The Past Presents is typically where I take a fresh look at an older album, either because it’s regarded as a classic album and I’d like to see if it still holds up, or because it’s an album I feel is special and it never really got the love it deserves. For me, this column was always about looking at the records that many people feel are essential to every record collection. Moving forward, The Past Presents will still bring you these looks back at some great older records, but in and around those reviews, I’ll be writing about my own experiences with some records that are widely loved but I’ve just never had the time to hear. Oftentimes I’ll read about albums that have been on best-of lists for decades or my friends will tell me how great their favorite records are. Some of these I just have not had the time to hear beyond what a friend has played for me or what’s been curated by commercial radio. Sometimes I want to know if a Steely Dan album is really as bad as the singles I’ve heard. To make an effort to fill in some of these gaps for myself, I’ll be hitting record stores looking for albums I’ve heard about but have never listened to, then writing about my impressions. I’ve made a few rules for myself: I have to listen to the album start to finish three times before I write anything, I cannot research the album or the band in any way prior to listening, I can’t read re-issue liner notes, etc. This has to try and replicate a clean, unbiased first listen as much as possible.
To begin this new experiment I’ve chosen The Modern Lovers self-titled debut.
Alice Lake has returned to my life in convincing fashion with her debut EP, The Evolution. Mixing sounds that you may not typically hear together — tender singer/songwriter vocals with some heavy electronic/experimental backing — Alice and the Glass Lake provide a delightfully meandering album. It’s clear, however, that the songs are carefully crafted [...]
When I listen to Andrew McHenry’s latest — and, to my knowledge, first — EP, I can’t help but notice the similarities to Elliott Smith. It’s not just a hint of Smith I hear in these songs, it’s a very strong resemblance. McHenry plays delicately layered guitar melodies and adds crisp, sing-a-long vocals [...]
It’s time for music fans to sit up and take notice: there’s something special going on in Minneapolis. A solid stream of excellent music is coming out of the twin cities these days, and the latest to add to the list is Prissy Clerks. The band’s debut album, Bruise or Be Bruised, is [...]
Largely the vision of former Antlers bassist Justin Stivers, Passenger Peru rides Stivers bass into more experimental areas than Antlers usual fare. Stivers teamed up with Justin Gonzalez to bring Passenger Peru’s self-titled album into existence.
From the start of the album, you get the impression that Stivers attempted to bring the experimental [...]
The Past Presents revisits revered albums from the past 20-25 years to ask the question, “Is this album still a classic, or has it lost its edge over the years?”. Was it a great record for that particular time and place, or is it something we’ll be passing on to our kids? It also looks at the “lost classics” – countless albums that should have earned more attention but for one reason or another fell through the cracks.
At this point it’s safe to say that most people who consider themselves obsessive music fans have seen the move High Fidelity. One of the classic moments of the film sees Jack Black’s character assisting a customer with records that are essential to his collection such as the Jesus and Mary Chain and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Black slyly tells the customer, “Don’t tell anyone you don’t own Blonde on Blonde. It’s going to be okay.”
If there ever was a modern equivalent to Blonde on Blonde, it’s Slint’s Spiderland. Let’s be clear, Spiderland is not similar to Dylan’s classic in its sound, but it is similar in that it has become a record that you need to own, or at the very least be aware of.
When Slint quietly released Spiderland in 1991, I was too busy freaking out over Nirvana and Sonic Youth to notice, but by 1993 I was one board 100%. Unlike many albums, the noise surrounding this record has grown every year since. It is considered one of the first, if not the first record, to bear the post-rock and or math-rock tags and it is still known as one of the best of the genre. For my money, it’s also one of the best examples of an album’s ability to generate a mood. From start to finish Spiderland gives you the feeling that something sinister is about to happen. The tension is apparent throughout the album and is intensified by the seasickness the music induces. It sounds like a ship bobbing on rough seas; the music in constant motion, rocking back and forth and never letting you forget that something evil is to be unleashed.
Empty out a swimming pool. Spray paint it in neon colors. Learn to ride a skateboard better than Tony Hawk. Ride your skateboard around the empty, painted pool. If you did this, the song you would need to listen to while doing so would be “Hold On To The Metal” by Royal Canoe. [...]
When not sharing the stage with Nick Bindeman in Eternal Tapestry, Dewey Mahood creates his own sonic adventures as Plankton Wat. The arrival of fresh sounds from Plankton Wat is always cause for anticipation. Typically a Plankton Wat album is delivered on cassette, or sometimes CD-R, so having an LP release is even more special.
Daniel Rossen builds a world of craggy cliffs and lapping seas, calling sirens and fireside revelations. He sings a whole world into being in five tracks; a starlit world full of shrines, deserts to traipse and promises to fulfill. Listening to this record feels a bit like reading a novel that begins right in the middle or a fantastic, sparse short story.
The symphonic strains of “Return To Form” or the hearthside confessional of “Up On High” delight both the ears and the imagination in a cacophony of tales told in sound. There are elements of cowboy, the west and the old open range in “Up On High” that aren’t country by any means, it just sounds wild and free, not quite untamable. The dreamscapes are astonishing.
Taking a step back from his duties in Barn Owl seems like a golden opportunity for Jon Porras to break out and make a record that sounds nothing like Barn Owl. I’m envisioning a quiet folk record or a more rock-inspired, Sonic Youth-esque instrumental album. Instead Porras returns a solo effort that draws [...]
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