'). I could really use a set of liner notes to sort out some of the other pieces.
- Orson Wells & The Mercury Theatre, "The War Of The Worlds: The Original October 30, 1938 Broadcast" (from The Ultimate Orson Welles). Used my last eMusic download in one cycle to grab this classic. Side two is a version of "Dracula," which I'll probably download one of these days.
- Negativland, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" [Special Edit Radio Mix and 1991 A Capella Mix] U2 EP (1991). Two versions of Negativland's infamous satirical mashup of U2 and Casey Kasem. Available free from their website, with the explanatory note: "Not available in any store (legitimately, or at a normal price, anyway) as swift and immediate legal action on the part of U2's label and management decimated this release almost as soon as it hit stores."
- The Wrens, Silver (1994) and Secaucus (1996). The Wrens' first two albums, which I picked up in what looks to be home-made re-release format at their show last month. With 23 and 19 tracks, respectively, these a lot here, and I'm definitely not done digesting it all. These records remind me quite a bit of Superchunk. They are satisfying for a fan, but The Meadowlands remains the standout album. The band's 7-year hiatus/exile in major label legal hell may have helped refine their sound into the glorious agony they now produce.
- The Wrens "I Guess We're Done" (Live at Club Downunder, 2005), "Pretty O.K." (Live at Great Scott, 2005), "She Sends Kisses" (Live at Triple Rock, 2005), and "Bus Dance" (The Wrens/Five Mod Four split EP, 2002). While hunting for background information on The Wrens for my concert post, I ran across Little Quill Productions, a small film company that is making a documentary on the band. These three live tracks, plus selections from some of the official releases, are all available for download from their site.
- Swearing At Motorists, Number Seven Uptown (2000) and This Flag Signals Goodbye (2002). I picked these CDs up at the Wrens show as well. As I mentioned in my concert post, the albums are quite different from the live act. That does not make them bad, but they don't carry the energy that impressed me so much at the show. Without that experience behind me, I'm not sure I'd find these very compelling. As it is, these albums are good enough that I'll probably get a bit more Searing At Motorists just to see what else they are capable of.
- Swearing At Motorists, Exile on Gipsstraße (2006). This isn't really a Swearing At Motorists record: it's just Dave Doughman playing solo in a deserted subways station in Berlin (Weinmeisterstrasse Ubahnhof, to be exact). The story is that he was living there and had started busking as a break from mixing their latest album (and to make a little money). He decided he liked the sound and snuck back into the station after closing and managed to record an hour worth of songs before getting kicked out. The resulting 'album' is still available for free downloading at the Secretly Canadian site. I am intrigued by the concept, and the resulting sound is pretty interesting.
- Ruby Vileos, "Unmaking Friends" and "Big Gun" (The King Is Dead, 2001), "Suite 2402" and "for Ethan Bale" (This Is the Day, 2004). The first openers at The Wrens show, Ruby Vileos seemed promising enough to explore a bit further. They weren't selling anything at the show, but I was able to download a few songs from their website. "Big Gun" has made the best impression thus far. I'm still reserving judgment on the rest.
- Battlestar Galactica, Season 3, episodes 1-4: Occupation / Precipice, Exodus, Pt. 1, Exodus, Pt. 2, Collaborators (2006). Yes, I am still addicted to Battlestar Galactica on Sci-Fi, enough so that I actually paid out for the "Season Pass" at the iTunes
MusicStore (pre-pay for the whole season and download new episodes automatically as they are released). There were apparently some delays in making the season premiere available, but so far I've been getting my episodes about 24 hours after airing. Apple upped the resolution of the videos sold through the Store for this season, which does look better, but also makes the files twice as big (the double-episode premiere weighed in at almost a gigabyte). The Pass cost about $36, which should be a small discount off buying the episodes one at a time. It would get expensive to subscribe to a lot of shows this way, but for the one show I am making an effort to follow, I think it's a fair price to pay for the convenience of watching when I want (and without commercials). The new season has, so far, been awesome, but that's a topic for a separate post.
- Mary Timony, "Musik and Charming Melodee" (The Golden Dove, 2002), "Friend To J.C." (Ex Hex, 2005), and "Fire!" (out-take from The Golden Dove, 2002). Continuing my tracking of this nomadic indie rocker's career from Autoclave through Helium to her later solo work, I downloaded these songs from Timony's website. I haven't liked much of the solo work yet—too self-consciously artsy for my taste—bu I hear that Ex Hex returns to the sound of her earlier bands.
- Tom Waits, "You Can Never Hold Back Spring" and "Road to Peace" (Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards, 2006). These were free advance tracks on eMusic, so of course I grabbed them. Like the other advance track I picked up last month, these songs seem to hearken back to what I consider Waits's prime (the Swordfishtrombones/Rain Dogs/Frank's Wild Years triumvirate). The album (a triple CD) is due out in a matter of days, and I'll be looking out for it.
- The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (2006). Brand new album from Craig Finn and co. This one is even more reminiscent of late 70s 'classic rock' (especially Springsteen) than Separation Sunday, if that's possible, so I can see why some hipsters are already dismissing this as grampa rock. I'm still warming up to it myself, and though a few songs grabbed me right of the bat ("Chips Ahoy," "Hot Soft Light"), I can't quite shake the feeling that they might just implode into some kind of glorified Journey cover band. But they don't, and much of the credit for that lies with Finn's distinctively nasal vocals and the menagerie of losers he sings about. As Robert Christgau observes in his review of the album for NPR, "Finn's limitations are more ear-catching and musical than all the competence around him." It wouldn't take much for their formula to fall apart, but for now it's working.
- The Hold Steady, "The Swish" (The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me, 2004), "Stuck Between Stations" (Live on the Current, 2006), "Killer Parties [remix]" and "Cattle and the Creeping Things [acoustic]" (Live on the Current). Along with downloading the new album from eMusic, I did some investigating of The Hold Steady's website and came away with these free tracks. The acoustic "Cattle and the Creeping Things" is interesting (but I like the version on Separation Sunday better).
Final tally: 152 tracks, 33 of which were free.