Since you’re seeing this a day late, you might have gathered the fact that I was busier than normal this week. After Memorial Day left me only four days to take on a new project at work, I barely got around to writing about music, which always feels pretty bad.
Still, I’m thankful for a job that allows me all the time in the world to listen to new music. I’m going to mention the best stuff now. Spoiler alert: The Avalanches appear.
The Avalanches – Frankie Sinatra
This will be remembered as the week that The Avalanches surprised everyone, most of all their biggest fans, by ACTUALLY reemerging with a new album after almost 16 years. This is a serious, no joke, holy shit moment for me. What do I do now?
It’s almost like that moment in a Coyote vs Roadrunner cartoon my mom liked. Both animals run in and out of narrowing tubes until suddenly the roadrunner is huge and the coyote is tiny. He catches the giant bird, poking his little fork into its massive leg, to no effect. It’s a pointless victory; he doesn’t know what to do now that he’s got his elusive prey. I feel like this news caught me similarly off-guard.
In the first place, I should admit that as the years have rolled on, I became more certain of this idea: no matter when they follow up Since I Left You, it will never be able to compare to the perfect intersection of time and place and artistry that album represented. It’s incredible in its own right as a sampledelic lodestone, perfectly arced party album, and narratively rich dance masterpiece, of couse. But that album stakes a special place in history, both universal and personal, that sets it in its own strange ecosystem in my mind. I’ve never been able to shake its depths.
Since I Left You is inextricably linked with my early 20s, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the first thing I ever wrote about on Optimistic Underground, in a post titled My Desert Island. Yes, it’s the kind of album that I’d take on a desert island with me, the one I’d die looping.
That being said, I’m beyond prepared to give anything The Avalanches release a fair shake.
The second I pressed play on Frankie Sinatra, I had this thought: “This is going to be the Frontier Psychiatrist of the new album.” After several spins, I’m sticking with that idea. It’s got a similar psychedelic circus vibe, a theatricality, and an off-kilter beat; the hallmarks of the Since I Left You outlier that became an unlikely madhouse anthem.
To be honest, the song doesn’t blow me away. It’s not shaking my musical world to the core, like The Avalanches did one Sunday night in a McDonald’s parking lot in 2001. It’s pretty catchy, it’s got thoughtful production that doesn’t seem to follow current trends, and it’s got a really refreshing Doom verse near the end, followed by a dip into My Favorite Things. Unpredictable, odd, and sticking in my head? Good enough to color me intrigued.
The album, Wildflower, will be out July 8.
Space Dimension Controller – Orange Melamine
I can’t even describe this right now. I just wanted to share the fact that it’s well worth a listen. Techno, funk, weird synthetic boogie asteroids? Deep into the album I hear an obscure corner of the Ghostbusters score pop up. Then I heard a sample from Short Circuit 2. I knew I was in fertile territory.
Miles Davis – Live-Evil
Here’s a blast from the past. Live-Evil was the third Miles Davis albums I heard, after Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew. It was by turns bracing and sensuous, a jarring experience for a kid barely versed in jazz, much less its deeper, weirder corners. I grew to appreciate it, but haven’t revisited in years. This week, I ended up listening several more times.
The album feels like a nice bridge between the late 60s era and the volcanic mid-70s explosion that Davis brought upon the world. It crosses through all sorts of space, from jagged asteroid fields to glistening nebulas, hinting at his band’s truly disruptive near future. It may not be on par with landmarks like Agharta and Dark Magus, as far as deep-down-the-rabbit-hole Miles Davis goes, but it’s a strangely appealing entry point for that end of his discography.
I’m too tired to write more but I wasn’t going to leave anyone hanging. I hope you’ve found something you enjoyed here.