The first new releases of the school year have arrived and they’re dominated by grizzled veterans of the music scene, some of whom are putting a new spin on their careers. Come for the music, stay for the quirkiness.
Here’s what we’re listening to this week.
1. Iggy Pop, Free
When the nukes finally drop, the only human company the cockroaches will have will be Keith Richards and Iggy Pop.
Iggy, now 72, has earned the right to be free to do whatever the heck he wants with his career at this point. And that’s the point behind the title of his 18th solo album. After his last tour, he felt he needed to decompress and experiment with different styles and sounds. For context, this single is one of the most Iggy things on the entire record.
That’s saying something.
2. Chrissie Hynde, Valve Bone Woe
Speaking of artists comfortably going their own way, may I reintroduce you to the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde?
Many artists — Chrissie included — eventually feel the need to release a covers album where they get to interpret the material of others. In the case of Chrissie, she’s gone jazz — mostly — with renditions of songs by everyone from Hoagy Carmichael, Rogers and Hammerstein, and John Coltrane.
She also takes on Nick Track and The Kinks with this track. (Remember, too, that she has a child with Ray Davies).
3. Miles Davis, Rubberband
Even casual jazz fans have an awareness of Miles Davis. You might even have copies of Kind of Blue or Bitches Brew somewhere in your library.
Davis has been dead for nearly 30 years, so there was much excitement when a lost album appeared from the vault of Warners Brothers. Davis had been a Columbia artist since 1955 but bolted for Warner in 1985. An attempt was to make an album right away, but nothing seemed to work. Over the years, a series of producers worked on the material to complete the album they best they could in Davis’ absence.
Jazz fans will have a field day deconstructing this one.
4. Rheostatics, Here Come the Wolves
Earlier this year, longtime Canadian indie fans greeted the announcement of the first new Rheostatics album in 15 years with many hosannas.
Quirky? Check. Complex arrangments? Affirmative. Baffling song titles? You bet. Involved storytelling? Yep.
Don’t try to explain The Rheos to anyone. If you get it, you know.
5. Andy Partridge and Robyn Hitchcock, Planet England
Let’s end this week’s recommendations with two of the most clever (and, it should be said, most quirky) songwriters from the UK.
XTC’s Andy Partridge has paired up with Robyn Hickcock to create — and pardon the record label bumpf here — “a musical meeting of the minds to rival King Kong vs. Godzilla.” Many pints of beer, glasses of wine, and pub curries apparently went into the fight and recording of these four songs.
London Calling: Black Country New Road, Sunglasses
No matter how I set up this song, you’re probably going to scream “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?” But if we don’t take chances, then life is pretty boring, isn’t it?
With that, I present to you a young British band that has been generating buzz through their energetic/shambolic live shows. This is post-punk mixed with free jazz mixed with stream-of-consciousness poetry. This may require a couple of listens, but you’ll get it eventually.
Undiscovered Gem: The Paranoyds, Face First
From their Bandcamp page description: “Four-piece from Los Angeles punk wing dong gaze porn pop cop chop proto shoes progs clogs hogs fuzzy wuzzy soaked hugs and slugs.” Got that?
Throwback Track: Tragically Hip, Blow at High Dough
Has it really been 30 years since The Hip released their major label debut?
Yep. Up to Here first appeared in stores on September 5, 1989. This track — the first single from the album — appeared in April of that year, setting things up for one of the most amazing careers in Canadian history. Since then, it’s sold more than a million copies in this country, meaning that about 1 in 30 Canadians own a copy.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.