3 Records.

Leonard Cohen
Various Positions (1985)
For a long time the only Cohen records I really liked were his first two, Songs of Leonard Cohen, and Songs From a Room. And though I listened to those records all the time for years and years, everything after that seemed way too produced and seemed to get away from what makes him great-that parred down solitary voice with the lightest of accompaniment singing the most incredible heartbreaking lyrics. This one changes everything because it is later, and is heavily produced with all sorts of strange dated sounds and is super upbeat in tempo but it is maybe better than anything he has ever done and makes me want to check out everything of his over again(and reminds me of something a smart friend once said about Cohen: "His records may not all be good, but none are lazy".). I think this record is extremely forward thinking and gives a lot the more you listen in a way that is completely unique. It truly sounds like nothing else I can think of with its huge chorus of female backup singers and bombastic electric piano and Cohen's singing style totally unlike his early records. The problem with so much music criticism is that it is usually written after one listen, maybe two, and that never seems like enough time to really evaluate something. Various Positions is something that needs to be on for awhile to break you a little bit and get you in its space.

Little Wings
Magic Wand (2004)
This record, like all Little Wings records, has a very offhand, improvisational feeling which is also one of its many strengths. The downside of a lot of lo-fi records is a sort of precociousness and goofy quality and Little Wings consistently avoids that somehow. There are not many people who I would say do folk well these days, but Little Wings is pretty much the golden bar in my mind. The lyrics are often dark with mentions of ghosts, blood and graves turning up often but these records would rarely be considered cryptic. It's the way everything is delivered that avoids it ever getting maudlin or overwrought. These songs are super traditional in their structure, they sound like they have always existed in the way that all great songs have a tendency to do, but the recording and execution sounds like it was done in an afternoon on a porch in Malibu. Like a lot of great art it sounds effortless and casual when it is deeply layered and affecting.

Meat Puppets
Meat Puppets II (1984)
I don't know anything else that sounds like this. And the Meat Puppets never did anything as good ever again. A total anomaly that is almost like a country set list played by a bunch of punk kids trying to do it straight. BUT NOT ROCKABILLY. I often assume this is a seminal record that everyone knows about, I guess because of the Nirvana Unplugged album, and then there's times it seems the opposite. Something that seems to have popped out of the ether and is just here now somehow.

posted by sammy at 10:01 PM