The summer's winding down and so Ted Frank, our resident maven of all things eclectic, is looking back on his favorites from the past few months, from reissues to future classics of all genres! We hope you make some new discoveries as you enjoy the Labor Day weekend!
As the boys of summer's mettle is currently being put to the test, here are some favorite releases - new and old - from the past couple of summer months that have staying power and could perfectly score those few remaining summer days and nights!
In May, Jamie xx (as in the band The xx) released his first solo, and extremely listenable, effort In Colour (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) Pitchfork labeled it "the dazzling culmination of Jamie xx's last six years of work, gathering up elements of everything he's done." It's a map as to where music is at right now: a perfect hybrid of electronic, hip hop, soul, and pop. It is a kind of music that is paving a distinctive pathway; just check out the track "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" featuring Young Thug and Popcaan.
Then in June, Australian Fraser A. Gorman released his first album. Slow Gum (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) is currently a featured album at the legendary London-based record store Rough Trade. RT describes Gorman's sound as "Americana-tinged pop" and for fans of The Eagles, Bob Dylan, Big Star, and The Triffids. In fact, these bold comparisons cannot be more spot-on!
June's Runner-Up Selection: Cairo Gang's Goes Missing (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) - Allmusic says it is "as good as guitar pop gets in 2015" - and it is!
Come July, Wilco surprised the music world and dropped its brand-new and aptly-titled album Star Wars (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. ) - especially with The Force Awakens inching ever so near - online just the day before they took the Pitchfork stage. Having witnessed Wilco in concert on the occasion of the first time they were "playing" these songs live was something special. And so is the album! It's a raw, slightly angular Wilco.
July's Runner Up Selection: Ann Peebles' Straight From the Heart (Fat Possum Records reissue, no bonus cuts) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.), from 1972, cannot only be considered Peebles' strongest sequence of songs, but also reveals the power of her vocals. If I Can't Stand the Rain is more her melancholic masterpiece, than this is her raw soul best!
PopMatters called Zachary Cale's Blue Rider the "Best Album of 2013." Then on August 7 of this year, Zachary Cale released his follow up album, Duskland (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) Expectations could not have been more (and rightfully so) high for Cale! Imagine Phosphorescent and The Tallest Man on Earth (both channeling Roy Orbison) lived next door to each other and you just happened to be a neighbor!
August's Runner Up Selection: Omnivore Records can do no wrong! Just check out Omnivore's recent reissue of '90s pop-punk band The Muffs' self-titled debut album (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.). Kim Shattuck, the founder of The Muffs, finds her band celebrating that pop-punk sound somewhere in the orbit of an early Green Day, The Breeders, and No Doubt. The album is electric and features 11 bonus tracks!
In September, be sure to look out for a new one from another untouchable record label! The Numero Group's upcoming September release of Laurel Canyon artist Elyse Weinberg's Greasepaint Smile (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) (which came recommended by the Numero table itself at this year's Pitchfork). As the saying goes, you can tell a person by the company they keep; this album affirms that Weinberg was in great company! Imagine if a Lucinda Williams (who may not be of Laurel Canyon lineage, but possesses a voice of similar timbre to Weinberg) went fairly unrecognized for nearly four decades. That is the crime Numero is now rectifying. [Editor's Note: Neil Young, J.D. Souther and Nils Lofgren all appear on this album, produced by David Briggs! Miss it at your own risk. - JM]
Finally, we here at The Second Disc believe in the graces of second chances; after all, we are a RE-issue Website. Therefore, I'll recommend two particular recordings that lacked favorable critical support from other quarters, but whose recordings are noteworthy and therefore deserve consideration: the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Finding Neverland (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.), which has some of the finest musical orchestrations in recent years, and Cameron Crowe's soundtrack for his newest film starring a superb Bradley Cooper, Aloha (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. ). Available on Legacy Recordings, the album only affirms why you fell in love with Hawaii, its authentic music, and even bands like Fleetwood Mac in the first place!
So...as the Summer of 2015 winds down, we here at The Second Disc hope at least one of these above suggestions puts either that final exclamation point to another summer well done or an ellipses in the anticipated pleasure of many more summers to come. For our readers in the New York City area, allow us to implore you to partake in our very special suggestion/request. NYC residents, the time is now to revisit that 1986 hometown Beastie Boys classic Licensed to Ill (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)! Consider this album not only the perfect carefree companion for summer, but an essential hip-hop template (as per it being cited in last Sunday's New York Times as a source of creative inspiration for author Lin-Manuel Miranda) to ready you for hip-hop musical Hamilton's meteoric ascent to rule Broadway, and possibly a Mets' good luck charm as October baseball approaches (Essential Disclaimer: the last time the Mets won the World Series just happened to be 1986, the year of Licensed to Ill's release - in case you have not figured it out by now...I happen to be a bit of a Mets fan... and it's been a long and winding road - so please, please press play on this rabbit's foot)! Any which way you slice it though, The Summer of 2015 has already proven to be beyond words...!