Two recent CDs that come with DVDs include Bitches Brew (Columbia/Legacy) from Miles Davis and Teen Dream (Sub Pop) from Beach House. The Davis set is a Legacy Edition 40th anniversary celebration of one of the most trail-blazing albums in jazz history. When it was released in 1970 some people called it he ultimate jazz-rock album while others called it the first jazz-fusion album. With a supporting cast that included John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Lenny White and many others, Davis went through his most drastic stylistic change on the album. The original double album is here in its entirety, along with two previously unreleased bonus tracks. The DVD includes a concert in Holland from 1969. Still sounding revolutionary 40 years later, Bitches Brew is a magic elixir for whatever ails you. Beach House makes quite a splash with its Sub Pop debut. The band’s dreamy indie pop is mesmerizing and infectious. The DVD includes creative visual effects to accompany each track. This is a band that is clearly poised to make waves.
John Mayer and Train, who toured together last summer and played Jones Beach, both have reissues of their most recent albums. John Mayer’s Battle Studies (Columbia) is out in an Expanded Edition, with a bonus DVD that includes his VH1 Storytellers program, a short documentary entitled A trip to Japan Alone and two videos. Train’s Save Me San Francisco (Columbia) is now out in a Golden Gate Edition and has been expanded from 11 to 17 tracks; it includes the group’s holiday song “Shake Up Christmas.”
Promises at the Edge of Town
Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise (Columbia) is a two-CD set that features unreleased music that Springsteen recorded during the Darkness on the Edge of Town period. The two CDs include Springsteen’s version of songs such as “Because the Night,” “Fire,” and “Talk To Me,” as well as many other great, previously unreleased Springsteen compositions. This is one of four formats in which this package was released.
Featuring the Best
Two best-of packages worth checking out are Featuring (Blue Note) from Norah Jones, which is an 18-track compilation of Jones’s collaborations with other artists, and The Best of The American Songbook (J) from Rod Stewart, which includes a selection of material from Stewart’s five Great American Songbook albums.
Grammy’s on Fire at the Music Arcade
The reverberations of the Arcade Fire winning the Grammy for album of the year for the group’s album The Suburbs (Merge) continues, weeks after the conclusion of the ceremony. Indie music tastemakers, conspiracy theorists, those who seem to know little about music, and everyone in between have their own theories about how a pretty cool band, who records for a real indie label, won an award that usually goes to blockbuster artists. Although the last few years have seen the likes of Herbie Hancock and Alison Krauss win the award, it certainly was a surprise that the Arcade Fire won. Regardless of the controversy, I thought it would be a good time to look back over the past year or so at some other albums from groups that, given the Arcade Fire’s win, could also be coming to an awards show near you in the not-too-distant future.
Once Around (Yep Roc), from The Autumn Defense, who is led by John Stirratt of Wilco and seminal No Depression godfathers Uncle Tupelo and Pat Sansone is an album of rustic and beautiful music that is light years beyond many of the trendy indie bands with a short shelf life. This Yep Roc debut is the group’s best to date. Veckatimest (Warp) from Grizzly Bear is another album that features a band with a bright future. Lush and eccentric, the band’s third album has been out for some time now, but the album just keeps gaining more and more admirers. This is a band that may be pointing the way toward the future of music. The Outsiders (Atlantic), from Need to Breathe is another case where a group’s third album is a breakout that only gains it more fans every day. Surprisingly accessible, the album features great songs and unforgettable vocal harmonies from a band from South Carolina that, like Kings of Leon, could cross over to rock stardom. Brothers (Nonesuch), from The Black Keys, a blues-based duo from Akron has the same kind of appeal as the debut album from Broken Bells, but with more of a blues feel. Proof that rootsy music can be as catchy as hell, The Black Keys also seems poised for stardom on its own terms. Come Around Sundown (RCA), from Kings of Leon, may not have sold as much as everyone thought it would, but it’s still an excellent American rock album. With three brothers and a cousin, the band has maintained a surprisingly low profile, given the twisted history of bands made up of so many siblings (The Kinks and Oasis anyone?). You get the feeling these guys are in it for the long haul. Kings of Leon proves on its latest to be another great American rock band from the south. Heaven Is Whenever (Vagrant), from The Hold Steady is a bit in the style of Marah (from Philadelphia). The band writes, sings and performs no-holds-barred, good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. One can’t help but be affected by the band’s spirit, and hey, they’re from Brooklyn! American Slang (SideOneDummy), from the Gaslight Anthem, shares the same kind of music and spirit as Marah and the Hold Steady and, hailing from New Jersey, the Springsteen connection is inevitable. Contra (XL), from Vampire Weekend, is the band’s second album and, given the press on this Manhattan-based band, it could have won the Grammy for album of the year as easily as Arcade Fire. Somehow it seems the band gets a bit over-hyped, but it does have interesting musical ideas, given its rhythmic and classical influences. Congratulations (Columbia), from MGMT is the duos second album and, like Vampire Weekend, I think the group is a little overrated. Still, it is one of the few American bands to use electronics in an inventive way. Interpol (Matador), from Interpol, is the group’s fourth album and the Manhattan-based band’s dark, mysterious sound is quite intriguing. High Voltage (4AD), from The National, is the album that many thought would put this Ohio band over the top. The group is now based in Brooklyn, which has been ground zero for the American indie band scene for some time. Like Interpol, the band has a dark, foreboding sound and with its 4AD debut, it has reached a critical mass that will no doubt soon propel it toward its commercial breakthrough.