Not all that glitters is gold on the radio, and often one must scratch below the glossy surface of the neatly pressed and homogenous music business where TV pop stars litter radio playlists. Thankfully there is a growing number of outlets that cater to every type of rock music. Here are some of my favorite new releases from October culled from press releases, Spotify playlists, satellite radio, and peer recommendations.
"3-6-9" Cat Power Sun (Matador) -- Still measured genius after all these years; six years in fact since The Greatest. My favorite track is this upbeat, haunting, multi-layered, auto-tuned, electronica-tinged sing-a-long. This is the sound of New Jack City in the 21st century. More PJ than Joni, Ms. Chan Marshall brings the noise and funk on her ninth CD, and in doing so, raises the bar for her musical peers, both genders.
"Ramada Inn" Neil Young Psychedelic Pill (Reprise) -- WTF? Is Neil for real? A two-CD set with just 8 songs? Crazy Horse riding on the backs of Neil's insane guitar prowess. There's not a song as killer as, say, "Cortez the Killer" or "Southern Man," but then again, not many artists Neil's age would even attempt such a feat. Regardless, it's still worthwhile to bask in the ebb and flow of electric guitar majesty of Neil and his crazy comrades on this nearly 17-minute long stomp.
Ty Segall Twins (Drag City) -- This young Cali-based git hero borrows heavy from Nuggets-era garage rock and certainly a healthy dose of Neil Young/Sonic Youth/Stooges/Jack White axe-grinding freak-out tricks. His sixth solo LP continues his thick and fuzzy campaign. My favorite CD of the month. Catch him live where he is out of control, almost.
Martha Redbone Roots Project The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake (Blackfeet) -- Her third album, Native American/African-American Ms. Redbone considers this her "sonic rebirth" record. Setting the 18th century UK poet William Blake's poetry to music hardly seems like accessible fare, but boy is it ever. Rootsy, Americana music lovingly produced by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen with help from bassist Byron House and world music guru David Amram, it's an organic, gorgeous feast for ears and minds.
Blackberry Smoke The Whippoorwill (Southern Ground) -- Just now getting hip to these long-haired country rock doods from Hot 'Lanta. Caught them live at Irving Plaza and was so impressed I even bought a t-shirt, a very rare occurrence. Not as jammy-long as the Allman Brothers, more country than The Black Crowes, and a whole lotta rockin' like Lynyrd Skynyrd, No wonder their third effort was released on Zac Brown's new label and toured with him and ZZ Top.
The Doors Live At Hollywood Bowl '68 (Eagle CD/DVD) -- Plenty of post-Independence Day fireworks on July 5, 1968 when the legendary quartet played the Hollywood Bowl. Many have correctly stated that this is the finest footage and one of the strongest concerts of The Doors currently available. The Lizard King shaman Morrison may have oozed a cool, distant disdain for his adoring young fans, but not for his stellar backing band of Densmore, Krieger, and Manzarek. Stand out notables are "Moonlight Drive" and a sinister reading of their psychedelic juggernaut "The End" where guitarist Robbie Krieger's squalls play off of Morrison's vocal ad libs.
"Carpe Diem" Green Day ¡Uno! (Warner) -- My friend Mark Morgan proclaimed "Carpe Diem" may be the next great Green Day single. Damn hard to argue otherwise. Whippet drums, yelping Billie Joe Armstrong vocals, buzzsaw guitars, thumping bass. A monster power pop-rock track from the first of three LPs to be released in the next 3 months.
"Breathe You In My Dreams" Trixie Whitley Fourth Corner (Noise Trade) -- Her new CD is not out until early 2013, but this new track showcases the soulful, alluring side of her compelling roots-rock aesthetics. I've gone on record to proclaim Black Dub, her band with Daniel Lanois, to be my favorite rock ban since The Black Keys. No doubt that this track will have you salivating for more. Make no mistake, she is the real deal; a powerful young woman capable of greatness.
Gary Moore Blues for Jimi (Eagle CD/DVD) -- If there was one guitarist on the planet that could have pulled off a Jimi Hendrix cover concert with any style and panache, it was the UK-based Moore. His homage to Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green -- Blues for Greeny -- remains one of my all time favorites. Vocal limitations aside, Mr. Moore is stellar on this live recording recorded at the London Hippodrome in October 2007. Sadly he passed away just a few months after recording it. Ditto for former Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell who, along with Billy Cox, guested on three tracks.
So, I'm a gadget guy who digs new music delivery platforms. But much of the music I sadly ingest, like most of us, is digitally delivered. And even sadder, most of that music is provided by compromised digital files and/or speaker and headphone systems truly lacking in breadth and squashed by compression and robbed of music's dynamic range. However, Monster Cable has been doing their damndest to reverse that trend. In a series of new killer headphones/earbuds (DNA, Impression, iSport) and personal bluetooth-controlled speaker systems. I recently got to demo the Monster ClarityHD Micro (retail $219.00) and was blown away. Once your iPhone or iPad "discovers" the Micro, your music is wirelessly played through the beautiful one piece system. It boasts a 30' range, headphone jack, and voice command, too. Perfect portable size (about the size of a small shaving kit) for business trips, impromptu parties, and more.