All of these records are due to be released in 2016. Yes, that 2016. While fending off a sudden flurry of lawsuits, and getting my mysteriously-slashed tires replaced (looking at you, Brownstein -- and eagerly awaiting your forthcoming The Complete Old Navy Commercial Sessions), I managed to absorb these records in order to secrete the following:
Fruit of the Loom presents Lute Of The Froom -- Mitchell Froom
In one of the more appalling sellout moves in recent memory, veteran producer Froom has assembled this all-lute album with the corporate underwriting of Big Underwear. Skull-crushingly benign vocals are accompanied by the kind of lute-centric hooks that make you thoughtfully place your hand on your chin, reflectively sigh "Mmm. Pensive," fondle your wool sweater, and take a warm sip of fuck. Joined by fellow producer Jon Brion on the tracks "Nothing Says 'Cutesy' Like Clinky Percussion" and "Some Mellotron Will Really Winsome Up The Joint."
Complete Upper Mesosphere Tapes -- Bob Dylan and the Band
After getting back to their roots on The Basement Tapes, Dylan and the Band tunneled 200 miles into the Earth's crust. None of the songs on this set can be heard without the ocean drilling platform and drill pipe currently in use by the US Geological Survey, with assistance from Greil Marcus, and presently being transferred to wooden discs only playable with the sharpened bones of Ulysses S. Grant. You'll have to take Marcus' word for it that "this collection is, by definition, the deepest music ever produced. Also, something something America something probably a mule something."
Caravans Awry: A Salute To Santana -- various artists
A seven-hour field recording of Guitar Center customers trying to work out "Black Magic Woman." Either that, or a urinal cake has become sentient and made an album. Released on 5 cassettes and 10 thematically-sequenced frozen waffles.
The NPR Teeny Cupboard Concert -- Gürglefück
Maintaining their spotless record of "authenticity," "the dynamism of muted beige," and "pointlessness," NPR stuffed this 8-piece metal band into a cupboard where their usual screeching heaviness was replaced by frantic knocking as their oxygen ran out. Available as a lint-free cloth.
We've Been Releasing Half-Assed Rehearsal Tapes This Whole Time -- The Smudgy Four
Aloofcore pioneers pull back the curtain on their intentions. Perfect if you would rather hear a violin be plaintively gazed at than played, or if you take personal offense at the slightest hint of effort. The ideal background music to other background music. Currently in the middle of their 6-month residency at the Outback Steakhouse on that road, you know, the one by that mall, no, the other mall, shit, we're lost.
Infinity? More Like OUTfinity, Am I Right? -- The Jeffrey Stanley Gelatination
Instantaneous follow-up to his epically epic recording of an epic on Epic, tenor sax leviathan Stanley's latest release is nine years long. I started listening to it tomorrow and finished 30 seconds ago. Stanley's is the only PR firm to offer rips in the space-time continuum in lieu of promo copies. The compositions build on the increasingly vital "Oh, this restaurant has a little jazz combo? Huh" sensibility currently sweeping the nation. Available only as a collection of flexidiscs included with successive issues of Grit magazine.
Performance notes: I managed to score a ticket to see Jennifer And Her Harp last weekend, but unfortunately, the show was ruined when a single hair from an audience member fell onto the venue floor, drowning out the music, and causing Jennifer to angrily waft off stage.
1. Jennifer And Her Harp -- Lo! The Gentle Woodland Creatures Wake
A first -- a 4TB concept hard drive. Even at 72 hours, every second is utterly earthshaking and tear-jerking -- I went through a gross of Kleenex and put my therapist on 24-hour call in order to come to grips with the harsh realities this album brings to the surface with every sound at every moment, and it was beyond worth it. The melodies, played on a harp strung with gossamer dreams and diaphanous hopes, are enhanced by the wistful melancholy of the arrangements. I'm told that, in live performance, Lo! The Gentle Woodland Creatures Wake achieves a dramatic majesty not seen since the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Bright Eyes collaboration "Barely Audible Fragility: The Song-sation!"
2. The Crumb-bums -- Stop Calling Us The Bum-Crumbs
On their seventh outing (and their first on vinyl, rather than their usual format of gum), these pop-punkers bring their pop-punk chops to a new level of pop-punk, without sacrificing the popiness of their punk, nor the punkiness of their pop, evoking the chaos of urgency, the angst of melody, and the notes of chords. Their publicity photo says it all: four men in their mid-20s, two with beards, two with their arms folded (not the same two, just to keep us guessing, in true pop-punk spirit), looking directly into the camera -- an image that dramatically underscores the earnestness with which they kept their eyes open.
3. Jeffrey Stanley -- The All-Encompassing History of Everything Including, But Not Limited To, Infinity (Plus One)
Stanley honed his spiritual west-coast jazz tenor sax chops in such projects as Jeffrey Stanley's Conceptually Congenial Tredectet, The Jeffrey Stanley Thickening, and Jeffrey Stanley's Self-Referential Project With A Shitty Name. Prior to this album, he spent seven minutes in residence at the Village Vanguard with his Jeffrey Stanley Salutes John Coltrane: I Hope To Hear Him One Day. The All-Encompassing History of Everything does Jennifer And Her Harp one better: Stanley foregoes the hard-drive route (a format which, since I wrote those words, has now acquired fad status of Vintage Hipster Format. Wait, that just ended) and this album is available as an IBM 729V tape data computer storage unit (accompanied by a certificate of authenticity confirming its appearance in old DeVry ads). The sound is beyond analog, beyond live performance, beyond that which oxygen-requiring beings are able to comprehend (although the 180g vinyl pressing is even better). At a total length of 45 days, Stanley manages to play more notes than every other jazzman has ever played, combined. Like other critics, I equate quantity with quality, so by default, it is the best jazz album ever. Also, there's a choir on it.
4. Flen Frenfrum -- That Soft Beige Is Burning My Retinas
It seems almost quaint to call Frenfrum a "laptop composer" -- the very phrase conjures up sepia-toned photographs of shack-dwellers determinedly telling their stories via the crude magic of MaxMSP. Frenfrum's work is about so much more than watching a man stare at a computer screen. It's also about sound. I think. I'm pretty sure this disc is blank. But that's a minor criticism in the face of the overwhelming brilliance of the concept. While the multi-volume leather-bound hardback liner notes (also available in Lite Brite format) purport to delineate the concept herein, nothing, not hardback, not the plastic cases of the 45,000 Lite Brites needed to display the text (an edition available exclusively at Other Music) can contain the trillions of unraveling threads that presumably will knit the most faintly crackly and/or hiss-oriented aural sweater of all. The most emotionally affecting work of the 21st century.
5. Cloy! (original motion picture soundtrack)
Primarily composed by Sufjan Stevens, this soundtrack features "Car Chase (melodica and ukelele)" and "Love Theme from Cloy (toy piano version)." If, like me, you cry at the sight of a single, wan gumdrop, you may find this soundtrack emotionally overwhelming. Limited edition vinyl includes a vial of Stevens' tears (available in original or ranch).
6. Carrie Brownstein -- The Complete AMEX Recordings
This boxed set -- 25 vinyl records, 75 ViewMaster discs -- contains the complete audio and video of Carrie Brownstein's era-defining American Express commercial sessions. You know how boomers always talk about how Sgt. Pepper could be heard coming out of every open window on its release? That's what Carrie Brownstein's AMEX commercial was for millennials. Apart from being ubiquitous, it opened up cultural possibilities heretofore inconceivable -- you can now tell those uptight parents who ask you, "Why are you pseudo-comedically chewing on a vinyl record?" or "Why you think supporting multinational banking conglomerates was a good idea for anyone, ever?" to go right back to Squaresville! The next time someone accuses a musician of being a corporate sellout, armed with the material in this package, you can now counter with the air-tight rebuttal, "Oh yeah? Maybe YOU'RE the sellout!" (Warning: the rapidity required to advance the ViewMaster slides in order to keep pace with the audio will absolutely result in permanent ligament damage.)
7. Ride Cymbal -- s/t
Who doesn't love a ride cymbal? Everyone loves a ride cymbal! See that ride cymbal? Hit it! Isn't that great?
8. Blüb -- The Blübening
Austria's metal meisters take the "heavy" out of metal and replace it with "ample." Past classics like "Jean Jacket Bingo" and "Lazily Point Your Finger In Time To This Song With Your Eyes Half-Closed To Proclaim Your Solidarity With Your Metal Brethren" sound positively quaint next to pancreas-shatterers like "Is That A Crucifix In Your Pocket, Or Are You...Oh, It's Just A Crucifix In Your Pocket" and "Majesty Or Power Or Something, I Dunno, I Give Up." Eschewing the evil-sounding guttural screams of past releases, singer Stüm Stümmürstüm raps all of the lyrics in a delightfully fey upper-class English accent. Not for the faint of heart. Available as a noxious gas-emitting balloon that will require state and local hazmat crews to seal off your neighborhood for three weeks, and CD.
9. Sonny Rollins and Tony Bennett -- After We Die, Down Beat Will Have No One Left To Put On Their Covers
Two titans meet for the first time on swingers like "I Thought You Were Dead" and "Tony, Shouldn't You Be In The Hospital?" Though a 1982 Casio digital alarm watch might seem like an odd choice in lieu of a drummer, it puts forth the most nuanced jazz drumming performance of the year. Also, there's a choir on it.
10. Uncle Joe Foggy -- My Old Brooklyn Home
Leader of the vibrant Pseudo Old-Timey Beardo (or Psoldeardo) movement, Foggy makes the kind of music that people who have heard of music would like to make, but just don't feel like getting out of bed. Songs like "Can You Go To The Bodega And Bring Me Back A Single, Uncooked Noodle?" evoke the world-weariness of a long-suffering banjo-associated artist whose PR firm lost a couple of clients that one time, oh wait, no, it's cool, TinyMixTapes just reviewed it. Fellow almost-literary artist Paul Lynde Impersonator (I Assume) joins him on "These Lyrics Are One-Dimensional And Should Not Be Enunciated (part 1)." Unspeakably essential. Available only via process-server.