Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (pt. 11)


Lee Konitz / Brad Mehldau / Charlie Haden / Paul Motian, Live At Birdland

“Autumnal” is too clichéd a term for this concert, even if, at age 83, the altoist who’s released records under his name since 1950 is nearing the end of his run. “Quiet” and “soft” seem merely descriptive, evoking polite dinner-club music this material avoids, even as the master and three students pursue hushed interplay on six familiar standards, including the gentlest “Oleo” ever put to tape. So how about “cool,’” an abused term defined as much by Konitz as anybody, who perfects its ethos to this day?

Stephin Merritt, Obscurities

Tightwads dislike Merritt’s faux-junk melodies on principle, while schoolmarms tsk-tsk that all irony is cheap. Tightwads and schoolmarms are usually wrong. Don’t plan on sonic consistency from this mid-to-late 90s rarities compilation, which draws from all of The Other SM’s musical projects. But who comes to a master ironist and melodist for sonic consistency? Leftovers nothing – you’d spring for newly uncovered Cole Porter, wouldn’t you? 


Clams Casino, Instrumentals

Helping to blur the boundaries between hip-hop and the electronic underground, this Jersey-based producer has been crafting weird lo-fi blunt-soaked beats for any number of contemporary rap stars, following a successful pitch to Lil’ B via MySpace. This free download collects 12 tracks for B, Soulja Boy, and others, minus the rapping, with just Casino’s oceanic ebb and flow for context. Plays well alongside trip hop and dubstep. 

The Reatards, Teenage Hate

Long-lost ’98 LP from the once and future Jay Reatard, who blazed through a dozen albums and countless 45s before dying last year at age 29, and for a few tracks, it’s The Great Lost Replacements Demo Tape. Only even cruder, and defiantly southern-fried – a Memphis boy, Jay came by his Elvis/Sun records love naturally. There could literally be hundreds of bands mining similar sounds across the land, and we’re the better for it.


Fool’s Gold, Leave No Trace

LA-based rock band, heavy Afro-pop influences, vocalist sings in Hebrew? Sounds like a bad NPR segment. But a likable debut proved their soukous and ethio-jazz chops were legit. So how disappointing for them to gravitate towards cheesy r&b and anonymous dance, centering proceedings on Luke Top’s self-indulgent vocals rather than scratching guitars. Top’s transition from Hebrew to English suggests we weren’t missing anything first time around.

Toro Y Moi, Underneath The Pine

Maybe Chazwick Bundick thinks disco is easy, since all the tradition means to him are extended beat workouts and fat bass lines. Maybe Bundick thinks the motorik chug of vintage krautrock is easy, too, although I hear Stereolab, not Neu! And evoking space age bachelor pads at least scores easy laughs. But you know what isn’t easy? Making music simultaneously this lightweight and opprobrious.