Last month's musical selections were such a treat, I hesitate to turn the odometer. A quick summary:
Fate by Dr. Dog. I hadn't heard of these guys until DV assured me they are all the rage among the younger crowd, particularly in Philly. Despite my initial misgivings, I quickly became fond of Fate. I won't try to emulate this guy's Bangsian endorsement (I'm not that enthusiastic of the disc, for one thing): better just to resort to lazy typifying. Dr. Dog gains their musical traction via the disciplined harmonic experimentation The Beatles liked to do, coupled with the lyrical and percussive play the Talking Heads enjoyed. My daughters found the overarching effect a little melancholy, but nowhere near to the degree of an act like Wilco (I confess I don't really get those guys). Best Heard: while prepping food on a sunny afternoon (e, A).
Universal United House of Prayer by Buddy Miller. This is a spinach 'n grits album — it's delicious, but has a robustness that can be unsettling. Miller opens the album with a Mark Heard song that pretty much sums up the last eight years (well ... the last 30, really) of my life: “Worry Too Much.”
It's the quick-step march of history
The vanity of nations
It's the way there'll be no muffled drums
To mark the passage of my generation
It's the children of my children
It's the lambs born in innocence
It's wondering if the good I know
Will last to be seen by the eyes of the little ones
Miller launches from here into a sincere exploration of his faith, the parameters of which are familiar — and discomfiting — to me. Miller's vehicle of choice is what Pappy O'Daniel calls “Old Timey Music”: I do love this disc, but find it difficult to listen to. The songs, the sentiment and dare I say the faith are all sturdy enough to deliver Miller from the present crucible of life, but I could have done with just a dash of “O'Daniel's” conniving guile. A little whisky makes the preaching easier to ingest. Best Heard: when tempted to YouTube Sarah Palin (e, A).
Lost In The Sound Of Separation by Underoath. Metal has splintered into so many different discordant shards I have a very difficult time keeping track of what's worth listening to. Unless a friend passes along a disc, or Metacritic tabulates a particularly high mark, I don't even bother with the genre. Underoath qualifies in the latter instance, but on closer look the high score is the result of four respectful reviews, and no dissent. As far as I'm concerned the album delivers the conceptual and lyrical goods, but technically isn't in the same league as, say, Meshuggah's ObZen (another Metacritic high score). Mind you, I doubt anyone is in the same league as Meshuggah, so Underoath have done themselves proud just by holding their own. Best Heard: while cleaning out the basement — alone (A).
Baboon Strength by Charlie Hunter. Far and away my favorite album last month, which came to my attention thanks to 30 all-too-brief seconds when it qualified for eMusic's daily “Powerchart.” Hunter's album recalls the dance-infectious rhapsodizing of Medeski, Martin & Wood, while staying firmly inside the pocket. It's trippy Space: 1999 fun — a progressive revelation as well as a delightful throwback to what made T Rex such a hoot to listen to. Best Heard: while driving the car, 'cos it is The Antidote to simmering road rage. Not to be missed! (e, A)
Websites: Dr. Dog, Buddy Miller, Underoath, Charlie Hunter.