Monday, December 15, 2008

Ellipsis Journalism

Lazy, I know, but let's just pick up with a bit of ellipsis journalism... Haven't picked up a ton of new releases; for some reason, I find myself too lazy to investigate stuff I haven't heard. On the one hand, it's a whole lot easier these days than in my record-buying youth. Back then, I pretty much had to buy the whole slab of vinyl, bring it home, and hope for the best; now, thanks to our friends the Internets and the Googles I can sample stuff 'til I'm blue in the face, cross-link to related artists, and drop a whole wad of cash in a matter of minutes. But it's almost an embarrassment of riches, and sometimes it just feels too overwhelming to know where to start. So instead I just buy box sets and reissues of stuff I've already owned on vinyl or cassette and, increasingly, on first-pressing cd, meaning I'm now buying stuff for the third time. Yes, I'm the total picture of the vapid consumer...

But, when the box set is something like Genesis 1970-1975, it's definitely worth it, even though this is definitely a case of buying albums for the third time. My old vinyl is long gone, and the original cd's were pretty crappy sounding. The reissues from a few years back were ok, but nothing like the new versions, which really sound like I'm hearing them for the first time. I know there was some criticism of the Phil Collins-era boxes, which according to some reports were over-compressed and harsh-sounding, a common theme with some remasters these days. I picked up the Duke remaster, and, while I can sort of hear what they're talking about, it still sounded a lot better than my older copy of the cd. But whatever shrillness I picked up on, and other fans complained about, is definitely not the case with the Gabriel-era box, which sounds just stunning. I would have bought the box if only to, finally, have a copy of Trespass that sounds like it was meant to. This album has always been underrated in my mind; though folkier and a bit less intricately woven than later Gabriel-era albums, I think it's beautiful and a joy to hear; while closing track "The Knife" became a concert staple, I think "Stagnation" is the stand-out track here (and "Looking For Someone" comes close). Where my old vinyl, and the original cd, sounded kinda shitty, full of hiss like an old tape left in the glove compartment, the new reissue is just breathtaking. (This is the case not just with the DVD audio disc, which you'd expect to sound great, but with the standard audio cd as well.) Haven't watched all the video goodies from the box yet, but sooner or later I'll get around to it. Also endlessly fascinating are the Jackson demos on the bonus rarities cd; kinda cool to hear the original attempts at songs that were later rewritten and worked into later albums. (Though all of them got significantly better in their final versions.)...

...While we're talking reissues, also got Pavement's Brighten The Corners, the latest of the 2-cd deluxe reissues that Matador has been dribbling out (4 down, 1 to go). As with the others, the sound is great, it's nice to have all the contemporaneous b-sides in one place, and the assortment of BBC performances and other rarities make for nice (albeit wholly dispensible in this case) additions. I'm not a huge fan of the album -- the magic of the first two full-lengthers is gone, though I probably like this one more than its predecessor and its follow-up. As with the prior one, for some reason they relegated some of the catchier tracks to b-side status ("Westie Can't Drum," "Winner Of The..."), so the rerelease gives you an opportunity to program your own improved tracklist.

I picked up the new Mates of State album, and it's ok, though haven't spun it many times yet. But I love this video:

...a few other things I've picked up but haven't listened to enough to have much of an opinion on? Jenny Lewis' Acid Tongue, Elvis Costello's Momofuku, Lambchop's OH (Ohio), probably some other things as well.


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