Friday, October 29, 2010

What's in the Bin?

One of the sheer joys of being in an indie record store is browsing the bins. Just starting somewhere, flipping through things, pulling out items that catch your eye, giving a few of them a test spin. So in the eighth of a hypothetical series, I've browsed the "New Arrivals" bins here at Twist & Shout, picked out a few things, and gave them a listen. The nature of used record stores being what it is, I can't promise these items will still be in the bin by the time you get here. But hey, browse the bin anyway. You might find something else of worth.

CD - Los Campesinos! - Hold on Now, Youngster...
The first blow across the bow in what's shaping up to be a very prolific band (this one came out in late 2008, and they've already released two follow-ups). They vaguely fit in with the rest of the indie/college crowd circa the late '00s - with song titles like "This Is How You Spell 'Hahaha We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'", how could they not?  But they do have their own sound - it's just hard to pinpoint exactly what sets them apart. There's a vague sense of exuberance to the music here. It sounds like the band is really enjoying recording this album, and that seeps through even when they sing "I was sick in my mouth because of the fear of the scent of an ex-girlfriend/and no more conversations about what Breakfast Character you'd be/I'd be the one that dies (no one dies)." The arrangements are busy but rarely sound cluttered, and the end result sounds "different" without sounding too "out there". If there's a negative, it's that I'm left with an overall impression rather than actual tunes, songs or lyrics running through my head. Oddly, the most memorable bit of the album to me was the extended yelped countdown leading into "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats". That doesn't mean the album's bad by any stretch - it just means I'll have to work harder to remember I have it, and like it, and should play it again.

LP - Max Steiner/LeRoy Holmes - King Kong - Original Motion Picture Score
There are "soundtrack people", who obsessively hunt down, collect, trade, and argue about every single bit of music recorded for film, TV and video games. (A friend of mine does some TV soundtrack work, mainly for children's shows, and even he has semi-obsessive fans.) I certainly don't fall anywhere near this category. Most of the soundtracks I own were purchased due to "having that big hit on there", or having that not-available-elsewhere song by some artist I'm a fan of. But there are a few soundtracks and scores I own that don't fit that category. I don't recall what led me to buy the score (or "tonalities") of Forbidden Planet, but I love that one. And this one might just join it. It's a 1975 rerecording of the original score from the 1933 filmKing Kong. I haven't actually seen King Kong, so I can't speak for how faithful the reproduction is. I'm guessing they took some liberties with the main title, as there's a steady backbeat that vaguely hints at disco, and I can't imagine that being in the original. But the rest sounds appropriately moody, threatening, or pulse-pounding as the situation warrants. I don't need the film (or even to have seen the film previously) to enjoy the cues. And frankly, who couldn't use song titles like "Rescue Team Follows Kong and Meets Brontosaurus" and "And That, Children, Is Why There Is No 6th Avenue 'L' Today" in their library?

45 - Ray Charles Orchestra - "Booty Butt/Sidewinder"
45 buyers going in blind might have run into what I call the "baker's chocolate effect" when first encountering a single by the Ray Charles Singers. They might have simply bought the 45, taken it home and put it on, expecting to hear the blind piano genius (and perhaps the Raettes) yelping out "Love me with all your heart!" in front of a funky groove. And instead, they were treated to prototypical easy-listening fare recorded by Charles Raymond Offenberg that most people couldn't tell apart from Ray Conniff. And it's a bit like when you were five, and you found the baker's chocolate in your parents' pantry, and excitedly unwrapped it and took a bite. For some, the facial expression might even be identical.
Once bitten and twice shy, such a person might immediately circumvent anything by the "Ray Charles Orchestra", or at least approach it with great caution. But approach it one should. The title "Booty Butt" should put everybody at ease that yes, this is the Ray Charles we all know and love. He's just not singing on either track. The flip-side (the Lee Morgan number) actually sounds like the backing track for Ray Charles that he just didn't get around to singing on, but it's upbeat and soulful enough that it's quite enjoyable. But "Booty Butt" really is the star of the show. A slower, slinkier tempo for Ray to pound his piano to, and a great BB King-like guitar line running across. This might not replace "Hit the Road Jack" or "Busted" as your favorite Ray Charles track, but it should definitely help get that taste of baker's chocolate out of your mouth.
- mondo gecko

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