Heartless Bastards – The Mountain
If you’re as lucky as I am, you have several friends whose taste in movies, books or music you trust implicitly. If they recommend something to you, you get it, no questions asked, confident that you will enjoy it as much as they think you will. Not that their tastes mirror yours exactly.But they are extremely knowledgeable and can recommend things based on your specific likes and dislikes. I have two go-to guys for music, one of whom is MusicTAP’s Matt Rowe.Matt’s really good at this kind of thing and so far, he hasn’t steered me wrong once. So when Matt started raving…literally raving, like a man possessed by demons…about Heartless Bastards, I knew I’d have to check them out.
Glad I am that I did, too. The Mountain, the trio’s third album, is a country-blues tour de force. Erika Wennerstrom leads the band with a grungy guitar and deep, authoritative, bourbon-flavored voice. Listening to songs like “Out At Sea” and the title track, you’d think the band had been playing together for decades. In fact, the band’s lineup has changed a bit since their 2005 debut. You’d never guess it from listening to their three albums back-to-back. Both Stairs And Elevators and All This Time have much to offer, including great tunes like “Done Got Old” and “Came A Long Way”. But from album to album, you can hear Wennerstrom honing their signature sound, expanding from simple guitar, bass and drums to incorporate mandolin and violin. In a short time, Heartless Bastards have become a band to reckon with and The Mountain is a massively entertaining slab of roots rock. It’s their finest album to date and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next. Until then, crank this one up loud while you stir your brandy with a nail.
Gogol Bordello – Trans-Continental Hustle
Pandora is just about the best idea for a website in the history of the internets. If you haven’t stumbled across it yet, the idea is that you enter the name of a band or song you like. Then, through some astonishing computer alchemy, Pandora creates a streaming radio station based on the specific qualities of that band or song. As you give the songs that come up a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”, Pandora refines its parameters and gets better at finding music you like.The really amazing thing is the damn thing actually works. Plenty of websites make computer-generated recommendations but none of them ever come close to getting it right. For instance,Netflix right now seems to think that because I loved the sardonic British comedy In The Loop, I’ll go equally wild for Rob Reiner’s schmaltz-a-thon The Bucket List (the common thread apparently that both are “Comedies on Blu-ray”). By contrast, Pandora runs second only to actual human beings in introducing me to new music.
A few years ago, I created a Pogues station on Pandora and discovered the raucous gypsy punk of Gogol Bordello. It was love at first listen, despite the fact that half the time I have no idea what the hell lead singer Eugene Hutz is babbling about. Their latest album offers up more of the same, despite the presence of uber-producer Rick Rubin and a switch to a major label for the first time. Unlike Heartless Bastards, I can’t say that Gogol Bordello has expanded their scope much over the years. But their unique sound is so much fun, it doesn’t really matter. Trans-Continental Hustle is a loud, loopy good time. It’s a party in your ears and everybody’s invited.
Can You Dig It? The Music And Politics Of Black Action Films 1968-75
This double-disc import from Soul Jazz Records compiles 34 killer tracks from movies like Coffy, The Mack and Petey Wheatstraw from the likes of Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Quincy Jones, Willie Hutch and many, many more. And if that was all it had going for it, this would still be one of the coolest CDs you could hope to own. But wait, there’s more! The set includes a lavishly-illustrated 100-page book with informative, well-written essays and bios by Stuart Baker. More than just an album, this is a multimedia history of blaxpoitation cinema.
Duran Duran –
Back when this album was huge, I listened to Duran Duran in a detached, semi-ironic, I’m-too-cool-to-admit-I-actually-enjoy-this way. In fact, I would refer to the band as “Double Duran”, affecting a hiccupy, Martha Quinn-voice, mainly to annoy my friends who legitimately enjoyed them. I heard the record, of course, but was mainly familiar with the singles. It was virtually impossible to avoid “