The weather is getting warmer and the spring is bringing big thunderstorms. Which brings to mind the music of My Bloody Valentine, who mixed warm fluid undercurrents with ear shattering volume to create a tremendously influential sound. The main architect of that sound was (is?) Kevin Shields. The man who inspired tons of shoegazers and guitar players in general deserves a shuffle-riffic celebration. So grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Brian Eno & John Cale — The River (Wrong Way Up): A collaboration between two renaissance men yields a really smart pop record. This album highlights the places where their respective genius intersects, and had this come out as either a John Cale or Brian Eno solo record, it would have sounded consistent with their individual bodies of work. This is a nifty, spacious song with a bit of a Western feel, primarily utilizing electronic instruments.
Mano Negra — Indios de Barcelona (Puta’s Fever): These guys, led by Manu Chao, were godfathers of the rock en espanol movement, even though they were French. Chao was of Basque origin, however, and he and his mates cheerfully blended rock ‘n’ roll, ska, traditional ethnic music, folk, rap and anything else in their radar screen into high energy music. This song has military horns and crazy percussion and is a highlight of their incredible second album.
Eleventh Dream Day — Southern Pacific (Prairie School Freakout): The great Chicago band topped off their debut full length by tipping the ol’ hat to a big influence, Mr. Neil Young. But they weren’t content to go with a standard. Instead, they went with the sole single pulled from Neil’s Reactor album. It’s a train song with a chugging riff. Eleventh Dream Day’s version is looser and adds a paranoid edge to the more straightforward original. An outstanding cover.
Poor Luther’s Bones — Devil’s Broth (Next To Nowhere): A Pennsylvania band who moves from roots music to Tom Waits oddball stylings to wicked psychedelia from album to album. This is from a psych-blues work, with nasty guitar and sleazy vocals. Great stuff.
Micachu — Vulture (Jewellry): The opening track from the fantastic 2009 debut album from Mica Lewis, a/k/a Micachu. She apparently learned a lot from the current British electronic scene, which accounts for the way she cuts and pastes sounds. But the dissonant song structures and odd shifts also owe a lot to classic post-punk. And she manages to twist these concoctions into catchy tunes. Can’t wait for the follow up.
Los Bravos — Coca Cola jingle (Things Go Better With Coke): The Spanish beat group who had a #2 smash with “Black Is Black” sold their souls to do an ad for Coke.
Jim Basnight — Tonight (Yellow Pills Volume 3): Basnight led The Moberlys, a Seattle power pop outfit, and since then has led the Rockingtons and done his own solo thing. His music is best compared to The Plimsouls and Tom Petty. It mines great ’60s and ’70s sources and is played with tons of passion. A cult figure in the Pacific Northwest.
Nat King Cole and Dean Martin — Open Up The Doghouse (The Nat King Cole Story): Cole was so effortlessly cool, a naturally swinging singer and pianist, whose mix of jazz, pop and blues was perfect for the post-war era. Of course, add Dean Martin to the mix and the cool factor goes off the charts. On this number, Nat and Dean trade stories about screwing up with their ladies and ending up in the you know where. Not sure about Nat saying that you need to treat women “rough” and “slap ‘em” to show them who’s boss.
ABBA — Super Trouper (Gold): Not one of there mega gigantic worldwide hits, just an international hit. Overall, not as melodically rewarding as the best ABBA singles, but the vocal arrangements are fantastic, making a decent chorus sound much more special.
Foghat — Stone Blue (Stone Blue): The last rocking hit single for the British boogie band. Foghat was a pretty limited band, but they eventually got to a point where you could count on them to whip up two or three really catchy rock ‘n’ roll numbers (three or four if they had the sense to throw in a Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley cover). This song has some pretty cool bottleneck guitar leads.