Record Bulletin

Record Bulletin, 10/28

Soundtracks

Another entry of general clean-up. As the year comes to a close, I realize with the numerous forthcoming albums I’m sure I’ll want to spend time with, I don’t have enough hours to give initially underwhelming though possibly enjoyable albums I’ve stowed away the time the artists who produced them believe they merit. Too bad for them. Future posts will reflect this decision—albums that writers I admire and trust have thoroughly glorified (Spoek Mathambo’s Father Creeper comes to mind) might get short shrift if I continue to be unable to access them to the degree to which I wish I could. Many Lemons in the last post are worth a spin if your aesthetic fancy falls in that camp, though this time around I’d say steer clear unless you’re curious how the talented artists comprising The Hunger Games soundtrack failed to make anything decent.

Listen . . . Oka! (Oka Productions): South African mbira and ngoma master Chris Berry “scores” Lavinia Currier’s film about a New Jersey-born ethnomusicologist’s attempt to save the Bayaka pygmies from timber companies. Subpar reviews of the film and difficultly finding a way to view it led me to skip a viewing and shoot straight for the soundtrack, a near hour of Berry’s recordings of the Bayaka people who live music in a way most of us can hardly imagine. With help from musicologist and co-writer Louis Sarno (on whose life experiences in Central Africa the film is loosely based), Berry’s nonstop two-week performance and recording marathon translates what could have been a simple field account to a document of living music—streams plunked with wooden planks, women lilting with jungle birds, complex rhythm schemes executed with the naturalness of nature. You don’t have to be an African music enthusiast to enjoy this set, though a sense of wonder might help. A MINUS

ALEX TURNER – Submarine (Domino ’11): The Arctic Monkeys’ frontman gone acoustic yields four and a half pleasant new songs and a better version of “Piledriver Waltz” than featured on 2011’s Suck It and See. So much do I enjoy this nineteen-minute soundtrack EP that I was inspired to revisit much of the AM catalogue, but to little avail. At day’s end I prefer the softer, light-on-the-cynicism yet humorous, sweet-with-the-wordplay love songs than most of the Monkeys’ skittering electric guitar-driven indie irony. Synced with the movie’s tone it makes sense—the British comedy might have foundered had it gone the road of Juno with relentless quirkiness—as it grounds any flights of fancy Submarine the film takes. This is a side of Turner more appealing than his detached posing, because as embarrassing as realizing the girl you got from the pub isn’t so pretty in the dawn light, more embarrassing in retrospect and more challenging to do correctly is to draw of the well from which such sentiments spring: the clumsiness and, more importantly, foolhardy earnestness of young love. A

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
LANA DEL REY – Born to Die (Interscope): Elizabeth Grant’s too naïve to recognize her all-black-and-no-white love reflections aren’t reflective and too much of a dullard anyway to pretend they are. (“Radio,” “Video Games”) *
FATHER JOHN MISTY – Fear Fun (Sub Pop): Wherein former Fleet Foxes drummer John Tillman proves he’s a more enjoyable drinking buddy than maudlin Robin Pecknold. (“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”) *
GUIDED BY VOICES – Let’s Go Eat the Factory (GBV Inc.): More interesting than their companion 2012 release Class Clown Spots a UFO, though I still wish they’d combined the best halves of both for something worth the ear time. (“Doughnut for a Snowman”) **
SHARON VAN ETTEN – Tramp (Jagjaguwar): First half is varied enough melodically that her folky siren isn’t too wearying; second half gets wearying real quick. (“Leonard,” “Serpents”) ***
Sub Pop Terminal Sales Vol. 5: Mixed Nuts (Sub Pop): Record Store Day exclusive label promo features five songs from albums worth pursuing, a few others suited for the mixtape, and stragglers whose existence is worth forgetting. If you didn’t get it for free, don’t bother. (Beach House, “Myth”; Spoek Mathambo, “Kites”; THEESatisfaction, “QueenS”) *
NICK WATERHOUSE – Time’s All Gone (Innovative Leisure): Twenty-six year old L.A. soul and swing enthusiast nostalgias hard for times all gone, falls prey to redundancy after the catchy if too long opener. (“Say I Wanna Know”) *

LEMONS:
CAT POWER – Sun (Matador)
HERE WE GO MAGIC – A Different Ship (Secretly Canadian)
The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond (Universal)
LAMBCHOP – Mr. M (City Slang)
THE MARS VOLTA – Noctourniquet (Warner Bros.)
FRANKIE ROSE – Interstellar (Slumberland)
THE WEEKND – Echoes of Silence (free download)

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