[Starting in this issue—well, right here, right now—I’m pleased to welcome Tom Gibbs‘ record reviews to Copper. Tom has reviewed records for years, but may be better known to most readers for his gear reviews. We’re happy to have him stick to software. Tom will cover new releases in jazz, rock, pop, pretty much whatever he feels like. And don’t get the wrong impression from this column—not all the records he reviews will be winners! —Ed.]
Bleached – Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?
Bleached is an L.A. band of sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin; they’ve been active on the punk/pop scene for almost a decade now, and are known throughout the west coast for their over-the-top and raucous live shows. The lifestyle was taking a toll on them, so they took some time off, cleaned up their personal and professional lives, and are back with a new record. Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough? was the question they were constantly asking each other with regards to their seemingly out-of-control lifestyle, and the new album presents a newly-sober approach to their musical vision.
While perhaps not as rough-hewn or raw as their previous work, the album’s producer Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells) has helped Bleached craft a new sound that’s still true to their roots, but filled with plenty of new-waved hooks and fuzz-toned guitars. There’s not a bad song on the album, and it’s grounded with a propulsive, power-pop beat throughout that keeps you hanging on for the next tune. While GoGo’s/Bangles comparisons will no doubt proliferate, Bleached has a harder-edged sound that will easily distinguish them from poppier contemporaries. Perhaps the production is a bit slick, but nonetheless, it’s a well-crafted album that demands repeat listenings, and should help increase their exposure to a much wider audience. Highlights: “Heartbeat Away”, “Hard to Kill”, “Somebody Dial 911”. Highly recommended.
Dead Oceans Records, CD/LP/Cassette (download/streaming from Bandcamp, Amazon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, iTunes)
Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night—Live at the Roxy, 1973
The Neil Young Archives project continues their series of distinctive live releases with this 1973 date at the inaugural concert for the Roxy, which has gone on to become one of L.A.’s legendary nightclubs. The studio album for Tonight’s the Night was just barely in the can—recorded just a month earlier—but the record company was unhappy with the very raw and stark wake it presented in commemoration of the overdose deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and longtime roadie Bruce Berry. So the raucous studio release was delayed for two years, and then most likely came as something resembling a sledgehammer to most Neil Young fans, who were probably expecting more of the tuneful folk and rock found on its predecessor (at least on the release timeline), 1974’s On The Beach.
While the studio version of these songs was a deeply dark and somewhat disturbing listen—at least, on first hearing—but the performances presented here are anything but that! The atmosphere is almost festive, more of a celebration of the lives of the recently departed as opposed to a wake. And, of course, Neil Young’s traditional banter between songs is presented for posterity, and Neil and the band knew the songs well by the time of this performance. This is a very entertaining listen!
The two-LP set reviewed here didn’t indicate if the pressings were 180 gram, and they seem somewhat lighter (perhaps 140 gram?) to me, and they were perfectly flat. And perfectly silent, with nary a click or pop during playback; no indication of the manufacturer, though the wax is inscribed with “manufactured in the EU”. As quiet as the pressings are, I’d venture to guess that they come from Pallas? Anyway, the sound quality and performance are exemplary, and while side four of the set is inscribed with a really cool laser etching, I’m certain most fans would probably have preferred a few more songs from the archive instead. Regardless, very highly recommended!
Reprise Records, LP (download/streaming from Amazon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, iTunes)
Thom Yorke – Anima
Hard to believe that it’s been thirteen years since 2006’s The Eraser, the first solo release for Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, but the icy electronica of Anima finds him treading some very familiar ground. Radiohead fans will find this music not at all dissimilar to their post-OK Computer output, where we’ve gotten fewer “fully formed” songs, per se, but still very cerebral listening. If stark electronica is your particular poison, well, this is a very darkly brewed cup! Be careful to mind the volume level during playback—the subterranean bass on this album will plumb the very depths of your system’s capabilities.
If you have Netflix, I’d strongly suggest watching Paul Thomas Anderson’s Anima short that’s currently available there. It’s only about fifteen minutes, and sequences three of the albums songs, “Not the News”, “Traffic”, and “Dawn Chorus” into a single musical suite. It’s a very entertaining and visually striking watch, and for me presented Thom Yorke in a much more humanistic light than I might have previously given him credit for. And perhaps allowed me to view this album from a very different vantage point. Highly recommended.
XL Recordings, CD/LP/Limited edition colored vinyl (download/streaming from Bandcamp, Amazon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, iTunes)
Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian – When Will the Blues Leave
This album documents a superb live recording of this outstanding trio from a 1999 date in Lugano, Switzerland that has only now been released on the ECM label. Individually, each of these guys were giants, and had they recorded together a bit more prolifically, they’d easily be considered one of the greatest jazz trios of all time. I personally have a “thing” for the drumming style of Paul Motian, dating back to his days with Bill Evans, so I’m generally on board with anything he’s involved in. Paul Bley has always struck me as a bit too eclectic in his approach, but his playing here is sufficiently restrained to keep the proceedings very, uh, copacetic. This might actually be the most consistently enjoyable album of Paul Bley’s work I’ve ever heard.
The recording quality here is on par with typical ECM live efforts. You get a really good idea of the recorded acoustic, and the players occupy well-defined positions on the soundstage, even if Paul Bley’s piano is perhaps somewhat too forward in the mix. Regardless, these three find a way to make these tunes really swing; the creativity of the interplay between them helps make this disc irresistible listening. Highlights: the sprawling “Mazatlan”, “Dialogue Amour”, and the title track “When Will the Blues Leave”. Highly recommended.
ECM Records, CD (download/streaming from Amazon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, iTunes)
Nicole Yun – Paper Suit
After a decade with the dream pop/shoegaze band Eternal Summers, guitarist and singer/songwriter Nicole Yun was more than ready to explore alternatives in the indie/pop universe. She left her home in Virginia and traveled to New York and Philadelphia, where she reached out to just about everyone in the industry who would listen, and not surprisingly, they were all stoked to assist. The result is Paper Suit, her debut solo album, which is a stylishly crafted homage to the dreamy guitar pop and Brit pop she grew up with in the nineties. Bands like the Sundays, Lemonheads, Jeff Buckley, and Juliana Hatfield. Sure, imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but this is no mere imitation. She plays and sings these songs as though she was there with Harriet Wheeler and Evan Dando. And her voice has an atmospheric, ethereal quality that delivers a vision that’s entirely her own.
More an EP than a true album—it clocks in at just under 30 minutes—it’s nonetheless filled with clever and finely crafted pop tunes brimming with jangly hooks. Production chores were handled by Rob Garcia (Telepathic/Bleeding Rainbow) and Julian Fader (Ava Luna). This record could easily be the soundtrack to the summer of 2019, or maybe that of the coolest indie movie you ever saw. Highlights: “Supernatural Babe”, “And After All”, “Two Eyes”, “Destroy Me”. The intro and harmony bridge to “Two Eyes” is absolute ear candy. Waste no time in checking this one out—it comes highly recommended.
Kanine Records, Limited Edition LP/Cassette (download/streaming from Bandcamp, Amazon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify)