We were sitting at Delhi’s perfect little French restaurant called Le Bistro du Parc and contemplating whether to order the Steak Tartare in a city that is otherwise in a strictly stringy buffalo territory (we did order it and it was great; and it was not buffalo, by the way!) when I thought I heard Bon Iver on the speakers. You know Bon Iver
, the band name that is actually the alter ego of the indie singer songwriter Justin Vernon, who made waves a few years ago with his first full-length album For Emma, Forever Ago, an album of songs that he wrote when he chose to confine himself in a snowbound wooden cabin somewhere in Wisconsin. That album was a deeply emotional breakup album and it received both huge critical acclaim as well as popularity, paving the way for Vernon to get a Grammy for Best New Artist a few years ago.
I think the 1980s’ band named Smog, probably better known by its frontman, Bill Callahan, may be one of the utterly under-rated and unacknowledged bands in the indie music genre. Better appreciated by critics than by fans, Smog could well be one of the earliest practitioners of the genre that is commonly known as lo-fi or low-fidelity. It is today a classification that comprises hundreds of bands and also one that has some bands that I like very much – Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Guided By Voices, Blur, and so many more. Lo-fi is used to describe a genre but its roots go back to recordings that had a less refined lower quality of sound, marked by a fuzz and hiss and unsharpness, which has its own sort of charm. Read more
I had made up my mind to begin the column this time with soul band Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’
brilliant new album that has been on my playlist for much of last week. The songs are great and there’s a not-so-happy back story to it too, but all that will have to wait because towards the end of the week, I was gobsmacked by something else I heard. And it wasn’t even something that was brand new. Just something I’d never even heard of before. It was an album by an Israeli musician named Asaf Avidan and his band, The Mojos, and it was called, simply, The Reckoning. Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for the impact that this album would have. Read more
Quite obviously Download Central is not a huge fan of swing era singers such as Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin and even less than that of more contemporary crooners such as Michael Bublé or Jamie Cullum. Easy listening stuff doesn’t really feature here much. But when my friend Luis spoke about his friend Frederico’s gig the next evening, I readily agreed. We were in Lisbon, enjoying the Portuguese capital’s mild winter, the warmth of its people and its roller-coaster roads with history peeking out from almost every nook and corner.
Another new year has trundled in and as I wait for the first bursts of new music to land, I went back to last year’s crop to see whether I’d missed out on anything that I’d acquired over last year but not given much attention to. Predictably, there were many. But I picked up three of them and spun them with a bit more seriousness. All three are gold. Read more
So many great albums have dropped in the past year that I don’t know how to even make a list of the ones that I liked. How many can I list? Fifty? Sixty? More? Music blogs and magazines have already put out their top albums of 2013 lists. Some, such as Rolling Stone, have listed 50; NPR has 100 favourite songs and 50 favourite records; PopMatters lists 75 best albums of 2013; and many others have lists for every genre (tip: if you want to get a smattering of what was happening in metal last year, do check out Stereogum’s top 50 in that loud genre; I was happy when I took a peek there to see the only metal album of last year that I bought, Deafheaven’s Sunbather, was No.1). Read more
In Graham Nash’s recently published memoir, there is a surprisingly candid anecdote about David Crosby, his bandmate in two of the biggest ever folk rock bands, Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY). Presumably in the early 1970s, when CSN had come into some money, Crosby and Nash, then scruffy, long-haired hippies, walked into a Mercedes dealership in California and to the surprise of the salesmen, promptly bought a car each, paid, and left. But the real story comes later. Soon after buying his new Merc, Crosby sold it to a drug dealer to pay for whatever substance he needed. The story doesn’t end there. When the drug dealer died of an overdose, Crosby sneaked into his house and stole the sales slip, which gave him back the ownership of the car. Read more
Recommendation: If you haven’t watched the music critic and author Anthony DeCurtis’s more than an hour-long interview with Reed, there’s a link here.
For much of the last fortnight, I have been listening to Lou Reed’s music, re-exploring especially his and the Velvet Underground’s discography of the 1960s and early ’70s. But there’s been quite a bit of new music on my playlist too. Here’s a listing in no particular order. Read more
Tucked away deep in the recesses of the iTunes store, I found a 2-CD compilation named The Psychedelic Salvage Company
. In it was a set full of songs by bands that I’d barely heard of. Dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, these were bands that were part of the British underground wave of psychedelic rock during those two decades but not quite the ones I was familiar with. Instead of Pink Floyd, Traffic, Cream or Soft Machine, this compilation had bands such as Toby Jug, Peggy’s Leg, Out of Darkness, Ptolomy Psycon, The Roland Kovac Set, and Sam Gopal
. Strangely named bands all of them but with one common thread: they made music that sounds deliriously trippy. Music that immediately conjures up images of groovy bell-bottoms, peace signs, platform shoes and droopy moustaches. They have another common factor: all of those bands are among the early vanguard of the British prog-rock movement. Read more
It’s rock that does it best for me. It can come in whatever stripe – indie, heavy metal, with an orchestra or without, with a synth or without, folk-infused, progressive… you name it. Rock is my first preference when I want to listen to music. I like the blues too and R&B, some hip-hop, some post-rock, electronic dance music even, and sometimes experimental avant garde but not as much as I like rock. But there are those occasions when nothing but a classic jazz album will work for me. At such times, my well-thumbed sleeve of Miles Davis’ 1970 double album, Bitches Brew is brought out, and spun and, in spite of the nasty scratch on Spanish Key (first track on Side 3), I marvel for the umpteenth time at the fabulousness of that towering jazz-rock fusion album, its tracks, of course, but also the deadly line-up that trumpet guru Davis got together for it. Read more