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Music CD Recommendations
Alternate Recommendation: Bold Experiment by Craig Moorhead
Note: Links on this page open in a new window. There are a lot of them and I don't want you to get lost.
The Microphones, The Glow, Pt. 2
If you've been on Amazon.com very often, you'll be familiar with the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought These" section on each page. Well, chalk another one up for them.
I was looking through their selection of Beck albums, when I noticed this title as a selection listed below. At first, I was intrigued by someone titling an album "Part 2," but as I read more about it -- first in the customer reviews, then on Pitchfork Media, and various other places -- I realized that this was an album I had to own.
But first, the mp3s. Amazon had several available by the band, as did K Records (the album's label), each on the respective album's page. I also did a search for "Microphones mp3s" on Google and found several more on a website I'd never heard of called Epitonic. Within all these, I eventually found about a dozen, certainly enough for a good sampling. Unfortunately, on my dial-up connection, it took me about a week to download them all. Before I was finished, though, I knew I had to have this album, as well as just about everything this guy (Phil Elvrum is the Microphones) had been involved with. His other bands are Old Time Relijun [Note: Elvrum is no longer with OTR, but his work can be found on their previous albums.] and D+, where he plays awesome percussion. He is also a producer for other K recording artists -- Mirah, in particular. (Amazing the things you can find on the web.)
Skip ahead a week or so to the actual order date. I had decided that, instead of buying from Amazon, I was going to give my money directly to the record company and order from their site (that it was cheaper there played a large part in my decision, but I can be pretty darn pretentious sometimes).
It has been described as a low-fi (meaning nothing computerized was used) masterpiece, and I agree, having had the opportunity to listen to it numerous times since the day it arrived in the mail (in that perfectly unassuming Media Mail package). It's definitely a concept album and all the songs flow together wonderfully. Also, it's terrific with headphones. The sonic depth is amazing. It sometimes feels as if the music enters through your ears and swims around inside you for a while, not quite able to escape.
Elvrum is not afraid of experimentation, either. Each song has its own distinctive sound. The dual acoustic-guitar sound at the front of "The Moon" (download) has to be heard to be believed. (For the origin of that sound, listen to "The Pull," as well.) And his creativity will always surprise you. What seems at first like noise, after a few listens unfolds itself like a blooming bud to show you all its layers. You then come to appreciate the imagination--one would almost say "genius"--involved in this recording.
But even such a personal record cannot be done alone--not and remain faithful to its analog roots. Several of Elvrum's friends (mostly other K recording artists) stop by to help out. Most noticeable is the angelic voice of Mirah on a couple of tracks. I have become a Mirah fan--particularly "Cold Cold Water" (download)--through my research on this album. I have, in fact, become rather more well-versed than I had expected in the music coming out of Olympia, Washington, the home of K (and the state capital, in case you didn't know.)
Sort of an Easter Egg: Make sure to listen for the tugboat sounds played underneath throughout the album (very clear during the quiet spots). It's the sonic thread that connects everything.
(Note: Interestingly, Beck released an album, One Foot in the Grave, on K Records as part of his atypical contract with Geffen [he is allowed to release records Geffen deems non-commercial on smaller labels]. Which, now that I think of it, is probably why the connection was made by Amazon in the first place.)
Alternate Recommendation: Craig Moorhead, Craig Moorhead's Bold Experiment
While reading the Microphones review on Pitchfork Media, I saw an ad for a Free Download! (always a draw for me). It was an entire album called Craig Moorhead's Bold Experiment (by Craig Moorhead of course--no connection to this site). It's really quite good.
Frighteningly enough, it begins with "Bluebird," which features Mis B singing "Craig is a bluebird in the sky." Frankly, this is a little too close for comfort as I can be a bit of a bluebird sometimes myself, but we won't go into that. In order to avoid the personal connotations I get from the song--and, to read his liner notes, I don't think I'm reading too much into this--I generally skip ahead to my favorite, "That's Okay," in which he lets the rock and roll take him away and, strangely enough for a man alone with a four-track, seems to include a horn section(?).
Bold Experiment is straight-ahead guitar rock with a little bass and drums, and some synthesizer for spice. Get a kick out of "The Song That Almost Was But Then Wasn't" and take a look at what could've been as well as a guitar virtuoso the likes of which I haven't heard since Prince's "Let's Go Crazy." And what is he trying to say by giving two adjacent songs ("Get Nothing" and "Telescopes") the same running time of four minutes and thirty-six seconds?
In any case, it's no longer available for download, but you can still buy it. At $8.00, it's a steal, (or if not exactly a "steal," since it costs money, certainly a bargain)! But for those of you who just simply refuse to pay for music, you can either borrow it from the cool people you know or download Moorhead's other one, the shorter and better (not that they're connected) Stripper Music: The Second E.P.--available until Christmas. (To find out why it's the second E.P., visit his shopping page for a big clue.)
Buy Craig Moorhead's other albums while you're there (like The Problem with Troubles). Use your credit card (it's not real money, anyway) through PayPal and spend some money to support independent music by guys named Craig! To paraphrase "Get Nothing," I'm pretty sure these albums are the cure for something.
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