With half the month nearly gone, and absolutely nothing of interest getting splashed across eMusic's front page, I took to perusing their charts to see what the common people were downloading. Somewhere on page 10, a few precious slots before Album #150, was a band called The Young Veins, pigeonholed as “Commercial Alternative.” I spent a few seconds trying to puzzle out the genre. This had to be an oxymoron: if it was alternative, yet so pleasing to the ear the listener was compelled to spend money on it, what, exactly, was this music an alternative to? Didn't its commercial viability make it "Alternative Alternative"? I clicked on the link to take a closer look.
I liked the artwork to Take A Vacation! so much, I hit download without even bothering with the tiny track samples (e).
The layout is straightforward 60s nostalgia, but the View-Master sealed the deal for me. I read the blurb by J. Edward Keyes as the tracks bitrated into my hard-drive — a flashy encapsulation completely in tune with the aesthetic, I thought. Then I moved the album to my player and set out on my day's activities.
Take A Vacation! delivered 30 minutes of luscious musical escape. At first I compared The Young Veins (favorably) to Peachfuzz (wp), but the album occasionally shifted to a whimsical, meditative mode more in line with the pre-breakdown Brian Wilson. The moods and currents and sheer joy being thrown about makes this an ideal commuter soundtrack, almost certainly assuring its frequent play this summer.
Don't just settle for the “new”, however: more than anything, as I listened to Take A Vacation! I was put in mind of Leave Here A Stranger by Starflyer 59 (A), one of the trippiest, most virally infectious and beguiling CDs in my collection. It's difficult to ascertain just what this dreamy disc is about, but I'd guess it speaks of the joys and ambiguities of life as a performer on the road. I can't quite believe this disc is 10 years old, but the dates don't lie. When it comes to music from the last decade, Leave Here A Stranger is one of those discs I consistently return to, right up there with Ry Cooder's I, Flathead and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips.
Finally, for those heat-of-the-summer moments that call for less Brian Wilson and a whole lot more Wattstax, you absolutely need to reach for The Outsiders Are Back by Kings Go Forth (e). The percussion may be thrust out front, but there is no modulating the force of the entire band. The Outsiders Are Back gives testimony to what must surely be an incredible act to catch live. Are we booking for a Wattstax 40th anniversary yet?