Burnt Vinyls

November 23, 2014

Yeah, it’s been a long time. However, a second child takes precedence over this digital backwater posing as a blog. It might be another year or just a few days until I post again, but I’ve been transferring some of my records to mp3s lately and it seemed only fitting that I stumble back onto here for a spell. Anyhow, here is a smattering of songs that have enflamed my very soul to press record and stare at the computer screen until the tune is over.

New York Endless

Strategies EP

“Scale Those Heights”


This song dabbles in so many things I enjoy so very much. It’s a melange of melodic IDM of the Warp and Kompakt persuasions, Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and a sprinkling of early New Order at the very end that floors me. This particular song just gobbles up the best electronic music of the 70s, 80s and 90s and regurgitates something stunning.

Ozark Mountain Daredevils


“Colorado Song”


Starts off with some earnest sensitive 70s balladry of the most primo stock, but slowly picks up steam as they start delving into some fable about a man who rediscovers his mojo when he drops everything to dwell on the mountains of Colorado. Shit gets real when they start multi-tracking harmonies and a hellacious slow burner of a guitar solo steps into the spotlight. Hell, it’s even got an interlude of twinkling bells to class things up a bit before a climactic coda takes us home.

Chris Smither

Don’t It Drag On

“Lonesome Georgia Brown”


No one ever gives this dude his due. His first two albums are essential, but Don’t Drag It On is the better of the two because it somehow weaves a scenario where a cover of “Friend of the Devil” bookends a slow-motion take on the Rolling Stones “No Expectations” and it seems like the best idea since sliced bread. However, “Lonesome Georgia Brown” takes the cake since it kind of evokes the vibe of Terry Allen’s Juarez as Smither creates an entire fictional universe in song. It’s one song, but it traces Georgia Brown’s slow descent into hopelessness and you find yourself pulling for the underdogs in life.

Kenny Rankin

Sliver Morning

“Killed a Cat”


Most of his music borders on total 70s folksy cheese, but this particular album elevates itself to cave-aged status in comparison to his others. “Killed a Cat” rules because it is such a nihilistic stab surrounded by lush fluff. The whole album is on some 70s Alan Alda trail of sensitivity and then Kenny Rankin decides to get real on us. “Killed a Cat” taps into some damaged Tim Buckley vein and Rankin starts proselytizing about the hopelessness of life in 70s New York City where faceless hooligans kill stray cats and the citizenry die a slow death of a thousand cuts as our protagonist reminisces about a time when he romanticized a city which now seems humdrum and doomed.


Forever Breathes the Lonely Word (Creation 1986)


You’ve got to have some chutzpah to adorn yourself with the singular moniker of Lawrence and then aim for a Vulcan mind meld with Tom Verlaine and Bob Dylan and try to make it big in an England enamored with the Smiths, the Jam and New Order. Of the three bands, the Smiths were the closest to being their kindred spirits as both bands relied heavily on frontmen well-versed in alienation and understated, but nimble guitarists who wrenched the maximum amount of emotion and expression out of each successive jangle. However, the script was flipped when Deebank walked out of the band and Lawrence enlisted organist Martin Duffy to be his new foil. You wouldn’t think an organist would be a suitable focal point in the indie scene of 80s England, but his addition resulted in their most straightforward, accessible and focused album in Forever Breathes the Lonely Word. What was once lighter than air gained some body and gravitas and provided a perfect canvas for Lawrence to indulge his infatuation with Dylan and Verlaine as Duffy jams out in his own mellow manner.

Where Morrissey was busy pondering his awkwardness in his own skin and a passive-aggressive relationship with love, Lawrence pursued a more philosophical, literary bent. He tosses off references to the Iliad, the Bible and the mythical isle of Avalon and portrays a series of nihilistic protagonists who aim for the heavens knowing full well that they will fall short of happiness. The opener “Rain of Crystal Spires” is most definitely one of their catchiest tunes, but the lyrics are devoted to the pursuit of lowering your expectations. It’s hapless hero chases beauty and perfection only to be shot down by his paramour and be told that he’s the kind of fellow that the sun will never shine upon. Instead of fighting it, he accepts his wayward fate and this embrace of misery and failure echoes throughout the album. Forever Breathes the Lonely Word is the most charming, intelligent, well-read gentleman in the room that never gets the girl because life has taught him too much about the nature of humanity. I guess that is why he includes a lovely ditty about how everyone worthy of his time is already six feet under. Lawrence was an idealist and the present was far too inferior to the angelic shine of what could have been in a perfect world. The imperfect one in which we all exist was one deflating bother. Thankfully, this conflict is what imbues this album with an epic grandeur even if it tackles that same lovesick themes as his peers. Everyone loves a misanthropic romantic. God knows I do.


May 18, 2010


Axes(Too Pure 2005)


Recorded in one take, Axes is one of those rare albums that sounds intricately crafted and obsessively planned, yet captures the wild-eyed abandon of a band willing to shred the map and forge new directions on the fly. Yes, it’s a contradictory statement, but Axes is a cooly composed, yet ragged recording that lets its frayed edges come to the forefront. It’s like a seamless, yet unlikely bridge between krautrock, prog, post-punk, Factory Records and Steve Reich’s Music for 18 musicians filtered through an accessible indie-rock aesthetic. Nothing else in Electrelane’s discography dips its toes into this territory and it is a bit of an anomaly when you step back and view their output as a whole. To their infinite credit, Axes is probably a fucking anomaly when compared to the last decade of music as a whole. Who else digested such overutilized ingredients and spit out a fresh recipe worthy of their idols? Electrelane did and I am reminded of their unheralded genius each time I place Axes on my turntable.

If you slapped me silly and demanded that I sum up Axes in a solitary word, I would have to choose “brooding” as its modifier since each instrument sounds like it’s being played in a bizarro version of the Cure’s “In a Forest” or New Order’s Movement minus the drummer who plays you like a snake charmer with repetitive, but deceptively complex percussion that suckers you into the abyss. Although its predecessor, The Power Out, played with many of the same themes explored here, there was a catharsis and release experienced during each triumphant chorus. Sentiments and feelings are bottled up tight on Axes as the band keeps emoting to a bare minimum as they explore what can be done with repetition, pop and punk when kept out of sun for days on end. I wouldn’t call Axes a depressing album, but it’s the first album I tend to reach for when dusk creeps over the horizon and you can smell the rain about to fall at any moment. It’s the aural equivalent of those moments before the shit hits the fan. It captures that jumbled rush of anticipation, regret and melancholy as you process those seconds before things are irrevocably changed forever, . Let’s cap this gusher and embrace the simple aesthetic of the album and say that it is an epic that never forgets the majesty to be found in simplicity.

Disco Inferno

D.I. Go Pop (1994 Rough Trade)


If I had to compile a list of my favorite albums of the 90s, D.I. Go Pop would be near the top. Their earlier eps and the Open Doors, Closed Windows lp were full of bleak, gothic post-punk that owed much to Joy Division, New Order’s Movement and the 4ad roster. It was derivative to be sure, but they experimented and expanded upon the work of their influences to create something entirely their own. However, none of this prepared me for the fucked up, sad and brilliant direction they took on D.I Go Pop.

D.I. Go Pop was released a year after Seefeel’s Quique and both share some parallels. Where Seefeel used My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and shoegaze as a launching pad for their love of electronics and dub, Disco Inferno’s discovery of the MIDI sampler enabled them to create a wholly unique and groundbreaking sound. Quique was a throbbing, sexual drone that is warm and inviting while D.I. Go Pop is a dark, alienating album that approximates the depression and loneliness of Ian Curtis’ suicidal worldview. The difference between the two bands is that Disco Inferno blew apart their love of Factory and 4ad into a million pieces and reassembled them in a way that still sounds new today.

Their usage of the MIDI sampler pervades the record and guitarist/vocalist Ian Crause even hooked up each individual string to its own sampler. This triggers a kaleidoscope of effects that are downright disorienting at times, but they complement Crause’s bitter songs of estrangement and loss. If you removed these electronic effects, D.I. Go Pop is just like the rest of their output. The fan in me wants to know what music, person or life event influenced them to incorporate electronics into their music because it made the difference between a good album and a classic. Anyway you slice it, D.I. Go Pop still sounds as alien as it did fourteen years ago.